Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Time Lapse Downtown San Jose

The last several days have had interesting weather. Its usually clear in the morning, followed by rain during day along with really high winds. Then by about 5 am its clear again. Since I'm usually at work by 7, I've watched the beautiful sky turn stormy by about 10 am each morning. So yesterday I wanted to capture the transition. I setup my camera pointing out the window of my office with the intervalometer. Sure enough there was a nice sunrise, but no storm, just clouds. It started to get a little windy at the end of the day (you can see it in the last second or two of the video). Thus the video isn't as interesting. I'll probably try again in the next week or so. I'll probably also use the 15mm fisheye to get an even wider view.

Curiously enough I wasn't bothered by the shutter of the camera going off once a minute for the entire day. Also curious are the various color shifts. The WB was set to daylight for all the frames and all the frames were processed identically.

I know its not exactly a picture, but since it was taken with a still camera, I think its allowed for the PhotoBlog.

Technical Specs: Canon 40D, Sigma 12-24 @ 12mm, f/8, ISO 100. 524 frames.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Through a Wet Window

Its been quite rainy and windy here the last several days. Oddly enough the rain seems to clear in the early morning hours and the sunrises have dramatic color, however by about 10am the rain returns. The weather is calling for continued rain for the next several days so I probably won't have much of a chance to spend time outside. I suppose it could be worse, we could be living in one of the flood prone areas in Marin County.

This was taken through our front window. The wind was blowing hard enough to make the rain go sideways. Our front window though protected overhead still managed to get quite wet. The film of water formed a very interesting distortion of the outside. Its difficult to see in the overall image, but its fairly obvious and interesting close up.

Technical Specs: Canon 40D, 17-55 @ 23mm, f/22, 1/6s, ISO 800.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Time for more bird pictures! The small songbirds were pretty active this morning. I could hear them all over the front and back starting at about 7:30. I grabbed the 500 with a tele-converter and tried shooting with it handheld. The results weren't too bad. Since it was a little cloudy, I had to turn up the ISO.

This is a female Yellow Rumped Warbler and is pretty common all over North America. I'm told they can even be found (on some occasions) even as far north as Newfoundland in the winter.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 500 f/4 IS + 1.4x (700mm equiv.), f/8, 1/500s, ISO 1600.

Friday, January 18, 2008

ETTL II sucks?

In a comment to yesterday's post Mike correctly points out that the ETTL II pre-flash should allow the camera to set the proper flash power regardless of whether the improvised bounce card was in place. I did a quick experiment where I took two pictures with the bounce card, one at 17mm and the other zoomed at 61mm. Pictured above are crops of the bear, resized to be the same size with the bounce card in place. Its pretty clear that the picture taken at 61mm is underexposed, for some reason the camera didn't set the flash power high enough. I tried changing the metering mode and it had no effect, so I'm puzzled. Is there some other factor at work? I didn't think the on-board flash of the Rebel XT had a zooming head but even if it did with the preflash the camera should be able to compute the proper flash power level. Maybe ETTL just sucks. Maybe this is one of those instances that all those folks who speak about the prowess of the Nikon flash system are referring to. I'm welcome to suggestions.

Pictured above is the uncropped versions, again the 17mm one is on the right.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pop-up Bounce Flash

I think its well known that the pop-up flashes on most DSLRs produce less than flattering results. The direct blast of flash usually robs the shot of color from the environment and is usually harsh. For flash photography, people usually look for soft, diffuse lighting. One way to do this is to use 'bounce flash' where the flash is directed at a surface in the scene which then reflects it around over the entire scene. On most DSLRs however the pop-up flash faces only one direction, right at the target, making it difficult to use bounce flash. At least thats what I thought until earlier this week. With a 5 cent tool and about 10 seconds of time, one can easily convert the Rebel XTi's (and the Rebel XT's) pop up flash to use a bounce card.

The job is simple:
  • Find a plain white business card
  • Pop-up the camera's flash and look for the two metal rods that hold up the flash
  • Line up the business card so its centered over the rods and make a mark
  • Use a pair of scissors and make about 1/2" cut where you marked
  • Now slide the business card so that is snug with the rods sticking into the business card
You can control the angle of the bounce card just by rotating it up and down. The results using this simple method are surprisingly good. In the top picture, the left was taken with direct flash and the right with the 'business card' installed. Same settings the only difference was the one on the left had flash exposure compensation set at +2EV. Since the camera sets the flash power for direct flash, you'll need to compensate for the light loss caused by diffusely spreading the everywhere by dialing up the flash exposure compensation.

This trick works well for longer focal lengths but really doesn't work well for shorter ones, so it'll be good for a portrait but not good for photographing something like an entire room. I also just checked to see if you can do the same thing with the 40D and sadly you can't, the flash's pop-up mechanism is slightly different on the 40D.

I learned about this from a photography website, sadly I don't remember which site it was. Despite its limitations I think it'll come in handy in a pinch, and hey all it requires is putting a business card in your camera bag.

Technical Specs (only for top picture): Canon Rebel XTi, 17-85@61, f/5.6, 1/80s, ISO 1600.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Surfing by Candlelight

The power here went out about 40 minutes ago. Fortunately we had candles handy and were reasonably lit soon. Kim has been entertaining herself the old fashioned way (i.e. reading). I quickly remembered that my wireless router and DSL modem are plugged into a battery backup system so I've been sitting on the couch surfing by candle light. I just hope the battery backup lasts long enough to make this post....

... well I guess it did. Now I hope it lasts until bedtime...

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 24L, f/2, 1/30s, ISO 6400.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Snowy Egret

Went back to Los Gatos Creek County park late this afternoon. This time I walked over with Kim (it was only about a 15 minute walk from the house). We saw this Snowy Egret on our way back just as the sun had set.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 300 f/2.8 IS + 2x TC (600mm equiv.), f/6.3, 1/125s, ISO 800.

Great Egret

This morning I went over to the Los Gatos Creek County Park which is about a 5 minute drive away (its actually walking distance but I didn't want to try walking there in the early morning lugging a tripod).

The park was recommended to me by a couple of folks and is in the book Birding at the Bottom of the Bay (highly recommended by the way).

I really enjoyed this park. There are numerous ponds and there's a great variety in the birds. There is a good mix of shore birds and smaller tree birds.

The Great Egret was hard to shoot because of its brilliant white coat. It was challenging to retain detail in the shadows while not blowing the white coat.

In addition to the Egrets I also saw many Cormorants, various ducks and some smaller birds.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 500 f/4 + 1.4x TC (700mm equiv.), f/8, 1/1250, ISO 400.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

1D3 is back!

My 1D3 came back from Canon on Friday. I have to say the service from Canon was quite fast, only about 4 business days including shipping time. I had a chance today to head to the Palo Alto Baylands and do a little shooting. I didn't really have any complaints before and I still have no complaints, the AF seems to work quite well. I have updated my Baylands Zenfolio Gallery with a few of today's shots.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 500mm f/4 + 1.4x TC (700mm equiv.), f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 800.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Boeing 747-100 Cockpit

I went to the Hiller Aviation Museum today (work thing) and one of the many neat things I saw was the cockpit of the Boeing 747-100. I've wanted to see a real airline cockpit since I was a kid so this was a blast. I got to sit in the chair and twiddle all the switches as well. For those in the bay, I'd recommend checkout the Hiller Aviation Museum. Its not that large, but they do have some interesting stuff.

Technical Specs: Fuji F30, 8mm, f/2.8, 1/420s, ISO 800.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Get Well 1D3...

The Canon 1D Mark III camera has a problem (its actually a set of serial number ranges that do). Long story short, in some circumstances AI Servo auto-focus performance is poor, if you want the details check out Rob Galbraith's article (he's the one who first described the issues with pre-production bodies). When the fix was announced back in November I called Canon and got my body on the list. Upon returning from the holiday break, I got a message from Canon that it was my body's turn. They very quickly sent out a UPS label for overnight shipping and yesterday the body was packed up and dropped off at the UPS store. Folks on various forums have said they got their bodies back in less than a week, so I'm hoping for the same luck.

Have I noticed any issues with AI Servo? Its a difficult question to answer since I never used AI Servo in the past (you don't need it for shooting landscapes, buildings or anything that doesn't move) and I only recently started using it for birds. When I first started shooting birds with the 500mm lens and the 1D3 I didn't get a lot of keepers, but I'm sure that is because of my error and relative inexperience rather than a faulty camera. Since I did do a little bit of bird photography with the 1Ds2, I compared my 1D3 images versus the 1Ds2 ones and found that the keeper rate was fairly consistent. Last week when I was photographing my sister and Kim at Bower Ponds I used AI Servo exclusively and found many shots were out of focus. I think the shutter speeds were high enough but again its more likely it was user error.

Until the 1D3 comes back, I'll be shooting with Kim's Rebel XTi. It feels really weird working with the camera after using mainly the 1D3 for several months. I also forgot that the Rebel series of cameras don't have an external sync. port so in order to fire my strobes I had to use the onboard flash to trigger the strobes which results in harsher lighting than I was aiming for.

Technical Specs: Canon Rebel XTi, 60mm macro, f/8, 1/10s, ISO 200, strobe fired.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Bower Ponds '300' style

This afternoon, I went to Bower Ponds in Red Deer with Kim and my sister for some skating. Now I couldn't skate if my life depended on it but the other two are pretty good at it. I wandered around the park and took several shots, including many skating shots.

I've only processed a few of the pictures but so far I really like these two. These were both processed with the '300' Lightroom preset I talked about in my previous post. I love the results of this preset, especially for flat scenes with snow.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 24-70, top: 45mm, f/4, 1/1250s, ISO 800. left: 24mm, f/7.1, 1/500s, ISO 200.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Evening Walk

My sister and I went out for a walk this evening at a local park in Red Deer where I photographed this bench. The image was processed in Lightroom using the '300' preset which mimics the style of the movie '300'.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 24-70@35mm, f/4, 1/100s, ISO 6400.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Dawn of a New Year

Happy New Year! 2007 was a fun-filled action packed year and 2008 promises to be the same. In 2007 there were 99 posts along with several trips. I'm hoping to shoot more and post more in 2008. Fun times.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 16-35 II @ 27mm. 4 shot panorama with 3 bracketed exposures. ISO 800.