Canon EF 300mm f/4 L

Male mallard on our pond

Male mallard on our pond

Warren, Connecticut. This was my submission to The New York Times’ A Moment in Time project this morning.

We have a pair of mallards that come to our pond to mate each year. This year they’re sharing the pond with a pair of wood ducks as well but today the mallards were here. Just after I took this the male got agitated and flew away.



Poinsettia shot with Canon PowerShot G7

Warren, Connecticut. Each holiday season my wife brings home a few poinsettias from parties at her school and most years they don’t make it through winter in the wood stove caused dry atmosphere of our house. This plant must be particularly hardy or my wife must be watering it constantly because winter is almost over and it’s still alive.

Poinsettia Under the Skylight

Poinsettia shot with Canon 5D and Canon EF 300mm f/4 L lens

I should be outside working on fruit trees but instead I’m experimenting with camera and lenses inside trying to cement some learning I did recently about focal length, aperture and depth of field.

The front of my 300mm lens is about seven feet from the plant, the plant is about one foot deep, and the back of the plant is about six feet from the wall behind it.

What am I trying to figure out? How to think about longer focal length lenses and apertures to isolate things in space when the objects behind them are close enough to show up in an image taken wide open with a fast 50mm lens or wider.

I’m sure there’s a formula for this but I’d like to have a more intuitive feel for the shot geometry coupled with the lens needed to make what I want happen.

Lone apple

Lone Apple

Warren, Connecticut. We have an old volunteer apple tree in our backyard that a friend pruned and saved when we bought our place many years ago. I do my best to keep it happy with pruning and spike fertilizer but no matter what I do it will never produce great eating apples, it’s just not that kind of tree. However, it produces great "camera apples" and even its branches are photogenic.

Compressed ice water

Compressed Ice Water

Warren, Connecticut. Context is everything. Take a round glass, put ice and water into it but take a picture of it in such a way that it looks flat on its background and the context of a glass of ice water is stripped away. In photography the loss of depth or three dimensionality from the use of a telephoto lens is called compression and that’s a fitting word for what seems to be happening here, both in depth and inside the glass.

Tall glass

Tall Glass

Warren, Connecticut. I’m always on the lookout for simple, functional, and indexpensive glassware and it strikes me odd because my background is in ceramics; one would think I’d like stoneware to drink out of and eat off of. The simplicity and cleanliness of glassware coupled with its lightness and stackability easily trumps the baggage of my background. There’s nothing wrong with the individuality of handmade wares but both handmade and machine made can have wabi-sab.

Tall Glass with Ice and Water

I never knew using ice in water and other drinks was a matter of taste, I figured if people didn’t use it it was less that they didn’t like it, more that they forgot to make it. But my wife doesn’t use ice much at all, certainly not in water, and I followed her lead on this for the first ten years of our marriage thinking it was healthier. Call it a mid-life crisis but now I’m striking out on my own and putting ice in my water. Ice is good. Yeah!

Daisies in a dream

Daisies in a Dream

Washington, Connecticut. I had just crossed a field of grass, Queen Anne’s lace, milkweed, daisies, and other assorted plant life when I noticed a bunch of daisies with clear space in front of them. The romantic mind thinks that this would be a good place to pick out a bouquet for the wife. The photo-nerd mind thinks that this would be a good place to set up the tripod for some dreamy daisies in bokeh shots. I got the shots.

Order in Hell’s Kitchen

Order in Hell's Kitchen

New York City. Looking down on a set of rooftops in the mid-town west side of Manhattan. The telephoto lens I took this with compresses the scene which helps accentuate the angular orderliness of the skylights, the greenhouse roof, the chimney flange, the metal shed roof, the stainless chimney, the terra cotta roofs and brick facade. The bit of green growing in places makes this scene rather un-hell-like.

Compressed Manhattan Bridge

Manhattan Bridge

New York City. A friend gave us access to the roof of a six story building in Little Italy and even though we weren’t much higher than the surrounding area, the views were still fantastic. The Manhattan Bridge connects lower Manhattan and Brooklyn and from this angle with this telephoto lens the depth of this view is compressed. That compression, flattening, or shortening of the depth is analogous to what a bridge like this does connecting the different worlds of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Sunset in the treetops

Sunset in the Treetops

As the sun set last night the light in the tops of the big maples behind our house pulled my eye in. I’m fascinated with the both the light patterns that tangles of branches and leaves make as well as the blur patterns that looking into them with a long lens with shallow depth of field produce in resulting images. I feel a bit like Jackson Pollock liking stuff like this and the 360 degree view here is one big drip paining of branch and leaf tangles so I have lots of views/subjects to work with.