a teatray in the sky

tuesday gear day — Canon Extender EF 2X III

Posted in 5D Mark II, Gearheadedness, Photography, Strobism by firthefirst on January 26, 2011

there are things in life that deserve a bad rep.  they’ve worked hard for them, they’ve deeply aggrieved people, they’ve done terrible things under the flimsiest of pretexts.  like, african dictators.  enron executives.  hippopotamuses.  previous models of the hyundai sonata.  and, of course, tele-extenders.

let’s be honest, ask anyone about tele-extenders (pre-2011) and they’ll tell you the truth: they suck, and are unfit for human consumption.  there’s something about sticking a magnifying glass to the back end of a camera lens that just doesn’t seem to cut the mustard.

but that was then.  this is now.  canon clearly saw, with the advent of the new hyundai sonata, that what was once absolute dreck could be rehabilitated and turned into something astounding.  or maybe canon executives have been watching My Fair Lady.  one way or another, they threw down the gauntlet and made a promise no one thought they were really going to keep: that Canon would release a new 2x extender that not only didn’t suck, but would make photos look good.

here we are in 2011, with the new 1.4x III and 2x III extenders available pretty much everywhere.  was Canon all talk, or did they deliver?

(more…)

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in search of italy

Posted in 5D Mark II, Food, Photography, Strobism by firthefirst on January 10, 2011

tina decided to savor our no-work weekend by doing some thoroughly home-made cooking, and chose to experiment by crafting some spaghetti from near-scratch.  the results were tasty and fairly entertaining, and since there’s a pile of stuff to do I’m ditching the words and letting the photos speak for themselves. (more…)

like shooting birds in a barrel

Posted in 5D Mark II, Animals, Baltimore, Birds, Maryland, Photography, Technique and Development by firthefirst on October 20, 2010

bird photography is always a challenge.  they’re small, fast, and easily spooked.  so you’d think it’d be easier to get great shots in a zoo, where the birds are used to humans and confined to enclosed spaces.  not so fast there, mate.  zoos and aviaries often have walk-in aviaries where you are surrounded by netting that prevents birds from flying off into the wild blue yonder.  what the netting also does is it prevents photographers from getting a smooth background blur.  this totally can break an otherwise great photo, and the effect of choppy background bokeh shouldn’t be taken lightly. (more…)

grand teton sunrise, or on the importance of arriving early

there are two types of people who travel with cameras.  on one hand you have your vanilla tourists, folks who are out to enjoy themselves, see some scenery, and live to write home about it.  on the other you have photographers, folks who are hell-bent on ruining vacation for themselves, rising at ungodly times, mucking about during the daylight hours, wearing goofy looking vests, and spending more time staring at the back of their 920K dot LCDs than the actual mountain in front of them.

or so I thought.  the truth is, there’s something to be gleaned from the eccentric lifestyle of the photographer.  any veteran true-blooded football fan, or any architecture studio student, would recognize the rules of the game: come early, stay late.  but why?  why is the rule not “sleep late, drink early”? (more…)

yellowstone one-a-days: bison in the semi-wild

Posted in 5D Mark II, National Parks, Photography, Technique and Development, Yellowstone National Park by firthefirst on September 28, 2010

shooting wildlife is a lot like proposing detrimental fiscal policies — the goal is to be convincing.  you want people to believe that this really is an animal that is wild and untamed, an animal that may gore/rend/maul you if you make an inopportune gesture.  you don’t want people to believe that this is merely an escaped convict from the zoo, or worse, a discarded taxidermy. (more…)

yellowstone one-a-days: day 9

Posted in 5D Mark II, National Parks, Photography, Technique and Development, Yellowstone National Park by firthefirst on September 27, 2010

last week of yellowstone photos starts today … and then it’s on to jackson hole (and the grand tetons). 

I’m greatly enjoying the slower pace of posting one-a-days for a couple of reasons.  the main one is the fact that I get to spend more time evaluating each photo.  is it the right shot?  there are a bunch of shots that I thought I would really like when I took them, but upon pulling them up in DPP I realized they failed to convey the majesty of the scene as I had hoped.  which results in very, very few right shots.  the second reason is that, once I do find those few good shots, I get to spend more time editing them to the right level.  I try not to overcook any of the images, since I’m shooting for true landscape images, not Chase Jarvis-style commercial images, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for calculated editing. (more…)

yellowstone one-a-days: day 8

Posted in 5D Mark II, National Parks, Photography, Technique and Development, Yellowstone National Park by firthefirst on September 23, 2010

sick at home today … and sitting at the computer reading through a report from a consultant.  I figured if I’m healthy enough to be proofing reports, I’m healthy enough to type a few lines. (more…)

yellowstone one-a-days: day 7

Posted in 5D Mark II, National Parks, Photography, Technique and Development, Yellowstone National Park by firthefirst on September 22, 2010

the most intriguing thing about yellowstone is that it’s a constant reminder of the fact that nature is always changing.  what would be subtle shifts in other environments becomes staggeringly obvious in yellowstone, and it is a revelation that, for all that man does to the earth (good and bad), the earth has its own cycles of health and decay that often have altogether nothing to do with us. (more…)

yellowstone one-a-days: day 6

Posted in 5D Mark II, National Parks, Photography, Technique and Development, Yellowstone National Park by firthefirst on September 21, 2010

had the great luck of catching great sunshine when we went to artist’s point at the grand canyon of the yellowstone.  I don’t like referring to it as the “grand canyon of the yellowstone” because that’s sort of an underhanded claim.  it’s like calling Montgomery College the “Harvard of the Pike” because, well, it is — there’s no other college on Rockville Pike.  we should just call it “big canyon of the yellowstone” or whatever.  something less … grand. (more…)

yellowstone one-a-days: day 5

Posted in 5D Mark II, National Parks, Photography, Technique and Development, Yellowstone National Park by firthefirst on September 20, 2010

took my first pass at night sky photography while in yellowstone and really botched it right off the bat.  couldn’t find my remote trigger before the trip and figured I’d be OK without it.  wrong.  there’s a lot of stuff you need for night sky photography (dark sky, tripod, camera, flashlight, etc.) and remembering all of those and forgetting your off-camera trigger is like showing up to a meeting with your computer, projector, presentation, leave-behinds, and forgetting to wear clothing.  you might get the job done, but it will be ugly. (more…)