Practicing Macro and Landscape
In the two years since we last visited, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay Maine has continued its steady development. The main campus and visitor center of the gardens first opened to the public in 2007, after 16 years of development. In 2009, just before our first visit, they added the Lerner Garden of the 5 Senses, and in 2010 they opened the Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden. Along the way there they started development of the Hanley Hillside Garden and the Giles Rhododendron and Perennial Garden at the far end of Birch Allée. All told, there are 248 acres of property under development.
Though it is far out of the way, by most folks standards, tucked well off the main road, out on one of mid-coast Maine’s many narrow peninsulas, in the tiny tourist village of Boothbay Maine (just up the road from the even more touristy Boothbay Harbor), this is a world-class botanical garden, professionally designed, developed, and maintained. The history of how it came to be where and what it is, is fascinating, and well worth a read on the CMBG site.
Our visit this year was on a somewhat overcast, but still fairly bright, summer morning…making for mostly excellent light for macro and close-up work (due to the lack of sharp shadows), but a real challenge whenever the sky was in the image (since it wanted to go completely white).
I am still learning the Nikon Coolpix P500. At the CMBGs I was experimenting with new Program settings or both wide angle and telephoto landscapes: Active D-Lighting and Optimize Image both set to Normal. With those settings, the Coolpix managed to maintain a good deal of detail in the sky most of the time…I was impressed. The shot above was later in the day when there was actually more sun and a little color in the sky, but the shot below shows the good effects of the Active-D Lighting. When I first use the camera I set Optimize Image to Vivid, but I am finding that the images respond to Lightroom processing better with OI set to Normal.
For macro, I continue to use the Close Up Scene Mode, as I find that even if I override the automatic 32mm equivalent field of view zoom setting set by the mode, I still get faster and more accurate macro focus in Close Up mode than I do by setting Macro in the focus settings. I also, as I have mentioned before, suspect there is some special processing going on the Close Up mode that is not part of the general Program mode.
At the CMBGs I found myself using the long of the zoom in Close Up mode quite a bit. The longer zoom setting throws the backgrounds more out of focus, which often centers attention on the flowers (insects, mammals, etc.). It is also much easier, often, to work from a distance…and, of course, sometimes it is simply not possible to reach the subject any other way.
The shots that follow were at longer zoom settings: the first two at 403mm equivalent field of view, and the last one at 499mm.
I still used the optimum 32mm automatic zoom setting for many shots as well. It requires that you be able to get close, but produces excellent results.
And here are a couple of examples of a shots that could not have been made without the long zoom.
The amount of design that has gone into the the CMBGs is simply amazing. The new Children’s Garden is a case in point. Who could not be delighted by grass roofed (and blueberry roofed) buildings behind white picket fences, with each picket a cat? Tree houses? Wigwams? A pond with boats from Wind-in-the-Willows and floating lily flowers. The boggy corner with carnivorous plants? A vegetable garden right out of Peter Rabbit?
Shooting something like the Children’s Garden shows off the strength of the long-range zoom on the P500 (or any other super-zoom P&S). The images above, all taken within a relatively shot time and relatively close together, are at equivalent fields of view of: 32mm, 53mm, 32mm, 23mm, 68mm, 100mm, 405mm, 23mm, and 46mm. There is nothing as flexible as super-zoom P&S.
I often wonder why Nikon chose to limit the low ISO setting to 160 on the P500, but one advantage is that the camera is able to maintain relatively small apertures and relatively fast shutter speeds at its base ISO even in relatively dark surroundings. The Giles Rhododendron and Perennial Garden is in deep forest and well shaded all day…especially so on an overcast day. The following shots are all at the base ISO of 160, and they certainly show as little noise as my Canon SX20IS at 80, and I know the Canon would have attempted all these shots at the base setting…larger apertures and slower shutter speeds.
Finally, the grounds at the CMBG are not all groomed and landscaped. Below the gardens, between the Hillside Gardens and the river, there is a large section of undisturbed forest with trails, where you can, in season, find native wildflowers and plants of mid-coast Maine. Natural grasses, ferns, and arrowroot frame this small steam, and below is Canada Anomie. These are the trails you would take to find Lady Slipper in May and June, and to discover occasional views of the river.
Perhaps because I was switching between macro and landscape modes (in my brain as well as in camera) I found myself using the LCD a lot more than I generally do. Most of these shots were framed with the LCD.
This is, of course, only a small sampling of the images I took at the CMBG. For the full set visit WideEyedInWonder. You might also be interested in the set from our 2009 visit, taken with the Sony DCS H50 super-zoom P&S (on a much brighter, sunny, day).