Posts filed under ‘Photography’
For our 15th year company outing, we were headed off to beautiful Dos Palmas Beach Resort and Spa in Palawan. And my camera gear couldn’t have been more ready. The timing was excellent: the 18-135mm lenses that I bought used from a friend as well as the MB-D200 Battery Grip was hand-delivered from Japan just the day before our outing, as well as a DicaPac WP-S10 DSLR underwater pack I had ordered and delivered to my office.
Here is the official list of gear I brought with me:
- Nikon D200
- Nikon MB-D200 battery grip
- Nikon SB-600 Flash
- 18-135mm lens
- 28-85mm lens
- 70-300 lens
- DicaPac WP-S10 Underwater DSLR pack
- Cokin P-series filter holder
- Cokin 58mm adapter ring
- Cokin 62mm adapter ring
- Cokin Circular Polarizer
- Cokin 81B filter
- Cokin Gradual Grey filter
- Slik Able-300EX Tripod
- Kohjinsha SH6 laptop
- Okion portable optical mouse
- Nintendo DS (Ok, maybe this doesn’t count with photography, but it’s still tech)
Note: If you’re wondering why I still brought with me my 28-85mm, it’s because I didn’t have an adapter ring for the 67mm diameter 18-135mm lens.
I had so much gear with me, that in fact I think I had more gear than clothes! Yeah! All these in tow, camera gear…check. Batteries fully-charged…check. Clothes…check. All set to go to beautiful Dos Palmas!
Now for all of you out there, here’s Piece of Advice #1: If you’re going out on a trip like this with this much gear, I advise you to make a checklist; things can get pretty hectic when you’re getting your gear ready and rushing to the airport. In my case, I didn’t have one. And I forgot probably the most important thing in my gear…
…my fully-charged D200 battery!
My first realization of this fact was in the boarding area, when my boss asked me to take a picture, and I gladly obliged. Bringing out my camera, I wondered for a second why the LCD didn’t show the available shots left (it displays even when the D200 is turned off). And I just bumped my head into the D200 (don’t worry, the D200 is tougher than my head), and muttered “ass…” All of those camera gear, and no SLR to use them with!
On the plane, I rejoiced in the fact when I remembered that I brought the MS-D200 battery holder that came with the battery grip. What this savior did was to allow me to put 6 AA batteries into the battery grip as an emergency power source. I found a sari-sari store at the dock just before leaving for Dos Palmas island (after the bus ride from the airport at Puerto Princesa) and bought a couple of batteries for P18 a piece. Piece of Advice #2: Eveready General Purpose batteries (color blue) WILL NOT power up your D200! Even with a fresh batch, they will display as battery low. At the Dos Palmas Tabu-An (their souvenir shop), I bought more alkalines, this time Kodak batteries meant to be used for cameras.
Piece of Advice #3: When operating with limited battery supply, turn off auto-focus, flash, and keep the LCD preview to a minimum. I also turned off the grid display, for good measure, but I don’t think it mattered at all. The Kodaks lasted for around 25 shots. At P270 for 6, it wasn’t going cheap…
Much later, desperate for power, I thought, flash is useless without a camera to use them with. So I salvaged the 4 NiMHs in my SB-600 and borrowed 2 more from a friend. Piece of Advice #4: NiMHs can smoke alkalines, any kind, any day. The NiMHs could shoot through 2 2GB CF cards and still keep on going (I’m still draining them right now, trying to figure out continuous flash shooting).
Much, much later, I realized that the “drained” Kodaks could still power my flash! Doh!
Anyway, head over to http://www.jplui.com/photos/DosPalmas for the vacation pictures that I managed to take. Enjoy!
I’ve added a new page to this blog, the Photo Gear page. Over there, I’ve written some insights and opinions on what type of gear you’ll need to start off shooting. Nothing specific, really, just what kind of gear, what to look for, etc. Hopefully, you’ll find something useful there. I’ve also upped some of my own gear over there in the form of photos. If you wanna know more about them, just click on the thumbnails. I’ll be uploading more of ’em as soon as I get around to taking shots of them, so check back often. That’s it for now, need to rush to my day job. Till next post!
As I mentioned last post, I bought myself a real goodie from Akihabara. Something I’ve long been working for so it was high time to reward myself with this, ehem, investment.
Ta da! Introducing the D200 from Nikon’s prosumer line. This hefty monster feels right in my hands, and the magnesium alloy body really feels solid, sturdy and can take a real beating before giving up the ghost.
I was able to pick one up from Sofmap in Akihabara second-hand for a price almost half off of a tag price on the cheap price range (Hint: brand new body-only price is around Y160K). So why did I pick up a 2nd hand D200 instead of a brand new D40x which I could get for even less, lens included (I think I could have also afforded the D80 kit as well)?
I was not looking for an entry-level camera. I’ve had prior practice on film with my trusty, if not comparitively simplistic, F55D film camera. So, while I knew that a ton of features do not a good picture make, at the very least I needed camera that can keep up with my needs.
The D40 was also much more pickier with lenses, since their lens mounts do not have the built-in focus drive motors, and since I had a few lenses already, I did not want to put them out of use and invest in new AF-S and AF-I lenses. And while I often do manual focus, you will have to love the autofocus speed and control you get with the D200’s 11-area TTL focus.
The D200’s built-in flash can also be used as a commander unit for use with Nikon’s Creative Lighting System. In other words, you can control an SB-600/SB-800 flash remotely without the need for additional equipment, save for the flash unit itself of course. The only other cameras that can do this is the D70, but it was already aging and has a smaller LCD screen.
So why buy a 2-year old product second-hand? Simply put, it gets all the technology I need in my hands at the right price. Since the D300 just got introduced, people who have lots of money or people who think they need features that the D200 lacks would be strolling off with their new buys. I on the other hand have done my homework and am confident to say I don’t need those 3 or 4 bells and whistles for more than twice the price. Besides, I’m in Japan so I’m pretty confident when the tag doesn’t indicate any damage that the previous owner took care of this D200. Plus Japanese are known to be prone to upgrade quickly, so that’s good enough for me. 🙂
Edit: I just found out that my D200’s shutter actuations was only less than 28K when I bought it! Yippee!:D
First stop, of course, as the owner of this blog, has to be one of the key destinations in Tokyo, Akihabara Electric Town or Akiba for short. Well, actually, we were supposed to go to Tokyo Disneyland first but tickets were sold out so…
Anyway, it was just after Christmas, and right before New Year and me and my girlfriend’s 3rd Anniversary (yup, same day), so for a gift that can cover all three bases,
the Canon TX1 more than just handles that requirement, topping off even the Sony T70. Both had face recognition and image stabilization. It wasn’t an easy decision, with the ultra-sleek design and touch screen of the T70, and being cheaper by Y10,000 further compounded the difficulty of that decision. But ultimately, it came down to the nitty-gritty specs and practical capabilities of the Canon TX1 that subdued all the glitz and glamor of the T70. While it sounds cool to control your camera via a touch-screen LCD, it’s use was just not practical enough to replace solid physical controls, of which the TX1 has plenty. The TX1 not only had better optical zoom and larger optics, a separate video record button, the capability to record 16:9 videos, a solid body and a form-factor most suited for taking steady photos and videos. And while the LCD screen is smaller, it can however swivel around, useful when you’re shooting above your head, shooting yourself, or if you just need a mirror. Of course, the Y10,000 discount we got was certainly a big bonus and bumped the T70 out the window.:)
Aside from the TX1, I also bought myself my own Christmas/New Year/Anniversary present, but I’ll tell you more about it in my next post. For now, here’s a picture of Akihabara at night, taken from the TX1.
I went to my brother’s wedding last week. During the reception was a slide show of their pictures, coupled with music. It was a great presentation. But what I noticed was that I could do this as well. The music wasn’t attached to the slide show, it was a separately playing live music. And the slide show, which was run on a Mac laptop, was the built-in Mac slide show utility. F-Spot, GThumb, or the image viewer, which are all built into Ubuntu, can do the same thing that that Mac was doing–fading in and out picture after consecutive picture. And with RhythmBox, XMMS, or your favorite media player playing in the background, you got yourself a whole Linux roadshow. Of course, getting great pictures to show is another matter altogether, but a matter out of the scope of this post.
During that trip as well, I visited an old friend that now runs Photo Story Creations, a shop that puts your pictures on mugs, pillows, even tiles, as a mosaic or just a straightforward picture. Imagination’s the limit to what you can do with their products, you just need to tell them what you want to be done with your pictures. Having previously used trialware mosaic programs during my Windows days, I poked around in Synaptics Package Manager to see if I can find a mosaic application for Linux.
Sure enough, there was a fast, little program called Metapixel. It´s actually two small programs: metapixel-prepare and the main metapixel program. The metapixel-prepare program lets you choose a source directory of pictures and a target directory to use as a picture library for metapixel. Creating a mosaic takes around 3 1/2 minutes, which is already comparatively faster to other mosaic programs. But this speed advantage really comes in handy when you´re making mosaics using the library, since only half a minute is used for the actual creation of the mosaic. The other 3 minutes is used for preparing the library, which is a one time deal in this case.
One thing that might turn off some users is that Metapixel is a command-line program. But it’s not really that hard to use. To prepare the library, you use the following command:
metapixel-prepare Desktop/sourcepictures Desktop/librarydir Afterwards, just type in
metapixel --metapixel input.jpg output.png --library Desktop/librarydir --cheat=30 The input file is the target image that you want your mosaic will look like and the output is, of course, the final image that will be produced. Notice that I put in a –cheat=30. What that actually does is overlay a 30%-opaque final image on to the mosaic, similar to the flower mosaic above. Unless you have a really vast library of pictures with all possible colors and you’re going to create a pretty big mosaic, this option can come in pretty handy. There are also other options, like the collage option. The difference between a collage and a classic mosaic is that the classic mosaic lays out your pictures in a perfect grid, while pictures in a collage can overlap each other.
Another cool tool that should be in the toolbox of the Linux photographer is Hugin Panorama Photo Stitcher. It features tools for correcting perspective, and of course, stitching tools for creating panoramas.
To stitch photos, all you need to do is create points in your pictures to help the program automatically stitch your photos. In the example above, Hugin automatically adjusted for the perspective distortion effect of my camera, stitching three photos seamlessly. You may also want to check out the official Hugin stitching online tutorial.