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Lunar Eclipse in August, 2007

August 28, 2007 Leave a comment
This morning at approximately 2:52 AM PST was a lunar eclipse – best viewed around the Pacific rim. These were some incredibly difficult shots, but it was worth just viewing with my own two eyes.
 
The lunar eclipse shots are taken at 8 second exposures at f/16 with 400 and 800 ISO, respectively. These images were then cropped because even at 200mm the moon takes very little print real estate. At these high ISO speeds and long exposures, the images did turn out a bit grainy on my DSLR. Still, I hope you enjoy them if you didn’t stay up quite so early in the morning.
Categories: Hobbies

New Lens for New View from Office…While it Lasts

April 4, 2007 Leave a comment
After a long time deciding, I decided to buy the Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 ED AF Zoom-Nikkor lens for my Nikon D70s. It was a tough decision, having to balance quality and price since I don’t (currently) make any money back from my hobby. It’s a superb lens that is built rugged and has a good resale value, which emphasizes its quality.
 
I weighed this against many high-power zoom lenses, including the hard-to-get, do-it-all Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom-Nikkor, the Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor, the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor, and the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM lenses. What I wanted most was a lens with a wide-open aperture that allowed me to stop subjects in motion. The Nikon 18-200mm that is still in super-high demand is a good lens, but starts to fall off at 200mm from what I’ve read, plus has a maximum aperture of f/3.5. Not bad in bright- and medium-light conditions, but I love photographing around sunset. I also didn’t mind having a couple of good lenses, and wanted this before our trip.
 
The Sigma faired well in reviews but the Nikons had better resale value and what I got was about the same price as the Sigma. Honestly, I didn’t see a lot of negative feedback, though some compared to the Nikon lenses.
 
I simply couldn’t justify the price of the Nikon 18-200mm VR lens. Besides, VR actually steps down the aperture a couple of stops when in use, and Nikon recommends you turn off VR when mounted on a tripod because the motor will keep running needlessly (not to mention the aperture). At 200mm I’ll certainly be on a tripod if not shooting super fast.
 
The choice between my new 80-200 f/2.8 and the smaller, less-expensive 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 was a tough decision. I didn’t really care so much for the extra 100mm focal length, but the price and size were nice. I don’t really even care about the VR for reasons I’ve previously mentioned. In the end, VR won’t stop a moving subject like a fast shutter speed will; and with such fast shutter speeds I want as open an aperture as I can get. f/2.8 is a couple of stops more open than f/4.5 at a minimum, so my choice was made.
 
It is a good lens and I’m sure I’ll get good use out of it. Maybe even someday I’ll start making a little bit of money back. Probably nothing like my father ever did, photographing weddings and such, but maybe some stock photography. People say I have an eye for framing, and I certainly see so much beauty in nature that I love to share through my eyes (and the lens).
 
Below are a couple of photos I took from around my office, while I still have it. All of Microsoft is cramped for space while we hire more people before more buildings are fully constructed. Compare those photos below with my previous shots from my office.
Categories: Hobbies

Our New Tripod and Head

September 22, 2006 Leave a comment
To support our new camera, we bought a new, rugged tripod. Today the head came in: a ball head with the trigger off to the side. With that design, it can support more weight than typically quick-release ball heads. I used our old camera to snap a couple of shots of how this looks. (I really need to sell that camera and its accessories.)
Categories: Hobbies

Comparing Lenses

September 16, 2006 Leave a comment

I bought a higher quality tripod made by Manfrotto and order a cool ball head that lowers the center of gravity and can support more weight. That’s a good thing, since I’m comparing a few different lenses right now – some weighing almost 4 lbs. Our new camera weights about 1.8 lbs. on its own. Our current tripod just isn’t stable enough to support a heavier camera and lens.

I want a good zoom lens and have found a lot of good reviews on the following zoom lenses.

Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom: a good all-purpose lens that covers the range of my kit lens, an 18-70mm AF-S Nikkor. All reviews suggest just selling the kit lens since there’s really no purpose having a lens with the same aperture but less range of focal length. The aperture isn’t as open and I wouldn’t be able to use a teleconverter. VR on a typically hand-held lens like this would be a big help to reduce vibration.

Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom: a good zoom lens with a constant aperture of f/2.8 throughout. This lens would support a teleconverter but is quite large and pretty expensive. VR is also not recommended when using a tripod, and I’m really not sure how much shooting I’ll do on a monopod. I couldn’t use my current monopod since the bottom segment isn’t very sturdy, so I do plan on selling that along with the rest of our old digital camera equipment.

Sigma APO 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM: at about half the price of the Nikkor 70-200mm, this lens sports all the features of the Nikkor except it lacks vibration reduction. It’s a little shorter, which means it will fit in my Lowepro SlingShot 200 AW.

Price is certainly a factor, but so is quality. These three lenses have all received good reviews. With the Sigma we don’t have to pay for marketing, either. If anyone has any other good zoom lenses to add that are optimized for digital SLRs, or any opinions on these lenses, feel free to post a reply.

Categories: Hobbies

New Camera

June 26, 2006 Leave a comment
After some time, lots of research on the Internet, and discussions we bought a Nikon D-70s digital SLR (single lens reflex) – hopefully the last camera we’ll buy for a good long time. We started with a Sony digital camera and it had many problems (no malfunctions, just terrible features and memory media). We upgraded to a Fuji S7000 and have been quite happy with it, but there were two problems with it that caused me to want to get a dSLR for complete control and extensibility by way of adding new lenses.
  1. Shutter lag. Every digital camera has it, even this higher-end digital camera.
  2. Processing. The CCD image sensor does a lot of processing that drains batteries faster – also a problem for all digital cameras – and changes the view I want.

We ended up getting it at Best Buy due to discounts and gift cards, plus that the gentleman that helped us was very knowledgeable (he was also a professional photographer part time) and very honest in ways I won’t go into, suffice to say he was looking out for serious customers. He even remembered us from several months back; I must’ve made an impression with friendly banter.

So, I’m up late after having just finished reading the manual. I’ll post pictures in the near future as Tracy and I start the backpacking season again a little late and make plans for our vacation, not including the several trips back to the Midwest we’ll be making next fall and winter.

Fortunately, though, this area is beautiful and photogenic scenery is all around, and dad’s still looking for a good picture of my car. I also want to visit lots of waterfalls and mountain lakes and hopefully even sell a few shots.

Categories: Hobbies

Tracy’s First Skiing Trip

March 6, 2006 Leave a comment
Today Tracy and I finally went skiing. We’ve been here through two winters (although last winter yielded very little snow even in the mountains here) and finally just decided to do it. Fortunately a coworker at Microsoft said it wasn’t as bad as a drive as I thought, so that helped. I’m used to driving in snow but not at such steep inclines, like those in the mountains!
 
We went to the Summit at Snoqualmie, which is only a little less than 50 minutes away. Since Tracy’s never been skiing before and it’s been almost 15 years for me (and only twice before that on a steep hill in South Dakota, I believe) we were going to sign her up for lessons but missed the 10 AM class by just a few minutes (the group had left but it was still a little before 10 AM). So, I tried to teach her a little. I needed the practice too, to get my "ski legs" back.
 
Fortunately the instructors did better. While she was getting lessons I skied lots. I took a huge dive the first time that was actually a little fun. People above on the lifts even screamed out, "sweet!" I guess it was pretty neat. I fell several times at first but finally stayed up and tried the little jumps they have, but not at super speed. I probably didn’t even rise a foot, but it was still fun making myself try something.
 
Unfortunately while we were there, there were two accidents on that same jump. The first didn’t appear too bad as the person was moving. Maybe a sprained leg or arm, or maybe even broken. I say that it wasn’t too bad because a later accident forced ambulances and even an air lift helicopter! I pray to God that whoever is alright, because it looked pretty serious.
 
But, Tracy never did make it down the mountain. We’ll try next time together now that she has the basics down. I belong to the old school of thought, "try, fall down, and keep trying to you stop falling down!" We’ll still work on the basics, since I could use the practice as well. Pizza and French fry!
 
It was good. We took some photos of both us and the scenery we got to experience. Truly magnificent!
Categories: Hobbies

Our New Portable Media Center

October 25, 2005 Leave a comment

Tracy and I almost never print our pictures that we take on trips and at various events. About the only time we do is when visiting family and friends as we did last weekend. Then we’re left with photo albums lying around. We wanted something to store and display the pictures digitally so last week we purchased a new Creative Zen Portable Media Center that runs Windows Portable Media Center Edition and got a great deal through Microsoft on it.

Now we can listen to music, watch recorded television from our Media Center PC, watch videos, and show pictures to our families and friends. Unfortunately it came too late for our trip but we’ll have it for future trips and we can even hook it up to your TVs to display the pictures on bigger screens.

We will, of course, print out some pictures to give to families and friends but this way we can store thousands of pictures without the bulk!

Categories: Hobbies