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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Another iOS Panorama - "96th Street Paving"

Streetwork on 96th Avenue. What a joy. Pavers in front of our house. ~sigh~

Well, hopefully they'll be finished pretty by the end of the week?! (all photos with iPhone 4s)

Monday, June 17, 2013

3 Hours of Shooting: Surrey Lake Park & Green Timbers Park.

Yesterday was alright as far as the clouds were concerned. It was semi-overcast so the light was even and not harsh at around 4 o'clock to 5 o' clock when we finally managed to get out of the house. The first park that we went to was Surrey Lake Park when we found out that the parking situation at Green Timbers was such that parking was going to be a major problem.

When we arrived at Surrey Lake Park, my hope was that I would find a wood duck. Unfortunately, that hope never materialized. The wood ducks were not in evidence at Surrey Lake Park and I was left empty-handed. However my two boys (who were the only ones old enough to handle cameras and my wife had fun photographing the ducks with their lenses. I still have to get another EN-EL3e battery to be able to put the secondary D50 (Heather's) back into use and lend it to Cameron for him to be able to photograph with a DSLR. Without a tripod and a gimbal-head I realized very quickly just how much "pain" 11.8 pounds could inflict on ones shoulders. It did not prevent me from taking some decent photographs: starting off with a red-winged blackbird.

Walking in farther into the park after spending quite a bit of time around the lake area, we came across the eagle's nest that I saw the last time over three years and four days previous (my last visit to Surrey Lake Park was in June 12, 2010). The parents were out hunting and the two juveniles were in the nest looking around as if they were investigating everything that they possibly could.

In lower light, the 600mm f/4 is not as quick to focus, but it is certainly speedier than the 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII with the 2x teleconverter attached to it. I have to say that even handheld, this lens more than was a match for the light available and locked on quickly and I was able to get off at least 2 or 3 shots at a time handheld before cradling the lens back in my arms again to rest it.

After spending an hour and a half at Surrey Lake Park, we headed back to Green Timbers (which was on our way back home) and decided to see if we could see Mom and Pop (the pair of mated bald eagles at Green Timbers. I didn't see any nest nearby or any nestlings, so right now I suspect that they are childless this year.

I did spend some time shooting other things than bald eagles; but they were my primary objective yesterday.

sometimes you can catch bald eagles in a very 'cute' pose.

Saw this big monster over Green Timbers too. It was an Air Transat A330 inbound towards YVR. I'm sure the co-pilot thought it was a missile launcher that was pointed at him (especially with the size of the lens that was aimed at the aircraft.)

And I finally caught the image that I had been wanting for quite some time: a Great Blue Heron in flight. An whole string of shots which allowed me to to post one up on 500px. This one missed the cut due to its wingtip being cut off.

The verdict with the 600mm f/4 is that it is a very effective lens; quick and responsive, but it is not a lens that should be handheld for any stretch of time. One hour is pretty much the maximum time handheld. Either that or break up the usage time handheld with at least several breaks. By the end of the three hour stretch of carrying 11.8 pounds, the lens was starting to feel not like the Nikon prescribed weight but a ton of bricks. This lens requires a gimbal head and a sturdy tripod (preferably a Gitzo GT5542LS and a Jobu BWG-Pro2 gimbal head)- no two ways about it. Will I take this out again without the tripod? I have no choice in the matter as I don't have the funds to purchase a tripod yet. But at least I know that I have the strength to heft this big beast. Am I glad I have it in my lens arsenal? If I didn't have it, I wouldn't have managed the heron shot, or the creamy background separation on my red-winged blackbird image. So the answer to that question is a resounding "YES".

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pre & Post Shooting Thoughts on the AF-S II 600mm f/4 D IF-ED.

Thoughts on the 600mm f/4 (prior to handheld shooting at Green Timbers): Today I decided that I'm going to go down and photograph Mom and Pop Bald Eagle over at Green Timbers with the new monster lens that I have. At 11.6 pounds, the Nikon AF-S II 600mm D IF-ED comes in at a pretty heavy "exercise" weight. With some of the test shots that I have taken outside in front of my house, it has been steady which has been a good sign: the minute movements though are greatly magnified by the 600mm focal length and will end up making the image soft. But it behooves me to see exactly what this big lens can do. I have to say that I love this lens. It has to be one of the best lenses that Nikon makes. I don't even care that this lens doesn't have VR. It will mostly be on a tripod and I will have to upgrade my monopod to a Gitzo GM5541 to hold this enormous beast too. Today is just pretty much a "nature photography" test day for me to see if I can manage the 600mm handheld in the field and to see what kind of shots I can get with the 600mm f/4 handheld. More later:

Thoughts on the 600mm f/4 (post handheld shooting at Green Timbers (and at Surrey Lake Park)): After 3 hours of handholding that beast; my shoulders were telling me where to go and how to get there. This is NOT the lens to handhold by any stretch of the imagination. The only reason why I'm doing so is because I don't have the finances yet to purchase a tripod for said beast. Yes, "handholding the 600mm" can be done. However it is not advisable. Needless to say, the 600mm f/4 attracted a lot of attention at the two parks that our family went to today.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Self-Portraits with the D50: Me Handholding 600mm

The 600mm is a beast of a lens. The lens is over 11 pounds and must be cradled to walk comfortably with it. As it is a pricey lens, the best situation would be to place it on a tripod and gimbal as per my post of June 11, 2013.

I put the lens and lens hoods together and took several self-portraits of myself with the 600mm f/4 D ED-IF II to show just how large the 600mm lens is in comparison to my 5' 7" frame. I'm not tall and if held cradled in my arms vertically attached to my D300s, the lens reaches the top of my head.

Just tried the 600mm handheld today. The more I do it, the easier it gets, but I still would not recommend doing it for very long. And considering that most people shoot with their right hand and hold the lens with their left. It's like having an 11 pound exercise weight. Unless you want to look like Peewee Herman on your right arm and Hulk Hogan on your left. It's not suggested that this be done for very long stretches. It's only thanks to arm curling 30lb weights, that this 600mm handheld is as easy as it is and it's still pretty stinkin' difficult.

Again, do not think that this is a great idea to do... Handholding the Nikon AF-S 600mm f/4 D ED-IF II.

I'm sure the 600/4 will be quite the addition to the shooting arsenal. The 800mm is pretty much overkill on the finances. The 600/4 is stretching my finances by a considerable margin and only do-able thanks to a payment plan with Christian that we'll be working through until May 2014. As stated, the tripod is definitely necessary on this lens. I wouldn't advise anyone to handhold unless it was for a few seconds at a time.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Christian Sasse; An Incredibly Talented Photographer and a Great Friend.

Had the opportunity on June 12, 2013 to spend time with my friend Christian Sasse. My wife and I met up with him at his place at 6PM. It was an opportunity to meet a friend that I had talked with a lot on the internet and on Facebook. He is an avid raptor and wildlife photographer and also does astro-photography. His images have been published through Outdoor Photography Canada and he is a friend of David Hancock, a bald eagle conservationist and researcher. I am happy to know him as a friend and a fellow wildlife photographer.

It is thanks to Christian that I am able to now shoot at 600mm with the purchase (by installment) of his 600mm f/4 D ED-IF II lens. Christian sold this lens to me as he now shoots with a Nikon AF-S 800mm f/5.6 E FL ED VR. That 800mm f/5.6 is absolutely an impressive lens and extremely intimidating with the Digipat Lenscoat.

I'm sure that Christian and I will have the opportunity to go shooting together at his favorite spots in White Rock, at some point in the near future. Of course, I do have to pick myself up a Gitzo tripod and a gimbal head.

The lens peforms extremely well, quick focusing and extremely sharp.

This image has 100% magnification on it in order to show just how sharp the bird cage bars are. This lens is incredible with the ability to focus in and render detail incredibly sharp.

Focusing on the clouds shows beautiful detail. And without buildings in the way either.

Christian Sasse's images of eagles are incredible and should be seen. You can find him on Facebook at Sasse Photo He is an incredibly talented wildlife photographer.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Nikon 600mm f/4 D ED-IF II; A Purchase Many Years In Its Culmination.

There has been one lens in the Nikon catalog that I've been salivating over, for the past five years. Just recently there has come to light an opportunity to get that particular lens. Needless to say, it will be an investment (not an easy investment, that $6500.00 is not cheap, but still it is $4,100.00 less than I would have paid going for a brand new AF-S VR 600mm f/4 G IF-ED lens. Even without the VR, I should have no problems, as the Nikon 600mm f/4 D ED-IF II lens is far too heavy to hand-hold for more than thirty seconds at a time. This particular lens came up for sale as a result of a friend picking up an 800mm f/5.6 FL VR G ED-IF, Nikon's brand new 800/5.6 lens, thus having to put his 600mm f/4 for sale. I just could not pass up on the opportunity as the monies saved will go towards the purchase of a 300mm f/2.8 VRII which is the only other wildlife oriented lens that I planned to pick up in my wildlife photography arsenal. My friend has taken absolutely superb photos with the Nikon 600mm f/4 D ED-IF II lens and I'm sure that I will be able to handle the complexities of super telephoto photography with it. This lens will be well-cared for in its new home and I certainly hope that the photos that I take will be of close calibre.

Of course, this lens will require a substantial tripod and gimbal to be used properly in the field. The Gitzo brand of tripods - the Systematic tripod system is the benchmark for the type of support required by lenses of this size. The particular tripod (the legs) that I plan to place the 600mm on is this: a Gitzo GT5542LS.

To balance the 600mm f/4 lens on top of the tripod, the best head to use would be a gimbal, either a Wimberley gimbal or a Jobu BWG-Pro 2 gimbal head. The gimbal is pictureed here. Why? Because of the balance required by placing a large supertelephoto lens on top of a spindly three-legged contraption requires the balance point of the lens to be in its center. In order to do this effectively the gimbal allows the lens to rotate around its axis. bringing the weight of the lens balanced on its leg mount directly down on the center of the tripod thus balancing the lens so that it doesn't tip over and crash to the ground, thus necessitating a very costly repair bill (needless to say, I could not afford to pay that kind of a repair bill at this moment).

This lens has been the culmination of a lot of years of hoping that the "fates" would align. And in the end, it has all been worth it. And it is thanks to a friend who has allowed me to plan a purchase arrangement that will benefit my photography and save me enough funds to not only purchase his lens, but add another much needed lens to my arsenal of lenses that are required for wildlife photography. I owe him a great deal of gratitude for his contribution to my photography.

Monday, June 10, 2013

iPhone 4s - Sunrise & Panorama

The iPhone 4s is pretty capable when it comes to dynamic colors. The colors on this sunrise are fantastic.

The newest iOS update, iOS 6, has turned around and given iPhone users a panorama feature. It is a fantastic little tool and I look forward to using it. It will be interesting when I wander out to Vancouver or to Serpentine Fen.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Surrey School District Track Meet - June 3, 2013

My son was on the track team for this year. I went and photographed his track-meet. This was the Surrey School District track meet. Now a sporting event like this one is a very unique experience to cover. I don't restrict myself to shooting photos of my kid. I go at it as if I was assigned to cover the track meet by a newspaper. I look for the key shots that people would be interested in if they were going to headline a newspaper with it. I shot this track-meet with a Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII G ED lens with a TC-20EIII attached for the duration of the entire track-meet. What shots I got were all between the 140 and 400mm range. With photographing a sporting event, it is too easy to get into the "I must get the action" mindset and ignore the drama playing out on the faces of the competitors. That drama gives it the 'human element'. And above all, the track meet gave me the opportunity to photograph faces unobscured by face-guards (as it is in hockey).

These are just some of the images that I photographed at the track-meet. No matter what the outcome, no matter how much competitiveness there was out there, they competed for the fun and accomplishment. Whether they fell short in their attempt doesn't matter. It is the spirit of competition; and it is the spirit of fairness and gamesmanship that was in evidence today. All too often we adults forget that in our pursuit of what's "the best". Maybe its time that we realized that.