Powered by Blogger.


Monday, December 31, 2007

Taking our friends back down to Phoenix, stopped at Sedona for a little photo time.
I like the shops at the Tlaquepaque, because of the courtyard and lots of shadow.

Spanish Tile.

Sycamore in the shade.

Maximum security.

Posted by Picasa

New Links

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I have added several links on the right hand column of this blog.

Most important are the ones take you to manufacturer's instruction manual download location.

I find it easier to reference the PDF files than flipping through the pages of a printed manual. Also, if you have purchased any used gear, you may not have the manual with it to begin with.

Some of the older gears are scanned manuals, for harder to find manuals, check out butkus, which has tons of obscure equipment manuals online, it is a free site, asking for donation only, if you find it useful, please consider donating to his effort.

Have fun, oh, and Happy New Year!

New Photo Gear

Thursday, December 27, 2007

One of my Christmas present.

I have been looking for a light stand kit, so I can focus more on portraits. Found it while scanning through BHPhoto catalog. Very nice price, free shipping (heh heh, can't beat that). Ordered it on Wednesday, and arrived next Monday.

The kit consists of:
• 2 x 32" Convertible Umbrella
• 2 x Umbrella Bracket
• 2 x Air Cushioned Black Stand

The umbrella is white with removable black backing. After a brief test as bounce/reflector, I promptly removed the backing and used the umbrella like a soft box.

The flash bracket is made of pastic, but does not feel cheap. It swivels easily, and contains studs that will let me mount it on a light stand, and accepts the cold shoe mount. Strangely, my Nikon SB-600 will not slide in to the cold shoe mount. I had to use my flash stand instead. I might file that down later.
The biggest surprise are the light stands. They are light, air-cushioned, and reaches 8' high. They feel very well made, and sturdy (with the umbrella kit). Not sure if it can handle larger umbrellas.
I only used one of the set, and tested with the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) using the Nikon D70. I really like the way it turned out. Setup the system as a makeshift light box, the light is really nice.

My quick setup.

And a quick portrait shot of a beautiful volunteer model, :~).

Shot with 18-70mm kit lens at 55mm. The camera is about 3 feet from Sarah, and flash is to my left, about 4-5 feet from Sarah. The D70 was set to Commander mode, TTL. I post processed because she didn't have the right makeup on for a color picture, :~)

Now I am scanning through EBay for another flash to add to my setup. The flash that I wanted (SB-24, 25, 26, 28/dx, 80dx) are way out of what I want to pay at this time, DAMN Strobist! :~). I might hit the local pawn shops this weekend, what the heck....

Overall, I am very pleased with this purchase. I guess this is just the beginning of my spending spree for more gear acquisition: let's see, Nikon CLS is nice, but it is an optical triggering system, which has some limitation. I'd invest in RF wireless triggering style system down the road. Once I get the hang of off camera flash.

Merry Christmas from Flagstaff!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All!

Rare oppurtunity in front of a camera for me, :)
Sarah - her hands are frozen by now...
Posted by Picasa

AZ Snowbowl is OPEN!

It's been tough with the Snowbowl operator for the past couple of years. Snow making is not allowed at this time on the peaks, so it is important for natural snow to fill the slopes. With the storm from a couple of weeks ago (we had 2 feet by our house), Snowbowl is open for happy skiers and snowboarders. I haven't been there with snow, so this is cool to check it out. Now my wife wants to ski, and she would like me to accompany her......
Map of the slopes.

Bunny slope, I like it, since it is very open, you don't have to worry too much about bumping into others. I've only skied one other time, and it looks like my wife will talk me into going up there on Christmas day, hope I won't hurt myself, :~)

I like the open space, and it wasn't too busy for a Saturday afternoon, unlike our trip to the White Mountains - when Snowbowl was closed due to lack of snow.

This is the moderate slope. We didn't get to the black diamond, but I took the lift up this Fall, and it was pretty scary looking slope.

Posted by Picasa

Painted Desert

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I feel really fortunate to live so close to so many photogenic locations. A little over an hour north of Flagstaff, past town of Cameron, highway 89 runs right along Painted Desert. Magnificant colors in the layers of eroded hills is truly amazing.

Tire Track.

One small step for (a) man.....

Exposure by Erosion.
Posted by Picasa

Buying an Digital SLR?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Although I have not outgrown my current DSLRs, I still dream about a new DSLR body, I dunno, doesn't cost anything to dream, I guess, :). I am using D70, Pentax DL, and Canon SD400 (carry around).

I created a list of features that I use to justify a possible purchase, and hopefully might be helpful to others who's looking into buying their first DSLR, or upgrade. The list is not in any order of importance:

  1. Existing gear.
  2. TYpe of memory card.
  3. Handling and feel of the camera.
  4. Purpose.
  5. Anti-shake, vibration reduction.
  6. Sensor cleaning feature.
  7. Size and resolution of LCD display.
  8. View finder.
  9. Keep your old digital P&S.
  10. Battery type.

1 - Do you currently own a SLR? Are the old lenses compatible with the DSLR system you are considering?

You will soon realize that your investment does not stop at camera body and the kit lens, but additional lens will soon be on your shopping list, and they don't come cheap. If you have considerable investment in quality glasses already, consider a DSLR with the same lens mount. For people who have older flashes, it actually does not make too much of a difference. Most modern DSLR incorporates a new type of TTL system that older flashes may not support. Don't throw them away, because it is possible for you to use them for off camera flash in the future.

2 - Existing memory cards: this is really not a big deal any more. The cost of compact flash and SD format are so cheap now, even if they are not compatible with the new system you are looking at, it is really not much to spend down the road. With 2GB SD card costing 20 bucks or so, this shouldn't be a limiting factor in the DSLR purchase any more.

3 - Handling: this is really more about how it feels in your hands.
Pick one up, and see how it feels. Wrap your fingers around the grip and see if it is comfortable. How does the surface of the camera feel? What about the size, is it too big, too small, too heavy?

Will your spouse/partner be using this camera, too? Get him/her to try it out also. Many newer cameras are heading towards the pettite size, some are comfortable, while some sacrifice comfort for people with larger hands - this might be important as you try to justify an upgrade later on, :~).

4 - Purpose: Define reasons why you are making this purchase.
Making larger prints? Faster autofocus performance, frames per second (sporting events)? Wildlife photography (super tele)? Perhaps going pro, or the business of Wedding photography?

I always refer to Thom Hogan's article on print size (http://www.bythom.com/printsizes.htm) based on megapixel (MP). I have made 11x13 prints with images from my D70, I'd say I am very happy with the print. Since both of my cameras are 6mp, to make the jump based on MP, I really need to go to 10MP, since there's not a big difference between 6 and 8 MP to justify the upgrade - if that's the only feature.

Will I make bigger prints than that? I am not sure, most likely no. In my research, I am considering higher MP count mainly because I do considerable cropping on some shots. But if you see a need to make larger prints in your future, you do have to factor in higher megapixel count. But if your shots are mostly viewing on compurer screen, or occasional 5x7 (or even 8x10), 6 MP cameras will do just fine, the money saved can be put toward additional lens or other accessories (flash, tripod, bags, etc).

Regarding faster focus performance, or shutter lag, I am mainly comparing this with point and shoot digitals, and there's really no comparison. I have not used that many SLR systems, but I know between my Nikon and Pentax (with kit 18-55 mm lens), Pentax is on the sluggish side, but it should still satisfy normal every day use.

Lens availability - both new and used. I purchased the Pentax camera simply because I want to use some of the older Pentax offerings (screw mount and manual k-mount). They are cheap and widely available from Ebay and used camera stores, and some are incredibly sharp. The ability to use older Pentax screw mount lens is not limited to Pentax cameras only, Canon and Olympus both can utilize a mounting kit, and allow you to use these widely available lenses. But the idea is mainly for future growth. A camera maker may offer 50 plus lenses in their line up, but that does not mean you have to purchase everyone of them! But broader offering is a way to glance into the future of your current investment. You may not need it now, but once you move to the next level with your photographic skill, having that special lens as an available option can be important.

Wedding photography - This is one area where "image" plays an important part. Image as in the type of gear you are using. If you show up at a paid assignment with Nikon D40, which uncle Joe and a host of others might also be using, it may create an issue for future assignment, in which bride/groom may think "so and so can do this for us, he/she's got the same camera!". I know, its the final product that counts, but booming DSLR market has created a slight problem in this regard. I am not saying you should purchase a Canon Mark III, Nikon D3, that's not the case. But mid range prosumer models might be the minimum you have to purchase.

5 - Built-in stabilization/anti-shake: Since I have already bought into the Nikon line, and my next camera body will most likely be another Nikon, this does not look promising for me. If I am starting out now on a new system, I'd have to say this is a very nice feature to have. If you ever had to take your tripod with you to shoot low light scene, that extra weight and bulkiness of the tripod is really a drag. Having an in-body antishake option makes some low light shooting possible without the extra gears. The really nice thing about this feature is that it is not lens dependent, so every lens you can mount on this type of camera can take advantage of this feature. Nikon and Canon still offers vibration reduction (VR) and image stabilization (IS) with the lens, that means you have to puchase this feature with every lens - if that feature is even available! Check out Sony/Minolta (all models), Olympus/Panasonic (not all models), and Pentax (K10d, K100d) with this feature.

6 - Sensor cleaning: This is a really nasty issue. With film, since you advance the film every time you wind it, the dust/dirt have less of a chance to create an issue with your shots. But with digital sensor, since it is in a fixed position, so specks of dust will show up on your images. At this time, from what I have read on-line, Olympus' Super Sonic Wave Filter is really the only system that is useful. The other offerings at this time does not really do a good job. None of my cameras have this feature, so I can't comment on it.

Sensor cleaning is really not very hard, but it is more of an inconvenience to me. I usually detect the dust after a shoot, since I don't usually clean the sensor before each outing. If that's what I need to do, I guess I'll just have to include that function into my workflow, but it is a pain. So to me, since the effectiveness of this built-in sensor cleaning is questionable at this time, this is not really a must for me.

7 - BIG LCD display: This is pretty much the standard issue now with newer SLRs. But if you are considering an used DSLR, this might be an issue, but shouldn't be a real deal killer.

8 - View finder: I prefer the larger, brighter view finder of the Pentax DL compared to the D70. The real nice view finder I like is the old Minolta 7000 film SLR, what a difference. Check out the view finder in person. I have heard people complaining about the view finder of the Olympus cameras, it has some type of tunnel effect. I can't say I have noticed it, but I don't use that system.

9 - Whatever you do, if you already have a P&S digicam, don't get rid of it. DSLR is nice, but having a smaller carry everywhere camera means you have less of a chance of missing shots.

10 - Battery system: Most of the DSLR utilizes Lithium-Ion rechargeables. Strange thing is, it seems like everytime a new DSLR is introduced, a different battery/charger is introduced at the same time. My personal preference is using recharageable AA NiMH batteries. At this time, only Pentax is still using these batteries (except for K10d). I have had over 500 shots per charge of nicely matched high capacity AA batteries on my DL, and they are fairly easy to obtain, and in a pinch, you can run to grocery store to pick up a set.

If you have set your mind on AA batteries, there's not much choice, Pentax or older Fuji S1/S2/S3 Pro are the only choices.


So at this time, my personal preference is to stay with the Nikon system, because of the investment I have made with Nikon equipment, it is really just simple economics; for better pricing, I have no problem going with used D80 or D200. I have 3 primary lenses that I use: 18-70 kit, 50mm f1.8 prime for portraits, and 80-200 f2.8 for tele and portraits (bought used).

This is really a hobby for me, and I do have to think about my retirement, :~). Pentax's K10D is a possibility with anti-shake, weather seal, 10MP, top notch prime lenses available (I do have to make new purchases).

Did I miss anything? Feel free to add your comments.

Fiery Sky

Spent 7 days this past week in the Tampa area.

Worked most of the time at the company HQ, and it was pretty much dark by the time I got out of work. I was lucky enough to capture this the day before I left. This is upper Tampa Bay, right off Courtney Campbell Parkway.

I lived 10 years in the area, but after this week, I am really glad that I don't live there now - I couldn't stand the traffic!! I guess a year after leaving the area, I am now used to the slower pace at Flagstaff.

Shot with Nikon D70 at 18mm, handheld.
Posted by Picasa

Fenced Out

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Along side Highway 89, north of Cameron, AZ. Next to the beautiful Chinle Formation, and part of the vast Painted Desert.

Who ever put up this fence spent a small fortune, since it was miles and miles of fence. Not quite sure if they are keeping things out or in.

Pentax DL with kit lens. Simple B&W conversion with Picasa.
Posted by Picasa

Aerial photo

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Hoover Dam and Lake Meade.


Not quite sure, but I believe that's Yosemite down below. El Capitan and Half Dome on the right?? Correct me if I am wrong.

Leave SFO, looking back at the Golden Gate bridge.

Shots were taken with Canon SD400, really pushing the 5 MP and its lense to the edge. Plus the normal dirty window didn't help out of the plane, :). The Vegas shot really shows the limitation. Really didn't take any pictures during the week, it was a dreary week, plus I had to work late every day.........
Posted by Picasa

Traveling woes

Just finished a trip to San Francisco area (Redwood City), tough trip travel wise..
Late arriving at SF due to wind and fog, then coming back, wind caused a delay leaving SF airport, so naturally, missed my connection from Phoenix to Flagstaff. Ended up renting a car and drove up in heavy rain and wind. The cloud was low, so I was driving through heavy fog from time to time. I snapped this shot hoping to capture the rain, but, the wavy lights looks kind of cool. Don't worry, I put the camera down right afterwards, so I can focus on driving. Kind of like talking on a cell phone while driving - not a good idea.

Posted by Picasa

Day After

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Just 1 day after the cloudy, windy, rainy, and snowy day, we have a clear, almost cloudless day. Even though temperature still hoving around 35 degrees.....

I like the snow covered peaks, after living 16 years in West Texas, 10 years in Florida, seeing snow is kind of exciting. Ask me about snow when I have to shuffle the side walk and drive way, though, :)
Route 66 with Peaks in the background.
Colorful freight containers.

Posted by Picasa

First Snow - 2007

Saturday, December 1, 2007

First snow of the year in Flagstaff. Didn't stick to the ground, but definitely look nice on the mountain close by.
This is Mt. Eldon, I am sure San Francisco Peaks received more snow due to elevation, but it was too cloudy to see any of the peaks.

Back Yard, but all melted within an hour.

Mt. Eldon from the neighborhood street.

Mt. Eldon, peeking through the cloud.

Mt. Eldon, from Eldon Trail-head parking.
Shot with Pentax DL with 18-55mm Kit lens.
Posted by Picasa

Most Reading