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Saturday, December 6, 2014

First Paycheque High

There's nothing like the feeling of your first professional paycheque in a business like photography. All the blood, toil, tears and sweat that went into making this business your own is summed up in that little slip of paper no matter the amount on the cheque. It's a tangible sign that your efforts were not in vain. It's also an acknowledgement that people think that your photography is good enough to "pay for".

I'm just glad that I'm able to do what I love doing (being behind the viewfinder of a camera) and get paid for what it is that I do.

With photographing hockey, it's been a great source of enjoyment. The satisfaction of getting the shot and seeing my son perform well on the ice.

more later...have a game to shoot today.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Must-Have Lenses For The Camera Bag.

It's been several games into the new hockey season and I've been managing to make do with the photography equipment I have. However as th season progresses, I begin to see the limitations of the equipment that I have. Also the path in my nature photography becomes a lot clearer. As much as eagles and other wildlife plays a part of my photography, I'm finding that I am leaning towards landscapes and other nature photography. Though I want to keep the 600mm and finish the payments on it (it is a definite want because I love photographing eagles and other feathered wildlife), I tend to wonder if that's the path that I should head if I want to make serious money at this venture.

The 14-24mm f/2.8 needs to be in my camera bag, not only will it allow me to take the photos of my son's team, I will be able to shoot photography for landscapes (for which a 14-24mm is a must-have lens).

The 24-70mm is more of a specialty portrait lens when paired with the Nikon DX format (which I shoot) and would mostly be used in hockey photography, but I tend to wonder where I can use the 24-70mm in landscapes. I see where it can be used - like separating a subject from the vista say a barn in the middle of a field where you want to let the viewer know that there is a barn in a field.

In all, sports photography of my son's team is a hobby...but it's the one thing that potentially could turn into a money-maker, whereas landscapes on the other hand seems to be a tough slog to get into, however, I'm determined to do what it takes to make it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Shooting Hockey - How I Do It!

Been an interesting couple of weeks shooting hockey photography at the various rinks around Surrey, BC. Shooting hockey wide-angle with the AF-S DX 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 is a challenge, however it can be done, though I would more than recommend a faster lens (f/2.8 or faster an absolute must if you are shooting professionally - selling your photos). You have to have at least 1/350th of a sec or higher to effectively freeze on-ice action if you are shooting 18-70mm. I was at ISO2500 and I still at 70mm could not get up to anything more than 1/125 sec. The 1.5x rule (You do not handhold at shutterspeeds of 1.5x the maximum focal length of the lens you have on your camera (for example if you have a 200mm lens, you should have a shutterspeed at least 1/350th of a sec or faster)) doesn't apply in this case. Shooting at anything under 1/350th of a sec while shooting indoor fast sports like hockey is a game of hit and miss. Hockey is a fast sport and anything under 1/350th of a sec will run the risk of blurring your photo.

(above photo)This is why you do not shoot 1/125th unless you're braced against the stanchion. And in this case the blur was because of the moving players not because of unsteady hands. In this case the only thing that would have helped was a higher ISO and shutterspeed.

Unless you brace yourself up against a stanchion or the boards on the opposite side of the glass (at amateur rinks you don't get the photography holes that you do in NHL rinks) you run the risk of blurry shots. Let's face it though, as an serious amateur photographer, unless you have some money behind you, you don't want to risk the loss of a lens, that's why unless I have some serious bucks backing me up (like being a part of the media (which I'm not), I feel more comfortable shooting behind the glass). It's amazing how hard and how accurate hockey players can shoot the puck and the chance is always there for a puck to come sailing through the hole no matter how miniscule. Do you really want to be the guy who loses a +$2,000 70-200mm f/2.8 lens to a hard vulcanized rubber puck that costs maybe at minimum $1.50 to produce? Personally, I wouldn't risk my 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII with that - mainly because right now I don't have that kind of money to replace it. Especially not losing a lens while shooting on a volunteer basis.

Make no mistake...this kind of thing happens quite often - just check out Scott Kelby's blog where he had the Professional Hockey Photo Workshop and see the photo especially where one of the workshop participants got his Canon 70-200 f/2.8 front lens element smashed to absolute bits. There's hardly any glass there any more.

Make no mistake, I love hockey. Hockey has become a passion to photograph, especially since I have a regular opportunity to do so with my son playing hockey at the minor level. The camera opens up a lot of opportunity to talk to other parents and they all are interested in how you perceive their child's ability to play the game...and the best shots I've taken are the ones where the players are engaged in shooting the puck or when two players are scrimmaging with one another. These shots showcase the player's ability. Not only do I shoot the games, I shoot the practices. These are where I pick up the one on one shots, where the players are working on skating and shooting technique one on one against a goalie. Positioning oneself behind the net gives you those "active goalie" shots where you see a player firing a puck at the goalie.

Most photographers when they shoot hockey photography, they station themselves in one good spot - let's say the opponent's blue-line or the home-team's blue line and wait for the action to come to them. In the NHL you don't have the flexibility of moving around during the game (except during intermission). Because frankly put, you're blocking people's view of the game if you move during the course of the game action and people have paid good money to plunk their butts in their seats. Moving during the game is also a good way to ensure you never shoot another NHL game again. Whereas in minor hockey're able to move quickly between location to location in search of the best shot. But most of the time during the minor hockey games I pick one or two good solid locations, and pick and choose my shots confining them to whereever there is significant action going on. Sometimes parents will want to see what their son does, and there if there's a lull in the action I'll start picking shots around the periphery players. You develop a sense of who the hardnosed "quick to jump into the action" players are and end up focusing on them because that's where the action develops. My son is one of those players and he's plays two-way hockey and defends hard when he's placed into the unenviable position of having to play defence as there's a shortage of players "wanting to play defence".

In a game situation, think out your position before the game. Where do you think you're going to get the best action shots? Position yourself there. In this mornings practice, I stationed myself mostly along the blue-line. where I could position myself to get the attacking players as they moved in on net. Then as the drills progressed, I maneuvered to behind the goalie's net at a 30 degree angle off-set to capture the players moving in from a goalie's perspective.

This shot was at 1/125th of a sec and you can see the player is blurry, though the goalie is not. This is an example of a shot I keep because it tells a story and shows the action behind it. Hockey is a fun sport to shoot and it helps to learn the techniques behind it. I'll go more into the equipment of what I use to shoot my son's games in another post and what I would recommend for those who have the money to do so. The fast lenses are on my "must get" list and as such they will be in my camera bag within the next year. The hallowed fast lens triumvirate: the Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII which I already have): the AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8 ultra wide-angle; and the AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8 will follow shortly thereafter - is an absolute must (mine will be doing double duty as both sports photography lenses and landscape photography lenses). I will go into more detail later and when I get those two lenses and shoot a game with them, I will post yet another entry to show just exactly the change from a 14-24/24-70 combo versus a 18-70mm lens.

Happy Shooting.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Son Playing Second Season of Minor Hockey

Well, Hockey season has rolled around yet again. After losing half his previous season to something stupid (Going over to a friend's house for several hours without telling Dad that he was going over causing his Mom to panic), Chris has behaved himself this season and Dad is getting a chance to shoot photography this year for his Chris' team. Lots of fun.

I hear that Surrey Minor Hockey Association is changing their uniforms and becoming "uniform" with both house and rep teams. And evidently they may be getting home and away jerseys.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Surrey's New "Central Square" at Night.

The City Hall and Surrey Public Library have an adjoining square - aptly named "Central Square". Went to find a place to park and go take a few shots prior to picking my wife up from work.

Took a shot looking down 135th Street from the northeast corner of 103rd Avenue.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

YVR - October 4, 2014 - Part I

Went to YVR for a Meetup. Met Darrell MacIver from the group. We seemed to be the only two there. Also later on in the day we went over to the north facing mound of dirt (I think they're preloading the area for something being built), that overlooks the North Runway of Vancouver International Airport. Here's a few of the processed images as I've finished up them.

We also had a crow that was walking past my car like it owned the space where it was walking. If it could talk, I'm sure it would be saying "Yeah!? I'm walkin' here!!! Whatcha gonna do about it!!"

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Green Timbers - Relaxation and Solitude...somewhat.

Wandered over to Green Timbers this morning. Had the opportunity to do a little photography. But I need to do more. It's kinda slipped.

Almost seems like an artsy-fartsy shot, but was tossing ideas around in my head trying to come up with some shots.

This little feller looked like he was practicing to be a life-like duck decoy.

Two mallard females playing "follow the leader"

mirrored reflection of birdbox on the opposite side of the lake.

This is a first fall Eared Grebe. Makes me wish I had the 600mm with me today. The countenance on the grebe's face pretty much says that the ducks messed the lake up. Those are debris on the lake, not on my sensor.

If it wasn't for the set of hoodlums yelling by the lake and scaring the poor ducks, it would have been extremely peaceful there.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Annual Migration and Thoughts.

Almost wildlife migration season again and time to pull out the camera and start photographing. Between wildlife photography and landscape photography, there is a lot of photography needing to be done between now and April of 2015.

Between losing a lot of images on memory stick and pretty much having to save up for a new computer hard-drive (which we still have yet to purchase), the photography is at a stand-still. The simple fact is: you have to have a reliable infrastructure in place to be able to save and edit your images and to be able to retain them. I'm currently considering a multi-core computer with lots of RAM which will enable me to have more photos open at a time and conduct multiple tasks without freezing. This computer that I have currently is not making me happy at the moment as it tends to freeze without much prodding. Let's just say a video/photo editing workhorse of a computer is in the cards. Such a computer is an absolute necessity as video is going to play a much larger part in the business down the road. With that as a requirement; I will be looking at getting some high-cap HD drives, as well as considering the possibility of using a solid state drive (SSD) as my main operating drive for my operating system and my main programs such as Photoshop Elements, Lightroom (which I still have to get) and Nik Photo Bundle.

Also a macro lens will be needed eventually as well as a 14-24mm f/2.8 (the second of the triumvirate). I'm currently out on the 24-70mm f/2.8 because I'm not too sure yet if that's a focal range that I'm going to be making a lot of use of and wondering if I just might be able to slip by with the 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 workhorse that was my go-to-wide-angle before my 50mm f/1.8 came along (though technically the 50mm is just a standard prime lens and not really a wide-angle; I just find that the 50mm f/1.8D does much better bokeh.

But all of it comes down to the direction in which I want this business to go. Do I go video or do I go photography? Nowadays many people are doing both. It's something that is going to require a lot more thinking through. Thankfully I have a lot of caffeine on hand. That might help.

Monday, August 25, 2014

New D300s Replacement On The Horizon? Nikon Rumors Thinks So.

People have probably been wondering why I haven't been doing as many reviews on different cameras as I planned to in the past. As a wildlife photographer, I tend to opt to review the cameras that I use or am planning to purchase down the road as I upgrade my camera bodies. Namely that's the reason why there has been such a dearth of information on camera bodies and recommendations.

Most of us serious shooters have been screaming for a D300s replacement for the last 6 years. I got my D300s body in 2010 iat least an year after the body first came out so my camera is getting long in the tooth with at least 30,000 actuations of the shutter.

For the better part of four years, we've been screaming at Nikon to produce a replacement for their Nikon D300s and that's done about as well as screaming into a face of a hurricane because Nikon wasn't listening.

If there is one thing that pro and serious shooters hate is not having everything on an external manual switch. Diving into the menu system causes one to lose shot opportunities. That is one of the main reasons we hate the lovingly named "idiot dial" to the right.

The D300s dial that I am familiar with is on the left. This enables me to set the number of shots, the quality (QUAL), the white balance (WB), and ISO (digital film speed) with one hand, plus a lot of other camera settings (like mirror up) that are crucial without having to dive headfirst in the menu system of the camera which takes a ton of time and frankly is a pain in the posterior.

So we serious shooters have been begging and pleading for a semi-pro body DX frame camera (those of us who shoot wildlife on a regular basis if we aren't upgrading to the D4s (which will be my next move). With the D4s being an expensive proposition at almost $6,000 for a camera body only (no lens comes with that for that price -too bad; so sad) it's a camera for those who have the money to spare. If they have a D300s replacement coming out with a magnesium alloy body which would mean that it would be able to put up with the tough knocks that a pro or serious user would put that body through.

According to Nikon Rumors, there is exactly a body like that, that is on the drawing table at Nikon. Nikon Rumors - Breaking: Nikon D9300 DSLR camera on the horizon

Hopefully there is, because despite the 150,000 shutter actuations reputed to be the benchmark for the D300s, I'd rather play it safe and upgrade sometime in the next two years and that'll buy me enough time to save up for that D? professional camera body (whether it be the D5 or D6; who knows).

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Visiting an Old Friend

Visited an old friend at YXX today; one that I haven't seen since 1983; one that I've missed for a long time. 101035 sits as a gate guard just outside the entrance to the new terminal building at YXX (Abbotsford International Airport). The CF-101B Voodoo performed for the last time at Abbotsford that year and I was lucky enough at the age of 13 to be able to see it in flight. It's been a long thirty-one years since I saw an F-101 and I'm glad there's still a One-Oh-Wonder still around to actually view. This one, I was able to touch. The Voodoo served as Canada's air defence fighter for most of the Cold War and replaced by CF-18s in the mid-80s. As one grows older, trips down memory lane seem to be more significant.

These are the burner cans from which the two Pratt & Whitney J57-P-55 afterburning turbojets pumped their 16,900lbs of thrust at full afterburner.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Cokin Filter System and Cokin PF121 (ND8) Filter

Today I picked up the Cokin P121F ND8 (3-stop) Graduated Neutral Density Filter from Broadway Camera at Central City. I wanted the Graduated Neutral Density Filters because I'm not one for sitting in front of a computer for too long editing photos. I like being behind the viewfinder and it felt really good to pick up the camera again after a long while of recuperating from a throat infection. I also like the fact that if you do it 'in-camera' it lessens the amount of time that you have to do post-processing in the computer.

The filter comes in a nice little plastic pouch that will probably give out sometime with a lot of use, this will mean that we will have to look for a filter pouch, preferably a Lowepro or Tamrac which is made to take some abuse. These resin filters must be babied as the slightest scratch will ruin these 'drop-in' filters. These 4x4 Cokin 'drop-in' filters are different from those you screw in and are much more flexible in that you can adjust where the filter sits in the holder so that you can adjust the demarcation line on your filter. This allows you to follow the horizon line that is uneven.

This next shot here shows just what the Graduated Neutral Density Filter does for the shot in-camera with no touch-ups or post-processing. Note that in the shot without the filter, when I exposed for the ground, the sky completely blew out and there is no definition in the clouds. Whereas when I exposed for the ground and shot with the Cokin ND8 on that there is definition in the clouds and the clouds look more noticeably interesting.

The Nikon D300s with the Cokin holder and no filter on

The nikon D300s with the Cokin Holder with Cokin ND8 filter in and prepped ready for a shot

Finally a shot with all the bells and whistles (post-processing) done to it in Photoshop Elements 8.

The concensus is that there is a grey color-cast to this filter and it has to be corrected in Elements, either with the slider on the RAW/NEF editor or when you get to the JPG mode directly in the Photoshop Elements 8 Enhance>Adjust Color. But needless to say, pricing wise if you are taking the first steps into a 'drop-in' filter range, Cokin is a good set to start out with. I intend to upgrade to the Lee filters and give these ones to my wife eventually but when you're looking at $49.99 for Cokins versus $499.99 for Lee filters (reputedly the best on the market), it's quite a substantial expenditure that I would recommend for serious hobbyists as well as professionals. Lees do not color tint like the Cokins, but for $49.99, I will put up with that for now.

The next filter purchase will be an actual straight Neutral Density filter. Then I will be going to Bear Creek Park to photograph Bear Creek into misty water. Happy Shooting.