Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A brief stay in Lyon

Tonight is my last night in France. I took a train into Lyon and fortunately my hotel is right beside the train station. Tomorrow morning, I head off to the airport and start the journey home through Frankfurt. I'm looking forward to coming home and getting to work.

This was taken from the (rather small) window of my hotel room (which is also rather small).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Grenoble

Yesterday, along with being day 2 of the symposium was also the main dinner, which was at the Bastille that overlooks the city. The panoramic views offered from this location was quite beautiful. Though there were many ominous clouds in the sky (which later moved in, rained, and promptly dissipated) I shot this panorama. Tomorrow is the last day of the conference, immediately after which I have to catch a train to Lyon.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A long train ride

Yesterday was the day we left Nice for Grenoble. Sadly, Chintan and I didn't make our train reservations until yesterday morning. Consequently, the afternoon train was sold out and we were forced to take the 5pm train. We also didn't realize that it would be a 7 hour ride (5 hours to Lyon, 40 minute wait, 1 hr 20 minutes to Grenoble). Hence it was extremely late by the time we got to our hotel in Grenoble.

One upside is that we did get to spend more time in Nice. We had the chance to have a relaxed lunch, visit a photography museum, get an ice cream from a store with 90+ flavours and get a drink before catching the train.

Technical Specs: Canon Rebel XTi, 24-105 @ 24mm, f/8, 1/50s, ISO 200.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Eze, Monaco & Monte Carlo

Yesterday, we went on a day trip to Eze, Monaco and Monte Carlo. The picture above is of Monaco. What a life, yachting around the Mediterranean, must be good to be rich. This was taken from near the Palais de Monaco. We actually spent a couple of hours here, walking around and taking in the views. There is also a garden by the palace that is filled with plants from around the world.

The picture to the left is of the Monte Carlo casino. The casino is very nicely appointed, and there are numerous exotic cars parked outside and driving around on the streets. Unfortunately, I left my ID back in the hotel, so I didn't get a chance to go on the gambling floor. Chintan did and observed that it was rather small compared to the casinos in Las Vegas.

It was a fun day trip, and today we'll be making our way to Grenoble.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Arrived in Nice


I arrived in Nice a few hours ago, the flight was relatively uneventful (for those who don't know I am attending the Eurographics Symposium on Rendering in Grenoble, but I'll be in Nice for a couple of days beforehand).
To avoid the effects of jet lag Chintan (a former Photoshop co-worker who is also attending EGSR) and I decided to go our for a stroll along the promenade. Nice is a beautiful city, vibrant and very active. We had dinner at a place recommended by a friend, and it was pretty good. Heading to bed now (since I know I'll be up at 5 am tomorrow).

Update: I managed to find some free wireless, so now I have my pictures too!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

More from Point Lobos

As promised, more pictures from the Point Lobos shoot on Sunday. This is one of my favourite deer pictures from the shoot. I really like the coy smirk, but unfortunately there is that piece of grass which gets in the way. I have now finished processing all the pictures and they are available for viewing on Picasa.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds2, 300mm f/2.8 IS + 2x TC, f/6.3, 1/200s, ISO 1600.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Black Oystercatcher

Yesterday was the inaugural outing of the Adobe San Jose photography club. In the late afternoon we (a total of 3 of us) drove down to Point Lobos. My primary intent was bird photography, while the other 2 were trying for fine art landscapes. This was my first real shoot with the 1Ds2, so I wasn't sure what to expect. For the last several days I had immersed my self in reading about and configuring the camera, particularly the AF system.

I initially started doing birds in flight (of which it was pre-dominantly brown Pelicans) and had a few successes (which I'll post later this week), but nothing too exciting compositionally speaking. While waiting for more birds, I spotted this black oystercatcher land on the shore nearby. I quickly grabbed my camera and tripod and got closer. After firing a few frames, I pulled the camera off the tripod, ran down to the shore and perched myself on nearby rocks, where I took the two images in this post.

I couldn't really tell how successful I was in the field since its nearly impossible to determine if critical focus was achieved with the low-rez JPG that is used for playback. I wasn't too optimistic but still somewhat hopeful that something worked out. It turns out that a vast majority of the frames had perfect focus and the only ones I have thrown away so far have been because of poor composition (or lack of reach), so I'm pretty happy. So it seems that the 300 f/2.8 with the 2x TC is sufficient for photography shore birds but for birds in flight, I'll really need something longer.

I also managed to photograph a few other things, which I'll post in the next couple of days.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds2, 300mm f/2.8 IS + 2x TC, f/5.7, 1/500s, ISO 800 (top), ISO 1600 (bottom).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

90% of the way is great, but...

... sometimes that last 10% can be soooo sweet. What the heck am I talking about? No, not about the plums picture above, but cameras. I am a big fan of the Canon 5D, it is a full-frame camera with fantastic image quality in a reasonable sized body for (what I consider to be) a reasonable price (now that prices have come down a good 15-20% since its introduction). I believe that this camera comes very close in terms of image quality to its big brother the Canon 1Ds Mark 2. In fact it comes so close that when the 5D was introduced, many 1Ds2 owners traded into a 5D (who could blame them, up until the 5D, the only way to get a full-frame sensor was with a 1Ds2). Therefore many people would consider the 5D to do 90% of what the 1Ds2 can do.

For some time however I've been jonesing for that extra 10% only a 1-series camera gives you. About a month ago, I managed to convince myself that I could live with a 1.3x crop camera as long as it had all the things that made the 1-series great (the amazing auto-focus, the viewfinder, the integrated grip, the 55ms blackout time, the 3ev exposure compensation range, the rugged build, and the endless customization options). I pre-ordered a 1D Mark 3 and started the wait. As I waited, I had the occasional pangs of doubt on the 1.3x crop, do I really want my 85L to have a narrower field of view? I also like the fish-eye effect of the 15mm fisheye which would have to be sacrificed. Not entirely discouraged, I continued to wait. Then on Sunday, something changed; I saw an opportunity to get a great deal on a 1Ds2. I jumped on it and here I am, revelling in that extra 10%.

I've only had the chance to fire a few frames and so far, I love the differences. I was a little concerned that the 1Ds2 would weigh even more than the 5D with the grip, but to me in a side-by-side comparison, the difference was negligible. I've talked to several people about the difference in the viewfinder between the 5D and the 1-series. Personally I noticed a big different, but its not something others noticed, so I just chalked it up to the fact I wear glasses. Putting the 1Ds2 up to my eye confirmed it, for me it is much more comfortable than the 5D (or any of the xD series cameras). The 1Ds2 requires a little bit more capture sharpening than the 5D (due to the fact the 5D has a weaker AA filter), but it is also much less prone to moire. Once you do apply proper capture sharpening, the results are great (see the 100% crop of the plums).

I'm looking forward to doing some shooting this weekend, and trying out the 1-series AF for birds.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds2, 70-200 f/4 IS @ 97mm, f/11, 1/200s, ISO 100.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Loch Lomond

Saturday was one of California's two 'free fishing days' where you don't need a permit to fish. Kim did some research and discovered a reservoir in the Santa Cruz mountains called Loch Lomond Reservoir. The place turned out to be a pleasant surprise, not too many people, nice quiet lakes where larger motor boats aren't allowed. We rented a row boat and did a combination of fishing and rowing for a few hours. I had also heard that this was a good place for bird watching and though I wasn't looking very hard I spotted a Stellar Jay and a Kingfisher. Though we didn't catch any fish (very few of the other folks on the lake managed to catch fish) it was still a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon/evening.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Fishing at Vasona park

Kim wanted to do some fishing last night, so after quickly wolfing down our dinner we went down to Vasona County Park, where they have a fishing pier. The county supposed stocks trout here every here and at dusk we sure saw many splashing in the water.

Technical Specs: Canon Rebel XTi, 70-200 f/4 IS @ 70mm, f/5.6, 1/50s, ISO 200.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Picking Plums

We have very few large trees in our backyard and apart from the lemon tree that Kim just planted we have no fruit trees in our backyard either. However all our neighbors have large trees, including the one to the bag who has a rather large plum tree. Its so large that nearly half of the tree hangs in our yard. The branches are so laden with plums that they droop and sag quite a bit (so much so that the BBQ had to be moved). The plums are now starting to ripen and yesterday we had our first harvest. They still need to ripen a bit, but a couple that I've had indicate that it will indeed be a tasty summer.

Technical Specs: Canon 5D, 85L II, f/5, 1/80s, ISO 200.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

AK Imagery


Today I'm excited to launch my new website: AK Imagery which is my start at professional event and commercial photography. So tell your friends, your parents, even your pets and head on over. I have also started a new blog to record and discuss gigs.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Garden work

For the past several weeks we have been working on a project to improve the backyard. Along with cleaning and re-staining the fence, Kim has also been working on getting an improved garden bed. We ripped out the old wood planter boxes and decided to use stone instead. We are also revamping the automatic sprinkler system. Today, we removed all the rocks and stones previously there (and it was a serious amount) and got the soil and main water line ready. Tomorrow, Kim will start doing some planting.

Technical Specs: Canon 5D, 17-40 @ 17mm, f/8, 1/25s, ISO 1600.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Osprey


Finally on Monday I had my chance to shoot birds. We drove to Rodman Slough near Clear Lake and I had hoped to see Osprey and possibly eagles. Unfortunately most of the birds had already left, but there were a couple of Osprey flying around 'fishing'. I still needed more reach than the 5D could offer, but the results aren't too bad considering I was using a 2x TC and handholding.

Technical Specs: Canon 5D, 300mm f/2.8 IS + 2x TC (600mm equiv.), f/6.3, 1/4000s, ISO 800.