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Index of Pages

J R Learns the D200 dSLR

Steep Learning Curve in Nikon D200 Land

All Stories + Photographs ©2006 by J R Compton

Day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26,
27, 28, Ref, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36,    The Birds - 1

Redwinged Blackbirds Chasing - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Male Red-winged Black Bird Chasing a Female Red-winged Black Bird
in All Out Chase Mode — from The Birds - 1

At first I was intrigued, then came a long turn of obsession. Eventually I got bored with The Steep Learning Curve (this)'s original format. After the first 36 rapid succession pages, I lapsed into doing the things — living life — I'd procrastinated, and I put off writing and web paging my D200 exploits.

When I first wrote this, I hadn't written about it for weeks. I thought I'd eventually work up one big page with all the best of my bird pictures. What I did instead — and am still doing — is my very own Amateur Birder's Journal of nearly daily (still got that obsession) entries, usually of me tromping around Dallas' White Rock Lake.

Tune in to my Amateur Birder's Journal for my latest Nikon D200 Photographs and check out My New Birds Index for gobs more bird shots.

1 The Birds - On Beyond Egrets includes Petite Yellowpants, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in sharp focus for a change, multi-dancing Mockingbirds, a ruffling Egret, a Great Blue Heron flyby, Red-winged Blackbirds in focus and chasing through meadow, a prancing Killdeer and the elusive Black-crowned Night Heron in the late afternoon

Unlike most photo journals, this one features both really good photographs and really bad ones (though usually not on this page). Accompanying both is text explaining what I learn from each shot. I'm getting better at this new camera and dSLR (digital Single Lens Reflex) concept, but I still make mistakes. And learn from them.

These pages document my learning experiences as I again enter the world of professional photography (I was a staff photographer at the Dallas Times Herald in the early 70s then decided I loved doing photography too much to be a professional, since all the pros I knew were going crazy with all the commerciality.). This ongoing journal stars my new Nikon D200 a couple of new lenses and some old ones.

Most recent pages are on top, below. Early pages went through dense photo tech talk as I remembered what I used to know. Later pages show more understanding and less tech. As I change my photographic techniques and patterns.

Pages are no longer days or consecutive, but both the learning and the curve continue steeply upward.

Warning: These pages are long with dozens of photographs, seriously taxing slower internet connections (like mine). Cable or DSL will be no problem. But they're some great photos ... and more coming.
36 Dark - my first attempt to take pictures in the dark
35 Flowers - some with bugs, some with new names, but bugs
34 Bird Sex & Violence - It's spring, and we have Grackles Courting and Fighting; a Duck Gang Rape; Egrets Courting and Fighting; European Starlings Fighting over Food, not sex; and some other birds not fighting or having sex — including a brief flyover by the grand, but elusive Great Blue Heron.
33 Aerial Fish Fight & The Underexposure Blues - lots of flying egrets, some elegantly so, many very close, plus a web, a jet plane's con trail, people sitting on the dam, me getting caught taking tele candids, sunsets and fences in the way — The learning continues.
32 The Last Day of this journal. The learning curve remains curving steeply ahead. I'm just not gonna spend all that time every day reporting on its minutia. Easter at White Rock. Too damned many people. Birds too smart to be around that many people. I took pictures. End, finally, of this story here — or so I thought...
31 Four Out Of Five Bad Exposures: The first day with my new, inexpensive but lovely Nikon 70-300mm diminishing aperture zoom lens, a page of photos from a day at the end of which I discover that it is a very good lens indeed, and that there's plenty more to learn about it before I use it well, but if I can just remember to turn off exposure bracketing, I'll be 500% better almost immediately. I kept wondering why I shot 685 frames today, and the answer is, so I could come up with a few decent photographs and proof of an amazingness I wanted to but didn't wholly believe the lens was capable of. Now I do.
30 Error: Some days are giddy with joy. Some are nightmarish. This day I shot 201 photographs, 3/4 of which were underexposed — often badly — all at 1/350 @ f/11. Although I managed to suck some light out of the darkness. And I shot a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher courting high in the air, and a couple from that series are in focus. I keep promising to show some of my really bad photographs. Here they are.
R The Reference Page — links to Nikon D200 information sites, online reviews, discussion forums, the banding issue, lens tests, and My Reference Library of books and an instructional DVD — and some particularly nice bird photographs (no pelicans; they're finally gone), poetic words and some of my best birds in flight photos yet.



Fair Park — A Great Place to Explore Space: wraptree sculpture, big wheel, flaggy tents, hafl shell in light and dark, Walking On Tongues, Gaudi Bridge, swans with cute hats, brave turtles, Tongues Tied and reflections, a black & white elephant, empty space, snakes, tunnels, a piddlin' fountain, one bright orange tractor, a Royal Imp and a shininig vision. [17-55 2.8 lens.]

27 Expanding into the Why Dangle, and Getting away from the lake: exploring Fair Park and other places around Dallas, including my first touches with art in awhile — art photos, a little art commentary and art places (Paper Arts and 500X), but mostly photographs of our state fairgrounds, the best state fairgrounds, the best state fairgrounds in the state. [17-55 2.8 lens.]
26 Over the lake and through the woods: dirty gray and dark brown, white and black ducks, ultimate courting pigeons, aerial mallard, amazing swollen rug creatures, dramatic star-like lilies, trash under a bridge, the rock reflected, zoom-zoom, siblings on swings, pelicans nonetheless, a big soft nest and a path through the woods [17-55 2.8 lens.]
Of Shape-shifters, bugs, cats, trees & birds: Testing a new lens - lenses, coverage gaps, dwindling f/stops, future plans, around the house, tp, real and wood flowers, redwing blackbird, baby and big dead snakes, box of scum, drooping trees, hippie bug and roses  [17-55 2.8 AFS lens.]
24 Getting the priorities right: bent tree solo, macro, forest for the trees, playground visions, the car and pony show, artificats of childhood without the kids, dark canals, landing craft, not the vietnam memorial, Post Hill, landscape Cubism, stop signs, white-eyed gooses, muscovy visage, log bumps, catching it just where I want it, long boat, short stump, lust in the grass (then and now), Jeep Boy and swinging up so very high — of and pertaining to shutter and aperture priorities [180mm 2.8 lens]
23 Bird & People Portraits: Courting pigeon redux, a sharp grackle, nose-warmed ducks, ducks landing, the usual suspects, mass pelk landing, Ester Williams fishing, skylines, rowers glinting in the sun, a little boy with a big stick, multicolored bikers, a gnarly tree and a gnarly dude in my first serious formal portrait attempt in years [180mm 2.8 and 105mm 2.5 lens]
22 Of Water Who Always Wins, Retaining Walls, Roses, & Falls: falling into the lake, cluttered commerce, dusky distance, pyramids, tumble falls, cell phones and dog pucky, bridge struts, communing with nature, churning ducks, shredding water, caged rocks, a simple bridge, missing links, international lady and a sunset [180mm 2.8 AF lens]

More on focus, manual focus, Billy Joe Shaver, Anna, NEF & Lens Dreams: almonds, surfing for photography, sharpness, RAW, JPEG, DSL, Mercury Rx, VR, old photos of rockers, Janis and Jimi, Billy Joe last November, 80-400, up-close-and-personal, the 50 1.8, and a portrait of a lady [35mm 1.4 lens]

Two pages of photographs & commentary about
the recent White Rock Lake Flood Disaster

 Elder White Rock Lake Citizen - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. Elder White Rock Citizen from Day 20


19 After the flood - A Story in Photographs — The Return of the Journaphotolist: You may have heard about the sudden erosion of the Spillway Fence at White Rock Lake. Here (and on page 20) are photographs and terse commentary all around that story.  [180mm 2.8 lens]


Visiting an old lake denizen & other adventures - widening space, more flood details and victims, a pretty puddle, a brief extra-lake experience, fences, yellow tape, crumbling concrete, protest art, abstract realism, 9 inches to infinity in focus, found my meter mode, deteriorating shoreline, high flood markers, twisted tree and a pretty one-acre puddle [20mm f/4 lens]

More lake flood damage pics and poetic commentary on page 22.

18 Rain & More Rain but not much light: white lions, storms, floods, drips, lens dreams, anti-war march flooded out, Tigger & Poo, feathers, striped sox, wrinkled sheets [buncha lens, who knows which shot which any more]

Characters, Colors, Floss Trees, the One-Leg Duck Dance, Tipping Sailboats, Coupling Bugs and more focus issues - 114 shots, monochromatic compositions, humanity's faces, paralleling people, saturated colors, fishing poles, live and dead ducks, picturesque sailboats, stars on houses, sun shining too bright, dark skin in dark shadows, two horny couples, recumbent bike in focus and a cute little skater out  [180mm 2.8 AF lens.]


Looking down from a hill & other images - high and low iso testing, curlicue weeds, iso off the map, sailboats, distant trees and skylines, glowing bridge, Thistledown Road nostalgia, Yacht Clubs from on high, sharp, sharp, sharp, Yield Sign, picnic building and looping street sign, red-budding trees on a lilting landscape, young male pelk floating and bridge fasteners in the sunset [180mm 2.8 AF lens]

15 Nearly no techy talk but plenty photo thinking: Birds, Birds and More birds, Wood Duck, courting pigeons, Pelks on the wing and in focus, turkey vulture flyover, duck with a doo, colorful ducks, a handsome grackle, a guy hand-juggling a crystal ball, other people walking in the sunshine, Anna in the Karate Kid pose, Mom Running Orange, Bam-Bam on a pedestal, a truly handsome tree, Dreyfuss, a sunset wedding on the hill and a lilting sunset with walkers and fisher persons [180mm 2.8 AF lens]

Coot on the Run - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Coot Running on Water   1/500 @ f/11  iso320 HH 30% crop


14 Focus and Blurry Spots - Sunshine comin' in the winders, dragon, captain's prism, sparkling crystals, 230 shots today, my first FULL warning, separate battery charger, boats, fins, boat abstracts, url, baggy boat hangers, kids playing in the playground, girl walking a way, boy playing space pilot, Coots Walking on Water (finally), rowers interacting with the boat house and rowing away, strange out-of-focus spot, rippling water, pump house and an alien goose on the yellow line  [180 2.8]
13 A Different View of yesterdays' shoot - boat noses, 10.3 megapixels vs. only 5, AR, boat house again, bicyclers near and far, accidentally amusing, meter test proves nothing, Alien Gooses, a closer view [180mm 2.8 AF lens]
12 Mr Telephoto interfaces with the real world via a very wide-angle lens, the boat house, tele and why dangle philosophies, the giant snail, stuff in front of the lens, knobby-headed geese, dead squirrel, rowing boats, playground kids, trestles and a raised, covered manhole [20mm f/4]

Lens fun and games - manual everything, close-up micro, old lenses, seed scene again, reader's thank-you, right-angle viewer, red yarn, Diana discussion, pinhole mention (again), fun lenses, macro and very wide wide-angle, ART, lens size, long lens thinking, sculler scratching in the middle of the lake, a telephoto kind of guy, my first flash, interiors, exteriors, Sweet Pea, crystal glass with TV in it, Single- and Twin-Lens Reflexes [20mm 4, 35mm 1.4 and 55mm manual everything lenses]


More focus and better exposures - cloudy dull day, screened seedlings, feeling stupid, M for manual, pot shards, fence link sympathy, shredded tarp, Egyptian sidewalk stones, soft bark, backyard bidnizz, lens switch, gold red kite, distant skyline lost in gray, angular tree, wet dogs fetchinf, flag flying kayaker, grande mansion on the shore and the glorious dreamed of Pelican Flyover. [35mm 1.4 MF and 180mm 28 lenses]

Feathers Sharpened - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Feathers Sharpened - from Day 8. Life and Death at White Rock Lake.

9 Focus, focus, focus - Cloudy Bright Day, Sharp Manual Focus Tele Lens, Windows, Xmas Lites, Spoon, Feathers, lens quandaries, Blue Hand & The Bottles, Purple Buds, front porch, focus, butterfly chimes, 35mm f/1.4 lens vs. 105mm f/2.5 lens, sun shine, time as a displacement unit and contemporariness [105mm 2.5 manual focus lens]
8 What lens? 35mm f/1.4, manual focus lens on a D200, out of focus, disappointment, focusing screen, bikes, flowers, feathers, boats, statues, 100% crop, lensaphobia [35mm 1.4 manual focus lens]


Pelicans, pelicans & more pelicans - beaks, wings, flying, landing, (They're leaving soon, you know.), short cuts, a book, a DVD, emails from friends, feeling stupid, teaching people their cameras, teaching me mine, dials for focus and/or exposure, reading the manual, fiddling the controls, integrating the interface, showing my mistakes, progress, focus, welcoming committee, splash and skid, aquacameraphobia, right? right, switches, clickers, dials, arrows and a pelican giving itself a shower bath [180mm 2.8 AF lens]
6 Nature's little jokes - Life, Death & Childhood along the lake, Slippery When Wet, Stinky Bird Season, fingers learning new lessons, Playback that doesn't, 26 buttons and untold menu items, Tex-Mex architecture, the flow, abstraction, signs, shapes and lines, freighting heavy lenses, Sleepy Twins in Pink, wiggly windows, hidden faces and the Blue Hand Gang [180mmAF lens]
5 NOT the D200 - Joel Cooner Gallery, objects d'art, light bulbs, a shield, a mask and a half, a club, a scroll and some Turkoman Jewelry; studio and other lights; tilting, swiveling and angling; live and post-mortem monitors; static and action photography; obsessive compulsive ography; and SHARK BOY — You just gotta see Shark Boy! [180mm AF lens]

More people, less techno babble - and more learning from making more mistakes: walking and running on the water, pokey Cubes, in-camera slide shows, renumbering images, Pelican Fly-bys, Focus configuration, Coot behavior, people pictures, photojournalism, scooter-standing and truck-sitting, water extraction, colorful kids, elegant feathery wings, avian mischief, Mallard portrait, stealth mode, a big brown dog in a bright red car and focus [180mm 2.8 AF lens]


3 Stormy flood water over the dam, wet drought and bare feet - reviewing images, focus modes, Pelicans standing and flying, ditto ducks, slosh, Chromatic Aberration, orange peppers and Anna [180mm 28 AF lens]

F/stops and tinkers' dams - focal length, diaphragms, apertures, camera obscura, feathers, pinhole cameras, f/.75, lens obsession, f/3.5-5.6, trusty old lenses, Carl Zeiss zoom, loading images, Speed Graphic, JPEGgery and and other sillinesses [180mm 2.8 AF lens]

1 Too much photo tech - for some non-photogs: My first D200 image, a short history of my cameras (and links to more); lens basics and lens research — some really bad photographs to learn from; ISO; already missing my old camera; megapixels, film sizes, VR, DX, depth of field, depth of focus, f/stops and old film lenses on new digital cameras [180mm2.8 AF lens]

Pelks At Play - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Wings Up & Noses Out   1/500 @ f/11  iso400 pattern HH about 40% crop from Day 7. NOTE: the variety of beak shapes and colors among our winter guest pelicans that arrive in mid-October and leave in mid-to-late March or early April each year.


Website and all its stories, photographs and other contents
copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.