Sunday, October 15, 2017

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2017 Oregon Eclipse - Painted Hills / Clarno / Shaniko





In August, I headed down to central Oregon with a friend to experience and photograph the total solar eclipse. I decided to go nearly a week early, to scout out and secure campsites prior to the mad traffic and rush of people that hit Oregon right around eclipse-day, and also to enjoy the amazing scenery there. Luckily, we managed to find a campground just outside the eclipse path to the north that wasn't trying to charge exorbitant rates, and we prepaid for 5 days right through to the day of the eclipse. In addition, scouting around some BLM backroads that I was already familiar with, we found a great spot to camp, at the end of a rough gravel road, so stayed there on the Saturday and Sunday before the eclipse on Monday.

The above linked gallery has images from the first two days of the trip after arriving in central Oregon, from both the Painted Hills and Clarno Units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, as well as from the "almost ghost town" of Shaniko.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

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Canada 150: Fireworks in New Westminster




Canada celebrated 150 years as an integrated nation this year, with July 1, 1867, being the day that the colonies of Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were united into a single dominion of the British Empire. Note that Canada did not become fully independent until the Constitution Act of 1982 was passed!

Avoiding the huge crowds in and around downtown Vancouver, I met up with a few friends in New Westminster, to observe the Canada 150 celebration there. There were fireworks scheduled just in front of the River Market at Westminster Quay, and when we arrived early to find a spot to setup our cameras, the fireworks barge was still docked and being set up at the edge of the Fraser River - see photo #1 in the gallery. I called out and asked where the barge would be, and was told "... in the middle of the Fraser, about 100 meters west..." so we setup in a spot where we thought the fireworks would be visible to the right of the Inn at the Quay - photo #2. Well, much to my dismay, they towed the barge more like 600 meters to the west, thus totally messing with our intended composition. By the time the barge was stationary in the river, being kept on station with a tugboat on either end, there was not enough time to try and find another spot where we could incorporate the fireworks into an interesting foreground. Too bad!

In the gallery, the images that are wide, 16:9 aspect ratio, were some of the nicer still frames taken during the time-lapse with my X-Pro2, where I shot with the XF 10-24mm zoom and cropped to the wider format. The other, less rectangular shots (mostly verticals) were taken with the Fujifilm GFX 50S and 63mm lens. I will be posting a review on that medium format digital camera at some point in the future as well.

Following is a simple time-lapse I mentioned. Click on the image below to open the video (1080p - 13MB download) in a new window or tab. You can see the tugboats and barge moving back and forth, working to stay centred at more or less the same spot on the river...



Monday, July 3, 2017

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2017/03 California - Joshua Tree National Park




In mid-March, my friend Bill and I decided to make a quick run down to the southern California deserts. That region had received way above average rainfall and a wildflower "super-bloom" was fully in progress. Have a look at the above photo; normally that area of Joshua Tree National Park has rocky, sandy ground with a few sage-brushes dotting the slopes and maybe some tufts of drying grass. However back in March, as you can see, one could walk knee-deep in spots through carpets of blooming wildflowers!

Unfortunately it was too early for the bloom in the higher parts of Joshua Tree NP, where all the cool rock formations and, of course, the Joshua trees are located, so the slopes near the south entrance were the only spots to really see any wildflowers. With only this one area in bloom, we decided to head down to Anza Borrego Desert State Park the next day, a fair bit further south and where we knew the wildflowers were already fully developed.

This was the first time in over 20 years that I managed to make it down to southern CA during the peak of a wildflower super-bloom and it was indeed quite impressive! Stay tuned for more shots from Anza Borrego in the next few posts...

Saturday, June 10, 2017

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NiSi "Natural Night Filter" Tests & Review





Gallery (36 images): NiSi Natural Night Filter Tests

[Updated June 10, 2017: post now has full review and gallery]

I recently purchased a NiSi Natural Night Filter, a filter designed to block certain wavelengths of light, namely those produced by sodium vapour and mercury vapour lamps. Sodium vapour city streetlights are what cause night shots in cities to have such a dominant yellow/orange colour cast. In the animated GIF image above, you can see what a dramatic difference the filter makes! Also check out the linked gallery above for some extensive comparisons.

Not yet having an existing drop-in filter holder, I also bought NiSi's filter holder system kit. I have not tried any of NiSi's other extensive set of filters, such as graduated NDs or the like, so my review is rather specific.  For simplicity sake, I will refer to this filter as the NNF from now on in the following review...

Saturday, May 20, 2017

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UBC Botanical Gardens w/Fujinon XF50mm f/2R WR




Gallery (30 images): 2017/05 - UBC Botanical Gardens

A wonderful day in the sun, shooting out at the UBC Botanical Gardens. All photos were taken with my new Fujinon XF 50mm f/2R WR lens. It focuses fairly closely on its own, without extension tubes and all the shots in the gallery were taken with just the lens itself.

Originally, I was going to write a review on this lens in conjunction with this posting, but the review will follow in the next few days and I will link to it from here, as well as from my other 50mm f/2 gallery, 2017 Spring has Finally Sprung! There will be one more gallery with some more shots from the 50mm to follow then as well.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

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2017 Spring has Finally Sprung!



Gallery (25 images): 2017 Spring has Finally Sprung!

After a long lazy lull in my blogging, I am finally back and plan on trying to post on a more regular basis! I have a backlog of work that I am going through, from previous years of trips, to new lens tests, filter tests, and more. In addition, I was down in southern California for a week to photograph the incredible wildflower "super bloom" they had, and another posting will come with photos from that trip too.

So... we have had many months of abysmal weather here in Vancouver, Canada. First there were months of cold weather with surprising amounts of snowfall that stuck around for weeks and weeks. Then we had a month plus of continuous rainy days, with seldom a hint of any sun. It has been a depressing few months, weather-wise, which probably contributed to my lack enthusiasm. In any case, recently the weather has warmed up and we've had a few fantastically beautiful days, so I've finally got out and started shooting again.

The above gallery are simply shots from a nice evening walk home from work the other day. Flowers and trees are in full bloom, and there were many great photo ops, just walking along one of my usual routes. All the photos were taken with Fujifilm's superb new XF 50mm f/2R WR lens, a light, compact prime that is weather and dust resistant, focuses quite close, is very sharp and renders out-of-focus backgrounds with nice smooth bokeh.

Notably, this is also one of the first galleries in a very long time where I have only relied on Adobe Lightroom for processing my Fujifilm X-Trans sensor raw files. Recent updates to Adobe's Creative Cloud apps have finally allowed Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw to very nearly catch up to the image quality available from third-party raw converters like PhotoNinja or Iridient Developer. While those raw converters still have Adobe beat for the absolute best low-ISO fine detail rendition, the differences are now slight enough that I no longer feel it necessary to step away from Lightroom unless I am making really big prints. So, the shots in this gallery were 100% Lightroom-only processed. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

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2016 Rockies Trip - Selected 70


Moraine Lake - Gallery: 2016 Rockies Trip - Selected 70

In September, I went on a road trip with my dad and Franziska. We traveled through the Kootenays, then the Rockies up through Banff and Jasper National Parks, up to Prince George and down to Wells and Barkerville, then back home via the Fraser Canyon. These are 70 selected images from the trip, some highlights of the many picturesque spots we visited.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

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Infrared with a modified Fujifilm X-E2


Gallery (30 images): Infrared modified Fujifilm X-E2

Over the years I've had several digital cameras dedicated to IR photography, first starting back in 2000 (if memory serves) with a Nikon Coolpix 800, then followed by an Olympus C4040 and then a Nikon Coolpix 5400. With those cameras, I used deep IR filters on otherwise stock cameras and shutter speeds were long enough in full sunlight, that I often had to use a tripod. I never used those cameras for colour photography since I felt that their image quality wasn't good enough, however with the IR grain and glow added in post, they seemed to mostly suffice for my B&W IR ambitions. Back then, I was shooting medium format transparency film with a Pentax 67II, my main camera at the time.

Then, after buying a Canon EOS-30D in 2006, I decided to have my very first digital SLR that I had bought in 2004, an EOS-20D, converted to a dedicated IR camera, letting LifePixel do the modification with a standard 720nm bandpass IR filter. I had that camera for many years, finally selling it when I started to use Panasonic Micro-4/3 bodies. In 2012, when I was shooting with a GH2, I decided to buy a Panasonic GF2 body and immediately had it converted to shoot IR (720nm as well), and used LifePixel once again. With a standard DSLR, one has to worry that IR light doesn't focus in the same plane as visible light, leading to focus errors when the visible light is used either by the DSLR's AF sensor, or by you if manually focusing via the camera's focusing screen. This is why many older lenses had an IR offset dot on their focusing scale, so you could manually shift the focus to compensate. Well, with a mirrorless camera like the GF2, the main image sensor is being used to focus, and since the IR filter is, of course, in front of the image sensor, you get perfectly accurate AF, as well as being able to see the IR effect through the EVF or back LCD screen. Overall, this made shooting IR much more pleasant and accurate compared to a modified DLSR!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

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Southwest 2016: Lime ruins, Danger Pt. and Succor Creek





Lime, OR - Abandoned Cement Plant Ruins (click for full gallery)

In mid-June, I was off on another road-trip to the US Southwest, as detailed in my previous blog post, where I talk about shooting with my new Fujifilm X-Pro2 and compared raw conversions from PhotoNinja with Lightroom.

The gallery above has images from the first two days of shooting, starting with the graffiti encrusted ruins of an abandoned concrete plant in Lime, Oregon. As with other recent trip galleries, there are GPS links on the thumbnails of each image (the globe icon at the top left of each slide), so you can see where the shot was taken, give or take a few dozen meters usually. On the first day of shooting, I accidentally had left my camera in JPEG only (was testing how many JPEG-only shots per card for a customer at work, just before I left) and didn't notice until the download to my laptop that evening... D'oh! Luckily the overcast shots generally presented only minimal dynamic range challenges so the JPEGs are fine. Quickly switched back to RAW+JPEG that evening after I noticed though!

The next day, a few hours were spent hiking around the fascinating rock formations near the Danger Point cliffs, south of Westfall, Oregon. Then it was off to find a camp site at the Succor Creek State Natural Area in southeast Oregon. These BLM lands are filled with some amazing rock formations, cliffs, canyons and even "painted desert" areas.

Click to see all the blog postings from my 2016 June Southwest Trip...

Saturday, July 23, 2016

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Southwest trip and X-Pro2 raw processing...



Lightning over White Sands, New Mexico

I am back from a three week road-trip to the Southwestern US. This time, it was a trip through Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and back, for a total of 8,945 km of driving. The furthest south was White Sands, New Mexico, where the above photo was taken at dusk. Actually, the shot is looking towards White Sands from Oliver Lee State Park to the east.

Not only is this blog posting about sharing a few trip images, prior to getting some full galleries posted, but also to discuss X-Trans sensor raw conversions, specifically how the latest Adobe Lightroom CC compares to PhotoNinja with images from my Fujifilm X-Pro2. While Adobe has significantly improved their Fujifilm X-Trans raw processing, eliminating many of the original obvious drawbacks, such as badly smeared colour details, strange blurs and/or outlining along high colour-contrast edges and so on, there are still some weaknesses. One is that fine texture details with strong colour contrast still seem to lack definition (nowhere near as badly smeared as before though) and that detail in shadows, and not just ones that have been dramatically pulled up in post, often seems to look muddy and rather blurry. By the way, you can click on any of the shots in this posting to bring up a much larger version. Just click the back button in browser to return to the post after...

Also, if you just want to see images from the trip and don't care about raw processing, click to see all the blog postings from my 2016 June Southwest Trip...