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Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Myth of the "Equipment Miracle"

Subtitled: "Hey, I need a new camera so I can take just as good shots as that Pro there..."

The myth of the "Equipment Miracle" is alive and well. Just recently Nikon put up a post on Facebook indicating that equipment was what made the photograph. That was roundly denounced by many of the photographers who were on Nikon's fanpage. Yet it is an opinion shared by many novice photographers with complaints like. "If I had the equipment that he had...I'd be able to get shots like that..." or "I need a new camera".

There is no miracle cure for a crummy photograph. You need to learn to use your tools. Just as you would not give a chimp a chisel because more than likely he wouldn't be able to use it properly without instruction and would end up hurting himself, you don't give a novice a camera more than he can handle. Information overload will end up killing his/her interest in the hobby much quicker than if he spent the time learning to use his point and shoot to the best of his ability.

The "Equipment Miracle" goes hand-in-hand with the "Ego". In that the larger the lens and more complicated looking the camera, the more like a pro-photographer, the amateur looks and consequently, the more he thinks his photos rank up there with the professionals no matter how faded looking they are, no matter how crappy the end-result is...because the only thing that matters is that he has a D3X or Canon 1Ds Mk. IV and the requisite 70-200mm f/2.8s (either VR or IS) and he's loaded for bear.

For most people, taking a photo means - pointing the camera at the subject, getting them to say "cheese" and taking the shot...not really knowing that if you point the camera into the sunlight you're going to end up with a crappy shot because of the lens flare, making the subjects unrecognizable. Or flashing a photo in the midst of a crowded pub making a really flattering featureless face out of your subjects otherwise known as the "GHOST" where you can really only see two eyes...a mouth and a sheer white torso.

an example of a "ghost" image

There's really no excuse for not knowing your settings on your camera whether it is a point and shoot or a DSLR. There are night photo settings on your point and shoot, but the only problem with that is that you need stabilization - in other words...A TRIPOD! But nobody wants to carry that into a pub. Hence...crappy picture. You also need to know that light sources = crappy lighting. There are settings for white balance in your point and shoot? Does anyone even bother to look at those? NO.'s NOT YOUR's you! Take the time and read the manual. RTFM!!! and RTFM some more. That's what it's there for...not to make the box seem more substantial in weight when you buy a camera.

Then maybe when you're able to photograph great shots (with no lens flare; with regularity - and after realizing that just maybe...just maybe this photography is the basis for a great hobby)...that's when you upgrade to the next camera. It's not so that you can look COOL...holding a D3X when you shoot in AUTO. Trust me...most serious amateur and professional photographers can tell.

shot with a Nikon E2200 (2.1 MP point & shoot camera).

Who says you can't get good shots with a point & shoot? Knowledge is Key.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Nikon Rumors: Nikon files patent for 800mm f/5.6

Nikon Files Patent for 800mm f/5.6 - Nikon Rumors

Evidently Nikon is stepping into the super-supertelephoto range in replacing its old 800mm f/5.6 ED-IF with the Nikon AF-S VR 800mm f/5.6. Already in the competition is the much lower-priced Sigma 800mm f/5.6 and the $14,000 Canon 800mm f/5.6 IS L. Not to knock Sigma, but with Canon's L lens and their new Nikon playmate (once Nikon decides to go ahead with production of it, it's going to change the 800mm game table. I'm sure though that the 800mm f/5.6 VR is going to be either price above or similar to the Canon lens, either being around $14,000-16,000. This will be pretty much a strictly newspaper event or professional wildlife lens. At these prices, it's not worth it to re-mortgage the house to buy this or end up having to save for 6 1/2 years to put one in the lens arsenal. It's a nice looking lens, but I'll just as soon go for the $10,000 600mm VR f/4.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rest In Peace, Steve Jobs

What can most people write about a man who changed a generation? All I can say is that Steve Jobs' creations defined my generation and the generation that came after it.

When I was in elementary school, the original Apple personal computer came out. It was a unique fad, or so we thought. Personal computers were not widely available back then and they cost an arm and a leg. Back then we had punch-cards that you marked off with an HB pencil and they were taken to a mainframe of some sort that figured out your answers and whether you passed the test or not. The personal computer was a pipe-dream...or so we thought. To Steve Jobs, it wasn't. He was a visionary. He pictured a computer in every home, in every school, in all walks of life, even before most people thought it was a logical move. His Apple and Mac computers made this possible.

The simple fact that I am typing this eulogy on a laptop computer is partly because of Steve Jobs. The ensuing battle between Steve Jobs' Apple Corporation and Microsoft magnate Bill Gates' Personal Computer (PC) caused computer prices to drop to the point where most people could afford one or the other.

The first industry to profit from this was the personal computer gaming industry. There were a lot of games during the 80s. Some good (like The Legend of Zelda) and some not so good, but we had a variety with the Apple and Apple II computers. The first personal computers by Apple were the realm of the creatives and that's where Apple's niche has been. Microsoft won the business war...and that's where their niche has been.

When MP3s first came out, Steve Jobs was at the forefront of the technology. He envisioned a device that could be used anywhere and that fit in one's pocket, a small boombox that could be taken anywhere without having to have a whole load of tapes or CDs to be carried around with you. He thus invented a way to digitize music and then the device to play it with, and thus was born the iPod. Now it has gone through several changes. Now it plays different forms of multimedia. For the longest time, I resisted becoming a Pod-person (the derogative nickname for people who seem to be glued to their iPods), but now I have a Nano 8GB powder blue iPod to which I appear to constantly drag around with me. Yes, that was another game-changer.

Then there was the run to compete with Blackberry and the iPhone came into being. To think that you could create "applications - Apps for short" and use them in the same way that you can run programs on your computer and it all fits in the palm of your hand or in your pocket. Steve Jobs was responsible for putting the term "There's an App for that" in the vernacular. Now Blackberry isn't as popular as it used to be...and everywhere I look (including in my wife's hand) is an iPhone.

Without Steve Jobs' vision, the digital darkroom would never have had a chance to grow, and we would still be tinkering with noxious chemicals and emulsion fluids in the dark cramped confines of a standard darkroom. But with the advent of the personal computer and the resultant flock of programmers who designed new programs for creative photographers, we now have the equivalent of the darkroom on our desktop without having to deal with smelling foul-smelling chemicals...and giving our doctors (eventually) their sons' and daughters' college educations.

The visionary that was Steve Jobs had incredible foresight and intuition into what it was that people were looking for in their technology that they use every day. There are very few people in this world who can change the world like he did. Henry Ford was one of those types of visionaries. Thomas Edison was yet another. But to instantaneously bring about a change in the way we do business, in the way we share our information, in the way we entertain ourselves on a worldwide scale and in such a short period of time, that is a visionary of incomparable skill and acumen. And that was the type of visionary that Steve Jobs was. The tech world has lost a great leader and visionary; the likes of which we may never see again in our lifetime.

Rest in Peace, Steve Jobs. You've earned it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Google+ and Facebook

"Hey, wanna friend me on Facebook???"
"Sorry, dude, my computer shorted out in the lake"

I've been using Google+ for a while now. It's been interesting. I've kept it strictly for photography circles and to appraise select friends of what I've been doing with my photography, whereas I use Facebook for my social interactions as well as for displaying photography.

My Google+

My Facebook

I don't play games on either one of my social networks. I just cut loose my last game and I'm strictly keeping my Facebook and Google+ for sharing photography. So if you want to friend me on either Facebook and/or Google+, please don't send me game requests. I don't answer those.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Morning At Green Timbers.

Saw what was actually a juvenile pied-billed grebe...wish I had a TC-20EIII. Actually forget I said that. I want the bloody 600mm f/4 and a 1.4X teleconverter!!!

The posing ducks looked as if it was asking me for guidance on what kind of pose to do for the camera.

This mallard female was the mate of the other male that was swimming by and looking for approval for the poses that he was providing. Likewise with this female. Evidently she was looking for approval of her swimming poses.

Saw the Great Blue Heron, but it wanted to play "peek-a-boo" instead of posing for a shot.

This mallard female got spooked by some schmuck with a dog off-leash who promptly proceeded to come barking and charging the ducks so she reared up in a major threat-display warning all the other ducks to keep clear of the shore. The mutt got the freak out of his life when that big object (me) sitting on the rock got up and stared eye-ball to eye-ball with said stupid mutt.

Fight! Fight!! These two mallards males got into it pretty good. The dominant mallard really chased the subordinate mallard male around their section of the pond pretty good.

Is the TC-20EIII Worth It?

Now...for the past 6 months, I've been vascillating between lenses and teleconverters and I've been wondering if buying a teleconverter for the lens that I currently have (the AF-S VRII 70-200mm f/2.8 G ED) is worth the money expended on it. In determining the value of the TC-20EIII on the lens, I've undertaken the following test on this particular teleconverter to where I would be using the TC-20EIII the most - Green Timbers Urban Forest Park. The TC-20EIII attached to my 70-200mm f/2.8 would get me the equivalent focal length of a 140-400mm f/5.6 as I would lose the equivalent of two stops.

The Park Test - had to mimic the TC-20EIII on the lens by % increase of 200%

The Great Blue Heron Subject at 200mm

The Great Blue Heron Subject at 400mm (equiv w/% tweaking)

The Store Test - with the actual TC-20EIII attached to the 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII.


@400mm (the subject being the blue line on the door)

Ultimately there is not much increase in the size of far-away objects with the TC-20EIII and there is a noticeable drop-off in image quality especially when used indoors as in the mall-test. The only other alternative is to get the 300mm f/2.8 VRII but that is quite a number of years away.

300mm range (shot with my 70-300mm f/4-5.6)

600mm equivalent range (TC-20EIII on 300mm f/2.8 equivalent (digi-tweaked))

It's all fine well and good if you're standing in the middle of a field to use your legs and get closer to the wildlife in question, but when you've got a skittish heron or other subject and the barrier in between you and getting closer is a lake...well, kinetic zoom is just out of luck. When you are stuck on the shore of a lake, a longer super-telephoto lens is your best bet for getting distance. However, if you haven't got the $$$ to cough up at least $10,000 for a 400mm, 500mm, or 600mm lens, a teleconverter may be your best friend, then you may end up having to crop to get the image you want.

For now, I think that the best solution for my distance problem is to get the TC-20EIII and use it in conjunction with trying to get as close as possible to the subject.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Seagulls and Some Color on the Clouds

Didn't think about pulling out the D300s and 70-200mm VRII, but found that there was some photo-ops when I got out to the Zellers end of Willowbrook. Several seagulls happily posed for me. Evidently upon further investigation, these were juvenile ring-billed gulls.

Is there food for me here???

On the way back, we saw some color on the clouds.

Lens & Shutter - New Store Open in Langley (on September 20, 2011)

Will put photo up when I visit today.

Evidently it opened on September 20, 2011 according to this blog Lens & Shutter Blog, he hasn't visited yet, so hopefully, I'll be the first to get the pics up. I don't know if it is a store blog updated by an employee, or whether it's some random guy who is blogging on Lens & Shutter. Anyways. Always good to get a scoop. ~evil grin~

update: 8:51PM

I have to say that this store is probably what you would call "considerably smaller" than the Broadway "Lens & Shutter" main store. The selection of lenses on display are smaller, but the people who I talked to at the store were decent on their knowledge base. It's a nice place and they do have a decent selection of gear...their bag selection is decent and half their store is frames. I saw they also have an interesting selection of 35mm film.

All the Lens & Shutter stores have the ability to special order in the pro gear so it's going to be easier to go to Langley if I do decide to put my 600/4 lens order through Lens & Shutter.

I plan to go there whenever I go out to Langley and look forward to getting some of my stuff there.