Judy and Her New Camera at Lurie Garden

When we bought Judy’s last camera, about eight years ago, we were amazed by what it could do. It was a Nikon D40, her first digital SLR camera.

Our last pink peony, and one of the first pictures Judy took with the new camera.
The last pink peony in our garden, and one of the first pictures Judy took with the new camera.

We both tend to believe that any object that represents a major purchase should be kept until it is used up or no longer working (this explains why we had a black and white television until the 1990s). But when we needed to replace the D40’s battery, we found that Nikon no longer made batteries for it. We tried buying a battery on Amazon, but that turned out to be counterfeit.

So we decided it was time for a new camera. We were nudged along in this decision by Judy’s awareness that there had been major advances in digital camera technology. With help from a friend, she researched possible replacements, and settled on the Nikon D5300 (which, I figure, must be 132.5 times better than the D40).

'Cassie' - see the cottonwood fluff on the left?
‘Cassie’ – see the cottonwood fluff on the right? This rose, just by our front steps, has been blooming like crazy this year.

We found a camera store at a nearby mall, figuring it would have knowledgeable sales people. Judy asked the salesman, who was not a youth, to explain the differences between the D5300 and the D40.

“It has much more sophisticated focusing and exposure,” he said.

“OK,” said Judy, “in what ways?”

“Well … it takes better pictures.”

He then fled before Judy could ask more questions. Despite the modest expertise of the salesman, we took the plunge and bought the camera.

Judy has been playing with it since then. In our yard she took pictures of  our shrub rose ‘Cassie’ and our last pink peony. The focusing and exposure was in fact much improved. This is important because Judy’s schedule means she often has to take her garden pictures when the light isn’t very good. The picture of  ‘Cassie’ above has far more detail than the old camera would have captured in similar light. On the right side of the photo you can see fluff from the nearby cottonwood tree.

Compass Plant with Chicago skyline.
Compass Plant with Chicago skyline.

On Monday we met at Lurie Garden after work. This was a good place to practice with the new camera, though unfortunately it became overcast shortly after we got there. Judy wants me to mention that she has not yet mastered using this new model.

White wild indigo and the Chicago skyline.
White wild indigo and the Chicago skyline.

The white wild indigo (Baptisia alba) was in full bloom at Lurie. The flowering stalks seemed to imitate the tall office buildings in the background.

Lurie's River of Salvia, now starting to turn brown.
Lurie’s River of Salvia, now starting to turn brown.

I suppose some of you are getting tired of pictures of Lurie Garden’s River of Salvia. Well, too bad. Actually, the River of Salvia is starting to turn brown. Plants at Lurie tend to be a week or so ahead of others in the area, in part because it is on top of a parking garage and the soil warms earlier.

Pale Purple Coneflower
Pale Purple Coneflower


Pale Purple Coneflower opening
Pale Purple Coneflower opening

The pale purple coneflower (Echinacea palida) was also coming into bloom. I wouldn’t put this plant in my garden, but it’s hard not to like in this setting.

Blue Star still blooming.
Blue Star still blooming.

The blue star (Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’) was past its peak, but still had a scattering of flowers among the rising foliage of alliums (I think) and wild petunia (Ruellia humilis).

Prairie Smoke
Prairie Smoke

The prairie smoke (Geum triflorum) hasn’t yet lost that pinkish gauzy effect that is so unusual.

Eastern Bee Balm
Eastern Bee Balm

What is the usual common name for Monarda bradburiana? I’ve heard it called eastern bee balm, Bradbury’s bee balm, and some other things I can’t recall at the moment.

A nice thing about the Lurie Garden is you can take your shoes off and put your feet in the water.
Visitors cooling their feet.

After walking around the Lurie Garden on a warm day it’s nice to take off your shoes and put your feet in the cool water.

Oh, and guess what – the new camera takes video. Judy is trying to get the hang of this feature, and I intend to demand my turn with it also. Here are a couple of her first efforts – one of a Baltimore oriole eating jelly, and one of a house finch and downy woodpecker at the feeders. The woodpecker has a blob of suet stuck on an inconvenient spot on his beak.


Maybe I shouldn’t be so impressed by this, but I am. It’s pretty darn cool, if I say so myself.




53 Comments on “Judy and Her New Camera at Lurie Garden

  1. Oh, I’m sure Judy will love her new camera. I have a Nikon D3100, and I’m very happy with it. Isn’t it cool that they take video now?

  2. Already looking forward to all the nice pictures from your garden. It is always fun with a new and improved camera.

  3. It’s very cool, and I have camera envy. I keep telling myself I will buy a true digital SLR when I actually learn how to use a camera, you know, F-stops and bracketing and all that stuff. Love the bird videos!

    • I’m surprised you aren’t already using a DSLR – the photos on your blog look great. Are you using your phone camera? I know nothing about photography myself, that’s Judy’s department.

  4. Judy is lucky! This camera I’d like to buy too. I liked her photos, especially with Chicago skylines— all objects are in focus despite of the distance!
    Love wild flowers, Jason but I have not them in my garden.

  5. Great images with the new camera. I never tire of seeing the Salvia, that park is fantastic, such a resource for the city.

  6. Wonderful crisp images, Judy is a great photographer. Great fun to have a new camera to play with. Is it difficult to get the hang of it? I would love to learn how to take really good pictures.

    • Judy took classes in photography years ago, and has remained an avid amateur. I think she would say it does take some time to get used to the new camera, especially all the bells and whistles.

  7. I question that I’ll ever advance beyond my cell phone’s camera…..But I’m thankful to have it! Your photos here remind me that I really want some purple coneflowers. (I think I DO have one – but would like an entire bed of them, I love them so!) And I really am intrigued by the “cooing your feet” stream. What a public service.

    • Cell phone cameras can take some very good photos. Maybe you can get some purple coneflower seedlings from another gardener.

  8. WHAAAT — you wouldn’t put Echinacea pallida in your garden??? It is a far better choice than E. purpurea with many more ornamental traits. Most important it is manageable, not seeding, reverting or turning ugly after it blooms. It is a most elegant plant in all seasons.

    I have a new Nikon D5200 and I am also amazed at the quality of the photos. I hardly know how to use the thing, but it hardly matters. You are a step ahead of me, Judy, I haven’t tried the video yet. No courage.

    • I’ve given up on Echinaceas generally because they are so susceptible to aster yellows disease. I’ve been using more Rudbeckias and Ratibida. Though they are also in the aster family, they seem to have much better resistance.

  9. Congratulations on the new camera. Judy certainly seems to be getting the hang of it. I’m a little intimidated by the video function too but the technology seems to be built into everything these days, and it is very cool. I am usually captivated by the Prairie Smoke and was at first thrilled to see I actually have some in my new front yard but think it has looked a bit less interesting this year and have no idea why.

  10. Pale Purple Coneflower is an elegant plant that looks fantastic in a garden. Combine it with Wild Quinine (Parthenium integrifolium) and Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) for a stunning pink, white, and orange composition. If you want to see how this looks, I recommend that you (and everyone else) visit the Geneva River Park that is entirely planted with natives. It is located between Rt. 31 and the Fox River just north of Rt. 38. Kane County Wild Ones is having a tour there Sat. June 28 at 10:00 AM and I invite you to attend.

    • Geneva River Park sounds nice. I have nothing against the pale purple coneflower, but the yellow coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) does better in my garden.

  11. Nice photos. The one of the people cooling their feet is hilarious!!!

  12. Judy’s images turned out great. Thanks for this information–I’ve been wanting a new camera too and was mostly concentrating on Canon. Will pay more attention to this Nikon.

  13. Wow, fantastic photos, I really like that you both work so well together and that Judy is the photographer and you the writer, great team work.

  14. Oh how marvelous, I need a new camera too and am thrilled by your recommendation, the pics are super and video too! I do love that peony!!! xxx

  15. I’m still amazed by all my new phone can do, I can’t imagine having a camera on top of that with all the new fancy features too!
    The pictures look great, not that they were ever anything less! I’m looking forward to seeing what Judy does with it.

    • Mobile phones are incredible devices, I feel overwhelmed with all their functions. I almost wish someone would market “cell phones for dummies” so that I wouldn’t always feel that my phone wasn’t living up to its potential.

  16. LOL, the sales clerk’s comments made me laugh. Great photos. (I’m a bit depressed right now, because my telephoto lens for my Olympus E420 is broken and I took it to Henry’s today. $350-400 to fix it. $430 for a new one. Ouch.)

    • Oh you are using Olympus too, I have E620 and it is not functioning quickly to focus with a macro 35mm. I wonder what’s wrong with it, anyway. What macro lens is that fro $430? thanks.

  17. I am not familiar with the differences of the before and after shots, but these are surely lovely. And those videos are cute, i love them, clear! And i think i will made a feeder just like those. Also i laughed with the salesman’s replies, very informative, hahaha. Lastly, how much is the new DSLR?

  18. It is great she is a Nikon user. They make such good equipment. Her photos are very good, sharp and great color. I never use mine for video though, even though it holds two cards. I have been debating on a new camera. I overuse my cameras and they get to a point where they need replacing. I am debating what model next, it may be one of the full pro models, not sure yet. The learning curve might scare me off. All the buttons, dials and menus are so different. One wrong turn of a dial and things get really screwed up.

  19. My sister is a photographer and she swears by Nikon! Please tell Judy that her photos are outstanding! They always are! A wonderful weekend to you both! Nicole

  20. Wonderful photos! Tell Judy she’s very talented. And I for one will never get tired of looking at the river of salvia. I love Kathryn Gustafson’s work.

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