Monday, December 27, 2010

Eating The Moon

I had the pleasure and honor of standing out on a cold and windy evening craning my neck up towards the sky, gazing and squinting through dark clouds, looking for the moon going through phases of the total lunar eclipse.

Serendipity, however, decided to give me something for my trouble in the form of a beautiful cloud burst. However, the moon was over exposed to the point of being a pure white disc. Taking one of the well exposed moons, I merged the two to produce the following:

"Eating The Moon" - Wing Tang Wong

Neither shot by themselves were very interesting, in and of themselves, as it was early on during the eclipse and with a 200mm lens, I could only get so much of the frame filled. While not "as shot", I ended up really liking this shot.

It reminds me of the mystery and magic of the moon.

You can see more images I took from the Lunar Eclipse in my gallery.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Little Food For Thought

It is entirely true to say that I do not post enough and I do not do enough shooting. If I have time to lounge around on a Saturday... I have time to whip out my camera gear and shoot something. It should not matter the subject, the location, or the weather. If there is light, there are photographs to be made.

So it is with great joy that this morning, I converted my bedroom into an impromptu cramped food photography studio. No.. I'm not going to show images of my bedroom turned studio. But I will show the fruits of the labors employed...

A delicious trio of baked goods from my friend and baker, Lisa.
What you see here is a plate of cookies that my friend Lisa, the self-titled "Clumsy Ninja Baker", had baked and mailed to me! She is just the best.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Managing Resources - Part I

As much as I love photography... I'm not sure of how I feel about managing all of the files that are generated from the photographic process.

Currently, I shoot with the Sony Alpha A700. I shoot exclusively in RAW files. These files weigh in at around 17MB apiece. But I rather like to think of how much space I need in terms of how many of those 16GB CF cards I fill up. Over the course of the last few years, I've amassed nearly 1TB of RAW files. These files currently live in two locations: in a Lightroom 3 catalog on an external 2TB drive and on my desktop, which I rarely use. This desktop computer is the subject of this post.

How I Got Here

When I built it, I wanted to make sure I had a machine that would last for the next three years, so to that end, I ended up getting a server class motherboard:

  • Tyan 2 socket server socket motherboard
  • 2 x 6 core AMD Opeteron 64bit CPU(s)
  • 16GB of memory
  • 8 x 1TB SATA drives
  • 1 Kwatt power supply
After much back and forth, I eventually settled on OpenSolaris for access to the much prized ZFS filesystem. The storage on the box was meant to be an archive, and it has been. However, because it has also been running OpenSolaris, I've been unable to run any of my photo editing software or any of my video editing software, rendering the box effectively a very expensive NAS box. Ugh.

I only power it on periodically to sync up my laptops and to archive my working copies of photos, albeit in a very haphazard fashion. I am SO not adhering to DAM standards! No doughnut!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Thoughts of the future, from a Sony Alpha A700 user...

Sony Alpha SLTA55VL DSLR with Translucent Mirror Technology (Black)
Sony Alpha A55
 The release of the A55 and A33 translucent mirror DSLR(s) has been met with mostly positive reviews and I have to admit, I like the idea of no mirror slap. Still, I find the A55 to be less than satisfactory.

So, like so many other A700 users, I'm looking to the future to see what Sony will offer in the A77/A7XX DSLR camera body.

Dual Compact Flash Slots & FPS

Let's face it, I don't use Memory sticks, pro or otherwise. Why? Because they are expensive, too small, and too slow. I've also seen them fail on me. Like the plastic cracked open. Never seen it on Compact Flash cards. I can get 32GB 600X compact flash cards from several manufacturers for a decent price. I really can't say the same for Memory Sticks.

SanDisk 32GB Extreme Pro CF memory card - UDMA 90MB/s 600x (SDCFXP-032G-A91, US Retail Package)
32GB Goodness
If Sony wants to keep the MS slots, sure. But let's be practical and make it 2 Compact Flash slots. I also want user configurable settings for how to use those slots; split recording, auto-spill over, raw to one and jpeg to the other, redundant writes in case one card fails... etc.

I love my A700, but there really are things I hate about it. 2 slots, but I have to manually switch between the two... huh.

One of the limiting factors of consumers being able to achieve the documented FPS is because of slow cards.. you know, like those Memory Sticks. If you use both sockets/slots, even with slower memory cards, you'll be able to get those higher FPS.

Speaking of FPS, being able to get consistent FPS would be amazing. 10FPS @ RAW until my card was full would really make my day. So would 5FPS @ RAW until my card was full.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Thinking About The Past, Present, and Future

The Journey Here

As has been the case for the last decade, I've been a Minolta/Konica-Minolta shooter, and by virtue of Sony buying out the photography assets, a Sony shooter. My current camera, the Sony Alpha A700, has been in my use for coming up on three years now, and it has been a complete joy to use.

Macro shot with Sony A700 and extension tubes.
©Wing Tang Wong [Gallery]
I've taken the camera to the Everglades and shot alligators with it. I've shot parades with it, in the rain. I've photographed my daughter and been photographed by it, by my daughter.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Looking At The Phottix Atlus

PocketWizard PWP-TR 801-125 PLUS II Transceiver (Black)As noted in an earlier posting, I've recently begun my journey into the RF strobe world via Pocket Wizard PlusII(s). I became aware of another brand of RF triggers that are PocketWizard PlusII compatible, by a company called Phottix, called the Atlus.

The benefits, from my point of view:
  • Sports an ISO hotshoe, on the unit itself. (primary plus)
  • 1/4" screw mount on the side of the unit, opposite from the shotshoe mount.
  • Compatible with Pocket Wizard PlusII(s)
  • Claims of longer range!
  • Less expensive: $108 vs $169 per transciever
I'm currently the owner of two PW+II's, so a third would actually allow me to trigger two remote strobes from the camera wirelessly.

Don't get me wrong, if I needed extra PW(s), I'll go to my local camera store and pickup more PW(s). However, by all accounts, these Atlus units are quality devices in their own right. The signal compatibility with PW(s) means a less expensive means to expand the flash triggering network.

More on this when it arrives.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Zebra Flash... you're my hero!

Flash Zebra is a purveyor of all things Flash related. They make cables for X hardware to connect to Y hardware... no, really, they really do have a massive matrix of connectivity.

I'm a Sony/Minolta shooter, and a side-effect of that is that I have to deal with the Sony/Minolta flash mount, which is incompatible(physically and electrically) with any other shoe mount out there. Having recently gotten aboard the PocketWizard bandwagon, it sucks that while I can have my PocketWizard dangling precariously from the side of my camera... I could not have it sit atop my camera, like a normal photographer. Enter Flash Zebra's Sony/Minolta Hot Shoe Adapter.

Sony A700 + Flash Zebra Hotshoe Adapter + PocketWizard+II

That's my Sony A700 DSLR. Mounted on the Sony/Minolta hotshoe is the Flash Zebra Minolta/Sony Hotshoe Adapter. Atop of that is my PocketWizard PlusII. Looks nice and natural, doesn't it? I certainly think so.

Also, thanks to Flash Zebra for getting the item to me so quickly.  I'm certainly a happy customer and see myself looking there first for all of my flash adapter needs.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Another Visit To Don Edwards Nature Center

I've got to say, I really love the Don Edwards Nature Center. It's a great place for a short or long hike, there are Jack Rabbits, Egrets, Swans, Ducks/Geese, etc. It's almost never packed, and provided you have parked outside of the gates, you can stay till sundown.

Don Edwards Nature Preserve

My only caveat is to dress in layers to prepare for the chill of the evening. I never do this, so am forced to leave pretty soon after the Sun goes below the horizon... my fingers, hands, and even arms start to get clammy. Yes, I go in just a t-shirt and jeans. Not the right attire by a long shot.

This trip was kind of spur of the moment. I just needed to get out and move around, get some air, and feel a little closer to nature for a while.

I brought my 70-200/2.8 and 17-50/2.8, though I ended up shooting most shots with the 70-200/2.8. I still shoot with the Sony A700, so that hasn't changed. Also brought the two pocket wizard plus II's and the new PW->shutter release cable I made. Everything except the tripod went into the Lowe Pro Classified 160 AW bag, and the tripod I hefted along.

First off, let me say... Don Edwards is beautiful. Even when the tide is out and the water levels are low, it is still gorgeous to behold in any light.

As the Sun is setting and everything goes golden, then purple... it's just dazzling.

The last few times I went with my monopod. Oh... did I mention there is a strong in-bound breeze? Yeah, a monopod will not cut it. The Manfrotto 190XProB with the ball head on it will more than happily weather the wind, however. The pan base was a real plus as well, since I had intended to take some pano images.

Anyways, images coming soon. You would not believe how long those stitching apps take to work... -_-;;

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Small Taste of Wedding Photography

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending my sister-in-law's wedding. In Minnesota. During this last July 30th weekend. Yes, it was hot and humid. No... I was not carried off by the state's un-official state bird, the mosquito.

Photograph of Anna just before her wedding.
Shot with available light from large nearby window. (50mm @ f/2.8)

I did, however, bring my camera gear with me. In my previous post, I indicated I had gotten the LowePro 160 AW camera bag and listed all the gear I've shoved into it. Well, I was toting this bag of gear around in the heat. I was also wearing a buttoned up long sleeve shirt, tie, jacket, and dress pants. It was VERY VERY hot and humid. I found myself constantly looking for a towel. :)

I also had the extremely fortunate chance to talk to the official wedding photographer, Angeli of BellaGala. Angeli was extremely friendly, open in sharing her experiences, and patiently answered my questions about  equipment and wedding photography. It was really enlightening to watch her work, to see where her eyes lead her, throughout the events, and to ask myself the why(s), where(s), and how(s) of what Angeli was doing during her work.

Watching her work and feeling my own response with my own camera brought something into sharp relief: there is no substitute for working under someone who knows what they are doing.

As the day progressed, I found myself taking mental notes of how she reacted to and anticipated the behaviour of the wedding party, and moved/acted accordingly to catch a decisive moment with her camera. She was always courteous, never intrusive, and extremely respective of the emotions and events of the day.

One answer she gave stuck in my mind. I had asked her if she had the trinity of wedding lenses: 50/1.(2/4/7/8), 17-50/2.8 or 24-70/2.8, and 70-200/2.8? She noted that she had the mid and long, but opted not to carry the 50/1.x. The reason being was that she found she didn't use it enough to justify it. I was still thinking about this later, when in editing my own photographs from the wedding, I realized that I had only brought out the 50/1.x once, and none of the shots from it were really all that great; not really close enough, and not really wide enough. In fact, I found I used the 70-200/2.8 the most. It really is a lens that lets you get close visually, but not invade space physically.

I've got another wedding I'll be attending later in August. I'm hoping to produce some nice photographs there as well.

However, I only needed one wedding to learn why it is that some photographers choose wedding photography. It's an exciting way of shooting, where the situations are constantly in motion and no two shots are the same, even if you use the same techniques over and over again. It's a kind of photography that does not favor the machine gun spray-and-pray method of photography, but encourages the photographer to watch, think, and anticipate the shot and take action.

If I ever got out of IT as my primary career, I can honestly see myself looking to wedding photography as a viable career for me that I would truly love and enjoy.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010

    So... how much gear do I stuff in that bag anyways? (LowePro Classified 160 AW)

    A while back, I bought the LowePro FastPack 350 as my "carry everything" bag. In truth, while it carries alot, it does not carry everything. And its bulky.

    So, in an attempt to defeat bulkiness, I sought out a new bag. After much searching, I became aware of the LowePro Classified 160AW.  Having used it on and off, I have to say, so long as I don't need a laptop on my person, I love it. :)

    A short discussion had folks wondering what I put in it. So, since pictures can do a better job than words alone:

    Gear I normally pack into my FastPack350
    (excluding cables/chargers/etc.)
    That's one flash, a pack of batteries, a CF card holder, an extension ring, an A700 DSLR w/17-50/2.8 lens, a 50mm/1.4 lens, a 70-200/2.8 lens, an Apple iPad, and a 15" MacBookPro.

    With the exception of the MBP, everything fits into the Classified.

    Nothing in my sleeve... yet.

    In goes the 50mm/1.4

    Next goes the 70-200/2.8, lenshood is extended!

    In goes the camera with mounted lens... FYI, the camera
    can be stowed away with the 70-200/2.8 mounted, in this bag.

    Yep, it closes.

    The iPad goes into the sleeve pocket.

    The card holder, extension tube, and pack of batteries in
    the outter most pocket.

    And there it is. All full and happy.

    Note, one of the original reasons why I opted to get a Fast Pack 350 was because a good deal of weight on one shoulder/arm/etc. can cause a good deal of strain. This is no different. There is a belt you can hook onto the main strap and one of the D rings to stabilize the bag as well as take some weight off your shoulder. I strongly recommend using it, unless you like neck/shoulder/back pain.

    The FastPack 350 can hold all that and more, thanks to an extra large top pocket. The FastPack 350 can also hold up to a 17" laptop. Fits the 15" just fine. Note, with all that gear AND the laptop, it gets heavyenough that you might still get some back pain.

    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    IPad and the camera connection kit

    Just got the Apple camera connection kit, one piece of my new photo kit. The first thing I did was to connect the Sandisk All-in-one USB 2.0 card reader, a flash card I had, and the kit with my iPad.

    The first try just didn't work!

    Apparently, the amount of power the iPad will supply through the camera connection kit's USB port is kinda anemic. So much so that when I plugged in my photo fast 533x compact flash card into the Sandisk reader, it reported that the device required too much power.

    However, a solution was found for that issue: split USB power cable for external hard drives!

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Flickr and SmugMug

    The Successful Flickr PhotographerFor the last few days, since getting the iPad, actually, I've been playing around with the Flickr and SmugMug applications on the iPad. Having the iPad around has been like having a little portable window into my online digital life, as well as all the information it provides. That instant on people rave about vs having to dig out your heavy laptop, open it up, and whatnot? Totally true.

    But back to what I was writing about, Flickr and SmugMug.

    Between the two, I've definitely been more active on my SmugMug account, with the number of images uploaded at around a couple thousand. I've trimmed it back a bit since, but with Adobe Lightroom having direct export to it, thanks to the SmugMug plugin, and the great user interface, it makes SmugMug a natural choice. I pay for the Pro account, so I get other features like custom watermarks and the ability to sell prints/etc at custom prices.

    Recently, however, I've been wanting to include more social aspects of the web into my photography and blogging. Switching to for my blogging platform has opened me up to using my Flickr account again. After seeing the restrictions on the free account, I also opted to go with the Pro account on Flickr.

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    Life with an iPad

    First off, the iPad is an amazing media consumption device. Whether you are talking about ebooks, images, and/or videos, the iPad rocks. For the price, however, you kind of expect it to.

    I bought the 64GB wifi iPad. Why not the 3G version? Well, because I already pay for a mobile device and saw no point in paying again just so that I can surf the web. I also happen to own a 3G to wifi converter, so I can share my wireless goodness with my iPad and that of others as well.

    The image above was taken on my dslr and was published on Smugmug with my laptop. Downloaded it to the iPad, dunked with it a bit with filter storm, and am posting it to my blog using Blogpress.

    It's not perfect, but it is very workable. The camera connection kit is on the way, which would let me do some preliminary work on jpegs and do quick uploads online from my iPad while on the road, without hauling around a laptop... At least not until I get back to the hotel room. :)

    It is certainly no laptop replacement, but then again, I didn't buy it to replace my laptop. I bought it to supplement my laptop and give myself more options. It can do 90% of what I normally do on a laptop, but weighs half as much, is small and thin, and has no critical moving parts. Oh, and it has a phenomenal battery life. So far, with video playback, app installs, game playing, and heavy network use, it is still able go pull 9-10 hours of usable life. That is amazing.

    Next time, remote and tethered shooting with an iPad twist..