Saturday, 23 February 2019

A Day in Switzerland

Switzerland or Swiss will be high on the list of anyone who would like to visit a place for its sheer natural beauty. So it was a like a dream come true (well almost), when I landed in Zurich airport in the last week of January.

It was an official trip for a week, so did not get much time to explore the place. However, we made sure that we will explore the place on the last day of our stay, before we get on to the flight back home.

The public transport in Switzerland is so well connected that you can travel to any part of the country in public transport and in some cases until the last mile!

Zurich on a cold afternoon

We had 1 afternoon and the forenoon the following day to explore what we can. So on the first day we decided to pay a visit to the Rhine falls, which apparently is the largest waterfalls in Europe!

By the time we got down at the Laufen-Uhwiesen station it was already 4:00PM. Considering the time of the year, we did not have much time. Adding to that was the drizzle that started the moment we reached there. By the time we got the tickets to falls and reached the falls, it was almost around 4:30PM. The falls was magnificent!


Truly a sight to see and behold if you are in the Swiss. Unfortunately because of the gloomy weather, we could not spend much time there and the photographs does not do justice to the beauty of the place. I am wishing to get one more chance to go to this place while the weather is clear.

The magnificent Rhine Falls

Apart from the falls, the restaurant at the starting point of the falls is another sight to behold. The stone architecture and the cobble stone paved pathway are typical of the historical town that it is!

Classic Architecture drenched in rain

The next day the weather was a bit better with the sun showing up now and then albeit the misty morning. We had until 3:00PM to spend. After much research in Google, decided to visit the Mt. Pilatus in the city of Lucerne. A trip to Switzerland cannot go abegging without a visit to the Alps!

Though there are higher peaks in the Alps like the Mt. Titlis for instance, those are quite far from Zurich and we will not be able to return back by 3:00PM. Hence we settled with Mt. Pilatus. It peaks at about 2100mts above MSL and offer some beautiful view of the Alps!

Once again thanks to the exceptionally well connected public transportation of Switzerland, we were able to get the tickets for the entire travel in the Zurich Main Station, including the cable car ride to the top of Mt. Pilatus!

The magical Lucerne City and Lake on a Misty Afternoon

We decided to start very early in the morning, so we can spend enough time outdoors. We had a train to Lucerne from Zurich Main as early as 6:51AM. We reached Lucerne around 7:40AM. This town looks as if has jumped out of some classical fairy tale! The old charm of its architecture and bridges can captivate any traveler! It is so unfortunate that we did not have enough time to explore and enjoy this beautiful city, except for a few minutes in the afternoon once we returned from Mt. Pilatus.

We reached the cable car station by 8:00AM. Since we arrived quite early, the crowd was lesser. Could be because of the weather. The cable car ride is in 3 legs with wonderful views in every leg! Here are some photos of beautiful Alps!

Tunnels that offer a view!

Early arrivers getting ready for a Ski

A restaurant in the middle of the Alpine trees

Morning sun pushing hard against the mist giving a golden glow

I hope I will get another chance to visit this beautiful place again in another season to see the other side of this beautiful natural country!

The Summit

Sunday, 6 January 2019

First Impressions on the Nikkor 200-500mm lens

The Brahminy Kite emerging from a shaded building into the light

Link for photos with Nikon D750 and Nikkor 200-500 mm lens.

Recently added the Nikkor 200-500mm lens to my kitty. Here are some first impressions about the lens. This is by no means a lab review of the lens, but completely done outdoors. So my presentation will be of photos. All the photos in this blog are taken using Nikon D750 and 200-500 mm, handheld.

Though I had rented out this lens before and used on many occasions, this is first one which I own. Most of the photos are of birds, which is the main purpose of me getting this much sought after lens. In fact the only 500 mm lens at a fixed aperture in a very affordable price, which is another reason, I was able to add this to my lens collection.

Moon was one of the first shots coming from this lens. One of my favorite subjects for sure. As it turned out it was quite sharp.

The waning moon.
Some photos with the light on the proper side of the subject. This little sunbird was shot from a distance of about 20 feet. The lens had no problem in locking the subject and able to get quite some details on it.

Purple rumped Sunbird - Female

If there is one thing I am blessed about, it is my Winged Neighbours. This little fellow is one of them.

Common Tailorbird

The lake near by was lively with lot of activities. Not known for a huge variety of birds, since this lake is in the middle of the urban settlements, but does provide some interesting sights. Mr. Little Grebe is one such interesting fellow.

Little Grebe

This is a very common sight most of the residential apartments. So no stranger to me as well. When the subject is closer and the light just right, there is no dearth of details.

Rock Pigeon

Those were pretty straightforward. How about some action or the birds flying? Well, one needs some practice to focus on the action, in this case birds in flight. The lens does not have any problems in focusing on flying birds, even though the background does not have much contrast. However, I cannot say if it is as fast as some of the high end prime lenses.

Here are a few birds in action.

Black Kite banking

This egret was not just flying but also was against the light. But the lens did not have issues locking focus.

Little Egret

The Common Coot taking off from the water is a good subject for some action. This is a very fast action and starts without any preamble or warning. So focusing on such a subject is quite difficult even for trained hands. I did struggle a bit to get the right focus. In fact had to spend quite some time and lot of tries to get a couple of them right. I will attribute that to the lack of practice I have. The lens also had some difficulty in locking the focus due to the fast action. But once locked, it held on!

Common Coot, taking off

Here is one more from the Common Coot.

Common Coot Running on water

This one too is a reasonable fast flier. However there was no problem in having the focus locked.

Pond Heron flying

Well, not bad at all for the range of the lens. How for the most difficult part. How does the light hold up in low light. The 5.6 max aperture is not ideal for any kind of low light photography, especially birds or wildlife, but still wanted to give a try.
Here are a few low light bird shots.

Once again the Pond Heron. This time it is still. Obviously it would have been quite difficult on flight. It was early morning and the sun never came up, so had to bump up the ISO to get some decent shots.

Pond Heron

Black kite on flight. Not a very difficult action shot since this one was just gliding and not a fast flier.

Black Kite on flight

The following was a quite difficult shot. Not only was the light low, but also is this a fast action of a small bird at quite a distance. Whatever light that was there was right behind the subject, which helped greatly in the water drops and splash, but not so much in getting the focus right.

Little Grebe skipping on water.

Though the focus on the following is quite good, I cannot consider this a very high quality image, even though the Grebe was quite close.

Based on the time I spent so far, I can say for sure that the focusing is quite fast even in low light for a lens with 5f/.6 max aperture. However, I cannot hold the image quality at the highest.

Now for some bonus. What about smaller subjects? The lens is not designated macro lens, but the for my kind of interests (Butterflies and Bugs), the lens gives some great working distance. I can photograph these beauties without having to get too close.
Though I am not intending to use the lens for such work, no harm in a few tries. Here are a few sample.

The focus spot on and the details quite good on the Chocolate pansy.

Chocolate pansy
Never have to worry about getting close with those. These wasps are small and quite fast. But the lens, in good light, never had a problem in locking focus. It was real fast this time!


I would dare not get near this Yellow Jacket! This was shot from over 20 feet distance and the lens never had a problem getting focus, since the light was quite good. The details too was quite good, considering the distance and the size of the subject.

Yellow Jacket targeting a caterpillar

Though the photos of the bugs have come out quite, the lens certainly is not for macros. I will stick to the Nikkor 200mm f/4.0 for macros!

In the coming days, I will use it further for the birds and wildlife and see how it holds up. If you have any tips for better using the lens, please do share your ideas.

Pied Bushchat on a sunny day

Saturday, 10 November 2018


Downtown Cincinnati across the Ohio river on a Windy
Link to more photos from Cincinnati for better resolution

My recent visit to Cincinnati presented me with some good opportunities to explore the place and click some photographs. So decided to start with my favorite - the view of the downtown from across the Ohio river in the evening.

It was a very windy evening with the temperature hovering about 10 degree C / 40 degree F. Wind was over a 80kmph and literally throwing us off balance in the Roebling Suspension bridge and the weather taking only seconds to numb the exposed fingers.

I was lucky to find a place where I can keep the camera sturdily and click this 20 second exposure (Above).

Same place - Different view and different time

One of the most popular features of the city is the river walk. This extends from Cincinnati in Ohio state across the river into the towns of Covington and Newport in the Kentucky. The walk way presents a lot of beautiful views of the Cincinnati downtown!

Small artificial fall in Cincinnati Zoo

If there is one place that is a must visit in Cincinnati, that is the zoo. One of the most popular and the well maintained places in the country. It houses a wide range of animals and birds from all over the world. I also learnt that the zoo does a lot of bird and animal rescues and lets them back in the wild after giving the necessary protection.

Red Cardinal - Cincinnati Zoo

I generally do not photograph birds or animals that are in captive. But this one is was no way in the captive, even though it was photographed in a zoo.

Prisoner's Lake
Not sure what or who gave the lake its name, but it did captivate me with its splendor! Beautiful lake with an equally beautiful backdrop. If one has the time and patience, this is a good place for some birds and animals watch.

Fountain Square - Downtown

The most lively place in the downtown. The place comes live during the weekends, in an otherwise conservative downtown.

Mausoleum - Spring Grove Cemetery

It is not often we come across a cemetery that is also maintained as an arboretum, at least not in India. So it came as a huge pleasant surprise when I visited this place.

Lake 1 - Spring Grove Cemetery

It was also not devoid of water bodies. These water bodies, apart from serving as water source for these trees, also are home to lot of birds.

The change of colours - Spring Grove Cemetery

It was here where I first got a glimpse of the changing colours in nature in the fall. Though it was a bit late this year, it was really colourful when it arrived.

Hide and Seek - Spring Grove Cemetery

Fall, apart from bringing the colours, also brings this hide and seek game with the clouds and the sun alternating with each other.

Full spectrum of colour at Mt. Airy forest

Cincinnati is also known as the city of seven hills. This is because the city itself sits snuggly in a valley surrounded by seven hills, of which Mt. Airy forest is one. the fall brought out the full spectrum in a small lake at the Mt. Airy forest.

Colouful trails

Mt. Airy also seems to be the most preferred place for joggers and bikers. This is due to numerous trails this place have, that are also well marked.

View of the Covington, KY across Ohio river

The river walk spans across Cincinnati in Ohio to Covington and Newport in Kentucky. It provides lot of beautiful view of the city and the beautiful surroundings.

One of the best here is the Roebling's Suspension Bridge that is built across the Ohio river. This happens to be the prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.

There are more such wonderful places that you can visit in Cincinnati and the surrounding places. But with the limited time I had, I tried to represent the beauty of the city as much as I can. Happy exploring while you are there!

Sunset and downtown Cincinnati across Ohio River.