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Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Irises Are Blooming.

An iris in bloom in our front yard.

A test shot at about 8:30PM with a white 36" reflector and off-camera remote SB-600 flash.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What's In My Camera Bag (Usually)

As a wildlife and nature photographer, I should have a number of lenses in my camera bag, but unfortunately, each one of those lenses costs more money than I have access to at the moment so they're being saved up for. In the meantime, I have access to two of the best lenses on the market for the money. I should say "I believe in minimalism" however that would ring completely false. So I just suffer not having the supertelephoto primes in my kit bag and make do. That's why I don't shoot rattlesnakes, grizzly bears or any other thing with BIG TEETH OR FANGS. I'd have to get too uncomfortably (for the animal...and for me) close to get the shot. I'll wait until I can save up enough to get the 600mm f/4 with a nice comfy 1.4X teleconverter. Although preferably for rattlesnakes, I'd prefer to have a 3200mm f/22 and haul off shots from 30 miles away. "Get up close to nature"...with a rattlesnake...NOT ON MY LIFE!!!

This is what's in my camera bag:

I use a Tamrac Velocity 7 camera bag with the Nikon CL-M2 bag attached to transport my 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII when it's not on my camera. A little awkward at times, but it works and that's the main thing.

I use a Nikon D300s with a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED AF-S VR II which is my go-to versatility lens. When I want to get close I don't have to stomp all over the vegetation to get to where I want to go. I can either get in close with 70mm or zoom in even closer with 200mm. It all depends on what I want to do. And with VRII, I can either stick it on my tripod or handhold it. Either way it's a sharp lens. My D300s is my primary camera and I don't currently have a backup semi-pro body. I'm hoping to either match it with another D300s or just go completely pro body and get myself a D3s but to me, the D3s just doesn't make enough financial sense to me. Maybe one of the pros, I'm friends with, can talk me into it.

This lens has to be one of the best out there in terms of cost, speed and sharpness. For $149.99, you can't go wrong with this lens. The 50mm f/1.8 is a workhorse. I didn't currently have enough for the 50mm f/1.4 and this was a gift. And it has proven to be one of my go-to lenses for close in work. At f/8 (it's sweet-spot, it's tack sharp and worth every penny of it's low cost and more.

As I've said in my last post, it's always good to take a point & shoot, this is not necessarily in my kit bag, but on my hip when I go out even when I do take my D300s. It's for when I'm doing location shots for my blogposts or just general situational reference shots when I take it along with it's bigger camera siblings (the D50 or the D300s) and acts as my primary camera when I take it by itself.

I take my tripod along with me on most of my shoots, because it's the quickest way to get stability for my shots. There's nothing that is more annoying than getting home after thinking you can handhold a shot that's at 1/15th of a second on a 200mm lens and then realizing stupidly that you had a brain fart and you should have used a tripod.

What is this? Well, this is a SecureDigital case for multiple memory cards. There's nothing more annoying than fumbling around in your camera bag for memory cards...losing or misplacing them or just plain seeing them get damaged. Since memory cards can run in the range of almost a third the cost of a new consumer grade lens, they are an integral part of your camera kit. That's why I protect mine with this. You can run over this thing with a car tire (car attached) and it'll be safe. However I wouldn't recommend doing that with a one ton truck (dump truck is definitely out). You can store six SD cards at a time...all in easy reach. You can also lose them all at the same time too with great convenience (yes, sarcasm).
Ask me how I know this.

These are the memory cards that I use. I use Sandisk brand memory cards. Currently I have one so that it's easy to take care of. This one has been abused quite brutally and it still works reliably. I've had read-errors with a lot of cheaper memory cards so I don't trust them to do the job for me. That's why I chose Extreme IIIs. Those ones are pro-grade memory cards designed to work reliably in all conditions. I generally use a 2 GB memory card which gave me 270 shots with the Nikon D50, and 97 shots with the Nikon D300s. Ideally for work, I'd prefer to upgrade to a Sandisk Extreme III 8GB. If people ask me why I prefer to work with something lower than 16GB, I'd have to say, if there's a read-error on one of my memory cards, it's a lot more palatable to lose 180 shots over 316. And with disk recovery programs provided with the pro-grade memory cards. I should be able to recover from between 60% up to 85% of my images off the corrupt cards anyways.

This post will be updated regularly as acquisitions come into the household. And while my beloved SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed - even though she says I don't do much of a good job of "obeying") holds my 18-70mm hostage (until she gets her 18-200mm walkaround), I'll keep that off the page (this page is dedicated to what I usually walk around with).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Digital Compact Camera.

Most photographers carry around a point and shoot (compact) camera. I do, as well, as a secondary quick snapshot, when I don't want to lug out my D50 or my D300s. It provides me with a quick and easy solution. Sometimes when you're in a situation like a crowded lobby, you stand out with a D300s and a 50mm f/1.8 lens whereas with a compact camera, you tend to blend into the crowd. Convenience and quick-shot capability in one small package. The limitations in the past have been phased out by longer and longer zooms. The 3X zoom on most compact cameras have been replaced by 5-7X zooms allowing people to get the equivalent of a 28mm (most are set at 36mm) to 130mm lens.

My current point and shoot camera is the Nikon L11. Roundly praised and vilified depending on who you talk to. It is a cheap $139.99 camera that my wife bought in 2008(by now the latest L series compact released in 2011 will be the L24)- Read more about the L24 in DPReview's article: Read the article


Some of my best shots have come from the L11.

Eventually though, I hope to upgrade my point & shoot as well, moving from the compact automatic function of that L11 to a P7000. This one will allow me the same functionality of a DSLR with controls for ISO, shutterspeed and aperture with the compact size of a compact camera (OK...maybe slightly larger than a pocket-sized compact).

All in all, a compact is nice to have in terms of convenience and perfect if you want to be inconspicuous. That's why I will always have a compact as a third camera (just in case)

Lens Showdown: Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6DC EX HSM versus Nikkor AF-S DX 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED

This review will touch on the differences in the output between the Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6DC EX HSM and Nikkor AF-S DX 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED. I have shot at f/8, the usual sweetspot for lenses of this type (superwide).

The Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6DC EX HSM ($599.99 at Broadway Camera) is a very nice lens. At your standard 16% screen definition at an f/stop of f/8, the lens worked remarkably clearly and produced a nice image. It was only when we went up to 200% pixel peeping that we could start seeing the noise in the image there was quite a bit of chromatic aberration with different colored pixels and it was most apparent at the demarcation between different shades especially between dark and light images as shown on the 200% pixel-peeped image there. The unusual point in this lens is that there was a little color-fringing on the edges of the subjects in the image where it demarcated between light colors and dark. This is crucial if you are thinking of buying a lens for taking images that are going to be sold for stock (they only take the highest quality images, so the less noise that you have in your image, the more likelihood of your image being accepted).


Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6DC EX HSM at 200%

The Nikkor AF-S DX 10-24 mm f/3.5-4.5G ED ($849.99 at Broadway Camera) has very little noise when I pixel-peeped the image at 200%. My standard is the black backdrop in the corner where the passport images are taken. If there is noise in the image, that's where it will show up. Again as with the Sigma, there was some green color-fringing on the edges of the subject. The black backdrop had absolutely no noise on the image and that is where the Nikon 10-24 comes in ahead of the Sigma at f/8. There is some noise in the lighter sections of the image.


Nikkor AF-S DX 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED at 200%

VERDICT: All in all it is a trade-off with these two lenses. If you have cash in your pocket and don't mind spending a little more for Nikon quality, then go with the Nikon 10-24, otherwise you can save a bit (if you're doing some recreational hobby shooting) by going with the Sigma.

As most of you know, I don't go into the nitty-gritty of what makes up the lenses because unless you're a tech-geek and want to know how many concave and convex lenses make up each of the lenses, you don't really need that to shoot images. What you want is the performance of each lens. My eye is on the 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 and I'll do a more extensive review of that lens if and when I put one in my camera bag.

A big thanks goes to Sasha at Broadway Camera in Surrey for letting me play with those lenses for a while.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Allergy Pen(itentiary)

Went into the backyard and shot some more flowers today.

But I can't resist. These flowers bring out the life in this garden.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Flowers...Flowers...Flowers...MORE FLOWERS...AH-CHOO!!!!

The past few weeks, I've shot nothing but flowers. There are a lot of reasons why. I find that there's something therapeutic about shooting flowers. Not to mention their beauty. And frankly, they don't talk back. That appeals to my anti-social side which seems to be more and more intrenched these days.

There was quite a bit of wind on the two days that I took these shots. And I'd have to say that the shots that I take had some really interesting "bokeh" in the background. That's what comes of having a shutterspeed that doesn't freeze the background yet enables the subject to stand still. I'd have to say that I was pretty lucky to nail the shots that I wanted; exactly the way I wanted. The sun was out, but with the wind factor it wasn't the most ideal of shooting conditions.

At least, "flower photography" offers me something to do until I get the lenses that I need to adequately do wildlife photography.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Playin' Possum - Nature Thoughts.

I had the distinct pleasure of encountering one of nature's unique little creatures this morning on my way to school to drop my kids off there. We walk practically all the time, so this one like many mornings was rainy and wet. As we approached the intersection of 96th Avenue and 132nd Street, there was a flash of grey-white that caught the corner of my left eye and as my head turned to the left to see a pointed face (like a rat), big beady eyes, a body the size of a small raccoon and a bare-naked pink rat-like tail.

Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me, nor would I have even been able to take a picture even if I had, because as our eyes locked on each other, the poor little opossum's eyes nearly bugged right out of his head; he did a 180 and fled the other direction as fast as his little feet would take him.

I believe that his den was disturbed by a dog, most likely, as he did not appear aggressive nor inclined to stand his ground which would have indicated the potential for rabies. He fled like there were the Hounds of Hades after him. Either way, though it is not wise to approach a wild animal.

This was a Virginia Opossum (Didelphis viginiana), North America's only marsupial. Their populations are confined to the Southern Lower Mainland in the BC area. These were transplanted opossums that were introduced to Washington State in 1920 that have migrated over the border and established a population in the Lower Fraser Valley.

In fact this encounter makes me think of just how much animals have adapted to our urbanization of their habitat. You see robins, crows, squirrels, raccoons and rats daily with nary a thought, but the sad fact is that many of these animals do raid garbage bins to get a meal. Given an easy food source, an animal is less inclined to hunt or forage for itself. If society were to fall into a situation where we had to fend for ourselves like our ancestors many hundreds of years ago, the animal populations that we have fostered due to our careless disposal of garbage will suffer as well. With no easy food source, many of the populations of animals that tend to raid our garbage will more than likely starve before their survival instinct kicks in and they start to learn to forage again.

This was a raccoon that approached Heather and myself at Stanley Park in 2008, way too close for comfort but this is what feeding has done to these animals...they can't really be considered as wild anymore

Those of us who are nature photographers need to keep that in mind as we go about our daily lives, not just a thought here or there while we wander into the wild looking for those "money-shots". Ethically, should we as a species ourselves, leave easy food out for foraging animals to take advantage of, thus losing their natural instincts of survival? I know that may not be our intent. But in the best interests of our own survival as a species, we need to start looking out for nature, not just in bits and pieces here and there but thinking on conservation as a whole species.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lens Envy

Lens Envy: the feeling that you get when you see a photographer walking around with a lens that is much bigger or faster (f/1.4,f/1.8, f/2, f/2.8 lenses or large supertelephotos which need to be supported by tripods with legs nearly the thickness of your own legs with aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/4) than the kit lens that you bought with your camera.

There are two kinds of lens envy: the beginner-photogs looking at a photographer who has any type of pro-glass (my 70-200mm VRII for example) and then there are the amateur photographers who look at the guys with the big supertelephoto lenses and making large wet puddles of drool on the pavement.

I've had both experiences. I envy guys who have the money to buy those 400mm f/2.8s - 600mm f/4s that they use to shoot bird photography and I tend to covet those type of I am saving up for two long supertelephotos of my own, unlike people who do envy people their lenses and don't do anything about it. And I have also had lens envy directed at me for walking around town with a Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII G-ED. And that is no slouch of a lens.

I tell myself that one of these days I'll be able to afford my dream lenses and I'll be able to go out there and probably inflict some major lens envy on some poor unsuspecting photographer who was just minding his own business until I obnoxiously came along with my 600mm and decided to get a close up of the ducks that he was trying to shoot with his little 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 or 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR and 2009-era D80. Will that make up for all the times I've had to sit and drool at someone else who had one of those big honking huge lenses. Will that compensate for my inadequate feeling even when toting around my 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII when I go out and shoot.

Friggin' 'A'...IT WILL. ~evil grin~ Karma, baby, karma.

Edit: June 12, 2013:

Even though the lens is a little older than the one I originally wanted, this AF-S II 600mm f/4 D IF-ED occupies a special place in my heart. It's seen action and it works perfectly.

<-- Yes, sadistically funny. I get a lot of people going... " just have to get closer to the subject..." Yeah...OK...whatever

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tulips for Tomorrow 2011

Again, the Tulips for Tomorrow benefit for Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation has set up Princess Irene tulips all over the Surrey area. I found these all by Holland Park.