The End of the Blog

THE END…

of this blog

That‚Äôs right, this is the final post, I won’t be renewing my .net URL when it expires this year. After nine years of sharing thoughts, plugging gear, and getting some cool freebies, I’ve decided to pull the plug on this .net blog. It’s been fun but I’ve decided to better focus on my .com website, posting at Instagram and Facebook, and shooting/editing pics more because that’s what I really want to do. Contrary to what some people think, blogging takes time, it really does. Below is a link to my digital business card, please follow me on social media, and thanks for your support over these years, it meant a lot!

Digital Card: https://link.v1ce.co.uk/aabex2/168963

My first video

Here’s my first attempt at a video, it combines still and time-lapse images. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did making it!

https://www.billchizekphotography.com/Video/i-LcTDj7D/A

 

 

img_0554

Just another day…

Today I’m shooting the USS Ronald Reagan departing Yokosuka, Japan on a Tiger Cruise this morning. A Tiger Cruise is a one day trip where family and friends come along, very cool. ¬†Living on a naval base has its perks! ¬†Look for pics in the future, meanwhile check out my photos at BillChizekPhotography.com.

 

Waterfalls today

Well, today was spent mostly on buses with a tour, other than my wife not being able to go because of work, it was pretty awesome. First up was the Yudaki Waterfall (below) and second was the 320 foot Kegon Falls (above). Lastly, we ended up at the Toshogu Shrine dating back to the 17th century! While it was amazing, it was hot, we got rained on, and was humid the entire day but I think I got some good shots, we’ll see. It was the first test of my Mindshift Messenger Bag, I’ve had for about four months but this was the first time I lugged it around all day. It worked great! These photos were all taken with the iPhone 7 Plus.

Loving Japan, looking forward to blogging more when out shooting but for now I just need to get off the bus and in bed. Do I sound whiny? Yup! Oh, please check out BillChizekPhotography.com!

Peak Design II (with video)

Back in 2012, I began looking for another way to connect my camera to camera straps, wrist straps, and tripods. ¬†The problem was this, if there was a strap to keep the camera safe from accidental dropping, it almost always interfered with the tripod plate. ¬†It pd3almost always involved having to unscrew something, connect something else, then redo it all over again when done. ¬†There was nothing that¬†seamlessly linked my wrist cuff, strap, and tripod plate, they all seemed to work against each other and not together. That‚Äôs when I discovered Peak Design gear, it appeared to solve all this. ¬†If it worked as advertised, it would mean no more fumbling around with equipment and no more straps that didn‚Äôt work with other products. ¬†I checked in to it and my love affair with them began. ¬†While I‚Äôve used many of Peak Design products over the years, mostly camera bags and rain covers; however, pd4it’s the products that I’ve used almost daily since 2012 that I’m writing about today. ¬†Peak Design does make some excellent bags but after back surgery, my frame is a little touchy about what is hung on it for long periods. ¬†I’ve found something that works better for my needs, but if my back could handle it I’d still be using their Everyday Messenger Bag¬†as it’s probably the best all around bag I’ve ever had and only camera bag I’ve ever missed.

Back to today’s topic, this is gear I’ve been using practically every day for the last seven years. ¬†I wrote about these products in a blog entry on June 27, 2016 called Peak Design. ¬†In that article I said, “I can‚Äôt see myself walking out of the house to shoot without a piece of¬†Peak Design gear on me,” that still holds true today! ¬†However, looking back at that article, it seemed that a video might do a better job explaining how these work. ¬†So here’s an attempt at better explaining these products, hopefully….

 

The attempted fun aside, in about a minute and a half the camera went from a shoulder carry strap, to a wrist cuff, then two separate tripod mounts, to a backpack carry using the Peak Design Capture, and ending up back on the tripod. ¬†Admittedly, there was help from my personal assistant and daughter, but that was only to avoid dead time between swaps. ¬†The goal wasn’t to show how fast it could be done but how versatile the gear integrates. ¬†As the video demonstrates, everything centers around Peak Design’s Anchors and the Dual Plate, which also allows the connection. ¬†The Anchors can be placed anywhere on camera that allows for carrying and also on the Dual Plate itself. ¬†Using a Dual Plate means there is never a thought about how to carry the camera and as shown in the video, it works on Manfrotto and Arca-type tripod heads. ¬†It simply doesn’t matter if the camera is carried on a wrist cuff, sling, backpack, and you decide to put the camera on a tripod because it’s all integrated. ¬†Back in 2012, Peak Design appeared to be the only company doing this. ¬†Their gear is so much a part of my photography life I can‚Äôt see myself without these. ¬†Using the Sling, Cuff, and Dual Plate with Capture means less time screwing around and more time shooting. Frankly, these items are as important to me as a camera bag. ¬†I say this because of how much time previously spent connecting a camera to various straps and tripods. ¬†You’ll find a Sling and Cuff in each of my bags and, although they haven’t gone bad, I keep an extra Anchor or two in there too (I replace them yearly). ¬†There are also Dual Plates on both cameras making everything easy peasy lemon squeezy.

It’s not unusual to get looks or be approached by other photographers when I’m seen wearing a camera on a backpack harness. ¬†Most seem skeptical till I tell them it’s worked for years and I’ve got 100% confidence in it. ¬†I’m not some uber rich guy who can afford to drop a camera or two… ¬†I’ve seen plenty of doubters online as well, then someone says “that looks like Peak Design” and explains it. ¬†So the word is getting out on this well built gear. ¬†My original Dual Plate and Capture were purchased in 2012 and still work perfectly. ¬†Yes, this gear isn’t cheap but buy it once and you won’t be spending money again for a long time! ¬†Currently, the Capture sells for $49.95 and the Dual Plate for $24.95. ¬†If you don’t use a tripod and have no need for the Dual Plate, you can buy the Capture with an Arca plate combination for $69.95. ¬†Click [HERE] to visit their various straps and cuffs. ¬†Below are some photos of the Dual Plate and Capture attached to backpacks and bags, it doesn’t get any better. ¬†Lastly, as stated in the video, there is no affiliation between myself and Peak Design, I get absolutely nothing if you purchase their products. ¬†However, if you do make the leap, I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it.

 

My other camera

In the past, I’ve written here about the Canon 6D and 6D mkii, the disappointing year with the Sony A7R II, and even the iPhone’s I’ve owned. Last year, realizing it was just plain foolish not having a back-up camera, I began researching a second camera. ¬†I had also ruled out getting another Canon 6D mkii for this purpose. ¬†Why rule out another? ¬†Well, while the Canon has been a great camera, this camera needed to cost less and not only fulfill the role of faithful back-up but also be something smaller to use when out with family. ¬†Summing this up, it needed to be smaller, take decent quality photos, and not break the bank. Looking at just about anything smaller in size, all name brands, the search narrowed after a few days. ¬†While considering other Canon cameras, there was also Fuji, Sony, Minolta, Lumix, and a host of others to review. ¬†Then, one camera began appearing more and more; the Sony A6000. ¬†Reviews like this one at PhotographyLife became helpful. ¬†It quickly became evident that this wasn’t some old camera that had been cast to the wayside, this was 2019 and people were still actively shooting with the 2014 Sony A6000! ¬†Really? ¬†Yup! ¬†Just search for photos taken with this camera on Flickr! ¬†After reading further, the enhancements to Sony’s later models, the A6300 and A6500 were primarily to address the A6000’s shortcomings in its video capabilities. ¬†However, even though the A6000 was released in 2014 and followed in 2016 by both the A6300 and A6500, all have the same 23.5 x 15.6 mm CMOS sensor. ¬†So, if you’re not concerned about the video enhancements to the later models that arrived in 2016, the A6000 is pretty much the same camera and a steal because it’s five years old!

One serious benefit about researching the A6000 is that it’s been available for many years and so many people have reviewed it! ¬†Finally, when the A6000 arrived it came with the Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Alpha kit lens, it wasn’t a bad lens, I just didn’t care for it. ¬†At the 16mm end it didn’t seem to be the best wide angle and at 50mm it lack clarity. This photo at left, called The Staircase, was¬†The Staircaseshot at ISO 800 on the El Paso Mission Trail at the San Elizario Presidio Chapel¬†near El Paso, Texas. ¬†This is the only photo here shot with that lens. ¬†Why didn’t I like it? ¬†First, I read that because the lens is retractable, it pops out when powered¬†up and retracts when powered down, that motor is the first thing to crap out. ¬†Second, there was some distortion in the corners especially at 50mm. ¬†Again, I consulted my good friend Google and was guided toward a Sony SEL35F18 35mm f/1.8 prime fixed lens. ¬†It costs about $50 more than the camera but was worth it. ¬†By relying on the 35mm and using the 16-50 sparingly for wide angle shots, I’ll hopefully extend the life span of that retractable lens. ¬†It’s not a bad lens, just not my cup of tea. Frankly, I found that I like SEL35F18’s 35mm focal point more than I like 50mm in my Canon lenses! This may be why I use the 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens more than the “nifty fifty.” ¬†Recently, the Canon 6D mkii went back to the states for cleaning, forcing me to rely on the A6000The Kids¬†for a month. ¬†Being completely honest, I didn’t shoot for a couple of days because I just didn’t feel like going out with the back-up camera. ¬†However, once I did, it was quickly evident how great the A6000 was, this was a powerful camera in a little package. The photo at right, The Kids, was taken of two Japanese girls wearing kimonos in Kamakura, Japan. ¬†The first thing that blew my mind and caught me off guard was the burst rate. ¬†The Canon 6D mkii fires a burst rate of 6.5 FPS, or Frames Per Second, meaning in one second it captures 6.5 photos. ¬†However, this little A6000 from 2014 shoots at 11 FPS, almost 5 shots PER SECOND more than my Canon!! ¬†What? ¬†I couldn’t believe how fast this thing was at capturing movement! ¬†Let’s put this in to perspective, Sony’s newest flagship camera, the Sony A7R III, only shoots at 10 FPS!

I hadn’t really known much of the Sony A6000 back in 2014 when I was having an extra marital affair with my original Canon 6D. ¬†However, this A6000 must have been a monstrous beast back then shooting photos at 24.3 MP and face detection included, sporting a tilting 3 inch LCD screen with 179 phase-detect focus points and the already discussed 11 fps continuous shooting! ¬†It’s also a capable landscape camera as well, I recently took the below photo, Rock Art, at Tomyodo Beach near Yokosuka, Japan and I think it’s a decent example of the A6000’s capabilities. ¬†Don’t take my word for it, this thing is such a beast that the travel website, Independent Travel Cats, recently published an article entitled, Travel Photography: Best Mirrorless Cameras for Travel 2019 and this Sony came in at number two! ¬†Yes, the five year old camera with technology from 2014, was still relevant at number two on that list! ¬†Sony is currently on the Sony A7RIII, while I don’t know of anyone using the original Sony A7R, that original A6000 is still actively used out there. ¬†While I wish the battery lasted longer, minimizing the LCD view time has helped battery life. ¬†I’ve also never been a fan of Sony’s menu system, it seems to have been designed by drunk guys at a bar… ¬†However, the bottom line here is that if you don’t give a flying you know what about shooting video, you may want to look in to the Sony A6000. ¬†It’s been a very pleasant surprise to shoot and I plan to devote more time to it! ¬†I’m much more likely to grab this camera on days I just don’t want to lug a bag around. ¬†Happy to say the A6000 is no longer just a back-up camera, it’s now the other camera.

Rock Art

Third time‚Äôs a charm…

For those of you who don’t know, when it comes to photography I’m what you might call a late starter.  I became interested in photography after joining the US Navy in 1981 and my first camera, the Canon AE1 Program (left) cost half of my monthly salary.canon_ae_1_program_35mm_slr_305135  I was living in Italy and shooting with film was crazy expensive, plus I was a really crappy shooter.  To save money, I sent my film to a company in California, they would develop the film as slides and send them back; it was cheap.  Then I could pick out the keepers, send back the slides, and they would return the slides with prints. Why all this?  Well, it prevented paying for multiple blurry photos shot with different settings (the crappy shooter thing) but it also took weeks to get prints.  At just twenty years old, living in Italy, I wisely chose sell the camera gear and spend the extra cash on Napolitan pizza, pasta, and European beer.  In the last years of my Navy career, I took up photography again with a little Sony DSC-W7 digital camera
Morning Bluesand eventually moved to DSLR’s. This photo of Mount Vesuvius, at right called Morning Blues was taken with that camera.  Retiring in 2011 after 30 years as a US Navy Musician, my remained on active duty.  By 2014, photography was getting to be a serious hobby so I began blogging, it was a way to post what I was doing as well as talk about my photos.  I currently hold the titles of military retiree, military dependent, and stay at home dad which is WAY harder than it sounds.  In the summer of 2017, my wife transferred and we moved from Coronado, CA to the Washington, DC area.  I couldn’t have been happier, my love of photography is paralleled by my love of history!  My wife’s transfer put us smack in the middle of everything I loved!  I was so floored by everything around us in the northern Virginia/DC area that I completely let the blog fall by the wayside…

By the summer of 2017, the blog was a memory, not intentionally, there was just so much to do and see near our new home.  I didn’t leave the house without a camera it seemed.  We lived thirtyDiving Duck minutes from a half dozen Civil War battlefields, the Smithsonian Museums, near the colonial city of Alexandria, and everything that comes with Washington, DC!  The last blog post in September 2017 was The Old Switch-a-roo detailing my recent switch from a Sony a7R II back to the Canon 6d Mark II, a move I don’t regret to this day.  I had also been a user of Peak Design bags for a couple of years and loved them. However, after moving to DC, there was another company that I loved, more on that later – maybe a future post?  I was selling stock photography at this point for about six months and was making a few bucks.  screen shot 2018-02-20 at 10.29.51 Since then it has taken off in a big way, it has become a small business.  Stock photography is tricky and it’s difficult to know where photos are used unless I search or someone tells me.  By the time the blog died in September, I discovered one of my photos had been used on the cover of National Geographic India’s Road Trip Edition the previous April.  My car photo, The Fifties, was used as a composite image where another photographer’s photo was used in the hubcap (right).  I couldn’t have been happier, especially when credited for the photo inside the cover!  It seems every photographer’s dream is to end up in NatGeo any way possible, that was simply amazing.  Since then, my stock photos have been used many times, pretty happy about that too; click [HERE] to view them.

After a little more than a year in DC, my wife was transferred again; this time to Japan where this post is being banged out.  While I hated leaving DC, at least it was for a place as cool as this.  However, I recently pondered the mistake of not blogging while in DC and decided not to make that mistake again.  I went back to WordPress, reactivated the old account, and quicker that jack rabbits making love – everything was sitting there just as I left it.  It was as if Congress was asked to do something with it, nothing happened at all!  Everything was there, even the previous followers!  The goal now is to post something thought out, or as much as this brain can manage, every two weeks.  In between those posts I’ll post live from wherever I happen to be shooting from, something for which I currently use Instagram (@ BillChizekPhotography).  If you’re checking this out for the first time, THANK YOU!  You can follow or subscribe on the right side of this blog to receive notifications for new posts.  If you’ve returned, welcome back and thank you as well!  I’m really looking forward to this blog and future feedback, hope to hear from you!

Bill

Fuji 1 My first time shooting Mount Fuji as seen from across Sagami Bay near Hayama, Japan.

 

The Old Switch-a-roo

Last November I made the switch to Sony leaving my beloved Canon 6D for a Sony A7R. ¬†In my blog post entitled “Goodbye Canon ūüė≠, Hello _______ ” from November 2016 I spelled out why I went to a Sony mirrorless system and closed with, “While I‚Äôve moved to Sony for the moment, I‚Äôm still keeping my eye on Canon and hoping for game changer from them down the road.” ¬†My eleven months with Sony was not what I had hoped for, I missed my old 6D almost from the minute I sold it. ¬†As I mentioned back then, the menu system was flat out strange and illogical but I found two issues I just couldn’t overcome. ¬†First, much of my stock photography almost immediately was rejected for being blurry, something not previously encountered. ¬†Second, shooting any action was almost too much for the Sony to handle, sharp images with any movement were hard to come by.

Something I didn’t mention in my blog was that I hated the A7R so much that I sold it and upgraded to the A7Rii. ¬†Problem solved? ¬†Well… ¬†I was happy at first because when it did focus, it was very good. ¬†However, I found that unless I manually focused, there were still issues with the auto-focus. ¬†While less of my stock photography was being kicked back, it was still an issue. ¬†Taking the A7Rii out to a Red Bull Air Race, I thought even though it was out of its element, I still might get a couple of decent action shots by spending the day concentrating on shooting action with this Sony, w-r-o-n-g. ¬†This A7Rii was a far superior camera when compared to my 4-year-old Canon 6D, yet the 6D NEVER had a focus issue. ¬†I missed picking up my 6D and just shooting, a couple of presets and a decent auto-focus system made me feel like I was better prepared to capture whatever unfolded in front of me. ¬†Not to mention, with Canon my life didn’t literally revolve around battery life. ¬†When you shoot any action with a Sony mirrorless, it drinks batteries quicker than a DC politician at happy hour! ¬†Whether shooting the A7R or the A7Rii in continious-hi, continious-lo, or the sports setting, nothing produced consistently crisp images, but I could depend on the battery getting drained quickly. ¬†Finally, I was on vacation this summer and went to shoot a friend’s car, 3 out of 51 photos were decent and the rest were not crisp. ¬†I felt that auto-focus shouldn’t even have been an issue for a camera costing just under $3k! ¬†After 10 months, I decided it was time to end my Sony experiment. ¬†I know there are plenty of people who swear by Sony mirrorless, it just didn’t work for me.

Deciding to get a new Canon was easy, however my reasons for leaving Canon hadn’t changed, the Sony system was lighter and easier on my back (after surgery). ¬†I knew going back to my familiar Canon turf would mean some sort of compromise, meaning carrying less weight (lenses). ¬†The Canon options I looked at were my old EOS 6D because I truly missed it, but also the 6D Mark II, and the 5D Mark IV were up for consideration. ¬†It came down to this, while I loved the original 6D, is already outdated. ¬†The 5D Mark IV was about $1k more than I wanted to spend, that left the 6D Mark II as serious choice for me. ¬†While I’ve only had the new camera for a few weeks, I do love it and it feels very familiar after having the original 6D. ¬†I bought the Canon¬†EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM¬†to use as my main lens, a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM for low light, but not an everyday carry. ¬†However, I also bought one lens I used to own, the Canon¬†EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM. ¬†I actually liked this lens so much that I wrote about it here in September 2016, see Diffractive what? for more. ¬†I’ll write more later about the Canon 6D Mark II, once I’ve got more shooting time under my belt. ¬†I will say this, picking up the 6D Mark II was like saying hello to an old friend…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons

Life revolves around batteries

Number 14!

Gurushots.com’s list of the¬†“30 Photographs Of Motion That Will Get Your Heart Pumping And Your Face Smiling” has my photo, Chutes, is¬†at number 14! ¬†The photo was taken at the 2015 Miramar Airshow.

Original photo is at:

http://www.billchizekphotography.com/Archive/i-Vgzt5Ks/A

 

Chutes
Shockwave, the world’s fastest truch deploys it’s parachutes to stop after hitting over 340 mph at the 2015 Miramar Air Show. http://flashfirejettrucks.com

iPhone Photography

Surfer GuyWhile living in Europe, I purchased a very nice Sony DSC-TX20 pocket camera for the nights I didn’t want to carry my camera bag going out to dinner.  I worked out well, it took great photos and had an excellent wide angle view.  However, I didn’t own an iPhone then.  When I came back to the US and got my first iPhone I was kind of excited by the prospect of instantly sharing photos but hadn’t truly realized its potential.  The process of getting to my photos and actually using them was now much simpler.  Whether I was using my Canon DSLR or my Sony pocket camera, the process was the same;  get back from my trip and take the card out of the camera, place it in the computer to download the images, erase or reformat the card, put the camera away and recharge batteries.  Then I’d email or post the photos…  The iPhone changed all that, now I could take a photo of decent quality and instantly send it where I wanted or post it to social media, all the other steps were gone.  My Sony pocket camera instantly became a dinosaurer.  The photo at left was taken at Imperial Beach, California as I was setting my tripod up to do some sunset photography.  It was this photo that made me realize the potential of the iPhones 6’s camera.  While it’s not DSLR quality, it’s not that bad either!

iphone3Many times, while setting up for a photo or just out shooting, I’ll take a photo and post to social media and this has been the best thing.  I can actually post real time photos of the little photo trips I make.  For instance, while I was shooting at the marina in Coronado, California, I decided to shoot a photo with the iPhone.  That photo is at the top of this page and was taken using the iPhone 6’s Pano setting for panoramic photos (click HERE to view original).  Many times when I’m on foot to another location, I’ll shoot iPhone photos along the way and later some of those photos will make me go back later and shoot with my DSLR.  One of the best things about the iPhone’s camera is that it’s usually with you.  There have been times with my kids that I’ve captured a cool moments where there was no simply no time to grab my camera.  Bear ClawIn the above right photo, my daughters were playing and I was throwing a ball with the dog.  I looked and saw my girls and thought, this is one of those really cool moments in life.  I knew if I went in the house my girls would either stop and follow me, or move on to something else while I went inside.  I pulled out my iPhone and got the shot!  The same goes for this photo taken at the San Diego Zoo at left.  We were at the zoo early, when the polar bears play, the first thing in the morning.  The bear put his paw on the glass, my daughter said, “look daddy, he’s giving me a high-five.”  I quickly got my iPhone and got the shot.  This certainly would have been a better shot with my DSLR, but I had no idea how long that bear would stay put.  Fortunately, he stayed just long enough.  That’s the point here, while I would have loved to capture better versions of these photos with my DSLR, it just wasn’t goign to happen!  Better to capture these precious moments with my iPone than to not have them at all.

Lastly, there are some pretty cool effects packages available now at Apple’s App Store.  The effects app I really like is Macphun’s FX PhotoStudio.  Not only can you make some pretty cool effects, it’s incredibly simple to use.  The above photo of my daughter on the trampoline had the sun rings added with FX PhotoStudio and the water drops were added to the below photo as well.  As far as apps go, it’s expensive at $7.99, but it’s worth every penny because it works as advertised and has a ton of features.  Below is the pier at Imperial Beach, California and this is another example of the iPhone saving the day because I wasn’t even out shooting photos this day, I was just driving by and thought it looked like it could make a nice photo!

Iphone in IB

 

My Pic is #17!

Gurushots.com just published¬†a list of photos¬†called “32 Delicious Examples Of Food Photography. Guaranteed To Inspire And Make Your Tummy Rumble.” ¬†My photo, called Strawberry Slices, just made #17 and I couldn’t be happier! ¬†The strange thing is that I took this photo exactly one year ago today! ¬†It was shot with my old Canon 6D and a 24-105mm lens in my garage.

The original photo can be found at:

http://www.billchizekphotography.com/Archive/i-BJQGtrG/A

Strawberry Slices
Cut strawberries with other fruits on a cutting board.

Puzzles?

puzzle1A few years ago I began to test selling photos in other venues and putting my photography on items such as mouse pads, cutting boards, cups, and various merchandise.  Overall, it was  quite a bit of work for something that I had no way of knowing if it would pan out.  Well… most of it didn’t, other than a couple of sales at Christmas (yes folks, it’s Christmas) but there wasn’t much to speak of for a while.  About a year ago I just stop working on it but kept the store active.  Fast forward to last week, I received an email regarding recent sales and apparently there were other messages that went to my junk mail folder.  Ah, the junk folder, or what I call the “select all and delete forever folder” because that IS what I do.  I apologize up front if you’ve been trying to contact me and are in fact a prince from a west African nation in search of a US bank account to temporarilly store your ten million dollars so little Timmy can get a new kidney after a bizzare tiger mauling while on safari, because your email went to my junk mail folder and was deleted.  Anyway, squirrel!!  Um…  oh ya, apparently I had sales; it wasn’t a lot, about $70 but I had done literally nothing but post my photos.  It appeared that one item gave me a trickle of income and, combining that with other trickles from photo downloads, started to give me a little more than beer money.  The above left puzzle was taken in a construction area that exposed an old wall with advertising.

puzzle3Puzzles, yes puzzles, who knew?  I apologize again, seriously this time, for the photo quality as these photos are all screen captures of the actual puzzles at my store front.  I noticed that some puzzles sold and others weren’t even viewed and it made me take a look at what was going on.  I asked myself, what make a puzzle fun and what makes you not want to even do a particular puzzle?  I realized that many of my puzzles were good photos but lousy puzzles!  While a sunset might make for a decent photo, it also can have much of the same colors in one large area making it very difficult.  So the goal became to use only photos with enough detail to become a good puzzle, difficult but not impossible to put together.  There needed to be clues in practically every piece, something that would at least guide the puzzle maker to the correct area.  At right is a barber pole at a Coronado, California barber shop on a rainy day.

puzzle5While I am concentrating on using more photos for making puzzles, the puzzles themselves in no way drive my photo subjects.  Puzzles have sold well so I’m concentrating there for the moment.  I stopped selling many other items because merchandise options are now available directly from my website at BillChizekPhotography.com when purchasing photos.  Howver, puzzles are located in my Puzzles Collection in my Zazzle Store.   The puzzle at left is of a big old Newfoundland who would have absolutely NOTHING to do with me.  He makes for an interesting puzzle as does the below photo taken at the marina in Coronado, California.  I’m hopefull that the puzzles will catch on, maybe it will turn in to more that beer money!

ūüėé

 

puzzle4

 

My Two Photo Lessons…

I’m just a retired vet who likes to take photos, a hobbyist with some free time. ¬†The actual photography business doesn’t appeal because, after 30 years in the military, I know what I like. ¬†The idea of having a boss or agent, deadlines, an office, clients, obligations beyond my control, and paying for child care just to have these things I don’t want, is not appealing. ¬†When I was a musician I almost always¬†played¬†what people wanted to hear, not necessarily what I wanted to play. ¬†That’s what I imagine the photography business to be, taking photos of what other people want or need for business, not necessarily¬†what I like¬†to shoot. ¬†I love fitting photography in to my ‘Mr. Mom’ days with my kids and the¬†six Saturdays and a Sunday lifestyle. ¬†I also try to see the world as easy to break down when it comes to our abilities, no matter what level we’re at in life. ¬†All of us are better than some folks at things, not as good as¬†others, and if we’re smart we know our place. ¬†When I was a musician I saw¬†myself as just that, better than some and not as good as many others. ¬†The same is true with photography; if you want¬†a jolt of reality just go to Smugmug or 500px, search a subject you’ve shot and think you understand, then get ready to be humbled! ¬†If you really want to be brought down a few rungs on the ego ladder, search for your camera model and see photography that has been shot with your camera. ¬†This¬†will leave you wondering how other people¬†can get these incredible images, but you can’t.

Practicing

As I’ve said many times, there are similarities between a music lesson and one in photography. ¬†A lesson is just a starting point, what you do with the information taught is what matters. ¬†While I’ve had only two photography lessons, I have had many music lessons and have also given them. ¬†In both photography and music, there are incredible people who are simply gifted and willing to share their knowledge when asked. ¬†These ‘good people’ propel their craft by example and having¬†humble nature about their abilities. ¬†There are also the other kind, the people I don’t understand… ¬†These types of photographers/musicians seem to see everyone as a potential threat, competition¬†to their livelihood, as if there were no room for others in their line of work. ¬†Photographers and musicians with this attitude seem to be¬†out for themselves and are people I see as thin-skinned. ¬†The point is that if you run in to these kind of folks as I have, don’t be discouraged because there are plenty ‘good people’ out there to make up for it. ¬†Two of photographers I’ve met, the ‘good people’, are Will and Ed; who were both generous to share their talents with me. ¬†Here’s a summary of what I learned in the¬†two photo lessons of my life.

LESSON ONE

We were¬†living in Italy around 2012¬†and I had recently upgraded to a new DSLR. ¬†This was only my second DSLR, a Canon Rebel T3i and¬†a major leap. ¬†While it made photography more fun, poking around the camera menu left me wondering if I had bit off more than I could chew. ¬†Was I up for this? ¬†Honestly, I didn’t know because my photos weren’t any better with the T3i and I was still letting the camera call all the shots. ¬†The auto mode was my buddy, the camera did everything and I began to wonder why I didn’t just stay with my old camera if I was just going to¬†shoot in auto mode anyway. ¬†I tried shooting in the other modes but had no idea what I was doing. ¬†It was apparent that I was in over my head and just taking bad photos. ¬†I had heard through friends that a photographer was giving a free lesson on the weekend and it was for people of all levels. ¬†Count me in! ¬†When I got there, we were all in a room with Will, a very accomplished photographer and someone with a knack for breaking stuff down so people like me can understand. ¬†He started off by asking us individually what we hoped to gain¬†from his lesson? ¬†What did we want to learn? ¬†I said that I needed to get unchained from the auto mode, if I didn’t it would mean more crappy photos. ¬†In about 10 minutes Will broke down everything I had misunderstood about shooting modes, f-stops, ISO and everything that goes with it. ¬†He put everything in to “ga-ga goo-goo” words which I could wrap my head around, and that was the last day I shot in auto mode. ¬†Thanks to Will, I have been shooting in aperture priority mode ever since; however, I also shoot shutter priority and even full-out manual mode for night photography. ¬†That one lesson from Will came at the perfect time because I was asking myself if shooting with a DSLR¬†was really for me. ¬†I was convinced that I was never going to undertand DSLR’s and shoot anything better than crappy photos.

The long-term take away from Will’s lesson?¬† Will told us that when you want to learn about your camera and your abilities, shoot in your house. ¬†Your house is real world, it has no specially lit rooms, no special set ups, nada; if you practice in your house and get decent results you’ll fare much better in the real world! ¬†Whenever I’ve purchased a new camera I shoot in my house and see where I stand. ¬†THANK YOU WILL!

Pile of Horns

LESSON TWO

After Italy we moved to San Diego, one day we were out wine tasting¬†and I had my camera with me, totally by chance we ran in to Ed. ¬†He asked if I was a pro or amateur, “amateur” I stated and he began to show me a couple of books he had of his photography. ¬†Ed is a pro photographer, he knows his stuff, and also likes music so we sat and talked a lot about Cuban music; one of his loves in addition to photography. ¬†Ed is also a musician who plays the congas and understands both music and photography. ¬†He agreed to let me come back and see him the following week. ¬†When I arrived, just as Will had done, Ed basically asked what was it I wanted¬†to learn from him? ¬†This time, five years later, my response¬†was different. ¬†I explained to¬†Ed¬†that I wanted to learn how take¬†that creativity I knew with music,¬†process it through¬†my eyes, and ultimately have it show in a¬†photograph. ¬†In some ways this didn’t even make sense to me but it was the only way I could explain¬†it. ¬†Since he is both a musician and photographer, he understood what I meant. ¬†There was no “you need to _____” type answer, he talked about how photographers engage visually and the rest of the day was really the long answer to my short question.

Stolen MomentsI was also amazed at Ed’s lack of gear, the man literally has one camera and a couple of lenses, that’s it. ¬†Here I was, a much newer camera toting¬†a backpack full of¬†lenses, and my photography couldn’t compare. ¬†I realized I was a user of many lenses and master of none. ¬†The old lightbulb went off, it’s not the gear buddy.. It’s possible to take great photos with an iPhone and crappy photos with top of the line gear! ¬†Later, Ed¬†took me to his computer and showed me how to do a few things. ¬†It was a lot to take in. ¬†He wasn’t giving¬†“this is how you do this” advice, it was “this is what works for me” and take what you can from it. ¬†My chance meeting with Ed was almost a year ago and his tips¬†still pop up when I’m working on photos! ¬†Ed was in the business for many years, long before Photoshop, he had paid his dues. ¬†He showed me many of the photos he had taken over the years and¬†I couldn’t believe what he showed me! ¬†I was now amazed at how humble this man was about his abilities. ¬†I was looking at some iconic photos of the eighties that were all Ed’s work. ¬†He also introduced¬†me to the concept of light painting, something I had never heard of and am now just beginning to grasp. ¬†All of the photos on this page were done with light painting, a technique of using a dark room and lights to shine on¬†a subject in the dark. ¬†Before I left, we had lunch and talked about how he is constantly looking, even hunting, for things to shoot that are in plain sight. ¬†I realized that photography¬†is just that, a hunt. ¬†The chances of actually stumbling on to an incredible photo scene are not likely, but if you’re constantly looking for something and have your camera handy,¬†the probability increases.

The long-term take away from day with Ed?¬† Always be on the lookout for things hiding in plain sight. ¬†However, the most important tip Ed shared was¬†to always ask, “what am I not seeing here?” ¬†Whenever I find something promising to shoot, I always as this and I look from a low angle, high angle, or try something different with the camera itself to find that one thing I’m not seeing. ¬†Now when I’m researching a place I want to shoot, I go to Google, 500px, and Smugmug to look at the location and see the popular images; then I look for something different when I get there. ¬†With a little luck I’ll see something they didn’t. ¬†I also take my camera everywhere and I’ve gotten photos that I would have otherwise missed.

What did these lessons actually cost me? ¬†The costs of Will’s lesson was my time, nothing more. ¬†The return has been immeasurable because I’ve haven’t shot in auto mode since and his lesson gave me the confidence to learn aperture & shutter priority shooting and manual as well. ¬†Not to mention, it came at a time when I considered giving up on DSLR’s in general. ¬†At that moment, I could have gone to pocket camera and moved on. ¬†Ed’s lesson cost was time, a little gas money, and a couple of bucks for a great catfish lunch where I learned as much as I did back at¬†his computer. ¬†Long term,¬†I learned how to better use Photoshop and how to look, actually LOOK for subjects to shoot. ¬†I attempt to search for the ‘not so obvious’ when I’m out, hunting. ¬†I learned that people like Will and Ed exists, they are educators and masters of their craft, who are willing to share if you ask. ¬†But more importantly, the life lesson learned is that don’t be too big to share with others if asked and to remember that it just makes photography better.

Melody

This photo is #1 of 31 photos featured at Gurushots.com!

One of my photos, taken¬†almost four years ago, was featured¬†today by the Gurushots.com¬†website! ¬†The article is called “A Curved Line is the Lovliest Distance Between Two Points” and this photo is #1 of 31 photos on their list! This is a fairly common location for photographers, even #16 and #28 on this list were shot here (how #16 made the list with a finger in the photo is beyond me). ¬†When I took this¬†photo, I wanted to shoot it differently. ¬†However, once standing there I couldn’t resist taking the same photo as everyone else… ¬†This was shot with a Canon Rebel T3i¬†with an EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens on March 18, 2013 at the Vatican Museums in Rome, Italy (Vatican City).

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

#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

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.

bcpnet

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

 

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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.

Back at it, round two

BCPhotography¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† About two¬†years ago I began¬†blogging at WordPress¬†(see below). ¬†After several Canon camera upgrades (Rebel T3i, EOS 7D, and now EOS 6D), I’m back at it. ¬†The¬†main lesson I learned from that experience is¬†that I should have kept¬†at it. ¬†In 2013, I began writing knowing I’d immediately get feedback, and it would be awesome – not so. ¬†However, a few people started following me and one website in Italy even linked to my blog – all after I’d given up and moved on. ¬†I really did miss it and¬†now is the right time to get back to¬†it.

Beginning on February 22, 2016, I’m planning to write about specific photos, groups of photos, and¬†my little day trips when I shoot. ¬†I’d also like to write about some of the gear I use but not write actual reviews as there’s plenty of that online. ¬†Finally, my photography website, BillChizekPhotography.com, is now doing¬†well and I’m hoping this blog, ¬†BillChizekPhotography.net,¬†makes photography even more fun. ¬†As always, thanks for the support and for viewing my photos!