2009 – How I Did

It’s funny, looking back on the goals I set at the beginning of the year, some of them were kind of silly, others weren’t even goals.  Either way, I didn’t do too bad.

  • Volunteer at least 4 times
    • Didn’t happen.. :(.  I volunteered on the United Way day of Caring and that’s it.  Wish I would have followed through on this one.
  • Quadruple the size of our Emergency Fund
    • Check
  • Take a 3 – 4week vacation on the west coast
    • Check
  • Buy a DSLR
    • Check
  • Win at least one photo contest
    • Sadly, Didn’t enter any…
  • Sell at least one photo
    • Sold my services twice, I guess that counts?
  • Reduce my wardrobe by 25%
    • Check
  • See at least 25 sunsets and 25 sunrises
    • Check, some weeks saw many, other none.  It all balances out.
  • Complete and release Mivity
    • Right… Mivity is canned, the Domain expired and I didn’t renew it.  If you have an idea for it feel free, I just decided I had other priorities.
  • Work out at least 3 times per week for 30minutes at a time
    • Started out the year and into the summer very good on this one, Unfortunately due to other obligations, later into the summer and the rest of the year, I Fell short.  I’ll be picking this up in the new year.
  • Finish the 1st floor of the house
    • Didn’t happen but we’re very close, looking like the middle to end of January.

My New Photography Equipment

Original EquipmentEven though I’ve been into Photography for quite a while, I only recently took the plunge into the realm of DSLRs.  Ever since then I’ve been making use of the 28-135mm kit lens which has worked out great.  However; due to the upcoming weddings and our upcoming trip to the Pacific Northwest I’ve been on the lookout for new equipment.

Last week I happened upon a great deal on Craigslist.  A woman was getting rid of her old Canon 35mm Film SLR along with all the lenses, flash and camera bag.  It came with a 50mm F1.8 (one of the lenses I’d been watching for, although I was more interested in the 1.4) a slide in-out 70-210mm F4 and a Speedlite 420 EZ.

The equipment isn’t the greatest, it’s rather old and fairly low-end but it will do just fine for a while.  The 50mm alone made the deal worth it.  Either way I decided to purchase it and add the stuff to my inventory.

New EquipmentI’ve also been examining wide angle lenses.  Unfortunately I haven’t found any used lenses that were wide enough for me.  Because of our upcoming trip to some of the most scenic places in the US, I decided to pursue new ones.  There have basically been 2 I was interested in (that I could afford).  The Sigma 10-20mm and the Tokina 12-24mm.  After tossing them back and forth in my head and reading lots of reviews I finally decided on the Tokina 12-24mm.  My first impression is nothing short of excellent.  It definitely seems wide enough and the build quality is superb.  I also enjoy the different type of manual focus mechanism.  I’ll probably post a review of it once I get the chance to try it out a bit more.

In just a few short days I’ve quadrupled the amount of photography equipment I have.  The only downside is now I need to find a place to keep it all.

I’m very excited to play with and learn my new toys.  I posted a few test shots in the slideshow below. Most of the shots were taken with the new Flash which requires Manual mode so some are a little overexposed as I get used to it.


Vertical Shutter Slit Photography

I’ve been reading Derek Miller’s blog for a while now and I love his Camera Works series.  Most of the stuff he posts in the series I already have a pretty good handle on but he does an excellent job describing (and simplifying) exactly how Cameras (and photography) work. Back in September he posted an article about Shutters, Flashes and Sync Speed.  Although I have a general knowledge of how all 3 work Derek provided a great in-depth write-up.  I have no idea how I missed it before but I read it today and it’s fantastic!

One key idea I’ve never really understood is how camera’s overcome their technical (mechanical) limitation on shutter speed.  Derek provides exactly the write-up I needed.  Essentially they don’t, they just use 2 shutters at the same time (both moving in the same direction) to allow a ‘slit’ of light through rather than expose the entire frame/sensor at a time.

If a subject is moving fast enough and the slit is moving slow enough, this can result in some interesting photographs, like this famous 1913 Photograph by Jacques-Henri Lartigue.


As Derek writes, this is an exaggerated effect and will most likely never be so dramatic with today’s cameras DSLRs without something moving at extreme super-sonic speeds.

Please visit Derek’s site for the full write-up.

EDIT: Derek was kind enough to stop by and suggest that this discussion really only applies to DSLRs (or Film Cameras ::Gasp::) since they’re the only ones with mechanical shutters.  Most (if not all) point & shoot cameras (including your cell-phone cameras) simply turn the sensor on and off.  Some of these electronic means of exposing the sensor even go slow enough to produce the same effect.  See the background of the following photo shot with my iPhone:

Warped iPhone photo

Each one of those slanted boxes should be a perfect rectangle.

A Week in Review

I’ve had the camera for a little over a week now. However; I’ve only had a memory card for 3 days.  I wasn’t about to pay Circuit City’s prices so I ordered a 16Gb card as soon as I got home. Anyway after finally getting a card I’ve been playing. A Lot. My results aren’t the greatest, and they show I have a lot to learn but it’s been fun.

I’ve uploaded some of my photos from the first week with my 40D. Take a look and let me know what you think.



After 1 year and 5 1/2 months I finally took the plunge.

While we were out today we stopped by Circuit city to see what sweet deals they might be having.  We only found one.  They had the Canon 40D DSLR on sale for $150 cheaper than I’ve seen it online.  I’m now a proud owner.  My reaction so far is it’s awesome, above and beyond my expectations.


My 2009

2008 for me was all about reduction, trimming the fat.  It was my best year yet.  I got rid of a lot of excess crap and simplified my life and fattened my wallet as a result. My biggest mistake, however, was I did not hold myself accountable for any goals because… I had none.

2009 will be different.  I’m starting this year by listing my goals and aspirations so that come December 31st I can measure my success (or lack thereof).

My Goal:

  • Volunteer at least 4 times
  • Quadruple the size of our Emergency Fund
  • Take a 3 – 4week vacation on the west coast
  • Buy a DSLR
  • Win at least one photo contest
  • Sell at least one photo
  • Reduce my wardrobe by 25%
  • See at least 25 sunsets and 25 sunrises
  • Complete and release Mivity
  • Work out at least 3 times per week for 30minutes at a time
  • Finish the 1st floor of the house

Some of these are an extension of what I began last year.  Others are brand new.  I’m sure others will present themselves during the year.

The All New Canon XSi

I haven’t been able to try it out yet but the new Canon XSi looks to be a nice upgrade from the Xti. The enhancement to 12mp and the move to SD media alone is worth it, not to mention the other enhancements.

Canon XSi

Maybe this will be my first step into the world of DSLRs instead of the 40D I want so badly? We’ll see, although at this point I think I’d outgrow the XSi much too quickly to warrant the purchase now instead of waiting a little longer to purchase the one I really want (the 40D).

Details below to save you the jump.

  • 12.2 effective Megapixel CMOS sensor
  • Supports all EF and EF-S lenses
  • Uses new 14-bit A/D converter, improved AF sensor (still 9-point), and DIGIC III image processor
  • 3-inch LCD display (230k pixels) with live view and contrast detect autofocus
  • Full manual controls; ISO range of 100 – 1600
  • Can shoot at 3.5 frames/second for up to 6 RAW or 45 JPEGs
  • Auto Lighting Optimizer corrects image brightness and contrast automatically
  • New spot metering (4%) option
  • Same dust reduction system as the XTi
  • Uses SD/SDHC memory cards (instead of CompactFlash)
  • Optional battery grip
  • Uses LP-E5 lithium-ion battery; 500 shots per charge
  • USB 2.0 High Speed support
  • Shipping in April for $799 body only, and $899 with the new 18-55 IS lens; comes in silver and black

A Learning Experience

This weekend I borrowed my friend Ryan‘s camera to test the SLR waters again. While I absolutely love my H5 I have been toying with the idea of purchasing an SLR to push myself over the edge into the black (money) hole that is the hobby I so lovingly call (along with billions of other people…) photography. I had very good experience this weekend as Rachel and I attended Corey and Maggie’s wedding and I used Ryan’s camera while we were there. Through that experience I learned some very valuable lessons, some good and some bad.

The first lesson I learned was holy crap it’s fast! I could fire off several shots in the time it takes my camera to take one. Digital photography makes it super easy to take a bunch of photos and figure out the choice ones later and this made it even easier. This is great for situations like weddings since there is always inevitably someone closing their eyes at any given time.

The next lesson I learned is a harsh one although it turned out ok in the end. Check your settings! I had been playing the previous night with low light settings and had subsequently had the ISO setting at 800. I had forgotten all about this and shot the entire wedding and after-ceremony photos at this same setting. It wasn’t until I went to modify the ISO setting after going inside that I realized this. If I had done this on my H5 it would have been suicide, the photos would have been grainy beyond belief and would have required lots of post-processing which would have in turn dulled the photographs dramatically. Luckily the SLR handled the higher ISO setting just fine. It was slightly more grainy than I would have liked but none the less the photos were not ruined as I thought they might have been

I also learned something about photography in general, more closely tied to the profession than the hobby though. I noticed that I was taking shots of random little things that were happening like private hugs, tears etc that the real photographer wasn’t capturing. At first I wondered why this was and then I realized that they had a lot of stuff on their plate and even more to coordinate. Because they were staging and placing everyone, it left the other would-be photographers to do their stuff. I talked to one of the other people there (whom I thought was working with the hired photographer) and he told me that he much prefers going to weddings where he is simply the ‘friend photographer’ as apposed to the ‘hired photographer’ so that he is left alone to get his shots right instead of setting up poses. This allows for many more real and candid shots which I believe come out much nicer anyway. The lesson here? If you’re a photographer hired for a wedding, be sure to have 1 or 2 (at least) other photographers there at least during the formal portrait sessions.

Don’t Trust the Average Meter. I learned the hard way that the average meter is not the way to go, instead trust your instincts and keep it on ‘spot metering.’

I also learned that If I go down this path (which I fully believe I will now) I need three things right out the door.

  1. A camera body I recently came across a new canon, the 40D which I believed was my perfect camera (were I to go SLR). However; some other companies have also recently released new camera body’s that are in the range I’m looking for such as Sony and Nikon. I’ll need to do some more research before I decide on my camera body now, although I’m still leaning towards the Canon 40D.
  2. A flash which can be aimed – I can’t begin to list the number of times during the wedding (the reception especially) that I wanted to use the flash to add some light to a dark scene, but wanted to keep the ambient light and not add the harsh glare-tones that come with the built in flash.
  3. A high(ish) zoom lens – The lens that comes with the 40D kit is 28mm-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS. I’m not sure if this will be enough or not so I’ll have to play with it In store first. I do know that the 18-55mm lens I was using this weekend simply didn’t provide enough range for me. I realize that you get better results by adding multiple lenses to your arsenal and for some things this may be perfectly ok however for my preferred style of photography, and the randomness that comes along with weddings, it simply doesn’t work. It may come down to something like the 28-300mm Canon (which will increase the initial cost of this little venture quite a bit).

All in all I’d say a successful adventure and some good lessons learned. I’ve determined that I could definitely improve my photography with the addition of an SLR, now comes the hard part of researching and finally deciding.

Let your words be few, and your exposures many

Sony DSC H5

For a while now I’ve been using my trusty H5 and I’ve learned quite a bit about photography. I bought my H5 because it’s essentially an SLR without the interchangeable lens and flash hot shoe. Both of these features are very important, however the lens built into the H5 is a 36mm-432mm (35mm equivalent) and the flash is actually quite versatile. I can step the flash up and down in power with a total of 10 steps. This all comes included for the small price of $500 (retail price when purchased over a year ago). The same setup with an SLR would have easily run me in the thousands and at the time I wasn’t sure I wanted to dedicate that much money into my new hobby just yet.

The H5 has been a wonderful learning tool, and I truly feel everyone who wants to delve into photography should take a Full Featured as their first real step. It (cheaply) allows you a very wide range in the type of shots you can take, so you find out whether or not its something you really want to do and if so, what type of shots you like to take. If you buy a full featured camera like the H5 and you find yourself leaving it in ‘auto’ mode all the time you’ll be missing out on a lot of really wonderful shots. You probably wouldn’t benefit much from the switch to an SLR either.

That brings me to my next tidbit. I will be retiring the H5 soon. I’ve decided I need to make the switch. I have been looking for a while and thought I had decided on the Canon 30D. Until this morning. The only thing lacking in the 30D is a high resolution sensor. I loved the camera, the feel of it, the screen size, feature set, speed everything. However; I felt that if I were going to switch to an SLR I wanted at least 10 megapixels. Everyone is going to say:

but it doesn’t really matter, 3 or 4 is plenty 90% of the time!

And they’d be right, for 90% of people taking photographs. However; by making the switch to an SLR I’m taking one (small) step towards attempting to make money with my hobby. To do so I need to be able to print very large, and make very small crops. Therefor I need as much detail in the shots as possible.

This morning amazon slipped up and accidentally announced the Canon EOS 40D ahead of schedule. This camera is a thing of beauty (providing the accidentally leaked info is accurate). The three main upgrades from the 30D that I’m concerned about are:

  • Increased efficiency 10.1-megapixel CMOS sensor with larger microlenses
  • Large 3.0-inch LCD display
  • 6.5 frame-per-second continuous shooting capability

For a full breakdown of the features (as temporarily listed by amazon) click here.

Looks like I might have found my new baby.

The 40D - Top The 40D - Back

A Few Things

1. Snow
Where the F expletive deleted is it? Ok sure it snowed today but fairport only saw a dusting and my parents place got only a few inches. What they did get is fluff not enough to really ride (snowmobile) on. AND to top it off the rest of this week it’s going to be in the 40’s. I was calculating the other day and my snowmobile has cost me somewhere around $15 dollars per mile ridden not counting gasoline (which at 10 miles to the gallon and 3 dollars per gallon out on the trails…. adds up quite a lot). Let’s figure that in real quick shall we? just for fun…Ok so the gasoline has really only added 33cents per mile but still!!!!???

Thank ‘YOU’ global warming! (for those of you who get the Chuck Norris reference)

2. Goals

I’ve decided to start keeping track of my personal goals. This is my first post on the subject and I will most likely expand upon it later. I think the system society forces you into of working your whole life and saving everything you can so that you can enjoy that last 5% of your life is retarded. That being said, i’m going to try to ‘screw the system’ so to speak. Steps to completion:

– Gain 100% financial independence.
This means no loans, no debt. all transactions paid for with cash (where appropriate). Not to say that i’m really that far off, but a car, student loans and a house all subtract from that
– Retire after 10 years. This may seem impossible but i’m already taking steps to make this a possibility. Rental property being one of my key proponents.
– Learn to Fly. No not by flapping my featherless wings. I’m not on LSD don’t worry. I mean with a plane. Its something I’ve always been interested in but the barriers to entrance are large. lots of time with an instructor which means lots of money. given step 1 and 2 this shouldn’t be as large of a problem as it is now.
– Buy a (pontoon) Plane. This may seem silly to you if Flying is just a weekend Hobby but see what i want to do next…
– Start a Shipping Company that runs cargo to northern Canada. by now some of you are probably thinking I’m off the handle. That may be so. Even more so when I tell you I want to do this in the dead of winter and north of the Arctic Circle if there’s anyone up there.
– Buy a professional (DSLR) camera setup with some very high mm lenses. This will be what I use for wildlife/nature photography on the trips north. Lately Photography has become sort of a hobby and I’d really like to make use of that. Plus it’ll keep me from getting bored on the long long flights.

So that’s it. Now you know at least part of my crazy plans. Maybe you can help make it happen? Maybe you know some people you can get me in touch with to help it along? Maybe you think I’m absolutely crazy and will never talk to me again because of these crazy ravings? Who knows?

To sum it all up: This “working for the other guy” BS is crazy and I cant believe so many people just put up with it. I’ve got 3 ideas for companies (well 4 really but the 4th I’ll talk about some other time) and I just wish I had some capital to get it all started. I’ve started on the 1st (Real Estate/Rental) and I’m going to look into classes to start on the 2nd (photography).