Sunday, May 29, 2011

Princeton University 2011 Reunion, @ptonreunions, Fireworks

The wife and I love fireworks. So, together with the in-laws, we went to Clarke Field in Princeton University to witness such a spectacular event. And of course, I wouldn't want to miss such an opportunity to bring my camera and tripod. It was a beautiful night and the fireworks were really amazing.

For those iGadget users,

Princeton Reunions Fireworks

All shots made with the Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 24-105 f/4L lens. The camera was mounted on a Benro Tripod and Ballhead. The shots were set at f/11 with shutter speeds ranging from 2 seconds to 6 seconds. Focusing was set on manual. Check out my review of my favorite bag for my Canon 5D Mark II, the Lowepro Versapack 200AW,  here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Not All Photos Need to be Level

There are a lot of rules when it comes to photography and, I guess, in paintings also. These rules include the use of the rule of thirds, shoot only on certain times of days, don't let your subjects face the sun, keep the horizon level, etc.

On a trip to the MoMA, I decided to play with the last rule; no, not the "etc", the "keep the horizon level". Concurrently, as you can see on the photos here, I also didn't bother to keep the vertical lines, well, vertical.

Having slanting lines added a different kind of feel to the pictures that I made. They disrupt the balance of the photos and can be quite jarring to look at. For my part, I was just enjoying breaking the rules.

Sometimes... :)


On a separate note, the in-laws will be coming for a visit so I might not be able to post blogs on a regular basis (at least two per week). But, I'll try my best to keep my personal deadlines. :)


All photos made with the Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 24-105 f/4L lens. Want a really good camera backpack? Check out my review of the Lowepro Versapack 200 AW here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Leading Lines Make for Interesting Portraits

Overcast sky, slight shower; do you pack up and leave? No way! It may be a difficult task to find the shot but take heed that the shot is there.

This shot was taken at the Atlantic City Boardwalk one gloomy, cold winter afternoon. My model is my good friend, Ely.
Photo made with the 
Canon 7D with a Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 lens. Want a really good camera backpack? Check out my review of the Lowepro Versapack 200 AW here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lines and Art at the Museum of Modern Art

Last December, 2010, the wife and I visited the Museum of Modern Art. It has a vast collection of art works which I really enjoyed, of course, but the other thing that caught my attention was the architecture of the museum. I loved how the lines formed and how it seemed to interact with the art and the people in it.

Line, being one of the elements of design, can make for really compelling photos. I am hoping I was able to convey that in the photos here.

I've always loved going to museums but being able to enjoy the place itself was also greatly rewarding.

All photos made with the Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 24-105 f/4L lens. Want a really good camera backpack? Check out my review of the Lowepro Versapack 200 AW here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Best Camera is the One That You Have - the iPhone 4 Camera

After I got the iPhone 4, I immediately set out to try its built-in camera. It's a 5 megapixel stills camera and, most of the time, a 5-megapixel camera is all you need.

I was greatly impressed by the camera. There is a great amount of details in the photos. Just look at the moisture on the flowers and the leaves. I still have to try some print outs but the pictures look great in the computer. Oh, I'd like to say that, aside from cropping the photos, no other edits were made, not even to correct the white balance setting. The iPhone 4 camera is that good!

I tried to take some self-portraits, which I choose not to show in this post - you can check my self-portrait here - and I was nearly blinded by the built in flash - I will not do that again. Or maybe less. Or maybe only when necessary.

Anyway, one problem I had was sometimes it was difficult to set what the iPhone was focusing on. I tapped the flower on the picture below but the iPhone still focused on the building at the background. That befuddled me...

But all in all, I'm very happy with the iPhone 4 camera. The many apps available in the app store make it an even more interesting camera to have. And since I always have the iPhone with me then I always have a decent camera that I can pull out of my pocket at a moment's notice. The iPhone 4 is a very good alternative to my Canon Powershot G12.

Check out my review of the Canon Powershot G12 here. Want the perfect bag for your G12? Check out my review of the BlackRapid SnapR here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Review of the Lowepro Versapack 200 AW - The Best DSLR Backpack

Ever since my surgery, I made a conscious effort to simplify the gear that I bring on a daily basis. When I go out, I just have my Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 24-105 f/4L lens. I also have a Canon 430EX II speedlite in the bag. That's it. Also, despite my simplified set up, I found that the best bag for me is a backpack since the weight would be distributed on each shoulder instead of just one. So, once more, I set out to look for a backpack. (Yes, the quest for the perfect camera bag is an unending process...)

The Lowepro Fastpack 250 that I reviewed a while back is a very good bag especially because it can house a 15-inch MacBook Pro and because you can easily access the camera through the side entrance. However, I find that the Fastpack is too big for daily use. Also,  since I really do not carry my laptop everyday, that feature is lost on me on most days.
So what's best for a one-camera-one-speedlite guy like me?

The Lowepro Versapack 200 AW.

This bag is unusual in the sense that there are two ways to access your camera gear. You can set it up such that the camera is placed face down. This is how the bag is configured out-of-the-box. In this configuration, I was able to put my Canon 5D Mark II with the Canon EF 24-105 f/4L lens attached, a Canon 430EX-II Speedlite and the extra Canon 70-300 f/4-5.6 lens.

Left to right: Canon EF 70-300 lens; Canon 5D Mark II with
Canon EF 24-105 lens mounted; Canon 430EX II speedlite.
However, in this set up, you will be forced to put the bag down to get your camera. I don't like this and this actually turned me off before when I thought that this is the only way in and out for my gear. Also, the length of the lens you can use is limited by the depth of the camera compartment. For my gear, using a Canon EF 70-300 f/4-5.6 lens on a Canon 7D just won't fit.

So, for the second configuration, you can set it up such that you can access the camera from either side - yes, through the left or through the right. This is the best set up for me for I always want to have easy access to my camera gear: you'll never know when you'll come across the decisive moment...

Accessing the camera through the side entrance. The padding
that you see here is actually not attached to the Velcro strip - the
padding isn't wide enough.

With this set up, I was able to fit a Canon 7D with a Canon EF 70-300 f/4-5.6 lens. Alternatively, and this is my default set up, I was also able to put a Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 24-105 f/4L lens with the lens hood on the "ready" position. (Note that the opening on either side is just big enough to let my Canon 5D or 7D in and out. I think you will have an easier access if you have a smaller DSLR like a Canon T3i. Gripped DSLR? Forget about it...)

The bad news with this set up? You will be forced to remove the paddings that Lowepro provided because these do not work if you want to access your gear from the side. So a lot of space is wasted. I know I wouldn't want to add more gear, that would go against my want to simplify, but I was hoping I can use dividers so I can put extra batteries, cleaning cloths, some filters and other small stuff. I wish that Lowepro provided some extra pads for the side-access configuration.

Other extras include the all-weather cover, ability to attach a tripod and, most importantly, a personal space! This is a dream come true for me and I thank the designers in Lowepro for providing this space. I can put books here, or a wind breaker, or, a couple of t-shirts and undies if needed: the Versapack can serve as an overnight bag!

Personal space!

Personal space is big enough for a wind breaker or your
overnight stuff.

There are straps at the bottom of the bag where, according to Lowepro's website, you can strap on a tripod or jacket. I generally do not bring a tripod anymore but it is nice that I can use this for my jacket. This change of season generally brings bipolar weather: warm now, cold later.

Another thing, you can actually remove the center divider, remove the paddings for your camera gear and convert the bag into an ordinary backpack. It is that versatile! Access your camera from left, right, or the front plus the ability to convert it to part-camera-bag-part-personaly-space to a whole backpack - now you know that this versatility is where the Versapack name was derived from. Oh, you can actually remove the paddings and roll up the bag so you can stow it in your luggage when you travel. You can then take it out and unfurl it when you reach your destination and have yourself an everyday bag there.

Finally, there is a slot in front of the bag where you can put a relatively thin book. I saw some videos on the web where an iPad with case was placed there. Derrick Story even put a Macbook Air there. See his video here.

As for my example, I was able to put David Duchemin's lovely book Within the Frame on the said front pocket.

Front documents pocket.
How did the Versapack perform? Well, the first time I was able to use it was during the Communiversity here in Princeton, NJ. The wife (@pinayobserver)and I were walking around the festivities for more than three hours and the bag performed admirably. I was able to access my camera easily and I was able to stow it when I don't need it. Despite the particularly cool day, temperature was in the mid-70's, I thought that, with all the walking the wife and I did, my back would get warmer and sweaty because of the bag. However, this did not happen. The bag itself is light so my bum shoulder was able to handle the load without much discomfort.

The bag, generally speaking, is a joy to use.

Is there anything I want to change?

Well, as I've always said, you can never go wrong with a heftier, more padded strap but since I got a simplified set up, it didn't bother me that much. And as I've said above, I wish there were extra paddings for the side-access configuration. Also, I wish that the all-weather cover is not stitched up so that you can easily wash it in case it gets dirty. I wish there are small pockets outside the bag where you can stow lens caps, or filters. And lastly I wish the CF card pockets are not buried so deep into the bag that if you wanna use those, you have no choice but to open up the whole bottom compartment.

You will have to open the camera compartment the whole way
if you want to access the CF card pockets.
But the Lowepro Versapack 200 AW, for me, is a very good everyday bag. Now that I have used it extensively, I can say that I like it very much and it is now my most favorite bag. Being lightweight and having the ability to easily access my camera plus the presence of a personal space are major pluses in my book.

Have I mentioned that this is now my favorite bag?

This bag is Highly Recommended!

All photos made with a Canon Powershot G12. My review of the G12 can be found here. Want the best bag for your G12? Check out my review of the BlackRapid SnapR here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Who Has Two Thumbs and Owns an iPhone?

This guy!

The wife (@pinayobserver) had a series of unfortunate, but funny events. (Full disclosure: that is the only thing the wife has authorized me to say.) Since we are due for an update with our AT&T account, we decided to get an iPhone for me and a different phone for her - she wants her phone to have real keys so an iPhone is not among her choices.

I mulled about getting either a Verizon or an AT&T iPhone and I scoured the world wide web about the pros and cons of either in Chicago (since we will be moving there in the summer). The internet wasn't much help. Some would say Verizon is better while some would say they're very happy about AT&T. Some would swear by their Sprint phone while others would say T-Mobile is best. There are even those who said that the local cell phone providers work best. It seems like checking out network quality in the web is like looking for apartment reviews in the web: people's opinions are really bipolar and the only solution is to actually go there.

So, the wife said we'll just stick with AT&T and just “suffer” the consequences: if we need to go out just to make a call when we get to Chicago then so be it. She also said that since there are no major articles that I found regarding AT&T's network quality means people are no longer complaining much about it.

Who am I to question the wisdom of the wife?

So, I am now enjoying my new iPhone 4. The battery lasts for a whole day but an overnight re-charge is required otherwise the phone will die on me the next day. I still have to really try the 3G download and upload speeds and I still have to stretch the camera limits. But, all-in-all, I'm very happy with it.

Should I have waited for the iPhone 5? I don't think I'm looking forward to more megapixels, faster processor, or what not. For the moment. And come on, 3G is still spotty in most places so I don't think 4G is a compelling reason to wait for the iPhone 5.

And also, I think I've waited long enough for my own iPhone since the very first version...

My heartfelt thanks go to the wife for giving me the iPhone 4. :)

All shots made with the Canon 7D fitted with a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens. Want the best sling bag for your DSLR? Check out my review of the Lowepro Slingshot 202 here.


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