John Soulé: Blog http://myimagez.com/blog en-us (C) John Soulé | All Rights Reserved | myImagez.com | 2017 johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) Thu, 17 Sep 2015 12:39:00 GMT Thu, 17 Sep 2015 12:39:00 GMT http://myimagez.com/img/s/v-5/u677023101-o356809707-50.jpg John Soulé: Blog http://myimagez.com/blog 80 120 Acadia National Park – A Photographic Journey http://myimagez.com/blog/2015/9/acadia Jordan Pond (13x26)Jordan Pond (13x26)

Acadia National Park is located in Maine less than an hour’s drive from Bangor.  One of the oldest National Parks on the East Coast, Acadia offers an abundance of opportunities for outdoor activities and a wealth of subjects for the photographer.  The park is spread throughout Mount Desert Island and extends to the mainland’s Schoodic Peninsula.

The purpose of this article is to highlight some of the areas that I found should be on a list of places to photograph when traveling here. Having said that, there is so much to see and do, I am not sure it can covered in less than a week.  Please keep in mind, what I have stated below is my experience which will vary based on the season, weather and other conditions.  We were there in September 2015.

 

Photographing Acadia

Bar Harbor SunriseBar Harbor Sunrise

 

Over 80% of my ‘keeper’ photos, you know the ones that I like to display and sell, are taken either in the early morning or late evening – "The Golden Hours".  This is when the sun is low and produces the ‘golden’ glow that makes photographs just pop with color.  The only problem is that there are so many wonderful places in Acadia, it becomes a challenge to pick which spot to mark for the sunrise/sunset shot.

And, for a number of locations, getting there early can be a challenge when slippery rocks, steep inclines and darkness can make getting around a bit interesting. Then, there is always the group of tourists that seem to end up in frame with the shot you have set up for over an hour.  That is why you need to have a backup plan – just in case things don’t go as planned.


Tips:

  • Take a tour of the island first.  You may want to hire a tour guide (i.e. acadiatours.com) to drive you around when the sun is high and photography is not optimal.  You can get an idea what works for a shot and what does not (and get some background about the island at the same time).  Look at the position of the sun for best lighting conditions. Reference what others have posted on the internet to get an idea of different POVs and look at the terrain so it will not come as a surprise if you come back in the dark.   Check tides.  High tides will make for more crashing of waves on the rocky shores.  Low tides will reveal sand bars and tide pools.  Check out the sunrise/set and moon rise/set times.  There is nothing like the dark skies in Maine for Milky Way shots – or a rising full moon over the cliffs.  Have a plan. 
  • Know what equipment to carry before heading out.  You will not want to negotiate some of the trails with heavy backpacks.  You should only take what you need. In the early morning hours you will need a tripod – that goes without saying – but you may not need all of those lenses you brought.  As the light gets stronger, you may want to consider using a Graduated Neutral Density Filter (Reverse at sunrise) to counter the brightening sky and add a Circular Polarizer to reduce water reflections.  
  • Have a wide-angle lens always handy.  The majority of my ‘keeper’ coastline shots were taken with a wide-angle lens.  I carried either a 14mm-24mm or a 20mm Prime at all times (on a full frame body).  I often found my standard zoom, 24mm-70mm, was not wide enough at a number of locations.  (Remember to include some foreground in your image to add perspective and effect)

 

Getting There

You may think it odd that I would address getting to Bar Harbor when it is only about an hour’s drive from Bangor.  The issue is not Bar Harbor – it is Bangor.  Only a few airlines actually fly to Bangor.  And, if your flight gets cancelled – as was ours both going and coming, you may find it more difficult than you imagine getting to and/or from this location. Bangor is a small airport and only supports ‘shuttle’ style aircraft.

 

Where to Stay

_JS16338_JS16338 There are many fine places to stay in and around Bar Harbor.  I generally do not like to single out specific places to stay in my articles, but, I felt that I had to mention Harborside Hotel Spa and Marina was fantastic in terms of location, accommodations and had a great restaurant on property.  Here you are virtually steps from the harbor, shops, restaurants, tour companies, Bar Island Sand Bar and Shore Path.  We found the ground floor – oceanfront to be perfect.  

We could virtually open our door and were steps from the harbor to watch the sunrise and lobster boats getting ready for the day.  Most of the harbor shots posted here were taken steps from our patio door.  Another top rated hotel with great views and that is centrally located to the town is the Bar Harbor Inn. 

 

Where To Eat

Bar HarborBar Harbor

 

This is Maine – and if you don’t try the lobster, you won’t know how great it is here.  Most every restaurant has some form of lobster dish – from whole lobster to lobster roll.  

 

Lobster RollLobster Roll

 

 

 

 

 

 

As mentioned before, the restaurant at the Harborside Hotel Spa and Marina,  “La Bella Vita” had one of the best lobster rolls I tried – and I tried a lot of different ones while visiting Maine!  

TripAdvisor is always a good source to reference.  You may find some great photo opportunities of lobster dishes. 

Oli's Trolley Bar HarborOli's Trolley Bar Harbor

 

Getting Around

In addition to walking/hiking, biking and using your own car, tours can be arranged through Oli’s Trolley and free shuttle bus service (in season) is provided to major points within the park.  If you use your own car, the fee is $25 for a 7 day pass. Boat are available for whale watching/puffins, (be warned you go out 15 miles and it gets really, really cold and puffins go on vacation mid-August), lighthouse tours and nature tours.

Plane rides are available at the nearby Bar Harbor Airport that can provide some great positions for areal photography.

 

 

Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor Panoramic (12x36)Bar Harbor Panoramic (12x36)

Bar Harbor, founded in 1796, is a world renowned for its blend of seashore community, Downeastcharacter, and Maine Lobster.  Bar Harbor is pronounced like “Bah-Hah-Bah” and lobster sounds like “lob-stah!” The town consists of residences, hotels, shops and restaurants – most everything is in just a few blocks.  In the photo above, the island to the left is Bar Island and during low tide a sand bar is revealed (seen here) making it possible to walk across to the island.  You can also see two cruise ships that are docked.  Cruise ships, such as the majestic Queen Mary, visit this Maine harbor town providing their passengers with one of the most unusual visual experiences available on the east coast of North America. You will want to avoid going into town from 10-5 when cruise ships come in.  After 5pm, it is becomes quiet again.

Bar Harbor BoatsBar Harbor Boats

Lobster Boats, Bar HarborLobster Boats, Bar Harbor

 

 

 

The harbor is very quaint and is the home to fishing boats, tour boats, yachts and, yes cruise ships. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lob'stah Boats in Ba'Ha'Ba

Throughout the waters of Maine, you cannot help but notice brightly colored lobster trap markers dotting the waters.  And, as you sit on the cliffs, you may be able to watch the locals at work.  (Here I would use a long telephoto > 200mm to get in close.)

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Maine Fog

Bar Harbor FogBar Harbor Fog

 

Fog can make for some very interesting images – both in the harbor and cliff side.  It generally does not last long but can give you enough time to capture some creative images. 

 

 

Bar Harbor Fog - Heading outBar Harbor Fog - Heading out

 

 

 

 

This is a good time to play with B&W as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be careful your lens does not get damp from the fog.

Otter Point, AcadiaOtter Point, Acadia

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are really no bad photo opportunities along the Maine coastline.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunrise/Sunset

Bar Harbor Sunrise 3Bar Harbor Sunrise 3

Sunrises and sunsets can be quite spectacular in Maine.  But, it does require knowing where to be to catch that special moment.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bar Harbor Red SunBar Harbor Red Sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sun over the ocean, sun from the cliffs or sun in the harbor?  Just keep in mind that it is very possible fog and clouds can shut down the best made plans - so have a backup plan.

 

 

 

 

Bar Island

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Directly north of the town pier is Bar Island. This island is accessible by foot at low tide and provides a spectacular view of the town of Bar Harbor with the mountains behind it. Be sure to plan ahead and allow enough time so that you do not get stranded or wet!  Check the tide schedules – you have about a 3 hour window, one and half hours before and after low tide to make your journey across to the island.  There is a trail on the island, steep at times, that goes through the woods to the summit overlook of Bar Harbor.  (You will use a wide-angle and possibly a telephoto, making this a good opportunity for a zoom i.e., 28-300).

 

 

 

Bass Harbor Head LighthouseBass Harbor Head Lighthouse

 

Bass Harbor Lighthouse

The Bass Harbor Lighthouse is located in the village of Bass Harbor (about 30 minutes from Bar Harbor) and marks the entrance to Bass Harbor on the southwestern side of Mount Desert Island. The lighthouse was built of brick in 1858 on a stone foundation, stands 56 feet above mean high water and is accessible by car off Route 102A. Parking is free and is open daily from 9:00 AM to sunset.

The path down to the water’s edge is at the back of the parking lot and marked with a small sign “Lighthouse Trail”.  Once on the trail, you are brought to some steep steps and then you are on your own climbing over boulders to get a good angle of the cliff and lighthouse.  If you are too close, you will not capture the beauty of the cliff.  It is better to take this shot either early in the morning for a warm light on the cliffs or just before sunset with the sun behind the lighthouse and hope for clouds and color  (take a center weighted exposure on the lighthouse/cliffs if the sun is behind the lighthouse.  The photograph above was taken at 24mm.  You may want to try an even wider shot.)

 

 

Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain Sunrise, AcadiaCadillac Mountain Sunrise, Acadia Cadillac Mountain is a short drive from Bar Harbor.  It sits at 1,530 feet (466 meters) and is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and the first place to view sunrise in the United States from October 7 through March 6. It is one of over 20 mountains on Mount Desert Island that were pushed up by earth’s tectonic and volcanic forces millions of years ago. Were it not for the once enormous glaciers that sheared off their tops, they would be even higher than what we see today.  The glaciers crept across the land here from the left to the right (in a southerly direction) and stretched out to sea as far as 400 miles (644 kilometers)!  You can hike up the mountain or drive to the top (my first choice of course.)

 

During the normal season, there is a free shuttle bus service available that connects most important points on Mount Desert Island as well as to a few on the mainland.

If you do go for sunrise – you will not be alone.  It is best to stake out an area early that will potentially have no one in front of you.  This is one location that you should absolutely scope out before you arrive in the dark.  During the daytime, visitors are only allowed 15 minutes to park – the view is wonderful, but the sun can be harsh mid-day and can make it difficult to get a good shot of anything.  Before sunrise, however, there is no limitation on parking and the small parking lot soon fills to capacity.  When shooting directly at the sun, I would bracket your exposures for use with HDR since you will have truly have a high dynamic range of light between the dark shadows that surround you and the bright sun.  I would stop down to f/16 to try get a starburst – I wasn’t so lucky with a bank of clouds just filtering enough light to prevent a starburst from appearing.  This is also a great location for Milky Way shots.

 

Carriage Roads

The Carriage Roads and stone bridges were financed and directed by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., between 1913 and 1940.  Not wanting cars in these areas, the Carriage Roads were designed for hikers, bikers, horseback riders and carriages. The network includes 57 miles of woodland roads free of motor vehicles, of which 45 miles are within Acadia National Park.   These allow seasonal cross-country skiing and limited snowmobiling. Twelve miles are on private land.  Time ran out before we could explore the Carriage Roads with their unique bridges, streams and water falls.

 

Gardens (Asitou and Thuya)

Thuya Gardens, AcadiaThuya Gardens, Acadia

 

Thuya Garden is a gorgeous flowering garden located on a granite hillside overlooking Northeast Harbor.  It was originally designed and built in 1956 – 1961 by Charles K. Savage, a long-time resident of Northeast Harbor, along with financial support from John D. Rockefeller. The garden exhibits an English style influence with special input from Beatrix Farrand so that it will incorporate the unique character of the Maine coast. A variety of annuals and perennials line the two long sides of the garden. An open observation pavilion sits at the top of a slight incline on the north end overlooking the main garden that cascades down to a shallow reflecting pool below.

This garden is in bloom most of the Spring through Fall. The Asitou garden, located nearby, consists mostly of azaleas which are not in bloom in the Fall.

 

I should mention that there are over 200 steps leading from the parking lot to the top.  There is a small parking lot at the top if you are not looking for anymore exercise.

 

Jordan Pond

Jordan PondJordan Pond

Jordan Pond is a glacier formed tarn with a maximum water depth of 150 feet (46 m). There are steep inclines on the left and right sides (West and East). The water is exceptionally clear with an average visibility depth of 46 feet (14 m) but this has been measured as high as 60 feet (18 m), the most ever recorded in the State of Maine. Swimming is not allowed. However, non motor boats such as canoes and kayaks are permitted. The kayak and canoe launch site for this is via the Jordan Pond North parking lot, a short distance from the restaurant. Carriage Roads are adjacent to the restaurant and pond area.

Jordon Pond BoardwalkJordon Pond Boardwalk

Auto access to the restaurant is provided via the Park Loop Road.  (There are three parking lots – always crowded).  If you expect to have lunch there (before or after your 4 mile hike around the lake), I would call for reservations. The food is good – but the ice cream is to die for.

For most all shots of the lake, a wide-angle lens is a must. Be sure to use a Circular Polarizer to cut the glare so you can see the rocks below the water surface.

The hike around the lake consists of a "board walk" for a good portion of the left side before you come to boulders that you will need to negotiate.  If you that the trail in the afternoon, you will be shaded on the left side (clockwise) but must deal with the sun on your way back.   

It takes about 2 hours to work your way around.

 

Otter Cliff

Otter Point, AcadiaOtter Point, Acadia

 

 

 

Otter Cliff is considered one of the most spectacular sights along the North Atlantic Seaboard. On the east side of the Park Loop Road, about .7 miles past Thunder Hole, is the famous 110 foot high Otter Cliff – one of the highest Atlantic coastal headlands north of Rio de Janeiro.

 

 

 

 

 

Beach at Otter Cliffs, AcadiaBeach at Otter Cliffs, Acadia

 

 

Just before Otter Cliff is a beautiful spot called Monument Cove. Right after this, the road begins to curve to the left. To the right is a small parking area with portable rest facilities for the Gorham Mountain Trail. On the other side of the street is a path that leads a steep trail down to the water.  This area is best seen early in the morning and the closer to the water you are, the more color will be revealed by the rocks. (I would use a wide-angle lens with Circular Polarizer.  If you have a 10 stop filter and tripod, slowing the water down can make for a great shot here.)

 

Seawall

SeawallSeawall

Seawall is a naturally occurring granite and loose boulder and rock seawall located on the southwestern side of Mount Desert Island about four miles south ofthe main city section of Southwest Harbor. This is a beautiful spot for viewing the sunrise over Great Cranberry Island. There is a nice picnic area right next to the ocean and space where you can park and view the ocean waves from your vehicle if desired.

 

Shore Path

Shore WalkShore Walk

 

There is a picturesque and historic Shore Path you should walk on at least one morning during your visit or anytime during the day. The path, originally created about 1880, begins near the town pier and Agamont Park, and continues for about 1/2 a mile along the eastern shore of town. Off shore to the east are the four Porcupine Islands which are especially beautiful at sunrise.

 

 

Thunder Hole, AcadiaThunder Hole, Acadia

 

 

Thunder Hole

Thunder Hole is the place to experience the thunder of the sea against the rocky shores of Maine! To get the impact, you need to be there when tide is near high and the waves are rough. When the tide is low, you will see little excitement.  It is a small inlet, naturally carved out of the rocks, where the waves roll into. At the end of this inlet, down low, is a small cavern where, when the rush of the wave arrives, air and water is forced out like a clap of distant thunder. Water may spout as high as 40 feet with a thunderous roar! Hence the name: Thunder Hole.  (A parking lot is nearby.)

Getting an unobstructed shot is a matter of time at this popular tourist location.  (A wide-angle lens is a must.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ocean Path

Otter Cliffs, AcadiaOtter Cliffs, Acadia Acadia National ParkAcadia National Park

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a 3 mile or 3.8 km (round-trip) long ocean side walking trail called Ocean Path that begins at the Sand Beach upper parking lot directly to the north of here and follows the eastern coastline of Mount Desert Island in a southerly direction past Thunder Hole and then continues until it reaches Otter Cliff to the south. You should consider doing this walk as it is highly recommended for its unrivaled coastal beauty on the eastern seaboard of the continental United States. The Park Loop Road follows in the same direction but is one-way on this side of the island.  (You will use the wide-angle lens the most.)

 

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But no matter you do, take some time to just sit, listen to the waves crashing on the rocks and enjoy nature at its finest.  You will be glad you did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bar Harbor Sunrise 5Bar Harbor Sunrise 5

 

 

 

There are a number of areas that I was not able to visit or mention here such as Bubble Pond, Eagle Lake, Sand Beach and Schoodic.  But those will be left for another adventure.

 

 

I hope this brief article gave you some ideas of what this amazing National Park has to offer.  We were there for less than a week and did a lot – but there is a lot more still to do – especially if you are active.  I am ready to go back.

 

 

 

For more photographs, please see myImagez.com/Maine

For a good reference on Acadia, see AcadiaMagic

Equipment I used: Nikon D810, 14-24, 24-70, 80-400, 20 prime, 28-300, RRS Tripod + various filters

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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) http://myimagez.com/blog/2015/9/acadia Tue, 15 Sep 2015 22:41:57 GMT
National Aquarium Dolphin Count 2015 http://myimagez.com/blog/2015/7/aqua_dolphincount_2015 _JS15538-Edit_Title_JS15538-Edit_Title

 

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Each summer, teams gather to take a look into our planet's future.  The health of our coastal waters is an indicator as to the health of our ecosystem that affects all marine life.  And the impact on marine life can affect us all.  As part of the strategy to continuously monitor the coastal waters, an annual dolphin count has evolved over the years along the eastern seaboard to help marine mammal specialists capture a snapshot view of the coastal ecosystem by studying dolphin populations, reproduction rates and the abundance of prey.  

The annual counts have now been part of the National Aquarium’s programs for more than a decade.  The marine mammal specialists look at the dolphin population and reproduction rates as an indicator as to the state of our ocean in general.

 

Just passing through . . .

FB_JS15537-EditFB_JS15537-Edit Atlantic bottlenose dolphins use Maryland waters as a thoroughfare for migration, summertime breeding, and feeding along their way.  During the Spring and Summer months, the dolphin travel from the Carolina's up the East coast to Delaware waters.  Then in the Fall, they travel back down to the warmer waters of the Carolinas.  

“The annual count is a great snapshot into the health of our dolphin population off the Maryland coast and helps us to discover trends,” said Jennifer Dittmar, manager of animal rescue at the aquarium. “It’s also a great opportunity to get families on the beach to answer questions for them, enjoy hands-on work and it’s an outreach to folks who want to help these animals.”

 

 

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Education

Another very important purpose of this event is to bring awareness to the public.  “It’s a great opportunity to connect with families and other demographics to get the message out there about what we do and why it’s important,” Jennifer Dittmar said in a statement.  It is with great enthusiasm that the National Aquarium includes families in these events to educate everyone on the importance of the ecosystem to our future.

 

 

 

 

Taking the count

Aqua_JS46901-EditOcean City Coastline

The Dolphin Count involves teams of National Aquarium volunteers and the public stationed at three locations along the Ocean City Maryland shoreline. They scan the waters waiting for passing dolphin and then record the sighting on data sheets. Each station has Aquarium representatives on hand to set up and answer questions.  Approximately 10 aquarium volunteers and an estimated 25-35 public volunteers take part in the counting over a three-hour sampling period.

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Positioned three miles off-shore, a National Aquarium research vessel patrols the coastal waters taking counts as well.  Radio contact is made with the shore-based stations and GPS coordinates are logged for each sighting from the research vessel.

 

 

 

 

 

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Keeping our waters clean

 

 

 

Another important service that the National Aquarium team provides is to clean up, as possible, any floating toys, bottles, and other items that pose a threat to marine life.  During our brief time onboard, several bottles, a plastic jug and several inflatable toys were retrieved.  

 

 

 

 

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Due to a variety of conditions, results have varied greatly over the past few years. 

  • 2012,   31 dolphins were counted - due to factors ranging from the weather to bigger swells and food availability.
  • 2013, 113 dolphins were counted - a typical number according to aquarium officials.
  • 2014,   53 dolphins were counted - a lower number than expected, likely resulting from limited visibility due to fog.
  • 2015,   33 dolphins were counted – resulting from large schools of fish far offshore that drew many of the dolphins out of sight of the land-based teams.

 

About the National Aquarium in Baltimore

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National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program is a member of the Northeast Stranding Network (NERS) through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Aquarium is one facility among a network of nationally recognized facilities that work cooperatively to respond to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles.  Since 1991, the National Aquarium Animal Rescue Program has been responding to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles along Delaware, Maryland and Virginia’s shores.

The Animal Rescue team works directly with NOAA, USFWS, Maryland Department of Natural Resources and regional and national stranding partners to respond to stranded animals and collect data used to better understand aquatic animals that are still very much a mystery to modern science.

 

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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) National Aquarium Dolphin Count 2015 http://myimagez.com/blog/2015/7/aqua_dolphincount_2015 Thu, 23 Jul 2015 15:03:38 GMT
Nikon 85Mmm f/1.4 D vs G - Review http://myimagez.com/blog/2015/6/nikon_85mm_review _JS46341_JS46341

Nikon 85mm f/1.4 G vs D

 

For years I have owned a Nikon Nikkor 85mm f1.4 D lens that I just loved for portraits.  After a recent photoshoot, I decided to try the Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 "G" which I thought may yield even better results than I had been getting with my current lens.  With a street price of nearly $1,700 and very positive reviews, I knew it must be a really great lens.  (They say you get what you pay for - right?)  But how much better could it be? What I found out came as bit of a surprise.

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Nikon 85mm, f/1.4G (left)   Nikon 85mm, f/1.4 D (right)

 

85m f/1.4 D (Production ended in 2010)

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First let me address the “D” version.  This lens is "old school" in terms of build quality.  For it’s size, it seems heavy (20 oz), lots of metal construction – right down to the hood.  (I should mention that the hood screws on and cannot be attached in reverse - making transporting this lens less convenient than the Nikon bayonette hoods that can be reversed with the lens cap attached.) The glass looks to be of high quality and very professional. Standard 77mm filters can be installed if so desired.  For portraits I shoot naked – well the lens is (with no filters to degrade the image quality.)  I found the lens focuses quickly and can be clearly heard from a short distance (which is not always a good thing if you are in a quiet environment).  In the end, the overall image quality is most outstanding - and that is what counts.

Being a f/1.4 lens, the viewfinder has a welcomed, nice bright image - of course brighter than an f/2.8 lens.  To turn the focus ring, the AutoFocus Lock must be disengaged.  This may be an issue if you like the convenience of overriding the AutoFocus by just turning the focus ring at any time.  (With the lock engaged, the focus ring is locked and cannot be moved.)   This lens will work with just about any Nikon camera body made in the past 40 years with the exception of AutoFocus on the  D40, D60, D3000, D5000 and D5100. 

The "D" can produce smooth bokeh and contains no distortion. Originally this quality piece of glass came in at near $1200.  Used it sells for under $700.

 

85 f/1.4 G (Still in Production)

The “G” version is the replacement of the "D".  It is a physically larger lens but at first seems to be lighter in comparison to its older brother.  It is mostly plastic and just 'seems' lighter. (it is actually 1 oz heaver than the “D”.) The plastic construction continues right down to lenshood – which can make this lens seem a bit less well made.  It too takes a 77mm filter (if so desired). 

Focusing has been reported by some to be slower on the “G” series. However, I found little difference between the two lenses in real-world situations.  I found the initial focus of the "G" to be quite quick.  In a portrait photoshoot I continually checked focus before each shot and never had a moment when I felt the lens was hunting or just taking 'too' long to lock on focus.

The "G" produces a very smooth bokeh and there is no noticeable distortion.  (However, I always run distortion correction as part of my workflow in Lightroom and any distortion a lens may have is quickly removed based on the camera profile.) This quality piece of glass comes in at near $1700.

There is much more I can speak to about these lenses, such as coma, and chromatic aberration at 1.4, etc.  However, all of that can be corrected for the most part for any lens in post processing.  I have also read the corner resolution is better on the "G", but my tests did not support that.  This is more of a practical comparison in terms of what I found in real-world shooting environments rather than what I read on paper.

 

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Nikon 85mm, f/1.4 G with lenshood (left)  Nikon 85mm, f/1.4D with lenshood (right)

 

Differences

So what were the real differences between these two lenses that made a difference for me and, most importantly, would it make sense to  spend $1700 for the G series?  That was I had to decide.

In comparison, the “G” had Nano-Coating to increase contrast and color saturation - the "D" did not.  What I found was that some images that where taken at the same setting, appeared to be a tad brighter with more saturation on the "G".  (An easy fix in Lightroom to make the the two lenses look the same).   The “G” had a MaualFocus override that could be engaged at any time.  The “D” required a switch to be disengaged to move the focus ring (which, if you forget to set it back, will make you wonder why none of your images are in focus.)  I rarely needed to override the AutoFocus - so for me this was not a major issue.

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            Nikon 85mm f/1.4 G - Manual/AutoFocus Switch                              Nikon 85mm f/1/4 D - AuoFocus/Manual Override button

 

Both lenses were made in Japan.  However, the newer construction on the “G” seemed to be less rugged with so much plastic construction.

The “D” focused a ‘tad’ faster than the "G" – but not significantly enough to be an issue. 

The "D" was much louder when it focused.

The “D” images were a little cooler when compared to the “G”. (easy fix post processing)

The “D” had a less accurate focus hit than the “G”. (could be an issue if focus speed/accuracy is a factor - for portraits not so much)

Colors seemed to be richer and contained more contrast on the “G” (probably due to the Nano-Coating)

The newer “G” has been used as a baseline by some labs when it comes to lens image quality comparisons.  In my own test shots, both lenses were very comparable in terms of sharpness and overall image quality.  In fact, one must pixel-peed to see any real differences.  I should also mention that both lenses were calibrated for back/front focus using Focal and all test shots were taken on tripod.  For my tests I used a Nikon D4s mounted on a tripod and a variety of common test objects.

Conclusion

Based on my experiences with both lenses, this is a quick summary table.  (No specs here - just what I experienced):

Feature "D" ""G"
Lens Coating - Nano-Coating
Focus Override Switch Continuous
Construction Metal Plastic
Lenshood Metal (non reversible)  Plastic (reversible)
Feel Solid - pro-grade Fragile
Focus Fast / Loud Quick / Quiet
Accuracy Very Good Excellent
Bokeh Excellent Excellent
Color Cast Cool Warm
Sharpness Excellent Excellent
Cost < $700 used $1650 new

Based on my experience, the “D” performed really well and was so close to the "G" in terms of picture quality, I can see why it has become a favorite portrait lens for professionals. I found it to be that good.  The “G” is marginally better, but pricing is really quite high for this type of prime lens.  If given the opportunity, I would wait for one of the Nikon Rebates before going in that direction.  I have seen the "D" on eBay for less than $700.

I must say, though, you cannot go wrong with the "G" - it does have, on paper, better resolution (center and corners), better saturation and contrast with Nano-Coating, more accurate focus and of course AutoFocus override.  If money is not an issue, the "G" is the way to go and it will not let you down.  However, if cost is an issue, the images between the "G" and "D" were very close and the big difference was the price.

Below are some example shots taken using a Nikon D4S, with the same settings.  Compare the quality of what each of these two lens captured and judge for yourself.  The "D" is  shown first in each case.  Is the new "G" worth the additional cost?

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Nikon 85mm f/1.4 D (100% crop) - shot at f/6.3

_JS46345_JS46345 Nikon 85mm f/1.4 G (100% crop) - shot at f/6.3

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Nikon 85mm f/1.4D (200% crop) - shot at f/6.3

_JS46347-Edit_JS46347-Edit Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (200% crop) - shot at f/6.3

 

_JS46309_JS46309 Nikon 85mm f/1.4 D 0 - shot at f/8

_JS46310_JS46310 Nikon 85mm f/1.4 G (a tad warmer than the "D") - shot at f/8

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Nikon 85mm f/1.4 D (200% crop) - shot at f/8

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Nikon 85mm, f/1.4 G (200% crop) - shot at f/8 and color corrected to match cooler "D"

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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) 1.4 85mm Nikkor 85mm Nikon Nikon 85mm 1.4 D vs G Nikon 85mm 1.4 G vs D Nikon 85mm f/1.4 nikon f1.4d vs g nikon f1.4g vs d http://myimagez.com/blog/2015/6/nikon_85mm_review Mon, 22 Jun 2015 21:02:33 GMT
2015 Washington DC Global Race For The Cure - RACE FOR IMPACT http://myimagez.com/blog/2015/5/global-race-for-the-cure-dc-2015 Global Race for the Cure 2015 - RACE FOR IMPACT

Race For the Cure DC 2015Race For the Cure DC 2015

The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Series is the world's largest and most successful education and fundraising event for breast cancer ever created, a fundraiser for breast cancer sufferers, survivors and their families to fight against breast cancer.  This is the 26th year the Race for the Cure has been held in Washington D.C.

 

Local Need

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide and the second-most common cancer overall. In 2015, an estimated 231,840 cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. alone. Every 60 seconds one woman, somewhere in the world, dies from breast cancer.  That’s about a half a million people who will die this year from breast cancer, according to the Komen organization. No matter who you are or where you live, understanding breast cancer is important. But the most important thing to know is this: a diagnosis is not a death sentence.  Breast cancer can be treated. 

Race For the Cure DC 2015Race For the Cure DC 2015 Washington, D.C. has the highest incidence rate of invasive breast cancer in the United States: 126 women per 100,000. While significant progress has been made thanks to the incredible fundraising of participants, the local need is still great.

 

About the DC Race

Race For the Cure DC 2015Race For the Cure DC 2015

In the early morning hours of May 9, 2015, Mother's Day Weekend, about 15,000 participants, including 1,500 cancer survivors, gathered on the National Mall in D.C. creating a sea of pink near the Washington Monument.  They were there to run or walk in the Race for the Cure.

Runners and walkers wore pink shirts and were joined by family members and supporters in teams who raised money for the cause.  As participants prepared for the start, lively dance numbers and driving music added to an already pumped up atmosphere.

Dancing DiamondsDancing Diamonds

The Dancing Diamonds

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstar Hulk Hogan served as Grand Marshall.  “It is an honor to join survivors, volunteers and participants and serve as Grand Marshal for Susan G. Komen’s D.C. Race for the Cure,” said Hulk Hogan. “I am proud to represent WWE as we continue to use our global platforms to raise awareness for the fight against breast cancer.” 

Hulk HoganHulk Hogan

Grand Marshall, Hulk Hogan

There was also an appearance by Jimmy Hart, close friend and manager of Hulk Hogan and best known for his work in the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling under his nickname "The Mouth of the South."  (Also the head of 'The Gentries' - a 1960's rock group that had the hit 'Keep On Dancing' - for those of us that remember the 60's.)

Jimy Hart - Hulk HoganJimy Hart - Hulk Hogan

Jimmy Hart with Hulk Hogan

Layal El, English dancer, model, professional wrestling valet and WWE Diva performed lively dance routines.  Layla's own mother passed at the early age of 48 due to breast cancer, facing three battles in two decades.  She has been a strong supporter promoting awareness for finding a cure for breast cancer.

Layla ElLayla El

Layla El

British singer-songwriter and musician Matt Goss performed “Strong”, a song he wrote and recorded in honor of his mother’s strength as she fought and eventually lost her own battle with cancer.  "This Mother's Day I am so honored to begin my partnership with Susan G. Komen as we share our strength for all those battling this terrible disease,” said Goss. “I lost my mother to cancer last year, and it was her strength, as she never gave up, that truly inspired me to be strong and to do everything in my power to help prevent others from going through this. As a son, my mother would be so proud that they are using my song ‘Strong’ as the official anthem for Komen."

Matt GossMatt Goss

Matt Goss

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Dr. Judy Salerno - Nancy Brinker - Layla ElDr. Judy Salerno - Nancy Brinker - Layla El

Dr. Judy Salerno, President/CEO Susan G. Komen • Nancy Brinker, Founder Susan G. Komen • Layla El, WWE Diva

 

Aladin - Prince of the AirwayzAladin - Prince of the Airwayz

DJ Aladdin Prince of the Airwayz keeping the energy alive 

 

Footsteps Heard Around the World

PG PDPG PD

Members of Maryland's Prince Georges County Police Department show their support

In 2015, the Komen Organization will have 16 international Races in 8 countries with more than 150 Races globally. International Komen Race for the Cure events are unique in each country, however they all share the common goal of a world without breast cancer.

 

National Capital Region Grants Program

Since its inception in 1990, funds raised from the Komen Washington, D.C. Race for the Cure have provided more than $35 million to support more than 300 community grants to local programs in the National Capital Region, aimed at low-income, minority and uninsured women in areas where breast cancer rates are the highest. An additional $30 million has funded 98 research grants to scientific researchers in the National Capital Region, including Georgetown University, The Institute of Medicine, Howard University and The George Washington University, among others. 

Nacy Brinker - Matt GossNacy Brinker - Matt Goss

Nancy G. Brinker, Founder Susan G. Komen • Matt Goss

In all, over $2 billion has been invested by the Komen Organization to play a critical role in virtually every major advancement in the battle against breast cancer.

 

Footnote

It is most likely someone in your family, or someone you know has been touched by some form of cancer.  My daughter-in-law's mother lost her battle to breast cancer a number of years ago.  It is donations from the survivors and friends and family of those who have fought and lost their battle from this disease that make these events so successful thoughout the world.  

Race For the Cure DC 2015Race For the Cure DC 2015

Christina Scarlato (holding her dog Luna) attended in honor for her mother, Maria Elena Bartlett

Race For the Cure DC 2015Race For the Cure DC 2015

Race For the Cure DC 2015Race For the Cure DC 2015

 I also lost my mother to breast cancer less than 7 years ago.  Together we can win this battle.

For more photos, please visit myImagez.com/komen_2015

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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) Hulk Hogan Jimmy Hart Komen Layla El Matt Goss Race for the Cure Susan G. Komen breast cancer photojournalism http://myimagez.com/blog/2015/5/global-race-for-the-cure-dc-2015 Sun, 10 May 2015 22:30:38 GMT
Traveling with a Full Frame Camera: Nikon 28-300mm and Nikon 20mm lenses http://myimagez.com/blog/2015/4/traveling-with-a-full-frame-camera-nikon-28-300mm-and-nikon-20mm _JS14435-Edit_JS14435-Edit Background

When my travel involves photography, it is either for relaxation (vacation) or a specific photoshoot.  When I travel for a vacation, my photographic needs are somewhat different and I want to carry the least amount of camera gear as possible - but yet still come back with some really nice photographs.  When I travel for a photoshoot, however, I want to bring as much camera gear as I may need to capture photographs for display.   A number of years ago, I moved into the full frame camera world and left my point-n-shoot and cropped sensor (DX) behind.  I now shoot with either a Nikon D810 or D4s.  Traveling with either of these professional camera bodies often requires bringing along a wide range of lenses – and thus a lot of weight and bulk to deal with.  The results are often worth the effort - if public display is your end game.  But what are alternatives?

The purpose of this article then, is to address those who have full frame cameras and would like some suggestions as to what to bring on excursions.  I should mention that there are some really good images out there taken from cellphones (but that is another topic altogether) and sometimes a point-n-shoot is the only way to go if you need something that is not to be so obvious (like at dinner). Addressing the pros and cons of point-n-shoot and cropped sensors (i.e. DX) cameras is a totally different discussion.

 

Travel - Photoshoot

 

 

 

On a dedicated photoshoot where air travel is involved, I often carry a Think Tank Streetwalker HD backpack and a Think Tank Airport International carry-on.  Both bags are specially designed to carry photographic equipment and they get packed with little room to spare.  I pack into them two camera bodies/grips (Nikon D4s and Nikon D810), Nikon 14-24mm, 24-70mm and either 70-200mm or 80-400mm plus a number of filters, chargers, lens cleaners, a flash, remote shutter release, memory cards, tripod bullhead, MacBook Air and more.   I then pack into a rolling duffle bag, my full-sized Really Right Stuff Tripod, hiking gear and hiking clothes.  The rolling bag gets checked in and my other two bags (backpack and carry-on) come with me on the plane.  Since this type of travel is solely for photography, I make sure I take everything I may need with me.

 

 

 

Travel – Vacation/General

For vacation when air travel is involved, I often carry one camera body (without the grip) and have to decide what lenses I should bring – often having to make compromises in my selections based on anticipated locations/subjects and available storage.   It really pays to plan a little in terms of photographic expectations.

Before I travel, I try to map out the locations and subjects to consider for photography:  Low light?  Indoors? Wide angle? Telephoto? Action? Moving water, etc

I had used the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 (about $1300) on a recent trip overseas, and although many of the images were decent, I felt that the zoom range was limited which meant that there were some images I just could not capture.  As it happened, our vacation changed into a news story stemming from a Category 4 Hurricane disaster and followed by an evacuation.  Having just one lens was great for photojournalism which came in handy as I often found that I did not have the opportunity to change lenses to capture the action.  I did find that being limited by the reach of 120mm was limiting.

I should also mention that I often pack a Giottos Travel Tripod w/ballhead in my carry-on luggage for those times that require long exposures.

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Hurricane Odile destruction in Los Cabos and the Baja  (Shot with Nikon 24-120mm)

 

Nikon Travel Lens Combination

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Nikon 20mm f/1.8 prime  with Nikon 28-300mm f, f/3.5-5.6​

Looking at a variety of options from Nikon, as well as other vendors, I decided to try something a little different from what I had in the 24-120mm.  This time I decided to select a "general purpose" zoom lens that had a "reasonable" wide angle (less than 30mm) but had a reach to at least 250mm.  I also wanted to carry a light-weight, ultra-wide angle lens for the occasional wide-angle shot.  The wide-angle lens would need to be below 24mm and at least f/2.8 for sunsets, indoor and night shots.  

After some research, I selected the Nikon prime 20mm, f/1.8 (great for low light and dramatic wide shots) to work with the Nikon 28-300mm, f/3.5-5.6 VRII (a "general" lens and telephoto).  The 28-300mm could cover most of my needs as a general purpose, walk-around lens and also provide the added reach when necessary.  And, on occasion, the 20mm could be easily switched out when I needed a very sharp wide-angle lens.  I now would have 20-300mm covered.  (I also have the larger 14mm-24mm which I find is somewhat sharper in the corners and more versatile than the 20mm - but is  beast to carry.)

 

Considerations

I knew the 20mm lens should give very reasonably results based on reviews but the 28-300mm had very mixed reviews and was of concern.  Although having just two lenses covering 20-300mm could be the answer I was looking for, I was concerned whether the image quality was going to be there.  The potential space savings in packing I knew was going to be a real plus.  I could now pack my D810 without the battery grip plus add the 20mm lens, 28-300mm lens, filters, memory cards, Black Rapid Strap, GoPro and still have room in my Think Tank Shoulder Bag.  There was no need for a large backpack and the dedicated camera carry-on.  I could actually take my regular carry-on and pack clothes in it. 

And, if this combination did not perform as expected – back they could go for a refund on my credit card.  By-the-way, this combination set me back $800 for the 20mm and $1046 for the 28-300mm for a total of $1846 – about $500 more than the 24-120mm f/4 I had tried before.  Could I have purchased a point-n-shoot for less? - of course.  But not one with 36megapixels and with the kind of potential image quality this setup could have.  But a few tests were in order to determine if this was a go or not.

 

Preparation

Before our trip, I conducted a series of calibration tests to fine tune each lens in terms of back focus and front focus for each of my camera bodies.  (I used both LensAlign and Focal).  I also conducted a number of sample field tests and pixel peeped at 100% to determine if the resolution was acceptable for prints up to 8x10 for each lens.  After all, what good is a lens if the images are not good enough to show anyone.  After conducting calibration tests to fine tune my camera/lens and viewing comparisons with my reference lenses (14-24, 24-70 and 70-200), I felt that my proposed combinations were worth a go - and off we went.

 

First Impressions

I can say carrying this equipment was no problem.  Also, in that the 20mm and 28-300mm both take 77mm filters, I could now limit the amount of filters to carry (Circular Polarizer, Neutral Density, and Graduated Neutral Density).   And, just knowing I had a wide coverage (20mm~250mm) within easy reach was wonderful. (I say ~250 because I would never extend the 28-300mm all the way to 300mm). 

 

20mm

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In using the 20mm, I found that lens was sharp and results were comparable to my 14-24mm at 20mm.  Any minimal distortion was easily corrected in Light Room.   I appreciated the light weight (but honestly seemed like a toy at times) and the fact it took 77mm filters.  I did not get a chance to shoot any night sky but was able to get some really nice sunset shots.  The lens is small enough that it can fit in a jacket pocket (or small camera bag.)  It also worked well indoors.

 

 

 

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28-300mm

In shooting with the 28-300mm, I found the VR worked well and was fast.  There was some image quality inconsistency during testing when action was involved so I often shot in bursts of 3 or more if the subject was moving.  It also produced some Chromatic Aberration that was corrected 'for the most part' by Light Room. I never extended this lens to 300mm, but rather backed down to around 250mm.  At 300mm I found the 28-300mm to be too soft for my taste but was quite acceptable up to 250mm.  This additional reach was a big plus over the 24-120mm that I had tried before.  And, on a D810 capturing 36megapixels images, I knew I could crop in even more as needed. 

 

Since most of my daytime photographs are shot at f/5.6 – f/8, the limiting f/value inherit to the 28-300mm lens (3.5-5.6) was never an issue.  And, with the low-light handling capabilities of the D810, I knew I could bump up my ISO if necessary when ample light was not available.  Overall, I was pleased with the performance of this lens but I knew I would not use it for any professional work that would be enlarged over 16”x24” as I often do.  For albums and the web – this seemed perfect.

 

Final Impressions

The 20mm f/1.8 prime is a very nice, low-cost lens.  Being a prime lens, it is very sharp and is a welcomed addition to my collection.  I look forward to trying it out for astrophotography in the future.  For the majority of my professional work, however, I will most likely stick to my 14-24mm for the capability of zoom and the 14mm dramatic effect.  That is, when the added bulk is not an issue when transporting this lens.  Still, only needing one set of filters is quite appealing on the 20mm.  The filters for the 14-24mm are huge!

The 28-300 makes a great ‘one lens’ choice – especially when changing lenses is either not possible or when the time needed to change lenses can mean missing a shot.  To me this lens is of consumer grade quality and does not come up to the standards of the professional lenses I normally carry (nor at the much, much higher price tags).  But for a vacation and some photojournalism - the 28-300mm is more than adequate.  When on vacation or in situation when it is not practical to have multiple camera bodies or lens changes (such as in a vehicle, on a plane, at an event), the 28-300mm along with the occasional switch to the 20mm prime works very well.  For me this may be the best overall compromise for a full frame Nikon camera when getting the shot matters, images are not going to be displayed over 16"x24" and when transporting the least amount of equipment is of concern.

For most professional work, I will still carry two camera bodies – one using either the 14-24mm for really wide shots or 24-70mm for general purpose. The other camera body will use either a 70-200 or 80-400mm for tight shots. Your experiences may vary.  Just my 2 cents worth.

 

Image Samples

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28-300 @ 68mm, f/8, 1/400, ISO 90 [D810]

 

_JS14460-Edit28-300mm @ 180mm, f/8, 1/320, ISO 720

28-300mm @ 180mm, f/8, 1/320, ISO 720 [D810]

 

_JS41652-Edit-Edit_JS41652-Edit-Edit 28-300mm @ 250mm, f/8, 1/1250, ISO 1100 [D4s]

 

_JS14111-Edit_JS14111-Edit 20mm, f/8, 1/50, ISO 125 - GND Filter ​[D810]

 

_JS13841_JS13841 20mm: f/2.2, 1/100, ISO 640 [D810]

 

The following were shot during the Baltimore Riot using the Nikon 28-300mm.  There was no time to change lenses.

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28-300mm @ 100mm, f/8, 1/320 ISO 160 [D4s]

_JS41838-Edit_JS41838-Edit 28-300mm @ 28mm,  1/320, ISO 160 [D4s]

 

_JS41743-Edit-Edit_JS41743-Edit-Edit 28-30mm @ 28mm, f/8, 1/320, ISO 100 [D4s]

 ​

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20mm with 28-300mm (fully extended)

 

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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) http://myimagez.com/blog/2015/4/traveling-with-a-full-frame-camera-nikon-28-300mm-and-nikon-20mm Wed, 29 Apr 2015 19:18:25 GMT
Nikon TC-14e III Quick Look http://myimagez.com/blog/2014/9/tc14eiii Nikon-TC-14E-IIINikon-TC-14E-III

 

 

Teleconverters are a cheap way of extending the reach of a lens, and thus have become most popular to many photographers - amateur to pro.  Not only scan they extend the reach of certain lenses, they often bring new life into some lenses and have the added benefit of allowing the photographer to carry a small converter to extend the reach of a lens and thus remove the need to carry yet another heavy piece of glass into the field.

In August of 2014, Nikon updated their popular 1.4x teleconverter to the third edition, "III".   This is a quick look at their new offering.

The newly introduced model, TC-14e III, is thiner and lighter than the prior model, the TC-14e II.  Designed for some of the higher-end Nikkor prime and zoom lenses, the new lens features front and rear optical surfaces with fluorine coatings, which repel water droplets and is weather-resistant to suit working in inclement conditions.  (The teleconverter was introduced at the same time the $11,000 Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 lens was announced - a great pair if money is no object.)   So has this little gem really improved with this new release?

 

A Closer Look

Where this teleconverter really stands out in the series of Nikkor teleconverters, (TC-14, TC-17 and TC-20), is that it offers a 40% increase in reach while just losing one f-stop.  The old one did that but the glass elements have now been improved for better purity in light transmission.  Translation - better image quality.  The issue with the prior version was that there was a slight loss of sharpness - as is inherent with most teleconverters.  But not nearly as bad as the other in the series.    Although both the TC-17 (1.7x) and TC-20 (2x)  both increase reach, the cost of light loss and poor overall image quality turns most pros off.  But not the TC-14e models.

The TC-14e III maintains full support for autofocus, exposure metering, and VR image stabilization with compatible lenses.  Ah the rub - only some of the Nikkor lenses are compatible with the new teleconverter (please see Nikon's website for the complete list.)

 

TC-14e Teleconverter Comparison

Nikon TC-14E III (new version) Nikon TC-14E II (old version)
TC-14E-IIITC-14E-III

TC-14E-IITC-14E-II

Lens Design TC-14E-III-designTC-14E-III-design

TC-14E-II-lens-designTC-14E-II-lens-design

Lens construction 7 elements in 4 groups  5 elements in 5 groups
Minimum focus distance Same as that of a prime lens Same as that of a prime lens
Diameter x length
(distance from camera lens mount flange)
64 x 24.5mm 66 x 24.5mm
Weight 190g  200g

 

Testing

Just how much better is this teleconverter over its predecessor is the focus of this 'quick look'.  I took controlled test shots using a Nikkor AF-S 70mm-200mm f/2.8 ED VR II and a Nikkor AF-S 80mm-400mm f/4.5-5.6 ED VR Lens.  The test camera was a Nikon D810 mounted on a tripod and a remote shutter release was used with MirrorUp with Front Curtain to keep vibrations down.  There is not much more I could do to ensure there were no variables to adversely affect the samples.  I took ten test shots to determine if the samples were the same.

Each shot was reviewed as to whether any real loss in image quality was visible when viewed at 100% and at 200% magnification.

  • The 70-200, was tested at 70mm, 135mm and 200mm with and without the TC-14e III.
  • The 80-400 was tested at 70mm, 135mm and 400mm with and without the TC-14e III.

In each of these tests, I expected the greatest loss in quality to be at the fully extended zoom position.  So was the case.   For this quick review, I have only posted lenses at their extreme zoomed out positions. All images have been cropped to be the same size for comparison purposes.  Each lens was set to f/8 with an ISO of 64. 

 

70-200mm Test sample with and without the TC-14e III.

70 - 200 f/2.8 @ 200mm

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70 -200 f/2.8 @ 200mm w/TC-14e III = focal length of 280mm

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At a 200% crop, I notice little to no loss in image quality when using the TC-14e III on the 70-200mm.  The Nikon D810 will certainly bring out any flaws in this lens combination.  From center to edges, I found no issues with this combination.  I often shoot at f/8 for sports, but this winning combination works at f/4.

 

TC-14e III compared with the TC-14e II

80-400 f/8 @ 400mm w/TC-14e III = focal length of 560mm

 

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80-400 f/8 @ 400mm w/TC-14e II - focal length of 560mm

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When compared to the TC-14e II on the 80-400mm, the TC-14e III is sharper (to me) - especially the edges.

In the end, I found nearly no loss in image quality when I added the TC-14e III to either zoom lens.  

Adding the teleconverter to the 80-400mm did affect quick focus in low lighting causing the lens to hunt at times.  Wide open it is f/8 which is a contributing factor of course.  In bright light, however, I had no problem with quick focusing and my 80-400mm lens becomes a 112mm - 560mm f/8 zoom lens.  

I found no issue with the 70-200mm.  The TC-14e III makes this lens a 98mm-280mm f/4 zoom lens.  

 

In Conclusion

In terms of contrast, color saturation and overall image quality, I did find the TC-14e III to be an improvement over the TC-14e II.  But is it worth getting rid of your TC-14e II and upgrading to the TC-14e III?  If you are a pixel peeper and want the best teleconverter that the market currently offers for specific Nikkor lenses - then absolutely.  But that's just me.  Will it make a 70-200mm lens as sharp as a 300mm prime.  It is pretty close to the 300mm f/4 (plus now you have the added zoom capability from 98mm ).  But it is not perfect.  Will it make an 80-400mm as good as a 600mm prime.  No, but it also does not cost $10,000. For around $500 - this little guy makes a great investment that you can easily carry and add on whenever you need extra reach and want to retain the image quality of the better Nikkor lenses.  

With a limited number of interesting subjects in my backyard - I decided to shoot each of the next two images as examples of a real word environment using each lens fully zoomed out (200mm and 400mm) with the TC-14e III.  You can decide if you think it is worth having. 

 

_JS12302_JS12302ALL RIGHTS RESERVED John Soule 2014

70-200mm @ 200mm w/TC-14e III = 280mm, f/8, 1/320, ISO 250 (tripod mounted)

Basil Plant

(Notice the fine spider's web between these tiny 1/4" leaves)

 

_JS12309-Edit_JS12309-EditALL RIGHTS RESERVED John Soule 2014 80-400mm @ 400mm w/TC-14e III = 560mm, f/8, 1/640sec, ISO 320 (tripod mounted)

Before and After 

(focus was on the tiny one inch rose bud)

UPDATED IMAGES:

_JS12426-Edit-2_JS12426-Edit-2ALL RIGHTS RESERVED John Soule 2014

80-400mm @ ~ 342mm w/TC-14e III = 480mm, f/8, 1/200 sec, ISO 1250 (tripod mounted)

Silverback Gorilla

_JS12435-Edit_JS12435-EditALL RIGHTS RESERVED John Soule 2014

80-400mm @ 400mm w/TC-14e III = 560mm, f/8, 1/100 sec, ISO 125 (tripod mounted/MirrorUp mode)

Final Crop @ 150% = 840mm effective focal length

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

80-400mm @ ~ 400mm w/TC-14e III = 560mm, f/8, 1/100 sec, ISO 125 (tripod mounted)

 

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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) Nikon TC-14e III TC-14e TC14e III http://myimagez.com/blog/2014/9/tc14eiii Wed, 03 Sep 2014 03:22:24 GMT
31st Annual National Night Out http://myimagez.com/blog/2014/8/31st-annual-national-night-out _JAS0437_JAS0437ALL RIGHTS RESERVED John Soule 2014

31st Annual National Night Out (NNO)

​Coming to a Community Near You

In August, millions of Americans nationwide joined together for a "crime going away party” - the 31st Annual National Night Out

Along with traditional outside lights and front porch vigils, most cities and towns celebrated the National Night Out with a variety of special citywide and neighborhood events such as block parties, cookouts, parades, festivals, visits from local officials and law enforcement, safety fairs, and youth events.  The events focused on increasing awareness about police programs in communities, drug prevention, town watch, neighborhood watch, and other anti-crime efforts.

 

_JAS0659_JAS0659ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, John Soule 2014

 

History

National Night Out, “America’s Night Out Against Crime”, was first introduced in 1984 by Matt Peskin, founder of the National Association of Town Watch (NATW).  The first event attracted 2.5 million American participants in 400 communities and covered 23 states.  Over the past 31 years it has grown nationwide is now held annually the first Tuesday in August.

NATW was created in an effort to promote the involvement in crime prevention activities, police community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie.  And, most importantly, send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.   NATW continues to be dedicated to the development and promotion of various crime prevention programs including neighborhood watch groups, law enforcement agencies, state and regional crime prevention associations, businesses, civic groups, and individuals, devoted to safer communities. 

_JAS0435_JAS0435ALL RIGHTS RESERVED John Soule 2014

Over the years, the traditional “lights on” campaign evolved into a celebration across America with various events and activities including block parties, cookouts, parades, visits from emergency personnel, rallies and marches, exhibits, youth events, safety demonstrations and seminars.

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2014 Expected To Have Record Turnout

National Night Out in 2013 attracted over 37.8 million participants in 16,242 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities, and military bases worldwide.  National Night Out in 2014 was expected to be the largest ever.

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Many communities, such as the Villages of Dorchester located in Maryland, used the event as a springboard to expand their Neighborhood Watch program by involving the County Police, Fire Department, Boy Scouts, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and Righttime Medical to answer questions and provide health, safety and security information to the neighborhood residents.  For the children there were pony rides and face painting activities.

 

Community Involvement

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Events were typically organized by block watch captains, non-for-profit organizations, companies, and both police and fire departments.

 

Crime Prevention Awareness - A Yearlong Campaign

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National Night Out is actually a yearlong community building campaign.  It was initially designed to heighten crime prevention awareness and generate support for, and participation in, local anticrime programs.  Throughout the year it continues strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships.

National Project Coordinator, Matt Peskin stated, “This is a night for America to stand together and promote awareness, safety, and neighborhood unity. National Night Out showcases the vital importance of police-community partnerships and citizen involvement in our fight for a safer nation."

Peskin continued “It’s a wonderful opportunity for communities nationwide to promote police-community partnerships, crime prevention, and neighborhood camaraderie. While the one night is certainly not an answer to crime, drugs and violence, National Night Out represents the kind of spirit, energy and determination to help make neighborhoods a safer place year round. The night celebrates safety and crime prevention successes and works to expand and strengthen programs for the next 364 days.”

National Night Out volunteers with local politicians.

 

If your community was not involved this year, check out the National Night Out website:  http://natw.org

 

 

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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) NATW NNO National Night Out http://myimagez.com/blog/2014/8/31st-annual-national-night-out Thu, 07 Aug 2014 12:24:33 GMT
Massive Die-Offs Plague Bottlenose Dolphin Along U.S. East Coast http://myimagez.com/blog/2014/7/aqua-dolphincount-2014 Massive Die-Offs Plague Bottlenose Dolphin Along U.S. East Coast

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Of the 600,000 dolphins world-wide, over 20,000 generally migrate through the mid-Atlantic coastal waters during the summer and fall.  However, a silent, mysterious plague is claiming the lives of these bottlenose dolphin in record numbers.

Since July 2013, nearly 1,400 dolphin carcasses have washed onto the shores from New York to North Carolina – a number roughly ten times what is normal. And, scientists do not know exactly how many have died in the ocean and not washed up onto the mid-Atlantic beaches.  The actual number could be in the thousands. (The average death toll for dolphins should only be a few hundred per year.)

An Unusual Mortality Event

In July, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared the die-off an Unusual Mortality Event which freed up federal funding for investigators to address the crisis.  The NOAA team began investigating the event along with the assistance from the National Aquarium in Baltimore and state aquariums throughout the Mid-Atlantic. 

National Aquarium Dolphin Count

Captain Andrew Pulver pilots the National Aquarium Research Vessel

 

 

Each year the National Aquarium Animal Rescue Team, with the assistance from the public, station themselves at established beach locations along the Maryland Eastern shore to record dolphin sightings.  In addition to the beach stations, in 2014 members from the National Aquarium’s Marine Rescue Team boarded one of National Aquarium’s research boats to assist in the count and to take water samples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thick fog hinders 2014 dolphin count

 

 

In 2013, 113 dolphin sightings were recorded off the shore near Ocean City Maryland.  In 2014, only 53 dolphins were recorded.  Heavy fog and a lower dolphin population may have contributed to the lower count.  No dolphins were sighted from the research vessel.

 

 

The Cause – A Deadly Virus

Brent Whitaker from the National Aquarium searches for dolphins

 

NOAA believes the source of the dolphin deaths is “Morbilliviruses”, an RNA virus. Morbilliviruses are responsible for measles in humans, rinderpest in cattle, and canine distemper in dogs, coyotes, wolves and seals. 

 

 

 

 

 

Spread of Infection

Morbilliviruses are usually spread through inhalation or contact between animals, including mothers and calves, according to NOAA. Animals can also be exposed to the virus through the eyes, mouth, stomach, skin wounds and the urogenital tract.  Dolphin PodDolphin PodImages shot at both National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD and on location off the Atlantic Ocean.

Dolphins are highly social creatures - they even breathe together.  As a group, dolphins may come to the surface, issue a forceful exhalation through their blowholes and then all inhale, sharing aerosolized particles expelled from adjacent dolphins.  Sex, nursing and playing also lead to direct contact.  Moreover, small groups are continually striking off on their own, forming new groups, and latching onto other groups, thereby repeatedly introducing diseases into new communities.

Since viruses continually mutate, swapping and rearranging genes, the explosion of the virus could just be nature at work.  Without additional information, some researchers worry the number of deaths will continue to escalate.

Secondary infections


Due to some secondary infections, researchers are wondering if humans are a contributing factor - specifically whether poor environmental conditions fueled by agricultural runoff and other human activities made dolphins unable to weather the diseases.  

Some dolphins that encountered morbillivirus may have been able to recover from the infection, but secondary infections may have been enough to tip the scale. 

No Cure

Scientists don’t know for sure what sparked the outbreak, but are guessing that affected dolphin populations have lost their ability to fight the virus, an immunity they gained 25 years ago when the virus last struck.

Brent Whitaker and Eric Schwaab of the National Aquarium take water samples

And, though it is spreading, there’s no way to vaccinate dolphins against the spread of the virus. 

According to Brent Whitaker of the National Aquarium, the virus “has to burn itself out.  Animals have to be exposed and survive from it - and become immune to it."  He stated that  " We see events like this periodically…every 10 years or so…and what we think that is happening is - you see it, you survive it, you’ve got immunity to it, you’re good – you’ve lived your life and now the youngsters are coming up - they’re naïve to it. The virus hits again and the naïve animals get sick … And that is the majority of the population at that point.  …There are always survivors – some have immunity.” Member of National Aquarium records GPS location of water sample

 

 

 

 

 

Although scientists have no treatment for infected dolphins, they want to track the deaths and identify their causes since dolphins help serve as a barometer of ocean health.

 

Ocean Canaries

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The National Aquarium’s annual dolphin count helps marine mammal specialists capture a snapshot look at dolphin populations, reproduction rates and ocean health on an ongoing basis.  Looking at the population numbers over the years can help to determine the health of the coastal ecosystem as well as the abundance of prey.

The high death count and presence of secondary infections has led some researchers to suspect a wider problem—namely, a coastal ecosystem possibly sickened by human activity.  Environmental degradation might be amplifying the effects of a measles-like virus, fueling infections that are propelling the alarming death count.

 

dolphin death1dolphin death1This photo taken March 31, 2011 and provided Sept. 6, 2011 by the Chicago Zoological Society, shows Nea, a 4-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin at the Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, Ill. Officials at the zoo say Nea died Monday, Sept. 5, 2011, after apparently colliding with another dolphin. A preliminary examination indicates Nea suffered a fractured skull. The accident happened Monday afternoon before the dolphins were scheduled to perform for zoo visitors. (AP Photo/Chicago Zoological Society, Jim Schulz)

 

 

Overall, the experts pointed out that the dead dolphins may be an alert to troubles in our oceans - an ominous sign of a larger, ailing coastal ecosystem and the die-off may be reflecting the negative effects lower in the food chain.  If tiny prey organisms are getting sickened and fish eat them, and the dolphins consume the fish, the bioaccumulation of toxins might be serious.

Other factors may have weakened the dolphins' immune systems, making them more vulnerable to sickness. They include chemicals, other disease-causing microbes, biotoxins and expansion of the dolphins' range, according to officials and experts. Most of the East Coast dolphin deaths have occurred in areas with heavy human footprints, like the Chesapeake Bay. 

An ecosystem threat?

Wild pony grazes at waters edge on Assateague Island near Ocean City Maryland

According to NOAA, the virus cannot be transmitted to humans and no cases of human illness have been reported from this dolphin disease outbreak.

However, it is recommended by NOAA that people should not swim with open wounds in the immediate area where a stranded animal is found.  It is unclear if people could get any infectious diseases by touching the sick dolphins, but people and dolphins do share a vulnerability to disease-causing microbes.

NOAA also recommends that people should keep pets away from marine mammals, especially stranded ones.

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About the National Aquarium in Baltimore

National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program is a member of the Northeast Stranding Network (NERS) through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Aquarium is one facility among a network of nationally recognized facilities that work cooperatively to respond to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles.

The Animal Rescue team works directly with NOAA, USFWS, Maryland Department of Natural Resources and regional and national stranding partners to respond to stranded animals and collect data used to better understand aquatic animals that are still very much a mystery to modern science.

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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) http://myimagez.com/blog/2014/7/aqua-dolphincount-2014 Mon, 14 Jul 2014 00:51:35 GMT
HonFest Celebrates 20th Year in Baltimore http://myimagez.com/blog/2014/6/honfest-_2014 _JAS5191_JAS5191

HonFest Celebrates 20th Year in Baltimore

 

Baltimore, Maryland is certainly known for hosting some very wacky, and  fun, events.  And summer is a great time for many of those events.

_JAS4571-Edit_JAS4571-EditAVAM KSR 2014
 
 
I had always thought the American Visionary Arts Museum's (AVAM) Kinetic Sculpture Race, where you can see wacky sculptures go through downtown Baltimore and into the Inner Harbor, was one of the craziest events Baltimore had to offer.  But, was I wrong?

Every year since 1994,  an event has been held in Baltimore that features the hairstyle  and dress of the 1960's.  And this event has evolved so much over the years, it has received national coverage and draws over 30,000 participants.

 

 

 

Before "Hairspray"

Years before "Hairspray" was presented on Broadway or in the movies, the City of Baltimore was celebrating its famous "Beehive" tradition with HonFest, an annual homage to all things "Bawlmer" ("Baltimore" as pronounced by locals). The event began twenty years ago as Baltimore's Best Hon Contest, which quickly grew into the HonFest.  Denise Whiting, the owner of the Café Hon & Hon Bar, created both the contest and the festival.  The unpretentious diner soon became a Baltimore landmark - with its two-story pink flamingo and an Elvis mannequin that greets patrons as they enter the diner decorated in a decor of the 1960's.

Hon Cafe

 

 

 

 

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HonFest, held in June each year, is really both an extravaganza and contest.  It is a flamboyant recreation of the look, attitude and behavior that director John Waters, a Baltimore local, so engagingly memorialized and satirized in the original 1988 "Hairspray". Although Hampden's "Hairspray" celebration brought celebrity to the Hampden neighborhood where the festival is held, neither of the "Hairspray" movies was shot there.  The original  "Hairspray" was filmed in East Baltimore, not in Hampden.  Still, the Hampden community is considered "Hon Central".

National Recognition

The "Bawlmer" term of endearment, Hon, short for "Honey", embodies the warmth and affection bestowed upon neighbors and visitors alike by the historic working-women of Baltimore. HonFest is really an annual celebration in their honor. 

HonFest has grown from a tiny Baltimore's Best Hon Pageant held behind Café Hon, to a nationally recognized festival that covers four city blocks along Hampden's 36th Street and lasts for two days. HonFest has been acknowledged nationally by The New York Times, Rachel Ray's Tasty TravelsNightly News with Brian WilliamsThe New York Post, Southern Living, The LA Times, HGTV, CNN, and The New Yorker. It seems as though all of Baltimore, along with bus-loads of tourists, come dressed for the event.

The Best Hon

Women, of all ages and sizes, wear vintage spandex pants, heavily applied blue eye shadow and any item of clothing or accessory that has a leopard print. And, most importantly, they have outrageous beehive hairdos that are teased as high as possible and supported with layers of hair spray. Visitors who don't have a beehive can get their own hairdo done in the Glamour Lounge, listen to talented local musicians, or view the work of local artists.  

Honettes _JAS8629_JAS8629

 

 

It is fun to watch people as they get their fingers sticky with loads of hair spray and receive complimentary makeovers.

 

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Many contestants get last minute touch-ups from anxious parents.

The Glamour Lounge is made available to anyone who wants to become a "Hon" for the day and, perhaps enter one of the contests.  The contest categories include "Little Miss Honette" (ages 3-7), "Miss Honette"  (ages 8-13), "Best Baltimore's Beehive" and the coveted "Baltimore's Best Hon" . The entire event  has evolved into one hugely entertaining 60's- themed costume party and pageant.

The Festival

Lennon LaRicci and the Leftovers
Lennon LaRicci and the Leftovers

The festival is both Saturday and Sunday with some 30,000 visitors flocking to promenade along a four-block strip, fondly referred to as "The Avenue."  The area is closed to motor traffic for the day as the street is lined with outdoor stages where local music groups play nonstop. And, yes, their repertoire features everything from the original "Hairspray" soundtrack to more recent numbers.  The "Hairspray" theme is definitely all about you at HonFest.  Did I forget to mention that there is also a Mustache Contest for the guys?  Something for everyone!

And of course, what would an event be in Bawlmer without promoting the 2012 Super Bowl Champions, The Baltimore Ravens?

HonFest 2013

Footnote

For tourists coming to Baltimore for the first time, I can only imagine what they must think if they were to see some of the Hons on their way to the festival.  It would be like traveling back in time fifty years. "Bawlmer" can be a really wacky, and fun city.  

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So Hon, if you are in Bawlmer during Father's Day Weekend, take a trip back to the 60's at HonFest.  It is a fun event for the entire family.

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More photos are available on myImagez.com under Photojournalism: http://myimagez.com/honfest2014

 
 
 
 
 
 
/john soulé
 myImagez.com
 
 
 
 
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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) Baltimore Bawlmer HonFest hairspray http://myimagez.com/blog/2014/6/honfest-_2014 Fri, 13 Jun 2014 18:57:18 GMT
Rock n Roll Marathon - San Diego 2014 http://myimagez.com/blog/2014/6/rock-n-roll-marathon  

Rock n Roll Marathon San DiegoRock n Roll Marathon San Diego

Rock 'n' Roll Marathon rocks San Diego

This June, over 30,000 entrants from across the United States and forty countries came to the 17th annual Suja Rock 'n' Roll Marathon held in San Diego, California.  Originating in 1998, San Diego became the foundation for the Rock 'n' Roll marathons and half-marathons that are now held throughout the world. The series has enjoyed global appeal, tremendous local support and has firmly established itself as the ideal running platform.  

Organized by Competitor Group, the 17th annual Suja Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon and Half-Marathon raises funds to benefit The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society .  

The original 1998 Rock 'n' Roll Marathon is still recognized as the largest inaugural marathon in the United States.  Over the 17-year history of the race, runners have raised more than $176 million to support blood cancer research and patient services.  This year over $1.8 million dollars is expected to be raised for charity. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series has quickly become one of the most successful charity fundraising events in the world.   

The race consists of a Marathon (26.2 miles), Half-Marathon, Wheelchair Competition, and a two-person Half-Marathon Relay.  For this article, I focused on the full marathon.

 

The Race Begins...

It was cloudy, and in the 60's, when the marathon kicked off just after 6:15am.  It began with the wheelchair division competition ready to take on the full 26.2 mile course.  These specially designed wheelchairs had to negotiate miles of flat road, hills and some quite sharp turns.

 

Rock n Roll Marathon San DiegoRock n Roll Marathon San Diego

 

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Runners were given seven hours to complete the marathon. The half-marathon and two-person relay option were given a four-hour time limit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jose ZambranoJose Zambrano

 

 

 

 

Fireman Jose Zambrano, seen here being interviewed by Hannah Mullins of San Diego News10, wore his full gear and helmet while running the full Marathon in honor of fallen firefighters that have died in the line of duty and their families through the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.  His effort would take him just over 6 hours to complete the course.

 

 

 

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The Marathon Course

 

The 26 mile course incorporated a scenic tour of San Diego's neighborhood charm, passing through downtown, Little Italy, Old Town, along the airport, the coastline near Mission Bay and onto parts of the freeway.  Road closures were a massive undertaking as you could imagine.

With the exception of six miles around Balboa Park, both the marathon and half-marathon courses took separate routes. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The line of half-marathon runners seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see.  The course was not without its challenges. In addition to the necessary endurance needed to complete this distance, there were a few upgrade hills to negotiate, especially near the end of the marathon course.  Rising temperatures also added stress for even the best runners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheering for the Runners

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Some supporters, such as husband Matt Scarlato, along with the sisters and friends of Christina Scarlato (first-time marathon runner from Washington DC, #52483 below), resourcefully found various modes of transportation to get to locations throughout the course to show their support.  Many supporters walked, rode bikes, took cabs or used the city trolley transportation to get around to multiple locations to cheer on the runners as they passed by.

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The runners found inspiration from the cheers of the supporters along the sidelines.  "It made all the difference to see total strangers yell for you" said one of the runners.

 

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In addition to family, friends, and local supporters, there were organized "Cheer Zones" with cheering squads from local high schools positioned throughout the course who were competing in the Spirit of the Course Competition.  The energetic cheerleaders did their best to keep runner's spirits high every step of the way.  The Spirit on the Course Competition was awarded to the top three most spirited cheerleading squads based on their creativity, participation and enthusiasm. 

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To support the "Rock 'n' Roll" theme, runners were greeted by either live rock bands or recorded music at every mile along the course.  More than 40 bands and 25 entertainment stages were positioned to add energy and spirit to the race.  

 

 


Rock n Roll Marathon San Diego - ElvisRock n Roll Marathon San Diego - Elvis

 

 

 

 

 

 

And what would be Rock 'n' Roll be without the presence of Elvis?   Or ten for that matter.  The Elvis "team" ran together in the half-marathon.

 

 

Ben BruceBen Bruce

 

 

Ben Bruce Takes Marathon First Place

 

Ben Bruce had not competed in many marathons.  In fact this was only his second marathon, the first being run in New Orleans this past February

The San Diego hometown boy, and Adidas-sponsored athlete, led from start to finish and was able to complete the 26.2 miles in just 2 hours, 23 minutes and 50 seconds. He had won in New Orleans in 2:21:56, but for the 31-year-old, nothing topped winning in his own hometown.

“It’s always good to win in my hometown,” said Bruce, who now lives and trains in Flagstaff, Arizona. 

 

Allan Webb with Ben Bruce - _jas7405Allan Webb with Ben Bruce - _jas7405

 

According to his coach, Bruce had set a personal goal to pace a 5:20 per mile.  As I sat by his coach in the Media Truck, I noticed that both Bruce and his coach kept a watchful eye on his time to see if he was maintaing a pace close to his target.  

Bruce had a running companion, American 1-mile record holder Alan Webb, who paced Bruce through mile post 14.  Once Webb's part was complete, Instead of catching a ride in our Media Truck, he said he had a credit card with him was "going to catching a cab downtown to the finish line". 

“That helped a lot because it gave me some company,” Bruce said. “It was good to have him there. It means a lot to have the American record holder come out and sacrifice himself. It says a lot about his character.”

 

 

“It was awesome,” Webb said after the race. “It’s fun to help somebody else. He did great and it was fun to be in the race environment, without the pressure of having to compete.”

The last half of the course had some challenges with elevations and increasing temperatures which impacted Bruce's pace time and became evident on his face as you could see the stress starting to take over.

Bruce, whose wife Stephanie is 38 weeks pregnant with their first child, said that he drew strength from thinking about the upcoming addition to his family.

“I thought about him a lot, my little boy on the way,” said Bruce at the finish line. “It got me through the last few miles when it hurt, I thought of him. The marathon takes a lot, they make you emotional.”

 

Anna Corrigan Wins Her Debut Marathon in Women's Race

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Anna Corrigan of Phoenix Arizona, ran this, her first marathon in just under 2 hours 45 minutes.  At 23, she was able to finish a full 3 minutes before second-place finisher Bonnie Axman, 29, of San Diego.

She stated that she had never run a marathon before and felt she could not have gotten through it without everyone cheering and hearing all of the bands along the course.

A recent illness slowed Corrigan''s training and forced her to readjust her goals heading into the race. All said, she was able to finish less than 90 seconds short of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying time of 2:43:00.

 

World Record Set

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Ninety-one-year-old Harriette Thompson, from North Carolina, finished the marathon in 7:07:42. Thompson, who is a cancer survivor, became the second oldest marathon finisher in U.S. history and set a new age-group record.  This was her 15th time running this race. 

 “I’m having radiation on my legs. I just had nine radiation treatments, and they’re being healed now,” she said before the race.  The charity is close to her heart because everyone in her family had died from leukemia or some form of cancer.  Recently, she lost her 99-year-old brother to lymphoma, so keeping up her own health is one of her main motivations to run.  Thompson ran her first marathon when she was 76 after a friend from church had run as a fundraiser for charity.

 

 

Ryan Hess and Pam WitteRyan Hess and Pam Witte

 

An Engaging Moment

As runners crossed the finish line, I noticed one runner, Ryan Hess from Austin Texas, had remained near the finish line - whereas most runners head straight for water, cooling towels or some form of refreshments after the harsh 26 mile run.  After a short while, Pam Witte, also of Austin Texas, crossed the finish line as Ryan cheered her on.  Then what I thought was a kind jester to help Witte to seek rest, Hess took her back across the finish line. Something seemed out of the norm so I got my camera ready and shot a sequence of photos that lead to a very special moment.

I can only assume Hess had rehearsed this moment time and time again in his mind.  As they crossed back over the finish line, Hess got down on one knee and proposed to Witte.  What a shocker - so cool.  Witte found a new burst of energy as she said "Yes!".

 

 

Ryan Hess and Pam WitteRyan Hess and Pam Witte

 

Headliner Aloe Blacc performs

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After completing the race, participants joined their friends and families to celebrate with a Finish Line Festival featuring headliner Aloe Blacc in concert at Petco Park.

 

Blacc's mega-hit, "Wake Me Up", climbed to #1 in 22 countries across the world.

 

 

 

 

Footnote

This was my first marathon coverage and I was most impressed on how well this event was organized, considering there were over 30,000 entrants and thousands of spectators along the route.  I would like to especially thank Emily Gibbs of the Competitor Group for providing media access and use of the Media Truck to IPA for coverage of this event.  As I rode the entire course, I found that it to be amazing so many runners did so well - 26.2 miles is a lot longer than I had imagined.

Also a special acknowledgment goes out to Christina Scarlato, my daughter-in-law, who traveled from Washington DC to be in her first marathon and finished in the top 3% out of 2,245 Women.  As posted in PETCO PARK, "Marathoners - You Rock!"

Additional race photos are available on myImagez.com/rnrsd2014

PETCO PARKPETCO PARK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) http://myimagez.com/blog/2014/6/rock-n-roll-marathon Tue, 10 Jun 2014 13:29:24 GMT
How to Photograph: Seascapes http://myimagez.com/blog/2014/5/seascapes-tips-for-the-photographer Long Beach Jetty Sunrise 3 - 36x12Long Beach Jetty Sunrise 3 - 36x12

Photographing Seascapes: Tips and Techniques

I have been asked the question about how photographers get those 'special' seascape shots that stand above the others and get noticed.  I always state that art is subjective and what one person may like another may not.  The purpose of this "how to' article is to give a quick overview of the 'when, what and how' of seascape photography and explain a few techniques that I have used that you may be of interest.

 

Timing - the 'when'

A number of factors play an important role in getting that right shot and timing (the when) is first on my list. For seascapes I consider three factors when it comes to timing: Time of Day; Tide; Weather.  Let's look at all three.

Time of Day

Although you can take shots of water any time of day, lighting is an important factor for any photography - especially when you have water and sand involved creating high contrast scenarios.  I generally restrict most of my seascape work to sunrise and sunset - especially around the 'Golden Hour' when the sun is low on the horizon and colors just seem to pop out all around.  The opening photograph was taken a few minutes after sunrise and sunlight was just starting to highlight the jetty (rocks).  Just an hour later, the colors would be gone and the delicate features of the rocks would be all but flattened by the harsh sun's rays.  Within a hour after sunrise, my shooting is complete.

Tide

It is helpful to find out when the tide will be high and low and what that would do to the subjects.  Low tides can often yield interesting pools of standing water, and if rocks are nearby, be a great source for reflections.  Depending on the location, you may find some sea creatures that can make great subjects (starfish, shells, sand dollars, etc.)  A high tide, as was the case in the opening photograph, can add impact as the water rushes over exposed rocks and, and with the proper photographic technique (discussed later), can be 'smoothed' out for a wonderfully soft, almost painting-like effect (all done without post-processing). 

Long Beach Jetty Sunrise 1Long Beach Jetty Sunrise 1

 

Weather

From blue skies to storm clouds, the sky can make a big difference as to whether an image has impact.  If the sky is a beautiful blue with no clouds, the image often becomes a bit boring to some - the water, however, will reflect that blue and produce some wonderful color.  This was the case for the opening image and as seen to the right. If I were to leave the crop as taken, my subject (the rocks) would not be quite as dramatic as I wanted it to be - compare the opening image.  In cases such as this, I find it better to crop lower to the horizon and focus the viewer's attention to a specific point of interest. (Here the angle of the rocks draws the viewer's eye from the lower left to the upper right.)  

 

Hilton Head SunriseHilton Head SunriseSouth Carolina

 

 

 

If the sky is somewhat boring, use more of the water/beach in your overall capture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greek Islands 1Greek Islands 1

 

 

 

 

 

If the sky is dramatic, capture more of the wonderful structure and colors in your image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subjects - the 'what'

When it comes to seascape images, there can be much more for the photographer than just the obvious - sand, water and sky.  Photographs can become more interesting if there are other objects of interest in the capture.  Such items as rocks, shells, weeds, driftwood and even a structure (lighthouse) can add to the image.  Quite often it pays to 'scope out' the area you are going to shoot well ahead of time.  This often either means looking at other photographs from that area on the internet, including Google Earth for rock formations near the shooting location, or being at the shooting location at least an hour before the shoot to determine the best Point of View and find any available subjects.  This step can often make the difference between a seascape photograph that sells and a point-n-shoot snapshot.

Nagshead, NCNagshead, NC

 

 

 

 

 

 

Including foreground vegetation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hilton HeadHilton HeadSouth Carolina

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tall weeds providing a foreground silhouette and frame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nubble, MENubble, ME

 

 

 

 

 

Images captured following a storm can be dramatic such as this one taken the day after a nor'easter hit the Maine coastline.

 

 

 

 

Techniques - the 'how'

Once I have made my plans as to when and where to shot a seascape, it becomes a matter of 'how' and what techniques can be used to make the images stand out.

Lighting

Here again, I start off with lighting as a key concern.  For beach/seascape photography, the mid-day sun can be very harsh and reflections off the water and sand can make images very contrasty and, unless you are shooting black and white, difficult to work with.  As stated before, I prefer shooting at sunrise or sunset. 

 

 

Waves can easily get blown out in terms of exposure.  If shooting towards the sun, I try to catch the sun's rays behind the wave rather than in front.  If shooting with the sun high in the sky, the contrast between the white foam of the curl of a wave can be high compared to the water and often is shot overexposed by most meters using 'matrix' metering.  (Center or spot metering can help with that some.)

 

 

 

 

Motion of the Ocean . . .

Whether to freeze the water as in the shot above or smooth out the water in an almost mystic capture is truly a matter of artist taste.  For me, it depends on what I am trying to achieve.  As in the photograph above, stop motion was the effect I was going after.  However, in the opening image, I wanted to capture a combination of a crisp waterline plus the smoothing effect around the rocks.  If water is moving, and the exposure is slower than 1/60th of a second, the water will be blurred.  But how much is should it be blurred for the effect to pleasing? Long Beach Jetty Sunrise 9Long Beach Jetty Sunrise 9

 

The image to the right was made at f/16, ISO 100 and a shutter speed of 1/10th of a second to give just a touch of blurred action by the waves breaking while keeping the waterline sharp.  The waterline I noted stayed in the flat area of the beach for a little over a second before disappearing.  Staying in the same position for longer than my shutter was open would mean that that area should remain crisp. The breaking waves, however, were moving much more quickly and should be blurred, showing motion in the capture.  This result worked as planed.

 

 

Here again, the line between what is pleasing to some and what is not, becomes a matter of artist taste.  

In the opening image, (and I should mention that all the shots here were take using a tripod and cable release), I wanted the best of both worlds.  I know that the waterline would remain in position for about 1 second on the flat area around the rocks.  As above, this would yield a sharp image and possibly some reflections.  The waves were constantly in motion and I wanted to really slow down their motion a lot.  For next shot, I set my aperture to f/16 (wanting a good range to be in focus) and my ISO to 100 to keep noise low.  This setup would also force my shutter speed to be slow.  The sun was just starting to light up the rocks.  I took a reading on the rocks and water.  I set my shutter speed to 30seconds. (Turned Active- D-Lighting 'on' (for you Nikon buffs) to bring out shadow detail.)  I took a sample 30-second exposure.

Long Beach Jetty Sunrise 7Long Beach Jetty Sunrise 7

I needed more.  As the sun was making the area even brighter, I added a Lee 10-stop filter plus a Singh-Ray 3-stop Reverse Graduate Filter (evens out horizon brightness) to slow the shutter speed down even more.

I also decided to convert the shot to Black and White for a bit of a dramatic effect.  To the right, the image was shot at f/16, ISO100 using the 10-stop Neutral Density filter. The shutter speed was now at a full 4 minutes.

(One of the other benefits to using a long exposure is that if a bird or person were to go through the image, they would not be captured as long as they kept moving.  That can be very useful in crowed locations.)  Note the water motion is completely gone and only a mist covers the area.

I should note that, in addition to the Neutral Density and Graduated Filters that I have mentioned, using a Circular Polarizng Filter can be very useful in controlling reflections and enhancing colors.

 

Footnotes

I always try keep my eyes open and be prepared - I never know what I may find while at the beach. DSC_0078-2DSC_0078-2

 

So - there you have it, a quick overview of the 'when, what and how' of seascape photography and some of the techniques I use.   I hope you will find some of this helpful as the summer is now in full swing in the Northern Hemisphere and folks are heading to the beach. Most of us in the US have really had enough winter this year.

Long Beach Jetty Sunrise 14Long Beach Jetty Sunrise 14

Above Shot:

Nikon D800, 24-70 f/2.8 lens, Lee 10-stop ND filter, Singh-Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Filter, Really Right Stuff, TVC-33 Tripod and BH-55 Ball Head, and Nikon MC-36A cable release.   Settings: 60 second exposure at 28mm, f/16, ISO100.

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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) Seascape photography Tips and Techniques http://myimagez.com/blog/2014/5/seascapes-tips-for-the-photographer Tue, 27 May 2014 19:17:10 GMT
New Nikon 80-400 Lens Comparison http://myimagez.com/blog/2014/5/new-nikon-80-400-lens-comparison _JAS6599-Edit_JAS6599-Edit

The New Nikon 80mm-400mm f/4.5 - 5.6.  Is it worth the cost?  

 

Recently I took the plunge and purchased the new Nikon 80-400 f/4.5 - 5.6 lens based on reviews and image examples I had seen.  But, I had to ask myself, was it really worth the cost of nearly $3000 for a lens that was not considered to be in the Nikon 'pro' category.  (Well to be honest I sold my Sigma 120-400mm and there was a huge Nikon rebate going on so I actually paid less than $1000 in the end. But I digress…)

I decided to evaluate, based on real-world conditions, this new lens against the two other Nikon zoom lenses that I owned and which were less than the nearly $3,000 price tag for this lens.  I also wanted to conduct the tests on a full frame (FX) camera such as the Nikon D800, with its 36megapixel sensor that often reveals the true quality of a lens and any of its imperfections.

Since I already own the classic pro Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 and the lower cost consumer Nikon 70-300 f/4.5-5.6, I had all three lenses readily available to compare. And, as mentioned, for each test case, the camera body to be used was to be my Nikon D800.  I also intended to mount the camera on a Really Right Stuff TVC-33 tripod (very sturdy).  I decided to focus on my subject using Nikon's LiveView at 100% magnification and also use a remote cable release to minimize any camera shake.  For outdoor tests, the shutter speed was to be set at 1/160sec (on a tripod), aperture set to f/8, the ISO set to 100 and 'Vibration Control' turned off.  For indoor tests, studio lights (Paul Buff Alien Bees 1600) were to be used for controlled lighting, the shutter speed to be set to 1/250sec, the aperture f/8 and the ISO 100.  All images were to be shot in RAW.  In post processing, all images were to be synched in LightRoom to have the same white balance, exposure settings and color saturation.  

should note that this is not a complete review of all of the features of the 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, but rather a few real-world tests to determine if this lens lives up to its hefty price tag.  I should note that there are many reviews both in print and on the internet that go into detail for those that desire a more complete accounting of this lens. 

 

Test Lenses - a brief background

The Nikon 70-200, f/2.8

The Nikon 70-200, f/2.8 is a de-facto standard in Nikon's pro line - known for its rugged build and high quality images. The obvious advantage of this lens is the fact that, if available light is low, or there is a need for a shallow Depth of Field, this lens stands at the front of the line with an aperture of f/2.8 at all focal lengths.  The 70-200 lens is built like a tank and often is the 'go-to lens' for the pro that needs a high quality, hand-holdable lens that has some extra reach.  Quality comes with a price though.  This lens sells for just over $2,300.  This is the lens I used as a baseline for comparison.

With most outdoor photography, losing a few stops is not the issue it once was - especially considering ISO can be bumped up to compensate for lack of available light. Most modern cameras do a really good job in reducing noise at higher ISOs.  Personally I often shoot events at f/8 for the extended depth of field and overall lens sharpness. 

 

This brings us to the next two lenses for consideration that have less light gathering capability than an f/2.8 lens has:

 

The Nikon 70-300, f/4.5 - 5.6

The Nikon 70-300, f/4.5-5.6 offers a very reasonable zoom range (although it cannot take a Teleconverter) and sells for less than $600 new.  It is very light weight and will work on both FX and DX bodies.  It can reach from 70mm (the same as the 70-200) but go all the way to 300mm.  The zoom features and attractive price point makes this lens very popular to many photographers.  It is often paired with a DX body (considering the additional reach factor of 1.5) but also works fine on full frame camera bodies as well.  This is considered to be a consumer lens and does not have the build quality of the pro series.  

 

The Nikon 80-400, f/4.5 - 5.6

The new Nikon 80-400, f/4.5-5.6, is an update to the older 80-400 lens.  This new lens offers improved image quality, better vibration reduction and faster focusing than the older lens.  The new 80-400, however, is not considered to be in the Nikon pro line either and is considered more to be a semi-pro or 'prosumer'.  It's price tag, may make one think otherwise as this lens comes in at over $2600.  So the question becomes is this lens worth the $2000 price over the 70-300 (which also has VR and f/4.5-5.6, but only reaches to 300mm)?  And, how does this lens compare with the image quality of the pro 70-200?

 

Size Comparisons

Before I began the tests, I decided to take a quick look at the size of these three lenses, both compressed and fully extended:

 

Lens compressed _JAS6605-Edit_JAS6605-Edit
Lens fully extended _JAS6607-Edit_JAS6607-Edit

Since the pro 70-200 uses internal zoom, the overall length remains constant at all focal lengths.  (It should be noted that when a lens extends and contracts, such as is the case for the 70-300 and 80-400, problems of sucking in air and dust can be introduced - just be aware.)  Although the 80-400 becomes a long lens when fully extended - it is still manageable.  

 

Mounting rings (tripod collar)

Most telephoto lenses, due to their size and weight, require a tripod mounting mechanism (tripod collar) to support the weight of the lens coupled to the camera.  And, since it is often necessary to rotate the camera in most photoshoots, the mounting ring should be designed to allow the lens to be easily rotated 90 degrees from landscape to portrait position by just loosing a knob and twisting the camera.  The support mechanisms must be sturdy and able to support the lens/camera while reducing camera shake. 

Many photographers have found the 70-200 Nikon mounting ring to be adequate - however I replaced the Nikon supplied mounting foot plate with a Really Right Stuff  (RRS) foot and plate for extra stability.  The 80-300 lens is light-weight and does not require a mounting ring.  The 80-400 is a heavy lens, (like the 70-200), and requires a mounting ring.  Many photographers have opted to replace the Nikon 80-400 mounting ring - and I must agree.  I personally felt the Nikon mounting ring to be of low quality - especially based on lens weight and the overall cost of this system.  For me, a Really Right Stuff (or Kirk) mounting ring and foot plate were needed replacements.  However, this was another $290 expense that brought the overall price of this lens to just over $3,000.  If you look at the two mounting rings below, (Nikon left, RRS right), you can see why this was a necessary expense.

_JAS6601-Edit_JAS6601-Edit

 

Image Quality - a few tests

What about Image Quality?  This is the number one concern I have with any lens.  Is the convenience of having a wide-zoom going to provide enough 'keepers' to justify the cost of this new system?  Only if the image quality is there.  To find out if I had a winner with this new Nikon lens, I conducted a few lens comparisons in three environments:

  • Outdoors (controlled settings with tripod);
  • Indoors (controlled settings, tripod and studio lights); and
  • Real World wildlife (hand-held, VR on, variable settings based on subject).

I compared each lens at 200mm, 300mm and 400mm (using the 70-200, f/2.8 as the baseline for comparison).

 

Outdoor Tests

In the first samples I compared each lens at 200mm.  With all settings the same, the results from a 150% crop are seen below.   For all practical purposes, I would say all three samples were very close to being the same. The pro 70-200 had an edge in terms of clarity (note small text "Nikon HB-40 Made in Japan" on lens hood is easier to read from the pro 70-200 sample, followed by the 80-400.  However, if lighting was good, I would not hesitate to take any of these three out in the field shooting at f/8.

 

 Focal Length: 200mm, f/8, 150% Crop

1/160, f/8 and ISO 100

Nikon 70-200mm, f/2.8 _JAS6590-Edit_JAS6590-Edit
Nikon 70-300mm, f/4.5 - 5.6 _JAS6591-Edit_JAS6591-Edit
Nikon 80-400mm, f/4.5-5.6 _JAS6592-Edit_JAS6592-Edit

 

We have now reached the zoom limitation of the 70-200 (a Teleconverter can be added to this lens for extra reaches needed).

The next test was for the focal length of 300mm between the 70-300 and the 80-400 (remember that the 80-400 is over $2000 more expensive than the 70-300).

Focal Length: 300mm

1/160, f/8 and ISO 100
Nikon 70-300mm, f/4.5 - 5.6 _JAS6593-Edit_JAS6593-Edit
Nikon 80-400mm, f/4.5-5.6 _JAS6594-Edit_JAS6594-Edit

Both of these lenses were quite close in terms of Image Quality and either could work well under the same lighting conditions.  No real winner thus far.

We have now reached the basic zoom limitation of the 70-300 (remember ho Teleconverter capability - however it can be used on a Dx body yielding an effective focal length of 105mm - 450mm without loss of image quality).

The last outdoor test was to see how well the 80-400 would do at 400mm (which one would expect to be a tad soft).  I used a cropped version of the 70-200 for a baseline comparison.

 

1/160, f/8 and ISO 100
 Nikon 70-200mm, f/2.8 _JAS6590-Edit_JAS6590-Edit

(cropped to 400mm equivalent)

Nikon 80-400mm, f/4.5-5.6 _JAS6595-Edit_JAS6595-Edit

(shot at 400mm)

Overall the 80-400 did a relatively good job of resolving the details of the subject.  Large text on the test subject was clear in both samples.  However, the fine wording on the lens hood in the test ("Nikon HB-40 Made in Japan") was cleaner on the cropped image from the Nikon 70-200 than that compared with image from the Nikon 80-400.  As a result, I found for high quality images, the 80-400 should not be used at the full 400mm focal length but rather be backed off to around 380mm.  Not a deal breaker.  Remember that on a DX body, this become 120mm - 600mm without loss of image quality.

 

Indoor Tests

I now switched to an indoor setup that used studio controlled lighting.  

 

1/250sec, f/16 and ISO 100.

_JAS6615-Edit_JAS6615-Edit
_JAS6616-Edit_JAS6616-Edit
_JAS6617-Edit_JAS6617-Edit
_JAS6619-Edit_JAS6619-Edit

 

Note that at a close distance to the subject, the 300mm focal length becomes 280mm in reality

_JAS6620-Edit_JAS6620-Edit
_JAS6621-Edit_JAS6621-Edit

 

Take a closer look

Nikon

 70-200 @ 200mm

Closeup-1Closeup-1

Nikon 70-200 @ 200 w/TC1.4=

280mm

Closeup-2Closeup-2
Nikon 70-300 @ 300 Closeup-3Closeup-3
Nikon 80-400 @ 300 Closeup-4Closeup-4
Nikon 80-400 @ 400 Closeup-5Closeup-5
Nikon 80-400 @ 400 w/TC1.4 =560mm Closeup-6Closeup-6

(Note drop-off on edges)

In my opinion, the Nikon 80-400 is sharp for each focal length to nearly 400mm. Image quality suffers when adding a Teleconverter (Note the fuzzy "M/A" on the left side above for last sample, 560mm focal length).  Especially for 300mm and below, I found the 80-400mm to be excellent in terms of clarity in relation to each of the tested zoom lenses.  The controlled tests were conducted to produce the "best" I could obtain from each lens under optimum conditions.  But how would this lens fair in the real-world?  Here are a few examples.

 

Real Word - Wildlife tests

 

West African Crowned CraneWest African Crowned Crane

Nikon 80-400 @ 310mm, 1/400sec, f/8, ISO 1000

Lesser KuduLesser Kudu

Nikon 80-400 @ 280mm, 1/500sec, f/5.6, ISO 720

_JAS6518-Edit-2_JAS6518-Edit-2

Nikon 80-400 @ 260mm, 1/400sec, f/8, ISO 100

Saddle-billed StorkSaddle-billed Stork

Nikon 80-400@ 360mm, 1/500sec, f/5.6, ISO 180

 

For each shot above my camera was initially at my side - no tripod was used.  When it came time to shoot, I lifted the lens in position and found the it balanced well in the hand, the focus was quick and the VR locked quickly as expected.  With this lens I shot in Shutter Priority mode to keep the Shutter Speed to at least 1/400 -1/500sec.  I set ISO to Auto to allow it adjust to 1000 as necessary based on my aperture of being around f/8 if possible - but that was not very often.  

 

Note - if the shutter speed was at 1/500 or slower, (and no tripod), turn VR on.  Do not use VR if using a tripod or if the shutter speed is faster than 1/500sec.  In those incidents, VR would actually lower the Image Quality.  

 

Conclusion

To me the Nikon 80-400, f/4.5-5.6 performed well and, as long as one follows the shutter speed rule, 1/focal length or faster (400mm focal length = 1/400sec or faster), and the aperture is near f/8, the images will be of decent quality.  With the low noise capabilities in today's cameras, pushing the ISO up a tad to obtain the higher shutter speeds is certainly acceptable for sports and wildlife.  In terms of hand-holding this lens, I found it not to be a problem and the VR and fast focus worked to advantage of getting more 'keepers.'  

I also found that the 70-300, f/4.5-5.6 did very well throughout the focal lengths and would make a fine light-weight alternative at several thousand dollars less than the 80-400.  Focusing, however, on the 70-300 was not as consistent and there were times I could not get an auto lock and had to manually focus. For that reason, that lens would not work for me for sports or wildlife.

If available light was good, I found that I went for the Nikon 80-400 f/4.5-5.6 lens instead of my pro 70-200 more often to be able to utilize the wide zoom capabilities and get that 'extra reach' of the 400mm.  This lens, and most zoom lenses for that matter, will never take the place of a good prime lens in terms of image quality.  However, in many situations the advantage of a zoom can be the difference in getting that special shot or not.  And, if the 80-400mm lens is attached to a Nikon DX camera body, you now have a 120mm - 600 f/4.5 - 5.6 without the loss of image quality or light gathering that a Teleconverter will introduce.  

For best results, I do suggest keeping the shutter speed at 1/400 or faster, aperture set to f/8 for sharpness, VR on for shutter speeds of 1/500 or slower and to not go beyond a focal length of 380mm (go to 400mm and back off just a tad).  This should give you nice sharp images. 

If you can get beyond the sticker shock of spending nearly $3,000 for this lens, and you feel the images above are acceptable to you, I would suggest going for flexibility this lens has to offer.

 

 

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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) Mounting Ring Nikon Nikon 80-400 Review Nikon D800 RRS Really Right Stuff http://myimagez.com/blog/2014/5/new-nikon-80-400-lens-comparison Tue, 20 May 2014 01:10:25 GMT
Moments of Terror - The Mall In Columbia Shooting http://myimagez.com/blog/2014/1/moments-of-terror-the-mall-in-columbia myImagez-1830myImagez-1830

 

All too often we hear about senseless shootings in malls in America and around the world.  You never think it could happen to you.  This article is about a recent mall shooting and the firsthand experiences of the writer as a witness to moments of terror.  This is just one viewpoint, mine.

 

Background

Columbia, Maryland is a planned community comprised of ten self-contained villages, located in Howard County, Maryland, United States. According to James Rouse, developer: "It began with the idea that a city could enhance its resident quality of life with its lakes, parks and wooded areas.  It was developed in terms of human values, rather than merely economics and engineering. Opened in 1967, Columbia was intended to not only eliminate the inconveniences of then-current subdivision design, but also eliminate racial, religious, and class segregation."  It features a Town Center and Shopping Mall. 

The Mall in Columbia, is a large regional shopping mall with two levels and five anchor department stores (Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Sears, Macy's, and JCPenney), a multiplex movie theater, and more than 200 stores and restaurants.  At one end of the Food Court there is a children's playground on the lower level and a carousel at the other on the upper level.   Since 2006, Money Magazine has listed Columbia as one of the top eight best places to live in the United States.

 

Timeline

myImagez-1727myImagez-1727

It was Saturday, January 25th. It was a bitterly cold, overcast morning.  A great day to go to the mall and spend some time shopping.  My wife and I arrived around 10:20am - shortly after it opened.  There were very few cars in the parking lot at this early hour.  We parked in the garage and walked together to a store on the upper level before deciding to part ways and meet later - around 12:00pm.

It was now just before 11am so I decided to head down to the lower level to the Food Court for an early lunch.  The Food Court had just opened and there were just a few people passing through, getting food or just sitting at the open table area and relaxing – there seemed to be less than 50 people or so actually seated. To my delight, I had never seen so many tables unoccupied down there.  What I didn’t know was that in about 15 minutes, events would unfold that would bring terror to this peaceful environment.

What I also did not know was that a young man had arrived a bit earlier and was sitting somewhere down there with a 12-gauge shotgun, a bag of ammunition and several homemade explosive devices.

myImagez-1731myImagez-1731

 

As I was eating lunch, I pulled out my cellphone and starting going through emails.

It was now 11:15am and a very loud “bang” echoed through the Food Court.   As the sound resounded off the tile floor, I could not tell exactly where it had come from.  It reminded me of an extension ladder falling to the hard floor. 

There were a few screams, but for many of us, this just sounded like a loud noise in a construction area and people continued about their business - although curious.  

 

 

After about 20 seconds there was another loud bang, bang, bang,…bang! Some people starting ducking under their tables in panic, while others were rushing for whatever protection they could find in a crouched position. Their curiosity had now turned to panic and self-preservation.  It then became silent - no one talked, just listened.  The moment had turned surreal.  

I could see a group of young men had barricaded themselves with chairs under their table behind me.   Food was scattered all around the floor.  Beside me, a couple was lying face down on the ground. I was now on one knee trying to see where the shooter was.  Was the best action to remain down under the table? Tables are not much of a hiding place.  If I move, would I now become the target?  

I could not see anything from my vantage point.  A woman was crouching beside me and said her daughter was in the theater on the other side of the mall and didn’t know if she could reach her by phone.  I looked down at my hand and realized I was still holding my cellphone.  My mind was racing and I tried to call my wife but continually dialed the wrong number as my hand was shaking.

About one minute had now passed - but it seemed like a lifetime as everything was in slow motion.  Was there one shooter? Was this a gang fight? I could smell the sulfur from gunfire in the air.  I could see stores were shutting off their lights and bringing down their gates as they had been trained to do in situations like this.  I later learned that one woman had been shot in the foot outside the store and that the shooter had turned and fired down into the Food Court spraying a wall with buckshot.

I had now counted six shots.  The shots seemed to be too loud to be from a small caliber weapon - more like blasts from a rifle, a big rifle.  After each shot had been fired the screams intensified.  Then there was a sudden movement of people coming away from the escalator located at the center of the Food Court.  I still could not determine if the shots were on my level or the one above me.  Was he upstairs coming down?

There was a pause - more silence.  

The white walled area to there right of the frame (upper floor) is shooter's location.

 

Then a seventh shot rang out, but was somewhat muffled compared to the others.  It seemed as though the shot was now further away.  I took my chance with some of the others and quickly moved toward Sears that was still open behind me.  As I entered the doorway I heard another muffled shot. This was number eight and turned out to be the last shot I would hear. 

As I approached the exit to the parking lot, I finally was able to make contact with my wife on the phone.  She was ok and told me to meet her at our car. 

 

 

The time was now 11:17am according to my cellphone.  This terror had only lasted 2 minutes.

About twenty of us got out of the Food Court and made it into the parking lot as the police had already started to arrive.  A number of people had remained behind under their tables.  Some of the stores had back exits to the parking lot – one of which my wife was able to exit through. Many other shoppers decided to remain hidden in their Shelter In Place - some for as much as 1-1/2 hours. As I was walking through the parking lot I could hear the sound of a store alarm going off.  Groups of people were clustered here and there outside some of the stores. 

Many people had left their packages and other belongings behind in their panic and had to face the bitter cold weather. I saw many faces of disoriented people who did not know where they had parked or what to do as they made their way across the frozen pavement.   

 

The Aftermath

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In the end, tragically, two young employees of Zumiez, (Brianna Benlolo, 21 and Tyler Johnson, 25), had lost their lives in their store located near the top of the Food Court escalator.  One person on the upper level had been shot in the foot, several people had received injuries as the result of the panic and the shooter, (Darion Marcus Aguilar, 19), had taken his own life.  

(We also learned that the weapon used was a Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun that holds 6 rounds.  I have to assume the pause after the sixth shot I heard was the shooter reloading.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I met up with my wife, police cars were streaming toward the mall.  My level-headed wife had spent many years as an ER Nurse and part of her reaction to these events was to try to help some of the panicked people around her.  She even brought one disoriented person back to our car to help her find own car.  We both realized how lucky we had been.  

 

Footnote

There was much coverage about this event online and in the news. Again, the purpose for this article was not to rehash the horrific details of the shootings but to help provide some insight from my own personal experience. 

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Although we still do not know the motive for this attack and for that matter, may never know…we do know two things: our hearts go out to the families and loved ones that were part of this senseless act; and our lives will never be quite the same again.  I still can hear the gunfire and at times replay the scene in mind.  I am sure many others do as well that were there.

The mall was closed from Saturday until Monday to allow for the investigation and cleanup.  

 

 

 

Seeking closure, I returned on Tuesday to take the pictures for this article.  When I arrived I saw that the flags around the mall had been lowered to half-staff.  

I parked and walked to the door at Sears that I had used to exit that Saturday morning.  

I then took the short walk to the Food Court and revisited where I was sitting.  For a moment I could still hear the sounds of gunfire in my mind. I looked up at the escalator that was about three stores from where I was sitting.  As I rode the escalator to the second floor, I could see where once was a skateboard store, now had been boarded over.  A printed message was in the center in remembrance of Brianna and Tyler.  As I got closer I could see personal handwritten messages on the board as well.  I walked to the center of the mall.

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White flowers were now floating in the reflecting pool and two books were out for people to write their personal messages of condolences. The mall seemed very, very quiet.

 

I walked back to the Food Court and looked at the patched wall where a shot had hit.

I reflected for a moment as I looked back up to the boarded-up skateboard store where the shooter had been standing.

 

I walked outside through the entrance that the shooter had come through.  A sign with "Forever In Our Hearts" was attached to a railing. Spread around were flowers, stuffed animals, candles and there was a photograph of Brianna.  As my eyes watered, I said goodbye to two people I never knew.
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We really must learn to appreciate our loved ones every day and never take anything in life for granted.
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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) Columbia Mall Shooting http://myimagez.com/blog/2014/1/moments-of-terror-the-mall-in-columbia Wed, 29 Jan 2014 02:46:46 GMT
Human, Soul and Machine: The Coming Singularity AVAM Exhibit http://myimagez.com/blog/2013/10/avam-2013  

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The American Visionary Art Museum's 19th original thematic exhibition is a timely and playful examination of the serious impact of technology on our lives, as seen through the eyes of 40+ visionary artists, cutting edge futurists, and inventors. Pleasing to an audience of Nobel Prize winners and schoolchildren alike, this show asks, "Two billion personal computers later, post DNA-sequencing, are we on the road to becoming a better, healthier, happier, less warlike, human race?"

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AVAM's newest exhibition takes on its most complex subject yet: examining the rapid and ever-increasing impact of artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, genetics, 3D printing and Big Data on nearly every aspect of human life. This thought-provoking exhibit investigates technology's influence on issues of privacy and surveillance, employment and manufacturing, longevity and health, defense and warfare, farming and food, access to global and personal information, creative invention, and entertainment. This is high stakes, new territory never before negotiated by any prior civilization. Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired Magazine, well-defined the unprecedented nature of our times: "Singularity is the point at which all the change in the last million years will be superseded by the change in the next five minutes."

Curated by AVAM founder and director Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, this stirring show harnesses the enchanting visual delights of remarkable visionary artists and their masterworks.   A few of those artists are discussed here:

 

Rebecca Hoffberger discusses cyborg artist Neil Harbisson's Eyeborg device

 

Neil Harbisson is a Catalan artist, composer and cyborg activist best known for his ability to hear colors and to perceive colors outside the ability of human vision. 

Neil was born with achromatopsia, a condition that only allowed him to see in grayscale. In 2003, he took part in the development of the eyeborg, a cybernetic eye permanently attached to his head that allows him to hear the frequencies of colors through bone conduction (including infrared and ultraviolet). Harbisson started to feel like a cyborg, a union between his organism and cybernetics, when he started to hear colors in his dreams. Since then, he creates “sonochromatic” artworks and performances that explore the relationship between color and sound, and the relationship between bodies and cybernetics. In 2010, he co-founded the Cyborg Foundation with Moon Ribas, an international organization that aims to help people become cyborgs, defend cyborg rights, and promote cyborgism as an artistic and social movement. (Neil Harbisson bio courtesy the Cyborg Foundation, http://eyeborg.wix.com/cyborg

   Kenny Irwin, Jr

 

Kenny Irwin Jr brought a special installation from his Robo-Lights display, glowing inside of a central black box theater at the heart of this exhibition.   Kenny is an incredibly creative artist who has a two acre art park located at this home in Palm Springs, California where his father owns a spa and resort.  

 

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At the age of thirteen, Kenny began his ornate and imaginative RoboLights installation.  In its first year, the installation featured fifteen thousand lights and has now grown to well over six million and draws visitors from all over the world.  Some of the sculptures include over two hundred robots and - some as large as 68 feet tall and weighing in at over 54 tons.

 

Sculpture for the Conan O'Brien Show by Kenny Irwin, Jr

 

 

In 2010, Kenny was asked to create original sculptures for the 'Conan O'Brien Show'.

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His sister Carol explained that Kenny has been able to remember his dreams since birth and they have inspired many of his sculptures and drawings. His dreams are always about other forms of life, ultra-advanced technology and tell a coherent story from beginning to end.

 

O.L. Samuels "Godzilla"

 

 

O.L. Samuels works mainly with found wood, such as tree trunks, roots, and old wood furniture, which he will carve for months at a time.  Samuels is color blind yet paints several layers of wild, expressive colors 'using every color so he doesn't leave any out.'  He is known for his imaginative images, featuring dreamlike figures, and mythical creatures, each with a story about its existence.  

His work often has a spiritual message.  Samuels became a lay minister later in life. He is considered one of the most talented self-taught artists in America by museums across the country.  

His 7' tall 'Godzilla', a creation first imagined in response to the devastating use of the A-bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, greats visitors on the second level of the exhibit.

 

 

Allen Christian

 

 

Allen Christian began crafting art in the first grade.  He continues today making singular works of art fashioned out of everyday objects, from bowling balls to badminton birdies.  Christian says he 'discovered the essence of humanity through four objects, through inanimate objects that are cast-offs...I try and give these inanimate objects a new lease on life, to imbue them with emotion.'

'Piano Family' representing 'String Theory' by Allen Christian

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Allen displayed two collections - the life-sized 'Piano Family' representing 'String Theory' (made from spare piano parts) shown above and a robot made from various 'trashed' parts as shown on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

Alex Grey, Gaia from 1989 (oil on linen) as presented by Rebecca Hoffberger

 

Alex Grey began his investigation into the nature of consciousness in the 1970's through Tibetan Buddhism and the study of the human body.  While employed at a medical school morgue led to a unique series of artworks entitled 

Alex Grey, The Sacred Mirrors

 

 

 

 

 

 

"The Sacred Mirrors" which portray an 'x-ray' of multiple dimensions of reality, interweaving physical and biologic anatomy with psychic and spiritual energies.  

 

 

 
 
 
 
Dean Millien's Foil Gorilla
 
 
 
Dean Millien grew up without store-bought games and toys and began at an early age making his own miniature sculptures and animal creations that he called 'tin things'.  Starting with miniature sculptures rendered out of aluminum foil or spine, Millien has only recently has begun to create life-size figures.  
 
His creations have a wide following and can be found in collections such as Citibank, J. Crew and Paper Magazine.  His giant all aluminum foil 'Gorilla' is part of the AVAM exhibit.
 
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Fred Carter came from southwest Virginia in a area known for its lush wooded mountain area and the legendary woodsman, Daniel Boone.  In growing up, his home was filled with music, books and Native American artifacts from the surrounding area.  
 
Fred's adopted son died tragically - an event that would influenced his artistic practices for the rest of his life.  At the young age of 72, now in his second marriage, Fred became a father again.  Fred was always a hard worked and had helped run the family farm from boyhood and became a capable stonemason.  

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Using his various talents, He founded the Carter Home Improvement Company.  Wanting to educate young people in the ways of their independent pioneer forefathers he gathered his collections of farming, mining, and other artifacts and founded The Cumberland Museum in 1970.  Until his death in 1992, Fred stayed abreast of word news, always struggling  to better understand humankind's addiction to war, cruelty, destruction of nature, and the devastation of so many drug-addicted young people.  'Man is becoming so dehumanized and desensitized' Carter said.  'The Biblical people would call that Armageddon.  Its just the destruction of man by himself.'
 
 
Fred's massive wooden carvings were created as a warning of destruction from industry's manipulation of nature.
 
 
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Dalton Gheti, comes from Sao Paulo, Brazil.  At an early age, Dalton, like most young students in Brazil, carried a small pocket knife to school. While the other children brought their pocket knife to sharpen pencils, Dalton, however, used his to cut intricate patterns into the pencil wood, as well as in soap and chalk.  
 
Today, Dalton likes carving in pencil graphite because 'it's homogenous, cuts in the same direction (not like wood which has a grain) and is both hard and soft'.  Dalton uses on magnifier when he creates - only patience with some of his pieces taking years to complete.  
 
All of his works of art are signed in pencil.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Steve Heller grew up in Brooklyn and Queens, New York.   His inspiration came from his father who was always fixing the neighbors small appliances.  After being introduced to Picasso's Baboon with Young, a bronze-cast sculpture in which the figure's head was rendered with toy cars, 'That was it,' said Steve, 'cars have been my life since.'

Steve Heller

 
 
 
As a youth Steve combined parts form model car and airplane sets to create composite machine models.  Later the parts came from scraps he found near the park.  He became a full-time artist by the age of 25, having never studied art.  
 
 
 
Star Trek Flying Saucer made from car parts by Steve Heller
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
His childhood interests in 'cars, robots, rocket ships and dinosaurs...' continued to be his obsession.  His custom car, the Marquis de Soto, recently won The New York Time Collectible Car of the Year Award. 
 
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As visitors enter the second floor exhibit, they are greeted at the top of the stairs by one of Steve Hellers robots made from car parts.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Adam Kurtzman's "Bride of Frankenstein"
 
 
 
Adam Kurtzman, from the time he could stand, has been drawing and "making" art of some kind.
 
Kindergarten was a pivotal creative experience for Adam.  Unlimited materials, and lots of approval, for doing what he enjoyed most were available.
 
The first artistic epiphany he can remember, came in 1966, when, lusting for a "Batman" figure, he discovered paper mache, and created a model for himself. The feeling of power and accomplishment was nothing short of rapturous, and for the next 40 years, Adam has spent his life trying to relive that rush.
 
Paper mache has been a loyal and challenging ally over the decades, and in his search to expand his horizons, he has worked in a host of other commercial materials, but paper, bronze and glass seem to serve him best, and have held his interest the longest. 
 
Adam's Bride of Frankenstein is on exhibit represents humankind's historic fascination with control over life and death.

Christopher Moses

 
 
 
Christopher Moses's display consisted of three individual pieces of art which had been hung on a background of computer system boards.  One piece was a glowing box covered with eggshells entitled "Masturbox" (see video below).  There was a smaller piece to the left and a framed oil painting entitled "The Singularity (Unfinished)".  
 
Chris originally comes from Los Angeles California but now splits his time between the US and the coastal jungle of Mexico where he creates his art in daytime, under the sky and trees, and in the open air at the edge of the sea.
 
"The Singularity (Unfinished)" by Christopher Moses
 
"The paintings of Christopher Moses embody a longstanding and ongoing investigation into the relationship between the visual and the actual - between that which the eyes see and that which constitutes reality. 
 
Moses’ path as a visual artist and the overall thematic thrust of his work may have less to do with the artistic precedents in his own family (his father worked as a commercial artist, and both parents were hobbyist painters) than with the special nature of his visual experience of the world from the time he was born. 
 
Despite childhood surgery and other medically prescribed procedures aimed at correcting the problem, Moses’ eyes have persisted in showing him a doubled version of whatever is in front of them when they’re open - the “seeing double” that those with “normal” vision can experience voluntarily by crossing our eyes or consuming far too much alcohol. One result of Moses’ inherent, evidently uncorrectable double vision is his lack of trust that what he sees corresponds to reality." - Tom Patterson, author and art critic
 

Watch Chris create 'Masturbox' as discussed above.

 

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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) http://myimagez.com/blog/2013/10/avam-2013 Mon, 14 Oct 2013 21:13:49 GMT
The Lowcountry of South Carolina http://myimagez.com/blog/2013/10/south-carolina Hilton HeadHilton HeadSouth Carolina

 

When one thinks of South Carolina, often the charm of the Old South is what comes to mind.  South Carolina, with it Southern culture, people, history, architecture, food and beaches make for a wonderful location to unwind and forget about the busy world that is left behind.  On a recent vacation to celebrate our anniversary, my wife and I visited the historic 'lowcountry' of South Carolina  - starting in Charleston and ending in Hilton Head.  What we found was that the reputation of the Ol' South was well founded and is very much alive here.

I should mention, our trip was not to be one of my photoshoots.  I did not bring my Nikon D800 FX or my Nikon D7000 DX.  I did not carry a wealth of pro lenses and tripod for this trip.  I only brought my small Olympus point-and-shoot camera. That being said, I was able to capture enough 'candid' images for this brief article and, although the image quality is not optimum, I believe the photographs here will give you somewhat of an understanding of the lowcountry and perhaps a reason to investigate this area on your own.

 

Charleston

Charleston, the oldest and second-largest city in South Carolina, is known for its rich history, well-preserved architecture, restaurant community, and mannerly people. Charleston has received a large number of accolades, including "America's Most Friendly City".  The city is rich with history that dates back to 1670 when 'Charles Towne' was founded.  In addition to 'traditional' tours and carriage rides, there is much to discover - and if you stay near the center of town in the French Quarter, you will find that much of Charleston is within walking distance.

 

Any Good Food In Charleston?  Not really.

 

We were told that it would be hard to find good food in Charleston - because there is only 'great' food severed in quality restaurants in Charleston.  And for our visit there - we certainly must  agree.  Wonderful Southern food was found everywhere. From amazing 'Shrimp-n-Grits' to Southern Fried Chicken - you will leave certainly a bit heavier than when you arrived.  And the baked goods ... yumm!  Take a look on TripAdvisor and you will find most every restaurant has customers raving over the quality of the food and service they encountered as well.  Pack some stretchy pants!

And, along with great food, comes the hospitality and charm inherent to the Ol' South.  Dinning in Charleston is a truly enjoyable and memorable experience.  

 

The Holy City

Saint Philip's Church

 

 

 

You will notice an abundance of churches in Charleston - almost everywhere you go there is a steeple poking up.  In fact, Charleston is the home to over 200 churches and has earned the title of "The Holy City".  

In the center of town, on 'Church Street' of course, is Saint Philip's Church founded in 1680. Saint Philip's is the oldest Anglican congregation south of Virginia and serves as the mother church of Anglicanism in the Carolinas.

 

 

 

Cemetery at Saint Phillips

 

 

 

 

And, with many of these churches, you will find a grave yard that just adds a touch of 'spookiness' late at night. 

 

Saint Matthews German Lutheran Church, 255' tall spire

 

 

 

 

 

The beautiful architecture from centuries past is present at every turn.  

Saint Matthew's Church is a must see with its over 255' tall spire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A darker side of history

Charleston JailCharleston JailSouth Carolina

Many cities have ghost tours and Charleston, with its history of Pirates and thieves, is no exception.  Be sure to take a night tour of the Old Jail.  The jail, which was operational from 1802 until 1939, housed some of Charleston's most infamous criminals, including 19th-century pirates and Civil War prisoners.  

The jail is reportedly haunted by the spirits of deceased prisoners that perished while there - some of which are said to play tricks on noisy tourists.  Over the years there have been several tourists that have reported lost items of jewelry while on the tour - none were ever found.  The jail is in a residential community where it has been reported that sounds have come from the upper floors of the  jail late at night. 

The Ghost Adventures crew investigated here and captured, what they claim to be, an EVP of Lavinia Fisher saying the last two words of her message before she was hung, being the Devil. The crew also saw what appeared to be misty orbs that appeared in front of them throughout the whole investigation.   

I should note that much of our tour inside the jail was in pitch black darkness. As we stood and listened to the horror stories as told by our guide, many of us could not help but wonder if the silhouettes that appeared in the moon-lit jailhouse windows were of those from our tour group or something entirely different.  This would be a great setting for one of the episodes on  American Horror Story.

The jail now serves as a school that teaches about the art of restoration.

 

Shopping 

From the designer stores on King Street to the flea market on Market Street, there is something for everyone. 

The shops on Market Street feature many unique hand crafted works from local artists. 

On street corners around the Market you will find craftsmen at work weaving baskets and other items from sweetgrass. This tradition was brought to the area by slaves from West Africa and has been passed from generation to generation. Today, it is one of the oldest art forms of African origin in the United States.

 

Take an Eco-System Tour

 

There are many guided tours offered in Charleston - from the typical carriage rides to harbor tours.  But for something a bit different, consider taking an 'eco-system' tour.

When traveling through the Charleston area you cannot help but notice that you are surrounded by water and marshland.  Rather than take one of the many 'traditional' boat tours around Charleston Harbor out to Fort Sumter and back, I suggest an 'Eco-system' tour that will take you through the marshlands to Folly Beach and the Morris Island Lighthouse.  One such specific tour was provided by Charleston Outdoor Adventures (COA) located on Bowen's Island which is about ten minutes outside of Charleston.  

 

Charleston Outdoor Adventures

 

 

COA offers a number of tours from guided Kayak/Paddleboard tours, charter boat tours and the 'eco-system' tour that includes a narrated tour through the saltwater estuaries and Barrier Islands.  

I should mention that the boat used for this tour is rather small, (8 person + captain), so reservations are highly recommended a week in advance.  A small boat such as this is to your advantage for a more 'personal' experience.  You are guaranteed a great seat no matter what. 

Egret on oyster bed

 

 

The eco-system tour brings riders up close to a variety of waterfowl, such as pelicans, egrets, oyster-eaters, and heron. Actually, there are over 70,000 life forms in the salt marshes - you will most likely see a few varieties during the tour.

Our tour was headed by Captain Joe who went out of his way to lead us to as many 'encounters' as possible with wildlife.  He also was aware of the photographers on board and tried to keep the sun behind the boat at all times so we could get the best lighting for a shot.

 

Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Strand Feeding

 

As we traveled through the salt marshland, there were numerous encounters with Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin feeding.  What was most interesting was seeing the dolphin's method of forcing its prey toward the shoreline and then trying to force it on land by a swipe of its tail known as strand feeding.  This adaptive hunting technique has been made famous by the dolphins in the Lowcountry area of South Carolina.

Morris Island Lighthouse

 

 

 

The journey took us to Folly Island near the Morris Island Lighthouse. The Morris Island lighthouse stands all alone about 300 yards off shore and  can be viewed from the northeast end of Folly Island and from the bridge coming on to Folly Beach.  The Morris Island lighthouse is completely surrounded by water but was once sitting on a good sized island with numerous buildings around it. The lighthouse was completed in 1876 and was the second lighthouse to be built on the island.  While on Folly Island we were allowed an hour for beach-combing and just enjoying nature. 

Captain Joe of COA

 

 

Why an 'eco-system' tour?  

 

In addition to the visual sights and sounds of nature you will encounter on your tour, education of the ecological system becomes the focus.  The importance of the marshlands and their benefits to the balance of the ecological system is discussed and supported by real-life examples that are seen along the waterway.

We all gained a better understanding and appreciation for this delicate system and the importance of protecting this environment.  Highly recommended!

 

 

 

 

Hilton Head, SC

Hilton Head

AAs you continue north through the lowcountry, you will come across, some of the most beautiful beaches on the east coast.  And, Hilton Head, famous for its beautiful beaches and lush golf courses, is only a few hour's drive from Charleston and a must see.

And if that was not enough, Hilton Head is less than an hour's drive from Savannah Georgia.  Savannah makes for a nice day trip if you have had enough beach.  A trolley ride around Savannah is a must - and the food, well here again, it is all great.  If you have spent time in Charleston, Savannah you will find is very similar with its old homes and wonderful southern charm.  We found a half-day was all we needed.

Growing from sand

 

 

 

 For the photographer, there are opportunities all around the low country.  Of course you cannot beat the Golden Hour at sunrise/sunset to take advantage of the wonderful lighting conditions and bonus background that this time of day offers.

And if you are a shopper, the Tangers Outlet Mall in Hilton Head  has something for everyone.

Hilton Head Sunrise

 

 

 

 

Hilton Head Harbor Lighthouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 It is nice break when a photographer can just sit back and enjoy a sunrise without having to think "ISO 400, f/11, 1/60sec ..."

 

Hilton Head, South Carolina Sunrise

 

 

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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) http://myimagez.com/blog/2013/10/south-carolina Sun, 06 Oct 2013 00:39:27 GMT
Photographing Arizona Part 1, Tips and Techniques http://myimagez.com/blog/2013/8/photographing-arizona-part_1  

The Wall, Waterhole Canyon, Page, Az

 

Photographing Arizona often makes it onto a photographer’s bucket list at some time or another.  When one thinks of Arizona, however, the desert area around Phoenix or the Grand Canyon is often what comes to mind - but there is so much more if you know where to look and have the time.

The diversity, vastness and natural beauty of Arizona has made this an ideal location for numerous films and as such, has a lot to offer the photographer.  When it comes to desert photography, however, there are some challenges. Where to go, what time of day, what season, what to bring, and so on are questions that are often asked.  That is a lot, but for now, I will focus on two areas that may interest most photographers - the more iconic locations; and tips and techniques on how to capture those locations.

This, the first part, focuses on some of the tips and techniques that may help you separate your photographs from ‘snap shots.’  The accompanying article focuses on some of those iconic locations for which Arizona is so well known, when to use some of the techniques covered here and also answer some of the other questions mentioned above.

If you are not interested in reading the Tips and Techniques below, you may still find a few of the images interesting...

 

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Technical Tips & Techniques

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Starburst Effect

 

Studhorse Point, Page, AzStud Horse Point, Az

One of the most dramatic effects in photography is the starburst.  The starburst effect can add punch, draw focus to a specific area of the image and add a bit of the wow-factor to any otherwise average shot.  

When I refer to starburst, I am referring to the wonderful spoke-like effect that can be caused by a bright light as captured by a camera.  Although there are starburst add-on filters that are designed for that purpose, we can obtain a very effective result through a simple camera technique. 

First you will need to stop your aperture down to f/16 or preferably f/22.  Next, you will want to start shooting when the sun is just about to get blocked by an object (rock, horizon, etc.)  As you have a very bright sliver of light coming into your lens, the large f/value should result in the capture of a nice starburst.  (The number of rays depends on the number of blades in your lens - the more blades, the more rays.)

When working with dynamic objects such as the sun, timing is extremely important.  You will need to take a few practice shots first to get your position and exposure settings ready.  You will need to start clicking away as the moment approaches - often you don't get a second chance.  Be sure to compensate your exposure (shutter speed and ISO), with the fixed f/value, as the light begins to fade. (You may wish to set your camera in Aperture Priority Mode to fix the f/value).

In that you will be shooting directly into the sun, you may get ghosting (flare) in your image.  You will also may need to do a tad of ‘shadow adjustment’ in post processing to compensate for exposure issues in the shadowed areas – or better yet, shoot a series of bracketed shots and assemble as an HDR image (more on this later.)

 

 

Rule of Thirds

 

Watering Hole, Page Az

The Rule of Thirds is actually a technique that has been used by artists for hundreds of years. In essence, the Rule of Thirds states that an image should be divided into nine equal parts – two horizontal lines and two vertical lines.

The four areas where the lines intersect are ‘points of interest’.  In the image to the left, you can see how photo is divided into the far right open area, the detailed area in the center, and the tallest area to the left.  As we move from top to bottom we have the structure at the top, the waves in the center and then some plants at the bottom for a well balanced image.

 

 

Take advantage of natural angles and curves to entice the eye to be led around your image.

Keep key objects directly out of the center of your frame to add interest. And try never to have the horizon split your image in half.  Either have more sky or foreground to emphasize vastness.

That being said, rules were made to be broken and this rule may not work in every case – art is subjective.  Give it a try and decide what you like.

 

 

Depth of Field (DOF)

Canyon-X, Page, Az

 

Depth of Field (DOF) is basically what is in focus between the nearest and the farthest subjects in your image.  Having a shallow DOF can give a very pleasing blurred background effect when trying to emphasize a subject – whether it is a person or an object.  This is especially useful in portrait photography.

Landscape photography can be somewhat different.  Here you may want both the foreground and the background sharp.  For this you will need a deep DOF.

For the iPhone user, two good apps to consider are Field Tools from Brad Sckol Photo & Video and SetMyCamera DF – Essential Tools by Bluestone Pond.  Each of these apps will help you determine, based on your lens and f/value, your near focus and far focus points.  After a while, this will become natural - but it never hurts to have a few tools at hand for reference.  Many cameras also have a 'preview' button to show the DOF that will result from your aperture settings.

When you are using an ultra-wide angle lens you will want to include some foreground for interest and perspective.  Knowing what f/value to use, based on your focal length, will help you capture the main subject and control what else is in focus. 

 

 

Controlling DOF is most important when you are shooting inside the slot canyons and the side walls are just a few feet away. Always be sure that the closest point is in focus when going for that nice perspective shot.

 

 

Composition

Grand Canyon, Az As you set up your shots, always keep composition in mind.   Poor composition cannot easily be fixed after-the-fact in post processing - other than simple cropping and straightening. Take time to walk around the shooting area to come up with the best location and Point-of-View (POV) for your subject.  Look for foreground objects that may frame your subject or add interest.

 

Again, art is subjective, and what may look good to one person may not look good to another.  Composition is often a subject for controversy. But what is most important is that this is your image and you have to like it.  Often the way we take our shots - compose and expose, becomes our signature.

 

 

Point of View (POV)

Point of View can often make a difference between a good shot and a great shot.  Providing a low perspective, unusual angles, including interesting objects in either the foreground or background – all takes planning (or some really good luck). Sometimes it is good to isolate a subject and have a nice blurred background (bokeh).  Sometimes it is good to get down low to show depth using a wide-angle lens. Emphasize leading lines and make use of natural angles and curves whenever possible.

 

 

The locations that are to be visited in Arizona are loaded with opportunities for a creative photographer. 

 

Think out of the box and have fun trying some more untraditional shots.  

 

It may even mean getting right to the very edge of a canyon rim (within reason of course) to get that special angle.

 

 

 

 

 

Black and White By Choice or To the Rescue

 

 

There are times that some images may be more artistically appealing when presented in Black and White (B&W) rather than in color. Ansel Adams may have agreed with this statement.  Contrasting levels of blacks, whites and mid-tones can bring both drama as well as romance to many scenes. When shooting desert and mountains scenes, B&W often can convey the tone of the wild west.  And if your colors are off – there is always B&W to the rescue.

For a different look, B&W can add interest to seemingly abstract works of art captured when you are in the Slot Canyons (as seen above).  And the best part with digital cameras, you don't have decide color or b&W when you capture the image.

 

 

Cropping, Image Placement and Leveling

 

As discussed earlier, try to keep the subject off center and remember the Rule of Thirds. It is also important to allow extra room around your subject to allow for any straightening and your final crop.

Cropping, due to poor image placement or straightening can adversely affect your final image. Always check your level (hot shoe bubble or built-in) before each shot.  If your viewfinder has a grid, turn it on to act as a visual overlay of the scene.

And, you are never locked into a ‘standard’ crop – be creative.  Most frame shops will custom cut a mat to fit your cropped image whatever size it may be (for a modest fee of course.)

 

 

 

Understanding the Histogram

Any time you take a photograph you should check your histogram to determine whether the exposure is properly balanced and does not contain 'clipping'.  The histogram displays the tonal range of the image, from dark (pure black) to bright (pure white).

By reviewing the tonal range, it is possible to see if an image is properly exposed or little flat as the result of low contrast.  By looking at the far right of the histogram we can tell if the highlights are ‘blown out’ or clipped.  

Clipped detail cannot be recovered.  The histogram helps us determine what the eye cannot – good exposure.  Without viewing the histogram it is very possible to take poorly exposed images and never know it until too late.

Most cameras can be set to display the just captured image beside the histogram allowing you judge both.  A ‘smooth’ bell-shaped curve is not necessary and there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ histogram.  Histograms represent the scene and every scene is different.  It is important to remember to use histograms as a guide and look at both the histogram as well as the image to determine if the exposure is working as expected.

Upper Antelope Canyon, Page, Az

 

It should noted that images that are underexposed (curve shifted to the left) can often be adjusted in post processing, such as Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), and by as much as +/- 3 stops – assuming you have taken the images in RAW format rather than JPEG.

Having a properly exposed image will become even more critical when you shoot bracketed images for High Dynamic Range (HDR) as discussed later.  If the base image has clipping, the bracketed images may become unusable the more they deviate from your base image.

The histogram for the image to the left is shown above.

 

 

 

 

High Dynamic Range (HDR) Processing

HDR processing, (using bracketing), can help bring out a scene more realistically. In general, today’s built-in meters work for the majority of scenes we try to capture and provide us with acceptable exposures.  But what if a scene contains a very wide range of light to dark areas?  The camera’s sensor is fixed and we need to make choice of exposing for either the bright areas, dark areas or take an average reading in-between.

The eye for this situation, however, reacts dynamically by adjusting the iris in proportion to the variants of light. As the eye sees bright, it closes the iris somewhat, as the eye sees dark, it opens the iris.  The HDR process mimics these steps by capturing, in bracketed exposures, what the eye sees when looking at bright areas and then looking at dark areas.  

The number of bracketed exposures often dictates how close the final image will be to the original scene.  And, the more bracketed images taken will aid the HDR software with additoinal information to evaluate. The goal is to first capture a baseline shot and then capture a number of bracketed exposures (1-stop) above and below the baseline to be merged and processed.  All HDR shots need to be taken with a tripod and using the same f/value. Again, HDR is used when you encounter a high dynamic range of light and is not applicable for every lighting condition.

Once we have our bracketed images, we use special software, (HDR Efex Pro2, Photomatix Pro, Photoshop, etc), to ‘blend’ them together to yield the full dynamic range of light. Using HDR software takes some training, and often the results can look unnatural and almost cartoon-like.  Over-processing HDR images is quite common and has made HDR the subject for controversy.

However, when used correctly, the final image can be amazing and often undetectable.  Most of the better images in the slot canyons are HDR processed – otherwise delicate light beams become burned out or dark areas will become black. You certainly can shoot in the canyons without HDR processing – but the end result will look a feature rich.

 

Filters

Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, AzOak Creek Canyon, Sedona, Az

 

 

 

 

 

A number of images were taken using a Circular Polarizing (CP) Filter to enhance the sky, control reflections or reduce exposure.  

Rather than go into a lengthy discussion here about the CP Filter, I will refer you to my other article on using the CP-Filter.

 

 

 

 

During the bright mid-day, a Graduated Neutral Density Filter can help rescue an almost washed-out  sky. These filters, unlike screw on filters, require a special holder and slip onto the front of the camera (requires removing the sunshade).  With today's software, the use of these filters is not as popular as they were when film was king.  However, by using them correctly, the final image will be much cleaner than if it had been post-processed. But that to is open for discussion.

For sunrise/sunset, in lieu of resorting to post processing software, a Reverse Graduated Neutral Density (ND.9) is very useful to help balance the contrast of the bright sky around the sun with a dark foreground.

Whereas the Graduated Neutral Density Filter goes from dark (top) to clear (bottom), the Reverse starts dark at the center and fades to lighter density to the top and the bottom is clear.

 
 
Camera Protection
When working in the desert, one thing you can count on - dust.  Dust on your tripod, dust around your camera and even possibly dust in your camera.  A few things to keep in mind: 
 
Tripod
When using a tripod, be sure to extend the bottom most section a few inches to keep the dust/dirt/sand away from the locking mechanism.  Keep a rag handy and wipe off any debris clinging to the leg before retracting it. Sometimes the sand is deep and only the tip of the tripod and leg should be covered by it - not the locking mechanism.
 
Camera Exterior
Use an air blower, like the 'rocket blaster', or compressed air to blow off any dust that has made it's way onto the outside of your equipment.  In the slot canyons, you should cover your entire camera with a dust cover such as a Rainsleeve, shown to the right, (or plastic bag).  The Upper Antelope Slot Canyon is especially prone to air-born dust.  Indian guides will toss sand into the air to bring out the iconic light beams. That, plus thousands of tourists kicking up sand all day, can make for a nice coating of dust on your equipment.  Be sure to inspect the exterior of your lens.  Dust that has built up on the outside can easily work its way inside to the focusing and zoom mechanisms - an expensive repair.
 
Camera Interior
The first rule is to never change lenses in one of the slot canyons.  Never!  Even protected, air-borne dust can work its way into the camera and, once the shutter exposes the the sensor, the dust will cling to the surface.  At the end of day, it is worthwhile to remove the lens and blow out the interior by holding your camera with the opening pointed down so the dust will fall out when you force air inside.  
 
I also use a loupe, such as "SensorKlear" from LensPen to inspect the sensor (the camera requires a full battery charge - select "mirror up" feature on camera.)  For really stubborn dust specs I may have to clean the sensor with a "Sensor Swabs" and a few drops of Eclipse Optical Cleaning Fluid. (Never clean the sensor with a dry swab.)
 
 
Tripods
 
 
 
For seriious photography, a sturdy tripod is a must.  A entire article could easily be devoted to tripods and the various types, heads, etc.  There are also the issues of traveling with tripods and TSA restrictions.  For the purposes here, be sure that when you take a photo of a spot at a shutter speed below 1/60sec and then take several subsequent shots, the subject has not moved whatsoever in your captures.  This is an exercise you should conduct before you take your trip to determine if your tripod is going to be sturdy enough for the camera/lens combination that you will be using.
 
In the slot canyons you will have fairly long exposures that will be be overlaid with others during HDR processing.  Each image not only has to free from any 'camera shake' but also must be of exactly the same location as the others in the series. 
 
 
 
 
 
Shutter Release - Hands Off

There will be times that even the slightest camera movement will result in camera shake for exposures exceeding 1/60sec.  Just pressing the shutter release on your camera can be a contributing factor at these slow shutter speeds.  A remote shutter release, wired or wireless, is highly recommended.  In a pinch, you can always use the built in timer function to trigger the shutter release.  

Some cameras can be programmed to fire multiple shots from the timer.  This can be very helpful during bracketing.  Set your camera to bracket 7 shots and then set your timer to take 7 shots accordingly.  Press the shutter release when you are set up and stand back and wait.  The bottom line is try not to touch the tripod or camera during a long exposure.

 

Next

Now that some of the basic tips and techniques have been covered, Part 2 of this article will focus on some of the iconic locations in Arizona and what you can expect to come back with in terms of 'keepers'.  I hope some of these tips you will find useful.

 

Footnote

The camera used for this article was a Nikon D800 and 14-24mm f/2.8 , or 24-70mm f/2.8 lens.  (I also am not associated with any of the manufactures/vendors mentioned in this article and have received no compensation whatsoever.  I just listed what I have used.)

 

Image Descriptions
 
Feature Image Grand Canyon, Mather Point, Az
Image 1 The Wall at Waterhole, Page, Az
Image 2 (Starburst) Studhorse Point, Page, Az
Image 3 (Rule of Thirds) The Wall at Waterhole, Page, Az
Image 4 (Depth of Field) Canyon-X, Page, Az
Image 5 (Composition) South Rim, Grand Canyon, Az
Image 6 (Point of View) Horseshoe Bend, Page, Az
Image 7 (Black and White) Cactus at Hoodoos, Page, Az
Image 8-9 (Histogram) Upper Antelope Canyon, Page, Az
Image 10 (HDR) Upper Antelope Canyon, Page, Az
Image 11 (Filters) Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, Az
Image 12 (Filters Circular Polarizing Filter
Image 13 (Camera Protection) Rain sleeve Dust Cover
Image 14 (Tripods) Inside Upper Antelope Canyon, Page, Az

 

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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) Arizona Canyon Canyon-X Grand Canyon Page Sedona Slot Canyon Upper Antelope http://myimagez.com/blog/2013/8/photographing-arizona-part_1 Sat, 17 Aug 2013 13:26:00 GMT
Shark Alert: Blacktip Reef Sharks Found at Baltimore Maryland Inner Harbor http://myimagez.com/blog/2013/8/blacktip_reef_shark_NationalAquarium

Just in time for Shark Week, the National Aquarium in Baltimore has unveiled its spectacular new 13,500 square foot, 260,000-Gallon Coral Reef Ecosystem featuring Blacktip Reef Sharks, 700 Marine Animals, 3,000 Pieces of Coral and a 518 Pound Sea Turtle.

The National Aquarium, a popular tourist attraction for over 3 decades, draws 1.4 million visitors annually. At a cost of over $12.5, the new "Blacktip Reef" exhibit, a replica of part of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, is now latest showcase attraction.

In addition to seeing the exhibit from all levels of the Aquarium, visitors can experience a dive into the reef without getting wet as they peer through a specially designed 27-foot panoramic viewing window.  It’s a must-see educational experience and, for many, the closest they will get to seeing a coral reef up close and personal.

 

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony 

On hand for the official ribbon cutting ceremony were hundreds of guests, aquarium staff, Baltimore community leaders, and both Baltimore’s Mayor Rawlings-Blake and the National Aquarium’s CEO, John Racanelli.  It was quite fitting that the ceremony was held during "Shark Week" which also coincided with the aquarium's 32nd birthday.

The Mayor and CEO were taken by an inflatable raft, guided by two scuba divers, to an area directly above the reef.  As they floated past I could not help but think: sharp scissors... inflatable raft ...  shark infested waters ... hmmmm.

“It warms my heart. I’m excited to be here,” said the Mayor. “Blacktip Reef is really one of the first major enhancements to the aquarium in a number of years. And it just felt right to do it on our birthday, our 32nd anniversary,” said the CEO.

 
 
New Construction
 
The exhibit didn't happen overnight and took many years of planning.  To bring this exciting exhibit and revitalize the National Aquarium, the aging infrastructure had to be updated.  The old exhibit, "Wings in the Water", had to be closed during the summer of 2012 to prepare for the year-long renovation.

The design called for reinforcement of the existing infrastructure and the repair of a leak in aging concrete tank.  It also meant the creation of a coral reef area that could be viewed from all 5 levels of the aquarium.  Below ground level, the viewing area was to be nearly 20 feet wide and feature four new clear acrylic windows (4 inches thick) that could offer face-to-face encounters with the marine life.

CEO John Racanelli said in a statement. "This is the first in an ambitious series of innovations here at the National Aquarium, all of which underscore our commitment to inspire conservation of the world's aquatic treasures."
 
 
The Coral Reef

Diver at Blacktip Reef Shark Exhibit

The coral is what would make the difference in this exhibit.  The area that once consisted of a sparse, sandy bottom would now filled with beautiful, colorful coral.

The reef was to be made from synthetic materials which were to be hand-crafted and painted to be an exact replica of the real coral reefs found in the Indo-Pacific.

The specially designed coral would also need to be designed to be hollow and hide aquarium piping. Finally, the coral had to be very realistic, but unlike actual live coral, the synthetic coral had to be flexible and not as vulnerable to breakage.   Over 3000-pieces of coral had to be constructed to replicate 50 different coral species.  The effort would take 18 months.

 

The Blacktip Reef exhibit features one of the most comprehensive recreations of an Indo-Pacific coral reef anywhere in the United States.

 

"A coral reef like this would take hundreds of years to develop in nature, and it has likewise been a major undertaking to create an Indo-Pacific reef for these blacktip reef sharks to call home," said CEO Racanelli.

"The result tells the same story here in the aquarium as it does in nature – that coral reefs are stunningly beautiful but incredibly fragile ecosystems that need our care." Corel reefs "are really like cites under the ocean" said curator Jack Cover.  "They cover one percent of the Earth's surface, but at least half the fish in the ocean will be found in them.

 
The Blacktip Reef Shark
 

The stars of the exhibit is of course the school of 20 fast moving blacktip reef sharks, best known for the prominent black tips on their fins. The 2-year-old, 2-foot long sharks were captured in the wild in Australia under a government-monitored program and brought to the United States.

They can grow to six feet and have been known to live from 25-30 years.  They were transported to Baltimore and held at the aquarium’s animal care center for the last year and half.  “This is a really gorgeous species of shark,” said Jack Cover, the aquarium’s general curator. “We’re trying to get people away from the myths and assumptions of the movie Jaws.”

 
 
Shark Training

The sharks had to become acclimated to life in their new home. Over time, trainers worked to get them to accept the presence of divers and flashing lights (all those visitors with their cameras).

Ashleigh Clews, along with other aquarium staff, were challenged with the task of training the young shark to seek out only bony fish and squid. "They can be trained like a dog" stated Clews.  "They are very intelligent".  Food was provided at feeding stations within the exhibit (as opposed to having to hunt for prey) to help control their appetite for the taste of their neighbors.  Although predators in the wild, these captive sharks have now gotten used to being fed chopped-up fish and squid, Cover said.

Most of the fish in the new exhibit would normally qualify as menu items for these shark but none seemed panicked by their presence and remained in schools as they swam peacefully around their new home.

Cover said the sharks may not totally abandon their wild ways and just might be tempted to go after one of their tank mates occasionally.   But not to worry, Cover said.  “The fish are going to do what they do in the wild.  They’ll hide.”
 
 
The Big Move
_JAS3793
 
 
Through the careful efforts of the National Aquarium’s Biological Programs team some of the marine life was transported to other aquariums while some remained locally to be brought back to the new exhibit.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

After the construction was completed, it took several weeks to graduallyintroduce the new population for the exhibit.  First it was adding the over 60 different types of fish and then the huge sea turtle. Then, after several weeks had gone by, it was time for the addition of the sharks.

The young sharks were introduced by a team of divers using a net one at a time.  Once the divers felt a newly introduced shark had adjusted to its new surroundings, the next shark was added. One by one - this process alone took two days.  After the last shark was introduced, spectators and aquarium staff alike applauded and shouted in both excitement and relief. 
 
Calpyso
 
 

Calypso, the aquarium’s resident sea turtle for some 12 years, was one of the first new residents to be re-introduced and adapted quickly to her new environment.

Calypso, the gentle giant rescue turtle, has become a crowd favorite over the years.

 
 
 
 
 
 
The Return of Zeke and Zoe
 

Two zebra sharksZeke and Zoe were introduced to the new exhibit only a day before the ribbon cutting. Curious reef sharks 

could be seen circling Zoe as she rested after a feeding.

Also added back were three reticulated whiptail rays and two black-blotched fantail rays.

 
 
 
Spectacular Exhibit
 

The new exhibit is truly spectacular - "You're sort of transferred into their world," Jack Cover, the aquarium's general curator, said. "You're seeing it from their viewpoint."

The new exhibit is really an experience, with visitors able to use educational technology to identify each organism inside the 260,000 gallon tank. Viewers can see demonstrations (thanks to the new diving platform) as well as feedings.  The diving platform is a new feature that will be used for demonstrations.

Cover, who has been overseeing the new exhibit since construction began late last summer, says the idea was to replicate a section of the Great Barrier Reef, one of the richest natural habitats, as closely as possible. “We’re very proud of the fact that it’s an authentic re-creation,” he said. “The fish, the species of coral — everything.”

 
 
 
_JAS9198
 
 
 
More To Come

CEO Racanelli said the new exhibit is the first of several new components planned for the aquarium; the next, he said, should be ready in early 2015.

Although officials are still working on specifics, he said, it will focus on aquatic life in the Maryland region — that is, in the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed or on the Atlantic shores.

CEO Racanelli can often be seen with Aquarium staff looking out for ways to protect marine life and educate the public.

 
 
Underwater Cam Now Online
I highly recommend adding a visit to see the Blacktip Reef at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.  In the meantime, a live web cam has been installed for your viewing pleasure.    (Turn on your sound and go to full screen for an enjoyable experience.)
 


Live streaming video by Ustream

 
 
 
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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) Blacktip Reef Shark balitmore Maryland", "National Aquarium" http://myimagez.com/blog/2013/8/blacktip_reef_shark_NationalAquarium Fri, 09 Aug 2013 21:29:01 GMT
LensCoat LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers - A Quick Look http://myimagez.com/blog/2013/8/lencoat-leg-covers-vs-leg-wraps---a-quick-look

Are tripod Leg covers in your future?  If they are not part of your tripod now, are they a necessary add-on expense to consider?  Perhaps. 

An often misunderstood add-on to tripods is the leg cover which has several functions:

  • act as a thermal barrier;
  • protection from damage;
  • serve as camouflage; and
  • aid transportation.

 

From the 'Do-It-Yourself' tape-covered tripod legs to commercially available products, tripod leg covers have different functions that should be considered before you invest time and money in this accessory.

 

Thermal Barrier

For those that work in extreme temperature conditions, the surface temperature of the tripod leg can become an issue.  From bitter cold to scorching heat, many photographers have found that by covering the upper tripod leg, handling the tripod can be made much more comfortable.  In reality, however, you may never had a need to add a thermal barrier to your tripod legs - especially if the legs are made of carbon fiber.  The idea is good and I know if I was ever in an extreme environment, I am sure a thermal barrier would be a good thing to have.

 

Protection from Damage

Covering the upper leg can offer protection from nicks and scratches that result from traveling through heavy brush or perhaps when in contact with a rock.  Only the upper leg is protected, however, unless the tripod is collapsed so the other legs are nested.  Many photographers may never really find this to be a real need in their travels. If I travel, for example, from home to a location, my tripod is transported in a specially designed bag.  Once in the field and my tripod is exposed, I try to stay on trail.  But your activities may differ and protecting your expensive investment may be in order.

 

Serve as Camouflage

 

Some photographers cover part of their tripod leg along with their camera to 'camouflage' their equipment from wildlife. The idea is to break the lines of the legs and camera in such a way as to have them blend into the surroundings and 'disappear' to the subjects.  In covering the tripod, only the upper leg portion is covered, which assumes the remaining leg sections will be covered by brush or other forms of nature.  The camouflage materials are available for various environments such as snow, fall colors, forest, etc.   If you need to camouflage your equipment, this is the way to go.

For me, I really do not intend to go waist deep into the brush to photograph wildlife.  I know I would be more worried about what was hiding in the brush with me than I would trying to get that perfect shot. 

 

 

 

Transportation Aid

Many photographers leave their camera mounted on their tripod and transport the two over their shoulder for location shots.  Wildlife photographers often have limited time to setup a tripod, mount a camera, and get into position for that perfect shot.  By transporting the camera already mounted and ready to go can often be the difference in getting that keeper shot or not.  Transporting 10-15 pounds or more on your shoulder can become very uncomfortable - unless the tripod legs that rest on your shoulder are padded.  This is a biggie, and for me, this was the function that mattered the most.

 

 

LensCoat's LegCoat

In researching tripod leg covers, I came across two from LensCoat.  LensCoat is well known for their specially designed, quality protection for photographic gear.  And, they have two entries in the tripod leg cover department: LegCoat Wraps and LegCoat Covers. Below is a brief summary from what I learned after working with both offerings along some information for your consideration.

Both LegCoat Wraps and LegCoat Covers are available for a wide variety of tripod models with various leg diameters and length.  The LensCoat website has a selection chart to aid the buyer in purchasing the correctly designed version for their tripod model. 

 

LegCoat Wraps

 

 

LegCoat Wraps, sold in a package of three, are made from soft neoprene that are designed to wrap around the upper leg of the tripod.  They are easily affixed with a Velcro closure.

 

 

The Wrap's backing is designed to tightly grip the tripod legs so they will not slide. The spongy soft neoprene acts as a cushion when carrying the tripod without the bulk of the traditional LegCoat Cover which has extra foam padding.

 

 

 

 

 

Once  wrapped around the leg and closed with the Velcro, a tight bond is formed with a nice finished appearance.  The Wrap has a nice feel and the cushioning is a pleasure when laid across your shoulder.

 

 

 

 

 

LegCoat Covers

Unlike the LegCoat Wrap, the LegCoat Cover consist of two parts.  The first is a made of closed cell foam padding and looks much like pipe insulation.  It is split length-wise to allow it to easily slide on the tripod leg.  Attached inside is a piece of double stick tape to keep the tube from freely spinning around once affixed to the leg.

 

 

The second part of the LegCoat Cover is a piece of heavy-duty neoprene which  is attached to the inner tube by a strap that runs down the length of the tube.  As with the LegCoat Wrap, Velcro is used to keep the fabric tight around the leg.

 

 

The LegCoat Cover option is a bit less expensive than the LegCoat Wrap.  The Wrap retails at $49 for black and $54 for camouflage.  The Cover retails for $42 for black and $49 for camouflage.  However, since the LegCoat Wrap can be folded whereas the LegCoat Cover is more of a tube, shipping is less for the LegCoat Cover - especially for internationally orders.  The LegCoat Cover comes in a package of three or can be purchased in single units.

I felt that the LegCoat Cover does not have quite the finished appearance once installed as does the LegCoat Wrap.  I felt seeing the exposed foam liner was not quite as finished as the smooth appearance of the LegCoat Wrap - but that is a personal opinion.  (I know some photographers will actually wrap their upper tripod leg with bicycle handlebar tape.  For them, appearance is outweighed by functionality.)

 The LegCoat Cover was also somewhat larger in diameter than the LegCoat Wrap which may prevent some tripods from slipping into their custom tripod bags due to the added protective bulk. 

 

The Cons
With every silver lining . . . The only real con for me was the fact that, due to the Velcro closure being on top of padded material, the resulting seam from the closure was quite obvious.  It was less noticeable on the LegCoat Cover since the cover itself was only a thin piece of material.  The seam on both gave the leg covering somewhat of an add-on look rather than being part of the original equipment. And, the seam on the LegCoat Wrap was much more noticeable since the Velcro had to lay on top of the layered padding (5mm vs 2mm). 
 
However, the seam in no way affected the function of the coverings - only the aesthetic appearance.  And, this was certainly no deal breaker.
 
 
LegCoat Wrap (left)
LegCoat Cover (Right)        

Conclusion

I found that both products protected my tripod legs and shoulders when carrying heavy lenses mounted to my camera which was my main objective. Both offerings could act as a thermal barrier keeping the tripod legs comfortable to the touch in hot or cold conditions.

The main difference I found had to do with the bulk and the installation of each. The LegCoat Covers have a closed cell foam core about 1/2"  (12.7mm) thick with a slit down the side plus a 2mm neoprene shell that is the length of the upper leg. The foam has an optional adhesive strip to be applied to the leg to help prevent movement.  A cover wraps around the foam and has a Velcro closure. The total thickness is nearly 15mm.
 
The LegCoat Wrap was thinner after installation.  It was one piece made from approximately 5mm of soft spongy neoprene that wrapped around the tripod leg and was also affixed with a Velcro closure (as compared to the nearly 15mm for the LegCoat Cover). The Wrap's backing was designed to tightly grip the tripod leg so it would not slide or turn.

After working with both, I decided that the LegCoat Wrap was the better alternative for my needs.  I was not concerned about thermal protection in that my tripod has carbon fiber legs and the idea of having camouflage was not high on my list of necessities. It was the cushioning of the tripod for those hikes with a loaded camera/tripod combination that sold me.  And, being able to remove the covers at a moments notice meant I could change them out anytime I wanted to.  My choice was to go with black (as shown throughout this article), although offerings include a number of bright colors in addition to the black and camouflage mentioned in this article.

Having used the LegCoat Wrap in the field, I am quite glad I made the purchase.  For more information, please refer to the LensCoat website.

 

_________________________

Opening shot:

  • Baltimore Inner Harbor;
  • ReallyRightStuff TVC-33 tripod with BH-55 Ballhead;
  • LegCoat Wrap; and
  • Nikon D800/Sigma 120-400mm lens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) cover legcoat lenscoat tripod tripod leg wrap http://myimagez.com/blog/2013/8/lencoat-leg-covers-vs-leg-wraps---a-quick-look Thu, 01 Aug 2013 15:35:10 GMT
Dolphin Count for 2013 http://myimagez.com/blog/2013/7/dolphin-count-for-2013

Staff from the National Aquarium Animal Rescue program joined with volunteers for the annual Maryland Dolphin Count that was held in July of 2013.

Despite rain and the threat of storms, volunteers of all ages came out between 8-11 a.m. to help record dolphin sightings at four locations along the Eastern Shore of Maryland – Assateague State Park Day Use Area, Berlin, MD; 40th Street in Ocean City, MD; 81st Street in Ocean City, MD; and 130th Street in Ocean City, MD.

Annual dolphin counts help marine mammal specialists capture a snapshot look at dolphin populations, reproduction rates and ocean health. Looking at the population numbers over the years can help to determine the health of the coastal ecosystem as well as the abundance of prey.

 

The Bottlenose Dolphin

Atlantic bottlenose dolphins use Maryland waters as a thoroughfare for migration, summertime breeding, and feeding along the way.  With your help, we will continue to gather and analyze this information and learn more about the state of our waters and the dolphin populations that are found off our coast.

 

The bottlenose dolphin, sometimes mistaken for a porpoise, is perhaps one of the most commonly seen cetaceans in the world. They are light to slate gray on the upper part (dorsal surface) of their bodies, fading to lighter gray on the sides and pale gray or pink on the belly. The dorsal fin is tall and curves toward the rear of the animal.
 

Adults reach 6–12 feet in length and weigh 400–800 pounds. Males are slightly larger than females.

And, being near the top of the food chain in the Atlantic, the dolphin has few predators.  Major threats come from humans. Dolphins are accidentally caught in fishing gear (gill nets, purse seines, and shrimp trawls) and become entangled in discarded fishing gear or monofilament line. Humans harass and feed wild dolphins, and in some parts of the world kill them directly.  However another threat exists - seismic testing.

 

Seismic Testing A Threat
Seismic testing for oil and gas off Maryland and other Atlantic coast states could cause widespread harm to whales, dolphins, sea turtles and fish, as well as to fishing and tourism, an environmental group warned Tuesday.
 
Oceana said the federal government's own environmental impact statement estimates 138,500 whales and dolphins could be injured if seismic "airguns," which generate blasts of noise underwater, are used to explore for oil and gas along the Atlantic coast. 

 

2013 Count Is Promising

 

During the 2012 dolphin count, 31 dolphins were recorded, which is lower than average, and likely a result of several factors including the weather, bigger swells and food availability. In 2011, 107 dolphins were recorded, which is relatively normal.

 

"The entire team from National Aquarium is incredibly thankful to all the volunteers who joined us for this year’s Dolphin Count,” said Jennifer Dittmar, Animal Rescue Program Stranding Coordinator. 

This year, 113 dolphins were sighted to everyone's delight.

 

 

 

National Aquarium Animal Rescue Program

Since 1991, the National Aquarium Animal Rescue Program has been responsible for responding to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles along the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) Peninsula, primarily along the nearly 7,000 miles of coastline in Maryland, including the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coasts.

The Animal Rescue Program has responded to more than 480 animals in distress and has rehabilitated and released more than 100 marine animals back to their natural environment. Many of these animals are endangered or threatened, so every individual introduced back into the natural environment has the opportunity to add to the genetic diversity of the species. All species of marine mammals are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, and all seven species of sea turtles are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. 

Research, satellite tracking and outreach education are also significant components of the Animal Rescue Program. Every animal that is rehabilitated and released is an opportunity to raise awareness and get the public involved in helping to conserve and protect our marine resources. 

National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program is a member of the Northeast Stranding Network (NERS) through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Aquarium is one facility among a network of nationally recognized facilities that work cooperatively to respond to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles.

The Animal Rescue team works directly with NOAA, USFWS, Maryland Department of Natural Resources and regional and national stranding partners to respond to stranded animals and collect data used to better understand aquatic animals that are still very much a mystery to modern science.

 

For more information on National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program and how the general public can assist with rescue efforts, visit http://aqua.org/care

 

 

 

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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) http://myimagez.com/blog/2013/7/dolphin-count-for-2013 Sun, 14 Jul 2013 14:14:15 GMT
Expert Shield Screen Protectors for DSLRs - A Quick Look http://myimagez.com/blog/2013/7/expert-shield-screen-protectors-for-dslrs-review  

When one thinks of LCD screen protectors, or shields, what comes to mind are those custom pieces of film designed to fit a smartphone or tablet.  However, one of the companies that produces these protectors, Expert Shield from the UK, also has entered into the market to protect the LCD screen on many popular GPS systems, e-readers and, of most interest to photographers, DSLR cameras.

 

 

 

 

As with any LCD screen, one of the problems is that the screen comes unprotected and can get scratched.  And, most of these LCD screens are very reflective and  can kick in a harsh glare when outdoors.  This is all the more true with today's cameras

I have heard that some folks have actually purchased a smartphone film protector and tried to cut them to fit their DSLR LCD displays.  Often this has resulted in a less than desirable product.

Screen protectors do have their problems though.  Who has not tried to install a film protector on a smartphone or tablet without frustration? Installation often means multiple attempts in alignment and either results in fingerprints on the film, dirt trapped on the adhesive surface or bubbles that can never be removed.  For me, I often just didn't use one out of frustration.

 

 

When I was directed to the Expert Shield's website, I was drawn in by one of their claims:

 

"Let's face it, in a busy, fast moving world you need to be able to count on the little things. The last thing you want to have to do is buy and fit a new screen protector each week. We want our customers to have the peace of mind to adopt a 'fit and forget' philosophy. That's why along with all the bold promises of a scratch free screen and bubble free application, we actually guarantee your Expert Shield for the life of your device. End up scratching it? Simply return for an exchange, what's more we don't hide behind any rubbish small print. Easy.

As well as covering all the latest mobile phones, our range also includes tablets and cameras. You wouldn’t want to leave that massive new iPad screen unprotected. Need a screen protector for Panasonic Lumix TZ-40? We do an ever-growing range of digital camera screen protectors. Feel free to ask if we're working on your model if you can't see it on our site, or if we've not already thought of it we might add it to the range.

Your Expert Shield will be guaranteed to apply without bubbles or scratch for the lifetime of your device. That doesn't mean you definitely won't get bubbles or scratches (although you shouldn't if you follow our helpful tips) but if you do, we'll exchange it."

 

Sounds too good to be true?  Let's find out.  I tried out both the Nikon 7000 version with anti-glare coating and the standard protector for the Nikon D800.

Each screen protector kit came with a cleaning cloth, two shields (one for the LCD and one for the top control panel) and instructions.

The instructions were on the back of the package and were also made available on the Expert Shield website.

The instructions are pretty straight forward.   Clean the LCD surface, align the film, remove the protective layer, apply the film and smooth out any bubbles.  It sounded simple, so I gave it try.

The key is to start with a clean screen surface totally free of dust.  Dust could become trapped and result in spots that create bubbles that cannot be removed.  One of the suggestions is to work in a very humid environment that would keep the dust down.Step 1: Remove the adhesive protective film layer.  Next, align the film with the edge of the screen on one side.  For me, the alignment took several tries and luckily I did not pick up any dust in the process.  Next, flatten out the screen and push any bubbles to the edge using a credit card.  For any trapped dust, the instructions stated to lift up part of the protector and "use the sticky tape to lift the dust off the underside..."  I didn't have to test this tip.

 

Step 2, (as it is labeled on the film protector):  Remove the top protective layer.  That is it.

The whole process took less than 10 minutes (due to a few re-alignment tries and pushing out any bubbles.)   The end result appears as an integral part of my camera and not as a vendor add-on.

Installation went well but how does it perform in the field?

 

Standard Protector:

I installed the standard Expert Shield on the Nikon D800.  I found no degradation in color or optical quality. Not only was this thin protector much more stylish that the bulky Nikon plastic shield, the film was not as susceptible to scratching as the standard plastic shield and still was able to protect the LCD panel from scratches.  Most importantly, it was highly transparent and did not affect my image review.

 

Anti-Glare Protector:

The D7000 anti-glare film fit perfectly over the LCD as well.  Being anti-glare, there was a slight loss in color intensity as inherent to all anti-glare screens of this type. However, the loss in color intensity was very minor indeed and certainly was not a deal breaker.  The anti-glare surface was a joy to use in the field and images that often were not possible to review due to the strong reflective surface of the standard Nikon plastic, were now clearly visible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nikon D7000 with Standard Nikon Plastic Protector showing bulk and scratched surface

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nikon D7000 with

Expert Shield Screen Protector installed

 

 

Construction:

From the manufacturer:

“Our screen protectors are the longest lasting, which means you’ll probably need to replace your device before you replace one of our protectors! We back this up with a lifetime warranty, practically unheard of for a screen protector in this price range.

Expert Shield protectors are made from our special Japanese Optical Grade CrystalFilm™, custom cut to ensure a perfect fit every time. Constructed in three layers; a scratch resistant surface polymer, a hardened protective mask to prevent deep cuts damaging your device and finally a patented silicone gel that creates a vacuum to securely ‘cling’ to the device screen. Expert Shields use no adhesive and there is no spraying anything to the protector or the device.”

 

Cost:

The replacement Nikon plastic protectors ranges from $15 – $20.  In July, 2013,  Expert Shield for the D7000 retails at $12.95 and $11.95 for the D800.

 

Conclusion:

The Expert Shield performed as advertised.  It is highly transparent, has an anti-scratch surface, is easy to apply and remove and protects the DSLR LCD.  For me, it is a thumbs-up and a nice option to have for any camera owner with an LCD screen. (The website lists most major brands with new models being updated on an ongoing basis.  I did not see protectors for the Nikon pro 3x and 4.  However, if you have a model not listed, they state they will create one for it in the next release.)  I find these shields especially useful for many of the more popular consumer grade point-and-shoot cameras whose LCD screens get banged around regularly.

For more information, please see the Expert Shield website at www.expertshield.com 

 

 

 

 

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johnsoule@myimagez.com (John Soulé) http://myimagez.com/blog/2013/7/expert-shield-screen-protectors-for-dslrs-review Sun, 07 Jul 2013 18:02:44 GMT