Thursday, March 26, 2009

Photograpy Class Outing - March 21, 2009

Since retiring at the end of February last year, I've found time to rediscover a love of photography and have been going a bit nuts with digital cameras. (last day of work as a federal government employee: Feb 29, 2008, hereafter referred to as "leap for joy day" in our house)

But back to photography... after using film cameras for 40+ years (favorites being my first SLR, a Nikkormat and a newer Nikon SLR camera used more recently), I fell off the wagon (to borrow a phrase from my fiancé) and started using digital. My fiancé Mike is actually the one who led me down the path to digital photography because he bought me my first digital, a Nikon Coolpix P1 in spring, 2006. Since that first adventure in wasting photons, another of Mike's favorite phrases, I've moved through using a Nikon Coolpix P4, a Nikon Coolpix P80 (gifts from Mike) and recently purchased a Nikon D90 kit with 18-55mm and 55-200mm VR lenses. This purchase was my motivation for taking a couple of photography classes through the REI Outdoor School (great classes, BTW).

Back to the P80 for a sidetrack... it is the camera I used most on my trip to Costa Rica because the 18x zoom was quite good at capturing much of the natural beauty we saw there. But I don't think I'll ever go on a guided bird outing without my P4 (which I'd taken along for quick snaps). Our guides had bird scopes and one brought along an attachment that allowed the P4 to 'mate' with the bird scope and capture REALLY close up shots such as the one shown below of a Scarlet Macaw chowing down on berries.

Finally, a few words about the photography classes I took this past week through the REI Outdoor Photography School. After my Costa Rica trip, I started posting photos to Flickr and found so many quality photos from others that I started getting frustrated with the limitations of the point and shoot digital cameras I had. So I signed up for REI's very reasonably priced Intro to Digital Photography class (2 hours - one evening) and their day-long Outdoor Digital Photography class (also reasonably priced at $50). Both were taught by working professional photographers (Carl Bruce is a Washington Post staff photographer and Vickie Fruehauf teaches Photography at Georgetown University) and both were excellent instructors. My Nikon D90 was purchased about ten days before the first class with the hope that I'd quickly learn how to use it.

The classes exceeded my expectations and I'm SO MUCH more comfortable now with my newest digital camera. I've been photographing spring flowers and buds/blossoms on trees as they are now starting to sprout in our area. If you'd like to view the class photos and a few taken since the class using techniques learned in class, they are on Flickr and can be viewed as a slide show. I'd taken my Nikon Coolpix P4 to the outdoor class also so there are a few pictures using it in the slide show, but most were taken using my Nikon D90 with the 18-55mm lens. (photos in the slide show that occur after the one below were taken with the D90 using either the 18-55mm or a 70-300mm AF lens formerly used with my film camera)

I'll leave you with one more photo from class... our last photography assignment on our outdoor shoot at Seneca Creek State Park, Clopper Lake, playground and boathouse areas. We were challenged to imagine that we had 20 minutes in which to take ONLY ONE photo and to make it our best shot. I got lucky and noticed a fisherman in a kayak coming in just as I was about to snap my photo of the boathouse reflections in the lake. See what you think of the result. :-)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Rascally Squirrels

For the longest time after I put up bird feeders in my yard, the squirrels left them alone. But this past year was apparently a bad year for the oak trees in the Greater Washington, DC Metropolitan area (which is where we live), so the squirrels have been pretty desperate for food. As a result, we (the squirrels and I) have been having a running battle... I've been trying to keep them from the bird seed and they've been coming up with ever more creative approaches to get to it in spite of my efforts.

One of my feeders is a wooden house feeder which the squirrels first learned they could dine from by hanging upside down from the wooden roof as shown below.
First he grabs some seed... and then he hangs around eating it!

I've posted an album of Rascally Squirrel photos on Flickr and expect that more photos will be added as the show continues. Meantime, enjoy the show (I'll be back to edit this post sometime later but it's time to organize dinner now!)