Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Been a while. A journey and a camera review.

I've been away for a while partially due to a health crisis that ended up taking me down a different photography path.  I'll just say the treatments I got for my health issue made it impossible for me to carry all my heavy dSLR gear for any period of time.  So I began to experiment with the new 'mirrorless and micro 4/3rd cameras.'  This was a big decision for me to 'step down' from a full frame to a crop camera system again.  I have to admit I really like the full frame file size and detail.
I went through a few camera brands and found that there were several features I absolutely liked but features are just gimmicks and the real point was and is Image Quality.  I've really gotten to a point now where I'm pretty satisfied not only with the gear I have but the Image Quality I get from the camera system I'm currently using.
I am no longer a young man and there are limitations to what I can and can't do anymore.  My illness made me physically weak and carrying 20-30 pounds of gear for extended periods of time wasn't something I could do anymore.  I still had the desire to take good quality images but my camera was literally to heavy to hold to my eye.
I tried a few systems and I ended up buying a Fuji X-20 literally days before a month long trip in Europe.  I was on the fence between the Sony NEX system and the Fuji System.  I got the Fuji X-20 because it fit in my budget at the time.  I took both cameras to Europe and the Sony stayed in the motel room the whole trip.  So I walked around with the X-20 in my pocket and that was my 'kit' for the whole trip.  Well, I carried an extra battery in my pocket and I had a 64 GB card in the camera so I wasn't to worried about anything else gear wise.
Sure there were teething problems because I was unfamiliar with the camera but as I figured them out I liked the camera more and more.
I discovered Vertoramas years ago but didn't know that the technique had a name.  I had been doing several photos of buildings and landscapes and photo merging them in PS.  Then I discovered an article by Klaus Herrmann that added a new dimension to what I had been doing.  I used the Fuji hand held shooting a -1,0,+1 bracket series.  This is done in camera with the Fuji with one press of the shutter button.  I did Vertoramas that were around 100 photos and the quality was very good.
Before I had left on my adventure I had come to realize that my dSLR had been sitting in the bag for nearly two years.  Oh I missed the fact that I couldn't do certain things with the smaller Fuji camera but it could do many things that my dSLR couldn't possibly do.  That was part of the reason I thought seriously about changing camera systems.  Several photographers that I had been following also began to switch systems and that planted the seed of 'should I change systems'.
When I got the first mirrorless micro 4/3 camera I thought maybe this could be a backup for my 'real camera'.  Turns out that wasn't the case the trip to Europe solidified the answer.  I got many great photos and I used this small P&S camera.  Yes my 'kit' with computer and all the cables was a bit heavy but it was less than 20 lbs and my prior trip to Europe it was at around 50 pounds.
I've found a non camera messenger bag and some lens wraps to help protect all my gear inside the bag.  It isn't all that difficult to figure out what is what.  I have one camera wrapped in a blue wrap so I know what that one is by sight and feel.  I now have a Fuji X-E2 with two lenses and that is pretty much my new 'kit'.  The Fujinon lenses are a good quality glass and are a bit heavy but at less than 15 pounds for a kit including batteries and tripod one can't complain.  The Fuji sensor is great and it is very capable of taking photos at very high ISOs with no problem.  I have no problem with 3200 ISO from the Fuji and I like that, sometimes a lot.  I could do 6000 with my dSLR and that was also good but I still haven't used it for anything other than taking photos of the Super Moon simply because it had a longer lens.  So in two years plus I've taken four photos with my 'pro' dSLR and several thousand with my P&S style camera.  I even had someone offer to buy the pro camera but backed out and that is probably the only reason I still have that system today.  I have to say that theres is a bit of angst in thinking about letting that system go.  I'm sure I'll eventually get over it and sell the system and get a new lens for the Fuji, maybe.  I have been a fan of the all in one lens for quite sometime now and I have a Fujinon 18-135 that is good quality.  I probably would have prefered something at 200 for the long end but I'm happy where I am system wise now.  It was a hard journey but very exciting.  As with everything photography related the journey never really ends.  Sometimes it takes side routes that take us to wondrous places.
Take care be well.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Rhein Theater Bacharach

I had the pleasure of spending a few days relaxing along the Rhein in the Bier Garden of the Rhein Theater in Bacharach.  I can say that it was by far the place to spend a few hours watching the Rhein and enjoying the view.
I'm enjoyed their Bier, brewed there.
I had before been to the Rhein Theater but in the winter of 2010 one of the coldest on record at that time.  Being a bit of a photographer I noticed that there were some Marionettes hanging inside the theater.  I tried to photograph them but the result wasn't good because of the glass and the viewing angle.  I returned there in May of 2014 and the windows were now frosted.  I said something to the woman serving the Bier Garden and she said I could just go inside and look at them. So I returned with my camera and took photos of the Marionettes.
I was allowed to be there unsupervised to take photos.
 I was able to get up close and personal with the figures though I didn't want to move them or the storage frames they hung from so the space was pretty tight. I used a Fuji X-20 and a Sony NEX 5R to photograph the Marionettes.  I shot using a 3 bracketed exposure sequence then merged them with Photomatix and tonemapped them to add some contrast.
The storage area for the Marionetten was typical of most, small and crowded so there were some challenges in attempting to take photos of them and not break or fall over anything.
I managed to get a few shots that I liked and a few that I wish I could have done over.  In a perfect world I would have moved them into an area so that I could have done them individually with proper lighting and a seamless background.  In a perfect world but this is a you get what you get type of opportunity so these are the photos I ended up with.


Clown in Camouflage 

Rhein Theater Lobby

This is what you will see when you walk into the lobby of the Rhein Theater.  I think a cute scene

Rhein Theater Interior

View from Bier Garden
I spent many hours sitting here looking over the balcony and looking out over the Rhein River.  While the train does pass by from time to time the old city wall absorbs much of the sound and one can spend time here and enjoy the sights and sounds of the boats traveling by.
I would say that if you had the time and were in Bacharach you should make time to check out the Rhein Theater.
There is also an honour flea market in the area that may provide you with an interesting souvenir of your day at the Bier Garten.  I thought the Cherry Streusel was very good.  I believe I ate there twice and the food suited me as far as a guy traveling alone and looking for something simple to eat.  The price was reasonable and the people are friendly.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Papago Brewing Company a review

After a day of taking photos some of us club members went to Papago Brewing Company to get something to eat.
First off I'd have to say that it is located in a strip mall so it is a bit difficult to find.  Even the entrance was a bit hidden but not really difficult.  If you didn't know where it is you might drive by it, like we did.
We were there around 2 PM so the place wasn't exactly crowded.  My first impression was that it was a bit different in decor.
We were seated quickly.  The furniture is wood and pretty comfortable.
I'm going to say I had a good time there.  I think a lot of that was because of the company I was with at the time.  We were talking about the photos we took and did a bit of 'chimping' ( viewing photos on the LCD screen ).  We did sit for a while but after ordering the food came quickly.

My big gripe is that this place is a brewery it should know some beer etiquette or at the very least how to pour beer.  I ordered a Pilsner beer to go along with my lunch.  The beer came in a tapered glass and full to the top with beer.  A Pilsner glass is wider at the bottom than at the top the glass I received my beer was the opposite.  The flavor of any beer is in the head.  A correctly drawn Pilsner Beer should take several minutes to draft and the head should be thick enough to float a penny.

The beer wasn't bad but could have been better had it been drafted correctly.  I suppose in our hurry up society the correct method gets lost in favor of speed.

I had a club sandwich which wasn't bad but was missing the third slice of bread.  The potato salad was, in my opinion, excellent.

The bottom line I had a good time but like I said it was probably more in line with the company I was with and not so much the Pub.  One beer and a sandwich set me back $18 with the tip.  I think that is a little steep but then again that is also my opinion.

Would I go back again?  I think I would, just to give it another chance and look around a bit more than the first visit.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Arizona Falls G.R. Herberger Park

I heard about this place a while back and I was out and about and had the opportunity to visit.  You know there aren't many opportunities to see water falls in Phoenix.  Most of the water falls you see in Phoenix and the surrounding areas are typically man made.  This water fall is also man made but gives kind of a unique opportunity to visit and walk behind and sort of around them.  I thought it would be really cool to do some of those long exposure milky types of shots using ND filters and a tripod, but I had traveled only with my basic camera not really intending to end up at the Arizona Falls.

This is part of a park system.  There are running paths and areas to view the falls.  There are three of them grouped pretty much together.  There is one place where you have a view of two falls on either side of you and one behind you.  So if you visit make sure to protect your camera gear from the misting water.  There was a slight breeze when we were there so at times there was a need to keep my camera dry.

The day was sort of unusual for Phoenix in that we had rain the night before.  Yeah, I know rain in Phoenix!  But it provided us with some very nice storm clouds and for once it was possible to get photos of the sky that weren't typically blown out.

So the first time there was rather nice.  I’m sure I’ll go back on different occasions as the park is open 24 hours although the parking lot is open from around 5:30 AM to 10:00 PM.  One of the reasons to go back would be to be better prepared with ND filters and check out the falls at night as they are lit up with coloured lights.

For my first time there realizing I wasn't going to get the long exposure shots I intended I bumped up my ISO a bit and cranked up my shutter speed to 1/1000th of a second.  I went to the other extreme and caught the water in different patterns as it fell.  I used the live view function on the camera for some of the shots simply because my eyes are kind of bad and I like to magnify the view so that I know I’m getting a nice focused shot.  At 1/1000th of a second I knew I was getting about f-8 or so aperture which gave me a nice depth of field.

It was a fun visit.  I was happy with the photos that I got.  I think with some radical PS changes I can make some very interesting backgrounds or photo overlays.

 I would suggest taking a tripod, ND filters, Gradated filter, Polarizing Filter and something to protect your camera from water, like a plastic bag or a rain sleeve. 

Travel Smart Travel Safe


Friday, February 8, 2013

Rosson House Photo Tour

 I had the opportunity to go on a Photo tour of Rosson House in downtown Phoenix.

Michelle Reid our host and tour guide for the event provided us with camera and lens recommendations to use inside the house before the tour began.  Michelle also suggested some photo gear etiquette to follow during the shoot.  Having gotten that information before hand really helped me to plan on what to bring on the tour.

Rosson House is a Victorian house and it is typically dark inside even with the window shades open so you need a camera capable of high ISO and a very fast lens.  Flash photography is not allowed.  We were allowed to use tripods or mono pods during the tour with the admonition to not lean them against the walls.
Rosson House is very impressive both inside and out.  The most interesting fact provided by Michelle was that much of the building materials used to build the house were purchased from the Sears Roebuck catalogue.

Following Michelle’s advice I decided to bring a 50mm f-1.8 lens along with a 100mm f-2.8 macro and a 17-40 f-4L lens with me.  My lens choices were based on knowing that typically Victorian houses had small rooms and a telephoto lens would have been useless.  I thought the macro lens would be great for some of the unusual patterns and small knick knacks that might be found inside.  And against all reason I left my tripod in the trunk of my car!

The house interior presents many lighting challenges because of the light coming through the outside windows created hot spots in an otherwise dark room. Yes the house had electricity and there were lights.  One has to think in terms of “illuminated darkness” a term I heard in a movie once.  The ceiling lights were maybe 60 or 100 watt bulbs in a ten by ten room.  Also the house has transoms which are different colours so you get different colour streaks through your photos in some areas.
There were so many photo choices inside the house that it was difficult to decide on what to shoot first.  I thought of this first visit as a scouting mission.  So taking your time is a must.  Even with the small number of people that were on the tour there were certain areas where we seemed to be on top of each other.  This is unavoidable because some places are much more interesting than others.  It would be best to go to another room and wait for the chance to go back when the opportunity arises.  Some of the rooms cannot accommodate two photographers with their tripods.

What I learned on this photo tour:
1. Bring your tripod so you can use lower ISO’s.
2. The nifty fifty is a good choice, but a wide lens (17-40 or around that length) would also work well.  If you are using a Tripod then ISO and f-stop shouldn't be an issue.  Two second delay will act like a cable release.
3. Take portrait and landscape photos of the same scene.  I’d say HDR might work but the windows will still be a ‘hot’ spot so that’s why I recommend using merge instead.
4. In the north facing rooms use spot metering to expose for the windows and follow that with a second exposure of the room with average metering.  You can merge the two in PS found under File>automate>photo merge.  Then using a layer mask and a large soft paint brush paint the two images so the exposure is equal.
5. We were in the house for quite a while so the lighting changes as the sun moves.  The afternoon tour means that it gets darker as time goes by.

Remember Travel Save Travel Smart

Friday, January 11, 2013

Matador Coffee Roasting review

Here's an interesting place to stop by if you are in need of a coffee fix or a snack.  I've been going here for about six months and I find the place really nice.  The food is good and there is a pretty good selection of things to eat.  The breakfast burros are really large and quite tasty.  If you want ground coffee or coffee beans they have them there as well.

I discovered this place through my camera club.  We hold a photo event there every second Saturday of the month.  The events are themed and if you get your photo taken there it will typically be sent to you before you can make it home.

If you want to have a place to have a cup of coffee and read the newspaper then this is the place for you.  The people that are there are very friendly and really great to hang around.  They make you feel right at home there.  There are some very nice chairs and even a few couches if you want to get really comfortable.

If you want to check out some local music they have bands there in the evenings and also offer something stronger than coffee if you like.  I've not tried any of the evening events yet but that may change soon.

The artwork on the walls is for sale if you are interested.  The camera club has people displaying their work on the Second Saturday of each month which is also for sale.  I find it interesting to see what is being displayed by my fellow photographers.  The people that display change from month to month so it is constantly changing.

Need a caffeine fix and sit around for a while.  The this is the place to visit if you are around 32nd St and Union Hills.

Travel smart Travel safe

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Wild Life Zoo Litchfield Park AZ a review

I had the pleasure of going to the Wild Life Zoo in Litchfield Park, AZ for the first time last week.  I'd suggest you see if you can find coupons before going as the entrance price is $16.99 per adult.  Tuesdays senior citizens get $2 off the entrance price.

Like most Zoo's this place is pretty large.  It now houses an Aquarium though I went into the building I didn't stay in that part of the park.  I was there to take some photos of the animals and the Aquarium was a little dark for taking photos with the equipment I brought.  As this was the first time for me at this zoo I was more or less scouting it out.  My first impression of what I saw were pretty good.  It was clean and the paths and walkways were pretty nice.  The Giraffe tower steps were made for little kids so they were pretty close together.  I wear bi-focal glasses so it was a bit awkward going down the steps.

I did like the Kangaroo area as you pretty much walk among the animals.  There are lots of opportunities to buy feed to give to the animals.  You'll need lots of quarters as the feed is dispensed in gumball like machines.

I did like the Kangaroo area as you pretty much walk among the animals.  There are lots of opportunities to buy feed to give to the animals.  You'll need lots of quarters as the feed is dispensed in gumball like machines.

As a photographer what I liked most about the part there were opportunities to get photos of the animals that didn't seem like they were in a zoo at all.

The zoo keeps the smaller new born animals in a special house with large glass windows.  Most of the hand prints are at the lower levels so getting a good photo isn't really that hard.  The baby giraffe was a bit shy and hard to get a good photo as it was really pretty far away.

While we were there only a few hours it was easy to navigate through the entire zoo.  I believe that we walked to every part that was accessible to visitors.  Also as this was a week day there weren't as many people there as perhaps on a week end.  There were still quite a few people there with their children as it was the last week of school break for many of the kids.

Dillon's Restaurant.
The restaurant is technically outside of the Zoo.  However the waitstaff will ask you if you would like your hand stamped when you enter from the zoo side.  So that was pretty easy and you didn't have to ask how that worked. You can also sit inside or on the patio next to the Flamingo's.  A sheet of plastic separates you from the bird.  They can be a little noisy.

The menu has a pretty varied selection of food and the price was reasonable.  The club sandwich I had there was pretty good.  Our waitress was efficient and friendly.

Overall impression;
I enjoyed myself at this zoo.  While it doesn't have many of the bigger mammals as the Phoenix Zoo it does offer some very nice opportunities to view animals, in some cases, close up without glass.  There are partition ropes that define the walking path.  The walking areas were nice and several elevated platforms put you in a position to view animals without trying to see over a fence.  More kid friendly.

Yes I'll go back.  I had a good time.

Travel smart Travel safe.