The Wide and Narrow

So time goes by and my bag grows. It is actually quite heavy and full. If I want to throw something else in there, I'm going to have to drop something out. The latest two additions cover two very different photographic themes: wide-angle and macro photography. The first is a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro and the second is the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5. They are both superb, super-sharp Ultrasonic Motor (USM) lenses. The first I bought from a guy off Craigslist. The second, I bought refurbished from Adorama Camera. I got a good deal on both.

Macro photography is quite fascinating. To view small things all blown up often reveals beauty hidden to the naked eye. The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM group on Flickr is an incredible source of inspiration. There are so many beautiful shots. Macro photography takes patience and also a good eye for small things. I'm only getting started, but have managed to nab some good flower pics. I am planning an excursion to the Botanical Garden soon. Hopefully I can bring in my tripod and go nuts.

Wide or ultra wide-angle photography is a lot easier. Riding my bike along the city offers ample opportunity for panoramic shots. These types of shots are a lot easier to spot (for me anyway). The tall buildings of midtown and downtown Atlanta serve as great subjects. With a trip down under just a few weeks away, I cannot wait for this lens to take in the sights of Sydney.

So now I'm looking low and I'm looking high for shots. I think I have the middle pretty much nailed. Of course, I just got a book on how to maximize the use of my Speedlite Flash. As far as I am concerned flashes are the final frontier in photography. It's all about the lighting and when the natural lighting is gone, it's all about the flash.


Created: 8/24/2009





Upgrading Opportunity Knocks Twice

A while back I saw a Craigslist post advertising a slightly used/almost new Canon T1i (500D) Digital SLR camera, the upgrade model to my XSi, at a very reasonable price (a couple of hundred dollars off list). By the time I responded to the ad, the seller had already someone willing to buy. At that time, I began actively reading about the T1i. The more I read, the more conflicted I grew.

The T1i offered the great functionality of video, which is rare for an SLR, but was obviously (due to its limitations) not going to be a replacement for my video camera even if Canon advertises 1080p capabilities (only on 20fps). It also offered a greater resolution (15.1MP) than my 12.2MP XSi along with other nice photo features and settings. "But is it worth the upgrade?" I wondered. For a brief instance, before I learned of the video limitations, I even pondered selling both my XSi and my Canon Vixia HG20 and get the T1i making a couple hundred dollars in the process. That would've been an ill-conceived move.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw the same ad on Craigslist that had been posted previously and quickly responded to the seller. He told me the previous sale had fallen through and that he'd been out of town for a week. We negotiated on the price a bit and struck a deal. After some ATM issues and other trials and tribulations I had the visibly brand new camera in my possession shortly thereafter. Word to the wise: before you commit to an all-cash transaction of over $400, make sure you are set-up to withdraw that much money per day from your ATM or you'll be in for a desperate and embarrassing scramble.

Its replacement in hand, the next step was to sell my XSi. I attempted to do so in Craigslist to no avail (unless I'd been willing to take cashiers checks and mail to Tanganika). I then went to Ebay, listed it, and ended up selling it for $545. Things fell in place quite well. I purchased the kit T1i which came with the same Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS that had come with the XSi and that I had previously sold on Ebay. Thus, I took it off the T1i and packaged it in the original XSi box. Problem solved.

All in all, the upgrade cost me less than $100. This is a heck of a deal considering that the kit would've cost me about $850 brand new. I could've bought the body only for $825, but then my XSi would've sold for a lot less (without a lens in a kit box). Besides, the camera I got was brand new by any reasonable standard.

So far, I'm very impressed with the T1i and its new features. The video is handy but can be tricky to use. I can see how practice can certainly improve the results obtained with this feature. I am glad I have two batteries, because the use of video, which uses the viewfinder as its main display, will drain them much quicker. The photography feature upgrades over the XSi are also quite nice and very handy. I am happy with my move because of my net costs. I would not have shelled out $300 extra out of pocket to upgrade my great XSi for the T1i and I would not recommend it to others either. The added features are definitely not worth that much in my opinion. The way it went down for me was ideal and totally worth it. If you can get a similar deal, go for it.


Created: 6/15/2009





Graduating Costs

As I grow in my photographic endeavors, it is clear that, not unlike in any other hobby worth its salt, advancement comes at a price. With learning come sad realities. In this case, the sad reality is that my two first lenses, although perfectly good starter lenses, are not "let's move to the next step" lenses. Canon's EF-S lenses are good; some of them are quite remarkable. Still, it is the L-series lenses that set the bar for performance and results.

"What to get next?" I toiled around with this question internally and then subsequently externally. I sought the aide of photographer bloggers and contributors in the forum of learnSLR.com. After a good exchange of ideas, a lens had come to the surface: the 70-200mm f/2.8L. A beautiful white beast, perfect for sports shooting and even portrait photography, had become the main contender. Question then was "Is IS necessary?" Note: IS means Image Stabilization. The feature cost a mere $500 and thus it was not a decision to take lightly. That was issue 1. Issue 2 was the size/weight of the lens. It's a big one and I began to wonder if I would get the use I would want out of it. I was not about to drop 1G+ on a lens and not use it that was for sure. Issue 1 was put to rest by the comments of users of the non-IS lens. Issue 2, I put to rest on my own. I went to a store and handled the lens with my own two hands and snapped onto the store's XSi. My fears were real. The lens was so big, bulky and heavy, there was no way it was going to become the default walk-around lens in my camera. And thus, there was an epiphany.

It was holding that beautiful monstrosity in my hands that I realized I needed a sharp, fast, high-quality walk-around lens; one that would be my "default" lens. If the 70-200mm f/2.8L is one of the top three lenses in a pro's bag, usually so is the 24-70mm f/2.8L. As things would have it (no surprise), the price tag of the non-IS 70-200mm f/2.8 and this lens were pretty much the same. Since I was replacing my walk-around 18-55 lens and had (when I though I was going to get the 70-200) already sold my 55-250mm (on ebay for about $40 more than I paid for new through Amazon), I decided to sell it too. So the net effect of this transaction is the loss of a lens and of a bunch of zoom range, but I rather get the cash now to contribute to the purchase of this one and then later (when I can justify it) get the 70-200mm.

So now I'm all in. I should be getting an absolutely fantastic lens tomorrow and I cannot wait to start snapping away.


Created: 3/17/2009





In the bag (and the bag)

Equipment:
Canon Digital Rebel T1i (500D) 15.1 MP Digital SLR Camera
Canon Digital Rebel XSi (450D) 12.2 MP Digital SLR Camera (sold)

Lenses:
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS (sold)
Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS (sold)

Flash:
Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash

Memory:
Transcend 16GB SDHC Class 6 Flash Memory Card

Accessories:
Professor Kobre's Lightscoop, Standard Version Bounce Flash Device
Extra Canon LP-E5 Battery Pack
Canon Battery Charger
Canon Deluxe Photo Backpack 200EG
Tripod
Cleaning items
Opteka Wireless Radio Remote Release


Created: 2/20/2009
Last Edited: 8/21/2009




Picture me this

In the hopes that a drastic increase in the need for photography is imminent (please God), we decided (I convinced) that an SLR was definitely a worthy investment. Once again Consumer Reports was my friend and it recommended the Canon Digital Rebel XSi. Having just purchased the Canon VIXIA HG20 , already owning a Canon PowerShot SD1000 and having nothing but excellent results from both of them, I figured I should stick to the brand.

Well, it was a slam dunk. Once again Amazon provided the best deal. The camera came with 2 Canon EF-S lenses: a 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS and a 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS (IS for Image Stabilization). For Christmas I got an extra battery. I also bough the best bang for the buck lens ever - the $90 Canon 50mm f/1.8 II.

The purchase was great. I have learned so much by forcing myself to always shoot RAW and in the "Creative" zones (Av, Tv, M). Otherwise what's the point - right? Get a good point-and-shoot and go nuts. If one's going to sink a good bit of money into a sophisticated piece of photography might as well get sophisticated with it. That's my philosophy anyway.

So far, so good. I have been finding out the limitations of my lenses lately. Ultimately, the best advice is to shoot like crazy and a 16GB card allows me just that. Shoot, try different settings and then shoot again. Ultimately, there are tons of gems. The more I shoot, the better my shots get. I'll have to start posting some of my best at some point.

I guess it is worth noting that this cube topic and the "Video" cube topic replaced a couple of empty cube topics: "Hobbies" and "Things". I figured I already have cube topics for all my hobbies so it wasn't worth having its own category. I also wondered what "Things" I'd be able to cube about that were already not covered in all the other categories. Out with the old and in with the new. These two subjects are definitely worthy additions to my cubed repertoire. Now if I could only find a topic to cube about my previous RC airplane hobby, and the equipment I have stored away for its impending and triumphant return?


Created: 2/20/2009