I’ve never been a fan of wide-angle lenses. 

 

Back when I began earning my living pointing a camera the widest lens I would use was a 35mm on my 35mm camera and a 50mm on my medium format camera. Both were as wide as I could tolerate because I disliked the perspective.

I have tried fisheye lenses in the past, and although the photos I took might have been called creative, I was never tempted to keep the lens.

This past year I acquired a 14-24mm. I bought it to sell, but after reading several positive reviews about that lens I ordered a filter holder with both an ND and a polarizing filter deciding to give the wide angle a try before selling it.

I wrote about using that lens this past spring to photograph a waterfall on a rainy day.

I loaned the 14-24mm to my friend Jo McAvany and she loves it. Her photos from our trip to Bellingham Washington last October were great. I only tried it once while we were there when I wanted to include two waterfalls in the same shot, it worked perfectly for that, but I changed back to my familiar 24-70mm after only a couple shots.

Jo plans on using it for her Santa pictures this weekend. She has set up a small studio in my shop and will be photographing people’s dogs with Santa. I’ll be interested to see if she ends up changing to her 24-70mm.

The 14-24mm is a different beast, like any ultra-wide lens it has that unique perspective and some distortion at the edges. It’s built like a tank with over 2 pounds to carry (969 grams). A reviewer wrote, “It must be held level and flat to avoid distortion. However, It will focus within a foot of the sensor from 18 to 24 mm, allowing very wide close focus shots.”

I found one photographer that said, “For those who know how to use it effectively a 14-24 can be spectacular.” And the prolific writer and photographer (bythom.com) Thom Hogan wrote, “The 14-24mm is a fantastic lens. Optically, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a wide angle.”

Well in spite of my feelings about wide angle photographs, I decided any lens receiving reviews like those deserved a chance.

This past weekend I finally took that lens out for a good workout. It is sharp and does give very wide scenic views like most wide lenses I have tried. It focuses very close, is sharp wide open and like my 70-200mm easily locks on to birds in flight. (I decided to try some birds even though it’s too wide for that type of photography.

Most of the day I was photographing bridges and trees along the water thinking that might be a good way to test how I liked the wide perspective. I even spent some time with Jo’s three year old at a local playground to see how the lens performed up close.

Wide-angle lenses are interesting and, I think, a bit hard to use. I was continually trying to fit the subject into a wide-angle scene. Normally I would select a lens to match the subject, but with the 14-24 I was always looking for a subject that would match the wide lens.

There is also the need to correct some of the pictures in post. That’s not a complaint as I work on every image I take. But unless one wants the curved exaggeration of a wide-angle lens the edges require alignment. I guess that’s what using a ultra wide-angle lens is all about.

One reviewer wrote, “if you’re willing to roll with the punches, you’ll capture truly outstanding images…once you feel as if your creativity is starting to outgrow the confines of your gear, you might consider adding an ultra wide lens to your arsenal.”

I have never been comfortable with wide-angle photography so I am not convinced as of yet. However, I have this big lens so for the time being I intend to put it in my bag every time I go out.

Got new camera and its infrared  

When I first made photographs with infrared back in the early 1970s my choices were between purchasing black and white print IR film or colour IR slide film.

I tried the colour slide film, but at that time I wasn’t a fan of colour photographs and to make a reasonable print from a slide meant waiting a week or so for the film to get processed, (special handling also) then selecting an image for printing, sending it away again for an internegative copy to be made and then a final print enlargement. The whole process was not only costly, but time consuming.

As I have written before, Infrared film was a hassle. But nevertheless, I enjoyed the final images and shot IR black and white film for years.

When I became aware of digital infrared conversions I had my 6 MP Nikon D100 camera converted after I had been using it hard for some years. I purchased that camera in 2001 and expected it would, like a film camera, last forever. However, in this past year it began having problems keeping the data that I thought was being written to the memory card and I decided to start looking for another camera.

I answered an ad I found on eBay and bought a newer model. So that well used 2001- 6MP infrared camera has now been changed to a 2010, 16MP infrared camera.

Since I that first DSLR a lot has happened in the world of digital infrared. When I had that D100 altered there wasn’t much difference in IR filter availability. However, now I spent time deciding what the final IR effect was that I wanted.

I could stay with just black and white as I was used or choose any of several filters that are from total IR blocking to those allowing some visible light to show through.

I chose a filter called “super colour”. Now instead of only the black and white tones I get 4 color tones: Red, Yellow, Blue and Cyan.

With the super colour filter recording four colour tones of data I was pleased to not only have what is called “faux colours”, deep yellows, blues and muted red to work with, but when I convert a Super Color image to b&w I have many tones grey and black.

With my old camera all I needed to do was to go to Photoshop and change my blue channel and red channels, then turn the image to black and white. I like B&W, but as with my normal DSLR that starts with colour and then gets changed to B&W I decided to take the chance that I would like extra data the Super Color conversion offers.

Although this conversion isn’t as forgiving in flat, overcast light as my old camera and that somewhat limits the times I can get really good RAW images without needing to go to Photoshop or one of the other programs I have installed on my computer.

On a sunny day the pictures are stunning. Many are good enough to just stay as they are.

I am planning my yearly trek to photograph Christmas lights. That’s less than a month away and I am hoping there will be snow and at least on mostly sunny day along the waterfront and city streets so I can get some good infrared photographs when I first get there.

I want it all, snowy streets and just cold enough so I can photograph people ice skating at night, and clear enough so I can get silhouettes of the buildings in the early morning and, of course, some good infrared photos during the day

Long exposure workshop at Chase Falls                               

Two weekends ago Jo and I hosted a long exposure workshop at the nearby Chase Falls.                  In the rain I might add.

After returning from Vancouver my photo partner Jo McAvany posted some of the long exposure night photographs she took of the Vancouver lights. Those images garnered quite a bit of interest and Jo was fielding questions from more than one local photographer about how she made them.

We decided to pick a date and offer a workshop that would allow participants to try long shutterspeed photography and also to use neutral density filters.

I like my classes to be strong learning experiences and as with all that teach I included handouts, and this time I also included a set of six ND filters for each photographer to use. All they had to bring was their camera with a fully charged battery, their favourite lens, and a tripod.

We chose the Chase waterfall because it was close, easy to get to and, this time of year, extremely safe if one has good enough balance to climb through and over the big rocks.

What we weren’t expecting was a rainy day… fortunately some of the photographers in attendance had the forethought to bring umbrellas. I also had two that I always keep in the trunk of my car and I brought a few towels that I handed out to wipe the rain off cameras.

Jo began the day when everyone was gathered at the parking lot, while I was passing out filters and handouts, by telling people that after our trip to Vancouver she has absolutely become hooked on long exposures, and I have no doubt that we now have a few more dedicated converts.

Most photographers understand their shutter, but using shutterpeeds longer than 1/30th of a second, and adding ND filters is often new territory.

The rain was only a slight inconvenience as the excited group started seeing their results of the waterfall. The light on that wet rainy day was, as I had hoped, perfect at the falls. Rainy days are usually like that.

We worked as teams in the rain. With one partner holding the umbrella keeping the camera, lens and filter dry as the other set up the tripod and camera at each location.

It was a great day for learning something new. Yep, I am sure there are now a few more photographers that have Jo’s passion for long exposures.

I am looking forward to the trip we are planning to Kelowna in December to photograph the Christmas lights. I think we may go a bit early so we can do some long exposures near the marina along Okanagan Lake. I’ll finish with this great quote I found by German artist Dieter Appelt.

“A snapshot steals life that it cannot return. A long exposure creates a form that never existed.”

 

A Vancouver photography Adventure  

 

Our “Vancouver Adventure” is weeks in the past and Jo and I are still talking about the fun we had.

In last week’s article I said that my dictionary defines Adventure as “excitement, thrill, and stimulation”

Two weeks ago I wrote about the great time we had photographing the Bloedel conservatory and the birds in the aviary on our first morning. And last week my article was about the exciting time we had doing long exposures from Stanley Park across the water of the city lights after dark.

What an enjoyable way to spend the day before the Vancouver Used Camera Sale and Swap Meet.

That first night Laurie, Jo and I knew had to get up early to set up our tables in the morning, but we were having too much fun and instead were up late talking about photography. Nevertheless, we did get up to the sound of the early morning seagulls, ate breakfast, and after packing everything into our vehicles were off to the Croatian Community center for the third part of our adventure. We carried equipment through a light Vancouver rain to have our tables ready for the onslaught of excited photographers when they entered the large hall and started searching for great deals.

That event was, as always, a hodgepodge of different people with different interests. The crowd seemed to have grown a lot younger, but that might be my personal impression. After all, I have been attending the Vancouver Camera Sale and Swap since the 1980s and I’ve gotten a bit older.

Actually, the people attending are photographers of every age group; from experienced elders to teenagers accompanied by their patient parents. It is a diverse fellowship that includes all kinds of lifestyles, interests, and photographic specialties. There are those that are dedicated to film, vintage cameras, and processes of the past, walking alongside others carrying and looking for the latest in modern photographic technology.

Jo and I had a grand weekend photographing inspiring subjects, and the frosting on the cake was attending a gathering like the Vancouver Camera Sale and Swap where we got to meet and exchange information with other photographers and check out the many kinds of photographic equipment that would not be so available anywhere else. 

We spent the day selling the camera equipment I had gathered, had fun wandering the sale and, of course, talking with other photographers.

This was Jo’s second Vancouver camera show. When I turned to her and said, “Hey I just sold that neat old camera you bought last summer. What are you going to do with the $40.00 I got for it?”   I realized just how silly that question was when she said, “I’ll be right back” and about fifteen minutes later she returned with three little digital Canon Powershot cameras. A black one for her Husband, a blue one for her 5 year old son and a red one for her 4 year old daughter.

In my opinion it doesn’t get much better than spending the day surrounded by a huge selection of cameras and other photography equipment. Gosh, it is just invigorating and even after all these years I always learn something. We are already planning for next spring’s sale. Hmmm, I wonder if we can go two days early and search out more fun locations to photograph.

Night photography from Stanley Park  

 

 

 

After the great time we had at the Bloedel Conservatory and the aviary we wandered the city for a fun place to eat and then spent the rest of the day photographing the crowds of people on Vancouver’s Granville Island.

We then drove around Stanley Park to make sure the place we wanted to set up to photograph the lights across the Burrard Inlet after dark would still be ok.  Stanley Park is a 405-hectare public park that borders downtown Vancouver and is mostly surrounded by water.

We returned to our motel to pickup my friend Laurie that had just arrived from Kamloops, and our tripods and drove back through the city to Stanley Park as the light was going down. We took a meandering coastal route in case there were other opportunities – that had me continually getting lost as I drove the darkened streets.

However, as luck would have it we happened on an empty parking lot directly across from the iconic Canada Place with it’s brilliantly lit fabric roof that resembled five sails.

During the day that location would be packed with cars and, I have no doubt, securely guarded against those without an expensive parking pass. But except for a lonely pickup the lot was empty and there wasn’t even the usual chain link fence to block our view of Canada place.

We jumped out with our tripods and excitedly started taking long exposures. Both Jo and I had 10 stop ND filters on our cameras.

After making as many exposures as we wanted of that colourful building we turned our cameras on the skyscrapers across the street then jumped back in the car and drove on to Stanley Park where we would be looking across the water from the other side of Canada place at the city and shipping terminals.

Our chosen location was across from a dark parking lot along the ocean. There was only occasional lights were from cars quickly passing on the park’s ring road and bicyclists that had to be watched out for as they zoomed out of the unlit forest with only tiny lights warning us to stay out of their way.

We wandered along the dark sea wall taking pictures across the inlet of the many bright city lights. I think both Jo and I were making mostly 30 second exposures of the bright lights, calm ocean and the moon high in the black night sky.

What a great way to end the day. We began in the bright morning light at the highest location in the city and ended in the dark night at it’s lowest location, and today as I write over a week later we are still talking about the fun photography adventure we had in Vancouver.

I suppose many might use the words, “trip to Vancouver” instead of a “Vancouver photography adventure”. But my dictionary defines adventure as “excitement, thrill, and stimulation”. So Adventure is the description the fits the best for that day and the next at the exhilarating Vancouver Camera sale and swap meet.

Photography at the Bloedel conservatory

 

The Vancouver used camera sale was last weekend and I always attend.

This time I thought it would be fun to go a day early to do some night photos of the city.

We had chosen the locations that we wanted to go at day’s end. But we would have a whole day to do photography and the first daunting question we faced was, what to do with our morning?

Jo was looking at “places to visit” as we sat at a seafood restaurant the evening we arrived. It was overcast and raining so we decided stay out of the weather. She found an advertisement for the Bloedel Floral Conservatory. The info said that the conservatory is “a lush, domed tropical paradise at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park — the highest point in the city of Vancouver”.

The next morning we ate breakfast at our hotel, (I always try to find hotels that include breakfast) jumped in my car and followed the GPS through Vancouver’s busy traffic to what I assumed would be just a big garden overlooking the city.

We arrived at Queen Elisabeth Park, that park was so much more than what I thought, wandered around the photographing the city below, the narrow winding paths, the beautiful ponds, fountains, and rock bridges that were spread out around the grounds. What a photogenic place.

What I had missed reading in the advert was, “Bloedel Floral Conservatory is a conservatory and aviary at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park.” So after nearly an hour wandering the grounds we walked over to the large dome that sat at the top of the park, paid the admission and entered into “the lush, domed tropical paradise” described in the advertisement.

There were birds everywhere in the exotic greenhouse. Flying high in the air, zooming past our heads and hopping everywhere at our feet. Then I saw a colourful parrot, and then another and another and another.

We photographed the plants, colourful small birds, and big parrots in the humid dome.

I had fun talking with other photographers and people sitting with their dogs as we roamed around the park. I am pretty sure we were at the park for over three hours.

How had I missed that place in all my visits to Vancouver? It seemed to be made for those of us that like to carrying cameras.

That was part one of our October Vancouver adventure. We were yet to photograph the crowds of Granville Island, take long night exposures of the lights across the bay and spend Sunday at the Vancouver Camera Sale and Swap.

What makes us photographers happy?       

Today four of us sat in my shop drinking coffee and talking about photography. The subjects were constantly moving and jumping without hesitation from topic to topic.

I mentioned the soon to be introduced Nikon D6, Brian talked about a problem he had with a flash at his last wedding, Drew was talking about some lens to camera adaptors he was looking for and Bob mentioned that he lusted after the Nikon mirrorless cameras two tourists were using and of course, lots of talk about each of our latest photography outings. The topics rose and drifted off as our discussions wandered on.

After Bob and Brian left, Drew stayed to help me change batteries in the cameras I will be taking to the big used camera sale in Vancouver next week and I thought about how much I enjoyed the banter.

With regards to my feelings I’ll repost this article I wrote back in 2016.

A person on the radio said there are 12 states of happiness. What they are, or how “happiness” is determined and defined is beyond me, but I did find a short article that said to be happy people need to “anticipate with pleasure, savour the moment, express happiness, and reflect on happy memories”.

I doubt one will find any studies on the “states of happiness” for photographers. So while readers are now thinking about what makes them happy I’m going to delve into that mysterious state.

Is it happiness about things like camera equipment, or about the circumstances such as creating a good photograph? Most photographers are devastated when they receive a poor review on a picture, so I guess there is lots of ego involved in our happiness.

I know that sitting around with other photographers talking about photography is just plain blissful for me.

I don’t know any social scientists that I can call up, and I haven’t discussed happiness with any philosophers. However, I have always felt that we photographers have a culture of our own. There are those who might argue that opinion, but I am absolutely convinced that it is so. I constantly interact with other photographers in online forums, blogs, or talk to them personally, and photographers are always ready and willing to tell me when they are happy or not.

Some are actually more interested in the technology of photography then the actual process of making pictures. I recall a guy that was happiest when he found a problem with a piece of photography equipment. He delighted in making test after test to find if a particular camera matched what the manufacturer or other photographers claimed. I’m disappointed when something doesn’t work as described, but this fellow would actually be down right cheery.

I knew a phtographer that spent his spare time wandering back roads. He’d show up at my shop with a grin as wide as all outdoors and stick his ipad or iPhone on the counter for me to scroll through and happily describe how he photographed that hawk on the wire, the owl on a fence post or that eagle fishing on the river bank. What made him happy weren’t his pictures as much as his process of making pictures.

I know photographers that are continually changing equipment. Not because they find problems with what they own, or because their equipment is limiting, but because they read something, or talked to someone, about a new addition from their manufacturer of choice, and can’t live with out it. They excitedly talk about how wonderful that new piece of equipment is. I know their choices don’t always serve a practical need and are more emotional, but they make it easy for me, and anyone else they talk to, to observe how darned happy they are with their new camera, or lens, and with, for that matter, everything they own.

This exciting medium has many levels and outlets to make one happy. There are portrait photographers, wildlife photographers, scenic and landscape photographers, sports photographers, baby photographers, pet photographers, those that specialize in plant or bird photography and, of course, many more, each with differing sets of skills, and, to my mind, their own states of happiness.

I don’t know if photographers have twelve states of happiness, or only the four I found in that short article, but I will say that I meet lots of people that are happy to be doing photography, and being involved with it in their own, very personal, way.

Hey photographers, care to comment on what makes ya happy?