Monthly Archives: December 2012

Looking back on 2012

Here we are at the very end of 2012 and since Mayans were apparently wrong and we made it past the 21st of December, I thought I had better get on the ball and put together my “best of 2012” blog post.  Typically this is a lot harder for me to do, but truth be told, I didn’t shoot nearly as much in 2012 as I would have liked.  The biggest reason for this lack of shooting was our move after 20+ years in Arizona back to my home of the Pacific Northwest.  This also leads to the first 2 images in this years best of.

I give you Olympia Washington

When we were selecting our new “home town” Olympia was really sort of a “no brainer” as I have always loved it here.  Olympia has a great downtown, a great arts scene and some great places to eat.  It also has a great boardwalk along Percival Landing.  This first shot was made from Port Plaza in Olympia and was immediately one of my favorite images of the year.

It’s no secret that I would miss the Arizona monsoon, storm chasing and especially lightning photography when we moved out of Arizona, but imagine my delight when we had a couple nice thunderstorms come through the Olympia area this summer.  While I wish I would have been aimed just a little differently for this next shot, I love having the capital building in the shot and how can you not LOVE that sky?

Sailboats, Waterfalls and Sunsets

These next few shots probably don’t need much introduction.  They simply represent a few of my favorite shots from this year.  These were shot either by myself or with my wife Ann while we were exploring around the area.  I present them with no further comment.

The rest of this years “best of” images all have something in common.  I suspect you will figure it out by the end of this post. :-)

North by Northwest

One of the real treats for me this last year was to meet up with Justin Balog, Dave Wilson, Jim Nix and Jacob Lucas for what ended up being billed “North by Northwest” which ended up being a marathon weekend of photography, food and beer on the Oregon coast.  All three of these images were captured that weekend.

 

The Hoodie Guy

Another online friend that I got to meet in real life this year was Michael Murphy.  I have enjoyed his work for quite some time and when he ended up in Seattle for a couple days for work, I jumped at the opportunity to meet up, have some dinner, drink a couple beers and then shoot the Seattle skyline.

Ken and Curt

And finally I come the last image in this year’s “best of” collection.  I made this in Charlotte, NC on a work trip.  The work trip ended up being a bust as far as work goes, but I had the pleasure of meeting up with Ken Toney and Curt Fleenor.  Again, both are guys that I have become friends with online and then had the change to meet in real life.

There we go.  My favorite images from 2012.  I guess you might have been able to see the trend.  While I love the images, it was the chance to meet up with so many great photographers and online friends this year that really drove the selections into this years list.

I hope you enjoy these images half as much as I do.

As always, please click in any image for a larger version or to order prints.

Posted in Photography

Why I went full frame

This is actually going to be a pretty short blog post.  The reason I went full frame was for the visual perspective and depth of field control that I had with 35mm film and missed since converting to digital.  It wasn’t for the amazing low light performance, although that is pretty awesome, and it certainly wasn’t so I could be a “cool kid” and have “fx” on the front of my camera. :-)  Truth be told, if I hadn’t shot 35mm film for over 20 years there is a good chance that I might not have gone with a new full frame camera.  But I have missed that perspective and have been anxious to get back to it since converting to digital in 2007.

 

 

Posted in Photography

Winter

I have always loved winter.  It is by far my favorite season which might come as a surprise to many considering that I left home after school and spent just over 20 years living in Tucson and Phoenix where you don’t really get much winter.  I am not really sure what it is about winter, but to me there are few things prettier than a fresh blanket of snow covering the ground.

I made this image this last week in north Idaho during a snow storm that brought just over 8″ of fresh snow for Christmas.  My goal for this shot from the start was to have one of those lower contrast shots that really convey a feeling of “cold” and winter.

While it isn’t an over the top processed HDR not is it of a gorgeous country lane with snow covered trees, but I hope you will agree with me that this is what winter really looks like in many parts of the world.  The only thing missing is a car off the side of a highway somewhere in the frame. :-)

Posted in Photography

The Tiger and the Snowman

My friend Mike Olbinski does blog posts where he titles his images after movies, I have borrowed this from him a number of times in the past, but today’s blog post is a bit more of a play on a title as opposed to the title its self.  Instead of The Falcon and the Snowman, which is a great movie, I went with The Tiger and the Snowman for obvious reasons. :-)

For many years one of our favorite things to do during the Christmas season is to travel around and look at displays of Christmas lights, especially on those houses where the people tend to go a little over the top.  Unfortunately things have been so hectic leading up to the holiday season this year that tonight was the first real opportunity we have had to get and and see some displays.  This image is from one such display on the westside of Olympia.

There is another reason though as to why I wanted to share this image.  It is the first image posted to the blog from my new Nikon D600 camera.  I have finally made it into the full frame world after spending a number of years with crop sensor Nikon bodies.  I will be doing some posts in the very near future explaining why I was so anxious to take the plunge into full frame, but for today, I wanted to simply share that this new camera is an amazing piece of technology.  I rarely share much of the technical specs of the images I post, I am more than happy to answer any questions about them, but I don’t usually find those details as all that interesting in a blog post, but for this post I am going to talk about the technical side a bit.

This image was captured hand held at ISO3200 while I was zooming my 24-70 2.8 lens.  I then imported it into Lightroom 4.3 where I did only minor edits to the image for processing.  It never left Lightroom.  After just a few days of shooting with this camera, I am absolutely floored by its capabilities.  Of course there is some noise at ISO3200, but it is very manageable.  The color rendition and contrast are amazing, and while the lens does play a big part in that, I am using the same glass that I have been shooting with for the last 3+ years.  Finally, the dynamic range, while not really an issue in this image, is simply incredible.

With the addition of the new D600, my first thoughts were that my D7000 would be relegated to backup duty, but it all truth, it is simply a 2nd camera now.  My Sigma 10-20 lens now lives on it, and I can’t think of a better one – two combo than the D600 and D7000.

Posted in Photography

Review of ioShutter for Nikon

Typically a hardware review starts with a brief statement about the hardware that is going to be reviewed, but I am going to do things a little differently in this review, I am going to complain a little bit about Nikon and then move into the review of the recently released ioShutter for Nikon.

Nikon has done something that really annoys me.  For many decades they have had a wonderfully robust solution for firing your camera shutter with a remote trigger.

I am talking about the Nikon 10-pin connector that has been used for years, and is still used on many of the current top of the line Nikon bodies.  This connector threads into the camera body and provides a very secure connection which simply can’t be pulled out of the camera by accident.

At the other end of the Nikon spectrum, and on most of their lower “consumer” level bodies, Nikon utilizes an IR receiver and sells a small IR remote, the  ML-L3.  On the surface this IR option seems like a good idea, and for the most part it works just fine, but there are some definite limitations.  One of these limitations is the need to have the remote be in “line of sight” of the cameras receiver.  This can be a real problem if you are using one of Nikon’s older consumer bodies that only offered a receiver on the “front” of the camera and you were trying to shoot from the “rear” and even with more modern bodies that offer receivers on both the “front” and the “back”, there are still issues with being on the “right” or the “left” side of the camera.  On a personal note, I also find the ML-L3 to be VERY easy to lose.

This leads to the “prosumer” bodies offered by Nikon that actually offer both the IR option of the lower end cameras, but also offer a wired solution as well.  One would think that this would be the best of both worlds, but one would be wrong, at least if you have remotes for the older / higher end 10-pin connectors, Nikon decided to not use their existing 10-pin connectors and implemented a new connector, the DC-2.  This new DC-2 connector works just fine, and even shares duties with other Nikon accessories, but if you are like me and already have 10-pin remotes such as the old school, but very reliable Nikon MC-20, it means that you need to double up on remotes, and if you are like me, your camera bag is already cluttered enough.

Enter the ioShutter for Nikon

The ioShutter release cable is a “dongle” that goes between your DSLR and your iPhone, iPodTouch or iPad and gives you the ability to control your DSLR through an app from ioShutter.

Before I go any further, please keep in mind that this review is based on the Nikon model from ioShutter but they offer models for cameras as well, please check out their website, but since I am a Nikon shooter, I will be covering the model for the Nikon cameras.  Also, this review is not intended to be a tutorial on how to use the ioShutter cable or the associated app, both are covered quite nicely on the ioShutter website.  Finally, I was not provided with a review / demo of this, I purchased this as a regular customer and base my review as such.

What ioShutter did that was VERY SMART in my opinion is that they included connectors for both the 10-pin and DC-2 connectors.  You buy one release cable and you can control either type of camera.  For the folks that have the more consumer level bodies that offer only IR, this isn’t going to help you, sorry.  You get the ioShutter as well as 2 different cables, one for the 10-pin and one for the DC-2.

For the most part the ioShutter release cable is very well designed and built, but I do have a couple little things that I would like to see with it.  First off is that the cable itself is a fairly light gauge wire.  For the average user this will never be much of a problem, but I am a storm chaser / severe weather photographer and I have been known to be a little hard on my gear in the past in order to get the shot that I want.  I will be interested to see how this lighter gauge cable will stand up over long term use.  Secondly, I would like to have the overall length of the cable be about 12” longer than it is.  The current length doesn’t let me get all that far away from my tripod.  While my first complaint might potentially be a big deal, the second is nothing more than an annoyance.  On a whole, I am quite happy with the hardware aspect of the cable.

The 2nd half of the ioShutter solution is the actual iOS application that you use to control your DSLR.  The application is very well laid out and intuitive to use.  It provides a simple shutter release w/ lock, a timer mode for delayed shutter releases, a timed bulb mode, a time lapse function, sound trigger and shake trigger.  In this review I will not be covering the sound or shake functions as I have yet to use them, and they are not something I that I would use on a day to day basis.

Shutter Release

When you first start the app, you are presented with what is really nothing more than a shutter release button as seen on the far left side of the image above.  This shutter release works just as you would expect it to.  You push the button and it actuates the shutter based on your camera settings.  A second function of the main shutter release screen is the ability to lock your shutter down, as seen in the middle part of the above image.  This is very useful for things like continuous shooting or for manually controlled BULB exposures.  One nice feature is that if you are using the shutter lock, they provide you with a timer so you know how long your exposure has been.  No more counting 1-1000, 2-1000 and so on, but to be honest, I still find myself doing just that.  Finally, as shown on the far right side of the above image, this is where you navigate to the other functions of the app.

Timer Mode

The ioShutter app provides a pretty flexible timer function.  Not only can you set your camera to fire any any given short term time, 20 seconds as shown above, you can also set your camera to fire sometime much further in the future.  You can set either a time later the same day, or even many days out in the future.  Personally this isn’t really a function I would use all that often, but there are times that it will come in quite handy.

Bulb Mode

The bulb setting is a function that I am very interested in, and have already used a number of times.  One of the problems with a large number of remote shutter releases out there is that in order for you to have really long exposures you need to keep your finger on the button for the whole time.  The ioShutter app lets you program in how much time you want your shutter to be left open in BULB mode.  In the case of the image above, it is set for a 1 hour exposure.  This will be very handy for those that do a lot of night photography such as light painting and star trails.  Both of which I have already used it for.

Time Lapse mode

Time lapse photography is something I do a lot, that probably isn’t much of a surprise to those that follow me, and I have to say that ioShutter has done a great job with the time lapse functionality in their app.  Being a Nikon shooter you might think that I would simply be happy with the built in interval shooting tools in my Nikon bodies, but the fact is that those very tools are a little bit limiting.  Nikon limits you to 999 shots per sequence, and somethings that simply is not enough.  What ioShutter has done is allow you to set the interval between shots, 2 seconds in the case of the image above, and how long you want that sequence to run, 3 hours in this case.  the really cool thing though is that you really aren’t limited in any way other than needing to leave an iOS device with your camera, and having enough power to run it all.  If you wanted to have your camera take a hot every hour for a week, you can easily do it with this app / cable combo.  To me, this is a very valuable tool.

As I mentioned earlier, the app also supports both sound and shake triggering, but I haven’t tested either of those functions and they are not in this review. I am sure that they work just as well as everything else in the system.

Conclusions

In general I am quite pleased with the solution from ioShutter.  It does a great job of solving the problem of having camera bodies that use different connectors while providing the exact same interface and functionality to both.  As I mentioned above, I fear that I might eventually wear the lighter gauge cable out in the conditions I find myself shooting in regularly, and I would like to have a slightly longer overall length for the cable, but neither would be a deal breaker for me in picking this system up.  I am sure that to some the $69.95 retail price tag for the cable will seem somewhat high when compared to the prices of some of the competitors out there, but we all know that even the most basic of remote shutter release triggers can be quite expensive and not offer nearly the same functionality as the ioShutter offers.  I do feel that the $9.99 price for the Pro app, which I used for my review, seems a little on the steep side after having spent the $69.95 for the cable.  There is a free “lite” version of the app, but I have not used it, so I can’t speak to it’s merits over the Pro version.

At the end of the day though, this is a great little product that I will, and have, recommend to friends and fellow photographers.

Posted in Reviews