A New Era of Gear

On my equipment page you’ll see that I’m primarily a Nikon shooter and have been for quite a while.  Not long ago, I acquired a Canon EOS T2i and have had a chance to do some shooting with it.  It’s a fine camera and though the controls are different from my Nikons and take some getting used, once mastered are easy and intuitive.  I’ve decided I like Canon and have come to a bit of a crossroads I guess you’d say.

I mention in the equipment post that photography is a gadget intensive pursuit, but that you should try hard not to get caught up in chasing the ‘best’ gear.  That doesn’t mean you should never upgrade your kit though.  I recently shipped my aging D200 and other Nikon gear off to Adorama’s used department for a quote.  Depending on what they come back with will determine my upgrade path.  I can say this: my new stuff is going to be Canon.  I’ve long been interested in the EOS 5D MkII, but price has kept me away.  Now, with the brand new 5D MkIII available and the 6D due in December, prices on remaining stocks of the 5DII are tumbling.  Unless Adorama is able to come in with a truly amazing offer (which they might) I believe my new set up will be a Canon 5D MkII with the 24-105mm F4 L series lens.

“That camera is 4 years old and isn’t much of an upgrade”, some will say.  “Save some more and get the 5DIII”, others will say.  Some will point to reviews of the 5DII and its supposed horrific autofocus issues and ask, “are you kidding?  Pros dropped Canon in droves after that and 1DIII fiascoes!”

Well, it is 4 years old, but my D200 is circa 2005 so, “new to me” as they say.  And old or not, the 5DII is a huge upgrade in image quality over my D200.  Not state of the art of course, but that’s ok.  Could I take the money I get from my sale and save more for the latest and greatest?  Possibly, but my experience with trying to do this is that what really happens is the money I get from the sale will evaporate without me even realizing it and I’ll save nothing.  A man has got to know his limitations.

Apparently, the 5DII does have some issues with its autofocus system.  But reading technical reviews of the system, and reading about photographers using the camera in the field (and I’ve read a lot of both) the problems do not seem to be a big issue generally.  AF tracking in fast action situations seems to be an issue, as does focusing in very low light.  For someone like me whose livelihood isn’t on the line, I don’t think this is a major problem.  As for pros leaving Canon for Nikon, some did.  And they were very vocal about why.  Autofocus was only part of the reason; many were unhappy with Canon’s customer service and felt their concerns weren’t being taken seriously.  Rightly or wrongly, I’m not going to factor that in my decision.

I’m anxiously awaiting a call about the final quote on my Nikon gear.  They’ve already given me a preliminary estimate (that I was quite happy with) which “won’t go down once we see your equipment”, so it can only get better.  I should hear back today or early next week and once things are finalized I’ll post here about it.

Photographing the small stuff

I’ve never done much ‘official’ macro photography, what with the special lenses, ring flashes, extension tubes, and all that hoo ha.  But, there is no doubt that getting close to something small and making it look big in the camera is a rewarding style of photography.

I have a number of, uh, offbeat hobbies that suck my time.  That’s one reason I have a hard time keeping up with my blog posts.  One hobby that goes hand in hand with the photography though is miniature wargaming.  This is a difficult thing for a lot of people who aren’t into it to get a handle on.  Basically, it involves pushing toy soldiers around on a table top in accordance with a set of rules in an effort to simulate a battle, often a particular historical battle.  Science fiction and fantasy settings are also popular.  Rather than enter into a detailed explanation of the hobby on what is supposed to be a photography blog, I’ll just point you here and you can get more info if you are interested.

Twice a year, in April and October, a friend of mine puts together a science fiction based game he calls “Zombie Crawl”.  It is based in the sci fi world of Necromunda and involves a group of mercenaries/gangsters trying to escape a zombie apocalypse.  His games are very popular and typically we have 20 to 30 players involved.

Below are some shots I took of the game.  The figures are 28mm scale, so about an inch tall.  I didn’t use any specialty equipment, because I don’t have any.  I used my Canon EOS Rebel T2i with the 18-55mm kit lens that came with it.  I’m liking this camera a lot more the more I use it.  I shot all the photos using available light…it wasn’t a place where I could really set up off camera lighting and the on camera pop up flash is worse than nothing.  That means I had to shoot at a very high ISO, 3200, to get reasonable shutter speeds.  If you zoom in on the pictures the noise becomes obvious.

Copyright @ 2012 by Adrian M. Benson

Copyright @ 2012 by Adrian M. Benson

Copyright @ 2012 by Adrian M. Benson

Not photo related but…

We lost our sixteen year old cat last night, poor old guy.  He’d been having health problems for the last year and Friday morning it was pretty obvious he wasn’t going to last the weekend.  Started looking through my old files and realized  I don’t have many pictures of him, and none that are really good.  But I’m a photographer amirite?  Fortunately my brother in law took this one a few years ago at my daughter’s high school graduation.  So long Quincy, we’ll miss ya!


Fun with exposure: Things You Can Do in a Museum

The light meter in your digital camera, be it an SLR or a point & shoot, is a pretty darned sophisticated piece of electronic wizardry.  Throw the meter into matrix mode, point your lens at a scene and shoot it, you’re going to get a “correct” exposure.  The problem is, a correct exposure might not be what you’re looking for; your creative eye will look at a given scene and see it very differently from how the dead accurate, but unimaginative, meter does.

This neon art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston serves two purposes.  It’s art, and it is a nice way to present the museum do’s and don’ts to visitors.  The piece is located near the main gift shop in a well lit lobby.  I took a couple of snap shots of the sign because it made me chuckle, but then started to wonder how I could make it a semi-worthwhile photo.

The neon is mounted on a stark white wall in a largely white room, pretty uninteresting as a photographic background.  Blue light shining out of a black hole though would look pretty cool…outer space like even.  How to make it happen?  There are two light sources in this photo. One is the neon lights (conveniently that also happens to be our subject) and the ambient room lighting.  I’m no genius with light, but solution to this problem is pretty simple; get a base exposure for the scene (which ended up being 1/30 sec, f8, ISO 800) and then work the shutter speed til you kill the ambient.  Starting with that exposure, I took a series of shots, upping the shutter speed about 1/2 stop for each one; if I was good I could have guessed at the right shutter speed but I’m not.  I ended up getting the effect I wanted at 1/160 sec, f8, ISO 800.  The ambient light is gone completely and all we have is our funny neon artwork.

Copyright @ 2012 Adrian M. Benson Nikon D200, Nikkor 16-85mm AF-S VR, 1/160 sec, f8, ISO800 Neon artwork, MFA Boston RAW file processed in Photoshop Elements 10 w/Adobe Camera RAW

Awesome Photographs That Aren’t Mine

My brother in law sent me a link the other day that I want to share with you all here.  It’s a selection of 4×5 Kodachromes made mostly during WWII.  It’s unusual enough to see color photos from that era as color reversal film was still fairly new (Kodachrome was introduced in 1935) and expensive to process.  We’re extremely spoiled as photographers today.  Our digital SLR’s are more computerized image processors than they are cameras and with the luxury of post processing in Photoshop that can allow someone with a little skill to make a good image out of a horrible exposure, many “photographers” don’t worry much about getting things right during the shot.

So visit this link and revel in the beautiful images made when you got it right “in camera” or else.


“If your photographs aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough.”

The above quote is attributed to Robert Capa, one of the founders of Magnum Photos.  I believe Capa was mostly referring to the photojournalistic photographs for which he is famous, but it’s true enough for any style of photography.  I spent some time at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston on Sunday and took a few casual shots while I was there.  Take a look at these two images and tell me which one you prefer.

Copyright @ 2012 Adrian M. Benson Nikon D200 Nikkor AF-S 16-85mm f4.8 @ 1/100 second ISO 100. Post in Elements 10 and Adobe Camera Raw.

Copyright @ 2012 Adrian M. Benson  Nikon D200 Nikkor AF-S 16-85mm  f5.3  1/50 second ISO 100.  Post in Elements 10 and Adobe Camera RawThe first image at least lets you know what you are looking at, an amazing glass sculpture, but the detail shot is the better, more interesting photograph by far in my estimation.

Mystic Seaport

One of the things that make living in New England tolerable is being surrounded by history. The United States “grew up” on the eastern seaboard and New England in particular has a rich maritime history.  Mystic Seaport in Mystic, CT celebrates this history and makes it come alive for visitors.  The seaport presents as a working whaling village from the 1840’s and has historical interpreters, museums and artifacts from all eras and it is an effective representation of life in an 1840’s seaport.

In addition to its static displays, the seaport is home to a number of historic ships, some of them serve as live-aboard schools for those seeking to learn more about America’s seafaring history.  The Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaling ship in existence, is the seaport’s best known resident, but a number of other vessels, large and small, wait to be explored as well.

Mystic Seaport is home to many of the few shipwrights who still know how to work on these old tall ships, and in addition to being a museum, the seaport is an active shipyard as well.  It has all the facilities, including a dry dock, that were present in Mystic’s heyday and they are active year round, performing preservation work on historic ships and working on new ones.

If you have the slightest interest in history, especially maritime history, Mystic Seaport is worth your time to visit.  Plan to spend the day if you really want to see everything.

Copyright @ 2012 Adrian M. Benson Nikon D200 Nikkor AF-S lens 28-70mm f2.8 lens f8 @ 1/250 sec, ISO 400. Image cropped in Elements 10. Boat was hand built by craftsmen at Mystic Seaport.

Copyright @ 2012 Adrian M. Benson Nikon D200 Nikkor AF-S 28-70mm f2.8, f8 @ 1/750 sec , ISO 400. Post in Elements 10. Fishing nets at Mystic Seaport.