Monday, January 31, 2011

Adventure with the Canon Powershot G12 - Seattle, WA

The wife and I spent a week in the Emerald City. While she attended an Astrophysics Conference, I took some pictures of this wonderful city. I walked around and saw some wonderful people and places. And of course, being a coffee fiend, I visited the place where it all started - the Starbucks on Pike Place. There were singers on almost every corner of the Pike Place Market and there are coffee shops on every street - downtown Seattle is really every coffee connoisseur's dream.

The Canon Powershot G12 and the Emerald City

My Canon 5D Mark II was in my Lowepro Fastpack 250 but the camera that I used about 98% of the time was the Canon Powershot G12 - it was all that I needed for my street photography. First, it was small which made it stealthy. Second, I can check out a locale first and if I deemed it safe enough to bring out my camera, I can easily do so since I just put the camera on the inside breast pocket of my jacket. Yes, I could've easily reached for my DSLR since I used the Fastpack, but having a camera right in front of you is still the fastest access one can have. I had the BlackRapid SNapR but I left the bag in the hotel and just used the hand strap that came with it.

I was able to stretch the limits of the G12 with this trip to Seattle. I have proven, with this trip that this camera is a really very capable machine.

The only limits that I set for myself were:
  • I didn't go above ISO1600
  • I didn't set the shutter speed below 1/40s.
That is why some of the indoor shots were dark. But, hey, I didn't mind having dark pictures of Battlestar Gallactica and Jimi Hendrix inside the Experience Music Project / Science Fiction Museum.

One thing, though, that I couldn't wrap my head around was when I used the built-in flash for fill. The camera was in Manual the whole time but when I turn the flash on, the camera seemed to have a mind of its own - I couldn't make it behave the way I wanted it too. I need to do some more practice with the flash turned on with this camera.

The only time I used my Canon 5D Mark II was went up the Space Needle for a second time to take sunset photos. I felt that, with the bigger sensor, I could stretch the ISO limit more. Note, though, that all the photos here were taken by the G12.

There are three things that, I think, are not on the positive side:
  1. Having the live-view all the time made me dependent on it so much. Yes it made making pictures really easy, but, coming from a DSLR perspective, I would have wanted to use the viewfinder more. I know I could've just turned the articulating screen around, but then I would have lost the ability to know what my settings are.
  2. Having a 28mm-equivalent focal length wasn't wide enough. When I went up to the buildings to get an unobstructed view (unobstructed, but cloudy), I felt that the widest setting for the G12 was still too narrow.
  3. The flash as stated above.

But despite these setbacks, the Canon Powershot G12 is still a very capable camera and would do well for street photography.

Seattle is a beautiful city and the Canon G12 was able to capture it.

[N.B. I would have put a slide show of the photos that autoplay but Picasa is not behaving well right now...]

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What It Feels Like to Live Inside a Snow Globe... Snowstorm in Princeton, NJ

Growing up from a tropical country, encountering snow for the first time was a very fun experience. I believe I ran outside so I could really experience it. After that first time, I learned to love winter. I even jokingly told the wife that I would only like to live in places where there are four seasons - I still do love snow.

But this winter season had been a really bad one. Here in Central New Jersey, we've had, if I remember correctly, three 8-inches-or-more snow events plus one 5-inch snow event. It has become ridiculous.

These are some pictures of the latest snow storm to hit the Tristate. Precipitation has turned into frozen rain and, as I type this, there were also some lightning and thunder. I'm just hoping that electricity won't be cut off.

Pictures were made with the Canon Eos 7D and a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8.

For those without Flash:

What It Feels Like to Live Inside a Snow Globe

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

There's Always A Shot... Absorption Spectrum

Once upon a time, I used to teach physics...

One time, I noticed that the blind in one of the windows in the house produces the pattern shown in the picture during mornings. I couldn't let the moment pass (though the pattern is always there during sunny days). Light is very important to photography because it gives subjects shape and dimension. But sometimes, light itself can be the subject. I set out to prove it here.

From There's Always A Shot

(Disclaimer: I don't think that there is an element with such an absorption spectrum. I just noticed that this pattern "can" be similar to one.)

Picture made with a Canon Powershot G12 at ISO800, f/2.8, 1/8s. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Adventure with the Canon Powershot G12 - University of Pennsylvania

Last December 9, 2010, when the high temperature was 34 degrees Fahrenheit and the low temperature was 17 degrees Fahrenheit, the wife and I went for a drive to the University of Pennsylvania in the City of Brotherly Love - Philadelphia. I thought it was a good time to put the Canon G12 through some-severe-cold-winter test. After all, I haven't really used it for extended periods in the "great" outdoors back then.

So while the wife was in a meeting with other astrophysicists, I walked around campus and took some shots. The G12 performed admirably and it was actually I who gave up first - it was so cold that my fingers went numb. The camera itself got very cold but the battery lasted for less than a hundred shots before the level went down a notch. (In case you didn't know, the battery gets depleted much faster when the temperature goes down.)

Here are some sample shots taken that day.

Adventures with the Canon Powershot G12 - City of Brotherly Love

All shots made with the Canon Powershot G12. Want the perfect bag for your G12? See my review of the BlackRapid SnapR here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

How to Make the Perfect Camera Shoulder Bag Better - the Tenba Shootout Lens/Bottle Caddie

Some time ago, I reviewed the Tenba Messenger Laptop Bag. It is a great bag and I can't say enough about it's usefulness. But there is one thing missing from the bag that I realized is very important. You see, it's winter time from where I am and my next best friend is a hot cup of coffee or tea. When I want to shoot something, I, of course, want both hands free. I can opt to put my cup-a-Joe on the ground, on the slush, but I really don't want to. So where do I nestle my hot beverage?

Enter the Tenba Shootout Lens/Bottle Caddie.

As usual, the accessory is made up of very good materials and the construction is great too. It attaches nicely to the bag and, I think, can hold up a venti-size drink. It can also serve as a lens holder just in case you ran out of space inside the messenger. I was able to fit my Canon EF 70-300 f/4-5.6 lens albeit without the lens hood.


I am very happy with this and I am very happy that now I can have my hot cup of coffee while I wait for the next great shot.

(An aside: I just realized that I only noticed the need for a mug caddie during winter but not during the summer months when I need to hydrate. That meant that I was (am) bad at hydrating myself especially when I need it most. That has got to change!)

Photos made with a Canon Powershot G12 on a Slik Sprint tripod.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

There's Always A Shot... My Companion Lens When I Started Photography

Right after I bought my first DSLR, a Canon Rebel XS, I immediately realized the limitation of the 18-55mm kit lens. The reach was too short, there is no full-time manual, etc. Though I've learned a lot using that lens, I realized right away that I needed something else. Enter the Canon EF-S 17-85mm IS USM lens. I loved this lens and it had been my constant companion in my many travels. I even used it to take photos of my first client. The only reason I let it go is because I won a Canon 5D Mark II with the Canon EF 24-105mm lens from Scott Bourne's photo raffle. If not for that, I'd still be using my trusty 17-85. So, to commemorate the lens that used to be my favorite, I choose it to be my subject this time.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Life Guide to Digital Photography by Joe McNally

LIFE Guide to Digital Photography: Everything You Need to Shoot Like the ProsThere are a lot of ways to learn photography. One way that I really like is by reading a book about it, whether it's a how-to book, a Photoshop book or an inspirational book.

One such nice book to read is Joe McNally's The Life Guide to Digital Photography.

At the start of the book, Joe said that:

"Good pictures demand care, and truly good pictures are hard to make."

I heartily agree with this statement: it is not enough to own the latest and greatest camera, you actually need to develop the eye for making great photos. I should know - two years in and I still have a lot to learn about photography.

The book is divided into six major parts: Light, Lens, Design Elements, Color, Composition, and Joe's Last Tips. Joe discusses how to get the proper exposure, how you can take control when the camera gets tricked and how to have a simple studio set up.

He discusses how elements get together to bring a more compelling photo, how a change of lens can change the picture, and how motion, or lack of it, can add drama to a shot.

There are a lot of beautiful pictures and Joe put the camera settings for each picture. The photos are beautifully composed, of course, and they serve as great inspiration to those who want to go to photography. If nothing else, if you are not really into photography, then this book can serve as a collection of beautiful pictures.

Joe has a lot of tips on the properly-named section "Joe's Tips". He has a checklist of things you should look out for or things you should do before you actually press the shutter. There is also a "Do this first" section that adds more to the techniques that you could learn from reading the book. The tips are very helpful, timely and very insightful. But, if you are looking for diagrams and photos of set ups, then you should look for other books. There are no diagrams here and no discussions on how one photo was taken. Well, buy a book that tells you how to set up your speedlites or strobes after you buy Joe's book. It is that good!

And as a last word, I would like to quote a passage that Joe wrote in the book. I know that video capture is now deeply ensconced into DSLRs and might threaten job security for "purely" stills photographers. But this passage is, for me, an assurance that "stills" are here to stay:

"The beauty of the still camera is its unparalleled ability to observe and distill."

This book is highly recommended for those who wants to start their photography adventure. This is also highly recommended for those who simply wants to be inspired by beautiful pictures.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How to Do A Product Shot of a Manfrotto Ballhead

I enrolled in a photography class last fall. The class was good because, for one, I was able to interact with other photographers here in town and I was also able to see really good pictures by my classmates. Critiquing was also a great part and I was able to learn a lot from what my teachers and classmates had to say about my pictures.

One project for the class is to make photos using speedlites. So, I decided to do a product shot. This proved to be a very good exercise because it turned out to be not really that easy. I thought I'd just pop a speedlite on my camera then that's it, finished photo. But, I really wanted to do a very good presentation. I didn't want to do a bad picture since this technique might prove very useful in the future. If you are gonna sell a product on,, etc, you'd want to have a really good photo of your product, right?

My set up looks like this:

All speedlites were bare but I feathered the speedlite near the camera so it will light up the front of the ballhead just a little. This speedlite was primarily used to illuminate the background. I put a white reflector in front also so that the light coming from the rear speedlite will illuminate the ballhead. The left-right speedlites have a ratio of 4:1. I exposed for the ballhead and underexposed the camera so that the ballhead will be black. I set the flash exposure compensation to +1.

Here is the final photo:

ISO100, f/8, 1/20s, 50mm.

This ballhead is a Manfrotto 482 (This model has been replaced by the Manfrotto 492 ballhead). I hope this how-to will help those who would like to do their own product shot.

These are the things that I used for this product shot:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Review of the Monster Turbine Earphones

Christmas is a fun time. Celebrations with friends and family, get-togethers, gift-giving and, of course, gift-receiving.

For her Christmas gift for me, the wife gave me a Monster Turbine Earphones. I actually discovered it while browsing through and I saw that it was featured as a "Lightning Deal". The earphones was generously priced and the wife saw my reaction to it. The wife bought it and, come Christmas eve, she presented me with an box.

The earphones came in a very plush box. The box represents, I feel, that the contents are of good quality.

When you slip off the white sleeve, you will see a very nice looking black box with a magnetic latch and a very proud "turbine" label.

When you pull that tab, you will find inside the earphones, "two" earphone cases, extra ear tips, and papers on warranty, how-to manuals, etc.

The sound is great! The sound produced by the Apple earbuds that came with my iPod pales in comparison. You get more bass, crisper sounds, and, I believe, the entire range of notes from shrills to thumps. It is good for listening to music, watching movies and music videos, and even for reducing the noise of the outside world - yes, I did that one time: I was in a coffee shop and I wanted to concentrate on what I was reading so I turned off my iPod. But the noise of the coffee shop was also a distraction, so I just put on the earphones without anything playing - the sound of the outside world was greatly reduced even if the Turbine is no noise-cancelling headphone. It is that useful.

Now I am no audiophile. I just know that this earphone sounds much better than the white earbuds that came with my iPod. And though music is not all bass, I don't mind listening to Kanye West with these earbuds, thank you very much. Nor do I mind listening to the Lord of the Rings Soundtrack, my favorite female musical group Bond, nor to Rage Against the Machine.

Is it worth the price? I got lucky, or rather the wife got lucky (wink, wink) that it was almost at 40% of the original price, so, at that price, yes it is worth it! But if it's the original price, I might look for something else first though I might eventually buy it anyway. Do I recommend it? Let the writing on the "other" case (yes, there are two which shows that this is really a high-end purchase) tell you.

Photos of the Monster Turbine in this post made with a Canon Powershot G12. My photo holding the earphone case, and taken by the wife, made with a Canon Eos 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L lens.


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