To wildflower or not wildflower…that is the question

Bluebonnets for a front yard

Bluebonnets for a front yard

And the answer lies on how much rain your part of Texas has received so far this year.

Parents have their toddlers ready, their point and shoot batteries charged, and the blankets washed and ready to plunk down on some prime wild-flower filled Texas landscape.

The 20 million dollar question is will there be any wild flowers there to greet them?

Plan your wildflower trips by using these links/tools:

  • http://www.wildflowerhaven.com/default.aspx
  • http://www.txdot.gov/travel/flora_conditions.htm
  • http://www.desertusa.com/wildflo/tx.html
  • http://www.lone-star.net/wildflowers/sightings.htm
  • If you know of any other places where landscape photographers in Texas keep track of the state’s annual gas-guzzling targets, please let me know.

There goes my hero–LensHero

So you have your new Christmas gift camera and it probably only came with a stock lens. Now you are probably wondering things like what kind of lens fits my camera? What size of lens should I use to shoot a child’s soccer game or a loved one’s recital?

Selecting lenses for a Nikon D40, D3000, D5000 or other DX cameras is more complicated than buying a lens for a $5000 Nikon D3x or other cameras. The difference is that in the DX models, Nikon has built the auto-focus motor within the body of the lens instead of putting it in the body of the camera.

Take a look at these two photos (courtesy of DPReview.com) and you can see the drive for the D80’s auto-focusing mechanism at the 7 o’clock position of the camera lens connector. That drive stem is missing from the D40 and it is missing from all of the DX version systems.

A word of caution…because I focus mostly on Nikon systems, I do not know what the equivilent is for the Canon system. So you should check with them about what their lower priced systems use for focusing.

So LensHero has come to the rescue by asking you for information about your camera, what you intend to shoot and then gives you suggestions on the lenses you should consider.

http://lenshero.com/

Check out the site–it covers almost all DSLR cameras. It’s a nice tool for beginners as well as experts. There are other sites that are also helpful but none are as simple as this one.

So you want to give a camera to someone this Christmas?

You need to learn how that person would use a camera. So ask these questions either of yourself or of the person you are buying for:

  • Where do you normally find yourself saying “If I only had a camera?”
  • Can I/they learn how to adjust aperture, focal length, or shutter speed?
  • Would they be better off with a point and shoot or do they need a DSLR?

Once you can get a handle on those items, you can then adjust your purchase and remember…the bigger the opening of the lens, the more light that lens lets it.

So a camera that looks like this:

A photo of the Nikon Coolpix P100 camera

The Nikon Coolpix P100 has a larger aperture which lets more light in

Takes better photos than a camera like this:

A photo of the Nikon Coolpix L22 camera

A Nikon Coolpix with a small aperture (opening)

And don’t let price deter you. Spend the extra $50-150 and get a camera that will show you a lifetime (or at least 2-4 years) worth of excellent photos!

Dealing with the old and the new

First off…PC World magazine has a great article on how to turn those old photographs in the family album into digital treasures. This is a key item in any family’s history—old photos and photo albums. The problem with giving them a digital treatment stems from the inability to know how to properly make safe backups of these files. It is not enough to simply store them on a blank CD/DVD and put them in a drawer or safe. Nope…

The best thing to do with these digitized old photos is to store them online. Looking for a place to put them? I covered that a couple of months back in my digital photo storage primer, http://jchampion.com/?p=352

NewToy
Having said that..it’s time that I introduce my new toy. It’s a mid-range camera to most but it’s a solid performer with a good record in the camera world. It’s a D90:

Nikon D90

My new Nikon D90

Here is one of my first pictures with it:

Bailey the Golden Retriever mix poses for the new D90

Bailey the Golden Retriever mix poses for the new D90

Would Nikon dump its entry level lines?

Word has it that the Nikon 3000 and 5000 series cameras I’m going to check this out because I cannot believe that Nikon is going to abandon the entry level markets and leave the D90 and D7000 as its lower level line. These cameras sell for $800 and up. The D7000 starts at $1000.

That’s now quite an entry level starting point.

Picking the right lens for your Nikon DSLR

So if you have a Nikon D40, D40, D60, or similar low end DSLR camera, you will inevitably face the same problem I had finding a lens that will work with it. Sure…you can spend extra and get the Nikkor DX lenses which work great but had a substantially higher price tag. But I am including a list of lenses you can pick up that won’t break the bank and that will help you get that perfect shot.

Any of the Tamron Di-II lenses will work as they have the motor built into them. My experience with this manufacturer is limited to one lens, the 70-300mm f-4.0-6.3 Di-II. It takes great photos and has a built-in macro feature which allows you to get up close and person on some pretty small and detailed objects. I have mostly good things to say about this lens however, its biggest downside has to be its focuser. It is slow and often comes up soft. I frequently find myself kicking the lens out of Autofocus and putting it in manual mode.

Sigma makes a series as well called the DC line. Those are DSLR lenses which are compatible with the Nikon D40’s autofocusing system. While I have not used these, I have read and heard good things about this brand.

In case you don’t know, the thing that makes these lower end digital single lens reflex cameras different (DSLR cameras) is that the motor that drives the autofocuser is not in the body of the camera like it is on the higher end cameras. No…the autofocusing motor for these lies within the lens itself. There is a small opening on the lens mount in front of the camera that allows you to see the drive mechanism that feeds information back to the image processor inside the camera.

Nikon’s Nikkor lenses have a faster response time and focus better in the autofocus mode however…it is my experience that you lose little if you take the time and get used to your Tamron or Sigma lens and allow time for the focuser to kick in. If you are shooting sports or other lightning fast events, you may want to opt to pay a little bit more.

If you are looking to spend aroun $500 on your next lens, allow me to introduce you to the all in one wonder…the Tamron 18-270mm lens. This lens have an incredible amount of coverage and works well with your D40/D40x/D60/ etc….

Here is a series of images that I have taken with my Tamron lens:

alamoflowers-1 jackrabbits-12 DSC_0070

 

 

 

Here are lists from the major manufacturers of the lenses that may work with the Nikon lower end DSLR:

Nikon: http://imaging.nikon.com/products/imaging/lineup/lens/af/dx/index.htm

Sigma: http://www.sigmaphoto.com/lenses/lenses_all.asp

Tamron: http://www.tamron.com/lenses/default-photo.asp