Happy Holidays 2011

Craig and Dana - May 2011, Miami

I guess I didn’t do a very good job last year of blowing the dust off of this site or my work blog. One big reason for that has been the sheer busy-ness at work this year. And working here is a lot like work, even more so this year, and I want to unwind from work when I’m at home. I hit my 10-year anniversary at UF last March and it’s still my dream job. Two other reasons for inactivity here are called  Facebook and Twitter, which make sharing brief updates very convenient.

But the biggest reason is that I’ve been working on something very big offline and it’s shown wonderful progress. I’m happy.

Here are some photo albums from the past year:

Some older stuff not linked here previously:

Find me elsewhere online:

Check back. I might not be done yet.

Happy Holidays 2009

Here are some links to stories and photo sets from my adventures of 2009:

Kayaking

Travel

Miscellany

Find me elsewhere online:

Succinct camera buying advice

Many of my readers now that being asked for camera buying advice is a somewhat regular occurence for me. Mike Johnston of The Online Photographer summed it up about as well and succinctly as I have ever read in one in a series of recent posts:

“But seriously, here’s how to buy a camera: figure out what lenses you need first, and who has them; figure how big a camera you want to carry; figure out (from that and from the pricing and your budget) what level or tier you’re going to be looking in (and this level is a good one); then pick one and get on with it.”

My usual advice is to find the Canon camera that best fits your budget and desired features and then talk yourself into the next higher-priced model. If someone complains about not wanting to buy a Canon, I tell them that they asked the wrong person for advice. That’s not entirely true, though, since I do occasionally recommend Panasonics too.

Update: The day after writing the above, New York Times personal technology columnist David Pogue offered this even-briefer bit of advice in response to the cocktail-party question, “What camera should I get?”:

“The Canon PowerShot SD880. Or, if you’re willing to carry around a bigger, heavier model (an S.L.R.), the Nikon D5000.”

I’ve recommended the first camera. The latter I’m not very familiar with, but I have long found Nikon’s user interface to be confusing.

Happy Holidays 2008

Here are some links to stories and photo sets from my adventures of 2008:

Travel

Kayaking

Miscellany

Keep checking back. I might not be done yet.

Geotagging photos for Flickr with Mac OS X and a Garmin GPS

Ichetucknee River tubingMy photos from my bike club group ride and Ichetucknee River tubing adventure over the weekend were my first successful integration of photography, my recently-acquired GPS unit, and my quest for adventure.

Here’s the toolkit:

Here’s the procedure:

  • Synchronize your camera’s time with the GPS unit’s time.
  • Take your powered-on GPS unit with you on an adventure. Garmin makes a nice handlebar mount for mine. I also have a boat mount that I plan to put in the kayak. For the tubing, I put it in my dry bag that I took along.
  • When you get home, download the photos from the camera to your Mac.
  • Using RoadTrip, download your GPS track to your computer and edit the track as necessary. I copy my edited track to its own folder in RoadTrip. Export the folder from RoadTrip, creating a GPX file.
  • Open GPSPhotoLinker and load the track and the photos. Use the “View on map” button to preview the position online in Google Maps (the default, others are available). I mostly found myself using the “Time weighted average point.” When you are satisfied with how things are looking, use the “Save to photo” button to write the geographic info into the metadata of the photo file. A batch mode is also available.
  • Before uploading to Flickr, You need to set the Import EXIF location data setting in your profile to “Yes.” I don’t know why Flickr doesn’t have a “This photo contains geographic data, do you want to use it?” option when you click, “Add to your map,” but for now, it will only automatically use the data on upload.
  • Upload your images to Flickr. If you are editing the images first, make sure you don’t save them with a method that discards the metadata.
  • Sit back and enjoy your mapped photos. Here are mine.

A tale of two lenses

It was a good weekend for butterflies in the garden. On summer weekends around the house, I usually keep my Canon Digital Rebel D-SLR by the front door (and therefore near the butterfly garden) with the Canon 75-300 zoom lens on it ready to go should my visual motion detector go off as I gaze out the windows facing the garden.

I had a visit Saturday morning from one of my favorites, the black form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. I took a bunch of pictures and was very disappointed when I downloaded them. Maybe I was particularly shaky for some reason. I thought the light was sufficient.

Later in the afternoon, the black butterfly was still hanging around and had been joined by its more typically marked cousin, shown here. It was clouding up for an afternoon thunderstorm making it less bright than earlier and I thought that was trouble if I went out there with the big zoom. So I grabbed my fastest (and lightest) lens, the 50mm f1.8, put it on the camera, and went out and got some great results. I probably could have cranked up the ISO, but I didn’t want to deal with the noise.

I was worried about getting close enough to the butterflies with such a short lens, but I was inspired by having seen David Pogue’s funny video demonstration of how to zoom the fixed-focal-length Sigma DP-1 and no doubt also thought of Derrick Story‘s frequent admonitions to “get closer” and got as close as I could. I am pleased.

Another option would have been to grab the 17-85mm IS zoom, but it’s heavy (the 50mm is light as a feather) and not any faster than the big zoom.

One of the problems I have with shooting the 75-300mm zoom for butterflies is that you can only get as close as about 5 ft. with it. (Why do I always think 7 ft. while shooting?) I often don’t think that’s close enough. The 50mm and the 17-85mm zoom both get you within 18 inches.

I hadn’t yet listened to Derrick’s podcast show from last week about how sweet good glass is. That reinforced the decision I am mulling about getting the Canon 70-200mm f4 L zoom lens to go with the Canon EOS 40D I am thinking of upgrading to from the Digital Rebel. Derrick might say that I just ought to go ahead and buy the lens, based on what he said on the podcast. (I looked and it gets you as close as 4 ft.)

Ironically, the 50mm/f1.8 is also the cheapest lens in my bag.

This year’s most common butterfly sighting

Zebra Longwing on Orange Cestrum

The Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitionius) is the state butterfly of Florida. They used to be a rare sight in my butterfly garden, but this year are the most common sight so far. The Orange Cestrum (Cestrum aurantiacum) is the most popular plant in the garden so far this year too. It’s grown too big for its spot though and needs to be moved or at least severely pruned this Fall.

View the photo on Flickr