#15 of 26 photos featured at Gurushots.com!

A photo of my girls, White Sands Walk, was taken at White Sands National Monument, NM and was featured¬†today by the Gurushots.com¬†website! ¬†The article is called “26 Incredible Shots Showing That Sometimes Less Is More” and this photo is #15 on their list. This was shot with a Canon EOS 6D with an EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens on June 23, 2015.

The original shot is at my website at: http://www.billchizekphotography.com/Archive/i-M9pFfs9/A

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Hampton Roads

StopsLast summer one of my best friends retired from the US Navy after a long and distinguished career. ¬†His retirement ceremony was held near¬†Norfolk, Virginia, a place I used to live years ago. ¬†To say Norfolk is a Navy town is like saying there’s a little bit of ocean near San Diego. ¬†When I lived in Virginia Beach¬†I wasn’t in to photography, I played music back then, but I was in to history. ¬†As a result, I regretted those years without a camera, chalk that up to “what were you thinking?” ¬†Two things I knew about the Hampton Roads¬†area and my trip was that there would be¬†many¬†sights to see and that I’d be meeting up with numerous friends living there. ¬†I also knew¬†I’d be up late and waking early to shoot the places I wanted. ¬†There was¬†so much to see that I couldn’t possibly squeeze everything in to just a few days. ¬†Online research was necessary to find what I wanted to see, prioritize them, and have back-up plans for each day and site. ¬†In the Norfolk are there were a number of things that could prevent me from getting to where I wanted to shoot; the¬†Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel¬†and closures, traffic, meeting up with friends, weather, and the possibility of sights actually being closed were all things to consider. ¬†One place in Virginia Beach¬†that seemed an interesting place¬†to shoot was the Ferry Plantation House, a former slave plantation, where¬†this photo on the right, called Stops, was taken.

Spokes

Given the¬†many places I wanted to shoot, only one would happen rain or shine and I’d need to allot an entire day, Colonial Williamsburg. ¬†One of the really cool things about Colonial Williamsburg is that if you just want to shoot outside, it’s totally FREE! ¬†That’s right, FREE as in you pay nada, zero zero point zero zero! ¬†That was exactly what I wanted because I had no intention of shooting indoors with¬†so many cool buildings, streets, and residents walking about in period clothing. ¬†If it rained, I’d get wet and that was just fine because anybody who knows me will tell you that I love shooting in just about any weather, except sunny. ¬†The photo at the top of this blog, Riders, was taken¬†in Colonial Williamsburg and is not an uncommon scene if you visit. ¬†To the left is Spokes, a revolutionary war era canon sitting behind the¬†Colonial Williamsburg Courthouse. ¬†Williamsburg is littered with colonial items that make for interesting¬†photographs. ¬†The best thing about shooting outdoors is that you won’t be trying to shoot around tourists. ¬†Had I paid to go inside the historic building, I would have been filing through buildings on one of the many tours hoping to get decent pics with indoor lighting. ¬†I could go back to Williamsburg and spend another day shooting completely different subjects. ¬†Yes, it’s that cool.

FiremakerThere were another three locations that I wanted to¬†shoot and they were all close to each other; Historic Jamestowne, Jamestown Settlement, and the Yorktown Battlefield¬†where the British surrendered to George Washington ending the American Revolution. ¬†One thing to consider about a Jamestown visit is that there is a considerable difference between Historic Jamestowne and Jamestown Settlement. ¬†If you want to visit the true¬†Jamestowne site, the historic location of the British colony and where archeologists are actively digging to this day, this is¬†Historic Jamestowne. ¬†This is where the history actually happened and an incredible place. ¬†However, the other location, Jamestown Settlement, is a living museum nearby that is a reconstruction of the historic colony; these are completely different. ¬†The good news is that they are only about ten minutes apart and you’ll pass by Jamestown Settlement on the way to Historic Jamestowne. ¬†The photo above at right, Firemaker, portrays a Native American woman tending to a fire and was taken at Jamestown Settlement.

The USS Wisconsin (BB-64), a World War Two era battleship is the centerpiece of Norfolk’s maritime science center called the Nauticus. ¬†It sits in the heart of the city and makes for great photos, especially if you climb the stairs fo the parking garage across the street!
Here I was able to capture three completely different images from the same location. ¬†The photos on the left (Anchor Up) and the in the middle (Norfolk) were taken from the exact same location but with different lenses. ¬†The photo on the right (Dirty Glass) was taken walking up to the roof of the garage. Country Road¬†The nice thing about the Norfolk area is that there is so much to see that I actually found thing to shoot on the way to thing I PLANNED to shoot! ¬†One of those times is in the photo at right,¬†Country Road, taken one afternoon while driving to one of my destinations when¬†shooting rural areas was part of my back-up plan¬†if I got caught north of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel during a closure.¬† Guess what? ¬†The tunnel closed because of an accident and I had a plan! ¬†Virginia has some of the most beautiful countrysides if you get off the trail a little bit. ¬†Sometime in the future I’d like to just drive Virginia’s countryside searching out places like this, no agenda, just drive and see what’s out there.

In the end, the weather held out and everything went mostly as planned, even enacting my back-up plan proved great for photos! ¬†On the left below is the Royal Palace at Williamsburg which seems like it could be straight out of England and on the right is the Cape Henry lighthouse (1792) located in Virginia Beach. ¬†Returning to Norfolk with my family is now a priority, not just for visiting friends but getting our girls out and to have some fun seeing incredible American History. ¬†If you like history, you need to check out the Hampton Roads area, there is so much to see! ¬†I’m thankful that my parents had¬†me traveling when I was a kid and it stuck, hopefully the same will happen with my kids and they’ll appreciate the history of our country!

Goodbye Canon ūüė≠, Hello _______

In the last post, Goodbye Canon, I explained the¬†need to lighten up my camera bag recently; it was simply too heavy after surgery in 2010. ¬†When looking to see¬†where that weight was coming from, it didn’t take long to see it was the Canon 6D and three lenses. ¬†After a week of searching online, I finally settled on a new camera system and made the¬†purchase. ¬†When the¬†new camera arrived, I took lots of¬†shots and while it wasn’t a familiar Canon, I figured I’d get used to it. ¬†I sold the¬†Canon gear on eBay and started a journey which felt, like I said a few weeks ago, as if I were¬†marching a parade with two left shoes on because I knew I’d make it, just¬†not comfortably. I ended up buying a¬†Sony A7R¬†and let me say upront that the image quality is fantastic¬†and with¬†two lenses is lighter than what was carried previously. ¬†In the areas of image quality and weight, I’m totally satisfied. ¬†However, this¬†new camera had two areas that made me feel like a photo failure. ¬†Trying to navigate a¬†menu system that was totally unfamiliar ground and a focus system that wasn’t much better proved difficult. ¬†Getting clear photos was a hit or miss propect for days and at one point I even told my wife it was going back in the box and sent¬†back to the store, but she’s used to my Jan Brady hissy fits. Frankly, after using Canon camera for years I now realize that I became spoiled because I felt like I was learning to shoot all over again, that was unexpected. Canon cameras were easy, this wasn’t easy.

a7r-bI decided that after reading the manual that the camera would go everywhere, after a couple of weeks I’m still going back to the manual but up for the challenge at this point. ¬†Everything I read prior about Sony digital cameras¬†warned that Sony’s menu system was, as we used to say in the military, “less than desirable.” ¬†I remember reading somewhere that the menu system was “clunky” and had no idea what that meant; now I know “clunky.” ¬†Why Sony doesn’t release new firmware to fix this is beyond me. ¬†While now getting used to the Sony A7R, the truth is that I wish there was a Canon lightweight mirrorless camera and glass that functioned like the trust old¬†6D with L Series lenses. ¬†If Canon ever released a mirrorless that recieved the kind of reviews that their new 5D Mark IV gets, I’d probably jump ship back to Canon instantly. ¬†Time to let go…

Some people will ask why I didn’t simply shell out the extra money for the Sony A7Rii?¬†¬†Well, I actually gave that a lot of thought and it came down to this. ¬†The A7R shoots at almost twice as many megapixels than my old 6D, so for the money, this was¬†worth looking at and shelling out $1,800. ¬†The A7Rii shoots roughly 6MP larger than the A7R but costs another $1,200, that’s a $3,100 price tag. ¬†Not being a pro or making a bunch of money selling photos, was that $1,200 worth an additional 6MP in larger photos? ¬†Not to mention, the A7Rii’s uncompressed RAW files are a whopping 80MB per photo, I’d need new hard drives as well to accomodate the file size because my 2TB drive would be full in no time. ¬†Again, if I were putting food on the table from photography and had clients who needed the best images possible, the A7Rii would have been the choice. ¬†However, I’m just a retired guy taking pics and the A7R’s image quality is perfect for my needs and the file size is just a little larger than that of the Canon 6D. ¬†While many folks don’t like the Sony A7R’s compressed RAW files, they suit me just fine because nobody will ever see most of my photos anyway.

Swingin'

What do I like about the Sony A7R? ¬†First, the weight is exactly what I was hoping for and carrying the Sony around is much lighter and easier on the back. ¬†This was the¬†prime reason for ditching the¬†6D. ¬†Second, image quality is excellent and seriously crisp. ¬†While it took a while to get clear images regarding the Sony focus system, the images are impressive. ¬†The two lenses I purchased are incredible as well; the¬†Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS¬†and¬†Sony 16-35mm Vario-Tessar T FE F4 ZA OSS¬†give me almost the same capabilities that¬†I had previosly with three Canon lenses. ¬†Actually, the Sony 16-35 reminds me very much of the previously owned¬†Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS USM¬†in the way I can get right up on the subject to take advantage of the wide agle capabilities. ¬†The photo at left, Swingin’, was one of the¬†first Sony A7R photos taken at a front yard in Coronado, California¬†with the¬†Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS¬†lens (at f/10, 1/160¬†sec, focal length 134mm, and ISO¬†500).

Cove Fog

The above photo, Cove Fog, was taken at Fiddlers’s Cove in Coronado, California and is two photos stitched together. ¬†It was shot¬†with the Sony A7R with the¬†Sony FE 24-240mm (f/3.5-6.3 OSS¬†lens at f/9.0, 1/5¬†sec, focal length 24mm, and ISO 50). ¬†What is it that I don’t like about the¬†new camera? ¬†As mentioned earlier, the menu system is tough and seems to have been created¬†from a bad dare. ¬†It’s as if two drunk Sony techs were¬†in a bar and one said, “I’ll bet you $100 I can make¬†the crappiest menu system ever but people will still buy it because it’s a Sony.” ¬†I thought maybe menu items¬†were grouped in Braille and I couldn’t find the raised dots. ¬†That said, getting used to a Sony is half the battle but there isn’t anything that makes me regret the purchase. ¬†Being a smaller camera, it has a completely different feel ergonamically. ¬†Once it’s in your hands the buttons feel that much closer together than other cameras. ¬†However, I¬†fully expected this given the Sony is a smaller camera. ¬†This is a temporary thing and I’ll adjust to the size, but for now my hands are instinctively sliding where the buttons aren’t. ¬†All the other little things, like the lens release button being on the opposite side of every camera I’ve ever owned, are just growing pains coming from Canon.

So, while it may not sound like it at times in this post, I’m pleased overall with the Sony A7R, but I admittedly have a hard time letting go of my Canon ways. ¬†When I whine¬†about Canon, I make my seven year old daughter seem like the mature one in our house, again just ask my wife. ¬†Coming from another brand, the learning curve has been steep but not impossible. ¬†I just hate picking up my camera and fidgeting for settings but that was going to happen no matter which brand I went with. ¬†Lastly, while researching this purchase I had read how Canon has fallen behind in mirrorless camera technology and, while only recently releasing a serious mirrorless, it appears they’re¬†years behind Sony. ¬†While I’ve moved to Sony for the moment, I’m still keeping my eye on Canon and hoping for game changer from them down the road.

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Goodbye Canon ūüė≠

This isn’t an angry “screw Canon” sort of message, it’s actually a bit sad for me as I’ve been a loyal Canon user for eight years now. I have also loved every Canon camera I’ve owned, as well as their lenses. Most recently were the¬†EOS 6D, and L Series lenses because¬†they’ve gone with me everywhere and that is part of the problem. ¬†I learned so much on Canon’s T3i, EOS 7D and 6D, not to mention those cameras made photography fun. ¬†However, I had back surgery back in 2010 and carrying a camera bag with just a couple of lenses has gotten to be¬†too much for my lower back. ¬†I needed to find a lighter alternative, it wasn’t an easy process or decision. ¬†However, the first hurdle was cleared when my wife gave the go ahead, easy right? ¬†Just buy a lightweight mirrorless camera setup after a little research and bam, new camera on the way! ¬†Well, not so fast…

_a-wjcI’m not wanting to name¬†the brands I looked at because I’ll get slammed by every fanboy and brand loyalist on the planet. ¬†Nor do I want to have to justify my decision to anyone, this is how I found what will hopefully work for me. ¬†However, I will say this, Canon’s mirrorless systems were at the top of the list, and sadly the image quality of the new Canon M5 just wasn’t there; I really wanted a Canon mirrorless… ¬†No matter which brand I decided to go with, even Canon, I was looking at buying all new lenses so this wasn’t going to be cheap. ¬†Now, with Canon unfortunately out of the way, I began looking at every other mirrorless system out there. ¬†I found an unlikely system that was very unfamiliar to me but¬†looked very promising, I ordered it and knew I had a 30 day return policy during which time I’d shoot images in back yard with my Canon 6D and the new camera to compare image quality. ¬†If I liked the results, I’d keep the new mirrorless; if not, I’d return it. ¬†With a new ¬†mirrorless camera on the way and a plan, I felt good; or so I thought. ¬†I was really dumping my Canon 6D, I LOVE my 6D… ¬†Then I¬†stumbled upon the Interactive Studio Scene widget at Digital Photography Review¬†or DPR.¬† It’s essentially a studio photo that has images¬†taken with just about every camera out there using multiple settings shooting in JPEG and RAW allowing you to¬†compare image quality side by side in just about every conceivable way. ¬†You can even download these photos to enlarge them on your computer and knit-pick at blown up details. ¬†Hold on here, did this mean I could now compare the new mirrorless camera’s image quality with that of my current Canon 6D and never leave the house?? Yup, it did¬†and I didn’t like the results and immediately cancelled my new camera order, back to the drawing board. ¬†Ah… back in my comfort zone with the Canon 6D right? ¬†Well, not so fast…

This process of viewing images at DPR’s Interactive Studio Scene was not the end all of deciding on a new camera, but it gave me a good starting point. ¬†If I didn’t like the exact same images taken by all these other cameras compared to my own 6D, did I really¬†need to have it shipped just to take pics in my back yard. ¬†The factors I needed to consider were the actual camera weight (my reason for a new camera), availability of lenses, image quality, and costs. ¬†I looked at one camera which is probably considered the best mirrorless out there with¬†unmatched image quality; however, the uncompressed RAW files were over 80Mb in size and compressed was around 40Mb. ¬†This would require lots of hard drive space for photos, 99% of which would likely never be seen by anybody! ¬†I’m not making a living as a photographer, just a retired guy who loves to shoot guns and cameras, since 80Mb files will add up quickly I now needed to consider file size¬†as well. ¬†If I were putting food on my table from photography and quality was the only concern, I would have gone with this camera and bought bigger hard drives. ¬†So on to¬†other cameras I went and found one that looked promising; it met the above criteria and while the lens selection was nowhere near Canon’s, they did have two lenses that functioned well for¬†what I currently do with three. ¬†While I planned to lighten up my camera bag in other areas, this decision alone meant the weight of just my camera and lenses would be cut¬†in half!

sling7So, besides weight, what was I giving up or compromising? ¬†For starters, my ability with Canon compatible lenses to reach out to long distances like I had¬†with the Tamron SP 150-600 was gone. ¬†It’s not like this was a lens I carried often but it was a very nice piece of gear to have at times; it was also heavy. ¬†However, one lens I did keep in my bag that allowed me to reach out was the Canon 70-300mm DO and this I would feel in two ways. ¬†First, having this lens in my bag meant I could instantly reach out to 300mm, this was very handy! ¬†Second, and part of my recurring theme, was the weight. ¬†While compact in size, this lens weighs over 1.5 pounds by itself! ¬†I wrote about it in an earlier blog post, Diffractive What?, from September 19, 2016 and I will miss this lens… ¬†For the year and a half that I had Canon L Series lenses, I was blown away by the crispness and clarity of the images.

When the new camera arrived, I took lots of¬†shots and while it wasn’t a familiar Canon I figured I could get used to it. ¬†Feeling ok about my purchase I was on¬†to sell my Canon gear on eBay. ¬†Now I honestly felt like a traitor or as if¬†I was almost doing something wrong by selling my 6D. ¬†Seriously, Canon was easy and I¬†liked for the same reasons I liked my MacBook Pro in that it always did what it was supposed to do¬†with no hassles, it was always familiar too. ¬†Since my first Canon XSi, every upgrade was to another Canon so the learning curve wasn’t too bad. ¬†However, this time was different, I now felt like I was marching a parade with two left shoes on; I knew I’d make it, but not comfortably. ¬†I mean with a Canon, the focus system is very easy and you’ll be shooting decent pics out of the box. ¬†With my new camera, I felt like a photo failure for days just trying to navigate a menu system that could have been set up¬†a late night drunk with what HE thought was a great idea. ¬†Days of trying to navigate and find what I needed in unfamiliar places, and a figure out a focus system that made absolutely no sense whatsoever to me. ¬†So what did I buy? ¬†I settled on the

 

Hello Umpkinpay!

Mount Rushmore, lessons learned.

Our oldest daughter was studying Mount Rushmore last year so when planning a trip to Wisconsin it seemed like a no brainer to stop in South Dakota. ¬†Long before leaving, a little research seemed in order. ¬†Why? ¬†Well, I hadn’t been there¬†since the early seventies and this time I was going there to shoot photos; this was probably going to be a one time thing so I wanted to get it right. Our¬†girls would love Mount Rushmore¬†no matter what but I needed¬†to get educated on how to shoot this famous landmark. ¬†I wanted my girls to have the time of their life and still get some photos. ¬†During this process, I learned two important points after literally reading many posts¬†from a¬†photoprapher’s perspective. ¬†Some people actually felt it was a let down, many¬†thought it was good but not worth a specific photo trip, and a others really enjoyed it. ¬†However, most were in¬†agreement that the morning sun was best time to shoot because the it¬†rises on the faces. ¬†The second, after looking at all the photos that went along with the articles, most had the same postcard type captures of Rushmore which meant mine needed to be different. ¬†There had to be more than this one shot… ¬†Then I remembered some recent advice from someone I would consider a¬†Jedi Master of photography; he said I always need to ask myself, “what am I not seeing here?” ¬†I literally need to ask myself this question because it’s not built in automatically. ¬†When I force this question upon myself and look at the subject, sometimes¬†an aspect out of the nothingness will get my attention, somthing that was seemingly not there before.

Rush at Night

With Jedi Master EM’s advice in my ears, I looked at everyone elses photos of Mount Rushmore and pondered, “what am I not seeing here?” ¬†First, most of the photos were shot from the edge of the¬†Grand View Terrace, so I needed to shoot from other places if possible. ¬†These locations needed to be nearby and¬†still offer a great view or shoot from the Grand View Terrace and actually include it as part of the subject. ¬†Second, those who tried to do close up shots of the individual presidents didn’t have long enough lenses. ¬†Problemo solved, I’d bring my¬†Tamron SP 150-600MM F/5-6.3 Di VC USD¬†so I’d be sure to get in close (see the photo, Abe, at the top of this blog). ¬†If I hadn’t researched, this lens would have stayed home because¬†it’s huge and doesn’t go out unless there is¬†a reason… ¬†Third, I noticed that most people just showed up and hoped to get a decent shot. ¬†My response to this, not be in a hurry and arrive in the afternoon and stay the night. ¬†This way I could shoot when we arrived, come back in the evening for night shots, then get some sleep and come back in the morning before leaving on the rest of the trip. ¬†Lastly, in most photos, there were no people so capturing¬†tourists gazing at the famous sculpture was a priority. ¬†The photo at right, Rush at Night, was an attempt to capture¬†both Rushmore at night as well as¬†people viewing it.

Rushmore Clouds

The¬†plan of making Rushmore an overnighter in the Black Hills town of Keystone, SD worked out pretty well. ¬†Not only was the weather a¬†bit cloudy before sunset, I was able to capture night shots and the morning sun as well. ¬†Once you pay for parking, your ticket is good for a year so you’re not out any extra cash by seeing Rushmore three times¬†in two days as we did. ¬†In fact, we paid our $11 to initially enter and park, then left the park to check in to our hotel and get dinner. ¬†Later, we returned in the¬†evening and came back the following morning; all at no extra charge. ¬†You only need to pay for a hotel room in Keystone, SD but you’ve got to sleep somewhere right? ¬†Why not Keystone? ¬†Just come back in the morning when Mount Rushmore¬†opens at 7am and there are very few people. ¬†The photo at left, Rushmore Clouds, was taken as clouds were approaching just before sunset. ¬†Personally, what made this trip unique was not simply showing up to see Mount Rushmore and check it off the list, but actually spending a little time there and discovering the different lighting!

All photos were taken¬†with the¬†Canon EOS 6D¬†using the¬†Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM¬†lens¬†including those¬†below; Flags¬†(L) & SD-244(R).¬† However, Abe, at the top was shot with the¬†Tamron SP 150-600MM F/5-6.3 Di VC USD.¬† Planning ahead and dedicating time¬†to Mount Rushmore worked out for us; I got my photos and our¬†girls got memories that will last a lifetime. ¬†Honestly, we would have spent the night near¬†Keystone, SD¬†anyway and left about the same time in the morning; so the Mount Rushmore stop in no way¬†negatively impacted our timeline. ¬†It’s now been two months since our vacation¬†and the kids are still talking about it, they even want to return. ¬†If you can, attend the lighting ceremony, you won’t regret that either. ¬†All in all, the¬†research beforehand was well worth the time, listening to the Jedi Master also paid off, and planning to do more than check off the “we saw it” block for our summer vacation ended up being the highlight of our visit to South Dakota.

The Everyday Sling

Thanks to the great people at Purple Orange Brand Communications¬†for sending a¬†Peak Design Everyday Sling¬†my way before it hit the street!! ¬†Upfront, nobody has asked, or tried to influence me, to endorse this product. ¬†No promises were made and¬†I’m writing my personal opinions freely, plus I would never endorse a product I don’t use. ¬†That said, when originally asked if I’d be interested in one of the new Peak Design bags I actually said¬†“no”… ¬† Sometimes¬†I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. ¬†I said this¬†because Peak Design’s¬†last bag, the Everyday Messenger¬†(also called the EDM), was working incredibly¬†well and I simply didn’t want¬†another bag. ¬†However, when the opportunity presented itself to¬†check out one of the new bags, I decided to give¬†the Everyday Sling a try. ¬†Why do this if I loved my current bag so much? ¬†Well, I do¬†love the¬†EDM¬†but having a smaller bag of the same style for just walking or biking near home with just the basics seemed worth trying. ¬†After carrying¬†the Sling everywhere for a week and a half, I’m completely comfortable writing my opinions here because the Sling¬†is remarkably similar to the EDM in just about every way. ¬†Before going on, if the Sling¬†wasn’t a comfortable carry, everything I could write below would be meaningless garbage. ¬†So yes, on top of the features and build quality, thd Sling is extremely comfortable and most times forgot it was with me whether walking or on my bike. ¬†If interested, please see an¬†earlier blog entries about my Peak Design Everyday Messenger experiences:

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Everyday Sling (L) and Everyday Messenger (R).

The Everyday Sling would arrive¬†in mid-September and I was thrilled someone thought enough of me¬†to offer this bag up. ¬†However, I didn’t think about it much, nor did I know the specifics regarding the Sling other than it was smaller than the EDM. ¬† Remember, I loved my current bag (and still do). ¬†What I did ponder¬†was this; what if the Sling didn’t live up to the hype? ¬†Would I be willing to¬†write a negative review about product I wanted to like from a company I truly LOVE?? ¬†I was comforted by the fact I didn’t¬†know of one Peak Design product that was bad, why would the Sling be any different? ¬†When the Sling did arrive, to my surprise it seemed as if the¬†beloved EDM¬†just had a little brother! ¬†The build quality along with¬†everything else I saw on the outside of the Sling immediately screamed Peak Design. ¬†It is literally like a mini-EDM¬†where they cut¬†out much of the extra storage¬†space and came up with a versatile Sling bag. ¬†I intended the Sling to¬†be¬†for traveling light, a body with a lens attached and maybe another lens or two in the bag. ¬†However, while the Sling is¬†smaller this is not to say the it¬†isn’t without its features. ¬†While there is no perfect bag, Peak Design’s EDM¬†was the first bag that I didn’t feel like I was just settling in some way. ¬†With the Sling, I again found what I need and feel!

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Dividers move where you need and fold down to store gear on top.

Since this bag for day use, there’s plenty of space in expandable large side pocket for anything else you may need. ¬†The Sling is similar to the EDM in this way, it expands and contracts as you insert and remove gear. ¬†In this case, the side pocket expands and not the entire bag as with the EDM. ¬†However, this bag differs in two ways from the EDM. ¬†First, it is entered through¬†a zippered closure on top instead of a flap style¬†lid, this alone ensures your gear will stay dry and I almost wish the EDM had this feature. ¬†Second, the¬†inserts used to make divided compartments go one step farther than those of the EDM. ¬†Whereas the fold-over tops of the EDM’s inserts create¬†a flat surface area on top to lay¬†items (above right), the Sling’s inserts have a split top

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The split top folding dividers make customizing the Sling very easy!

on the fold-over portion¬†allowing¬†you use them like the EDM’s, or as individual storage above each lens compartment by leaving one part folded down¬†and one up (left). ¬†The cool thing is that if you like the inserts of the EDM, these function exactly the same. ¬†If you need them to function differently in the future, it’s built in! ¬†These might seem like little things, but in a compact¬†bag¬†like the Sling,¬†these¬†small features add up and make the Sling stand out.

The similarities with the EDM are evident in other ways.  The water resistant materials, quality stitching, a clean design with no unwanted straps hanging, space for an iPad or similar device, covered zippers, and built in tripod stowage are all items I have now come to expect from Peak Design; and they delivered!

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The Sling (L) and EDM (R) are both able to use the Peak Design Capture to store your camera externally.

There is a pocket on the inside cover that provides easy access to items regularly needed. ¬†In fact, all pockets can be accessed without taking¬†the Sling off and any raising or lowering of the bag is mindlessly simple. ¬†You’ll never fumble for gear or dump stuff in the street (yes,¬†I’ve done that with a backpack). ¬†The shoulder strap is made to easily adjust when you want to get in the bag, so if you like carrying it high on your back it’s not a big deal. ¬†There is also a strap in the main compartment to attach your keys and even a reinforced area to hang a Peak Design Capture! ¬†Like I said, this is a compact and purposeful¬†bag so all these numerous¬†little features amount to¬†a big deal!

 

sling6
Red dead battery stitching.

There’s more, just like the EDM, the battery compartment uses red stitching on the pockets to place your empty batteries so you don’t confuse them with those charged. ¬†So who wouldn’t like the Sling? ¬†Well, honestly, it’s not for everyone and if you carry a ton of gear¬†and expect this to be your primary bag, it’s not for you. ¬†Remember, it’s a Sling and not a backpack. ¬†While capable of carrying a lot of gear for its size, the EDM or one of the new Peak Design backpacks may¬†be a better fit if you carry a lot of gear. ¬†So who would like this new Sling? ¬†Well, even if I wasn’t out shooting photos, this would be a great day bag to just have because of its versitility and ease of carry. ¬†I’ve been carrying a Canon 6D with a lens attached and one other lens for the most part, sometimes throwing an extra lens in, and the Sling has been comfortable. ¬†This would be a great setup for a street photographer wanting a bag as a daily carry that is out of the way when working. ¬†Now if you have a mirrorless system and want to travel light, THIS IS YOUR BAG! ¬†People who use¬†mirrorless systems are usually trying to keep the load¬†light. ¬†If I had the cash for a Sony A7rii (Hello¬†Sony? If you’re feeling generous…) and some Sony glass to go along with it, this would be my bag 24/7! ¬†Before I had the EDM (and now a Sling), I was a backpack guy. ¬†This led to me carrying WAY too much gear, everywhere; backpacks have lots of room for lenses, filters, and everything else under the sun. ¬†Who carries a half empty backpack? ¬†Now that I’ve gone to messenger bags, I’ll never carry my camera gear in a backpack again; I carry what I need vice everything I own. ¬†My opinion regarding backpacks has changed drastically in the last year as I believe backpacks have their place in camping, hiking, etc.; I even understand why¬†many photographers need them. ¬†However, straight up camera bags or messenger bags just work better for me. ¬†Just my two Abe Lincoln’s worth…

sling7My love affair with Peak Design products began about 4+ years ago when I was tired of taking the wrist cuff off the¬†camera so I could put it¬†on a tripod. ¬†After a little searching online, I found a Peak Design product that made¬†exactly what I wanted except it allowed the camera to be mounted to a backpack or belt! ¬†Since then I’ve used much of their gear because it’s built to last and works as advertised. ¬†It is so refreshing to see a company like Peak Design who stand behind their products and haven’t forgotten where they came from! ¬†The Sling is no different and a prime example of Peak Design’s dedication to¬†making¬†quality photography products. ¬†They never stop amazing me with their ingenious products and I actually get excited when they advertise a new product release! ¬†Lastly, two final thoughts about¬†why I have loved Peak Designs products, this Sling fits in to both¬†categories. ¬†First, once you use their gear you’ll wonder why you didn’t check them out earlier. ¬†I wasn’t even wanting¬†another bag, now I’m hooked on the Sling. ¬†Second, all Peak Design products are built tough and whatever you buy, you won’t be replacing it anytime soon. ¬†So, if you’re on the fence about the Sling, don’t be as it’s¬†built to last, will safely carry your gear, and very comfortable to carry. ¬†Thank you Peak Design and Purple Orange for this great opportunity!

sling2

Hello Umpkinpay!

Diffractive what?

Upfront, I’m not a pro photographer or even trying to make a living through photography; I’m just a retired guy who loves photography, nothing more.  Over a year ago I decided to make the leap to Canon’s L Series lenses, a move I still don’t regret.  I settled on the EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM because it was such a versatile lens and would be the work horse that I’d use most.  I also wanted a decent wide-angle and after some research settled on the EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM, it would replace the EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM which is alsso a great lens!  In the bag at the time I had a Tamron 28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di VC lens which I loved.  I wanted something in the bag that could reach out to 300mm, if it was too big to carry it probably wouldn’t be with me when I went out.  I knew this dream lens would be expensive, but after doing some research I found that all the lenses in this genre were huge.  Like I said, if this didn’t fit in my bag I knew I wouldn’t use it much.  Then I read about the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 L DO IS USM (above).

The Meyer

The first thing to catch my eye was the green band instead the traditional red on Canon L Series lenses.  While not an L Series that I wanted, most reviews will tell you that it is close.  A selling point for me was that this lens was actually slightly smaller in length than the EF 24-105mm in my bag!  However, this lens is heavier than my others.  Again, my criteria wasn’t so much weight, but size in general.  As I read I heard the terms “Fresnel” and “diffractive optics” and had NO IDEA what I n the heck that even meant.  Fresnel lenses were used in lighthouses because they were compact yet able capture huge amounts of light to project, for their size.  Canon calls their version of the Fresnel technology Diffractive Optics, this allows this 300mm lens to be shorter than others of this kind.  This meant it would be in my bag when I unexpectedly saw the USS Meyer leaving San Diego (see The Meyer at left).  Had I not had a 300mm lens to reach out and touch this ship, this photo would have been San Diego skyline shot…

Duet

I’ve been happy with this lens to say the least.  I’ll be honest, I read some less than favorable reviews about this lens before I bought it, especially at Ken Rockwell’s website.  He’s a pro who knows his stuff, I always check his website for great reviews.  Mr. Rockwell reviewed this lens and had a few bad things to say, nothing that didn’t keep me from taking a chance (here’s a link to his review).  I agree with his opinions as well, there are better Canon lenses for less money, but again I wanted a lens I’d actually carry daily.  As my wife can attest, when I don’t use something I generally sell it.  This photo at right, Duet, was another instance where I was driving and saw these guys kite surfing and broke out thee trustee EF 70-300mm!  I do have a longer lens at home that reaches out to 600mm, but it’s nothing I’d carry everywhere I go.  On the other hand, if I had seen these kite surfers and was going home to get my gear, I’d have grabbed the 600mm in a heartbeat.  However, having my camera handy and the 70-300 in the bag meant I got the shot!

RMS Queen Mary

I own four lenses but three of them are with me whenever I go out.  The photo at left, RMS Queen Mary, like the others was taken when I couldn’t have shot this if not carrying a compact 70-300.  Below left (Chutes), this Canon lens does a good job capturing a jet powered truck going 340 mph!  And below right, San Diego Bay, was taken when I was shooting pics at 5k race and had no intention of shooting the bay until I saw this, threw on the 70-300 to get it, then went back to the 5k!  The common denominator here is that these shots were taken while out doing something else and having this lens handy meant being able to reach out 300mm.  This lens also means having room in my bag for other lenses or items.  If I carried one of the other longer lenses, I’d be leaving one of the others at home.  Sometimes taking a chance pays off.

Peak Design @ Kickstarter

Only 30+ hours to get a new Peak Design bag at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/peak-design/the-everyday-backpack-tote-and-sling?ref=82lqjc

Campania?

Cappuccino?

The above photo is a tile I found in a little piazza in Sorrento, Italy depicting the 79AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius. ¬†This region, the Campania region of Italy, has an incredible history, generous people, spot-on vino, some of the best food in Italy, and is also completely underrated. ¬†This is just my opinion based on me having exactly 0% Italian blood running through my veins and how much I’d really love for my website to be named¬†www.GuglielmoChizekPhotography.com.

Just Another Statue

Don’t get me wrong, I like Tuscany¬†and Umbria too, but people make too much of them and everyone seems to¬†forget about the rest of Italy. Again, this is based on the 0% blood thing. ¬†Seriously, Italy almost has an invisible line running from Rome to the Adriatic Sea that culturally divides it. ¬†Depending on who you talk to, this may be good or bad. ¬†South of Rome, there’s just no way to miss the noticeable differences, namely the poverty and lack of infrastructure. ¬†Still, this region isn’t without it’s charm. ¬†No matter where you are in Italy, some things are universal; pizza, pasta, gelato, vino, and cafe are all equally amazing. ¬†However, give me a pizza in Campania, any day, rather than one from¬†any other region in Italy! ¬†Campania has a couple of things the rest of Italy doesn’t; Pompeii¬†and¬†Vesuvio to name a few. ¬†So take that Tuscany and Umbria lovers… ¬†The photo at left was taken in Pompeii, the city that was violently buried under as much as twenty feet of volcanic ash in the year 79 AD. ¬†I’m a fairly traveled individual, but Pompeii is like no other place you’ll visit, you are literally walking on streets that are more than 2,ooo years old!

Downtown

Campania’s largest city,¬†Naples, is home to approximately four million people and is Italy’s fourth largest urban economy. ¬†Just walking the streets of Naples, which is one of planet Earth’s most continually inhabited cities, is¬†an amazing experience. ¬†Seriously, you can window shop forever and I HATE shopping! ¬†The amazing architecture¬†keeps things interesting even if you don’t know much about the subject and the smell of food is everywhere, no matter the time of day! ¬†One of the most vibrant areas of Naples is Spacca Napoli, here you can find practically anything. ¬†If it exists in Naples, you’ll probably find it in Spacca Napoli. ¬†The photo at right is a good example of what you’ll find here, wall to wall everything! ¬†This area is full of traditional Neapolitan items, other areas may be food oriented, and one area on Via San Gregorio Armeno is better known as Christmas Alley.

If you’re going to visit Italy, don’t be afraid to head south, there is plenty to see and do. ¬†Yes, there is crime, it’s not rich nor modern like northern Italy, and it can be seriously frustrating if you’re driving; but it’s definitely worth the time to see. ¬†Just be a smart traveler, thiefs and pick pockets tend to target the easy mark in very public places or public transportation. ¬†Visiting only northern Italy is like visiting the United States and only going to Miami and San Diego, you’d go home thinking the USA is all palm trees, beaches, and beautiful weather when there’s so much more. ¬†Italy is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been, Naples and Campania are an incredible part of that overall picture. ¬†Do yourself a favor, walk the streets of Pompeii, hike to the top of Vesuvio to check out the view of Naples, and then get whatever Neapolitan pizza flips your trigger with a bottle of vino and try to say it wasn’t worth the trip. ¬†I dare you…

Capo
I took this in January 2012, looking at Mount Vesuvius in Naples, Italy from Capodichino.

NEW Peak Design Bags!

If these new bags are as good as their Everyday Messenger Bag released last year, you might want to get one early through their Kickstarter Campaign.

Check out what I had to say about Peak Design in my blog at¬†Everyday Messenger: is the honeymoon over?¬† and¬†In the Bag. ¬†Honestly, I haven’t heard of many people not liking these bags. ¬†Don’t take my word for it, check out the reviews at Google¬†and you’ll see what I mean!

Peak

Japanese Friendship Garden

Balboa Park, just off I-5 in San Diego is a great place to take the family or just hang out, with or without a camera. ¬†There are museums, gardens, fountains, and plenty of places for the kids to run around. ¬†Within Balboa Park is the Japanese Friendship Garden, an incredible place to shoot with a camera or to just walk around! ¬†It has been open since 1991 and if you weren’t looking for it you might walk right by. ¬†The Garden is located in a semi-secluded little canyon within Balboa Park and is marked by a Japanese style gate at the entrance. ¬†The above photo,¬†Friendship,¬†was taken with a¬†Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens at f/10, 1/80 sec, focal length 65mm, and ISO 200. ¬†This is a pretty typcial view of the garden during the spring.

Garden Door

The cool thing about this garden is that there is so much to shoot once inside.  Because the Japanese Friendship Garden sits below Balboa Park, you really feel like your somewhere else and not sitting in the middle of San Diego.  In and around the gardens are one little subject after another.  In the photo at right, I shot the door knob but there was also the opportunity to shoot more.  I could have captured this beautiful door itself or the items in the background like the lilac trees, the pavillion, and the flowers growing on the pavillion.  In this photo, called Garden Door, I wanted to capture the door knob without losing sight of where I was shooting.  I needed to keep that door knob tied to the garden in the background or this was just another fancy door knob.

Lilac Pond

To make the most of getting great photos, get¬†to the garden when they open at 10am, or going on any cloudy day, seems to work best. ¬†There are also waterfalls, rocks, and little ponds¬†that contain¬†what I believe are Koi fish, they are also amazing and worth capturing. ¬†These little nooks and cranies don’t photograph well in bright sun. ¬†This photo on the left is called Lilac Pond, and when I go back I plan to spend more time at this location!

Quiet PleaseThis park is literally filled with traditional Japanese garden structures everywhere, including quite a few lanterns that I also plan to dedicate more¬†time to as well. ¬†In fact, I had NO idea what these things were until I got home and did a little research. ¬†What I did feel¬†from them while in the garden was peace; if there was ever a garden structure that begged you to be quiet, it’s these. ¬†That’s why I called the photo at left Quiet Please. ¬†These really do make for interesting photos! ¬†Throughout the Japanese Garden are plenty of flowers as well on the trails and hills, most are labeled. ¬†Planning a trip in springtime around¬†mid-May seems would be a great time to catch everything in bloom. ¬†The below photo is called Serenity and was taken on the trail that heads from the upper to lower¬†garden.

Serenity

There’s good news and bad news about shooting this Japanese Friendship Garden. ¬†The good news, bring 100mm¬†lens and you can¬†shoot for free. ¬†The images at the top and bottom of this page (Friendship¬†&¬†Friendship 2)¬†were shot without entering the garden itself. ¬†Friendship 2¬†is a recropped version of¬†Friendship. ¬†Yes, there is an admission charge; $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and military, and children under 6 years of age¬†are free. ¬†Now the bad news, if you show up with a decent camera, or a bag that makes it look like you know what you’re doing, they’re going question you about your gear, why you are shooting, and wether or not you’ve got a website. ¬†If you’re honest like I was, they will charge you $35 to shoot inside the Japanese Gardens in addition to¬†the admission fee. ¬†Take it from me, it can be an expensive. ¬† My wife generally doesn’t pay attention to my blogs but I predict I’ll know exactly when she reads this and discovers I spent over $40 just to shoot these pics… ¬†ūüėé

Friendship 2

US History 1

I’ve been interested in history since I was a little kid, don’t ask me why, it just happened.  Later in life, while in the US Navy, history was ever present; so when teaching US history followed, it seemed like a natural fit.  While getting serious about photography, it seemed a little more fun when shooting historical subjects.  The problem is that not everybody cares about history (or photography for that matter), so the photo has to stand on its own.  I’ve tried to put the photo in the forefront, then try to introduce a bit of limited back story in the comments, then many times provide link to more information for those who are interested.  Even though the photograph is historical in nature, I try to limit the narrative so it’s not a lecture.  I’ve been fortunate to have two photography lessons in my life, both were free by incredible photographers willing to share, and both lessons opened my eyes and rocked my little world.  In the second lesson, I learned that when photographing something already popular, my photo needs to be different.  No matter what I want to shoot, I need to ask myself, “what am I not seeing here?”  It sounds incredibly simple but it really isn’t, at least for me, thank you again EM!  Silently asking myself that question and discovering the answer do not always go hand in hand.

Riders

In a recent trip I visited the USS Wisconsin (BB-64) at the Nauticas in Norfolk, Virginia.  Instead of getting photos of the massive 16 inch guns, the bridge, or the wooden decks, I wanted to capture the immensity of the ship.  You don’t always see a World War Two battleship with so much below the waterline showing so the bow seemed like the perfect place to start.  Going with a black and white photo could bring out the texture of the ship as well as the backdrop of clouds.  The photo at the top of this blog is called “Wisky” because that was the Wisconsin’s nickname.  While in Virginia, I couldn’t pass up going to Colonial Williamsburg either, an amazing place!  I really didn’t plan on shooting indoors, and to my surprise, it didn’t cost anything to walk around the entire day with my camera.  Without paying, there are a few buildings you can enter as well as the stores, talk about bang for the buck!  In the photo at right, called Riders, I cropped out a few tourists hoping to give it a traditional colonial feel like we were stepping back in time.  Street scenes like this are very common at Williamsburg, you just have to be ready.

Big Casino

While there is history everywhere, the southwestern US is an amazing place.  Recently I was reading about gunfighters and lawmen of the old west.  I discovered that Sheriff Pat Garrett was buried an hour from my house in El Paso.  Pat Garrett was famous for killing Billy the Kid in 1881 at Fort Sumner, New Mexico.  However, the other part of the story is that Garrett later ran in to serious debt and was killed in 1908 on a back road near Las Cruses, New Mexico.  The details of the killing are sketchy when it comes to who actually murdered Garrett.  The photo to the left is called “Big Casino” because that was Garrett’s nickname.  Oddly enough, Garrett and Billy the Kid played poker many times together and the Kid’s nickname was “Little Casino” at the tables because Garrett was a tall man compared to Billy the Kid.

Spanish DomeThroughout the American southwest are many Spanish missions, they are literally everywhere.  I wrote earlier about the the El Paso Mission Trail and its three missions in a blog called Missions: 3 in 1 morning.  However, the San Xavier del bac Mission in Tucson, Arizona is another that is worth seeing because not only is it beautiful on the inside, but the outside is incredible as well.  The mission was built in the 18th century and is in incredible condition; however, it is in a constant state of preservation and many times you will find workers inside.  This photo, on the right is called Spanish Dome and is just one example of the architecture of this building.  There are many angles to shoot this from and they all seem different, including its one unfinished steeple.  This mission is definitely worth the trip!

GW

Sometimes it’s fun to stumble on to history where and when you least expect it as was the case a few weeks ago.  While at the El Paso Museum of Art and looking at the impressionists works, I noticed something familiar.  Hanging on the wall was was a portrait that just about anybody would recognize.  It was a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, the same portrait used for the one dollar bill!  That’s right, if you’ve handled a one dollar note you’ve seen this!  I figured this had to be a reproduction, nope; it was an original from 1796.  A Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington in the El Paso Museum of Art, now that IS cool!  The trick here was how to take a photo of this very familiar image without making it appear to be just a photo of someone elses artwork.  I took this photo, GW, wanting to partially show the hall, allude to the museum, and make it part of the story.  This Stuart portrait ended up being a nice surprise for sure!

The last photo at the bottom is the USS Cobia (SS-245) in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.  The submarine was brought to Manitowoc when I was a kid in the early 1970’s.  My brother and I bought summer passes to the Manitowoc Maritime Museum which has since relocated and is now the Wisconsin Maritime Museum at Manitowoc.  Back then, our summer passes cost $5 and nobody, and I mean NOBODY, went on those early tours.  Many times it was just my brother and I becoming regulars with the tour guides who let us explore.  As a future history nut, this was about as good as it got!  Although the sub a childhood novelty for us, this boat was serious business in its day completing six war patrols during WWII sinking over 16,000 tons of enemy shipping.  After the war, Cobia was a training vessel for the US Navy until it was stricken from the Navy register and moved to Manitowoc.  The reason for a submarine on Lake Michigan?  During WWII the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company built 28 submarines for the war effort and Cobia proudly represents that era.

Finding historical subjects isn’t that difficult; however, trying to make them interesting can be…  Honestly, I could write about history seemingly forever, that’s why I titled this US History 1, at some point I’m sure there’ll be US History 2.  Things are perfect in my little corner of this universe when I can merge photography and history.  Many times, history is about the journey and I can say the same about photography.  Finding Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington portrait just 20 minutes down the road was nowhere near as fun as finding Sheriff Pat Garrett’s grave.  On that day my kids and I went to the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum and ate at a great little Italian restaurant called Zeffiro Pizzeria Napoletana.  While the photo is cool, that day with my kids was even better!

Wet Sub

New Peak Design Bags are out!

CLICK TO SEE THE NEW BAGS AT KICKSTARTER!!

These bags are for non-photographers and photographers alike! ¬†If you’re interested, I’ve written two posts related to my Peak Design camera bag. ¬†The latest, posted¬†on May 30, 2016 was specifically about the Everyday Messenger entitled, Everyday Messenger: is the honeymoon over?¬† However,¬†first article called In the Bag, posted on April 25, 2016 was¬†not specifically about the bag, but¬†was related to what I keep in my Everyday Messenger. ¬†I also wrote about the Peak Design products I use everyday that make photography easier, see it at Peak Design.

I hope these posts will give you some insight in to these great products!

PeakDesign_logo-300x259

Point Loma, San Diego

I have a few ‘go-to’¬†places to shoot in the San Diego area, places I can count on to hopefully take¬†a few “keepers” when the weather is right. Point Loma is one of those locations because of the view of San Diego, the altitude (400+ feet above the sea), and the numerous photo subjects readily available there. The history geek in me loves that Point Loma is where¬†the first Europeans landed in California exploring¬†the new world in the sixteenth century.(1) ¬†There are three main locations at Point Loma that are of interest for photography; the old lighthouse, the monument commemorating the Europeans landing in California, and a national cemetery that honors many heroes of our nation. As my friends know, I hate shooting on sunny days, so when I see clouds I usually head to Point Loma or Imperial Beach, my other ‘go-to’ place (see earlier blog entry: Why I Love IB).

The Old Light

The Old Point Loma Lighthouse is an amazing way to begin any morning. The lighthouse was first lit on the evening¬†of November 15, 1855 and was functional for approximately 36 years until a new lighthouse was built at a lower elevation and closer to the coast.(2) On the grounds are two buildings; the lighthouse itself which also consisted of living quarters for the lighthouse keepers and their families; the other is the small museum building. These grounds are completely kid friendly and even though I’ve taken my kids here numerous times, climbing to the top of the lighthouse never get old for them! The photo at the top of the page, Distant Lighthouse, is the lighthouse captured¬†through the grass that surrounds the lighthouse. The photo at right, The Old Light, shows the walkway around the light itself. ¬†The lighthouse itself is a great subject close-up or at a distance.

Cabrillo (B&W)

It’s hard to imagine a better view of San Diego and Coronado than that from the Cabrillo National Monument. ¬†Here there are actually two views worth considering; by the monument itself and the patio area at¬†the nearby visitors center. ¬†This monument celebrates the arrival of European explorers¬†commanded by¬†Juan Rodr√≠guez Cabrillo¬†of Portugal. ¬†The Cabrillo National Monument was established in 1913 and¬†features¬†a stone statue of Cabrillo commemorating his arrival¬†on September 28, 1542.(3) ¬†Again, this is another area that my kids can run a little but need to be somewhat careful because of the cliffs near the monument area. Any time I can let my kids run and can shoot pics, it’s a win-win. ¬†The photo at left, Cabrillo (B&W), was shot with an approaching storm in front of the camera while the sun was still out behind me creating a strange lighting effect on the statue.

The Gathering

When you travel to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and Cabrillo Monument, you’ll pass through the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. The cemetery sits on the hills overlooking San Diego Bay and is a beautiful final resting for our fallen service members. There are so many incredible people buried here that, as a retired¬†Navy Musician and former history professor, I could spend an entire day searching the historical people as well as paying my respects to a couple of former bosses. The photo at right, called The Gathering,¬†is the grave of Medal of Honor recipient Michael Monsoor taken a few years ago around the¬†anniversary of his death. It appeared his shipmates gathered for a beer with their friend. Michael Monsoor threw himself on a grenade that landed¬†on a rooftop in¬†ar-Ramadi, Iraq. His actions¬†saved the lives of his fellow SEAL’s; you can read about Monsoon’s action on¬†his Medal of Honor citation. Monsoor is a hero and the very definition of selfless service in my opinion. Another grave, although not a military hero in the same category of Michael Monsoor, is musician¬†Conrad Gozzo.¬† Gozzo is still considered one of the greatest trumpet players-ever, decades¬†after his death. ¬†The photo below, entitled simply Goz, shows his grave not far from that¬†of Monsoor. ¬†During World War Two, many top musicians entered military service to do their part, Gozzo was no different and joined the US Navy. Click this link to here Conrad Gozzo play Torna a Sorrento.

"Goz"

The Meyer

Many times US Navy ships can be seen arriving and departing San Diego and Point Loma offers the perfect view! ¬†The photo at left, called The Meyer, was taken earn¬†the Cabrillo Monument Visitor Center as the USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108) departed for the ocean. The below photo, CVN-73, was taken from Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery as¬†the USS George Washington departed. ¬†Both of these photos were taken with a Canon¬†EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 L DO IS USM lens, while a bit heavy its size allow me carry it daily and it sure comes in handy for moments like these. However, you don’t have to be a photographer to appreciate what Point Loma has to offer but in my case, it’s a plus. ¬†Whenever friends or family come to town, were usually make a trip to Point Loma. ¬†However, Old Point Loma Lighthouse and the Cabrillo Monument share the same parking lot so it can get busy, especially in the summer months, and on weekends. If you’ve got the time and don’t like crowds, try going during the week and you won’t be disappointed.

CVN-73

 

  1. Wikipedia, Point Loma, San Diego, 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_Loma,_San_Diego  (accessed July 6, 2016).
  2. National Park Servvice, The Lighthouses of Point Loma, 2016, https://www.nps.gov/cabr/learn/historyculture/the-lighthouses-of-point-loma.htm  (accessed July 6, 2016)
  3. National Park Servvice, 2016, Cabrillo National Monument California, 2016, https://www.nps.gov/cabr/learn/historyculture/juan-rodriguez-cabrillo.htm  (accessed July 6, 2016)

Peak Design

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): ¬†I don’t ever tell people they¬†NEED to get something, or want to convince someone to make purchases that may not be for them. ¬†However, I have been using Peak Design gear since 2012 and am still wow’d by their products! ¬†In fact, I can’t see myself walking out of the house to shoot without a piece of¬†Peak Design gear on me. ¬†They make durable gear that makes photography easier and once you use it you’ll wonder how you did without it. ¬†They have a selection of products for numerous photography platforms including most camera brands including GoPros.¬†¬†I’ve bought many pieces of gear from them but¬†I’d like to write about the ones that have mattered to me, that made photography better, and life a little easier. ¬†I use their Everyday Messenger Bag, a fairly major purchase for me, and I’ve already written about that a couple of weeks ago (Everyday Messenger, is the honeymoon over?). ¬†Surprisingly, it is sometimes the little things that work the best over the long haul. ¬†The image above is an example of those “little things” that make life easier. ¬†In the above left photo is an anchor which¬†connects to your camera, on the right is the capture plate which connects to the CapurePRO¬†or your tripod.

I use the anchors to connect to the Peak Design Cuff¬†(above left) & Sling¬†(above right). ¬†If I grab my camera from the bag, at a minimum, I’ve got the Cuff attached for protection against dropping. If I’m going to be out for a while and don’t want to change lenses, I’ll take the Slide which is a great camera strap. ¬†The Anchors allow me to attach these wherever I want! ¬†This allows the the Sling (camera strap) to sit comfortably in the manner YOU like. ¬†I personally like the lens to hang down and not out, because I’m a klutz. As mentioned in my review of the Everyday Messenger, I want bang for my buck and this comes in the form of how much I’ll use the item vs. how much space the item takes in my bag. ¬†The Anchors, Cuff, and Sling are used daily and take up minimal space.

The capture plate, on the bottom on the camera in the above left photo, allows your camera to connect to your tripod as well as Peak Design’s CapturePRO¬†(photo above right). ¬†The CapturePRO can connect to a belt via the ProPad, a backpack shoulder strap, or in my case the Everyday Messenger. ¬†It makes for a sturdy platform to carry your camera, again where YOU want it, and in a safe manner. ¬†That’s the important part, these products are versatile and allow you to set them up to your needs. ¬†The below photos show my camera attached on my tripod at right and my bag using Peak Design products.

These Peak Design products have literally made my photography life much easier. ¬†There is no thinking involved and I no longer have to plan how I’m going to carry my camera. I used to own straps, grips, and tripod plates that didn’t interconnect; for instance, the hand strap had to come off if I wanted to put the camera on a tripod. ¬†Everything works together! ¬†While I do carry other Peak Design items, these are the pieces of gear I use daily and I know how much they help me. Like I said in my BLUF,¬†I’m not one to tell people to make purchases but I’m hopeful that I’ve made the case for how these products have helped me.

 

El Paso mixes old and new

Oregon Street

While El Paso is no longer the wild west city of yesteryear, it’s still an incredible blend of old versus new. ¬†Downtown buildings, many well over one hundred years old, are blended in with new architecture and the redesigned San Jacinto Plaza and newly built Southwest University Park (home of the minor league El Paso Chihuahuas). ¬†As if that’s not enough, the city is bringing back the old trollies that have been stored for years in the desert! ¬†That’s just part of¬†reason I really love El Paso, it’s changing and you can feel it! ¬†It’s easy to¬†spend the day out shooting with a camera walking the downtown area. ¬†As a history buff, it’s not difficult to appreciate El Paso’s rich culture and story¬†which is literally everywhere. ¬†Downtown EP never fails when looking for photo opportunities. ¬†The photo at the top of this page, called El Paso, was taken from Scenic Drive on the Franklin Mountains. ¬†The photo at left is called Oregon Street, and shows US Interstate 10 which passes through the downtown area.

Concordia

When talking about the gunfighters of the old west, nobody was more feared than John Wesley Hardin; he is considered “the most deadly of the Old West‚Äôs gunmen.” ¬†Hardin was “the best shot, the fastest draw, an excellent horseman and the deadliest gunman in the West‚ÄĒand not simply through hearsay.” ¬†He had killed well over 30 men and his abilities with handguns is well documented, nobody came close in terms of his lethality with a pistol. ¬†Hardin was killed by a shot to¬†the back of his head by John Selman at the Acme Saloon at 274 E. San Antonio Street in downtown El Paso. The Minister called to care for¬†Hardin’s body said if Selman had shot Hardin through the eye from the front, ‚Äúit would be remarkably good marksmanship,‚ÄĚ and if Selman had shot him from behind, ‚Äúit was probably remarkably good judgment.‚ÄĚ(1) ¬†This photo, called Concordia, is John Wesley Hardin’s grave at Concordia Cemetery.

The Plaza

Another older building still in use in downtown El Paso is the Plaza theater. Big name acts routinely perform at this theater which was built in 1930 with the “intention of doing something good for the city of El Paso.” When it opened it was “advertised as the largest theater of its kind between Dallas and Los Angeles” and was the first public theater in the US to have air conditioning. ¬†However, the Plaza finally closed in 1974 and was slated to be demolished in favor of a parking lot in 1986. ¬†The Plaza had become “one of the nation’s largest non-functioning theaters.” Finally, after a $38 million face lift, the theater reopened in 2006 and has been providing quality entertainment for El Paso ever since.(2) ¬†This photo is called The Plaza.

In addition to the historic buildings, downtown EP has become home to some new architecture as well. ¬†This is something I really like about El Paso, while having one foot firmly placed in its history it still has one foot in the future going forward. The Wells-Fargo Plaza¬†can be seen below on the left, this building is a sort of reference point whenever I’m out walking the downtown area. ¬†I shot this photo one night with light traffic last year, it’s called EP at Night. ¬†Below, the top right photo, called Texas Sky, is the El Paso County Courthouse, yet another modern and very cool looking structure. ¬†Finally, the below ¬†bottom right photo, called History, is the El Paso Museum of History¬†and is definitely worth the trip as well and makes for a colorful night shot. ¬†Another aspect of El Paso I may shoot in the future is the food. ¬†After living and traveling for many years in Europe and Asia, I have a spot in my stomach for “mom-n-pop” joints or the local “hole in the walls.” El Paso definitely has a food vibe I’ve close to what I’ve experienced in Europe or New Orleans for that matter.

Since my first visit to El Paso in 2006 to get married, I’ve found it¬†to be a city that definitely grows on you! ¬†I’ve seen and heard complaining about how bad El Paso is from younger people, I’ve even seen some with “Hell Paso” stickers on their computers at Starbucks… ¬†I remind myself that they’ve probably not traveled much and are basing this opinion off never having left the city. ¬†The grass is always greener, till you’ve experienced the “greener” and seen that sometimes it’s not all you thought it would be. ¬†El Paso has a lot going for it in my opinion, not to mention, it’s also in a great location for traveling the the southwest United States; White Sands National Monument is a short trip to the north and Carlsbad Caverns National Park to the east. ¬†With nearby wineries, craft beer spots, minor league baseball, University of Texas at El Paso sports (UTEP), museums, great food & culture, plus very nice people, El Paso is a great place to call home. It’s also a great place to break out a camera every now and then.

 

 

 

 

1. True West¬†Magazine,¬†Hardin’s Deadly Tools, 2012,¬†http://www.truewestmagazine.com/hardins-deadly-tools/¬†¬†(accessed June 7, 2016)
2. Wikipedia, Plaza Theater (El Paso), 2015, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plaza_Theatre_(El_Paso)  (accessed June 7, 2016).

Everyday Messenger, is the honeymoon over?

IMG_7837Last April I wrote about the daily contents of¬†my Peak Design Everyday Messenger bag, also called the EDM (See In the bag). ¬†This week I would like to write about the EDM bag itself; while there are many reviews of this bag online I would like to share my experiences. ¬†When I first saw the promo for the EDM I said to myself, “nice, but not for me.” ¬†Like other Peak Design products, crowd funding through Kickstarter was the means of getting the bag early. ¬†Although not wasn’t interested in the bag, I wanted to help¬†Peak Design because I’ve supported them in the past. ¬†They make quality photography gear and¬†I was still willing to put money behind a new product even if it wasn’t for me! ¬†After months of reading early reviews, seeing promos, and the opinions of others, I decided to get the bag. ¬†At $220, the EDM was¬†not a cheap venture considering I already had a perfectly fine camera bag. ¬†I finally decided to¬†keep my other bag and if the EDM didn’t work out, I’d sell it. ¬†If Peak Design’s EDM didn’t live up to the hype, there was¬†a fallback plan. ¬†Well, after seven months with my Peak Design EDM, I feel comfortable saying how this worked out.

First off, a little background, I’m an amateur photographer so my livelihood isn’t dependent upon selling photos. ¬†There are no clients, no deadlines, no business obligations, so photography¬†is the coolest hobby as someone who is retired! ¬†In 2010 I had back surgery and finding the right bag took years, literally. ¬†I bought so many bags online in search of the “the one” that between shipping and selling, I’ll admit loosing few bucks. ¬†After three years, I finally settled on a well known brand, a backpack, and it’s a GREAT bag. ¬†This backpack had enough room for all my stuff and seemed to fit well on my back. ¬†I had to carry this bag all day before it started hurting. ¬†Obviously, the Peak Design EDM was much smaller and concessions would be necessary to seriously attempt this transition. ¬†How much gear would need to be ditched? ¬†After the number of bags I’ve been though, how could any messenger bag compare? ¬†Needless to say, there were¬†¬†concerns.

Many people will tell you that there is no perfect camera bag, and I believe this to be true. ¬†However, this current backpack was as close as I had come to perfection. ¬†While waiting for the EDM,¬†I decided honestly look at my current bag situation and make changes before the EDM arrived. ¬†After reading a piece written by Ken Rockwell I knew changes were needed. I wrote in my previous blog, In the bag, in where Rockwell says, “trying to be prepared for everything makes you prepared for nothing” and when carrying¬†less gear “you‚Äôll be more relaxed and have better time, again leading to more fun and better pictures.” ¬†It clicked, so I went in to strip down mode 1.0 and ditched anything not used in recent memory and reevaluated EVERYTHING in the backpack. ¬†When my Peak Design EDM arrived, I was going to be ready.

Well it arrived and I still couldn’t fit my freakin’ gear in the EDM, before I had a knee jerk reaction and sold¬†gear, I decided to strip down to essentials only. ¬†Which lenses did I use daily? ¬†I hadn’t used a flash in over a year, did it need to be in my daily carry? ¬†Which gear of this¬†already stripped down load could I not leave the house without. ¬†Ok, strip down mode 2.0 coming up… ¬†In the end, after spending months setting up the EDM, it was 100% totally worth it! ¬†I now carry a lighter bag with actually need gear versus everything on the planet “just in case.” ¬†The bag can be configured inside to suit your needs and provides decent protection. ¬†Will it protect it like my backpack would? ¬†No, however, in my daily needs that backpack was overkill. ¬†I now carry my camera much more often with the EDM than before in that huge backpack full of goodies!¬† I have no problem with the EDM while traveling, it fits under the front seat on an airplane, and is generally out of the way when not needed.

So who would likely benefit from the Peak Design EDM? ¬†If you shoot¬†mostly from home, it’s perfect. ¬† If you like to carry a bunch of lenses and accessories, it’s probably not for you. ¬†It’s also probably not for you if you’re a hiker doing overnighters in tents where a backpack is a necessity. ¬†My personal experience is that the Peak Design Everyday Messenger forced me to downsize my gear, which was needed! ¬†I now carry essential items only and¬†am¬†shooting more because the EDM is with me daily¬†and¬†less time is spent rummaging through a backpack for something. ¬†As for that back surgery, the EDM isn’t quite as comfortable as the backpack but the trade off is that it’s much lighter. ¬†I’ve had no major issues carry it as I did with some backpacks. ¬†So last week I sold $1300 worth of lenses and accessories, plus the backpack in my “fallback plan” has a new home. ¬†Overall, the transition to the Peak Design Everyday Messenger has been positive. ¬†I discovered much about what I truly needed versus what was nice to have, and I’m happier while out shooting. Yes, there is NO perfect camera bag and no “one size fits all.” ¬†I would never tell anyone they needed to run out and buy this EDM now. ¬†However, I will say it worked for me and I’m very happy with it as I am with all my Peak Design products.

Why I love IB

Imperial Beach, California¬†is like the pretty girl in high school who didn’t try out to be a cheer leader. ¬†Yes, she’s pretty but not as popular as the cheer leaders. ¬†Imperial Beach is a sort of poor man’s beach in comparison to the more popular locations of¬†Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, and the beach in the nearby tourist haven of¬†Coronado;¬†these beaches are the cheer leaders, the popular ones… ¬†Locals refer to their San Diego beaches by initials, Ocean Beach = OB, Pacific Beach = PB, and my personal favorite Imperial Beach, or IB, is the southern most. Not only do I like IB because it’s close to home, but it also has character with the old wooden pier and lack of a carnival atmosphere that is common at some southern California Beaches. Imperial beach is simple, parking is usually not a problem, and there are places to grab a bite to eat. It is a pretty low key place for now, however, it’s rapidly growing and signs are everywhere that “low key” isn’t going to last.

IB Sunset #3

Shooting sunsets in IB¬†is almost like shooting fish in a barrel. ¬†Unless it’s a completely cloud covered evening you’re practically guaranteed a spectacular sunset. ¬†Even if there is complete cloud cover the wooden pier is an excellent subject! ¬†In fact, on my San Diego photo bucket list is shooting¬†nothing but black and white shots at the pier in a storm.The photo at the top, December Sunset 1, is a prime example of the typical IB sunset! ¬†December¬†Sunset 1 was shot, like all of these photos, with a Canon 6d, EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM lens at f/8, 1/125 sec, focal length 35mm, and ISO 100. People who know me know that when it comes to taking photos, I HATE sunny days. ¬†Sunny days are just boring, while blue skies can look amazing to the naked eye, for me it doesn’t translate well to the camera. ¬†In a photo, blue skies do nothing for me especially if they occupy a majority of the photo. ¬†On the other hand, clouds add drama and draw your attention. ¬†Sunsets and sunrises, without clouds for the sun to poke through, are not interesting. ¬†Again, this is just my opinion… ¬†The photo at left, IB Sunset #3, was taken from the southern¬†side of the beach. ¬†It was shot with an¬†EF 24-105mm lens at f/4 L IS USM,¬†f/10, 1/160 sec, focal length 28mm, and ISO 100.

Morning Walk

Another thing I like about Imperial Beach is that it’s not crowded for the most part. ¬†Sure you’ll run in to plenty of people in the summer, or when there is a local festival, but it’s still possible to get candid shots like this just about any morning you visit. ¬†Many mornings it’s also easy to shoot the surfers from the pier who line up nearby to catch waves. ¬†While on the pier, there are plenty of birds, people fishing, and the pier itself that can make excellent subjects. This photo, Morning Walk, was shot from above on the IB pier one morning with an¬†EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 L DO IS USM lens at f/8, 1/200 sec, focal length 300mm, and ISO 100. ¬†People come here in the mornings to walk the beach like this man, but also to jog or just sit in the sand and listen to the waves. ¬†Everything in this photo just looks peaceful to me, and that’s why I like IB in the mornings, it is just like this photo, peaceful.

Birds of a Feather

Like most piers, pigeons and seagulls are everywhere and sometimes they make great subjects. Because these birds are very accustomed to people you don’t always need a long lens to catch them. ¬†This photo, Birds of a Feather, is kind of a typical IB day but instead of focusing on the people, I chose the birds. ¬†This photo was taken¬†with an EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 L DO IS USM lens at f/8, 1/320 sec, focal length 300mm, and ISO 100. This photo is one of the reasons I keep going back to Imperial Beach because it’s not difficult to find an interesting subject. ¬†The below photo, My Kind of Beach, represents a fairly busy day at IB and this is why I like it most, it’s still not too congested on busy days. ¬†My Kind of Beach, was taken with an EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 L DO IS USM lens at¬†f/5, 1/500 sec, focal length 110mm, and ISO 100.

Imperial Beach seems like it gets overlooked by tourists but locals obviously get the attraction. As for being the beach that is low key compared to the others, that may change soon. ¬†As for now, I sometimes go to IB with no camera and my kids to just walk in the surf and have a blast. ¬†IB is definitely worth the stop and if you’re looking to capture¬†an easy sunset photo this is the place! ¬†If you just want to chill out, take in the scenes and sounds, this is the place. ¬†Sure, Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, and Coronado are all amazing places to visit and I do like them. ¬†But for the moment, until the commercialism sets in and ruins IB’s atmosphere, that’s where you’ll find me.

My Kind of Beach

 

An Interview 

I was interviewed by a website last week, read it @ http://www.thecrazymind.com/2016/05/bill-chizek-photography.html?m=1

Bill Chizek is an amateur photographer who lives between San Diego, CA and El Paso, TX. After retiring as a Navy musician in 2011, he quit playing music and photography became his passion. While Bill is fond of photographing aircraft and autos, his subjects are just about anything that catches the eye. We have conducted an interview with him.

 

What is it about photographing aircraft that you like?

Photographing aircraft, especially the older models and warbirds, is like capturing a piece of history, which is my other love. When aircraft are on the ground, there is something about the way the aircraft is designed and the how light and images reflect off the clean surfaces. Each aircraft is like its own piece of artwork. Also, the paint schemes which are designed to catch your eye from the ground can be equally incredible up close. When they’re flying it’s about the beauty, gracefulness, power, or speed. But when they‚Äôre on the ground, they are a sort of art and a visual part of history to me.
When comparing aircraft to autos, when is the best moment to capture them and which are your favorite perspectives?
They are two completely different subjects because we all see aircraft in the sky and understand them from the ground, but when not flying they may not seem so interesting to some people. A photo of cockpit controls may not be impressive to some people, but those same people will pay big money to see that same plane fly at an airshow. Most people who aren’t pilots, in my opinion, relate to aircraft better from the ground. I usually like to capture aircraft where you can see that pilot at the controls. Cars are different because we use them every day, see them everywhere, and they’re part of our earliest memories and daily lives. Not everyone will be a pilot, but most of us will drive cars. Even my young daughters like spotting old cars when we’re out in our car. Airplanes I have no control over in the air so I shoot them when and where I can, I like to photograph them on the ground preferably in the morning. Cars, on the other hand, I prefer to shoot on sunny mornings in the shade with lots of natural light. That’s why I love when car shows happen in a park under the trees! I try to photograph the parts of old cars that are from another era, like the old clocks and dashboards, or hood ornaments that we just don’t see today. Again, it’s history…
Why did you quit playing music?
A couple of reasons, first was my health. As a musician since 1976 or so, brass playing took a toll on me. I already had two hernia operations, lost a good deal of hearing, and was having a throat issue that was likely going to get worse if I kept playing the trombone. These factors made the decision easier plus I was already getting active with photography and knew I loved it. Additionally, a musicians life is tough, plenty of late nights whether it’s gigs or rehearsals because everything happens around other band members day jobs. Whether musicians are working or not, most still have to practice to keep their skills up for when someone calls. So, even if you’re not working, it’s still time consuming. Because I played mostly jazz with a lot of improvisation, photography filled that creative void in my brain left by music and really was a better fit in my life as well. The second reason was my family because I have a wife, son, and two little girls. They could rarely come out to hear me play unless I was playing during the day (a rarity). Now when I’m out shooting, one or more family members are usually with me and my oldest daughter has her camera and her little sister has a toy camera. Photography is a great way for me to be with my family and stay creative.
How did you get started in aircraft and auto photography?
Since I was a child I’ve been in to aviation, my brother and I had model planes that we built hanging from our bedroom ceiling, and going to airshows was a big deal for us too. Years later, as an adult I would go to the NAS Oceana Air Show in Virginia before I was in to photography and spend all day in awe of the show. A few years later I began taking my camera to the Miramar Airshow in California, I didn‚Äôt like my photos and started researching aviation photography online, I was hooked. As for cars, my wife and I checked out a local car show a few years ago and it was pretty cool but I didn‚Äôt start shooting car shows seriously until 2014 when I began to grasp the historical aspect of these cars. Initially I started shooting just hood ornaments, that big old piece of metal on the front of the car represented the entire company, early model cars had amazing hood ornaments! They were works of art meant to catch your attention, not some trademarked piece of plastic simply slapped on the car at the factory. I especially love the cars of manufacturers who have gone out of business; companies like Studebaker, DeSoto, Auburn all made incredibly beautiful cars that are not coming back, it was an incredible era. I love when I can combine photography with history! I photograph other subjects as well, cars and aircraft are only part of it. I also photograph buildings and interesting architectural structures, landscapes, seascapes, flowers, boats, and do some night photography among other things.
Which formats do you sell your photography?
They are available in several formats through my website at Smugmug. Paper prints in various sizes and finishes as well as digital downloads are available. If you are looking for something for the home, they are also sold as wall art in the form of traditional, stretched, or flat mounted canvas. These photos are sold as thinwraps or metal prints where again, you can select the finish or covering. Lastly, Smugmug will ship just about anywhere in the world!
Where can our readers see more of your work?
At my website found at www.BillChizekPhotography.com I usually post one photo a day on Monday through Friday. I also post a blog about my photos twice a month at www.BillChizekPhotography.net. You can follow me on many social media websites (below), if you can’t find me, contact me through my website and I’ll gladly help you!
Follow me at:
Twitter: WmChizek
Pinterest: billchizek
Google+: +BillChizek

Ghost Town

bcpnet.jpgLiving in El Paso, Texas means that there is history in practically every direction. ¬†I am endlessly searching photographic topics that satisfy the blooming photographer in me as well as the history lover. ¬†When those two worlds collide, it is my¬†personal perfect storm! About 90 minutes north of the Texas-New Mexico border exists a real ghost town called Lake Valley and it’s the perfect storm. North of Las Cruces, just off I-25 is Hatch, New Mexico and this would be the place you would want to gas up and get something to eat. ¬†There is only one small unincorporated town between Hatch and ghost town at Lake Valley. ¬†That little town is called Nutt, I believe it’s named that¬†because ain’t¬†Nutt’n there but a biker bar… literally Nutt’n.¬†The 30 minute drive from Hatch can can be kind of cool with wild deer in the fields, but there’s generally not much to see.

Ghost Town Cemetery

Once you arrive in Lake Valley you’ll see the cemetery on the hill to the left. ¬†However, it’s best to go straight to the visitor center and ring the bell for the guide. ¬†Lake Valley has been taken over by the Bureau of Land Management¬†(BLM), there’s no better way to get a quick overview of the place than from the guide. ¬†This photo at right, Ghost Town Cemetery, was attempt to show the isolation of the area as well as how it was once called home for some. ¬†This mining town “was founded in 1878 after silver was discovered. Almost overnight, the small frontier town blossomed into a major settlement with a population of 4,000 people.” (1) ¬†Today it is totally deserted with the exception of the Bureau of Land Management employee (the guide) who lives on the property in a mobile home. ¬†All of these photos were taken with a Canon 6D. ¬†Ghost Town Cemetery was shot with an EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM lens at f/10, 1/125 sec, focal length 16mm, and ISO 100.

“Today, silver mining has played out and all that remains is a ghost town. ¬†BLM has restored the schoolhouse and chapel. The restored schoolhouse provides a glimpse of what schooling in a rural area was like in the early 20th century. Other buildings in the town site have been stabilized to slow further deterioration. There also is a self-guided, interpretive walking tour. A toilet is located near the schoolhouse, and drinking water is available.” (2)

 

Conoco Gas

It might not seem like it now, but Lake Valley Lake Valley actually had a post office ¬†and mail service from 1882 until 1955.(3) ¬†The car in the top photo is a 1935 Plymouth that I’ve not been able to find any other information, it makes for a great photo but that’s about it. ¬†There are plenty of signs warning of rattle snakes so this was about as close as I cared to get. ¬†The photo, called 1935 Plymouth #1¬†was taken with an¬†EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM lens at f/9, 1/80 sec, focal length 19mm, and ISO 100. ¬†This photo of Lake Valley’s Conoco gas station, called Conoco Gas was also taken with the¬†EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM lens at¬†f/9, 1/40 sec, focal length 16mm, and ISO 100. ¬†Lake Valley’s final resident moved out in 1994. (4)

The below photo,¬†Lake Valley, was shot with the EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens at f/13, 1/160 sec, focal length 24mm, and ISO 100. ¬†It’s difficult to imagine how well this city and its mines actually performed back in the day. ¬†Miners actually “tunneled into a silver-lined cavity they named the ‚Äúbridal chamber‚ÄĚ that alone yielded 2.5 million troy ounces (78 tonnes) of silver.” ¬†Lake Valley’s mines later “struggled and were worked only periodically into the 20th century” with the exception of the Second World War when the mines reopened “to produce manganese, and continued operating into the 1950s.” (5) ¬†Like most ghost towns, it’s interesting to visit Lake Valley but once you’ve got your photos there isn’t much else to do. ¬†However, if you really appreciate history, it’s a pretty cool way to spend the day.

Lake Valley

 

  1. New Mexico True. http://www.newmexico.org/listing/?lid=25885. New Mexico Department of Tourism. (Accessed April 19,2016)
  2. New Mexico True.
  3. Lake Valley, Sierra County, New Mexico. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Valley,_Sierra_County,_New_Mexico. Wikipedia. (Accessed April 19,2016)
  4. Lake Valley, Sierra County, New Mexico.
  5. Lake Valley, Sierra County, New Mexico.

In the bag

IMG_7837Admittedly, I used to carry too much gear, way too much. There were so many extras for ‘just in case’ moments that my bag weighed a ton. To be honest, most of it went unused and was just along for the ride. However, since switching to¬†the Peak Design Everyday Messenger Bag, I’ve slimmed down on gear, that was a good thing. I went from carrying a backpack with everything in the world to just essential items; again, a good thing. This¬†led me back to an article¬†I read by Ken Rockwell a couple of years ago where he stated, “trying to be prepared for everything makes you prepared for nothing.” That makes total sense now, Rockwell continued, “carry less and you’ll be more relaxed and have better time, again leading to more fun and better pictures.” (1) ¬†Not only is this great advice but it really works! I have my bag, with just¬†this stuff now, I’m no long digging through a camera bag looking for stuff¬†but actually shooting more. ¬†GAS, or Gear Acquisition Syndrome, is a very bad thing (see an article to fight GAS) (2). ¬†So here is essentially what has been in my bag for a while now.

IMG_3188

Starting on on the outside, attached is the¬†Peak Design Capture Pro¬†(above) to carry a camera on the front of the bag, something that comes in very handy. Attached to the key connector behind the Capture Pro tucked away in a pocket is a Nano Light¬†for emergencies. On the reverse side is¬†an REI Square Luggage Tag¬†that semi-blocks out personal¬†info (left) at the casual glance. If the bag were lost, the finder would simply¬†unscrew the cable and pull out the name card for the contact info, it’s not difficult. That’s it for the outside, pretty simple. Once the bag is opened, there are a couple of Ziplit lights attached to the zippers and these things rock! These little lights take up no space, probably weigh less than a penny, but will adequately light the inside of a camera bag. (below) ¬†I hardly ever use them but they have come in handy. Again, bang for the buck, they’re cheap, weigh nothing, can be hung just about anywhere, and take up no space when not in use.

IMG_3192 IMG_3191

Inside the bag’s main compartment is a¬†Canon EOS 6d with the¬†EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM¬†attached most¬†of the time. There is also¬†the¬†EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 L DO IS USM¬†and¬†EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM¬†in the lens partitions and a¬†EF 40mm f/2.8 STM¬†laying in the bottom of the bag for when I don’t want to be out¬†with a big lens. ¬†That’s pretty much it, the rest of the bag contains items¬†that are worth the space/weight vs functionality they bring:

-Extra batteries and memory cards: Lets face it, without these you’re done! Keep multiple backups, I once read somewhere that US Navy SEALS preach, “two is one, one is none” and that makes a whole lot of sense. Having no batteries or cards is the same as forgetting your¬†lenses; whatever you were doing today, it’s not taking pics.

Nikon Lensmen: Takes little space and is great for a quick lens touch up.

Giottos Rocket-Air: Great for blowing off your sensor between lens changes.

Petzel head lamp: Great for going to new places in the dark.

Peak Design Cuff: Like my 24-105mm lens, this is on the camera most of the time because if attaches so easily and provides safety from dropping a camera. Unless the camera in on a tripod, the cuff is attached.

Gerber Dime & Jewelers screwdrivers: Mostly everything needed to make minor repairs on the fly.

Tilley hat: Easily folds up and stored in the laptop compartment. Ideal for shade and rain!

Disposable rain poncho: Nothing worse than being wet, well being wet and cold is worse.

Glow sticks: Instant light if everything else goes wrong. ¬†Living in Europe taught me that you can’t take technology for granted. One glow stick gives me hours of light.

-Business cards: I’m always handing these out when someone approaches me.

-Headphones

-Battery Charger

-Ear plugs

-Band aids, Sun block, SPF Lip balm

-Camera body cap

 

This looks like a lot of items but it’s really not, mainly¬†small stuff. These items have¬†come in very handy and like I said earlier, when ditching¬†the old backpack I needed to look at what was actually used/needed vice what was ‘nice to have’ in the bag. I would never tell anyone¬†“this is what you need” but have to say that much of this list comes¬†from other lists I’ve found online. Going back to Ken Rockwell’s advice to¬†carry less and having a¬†better time shooting, well it has lead to more fun and better pictures for me.

  1. Ken Rockwell, How to Make Great Photographs, 2016, http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/howto.htm  (accessed April 6, 2016).
  2. Eric Kim, 10 Practical Tips for Fighting G.A.S., Nov 25, 2015, http://petapixel.com/2015/11/25/10-practical-tips-for-fighting-g-a-s-gear-acquisition-syndrome/  (accessed April 20, 2016).

Canon Pancake Lens

ef-40mm-f2.8-stm-3q-675x450

In my opinion, when it comes to lenses, there’s practically¬†no better bang for the buck¬†than Canon’s¬†¬†EF 40mm f/2.8 STM, better known as the “pancake” lens. ¬†Are there better lenses? ¬†Sure, so what’s so good about this one? ¬†Well, for roughly $149 or less you’ll get a quality lens that is extremely small for when you don’t want to lug around the big lens or want to be discreet and blend in. ¬†Sure, it’s not a zoom lens but you can go manual zoom and use your two feet for that. If you’re a¬†photography newbie, or on a budget, this is a bargain! ¬†Even though I own better lenses, my pancake lens takes up so little space that it’s always tucked away in my bag as another tool in the toolbox. ¬†It’s perfect for shooting on the street or in tight spaces, I’ve even shot sunrises to see if it could handle it! ¬†The above image is from the Canon website where you can also see the technical specs of this lens. ¬†All of the below photos were taken with the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens.

Cappuccino?

I always¬†mention¬†that¬†I lived in Italy for many years, the reality is that it’s a big part of me and I miss it. ¬†At the time, there was so much to photograph around me that I almost forgot how lucky I was to just be there. ¬†While the food lived up to its reputation and the people were amazing, the other experience¬†I loved from day one was the coffee! ¬†This photo, Cappuccino?, is the the norm for Italy. Coffee isn’t some fad, novelty, or trend; it’s always been a part of daily life in Italy and taken seriously. ¬†Italian bars, very different from American bars, are where Italians meet on the way to and from work, where they socialize, conduct business; you name it and it¬†happens¬†in the bar. ¬†Italians serve real coffee, not the S*******s cup of ‘God knows what’s in it’ stuff we get in ‘Merica. ¬†There aren’t a bunch of flavors either, just a simple cafe of a few varieties depending on how strong your want it or if¬†you’d like it with milk; then there’s the ever popular cappuccino. Made of simply coffee, milk, sugar, and a little coco on top, the cappuccino isn’t¬†complicated and appears pretty much the same all over Italy! ¬†I love the USA, but if any county can complicate something and distort it so far from it’s origins, it’s us. ¬†Man, I miss that Italian simplicity… ¬†This black and white photo, Cappuccino?, was shot with a Canon 7D, at¬†f/2.8, 1/1600 sec, ISO 100. ¬†Can you tell I miss Italy yet?

Special RatesSometimes, as a traveler, I try to find things that are routine to the locals and often overlooked by those of us visiting. ¬†Recently, a photographer mentor¬†of mine gave me the most incredible advice, he said I should constantly ask myself, “what am I not seeing here?” (thanks EM). ¬†It sounds simple in concept, but if I actually¬†ask¬†this question to myself I begin¬†spotting things and shoot¬†subjects I would have previously overlooked. ¬†I doubt this old room and board sign hanging on a motel wall in Balmorhea, Texas draws¬†much attention to the folks who live there but it did make for a nice photo and memory for me. ¬†I was putting our luggage back in the car and spotted this sign. ¬†I call this photo Special Rates, it¬†was shot with a Canon 6D, at¬†f/4.5, 1/250 sec, and ISO 100. ¬†The sun had been up for about an hour and was casting some nice shadows. ¬†This little pancake lens did a pretty good job grabbing the details in the wood too.

The AmaliThis pretty red flower was sitting next to a parking lot in Vietri sul mare, Italy on the Amalfi Coast. ¬†I wanted to see if the colors of the flower became washed out¬†but the pancake seems to have done just fine. ¬†This photo, The Amalfi, was taken with a Canon 7D, at f/11, 1/80 sec, and ISO 100. ¬†There is so much beauty in Italy at every turn of the road that it’s mind boggling. This little pancake lens was very handy when out walking about and really not on a mission to photograph anything in particular. ¬†However, once when I was out shooting a Neapolitan sunrise and I thought I’d test my pancake. ¬†The photo at the bottom, Red Skies, was shot with a Canon Rebel T3i, at f/9, 30.0 sec, and ISO 100. The pancake¬†lens performed¬†well, even on a 30 second exposure!

Brand spankin’ new this lens sells for $149 and I don’t know of a better lens for that price. Sure, it has limitations like any lens and as I mentioned earlier it is not a zoom and it probably¬†wouldn’t fair well for macro work, shooting sports, or action shots. ¬†However, for most other situations this lens does a capable job and much better than some other lenses I’ve owned. ¬†Lastly, I would offer this, if you’re considering shelling out the bucks for a 50mm prime lens, consider this first to see if shooting without a zoom lens suits you. ¬†At $149 you can’t go wrong and might even find this lens a lot of fun as I have!

Red Skies

Amigo Airsho 2014

 

 

The Amigo Airsho, that’s right, Airsho without the¬†“w”, held in Santa Teresa, NM is a great one day airshow. ¬†I was able to see it back in¬†November 2014 and would gladly go again. ¬†Some big names on the airshow circuit come¬†here, you can see performers like¬†Dan Buchanan, the US Army Golden Knights,¬†and¬†the US Air Force Thunderbirds,¬†but there are¬†many excellent performers who don’t always show up at the¬†MCAS Miramar and NAS Oceana¬†airshows. ¬†Make no mistake, this is a fantastic day for aviation buffs. ¬†The airshow has been around for decades and used to be held in El Paso, TX at Biggs Field but has¬†moved to the Do√Īa Anna County Airport in Santa Teresa, NM. ¬†Although it normally happens at the beginning of November, check online before you go as it’s been cancelled a few times in recent years due to unspecified problems. ¬†However, if it’s on, book it! ¬†The above photo,¬†A Texan‚Äôs Bottom,¬†is a North American AT-6 Texan shot with a Canon 7D, Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC lens at f/7.1, 1/640 sec, focal length 300mm, and ISO 100. ¬†All of these photos were shot with the Canon 7D and Tamron 28-300mm lens.

Incoming

One of the nice features about the Amigo Airsho¬†is that you shoot¬†it pretty well with a 300mm lens since¬†you are fairly close in proximity to the performers. Likewise, you’ll want to bring earplugs for the same reason. The photo at left, Incoming, is a parachutist of the US Army Golden Knights on final approach to his marker. Incoming was shot at¬†f/6.3, 1/640 sec, focal length 237mm, and ISO 125. I have since upgraded to the Canon¬†EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 L DO IS USM. ¬†About $900 cheaper than the Canon, the Tamron 28-300mm is a great lens and extreme bang for the buck!

Father and Son

This was my first time seeing Rifle Airshows in the photo at right. ¬†Joe Shetterly (silver plane) is also an active duty US Air Force A-10 Warthog pilot, callsign “Rifle”. ¬†At this airshow Joe was flying with his dad Greg Shetterly (the white &red plane) and Joe’s mom was the announcer! ¬†This father and son team flew separate shows and one together as well, they put on an excellent show and I hope I’m able to see them again some time. ¬†This photo,¬†Father and Son, was shot at f/7.1, 1/640 sec, focal length 300mm, and ISO 100.

Diving

The best act of the day, in my two feet planting firmly on the ground opinion,¬†was Franklin’s Flying Circus and Airshow. ¬†The aircraft at left is called Dracula and is flown by pilot Kyle Franklin. My first thought when I saw Dracula on the flight line was, “holy cow, this thing is all engine!” ¬†Yup, it is, and Kyle Franklin performs¬†an ‘in your face’ airshow that is simply one of the best I’ve seen. It’s low altitude, low to the ground, high altitude and fast, all rolled in to one show! ¬†While I’d be happy to¬†clean my breakfast¬†out of¬†the back seat of a Blue Angels F-18 cockpit after the privilege of a ride along, I’ll just watch Kyle Franklin from the ground. ¬†He’s simply the best pilot I’ve seen in years, check out his Drunk Pilot Comedy Airshow Act, the man has amazing skills! ¬†This photo,¬†Diving,¬†was shot at¬†f/7.1, 1/640 sec, focal length 300mm, and ISO 100.

The below photo¬†is another of Kyle Franklin and¬†Dracula, the photo is called Smoke of Dracula.¬† Just as Kyle Franklin tries to capture the feeling of barnstorming and aviation of yesteryear, I was trying to do the same the same thing with a sepia effect, I don’t use this effect much. This was shot at at¬†f/8, 1/640 sec, focal length 300mm, and ISO 100. ¬†If you’re looking for something to do at the beginning of November be sure to check online for the Amigo Airsho!

Smoke of Dracula