Monday, December 30, 2013

Bookmark and Share

Flashlight Ceiling Beamshots (Take 1)

I've decided to take my experience in compressing a photograph's dynamic range and apply that to rendering flashlight beam-shots in such a way as to show all the subtle colour differences and beam artifacts. There are many subtleties to the beams produced by various flashlights and while it is relatively easy to see these differences visually when shining against a blank white wall, it is not so easy to capture on camera, at least not with a single photo. Combining the large, 'domed' LEDs with high precision, polished reflectors and anti-reflection coated lenses in modern high-end flashlights can also create colour artifacts in the beam, sometimes quite obvious and other times more subtle.

I have endeavoured to somewhat accurately portray these differences in the gallery which you can access by clicking on the above image. Not only might these beam-shots be of interest to other flashlight aficionados, those that sometimes call themselves "flashaholics", but some of the subtle patterns and coloration are also quite beautiful in their own way. I need to be careful, since with my growing collection of lights, I may be well on the way to "flashaholism" myself! A great resource, if you want to learn more about modern high-end flashlights, is CandlePowerForums.

The middle image above (and the first image in the gallery) show the collection of lights, diffusers and filters that I photographed. There are many notes following in this blog entry, describing the test conditions, which lights were photographed etc. One thing that I will stress right from the get-go is that the photos in this gallery can in no way be used to judge the relative brightness of these lights. More details follow…

[update 12/31/2013]: added one missing photo and revised the order of the gallery and descriptions slightly to make more sense.
[update 1/1/2014]: Added labels to each shot in the gallery and fixed a few minor things in the article. Happy New Year!
[update 1/6/2014]: Added in the Thrunite TN32 beam-shot and took out the laser+refracting head to keep the gallery at a clean 35 shots.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Bookmark and Share

Happy Holidays!

Hope you all have a Merry Christmas and all the best for the coming New Year!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Bookmark and Share

A Hawk at Beau Photo...

It is not unusual for people to bring their pets into Beau Photo. We all love animals there and generally welcome them but on Friday, a slightly rarer animal made an appearance... a Harris Hawk! It was amazingly calm and composed, even letting perfect strangers touch it. Apparently it is "famous" having appeared is some films I believe. A few minutes were spent admiring the hawk with people pulling out their cameras and iPhones to take some photos. I took some shots with my Fujifilm X-E2 and a few more of this beautiful raptor follow...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bookmark and Share

Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4R: First gallery of tests...

Click on the image above to see my first image gallery of tests with Fujifilm's brand new and superb XF 23mm f/1.4 R wide angle lens. I have now tested this lens quite comprehensively and am extremely impressed with its quality. The only remaining question for me is how flare resistant it will be when placing the sun inside the shot, or just outside the frame. Sadly, the weather simply has not cooperated for me to do a test like that yet.

For a detailed review I wrote, see here: NEW! Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 R wide-angle lens...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bookmark and Share

Fall colours, fog and GX7 followup...

Stanley Park Fall Colours (click image for gallery) - X-E1

It was a good year for fall colours here in Vancouver, with a nice spell of good weather before the major fall rains hit. This meant I could get out a few times and get some nice autumn shots for a change! The above image, and linked gallery, were taken with my Fujifilm X-E1 and all images were processed primarily in PhotoNinja v1.2.1 with a minor followup in Lightroom before exporting the gallery. It was an absolutely gorgeous day that Sunday, and there were many vibrant trees and lots of colourful leaves on the ground. The rest of the images galleries in this posting have photos taken with my new Panasonic GX7 and just processed through Adobe Lightroom...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bookmark and Share

UBC: More light painting...

Through the generosity of a contact I have at the UBC Botanical Gardens, I was able to get into the gardens after hours one evening last week to do some light painting. I had plans to do an elaborate, wide area, wide angle paint of the upper gardens, the eastern most section that is right next to Thunderbird Stadium. Alas, there was a game or practice on, and all the stadium lights were lit, flooding that area with a bright orange glow. To do the elaborate light paint I had envisioned, it would have probably taken me about 5-7 minutes, maybe longer, and that would have meant a bulb exposure equally long. With the stadium lit, even a one minute long time exposure probably would have been totally washed out.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bookmark and Share

Germany 2011 Trip: Fourteen Galleries...

After over two years, I have finally completed sorting through all the photos I took during my 2011 trip to Germany and have created fourteen image galleries from those shots. I am making a concerted effort to go through the tremendous backlog of photos I have, going all the way back to 2010, and decided that the 2011 Germany trip deserved my attention first. I have friends and relatives over there that I visited, who all know that I took many photos on my trip and were probably wondering if they would ever get to see what I shot!

Each of the fourteen galleries has an associated image and a link, as the one above, and either can be clicked to have the gallery open in a new window. That way, once you're done looking at that gallery, you can close the window and scroll this page down for the next one. Click READ MORE below for links to the remaining thirteen galleries and enjoy...

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bookmark and Share

Pitt Lake: Light-painting and beam-shots...

A few weeks back, I was at Pitt Lake to do some light painting. The above was my favourite shot, the last frame of the evening, a 12 minute exposure with my Fujifilm X-E1, 14mm lens at f/4 and ISO 200. I did less than 2 minutes of light painting at the beginning of the exposure using my Sunwayman D40A light to illuminate the trees and foreground while walking along the dike just outside the frame to the right. Too bad there was haze and some high clouds since the only really clear sky was near the top right of the frame.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bookmark and Share

New! Panasonic Lumix GX7

On August 1st, Panasonic announced the new Lumix GX7 Micro-Four-Thirds (M43) body. Here in Canada, it will sell for $1099 as body only, $1199 for a kit with the new 14-42mm zoom and $1299 for a kit with the new 20mm f/1.7 vII pictured above. After carefully analyzing the features and ergonomics of the GX7, I had already decided that this would finally be the camera to replace my two-and-a-half year old GH2, so based on that analysis I had already ordered one for myself through work at Beau Photo, the kit with the new revised 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens. The GX7 is due to start shipping around mid September.

Then, much to my surprise, this last Friday I had an unannounced visit from a Panasonic tech-rep who actually had a preproduction GX7 on hand for me to see. I was able to play with it for about 45 minutes and even take some test shots with it. Following are my first impressions and comparisons to other Panasonic and Olympus cameras I have owned or shot with...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bookmark and Share

Light Painting at MOA with a SupBeam X40...

On Saturday night, instead of braving the crowds and photographing yet another "Celebration of Light" fireworks, like I have for many years in a row (I was tempted), I decided to do something a whole lot more peaceful and meditative. I went to the totems behind the Museum of Anthropology and did some light painting.

Well actually, it wasn't all that peaceful for me...

It turns out that I did a whole lot of running back and forth through each frame with my new handheld LED searchlight, making sure never to stop in one spot long enough for my body to register on the shot, although there are a few ghostly hints of me showing on a couple of the images. I also made sure that while painting, I was either blocking the head of the flashlight from the camera's view with my body or with objects in the scene, or simply made sure that I was never pointing the light back towards the camera. I did ruin a few attempts when I wasn't being careful enough...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bookmark and Share

2013 Utah Trip - Days 1 thru 4...

Old Faithful, in Yellowstone National Park, at the tail end of an eruption (click image for gallery)

This is the first in an upcoming series of posts with image galleries from my trip down to Utah in May, 2013. This gallery has images taken during my drive down to Yellowstone in Wyoming, my first time visiting the park since I was a child where I only had a plastic squirt-gun shaped like a camera. I really wanted to take photos, just like my parents were doing, but was far too young at the time to have a real camera. The squirt-gun was the next best thing my parents could think of at the time and they got me one on that trip. I really enjoyed pretending to take photos with it!

Being a child with a short attention span though, I recall uttering the phrase "You seen one geyser, you've seen them all..." at one point during the trip, which really annoyed and disappointed my parents, especially my mother. At the time, I really did not appreciate all the traveling and exploring I did with them during every summer vacation, but it obviously rubbed off on me. Today, I can't picture a year going by without one or more major trips where I go camping, hiking, and explore new areas, taking lots of photos along the way.

At some point, either during that visit to Yellowstone with my parents, or perhaps a day or two after when we continued on our way, I left the little black plastic squirt-gun camera in the parked car, and with closed windows and the hot sun beating down, it melted into slag! I was absolutely crushed at the loss of the camera and was totally depressed and upset. One of the happiest moments of the trip came when somehow, my dad was able to buy another one in a different store and surprise me with a shiny and perfectly, miraculously, intact new toy camera. In retrospect, that generosity makes my impatience and "attitude" at the time all that much more regretful...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Bookmark and Share

Road-trip! Brand new 2014 Subaru Forester 2.0XT...

View into Succor Creek Canyon in Oregon (click image for gallery)

Sorry for the long delay, as this is the first update in a few months. A few people have already asked me if I had stopped blogging! Nope, I was just really busy at work and hadn't been doing all that much shooting. Mainly lens tests in fact, including the new Nikkor AF-S 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G and the Nikkor AF-S VR 70-200mm f/4G... both of which I bought actually. The brand new 18-35mm replaced my AF-S VR 16-35mm f/4G and the 70-200mm replaced the bigger and heavier f/2.8G VR II. I find both these lighter, less expensive lenses to generally perform as well (or even better) for my needs than their heavier and more expensive counterparts. For example, the 18-35mm is actually more flare resistant than the costlier 16-35mm! I also tested the new AF-S 80-400mm Nikkor zoom and although it is excellent, it has a zoom range that I don't often need, so I cannot justify its expense at this time.

Anyway, in mid-May I left on a solo road trip to the Southwestern US again, this time making my way through Yellowstone National Park and Dinosaur National Monument on the way down to Utah. I also visited Fantasy Canyon southeast of Vernal, Utah for the first time and it truly has some bizarrely eroded sandstone formations! Watch for more blog posts in the near future with some additional photos from the trip.

This "off-topic" blog posting is mainly all about my new vehicle, a brand new 2014 Subaru Forester 2.0XT, the Canadian "Touring Edition" model. It conveniently arrived (barely) in time for my trip and after being shod with some proper off-road rubber (four 18" Yokohama Geolandar A/T-S tires), and after a quick 900km break-in drive through the Fraser Canyon where it proved fully functional, I was off and heading south. An image gallery with twenty shots of the new Forester on my trip can be accessed by clicking on the above photo, which was taken on the way home through Oregon. Many of the photos were shots of various backcountry campsites where I stayed (not official campsites, just nice out-of-the-way spots on public BLM lands) and a few just show the Forester within the spectacular scenery I was driving through.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bookmark and Share

X-Trans Raw Files in Lightroom 4.4 RC

(Above, the left side shows the old conversion and the right side, the new)
Open full image: LR44_train_full.jpg

Yesterday, Adobe posted release candidate updates to Lightroom (4.4 RC) and Camera Raw (7.4 beta) on the Adobe Labs website. One of the key improvements, apart from some solid bug fixes and new camera support, is an update to their Fujifilm X-Trans raw conversion code. In their words: "...a correction to the demosaic algorithms for Fujifilm cameras with the X-Trans sensor." Well, the word "correction" doesn't do justice to all the improvements. Virtually all of the complaints I had about Adobe's X-Trans conversions have been addressed.

I have prepared some side-by-side comparisons of various images (Lightroom screenshots), converted with the previous Adobe X-Trans algorithm in Photoshop CS6 and ACR v7.3 (the left-side 100% crop), and Lightroom 4.4 RC (the right side 100% crop), which uses Adobe's new code. At 100% or 200% pixel-peeping zoom levels, the differences are clearly visible, if you know what to look for. Below each image is a link to open a 3000 pixel version of the full image in a new window, processed and output with the new Lightroom 4.4 release candidate. When you click on the side-by-side comparison screenshots, make sure you zoom to 100% on the window that opens to see the differences more clearly. Or save the shots to your computer and open them up in something other than your browser. The screenshots are from Lightroom sized to a 27" display, so they are 2556x1418 in size.

I have purposefully chosen images that look particularly bad, the worst ones I could find when viewed at 100% zoom, in order to illustrate the sometimes dramatic changes in this new update. In a few instances, the problems were serious enough that you could even see them in substantially downsized versions for the web, for example the "can" (compressed air can) image, the "railing" image and the "grass" image.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bookmark and Share

SFU with the Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 R

On a beautiful Sunday yesterday (finally a nice day on a weekend!), I shot some images with the new XF 14mm f/2.8 R at Simon Fraser University. The gallery contains some more comments on this lens as well, but to summarize, I'd say that since it's such a stunningly good ultra-wide-angle lens, it would actually be worth buying an X-E1 body just to be able to use it, even if you don't have a Fuji X system yet! Well, in my humble opinion anyway. Can you tell I like this lens?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bookmark and Share

Fog & Fourteen: Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 R Review

I was at the Port Mann Bridge on a foggy night yesterday and captured some shots with my X-E1, including a bunch with the superb new XF 14mm f/2.8 R wide-angle lens, the latest addition to Fujifilm's excellent X-body lens lineup. This lens has a focal length equivalent to a 21mm on a full-frame camera. Many years ago now, back in 1984 in fact, I was shooting with my brand new Nikon FE2 and I remember being impressed after seeing the full arc of a rainbow in a Nikon brochure, and that was taken with a 20mm lens. If I had to choose any one ultra-wide-angle focal length, it would indeed be right around 20mm mark, so this new lens is exactly what I had been waiting for. Quite simply, the optical quality of this lens is stunning, one of the very best ultra-wide primes I have ever shot with. For a variety of initial images shot with the 14mm, see the following gallery...

Gallery: Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 R - First Tests

The above gallery also has a condensed review of the 14mm lens, but see the rest of this blog entry for further details, clarifications and sample images.