Monthly Archives: October 2009

For the love of the game

I’ve been meaning to drive down to take pictures of just what’s out there for the longest time. But laziness mostly got in my way. I remember back in the day when I first got my camera, I would just take my car and go exploring O.C. I would just drive down to the Tustin marketplace to take pictures of the signs at night, take a cruise down random parks to try to find bugs. Then it all sort of stopped. I still like taking pictures, but the exploration and the drive to do it as a hobby simply stopped.
Today I told Chrissie I think I’ll just drive down to the beach and take some photos. I really can’t remember the last time I just wanted to go out and take pictures for the sake of doing it. So I’m really glad i got the chance to see the sun setting. It was really fun and liberating to just drive down PCH, park and walk around with a camera to take pictures.

The shot below I walked a little deeper into the waves to take a picture of this rock as the sun was setting. I brought along three lenses in a bag, and I’ve decided next time that’s a big mistake. I’ll just take one and not think about changing anything. I was more worried about the bag getting wet from the waves than the camera! The bag nor the lenses I had inside were not weather sealed, so it actually held me back. I was literally waste deep in water for this shot.
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And to just explore nature and her little quirks. For instance this rock has a little target written on it. I should of kept it as a keepsake, but it really was there. It wasn’t some kid drawing on the rock with a marker.
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As the sun was finally setting, I started to focus my attention the rocks. I was very curious about the reflections of the water. I knew I would have about 20-30 minutes of light left to do anything. So I kept on trying to take the reflection shots, but realized the sky didn’t have any clouds today. So there really wasn nothing to reflect.
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But it was a very fun little excursion. I think the last time I was at this beach was when my friend Neil and I woke are butts up at 5AM to drive out to the beach to try to get a picture of the sunrise. Ahhh… maybe I’ll do that next time.

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My $40 USD piece of plastic ‘review’

Today, In the mail, I received my Canon EC-S focusing screen. What you ask? Is an Ec-S focusing screen? Well the marketing geniuses at Canon label’s its features as:

  • Focusing screen features super precision matte
  • Essential for manual focusing shots
  • Makes it easy to determine the precise point of the sharpest focus

In laymens terms, it is essentially a 40 dollar piece of plastic, no larger than the size of a quarter, that allows geeky photographers to take pictures using old ass lenses that can’t auto-focus( or super crazy macro lenses ).

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Which begs the question. “What idiot would go and waste $40 dollars on a tiny piece of plastic?” ….As the room goes silent, only one idiot raises his hand. Yes, that idiot, would be none other than yours truly.

Installation was pretty straight forward. You open up your camera and poke at the top to release the focusing screen housing.
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Just be very careful to try to perform this action in a relatively dust free environment, and be sure to clean your hands. Otherwise, bad things will happen to your sensor. You use the handy dandy tool that comes with the Ec-S screen to take the original focusing screen out, and replace it with the shiny new focusing screen.

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Snap the housing back in place, and plop a lens back onto your camera. Note: The EC-S is can technically only be used on a 1DIIN, 1DIII, 1DsIII and a few higher end film bodies from Canon. The reason is you need to go into the custom functions of the camera and inform it that you are using the Ec-S screen so that the light meter can recalibrate itself to the darker screen. Darker screen you say? Yes…once installed you will lose 1-stop of light, therefore you will need fast glass to even use this. lenses of 2.8 aperture or wider is ideal. (But I’ll get to my conclusions later).

So after I installed this wondrous new focusing screen (note the sarcasm), I immediately put on in my macro lens and attempted to take a picture (Yes I shot that using manual focus).

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And Wow…I must admit. There is a world of difference (Again, note the sarcasm). It is then that I finally realized the futility of my new expensive piece of plastic. Manual focusing, and thus, manual focus lenses are really supposed to be used by people who could actually SEE! Yes, people with don’t wear ginormous bottle cap glasses such as myself. People with better vision who could…for lack of a better term….Actually manually focus! Blind people, such as myself rely on newfangled computers to determine focus. Though I wonder if it means that video camera operators must have good or near perfect vision, because most higher end cameras are all fully manual focus only?

So, to conclude my review, all kidding aside. I think there is about a 15% to 20% increase in the clarity of the image for manual focusing. The Ec-S screen as neat as it is, may not be the most practical purchase because newer camera bodies these days offer live view. That is, it allow you to visually see what you are focusing on via the LCD with super precision. You can Optically zoom 10x and focus precisely. Even blind people like me can use live view to focus accurately. New technology has made this EC-S screen obsolete, in my opinion. I’ll keep the new ec-s on my camera for a bit to see how it performs during daylight conditions. My 1DII does not have live view, so I may decide to keep it. However, I have a sneaking suspicion it will go back into the box eventually, and perhaps I’ll put it up for sale for someone else to try =)

Volunteering Again National MS Society

I’ve done something this morning that I’m ashamed to say haven’t done since High School (Well, aside from the one year I volunteered at a food bank for Thanksgiving). But I’ve essentially done nothing for the past 12 years.

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There are many underlying reasons why one would take up the mantle to help out in a cause that’s greater than yourself. Some volunteer for a cause because they’ve lost loved ones. Some do it to pad their resumes or an gasp…some do it for truly altruistic purposes (However I think those people are more rare). My reason is entirely a selfish one. The recent discovery brain cancer in my dad was the catalyst. I make a good living, am healthy, have been blessed with great family and friends. I should at least make an effort to help out where I can to build good karma. There were many nice people who helped my father during his stay an the hospital. The theory is to try to do good, and in doing so, hopefully good will come back to me (in the form of good health for my dad). I don’t consider it as paying a debt, it’s more akin to paying it forward (Yes just like that movie with Haley Joel Osment).

Initially, I really wanted to volunteer for cancer or aids events, but they were all booked up in terms of volunteers. Luckily, the The National Multiple Sclerosis Society. still needed volunteers! I must admit, it was miserable to wake up at 5:30am, but once I got there, it was all good. I didn’t volunteer in a booth or to direct traffic. I’m not particularly good at manual labor (As my wife can attest), so naturally I opted to do what I do best. Which is taking pictures! Hopefully they’ll be able to use them in their marketing campaign to generate more funds and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis, which affects 2.1 million people.

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I didn’t realize until after the fact, that this guy was wearing an SC shirt and giving me the ‘fight on’ symbol. I have a pretty myopic view from behind a 200mm lens, and things were going at a fairly fast paced, so haha I swear I didn’t single this guy out because he came from my alma mater!

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This gentleman pretty much single-handedly raised almost 40 thousand dollars for the cause.

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I took this opportunity to practice my panning technique. Essentially you slow the lens down, and pan with the subject to simulate movement. By panning, you keep up with the subject, and they will in theory be in ‘more’ focus than the background. So These were roughly at 1/15th of a second at F22. It takes a lot of practice to master, and I haven’t really had opportunities to try this technique until today!

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Shamless plugs. Yeah it was interesting, they had a shot wish list, and sponsors were on top of the list. Which is understandable, they want the sponsors to be recognized so they would continue their sponsorships for future events. I tried shooting them in a way where it wasn’t blatantly obvious that I’m doing a shameless plug. It was an amusing challenge.

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Ok this one is shameless. haha!

Over all I had a fantastic time. I wouldn’t mind having other volunteer opportunities. I think it would be interesting to go to retirement homes to take pictures of elderly people. Everyone wants to be loved or get some form attention. There’s nothing like a camera being aimed at you to make you feel somewhat important or recognized. Fleeting as it may appear, who knows, a single smile can do wonders.

There were other photogs at this event. It was interesting to see how other people worked. They were all clumped towards the starting line, or asked groups to say hi and cheer. The latter was never really my style so i chose to roam around. I think I clumped with a a few of them in front of the starting line, before I realized it was foolish. Why take the same shot as the guy next to you? To be unique, or get a different perspective. Be where other people aren’t! So lol, I walked down the street and got free reign of the street shots.

Now on to the boring details that boys care about!

I Used 2 cameras and (shockingly only brought two lenses). 1DMKIII and 1DMKII, with a 70-200IS, and a sigma 14mm. I didn’t even bother with a backpack! Just a satchel for snackies, and memory cards.
I’ve confirmed that I do indeed like wide angles, and they do have their purpose but the flare on this sigma makes it rather annoying, and I think I’m going to replace the lens as soon as I get enough funds for a Canon 14mm MKII. Since it began uber early, I gambled that I would have enough light to shoot. Clearly I would of lost, if it wasn’t for the ISO 2000 and above capabilities of the MKIII. But it was chilly, but these two bodies are built like tanks. I shot int he pouring rain once with them, so It was good to have peace of mind that the moisture in the air wouldn’t hurt the gear.

All the action shots were done in AI Focus. In hindsight, I should of brought my 200mm prime. The 70-200 is a fine lens, but for bikes that move quickly, focusing is essential, and since the zoom lens is a ad large, it is a bit slow to focus. Don’t get me wrong, it’s faster than the average bear, but nowhere near as fast as I need it to be. I’ve missed a few crucial shots because it couldn’t keep up.
The full Sets are on my Flickr account under the Natioal MS society Bike_Ride Collection.