Monsoon Wedding

Last month I had the privilege of photographing Matt and Carly Frey’s big day. Other than the certainty that it will be hot, the Tucson weather in early July is unpredictable. As it happened on July 8, the weather ranged from sweltering before the ceremony (when the formal photographs were taken) to downpours, lightning, and wind as the monsoon storms rolled through during and after the (fortunately indoor) ceremony. In the post-ceremony photograph above, Matt and Carly were at the center of a veil swirling in the wind. Continue reading “Monsoon Wedding”

Summer Drive over Redington Pass

Earlier this year I purchased a Chevy Colorado ZR2. It’s an off-road beast, but I am a novice at that sort of thing. So I have been driving some dirt roads just to get a feel for it. This morning I drove over Redington Pass between the Santa Catalina and Rincon Mountains, something that I have wanted to do for a long time and never have. I didn’t stop to take many pictures, but did get a few. The highlight was seeing an amazing gray fox standing on the road, but unfortunately it ran off after watching me for only about ten seconds and all I got was a blurry through-the-windshield Bigfoot-quality photograph of him running away. Definitely not worth showing here. But there was also a nice four-foot long gopher snake sunning on the road: Continue reading “Summer Drive over Redington Pass”

Photo Adventure—Ragged Top in Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona

A number of years ago, while driving east on I-10 towards Tucson, Arizona, I noticed a very interesting mountain off to the south and had no idea what it was or how to get there, but I thought it would make a nice photography subject. After a little research, I discovered that it was called Ragged Top, and sits almost due south of Picacho Peak and west of the town of Marana. It lies within the Ironwood Forest National Monument, which is administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). And while I had since visited the Ragged Top area a handful of times, I had never strayed far from the dirt road a few miles north of the mountain itself. But last month my adventurous friend, Erik Bettini, visited from Massachusetts and proposed that we tackle Ragged Top. Continue reading “Photo Adventure—Ragged Top in Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona”

Fireworks…and a Fire!

My wife and I set out for Tumamoc Hill to watch the annual fireworks show over Sentinel Peak, locally known as “A” Mountain, near our home in Tucson, Arizona. I had envisioned something like the picture below, plus fireworks:

Saguaro Silhouette against City Lights, Tucson, Arizona, 18 July 2015. Nikon D800, 300mm f/4E PF, 30 sec, f/11, ISO 100.

But Tumamoc Hill was closed for the show. I was somewhat despondent and without a backup plan, but we drove around the south side of “A” Mountain looking for another saguaro that could be used in the foreground. We parked along the side of Starr Pass Road and I set up my tripod on the shoulder, a bit nervous about all the cars going by. The spot wasn’t ideal, but the somewhat nasty brushy foreground disappeared into blackness anyway, so it worked. Continue reading “Fireworks…and a Fire!”

Stars are Better than Hearts and Flags for Ranking Photos

Cliff and Canyon, Grand Canyon, Arizona. Nikon D800 with Nikon 70-200mm f/4G, 1/90 sec, f/8.0, ISO 200. Two-frame stitch.

Adobe Lightroom allows you to ‘Pick’ photos by flagging them. You can interpret ‘flagging’ or ‘picking’ a photo any way you want, but treating it as a way to mark your favorites (like using the heart on your phone) is pretty common. Lightroom also allows you to ‘Reject’ them, which is a handy way to mark them for the trash without actually putting them in the trash (yet). Its a simple enough system, which is why it has a lot of advocates.

Unfortunately, it is too simple to work well in practice. Continue reading “Stars are Better than Hearts and Flags for Ranking Photos”

Isolation with the Lensbaby Sweet 50

The Lensbaby Sweet 50 is a manually-focused 50mm f/2.5 lens with the interesting ability to restrict the sharpness in an image to a localized portion of the frame. Most lenses are designed to have good sharpness from the center out to the edges and corners of the frame; those that don’t tend to get punished in online reviews (even though many images don’t really benefit from corner-to-corner sharpness). The Sweet 50, however, is designed with a different goal in mind: it is deliberately blurry away from the center. Although I’ve seen a lot of Lensbaby images that seem maliciously crafted to induce eyestrain, there are some nice images out there, too. Recently I decided I would like to give one a try. My wife thoughtfully obliged me with the Lensbaby Sweet 50 (and a Composer Pro II mount) as an anniversary gift this past August. Continue reading “Isolation with the Lensbaby Sweet 50”

DIY #1—Double-Ended Rear Lens Cap

A double-ended rear lens cap allows you to safely stack two lenses together in a bag, end-to-end, while allowing easy one-handed access to both. It solves a common problem and you can make it yourself with no tools, no skill, and almost no money. Continue reading “DIY #1—Double-Ended Rear Lens Cap”

Nikon Firmware Fantasy #1—Separate Mirror-Up Exposure Delay Mode

This week I want to start a series that I call Firmware Fantasies. They are basically an assortment of firmware updates that I wish Nikon would make for my D800, or at least include in new cameras going forward. Most of these should be pretty easy to implement, so here we go with the first one! Continue reading “Nikon Firmware Fantasy #1—Separate Mirror-Up Exposure Delay Mode”

Nikon 300mm f/4E PF Conquers the Desert Sun

If you want to isolate a cactus next to a large setting sun, you need a reasonably long telephoto. With the sun in the frame, you also need that telephoto to resist flare. The compact and wonderful Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4E PF ED VR is up to the task. Continue reading “Nikon 300mm f/4E PF Conquers the Desert Sun”

Using Backlight for Dramatic Swim Meet Photography

Backlit Freestyler 1, Arizona Senior State Long Course Championships, Phoenix, Arizona, July 2016. Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR, 1/4000 sec, f/4.0, ISO 200. Copyright 2016 by James A. Covello.
Backlit Freestyler 1, Arizona Senior State Long Course Championships, Phoenix, Arizona, July 2016. Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR, 1/4000 sec, f/4.0, ISO 200. Copyright 2016 by James A. Covello.

Swim meet photographs can get pretty predictable. The standard advice for any sport, including swimming, is to get the athlete’s face in the image. In fact, the standard advice is that if you don’t get the athlete’s face in the image, it’s not worth much. A tightly framed image with the churning water frozen around the swimmer’s face is certainly nice—and pulling this off in swimming certainly has its challenges—but if you go to enough swim meets you will eventually end up with hundreds of “nice” pictures that all look the same. So we need to generate some artistic variety. Continue reading “Using Backlight for Dramatic Swim Meet Photography”