Today’s Poppy Shoot

Photographing Poppies

The poppies have returned to El Paso. It’s our sure sign of spring. I have been counting the rainfall all winter and finally knew that we would have a bumper crop of poppies.


So, we packed up the dogs and the camera gear and headed out for the poppy fields.

I planned on using the Nikon D90, and Nikon D5000 with the Tokina 11-16mm, the Nikkor 10.5mm fisheye and of course old standby and do everything, the Nikon 18-200mm zoom.

I think I got some really good results with the fisheye and it’s this lens I want to talk about first.

It’s aperture range is from f/2.8 to f/22. At f/22 you get an incredible depth of field.

This picture perfectly illustrates my point.


ISO 400 f/20 1/640
What do you think about this picture? Awesome lens or what?

The lens is extremely small and light. It only weighs a scant 10.7 ounces and is 2.5 inches around and 2.5 inches long.

This is one fine lens and I’m still wondering why it took me so long to buy it.

Here is another picture:

ISO 400 f/20 1/500

I initially visualized using the fisheye for car shows and for special effects but I have so warmed up to this lens I now use it on any subject that is close. It’s minimum focusing distance is a scant 5.5 inches and it gives a true 180 degree view.

My final picture below was taken with the old standby, the 18-200mm zoom. I use this lens for everything. It was the first Nikkor I bought and for good reason. It’s 18-200mm range pretty much takes care of 75% of the shooting.

ISO 400 f/11 1/640 112mm

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Time for some flower photography tips

Photographing flowers

Warmer days have finally come to El Paso, so it’s time to think about doing some flower photography. Here is a short list of do’s and don’ts that I go by.
Don’t photograph around noon. The light is too harsh and flat. I prefer directional light when I photograph just about anything, including flowers.

Don’t try to do any flower photography when the wind is blowing. It’s a sure recipe for frustration. Here in El Paso that can be a problem because we have high winds in the spring.

For my DSLRs, I use either my Sony camera with the really excellent Sigma 105mm macro.

Increasingly however, I use my Nikon DSLR with the Nikon 18-200mm lens and one of the extension tubes in my Kenko three-piece set. The Kenko set is really cool and works very well with all camera functions being available. I have a set for Nikon and Sony. The reason I use the D5000 and not the D90 is because the Nikon D5000 has that marvelous swivel LCD that let’s me get in and do all sorts of weird angles and points of view. I can get down low without crawling along with the worms.
A really cool gadget to take along is the Seagull viewer. This cheap gadget is really cool for photographing small dogs, toddlers and flowers, to mention just a few subjects.

Take along a spray bottle of water for those cool “wet look” images and I also take along some color cardboard for background and for directing the light even more. I don’t use flash because the onboard flash won’t work when working really close and a second flash would require a third hand, which I don’t have or the use of a tripod which I hate.

As always, I shoot in aperture priority mode and generally, with the lens wide open (smallest f number).

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Don’t touch that dial!

Your camera’s mode dial

Don’t touch that dial! The mode dial that is. Set it on A and forget it.
The white A not the green one. The green A is for hopeless cases that think the camera is smarter than they are. So just turn the dial to the white A and stay there.
Unless you want to go to M for manual. I almost always shoot in aperture-priority unless I’m being lazy or I’m shooting in manual mode. Shooting in aperture priority automatically forces me think about what I’m doing and gives me fine artistic control over the picture I am trying to create. Subject matter makes little difference. If I want to freeze motion I usually go to ISO 1600 and set the aperture as wide open as possible. That automatically forces the camera to go to a high shutter speed. For landscapes I go to a small aperture (high f number) for as much depth of field as possible.

One more thing, on one of my photo outings I once heard the remark that if you are shooting at normal camera angles (standing and just pointing the camera at the subject) then you are wrong.
At the time there was too much going on for me to pursue that subject with the person that made the statement but it has always stuck with me.
If you are taking a picture like everyone else, then your picture will look like everyone elses. Makes sense.
The train depot at Rhyolite, Nevada is a good example.
When I walked up to it my heart sank because there was no way to get a really decent shot of the fine building.

A big ugly chain link fence surrounded the building and then if that was not enough, the Bureau of Land Mismanagement threw power lines over the building just to make sure you can’t get a decent image.
I went and got my old truck and climbed on the roof of the cab for this picture.
People thought I was crazy, and they are probably right but I think I got a much better picture.
I hate fences and power lines. Sometimes I will walk 50ft or more to get past a power line.
Yeah, I strayed a bit from aperture-priority shooting but the point is to get a beautiful picture instead of an ordinary one.
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Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens

The Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 AF-S DX lens is one of my favorites

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

This has got to be one of my favorite Nikkor lenses. It’s small, light and cheap. Don’t let the low price fool you, this lens even has a focus motor so that it will work with the smaller Nikon DSLRs.


This lens is targeted at “entry level” camera owners such as the D40, D60 and D5000. I personally hate the sales terms “entry level”, or “prosumer” or even professional. Those terms are meant to appeal to egos and boost sales. Nothing more. If your D40 is working for you and you love it then you don’t need a higher priced camera unless you want to stroke your ego for a short time. DSLRs don’t have a long life and cost a fortune.
If a pro needs to be told this and this is pro level then he or she ain’t much of a pro to begin with.
I use this lens with the D5000 almost exclusively in my babe photo shoots because the combination is small and very light. Believe me, after about 3 hours of shooting with a behemoth like the D300, you will welcome the smaller rig and get the same image quality you would with a D300. Going light and nimble is being professional.

Click the above link and look at the specs and the customer reviews to see what I mean.


It only weighs 11.2 ounces!

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Sony Does 24 megapixels again

Sony just released the much-rumored Alpha A-850.

Sony’s new 24 megapixel camera

Sony Alpha DSLR-A850 Full Frame Digital SLR Camera + Sony 24 -70mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T Zoom Lens + Transcend 32GB CF + Sony Case + Travelers Starter Kit


Sony just released the much-rumored Alpha A-850.


This is a full-frame, 24 megapixel tour de force that is going to shake up the camera world. I consider this camera far superior to anything being produced by Canon or Nikon. The price of $1999.00 is not bad for a full-frame, super specd camera body.


Combine this body with the awesome Carl Zeiss line of lenses and you have it all!


Every Sony DSLR comes with image stabilization built into the body and the A-850 is no exception.


Sony is new to the DSLR world but with their purchase of Minolta and their close association with Carl Zeiss they are being propelled right to the top. Their passion for innovation is going to drive Nikon and Canon crazy.


Sony is not saddled with the 35mm tradition Canon and Nikon are still burdened with. Instead, Sony is free to explore and develop a totally new approach to digital photography.


Their quality control is well known by audiophiles and the television market, so you know you are getting a super-quality product.

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Two-Camera Holster That Works

Two-Camera Holster that works. This thing is really slick. Check out the video.
I have used this rig for some time now and love it!

Two camera quick draw

Two-Camera Holster that works. This thing is really slick. Check out the video.
I have used this rig for some time now and love it!
I have two HUGE dogs I take walking and have never been able to comfortably take a camera along, but with this carrier I can take two cameras with no problem.
There are some things to look out for.
Remove the cameras before you get into the car. If something pushes up on the cameras, it can come off the holster and hit the ground.
Other than that, this is a great rig for those of us that use two cameras or even three.
For three cameras you carry one, and then just swap off if you need one you have on the carrier.
I did this on my recent trip to Rhyolite. Works like a charm.

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How I carry 50 pounds of camera gear

I don’t have a pack mule and my wife Lila does not always accompany me on my photo treks.

Carry 50 pounds of camera gear

I don’t have a pack mule and my wife Lila does not always accompany me on my photo treks.
That has caused me to evolve a two-stage logistical operation.
I use two Lowepro camera bags. One is a Lowepro SlingShot 300 All-Weather Camera Bag the other is the Fastpack 200.
With these two really fine bags I can carry four SLRs and all my lenses plus filters, extension tubes and so on with room to spare.
The other extra gear goes into one of those 18 gallon rubber tubs.
I also use another small camera bag when having to wonder too far from my truck.
I simply assess what I will be shooting and what I will most likely need and pack those lenses, adapters and so on in the small bag.
This greatly reduces to amount of stuff I actually carry and still gives me the best shot at having the right equipment on hand.
If not, it’s a short trip back to the truck.
Most of the time the D90 with the Tokina 11-16mm ultra wide and the D5000 with the 18-200mm zoom are all I need.
If I’m going to be photographing cars or architecture I will also take along the Nikkor 10.5mm fisheye lens. I always use this lens when shooting cars and architecture.
Yes, it’s a lot of “stuff” but what’s the use of having it if you don’t use it?
Photography for me is a hobby. I do it for fun. Schlepping a lot of gear around is not fun, it’s drudgery.

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Need a pack mule for your gear?

I am one of those people that believes in packing all my photo gear when I go out to shoot. You just never know.

Carry what photography gear you need and no more

I am one of those people that believes in packing all my photo gear when I go out to shoot. You just never know.
On my recent photo trek I came across some ice climbers.


After snapping a few shots with my 18-200 maxed out at 200mm, I decided I had to use the Sony A-350 with my Tamron 200-500mm. I took this image at 420mm, ISO 800 f/13 at 1/2000
Sony cameras also have built-in image stabilization, so shooting with the Tamron hand held is no problem.
I take everything along because I don’t want to miss an image like this.
I mean seriously, who can pass on an ice climbing babe?

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Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe NM

My aim was to visit the Loretto Chapel with its “miraculous” staircase.

Photographing Loretto Chapel

Day One – Santa Fe New Mexico

My aim was to visit the Loretto Chapel with its “miraculous” staircase.


You can also view this image on Flickr.com.

Located at 207 Old Santa Fe Trail, between Alameda and Water streets, I had no trouble finding my way using GPS.

Entrance to the chapel requires a modest $3.00 fee.

There are quite a few photo ops in the general area, since this is the old part of Santa Fe.

I entered the chapel with my two Nikons, the D90 being equipped with the Tokina 11-16 mm lens, while I had the 18-200 Nikkor on my D5000.

You can do a great job of photographing the entire interior in less than 30 minutes, which I did.

The reason for mounting the Tokina on the D90 is that the D5000 does not have a focusing motor like the D90 and the Tokina lens also lacks a focusing motor, so with the D5000 you would need to manually focus the Tokina. That explains in part why the D5000 is cheaper and smaller than the D90.
Nikon lenses designated AF-S or AF-I have their own focus motors.
I knew all that before I bought the Tokina, but I consider this lens to be so fine I would have bought it even if I did not have a D90. Manual focus is a breeze with this lens.
For me, the D5000 was a compelling buy because of it’s swivel LCD and it’s ability to shoot with live preview. I can use this camera for waist level shooting and I don’t have to crawl around the floor like a worm to get eye-level with a toddler, small dog or cat. Yes, that is a SUPER feature.
So to me the D90 and the D5000 make one fine camera.

You can contact me at jgrossi1@elp.rr.com for any questions, tips or comments.

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My Photo Trip

I recently undertook an eight-day photo trek. I had some specific goals in mind and researched the trip extensively.

My eight day photo trip

I recently undertook an eight-day photo trek. I had some specific goals in mind and researched the trip extensively.

Two gadgets were extremely helpful.

I used GPS for my navigation for the entire trip. I located my lodging and some of the restaurants as well. I have heard and read a lot of horror stories concerning the use of GPS devices, but with a bit of common sense GPS is an excellent navigation tool.


The other gadget I used for my trip was the IPOD. Never leave home without it.


I have the RoadsideAmerica.Com app installed, as well as the Amazon Kindle app for reading.
Downloading books from Kindle is a snap. I read wherever I go, the display on the IPOD makes reading in the dark pleasurable without disturbing your bed-mate. No lights needed.

The one app I found most useful is the voice recorder. I took extensive notes whenever I stopped to take pictures. The keyboard is way too dinky and cumbersome for me, but the voice recorder worked like a charm. I wish Apple had the brains to include a built-in microphone. This is the only shortcoming I find with the IPOD.

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