Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Macro no more...


That EF-S 60mm macro was sold on Monday, right before I sold my Wii and came up with the cash for it. C'est la vie.

Still... Boo!

Down with this sort of thing!

If there is a silver lining, I think I would be happier with the EF 100mm f/2.8 USM anyhow. Better reach, crisper, better working range, etc... There is not one for sale for $375 with a lens hood though, still $700+. Time to keep scouring Kijiji and eBay.


Well, here it is. My first work with a clone tool!

Canwest HQ - Portage Avenue Aspect - Edited

Worked out pretty well I think. I left the flag, I like the foregroud interest that it gives and I'm not sure I could replace it cleanly anyhow. I also took the camera off the top of the building, it was a bit distracting.

Gimp worked really well on my laptop. Nice a quick, had all the tools I feel that I needed, and I'm pretty pleased with the result.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The lily of the office...

No this is not a post about my secret crush at work (Hi Jenna!) or anything of that nature. The extraordinarily nice HR lady at work had a few bouquets of lovely pink Lilies in her office today, and I grabbed the camera.

I didn't have my extension tubes with me, so I framed it up as best I could on the 50mm and took a shot.

The lily of the office

Lighting was awful so this was shot with the flash and 'the Puffer' for diffusion. It needed some tweaking for colour in post, but that charming pink came through nicely enough.

I also have a line on a gently used EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens in town. I think I'll need to sell my Wii to finance the purchase, but I'm stoked about getting a dedicated macro lens. I'm still working on cloning out that power line in the earlier shot of the Canwest building as well.

So, anybody want to buy a Wii? :)

Our long nightmare is over!

Lions win! Lions win!

Photo related: I'm going to download the GIMP tonight and try my hand at cleaning up that power line in the second photo of the Canwest building while watching Monday Night Football tonight.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Downtown walk-around.

One of the nicer buildings downtown is owned by Canwest Global, a large media company that is headquartered in Winnipeg. It's a standard modern concrete and glass building, but it was designed with a nice combination of straight and curved elements that provide some nice views.

Canwest Global building, from Portage

This is the view from across Portage Avenue. The flags at the bottom of the frame run along the first block or so of Portage Avenue, and I couldn't quite frame them the way I would have liked. Still it's my first good architecture/building shot.

Canwest Global building, front view

This is the aspect of the building you see from Portage and Main. I want to kill whatever yahoo decided to run a power line across the front of the building. I would really love this shot if it wasn't there, and frankly, I don't have the post-processing software or knowledge to remove it. Boo.

One more shot from my walk-around:

Post No Bills!

Let me put it to you this way: If a surface downtown can be stapled, it will be stapled. I think this is the case for any downtown, but there are few such places in the heart of downtown, so those that do exist get billed and tagged a lot.

Not my best week of shooting overall. A bit of a letdown after the zoo, but they can't all be great weeks.

Sometimes it doesn't pay to be the nice guy...

I want to do some more urban photography, as I find it particularly compelling. Today I thought I had a chance at an interesting shot.

One of the more colourful buskers downtown sets up on a stool with her back to a major roadway and plays a bongo drum. She's not good at it, in fact she's downright awful. Having said that, she might make for an interesting subject for a motion-blurred shot. I considered the various compositions and thought of one that I liked should the opportunity present itself.

Well, today as I went to pick up lunch, she was there. I had my camera, so I thought I would give the shot a try. Now, I was raised to be polite (most of the time) so I thought it only appropriate to ask her if she minded me taking a few pictures. Well, she seemed skeptical at first, but I noticed her sign said that vegetarian food was appreciated. Feeling somewhat of a kindred spirit moment, as my family is vegetarian, I offered to buy her lunch in exchange which she gladly accepted.

Well, one veggie burrito and a Pepsi later and she decided that she didn't want her picture taken after all. Nice. I was well within my legal rights to shoot her anyhow as she was in a public place, and in a crowd, but I would feel like a jerk in doing so.

So a nice gesture that didn't exactly work out, and a $5 lesson learned. I guess I can't complain, as she clearly looks like she needs the help anyhow, but I didn't like the manner in which she handled herself. I took some architectural shots instead, so maybe I have a keeper there. I'll look this evening.

Maybe I should have just given her the $5 instead. For drum lessons.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Charge of the scooter brigade!

Well, I managed a shot I'm not completely embarrassed by ;)

Went for a walkabout at lunch today, hoping to spot one of our colourful downtown buskers, or something a little grittier but I didn't turn up much. On the way out though, the scooter brigade had lined up their crafts neatly, and I found an angle that I liked.

Scooters at work

This shot is heavily cropped, the original shot I took included almost the whole bodies of the scooters, but I thought the 'odd-man-out' line of headlights looked better tightly cropped. I've read that a picture should tell a story, and I don't know if I achieved that here, but this cropping gives a stronger point of interest compared to the uncropped shot.

The DOF worked out well enough, but in hindsight I should have cranked down the aperture and tried to get sharp focus across all of them. Not a great shot, but if I am going to learn, you have to put the bad out with the good.

I'd like to thank those of you that are following and reading this blog. I hope that I've made it worth your time, since there are a hundred thousand photoblogs out there. Your comments are always welcome and wanted!

Dismal days...

The fact that I have posted new photos should give you a fair idea of the quality of my shots this week.

Ugly, ugly, ugly.

I'll have to try and change some things up today, take a walk downtown, and see what I can see.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fort Whyte Alive!

Well, today's trip to Fort Whyte Alive was pretty much a disaster. High winds meant that none of the birds were flying, and outside of the birds, well, there isn't much to see at Fort Whyte Alive.

There were quite a few ducks and geese in the water, but I can get those pictures any day with any lens. I wanted shots in flight, and I never got one.

Well, here is the best of what I did get:

Abandoned Train Tracks

Old train tracks criss-cross through the centre and nature is slowly reclaiming their land. I was looking for a 'vanishing point' sort of picture here, but the undergrowth took away the visibility of the tracks after a few dozen feet. Still I like the shot.

Purple Martin housing

Mosquitos are hell in Winnipeg. There is a lot of water and hot summers here, so they spawn in incredible numbers. Fort Whyte Alive uses all natural pest control methods, including attracting Purple Martins who are great mosquito predators. The love these high-rise communal houses, and you see them in fields all around the city. This pole is about 60' high, and probably house a few hundred Martins.

They aren't working. I got eaten alive.

Dragonfly on a gravel path

Another part of the mosquito control methods used at Fort Whyte is the introduction of scores of Dragonflies. See my last note as to their effectiveness.

This guy moved before I could change lenses and go macro, and in hindsight I'm okay with that because trying to change out that lens on a gravel trail would not be, you know, SMART.

Three unknown birds

This is my favourite shot of the afternoon. These poor little guys were hunkering down in the face of the wind, and did not look happy. I just like the minimalism of the shot, and something about the composition is pleasing. The sky colour is also pretty peaceful and relaxing.

These guys were just about thirty or forty feet up in a tree, and this is the full frame, so you get a good idea of the reach on that 70-200mm on a crop body like my XSi.

So on the ride home, I stopped at Tim Horton's for an iced capp. If you aren't in Canada, or near a Timmies, I feel for you. Anyhow, I saw a curious machine in the parking lot. I asked for permission to take a shot and the owner stepped in for me.

My first stranger photo! Yay!

Three wheeled biker

It was quite the machine, three-wheeled and rear engined and built mostly from unfinished steel. Too bad you can't see the guy's purple mohawk under his helmet. Nice guy, he didn't knife me or anything!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Zoo pics. Lots of them.

Well I managed to pick my dozen or so favourite shots from today. There were quite a few more that I consider solid keepers, but to keep this post at least somewhat interesting, I cut down to the ones I'll post here.

My general review on the EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM is this: Buy, beg or steal to get this lens. Fantastic sharpness, great AF, stellar IS, and loads of reach on an APS-C sensor. It's so price prohibitive but I have no doubts that the f/4 version at about 55% of the price would give very similar performance minus the one stop of aperture.

The S5 IS I had at my last zoo trip was actually 'zoomier' at 12x optical, but this lens gives you something in the range of 9x on an sub-frame sensor like my XSi and I only found one or two instances where I could have used more reach. The only downside of this lens is the weight. I felt somewhat uncomfortable letting the body support the lens, so I spent the day cradling the lens and letting the body hang off of it. Slightly annoying with an active three year old running around and stroller to push, but my wife and I managed just fine.

Without any further yammering, here are the pics.


A Red-billed Hornbill. This was taken indoors, through scratched plexiglass, handheld at a full 200mm focal length. Not too shabby although the focus is a bit soft.

Rat Snake on the prowl

Just one enclosure over is a swarm of these rat snakes. The focus tightens up quite a bit without the scratched plexi in the way.

Mystery Duck

These Greylag geese wander around the Winnipeg Zoo's "farm" area. They are absolutely huge, roughly turkey sized. I like this shot for the layered texture of the feathers on the neck. The fact that he has a feather lodged in his nostril is just a plus too.


Is there a rule that says if you run a zoo you need six million peacocks running all over the place? There must be. Every zoo has these guys. Hundreds of them.

Of course this is the first time that one has neglected to show it's plumage for me. I still like the iridescence of the feathers though and the strong natural sunlight in this picture brings it out nicely.

Still pissed that they didn't fan out their tails though. Bastards.

Scruffy Prarie Dog

Oh hello, I didn't expect you to come by today. Please excuse the dirt on my face, and the big dried up leaf stuck in my belly fur. I am just a SCRUFFY PRAIRIE DOG.

Nothing special about this pic, but the leaf makes it for me. Love that leaf.

White Bison

This guy is interesting, a white bison. It's a genetic abnormality, and a pretty rare one. THey are not, however, albino.

He's just chewing his hay. Waitin' for the ladies that don't mind a genetic freak.

Amur Leopard

Little known fact: In the wild, this is last thing you see before you die. I love this Amur Leopard because it is the one big predatory animal that looked right at the camera for me.

This shot was also taken through a wire mesh enclosure, so there are a few lines of aberrant focus, but they aren't significant. Get the aperture down enough on this lens and you can shoot right through the stuff. Happy with this shot, you need these sorts of shots to have a successful zoo trip in my mind.


Another shot through wire mesh, this time a Snowy Owl. One of the most majestic animals at our zoo, in my mind. The mesh crosses it's face in this photo, and it's a bit more noticeable so this shot is not as nice as I'd like. On the plus side, most times I see these guys at the zoo, they are eviscerating small rodents. So it evens out.

Brown Pelican

Pardon me sir, where would I find a heaping pile of cod?

Just missed this pelican extending his beak/neck/sack thingy.

Orange-Eyed Bird

Striking eye colour on this Diamond Dove. Shot through plexi again, so a bit soft on the focus, but the contrast is solid and I liked the blurred foreground branch. Excellent bokeh on this lens.

Time for my three favourite pictures from this trip!

Rainbow Lorikeet

This is a Rainbow Lorikeet. I love the bird, and I love this shot as it was taken indoors, through wire mesh, in very low light conditions, at 200mm, handheld. The Lens just nailed the shot though, great bokeh, sharp focus, saturation and contrast, EVERYTHING. This is the shot that made me turn to my wife and ask her if she would divorce me if I bought one.

Baby Lynx

Cutest animal of the day, a baby Lynx. Taken through wire mesh again, so some softness in the focus, but an adorable subject makes up for it. The two adults in the enclosure had just been fed and actually engaged in a ten-minute-or-so dominance display to decide who got to eat first. I tried, and tried to get a pic of them, but it just didn't work. I moved to one of the babies who was watching the parents, and got this shot.

Stellar's Sea Eagle

I think this is my most striking shot of the day, a Stellar's Sea Eagle. I moved within the chair barrier for this shot, I had to try it. This eagle was very calm and let me get this shot.

As a testament to the sharpness of this lens, the reflection in the eagle's eye shows me standing there with the camera...

Finally, the most unusual critters I saw at the zoo today.

Oh boy!  Zebra!

Friends came with us to the zoo today, and this is their son. He was rather excited to ride the zebra-swingy-springy-ridey thingies.

Climbing the camel slide

Their son again, climbing up into the camel-shaped slide. Love his expression, he's such a handsome little guy.

Pumpkin Peeking

Every year the Winnipeg Zoo hosts 'Boo at the Zoo' and they are already setting up the displays. My dear Daughter decided that playing hide and seek in them would be fun, but I spotted her :)

Long day at the Zoo

Towards the end of the day, little legs get tired, and I snapped this as my daughter took a break on a bench by the snowy owls. I may be biased, but I think she's just a doll. She makes me work hard to be a better man.

That's it, my day at the Winnipeg Zoo.

Back from the zoo!

Took a lot of shots. A lot. Like 320. I'm going to have some sorting and uploading to do tonight!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Like a pringles can...

Just picked up the rental lens.




Did I mention big and heavy?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Minor gear acquisition!

Very minor. Still, a new toy is a new toy.

I headed back to Don's for a microfibre cleaning cloth, as I put my thumb on my 50mm f/1.8 lens. My smoothness knows no bounds, it seems.

I have been toying with the idea of a small flash diffuser or bounce card for portrait work, and as I was checking out I added The PUFFER to my bill. I had read about it before, and I knew that there were mixed reviews but for $20 or so, it seemed worth the shot.

I took a few quick snaps at work, and it seems to work as advertised. I'll try and set up a composition of something later this evening to give some comparison shots, but all in all it looks good for the price at the moment.

The good news for the weekend? Warm weather and no rain. Zoo day is on for Saturday, and I may hit up a soccer game my friend's kid is playing in on Sunday to take full advantage of the rental lens. Glad I opted to rent the f/2.8 for the bucks more than the f/4.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hail to the King, baby...

This statue is outside of my office building. There is no good angle to shoot it, no flattering angles, no interesting background, nothing. On top of that, it's kind of an ugly statue, and whoever made it was clearly high when they came up with the idea.

I give you, King Pigeon:

King Pigeon Statue

The texture is interesting in the statue, and the expression is amusing enough. The shot is blah though. Still the best thing I've managed to snap in the last few days. I hope the weather is good at the zoo this weekend.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Downtown Winnipeg

So, today I stopped and took out my camera as I walked to work. For some reason, it was completely nerve wracking.

I have no idea why, but part of it has to do with taking out $1,000 or so worth of photography equipment in what is essentially the armpit of the city. Also, I did not want to take a picture of anyone without their consent, so I was making a point to put the camera down when anyone approached.

No one said anything, and nothing unexpected happened. It should be easier to do next time, and I'm glad that I did it.

Now for a little dose of urban decay. Only two shots, but I was in a hurry at the time.

Back alley to the parking lot

This is the alley I walk through every day on the way from my office to the parking lot. It's nothing unusual for downtown alleys, I suppose, but this one is mine. I've been at this office for about a year now, maybe a bit more, and in this alley I've witnessed bum fights, drug deals, and a guy getting a hummer behind the dumpster. It's always entertaining.

I went mono for this shot, as urban-decay-type shots always seem to be in mono. I don't know why it works, but it works. My only complaint with this shot is that the weather was bright and sunny, and the strong shadow and clear sky don't make the shot 'brooding' enough, for lack of a better word. I'll be sure to reshoot it on the next overcast day.

It burns, the clap, deserves a slap.

My favorite tag in that alley is this one. Why? I have no idea. I like the script, the text is amusing, and it just never fails to make me snicker.

As a picture, it is what it is: A brick wall with some low-quality graffiti. It's a part of the whole alley experience. I had to sit on the dumpster to get it in frame on the 50mm lens too. Icky.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Remind me again why I'm a Lions fan?


Well, this was another unexpected shot. My daughter picked up this strange, orange, spiky *thing* in the grocery store yesterday. It's called a Kiwano, or Horned Melon.

Having no idea what it was, we immediately bought it. How often do you get a chance to buy a horned melon?

Anyhow, cutting it open I was presented with an absolutely amazing sight. The geometric pattern and strong colour contrast made me run for the camera.

Horned Melon

I had a limited amount of time to frame, light and shoot this little beauty, so technically there are some errors. I had the aperture too open, so the focus is not sharp enough, and the background is a too uneven and shadowed, but this was a shoot-it-and-pray situation. I think the subject matter carries this picture anyhow.

The real big news at the moment though? It's Sunday. The Lions are playing. Time to go!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

New Gear!

Not actual optical gear, but new gear nonetheless.

As I mentioned earlier, having my camera with me at all times is something that will help me achieve my goal of becoming a better photographer. Having said that, on my way to work I am already carrying a backpack containing my lunch, pass card, iPod, etc. In addition, I work in and park in a very crappy part of town, so a second bag, or obvious camera bag was out of the question.

So, I hit up Don's Photo, my local brick and mortar photo store, and picked up a new bag. I chose the Lowepro Primus AW for a few reasons:

1. Tripod carrier built in.
2. All-weather cover included.
3. Side zipper camera pouch for fast access.
4. Daypack section for my non-photo related needs.
5. 50%+ recycled materials!
6. Helps to preserve Polar Bear habitat.

Pretty much a perfect pack for me for day to day, and until I add a few more lenses it should be a more than capable dedicated camera bag as well.

Speaking of lenses, I discovered that Don's also rents lenses, so in anticipation of a zoo visit with my kids and family friends on the weekend of September 19th, I've reserved a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM for that weekend. It's received rave reviews and I'm considering the f/4 version as my go-to telephoto a few years down the road. Seems like a good time to try one out.

I'm excited to try out the new lens, but I will admit that there is a certain amount of abject terror involved in renting a $2,200 piece of glass and lugging it around with a 3 year old for two days.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dorothy Lake

My wife's Grandmother has a delightful little trailer on a nearby lake called Dorothy Lake in Whiteshell Provincial Park. This is *exactly* what I needed, some new sights to see, and some familiar sights to share.

My first attempts at landscape photography are included in this set, and I clearly need work at it. A graduated neutral density filter would be handy as well.

Everything was shot handheld with the 17-55mm kit lens, generally at f8 or f9 for the landscapes, and f5.6 or so for the remainder. As a 'walking around' lens it's my best option at the moment, but I've already developed a deep and abiding mancrush on the 24-105mm f4L and it might be the first lens I purchase for days like this.

Here are the shots that I kept from the 120 or so that I took.

Whiteshell Road

This is the main road that snakes through the Whiteshell. I have read that 'S' shapes are pleasing in landscape shots, and I agree. The shot is one of the better exposed ones I took that day, as you will see a lot of blow-out in the sky in some of the other frames.

Path the the Beach at Dorothy Lake

If you head to your right from the location of the last shot, you cross a small park and head out to the beach. The beach is accessed through a treeline cut through in numerous places with footpaths. This picture was an attempt at framing the beach and water using the surround trees. I think I like this the best of the landscape photos.

Tidal pool and path at Dorothy Lake

The beach itself if a narrow strip of sand, maybe twenty feet wide. It stretches a few hundred feet and at one end, you find this small path the leads back to the park. I was still looking for interesting framing when I took this picture, but I think the previous picture was better overall, and the blown-out sky here is distracting.

The stagnant pool in the foreground was a happy little mosquito breeding ground. I paid for this picture in blood, literally.

Rocks at Dorothy Lake

The Whiteshell is right on the Canadian Shield so you find vast sections of stone with a few tough shrubs, scraggly trees and tenacious lichen clinging about. I have no idea if this shot works at all. The camera was level when the photo was taken, so the slope of the rock is accurate.

One of the landscape techniques I read about mentioned using a nearby object to provide interest and depth over the whole photo, so I worked the tree on the left into the frame, but in hindsight, it's not nearly noticeable enough to alter the overall picture. Live and learn.

Path at Dorothy Lake Campground

This little path leads from the the campgrounds to the access road (and the washrooms). The little bridge has been there as long as I have been visiting the lake, and this little bridge is, for whatever reason, one thing that I will always remember about Dorothy Lake.

Creek at Dorothy Lake

This is a view of the little creek that the bridge from the last picture crosses. You can see another little bridge further down. I liked the shadow and light in this picture, but it's a bit busy. Not the best shot, but still a pleasant one.

The landscapes are done, but I found a few more subjects of interest.

Grandma at Dorothy Lake

And here is the grand lady herself, my wife's Grandma, watching the grandkids and great-grandkids play in the water. I have better exposed and better composed pictures of her sitting in this spot, but I love her expression in this one. Love this picture.

Flowers and a visiting Bee

I stopped to check out these interesting little flowers and saw the bee. I didn't have access to my extension tubes at this point, so I framed it the best I could, got as close as I could manage, and snapped this. It's pretty much a 100% crop so it's a bit soft, but I'm happy with it overall.

Tanner the Springer Spaniel

This guy was a happy little coincidence. His name is Tanner, and his owner was polite enough to let me capture a few images of their playtime at the lake's edge. This is a pretty standard snapshot, but this is the best shot I have of Tanner's face.

Tanner was chasing his tennis ball in the water and making a hell of a lot of splashes as he did. This seemed like a good time to try and shoot some high shutter speed photos. I kept two and I like them both, although I'm sure I could have done better. This was entirely new to me.

Tanner Leaping Redux

Tanner from a bit of a distance. This one needed a lot of editing since I couldn't keep the camera level enough to maintain a level horizon. The rotation took it's toll on the sharpness of the photo.

Tanner Leaping

A more tightly framed photo this time, still not overly level, but cropping the horizon out helped a bit. I'd like to think that fast-action shots are a little more forgiving when it comes to this sort of rule.

...and that was my visit to Dorothy Lake.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

More of the menagerie!

We have a lot of animals in our house. At the moment, the whole zoo consists of:

- One Parrot
- Three Snakes
- Two Rabbits
- Four Aquariums (two freshwater and two marine)

So far, the Parrot is the easiest subject to shoot, as her curious nature lends itself well to composition. The aquariums present a challenge, just shooting through glass, and the snakes don't really like to pose.

Having said that, this is how we learn, right?

Tonight I got my largest snake out. Her name is Zoot, and she is a year-and-a-half old Jungle Carpet Python. These snakes are known for their fantastic yellow/beige on black patterning, and Zoot is no exception. I tried a macro of her head, and despite some attempts at ambient lighting, I still needed the flash. An off-camera flash would have been quite a bit nicer here, but unfortunately, I don't have one... yet.

Jungle Carpet Python up close

I finally captured this after about two or three dozen attempts. It's fairly heavily cropped, but I'm happy with the sharpness and the colour saturation.

I used the 50mm f/1.8 again, with the 12mm extension tube. Settings were:

- ISO 200
- f/2.5
- .1 sec exposure
- Flash fired

Comments and criticism are, of course, welcome!

New camera ordered.

Okay, to free up my access to the DSLR, I've ordered in a PowerShot SD1200 for my wife to use around the house. Next priority is a nice case to bring the camera around with me at pretty much all times so that I can really try shooting anything and everything that strikes my fancy.

Maybe at that point I'll actually start posting pictures instead of uninteresting blog entries :D

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Or not...

Two things occurred to me in the process of not taking any pictures last night:

One, the best pictures seem to appear when I don't have my camera, so I need to start bringing it with me everywhere. Two, my wife is home with two kids all day, she's not going to let me take the camera and not be able to shoot first smiles, and the like.

So I need to replace the point and shoot that I sold to buy my nifty fifty lens. I should really think these things through in advance next time!

Here's hoping I have time to shoot tonight.