I am regularly fascinated by the way in which a fallen tree will be the source of food for new plants. The decaying wood releases nutrients and provides a great base for the next generation. Of course, as it decays further, the base may gradually disappear from under them. In the interim, though, any number of plants will sprout and develop. I came across one such log in Meerkerk Gardens. It seemed to be home to any number of new plants (and that ignores the insect species that were, no doubt, hard at work on its surface).
Across from McCarran airport is a construction site. While plenty remains to be done, it is easy to see that this is the new home of the Oakland Raiders (not Oakland for much longer). We drove right by it on the interstate but I had no way of photographing it then. However, I did get a shot of the structure from the airport parking lot. I wonder what it will look like when it is finished? Can it be as impressive as the new stadium in LA?
Lufthansa changed their livery recently. It was not universally appreciated and I can’t say I disagree. It really is rather dull. I hadn’t even bothered to keep an eye on whether it was on a jet coming to Seattle. Instead, while out in Federal Way, I saw a 747 heading my way so decided to take a couple of shots. Turns out it was the new colors (or lack thereof). Soon it will be a common sight as they repaint the fleet but this was my first encounter.
Things are about to get different for us. We moved to California in 2013 as a result of work changes for me. Some of the things we had planned worked out well but a few others did not go as expected. Nothing unusual in that. However, we started to consider some other options for what to do. I have now been given a new opportunity which involves a move to Seattle. Consequently, we are making another move. We are heading to the Pacific Northwest.
I have no idea what this is going to bring. Certainly there will be plenty of new things for us to explore. We have visited the area before but living there will be a while new thing. The area is full of aviation activities, many of which have been the subject of previous blog posts. Consequently, I expect a lot of things will be fun to check out. We will leave behind friends and hopefully make new ones. The blog will show off a lot of those things as they happen. Strap in for the ride!
When an airline decides to change its livery, it isn’t too long before large numbers of their aircraft are in the new scheme and you start forgetting that there was ever a previous paint job. In between those two points is the time when you are interested in the change. Catching something in the new livery is of interest. Alaska Airlines has changed their colors. As an airline that is active in this part of the world, the chances of catching the new look should be good.
It so happens I have seen two of them in close succession. One was overflying me while I was out walking. There was a lot of wildlife on my walk so I had a long lens on the camera so managed to get a couple of shots. The light was not great and there was plenty of cloud so not a great shot. The next time was shortly afterwards when the conditions had become considerably worse. Torrential rain meant that the plane was pretty obscured by the rain drops even though it was not far away. Neither of these will be shots that get pulled from the archives I imagine as they will be replaced by many more as the planes get repainted. However, they were my first encounters with the new look.
The bottom of the peninsula runs in to the San Jose area and it is full of the tech businesses that are dominating the news these days. The departure from Oakland if you are heading south takes you out to the coast and then back over this part of the world. If you are sitting on the left side of the plane, you get a good view of the area. One of the most high profile companies is Apple and they are in the process of building a huge new campus. This is like a giant spaceship shaped as a circle that has landed in Sunnyvale. Given how big it is, it isn’t hard to spot from the air. We might have been high but it was still conspicuous. Here is the view I got.
KLM are one of the few airlines that are not soon to be rid of their 747s. They have demonstrated this by starting to repaint them in a new color scheme. When I was at LAX, one of the newly painted jets was due to come in. Annoyingly, rather than follow the normal approach path to the 24 complex, he came straight over the field and went in on the 25 complex. I saw it come overhead and could see it in the distance as it landed over on the other side of the airport.
Fortunately, later in the day I was on the south side up on Imperial Hill awaiting a message from my buddy that he was ready to roll. I had not thought further about the KLM jet but, since it had come in earlier, that meant it was going to go out again. It took off in front of me – catching me a little by surprise. I was able to get a shot of it in good light so all was not lost.
One of the longest running sagas in the world of camera equipment watchers was the replacement of the venerable 100-400 zoom lens. I have had the old version for about ten years and it has been a useful workhorse for me. However, it was becoming a little unreliable in recent years. A trip to Canon came back with a clean bill of health but I still found it a little trickier to get good results with. I had totally given up on the image stabilization as I found it often made things go strangely, particularly in the view finder.
Consequently, I have been keeping an eye out for when the new lens was due to come out. I planned to replace mine when the new one showed itself. As it was, I had been waiting of quite a while. Then, at the end of 2014, the new lens was released. There was not a glut of them available (and at the time of writing they are still pretty hard to come by) but I placed an early order and a couple of days before Christmas, it showed up on the doorstep.
First impressions had to wait as it was taken away to become a gift. However, once I did get it in my hands, I was quite impressed. For those that aren’t following these things (and if you are interested, you probably are following them), Canon have changed from the push-pull style of zoom to a ring operated zoom. This is like most other zoom lenses and it seems to work well. However, they have made the zoom ring the outer ring which is the opposite of my 70-200 so makes for a little adjustment. It does mean that the focus ring is where your hand might be when bracing the camera for steadiness. However, this has not been an issue for me yet.
I took the old and the new lenses out for a shoot to see how they compared. I shot with each in turn as well as doing some comparison shots to see how much they varied. It was interesting that, when I imported the images into Lightroom, I went through them to cull the poor shots and found the rejection rate would go up and down. This was when switching from one to the other. The newer lens seems to have a higher rate of keeping focus for moving subjects (surfers in this case). The bodies were the same so the lenses were the only variable.
I quickly adjusted to the new lens and find it easy to work with. It certainly feels solid and there isn’t the play I found with the old version. The image stabilization is a major improvement. It is great for static subjects with a major improvement in steadiness. It has three modes – static targets, panning targets and a third mode that only starts the stabilization when you fire the shutter. I have played with that but have not found it to be so reliable. I suspect it is a lack of understanding on my part. However, I think Mode 2 for panning will be where mine stays.
Aside from focus, how is the image quality? Pretty impressive. In the comparison shots things were a little sharper all over but more so at the edges. I will have a word of warning here though. I have had a series of shots where one side was noticeably blurred. What I have not been able to break down is whether that is a focus plane issue, a haze issue or a problem with the lens. I have tried a number of test shots to try and get to the bottom of this but everything seems to be solid. There is possibly an issue around the 300mm mark in some one test I ran which does coincide with what I have experienced in the field but it is far less than I had seen before. However, I have had plenty of good shots so I suspect the issue is not with the lens but with what I was shooting.
The new lens hood is one that leaves me with mixed feelings. Overall, it is good. The newer lens hoods on Canon lenses now include a button to lock it in place which stops them dropping off at odd moments. This one also includes a small “window” in the side of the hood to allow you to adjust polarizers without taking the hood off. This is a nice enough idea but the sliding panel over this window, while having a detent, is easily disturbed and I frequently find it is open. Not a huge problem but a bit of a compromise in the design.
My remaining issue is not with the lens but with Lightroom. Adobe have not created a lens profile yet (or rather not released one) which I suspect means it will be in the new version of Lightroom which is supposedly imminent. I have shot a lot of stuff wide open with the lens and there is some vignetting which is not a big problem but having a well worked out correction profile will be very helpful.
Overall, I am very happy with the lens. It seems to perform very well. Once I have convinced myself the minor problems I have seen are down to me rather than the lens, I shall relax into this being a regular part of my kit. It doesn’t have the low light capability of the 70-200 but it might find itself being used more for shoots when that lens was previously in the bag. We shall see.
SFO has been undergoing quite a program of investment in recent years. Upgrades to the runways, redevelopment of terminal buildings and a new control tower. The new tower is not yet finished but it appears to be getting close. I thought a couple of shots to compare the old with the new were worthwhile before the change is permanent.
I shall start by pointing you at a blog that is far better written and far more informative than this one. Not a huge challenge of course. However, the author of this blog is a fantastic photographer and now also a director – Vincent Laforet. Vincent’s blog can be found at blog.vincentlaforet.com and he posts quite frequently on the subject of film making, techniques and equipment. Vincent started out as a photographer and a very good one at that. He has won a Pulitzer Prize and is a Canon Explorer of Light. I first saw him at an ISAP event where he talked about his aerial photography as well as a very moving description of his experiences after Hurricane Katrina.
His life changed dramatically when Canon released the 5D Mk II. Vincent had early access to the camera and made a short called Reverie to demonstrate the video capabilities. This short went viral and suddenly making motion pictures with SLRs was a big deal. Now he has moved geographically and professionally and works in the film business. (As an aside, if you ever get the chance to hear him speak, do go as he has some fascinating experiences to share and may well move you in the process.)
Recently, on his blog, Vincent talked of some new device that he considered a game-changer that he would be announcing. The anticipation got quite a few people interested and, when the announcement came, it did not disappoint. The device is called the MOVI (there is a cool stylized way in which MOVI is written that this blog is not going to do justice to I’m afraid) and it is made by Freefly. It is a stabilized mount that is handheld and provides the ability to get smooth shots with a single hand allowing some very creative approaches to moving the camera.
I am not much of a video guy. However, when I had my first SLR with video capability, I started experimenting with shooting video and this has progressively become more important on the projects I am working on. Video provides a very different way of presenting some subjects and it complements the stills well. My video shooting and editing skills might not complement my stills quite as well but we have to keep learning.
Since I am not investing in a significant amount of video equipment but, instead, I shoot video as part of my stills efforts, I have to be limited in how adventurous I can be. Steady handheld shots without a rig are a challenge but can be achieved. Moving is out of the question without making the viewer feel very uneasy. I recently shot some cockpit video from a jump seat during the takeoff roll and during refueling and the vibration made the majority of the footage unusable. A few small excerpts showed the experience but not long enough to make people uncomfortable.
Getting a stable platform in difficult situations is a great step forward. The MOVI is a very cool piece of gear. It is not cheap but, compared to other pieces of equipment, I think it is very affordable. More importantly, it is the start of something new. People will take this concept and run with it and we are likely to end up with many types and levels of complexity of stabilization that will suit different pockets. This could mean something that works for me. This is why I am so excited. The MOVI is great and I would love one. I don’t have the justification for one for my projects but I feel confident I will see something come from this that will make my work easier in due course.