Hikes


Early Spring is a great time to be out in the woods, especially on a sunny day – the trees may still be bare, but the forest floor is bursting with life… the under-story plants, shrubs and smaller trees rush through their flowering and leafing cycles quickly, to take advantage of the unrestricted sunlight – in a few weeks, once the trees leaf out, the canopy blocks off most of the light, and the small bushes go into the “quiet survival mode” until Fall when they get their chance in the sun again!

I’ve been out with the Sony Alpha 700 and the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6. The choice of lens for woodland photography may seem surprising, but I find that the Tamron is very useful – the extended zoom range (the 70-300mm is equivalent to 105-450mm) on the Sony Alpha provides an useful stand-off distance so one can zoom in on an intresting flower or bud from a distance of at least 5 feet away without having to brave the underbrush and wicked looking brambles – the woods around here are chock full of wild raspberries and dog rose brambles. This also has the advantage of not blocking the light.

Besides, the Tamron 70-300mm is also a 1:3.9 macro, and since can focus down to 5 feet at the extended end of the zoom range, it does a great job. Moreover, I marvel at the fact that the Sony’s built in anti-shake allows me to handhold the 450mm equivalent lens. I would never have been able to do that with my manual Olympus bodies or even the auto focus Minolta 800si.

By the way, I purchased my Tamron lens about 8 years ago, back in June 2000 – I know they still make this lens, but I am not sure how the build quality has changed, or if it is still made made in Japan. I’ve always been very pleased with the Tamron, and even more so now…. with it’s super-zoom length of 450mm f/5.6 and equivalent when mounted on the Sony Alpha 700, it’s a formidable piece of optical engineering, and very cheap at the price. This is a true “cheap awesome lens”.


Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm

Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 and Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 lens. I used a Polarizer.



Creative Commons License
olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

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I headed off to the Great Falls park last Saturday (02/02/08) to hike along the river and photograph the falls. It was beautiful out there… about 50 degrees – perfect hiking weather, although the trails and towpath were still muddy. I was carrying my Sony Alpha 700 and 2 lenses – a Sigma AF 28-80mm and the Tamron 70-300mm. The Tamron was for closeup views of the raging waters. The Sigma is a recent acquisition, and I was trying it out.

It’s still early in February, and we’ve already had a lot of rain in Montgomery county – the average rainfall for February is about 2.85 inches here, and by the 2nd, we already had about 3 inches… which means, every stream in the county is overflowing and that the Potomac is running full already. Normally, we’d have to wait until the Spring thaws.

Since my intent was to photograph the falls, I did not mind lugging along the heavy Tamron, but on my way over there, I was thinking about the most desirable characteristics for a hiking lens – good zoom range, rugged, light, cheap, close up capability etc. At the same time, the optical characteristics of the lens should be good enough that you don’t regret the quality of the pictures when you get back.

The more I thought about it, the Sigma I was carrying seemed to be the perfect fit. After all, it had a zoom range of 28-80mm, which is a 42-120mm on the Sony A700. Besides, it has a plastic body, which makes it lightweight. Great optical quality with multicoated aspherical lenses, very cheap so it would not matter if it was damaged or lost – and it has a 1:2 Macro capability, for those occasional very close-up shots of interesting grass or moss or little critters that I might come across.

I would have liked at least 35mm at the wide-angle, but I’ve found that in the open woodlands and hilly areas of Maryland , even a 50mm is sufficiently wide, since one can always step back a few paces to include more of the scene. The Sigma 28-80mm definitely qualified as a Cheap Awesome Lens. Some may complain about the “cheap” build quality – it’s plasticky – but one can’t fault it optically for the price.

The 1:2 macro capability is only at 80mm f/5.6 (120mm f/5.6 on the Sony Alpha 700) and is is a matter of moving a switch on the lens from Normal to Macro position to lock it. Now, f/5.8 is pretty slow, I was able to get decent images even at 100 ISO. I’m not complaining, since I can always increase the ISO to compensate. However, in Winter, with no overhead tree canopy and bright sunlight, it beats carrying an extra lens for the rare occasion one might want to take a real close up.
Here are some of the pictures at the Falls and along the Towpath. The river is very impressive this week.


The Tamron is a beast on the Sony Alpha 700 – it’s equivalent to 105mm-450mm and fairly fast for such a large focal length f/3.5 at the shorter end, and f/5.6 at the 450mm end. Fast enough to handhold at 100 ISO on a bright day. It’s a macro lens as well, and goes to 1:4 along the entire focal length range, which is pretty impressive. This is another Cheap Awesome Lens.Tamron 70-300mm– Potomac River and Towpath.


Potomac River

Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River

Potomac River 1/5 sec exposure
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River

Sigma 28-80mm – Potomac River

Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River 1/5 second
Potomac River 1/5 second
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River

Sigma 28-80mm Canal and Towpath

Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath – macro
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath

Sigma 28-80mm Great Falls Tavern

Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Gate at Widewater
Great Falls

Sigma 28-80mm – Great Falls Tavern

Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern

Sigma 28-80mm – Canal and Towpath

Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath

Sigma 28-80mm Macro Photos (approx 8-10 inches)

Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro

Tamron 70-300mm


Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls

Tamron – Wildlife

Wildlife
Wildlife
Wildlife

Tamron

Lichens on Rock
Lichens
Wildlife

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700, Sigma 28-80mm f/3.5-f/5.6 Aspherical Macro 1:2 and Tamron 70-300mm f/3.9-f5.6, ISO 100, Circular Polarizer.



Creative Commons License
olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

First roll off my Olympus 35 RC. I finally got around to changing the seals on this old mechanical beauty – the Olympus 35 RC was one of the last mechanical Rangefinders that Olympus made. The RC has an Auto mode – it’s a shutter priority system. You set the shutter speed, and when the camera is on Auto, it will set the Aperture. I prefer using the Sunny 16 rule, and was glad that the RC offered a manual override that allows me to set the aperture as well.

I was very curious about this particular camera – it’s very similar to my Ricoh 500G, and I had been looking for an Olympus rangefinder for a long time. The camera is a joy to use.. the operation feels smooth and precise, and feels comfortable in the hand. The Olympus RC details are in the in the Olympus Cameras page along with a description.

All of these pictures were taken near my brother-in-law’s house in North Potomac, and in the grounds of the park adjoining the neighboring Dufief School. As can be seen, the lens on the Olympus RC is outstanding. I love the way it renders the Fall colors. These old cameras had single coated lenses, and that did something magical for the color and bokeh given the right lighting. This is something that I feel the new multi-coated glass/optical plastic lenses cannot replicate. But again, maybe it’s just my imagination.


Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC

Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC
Olympus 35 RC

Photographed with an Olympus 35 RC rangefinder camera, Fuji Super 200. Exposure was 1/250 at f/8 and f/11


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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Early Spring and late Fall are my favorite times of the year for woodland photography. It isn’t because it’s cool and pleasant to be in the woods, but because there are no leaves on the trees then, and it’s the only times of the year that the forest floor gets enough light photograph the little critters, mushrooms and other fascinating organisms that live and die in the rich ecosystem of the forest floor.

In spring, before the canopy greens out and cuts off the light, the typical eastern US woodland has lots of tiny flowering plants with exquisite blooms. These are so small that you’d need to use a macro lens to get a decent sized image and see the detail.

Once the dense overhead canopy fills out, the forest floor gets very little light, so there’s not much in the way of flowers, but there are bugs and beetles galore, strange fungi, lichens, molds, mushrooms everywhere. The problem is finding enough light to take the picture. I’ve used a regular flash in the past, but the effect was always weird and unnatural looking.

To use natural light, I needed fast film ISO 400 etc AND a longer exposure, which needs a tripod. That pretty much limits hand-held photography to taking pictures of rocks, rotting leaves and mushrooms. Little forest critters move pretty quickly, vanishing under leaves and twigs like magic.

A few months ago, I found a Yashica Dental Eye camera with a fixed 50mm f/4 macro lens and a built-in ring flash. It was in great condition except for some very minor traces of battery leak corrosion. I took a chance and made the purchase, with the intention of returning it if I could not get it to work.

I cleaned out the battery compartment with a cotton bud dipped in white vinegar, and that was all there was to it. The camera works fine now, and the 50mm f/4 macro lens is a 1:1. This was the original Dental eye camera based on a FX3 body, I think – the later Dental Eye cameras have the suffix Dental Eye II and Dental Eye III, and they have a 100mm Macro lens. Check out the Micro/Macro section for more information on the Dental Eye.

This is a GREAT camera for woodland photography, and the possibilities are endless. The built in ring flash is powered by a battery pack that is fixed on the bottom of the camera (looks like a motor drive, but it’s not). Most of the Yashica cameras from this era have crumbling leatherette covers.

Mine started off fine, but now it looks patchy in a few places. This is purely a cosmetic issue, and should not deter anyone from buying the camera, especially if you can get it in full working condition with case for less than $100. I guess I will be replacing the leatherette soon.

The ring flash provides an even natural looking light. I’d swear it was daylight if I didn’t know better. There is a small supplementary lamp within the flash to provide some light for focusing. I think I will be using this camera a lot. I ran off a roll in the nearby woods along side a small stream. I really didn’t go looking for subject matter, since I was just running a test roll. This camera is a keeper. Here are some of the pictures…


Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye

Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye
Yashica Dental Eye

Photographed with a Yashica Dental Eye camera (fixed 50mm f/4 1:1 macro lens and Fuji Superia 200 film


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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A few weeks ago, I took Sunny and her cousin Mahathi for a hike along the Potomac Heritage Trail in Washington DC. The girls had a great time watching the ducks and playing in the little riverside meadows, collecting dandelions and wildflowers.

The Potomac Heritage trail is hiker friendly – not a shared route that has you constantly jumping out of the way to avoid getting run over by a bicyclist… there is lots of wildlife on the trail, and lots of wild flowers.

The area around the Key Bridge is epecially nice, if you ignore the traffic a few feet away beyond a low barrier wall, and concentrate instead on the gentle murmuring of the Potomac river. The river seems so content there.

Most people who hike the trail are very conscientuous about cleaning up after themselves, so the trail is clean and trash free.. can’t say the same for the river bank though. It’s littered with beer cans and plastic trash.. some from the river, I suppose.. but as far as I could see, it was left behind by fishermen who congregate in a few choice spots.

I also spotted lots of fishing lines tied to low branches. The lazy fisherman’s idea of sport I suppose. The abandoned lines can entangle wildlife, especially waterfowl. I was able to collect a large plastic grocery sack full of cans and trash in just a few minutes, with the girls helping.

Since this was a short hike, I didn’t carry any of my regular equipment – just the every ready standby Ricoh 500. It’s either that or one of the Olympus Trip 35 cameras when I have to travel light and shoot in a hurry.

Potomac Heritage Trail #1
Potomac Heritage Trail #2
Potomac Heritage Trail #3
Potomac Heritage Trail #4
Potomac Heritage Trail #5
Potomac Heritage Trail #6
Potomac Heritage Trail #7
Potomac Heritage Trail #8

Photographed with a Ricoh 500G rangefinder f/16 at 1/250 sec on Fuji HQ Super 200 film.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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Yet another hiking trip to Sugarloaf Mountain, this time with 3 little kids in tow – Vasudev, Sunayana and Abhiram. Sunayana and my two nephews are real troopers. We hiked for nearly 3 hours, and we managed to do the Orange and Red trails.

We started at the Eastview Overlook AND returned via the steps to the West view overlook point, and then wearily trudged back to the Eastview parking lot. The weather was cloudy all day and comfortable, except for a cool breeze that kept things nippy. The sky was overcast, but the light was fairly bright, perfectly even, shadowless light.

Since I had to keep 3 kids in tow, I had originally intended to carry a simple, focus-free, no frills camera like the Olympus Trip 35 or the Ricoh 500 rangefinder, but at the last minute, I decided to take something just as simple and rugged – the Ricoh CR-5 manual camera, with it’s sharp little Rikenon 55mm f/2.2 lens.

Now, the Ricoh is one of my accidentally acquired cameras, and I had not used it since I replaced the light seals late last summer. Even though the light meter works fine with the new batteries, I don’t really like to depend on flaky old light meters, and instead prefer to use the Sunny 16 rule, which works fine for me in daylight situations. Besides, since I could not stand around fiddling with focusing, I used Hyperfocal distance settings so that I could just aim and shoot whenever I got the youngsters to sit down and take a break during the hike.

Truth be told, the break was more for resting MY weary bones, since I had hiked the White Trail with Jayaram just the previous day, and it was all I could do to keep up with them. Two 4 year olds and a 9 year old have so much energy between them that I was questioning my sanity in bringing them along without another adult to help supervise and keep them on the trails.

The kids are good with hikes though – they’ve been out with me enough times. I usually remind them why it’s important to keep on the trails, and how to follow the marked Trail blazes. Thankfully, the 2 youngsters know all about trails and paths and maps from the TV show Diego and from Dora. Thanks, Nickelodeon!

The pictures were taken at several points along the Orange and Red Trails on Sugarloaf Mountain, and at the peak. As I mentioned, the light was just right for closeup color photography, although the overcast sky made the surrounding countryside hazy.

The Ricoh CR-5 is a simple, reliable, rugged SLR and comes standard with a Rikenon 55mm f/2.2 lens. Since it was cloudy, I used a Sky 1A filter to cut the blue of the UV and to provide slight warmth, and as I was using 200 ASA film, I set the shutter at 1/250 second and the aperture at f/5.6.


Ricoh CR-5 SLR
Ricoh CR-5 SLR
Ricoh CR-5 SLR
Ricoh CR-5 SLR

Ricoh CR-5 SLR
Ricoh CR-5 SLR
Ricoh CR-5 SLR
Ricoh CR-5 SLR
Ricoh CR-5 SLR
Ricoh CR-5 SLR
Ricoh CR-5 SLR

Photographed with a Ricoh CR-5 and 55mm f/2.2 lens, 1/250 second at f/5.6 on Fuji Super HQ 200 film. I used a Skylight filter (very pale rose) to cut the blue and render the colors naturally.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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Sunayana, Vasudev and I went back up to Cunningham Falls and Hunt Lake up in Frederick County on Sunday, March 25th. The falls are a short hike from the Lake, and we hiked up the shorter lower trail and returned by the tougher Cliff trail. We took a picnic lunch which we ate by Hunt Lake – it’s still early in the season, so there were very few people around, which was nice. I understand that it gets crowded during the summer.

Hunt creek is a clear, cold trout stream, which means that the water is of very high quality (The trout love the cold, in fact, they’d die if the stream temperature went above 68 degrees). The white sand beach out there is really fun. I had the OM-1 with a Vivitar Series 1 28-90mm lens, and a Quantaray 28mm f/2.8 that I received unexpectedly as part of a bundle of equipment I had purchased a while ago. I also had the Ricoh 500G Rangefinder.

A note on filters –
# I used a Hoya polarizer on the Vivitar Series 1 28-90mm, which got reid of the reflections and darkended the sky on the lake photographs, but the vignetting is apparent at the wide angle end. The 28-90mm Vivitar is a Komine made lens, and is a superb optic.
# Although the trees havent yet leafed out, the mosses growing on the rocks, and in the stream and the natural greenish gray rocks themselves are reflecting enough green light to cause a green tinge in the woodland photos with the Quantaray 28mm. I thought the Skylight 1a filter with its pale rose would be enough to counter the green tinge so early in the season, but I was wrong. It seems that a CC20 or CC30 filter is needed.

Ricoh 500G
Ricoh 500G

Photographed with a Ricoh 500G rangefinder, 1/250 second at f/16 on Fujicolor 200 HQ Super film


OM-1, 28-90mm at 90mm
OM-1, 28-90mm at 28mm

Photographed with an Olympus OM-1, Vivitar Series 1 28-90mm f/2.8-3.6 lens, 1/250 second at f/11 on Fujicolor 200 HQ Super film and Hoya Polarizer. Note the vignetting due to the Polarizer on the shots at 28mm.


OM-1, Quantaray 28mm f/2.8
OM-1, Quantaray 28mm f/2.8
OM-1, Quantaray 28mm f/2.8
OM-1, Quantaray 28mm f/2.8

Photographed with an Olympus OM-1, Quantaray 28mm f/2.8 lens at 1/250 second at f/16 (exposed for middle range) with Skylight 1A filter on Fujicolor 200 HQ Super film. An f/11 aperture or wider would have probably been better for capturing the details in the shadows.

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