My Blog

Are Workshops Helpful?

This past week, I attended a photography workshop. The subject was bird photography. It was held at a location known to be a key flyway for spring migrating birds here in Canada, particularly for warblers and related species.

I am not a bird photographer – my nature interests lie in landscapes. So I thought it would be interesting to experience the event and to learn about this fascinating subject that seems to delight so many of my friends.

The workshop was held over 5 days, with each day offering an early morning and a late afternoon outing. Outings were only marginally planned, to coincide with weather, wind direction and the observed arrival of birds that day and the day before. Our workshop leader was experienced, with many decades of knowledge about birds, bird photography and this location in general. So how did it go?

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Cornering the Market

What do you do when you are the recognized leader in a market, have high demand but cannot bring product to that market? You abandon some of your market, apparently.

Canon has teased us with some new product announcements over the past year, but in comparison to their typically prolific advertisements prior to Covid, the announcements have been like raindrops in a desert. Eagerly sought out, with immediate impact, but within a split second, evaporating into nothing.

It seems that camera manufacturers are rethinking what it means to be in this business. With raw materials unavailable, production lines decimated and even transportation options a mere shadow of years ago, it’s definitely time to rethink the business.

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Backing Up is Hard to Do

I’ve had conversations with photographer friends from time to time about the strategies they use to back up their files. In those conversations, we discuss camera cards, computers, hard drives and both connected and remote offsite storage. More on that in a bit.

But as we all know, computers are not the only way we capture our photographs now. In this age of mobile devices, many of us take pictures on our cellphones equally often and keep all of those images on our cellphones only. I discovered this when talking to customers in the camera store who come in looking to print their cellphone images for friends and family. Many don’t have data plans, so backup of these images is not generally something they consider and they are genuinely surprised when I casually ask.

Some cellphone operators provide an unlimited pseudo-storage service where a thumbnail sized version of the original image on the phone is always accessible in the cloud. These take up virtually no space but also can’t be downloaded and printed to share or put up on a wall. Great for social media only. If the phone dies or is somehow corrupted, the original images are gone forever.

To complicate this further, many of us now include video in our collections, again on the phone or through any of many other recording devices. Video has become a major element in my media collection now so it too requires some type of backup solution.

Over the course of the last couple of years, I’ve considered all of the sources of my media and have come up with options that I feel comfortable with. Likely overkill for most, but might be worth a read…

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But I Can Get It Cheaper on Amazon

I work at a camera store.  Have been for the past 5 months.  I love talking with customers about their photography interests and options.  So many different experiences, so many peculiar situations.  Everything from those who have accidentally attached an accessory incorrectly and can’t detach it to those who have a peculiar photographic need such as surveillance in their role as a private investigator.

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Crop Mode in Camera or Crop in Post

There was a bit of a Facebook exchange recently in our camera club about how best to achieve a fill-the-frame image when your lens can’t provide enough reach. This wouldn’t even have been a discussion a few years ago – the only two ways to do it would have been to zoom with your feet (get closer) or to crop in post production. DSLRs offered no other options.

But today’s higher end DSLRs and all (most?) mirrorless cameras offer another option where you can isolate how much of the sensor read-out is captured in the RAW data for a particular image. When converted, that reduced RAW data then “fills the frame” appearing to create a zoom or magnified effect and brings you in “closer” to your intended subject.

The exchange on Facebook fell into two camps: those who called the result magnification and those who said that was misleading. Well, in fact, they are both right.

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I Like It – That’s All That Matters

Some of us amateur photographers participate in competitions, in our local camera clubs and even more broadly in open events such as national competitions or perhaps in specialized events such as landscape or wildlife photographer of the year in our own countries or globally.

The reasons we enter competitions vary widely. For some of us, it is about seeking recognition, so let’s just admit it out of the gate. For others, it’s validation, confirming that others see your work the way you do. Still for others, it’s about self-development and improving our own scores year over year. We also seek out points of comparison to see what we might work on next.

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Social Media That is Not So Social

Many of us who are gear geeks like myself get a bit of a thrill in chasing not only the latest releases, but also the rumours about the latest releases. We develop our own stable of reliable sources. Some of these could be direct contacts with manufacturers, some could be other news gathering bodies that take great pains to get it right.

While I do enjoy reading about the latest rumours, they do nothing more than give me a bit of a rush. It’s the anticipation of something new and exciting. But reality eventually sets in and I get on with my day.

One such source for me has been “Canon Rumors”, a website operated for the last 14 years by the same guy. I’m not going to mention his name here and you will see why shortly. The information posted has been very reliable and very fairly presented, accompanied by a rating system that clearly indicated how likely the rumour was to materialize and how reliable his source was.

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Another First for Nikon – A New Lens That Comes with a Health Warning

A couple of weeks ago, Nikon announced a new lens aimed at those (likely professional) folks who want reach, speed and superb image quality. It is the NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S, designed for their flagship mirrorless camera, the Z9. Its cost ($14,000 USD) will make it inaccessible to most, but for those who can, there is one additional consideration: it comes with a health warning. Some people should not use it.

This is a first – I’ve never seen a health warning attached to any camera equipment. I had to explore that further, and found myself quite concerned. This is the actual warning that appeared in their press release on January 18, 2022:

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A Treatise on Tripods

Do you own a tripod? Do you use it? Is it something that sits in the back of the car rarely seeing the light of day? Do they annoy you? Are they more trouble than they are worth?

I see the full gamut of opinions on tripods, with photographers of all genres either swearing by them or swearing at them. Over the course of 40 years of photography, I’ve used all brands at all price points. I’ve now landed on a collection (yes, more than one) that works for me.

This is a YouTube video piece that I hope will help you make an informed decision about using tripods. Hopefully you’ll find a few points that you hadn’t considered – or even a few points that you had that lead you to a specific decision. Leave me a comment here or there about what works for you.

Vernacular Photography

Hello and Happy 2022! Hope you had a pleasant holiday season and were able to enjoy it with family and friends, despite our ongoing Covid challenges. As mentioned previously, I spent the holidays working at a camera store and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. But now it’s back to my photography. I’m dedicating myself to it this year, and hope to show much more new work shortly, so stay tuned.

But learning continues to be a focus as well. I thought I had heard of almost everything to do with photography – yes, there might be some obscure piece of equipment I had never heard of, but in terms of genres, I thought I knew it all. Not so. Listened to a great podcast driving to work about a totally new (to me) genre called “vernacular photography”. What is it? Read on.

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