Riverboat Day Parade, Terrace BC!

I finally got to see it! My first parade in nearly three years, and my very first Riverboat parade at that. What a morning. First thing we did was have a pancake breakfast at the Happy Gang Society. Then we raced off to find a cool spot to sit and watch the parade. Let me tell you, it was nice to be out and about town on a day like today. It was hot, yet perfect. There were lots of people at both events, but so far, the parade rules the day. It was totally amazing to see so many people out enjoying it. Just incredible.

First the pancake dinner. When we went inside the building, it was fairly full of people. We were lucky as a few people left. Me and my girlfriend quickly got a table and ordered our breakfast. I had a coffee with my food, so I had the coffee cup going. A very familiar fellow ask if I wanted a refill. I looked at him, and could not, for the life of me, place his face. I looked at my girlfriend, and asked her who he was. She said he is the Member of Parliament for our region. Then I got it, Nathan Cullen just ask if I wanted a refill. No way!

Anyway, on with parade. As you can see in the images, a sampling of some of the three hundred photos I took, and it was a very hot day. They say it 34C on the road, and many stuck it out to see the Riverboat Parade regardless. I was glad we found this shady spot.

What is this year’s parade without celebrating Canada’s One Hundredth and Fiftieth Birthday! If there was one thing this parade had going for it, colour was one of them. Of course, with the sunshine and shiny floats, you could not have ask for a better conditions for shooting photos.

This was a funny float. At first I though it was all about Fly Tying and Fishing, but then realized quickly it was the Flying Fish Store float. But the girls were awesome when I photographed them. Yes, it is Terrace’s deep dark secret…, it has awesome girls who live here–but do not tell anyone–as we do not want everyone to come moving up here for them. Anyway, these girls were at hit with the crowd. I am going to tell my friend Jack about this float, and how it is all about catching fish and fly tying. You think he will get it?

So later on I will post a album of this parade with the others images, and you should be able to see all the good photos I pick out once I sort them. There a lot of them, so it will take some time to go through all of them.

The parade was awesome! I cannot wait until next year when it starts all over again. It was a lot of fun. So much to see, and so little time. The next big event will be the firework later on tonight. Stay tuned!

Cleaning This, Cleaning That: the Dirty Side of Photography.

Today was a good day to clean. Well, cleaning the big stuff mostly. I started with the usual list of things that really needed to be done, but then moved into the yard and gardening work. However, I spent a couple of hours going through all of my camera gear, (which needed cleaning really badly since all of the studio work I did last week was in a real dusty location), and that took up the rest of my afternoon focusing on my gear. I had a dirty camera, or I should say dirty cameras, as I did them all today, and they were dirty.

A Blossom from the Magnolia Tree - April 29 2014 Weblog Image

Now that I have lenses that are super expensive (pro gear), I want to maintain them as best I can using the best cleaning aids and methods that I can get my hand on. I ordered several weeks ago cleaning swabs that were pre-packaged with cleaning solution that were made by the same manufacture as my some of my lenses. I bought cleaning swabs/cloths made by Carl Zeiss, and they work awesome on my lenses. The last Sony lens that I bought (which has Carl Zeiss glass in it) is weather proof, and is the perfect combination to work with my A77 as it is also weather proof, but water leaves residue behind, and that has a negative affect on image quality the next day when it dries. I used the swabs on all glass components, including my filters for getting rid of residue and dust. The microfibre cloths also work well for every day cleaning, and I always have a good supply with me in my camera bag.

Next were the CMOS sensors on both of my camera that I use. My Sony A77 seems to have a sensor that dust just loves to stick to. It seems that I am cleaning that camera way more than I was when I was just using my smaller A33. In the last three times that did my cleaning on A77, it required me actually physically wiping the CMOS Sensor off with cleaning wands because the camera’s built-in sensor cleaning and the spray air can did not work alone. All of my studio images that I kept last week had to have some photo editing done to remove the tiny black dots as a result of a dirty sensor. Since I have owned the A77, this will be the third cleaning that I have done to it, so it seems that I am cleaning it about once every three or four months. I do lots of lens changes, and most of those changes are done in the field, outside, so I am surprised that my camera’s sensor stays as clean as it does.

One last bit of cleaning…me. Jumping into the shower to end my working day off.

A good website on different camera cleaning methods:

Sensor Cleaning – Digital SLR Sensor Cleaning That Works For Me

Pink Blossoms – A Good Sign

Finally, after being a few weeks late this year, the tree right beside my living room window sprouted its pink blossoms. When I first seen this last year, I was amazed at how much it lit up my living room during the mid afternoon period when the Sun is right over head.  The tree acts like a giant light reflector, changing the ambient light to a light purple colour inside. Today I thought I had to wear sunglasses when I was sitting in my living room because it was so bright.

Pink Tree Blossoms - April 26 2014 Weblog Image

Here is a shot of the tree, looking up, of the pink blossoms.

The tree beside it will turn red in about month too, so my living room have a orange glow from it when that happens. But then during the rest of summer there will nothing but green leaves in front of my windows. The apple tree by my bedroom window is also starting to sprout its blossoms, again it is also a little late this year from the cooler than normal start to spring. I can pick apples from my window there when they ripe–if I wanted to.

When I was taking these shots of the pink blossoms that was when I noticed how dirty my camera was. Tonight I will sit down with it and give my lenses and the camera’s censor a good cleaning. I will probably do a lens calibration on my newest lens, since I have not had time to do that since I bought it. Hey, I may get even sharper images from it?

Also, just looking at the long range weather forecast, Environment Canada is saying that we are in for glorious above 20C weather by next Thursday! That may just start the unthawing of my cold bones from this winter. I think I would welcome a good blast of heat for a week or two. This may play havoc with flooding this summer on the river, but I will cross that bridge when the time comes, but for now–give me the heat!

Logging Time in the Studio

I have some studio work to do over the next couple of days. I will be doing some product ads for an on-line store, and then some portrait shots coming up tomorrow after that. The best part about my studio is that it is right over in my living, so the commute is awesome! Most of the work is volunteer work, as I want to add more shots to my portfolio, but the products shots are on a commissioned bases, so we will see how well this arrangement works for me.

I am posting some of the test shots from the ads set-up. The website’s main theme is not completely white, but a soft grey, so the owner did not want a completely white background in any of the shots. So I started off tweaking the white-balance on my camera to try and match the grey that they wanted. In the end I photo-edited the grey after wasting way too much time trying to set the white balance on my camera. Once I got the white-balance sorted out, my light meter was all over the map as I was reading anything form F22, down to F11, depending on which item I was shooting. I finished off with just two 300 watt-second strobes, using umbrella diffusers on them, and then continually adjusting the F-stop for each item being shot. This was a lot of work.

Colours of Pills - Weblog Image April 22 2014

For the background I used a semi-gloss poster-board, neutral white. One of the tricks I used to get the grey set just right was to set the strobes to their lowest power, and move them back about 2 metres. Then I adjusted the F-stop to ramp up the white-balance on the actual items. It worked!

Fork - Weblog Image April 22 2014

Yes, I even grabbed a fork from the kitchen to see if I could make the right adjustments for the grey background with chrome objects.

Thomasso Head Shot Weblog Image April 22 2014

My pencil was having a bit of a bad hair day. LOL This was one of the first sets of test shots that I did today just after setting up the studio. I was shooting with a 70mm Macro, with my Sony A77.

I like Razor Sharp

The new lens is already showing so much promise, as I started to fine-tune my camera and the lens today, getting some very crisp and razor-sharp images from it. I took this image in the early afternoon, doing some macro shots with the Sony F2.8 16-50mm lens. I still cannot get over how quick this lens focuses–a lot faster than anything else I have shot with.

Dead Flowers Feb 8 2014 Weblog Image

Hydrangeas in February–a little dead, but still beautiful in the winter Sun light. Special thanks to @ashery for pointing out what species of plant this is.

Tomorrow I will test the camera and lens, and perform some micro focusing corrections, to see if the lens needs any fine-tuning or not. From what I can tell, this lens seems to be right on the mark, but I will not know until I do a couple of focusing tests. So far this lens rocks as far as performance and quality. I am very happy with it.

New Lens Arrived!

My latest edition of camera gear has arrived! All the way from Osaka, Japan. I saved about $300.00 had I bought in Canada, a super deal. As soon I got it from the Post Office, I slapped the lens on my camera and headed down to the park in Fort Langley, BC to do some shooting with it. What a difference this lens is, smooth, very quick auto focus, and the images are good and sharp–I should have bought this lens a long time ago.

My new Lens f28-16-50mm with my camera Sony A77

Just to reiterate from my last post about this lens, it is a DT F2.8 16-50mm SSM Sony Lens. The focusing motor is very quick, and silent too! It tracks birds very well. Also, for most A77’s this is the kit lens that goes with it. Now, both the lens and the camera are weather resistant. I do not have to run inside whenever it rains now while taking photos out in the forest. And with F2,8 zoomed all the way, I can shoot in low light with good results. In fact, all of the photos I took today, shooting in program-mode, the ISO never jumped out of 100!

Since I bought the body on sale, and got this lens for a super deal, I saved overall about $300.00 from if I purchased the lend from the camera store here in town.

O Kay, some of the test shots I took after first getting the lens from the Post Office.

Feb 7 2014 image C weblog image

Weeds Feb 7 2014 weblog image

Feb 7 2014 image B weblog image

Feb 7 2014 image A weblog image

I am very happy with this wide angle lens.

Later I am going to to try some video with it. With a silent AF motor, shooting video should be good now as I can include audio without the sound of a focusing motor constantly grinding away in the background. I have seen examples of the video shot with the A77 and this lens on the web, so I am looking forward to getting some great quality video with it!

New Camera Bag

My new camera bag finally came in from China today, the one that I bought on E(vil)Bay. It was such a sweet deal that I figured if the bag did not perform, the most I would out of pocket would be $30.00, so I jumped on the deal. I am fairly happy with the quality of the bag, and the padding that came with it. I now have something large enough, and comfortable, to pack my gear around when I am out in the field. Here are my first impressions:

New Camera Bag - Feb 6 2014 Weblog Image

The shipping took about two and a half weeks to get here from Hong Kong. This is about the average time that it takes for items to travel from across the pacific, shipped by economy class post. The Items did have free shipping, so that just added to the sweetness of the deal, and was worth the wait.

I wanted a bag that was good enough to take through the bush and protect my gear, while at the same time be classy enough to take to a fashion show, or formal event that would look good in format dress. I like the vintage look, so I was focusing on that when I was searching out what I wanted for a camera bag, and I came across this little gem on E(vil)bay.

The bag is made of canvas, so it is semi water-proof. The fabric is very strong and thick, plus there is a fair amount of padding to protect the camera and lenses I put in it. It has lot of pockets and holders for my accessories, like ND filters, cleaning equipments, and batteries.

There are a couple of things I wish the bag had on it that I think are needed. It has a shoulder strap, but they should have put an smaller handle across that top so that you not need to rely on the shoulder strap to pick it up with. They should have used real leather instead of fake leather for the buckles and tabs. I can see the fake leather failing once I start using this bag.

For $30.00 bucks, I cannot complain. The average cost of a bag like this here in Canada is around $200.00, $150.00 if they were on sale. Size is everything.

I can carry my camera, SonyA77, with a telephoto, and two smaller lenses, plus a wide angle lens, comfortably. It is about 35cm wide, by about 15cm, and 30cm tall, with lots of padding.

New Lens is On its Way: F2.8 16-50 SSM

I finally made the plunge, after several failed attempts trying to buy one at a reasonable price, I got the lens I wanted, all the way from Japan. Another example of a Canadian retailer loosing out on a deal because of price gouging and taxes. However, one word of caution, between E(vil)Bay and Amazon, you really have to watch your deals becuase of the hidden costs, and I mean those little fees that do not pop up until you have committed to buy. Needless to say, I am happy with my purchase, albeit a little more than I originally wanted to spend, but with the Canadian Dollar taking a slide in the toilet, I think I did pretty damn good.

Here is a photo of the lens taken from the Japanese seller’s website:

$_57f WEBLOG IMAGE

My total cost is $580.00, a far cry from the 845.00 with taxes and shipping sold here in Canada; $904.00 if I bought the lens here in British Columbia at a Sony store.

About those hidden costs on E(vil)Bay. Right now, the Canadian Dollar is worth about 0.875772 U.S. Dollar, so you would think that you would only pay that percentage when it came time to cash out on your Paypal Account. WRONG! The cost is more like 19.6213 Percent! So be warned when calculating your exchange rates when researching your overseas purchases. When E(vil)Bay lists prices in U.S. Dollars, you must add into the rate of the dealer fees in it as well: another 8 to 9 percent to the Bank Exchange Rate to get your actual total cost.

Why Did I Buy That Lens?

The answer is becuase Sony made this lens for the APS-A sensor that my A77 has. When Sony put the Alpha 77 on the market, this was the kit lens that came with it. I was sceptical when I first seen the lens, so I opted only to the get the camera body when I bought the A77, as I had several other lenses from my previous camera. Since then, I decided that this lens was the way to go becuase it is very compatible with the camera. With this lens, both my camera body, and the lens are now all water-resistant. Having the F2.8, from 16mm to 50mm, is a huge bonus for the wide angle shots that I like to do, so shooting at F2.8 should be a dream. The lens is a Zeiss glass wrapped up in a Sony body, as I am hearing a lot about the build quality of the lens, and the photos it shoots, are excellent and sharp.

What is Next on my List of gear?

I still want the telephoto, F2.8, with at least a 70mm to 200mm focus range. The Sony equivalent is around $3,000.00, so for this lens I may aim for the third party option, like the Tamron lens I was looking at earlier, just based on the price versus quality. That lens sells for about $800, and I have seen it listed as low as $600.00, a steal of a deal. I am still looking, and researching, still deciding on what I should look for next.

Excitement.

Yes, I am excited.I should see the lens in about 4 to 7 days, as it makes it trek from Japan to Vancouver. Excitement for sure!

 

Getting a Grip: Really

Okay, the title might have been a bit too ambiguous, but it is true, I did buy a grip for my semi-pro camera. Actually the proper term for it is called a vertical grip, but the company that I bought it from called it a battery grip. Either way, it gives me more gripping in both the horizontally and vertically positions, and doubles my battery life becuase it houses two batteries at the same time. And yes, I bought this unit from a company in Ontario, Canada which probably had it imported from China.

The Sony A77 with a Battery Grip Nov 26 2013 small image

The cost of the until is very cheap compared to buying the Canadian Sony item, by about $200.00. The Chinese knock-off only set me back a cool $60.00, and a six day wait for it by post. I tried the authentic Sony Canada merchandise, and I could only find very small differences in the look and feel when comparing it to this unit. I guess the real test is to see if the knock-off unit holds up to the test of time.

I am not going to fib a false sense of grandeur here about how heavy the camera now becomes with this added extra bit of appliance to it. I think I am getting close to over 2Kg now. But size does give more gripping surface area, and if you have big hands, then you have something to hold onto with it. Right of the bat, I found that I could use all five of my digits, firmly gripping the camera, than what I had before without the battery grip.

The plus side, I double my battery life, and the camera becomes more stable when shooting vertically. Though I must say, even with one battery, I would have to do some serious shooting to drain it in one go, but for long hikes in the bush, or back to back studio gigs, the extra battery would be a life saver me.

Looks are important, and having the battery grip, does change the camera’s whole look. To me, the camera looks means, very pro like, and whenever I see one on a camera, I stop and notice, so I hope that this happens to me out in the field.

Made a LIttle Video with the Sony A77 Yesterday

I was ambitious, and I thought that I would start experimenting with shooting video with my Sony A77. I hit a few hurtles, but managed to get around them, mainly with file formats, but I scrapped out a little three minute video with all of the footage I took regardless of the setbacks. I do not own a blu-ray writer, and Sony shoots in MTS blu-ray format, but getting the Codecs (compression, decompression algorithm) to work, and properly edited, was a huge challenge. Here is the video up on YouTube, with YouTube music along side it.

The Sony A77 is awesome for shooting video. The files are great, and the quality is super clear. I had done much research before buying the camera, reading about how great the video quality was, and the wonderful files were, but it was not until I got my hands on it that I really believed it. The video quality is stunning, but you need the right equipment to work with these files or you work is just plain old DVD quality. Yes, the camera shoots in 1080p at 60 prams per second format like there was no tomorrow.

Do you think I could find someone with a Blu-Ray writer? Nope, not one of my friends owned one. At my work, everyone had the BLu-Ray readers for ripping movies, but it seems that the Blue-Ray writer just really did not take off from within the Geek community, or my circle of freinds.

The up hill struggle quickly came to an end when I found that I could edit in this super high format from within Linux, and do it very well. Actually, Linux worked awesome for editing these videos. I was surprised for not finding any usable documentation on the topic. I believe having the right hardware is the key to working with these large files. My P.C. is very (gaming computing) fast with a fairly hefty graphics card. I could take any software and use it, no matter witch O.S. architect it came from–I can run Window$ software on my machine without Running the O.S.

Enjoy the video. It is scenes of my patio deck, and back yard. Remember that YouTube compresses the video quality to a mere fraction of what the original video looks like, and still calls it High Definition (HD). But still, I think it looks stunning, even on YouTube.