Monthly Archives: February 2012

Miami Harbor Barge

There’s a lot of work to be done in a port or harbor and these are some of the guys who do it.

The Peggy Ann, a utility barge in Miami harbor with the Miami bayfront in the background. (© Jonathan Gewirtz)

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Flying Egret at Shark Valley

The Shark Valley observation tower is a great vantage for bird watching.

A white egret flies against the colorful natural background of a pond and green vegetation in the Florida Everglades. (© Jonathan Gewirtz, jonathan@gewirtz.net)

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Easy Time-Lapse Videos

It’s simple to create a passable time-lapse sequence using an inexpensive digicam and some freeware.

You need an interval timer. I don’t know how many cameras have this feature. However, if you have a Canon PowerShot camera you can download a quite sophisticated bit of freeware called CHDK that, among other capabilities, functions as a user configurable interval timer. CHDK is well documented but the online wiki is a bit intimidating. Don’t worry. Go to this page and work your way down. It gives the essentials.

I used my Canon S95 with CHDK, configured to take photos continuously at five-second intervals. Put the camera on a tripod or other support, use JPEG rather than RAW if this is an option and deactivate your camera’s stabilizer if it has one. Focus manually if you can. Then point the camera at something interesting and start the interval timer. The video below represents about an hour and a quarter in real time, 924 exposures. (Your camera battery will run down pretty quickly doing this, so you may want to turn off the camera’s LCD if possible. The CHDK documentation mentions a way to trick the camera into turning off its LCD by plugging something into the “video out” socket, but I haven’t tried this yet.)

There are probably many ways to stitch the photos into a video sequence. I used Microsoft Windows Live Movie Maker, which is part of Windows Live Essentials, which may have come with your computer if you use Windows 7. (It’s also available as a free download here.) Simple to use: Start a new project, import your photos (batch edit them first if you want), select all of the imported photos, click the Edit tab, set Duration to .03 seconds (the minimum), hit the enter key to apply this duration to all of your photos, then save your movie using the quality setting of your choice.
 


 

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Shark Valley Observation Tower

Shark Valley is on the northern edge of Everglades National Park and easily accessible by car. It has a 15-mile paved road loop, open to walkers and bikers (there is also a tram service) and at one end of which is a concrete observation tower. Shark Valley is a great place to see wildlife and the observation tower provides outstanding panoramic views of the Everglades prairie/savanna landscape. The tower is particularly good to visit around dusk because that is when flocks of local birds fly in to roost for the night in the surrounding trees. (You will also have a bird’s eye view of alligators in the adjacent pond.) But note that visiting around dusk means you will have to bicycle to the tower and return after the park closes, so bring your own bicycle and park your car on the side of Route 41, outside of the park entrance.

Also, in summer bring equal quantities of water and insect repellent.

Visitors on the concrete observation tower in the Shark Valley section of Everglades National Park (© Jonathan Gewirtz, jonathan@gewirtz.net)

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Wildflowers

Field of Yellow and Violet Flowers

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Brief Canon Lens Reviews

What follows is more a list of impressions than formal reviews and, perhaps, can provide some helpful perspective for prospective buyers. (Note that I link to outside discussions and reviews when I think this may be helpful to do.)

I prefer lenses that 1) are portable and 2) can serve multiple purposes adequately as opposed to being ideal for one purpose but markedly less suitable for others. I also greatly prefer lenses with built-in stabilizers (“IS” in Canon’s nomenclature). My sense is that online photo-equipment reviewers as a group skew toward gear-headedness and sometimes overemphasize technical perfection in one or another lens feature at the expense of versatility. In particular, I think that automatic focus is worth a lot even if some lenses that are optically superior don’t have it, and if you can get IS in a macro lens it’s a no-brainer because despite conventional wisdom you might want to use your macro without a tripod if you are, say, walking around outdoors.

Note that these particular lenses will fit any Canon SLR or DSLR camera made after 1986 and that my comments are based on my use on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. Their optical qualities will be at least as good if you use them on a camera with a smaller image sensor, because in that case your camera will be using only the center of the image as it comes out of the lens, and with most lenses the center of the image field is the sharpest part of the image.

Note also that I earn affiliate fees if you buy these products (or anything else) via the B&H or Amazon links on this blog.

Note also that there is sample variation between lenses. It’s possible to get a bad one, and if you want the best quality it may make sense to buy multiple samples of the lens that you want and then keep only the best one, as a reviewer I link to below suggests. For these reasons I recommend buying from B&H as they have a generous return policy.

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