Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tripod or not on trips

To recap, I have two tripods:  a Manfrotto MKC3-P01and an OPUS OT-1104BH.  I love both.  They are not the best and you know you are compromising when the price is affordable.  You know what I mean--you make an adjustment, you let go, and the camera tilts down a bit.  It's a bit annoying but you learn to compensate for it.  Anyhow, these tripods have gone to faraway places with me, but often, they stay in my backpack.

On a recent trip to New York City, I decided not to bring a tripod.  I knew I'd spend most of the time walking around during the day but given that days end about 4:30pm at the time, I also knew I'd spent quite a bit of time walking in the dark.  It would make sense to bring a tripod.  I decided against it however.  First, I was doing a lot of walking.  Any weight I could save meant a world to me toward the end of the day.  I decided instead to rely on the camera's ability to work with high ISO settings, and to work with existing street structures to prop against or rest on, and whatever else I could use.

Many photos turned out a fuzzy but some turned out not too bad.  I had to do some sharpening for night shots:

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sensor cleaning nightmare

When you are in trouble, you know it.  It happened to me yesterday as I was trying to perform yet another wet cleaning operation on my D7000 sensor.  It started with the nasty field of bunnies on the right.

I was taking some pictures at f/14 and can clearly see some bunny spots in the blue sky.  That was annoying, so I had to look at the sensor.  It was dirty alright and for some reason, the bunnies were concentrating in the far right of the sensor as you can see here.  They were visible with the naked eyes.  I did not need to use the SensorKlear Loupe I purchased from the photo show a couple of years ago--btw, I highly recommend this loupe if you are doing any cleaning with your sensor.

Blowing air did nothing to remove the bunnies.  They were bonded to the sensor.  I did not try to Artic Butterfly and instead went straight to wet cleaning.  That's when things went kinda downhill.

On the first pass, the Pec Pad removed most of the bunnies but at the same time left streaks on the sensor.  The VisibleDust cleaning solution left residues behind as it dried.  The streaks were all over the sensor and even without the SensorKlear Loupe, I was able to see the streaks very clearly with my naked eyes.  So, I grabbed another Pec Pad and cleaned the sensor once more.  Again, streaks all over.  I tried yet once more.  Same results.  I knew it was not dust but residues from the solution.  Does the solution have an expiry date?  Maybe the alcohol has evaporated?  I really don't know but I must have tried cleaning the sensor five more times before I could get a clear sensor.

BTW, my sensor has this halo ring in the lower left corner.  It looks permanent to me as I see it in the other shots I took a couple of years ago.  Darn it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Roaming around Toronto on my bike

I find myself using my LG P500h phone camera more these days than before.  It would seem to be available all the time as I need to carry it with me on my belt wherever I go.  It would also seem to be heck more convenient than carrying a large DSLR.  Many of the times, it would be fine.  I may not need to zoom in or may not need to deal with high contrast lighting conditions.

This afternoon, I went to cash in my lottery ticket--a whopping $125!  I decided afterwards to go find the graffiti alley.  It's somewhere in Toronto but I do not know where it is yet, and don't want to look it up and don't want anyone to tell me where it is.  One day, I will run into it and that's how it will keep my biking more interesting these days.  Anyway, I went biking around searching for the graffity alley so I started covering some new territories of downtown Toronto.  I knew the alley is not where I went but I decided to hit a street I have never been to--Mercer Street on the north side of Gretsky's and The Second City.  There, I found behind a building this refuse storage, overflowing with bags of garbage, the doors bashed open.  Yuck!  I cannot imagine how it will be like in the summer heat of Toronto.  That will be disgusting.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

My backyard

My backyard has changed from the lush greens in the summer and couple of feet of snow in the winter to steel, glass, and concrete year round.

I did not think much about this when I was looking for a place in Toronto, but since I was a kid, I always thought it would be cool to live in a high-rise in a downtown area with the glitters of city lights poking through the glass windows.

My backyard.
Well, I am now fifteen floors up and the view is not too bad.  Facing south, I can see some parts of the Toronto Islands and parts of Lake Ontario.  On a normal day, there is enough light out there I could walk around my place without turning on my lights.  On a foggy night, the view could be quite interesting.  I will see how winter will shape the scene--we just had the first snow fall this year in this area and temperature has fallen down to -1 degree this morning.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The street reporter

I have not posted anything for a while but I have been out there shooting.  Sometimes, it's lugging my two DSLRs around, and sometimes, it's just--wait a second, something just dawned on me ... did I miss the Henry's Exposure photo show this fall or maybe they cut the show down to only one per year--about running into something interesting while biking around.  And for that, I need something light, like my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30 that I purchased a while ago for $70.  The built-in telephoto lens on this camera is perfect for the ride-about that I do from time to time or the ride to work that I do everyday.

Just yesterday, I ran across an area cordoned off by police.  It was on my usual, daily bike route.  Some car was pulled over earlier in the day (apparently not by random chance) and some small explosive was found in a gym bag in the trunk.  The event had already unfolded by the time I got there but I got a glimpse of the scene.  It would have been more interesting had I witnessed the detonation of the explosive that the police had set off--well, maybe they would have cordoned off a bigger area so I might not have been able to capture anything then.  Anyways, I feel like an amateur street reporter with a cheap camera on hand.

It's almost 8am.  I gotta start preparing to go to work.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Amazon sucks

Ok, so last year, I ordered this studio umbrella set for about $80.  That was last November.  Today is July and it has not been shipped yet!

I thought I would try to wait longer and see how this story unfolds but it's been long enough and I will be moving soon, so in case the order actually goes through and I won't be at my current place, I decided to cancel the order, eight months after placing the order.

Pathetic, Amazon!  The couple of times I contacted Amazon, they say they will try to fulfill the order as soon as possible.  Well, I don't know which earth they live on but on this earth, that means a few weeks at most, not months!


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Reality check

Every now and then, I have the urge to buy a professional lens because my compromise lens works up an itch hard to get rid of.  I actually went on Kijiji and Craigslist to find a used Nikon 17-55mm f/.8.  A used copy could go for about $800 or a bit less if one is lucky.  Anyways, at the Henry's Exposure show this weekend, I had  the opportunity to test out a Nikon 17-55mm and as I feared, I could not make the best use of it.  Hand-held, it's not too easy to get a nice, sharp picture, and when I managed to get a sharp picture at f/2.8 there were some purple fringing (see below).  It's not too much but there is definitely purple fringing.  The Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens gets me a sharper picture, but not the image effects of an f/2.8 aperture.

Nikkor 17-55mm at f/2.8, centre crop

Nikkor 18-200mm at f/6.3, centre crop

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Nature in the backyard

Sharing a meal?  Not so quick!
Quite rare of a sight of two birds taking care of their nest.  I thought the male bird was going to share his grub, but no, it ended up having it all for himself.  Such is nature.

I realized this weekend that the Tokina 80-400mm is darn sharp at f/14 with manual focus!

Maybe I will get to use my 500mm lens when the eggs start to hatch.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Let nature come to you

Turquoise eggs
Ok, it's not often that one gets to enjoy nature right in your backyard, but every now and then, luck strikes.  I have always wanted to see a hummingbird in my backyard, but short of that, a nest is equally as fun to observe as a hummingbird.  So, I've got a nest on the trellis in our backyard.  I had to remove the window screen on my second floor window to have a clear view of the eggs.  I tore the window screen in the process but it is worth it, I guess.
Mommy bird:  a blackbird?

For these shots, I used my Tokina 80-400mm lens.  It was a bit hard to shoot hand-held in the late afternoon light as the Tokina does not have VR, but it turned out not too bad.

I cannot wait for the eggs to hatch!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

BlackBerry Z10's camera

Well, I have been taking the subway to go to work over the last two weeks, ever since the parking lot I used to park decided to hike up their fees.  It already did not make much sense for me to drive into work over the last couple of years but because the parking lot was a lot cheaper than many others, I decided for convenience sake to drive the 30km everyday.

Anyhow, since I have been taking the subway, I had more opportunities to use my BlackBerry Z10 and its crappy camera.  I have to say crappy since I have yet to see any photo with good IQ.  The best so far could be this photo here:

New Toronto TTC Subway Cars.
Here I was standing still while taking this photo.  Colour reproduction is not bad.  I thought it was sharp at first.  It looked quite fine on the small screen of the Z10 but displayed on a notebook screen, it was clear my hands were shaking.  I had taken some other photos inside a subway car while it was moving and I wish BlackBerry invested in some vibration reduction technology in the Z10 camera!

Well, the best camera is the one you have with you.  So, the best camera was my Z10, but that won't stop me from complaining about it. :-)