Vancouver Aquarium : February 20

The first photo is not from my trip to the Vancouver Aquarium, but it was taken during the same weekend when my brother was in town.  We decided to visit the lookout at Cypress Mountain at sunset, and lucky for us it was a fairly clear evening.  This photo is taken looking south east, the sun is setting to the right of the frame and Vancouver is in the foreground.  Mount Baker (which is in the USA), is visible in the background.  The use of a zoom lens (@ 155mm) provides the compression in the scene.  I have used zoom lenses for a few landscape shots in the past (Mountains at 400mm) and they can certainly provide an interesting perspective.   I also created a panorama from the same location starting just to the right of the image above.  I’m not that happy with the processing but I’m posting the image anyway.  If you want to see this image much bigger, you can do so here. Now the photos from the trip to the Vancouver Aquarium.  Photos from previous visits are also online.  I have a new favorite tank, the cuttlefish!  Those guys are fascinating to watch.   Also got a great shot in the frog display area, these little guys were lined up like they were on duty.   A few other shots from the day....

Testing WP Retina 2x Plugin

This post is to test the WP Retina 2x plugin for WordPress. The image was uploaded at 2880×1500 (603kb).  I’m also using CloudFlare and CloudFront with w3 Total Cache so I want to test it out to see if this configuration will actually work.  The photo is from my trip to Belize....

Nikon D800 Autofocus Repair Testing – The Sequel...

This is the third time I’m posting about the testing of my D800 autofocus system.  The first time was not long after I purchased it, just to see if it had the problem.  I found that it did have the problem, and I sent it to Nikon for repair.  When the camera came back, I tested it again.  Initially I thought it may have been fixed, but further testing showed there was still a problem. During this time, I also purchased LensAlign and FocusTune to help me more accurately fine tune my lenses and camera, but also to help me quantify the results.  When I tested my lenses, I noticed that the recommended fine tune values for three of my five lenses was +20 (the highest possible).  This suggested to me that the actual sharpest fine tune value may be even higher than than, but the scale does not allow further adjustment.  Said another way, if the fine tune is at the maximum value, the calibration is not within spec for the camera/lens combination.  I decided to give my D800 and my Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G, Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8D, and Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 to Nikon along with my results to see if they can fix the left autofocus problem plus calibrate the camera for the three lenses. I finally received my camera back, and had a chance to test it with two lenses.  I tested with the 24-70 and the Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Micro VR (this lens didn’t go to Nikon).  I did not fine tune the camera and lenses before testing, this is how Nikon sent it to me.  I used the same test procedures I outlined previously, with a small twist because I now have FocusTune to help me out.  The results here are all RAW conversions (the only adjustment I made in Lightroom was to convert to grayscale).  I shot in RAW+JPG (L/Fine), I shot a manual focus control shot for each of the five focus test points tested (center, top, bottom, left right – all at the farthest AF points).  Between each autofocus test shot, I defocused away from infinity and took five shots for each focus point.  I then loaded all of the JPG files into FocusTune and for each focus point I found the SHARPEST result from the five samples, so the results here are the best shots from the group. One thing to note, last time I sent the D800 to Nikon the work order showed “ADJ FOCUS SYSTEM” and “ADJ AUTO FOCUS OPERATION”. This time, the work order had: B2 Service Repair Rank B2 Repair RPL O-RING CLN CCD FIRMWARE UPGRADE GENERAL CHECK & CLEAN RPR ELECTRICAL CIRCUIT It is worthwhile to note that I was not having any problems with my D800 outside of the autofocus system, I’m not sure why they replaced the o-ring and worked on the electrical system. I see no mention of them even looking at the autofocus system.   Lenses Tested AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED   Test Results The grouped results for the 105mm lens, 100% crop under the autofocus sensor tested. Apologies that some of these are dark, I didn’t want to make any adjustments so they are presented straight from the camera with no editing.  I don’t see any major issues here, the focus system seems to be fairly consistent between all of the points.  Here is a closer look at the 105mm left side results.   I would say this is fine, doesn’t quite match the manual focus using live view and 100% zoom but I don’t think phase detect AF is ever going to be as good. The grouped results for the 24-70mm lens at 24mm. Here, the left side AF sensor is clearly softer than the others in the group.  Here is a bigger version of just the left side...

Saint Patrick’s Day in Vancouver

I was coming back from taking some sunset photos in Lions Bay.  On my way home, I saw that BC Place Stadium was lit up green for Saint Patrick’s Day.  It was a clear night, so I had to stop to get a few extra shots.

New Wheels : 2013 Acura MDX

I picked up a new set of wheels yesterday, a 2013 Acura MDX Tech Edition.  My first vehicle purchase in 9 years, and it’s a nice upgrade.  The car is Dark Cherry Pearl, which looks good on this car.  A quick shot I took at the dealership, which is just meh.   Since it was a beautiful sunny day in Vancouver, I decided to go for a short drive on the Sea To Sky Highway to Brighton Beach.  I found a nice place to pull off and get a few...

Shelter Dogs Feb 22 2013 Feb23

Shelter Dogs Feb 22 2013

Another batch of puppies and dogs available for adoption from Vancouver Animal Control. You can see the animals they have available at PetFinder.com (not just dogs but rabbits, lizards, and at times even more strange things).  You can also see previous shelter dogs I photographed here.  Don’t buy a pet through Craigslist or other online sources, adopt a pet from your local animal shelter....

Nikon D800 and D800E Setup and Configuration

I now have a page with the setup and configuration for the Nikon D810. A while back, Out There Images posted a list of recommended settings for the Nikon D800. I used that as a starting point to create four custom menu banks for my most common shooting situations.  The menu banks are not great because they don’t save all of the settings you need to change, but they are better than nothing.  The U1/U2 settings of the D7000 and D600 are superior to the menu banks both in terms of features and ease of use.  I have no idea why Nikon has decided to leave out such a fantastic function on their high-end cameras.  Neither the D800 nor the D4 have the U1/U2 settings.  Nice work Nikon. Here are the four menu banks I created: HDR – sets up the camera for high dynamic range shooting.  I usually use a tripod, have time for manual focus, etc.  If the shutter speed is fairly slow, I also turn on “Exposure delay mode” (custom setting d4). Action – I often use this when photographing dogs at the local animal shelter. Portrait – useful not just for portraits but for any stationary or slow moving target. Point & Shoot – Since I use the “AF-ON” focusing technique (*1), it makes it difficult to hand my camera to a stranger if I want to be in the photo.  Rather than try to explain the technique, I just change the settings and let them shoot.  I also use this mode when I give the camera to my wife, sometimes she just wants to take a few simple shots so this mode shoots in jpeg with things configured to make shooting easier. The settings for all four modes are outlined below.  Note that the settings just make the starting point for configuration easier.  It doesn’t mean these are always the settings I use when shooting.  I may not use ISO100 for all situations nor the same AF settings.  If you want to use them as a starting point for your own custom settings it is easiest to just download my config file here: Nikon D800 custom settings file. You should also grab the custom picture control explained in footnote 3. To use the custom settings file, copy it to your media card, insert the media card into your camera and navigate to SETUP MENU -> Save/load settings -> Load settings. This will copy the settings over to your camera.  You may want to save your own settings before you copy mine to your camera in case you need to revert back. Note the [change this] in the settings below, these are things you will want to change in your own camera before you start shooting.  At the bottom, you can also see what I put in “MY MENU” to access some controls I often change on the fly. To switch between the various menu banks, you have several options: The slow way.  Go to menu -> shooting menu -> shooting menu bank -> select your bank.  Then go to custom setting menu -> custom settings bank -> select your bank. I have ‘shooting menu bank’ and ‘custom settings bank’ as the top two items of ‘my menu’.  This allows me to change the settings relatively quickly but also provides a visual reminder of what banks I’m using when I go into this menu. The fastest way is to simply press the “info” button twice, that should select your shooting bank.  Press the center button in the multi-selector, pick your setting.  Do the same for custom settings bank. If you have questions, or a suggestion feel free to leave them in the comments at the bottom of the page.  If you want more detail on the settings below download Nikon’s D800/D800E manual (free), for something even better I recommend Thom Hogan’s Complete Guide to the D800/D800E ($30).  Thom not...

Vancouver False Creek Fog

It was a foggy afternoon and I decided to venture down to Granville Island to see if I could get any interesting shots.  I couldn’t get inspired, so I just watched a few street performers to pass the time.  I thought the evening light would make a difference but again, things just didn’t come together as expected.  I took a few shots but didn’t get anything great.  After sunset, I walked around the seawall to Science World and took a few shots in the area.  It was one of those nights where I went out to get a specific shot and just couldn’t get it.  Some people things you can just go out and get a good shot, but in reality I may have to visit the same site 10 times before I get a shot that I’m happy with.  Here are a few shots from that...

A Frosty Morning – Nikon D800 Macro with Focus Stack...

I was waiting for a frosty morning to get some macro shots. Today, I got a few in my back yard. I also attempted some focus stacking with Zerene, though results are mixed. Shots are all taken with a Nikon D800 and Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro...

Lynn Valley Hike – North Vancouver

I took a very short walk in Lynn Valley just after Christmas, it was a break from shopping hell.  I went to the suspension bridge, then down to twin falls. I also wanted to try out the 10-stop ND filter.  Results are promising, looking forward to trying a bit more of this. View from the suspension bridge The Lynn Valley suspension bridge Twin falls, no ND filter. Twin falls, ND filter and 30 second exposure. Roots on the trail. A calm pool. Twin falls from...

Merry Christmas Dec25

Merry Christmas

No holiday season would be complete without dressing up the dogs. Jammie is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and despite the look on her face is happy to be Santa’s Little Helper.  Cedric is a mix and is grumpy about the whole situation.  He complies as he knows there are cookies involved for being a good dog. Shot in fairly low light with a Nikon D800, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens at f/2.8, ISO3200, 1/100s.  Processed in Lightroom and...

Best of 2012 Dec18

Best of 2012

I took a look at my Google Analytics and thought I would show what my three most popular posts of 2012 have been.   Not surprising that they are all photo gear related. Nikon D7000 vs D600 vs D800 : A Quick Comparison – Three cameras that photo enthusiasts are buying.  Different price ranges, and performance but all fantastic cameras. Nikon D600 Vs Canon 6D – Entry Level Full Frame Scrap – Nikon and Canon both released entry level full frame cameras.  Both will sell well, and nice to see that full frame is now becoming more affordable. Nikon D800 Contrast and Phase Detect Autofocus Testing – My early release D800 had the left side autofocus problems.  I posted my test methodology and results, sent my camera to Nikon, but the saga is not yet over. My most popular photo related post was Hiking the Binkert Trail To The Lions which covers a popular hike in Vancouver, BC.   Thanks to everyone for visiting, and happy holidays.   Some of my favorite photos of 2012          ...

Shelter Dogs Dec 14 2012 Dec15

Shelter Dogs Dec 14 2012

When needed, I try to help out at the local animal shelter (Vancouver Animal Control) by taking photos of their dogs available for adoption.  I believe the quality of the photos makes a difference in the dogs adoption so I’m happy to help out when I can.  It helps me and helps the dogs.  You can see the animals they have available at PetFinder.com (not just dogs but rabbits, lizards, and at times even more strange things).  You can also see previous shelter dogs I photographed here. Yesterday, I went to the shelter to photograph a litter of puppies.  They look like little polar bears, so damn...

Belize Vacation Dec08

Belize Vacation

On November 30th, my wife and I left rainy Vancouver to visit Belize for the first time.  Belize is a tiny country in Central America with a population of about 320,000.   It is 290km long and 110km wide, you can literally drive around the whole country in one day if you wanted to.  English is the official language which makes getting around very easy. Due to our last minute booking we had to take four flights (Vancouver -> San Francisco -> Houston -> Belize City -> Dangriga) and a boat ride to reach our final destination, Coco Plum Island Resort.  The last flight is on a small plane which lands on a tiny runway in Dangriga, just part of the adventure I suppose. Coco Plum is on a small 16 acre private island about 15 minutes by boat from Dangriga.  There are only 10 or so cabanas on the island, so it is very quiet and far removed from large resorts elsewhere in Belize.  As soon as you arrive on the island, the staff make sure you are well taken care of.  Bags are taken to your room, and the bartender makes you a tropical welcome drink.  In our case, mosquito bites :) The bar is a central hub of activity for staff and guests.  Special thanks to Leo for being such a nice guy and a great bartender.  Erwin, Bella, Sam, Crispin, and Byron also deserve special mention for making our stay fantastic.  The roof of the bar is covered in t-shirts from former guests, each with its own message. After check-in, we went to our cabana and were surprised how big they were.  More than enough space for two people.  Everything is very clean, well maintained and comfortable. The ocean literally steps from the door.   The resort is beautiful, tranquil, and a great place to relax.  Here are some shots from around the resort.  The island in the photo below is another resort, Thatch Caye. The long dock is one of the great features.  During the day a place to relax.  At night the lights attract rays, sharks (small ones, don’t worry), and squid.  It’s also a good place to snorkel, we saw a lot of interesting creatures and I even found a huge live conch. A large hermit crab. Another type of crab which seemed to be unhappy about my presence. Even an urchin which did a good job of hanging onto my hand. The water is typical Caribbean: blue green, warm, and clear. Katie and I spent a lot of time snorkeling around the area.  We also ventured out on most of the snorkel trips from the island to the local barrier reef.  Belize has some of the best snorkeling I have encountered anywhere in the world and I have been to a lot of great locations.  The reefs are still in great shape and there is a huge variety of coral, fish, and invertebrates.  Spotted Eagle Rays are common. A lobster trying to hide in the coral.  The lobster here don’t have big claws. This puffer fish was also trying to keep a low profile, but I spotted him. There are also a lot of birds in the area, including pelicans. We had a few nice sunsets while we were there, though not quite as good as we had in Thailand and Hawaii. On some days, there are several inland tours you can participate in.  We chose to visit the Belize Zoo, which is small but well laid out and quite natural.  Animals have large pens with plenty of room for cover.  Considering that this is a third world country, the animals were well kept.  Unfortunately, when we were there it was raining and a lot of the animals were not visible.  We didn’t get to see a jaguar, which is one of the big draws.  It also made getting good photos harder, but here...

Nikon D800 Macro with Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 VR

Today I got my Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 VR lens back from a friend who borrowed it.   Since I haven’t used it for a while I decided to bring it with me on my beach walk at Acadia Beach in Vancouver.  It was a cold morning and I was hoping to get some interesting macro shots of frost but I didn’t find any.  I did take a few photos but I’ll have to try another day to get some frost. All shots hand-held, ISO800, processed in...

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