Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Tragically Hip in Brockville

On Thursday, 21 February 2008, the Tragically Hip -- a great Canadian rock band -- played the Brockville Arts Center to a small audience ... about 500 people. The sound system was pretty good and the lighting was first-rate. The show was just like the Hip in Ottawa last year, but the set list was to die for (so say the kids.)

I rented a van so I could take my two kids and 3 of Nick's buddies ... the older boys had a team pitcher at Brockville's local Boston Pizza before the concert, so they were ready for a good time, and they were not disappointed at all.

Gord Downey was in fine form. If you have not seen this band live, then you owe it to yourself to see them at your next opportunity. They are truly spectacular. Never mind the music, which is just plain great. The entertainment factor never quits ... Gord does all kinds of strange stuff, like painting the audience while he lets them sing one of his songs ... and he constantly dances like he is in a trance. It is something to behold.

I saw them last year in Ottawa ( and really enjoyed myself there. Here are a couple of my favourite images from that show ... shot with my son's Fuji F10 while my F11 was in the shop:

Here are some of the images from last Thursday's show (, shot with the F11:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Nikon D300 ... I caved in ...

I have been pondering this year's travel schedule for a while now ... potential business trips to London, a conference in Florida, and other possibilities. I took the D70s to London twice last year, and the D2Hs twice as well ... a neat trick when you only go three times. Of course, I had both one one trip to London, Stonehenge, Lacock Village and Bath ... that was no fun at all, I was very sore for several days.

I used the Lowepro CompuDayPack, which worked rather well. But the straps don't grip you at all so you are constantly shrugging it back on ... still, no other bag I have can as easily take those two bodies, the 18-200VR lense, the Nikon 50mm 1.8 and the Sigma 10-20.

Oops ... back to my story. So I was quite interested in trimming down the camera equipment by purchasing the D40x, which is going fairly cheap on the used market now that the D60 replacement has been announced. But something kept nagging me ... I would own three bodies that all had some limitations ... the D70s was older and slower with the weakest high ISO; the D2Hs was fantastic, but had no built in flash commander and had the somewhat limiting 4mp sensor; and the D40x would not auto focus my non-AFS lenses (I have several excellent primes that I want to AF) and would also not be able to act as commander. Never mind all the missing buttons that might very well annoy me.

Then it struck me ... why not consolidate onto two bodies ... the D70s that I truly love, and the D300, that I am pretty sure I will truly love. Then I have two bodies that can fire my SB-600 remotely, have excellent acuity, and of course I have the 12mp when I want them for something. Plus, the new live view for macro work, the 14bit RAW to enlarge my genitalia (cannot afford a Corvette), and the ability to dial in my lenses for perfect AF sharpness (this is the biggest feature of them all.)

So I traded in the D2Hs on this puppy ... took a bath on the difference -- my failt for bad timing ... and am really very happy. Two moderate sized bodies that are easy to travel with, and superb features on each. I do miss the incredible speed and handling of the D2Hs ... no matter how much I want the D300 to be that cam, it just isn't quite there ... but so what. Here are a few of my first shots ...

A local forest ... shot at 160 ISO.

The parking lot at work ... shot at 1600 ISO.

Lunar Eclipse

A perfect, if frozen evening ... popped out for a few minutes to shoot the moon ... since it was red at the time, the exposure was long. But my brain must have frozen because I did not raise ISO and I did not shoot wide open to get a faster shutter speed. Basically, I forgot how far the moon moves in such a short time.

Thus ... I froze for half an hour and returned with nothing to show for it. A disaster that reminded me that one must approach each new session with a few thoughts about what the subject will do and how the photographer should counter that. Duh.

So here is the one image I was able to process in order to prove that I was there ... it sucks in every possible way, but it is all I have.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Winter Chickadees

As I've written through the winter, we've had our share of snow this year. And it has certainly continued ... I've had to use the snow blower twice in the last week. Sheesh.

One thing I like to do the last few winters is to take a little walk on one of the local trails, this one being the Beaver Swamp Trail. It is a lovely area that leads to several swampy areas with board walks and such. There is a great little meadow where I've seen deer and where a lot of wild flowers grow that attract myriad bees and dragonflies.

But there is a lot of foot traffic with kids as well, which means people feeding the local Chickadee population. These birds have become very tame and will often land right on your hand. I like taking some fairly big hardware in there and setting up near a pile of seeds to try to catch the birds right as they land. They only lite for a second or two, so you have to be quick to capture them in a nice pose. I have tried several different lenses, and this time I brought out the 300mm with a teleconverter lenses making for an effective focal length of 510mm. After crop, this is a 730mm lense, approximately.

I used a flash to add a catch light and to fill the shadows, but the levels were too low so I have to d-light these images. That added a wee bit of noise, but Neat Image handled that just fine. The first image was shot against the sun, so his color is a bit muted. Nice lighting on top of the head, but d-lighting of the body does not add enough punch. Still, a nice enough image.

This woodpecker was quite a long way off, so this is a pretty severe crop. And considering that the D2Hs starts with 4.1mp, this image has no right to have any detail in it. But I consider the feather detail to be quite acceptable.

I got really close for this one. He landed a few feet away, just at the edge of the lense's ability to focus. The detail is terrific.

This pair happened to land a bit further away and was well lit by the sun. One of my favorites.

As I was leaving, I saw that someone had hung a couple of small bird houses. This one was probably made by a child. Very sweet.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Snow Again

Ok ... I can definitively say that I am not a natural blogger. You can tell that from my lousy 3 posts in January.

Anyway, we got a nice little storm at the end of January that allowed me to really try out the snow blower I received for Christmas. The message I received with this gift led me to believe that this is considered the gift of life ... or rather prevention of a premature death by shoveling. Since I lost an uncle last year while shoveling, I can't argue with that premise.

We got hit moderately ... maybe 20cm ... and the plow left a huge pile of the usual heavy snow and ice. This snow blower is 9.5hp, which puts it at the bottom of the heavy duty class ... i.e. it should be capable of handling this snow without me attacking the heavy stuff with a shovel to spoon feed the machine.

As you can see ... the cars are buried and the bank left by the plow is quite high. It came, in fact, to the very top of the auger cage thingy. But ... all worked fine and I was able to blast the snow to the front and side yards (after repairing the handle interlock, which would not interlock no matter how hard I tried.)

As you can see ... I cut a huge swath with the machine. The light for this image was much softer with little contrast ... obviously, the sun had gone away, but you can see the width of the clean area ... this machine is fun to use, no question. I actually look forward to storms now ... between the CR-V and the Yard Man, I'm totally covered.

So ... no real information in this blog entry ... just wanted to post these images and needed a story to go with it.