Vancouver’s CRAB Park at Portside

We had a small break in the rain tonight so I decided to head out to catch the last bit of daylight. I visited CRAB Park at Portside (Create A Real Available Beach), which is close to Canada Place and the Vanterm TSI Container Terminal.  I didn’t have much time but did get a few shots before heading home. It is certainly a place I will visit again soon.   One of my first shots when I arrived. Unfortunately in my haste I didn’t check my settings and shot this image at ISO 3200. I had to apply a lot of noise reduction so it’s softer than I would want. Still, the sky was very dramatic and I’m happy I got the shot.   The Vanterm TSI Container Terminal. An active port in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet with the North Shore mountains in the background.   Tug boats at the port.   I found a small pond which created some great reflections.     And finally a long exposure on my way out. Needs a return visit to try and get something...

Shelter Dogs Nov 10 2012 Nov13

Shelter Dogs Nov 10 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...

Ucluelet Vacation Nov12

Ucluelet Vacation

In early October my wife and I decided to visit Ucluelet, BC. It had been too many years since I made a visit to the ‘real’ west coast of BC. I forgot how beautiful and how close it is. From Vancouver it is only 200Km plus a 1.5 hour ferry ride. The weather was truly amazing, it was unseasonably warm for October and we made the most of it. At night it got quite cold but during the day it was in the mid 20’s and sunny. I wore shorts, t shirt, and sandals, we couldn’t ask for better weather. On the way to Ucluelet, we stopped at a river to let the dogs have a break and enjoy some time out of the truck. Cedric immediately ran into the water and started to pull out sticks.   Jammie almost took our her eye by running through the forest.   Then she did her best impression of a wolverine.   We also stopped along one of my favorite spots along the drive. Here the river (I can’t remember the name, if anyone can help please post in the comments) cuts into the bedrock leaving deep green pools and amazing formations. It is a busy spot in the summer, but now there was almost no one there.   Once we arrived in Ucluelet, we went to our condo which was fantastic. Located right on Big Beach and near the Black Rock Ucluelet Resort facing west for a fantastic sunset view.   Upstairs, Katie immediately took advantage of the chaise to relax.   I also managed to lure a resident blue jay in for a photo with some crackers.   Our condo from the front.   The first night we were there, we were treated to a beautiful sunset. I find that sunsets over the open ocean are often amazing and I have seen them from several spots in the world. With no obstructions and a completely flat horizon you have the most vibrant colors.   A few minutes later. The contrast between blue and orange is great.   Katie and I spent a lot of time at Florencia Bay, it was a 20 minute walk to get there but we usually had the beach to ourselves. It is a nice walk through the forest and we saw a ton of different types of mushrooms so we dubbed Ucluelet the ‘mushroom capital of BC’. Here are a few of them.       These are some of the best mushrooms to eat, I grew up collecting these with my family. Common name is the Saffron milk cap (genus: Lactarius).     No idea what this is, but looks like fungus so I’m throwing it in. If anyone can help identify it please post in the comments.       There were more, but I would just fill up this post mushroom photos. At the trail head to Florencia Bay, there was a funny sign. I guess you if you are going to deface a sign you have to do it right and in both languages.   Once on the beach, the dogs could run around and we could walk for ages and not see anyone else. There was bull kelp all over the place and the dogs loved to play with it.   I also found that it was hard to take a good photo of the waves.   The second night, I decided to venture out on the rocks at Big Beach for some sunset photos.     Also took a long exposure shot using a neutral density filter. I definitely need more practice with this, but it does give the water an interesting texture.   On my way back to the condo, I saw a couple of black tailed deer in the parking lot of the condo complex. They didn’t seem to be too scared so I watched them...

Vancouver False Creek At Night

Last night, I went out for a few sunset and night time shots with my friend Scott. Sunset was a bust, but we did get a few shots of Science World and the Vancouver skyline. Overall, a fun night out and made better as we finished up with a pint at the new tap...

Fall Colours in Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Park...

Just as I did last year, I took a short walk through Queen Elizabeth Park to view and photograph the fall colours.  The weather forecast said rain, and lots of it, for the next week so I knew it was my last chance before things got really wet.  I hope to go back in a week or so, weather permitting.   The conditions were not ideal, it was a bit foggy and I could not get a good shot of the whole garden without losing a lot of contrast in the background.  I used a polarizing filter to cut some of the glare but some shots just didn’t turn out that well.  It was still nice to get out, the colours are really great right now. This was one of the first images I shot. As you can see, the trees in the background are starting to get lost because of the foggy and humid conditions.                               The sky was very bright which made some exposures more difficult but the fog and overcast conditions made for a nice diffuse light.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         On my way out of the park, I stopped by the duck pond to watch the action and take a few shots. There were at least eight species of birds in and around the pond when I was there. This guy was taking a bath in the pond just a few feet away from me.                                 King of the pond.                               His little...

Nikon D800 vs iPhone 4S : Round 2

Coming back from hiking the Chief near Squamish, I decided to stop at Shannon Falls for one more quick photo opportunity. Shannon Falls is a beautiful waterfall outside of Squamish (between Vancouver and Whistler). It is the third highest waterfall in BC, and well worth a stop if you are in the area. I had my Nikon D800 with me and was using the Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 lens with a polarizing filter. I also decided to shoot the same scene with my iPhone 4S. Yes, not a fair test but just presented for fun. The iPhone fared much better this time compared to my previous attempt. Here is the iPhone shot, edited on the device with Nik Software’s (now Google’s) awesome Snapseed.   Now the Nikon D800 shot, edited in Adobe Lightroom.   Both files downsampled to the same resolution. The iPhone did ok, though couldn’t get the longer exposure time needed to get the softer water effect on the...

Nikon D600 Vs Canon 6D – Entry Level Full Frame Scrap...

Photographers should be happy, both Nikon and Canon have released ‘affordable’ full frame cameras into their lineup. Nikon is already shipping theirs while Canon simply announced a camera with availability in a few months. Nothing like a ‘me too’ announcement when the competition gets the jump on you. Nikon is first to market with the D600, a $2100 USD, 24 megapixel camera. Canon follows up with the 6D, a $2100, 20 megapixel camera. This year, there seems to be a shift towards Nikon in terms of technical camera performance. Before the latest models were released, Canon had a highly successful offering in the 5D Mark II, a 21 megapixel full frame camera with high quality video capability for $2700 (at launch).  Nikon could not compete on video spec, or resolution with the D700 and D3S having only 12 megapixels.  The insanely priced D3X had 24 megapixels but at $8000 it did not compete well with Canon’s offering. Fast forward to 2012 and Nikon has a 36 megapixel D800 ($3000), a 24 megapixel D600 ($2100), and a 16 megapixel D4 ($6000).  Canon in turn released the 5D Mark III adding only 1 megapixel for a total of 22 and is now charging $3500 for the body.  It follows that with a 20 megapixel 6D for $2100 and an 18 megapixel 1D X for $6800.  Megapixels are not everything, but looking at the full frame landscape today it’s obvious that Nikon didn’t like taking a back seat and has come back with a vengence. All those megapixels don’t mean much if they don’t perform well.  Not only did Nikon ratchet up the resolution they also developed some high quality sensors as well.  Looking at the DxO Mark scores you can see that Nikon is at the top of the pile in DSLR performance these days.   Looking at the scores, it’s a thorough trashing of Canon. The Nikon cameras have a history of good dynamic range, but the new sensors really take it up a notch. Even the entry level D600 beats Canon’s 5DIII. Unfortunately, the 6D scores are not available yet but I’m sure they will be lower than those of the 5DIII. Canon has some catching up to do in the next refresh of the lineup though I doubt Nikon will rest on their laurels. With the sensor discussion out of the way (mostly), we can see how other features of the two entry level cameras stack up. Comparing the physical cameras first. Left side view     Rear view     Front view     Top view     Nikon seems to put more buttons on their cameras, especially on the front. I can’t comment much on the handling of the Canon cameras as I haven’t spent much time with them so I’ll reserve judgement on ergonomics and accessibility of features only to say that Nikon is clearly better ;)   Now looking at the basic specs. Spec Nikon D600 Canon 6D Sensor Resolution (MP) 24.3 megapixels 20.2 megapixels Max Image Resolution 6,016 x 4,016 5,472 x 3,648 Viewfinder Pentaprism Pentaprism Viewfinder Coverage 100% 97% Built-in Flash Yes (with wireless control) No Storage Media Dual SD card Single SD card Frame rate 5.5 fps 4.5 fps Max Shutter Speed 1/4000 to 30 sec 1/4000 to 30 sec Shutter Durability 150,000 100,000 Native ISO 100-6,400 100-25,600 Boosted ISO 50-25,600 50-102,400 Autofocus 39-point AF with 9 cross type 11-point AF with 1 cross-type Autofocus Detection f/8 f/5.6 GPS Via adapter Built-in Wifi Via Eye-Fi Built-in   Nikon is clearly ahead in almost all of the performance specs. It has higher resolution, faster frame rates, better autofocus, and dual storage cards. Canon has better ISO numbers but I suspect the D600 will be clearly superior in low light performance compared to the 6D. Makes no difference if the 6D goes to 100K ISO, those photos are not usable. The DxO Mark...

Hiking Stawamus Chief South Peak – Squamish, BC...

Last week, I decided to head up to Squamish to hike the south peak of the Stawamus Chief. As with the Lions hike, I’m not going to go into how to get to the trail, etc. There are plenty of sites that can give you good info about the trail: Vancouver Trails, Club Tread, Trail Peak, Live Trails. I wish I had got a better shot of the rock face, I’ll have to do that next time.                             This is a very popular hike in the area, expect to see at least a few people on the trail and on all of the peaks. The south peak is the most popular and the shortest hike as well. Middle and north peaks are less popular but still see their fair share of hikers. The Chief is not only popular with hikers, but is also a huge draw for climbers who come to challenge themselves on the granite face. I found this interesting video while writing this post: Patagonia climbing ambassador Sonnie Trotter climbed the first free ascent of Cobra Crack (5.14). Props, that is something that I’ll never do. You start your hike in the campground, nice and easy.                             A map and some info before you start the hike.                                 Also a warning. The trail isn’t long (about 6Km round trip) but it is steep and if you are unprepared you can get into trouble. I saw some yahoo going up in flip flops!                                                     The trail is very well maintained. Kudos to the crew that come out to maintain this for the rest of us, very much appreciated.                                                               Sure beats the stair climber at the gym.                                                               Another sign along the route, very easy to follow as long as you pay attention. There are several of these along the way which will guide you to any of the peaks along with some of the other trails available in the area.                                                                                       The trail is quite steep for most of the route.                               Though well maintained, no cake walk and Mr. FlipFlop likely had a fun time in some sections.                                                     The lower part of the hike is in the forest and the shade makes it easier on a hot day. As you get near the summit, you start to see the sun trickle though.                             There are a few ladders on the route, don’t see that on most hiking trails.                                                      ...

Nikon D7000 vs D600 vs D800 : A Quick Comparison...

Nikon just announced their new entry level full frame DSLR camera, the D600. It wasn’t a very well kept secret as leaks started getting out months ago. There was speculation that this would be a sub-$2000 USD camera but in the end the retail price at launch is $2100. Still a good price considering the sensor and other options. It looks like a blend between a D7000 and D800 both in terms of spec and appearance. Below you can see some of the similarities and differences between the three bodies. The Nikon D600 with Nikkor 200mm f/2 lens.   I’m not gong to rehash the full specification of any camera. Nikon and many other reviews provide that info already. If you want to check into the details, here are the spec sheets for the three cameras: D7000, D600, D800.   What I do want to cover is how the cameras are similar and how they are different. Just taking a look at the camera, it looks like Nikon took a D7000 body and shoehorned a full frame sensor inside. Some modifications to the body were necessary, but for the most part the cameras are very similar in terms of layout.   Nikon D600 Front View   Nikon D600 Right Side View   Nikon D600 Left Side View   Nikon D600 Rear View   Nikon D600 Top View   Finally, a comparison between the D7000, D600, and D800   If you look at the three bodies, you can see that the D600 has some controls more like a D7000 and others more like a D800. Not a bad thing for a model that fits in between the two in the lineup. Users on either end of the spectrum should be comfortable with the controls, though I think it’s more like a D7000 and targeted at the consumer/hobby segment of the market.   Nikon D700 users who were hoping for a clear upgrade path didn’t get one. Nikon provided a clear upgrade for the D3S in the D4, but the D700 was essentially split into two cameras. The D800 a higher resolution but slower camera (which also replaced the D3X) and a D600 which is a smaller and less feature rich body. For professionals, the upgrade path is likely the D800 due to it’s ergonomics, autofocus speed, full magnesium body, compact flash storage, flash sync, max shutter speed, and shutter durability. For hobby shooters, serious amateurs, and pros who need a back up body the D600 may be the better choice. It still provides great image quality in a smaller and lighter package. Regardless, the D600 at $2100 US is destined to sell very well.   In terms of pricing, Nikon has a very linear price curve at the lower end of the lineup. It’s clear that they want to hit every market segment and ensure they capture every type of buyer. Having said that, the D300S seems to be the most in need of an update and without it in the lineup there would be a significant gap between the D7000 and the D600. To me, this means that a D400 will be announced in the not too distant future. It will likely carry on the tradition of a high end, high-speed crop sensor (DX) body with pro level ergonomics.     Differences between the cameras button layouts are obvious, no big surprises for anyone used to shooting a Nikon body. There are also some significant differences inside the shells as well. Spec D7000 D600 D800 Sensor Resolution (MP) 16.2 megapixels 24.3 megapixels 36.3megapixels Sensor Size APS-C (DX) Full frame (FX) Full frame (FX) Max Resolution (pixels) 4928 x 3264 6016 x 4016 7360 x 4912 DX Resolution (MP) 16.2 megapixels 10.3 megapixels 15.3 megapixels DX Resolution (pixels) 4928 x 3264 3,936 x 2,624 4,800 x 3,200 Sensor Pixel Size 4.78µ 5.9µ 4.8µ   The D800 is clearly the resolution...

Shelter Dogs Sept 13 2012 Sep14

Shelter Dogs Sept 13 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...

100 Megapixel Nikon D800 Panorama from the Stawamus Chief Sep13

100 Megapixel Nikon D800 Panorama from the Stawamus Chief...

Today, I hiked to the top of the south peak of the Stawamus Chief, a popular hike near Squamish, BC. I took a lot of photos including the panorama below. The full size panorama is 22,383×4378 pixels (ok, not 100 megapixels but 98, close enough). Shot with a Nikon D800 and 24-70 f/2.8 lens. The variation of color in the sky is due to the use of a polarizing filter. It helps with contrast but because so much of the sky is visible the angle to the sun changes substantially in the shot from left to right. First, a small version of the file, 2048 x 401 (0.82 megapixels, 641Kb)   If you want to see a slightly bigger version, here is a link to a 5000 x 978 (4.89 megapixels, 3.6MB) version of the file. It will open in a new window. Open the larger file. Finally, if you really want to download the huge 100 megapixel file (over 80MB) you can do so below. It is a zip file, I didn’t want the file to open in the browser. Just download and unzip. 100 megapixel D800 panorama. The PSD file that created the compressed jpg above is over 1GB in size and that is after I cropped a significant portion of the image from the top and bottom. There will be a lot more photos from this hike posted...

CFL Football: BC Lions vs Montreal Alouettes Sept 8 2012...

Yesterday I went to my first CFL football game of the season thanks to a friend who couldn’t use one of his season tickets. I like to go to a few games each year and the BC Lions are sitting at the top of the league standings and playing well. This was also my first visit to the new and improved BC Place Stadium and since it was a nice day the roof was open.   One of the first shots I took once inside. Seats were great.   I had my Nikon D800 with me and two lenses: Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8 wide angle and Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8 telephoto. Despite a decent reach of 200mm I still had to crop the images of the play. Also, while bright I had to shoot at ISO 400 otherwise shutter speeds were just not fast enough to freeze the action. Here is Tim Brown (35) ready to do his thing.   Anthony Calvillo (13) set for the snap and for the toss.     Paul McCallum (4) field goal.   There are always some interesting characters around.   Certainly one of the best parts of the game is when the Felions squad takes to the field.   This image is just to show the great ability to crop images from the D800. A 100% crop from the full size image.       This guy has a tough job.       Thanks ladies.   Always some crazy games for the fans. If it were me I would have ran into the field in that thing, they can keep the t-shirt or whatever you win.   Back to football, Sean Whyte (6) punting away the ball as the Alouettes couldn’t get it done.   Travis Lulay (14) chased by the pack and making the pass.     Travis Lulay (14) scramble.   Lining up on the 10.   Crushing hit, one of the best in the game.   The Lions get the TD.   Here are a few views of the stadium from the upper deck.       Back to the game, Tim Brown (35) takes another kick.   Travis Lulay (14) in action.   Another Paul McCallum (4) field goal, I think he missed this one.   Souvenir?   Attendance at the game was 29,734 and the 50/50 jackpot went up to $34,500. The lucky guy who won it was in my section, high fives all around.   As always, some guys decide to start the wave. I’m all for it, but you are supposed to do it when the opposition has the ball. Just an FYI.   After some perseverance they did get it going.   Tracking it, patience.   Pretty happy with themselves.   Looking over the images, I noticed a zombie in the crowd. Glad I’m not in that section.   Is Khalif Mitchell (96) doing the robot?   Lions on the one yard line, not looking good for Montreal.   TD, no surprise.   And the free throw is good too.   A few more shots of the Felions, can’t go wrong.     Dude, you’re doing it wrong.     Despite the wide angle lens, I still couldn’t get the whole stadium. Here is a panorama stitched from several images shot with the 14-24 lens.   Since there are some BC place photos in the mix, some previous shots I took of the stadium....

Shelter Dogs August 30 2012 Aug31

Shelter Dogs August 30 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. Some very cute dogs in the bunch. My favorite is Tug, the little bull terrier. These images should automatically display in high resolution for anyone who has one of the fancy new Macs with a Retina...

D800 Autofocus Repair Testing

Update April 1, 2013: Testing after the second repair attempt by Nikon is now online here: http://photokaz.com/2013/04/nikon-d800-autofocus-repair-testing-the-sequel/ Update January 20, 2013: Initial testing showed changes to the focus performance and I thought the slight softness in some shots could be fixed with fine tuning. After more testing, I could not get consistently sharp results from fine tuning. I had to set my fine tuning for the Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 lens to +20 and that still didn’t result in good performance. My AFS 50mm f/1.8 and AFD 80-200 f/2.8 lenses also had to have +20 of fine tuning. I dropped off my camera and the three lenses with Nikon last week, told them the problems and said I wanted everything repaired. I will once again post my results when I get the camera back. Update February 9, 2013: Got my camera back from Nikon, still waiting for my 24-70 lens. Some testing with the 50mm f/1.8G using FocusTune is not looking promising :( I made a previous post about the issues my Nikon D800 had with phase detect autofocus, my test charts clearly showed a problem with the left side AF sensors.  I dropped off my camera at Nikon and it came back with the following info. B2 Service Repair Rank B2 ADJ FOCUS SYSTEM ADJ AUTO FOCUS OPERATION FIRMWARE UPGRADE CLN CCD GENERAL CHECK & CLEAN   So it looks like Nikon actually did make a fix, though I have heard some people had cameras returned with B1 service repair but I’m not sure how they differ.  Today I decided to do some testing on the ‘fixed’ camera to see if it was any better.  Same test procedure as before, same Siemens Star test chart.  I only tested the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens as that more obviously showed the problems before.   Below you can see the results for the lens at 24mm, ISO 100.  Top row is Live View manual focus (reference), next is Live View autofocus (to test contrast detect AF), then two rows viewfinder (phase detect) autofocus tests.  The VF AF 1 is racking focus to the closest setting before letting autofocus take over, VF AF 2 was a rack to infinity.   Disregard the differences in white balance, the right test chart was closer to a different set of lights. Focus should not be affected overall, and shows relatively consistent operation left, center, and right.   I repeated the test at 70mm but this time didn’t test Live View autofocus. Here are the results.   As before focus looks to be consistent, if not perfect, between the three tested points.   Finally, putting together my previous test charts with the updated tests shot today. Top row is Live View manual for reference, next row is the viewfinder autofocus tests before the fix and third row are the tests after the fix. This should clearly show that the fix worked. One thing to note is that the autofocus, even after the fix, is not in perfect focus however I hope that autofocus fine tune can fix...

Hiking the Binkert Trail To The Lions

The Lions are two very familiar peaks that can be seen from Vancouver. I have hiked most of the mountains in the immediate Vancouver area but the Lions always looked down on me with a smug look. Every time I looked to the North Shore I could see the twin peaks and I knew I had to get up there one day. On August 18th, five of us decided to make the trek and I was the only Lions virgin in the group. The trail starts in Lions Bay and is a 16km round trip journey. The elevation gain is 1280m (4200′) with some very steep sections you will feel in your legs. This is a strenuous hike and of the hikes I have completed may be second only to Black Tusk in terms of effort.  I would not bring your dog on this trail, there are sections that would not be easy for your four-legged friend and there are some very steep cliffs.  The hike took us about 3.5 hours in each direction, with a one hour break at the top to enjoy the view, eat lunch, and take photos.  For more detail on the trail feel free to check out these links (some include updates on conditions): Vancouver Trails, Club Tread, Trail Peak, Live Trails. Some photos from the hike.  First, the motley crew ventures out at the start of the day.  The trail is fairly flat and everyone is feeling good. Things begin to get steeper, everyone is still having a good time and chatting.   One of the only waterfalls along the route. Not much rain in the area lately and the snow pack is almost gone so it’s really just a trickle at this point. Harvey Creek is much bigger with pools large enough for a dip. There is a well built bridge over this creek so you will certainly know when you are there.   The trail takes a sharp turn up and chatting turns into cursing.   Coming out of the trees, you are finally rewarded with stunning views of Howe Sound.     The Lions are still looming, a long way to go.   The group taking a breather after a few hours of hard climbing.   Back on the trail, hiking turns into scrambling.   And now with snow :)   Near the top of the rock scramble, views are still great and a good motivator.   After a few more tricky sections, you finally reach the ridge and see a full view of the Lions before you.   It was a bit hazy, but the view from the top was truly spectacular. Hard to beat and makes the 3.5 hour climb completely worth it.         You need to be careful with your footing on the ridge, there are very steep cliffs on both sides. One misstep and you won’t be around to tell anyone about it.         Up close and personal with the West Lion.   The West Lion towering over Scott and Jason.     It is possible to climb to the top of the West Lion, but only for those with some experience with this type of activity should even attempt it. It is a high consequence climb with no room for error. If you decide to do it, you need to descend down a small cliff (a rope is provided). People here are waiting to climb down.   Once on the West Lion, find the best route up. You can see how steep it is in the photos below.       The hike is popular in the late summer, especially on a nice day. We didn’t see many people on the trail, but there were a few at the top.   Of course, some things didn’t have to climb to the top. Cheater :)   I can imagine life...

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