I love the sky in Tanzania. The daily afternoon thunderstorms almost alway guarantee some type of dynamic light that begs to be captured by your camera. It is easy to point your camera towards the heavens, but the challenge is to find a way to juxtapose wildlife or an austere landscape underneath those dramatic skies. This combination of amazing sky and wildlife/landscape is one of my reoccurring photo goals each time I travel to Tanzania.
Here are some attempts from our last photo safari with the Nikonians Academy.
Over the last month, I’ve been having all kinds of problems with corrupted photographs. I first noticed it after I returned from a big workshop I ran in September, 2011 in the Olympic NP, WA. I found that a few NEF pictures had a vertical line through them and that half of the image had shifted “up” by a few pixels. At first, I assumed the problem was with the CF card I was using, so I took that card out of my photo bag just in case it was bad.
A few weeks later, I found the problem again. However, this time it was on a JPG. Then, the problem started to get much worse. I found that approximately 5% of my photos appeared corrupted no matter what camera body or memory card combination I used.
So, I started testing to see if I could figure out where the problem originated. First check was my cameras. I never saw any corrupted files on the LCD panel of my Nikon Cameras, so felt that these weren’t issue.
Next was to see if it was a specific CF card. I had corrupted files from all of my CF cards, so it wasn’t a single card problem.
Next was to determine if it was a software issue. My workflow is to ingest my files through Photo Mechanic where I then add copyright and keyword metadata. I ran a test where I brought the photos into my external disk drive through Photo Mechanic and then a separate test where I moved them manually through drag and drop. In both cases, I had corrupted files. Hmm.
Next was to determine if the problem was with my card reader. I use a Lexar Pro CF/SD UDMA card reader and I had heard that there are some incompatibilities between certain card readers and Mac computers. So, to eliminate this as a cause, I moved files to my external drive with the card reader and then again with a direct USB connection to my Nikon D700. In both cases, I had corrupted files.
Ok, at this point, it was clear that the problem wasn’t:
– Card reader
I began to suspect that the problem might be my external disk drive. I’m currently downloading images directly to an OWC 2TB Mercury Elite Pro Quad interface external disk drive. This drive allows me to connect it to the computer via one of four methods: USB, Firewire 400, Firewire 800 or eSATA. My standard protocol is to keep it connected to my MacBook Pro via eSATA. I use an eSATA Express 34mm adapter that plugs into my Mac.
The next series of tests was to download files to my computer’s desktop and then do another download to my external hard drive. The files downloaded to my computer desktop via USB card reader had zero corrupted files. The same files downloaded to the external drive via eSATA connection had two corrupted images. Aha! It was looking like it might be my external hard drive.
It took one more test to get to the bottom of the problem. I connected the same hard drive to my computer via USB (rather than eSATA) and did the download test one more time. This time, I had zero corrupted files.
I called OWC (Other World Computing http://www.macsales.com) and told them my predicament. They immediately said that there was a specific incompatibility with my Express 34mm eSATA adapter and the model of MacBook Pro that I use. For some reason, the chipset for MacBook Pro 5, 1 (five comma one) has problems with some models of Express 34 eSATA cards. OWC said that they would replace my eSATA card with a new one and I’d be up and running within a week.
What a relief. It is really hard to be a professional photographer when you can’t trust your tools. Knowing that I might or might not get corrupted files from any of my cameras at any time, really put the damper on my photography. The kind people at OWC were wonderful to work with. I also talked a bit with Photo Mechanic (http://www.camerabits.com) and they were extremely helpful in helping to troubleshoot the problem.
Now, I’m still using the external hard drive, but I have it connected via USB or Firewire. Once the new eSATA adapter arrives, I’ll go back to high-speed data transfer.
I went out to Pt. Defiance Park on Wednesday with the kids to go on a morning hike. We had a great time trekking along the beach and wandering through all the trails. We parked at Owen Beach and went Northwest along the rocky beach and up to the Dalco Passage Viewpoint.
Along the way, we climbed up a big tree and watched the Vashon Island ferry slowly motor back and forth between the Tacoma and Vashon docks. As we hiked, we snacked on salmon berries and huckleberries. In fact, we ate so many huckleberries that our tummies hurt!
Towards the end of the hike, my kids found this fantastic tree (above image) and began climbing up all the exposed roots, just like it was a big jungle gym. They saw an opportunity for exercise. I saw an opportunity for HDR photography!
To create this image, I used my Nikon D90 set to auto bracketing. I shot three images at 2.0 stops apart. Since I didn’t have my tripod with me, I handheld all three exposures and stood as still as possible so there wasn’t much movement in between pictures.
For the final HDR merge, I used Photomatix Pro. Here are the three shots that went into making the final image.
I’m out doing some work today for a new book project with Rocky Nook. I took this image of the New Oregon fishing boat by hoisting my Nikon D90 digital camera into the air with a home-made DIY aerial photography monopod. I made the monopod out of a paint roller extension handle from the Home Depot which allows me to raise the camera about 20′ into the air. To get the shot, I put the Nikon D90 on self timer with a five second delay.
I converted the image to Black and White in Nikon Capture NX 2 and added some extra contrast to the sky using the Selection Brush tool.
Here are a couple of other versions of the same file. The first is with a bit of a softening filter. The second is a color image.
One of the greatest things about running photo workshops in Dallas, Texas is all of the food! Dallas has one of the highest restaurant per capita rates in the USA. BBQ, steak houses, Mongolian grills, delis, pasta, seafood, Tex-Mex, burgers, wings … you name it. I had a great time finding new restaurants. I think I gained ten pounds! Here’s a small sample of some meals.
Last weekend was Gig Harbor’s Maritime Gig Parade and I just had to get out there and snap a bunch of pics of the event. My family and I had a great time participating since my son walked in the parade with his classmates. They were able to travel the parade route with the local Gig Harbor Fire Department which was a big thrill for the kids.
This year’s theme was Pirates of the Peninsula and most of the floats and people were dressed up as swashbuckers in some form or another. Pirate canons were firing off with a deafening “BOOM” at regular intervals and people were being chased down the street by men wielding swords. Arrrgh was the word of the day!
I took along a small camera kit that included a Nikon D90, 12-24mm lens and an older 80-200mm f4.5 lens that I bought in the 1990’s. I stood along the side of the street until something interesting came along, then I walked into the middle of the parade to take the photograph. Small town events are perfect for getting good access; no fences, no walls, no security force to keep you back. Just happy people with big smiles, all having a good time together.
Events like these are also wonderful for taking people photographs, because everyone fully expects to have their photos taken. Nobody has any inhibitions. When you pull out your camera, they’ll do just about anything for the lens! I had kids doing summersaults, adults dancing around in circles, pirates pretending to swing their swords and drivers of classic cars stopping to show off their chrome. Anything for a pic!