85mm F2.8 Lens

On a warm sunny April day, I had a chance to venture out for a brief experiment with lighting and bokeh. I used an 85mm lens, opened to its maximum aperture of F2.8. Although wider apertures, such as F1.8 and F1.4, are available for the 85mm lens,the F2.8 lens represents a significant savings. The typical cost of the F2.8 lens is less than $300. This is quite a savings compared to the $500 to over $2000 price tag for the same focal length lens of F1.4 or F1.2.

Although a bit slower, F2.8 still falls within the fast lens range, and shooting in daylight, this lens works great. On a cropped sensor (APC-S) camera, the 35mm equivalent would equal to approximately 127mm, producing a nice bokeh effect as seen in the image below of a wood post supporting a fence ringing Fort Ward Park, in Alexandria, VA. At F2.8, the depth of field is quite narrow, as evident from the sharpness of the fence post, with out of focus areas in the background and foreground.

Signs of Spring

This past Friday was unseasonable warm for this time of year in the Washington DC area, so I took advantage of the opportunity to go out and do some shooting in the neighborhood. For these captures, I used a Panasonic GF-3 ILC camera with a Leica 45mm F2.8 macro lens.

Here is a photo of the fruits of the maple tree. The immature fruits are still attached to the branches. Their reproductive structures have completed their purpose in life, and are seen desiccated, hanging to the tops of the petiole. The winged fruits are beginning to ripen and will soon mature, as which point they will be blown off the stems of the tree to sail away to begin a new journey of their own.

Maples are endemic to Asia, Europe, and the United States. Although the genus, Acer, to which the maples belong, consists also of shrubs, we are most familiar with the tree form. Most maples are deciduous, loosing all leaves during their winter hibernation. Flowers appear during late winter and early spring. In the above example, the flowers have appeared before the leaves. The winged fruits will have begun to drop with the first appearance of leaves. As the fruits mature, they will turn from the above pink color to a light green, then to a deep green at maturity.

Here is an image of forsythia. Their bright yellow petals are clearly visible, as they imbue the bush with a golden glow. The common name, forsythia, is the same as its genus name, Forsythia. These shrubs are native to Asia, though many can now be found throughout the world as ornamental plants in gardens, yards, and along city streets.

Forsythias are deciduous shrubs, which flowers in early spring before the onset of leaves. The flowers are generally yellow, with four petals, joined at the base. After pollination and fertilization, the mature fruit is a dry capsule containing a number of winged seeds.

Flower Buds Opening

Side Elevation

Front Elevation

Continuing from my previous post, we are now a week further (3/15), the flower buds of the highbush blueberry are beginning to open. As the buds open, their bright pink color gives way to a pale pink color. The greenish-yellow pistil, which holds the embryo sacs and ovules, can also be noticed emerging from the apex of the opening flower.

Highbush Blueberry flower bud

Last Thursday (3/8) with temperatures hovering around the low 70’s here in the Washington, DC area, I noticed a bunch of highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) bushes beginning to awaken from their winter slumber. The highbush blueberry is a native of eastern North America, growing to about four feet tall. The one pictured is about two feet tall.

In this sample, the flowers buds are turning a bright pink, as they swell and absorb water. Their winter condition is more of a dull greenish-crimson color. As the weather warms and the availability of water increases, the buds should begin to open in the next few weeks.

Stay tuned to future postings as I chronicle the  progression of the highbush blueberry from flower bud to fruit.

The image was captured with a Panasonic GF3, using a Leica 45mm F2.8 macro lens.

f/9 @ 1/30 sec ISO 160

Burke Lake Park

Burke Lake Road and pedestrian bridge spanning the northern end of Burke Lake.

Burke Junction train station. A functioning replica from the days of the steam engine, complete with a wind-driven water well.

This past Saturday, 3 March 2012, having noticed the sun coming out after a cloudy morning I decided to use the opportunity to take a trip out to Burke Lake Park for some photography. Here are two pictures from this excursion. Each picture is actually a composite of multiple images taken with exposures optimized separately for the sky and the land areas. The sky exposures were also taken with a polarizing filter with the sun at approximately 80 degrees left of the camera. The multiple exposures were then combined in Photoshop Elements 9 and Lightroom 4 to achieve the final results.

Woodland Phlox

The Woodland Phlox is a perennial, growing about 1-1.5 inches tall, with purplish flowers. Although Woodland Phlox is an early Spring bloom, this year, because of the warmer winters, they have started appearing even earlier than usual. The photo above was taken on 24 February 2012, in northern Virginia. They were in full bloom. A week later the blooms have started to wither, as the flowers become fruits. [Nikon S8200, f/3.5 @ 1/800 sec, ISO 800]

Chipotle Mexican Grill

A chipotle is a smoke-dried jalapeno, used primarily in Mexican or Mexican-inspired cuisine. It is also part of the name of a well-known chain of “fast-casual” restaurants in the northern Virginia region, specializing in burritos and tacos. The restaurant chain, Chipotle Mexican Grill, can also be found throughout major metropolitan areas in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Sampling its menu, I have come to appreciate the restaurant chain’s fresh ingredients of rice, chicken, pork, steak, beans, vegetables, and salsas. In addition, service is very quick, despite the long queue, especially during the mid-day or evening meal times. The picture above was taken during a recent visit for a quick meal. It’s located at the corner of Duke St. and N. Jordan St. in Alexandria, VA. It was shot with the Nikon s8200 (f/8.8 @ 1/1000 sec; ISO 800).

My favorite menu item is the Burrito Bowl… all of the freshness, heartiness, and robust ingredients of a burrito, but without the messiness from the drippings of the tasty ingredients all over one’s hands. Enjoy!

cK one

Calvin Klein’s iconic perfume, hitting the scene in 1994, brought sexiness to the unisex fragrance. With its light, citrusy notes, ck one reminds me of those earlier care-free days of youth. This has become my favorite fragrance. Take a time warp back to those frolic-filled days of playgrounds, water fountains, neighborhood parks, and musical ice cream trucks.

I made the above image with the Panasonic GF-3 mirrorless camera with post production processing using PhotoShop Elements 9

140 mm
3.2 sec @ f/8 ISO 160

Lactose Free Mac & Cheese

What to do if you’re lactose intolerant and wishing for some comfort food after a dreary Monday workday. Well, here’s the answer… a quick lactose free mac & cheese. My friend Judy perfected this simple, quick, and care-free recipe.

2 small packages veggie sliced cheddar cheese
1 lbs macaroni shells
1 stick non-dairy margarine
1 can condensed tomato soup

Begin by cooking the macaroni shells until al dente. As the macaroni cooks, combine the margarine, soup, and cheese together in a medium sauce pot and heat over medium heat until the cheese and margarine have melted. Stir frequently to prevent burning. Once the cheese and margarine have completely melted and all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed together, pour over the cooked macaroni in an oven proof casserole pan. Bake for an hour at 350 degrees.

Serve with a side of your favorite vegetables. Enjoy!

Whitney Houston… we will miss you!

Greatest Love of All

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