The Weekend of the 3 Photamigos! / by Douglas Koski

Sinéad and I have long discussed the idea of my acquiring a cost effective backup DSLR. The idea was that it would allow me to fully trade off the D5300 to Sinéad to use after getting the D750. The side benefit was that my nephew Andy would have something he could take photos with. I have been scouring resources and product information for quite some time attempting to find a decent enough option to take advantage of. There was a killer deal for a D90 I barely missed out on listed on Craigslist, and I also was highly tempted by a D300s at a camera shop close to work. The stars aligned this past Saturday when I stopped into Hunts Photo and Video in Manchester and happened upon a deal I could hardly believe.

Andy has been itching to try his hand at DSLR photography for years. He’s watched me take photos while we’ve been out on adventures and has always wanted to take his turn using my camera. Sinéad and I had him over for the weekend and we asked what he wanted to do. He surprised us with saying he really just wanted to stick close to the Concord area, but also wanted to make a trip down to the mall. I figured that made for the perfect chance to check out Hunt’s in Manchester while we were out - and we did just that. We perused the inventory as I had a $50 gift card I won in a photo contest a while back. I decided to ask about their used Nikon equipment and discovered a D7000 in immaculate shape. I asked the lady assisting us if she could check the shutter count, and to even her surprise it was only at a little over 2200 actuations! She then informed us that the store was also running a special where all used equipment was 15% off. I could not believe our luck, and Andy’s eyes were glazing over with the realization that there would be 3 cameras to match the 3 of us! Discount and gift card applied, we made our purchase and headed back to Concord with our prize (Andy jumped the entire way back to the car)!

It was early afternoon before we made it back home. Andy and I cleared a spot and I went over some basics of the camera with him. Sensing how eager he was to get to try it out, I didn’t spend too much time attempting to explain the nuances of the exposure triangle to him. We’ll work on that later. The weather had cleared a little and it was looking like a nice end to the day was on its way for us. We offered Aunt Sinéad the option to join for a little short distance adventuring, and we were soon on our way.

NH Audubon: McLane Center

Sinéad and I been hoping to get Andy and his family over to the McLane Center Audubon in Concord ever since we first checked it out with Aunt Marie, Theresa, and Eddie. We might not have known about the rapter rehab services they provide and that visitors can check out the birds at any time of visit. We got Andy setup and made our way over to where the birds are kept. We got super lucky and were able to see all the birds (including the screech owl) on the visit!

I’m surprised I was able to capture this through the screen mesh and wire fencing. There was no way Andy would have been able to capture this as well with the setup he was using.

Andy was feeling a little competitive upon taking full control of a camera he did not need to share on the visit. He wasted no time in throwing down the gauntlet. The challenge was on! He was determined he was going to take better photos than me. Aunt Sinéad was supposed to be the official judge, but I am thinking there should be more than 1 judge in this contest. I’m sure this will make the post that much more fun!

We’ll start with some images Andy took!

And, my rebuttal!

Now, I think I was able to capture some great images; BUT, this was Andy’s first time attempting to use a DSLR, in low lighting, and with at best f2.8 @ 50mm on a crop sensor. I was using a full frame with f1.8 @ 85mm. I had a distinct gear advantage here, and I am actually quite happily surprised by the images Andy took!

The sun was starting to poke through the clouds, in few and far between instances. Andy didn’t want to end with just the one location and wanted to take a shot at a little street photography. Sinéad and I thought the capital building grounds would be a great place to go next, so we hopped back in the car and made our way over.

Downtown Concord and the Capital Building

This one is Andy’s! The versatility of a zoom was not unnoticed in this throwdown!

It was a fairly quiet Saturday evening downtown when we made it the few miles over to the Capital building. The clouds were looking less and less heavy, and there was actually a bit of hope that we might catch a break in the clouds before packing up. The sun was something we were all hoping for as the temperatures seemed to suggest winter was going to have it’s own off season rebuttal. We found ourselves a convenient parking spot on a surprisingly empty street and, after a brief run down of aperture priority mode, we continued on with our photo adventuring!

Andy’s photos

My photos

Andy definitely has an eye for creative viewpoints! Besides some minor re-alignment advice for his setups, we really weren’t giving him any guidance on what to shoot and how to shoot it. I simply and briefly explained aperture and bokeh when setting him up for aperture priority, and he took it from there! He was trying to go for some extreme bokeh, but wasn’t able to get close enough to some of the subject matter he wanted to test it out on with a max f2.8. I’m sure we’ll give him options in the future for that, though. Might need to get a nifty fifty or 35 DX sometime soon!

I was also quite impressed with Andy’s direction behind the camera. The posed shots above were largely due to him wanting to do some portrait shots. These and the shots below are some of my favorites from the weekend. Couldn’t let the opportunity to catch him in a state of extreme focus slip by.

We had a blast at the Capital building and Andy should have plenty of photo options to choose from should he ever need to do a report on the location! The exploring was no where near complete, however. We still had all Main St. to peruse. Another quick portrait session to start off the walk and then we were off to do some street photography.

Andy’s Photos

My Photos

We did get lucky with the sunlight, but it was short lived and the clouds took back over by the time we made it back home. We still had a great photo adventure in Concord, and Andy proved to be well on his way with taking photos! He was keeping his framing in mind, holding the camera properly, and wasn’t afraid to test angles. Both Sinéad and I were pretty impressed! We connected the camera to the TV to do a quick pre-edit review together. And we decided the photo contest was at a draw. We’d have to see what tomorrow would bring to see who might be the winner.

Day 2

Day 2 started with a glimmer of hope that it was not going to rain and maybe the clouds would slightly break for an hour mid-afternoon. That was the hope that was pushing us to follow through with our adventures for the day. Those adventures were far enough away to cause us truly consider the weather as a determining factor. There was going to be plenty of time in a car, and the only water we wanted to experience needed to already be close to the ground. We weren’t thrilled that it was going to be cloudy but we took a chance, packed appropriately, and made our way up north.

White Mountains

One of the nice parts to living in Concord is that most destinations are roughly an hour away. The White Mountains are one of those destinations we like to frequent. We were fairly sure that Andy had not been over the Kancamagus, so we headed to Lincoln, and proceeded with the incline. I believe we took advantage of every stop on our way up, but not for very long. Temps were bottoming out at 35 degrees, and there were flakes of snow to be seen… Still, it was a pretty sight and definitely worth the stops!

For this day I swapped down a lens so things would be slightly more even. It would also give me the flexibility to use ND filters for the potential spring run off we might encounter. That being said, both our cameras were running in crop sensor mode with close to the same megapixel count, and our focal ranges were nearly identical. There wasn’t much need for wide open apertures, so we were working in the same ranges there as well. The photo fun continued!

Andy’s Photos heading up the Pass

I mentioned to Andy to think about how he was framing his shots. This is what he came up with right after.

One of Sinéad’s favorites from what Andy took.

My Photos heading up through the pass

Our photo opportunities were limited to short bursts up there! It was nearly freezing and we did not come equipped with winter clothes. Fortunately, we had plenty of layers in anticipation that the mountains could throw anything our way. I was glad to have cleared the pass without running into snow on the road itself though - we almost didn’t have the clearance for some of the parking lot space…

We excitedly watched the temperature gauge build back up to 50 on our way back into North Conway. We appreciated every degree we gained as we watched it climb the 15. That cold air had hastened our bladders to action, though! We were in need of a pit stop and made our way into the outlets for a quick bit of relief only a restroom could offer. The stop was not without its own attractions though. We found ourselves parked immediately in front of both a Jerky shop and cupcake shop. We had not yet had lunch, and our stomachs reminded us of that reality… A couple bags of excellent jerky and some supersized cookies acquired, and we were back on our way to our next destination where we could enjoy our packed lunch.

Diana’s Bath

We promised Andy we would try to see some waterfalls, and some waterfalls we found! The spring run off combined with the iffy weather made this an excellent destination. Typically horrifically over-crowded, we arrived to a parking lot that might have actually only been about a third filled. We enjoyed our lunch, used a silver Sharpie to fill out our parking fee envelope, and made our way down the trail. A good portion of that trail was still under a solid layer of ice so we all had to practice some extra safe walking with our camera gear in tow (not to mention it was too nice a day to risk someone getting hurt!). A short safe walk later we came to our destination and the water levels were well worth the trip!

We’ll again Start off with Andy’s Photos!

I helped Andy get setup for this photo on a tripod. I had forgotten the head of the tripod was not fully working, and the entire thing needs to be replaced. He rightfully worked on shots without the tripod once we discovered that was the case.

And, My Photos

We had one final spot we wanted to attempt visiting before we had to return Andy home. We were cutting it short on time so we couldn’t get any photography squeezed in. It was worth the quick stop, though. We swung by one of my favorite places in the off-tourist season, Glen Ellis Falls. It turned out to be a good choice not to worry about photography on this location. Not only was time against us, but the spray from the falls was pretty intense. I would have loved to have snagged a few photos regardless, but we kept it to cell phone only this time around.

Unfortunately, Sinéad did not take too much for photos other than on her cell phone. She was helping to make sure that Andy was able to have as good of a time taking photos as possible. She had a camera with her, but decided the best option for each location was her cell phone. We’ll have to get her working on her camera so that she can contribute as one of the Photamigos in the future!

If you’ve read this far, thank you for reading through and I hope you enjoyed it! Also, be sure to let us know who you think won Andy’s throw-down in the comments below!

(in the spirit of full disclosure, we did not have time for Andy to also edit the raw files he took. All editing was done by me.)