Waterfalls North

I spent a fantastic day with DayTripper Photo on a workshop to High Falls and Brook Falls north of Toronto.  We had a rough start with the bus driver arriving 45 minutes late.  No fault of the organizers.  I got the sense that the driver slept in.  I was the last photographer to arrive at 5:15am.  It was absolutely pouring rain in Toronto when I left.  Luckily, it didn’t follow me all the way to Newmarket.

High Falls

My favourite pics have come from the Sony 55-210mm lens.  The flexibility in zoom gives me the ability to find a smaller view amongst the wider landscape.  Combined with the ND 3.0 filter, the photos have a really nice contrast.  I think there’s a slight blue colour cast.  I don’t mind though, there’s a slight coolness to the photos that resemble what I felt in the early morning.  This coolness was enough to keep the mosquitos hibernating a little longer.

Sigma 50mm Art Lens

Daytripper brought along a ton of Sigma lenses.  Luckily, I brought my Commlite EF-to-E mount adapter so I could try some of these lenses.

The first lens I played with was the Sigma 50mm Art Lens.  I can’t say if I liked this lens or not.  The bokeh is certainly pleasing.  I don’t think the 50mm focal length worked for me where I was exploring.

Brook Falls

The weather warmed to a nice 15 degrees or so which was enough to wake all the mosquitoes from their slumber.  I spent about 2 minutes debating if I should use my bug jacket and look like a weirdo.  Weirdness one after my face was swarmed.  I tucked my pants into my socks and that just left my hands.

I probably spent a good 30 minutes  snapping away (almost completely) protected by myself at the edge of the river.  I started to feel a bit claustrophobic in the bug jacket with all the flies perched in front of my face.  They also discovered that my pants weren’t as well protected.

Sigma 105mm Macro

The second Sigma I had the opportunity to use was the 105mm Macro lens and it is beautiful.  I almost can’t use my Canon 100mm macro lens anymore.  The Sigma has detail, contrast, and a great sense of colour.

I’ll experiment with gaffer tape on my adapter because I think the Canon is suffering from some internal reflections from the Commlite adapter.  The Sigma on the other hand performed beautifully.

The last leg of our trip, we drove around looking for a moose and I borrowed the Sigma 50-500mm.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see a mouse and I couldn’t field test this heavy beast.

Macro Flowers in BW

I thought I’d try to show off the luminous nature using macro photos of flowers in black and white.  There’s a nice subtle texture that is sometimes easier to notice when you remove the colour.

I have noticed that if I’m not careful with the Commlite adapter there is a reflection that reduces the contrast in the image.  It seems to happen when the light source is slightly out of frame.  I’ve seen some forum posts where people have used gaffer tape on the inside to stop the reflections.

Cambodian New Year Sunrise

This post is a month little late.  A bunch of us woke up early to catch the sun rise over the Toronto skyline.  It was a brisk morning and a good reminder to always pack gloves when waking up this early.

When I was in Algonquin, I kept changing lenses on my Nex-7 and some sticky dirt particles  snuck in and coated my sensor.  I learned that Sony has a special cleaning formula that only they use that can clean the sensor.  Now, I’m very hesitant to change lenses outdoors.

My plan was to equip the wide angle 35mm lens on the A7ii and my zoom lens on the Nex-7.  I thought I’d barely touch my Nex-7.  Turns out I was wrong… I preferred more of the zoom shots.  The extra reach allowed me to vary my compositions.

Sweden

I visited Sweden at the end of February.  I hoped to capture the Northern Lights in Luleå.  Unfortunately, every night there was heavy cloud cover so I wasn’t able to capture it this time.

I brought my new A7ii, RX100ii, and my Note 3.  Airports give a lot of time to… wait.  The tools available on Android (and also IOS) allow for some fun editing.  I used VSCO CAM for the film-like filters and Over for the funky fonts.

Luleå is located just below the arctic circle.  I admit, I hadn’t heard of it before my buddy said he had friends there.  What was surprising was how much farther north it was from Toronto yet waaay warmer.  When we left, we had been suffering from an extended winter cold so a 1 degree Celsius weather felt like a  tropical island…  (without the bikinis, beaches,

Can't believe this is the Luleå is just below the arctic circle... and it was warmer than Toronto!
Can’t believe this is the Luleå is just below the arctic circle… and it was warmer than Toronto!

Some photos in

Fika time!  Pastries with coffee was a daily ritual.  Who am I to argue?  Also various food flavours in a tube was popular.  Just look at that selection!

When in Sweden, we had to try the Surströmming which “is fermented Baltic sea herring that has been a staple of traditional northern Swedish cuisine since at least the 16th century.”  The fermentation process leaves a very STRONG odour when the can is opened.  Once you get used to the smell.  It tastes a lot better than it smells.

Here are some pics from Stockholm!

The A7ii’s In Body Image Stabilization (“IBIS”) really came through for the night shots.  I could hand hold and take a picture with a longer exposure than I thought possible.  I’ll have to write more on my impressions of the camera in future posts as I’ve been using it more since the trip.  Suffice it to say, I’m very happy with this camera upgrade!

Macro Autumn

My final Autumn pics of 2014 were some macro pictures in Toronto at one of the Meetup group events.  I used my Gen 1 Metabones adapter to mount my Canon 100mm macro lens on  my Nex 7.  I’m always impressed by the level of detail it’s able to capture so I doubt I’ll be selling this one and it’ll probably remain my last Canon lens that I keep.

Mirrorless cameras are continuing to grab headlines and their market share is growing.  However, at photography events the DSLR users still heavily outnumber the mirrorless cameras.  Usually, the comments I hear are akin to “they feel like a toy to me” or “I need a camera to feel like a camera.”  LOL my favourite comment was “you really brought the big guns out for this event!”

Personally, I prefer the smaller size and the lighter weight… especially when hiking.  I like to travel light and usually carry only two lenses.  Andreas Wonisch wrote a nice article, “Landscape photography with µFT cameras“, that echos my thoughts on traveling light with compact gear.

Lit Tree at Sunrise

Argh!!! It’s already December and I still haven’t posted all my pics from my Banff trip.  Anyway, a few more posts coming soon!

Taking this photo was probably my second favourite moment of the trip.  The first being the Milky Way shots.  The day before some of the group were able to capture the same shot and that inspired the rest of us to attempt the same shot.

This tree sits out in the lake and Lake O’hara is surrounded by mountains which means sunrise pictures are difficult.  By the time the sun crests over the mountains, it’s well past the early sunrise time that gives the gorgeous early light.  However, this little tree is in the unique spot to be the recipient of the light before the trees in the background.

There’s this fantastic dance of light that occurs up-to the time of this shot.  The background trees catch a little light then the shoreline where I’m standing gets punched in the face with the full power of the sun… somewhat blinding.  The sun then creeps towards the trees then BAM!  All I heard was everyone on the shore firing away.

Two minutes later, the shot is gone.  The background is lit as well and the clear separation between the tree and the background disappears.

After the two hour build up, I was disappointed with the pics when I had a chance to look at them on a big screen.  My exposure settings were off and the image was over-exposed which resulted in a lot of detail lost. Only a couple months afterwards when I discovered Capture One version 8 was I able to recover the majority of the details in the leaves and balance out the picture.  Some of it is still unrecoverable.  For example, there’s no recovering the detail in the rocks by the tree.  They’re perfectly angled toward the sun that no detail has been captured.

Ah well, the pic is finally in a state that I’m happy with it.

Here’s some additional sunrise pictures:

Around the Lake

I made several trips around the lake over the three days.  The weather and the time of day can have a dramatic impact on the type of capture available.

Probably the most helpful hint I was given was to consider framing a landscape picture by keeping in mind elements to highlight in the foreground, mid-ground, and background.  This will help to provide a larger sense of depth to the image.  Vertical images provide a lot of room to add foreground elements with my 12mm wide-angle lens.  Also, the polarizer is a nice trick to cut through the reflections to reveal the foreground rocks below.