Thursday, December 29, 2011
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
The Amador Valley High School JV Basketball team is participating in the Dougherty Valley JV Tournament at Dougherty Valley High School. They played Heritage High School in the first round today and won convincingly. Tomorrow, they play the host team, Doughterty Valley, in the quarterfinals.
The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is starting to feel a bit more comfortable mounted on the front of my camera. I am slowly figuring out different angles and perspectives for shooting the game with this lens.
Monday, December 26, 2011
I have two cameras, my Nikon D80 and my Nikon FM2. Both cameras have their places in my photography tool bag. To quote Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from the movie Full Metal Jacket, "This is my rifle, this is my gun, this is for fighting, and this is for fun."
The D80 is for fighting. I shoot the D80 digital SLR when I "have to" shoot it. It's the tool of choice for sports or when I must get the shot. The LCD screen offers instant feedback and confirmation that I got the shot.
The FM2 is for fun. I shoot the FM2 manual focus film camera for pure photography pleasure. I just enjoy shooting it. The manual focus and manual exposure forces me to slow down, think about the composition and camera settings, and allows me to really enjoy the experience.
My primary lens on the FM2 has been a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-D auto-focus lens. It's a great lens, but it's a cheap, plastic lens, with a rough manual focus feel. It was clearly built for auto-focus bodies. After nine months of using it on my FM2, I decided it was time to get a proper manual focus lens.
I left Santa some double chocolate brownies and a note reminding him about how nice I was in 2011, and he rewarded me with a Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AI-S lens. KEH offered free 2-day shipping over the holidays and a great price on a used lens, so how could he refuse?
The manual focus 50mm is a solid, metal lens, with a buttery smooth focusing ring, and fast f/1.4 maximum aperture...and it's made in Japan, like all of Nikon's professional gear. I expect this to become my tool of choice for the majority of my photography work moving forward.
Here are a few shots from the new (used) 50mm f/1.4 AI-S lens.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Friday, December 23, 2011
Growing up, I occasionally took pictures, primarily with a Kodak Instamatic and similar automatic cameras of that era. My interest in photography grew when I was in college, when I borrowed my roommate’s Minolta X-700. In 1992, I decided it was time to purchase my first SLR camera, a Minolta 7000i with 35-105mm lens. My primary purpose for the camera was to document my experiences, including travel, family, backpacking, and life’s other special events. I have fond memories of photographing castles on the Rhine River in Germany, people on the beaches in Australia, the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains on backpacking trips, and the kids roasting marshmallows on camping trips.
My Minolta 7000i experienced a failure along the way and I took it to the local Wolf Camera store for repair, but the camera parts were no longer available. The camera couldn’t be repaired and they generously replaced it with a refurbished Minolta XTsi. I shot the XTsi for years, but I just didn’t have the same attachment to it as my original 7000i. It joined me on backpacking trips and family camping trips nonetheless.
In June 2008, my lovely, beautiful, intelligent, charming, and generous wife surprised me with a Nikon D80 for Father’s Day (and I’m not just saying that because Christmas is coming up). The D80 reinvigorated my interest in photography. It took a while for me to learn the nuances of digital capture, but over the course of time, I eventually figured it out through discussions with other photographers and lots of research on the Internet. In March 2010, I started a 365 project, which in retrospect was a significant inflection point for my photography. I believe shooting every day is the single, most effective way to accelerate the learning process. Furthermore, digital capture provides instant feedback, which also accelerates the learning process. One can experiment with different camera settings and see the impacts immediately. While I’m not an expert, I feel my photography skills improved significantly as a result of the project.
Upon the completion of my 365, I thought I would try to create works of art in 2011. I thought I would take my camera into the mountains and capture sweeping landscapes and dramatic sunsets. I thought about a macro lens to capture intimate close-ups of nature. No, as it turns out, that isn’t me and that isn’t what I did. Instead, I used my camera to document life’s experiences. I shot my son’s high school basketball games and track meets, my daughter’s softball games and hula performances, my niece’s birthday party, my snowshoe and backpacking trips, and other family activities. I did exactly as I have done since 1992….just better.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a great 2012!
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Since purchasing my Nikon FM2 manual focus camera about nine months ago, it has quickly become my tool of choice. I've been shooting film predominantly since the acquisition, with Ilford XP2 Super 400 or Kodak BW400CN black and white film.
My plan all along was to shoot B&W on film and color in digital (via my Nikon D80). However, I enjoyed my FM2 so much, I decided to try some color film in it. After much research, I selected Fujifilm Pro 400H color negative film. The local camera shop didn't carry any professional color negative films, so I ordered a few rolls through Adorama.
I just developed my first roll of 36 exposures and I am pleased with the results. I love how the film renders skin tones. I also love the relatively low contrast and saturation. I plan on more experimentation with this film and I anticipate the FM2 becoming my primary day-to-day camera, with the Nikon D80 digital SLR focused primarily on sports photography.
Here are a few samples from my first roll. Additional photos were taken on my walk around town with Paisley.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
While working on my 365 project, there were days when photography started to feel like work. It's a challenge taking a photo per day. On some days, work and other commitments left little time for photography. I would start to feel pressure to take a picture. I would take a picture because I "had to" take one.
Over time, I learned to keep it fun. I would sometimes go for a walk on Saturday mornings, before the family woke up. On the walk, I would enjoy the surroundings and snap photos as photos presented themselves. I didn't "look" for a photo. I wasn't concerned about creating a masterpiece on that specific day. I just enjoyed the walk and enjoyed capturing photos of the things around me.
Now that I'm done with my project, I don't ever feel the pressure to take photos. I take pictures because I want to. I still take my solo walks around the neighborhood with my camera. Well, technically, the walks nowadays aren't solo, because Paisley joins me.
Here are a few photos from my walk a few weeks ago. The photo above is where Mohr Avenue crosses the Iron Horse Trail. I liked the way the arrows were pointing to the leaf on the ground and how the shadows from the foliage helped frame the leaf.
Below are the little pumpkins in our front yard. I shot them previously at night, lit by the light coming through our kitchen windows. When I left the house for my walk, I noticed how the afternoon light hit the pumpkins and decided they deserved another shot, this time from a lower perspective.
This is Paisley. Whenever I take her for a walk, a jog, or a hike, the exercise always seems to stimulate a bowl movement. Okay, that was TMI. Anyway, as I was walking her on the Iron Horse Trail, she needed to go. I picked it up with a plastic bag and then noticed the low angle sunlight on her face....so I decided to snap her picture.
The late afternoon sun always brings out the textures in the terrain. As I walked along Kolln Avenue, I came across the "Pacific Telephone" on the sidewalk and just found it interesting. I got down on my hands and knees and shot this with a shallow depth of field. Paisley patiently waited for me....although she kept getting her shadow in the frame, so I had to get her to scoot back a bit.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
I was going through my photo archives the other day and came across some scanned film photos from 2004. Most of my photos back then were shot with my Minolta SLR, an Olympus point and shoot, and a Nikon point and shoot, all film cameras.
I used to always carry a camera on my backpacking trips. It was a constant struggle deciding between the creative control of an SLR or the low size and weight of a point and shoot. Regardless of which camera I carried, it was always a treasured part of my gear.
I also carried my camera on family camping trips and outings. I loved snapping photos of the kids, capturing all of the special moments.
Looking back at these photos from 2004, I realized one thing. I sure sucked as a photographer....horrible compositions, crooked horizons, incorrect exposures, etc. Although I'm somewhat embarrassed now, looking back at those photos, I am glad I took them. The backpacking photos brought back wonderful memories of the views, my companions, and the experiences. The photos of the kids reminded me about how cute and little they were back then.
The photos may not have been the best, but I cherish them nonetheless. It was fun looking through them. I'll have to dig through my box of photos and revive the memories from the last twenty years.
Here are a few more photos from 2004:
Thursday, December 15, 2011
When it comes to photography, I enjoy my time outdoors. My camera has always accompanied me on my backpacking trips, capturing the beautiful landscapes and the people out there admiring it with me. Does that make me a nature photographer? I don't know. I don't always carry a tripod with me, because my pack is heavy enough, and this frequently prevents me from capturing the wonderful light at the beginning and end of each day. And...my camera doesn't have the high pixel counts, required to capture every detail in the landscape.
I don't consider myself a sports photographer, but I do take lots of pictures at my son's basketball games, his track meets, and my daughter's softball games. However, my camera doesn't have a high frame/second speed, a large buffer, or great high ISO performance.
I don't consider myself a portrait photographer either, but I do take pictures of the family for Christmas cards. However, I don't have the fancy flashes, triggers, reflectors, or light stands, and quite honestly, I have little desire to use it.
So, I shoot nature, but I'm not a nature photographer, I shoot sports, but I'm not a sports photographer, and I shoot portraits, but I'm not a portrait photographer. I obviously take lots of pictures, but what exactly am I?
I don't specialize in any one area and my gear isn't optimized for any one genre. I don't consider myself an expert in any specific area of photography, but I have a camera and I enjoy capturing life's experiences with it.
I think I'm just a dude with a camera...
Saturday, December 10, 2011
The Amador Dons JV basketball team played the Newark Memorial High School Cougars today. There were a number of older women in the stands, on the prowl for some young men, but I didn't pay attention to them because I had to shoot the basketball game.
It was a tough battle for eighth place, but the Dons pulled it out...forcing their opponent to settle for seventh place.
Friday, December 9, 2011
After a big loss yesterday in the first round of the Newark Tournament, the Amador Dons returned to Newark Memorial High School for round two. Today they played Saint Joseph. Their opponent played fast and aggressive, causing several Dons turnovers. After four quarters of play, the Dons lost by ten points. It was another disappointing loss to a talented Catholic team.
This is starting to feel like the Crusades, doesn't it?
The Amador Valley JV team returns to Newark tomorrow for their final game of the tournament. If we lose to another Catholic team, I'm going to nail a copy Martin Luther's 95 Theses on the front door of the gym! Just kidding, of course....
Here are more photos from today's game.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
The Amador Valley High School Junior Varsity basketball team is participating in the Newark Tournament this week at the Newark Memorial High School. The games are scheduled through Saturday. I'm not much of a sports photographer, but with all of the kids' sports, I may morph into one someday.
The Dons played Bellarmine College Preparatory today. I'm not sure what it is about these Catholic schools, but they sure are athletic. It was a close game for about a quarter and then they pulled away, with the Dons helping out with a number of turnovers.
The Newark gym is a wonderful venue for a tournament. Because of the size of the gym, I shot my Nikon 70-200mm exclusively today. I'm starting to feel a little more comfortable shooting it. With a bit more practice, I'm confident I'll get better with it.
Here are a few shots from today's game.