Saturday, August 29, 2015

Using the Telephoto

For our lesson this past week in the Flickr group that I am in, The Visual Workbench, based on the lessons in David duChemin's book The Visual Toolbox, we were challenged to put on our telephoto lens and go out and shoot. In particular we were suppose to work on using the telephoto lens to isolate our subject.

 I readily admit that I rarely use my telephoto lens, in fact the last time I remember having it on my camera was in North Dakota at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, two years ago.

So it was with a fair amount of grumbling that I screwed that 55-250 lens on my camera and set out for a photo walk around my town.

I quickly realized once I was walking the sidewalks, that I have grown short-sighted, seeing only the things that present themselves right in front of me. This happened because I tend to only shoot with my 17-55mm wide angle, or my 60mm macro lens.

I have forgotten how to look up.

I have forgotten how to look farther into the distance. 

I have forgotten how to see things differently. 

I have forgotten about the joy of discovering new/old things. 

This lesson has taught me many things, but most of all it has taught me to be open to trying things and to stop being so short-sighted. 

Check out one of my fellow group mate's blog about the same exercise and what she discovered.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Out with the Old, In with the New

I currently shoot with a Canon Rebel T2i, a prosumer model from five years ago. Five years, my how quickly time flies.

I love my camera, it has been my constant companion through many adventures; trips to Alaska, Montana, The Great Smoky Mountains, Caribbean cruises, and local, small town, walk-about adventures.

My camera has taught me patience. It has taught me what I like to shoot and what I don't like to shoot,  it has stuck with me through many different photographic directions. My camera has seen me go from shooting in full automatic mode to a deep love of Aperture Priority Mode, and the occasional venture into manual mode.

It is with great sadness that I confession I am looking at replacing my T2i, and ending our five year relationship. Since the beginning of the year, I have been looking and reading; considering deeply how I shoot, what I shoot, what my future needs might be. I have been asking fellow photographer's opinions, and everybody has a different one. But ultimately it is about me and how I will be using the camera tomorrow, next year and five years from now.

With all that in mind I paid a visit to my local camera store last month. I needed to feel these cameras in my, large for a woman hands, I needed to ask questions and seek advice from the camera professionals. My starting point was the raved about mirrorless cameras. Honestly most were too small for my large hands, and just didn't feel right. One intrigued me though, the Fuji X-T1, that fit my hands, and is well liked among photographers and well reviewed.

Being a much smarter photographer than I was five years ago, instead of just buying a camera and hoping I liked it, I decided to rent the Fuji X-T1 and take it with me on my trip to Chicago. A trip like Chicago is exactly the kind of trip I would want a light weight, but fully functioning camera for. I rented from I would highly recommend them if you are thinking of renting any gear, whether it be a camera body, lenses or accessories. I rented the Fuji for 10 days, allowing for a few days on each side of my trip. I had to watch a couple of You Tube videos once it arrived to figure out how to use it, not being familiar with Fujis. The videos were extremely helpful and I felt fairly prepared to shoot with it for ten days.

The first place I gave it a trial run was Cantigny Park in Wheaton, IL. Deanna and I went there for the afternoon after I arrived at her house in Naperville, and while we waited for our other friend Patti to arrive.

Let me say I am not a huge fan of using the back screen as my viewfinder, it was very hard to see what I was shooting using the LCD screen, especially in bright sunshine, which I shoot in most of the time. It does have an electronic viewfinder which worked infinitely better once I discovered the diopter to adjustment the visual so I could actually see through it. I did like the fact that I could see the histogram in the viewfinder as I took the shot, and that there was a leveling line. I am hopelessly crooked on a daily basis.

I did love the light-weighness of it, and the 18-55mm f/2.8 lens that I rented with the camera body fit my needs well, and was also fairly light weight. In another fifteen to twenty years, as I get older, I can definitely see the possible need of a light-weight camera such as this. But currently I already have a light-weight camera that I adore, my iPhone, and that fits the "easy to carry" requirement quite nicely.

One other note, I was warned by some of my photography friends to be sure and rent an extra battery as the mirrorless cameras seem to eat up battery power. I am happy to report that I used the same battery the whole time and never had to recharge, or use the spare battery. If I had used the Fuji the day we went downtown Chicago I am quite certain I would have had to change the battery, but I was pleased with the battery power, more than I expected to be.

So while a lovely camera, it is not the right camera for me at this time. The cost of the camera and new lenses doesn't justify for me the ease to carry and photos that are on the same quality level as my current Canon T2i.

When I was at the camera store in July, the salesgirl did point out one other option to me as a possibility, the Canon T6s, which holds quite a bit of promise for my self-portraiture work. I have rented that camera body and it will be arriving later this week. I will let you know how that fairs.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Chicago - Boats, The Bean and Buildings

At the end of my last post, I had myself and my two photography buddies emerging from the cool and shady interior of Adams Street in downtown Chicago, into the hot and blinding sunshine of Michigan Avenue, putting us right in front of The Art Institute and staring into the eye of the Lion. One of the lion statues in front of the Art Institute that is, this post would be so much effective if I had a photo of that lion eye. If only I had the foresight to write these posts as I am taking photos, life would be so much easier for me, and much more enjoyable for you the reader.

Instead of the eye of the Lion, I have for you a photo of The Bean which was our next destination.

But we before we set off for The Bean, we got sidetracked by another food truck and tacos.

Photo credit: Patti Groetsema

We had gotten very hungry walking that eight tenths of a mile from the train station to Michigan Avenue, and passing all those other food trucks. This guy was a sweetheart, super friendly and courteous, running his taco stand like a well oiled machine. 

We enjoyed our lunches on a cement bench in the shade, in a little park next to the Art Institute, joining locals as they enjoyed their lunch. I took one more crack at street photography, mostly to get at least one shot with my 85mm lens I had been hauling around in my bag all day. Note to self, next time just take your 17-55mm and leave everything else home, except of course my iPhone, my other camera of choice.

Lunch finished, it was time to move on to The Bean in Millennium Park, one of the most popular "selfie" taking places in the city.

The lady to the left in this photo was a problem, nearly knocking me down in her quest to get the perfect bean selfie.

The three of us taking a group/individual selfie. Notice I am the only one using my iPhone in the shot, always the odd girl out.

Leaving the glaring sun and the radiating heat from The Bean behind, we set off down Michigan Avenue towards the Chicago River, our destination the Architectural Boat tours. Our leader and christened mom for the day, Deanna, spotted the tours led by the Chicago Architectural Foundation, she knew that we would get the most beneficial information on this tour.

If you have read my blog for any time now you know that I love buildings and especially anything old, or that looks be in a decaying state, so these bridge houses captivated me.

The tour was a delight and the docent a wealth of knowledge.

This is Montgomery Ward Park. Next trip to Chicago I want to explore over in this area, maybe I can convince my dear husband to accompany me, since he doesn't like me exploring Chicago alone and on foot. I don't have a lot of fear in me, so he is probably right to be concerned.

Traveling back to the boat dock, I caught these building reflections.

Version Number One taken with my Canon dSLR.

Version Number Two taken with my iPhone and edited in Snapseed and Formulas. In case you haven't didn't know I love taking photos with my iPhone, but I am trying to be better about using my Canon, each has their purpose.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of The Bean and Buildings from a Boat.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Delighting in the Unexpected Things

I am leading a photography group on Flickr. Together a small group of us are working through David duChemin's book The Visual Toolbox, lesson by lesson. I say "leading" in a loose sense, I am there to post the lesson each week, give encouragement and delight in what each member posts in the group. It is up to each member of the group to decide how much they want to participate, some are just observing, some have jumped in with both feet, and some play it week by week.

This week's lesson is Lesson 1 - Consider Your Vision (this isn't week one of the group, I just tend to randomly jump around). I have been pondering my vision since I read this book a month ago. I looked back through my Lightroom Library which goes back to 2012, my vision is still similar in the things that I like to photograph, but my point of view of them has changed somewhat over the past three years.

This past week I was in Chicago, actually a suburb of Chicago, staying with a dear friend. Another of our photography friends also came to stay, so three photo buddies set out one day to go downtown and photograph the city. I love downtown Chicago, at least for a day or two. I couldn't live there, too many people, too much noise, but for a day it is a delight to see things that don't exist in my normal day to day life.

We took the train into the city from the suburbs. I have to say this was my favorite part of the whole day. I love riding the train, and this definitely does not exist in my day to day life. Trains are the ultimate form of adventure transportation.

I was with two gals that love to photograph people and love street photography. This is not my vision or my strength.

Now give me an old building and happiness abounds.

This is The Rookery, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Daniel Burnham and John Root, built in 1886.  The top floors held the architectural firm of Burnham and Root, who were the architects for the 1893 Chicago's World Fair. I toured the inside of this building once on a walking tour of Daniel Burnham designed buildings, oh the glorious details.

Across the street, I noticed something that I hadn't seen when I was focused on photographing the outside of The Rookery...these vintage blue food trucks. 

My heart did a little flutter and I knew that this was one of the things that I consider to be part of my vision, finding the unexpected things, the old, vintage things. 

My version of street photograph, definitely subtle. I love the look on the Donut vendor's face.

I love structures of any sort; buildings, food trucks, trains. If people happen to be in them it is just a nice bonus for me.

Well this first post on my trip to Chicago got us to the corner of Adams Street and Michigan Avenue. I will be back soon with the second part of our day in the city.