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J R learns the D200 - Day 24

Getting the priorities right: trees, birds,
playthings, monuments and swings

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That Flower Tree - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

The Flowered Tree   1/250 @ f/4.8     iso 320 FF HH  CWA

Wednesday March 29, 2006: Driving to the lake, I saw this in a park I used to walk through. A place thick with trees where my mind wanders almost everytime I drive by. I was doing just that when I saw this one (the only one in the park) flowered tree nearly tipped over, dark and flowered among so many vertical grays.

I parked in the lot down the hill and walked back to get the same view as when I first saw it (above). Then I wandered around in the park with my telephoto and my new camera set to shutter priority for the first time. I didn't want blurred shots from handholding that heavy thing.

Flower Tree Flowers - Copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Flowered Tree Flowers   1/500 @ f/4.8    iso 320 FF HH  CWA

Then, feeling like the hotshot photog, I shot "close-ups" of the flowers, just knowing that if I shot them at 1/500th of a second, they'd be rendered sharp. Well some few of them were, although most of the depth of the field is on the leaves behind. I shoulda tried smaller apertures and not so fast shutters, but the light was dull the few times the sun shone through the bounteous clouds.

I was wrong about the 180mm substituting successfully for a macro lens.

Trees - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Trees   1/500 @ f/4.8     iso 200 FF HH  CWA

This is the sort of grouping of trees that sets my mind wandering as I drive by. Something about long, thin masses and light and shadow and multitudes of them all crissing and crossing as I glide by, lost in wordless image thought.


Playground Thingy - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Playground Thingy   1/250 @ f/5.6     iso 320 FF HH  CWA

There are several playground groupings, a roofed over picnic area and lots of sidewalks rolling in and out of the trees. There's also a series of strange concrete canals that cut through the park at dangerous intervals, and just a few, widely scattered concrete bridges.

Crossing over to the other side means a longish walk. Which is what I was out for, so why not.


The Car & Pony Show - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

The Car & Pony Show   1/x@ f/x     iso 320 80% of FF HH  CWA

This was taken in cloudy dull conditions. I got another shot of it in brighter sunshine, but that one's less sharp. So this will have to do. I almost didn't include it here, but I like it so much, the childhood dreamness of these animatable cartoon characters abstracted to their essence.

It's possible that having kids on and interacting with these characters might yield better photographs, but I do like it just like this, artifacts of childhood uncomplicated by real children...

Canal - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Canal   1/350 @ f/5.6     iso 200 FF HH  CWA

Near the main playground, there's fences keeping kids from jumping into or trying to jump over (I wouldn't) these hard, squared canals. But most of the park just has them out in the open, where anybody could wander into them or get trapped walking over in darkness. I wonder how many injuries over the years they've been guilty of.


Table with Cup - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Table with Cup   1/180 @ f/11     iso 200 FF HH  CWA

It's a perfectly ordinary thing for a park to have, but the light and dark on it and through it makes it a sort of visual cipher, an abstraction, a bit of mystery wrapped in bright and shadow. Of course, I was drawn to it.

Trees Trees - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Trees Trees   1/180 @ f/6.7     iso 200 FF HH  CWA

Chiaroscuro — "1. The technique of using light and shade in pictorial representation. or 2. The arrangement of light and dark elements in a pictorial work of art." According to the CD-based American Heritage Dictionary.


Parking Lot Across the Street - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Parking Lot Across the Street   1/180 @ f/5.6     iso 200 FF HH  CWA

This is the parking lot across the street from my neighborhood Subway restaurant, where I grabbed the $2.49 daily special with avocado for fifty cents extra. While eating it, I watched, as I often do, this strange parking lot. I've never before thought of photographing it, so today, I did.

I shot it twice, and the differences are negligible. They looked almost identical. This one felt better.


Boat Load1. The technique of using light and shade in pictorial representation.
2. The arrangement of light and dark elements in a pictorial work of art.

Boat Unload   1/350 @ f/4     iso 2000 FF HH  CWA

First place I stopped at the lake, was the residential area across the lake and up the hill from the boat house. I'd decided not to shoot anything I'd already shot, so I was ready for just about anything new. This looked new, but I didn't want to wait around for the long procedure of putting them into the juice.


The Memorial - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

The Memorial   1/180 @ f/6.7     iso 200 FF HH  CWA

I've always thought of this as a sort of junior informal Vietnam Veteran's Memorial that nobody else knows about. One of those But Is It Really Art? or just a bunch of stones things that get crosswise in my mind sometimes. The sun was not a constant today, but when did shine, it did that lovely rounded pleating thing in the background that almost makes this picture.

I know I have not yet shot this stone wall from the perfect angle with the perfect light. But this is close. I'll be back again. I've been working at it intermittently for several years. I think I got closest today.

Beyond Post Hill - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Beyond Post Hill   1/250 @ f/6.7     iso 200 FF HH  CWA

I'm calling where Lawther floats around the lake through that ritzy neighborhood over those hills and dales and past those numerous stop signs, Post Hill. Because of the posts at all angles along the side. You'll see more views of the hill itself. This is me standing on the hill across from it, photographing out as far as I can see.

This sample scoops over the hills, dips over The Boat House up to Playground Hill and the trees on the other side of the lake. There's barest essential samples of the lake in tiny pieces between branches at about 1 o'clock. I love that the sun and sun reflected in the lake, twice lights boat house so that it phosphoresces in this dull darkness.

Corvette Hill - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Corvette on Post Hill   1/250 @ f/4.8     iso 200 FF HH  CWA

I got tired of waiting for a biker to pedal down or up the hill, passed on a Mini Cooper, but couldn't help myself with the streamlined Corvette. I didn't want it caught up in the lace of the tree branches, and it needed to be in the space between that and the pole. Right about just where it is.

In larger versions of these shots (I did a couple with bicycles on the other side going up), this side is sharp and the other side is not. See how the grass on that side fuzzes?

Trees And Buildings - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Trees & Buildings   1/500 @ f/4     iso 200 FF HH  CWA

I was hoping for a new view that windowed through to my favorite building on White Rock Lake, the Bath House, which is what's at the top middle in this photograph, obscured by trees. The other shapes are, bottom to top, the lake, boat house, driveways, hill up to the playground, concrete holding the playground from silting down the hill, more lake, bath house, trees on the other side, and the sky.

This is, of course, also beyond Post Hill. I like its messy abstraction with sharp branches and the confusion of shapes and green and white and yellows. The original shot is amush with low contrast but lots of detail. I stole it from its low-contrast nowhere by narrowing its density scale from light to dark. Now, there's some of each.

Red Fence White Plant - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Red Fence with White Plant   1/500 @ f/4     iso 200 FF HH  CWA

By now, I should probably know what kind of plant this is. Some sort of Pampas Grass or something. Maybe. I've been making bad photographs of the red wood wall and the fairly boring house with strangely tinted windows safe behind it for months and years.

This shot needed sun. It's okay, but with sun would come shadows, especially in the feathery bits, and maybe even the green of the grass itself would be darker. Still, I like this, not quite successful photograph, for its dreaminess and color excess.


Stop Stop 20 - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Stop Stop 20   1/500 @ f/3.3     iso 200 FF HH  CWA

Shot down into the edge of the park from Post Hill, I waited a long time for the traffic to clear, so the space would show. Compressed by the longish telephoto, green on green on green with the long line of gray posts, gray street, gray path, gray distant road.

In general, I far prefer the span of higher shutter speeds and smaller apertures selected by the P (for Programmed) exposure mode, but I needed to try out the shutter-speed mode. 1/500 for this shot is nearing ridiculous, although I do appreciate the soft rendering of everything beyond what I focused on, that stop sign in the middle. The fuzz is almost ethereal.

Chinese Brown Goose - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Chinese Brown Goose   1/500 @ f/4     iso 400 FF HH  CWA

Yeah, I've shot these guys many times before, and they fascinate me such that I will probably shoot them (hopefully with other lenses) as long as they hang around. What's different this time, besides that it is actually in focus from tip of its black beak to the tips of its cute webby orange feet.

And that it is showing only the white of its eye. I'd seen it earlier and waited for it to come back before I shot this photograph. Very strange.

1/500th of a second shutter speed might be good for an active bird, but this guy was just standing there. And its friend, just behind, was rendered as irrelevant fuzz, thanks to the f/4 (nearly wide open) f/stop. A little more silly, pointing out the drawbacks of relying on the shutter speed preferred mode, which would be far more appropriate in sports or other action oriented situations.

Mr. Muscovy   1/350 @ f/4     iso 640 F60% crop HH  CWA

Equally strange is this Muscovy Drake , a duck whose body looks like a goose and whose face looks like nothing else on the planet. We have, over the last year or so, come to appreciate the Muscovies. They're plodding, tail-wagging galumphs who are gentle and trusting.

Fred J Alsop III's Birds of Texas calls them "Cairina moschata of the family Anatidae — "wild birds are restricted to the Lower Rio Grand Valley." and says they are "labored in flight," which reminds me I've never seen them fly, but maybe someday I will.

Anna and I spent a half hour with a family of them in the woods near Sunset Bay where fisher persons trash the pathways and creek edges and shy birds hang out in relative quiet and anonymity. We were careful and quiet, but we got up to within 18 inches of them, and they didn't seem to mind our clicking and snapping away.

Big & Little Turtles - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Big & Little Turtles   1/500 @ f/3.3     iso 200 FF HH  CWA

Usually about this time in early spring, I would have been haunting the Mockingbird car bridge to catch as many turtles in one shot as possible (A good idea. I'll try it soon). The turtle on the left reminded me of the elder turtle I interviewed a few pages back. Notice how it dwarfs the others on this log in the middle of the bog beyond the new walking bridge next to the boat house.

f/3.3 for any deeper subject would have tended toward the too slender thin, but for these bumps on a log shot crosswise, no problemo. I like the variety of sizes and the one on the left's outstreatched claws.

Caught Sailboat - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

1/250 @ f/4.8     iso 200 FF HH  CWA

Note the position of the sailboat in this otherwise un-noteworthy photograph. I waited for it to get just exactly there before I shot this photograph. Boring photo and stupid plan, but with my old Sony, it would have been impossible, except by sheer dumb luck.

That sucker don't shoot when its trigger gets pulled, it waits, and sometimes, it waits some more. On several occasions, it never did pop the shutter, always waiting for a perfection of focus and subject movement and light. I got to where I could guesstimate when it might finally click. I could anticipate between when the bride let go the bouquet and when some hapless woman would catch it. But I could never be sure.

Now I can set the D200 not to shoot unless it is perfectly in focus, but when I click the shutter button, it's almost always always always gonna shoot then. Thank the Universe for small favors.

A lot dark on the near side, and the sailboat is too bright out there in sunlight with no trees or hill shadow, but I can't blame the blandness of this shot on anything but that I wanted the to catch that sailboat right there where I wanted it and noplace else, and so what about anything else in the picture.

If it'd been worth anything, I would have cropped it however I needed. But it's not.

Trunk Slice with Flash - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Trunk Slice with Flash   1/250 @ f/2.8     iso 200 FF HH  CWA

I saw this wood slice standing upended on the concrete lap and shot it, more or less intuitively clicking the pop-up flash to make sure it would be evenly lighted. I did not expect the blur background effect, but what a nice surprise.

Sometimes I purposely blur the background in post-production through careful masking, but this is a straight shot, no complications and only a few seconds to contrast it up in post. Not that interesting a photo, come down to it, but I love the background. I think this is what they mean by a beautiful bokeh (might be pronounced bouquet; means soft and rounded in the out of focus areas; it's a term read often in the online forums).


Rowboat - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Rowboat   1/250 @ f/22     iso 200 FF HH  CWA

I managed to not take any other pictures through the windows as I walked the length of the shore-side of the Boat House. But I did not want to pass this spidery shot. I focused on the legs, swung the behemoth around to include as much of the boat as it could manage and fired. Only once.

Unexpected bonus was the lake's nearly in-focus reflection in the hull and out of focus rendering of everything else. There is a depth-of-field button I almost never use (although I used to use those on my Nikons in the last century). I will. I just don't yet. Sometimes I like to leave it up to chance. I like this chance a lot. Down to its minute dents in its bottom on the top, middle.

Here, finally, I switched to aperture priority, and I gave it some pretty good amount of that valuable resource, though it hardly shows shooting this close with this long a lens. But I don't care. It's beautiful, and anything else in focus might have sunk it.

Lovers on the Grass - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Lovers on the Grass   1/180 @ f/3.3     iso 200 FF HH  CWA   back to shutter priority

He stared at me for long moments several times as I circumnavigated that hot little spot on the blanket on the grass among the tilting goblets (alcohol is prohibited in the park), and he's torn here between concentrating on the lady and glaring at me.

Life in White Rock Lake Park. Almost everything about this shot, except the lighting, and the people (had to look closely to make sure it wasn't the same guy, and I'm still not sure about that.) reminds me of a much earlier photograph from May 6, 2005:

Lust in the Park - copyright 2005 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Lust in the Park, May 6 2005   taken with Sony F707  data unknown

A smallish portion of a 5-megapixel image shows the white halos around the tree leaves swinging through the sensuality parade near shore, right out there in full public view. And the accoutrements are so very similar — shoes, bottles, the bingo blanket...

Jeep Boy - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Jeep Boy   1/350 @ f/2.8     iso 200 FF HH  CWA  shutter priority

I would rather have had the child looking forward or up or at me. Seeing his eyes would have been so much more interesting. But he was intent on his task. His mother was trying to get him to look up, and after three entreaties, and three shots (this is the best of the bunch), they passed and I flashed a big smile.

Aperture priority would have made m ore sense for this shot, but I do like the way everything but his head and headlights on the roll bar are soft. If only we could have seen his eyes, this shot would come alive.

Swing Out - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Swing Out of The Darkness   1/350 @ f/9.5     iso 640 FF HH  CWA

I remember swinging that high when I was her age, many many years ago. There weren't nearly as many adults crowding around in those days, so the feeling of freedom was even more exaggerated, but I could sense that feeling again as she pumped higher and higher.

I cropped the shot just behind the guy shape on the right and under the fence line at the bottom to emphasize her leap forward and the puffy clouds above. I wish it had more light, more joy, but I like all the darkness all around, too. The fence, the rounded swing set poles, and all the hovering adult silhouettes.

I was aware as I shot this that she was swinging out into the light, but I hadn't yet appreciated the surrounding darkness, the result of aiming a light meter into white clouds.

For this light and this iso, there was plenty of light to shoot this scene brighter, but then the clouds (the "goal" in this short story) might have whited out, and that texture up there, beyond her, but where nearly all of her is pointing, is essential. Plus, the darkness serves to anonymize all those other people populating this otherwise busy shot. Another happy accident.


Total images expended, so far = 3,216

[All shots above(except the Lust On The Lawn shot) taken with the Nikon 180mm 2.8 AF lens.]