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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Laci; a Photographic Memorial.

In 2008, my wife made contact with her 2nd cousin. We found her and upon further research we found her 2nd cousin once removed in April of 2009. Since then we have been as close of relations as we could be by internet and mail as they live in the States. During that interval of time between 2008 and 2009, we found out that my wife was 2nd cousin, twice removed to Laci Denise Rocha. Laci Peterson Wikipedia Entry

In Cousin Sharon's book "For Laci" there is an entry about several of Laci's friends getting divebombed by a dragonfly. And how that was Laci's favorite insect. Well, I have my own "dragonfly" story to relate.

For those of you who cannot think of a world beyond what we are currently living in and finding out who is related to you when we get there. Let me tell you something that happened to me in February 2007. I was taking my kids for their weekend visit to their grand-da's place and as I was walking along Vanier Park, there was this dragonfly. Now ordinarily you wouldn't think much of a dragonfly. But this particular one kept circling and if it wanted me to notice it and it wouldn't quit circling us. (Now in Sharon's book "For Laci" (which I've never read until just two days ago - thanks to our cousin), one of Laci's friends "Stacey" had another encounter with two dragonflies, one of which kept divebombing her until she took notice of it.) When I said to the dragonfly "Well, hello there..." it seemed happy enough; it quit circling, and then flew off towards Vancouver City Center across False Creek/English Bay. I thought nothing of the encounter until I read Sharon's book. Then it hit me. When you get to "heaven" or to the afterlife, you realize that your life and your relations are an open that dragonfly (which happens to be one of Laci's favorite insects) was Laci's way of investigating who her "new relatives" were. She knew even before we did (we didn't find out until late October 2008). I know deep down in my heart that it was Laci.

She also loved ladybugs; and in that I also have another ladybug story to relate as well.

July 22nd, 2010:

Today I came home from the hospital with my wife and my newborn infant daughter. I had stopped by my father's introduce him to his granddaughter. And I looked and crawling on top of my father's headstone was a ladybug. It crawled up onto my hand when I put my hand down beside it, turned towards my daughter and walked over to the edge of my hand and for a long moment, it appeared as if it was gazing down at the sleeping baby. It appeared to me that Laci was checking out her second cousin ...twice times removed. It was wonderful to see you're still around watching over us too...Laci. We love you.

It doesn't matter that we never knew her in life. It doesn't matter that we never knew our familial kinship until after she had been murdered. To us, we lost one of our own. And with that, our hearts are forever sundered in knowing what could have been, will never be. I know deep down in my heart that Laci is looking after us. She looked after my Dad after he left this earth. This much I know for a fact.



So why do I feel that Laci is still around and still with us in spirit? I'll quote Shakespeare's Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." I believe because I have experienced it. And therein lies the facts.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Digiscoping Option; Bird Photography Frustration Mounts

Frustration mounts incredibly quickly with me lately and I've been dying for something with range enough to get me close to birds. And finally an idea; possibly a rather nasty brain-fart came to mind. If I was to get a Nikon fieldscope or something in that range and attach my D300s, I could easily get out to 1500mm f/13.3 on my DX sensored D300s which is practically unbelievable even with a telephoto lens. The Nikon ED82 Fieldscope appears to be the best possible bet; armed with a Nikon FSA-L1 DSLR adapter, and a Manfrotto 701RC2 tripod head for my 190XB, as well as a Universal Bracket (also by Nikon), I should have enough to get a head-start on shooting birds.





And from what I have seen from people shooting with the ED82/D300s combo, the results are pretty extraordinary. And all for a little under $3,000.00. It may be slow at f/13.3 but at least it's something and I'll be able to get shots of birds at least for identifying purposes and who knows; I can write a spotting book in the meantime.



I have seen even more crisp and clear birdshots with the Nikon D300s and the newer Nikon EDG-85, but the EDG-85 is going at an astronomical 3,499, while the ED82 is half that cost before the cost of bracket, and adapter are thrown in. The EDG-85 ends up taking the newer FSA-L2 scope ($899.99US) which in turn is over double the cost of the FSA-L1 ($399.99US). With the brackets and other items, the cost could run up to about $5000.00. For an extra $1,000. I could have myself a nice new Nikon AF-S 300mm f/2.8 VRII lens.



So hence reason and logic won out and I'm opting for the cheaper ED82 and accessories while retaining my desire to save up for the Nikon 200-400mm f/4 and 600mm f/4 down the road while I'm shooting birds in the interim with digiscoping.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dialing in Proper Exposure on Birds - Testing My Skill.

I have always had this fascination with birds, (especially raptors) and I have been figuring out a way of shooting them which doesn't turn them to grey featureless blobs while leaving in the details of their feathers and features, while also giving the background a little bit of color. I'm still not sure if I can do that, as any form of +1/3-2/3 compensation on the Exposure Value (EV) meter in-camera tends to bleach out the background.

This was a chance shot of a great blue heron back in 2007 when I was using the Nikon D50.


Note that the white on the feathers aren't blown out and the water reflection is still crisp and clear. Yet, duplicating that feat on smaller birds has been a trial and a half.

This shot of a white crowned sparrow is one of my other shots that came out well. Yet...if I'm to succeed at raptor photography, I will have to do much better at my rate of consistency of the properly exposed shots.


Also I've managed to get a shot of a raptor that I was able to shoot on June 12th, 2010, which came out properly exposed.


But have I been able to duplicate that with any of the in-flight or current static shots of birds?

My recent attempts have been falling abysmally short of the shots that I know I can do.

Red Winged Blackbird

Red-Tailed Hawk

Now most people in the know would tell me to "get in close", go to Aperture Priority, take a reading off a neutral background and dial in +2/3-1 EV to make the bird stand out. But I also don't want the background completely washed out. Hmmm, that is the question.

So here are my test shots based on a light subject (a tree branch) based on +2/3EV(Manual) +1/3EV (Manual), 0EV (Manual), 1/1250 Shutter Speed (Manual), and 1/1600 Shutter Speed (Manual) based on ISO 200 at f/2.8 full wide-open on my D300s/70-200mm VRII.

+2/3 EV at Manual, f/2.8, 1/1000 at 200mm

+1/3 EV at Manual f/2.8, 1/1000 at 200mm

0EV at Manual f/2.8, 1/1000 at 200mm

OEV at Manual, f/2.8, 1/1250 at 200mm

0EV at Manual f/2.8, 1/1600 at 200mm

Considering it's wide open, I figure that is what is bleaching out the background, but wide open is what is allowing me to get the speeds at ISO 200.

Now I've also experimented with dialing down 1 stop to f/4 and seeing what this causes. Here's the results of shooting at the above settings with f/4.

+2/3 EV at Manual, f/4, 1/1000 at 200mm

+1/3 EV at Manual, f/4, 1/1000 at 200mm

0 EV at Manual, f/4, 1/1000 at 200mm

1/1250 Shutterspeed at 200mm

1/1600 Shutterspeed at 200mm

Now at AP (Aperture Priority); I have set the exposure compensation at +2/3 EV and +1/3 EV respectively on the next four shots.

Shutterspeed: 1/800th sec, f/2.8, Aperture Priority at 200mm, +2/3 EV

Shutterspeed: 1/500th sec, f/2.8, Aperture Priority at 200mm, +2/3 EV

Shutterspeed: 1/1000th sec, f/4, Aperture Priority at 200mm, +1/3 EV

Shutterspeed: 1/500th sec, f/4, Aperture Priority at 200mm, +1/3 EV

I still find the meter readings from the AP settings at f/4 to be bled out more than trying to set the exposure manually. However I think more shooting and tinkering with the settings is what is going to solve this problem. Will update more and let y'all know what's going on, on this matter.

Friday, April 22, 2011

You can even see Raptors close to home.

This is an area just along the 8900 Block of 128th that has high tension high-voltage electrical wires. The ground has a lot of scrub-brush and grassy area which is great for feral rabbits to hide in. Thus we get a lot of predators. This place is a 15-20 minute walk from my home.

The Mapquest map showing exactly where I'm talking about.


I walk along here on my way to and from Walmart and when I started carrying my camera around (still kicking myself for not taking my 70-300 or 70-200mm lenses with me yesterday) you see some very interesting wildlife. I have yet to come across a coyote, but they are there. I've seen red-winged blackbirds in that particular area, feral rabbits, ravens, hawks, and one juvenile Great Horned Owl. I've also had the opportunity while walking along the path to see high up in the sky two bald eagles soaring and getting harassed by crows.



Yesterday, I witnessed this hawk while walking home while having my D300s and my 50mm f/1.8 lens. So I shot with the limitations of the lens that I had with me.



I had a re-encounter with the hawk farther along the path when it was sitting in a tree being dive-bombed by crows who wanted it out of their nesting area.


All in all, Surrey has some wonderful hidden treasures and despite the gross eyesore of the high-tension wires, this "hidden treasure" has brought in some of nature's interesting wildlife.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ah, Spring is here...I think...

It's been a long, cold winter and it's hard to face when you're cold as heck and watching the rain coming down. However you take beauty in what you can find...and I found these beautiful little flowers that I enjoy taking pictures of. Holland Park is a veritable feast of flowers around April and it's worth it to go take a look. Considering the name of the park, it's not surprising that tulips take a front the showcase of the park in spring.




There's always one that wants to be recognized for their individuality.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"One of the World's Top Travel Photographers"; MY ASS.

Ross Halfin

Comment from Ross Halfin
(Ross Halfin (b. 1958) is one of the world's top English music and travel photographers. Having shot bands such as Led Zeppelin, Rush, The Police, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Aerosmith, Guns N' Roses, KISS, Metallica, The Who, Rob Zombie, ZZ Top and many others, Halfin's images are widely published in magazines, newspapers and books.)).

-comment quoted from post in GNR Daily

Do me a favor and don't make me gag. Ross Halfin is now proclaiming himself as "one of the world's top Travel Photographers"? Give me a break. The only thing that separates him from the ranks of amateur photographers in the Travel Photography genre is his access to money and the fact that the book is riding off his fame. I can think of several other travel photographers who outdo his travel work any day of the week and twice on Sundays

Kevin WY Lee.

Gavin Gough

Dario Endara

The list goes on and on including some of the people who haven't even been published because they don't have the cash resources you have to do an end-run around proper editing. Ross, don't get too above yourself. Your money is not going to protect you from the hysterical laughter of those who have put time, effort and their lifetimes into this genre. Stick to what you're good at.

Put your travel photos that you think are "top" to any travel photography editor who isn't dazzled by your rock photography fame instead of running your mouth before you've even achieved HALF the awards in that genre and then see if you ever recover from the laughter of these photographic editors. Your "top travel photography" doesn't even rank on the same level as these three that I've quoted.

And your landscapes aren't even on the SAME map as Ash Newell's landscapes or even mine.

Lost Lagoon Sunset

Do me a favor, Ross, you got a lot of work in the "travel photography" genre before you can play with the big boys. No matter how much you try to pass it off and say that "the images I wanted to capture were ones that you won't see in the travel brochures"; you try to match up your efforts with the big names in Travel Photography and you fall woefully short.

What pisses me off, Ross, is the fact that you quote yourself as one of the "world's top travel photographers" without having paid your fucking dues like the rest of us. Yeah, you got a fan-base and you want to make money off your fanbase, but in that fanbase are ignorant JACKWAGONS who are going to expect your mediocre travel pictures are the norm for the business...and try to pin your pics as the summit of the standard for travel photography. And that is just plain WRONG. You have to pay your dues in this business. I don't go staggering off into the rock photography world and proclaim myself after several years of work to be one of the "top Rock Photographers in the World!" I'd have to pay my dues...and NEWS FUCKING FLASH: YOU DAMNED WELL HAVE TO...TOO!!!

Stick to what you know or work at the genre you want to get into. There's no excuse for amateur work in another genre...passing off on your rock photography fame. It just pisses the rest of us (who've spent years honing our craft in travel and landscape photography) off.

And for God's Sakes...Don't ever pass yourself off as one of the "TOP Travel Photographers in the World". That's just laughable. And just to make it clearer if I haven't said it clearly enough. Do your homework. Pay your dues in the Travel Photography genre before you mouth off. You may be a GOD in Rock Photography...but PAY THE FUCKING HELL ATTENTION...Ross. You are Travel Photography.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Broadway Camera opens 4th Store in Central City Mall

It's definite! Broadway Camera is expanding again. Rated #2 in the Vancouver/Lower Mainland area, Vancouver's second largest camera store is expanding south of the Fraser River. In order to compete with #1 - Lens & Shutter which has a store in Abbotsford and with Photo Expert (who has maintained a monopoly in Delta/Surrey until now), Broadway Camera has decided to put a store into the newly renovated Central City Shopping Center. They open today.

The new Central City location of Broadway Camera

My experience with Broadway Camera is that they have very knowledgeable sales staff. None of the people that they hire are non-photo shooters. They know what they are talking about and they have always been very informative with regards to knowledge about equipment. Now having not been paid to write this blurb about Broadway Camera you can be sure that you're getting the truth about Broadway Camera and not a bunch of bullshit. OK. The above experiences that I have been having with Broadway Camera has been nothing short of excellent. And frankly, at their Vancouver store, they have always been quite busy (you do have to wait to get your turn with a customer service rep). It takes time for the customer reps to get to you, however when they do, they give their 100% attention to your photo equipment needs. And if you're the type that gets pissed off when you have to wait or can't deal with not being the first in line, then, pal, that's your problem, not theirs.

Now these guys have probably been feeling the fall-out from having a similar name to the "fraudsters" in Brooklyn, New York (Broadway Photo interchangeably used with Broadway Cameras) who were forced to shut down. The guys who run Broadway Camera in Vancouver are nothing but standup, ethical, good-hearted guys who have absolutely no affiliation with that bunch of crooks down in the States. The Broadway Camera that you deal with in Vancouver, Richmond, Coquitlam and Surrey don't use bait and switch tactics or questionable tactics or threats to sell their cameras. They are reliable, knowledgable and above all, honest . Don't hesitate to use our Broadway Camera guys to buy your next camera or your next piece of photo equipment.

I have never been to the Coquitlam store. I don't drive, I use the Skytrain and the bus and frankly, the Vancouver store has been more convenient to get to until now. I will probably go up to the Broadway Camera (Surrey Store) either today or tomorrow. Today probably may not be the best day to go up there because of the opening day rush. I'm sure that when the opening rush settles down, I'll get a better read of the customer service that this new location provides and will be able to put together a better review of the store. But right now, in my experience, their customer service remains a solid #2 (next to Lens & Shutter) in my books.

Edit: as of April 20th, 2011.

Been in there at least 4 times to browse...and fondle equipment. The staff there are great. Sasha and Aaron, the two staff-members that I have had the distinct pleasure of having a conversation with are awesome guys and I'd tell anyone to talk to them with regards to getting camera equipment.

I have to tell the readers of this blog that I'm like a friggin' kid in a candy store with this place. I had the opportunity to fondle a 24-70 f/2.8 (just held it to feel the weight; it had some weight to it but not too heavy) and managed to take a shot each with the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 and the 14-24mm f/2.8. God, I love those two lenses. Sure wish I could take one of 'em home.

Shot focal length fully wide. Should have ramped up the aperture to f/8 instead of shooting at f/10. OOOOPS...oh well...but I'm leaning towards the 14-24 for landscapes.

17-55mm f/2.8 shot of store interior facing out into concourse

14-24mm f/2.8 shot (same view) much wider and much nicer.

Both shots were handheld as I didn't want to use the tripods they had and forgot to bring my 190XB.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My Dream Kit

Everybody has a dream kit that they want to get. Since I am going to be specializing in wildlife photography, the lenses that I have to get are more expensive than normal. This is probably going to be what I end up getting eventually.

When I finally came to the realization that I don’t particularly need FX (full-frame for wildlife photography (I can do without it), I nixed my idea of a D700 as a primary camera and decided to just go with two D300s for my dream kit. As much as I had wanted a D3s and a D3x. I'm now perfectly happy with using the D300s and if I can get a second D300s body to accompany me into the field, that'll just make it even better.

So my dream kit strictly for wildlife and landscapes is as follows (in red; the gear that I am saving up for - in green, the kit I already have):

Nikon D300s (x 2) (already have 1 body)

Nikon MB-D10 battery grip

Nikon AF-S DX 17-55mm f/2.8G IF ED

Nikon AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF DX (already have this lens)

Nikon AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED VR II (lens acquired June 2010)

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II

Now I've been torn between getting the 200-400mm f/4 or just going and getting the 300mm f/2.8 VRII


Nikon AF-S 600mm f/4G IF-ED VR II (December 2014)

Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-20EIII (??? 2012)

Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-17EII

Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14EII

Better Beamer (Fresnel Flash Augmenter)

Nikon SB-900

Gitzo GT 5541LS (October 2011)

Wimberley WH-200 (October 2011)

LEE 10X ND filters + Graduated 0.3, 0.6 and 0.9 ND filters.

What this will take is slow acquisition, one at a time.