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

 

 

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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!

Camera bag advice…

This isn’t going to be a “here’s my bag and why I like it” post or telling you what I think is the best bag. ¬†Like most people carrying camera gear, I’ve been through quite a few bags and backpacks over the years. ¬†Just ask my wife… ¬†It was as if the next bag in a magazine would be better than the one currently in use. ¬†However, one lesson learned about finding the perfect camera bag is that there isn’t one. ¬†While the latest bags always promise to be the last bag you’ll ever need, there’s always compromises; after the novelty wears off you’ll realize what you’ve settled for. ¬†The best thing I’ve learned about camera bags, and coming from someone who has had back surgery, DON’T ORDER WITHOUT TRYING. ¬†That was my mistake for years, I would see advertising for a bag or spot one online and order it. ¬†Why? In my mind this was the last bag purchase so it was money well spent, right? ¬†I had used a lot of bags, but mostly¬†Lowepro and¬†Kata¬†bags stand out from 2008-2015, they’re both great companies with excellent bags. ¬†However, after using each new purchase for some months, there would be things I didn’t like, things I wanted from earlier bags, or worst of all, they just hurt after a while. ¬†Then I’d spot another bag, and the cycle continued with the exception of three years.

For those three years or so, I used Peak Design camera bags, and they’re very good bags (pictured at the bottom). ¬†I’ve written about their products many times on this blog, Peak Design’s exceptional gear is well-built by people who really care about photography. ¬†They make other products that I’ve used since 2012 and can’t seem to do without! ¬†Nothing beats PD’s Capture & Clip system for belt or backpack carry and going straight to the tripod! ¬†oI never change a plate or anything on my camera bottom and haven’t for years. ¬†Whoah!!! Squirrel!!! ¬†Whoops, back to camera bags… ¬†Everything changed while living in Virginia after visiting¬†Ace Photo in Ashburn, VA. ¬†They have an entire room of all the big name bags, when you walk in you actually hear angels in high voices singing “aaaaahhhhh” (see photo at left).¬† Not really, but I kind of felt that. ¬†They actually let you try on bags in the store and had no problem with bringing in my current bag to compare it to theirs! ¬†I took out all my stuff and put it in their bags, several of them actually, and put them on my back, game changer! ¬†That’s when I ended up buying a couple of ¬†ThinkTank bags! ¬†It made me realize that while I loved Peak Design bags, it was because they hurt my back less than the others. ¬†PD’s bags are great bags as are ThinkTank’s. ¬†It was at this point I decided that I’d never buy another bag without trying it first – EVER, lesson learned. ¬†Most times my bag is something that I work out of, I’ll leave it somewhere safe and put the camera on a strap. ¬†This also limits the desire to constantly swap lenses, I’ve gotten better shots by taking one lens and just shooting. ¬†I learned this at Ken Rockwell’s site a few years ago on his page Assembling a System ~ or ~ What to Bring¬†where he said, “Attempting to prepare yourself for everything ensures that you will be prepared for nothing.”

 

So in the last 1+ year there have been no new camera bags and it’s been done by asking myself three questions whenever the ‘next bag’ itch comes around:

  1. First, does this have features that my current bag doesn’t? ¬†This has to be a substantial upgrade, a game changer, to ditch the current setup that I know works. ¬†If this is a yes, move on to the next question.
  2. Second, can the current bag be modified to do what the perspective bag does? ¬†So far, in most cases the answer has been yes, done! ¬†It’s usually by reorganizing, which I hate doing because it’s nice knowing where everything is when in the dark. ¬†However, when the answer has been no, back to Question 1, just how substantial is this again? ¬†So far, it’s never been worth ditching the current system that works.
  3. Third, can a try it somewhere first? ¬†To this date, I haven’t gotten to this question. ¬†If Questions 1 and 2 lead to number 3 and there’s no place to try out the bag, I’m not buying it, period. ¬†Again, I’m never buying another bag without putting everything in it and trying it!

I’ve come to believe that most of the features that new bags offer tend to be the ability to conveniently pack more gear. ¬†There’s nothing wrong with that, some people need this and more. ¬†For this guy, more weight in the bag equates to back pain. ¬†Another thing that’s worked to curb buying bags, and while this might seem a bit extreme, is removing labels. ¬†Screen Shot 2019-02-14 at 09.03.30While this was originally for anti-theft purposes, a savvy thief could¬†understand that high-end camera bag labels likely protect high end camera gear. ¬†However, this has also makes it a little more difficult selling a bag online. ¬†People want to know it’s an original when they buy it, good luck selling them now, with no label right? ¬†I’ve cut up a military style gear tag, in orange like the one at the right, and placed it over the main label with epoxy. ¬†It’s not coming off anytime soon… ¬†Not only does it cover the label, it makes the bag stick out slightly so it would be very easy to spot if someone grabbed it in a crowd (photo at the top). ¬†Again, it’s worked for me.

So that’s the advice, I’ve had three bags that have worked perfectly for over a year and have been carried extensively, that’s not changing anytime soon. ¬†The brand of my bags doesn’t matter, they work for me, you might not like them and that’s life. ¬†There are so many quality camera bags and backpacks to choose from, but it really does require trying them out to find one that’s right for you. ¬†Remember, there is no perfect bag, you will have make concessions in some way. ¬†Just get one that does most of what you need and you’ll be happy.

 

sling2

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

My Pic @ The Daily Beast!

A photo I submitted to Getty Images was used by The Daily Beast on March 14, 2017.

Read the article at:
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/03/15/why-marines-might-get-away-with-sharing-nude-photos.html

Original photo:
http://www.billchizekphotography.com/Archive/i-FTLHHKz/A

 

Parade Rest
A Marine Corps color guard on Memorial Day in Coronado, California.

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.

MIA Photo Fair!

My photo, Hand in Hand, was selected for the digital exposition in Minimalism at the MIA Photo Fair at The Mall – Porta Nuova in Milan, Italy from March 10-13, 2017!

https://gurushots.com/challenge/minimalism/winners/exhibit-digital  (8th row up from the bottom)

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

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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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

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!

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