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.


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

“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.


Snakes, oh my!

Did you ever take a day to go out shooting and at the end of the day, got home, downloaded your memory card…and didn’t find a single image that you’d be willing to show someone else?  Happened to me yesterday.  Granted I wasn’t out the whole day, only a couple of hours, and in that time I only made about 70 or so images.  But still out of that there should be something I’d be happy to show you here, but there wasn’t.

So instead I present this picture, made at a much warmer time.  These fellows are Northern Water Snakes (I think they are anyway, I’m no herpetologist).  The shot was taken at the grist mill on the grounds of Longfellow’s Wayside Inn.  And yes, it is the very inn from the poem “Tales of a Wayside Inn”.  If you’re ever visiting Massachusetts, you owe it to yourself to visit and have dinner at the inn; it’s one of my favorite places to go.

Copyright @ 2012 by Adrian M. Benson Nikon D200 f4 @ 1/60 sec ISO 100. Sigma f2.8 70-200mm HSM lens @ 200mm Image cropped in Photoshop Elements 10, no other alterations.

Yarn, Mermaids and Confrontation

Each year in May the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Growers Association sponsors a sheep and wool festival.  Basically it’s a farm show/craft fair oriented, not surprisingly, around yarn and wool crafts.  Many merchants show up from around the New England area to hawk their goods plus there are the usual food and beverage stands, very much a country fair atmosphere.  There are hand made goods available of course, plus tools and supplies for knitters, spinners, crocheters, and whatever else kind of wool related endeavor you can think of.  You can buy hand spun and dyed yarn or for the truly committed (my wife) you can buy raw fleeces freshly shorn from the sheep that then need to be hand carded, spun into yarn, and dyed.  My wife, and many others, do this for fun.

My wife usually goes to the festival every year, and often I’ll go along with her.  The fairground where it’s held is a nice place to walk around and there are plenty of picture taking opportunities.  And I like the country fair atmosphere, it’s a good time.  Usually.

The last time I went I encountered my first ever episode of anti-photographeritis.  Yarn merchants typically have their skeins of yarn laid out on tables or hanging from racks for display, and the color patterns are interesting and beautiful and, frankly, unavoidable if you are a photographer.  There are no posted rules against photography on the site so I was happily snapping away at some displays when I hear, “excuse me, sir, excuse me!  You can’t take pictures of that!”  It was the woman who owned the booth and she was beside herself that I was taking shots of the yarn display.  I mentioned that there were no rules against cameras and she said she didn’t care about that, HER colors were unique and she didn’t want pictures taken of them.  I didn’t realize that I’d just met the first woman in the history of Western civilization to come up with the idea of dyeing yarn.  It wasn’t a discussion worth having, so I put my camera down like a good boy and, like a good girl, my wife put back a few things she had picked up to purchase from the Mother of Yarn Dyeing and we moved on.  It was an annoying and disturbing occurrence and had never happened to me before.  I have to admit, it put me off for the rest of the day and I didn’t really enjoy it.

Here are a couple of shots I took that day.  The yarn is from the Dye Queen’s collection.  Shhhhh…

Copyright @ 2012 Adrian M. Benson Nikon D200, Nikkor f2.8 28-70mm, f2.8@1/25 sec iso 400
Copyright @ 2012 Adrian M. Benson Nikon D200, Nikkor f2.8 28-70mm, f2.8@1/45 sec, iso 400