SUMMER IN THE CITY: Visiting Wave Hill

Just 20 minutes outside of the city, we discovered a little piece of treasure called Wave Hill. While some people swear that the city skyline is one of most picturesque images of New York, I challenge that with the sites along the Hudson. Wave Hill is a breathtaking 28-acre public garden and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades in the Bronx.  This locale was the perfect place to play a little more with the Nikon D300s.
I have to say, making the cross over into an albeit semi-pro camera setup, although I consider it pro, was nerve racking.  I’ve been shooting for over 5 years now and while I’ve seen some definite improvements in the quality of my shots, I’ve never quite felt they were good enough.  When shooting my kids, I’ve often relied on my faithful “auto” mode to capture those perfect shots.  Although I am quite comfortable shooting in “manual”, I’ve often reserved those for more composed shots.

I’ve drooled over fancier camera equipment for years, but never felt like I deserved to upgrade and relied on my trusty Canon Rebel XT (the original) for way too long.  It’s now an old friend who’s ready to retire and I think I owe it to him and the 10,000+ shots he’s given me, to move on.  I’ve been saying this for 2 years now though.  When the opportunity came along to play with the Nikon D300s, it was my non-committal way of testing those waters and see if I was ready to make that transition.

Boy have cameras come a long way since the Rebel XT.  The Nikon D300s is a much more solid camera.  It screamed PRO, although technically they consider this a semi-pro setup (head-scratching as there is no “Auto” mode).  Just the larger LCD screen itself was jaw-dropping.  It allowed me to properly take and assess some test shots to make sure my pictures were perfect. While I’ve heard people quibble over it’s re-use of the 12.3 megapixel sensor, I have no complaints.  Unless I’m blowing up posters of my images, I don’t need them to be larger than this.  Considering they categorized this camera as semi-pro, I think this is a good sensor for this camera.   The 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II kit lens makes this a great camera for the value.  While I loved my 18-55mm Canon kit lens, it was some of that… ignorance is bliss, until you know.  This lens performs beautifully and gives a lot of range for the buck.

I have to admit while I was thrilled to be at this gorgeous location, the beauty was short-lived for my kids.  Within an hour they were ready to call it quits and since I spent half the time making sure the infant didn’t jump into the lily pond, he decided that nap-time was calling.  Having spent $20 on tolls, admission and parking — it was priceless to be able to preview my images in such high quality on the fly.   I have no idea how I have lived without a larger screen.  I wasn’t leaving this garden until I was sure to have some decent shots to work with.

Pictures to me, are all about composition.  My children are my main focus but the background is just as important to me as they are.  That’s not to say my backgrounds are always perfect.  It’s a balance between finding the beauty where many think there is none to be found.  Well Wave Hill definitely had none of that and there were more beautiful backdrops than time would allow.  One of the biggest challenges was capturing as much detail as possible while still getting that “bokeh” effect with the included 18-200mm lens.  While I’m not a huge fan of relying on effects, this was something I could never effectively achieve with my other lens limited range.  Hard to believe but some of these images actually had people in the background.  The beauty of the “bokeh” effect is that it gave me much editing flexibility, without losing critical detail.

While I’m a huge fan of classic portrait shots, some of the best pictures I’ve taken are just of the kids being kids. Don’t be afraid to just keep on clicking.  One of my favorite features is rapid firing.  I just hold the button down as it takes successive shots, of which one, I hope, captures the beauty of that moment.  I took over 250 shots of which I got 40 decent shots of which were 7 great shots.  Some people might not like those odds, but that’s the beauty of digital, I can shoot as many shots as I want!

Just as the Nikon D300s and I were getting comfortable with one another, I have to say good-bye.  But she’s taught me that I’m more capable than I give myself credit for.  I’m now ready to graduate to a more pro-grade camera and the Nikon D300s just might become my new best friend.  Sometimes you need to take that leap of faith, you’ll never know where it will take you.

Next time I’m going to head over earlier with fully rested kids and pack a picnic.  How do you think I made out at Wave Hill?