Nikon P900 Trip Report

We were gone from August 30th to September 16th and — as mentioned in THIS post — of the 8,859 photos I shot, 4,273 were shot with the Nikon P900. In fact, up to the very last, I had considered not even bringing my D7000 and associated lenses. 

I compromised by bringing only a couple of the lenses. I did use the D7000 and the individual lenses mostly to compare their photos to those of the P900. I’ll explore those comparisons in future posts about the trip, but this post is about photos that while taken on my way to, or while in, Alaska, are not necessarily tied to the Alaska experience. 

All of the photos on this post are from the P900 (116 photos in all) and they are presented as a service to those who might — as I am — increasingly consider using “less capable” equipment than the prosumer offerings out there. 

Each section will have its own gallery so as to “split up” the onslaught of visual goodness. It should go without mention — but it won’t — this is not a short post. 

Let’s get to it.

The above photo is from Geneva, Illinois. We spent some time there while visiting my family. After an excellent meal, we went walking around and this first set of photos are from that walkabout. These next few are from inside The Little Traveler.

A maze of 36 rooms arranged in a somewhat confusing way on two different levels and offering an eclectic range of shopping. As I’m wont to do, my “shopping” consisted of finding interesting photo subjects. 

That’s a wind ornament outside the entrance. You’ve already seen the dog I shot near there, but here it is again . . . 

Once inside, I quickly separated from the others as I wondered with a different objective in mind . . . but, just so I wouldn’t get lost, I took a picture of where I was . . . 

That’s right! A rare selfie . . . the mirror is not really a mirror, just a piece of metal acting as one. As usual, not very flattering, but then I seldom enter any beauty contests. I found myself using the P900’s articulated screen more than I would have thought primarily because the viewfinder is so crappy. Still necessary for some compositions and for when holding the camera steady is important, but a pain regardless because it’s not a true viewfinder but an electronic one (like looking through a small screen, which you are). 

When in these kinds of shops, I look for colors and interesting sights. 

For a moment, I thought I’d found a namesake bottler . . . 

Some of the shops were pretty straightforward, but then . . . 

There were lots of decent subjects in that shop.

Many of the photos are shot in macro mode, although I’m not exactly sure of the difference from regular shooting since the camera still focuses to within a few inches of a given subject. I think the macro mode does that annoying blur you get with a shallow depth of field. The bokeh of the P900 is passable, but as I prefer to not see it, I don’t worry about it much.

This next shot is not a conversion to B&W . . . it’s how the piece was. 

The macro worked fairly well . . . 

The next one, to me, appears grainier, but I think the piece was like that as the surrounding looks normal. 

These, by the way, were all with ambient light. 

Wherever we will eventually settle, amo have one of these here statues in our yard. 

It may look like I was a fair distance from the next subject, but it’s actually a miniature and I was very close. I am impressed with how the P900 handled the varied and sometimes difficult lighting conditions. 

This next shot was a darkened area close to the public while we were there. Despite not shooting RAW, I was able to bring out a fair amount of details and brightness from the JPG of what was a room in deep shadow. 

As usual, WordPress likes to degrade photos in the posts. I’ve given up trying to tweak them for optimal display as they seem to change stuff all the time, so if interested in any photo, click on the photo for a larger view or go to THIS SmugMug Gallery for the originals. 

Mind you, unlike most of the D7000 photos, you don’t gain much with these photos by going to the pixel level. Meaning, there is a limit in detail gain as you “zoom in” or enlarge the photo before it starts to degrade. But, honestly, there’s a limit with the D7000 photos as well, and few readers ever look at the originals.  

With these photos, the size you get by clicking on the photos is close to the optimal viewing for the photo. If you go to SmugMug, what you gain is a better algorithm for rendering the photo in whatever device you are using to view the gallery. 

Anyway, the other attractions with the Geneva walk we took are the bicycle and the varied shops. Bicycles?

That last one is in front of a chocolate shop. 

Inside, you’ll find a number of chocolate statues of famous sports figures (which were behind glass and hence not worth photographing), a honest-to-goodness chocolate tree . . . 

. . . a selection of gelato flavors . . . 

. . . and even chocolate bacon (alas, no chocolate Spam) . . . 

I couldn’t tell if that was real bacon dipped in chocolate or a confection of chocolates made to resemble bacon. Regardless, we didn’t try it. 

They even had a very realistic Harley . . . 

OK, OK, that’s a real motorcycle.

Here are a couple of macros of the fake candy bicycle decorations . . . 

Before I go on to the next leg of this P900 trip report, here’s the gallery for the above photos. 

I picked a gallery format that took up the least room. Click on any photo to enter the gallery. 

~ ~ ~ o o o ~ ~ ~ 

The next leg of the trip found us in the southern portion of Illinois visiting Melisa’s family. The photos below are either from the Rend Lake recreation area or from a residence on Lake Moses. 

A version of this next photo appeared in an earlier post, but that photo was taken with the phone. For comparison, here are the two versions (the first one is with the phone).

I won’t ask which looks better . . . 

These next two photos also appeared in previous posts and were both taken with the P900.

As I said, those are from Rend Lake, specifically, the visitor center.

While the deer was live (and outside), the turkey and these next animals were displays. Considering the poor lighting, they turned out pretty good. 

While the fox is a reasonable representation of what one might see in the wild, I thought the Bobcat was a poorly represented specimen. I mean, it’s dead and stuffed, true, but it’s also looking like it missed quite a few meals.  

To say nothing of what I can only presume is a coyote. I think the Coyote Nation should sue this center for false representation. Here are a few decent photos of coyotes.

I had stopped to shoot a bird on a tree.  I do my thing, look down, and there is this coyote standing there, looking at me.

When I run errands I often take roundabout routes in hopes of catching a glimpse of the local fauna.This was one such case.  There were actually two coyotes, but only one picture survived my increasingly critical eye.  The two were hunting the Greenland Open Space field as I happened to pass by.

I was lucky enough to catch a few Ents unawares . . . 

This next shot was taken at maximum zoom (2000mm) . . . 

That’s a Cormorant enjoying its catch . . . and here’s the video I shot (32 sec). 

My main complaint with the camera at full zoom is the lack of balance. The weight is concentrated at the front of the lens and at full zoom it’s difficult keeping the camera steady especially if trying to work any controls.  

Any idiot will tell you to use a tripod, but I would have missed this clip. I would prefer if the camera had a bit better balance at full zoom, especially since holding the lens is not an option as that is the part that moves when zooming.

I checked in Google Earth . . . that Cormorant was around 190 yards away, nearly two football fields lengths. Not bad. 

These next two shots are also at full zoom on a subject that was 120 yards away and in full sunlight against a dark background. A difficult shot even for the D7000.

On the other hand, I missed a couple of shots of an Osprey diving to catch fish. That’s because this is a slow camera to acquire focus. It’s also slow when zooming in and out. I might have gotten those shots with the D7000 and something like a 200-500mm lens that costs more than twice what the P900 costs and that weights close to five pounds on its own (seven pounds+ with the camera). 

I mean, if I had a house on those lakes, I would probably invest in one of those lenses, but I don’t, and let me tell you, it’s a lot easier walking around with the P900.

Plus . . . I was pleasantly surprised with these next shots. Nearly all of them are at full zoom. I say nearly full zoom because I had to back off a bit or the camera would be too slow to focus or not focus at all. My guess is that the details were not differentiated enough in the bright light. 

Hint, dragonflies often return to the same perch but that knowledge only helped a little since that’s another failing with this camera. As far as I can see (and I admit I could be wrong) I can’t lock the focus on one spot and the manual focus is via a toggle that negates fine tuning. 

Still, knowing they would land in a given area helped me get some of these shots. 

I should have tried the big rig on some of these for comparison. Maybe next time.

My artistic shot . . . 

Some of these are better than others . . . 

. . . in part because it’s a bit difficult focusing in precisely the point one wants. I can make the focusing area smaller, but within that area, it’s still the camera deciding what to focus on. You can go down to spot-focusing, but then the camera hunts around too much.

What’s it looking at?

That’s not a great shot, but I include it because of the dead stuff hanging from the slime. 

This next shot illustrates the fact that the dynamic range and details resolution is not as good with the P900 as it is with a camera with a larger sensor. 

I mean, not bad, but that bright area under the dragonfly makes it difficult to adjust the photo. Perhaps if it was a RAW capture, it would have been easier. 

The photos of this Five-lined Skink were another pleasant surprise especially since it was at a longer zoom. 

That was snapped as I sat on a chair on the front porch of the house . . . while I was there, I snapped a few other photos, some of them macros. 

As a reminder — again — these will look better if you click on them and look at them larger (or using the gallery below).

I would call myself pleased with these photos. But, you ask, how’s the camera when trying to capture things like birds and stuff?

I’m, glad you asked. Almost all of the following bird shots were taken at near full zoom from about 20-25 yards away. 

First, the shy woodpecker. This sucker acted like I was from the Taliban and it was was a girl wanting to go to school. 

Two things before I go on . . . one, some of these are not stellar, but some are pretty good. Given the lighting and condition, I don’t know that my full rig would have fared much better, especially since I would have to crop a whole lot to get this size photos. 

Two, I got this next shot without moving from my spot.

What’s that, you ask? It’s a grasshopper, grasshopper, that I watched land and zoomed in on. 

I should have filmed it chomping away at the blade of grass. 

An example of two different zooms and the results from each . . . 

Those are two different photos from the same spot. The first is at about 300mm equivalent zoom, and the second around 1300mm equivalent zoom.

Note that in the first shot the helmet on the cat climbing down to the feeder is white. On the second shot, you can see the helmet is actually yellow. That’s the kind of detail you lose when you don’t have the dynamic range and sensor size of better cameras. 

Again at full zoom, I also got these. Note that when focusing on something larger than a bug and with enough light, the camera does fine focusing at the full 2000mm equivalent zoom.

Again, for availing themselves of these feeders and hence a measure of familiarity with humans, these birds seemed skittish. When I used to feed birds back in Michigan, they would be waiting on nearby branches, and I mean nearby. 

I’m thinking this cardinal is either doing drugs or is a juvenile . . . or both.

Note the difference between the color of the bark and the shadow of the bird on the bark. That shot was taken with the setting sun shining directly on the bird and tree. This camera tends toward rendering sunsets and bright lights with an orange-reddish tint. I tried to correct it, but when I do, stuff starts looking weird.

Another bird that just would not stand still for very long as it kept its suspicious eye on me. 

There were a lot of hummingbirds around, but I only managed one shot and it was way up in a tree . . . a far cry from times when I’d have them swirling around my head and landing on my hand.

Here are a few more shots . . . 

Note the mosquitoes hiding on the underside of the bird feeder hook.

I did try a few shots of the full moon, but the atmosphere was quite turbulent and I got nothing spectacular, although . . . 

. . . after this shot, I hung around waiting to see if Batman would show up. That’s right, that little black spot near the big impact crater in the middle is a bat. I tried waiting to see if I could catch a few more, but after a few mosquito bites I gave up.

Here’s the second gallery comprising the shots from southern Illinois . . . 

~ ~ ~ o o o ~ ~ ~

The last part of this report concerns itself with macros I shot while in Haines, Alaska. I think the camera does an excellent job shooting macros, especially hand-held and considering I would often have to reach way over to shoot a flower or something. The articulated screen helps a lot and many of these are shots I simply would not have gotten with my regular rig. 

Some of these are so close to the subjects that I was concerned about scratching the filter I use to protect the lens (the camera does not come with a hood — a most unfortunate thing).

I forgot to bring my circular polarizer filter or I could have removed the reflection on the water. 

Some of these are better than others, but it also depends if you like rocks. The inspiration for these was a large photo on the ship showing a bed of rocks. 

In case anyone is wondering, there are other photos of Haines — non-macro photos — that I’ll share when I document the cruise itself. 

I thought these were interesting compositions . . . 

Here’s me trying to be artsy . . . again . . . 

I call that “Leaf Me Alone” . . . or, maybe, “I Stem Between a Rock And a Soft Leaf.”

Hey, I just shoot them; the names come up on their own. 

I know I’ll eventually find a use for the texture of this piece of bark. 

I thought the camera did really well with the wildflowers . . . 

. . . and the banded wooly bear caterpillars . . . 

Read about them . . . for part of their lives, they are frozen solid.

So, the first one we saw was making its way across the sidewalk toward the road. We were walking toward the town and I often do with crawling things when I notice them heading toward danger, I grabbed a leaf and once the caterpillar climbed aboard, I moved it to safety. 

We walked not ten feet that there was another. It too got moved to safety. 

. . . and then I noticed the remnants of tens if not hundreds of the caterpillars squashed both on the sidewalk and the road, and many going hither and fro with what seemed a purpose of some kind. The place was full of caterpillars wherever I looked. I mean, not covered with them, but once you noticed them, they were all over. I wisely decided I had done my part with two of them and moved no other. But, I was careful to at least not step on any. 

I thought these copper leaves would make for good textures, but I probably should have toned down the exposure on them; they came out pretty bright (they were pretty bright) but because it’s JPGs, there’s not much adjustment I can do to these. 

These dead flowers looked interesting . . . 

I did a couple of searches for these flowers in various flower identification resources for Alaskan wildflowers but came up empty, so they must be a new species. I’m gonna call them Dispersus Walkabot . . . 

More dead stuff for your enjoyment and appreciation of the P900 macro abilities. 

Here’s some kind of thistle (I assume) . . . 

I did manage to walk on the beach and leave my footprint . . . one step for mankind, and many seagull ones. 

Finally, more bark for your enjoyment, all without the bite.  

Here’s the gallery of the macro files from Haines. A few concluding thoughts at the end of the post. 

It’s a bit premature to make a final conclusion from just these shots. 

A conclusion to what, you ask? 

Well, a conclusion as to whether the P900 is a viable replacement for my full gear when going on trips. Without looking at the rest of the photos it’s difficult to tell where the P900 might fall short in fulfilling my aims when traveling. 

My aim is to document the travel. I don’t sell photos, I don’t sell prints, I don’t make a living from my photography. The question is framed thus . . . am I happy with the results and do I like them enough to post them on the blog and do they meet my personal standards?

Again, premature, but if I go just by these photos, I think they are of sufficient quality to meet most of my criteria. Understand that I’m not always happy with the photos from my full rig, either. 

Ultimately, it comes down to the skill of the photographer. Not that I claim great skill in anything other than getting the shots I like. 

In that regard, I think the camera did admirably especially considering how easy it is to tote around and handle. It remains to be seen just how happy I will be with the rest of the shots, but so far, I’m not displeased. 

That said . . . this is not an easy camera to use when it comes to action shots or for quick captures. I’m getting better at it and there are a few unexplored modes that might help in action shooting. BUT . . . this camera is easier to employ when shooting movies, and some might argue that movies are better than photo action sequences, especially since I often resort to stringing photos together to make animations. Again, not if I were selling photos, but then I would have much more expensive equipment. 

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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