Mount Haleakala Telescopes

On my recent trip to Maui, I drove to the 10,023′ top of Mount Haleakala. Unfortunately on that day, the cloud layer started around 6000′, so I wasn’t able to see a lot when I got to the top. As the clouds would blow by, I tried to take a few photos of the telescopes at the top of the mountain. After some heavy post-processing, I decided that black and white was best for this photo.

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Maui Blowhole

On a trip to Maui last week, we paid a visit to the Nakalele Blowhole. A man was killed here last year when he was sucked under; we made sure to keep our distance. The blowhole is a natural formation in the lava flow. Water crashes in from the ocean and surges up the tube. In this picture, the water is shooting up 20-30 feet.

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Baby Elephant Walk

What you don’t see in this picture is the circus tent to the right that they’re walking into. That, and the clowns, whom I had to Photoshop out. I hate clowns. Taken in Sabi Sands, South Africa.

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Lion Cubs

These guys were left to play on an ant hill, supervised by two lionesses who were watching from about 50 yards away. From Sabi Sands, South Africa.

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Hairy Warthog

These little guys were a bit shy so we were never able to get very close to them. Taken in Sabi Sands, South Africa.

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Stretching Lioness

They’re just like my cats back home. Except with bigger teeth. Ok, maybe not. But I bet this one would know what to do with a scratching post. Taken in Sabi Sands, South Africa.

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Panasonic GH2

Until I went on safari last year, the best camera I had was a Canon point and shoot. I knew I wanted a better camera for the trip, so I started researching DSLRs. I had a few concerns however. One was size and weight. We were going to be traveling in small planes and we had strict weight limits on our luggage. Also, I wanted a camera that I would feel comfortable ‘walking around’ with, and I wasn’t sure that’d be the case if I got a big DSLR. And I wasn’t crazy about spending several thousands of dollars, especially since I was just beginning.

My research quickly took me in the direction of Micro Four-Thirds cameras. M4/3s is a standard for cameras and lenses that’s currently supported by Panasonic and Olympus (plus some additional lens makers). M4/3s cameras are smaller than traditional DSLRs because they’re mirror-less. A traditional DSLR has a mirror inside that directs the light to the viewfinder when focusing. When the shutter is pressed, the mirror swings out of the way exposing the sensor. This takes a lot of room and requires a large camera body. M4/3s cameras do away with the mirror by using an electronic viewfinder. Another factor is lens size. M4/3s cameras have smaller sensors than larger DSLRs. This means that the lenses can be smaller. For example, a 20MM M4/3s lens is equivalent to a 40MM full-frame lens.

Besides size, M4/3s cameras have another advantage; it’s a standard supported by multiple camera makers. Unlike Canon, Nikon and the other traditional DSLR manufacturers, who each have their own incompatible standards, a camera body by Panasonic will work with a lens by Olympus (and vice versa). It greatly appeals to me to have a camera/set of lenses that are supported by multiple major manufacturers.

On deciding that I was interested in a M4/3s camera, I had to pick which one to buy. The Panasonic GH2 had just come out and was receiving great reviews. It was smaller than a normal DSLR, but not as small as a point and shoot. It’d fit in my hand well. I was also interested in video, and the GH2 does great video.

It is true that the best M4/3s cameras don’t yet equal the best in DSLRs, although the quality gap is shrinking. And actually, many people think that the video capabilities of the Panasonic GH2 are as good as or better than the new Canon 5D Mark III, a camera that costs over $2000 more and is considerably larger in size, especially when you factor in the lenses. In my experience, the quality of the GH2 has been more than good enough for my experience level and types of pictures I like to take.

I’m happy with my GH2. It’s the right size for me. I’m confident that because multiple manufacturers support the standard that my lenses will be useful for many years to come, even as I upgrade camera bodies. As we plan our next safari, I look forward to taking it back to Africa.

Solo Giraffe

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Taken on safari in Sabi Sands, Africa.

New Photo Printer

I recently purchased my first serious photo printer, an Epson Stylus Pro 3880. While the vast majority of the pictures I take will only be viewed on a computer monitor, there’s just something about holding a print of a photo you’ve taken. I considered several printers before purchasing the Epson. The two other main contenders were the Canon PixmaPRO9000 Mark II and the Canon PixmaPRO9500 Mark II. They all appear to be great printers; in the end I went with the Epson because it can print up to 17″ wide. By the way, there are great deals on the Canon 9000 right now because it’s being bundled with some cameras. People are unloading these bundled printers on Craigslist and eBay for quite a discount. Also, Epson is running a $250 rebate for the 3880 that lasts through the end of this month. Go to their website for more information.

So now that I have a printer, I’m trying to learn how to make decent prints. And I’ve found there are a lot of variables. An eBook that’s helping me figure things out is Martin Bailey’s Making The Print.

One of the big variables is the type of paper a photo is printed on. I ordered sample papers from both Red River Paper and Hahnemühle and have been making test prints, as you can see below. It’s been fun but a bit overwhelming, with all the different paper possibilities. The giraffe photo, btw, is on one of the big 17″ x 22″ sheets that the Epson can print. I’m happy I went with the larger printer as the big prints are really stunning.

A Dazzle Of Zebras

Crows have murders. Zebras have dazzles. Who knew? We spotted these one day on safari in Sabi Sands, South Africa. I do know that zebra pictures have to be in black and white. It’s the law or something. So, here’s my first attempt at a black and white zebra pic.

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