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>> Monday, January 10, 2011

For my birthday, my sweet husband and father coordinated and got me the camera I've been longing for for months and months - a brand new Nikon D90!  (Picture Kermit the Frog on the Muppets Show hands waving in the air saying "YAAAAAAAAAAY" here)

The camera officially ties for first place for best birthday present ever, with the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary my Dad got me, oh, about 12 years ago now.  Dad does have a knack for gift giving.  Once I found out I was getting the D90, I decided to spend some of my hard earned bonus and get the Nikon 18-200 lens with vibration reduction that I'd been wanting too.

Everything came together at once:  Nikon had a sale around the holidays, and our favorite camera shop managed to sell the old D70 on commission for more than we paid for it.  It wound up being sold to a couple of dentists for photographing teeth.  I feel a little sad that its fate is so, well, uninteresting.  No more frolics through the woods for the poor old thing.

At the same time I feel a little silly for anthropomorphizing a camera.

It has so many features that it's going to take me a long time to figure them all out.  However, I am already absurdly pleased with a couple of the features I'd been wanting so badly, including most of all its significantly improved focusing abilities and its performance in low light settings.  I love the vibration reduction on the lens, too.

In our first real photography trip in quite some time, Spouse and our friend M and I went to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse for a day.  The reason we chose the zoo is that they're having a photography contest in the month of January - come in with a camera and their coupon, and get free admission.  It must be working, because on a cold, blustery, snowy January day, there were quite a few people at the zoo... most toting cameras.

I took 474 photos, indoors and out, and in all sorts of different light settings.  Below are my favorite shots from the day.  Some of the critters I photographed aren't terribly exotic - they just hang around the zoo for the free handouts, like this sparrow:

Humboldt penguin:
This is a two day old baby Patas monkey:

I loved the lions in the snow - these are some of my favorite shots of the day.  The snow looks beautiful while it's falling, and their eyes are haunting: 

Sand cat - cute as a button!
I love the snow on this otter's whiskers:
The ocelot:

This shot of a peregrine falcon is taken through a cage - the camera did an amazing job ignoring the wires:

My husband calls this "the circus peanut duck" - I have no idea what it really is:
This meerkat looks like an exceptionally dim bulb:

In some respects I kind of let the camera do its thing.  I set it to variable ISO, which worked great - you tell it the range of ISO settings you'd like it to use, and it chooses among them for each photo.  I need to lower the upper limit on it, as a few shots turned out grainy, but generally speaking, that feature turned out to be perfect for all the different lighting.

So, the ultimate question is, which two are your favorites?  I have to select two of the above to submit for the zoo photo contest.  Please vote!


Bill and dogs January 10, 2011 at 7:39 AM  

Wow, I am jealous of being able to take such photos. I'm aware that it's only partly the camera and largely your talent. Anyway, my first choice is definitely the Ocelot. Second choice is more difficult. I'd give it a tie between the first lion shot and the colorful grouse-like bird at the end (What is that, by the way?)

Woodswoman Extraordinaire January 10, 2011 at 9:31 AM  

Bill, Thank you for your compliments and vote! I think that silly thing at the end that looks like a cross between a grouse and a peacock is actually a Palawan Peacock Pheasant... fitting name!

sarah January 10, 2011 at 10:33 AM  

the second lion photo and the mother-and-child.

Ellen Rathbone January 10, 2011 at 9:56 PM  

That's the same as my camera! You seem a lot happier with yours, though. I still think there is something wrong with mine, but I'm no expert. So, enjoy it! I expect to see great works.

PenobscotPaddles January 13, 2011 at 12:41 PM  

First lion shot and Penguin are my first choices. Beyond that I love the otter, meerkat, and ocelot. I also love the duck shots, but I'm not sure how they'd place with a zoo contest...

Andrea January 18, 2011 at 1:20 PM  

As someone who used to work for a zoo... the ocelot is an image we would have bought from a photographer for postcards and media and such.

Woodswoman Extraordinaire January 24, 2011 at 12:35 PM  

Thank you everyone for all your comments, compliments, and votes! This was an amazing process - nearly everyone voted for different photos. After tallying all the votes here and from family and friends, one of the lion pictures received more votes than any other - the first of the lion pictures above. There was about a 10-way tie for second place, so I decided to do a little photo editing on the ocelot above, and submit it for the "digitally enhanced" category.

I'd love to be a judge for this contest - to sit and review zillions of great animal shots!

Anonymous December 2, 2013 at 1:10 PM  

I like the one that looks as if the big male lion is catching snowflakes on his tongue. If that were on Christmas cards, I'd buy them.

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