This, that and the other thing Part Deux

•September 29, 2014 • 4 Comments

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VCAnother great lens and another disappointment from the big 2 of camera manufacturers, Canon and Nikon.

Above is a photo of the to be released Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC. I don’t EVER get excited about camera equipment. In fact it’s unusual for me to write about camera equipment so soon after I posted about the new Samyang full frame fisheye lens.

Although this lens has yet to be released for sale the reviews that I have seen of it make it look like everything I was hoping for. Tamron is saying that it should be the optical equivalent of Nikon’s 12-24 f2.8 super wide angle. You just have to know that this lens will cost less than either of Nikon’s or Canon’s offerings. Another great example of technology adept smaller companies moving faster than their glacier slow giant counterparts. Isn’t this what free enterprise is all about? Whoever offers the best product for the best price wins? This is a win-win situation for the consumer. Either Nikon and Canon wise up or there will be an ever growing stream of buyers switching from mainstream brand lenses to companies like Samyang, Tamron and Vivitar. I have no allegiance to any company. I ain’t no fanboy. Whoever offers the best product/price combination gets my business. Nikon and Canon don’t and will never pay me to be their spokesman and I would gladly turn down that offer if it should ever happen but alas I am but a tiny voice in a huge world. More on that a few graphs down.

I know how sharp the Nikon 14-24 is because I have owned one for a few years. In fact it is one of the major reasons that I jumped from Canon after almost thirty years to switch completely over to Nikon. The lens was VISUALLY superior to my Canon 16-35 F2.8. I am not talking about sharper on paper but the images was head and shoulders better looking at prints one against the other. When Nikon made the jump to 36.3 megapixels the difference was even greater. Almost three years later Canon is still wallowing behind with their products for the landscape or studio photographer.

So what has Canon done lately for the still landscape or studio photographer? Well, they released a newer and sharper wide angle lens that is f4. Huh? F4? WTF! When the light is getting low have you tried to focus? Have you tried shooting night skies at f4? Where Canon’s head was at when they released this lens is beyond baffling.

What Canon has done is release a bunch of new products for the videographer? Huh? Most people still and video shooters unless they are professionals or very serious amateurs is use their smart phones.

Canon's most stupid idea ever!

Okay, finally a product for the serious photog. From the website Canonrumors.com.

“Canon and Stella McCartney have announced an exclusive collaboration unveiling the limited edition Linda camera bag. Named after Stella’s mother and specially designed for the Canon EOS 100D White, the Linda camera bag combines fashion and technology with creativity and style.”

Huh? Say what? Just what I always wanted. Again from Canonrumors,  “A limited run of 1,000 bags will be produced and will only be available as a special package with the EOS 100D White. Within the UK, the package will be available from Harrods and Selfridges for £1,200.”

I better hurry and get one before they are all sold out and in white too because we all know anything white will stay looking clean and not dirty after a couple of uses. Who was the genius that thought of this?

When I worked for the Journal here in Edmonton we would occasionally get a consultant from back east who knew nothing about newspapers and we’d end up with a similarly boneheaded idea like the above one. Not a knock against the late Linda McCartney but aside from who she was married to what makes her famous enough to have equipment named/designed after/for her?

Canon needs to get back into the still photography business and seriously look at what their customers what and not what they think they want or what is cute today.

Have you ever noticed the same photographers getting all the attention on the photo websites that you frequent? Why do they get all the comments on their photos and you don’t? It aint by accident.

I learned in photo school many years ago that the most successful photographer isn’t the best photographer. It’s the one who has the smarts to market themselves who gets the business. Many years ago there was a fine art/wedding/portrait photographer her in Edmonton who was able to charge huge sums for his very average photos. I met him once while I was at NAIT where I took photography. He was a guest speaker for a class of mine one morning. His photos were average but his selling skills were SUPREME and people bought into it. He was of Dutch descent and called himself a Dutch Master, comparing himself in his advertising to the real Dutch master Rembrandt. People lapped that stuff up and he made a ton of money with his schtick. He could have just as easily done that in real estate or selling used cars. Kinda sad really for those who can’t or don’t know how to market themselves and they sit on the sidelines with all that talent not being recognized.

Digital Photographer

This is where the self marketing comes in.

You want to make money with your landscape photographs?

I got an email last week from a photography student asking me what the daily rate is for shooting landscape photos. Sadly there is no such thing although the current issue of Digital Photographer magazine would argue with me. This magazine like all magazines and businesses are run with the idea in mind of turning a profit. They are NOT there for altruistic reasons. Knowing that you can read these articles and sort the baloney and hype from the fact. Very little fact. Lots of sell, sell, sell. They want YOUR money. It’s not a secret. Be aware of that when youread these things.

You might be a photographer who shoots landscapes and makes the majority of your income by leading groups or giving workshops online or in person but if you are a person who makes the majority of their income by actually shooting landscapes you are like the unicorn. I won’t believe it until I see it.

The article has many great ideas on how to become a professional landscape photographer because like models and actors this world doesn’t have enough. LOL My advice to anyone starting out is unless you are the one in a million person like the one who becomes a career NHL player or super model you won’t be doing that your whole life or you will be doing it in near poverty unless you have a solid career to fall back on. Articles like this prey on those who naively believe that they can do it. I am not saying that it is impossible but you stand a better chance of winning the lottery, it’s the same as being struck by lightning and how many people do you know who have done either? LOL

Also inside are suggestions like getting yourself noticed on the internet and social media. That might interest some people which also might explain why selfies are so popular. :)

That’s enough bitching for today I can go back to being relatively anonymous and not worry about how many views I am trending on 500px, photonet or flickr. Photography is a great past time and creative outlet. There are also many preying on you for your hard earned dollar. Be smart with where or who you spend your money on.

The photography has been great around here for the last week or so and sadly today’s winds will probably strip most of the remaining colorful leaves from the trees.

Happy shooting,

Dan

 

A crack in the magnetosphere and this is what you get…

•September 24, 2014 • 8 Comments

Pond and Highway

For reasons unknown to me the time of equinoxes, when day and night are equal in length are great for displays of the northern lights or the aurora borealis.

Last night the website Spaceweather.com mentioned that although there weren’t any great ejections from the sun coming earthward things sometimes happen high above the earth that allow the solar wind to pour over our upper atmosphere creating dazzling displays of light.

With clear skies forecast early in the evening I kept an eye on two websites to help me decide if it was worth taking a drive north of our city. By 9:30 p.m. the website Ovation Aurora which shows polar displays of magnetic activity was showing a flood of color over the Atlantic Ocean and eastern North America. It didn’t take me too long to decide to grab my camera and head out.

Ovation Website

Above is a screen capture of the website just after I returned home. It was taken around 12:30 a.m. The solid red line indicates the southern most point where the aurora will be visible. Where I live is just below the red line.

Shortly after leaving the city I noticed a swath of green light arcing over the northern horizon. A good sign. I could see stars and the beginning of a display.

Ten minutes later as I was making my way northerly and away from the city, the north eastern horizon turned a brilliant shade of green with a giant swirl of light moving southward. I was stuck in a valley, trees and power lines above me blocking the aurora. This was around 10:00 p.m.  A few minutes later and the arc was already fading but I had arrived at one of my favorite old prairie churches.

Out of the Rav I hopped, my camera gear already pre-focused and the exposure set I only had to place the tripod on the ground, compose and release the shutter.

As I was photographing the smaller of two churches that sit on this lot I could hear a vehicle coming up behind me on the highway. I continued to take photos as the headlights of the car illuminated the church and then passed on by.

Prairie ChurchBehind the church is where the huge swirl that I described earlier was. By this time it was already flattening out and fading. As you can see the aurora is still not overhead but towards the northern horizon.

Church Cross and Aurora

Another vehicle was approaching so I positioned myself near the cross and pointed the camera northward. As the car passed along the highway it lit up the larger of the two churches .

As quickly as the aurora had appeared they seemed to be fading. I grabbed my gear again and made my way a few kilometers north to another more picturesque church.

Church and Aurora

In this photo you can see the aurora have already receded. I hung around for a bit longer and then started my way back home.

I arrived home shortly before 12:30. The first thing I did was to check the Aurorawatch website. It charts the amount of activity that contributes to auroras at our latitude. My experience has been that if I wait for it to show that things are great they have disappeared before I can get to a suitable spot. It shows the activity in bars for the past hour by hour.

Today

This graph displays exactly what I saw. The dark yellow peak on the chart was exactly the time I saw the giant green swirl in the sky.

I quickly did a rough edit of images that I know will never be developed and deleted them. A blueberry muffin later and I was in bed, head on my pillow only to find myself having a terrible dream about having to stay late at work.

The dream/nightmare woke me up before 5:30 a.m. I quickly remembered that I was retired and who gives an “eff” excuse my French about work anymore. It seemed so silly to be worried about a place I haven’t been to for over two years. LOL

By 7:15 a.m. the sky to the east was a spectacular orange and gold. Too late to get out for morning pics.

Half a pot of coffee and another blueberry muffin later I will hit the “publish” button on this post and take Cooper for our daily hour and a half morning walk before it gets too warm.

Look forward to your retirement, the dreams of work will seem more silly than serious. LOL

Happy shooting,

Dan

A tease of Aurora Borealis and then it’s gone…

•September 19, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Prairie Church and Aurora

Last night was interesting to say the least. It was predicted that there would be a great display of the aurora borealis (northern lights) on Thursday night, September 17. With clear skies I anxiously awaited the moment to hop in the Rav and head for the hills.

Time ticked. Hours passed. Nothing. Off to bed I went. The next day on the spaceweather website an article mentioned about how the aurora had missed earth. The predictions were incorrect.

With nothing forecast for a few days I had no plans of doing any aurora forecast but last night around nine-thirty p.m. local time I checked the Ovation Aurora website and saw a huge swath of green covering the eastern part of North America. Wow! This looked promising but the weather forecast was for cloudy skies overnight with a chance of rain. Pfffft.

Out of curiosity I opened the back door and walked onto our deck. Looking up between the tall maples in the yard I could see stars twinkling. Should I go? I could see a few faint clouds low on the western horizon.

I quickly set the camera up. I have a small scratch on the lens barrels of the lenses that I use for night photography. The scratch marks infinity. It’s difficult to focus at night. This is a time saver. The camera exposure was set to manual. From previous shoots I found that ISO 1000, F2.0 at 8 seconds is a good starting point. If the display on the back of the camera is too light or dark it is easily adjusted by changing the aperture or increasing/decreasing the exposure. I use ISO 1000 because with my camera body I find that it is easy to reduce and eliminate almost all image noise.

Cemetery and Aurora

I grabbed my little headlamp and phone and headed off.

We have had unseasonably warm September weather reaching the low 20’s Celsius during the day. It was also warm during the evening.

Half an hour later and I was pulling off the highway to the little churches and cemetery by the side of the road. A hundred meters in front of me was the second church. I thought that I saw the reflection of tail lights as I pulled up and sure enough as I got out I could hear voices in the distance. Probably photographers doing the same as I. A minute later they were in their vehicle and driving away leaving me the church and cemetery to myself.

Already clouds were starting to fill the sky. Should I stay and hope the skies cleared? I decided to shoot what I could. The aurora seemed to be more obscured by the clouds than making themselves visible but that’s nature photography. You take what you can get.

Half an hour later the skies were completely overcast and I was on my way home.

Another day on the prairie,

Happy shooting,

Dan

This, that and the other thing…

•September 13, 2014 • 12 Comments

1023768

You might ask what a picture of a yet to be released lens is doing at the top of this blog because I seldom write about camera equipment.

Samyang is among other things a company based out of South Korea. Since 1972 they’ve been manufacturing all manner of optics. It has only been in the last ten years that they have begun to specialize in camera lenses, specifically designing and manufacturing their own.

I remember ages ago when I first heard about Datsun, now Nissan, Toyota and Honda. Their cars weren’t the best. My youngest sister had all kinds of problems with her then new Honda. Fast forward 40 years and these once fringe auto manufacturers are now mainstream and considered to be the “establishment”. Now it is THEY who are expensive and fraught with problems just like North American vehicles used to be. In step a few companies like Kia from South Korea and what they are doing seems similar to what happened many years ago with the Japanese autos. Built as good and more affordable they are stealing business from the Japanese, North American and European vehicle makers.

That is exactly what is happening to camera lenses. I’ve used Canon equipment exclusively for over thirty years. I have no particular allegiance to them. Their gear was as good as Nikon and at work we got a great professional discount from Canon. A few years ago I bought my first Nikon lens, a 14-24 and with an adapter used it on my Canon camera body. I bought the lens because there was nothing comparable to it made by Canon. It was a bit of a hassle to not have autofocus or to have to manually stop the lens down but the lens was so much better than my Canon 16-35 that it was worth the extra effort. I am not a camera equipment fanboy. I use what I find is the best compromise between quality and price.

A short while back my interest in astrophotography was piqued. When shooting the night skies it is best to have wide lenses with fast maximum apertures. When photographing points of light like stars lens quality is quickly noticeable. Round stars become elongated or fuzzy. The solution? Buy a fast Canon or Nikon lens that is well corrected for around $2000. The problem is that Canon or Nikon for that money can’t seem to make well corrected lenses for that or any amount of money.

In steps Samyang also marketed as Rokinon or Bower. Doing what the Japanese automakers did in the seventies they are producing lenses that are equal in optic to the mainstream biggies, Nikon and Canon at about a THIRD to a QUARTER of the cost!

I now have three of these lenses. They don’t have autofocus, that would bump up the price but autofocus isn’t needed when shooting at night. The quality although not perfect is equal to or in some cases better than those made by Nikon or Canon. Go figure, a two thousand dollar Canon lens that is NOT as good optically as a South Korean lens for four hundred dollars.

Samyang has just teased this lens and already I know that I will be buying it before I even know the price. Why? Because based on past experience it will be cheaper and as good or better as Canon or Nikon’s lenses. There is always something better like the recently released Zeiss 85mm f1.4 but FOUR FREAKING THOUSAND DOLLARS for a lens that doesn’t even have autofocus? Crazy. Just like high end stereo equipment there will always be someone who will buy it and good on them.

I blogged a while ago about how slow Canon and Nikon have been to adapt the new economics of photography. Their businesses are suffering. Everyone seems to take pics with their phones these days, same with video so like newspapers who buys the larger, clunkier and more expensive gear? Less and less of us. Canon seems to be more into video these days and the lens that I was always waiting for a version of Nikon’s legendary 14-24 has still not been even teased this many years later. You’ve got to adapt and give the customer what they want or they will move on just like I did. I am waiting for the day that Samyang starts producing their own camera bodies. :)

Next.

What was probably the most impressive display of northern lights in the past few years was obscured by clouds last night. Again! It seems that almost every time a great night is forecast for the aurora, clouds seem to make their appearance. That’s what makes shooting them so appealing. If it was too easy, it wouldn’t be as desirable.

Next.

The foothills and mountains of Alberta are forecast to be warm and sunny next week and I am finally taking off to the mountains. My next post will probably be with pics from then. I am finally getting interested in getting out for some old fashioned Alberta landscapes.

Till then,

Happy shooting,

Dan

Finally a golden autumn in Alberta

•September 8, 2014 • 3 Comments

Alberta highway camera

You wouldn’t ever know it by looking at the photo taken by the Alberta Government’s highway camera this morning but we will be having a splendidly colorful autumn here in Alberta.

The last few years have been disappointing when it came to fall. We have had such warm Septembers without cool and frosty temperatures that whatever the triggering mechanism that stop trees from producing chlorophyll never really got it’s start. Instead, foliage seemed to dry up, turn brown and fall off.

That won’t be the case this year. The next few evenings have forecasts below freezing for most of our province. All of the fallen snow will have melted except for that high up on the mountain tops. In all my sixty years living in Alberta I don’t remember seeing so much snow this early not at least by a week in the mountains.

With temperatures forecast in the low twenty degrees Celsius for the weekend and sunny skies it is only a matter of days before the poplars and aspens go golden.

Enjoy autumn because it is officially here!

Happy shooting,

Dan

It’s in the air… you can feel it

•August 26, 2014 • 8 Comments

Autumn

You can feel and see the changes. Subtle changes. It’s getting dark earlier. The sun isn’t up before me anymore. There is a chill in the morning air.

The crows that were raising the young of the year and making an ungodly racket when feeding have moved on now that their babies are mobile. Flecks of gold and red dot the cotoneaster hedge that lines our back yard. All of these things are signs of summer coming to an end.

Autumn is almost upon us. In rural Alberta canola crops are being harvested their yellow blossoms long gone. Fields of wheat have turned golden. For farmers autumn is here. For the rest of us it is only a few short weeks away.

I don’t have much to say so this will probably be the shortest post I have made since I started blogging a few years back.

I’m starting to develop a love/hate relationship with the internet and photography. All of the horn blowing and “look at me”, “if you like my pictures, click like my Facebook page”, is turning me off from posting. I intend to keep a lower profile. Photography has become an introspective thing for me. I don’t seek to become famous or rich because of it. In fact I shun publicity and the attention that comes with it. What does that say about me? Maybe I’m weird or strange? Maybe, but I’ve never been happier or more at peace with who I am.

Happy shooting,

Dan

 

Leader or follower? Which one are you?

•August 5, 2014 • 4 Comments

The road less traveled

I am a fiercely competitive person. Not in everything just things that are important to me.

Being competitive means different things to different people. With the arts it’s hard to quantify success. In business it means the most profit. In sports, the quickest, the strongest, etc.

In the arts what does it mean to be successful. To some it’s recognition. Having the most followers on Facebook or Twitter is a gauge for some. For others including me that is the farthest thing from my mind.

Getting thousands of followers is not something that usually happens by accident. It’s work to get recognized by the public at large. Maybe I’m too lazy? Maybe I just could care less about being popular?

Perhaps we’re born one way or the other because I have always chosen the path less traveled. My music was never mainstream. My clothing was for a while let’s just call it different. LOL

I have always wanted to do my best. That is what makes me competitive. Seeing others photos has always been a great motivation. For all the photos that have had me do a double or triple take I can’t think of one that I made a conscious effort to emulate. There are a few landscape shooters whose body of work I admire but the last thing I will ever do is outright try to photograph the same thing the same way they do. A very creative fellow that I worked with many years ago was blessed with the gift of creativity. In the space of a few minutes he could come up with a half dozen great concepts. That’s the hard part. Executing any kind of photo when it comes down to it is mechanical. There is a formula that if understood and followed makes it easy to get “great looking” images.

Making your “great looking” images different from everyone else is the difficult part. Every once in a while when shooting outdoors I get struck with one of those eureka moments. It’s like wow, why have I never done/thought of this before?

The leaders are usually the ones who aren’t afraid to be different and try to NOT be like everyone else. The risk, it’s not really a risk is that you won’t become popular. To that I say, big deal.

The road less traveled has always been the one that has welcomed me.

Happy shooting,

Dan

 
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