Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's here!

Well, the new toy has arrived!

Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM Macro

I haven't had mush time to play with it yet, but I'd like to hope that the next week will involve a kickstart of my creative juices, and that I'll get some time to shoot.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


There's a package waiting for pickup tomorrow at the post office! Macro photography, here I come!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Halloween scares!

Another quiet week, my apologies. I was in training most of the week, and we are also prepping our house for my Daughter's 4th birthday party tomorrow afternoon.

I do have a spooky Halloween story to share though! There is a 'Scary Fall Colours' contest run by one of the local photo clubs this month, and I had an idea for a shot that would involve a little bit of night-time cemetery photography. So, on Tuesday I got the kids to bed, packed up my camera bag and headed out at around 7:45pm. In Winnipeg this time of year, it's pretty much full dark at that time.

As I drove up one of the major streets not three minutes from my home, I had to jam on the brakes to avoid a deer that darted out from somewhere on the side of the road. I managed to avoid it, but it's apparently blind friend plowed into my drivers' side fender, rolled over my hood and vanished into the night.

So, I went out for a photo shoot, and ended up with no pictures and a few thousand dollars worth of body work on my less-than-six-month-old car. Scary!

Also, still waiting on the 60mm Macro to arrive. I have an alternate idea for a 'Scary Colours' shot using that lens...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Drool time...

Hey, any generous, rich people out there want to send me a new Canon EOS 1D MkIV? Please?

Monday, October 19, 2009

More shots from the weekend!

Day two of the lens rental started with a quick jaunt down to the park at the end of my street, a trip to the local conservatory, and a drive into the country for pumpkins. All the following shots were taken with the 70-200 even if it wasn't the 'best' lens for the job. Consider it my attempt to get my money's worth.

The first stop was just a half block away. We live near a man-made lake and at this time of the year that means migrating geese. Lots of migrating geese. I have been using them to practice my panning, and I got a few shots that I thought were worth keeping. I should brought my shutter speed up a bit, so there is some light motion blur at the wing tips.

Not much to say about each specific shot so here they are as a group:

Canada Goose - #1

Canada Geese - #2

Canada Goose - #3

The second stop was the local conservatory for the 'finch and canary show'. Big waste of time, unfortunately. Small birds, lots of small wires on the cages, too close to focus through... No bird shots at all, but I got a few nice shots in the conservatory itself. The flowers themselves were not labeled so I dont know the names of all of the flowers, so once again here they are as a group:

Assiniboine Park Conservatory #1

Assiniboine Park Conservatory #2

Assiniboine Park Conservatory #3

Assiniboine Park Conservatory #4

I was happy enough with the lens, but shooting flowers with a telephoto is limiting. As soon as the 60mm Macro arrives, we are going back! There is a sharpness missing from the 70-200 for this application.

There is one more shot from the conservatory, the 'Hobbit Door' which is tucked away in the heart of the conservatory. It's a charming little touch, and I tried to get some interesting framing for it. I know I can do better, I'll be sure to try and re-shoot it on our next visit.

Assiniboine Park Conservatory - Hobbit Door

Finally, our afternoon took us on a drive into the country in search of pumpkins for Halloween. We bought our gourds at a little roadside wagon, and it turns out the farmer there buys and restores antique tractors. Can you say photo op?!

Restored Tractor

I have seen a lot of 'abandoned rusty tractor in a field' shots, so this is a bit of a riff on that. My tractor is clean and shiny. Take that, all you other photo jerks!

Finally, on the way home, I saw a tree. An evil tree. The devil's own damn tree. This tree is sitting, on it's own, in a large field. There are hardly any other trees around, and none within a few hundred feet. So, of course, I pull over and walk out there.

As I get closer, I realize that there are a dozen or so crows sitting in the murder tree looking at me. Damn things wanted to eat my eyeballs. I could feel them desiring my tasty, tasty eye meats. I snapped a shot, and left before the bloodletting could begin.

The Killing Tree

I think the shot is suitable darkened and monochromed to let you know just how sinister this tree was. Damn thing is probably hiding in my back yard waiting for me to sleep.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pictures from the Soccer Game

I spent a lot of time tonight on post-processing. Never let it be said that shooting indoor sports is easy! Even with that loverly 2.8 lens, I had to lock in at ISO 800, f/2.8 and deal with a lot of noise. Most shots I managed to get at 1/125th to 1/200th shutter at least, so that action was mostly frozen.

So, after 6 hours or so of cropping, fixing white balances, brightening, noise reduction and red-eye removal, I present my best shots from the epic battle between the Maples Monarchs under-15 girls team and my office co-workers!

Maples Monarchs play defense!

The Maples Monarchs are city champions both indoor and outdoor, so you know they play tough defense. Here, one of their defenders throws out the armbar in the corner.

Office workers play defense!

Aha! Office workers can play defense too! This fellow plays in a league as well, so you know he has some chops.

The Maples Monarchs push the ball.

Conditioning played a big factor, these girls are fit and they were able to move the ball well all day, even in the face of defenders twice their size and age.

Waiting for the pass...

The office workers are no slouches though, three or four of them were ringers who play regularly, so you say a fair handful of nifty passes and dangerous rushes, like this one.

The Monarchs take a shot!

The Monarchs took some hard shots early and often, and took the early lead, going up three to nothing in the first half. The irony here is the office workers' keeper was not just an office worker, he is also the Monarchs' coach! For shame!


Probably my favourite shot of the day, this girl deked the defender completely out of the frame of the shot!

Monarchs Advance the ball

Despite their youth and conditioning, the Monarchs fell apart a bit in the second half, and the game ended in a tie. Fun was had by all, there were no serious injuries, and I got an excuse to rent an expensive lens. Yay!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

*Crickets chirping*

Sorry for the lack of updates, I've been under the weather all week and I've had to reschedule my 'product shoot' for another time. There are two bits of good news though.

First, this Sunday there is a finch and canary show at the local conservatory. Since I have the 70-200 rented for this weekend, I think I just found a good use for the second day of shooting with the lens.

In addition, I have finally sourced a real, actual Macro lens! It's an EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM. Not quite as nice as the 100mm, but for the price it's a better option at the moment. Hopefully it will be here next week!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Quick test shot in the new lightbox.

Jut grabbed something handy to do a test shot in the Cameron Photobox, in this case a plastic treasure chest for holding game dice.


It does seem to diffuse the light better than the DIY one, and I was able to fire the flash without an issue so I'm happy with the result. The background 'whiteness' is a step up, and it also includes gray, blue and green backgrounds, so that's a plus.

The only issue I can see is that the 50mm was sharp enough to pick up the weave of the fabric background/floor of the box. This is untouched though, so this looks like it would be very easy to clean up in post.

Quick updates.

Not much shooting the last few days, this weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving so lots of time is being spent on family stuff. I will, however, be doing two new 'shoots' this week upcoming.

A friend is overhauling his small business site, so I'll be bringing my lightbox over to his place on Tuesday to try some product shots. I'm looking forward to working out the new lightbox and getting some time in on cleanup and post-processing work.

In addition, my office has planned a soccer game against one of the city's under-17 girls soccer champions on Saturday. It's a 6-on-6 indoor game, so I've rented the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS again (GLEE!) to shoot the game. It made sense to rent it for the full weekend so I might try one of the waterbird preserves again on the Sunday following, or perhaps I'll find a nice autumn subject to shoot. I wanted the rent the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS, but that is a $4,000 lens and it's twice as expensive to rent. 200mm should be enough reach on a crop-body I hope!

Finally, there is a 'scary fall colours' contest on one of the local photo club forums, so I'm looking to shoot an entry before the end of the month, although I could use some inspiration on shot ideas!

Friday, October 9, 2009

My willpower is lacking...

So on the way back to work after picking my Daughter up at preschool, I might have wandered into one of the local photography stores, and I might have checked out the light boxes, and one might have been on sale, and I might have bought it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More lightbox shots,

I had a brief moment to set up the lightbox again tonight after getting my daughter off to bed. I wanted to try some macro work, but I was surprised to find that I wasn't able to get much of anything working my extension tubes. Serious blurring and razor-thin depth of field even at f/9 or narrower. So, I went back to the 50mm and shot with that.

A dedicated macro would be so nice... *sigh*

Anyhow, I tried an 'art' shot. This was a great learning experience. First the shot:

Fluid Dynamics

The setup here is straight forward. Two drops of food colouring in a crystal wine glass. I learned a lot here. First, the white balance on this shot is really, really off out of the camera. I have no idea why. I was able to correct to a degree in post processing, but there is still a distinct grayness to the 'white' background. Second, one sheet of tissue paper isn't going to cut it for diffusion, there are some real hotspots on the glass. I also couldn't fire the flash because the front of the glass would blow out from the reflection.

Plans to correct these issues include purchasing some proper diffusion material for the box, and purchasing a nice, powerful gooseneck style lamp to light from the top. Something in the 100w or more range to really pick up the light levels.

Here is the second shot of the night:

Young Crested Gecko

This is a baby Crested Gecko, one of the acquisitions from the Reptile Expo last weekend. The 50mm really, really shone on this shot. I would suggest following the link to my Flickr and looking at the scale detail in the large size shot. The 50mm is insanely sharp for the price, like, crazy sharp.

This shot came out better than the water shot, crisper and better exposed. I had to add a full +1EV in the water shot to brighten the background, and I didn't have to do it on this shot. I was able to fire the flash on this shot, so no doubt that was the difference.

Screwing around with the layout...

I've been trying different layouts, and the problem seems to be one of two things.

If I use a Blogger layout, the central column is not wide enough to hold even the 400px or so wide pictures I want to use as thumbnails. If I use an off-site layout, there seems to be issues with people making comments and the like.

So bear with me if things look demented for the next little bit.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's finished!

Pardon the quality of my 'building' pictures, they were just quick snaps in the basement, but here we go...

The box is about 15" or 16" square, and it's your normal bone-standard box. The first step is to cut off the top and three sides as above.

The result looks like so:

Next, strips of white poster board are cut to size and glued to the inside of the open sides.

After all three sides are done, and the next step is to cut another piece of poster board to the interior width of the box. Leave this one long, as you want it to lie along the bottom and up the back without creasing. This is what gives you the 'seamless' background.

The two side 'windows' are then covered with white tissue paper. I've only used one piece, but I might add another or replace the tissue paper with something more robust like nylon fabric or the like.

Finally get some lights. You can light from the top, but I chose to light from the sides using these two 'accent' lights from Home Depot. They were about $18 each, and they use a 35w GU10 Halogen bulb.

Here is the setup with my good friends Calvin and Hobbes providing my light stands. I've placed another sheet of poster board over the top of the box, but I like leaving it unattached in case I need a little more space to load in a larger object.

Here is a test shot. My friend, Ninja Duck!

Ninja duck!

All in all, I call this one a success. I'm not sold on the tissue paper sides since I already have a small tear, but for the moment it works!

Dun dun!

Supplies purchased! Time alloted! Project DIY photobox is a go!

Pictures tonight?

Stay tuned faithful readers!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Manitoba Reptile Breeder Expo

Today I visited the Manitoba Reptile Breeder Expo, both for a photographic opportunity and to peruse some new additions to my collection. The expo usually has twenty or so exhibitors with a variety of snakes, amphibians, lizards, tarantulas and the like, so there are good opportunities to browse and shoot.

My wife and the kids came as well, so I didn't have much time with the camera, unfortunately. I did get two shots that were decent however.

Bearded Dragons

This is a clutch of young Bearded Dragons. I regret not noting down the name of the breeder, so I'm not sure who these cuties belong to. My daughter loves Beardies so when you get a pile of a dozen or so all clambering over each other, she thinks it's just about the coolest thing ever.

Bumblebee Morph Ball Python

This is a variety of Ball Python called a Bumblebee, owned by Geckoland Reptiles here in Winnipeg. A Bumblebee is a combination of two other morphs, the Spider Ball Python and the Pastel Ball Python. They have been bred in North America since early this decade, and their white, yellow and black colouration is striking.

Since my last posting, I've looked at the 'wife-on-maternity' financial situation and I'm no longer sure I'll be buying a flash or photobox kit. Thinking it through, those photobox kits might be convenient, but is it really worth $300+ for a couple of 75 watt lights and a box of white fabric?

I think my next plan in a DIY photobox so that I can do some more 'art' photography and take better pictures of my animals.

That's the plan at least.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The angry monkey says...

Angry Monkey

The angry monkey thinks I should try taking some good pictures this week. He's right.

Sadly, the angry monkey *is* the best picture I took this week...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Decision time...

Well the macro lens fell through, but I still have some cash available after I sold my Wii.

I want something to assist with my indoor shooting considering winter's imminent arrival. Winnipeg in winter is occasionally lovely but always brutally cold, so I will be looking to take the majority of my photos inside.

So, here are the options I'm considering:

- Canon Speedlite 430EX II
- Cameron Photo Box Kit #1
- Cameron Photo Box Kit #3

The flash is usable anywhere which is an advantage, but there are limitations to what a single flash can do. The small photo box will really help my macro shooting since one big issue of the extension tubes is maximum aperture limitation. The big box kit is quite nice, and the lights are even big enough to help with any sort of portrait photography or shooting outside of the photo box. Cost is an issue with the flash and big photo box however.

Why do I always seem to pick expensive hobbies?

No new pictures the last few days unfortunately. Limited shooting opportunities coupled with limited talent means no keepers at the moment. Hopefully the weekend will be better.