Sunday, July 05, 2009

More Vacation Shots

Pentax DA* 50-135 @ 50, F2.8, 1/20, ISO 100

This is another shot from the Hemlocks and Hardwoods trail. Yes, it was handheld at 1/20th of a second.

Look at the debris at the bottom of the tree. I don't think it all fell there naturally. I didn't pack a knife for the trek we took in the Seaside Adjunct park (though maybe I should've) but I did wear one for this hike. Why? There are black bears here.

Black bears rarely attack humans, but if and when they do playing dead doesn't help. Fighting back does. Maybe when I get back from Poland I'll post some macro shots of my knife collection. It includes an Arkansas Toothpick (that I made from a CVA kit), a flaked Obsidian blade (modern reproduction by a local craftsman) with a cactus handle and sinew binding, and a Groman knife with a horn handle. I used to have a Kabar hunting knife, but it disappeared around the same time the ex did.....I haven't seen it in a while. I took the Groman knife on this trip. Turned out I didn't need it.

Mind you, I view a knife against a bear (or any other large predator) as weapon of last resort. My best weapon in such situations sits between my ears...... :)

Pentax DA* 50-135 @ 135, F2.8, 1/125, ISO 100

Back at the Seaside Adjunct, we came across this frog pond. There must have been at least a dozen frogs in this pond. It wasn't big, not much more than six feet across. But clearly, it was frog central. These two were just sitting there, staring at one another.

Pentax DA* 50-135 @ 135, F4, 1/250, ISO 100
This little guy was sitting right by the pond. There were several there, and I almost stepped on a couple. They are sooooo hard to spot. This shot shows what the Pentax 50-135 can do. The depth of field is very shallow, even at F4. That lens just so rocks, but I think for wildlife I may need both the 200MM and 300MM primes. I am biased in favor of primes, though the 50-135 and 16-50 have been going out of their way to teach me that zoom lenses can be a very good thing. Some think, from the reading that I've done, that using them at the limits of their operating range is a 'mis-use' of sorts. I would say if you only ever use your zooms at the extremes, then yes. However, doing that sometimes? No problemo.

Pentax DA* 50-135 @ 55, F2.8, 1/90, ISO 100

If you haven't noticed by now, I like to shoot at ISO 100. Way back in the 'old days' when I shot film (I still do sometimes, I admit it) I really liked Kodak Royal Gold 25. Yeah, that was 25 ISO. As I understand it, 100 ISO is a 'native' setting for the sensor in my K10D. In the new K7 (and I think the K20) the 'native' setting is ISO 200, with ISO 100 being accomplished through software. I'm looking forward to it, because I will probably put the K7 on ISO 200 and leave it there most of the time. Though, that said, I've seen some kick ass shots from the K20 at high ISO when they were exposed 'to the right' to improve the signal to noise ratio. Early shots from the K7 suggest they will be even better....

Pentax DA* 50-135 @ 135, F3.5, 1/250, ISO 100

We came upon a porcupine on our hike. As you can see, wildlife doesn't always co-operate ('cause its wild). This is the south end of a north facing porcupine......For a porcupine he was really rushing. Lucky for him, we weren't really hungry, and I didn't have my knife......I'm kidding, I'd never hurt him, unless I was starving. This food group comes with its own toothpicks..... :)

Pentax DA* 16-50 @ 36, F6.7, 1/250, ISO 100
I just couldn't resist the rain drops. This was taken in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. We stopped there because I wanted to visit the Sherman Hines Museum of Photography. It was very, very cool. Apparently Sherman used Hasselblad cameras exclusively at one point, until he discovered the Pentax 6x7. That's one I don't have yet. I, too, like the rectangular image format (I own a Seagull 6x6) over the square 6x6 image. So, do I get a Pentax 6x7 on the used market, a 6x4.5, or the new digital 6.x4.5? Decisions decisions.....I predict that in 10 years it will be very expensive, and difficult to purchase color film. I have done a lot of B&W work as well (yes in the darkroom, with trays) and I may be biased, but I think B&W film will live forever. It is simple to use and develop. Color film, I think, is going to become increasingly exotic.

When APS film came out, we were promised a new breed of SLRs. They would be smaller, lighter, record more information about the shot on a magnetic strip along the bottom of the film, etc. That never really happened. As John Lennon said 'Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans'. That's exactly what happened here. I think the digital APS-C size sensor is here to stay. It seems to be 'good enough'. One of my favorite sayings is 'The best is the enemy of the good'.....

If you want to, and some always will, you can go full frame. Increasingly, you'll need 'new' lenses, as a lot of manufacturers, including Pentax, are fullfilling the promise of APS in a digital world with lenses that will not cover a 35mm frame. I will admit, I'm intruiged by the Canon 5D Mark II, but not interested enough to switch. Would I switch if Pentax came out with a full frame camera? I don't think so. I would probably buy one, as I have a lot of manual focus and FA lenses, but would I commit to it exclusively? I doubt it.

I'm personally a lot more interested in the 6x4.5 digital. That's a much bigger sensor, giving the option of fatter pixels (higher ISO performance) and more of them (lots more). Plus, any lenses I'd have for the 6x4.5 should work with my APS-C SLR, which I'm sure will be less kit to drag around.....we live, as per the ancient chinese curse, in interesting times.

Hell, people could upsize images from 6MP cameras and print 16x20 prints no problem. And that, in a nutshell is my threshold. If I can take an image, make a 16x20 print of it, and proudly hang it on my wall........I'm SET.

Pentax DA* 16-50 @ 31, F6.7, 1/350, ISO 100

What better way to celebrate Canada Day than sitting on the beach? If you don't live here, you might not get it. It ain't THAT cold out. So, why not go to the beach?

Warsaw here I come...has anyone warned them? Are they ready? I bet not...... :)

NOTE: I have not been able to secure a production K7 prior to my trip. They are arriving in North America, and there are places where one can buy one in Canada, but Henry's doesn't have them on the shelves here in Halifax yet.

So, Warsaw will get my K10D treatment. No K7 for you! If you know history then you realize what an incredibly awful 'joke' that is.

Just remember. A new camera will not make you a better photographer. Your eyes and your brain can do that. All a new camera can do is create a more faithful rendition of what your eyes and your brain see. I see alot, and I NEED a new camera..... :) Seriously, I do not own a K20. My K10 has impressed the pants off me (it is my first digital SLR) and I NEED a K7. To quote Dilbert, 'I gotta get me some of that'. :)

Saturday, July 04, 2009


Pentax DA* 50-135 @ 50, F2.8, 1/45, ISO 100

I, my partner, and my Pentax K10D went on vacation on Thursday (I'll leave it to you, the reader, to determine if that is my partner, or my K10D in this shot).... :)

I was test driving a new wrist strap. She said it made me look like a Borg. The only thing I didn't like about it was that some of the clips didn't hold (that's easy to fix) and it tied up my right hand (that's harder to fix). It wasn't a Pentax strap, but as soon as I see one of those rare beasts here in Canada I will buy at least 4 (one for the LX, ME Super, K10D and K7).

We went to Kejimkujik National Park, here in Nova Scotia. First we went to the main park, and the Hemlocks and Hardwoods trail. This trail goes through a stand of old growth Hemlock trees. Some of the trees are upwards of 400 years old. I wanted to see it up close, because when the first Europeans arrived in Nova Scotia much of our forest probably looked a lot like this. Now a lot of it is scrub pine, with underbrush so thick a squirrel sounds like a herd of elephants.

After the main park, we went to the Seaside Adjunct and Historic Site. Its a historic site because Champlain camped within the boundaries of the park in, I think, 1604. Yes, that's 405 years ago. Some of the oldest trees on the Hemlocks and Hardwoods trail were seeds or seedlings when Champlain landed.

In each park we went on what was billed as a 6-7km hike. My pedometer registered over 20,000 steps for a single day. This is a good thing because the Rona MS Bike Tour approaches (end of this month) and I haven't done nearly enough biking. But I have been doing a lot of walking and hiking, so I am quite active.

All the pictures in the main part of Keji and the Seaside Adjunct were taken with my Pentax K10D and my 50-135 lens. Day two, the trip home, I put the 16-50 on. I'm glad I didn't take the 18-250 into the forest, because it was dim. That lens would've really helped bring in the seal in the Seaside Adjunct, however. Pictures are below with commentary. Most of these are very lightly edited, and no effort has yet been made to remove dust spots (there are a couple).

Pentax DA* 50-135 @ 50, F2.8, 1/30, ISO 100

This tree started its life as a seedling in the moss on top of this rock. Its a large rock. The stretch from the base of the tree trunk to the ground (where the root goes) is about 3 feet. This is a large old tree. It found the ground. It put down roots here. Pretty impressive.

Pentax DA* 50-135 @ 135, F8, 1/500, ISO 100

This little guy was shadowing a group of sea birds that were floating in the water. I didn't get the sense that he was really hungry (seals do sometimes go after birds) seemed more opportunistic or playful than that. If a bird had been foolish enough to let him get close he probably would've snacked on it. But he wasn't trying very hard. This was one time when I wished I'd had my 18-250 with me (it was in the car). On both of these hikes I traveled very light. One camera. One lens. As you can see, it was a bright enough day that the 18-250 would've worked very well. That's very much what it looked like. I, too, was surprised by some of the meter readings I got.

Pentax DA* 50-135 @ 135, F8, 1/750, ISO 100

The surf was breaking on the rocks constantly, and some of the waves were fairly large (> 3'). The Marblehead to Halifax Race starts this weekend. The weather here is unsettled and foggy. I've been threatening to crew in this race for a while. It goes every two years, and for personal reasons I wasn't able to participate two years ago. For work reasons I can't participate this year. But, mark my words, in 2011, I'll be there. I'll probably hook up a Pentax W80 to a troll line and tow it behind the boat, as long as no one thinks it slows us down.....Who knows, maybe in two years I'll have my own boat. That would be cool. I've been swimming for as long as I've been walking, and sailing since I was 12.

The other plan I have is to charter a boat in the Caribbean, in what are known as the Windward Islands. I hear there is good sailing there..... :) If you haven't read Sailing Alone Around The World, by Joshua Slocum, you have to. He was the first to circumnavigate the globe single handed. He sailed a 36 foot sloop named Spray. This was an old oyster boat someone gave him as a bit of a joke. It was about 150 years old when he got it. He rebuilt it from the keel up, then took it to sea. If you love the smell of the salt air as much as I do, and you haven't read this book, you must.

Pentax DA* 50-135 @ 135, F8, 1/750, ISO 100

Three old ladies sitting on a rock. OK. I can't be sure about their gender, and I have no factual information about their tell me...are they gossiping? Of COURSE they are! :)

Pentax DA* 16-50 @ 24, F6.7, 1/250, ISO 100

This was on the way home, on Friday, at Risser's Beach, a Provincial Park on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. What interested me was the rust, in the salt water on the beach. Obviously, there is iron here. This is at low tide, as the tide is coming back in, so, for this much rust to have accumulated in a relatively short period of time, even in the presence of salt water, suggests there's a fair bit of iron here. I wonder if Champlain saw something like this, and moreover understood its significance.....

Pentax DA* 16-50 @ 16, F6.7, 1/350, ISO 100
Yeah, maybe I got a 'good one'. I've heard a lot of negative flak about the 16-50 SDM lens from Pentax. Maybe there were some early quality control problems. My guess is there were a few bad lenses, a few cameras that exhibited front/back focus, and a few users that couldn't find their butt with both hands. As the above shot clearly shows, the 16-50 lens sucks.....SO NOT.

It is worth reflecting, at this juncture, on what I like about my Pentax gear. Ned Bunnell, on his blog, mentioned the term Adventure Proof, to refer to the new Optio W80. That's a great tag line. It sums up my thoughts perfectly. My watch is Swiss. It is mechanical. It is automatic, so it winds as I move my hand. It doesn't need batteries. It has a 316 stainless steel case and bracelet that's been bead blasted, so its dull. It has a sapphire crystal, which can be broken if I hit it VERY hard (a hammer blow in the centre of the watch would probably do it), but only a diamond will scratch it. And it is rated to 660 feet or 200 meters. It is not just waterproof. It is 'Adventure Proof'.

My Pentax gear lived up to that moniker on this trip. In many cases the fog I traveled through was indistinguishable from a light, salty, rain. My Pentax K10D and my lenses met the forces of nature, and remained undaunted by them. What good is a camera, if you're afraid to use it?

When I get my W80 I'm going to tie a rope to it, put it in movie mode, and throw it off a bridge on the Margaree River. There be salmon down there. I'm going to use it to do a little reconnaissance. :-)

Next on my list is the K7. The very second I see one basking under the florescent lights of my local camera store I'm going to give it a new home..... :)