Sunday, July 31, 2005

Yosemite 7-26-05 to 7-29-05

We have an Ansel Adams photograph -- a winter shot of Yosemite Valley, including El Capitan, taken from the west -- hanging on our wall. In all our visits to Yosemite, we never managed to stop at the location where Adams may have taken that famous picture. It's an unsigned parking area along the Merced River, marked on the park map as "Valley View". (Adams probably set up a little east of this spot, on the same side of the Merced.) That's where the picture below was taken on July 27th.

The waterfall visible on the right side is Bridalveil Falls; here is a closer view:

Two more novel things for us about this trip: this was the closest we had ever gotten to a bear and a deer. The young bear shown below was nosing around Tenaya Lake, in the northeast part of the park.

We've seen many deer, but none this nonchalant and unafraid. The deer shown below sauntered along a crowded stretch of riverside near Swinging Bridge, seemingly oblivious to the attention it attracted from numerous children... and more than one photographer.

This flower was photographed at May Lake. I'm not sure what it is, but it grew in abundance around that lake.

On the 28th, storm clouds brewed over Lembert Dome, in the northeast part of the park. Although not visible on the picture below, a solitary climber was ascending the dome's face, about halfway up at the time of the picture. Not the best day to go climbing...

All of these pictures were taken with my recently acquired Canon Digital Rebel XT. I have mixed feelings about this camera. It feels good in my hands, can share my old Canon EOS film camera's lenses, and being an SLR is easier to use to compose pictures than my old Olympus 4040 and 2000 rangefinder digicams. However, too many of my pictures have come out improperly focused, an issue with the autofocus. It's fumbled some easy shots the Olympus cameras never would have missed. But, eight megapixels and the RAW format are nice... and the first Yosemite picture shown above will hopefully look great when enlarged and hung on the wall, next to the Ansel Adams.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

New cereus blooms (7-11-05)

At this writing, three of the four buds I recently wrote about have bloomed (the fourth will open this evening). I was greatly looking forward to these blooms so I could try out my new digital camera, an 8 MP Canon Digital Rebel XT. Two flowers opened on the 9th, but my pictures suffered owing to lack of familiarity with the new camera. I fared better with the solo bloom last night (the 11th). Two lessons learned: how to restrict the autofocus to a single point (important for extreme closeups), and the degree of sharpening needed. Compared to my Olympus 4040Z, the Canon pictures are consistently fuzzier out of the box, and need a relatively larger amount of sharpening in Photoshop.

This is my first experience with RAW images, and I really like the additional control over the white balance this format affords. The Canon software includes a tool for selecting the white point, and the image's color shifts about this point. Most of the cereus flower is nearly pure white, but always comes out with a sickly yellow cast owing to the harsh tungsten/halogen lighting I use. I've had reasonable success in the past recovering a true white in Photoshop but I think the Canon RAW Image Task white point tool affords even more precise control. The two plots below show before and after shots.

The Canon-supplied software has two serious flaws: it's as slow as molasses, and Canon ImageBrowser keeps on updating the modification dates of every file in a folder each time I open a folder -- whether I actively modify any of the files or not. Since I never alter originals, I expect their file dates to remain the same -- indicating when I took the shot. That must change.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Further bud development...

Only four of the buds I posted on 6/16 about continued to develop... which I take as a good thing. Based on last year's experience, I was worried that if the plant had too many buds and blooms to support that each individual one might be shortchanged. For all the plant's blooming activity late last summer, few if any of the blooms ever opened all the way. Maybe the plant was exhausted from handling so much growth at the same time...

Anyway, here are pictures of the most advanced development from last Friday (July 1) and today (July 4). These pictures were taken with a new Canon Digital Rebel XT, an 8 megapixel camera. Hopefully, this camera will give me very high resolution shots of the eventual bloom. Based on my own photographic record of a development from bud to bloom, I would judge the blooming event at about 7 days away.