A Visit To Alberta Aug17

A Visit To Alberta

I decided to make a short visit to Alberta to see family and friends. Weather was good and I did some fishing, some hiking, and a lot of eating. On the way from the Edmonton airport, I stopped to take this photo of a lonely highway. There are many of these quiet secondary roads where you won’t see a car for ages.   My first destination was Saint Paul, the area has a lot of farmland with old and abandoned buildings. These make for great photos, especially at sunset.   One of the reasons I like shooting here is because the clouds are often interesting and completely change the composition. Montana is referred to as Big Sky Country but it certainly applies to Alberta as well.   Next day, my dad and I went fishing to Bellis Lake. The fish were not biting but I did see a large Osprey nest so I went to investigate. Not as majestic as the Bald Eagles I shot in Brackendale, but I managed to get some photos of these amazing birds. There was a pair of them, and they seemed most displeased that I was walking around their nest. After a few photos, I left them alone.     I also saw this Volkswaken Bus in the parking area, so even though we didn’t catch any fish I left with some interesting photos.   We left Bellis lake and decided to check out Hanmore Lake. A beautiful, clean lake where we each caught a Northern Pike and I went for a swim.   My brother arrived and we decided to head out at sunset to find more abandoned buildings. There are a lot of them, and I’m sure each one has an interesting story to tell. They all have a lot of character.             Sometimes it is not just houses that are abandoned.   On our way home, as the sun was setting, we stopped to look at this little valley. There is a beaver lodge in the middle, hard to imagine a better paradise for those guys than this spot.   The next day, I set up the camera close to my parents hummingbird feeder. These are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and they are FAST, and hard to capture, though I did get a few decent shots.     Somewhat easier to capture when they sit still for a second, but she didn’t stick around for long.   I also took the opportunity to eat a ton of berries from the yard. The yellow raspberries are my favorite.   The next day, it was time to move on. My brother and I drove south towards Calgary and on our way out of Saint Paul we saw some good ol’ redneck ingenuity.   We stopped in Lamont to take some photos of the limousine ‘sculpture’. Odd, but every town in the area has its own claim to fame.   We drove through Elk Island National Park hoping to see some wildlife. We did see some bison, though none were close enough for a shot. Overall, the park was a bust but worth going as the wildlife are always on the move.   On my final full day in Alberta, we made the most of it. We first drove out to Dinosaur Provincial Park (DPP) which is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My brother (who lives in Alberta) enjoyed telling me that there are four UNESCO sites in Alberta and only one in BC.   DPP is in the badlands of Alberta, an arid region full of snakes and dinosaur fossils.   We took a short hike next to the river to look at the ancient cottonwood trees. These things are several hundred years old, gnarly and deformed. They have seen a lot of things in their many days.   We also walked the Badlands Trail, where you...

Nikon D800 vs iPhone 4S Aug14

Nikon D800 vs iPhone 4S

I was at Newell Lake near Brooks, Alberta with my brother a few weeks ago and as the sun was setting I tried to capture a few photos.  It was a warm evening which would have otherwise been pleasant if it wasn’t for the swarm of mosquitoes.  I was literally getting destroyed by the things, but pushed on and got some shots.  The specific location for the shots was this small peninsula. First, the iPhone photo (showing the Nikon D800).   Next, the image from the Nikon D800 with Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8 lens. This is actually a 7 shot exposure bracket combined in an HDR image using Photomatix.   Both images scaled to 2048 on the long edge. If you look close, I think you will agree that the D800 has a slight edge in image quality here...

Antrodiaetus pacificus Trapdoor Spider Aug14

Antrodiaetus pacificus Trapdoor Spider

I was walking my dogs near the University of British Columbia (UBC) today and came across a spider I have not encountered before.  It looked like a small tarantula: similar body shape, hairy, black, and rather menacing.  I only had my iPhone 4S with me (wish I had the D800 and 105mm VR Micro) and took a few photos before moving on. It turns out this is a trapdoor spider (or folding-door spider) and fairly common in this area.  They are not often seen because they tend to stay in their burrow.  This one is specifically Antrodiaetus pacificus, and it is a type of tarantula.  It is likely a male out of his burrow in search of a mate. More info on these guys here (PDF).  Also found this video on...

GGS LCD Screen Protector – Real vs Fake (Nikon D800) Aug11

GGS LCD Screen Protector – Real vs Fake (Nikon D800)...

UPDATE: It appears that both of my screen protectors may be legitimate GGS products, just different models. Several people have commented that the model I first received was the generation I, and the second (with plastic rim) was the generation II (BF). I have no way to confirm this. The GGS website shows only the gen I model: http://www.ggs020.com/en/product2.asp?bid=439 There is also the generation III which is a snap-on type similar to the stock Nikon one but in black. Regardless, the GGS gen II model I now have on the camera is NOT a good fit, it is too small for the LCD. For now, I’ll just deal with it. I recently ordered a GGS screen protector for my Nikon D800 from a seller on Amazon. I had to ship to to an address in the USA as they don’t deliver to Canada. Not that big of a problem, I only live 50Km away. When the protector arrived, it had glass covers for both the top and back LCD screens. I installed the top cover without too much problem, it was a good fit. When I tried to install the back cover the adhesive strip pulled away from the glass rather than the paper cover, essentially making it useless. Please note, the photos are taken with my iPhone 4S so not the pinnacle of quality but I hope they convey the message.   I contacted the seller and sent a photo of the problem, he was very responsive and said he would ship out a replacement. Once again, I had to dive the to USA to pick it up, now becoming a pain for an $8 item but I still wanted it so off I went. When I picked up the second package I was surprised to see that the GGS packaging was very different from the first one I received. I still had the old (defective) one so I decided to compare. First one I received is on the left, the replacement package on the right. Both came from the same seller. The left side one came with two LCD covers, for top and back screens in a flexible plastic case. The replacement (right side) cover came with room for two covers but only contained the larger LCD cover for the rear of the camera. I’m not sure if that is because I only needed that one or not. The second case is a hard plastic case that opens on a hinge, packaging is definitely better on the replacement cover.   Detail of the first cover packaging.   Detail of the replacement cover packaging.   Looking at the two glass covers, they also differ. The first one had a silver adhesive strip, the replacement a black one (both with 3M paper covers). Both screen covers say GGS at the bottom (middle) and D800 at the bottom right. The first cover is flat across the surface, the replacement has a small ridge and a thin plastic frame. They are not exactly the same size (more on that below).   Detail of the covers.   Here is the replacement cover installed on the camera, note that it cuts off the top and bottom of the screen.   When I take a close look, I can see that the first cover sent to me is slightly taller and if I installed it on the camera I have a feeling it would not cut off the edges of the screen. At the end of the day, I’m not sure which of these is real and which is fake (or maybe both fake?). The first one seems to be a better fit for the camera, so I have to lean more towards that one. If anyone has a helpful suggestion either way please contact me or post in the...

Tim Hortons Small Town Drive Through Jul24

Tim Hortons Small Town Drive Through

You know you’re in a small town when… In early July my wife and I were driving through Quesnel, BC and I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.  I made her turn around and go back so I could capture something you are only going to see in a small town.  Lucky for me I had my camera with me, and could take some photos of a guy in the drive through with his horse.  I took a second to talk with him, he was riding the horse at fist but decided to walk him through thinking he will get better service.  He was also having a hard time getting them to take his order, speculating his horse wasn’t setting off the sensors.  Regardless, it was an interesting encounter.  ...

Nikon D800 Contrast and Phase Detect Autofocus 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 August 23, 2012: I finally had a chance to do some critical tests of my fixed Nikon D800. I can say that Nikon did fix the problem (still to be tested), I have posted updated test charts here.  Update July 30, 2012: Picked up my D800 in Richmond today. I did some ‘off the cuff’ testing, hand held without a test chart. It seems to be fixed though I won’t know for sure until I set up a proper test procedure again. I won’t have time to do that until next week but will test again and post my results.  Update July 20, 2012: Nikon has confirmed that the camera arrived in Toronto. They provided a service order number and a link to check the status, unfortunately the page is ‘under construction’.  I hope that means it is just offline for a fix as I haven’t visited the page before.  Update July 18, 2012: I dropped off my D800 at the Nikon repair center in Vancouver (Richmond) along with my test results. They said that the high end bodies get shipped to Toronto, and I’ll be without the camera for two to three weeks. Not fun, but worth it if they can fix the issue. If it comes back the same or worse I won’t be too happy about it. After reading several posts about the ‘left autofocus point’ problems of the Nikon D800, I decided to test my own camera to see if it needed repair.  Thom Hogan outlined a test method in his July 16, 2012 post and I decided to follow that method to test my camera, with a change.  Initially, I developed a test target as per Thom’s suggestion but it led to problems so I did a second round of testing with the classic Siemens star. Some notes about the camera and test I have a camera purchased in Canada, it was very early in the release cycle so call it an ‘early run’ camera. I used two lenses for the test, the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G and Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8. I have not made any changes to auto focus fine tune. I used a Really Right Stuff TVC-33 carbon fiber tripod and BH-55 ball head to hold the camera. All exposures shot in RAW, converted to jpg to display here but no sharpening, lens correction, etc. was added.  I only changed white balance and exposure to more easily compare things.  I also cropped to make comparison easier.  Everything managed with Adobe Lightroom 4. The lenses did not have any filters installed. Camera had distortion control turned off. Shot at the widest aperture (f/1.8 for the 50mm and f/2.8 for the 24-70) and ISO 100.  The 24-70mm was shot at 24mm. Camera was leveled using the built in leveling tool and a three-way hot shoe level. The camera (sensor plane) was about 6.5′ from the wall. The notations used may be confusing, but work for me to keep track of what I’m shooting.  I used Live View to manually focus and autofocus. LV M – L : This means Live View, manual focus,...

Siwash Rock at Sunset

  I was waiting for a nice sunny day in Vancouver as I wanted to get out to photograph Siwash Rock. This basalt stack is the only one of it’s kind in the Vancouver area, and I wanted to catch it when high tide was at or near sunset.  This is an HDR image created from several exposures. And a shot I took with my iPhone 4S as my D800 was taking the 7 bracketed shots for my HDR above.   And a few more shots from that evening including some fun with a neutral density filter for longer...

UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research Jul15

UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research...

Last weekend, my wife and I paid a visit to the UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research (at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver).  Despite having lived in Vancouver a combined 35 years it was the first visit for both of us.  We were very fortunate because one of the volunteers, Dana, took us for a private tour as no one else was there for a tour when we arrived.  He spent several hours with us, taking us first on the Greenheart Canopy Walkway, which is a series of bridges and platforms in the trees.  It’s a bit wobbly, but fun at the same time.  Also, you get an interesting view from up there that you don’t often see.  The canopy system is hung from the trees but is done in such a way that it doesn’t harm the tree, it’s rather amazing actually and the only one of its kind in Canada.   There are a lot of vines in the garden, from all over the world.   It’s not all plants and flowers.   Though there are a lot of beautiful flowers as well.   They also have a big garden with all kinds of edible things.   Including the most interesting way to grow fruit.  These trees are trained to grow at an angle and only have branches in one plane.  Because of the angle, the tree bears fruit much sooner than they would otherwise.  Also, they are very easy to pick being no more than six feet high, some only a foot with branches parallel to the ground.  I wish I remember what this growing style was, if you know please leave a message in the comments below. UPDATE: The technique of training trees in this manner is called Espalier (thanks to Wendy Cutler!).   In one section, they have plants from all of the continents including a lot of desert varieties.  Apparently there are fire ants too, though I didn’t see any.   There is also a section of the garden dedicated to plants used in the medical field.  This sundial is in the middle, accurate though doesn’t adjust well for daylight savings time :)   We found this interesting bee hive, which was a temporary art installation.  The solar panels provide energy to open and close it daily.   Finally, there is a fantastic water fountain the garden located in the amphitheatre.  It was designed by William Pye who installs these amazing water sculptures all over the world.  I’ll have to go back to get more...

Shelter Dogs July 14 2012 Jul15

Shelter Dogs July 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. Such a cute...

Testing WordPress Carousel V2 (Jetpack)

I didn’t use the first version of Carousel for photo galleries on this blog, but the new and improved version seems worthy of a look.  It has some great features, as outlined at this blog post, and something I’m testing in this post for myself. Some of the features I really like: Ability to leave comments on individual photos. Ability to link directly to an image within a post. EXIF data displayed for each photo. Apple Retina support.  May not be needed that much right now but pixel density will be increasing in displays so this is a handy feature.  Also, users of some of the new Apple products can take advantage of the added resolution. Overall, a nice update to the Carousel feature and something I’ll be using a lot more on this blog now.  Good work team!    ...

Birds At Acadia Beach in Vancouver, BC Jul10

Birds At Acadia Beach in Vancouver, BC

Took a short walk with my dogs on Acadia Beach today.  The best time for birds, especially Great Blue Herons, seems to be on the rising tide early in the morning.  The Herons like to walk around in the shallow water and pick off smelt and other small fish who are too dumb to notice a three foot tall bird. I didn’t get any stellar shots today but did see a Bald Eagle, a few Great Blue Herons, Geese, and a few of the usual suspects as well.   Overall, a fun day and always nice when an eagle is around.  The birds were quite far away so these are crops from much bigger images shot with the Nikon D800 and 80-200 f/2.8D lens.  In cases like this, a longer lens would sure be nice.  If an updated 80-400mm VR becomes available I may be tempted to sell the current zoom and go for the bigger reach.  Teleconverters do not work with the 80-200.  There was also a strong backlight so I had to dial up the shadow recovery introducing some noise. I definitely got some better shots when I went to Brackendale to shoot the Bald Eagles with a borrowed 400mm f/2.8.   Impressive talons on this guy, wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of those.   The geese didn’t seem to care that a top predator was in the area.   The heron also went about his business catching fish. I even managed to catch a crow in flight.   The image above was rescued from a very underexposed shot.  The screenshot below shows the impressive dynamic range of the Nikon D800 which allowed me to recover the shadows and save the image, if only for web use....

Shelter Dogs June 27 2012 Jun27

Shelter Dogs June 27 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. Another black lab, likely a mix.   A hyper but very cute little puppy.   This old guy really liked getting some attention.  Hopefully he finds a home.   A young and playful dog, likely pit/shepherd mix.   More puppies! Awesome little dogs, friendly and playful.   They seemed to like my hat   And a Jack Russel Terrier. Couldn’t decide if she wanted to play or just get some...

Shelter Dogs June 23 2012 Jun25

Shelter Dogs June 23 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. There were a few new faces on my most recent visit, some great dogs.  I started off with a cute beagle, very friendly and loves to play.  When he runs his ears flap around like he is trying to fly :)   Next up was this fluffy little Maltese who constantly tried to climb into my lap.   Then I met this young boxer.  He just vibrates with excitement when you play with him.  Awesome dog.   There were two puppies to play with too.   This young girl took some work, was more interested in the dogs around her than getting photos taken.   A black lab likely won’t last long down there, always popular. We put some of the dogs together, they had a great time.  The beagle has so much energy, can play for hours.   But the tables were turned on the little guy when we put him in with the boxer.  Oh crap, I’m out of here!   Make a move sucker…   Oh crap, I guess that’s the move. Better hide in here for a bit. (No beagles were harmed in the making of these photos :) )   And some of the bunnies currently available.   And finally, when I got home I decided to get a few shots of my own dogs.  Jammie will always sit for the camera, a good and obedient dog.   Cedric is an old and grumpy guy, wanted no part of...

Nikon D800 Macro and Focus Stack Jun23

Nikon D800 Macro and Focus Stack

When I was mowing the lawn, I came across a bee in the grass. I’m not sure what type of bee it is, but it could be one of the solitary ground dwelling types that can be found here. One of the wings was much shorter than the other and I don’t think it could fly. I put the bee in a safe place and took a few shots. The shots were taken with a Nikon D800 and AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens. I have another set of photos shot with the 105mm here (lower light, hand-held). Update: I found out this isn’t a bee after all, but a hoverfly (Narcissus fly).  It mimics bees as a defense against predators.  Very cool. This shot is a single image converted from RAW but cropped from a much bigger frame. ISO 360, 1/125 second shutter at f/9. I also took a few more images focus stacked them with Zerene Stacker, turned out better than I expected considering this is also a significant crop. And a flower I shot shortly after, also a single image converted from RAW.   And an image I shot previously.  The detail when shooting the D800 with this lens is just...

Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival 2012

Some shots from the 2012 Vancouver RioTinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.  Saturday, June 16th was an absolutely miserable day with solid rain all day.  I didn’t even go down to the event as sitting in the rain watching is not much fun.  Sunday was much nicer, and I did get out to watch the racing and take a few photos.   Heading out to race Racing One of the racers, a dragon boat team, and me. Concord Pacific Flying Dragons One and Too (processed in the style of “300”)   The Gong Show that is the Guts and Glory race.  16 teams race 4 legs of 500m, which means they need to make a three turns.  These boats, with 22 people, don’t turn on a dime and the turns are where the action is.  A lot of fun to watch.   Looks like the geese are enjoying the racing too.   The Hastings Street Band providing entertainment for the fans.   I also found a very cool video, shot by the steersman for team “Kai Ikaika” of Portland, Oregon, winners of the 2012 Guts and Glory race. Looks like an exciting...

Page 5 of 14« First...34567...10...Last »