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Wednesday, 14 December 2011
Pictures from Beijing
Category: Cities 'n Architecture

I was in the dragon land capital for about ten days (see 'Ten Days at Beijing') and got the chance to visit a few landmarks in Beijing. Here is two pics from that trip:

This is the 'Hall of Benevolence and Longevity' in the Summer Palace. The pic is taken using the Canon EOS 7D mounted with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L wide angle zoom lens. I also had a Tiffen 82mm Circular Polarizer filter attached to the lens.

The picture is taken in the Av mode, with an aperture of f/6.3 and ISO-100, the camera picking up an exposure of 1/60s.

The 2nd one is the 'Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests' in Temple of Heaven. It is again using the Canon EOS 7D + Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L wide angle zoom lens + Tiffen 82mm Circular Polarizer filter. This time I used a manual exposure with f/16, ISO-100 and 1/20s.

Posted by usandeep at 4:21 PM
Updated: Friday, 23 December 2011 4:27 PM
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Wednesday, 26 October 2011
Baya Weaver and Nest
Category: Birds 'n Animals

I had been taking regular drives on Mysore road last month and had ample time for pit stops. Water spots are the usual pit stop points giving me a chance to chase avian life. It is in one of those trips that I found a colony of Baya Weavers:

The colony had many of these birds and intricately carved nests hanging over a stream, from tree branches on both sides of the stream. I did visit the place a couple of times more, until the nests were abandoned.

This particular pic comes from the Canon EOS 7D and Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L, handheld in Manual mode. I had set a f/6.3 aperture and a 1/640 shutter with Auto-ISO and camera using ISO-200.

Also ... wishing everybody a sparkling Diwali!

Posted by usandeep at 1:15 PM
Updated: Wednesday, 26 October 2011 1:38 PM
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Monday, 10 October 2011
Agumbe Ghats
Category: Nature 'n Landscapes

After a trip to Kollur, we decided to return via Agumbe - Sringeri. The roads were not all that good, including the ghat section leading up to Agumbe. The day was quite hot too ... but, the views made up for all that! To compliment the greenery, the sky was clear with its share of clouds floating around. We had a stop at the view point and took a few shots, but I got a better view just after the view point.

I hope that the use of the branches to frame the view worked well. The pic was taken using the Canon EF 16-35mm wide angle zoom lens, mounted on the EOS 7D and fitted with a Tiffen 82mm Circular Polarizer filter. I used manual mode exposure, handheld at f/16, 1/30s and ISO-100.

Posted by usandeep at 6:23 PM
Updated: Wednesday, 19 October 2011 12:30 PM
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Tuesday, 9 August 2011
Drapped in Green ...
Category: Macro World

It was a beautiful morning at Devarayanadurga, when Amit and me took the steps to the top of the peak. I was looking around for birds when I spotted this beautiful pearl drop at the tip of a grass blade.

We had left the tripod in the car at the parking lot. But, this was a shot that I could not miss. So, I had to go down again and get the tripod. Was it not worth it?

The pic is taken using the Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L USM macro lens, mounted on Canon EOS 7D, setup on a Manfrotto 728B Digi tripod and triggered using a Canon RC-6 wireless remote. I used Av mode with f/8.0 and ISO-100 for a 0.8s exposure. As usual with macro shots of still life, I used manual focus to set the lens at the minimum focusing distance (0.48m) and moved the tripod manually to focus on the water drop. To make sure that the focusing is right, I used live view with a 10x magnification.

With a good amount of breeze, the whole process took a while. The water drop is quite tiny - only about an mm in diameter - and I cropped the pic further (5184px to 2589px) for a tighter frame.

Posted by usandeep at 10:55 PM
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Tuesday, 2 August 2011
Green Bee Eater
Category: Birds 'n Animals

On our way back from Devarayanadurga, Amit and Me took a small break near a canal and ventured in to the fields chasing birds.

I had been wondering how all my bird models prefer sitting in electric wires. Every time, I get a decent bird shot, the bird is usually sitting in electric wires! But, this shot was slightly better in that aspect, as I atleast managed to shoot it against some trees to get a green background - far better than the dull white backgrounds that I usually manage!

The pic is taken with the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L tele photo lens, mounted on the Canon EOS 7D, handheld in Av mode and Auto-ISO. I had chosen a f/6.3 and the camera picked up a 1/640s exposure at ISO-400.

After hanging around for some more time, I soon got an opportunity to shoot another Green Bee Eater sitting in a branch. I stealthily got very close to the bird and managed to get a few shots - but I did not get any catch light in the bird's eyes and the lighting was a bit harsher. Nevertheless, this is so far my best non-electric-wire picture of a Green Bee Eater!

This pic comes with the same equipment and settings as the previous shot, but the lighting was bit harsher and the camera picked up 1/500s exposure at ISO-250.

Posted by usandeep at 10:52 PM
Updated: Tuesday, 2 August 2011 11:06 PM
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Monday, 25 July 2011
Scarlet Skimmer
Category: Macro World

I enjoy my drives along Mysore road due to various reasons. Nowadays, it is the new water bodies I discovered along the way. First two while approaching Channapatna and the third one near Maddur. It was at the third spot that I spotted these dragon flies in a heap.

Majority of the population here was Scarlet Skimmers (or Ruddy Marsh Skimmer or Crimson Darter - scientific name Crocothemis Servilia) and Common Picture Wings (see 'Male damsel and female dragon'). But, the prettiest of them all was this golden colored lady perched on top of a small twig, giving me ample time for a shot.

I had the Canon EF 180mm f3.5L macro lens mounted on Canon EOS 7D, set to a Manual mode exposure of 1/200s and f/6.3. The ISO was in 'Auto', which I found to be a very useful setting missing in EOS 400D and now available with the 7D. I can now set the exposure of my choice and let the camera choose the ISO. In this particular case, light was good enough and the camera opted for ISO-100 only.

The male Scarlet Skimmer looks totally different from the female and has a reddish body. I found a few males as well in the same area, but the one that caught my attention was this fella striking a 'Sirsasana' pose. This pic was also taken with the Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L macro lens, but this time in a manual mode, f/7.1, 1/640s exposure and an auto-ISO of 320. The faster shutter speed is because of a futile attempt to catch another dragon fly in-flight and I forgot to change it back later. Nevertheless, I did not have much noise at ISO-320 as well, so this lapse hardly mattered.

Posted by usandeep at 12:01 AM
Updated: Monday, 25 July 2011 10:51 AM
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Tuesday, 19 July 2011
Those big round eyes ...
Category: People 'n Portraits

... is where I pointed the camera as soon as I got home with the new equipments. I started off with the two PhotoPro 300D studio lights placed on either side of the camera for an even lighting. But, soon it was obvious that even lighting could be flat and boring!

In the second attempt, I had one PhotoPro 300D at the front right side and the other one at rear right side to shine the hair. For a very dramatic / harsh effect, I even took out the umbrella. The background comes from a curtain in the living room.

The shot was taken with the Canon EOS 7D mounted with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. I did not have much choice as the setting more or less dictated it. The flash needed an exposure time of 1/200s and I used that much. I wanted a thin DoF and may have used a f/2.8 aperture or so, but given the available space and the distances at which the lights were kept, even the ISO-100, f/5.6 that I used was too bright. I eventually, reduced the brightness of the image by two stops using Digital Photo Professional.

Finally, with all this setup, we took a few shots. The TV was on and for a moment in between, she was lost in some event in the TV and that gave me my candid moment for this shot. I had the Vivitar 285HV firing from front left side for fill, but it did not work very well - I guess it need a larger sync time, which I could not have used. So, the left portion came out darker than I wanted with some details lost.

In the next iteration, the front and rear lights were at the left side. I placed the lights further away and had a white reflecting wall on the right side to fill the light. This - it looks like - worked better than the Vivitar. The settings are similar to the first picture, except that the aperture was an even narrower f/6.3.

Studio lighting is an art that could not be learned in a few attempts and I am already overwhelmed by the amount of literature in Internet on this topic. Hoping to come up with better pictures in the next iteratons!

Posted by usandeep at 9:58 PM
Updated: Wednesday, 20 July 2011 8:02 AM
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Friday, 15 July 2011
Lights, Action ... Camera ...
Category: The Abstracts

Its been a while, since I was thinking about an upgrade. Was dreaming about owning a full-frame, ever since I heard rumours about the release of a certain 5D Mark II. If not for some bad reviews about the AF, I might have bought it too, even with a very hefty price tag. I even contemplated waiting for a 5D Mark III. But, I badly needed an upgrade and settled again for an APS-C camera, which I believe is quite brilliant otherwise.

So, let me introduce - the Canon EOS 7D and the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM. I had been trying out this camera with the new and old lenses for couple of weeks and now feel ready to start using it regularly. I still have the Canon EOS 400D, until I am sure that I dont need a second DSLR.

The pic is taken with the Canon EOS 400D, fitted with the Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L lens. The reflections on the lens is of a PhotoPro 300D compact studio flash light, which I baught along with the new camera and lens. I used the flash directly, without a softbox to get the reflections. To soften the light, I placed its pair fitted with the umbrella at the right side of the camera - also to make sure that the name tag is visible!

The light from the main flash, which caused the reflections, is pretty strong and harsh. With the flash sync speed of about 1/200s, I could not have gone faster than a 1/200s shutter. Even with ISO-100, the reflections on the lens was over-exposed, until I reduced the aperture to f/16 - a very low aperture that I generally avoid using.

One of the PhotoPro 300D lights fitted with the umbrella joins the frame in the second picture. The gap between the light holder and the shade is intentional and I used the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L wide angle lens to make it a star light. Here also, the main light source is the PhotoPro 300D at the front, which is getting reflected from the lens. The settings are same - f/16, 1/200s and ISO-100 - for this shot as well.

I have updated my Equipments and Notes page with all the new purchases and the rationale behind it, along with a few other general notes. The first observation is that the EOS 7D is making my existing lens kit even better and the EF 70-200mm is a beautiful lens!

Posted by usandeep at 8:04 AM
Updated: Friday, 15 July 2011 8:23 AM
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Monday, 11 July 2011
Are there no crows in Bangalore?
Category: Birds 'n Animals

I was at the river side at my native - Eranhikkal near Kozhikode in Kerala. Some of my aquaintances were watching me as I ignored the rain and tried to get close to this Little Cormorant. When I came back, one of them asked me, if there are no crows in Bangalore (where he knew I worked)? Ofcourse, there are, but not one which is tall like this, with webbed fingers and able to swim!

The pic is taken using the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L telephoto lens, handheld in Manual mode. I used a f/6.3 aperture and a 1/400s exposure, at ISO-800.

As a side note, crow is 'Kakka' in Malayalam, while Little Cormorant is 'Neerkakka', which loosely translates to 'Water Crow' :) Given this info, wasnt he correct in asking the question?

Posted by usandeep at 7:33 AM
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Wednesday, 6 July 2011
At Waves Beach Resort
Category: Nature 'n Landscapes

Kannur, in Kerala, has some beautiful beaches. We were at Waves Beach Resort for a weekend and was surprised to see why such beautiful places are not so high on tourist map. The resort has a beautiful private beach, seperated from a unusually long Adi Kadalayi beach by a rocky corner.

This is the rocky corner to the south side of the private beach, which seperates it from Adi Kadalayi beach. The pic is taken with the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L wide angle zoom lens, tripod-mounted in Av mode. I used a f/10 aperture at ISO-100 for a 1/50s exposure.

Later in the afternoon, we visited the Parassinikadavu Muthappan temple and came back just in time for the sunset. The sun was set on the other side of the beach with a fisherman standing on the rock right next to it.

This pic is taken with the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L telephoto lens, handheld in manual mode. Aperture was f/6.3 in ISO-400 with a 1/500s exposure. Later, I felt that ISO-400 was not quite necessary for a silhouette and I ended up darkening the pic a little in Canon's Digital Photo Professional. The fisherman here, actually has a twine in his hand, but, the twine is not quite visible in this pic!

Overall, our stay in Waves Beach Resort was excellent. There are many more beaches to explore, around this area, but we did not have much time. Apart from the beach, the place is blessed with a good bird population. I could spot some of the common and pretty birds while having breakfast the next day - Ashy Drongo, Black-rumped Flameback Woodpecker and Rufous Treepie to name a few I could recognize. I was just warming up and had a lot more frames in mind, but it was time to go back. May be we will make it again to the Waves Beach resort for another weekend!

Posted by usandeep at 7:45 AM
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