Vancouver Animal Control - Dogs For Adoption : August 30 2012

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 display.


Nikon D800 Autofocus Test Setup

D800 Autofocus Repair Testing

[box type="info"]Update April 1, 2013: Testing after the second repair attempt by Nikon is now online here: https://photokaz.com/2013/04/nikon-d800-autofocus-repair-testing-the-sequel/[/box]

[box type="info"]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.[/box]

[box type="info"]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 :([/box]

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.

[box]

B2

Service Repair Rank B2

ADJ FOCUS SYSTEM

ADJ AUTO FOCUS OPERATION

FIRMWARE UPGRADE

CLN CCD

GENERAL CHECK & CLEAN

[/box]

 

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.

Nikon D800 Post Fix Test - 24-70 f/2.8 @ f/2.8, ISO 100, 24mm

 

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.
Nikon D800 Post Fix Test - 24-70 f/2.8 @ f/2.8, ISO 100, 70mm

 

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 that.
Nikon D800 Pre VS Post Fix Test - 24-70 f/2.8 @ f/2.8, ISO 100, 24mm


Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : the lions

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.

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : motley crue

Things begin to get steeper, everyone is still having a good time and chatting.

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : getting steeper

 

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.

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : waterfall

 

The trail takes a sharp turn up and chatting turns into cursing.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : the slog

 

Coming out of the trees, you are finally rewarded with stunning views of Howe Sound.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : howe sound views

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : Inuksuk over howe sound

 

The Lions are still looming, a long way to go.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : break with lions looming

 

The group taking a breather after a few hours of hard climbing.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : group taking a break

 

Back on the trail, hiking turns into scrambling.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : the rock scramble

 

And now with snow :)
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : the rock scramble with snow

 

Near the top of the rock scramble, views are still great and a good motivator.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : boulders

 

After a few more tricky sections, you finally reach the ridge and see a full view of the Lions before you.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : west lion on left, east lion on the right

 

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.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : view from the lions hike

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : both lions

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : Howe Sound from the Lions

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : amazing view

 

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.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : view and cliff

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : gap cliff and view

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : Inuksuk and the lions

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : view and cliff 2

 

Up close and personal with the West Lion.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : up close and personal with west lion

 

The West Lion towering over Scott and Jason.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : west lion looms in the background

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : west lion towers over Scott and Mason

 

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.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : waiting at rope

 

Once on the West Lion, find the best route up. You can see how steep it is in the photos below.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : climb up west lion

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : tiny people on west lion

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : tiny people on west lion 2

 

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.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : lions ridge and view

 

Of course, some things didn't have to climb to the top. Cheater :)
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : Raven on the lions

 

I can imagine life at the top is not easy for any plants or animals that choose to live here.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : rough life on the lions

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : both lions

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : east lion

 

Vancouver feels very far away when you are up here.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : Vancouver is far away

 

On the way down, your knees will take a serious beating. The trail through the forest and the gravel road seem to stretch on forever. At the end of the day though, it's an amazing climb and worth the effort for anyone who wants to make the journey.


Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Lonely Road in Alberta - Big Sky Country

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.
Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Lonely Road in Alberta - Big Sky Country

 

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.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse Sunset HDR

 
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.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse Sunset HDR 2

 

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.
Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Osprey in Flight

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Osprey in Flight 2

 

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.
Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Volkswagen Bus at the Lake

 

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.
Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Hanmore Lake

 

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.
Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse Sunset HDR

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse Interior HDR

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse Interior HDR 2

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse HDR

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse HDR

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Barn Doors HDR

 

Sometimes it is not just houses that are abandoned.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse and Abandoned Car HDR

 

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.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Beaver Paradise

 

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.

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Feeder

 

Somewhat easier to capture when they sit still for a second, but she didn't stick around for long.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Branch

 

I also took the opportunity to eat a ton of berries from the yard. The yellow raspberries are my favorite.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 - strawberries and raspberries

 

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.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : 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.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Lamont Limousine Sculpture

 

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.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 - Snakes on the Road

 

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.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Dinosaur Provincial Park Cottonwood Tree

 

We also walked the Badlands Trail, where you can see some of the interesting geology of the area.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Dinosaur Provincial Park Badlands Trail

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Dinosaur Provincial Park Badlands Trail

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Dinosaur Provincial Park Badlands Trail

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Dinosaur Provincial Park

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Dinosaur Provincial Park

 

After a sufficient baking in the mid-day sun on the Alberta badlands, we went to the metropolis of Brooks for lunch before heading to Newell Lake. The lake is actually a man-made reservoir created after construction of the Bassano Dam. My brother tried his luck at fishing while I took a few photos. Found this Double-crested Cormorant taking off not far away.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Double-crested Cormorant Taking Off

 

This beaver also cruised by and didn't seem too bothered by our presence. I couldn't get close as there were a trillion ants on the bank of the lake and if you got anywhere near them they immediately covered you.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Beaver

 

We decided to go for a drive around the lake instead of fishing as the fish were not cooperating. We were just killing time waiting for sunset and the real fishing to begin. These cows were worth stopping for.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Cows

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Cow Tongue

 

Not much farther we saw a mule deer.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Mule Deer

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Mule Deer

 

Finally the sun was starting to set so we found a nice spot to set up in. While it was a beautiful area, the mosquitoes were horrendous. We both covered ourselves with bug spray but it didn't seem to help much. There couldn't be a better breeding ground for these things and often I was standing in a few inches of water with my tripod getting completely attacked while setting up for a shot. I fought through it and managed to get some of the shots I wanted.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Sunset at the Newell Lake

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Sunset at the Newell Lake

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Sunset at the Newell Lake

 

This is a shot taken with my iPhone 4S showing my D800 set up for the sunset shot.

Sunset Newell Lake, Brooks, Alberta - iPhone 4S

 

The resulting shot from the D800 turned out to be my favorite shot from the trip.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Sunset at the Newell Lake

 

As the sun went down, it was time to explore the real reason we came to Newell Lake in the first place: crayfish! These are like small freshwater lobsters, and invasive in many waters in Alberta. They are best to catch at night, just walking through the water with a flashlight. When you see one, just grab it and throw it in a bucket. We caught enough for a feast.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Live Crayfish at Newell Lake

 

Ready to eat.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Cooked Crayfish at Newell Lake

 

As you can see, they are just little guys, but tasty!

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Cooked Crayfish Just a Little Snack

It was a fun trip to Alberta, I covered a lot of miles but saw a lot and caught up with friends and family. Here is a link to the general route map. I flew into Edmonton, and out from Calgary covering over 1500Km in the few days I was there. Certainly made the most of it :)
Alberta Trip Route Map


Sunset Newell Lake, Brooks, Alberta - Nikon D800

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).

Sunset Newell Lake, Brooks, Alberta - iPhone 4S

 

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.
Sunset Newell Lake, Brooks, Alberta - Nikon D800

 

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

Antrodiaetus pacificus Trapdoor Spider

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 Youtube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUa-Fc088NU


GGS Nikon D800 LCD Screen Protector - both packages

GGS LCD Screen Protector - Real vs Fake (Nikon D800)

[box type="shadow"] 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.[/box]

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.

GGS Nikon D800 LCD Screen Protector - first cover with bad adhesive

 

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.
GGS Nikon D800 LCD Screen Protector - both packages

 

Detail of the first cover packaging.
GGS Nikon D800 LCD Screen Protector - first package detail

 

Detail of the replacement cover packaging.
GGS Nikon D800 LCD Screen Protector - replacement package detail

 

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).
GGS Nikon D800 LCD Screen Protector - both glass LCD covers

 

Detail of the covers.
GGS Nikon D800 LCD Screen Protector - glass cover detail

 

Here is the replacement cover installed on the camera, note that it cuts off the top and bottom of the screen.
GGS Nikon D800 LCD Screen Protector - glass cover installed on camera

 

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 comments.