Archives for posts with tag: cat


It was Teddy Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901–1909), who coined the expression, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” At the time, he attributed its origins to a “West African proverb,” which may or may not have been a fiction designed to give his wisdom a little ancient enhancement. The phrase itself refers to a political policy of avoiding bluster and confrontation, but being known to have the foreign or domestic policy power to thoroughly enforce one’s softly-spoken point of view. It’s sort of the opposite of the full-throated sabre-rattling sort of foreign policy that defined the 43d President’s term. (I’d be historically remiss if I didn’t mention that in 2012, when speaking about President Obama’s foreign policy, Vice President Joe Biden referred to Roosevelt’s aphorism when he said “I promise you, the President has a big stick.” This statement, of course, resulted in significant viral giggling, as so many of the Vice President’s utterings do.)

However, for my purposes I prefer to take Roosevelt’s quote literally, especially now that I have become the possessor of a life-changing piece of equipment: A monopod. (Like so much in my life, photographic and otherwise, I have my partner of more than a decade to thank for this new delight. I was possibly more excited about the monopod than I was about the D7000, which cost roughly twenty times more than the collapsible stick.)

The monopod in question is manufactured by the Italian company Manfrotto. It’s a 290 Series (MM294A4) that, when extended, is 59.4 inches tall and held firm and stable by three sturdy clips. Collapsed, it’s 19.3 inches. It weighs 1.2 pounds, and attaches tightly to the standard threaded socket in the base of most came

Manfrotto 290 monopod

Let me be utterly clear: While I may be wildly ancient and decrepit, my hands are nonetheless quite steady. I’ve taken many hand-held photos of which I’m particularly proud. You can peruse some examples of those [shameless plug alert!] on my website, EButterfield Photography.

However, the monopod is a wonderful thing. It attaches firmly to the bottom of my Nikon D7000 (see my previous blog entry, “Fancy Ass”) and in its collapsed form doesn’t particularly get in the way of my handheld shots. But extended, it offers a whole new dimension of stability.


Look at this photo, for instance (click to embiggen, to better observe):

Gimli the cat, hand-held and monopod photos compared

My ever-patient cat, Gimli, cooperatively posed for both a hand-held and a monopodded portrait, which are combined here into a single image for comparison purposes through the wonders of Photoshop. The light conditions in my living room yesterday were not particularly good (muted sunlight and overhead incandescents), and other than resize and slide the photos together, these are pretty much how they came out of the camera.

I took the photos in ambient light, with no flash, using an AF-S Nikkor 18.0-105.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, with the aperture at f/5.3 and a shutter speed of 1/6 second. The image on the left is hand-held; the image on the right is using a monopod. For the excruciatingly long exposure, the monopod’s stability clearly had a beneficial effect: Gimli’s fur is sharper, and his eye is crystal clear. While the hand-held image might be acceptable, the one using a monopod is pretty crisp right out of the gate.

I suppose this comes as no surprise to veteran photographers (I have distinctly heard a collective and dismissive “duh” from my vast readership), but it’s an epiphany for me. Oh sure, I’ve used tripods before for portraits, but I’ve always been a little put off by their clumsiness and lack of mobility. Still, I’m sure I’ll continue to use them. The monopod, though, offers pretty much the best of both worlds: it provides the stability of a tripod, while still letting me sprint around my subject like a little gnat (much to the delight of my subjects, who have in some cases taken to swatting me away). It’s become an essential part of my standard equipment, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

So next time I’m out in the forest or the desert, I’ll be following Teddy’s advice to the letter: I will speak softly (as I always do in nature, unlike the screaming children and cell-phone shrieking adults I encounter on the public paths…but more kvetching about that another time, perhaps). I will also, like Presidents Roosevelt and Obama, be equipped with a nice big stick.

El Dorado Nature Center, Long Beach CA

Nikon D7000

I got a fancy-ass new camera for my birthday. (We shall be discussing Which One with regard to the camera shortly; we shall not, however, be asking Which One with regard to the birthday, because I shall not be Telling, because that particular discussion just fills me with an unutterable despair at the fleeting futility of existence, and while that might be amusing to readers as blog ravings go, it would not be pleasant for me. “Pleasant for me” being one of my top priorities in life, I do my best to avoid things that would not contribute to that goal. So No, we won’t be discussing the aforementioned natal anniversary anymuchfurther, thank you for your time.) (Which is not to say that I’m so hung up on the inevitable process of slowly staggering toward the grave I lie about my age, which I don’t. If I did, I would lie the other way, since I am now at a point in my life, being of a Certain Age and all, that lying that I’m younger than I am is simply embarrassing and uncomfortable for everyone, a bit like Hillary Clinton’s insistence on remaining a glimmering blond with a pony tail—something it pains me, as a longtime admirer of the current Secretary of State, to even mention. At this tender point, telling people I’m thirty-something is either laughingly transparent or, possibly worse, suggests that I’ve had a very hard life indeed, or maybe suffer from some horrific and rare early aging disease for which I’m to be pitied and patted gently on my prematurely wrinkly hand. No, IF I were to lie about my age (which I do not, preferring to simply ignore the whole unpleasant thing) it would be to assure everyone that oh yes I’m 85 and just in really phenomenally awesome shape, the secret to my perpetual vigor and astonishingly smooth and lustrous skin being a combination the plentiful consumption of alcohol, bingeing on exorbitantly high-fat high-sodium food (the oils lubricate the arteries, you see, allowing for a prolonged youthful flow of blood, and salt is mined out of the earth and so really how can eating a rock be particularly harmful). I might also hint vaguely at mysterious ancient Chinese secrets.)

But I digress.

So yes, the fancy-ass new camera. Specifically, my partner, with whom I have spent the past decade doing our level best to destroy the institution of marriage, corrupt the young, and generally annoy a surprisingly large number of people simply by existing and taking up space, gave me a Nikon D7000.

Nikon D7000

This camera will now replace my formerly-beloved D90 (how quickly they fall from most-favored when the newer, younger, shinier, faster one with way more functions show up–wait, we’re still talking about cameras, right?). This is not to say in any way that the D90 was sub-par or disappointing. The photos featured in this blog, as well as on my photo gallery website (EButterfield Photography, he shameslessly plugged, virtually begging for click-throughs) were all done with the D90.

Oh but my pretty new love. The D7000 has the same pebbly texture as the D90; its body has a more solid, hefty feel (I understand this is the result of a magnesium alloy body and a slightly thicker rubber coating), and is just discernably wider. It also has (and I understand exactly how superficial and unprofessional this makes me sound) a deeper, more mechanically resonant “click” when the shutter does its thing. I know, I know, that’s not really a meaningful observation, but it’s nonetheless true and nonetheless significant for me. You know when you stand outside a car and close its door, there’s an audible distinction between a low-end compact and a high-end luxury car—there’s a distinct difference in the sound made by lightweight aluminum hitting more lightweight aluminum, and the sound made by layers of metal and rubber and money gliding together. It’s a deep-bass sound that the ear  recognizes as Good.

Hence, the better click.

Here’s a photo of Gimli, our cat, taken with the D90:

Close-up of a cat's face, taken with a D90

And here’s a photo of the same Gimli, using the D7000:

Close-up of a cat's face, using a D7000

The D7000 has two memory card slots, which is a truly wonderful thing for someone who, it would appear, is under the impression that if one shot of a subject is good, 30 or 40 are better. One never knows, you know.  Insurance.  Just to be sure. OK, so I’m not proud of my profligacy, but it’s mine.

It has up to 39 focus points, so there’s really no excuse for anyone being blurry.

The D7000 also has more autofocus presets than you can shake a stick at, for everything from “autumn leaves” to “city at night” or “children” for heavensake. I’m not one for using a lot of those, but it’s nice that they’re there.

The battery has a much longer life (and that initial battery-bursting-into-flames thing that spurred a D7000 recall last summer has apparently been dealt with, since I’ve experienced no spontaneous combustions), and the D7000’s maximum shutter spend (1/8000) is twice that of the D90.

The bottom line is that this is one fancy-ass camera. I intend to do commit some fancy-ass photography with it.

Here, thanks to is a comparison the specs for the two cameras, for those of you who are spec-ish by nature. You know who you are.

General Nikon D7000 Nikon D90
Brand Nikon Nikon
Lowest price 996.95 782.99
Announced September, 2010 August, 2008
Size APS-C 23.6×15.6mm APS-C 23.6×15.8mm
Crop factor 1.5x 1.5x
Megapixels 16.1 MP 12.2 MP
Light sensitivity 6,400 ISO 3,200 ISO
Light sensitivity (boost) 25,600 ISO 6,400 ISO
Sensor cleaning Yes Yes
Sensor (Advanced)    
True resolution 16.1 MP 12.2 MP
Native resolution 4928 x 3262 4288 x 2848
Pixel size 22.9 µm² 30.5 µm²
Size 3.0″ 3.0″
Resolution 920k dots 930k dots
Touch screen No No
Flips out No No
Live view Yes Yes
Lens availability 169 lenses 169 lenses
Lens focus motor Yes Yes
Lens mount Nikon F Nikon F
Form factor    
Size 132x105x77 mm 132x103x77 mm
Depth 3″ 3″
Weight 780 g 703 g
Interchangeable lenses Yes Yes
Waterproof No No
Weather sealed Yes No
Type Pentaprism Pentaprism
Viewfinder size 0.62x 0.63x
Coverage 1 0.96
Format 1080p @ 24fps 720p @ 24fps
Supports 24p Yes Yes
High-speed framerate None None
External mic jack Yes No
Autofocus Contrast detection None
Continuous focus Yes n/a
All formats 640 x 424 @ 30fps 640 x 424 @ 24fps
720p @ 24fps 720p @ 24fps
1080p @ 24fps 320 x 216 @ 24fps
720p @ 30fps
Panorama No No
3D No No
Image stabilization None None
Supports RAW Yes Yes
Startup delay 400 ms 300 ms
Shutter lag 238 ms 208 ms
Battery life 1050 shots 850 shots
Continuous shooting 6 fps 4.5 fps
Focus system
Autofocus Phase detection Phase detection
Focus points 39 11
Cross type focus points 9 1
Max 1/8000s 1/4000s
Min 30s 30s
Built-in flash Yes Yes
Popup Yes Yes
External connection Yes Yes
Storage slots 2 1
Supported formats SD SD
DXO Mark Scores    
Image quality 80 73
Color depth 23.5 bits 22.7 bits
Dynamic range 13.9 EV 12.5 EV
Low light performance 1,167 ISO 977 ISO

It recently occurred to me in a rare moment of clarity that I haven’t posted on this blog for a while. I know that both my readers were despondent about this, and after initially assuring themselves that I was enjoying a fabulous eco-tour of some exotic location, undoubtedly fell into the inescapable conclusion that I’d been abducted by bug-eyed and throbbing-brained alien invaders with a proclivity for probing; or been dragged off by gaily-clad gypsies and forced to participate in traditional woodland dances and fits of fortune-telling; or perhaps I had fallen into a deep, deep hole. Rest easy, gentle readers, for none of these terrible things befell me. Nope, I’m just Lazy. And don’t think for a moment that I haven’t been thinking about you all this time, and scolding myself for being a Bad Blogger.

I can only offer the following series of excuses:

1. I spent several weeks in breathless anticipation of the London Olympics, and then sat glued to NBC’s selective coverage, utterly enthralled by all the leaping, bounding, diving, and whatnot; and/or

2. I spent several weeks in breathless anticipation of the Mars Science Laboratory (“Curiosity”) landing on Mars, and became so obsessed that I forgot to eat, and then sat riveted to NASA-TV’s livefeed from Mission Control, becoming alternatively misty-eyed and hysterical as Curiosity survived the Seven Minutes of Terror; and/or

3. I spent a great deal of time in airports, on airplanes, and in hotel conference rooms being all Serious and Business-y; and/or

3. I spent several weeks mesmerized by the civil, adult, substantive and insightful policy debates engaged in by the various candidates for US President, and had to take many days just to parse the intricacies of the detailed and thoughtful plans they’ve laid out for the nation’s future.

(OK, that last one’s just silly.)

Whatever the reason for my Bad Bloggerishness (Bad Bloggeritude? Bad Bloggery?) there has nonetheless been time to do some photography, which is what I write about here. And since I continue to bask in my delusional, narcissitic, and potentially psychotic fantasy that anyone in the world cares about what I’ve been doing, I shall then proceed as per usual to revel in the minutiae of the minorest of my daily activities.

Southern California Blues. The biggest benefit of having to travel quite a bit for work, aside from the whole meeting-new-people and broadening-one’s-horizons thing, is the opportunity for more (I think) interesting aerial photography. I try to make it a point to sit by a window (this is a wise move for three reasons: 1) for photographic purposes; 2) because no one climbs over you to get to the lavatory;  and 3) because the bulkhead is nice to lean against, and adds an inch or two more personal space—you’re welcome for that little Travel Tip.) Anyway here’s the coastline of Southern California shortly after takeoff from John Wayne International Airport in Santa Ana:

Southern California coastline

Tentpole. I like architecture, and this photo from Denver International Airport is a good demonstration of why: Not only is it functional (the pylon is holding up the tent-like roof of the terminal) but it’s attractive. And what’s more, given the right angle of approach, it becomes a nice display of abstract geometry, divorced from its actual purpose. As a photographer, that’s one of my favorite things to do: get so close up to something (in the case of macros), or so far away (in the case of aerial views of the desert Southwest) or so particularly angled (like here) that the thing being photographed loses its “thingness” and becomes something new: a collection of lines and angles and colors, for instance. But enough about that. Here’s a picture from DIA:

Support pylon at Denver International Airport

Please Come to Boston. I took a little business trip to Boston, and snuck out on a rainy morning to see what was up in the Public Garden. This swan boat seemed a lovely thing, and the water droplets are, to me, quite nice.

 Swan Boat iin Boston's Public Garden

OK, possibly Shocking Displays of Skin below (probably safe for work, unless you work in a church).

You’ve been Warned.






Tough Guy. I continue my efforts to pursue portrait photography using the nice little home studio equipment I acquired not all that long ago. James wanted a series of photos taken that looked “model-y” and showed off his physical assets, so that was a fun project for a summer afternoon. (More of these here)

Shirtless male model with sunglasses

Daddy Bear. One thing seems to lead to another in this interwoven, interconnected, interdependent world we wander through, and shortly after James I found myself photographing Andre for what were to be some more…personal photos. This is one of the tamer ones. Interestingly (although not surprisingly to anyone who’s been to an International Mister Leather event and heard the big scary-looking S&M guys chatting about recipes and window treatments) Andre is not nearly as intimidating as he looks: he’s actually quite sweet and funny (I think this actually captures that a little bit), and the shoot was a lot of fun. (More of these here)

Male model in leather vest and codpiece

So that was what I’ve been doing for the last couple of months. I shall endeavor to be a more courteous and consistent correspondent in the future. With upcoming business trips to Beijing, Florida, New Jersey, and Belgium, plus whatever photogenic models wander my way, there will no doubt be much more to write about. And anyway there’s always Gimli The Cat:

Cat staring, reflected in tabletop

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