Tuesday, December 25, 2012

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Season's Greetings!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

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2013 Rocks of the Southwest calendar...

Well, it's that time of year again... time for a new calendar for friends and family. This year I was drawing a blank for quite some time, trying to get inspired to do another calendar. I didn't really want to do "normal" southwest landscapes calendar again, mainly because my trip in the spring of 2012 had very little in the way of interesting weather or light, the above shot being one of the few exceptions. I didn't find my shots compelling enough to enthusiastically put them into a calendar, although I suppose it should have been easy to do one. I had mulled over the idea of making a "Vancouver at Night" calendar, but while I have taken tons of night shots in the last few months, inevitably, they were from the same three areas around Vancouver and I couldn't see myself making a calendar from those either.

Just the other day, I decided to take advantage of a sale from Topaz Labs and bought a couple of their plugins that I did not yet own. I rarely use plugins, but I find Topaz makes some of the best around. I bought their convolution sharpening plugin "InFocus", which I haven't really used yet, and also their B&W conversion plugin, simply called "B&W Effects". I was fiddling around with it on some images and suddenly came across an interesting toned look. After more fiddling with an opacity slider, allowing some of the underlying original colour to show through, I actually rather liked what I was seeing as far as muted colours, boosted micro contrast and overall austere tonality. The plugin's own grain effects were pretty dismal I thought, so I decided to modify the grain action I had created myself for my digital B&W infrared shots. Bingo... suddenly an interesting look that I started to like and the more I played around with it, the more it grew on me.

I'm not sure if I'll be so fond of this look after a few months of having a calendar on the wall myself, but since I was in an artistic funk and couldn't decide on what to do, well, this was a quick way out, almost an act of desperation! Now I only hope the people I'll be giving the calendar to don't look at it and think to themselves "...WTF is that? Did he scan some old, faded, grainy colour film or something...?!" Actually, all these shots were originally taken with my Panasonic GH2. Anyway, the twelve months of images appear after the break...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

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X-E1: High ISO and XF 18-55mm Review

I recently picked up Fujifilm's excellent "kit" zoom for the X-E1, the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 R LM OIS. It uses a new linear-motor for AF (the LM in its name) which is fast and silent when focusing, and it also has an effective optical image stabilization system (OIS). For a reasonably compact kit lens, the f/2.8-4.0 range is quite bright and with the fairly large APS-C sensors on the X-Pro1 and X-E1, you can get decent subject isolation, especially at the long end, when shooting wide open. From an overall image quality standpoint, the lens is impressive with surprisingly sharp results corner to corner, even at wider apertures. For an extra $400 when bundled with the X-E1 body, this lens is a bargain as far as I'm concerned! The gallery linked above was all shot with the X-E1 and this new 18-55 zoom. In addition, there are many high ISO samples too...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

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X-E1: A Beautiful Sunday in November

A gallery, shot a week ago with the Fujifilm X-E1: A Beautiful Sunday in November

Saturday, November 24, 2012

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Fujifilm X-E1: Dynamic Range and More Comments

The above animated GIF I made, shows an example of what sort of range one can get from a single raw file. It is an image that was included in the night shot gallery linked to in my previous X-E1 post. The dark version is how the default conversion settings look (my defaults, that is, ones that already give slightly more shadow detail than normal), when processing through Adobe Lightroom v4.3RC. The bright version is the final result. Most of the adjustments were just done with the highlight and shadow sliders, but in this case, I wanted to darken the bright interior down more without darkening the outside lit walls too much, so I did some selective adjustments for the windows. I was a bit sloppy and didn't isolate the main yellow door frame enough in the "after" version, so it has darkened down a bit too much for my liking. In any case, it serves to illustrate that one can get a remarkably good dynamic range from a single raw X-E1 file. Hopefully people don't find the continuously running animation above too annoying!

If you click the image (or the link below it), you'll be taken to a gallery with 24 image pairs, all taken from my previous X-E1 galleries, each pair starting with the "after" version and the image to the right is the "before", the original unadjusted version. It is effective to use the right and left keyboard arrow keys to switch between image pairs, so you can see a smooth fade from before to after and back, similar to the above animation but in higher resolution. Some images have fairly minimal adjustments but I thought it would be helpful for people to see how much manipulation has gone into the final versions, especially the night shots. On a few you'll see some slight tilting caused by perspective corrections where I either didn't quite get the shot perfectly lined-up, or where I intentionally tilted up or down for compositional reasons.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

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Distraction: The new Fujifilm X-E1

[ Update: Added a link to a gallery of samples from the XF 60mm f/2.4 Macro ]

I've been meaning to post a mini review on the Nikon D800 body, but along comes Fujifilm to entice and distract me with yet another new camera! For those following this blog, you'll remember how taken I was with the Fujifilm X100, the fixed-lens 'retro' body that I got in March of 2011. In fact the X100, with its beautiful 23mm f/2 lens (35mm in full-frame equivalency), along with my Panasonic Micro-4/3 gear, is what accompanied me on my trip to Germany in 2011, where I left my heavy Canon DSLR kit behind. Funny enough, it happened numerous times during my travels in Germany that people walked up and asked if my X100 was an old film Leica! So the retro design is certainly aesthetically effective, but beyond that, I find it a joy to use a camera with mechanical f-stop, shutter speed and exposure compensation dials. You can glance down, even with the camera switched off, to confirm your settings and the tactile feel of the controls just adds to the pleasure of shooting with it somehow. In addition, being right-eyed, the position of the viewfinder means I can keep the camera snug to my face without having my nose press up against the LCD display. Despite its initial quirks, annoyances and performance issues, virtually all of which Fujifilm addressed in subsequent firmware updates, I loved using that camera.

However, from the moment the X100 was announced, I so wished that it had the ability to change lenses! Yes, as a fixed lens, the 35mm f/2 was pretty much the perfect choice in my opinion, but I like w---i---de angle lenses and for me, the 35mm is kind of boring. What I was almost hoping for, more than interchangeable lenses, was a slew of different X100 bodies, for example an "X100w" that had a 24mm equivalent lens, an "X100n" with a normal 50mm and an "X100t" with a short 85 or 90mm tele. That would have been very sweet indeed! However for most people, just being able to change the lens is enough, and it would keep costs down compared to having multiple fixed lens bodies, so when the X-Pro1 was announced I was pretty keen...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

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The Big Switch: Nikon D800 Image Quality

D800 with AF-S 16-35mm f/4G VR zoom at 24mm, ISO 100, f/11 at 20 seconds  (original)

As many of you already know, back in July of this year I bought a complete Nikon system built around their superb new D800 body. I had been shooting with Canon DSLRs since 2004, so this really is a BIG switch. Much of my Canon gear has already been sold. I had written a fairly long article about my Nikon switch back in August already but I was never quite happy with what I wrote so it never got posted to this blog. I went through two more revisions and again, I was never quite happy.

So... I have decided to start fresh and this is a complete rewrite. In addition, now that I have been using the system for nearly four months, I have a bit more experience to draw on, over 7000 frames worth. For the images in this article, clicking on them will open a larger version. Also, each image has EXIF data and a link below which you can click to see the original, converted with my default Lightroom settings, in other words, how it looked "out of camera" prior to adjustment. The "original" versions may have some slight cropping, straightening or perspective correction applied to match the adjusted version in order to make it easier to compare them and see just how much the final image has been manipulated from a contrast and colour standpoint. For the complete article, containing many sample images, read on...

Monday, October 15, 2012

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Micro-4/3 Presentation

Busy, busy, busy! First posting in a long time. Need to write up on my big Canon to Nikon switch (a D800 system) and I have lots of images I've shot on the new Nikon, but in the meantime here is an image gallery of Micro-4/3 shots that I've put together. These are random samples of work I have done over the last two years with Micro-4/3 gear and are images that I'll be showing at a presentation on Micro-4/3 cameras this evening for the Burnaby Photographic Society. The above image was shot with the Panasonic GX1 from outside, through glass, with the 14mm f/2.5 pancake lens, then perspective corrected in Adobe Lightroom.

Gallery: Micro-4/3 Presentation Samples

Sunday, August 5, 2012

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Fireworks! 2012 Celebration of Light: Italy

I shot Italy's fireworks with a 200mm lens from the pier at Jericho Beach. Initially, with the wind at my back, I was hoping to be lucky and have the smoke blowing behind the fireworks again. Not so. As it got dark, the wind totally died down and during the fireworks, the smoke just hung around. Oh well, I got lucky two times out of three this year, so not bad! I had to be very careful to avoid the many really bright flash bursts, to prevent all the smoke from totally blowing out, and it looks as though I did reasonably well that way. I was surprised how many turned out, despite all the smoke, which even added a bit of interest perhaps.

People were treated to an amazing moonrise over the city too, but unfortunately it came just scant minutes before the start of the main fireworks at 10pm, so I did not take the time to put the 2x teleconverter on my 70-200mm, nor did I take the time to shoot an HDR sequence, which would have been very cool. Also, with all the people walking along the pier, the wooden planks were flexing around a lot and my shot would likely not have turned out very sharp either. Lots of atmospheric disturbance too, so even with an HDR, the moon probably would not have been very sharp. Here is the gallery...

Gallery: 2012 Fireworks - Italy
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Fireworks! 2012 Celebration of Light: Brazil

What was interesting about the Brazil's fireworks were the many rich golden yellow and orange tones, as well as some teal green. Vietnam seemed to be more primary red / green / blue / white, but Brazil stood out with its more unusual colours. At least, I found them more distinctive in any case. Enjoy...

Gallery: 2012 Fireworks - Brazil

Sunday, July 29, 2012

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Fireworks! 2012 Celebration of Light: Vietnam

On Saturday, I was out shooting the fireworks from Burrard Bridge once again. Vietnam was the featured country and it was a great show, lots of colour, not much smoke and clear skies.

Gallery: 2012 Fireworks - Vietnam

One thing you might notice, if you've ever photographed fireworks before, is how nicely highlight colour is held in these shots. Bright fireworks streamers still have strong colour and are not just blown-out to white. In addition, even on the above small photo, you'll find lots of detail on the beach, seeing all the people standing there, plus there is still even some blue sky showing. This was at 10:21pm, near the end of the show. Visually, it was getting pretty darn dark but the above photo is showing tremendous dynamic range. You'll probably notice that throughout the rest of the image gallery as well.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

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Gallery: Devil's Garden, Utah

I took a few minutes in between doing too many other things this weekend (including testing the impressive new Nikon D800) to go through a set of images from my recent road trip to Utah. I thought I'd publish a gallery of images from Devil's Garden, in Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument...

Gallery: Devil's Garden, Grand Staircase - Escalante NM, Utah

Monday, May 28, 2012

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Well, after many good intentions on blogging during my recent Utah trip, circumstances never really allowed for it.

My purchase of a Roam Mobility SIM card for my iPad didn't help much since the majority of the time, I got "No Service" and the few times I did, it was at abysmally slow Edge data speeds. Had I been on my own, I would have made a point to blog when I had WiFi, but I did not want my friend Bill getting impatient while waiting for me to blog...

In any case it was a successful trip, having visited many new spots in Nevada and Utah that I hadn't been to before. More photos to come in the next few days! The above photo is of Sipapu Bridge in Natural Bridges National Monument.

Lastly, I have moved my main sublimephoto website to new servers, so service might be a little dodgy for a day or two. Soon I intend on updating the site as well, but as mentioned in the last post, I am drowning in photos and after shooting about 60 GB on the Utah trip, things are not getting any better!

Friday, April 6, 2012

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Drowning in photos...

This blog has been quiet for far too long and I thought I had better post something! I am literally drowning in photos, that's how behind I am. Between spring cleaning at home, moving my website to new servers, a new vehicle, testing tons of new cameras and lenses, trade shows at work and more, I am so behind with processing photos that I don't know where to begin! The above photo was taken with a new Canon EOS-5D Mark III and the 17mm TS-E at Granville Island.

Monday, February 20, 2012

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Canon Pixma Pro-1: Profiling and art papers...

On my last Pro-1 blog entry I mentioned that I found that downloaded profiles improved on the many that Canon supplied with the printer. Well, I am picky I suppose and while some profiles I've tried do seem outstanding, like the one I downloaded from Moab Paper's website for their amazing Slickrock Metallic Pearl for example, others could use a little help... especially those for some of the fine art papers. So, I've started the process of generating my own profiles by printing out the high-quality + extended-greys targets for my Spyder3 Print calibrator...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

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Canon Pixma Pro-1: Wow...

I set up my new Canon Pixma Pro-1 printer tonight. So far I am very impressed with the prints I've gotten after setting up this hulking beast of a printer. In a word... WOW.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

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More Infrared: Pitt Lake

I was out at Pitt Lake yesterday and lucked out with the clouds and sun. This was perfect weather for dramatic light and infrared photos. These were all shot with my IR-converted GF2 camera again...

Monday, January 30, 2012

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Panasonic GF2 Infrared Conversion

Today, I finally received my GF2 back from LifePixel, after its infrared conversion. As usual, they did a great job and I would say the assembly of the camera was even better than from the factory, with perfectly aligned body-shell seams. There was just a hint of sun during my lunch break, so I snapped off a quick series of shots near Beau Photo. Hopefully I'll have some sun next weekend, so I can get out and take some more shots with it! Two more photos after the break...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

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Two New Galleries...

This weekend, I was feeling better since getting my cold a week ago and I managed to get out on both Saturday and today, Sunday. I have some out-of-order gallery postings here, but what the heck. Today, I spent a little time behind the Museum of Anthropology out at UBC. It was crisp, cold and icy, but that made for some interesting shots. The gallery is called Cold Walk at UBC MOA.

A week ago, I went for a walk, exploring some back-alleys with my new Panasonic 14mm pancake lens and my GX1, hence the gallery titled Back-alleys and Pancakes. Dingy and grey it was, but I still found a handful of subjects.

Finally, yesterday I went on quite a long walk in the cold, which actually seemed to do my sinuses good! I shot a whole lot more over about three hours and those shots are not yet processed. Watch for it soon...

Friday, January 13, 2012

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What I want to handle, ASAP...

For those who have been following my blog, you'll know that I am quite a fan of the Fujifilm X100. Well, I suppose you can then imagine that I was quite excited when Fujifilm finally announced what they had been hinting at, a full-blown interchangeable lens "version" of the X100. I hope to have an opportunity to handle this camera in person sometime in the next few weeks. If it turns out to be as good as it appears to me at the moment, after reading numerous previews online and watching various detailed demo videos, then I suspect that I will be buying into yet another camera system. At this point, I am pretty sure that I'll be fighting to get an X-Pro1 and all three of its initial prime lenses pictured above, when the system starts shipping in late February. Yes, I am that excited by its potential!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

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Guess what I handled yesterday?

If you guessed a brand new Nikon D4, you'd be right! Yep, a group of Nikon reps were kind enough to pay a surprise visit to Beau Photo yesterday and I got some hands-on time with their new flagship DSLR. Watch for an upcoming "first impressions" article on the Beau Photo Digital Blog in the next day or so.

In a nutshell? Wow! A very impressive new top-end DSLR body from Nikon...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

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Happy New Year! ... and my first photo of 2012.

My first shot of 2012 is of my new Panasonic GX1 with its optional LVF2 viewfinder and my new 14mm f/2.5 pancake lens. It was taken with my new red Panasonic GF2! Why red? Well, next week I will be sending the GF2 down to LifePixel in Washington to be converted to a dedicated infrared camera and I figured a red body was fitting and will make it easier, at a glance, to tell which body is the IR one. That, and the fact that Panasonic was out of black GF2 kits that came with the 14mm pancake!

I received both these cameras just before Christmas and have been shooting with the GX1 quite extensively for the last week. Watch for an upcoming review in the February Beau Photo newsletter and on the Beau Photo Digital Blogs, but suffice to say for now that I am very impressed. In fact, I would say its image quality on stills is slightly better even than my GH2, although I do miss the multi-aspect-ratio sensor. How is it better? Well I am judging the colour to be slightly more accurate and the dynamic range to be a little better. Also, while high ISO noise levels are similar, I feel that the GX1 offers a slightly tighter "grain" pattern with a little less blotchiness and less pattern artifacts like banding, when compared to the GH2. Again, these improvements are very minor so I would not hesitate to grab either camera in any given situation.