An Upcoming Topic

I’m currently working on finishing up something that was requested of me a few years ago.

I’m working on what looks to be a 2-3 part post on traveling super light on a photo trip, based on my rafting trip down the Grand Canyon about 2 years ago. On this trip, I was limited to 30 lbs of ‘stuff’. This stuff included all of my photo gear, cloths, and consumables for 6 days. I hope it comes off as a very enjoyable and helpful read.

2017, A Review

In what I hope to make an annual thing, I’d like to use this post to look back over 2017.  The travels, what cameras/lenses I favored, and what my favorite images of the year are.  Here we go, starting with the most straight forward items.

The Technical Stuff

In 2017, I created 21,446 photos and 268 videos.  This makes 2017 my second most prolific year of photography, after only 2016.  It was only slightly above 2011, which is now in 3rd place.

Images Per Year

2017, like 2016, was dominated by a single trip – in this case, my trip to Greenland.  This trip was responsible for 13,298 of the photos and videos.  2017 was otherwise a very low-photo year.  My lowest since 2012, when I last moved across the country.

For cameras per year, it is clear, I favored the D750 over the D800, which is the second year in a row.

It really wasn’t even close.  I think the weight of the camera, combined with the high burst rate really led me to favor this camera.  I also like to use this camera for night time time-lapse/star trails, which artificially inflates the camera usage – 1000 photos taken may only result in 1 final image.

The Leica is the only camera on the list that I do not own.  I had the chance to use it for an afternoon, which was a ton of fun.

My favorite lens for 2017 was the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, followed closely by the Nikon 24-120 f/4.  It actually surprises me that the 70-200 is so high up on this list.  This is due to my Greenland trip where I heavily favored this lens.  The Greenland trip was responsible for 5481 of the 6984 photos taken with this lens in 2017.

I know that simply a large number of images doesn’t equate to a large number of images you like.  A large number of images only means you consume a lot of space on external disk drives, which 2017 certainly did.  2017 consumed 814 GiB, which is certainly a record for me.

The breakdown of Camera:Lens combinations is:
D800
D750

 

Originally I was going to put my favorite images of 2017 in this space, but I’ve decided to hold that for a new post in the next week or so.  Knowing me, it will take longer, but we shall see.

The Good Stuff – New Stuff

2017 was a small year for purchases.  I purchased a new camera bag for international travel and a new travel laptop.

The Good Stuff – Travels

My trip to Greenland was by far the largest excursion of 2017.  Other than this trip, I had a weekend in Utah; some day trips in and around Seattle; and some visits to family that allowed me to take some photos.

The Bad Stuff – Repairs and Damage

I hope this section doesn’t have large entries every year.  But this year has a frustrating entry.

This year, my D750 was subject to a recall on the shutter.  When I received the camera back after the first repair, there were issues with the reassembly of the camera.  It had to go back in to be reassembled properly.  I was lucky, as the camera nearly didn’t make it back to me for my Greenland trip.  But, I am also thankful to Nikon who went out of their way to ensure that happened.  I am also quite thankful that my D750 has a brand new shutter.  While my D750 has taken nearly 30,000 photos, the shutter only has around 6900.  The D750 will likely continue to be in use for 3-6 more years.

Outside of this, my gear experienced nothing more than normal wear and tear.

2018

Let’s now look at my plans for this current year.

Due to job-related reasons, I’ve relocated from the PNW to Pennsylvania.  But I’ve found a nice place near my new job and not too far from the outdoors.  So I’ll be photographing a new area of the country with new parks and things to explore.  I’ll also be visiting the Atlantic Ocean, which is fun.

In 2018 I hope to have a few more business-oriented aspects to my photography.  Until now, it has been mostly for fun.  In this new year, I hope to pursue tasks which offset the cost of my camera gear and travels.  More details as they become available and I can actually make them happen.

I’m also testing the water with video and learning the basics of producing a video.  I have an idea that I hope to launch in 2018.

Until the next post

-Brad

Brad’s Quick Travel Tip #2 – Avoiding Long Flights

The inspiration for this post comes from my father.  In a recent conversation, my father said that he would never visit Australia, simply because he never wanted another 15 hour flight.  I showed him how you can get to Australia without any flight over 8 hours.

The secret for USA to Australia and New Zealand?  Hawaii.  From anywhere in the USA, you can get a ~6 hour flight to the West Coast (LA, San Fran, Seattle, etc), where it is a ~6 hour flight to Honolulu (HNL) Hawaii.  Auckland, New Zealand (AKL) or Sydney, Australia (SYD) are a relatively inexpensive 7-8 hr flight from HNL.  Or if you’d prefer, Denver (DEN) to Honolulu (HNL) is about 8 hours.

Alternatively, HNL to Japan’s Tokyo Narita (NRT) is about 8 hours as well.  Although this is probably not worth the effort, as NYC (JFK) to NRT is about 12 hours and Seattle (SEA) to NRT is about 10 hours.

On the other side of things, a person living in Sydney Australia can get to Europe without any flight over 8 hours.  This person would go SYD to HNL (many airlines, including QANTAS, Jet Star, Hawaiian), HNL to SEA (Hawaiian or Alaskan), SEA to KEF (Keflavik, Iceland on Icelandair), then finally KEF to anywhere in Europe.

This tip likely works best for Americans.  Due to flight schedules, there may be a 24-48 hour layover in Hawaii, which is such a terrible thing.  I am aware that most non-Americans do not like doing international transfers through the USA.  But no matter who you are, it is an option.  And if you do not like the long haul flights, this is an option to avoid them for a large portion of the world.

Until next time-
-Brad

Brad’s Quick Travel Tip #1 – American Airlines

I recently traveled on American Airlines and I discovered something interesting.

I live in Seattle, and as a result, I have a Frequent Flyer card for Alaska Airlines.  Alaska and American have a new partnership.

As a result of this partnership, having an Alaska Airlines MVP number, grants you early boarding on American Airlines.  I have the base status on Alaska, but, I was still able to board the plane before about half of the rest of the plane.  American boarded their higher tier frequent flyer, high tier people in the OneWorld frequent flyer plans, and First/Business class before me, but I boarded before the people who purchased regular tickets, with the AAdvantage ‘Gold’ status members or OneWorld ‘Ruby’ status members.  See here – https://www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/boarding-process.jsp

So, if you are traveling in coach, do not otherwise have any airline status, do not intend to build miles on American or OneWorld airlines, and are not flying in business/first, you can sign up for the Alaska MVP program and board before most people.  It doesn’t cost anything, and it does not even require you to have ever flown on Alaska Airlines.

Enjoy!
-Brad

The Math of the F/Stop Progression

As a quick post, I’m going to mention something that everyone seems to have difficulty with.  This is a little math-heavy and I’ll try to simplify it.

F/stop progressions.  Why do I have to double my shutter speed when going from F/2.0 to F/2.8?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to double my shutter speed when I go from F/2.0 to F/4.0?

The F/stop is related to the diameter of the aperture of the lens, or the width of the circle of light that shines on the sensor or film.  The key word here is ‘circle’.

Everyone remembers that the area of a circle is area = pi * r^2.  The number in the F/stop is related to the Diameter, which is 2 * radius.  If you want to cut the area of the circle in half, you need to divide the diameter (and thus the radius) by the squareroot of 2.  The squareroot of 2 is 1.4142136 … but for our purposes, 1.4 is good enough.

This is why the F/stop progression is 2.0, 2.8, 4.0, 5.6, etc.  Each of these numbers are about 1.4 apart (2 * 1.4 = 2.8, 2.8 * 1.4 = 2 * (1.4 * 1.4) = 2 * 2 = 4).  Each stop is the same as increasing the diameter/radius by 1.4, and doubling the size of the opening.

Now you may be thinking to yourself, “self, this makes it look like the numbers are in reverse order”.  The piece to understanding the order is in how the F/stop is normally stylized, F/2.8, F/4.0, etc.  The / in math means divided by.  It means the aperture is set to the focal length divided by the number represented in the F/stop.  For example, on a 120mm lens, at F/4.0, the aperture is 120mm/4.0 or 30mm.  If we stop down to F/8.0, the aperture is 15mm.  A circle with a 30mm diameter has an area 4 times the size of a circle with a 15mm diameter, thus, F/8.0 lets through one quarter the light of F/4.0, and is a change of ‘2 stops’.

I hope this helps understand everyone understand one of the less obvious parts of photography.

-Brad

Useful Tips : Photographing Fireworks and Getting a Result

Happy New Year everyone! This is going to be a quick post about photographing fireworks, and making the best of what you get. It also includes some tips for people who just want to go to bed early.

Tip #1 – Arrive early. In most places, there will be a lot of competition for places to view and photograph the fireworks. If the fireworks are starting “when it gets dark enough”, like the 4th of July in the USA, you want to arrive about 2-3 hours before dark and set up. If it is at midnight, like New Years Eve, you want to be in place at least 3 hours ahead of time, depending on how popular the spot is.

However, if you are photographing from a place you own or rent, you are fine. I like to use my apartment window because #1 – I can set up during the daylight, and #2 – January is cold, and I want to sip my champagne in peace.

Tip #2 – Fireworks are a big light source. This light will bounce around and can create reflections or illuminate things you don’t want seen. If you are shooting through a window, the fireworks can light up your room and cause reflections in the glass. Use a black cloth to eliminate this reflection as much as possible. I like to tape the cloth around the lens and to the glass, if possible. If you don’t have something that is black, use the darkest color available.

Tip #3 – Find your settings early. My go-to is iso200, F/8, 3 seconds. I like 3 second exposures.

Tip #4 – If you can leave your camera, use a self timer. I prefer to use the internal timer when possible (my D800 and D750 both have internal self timers). My older cameras do not. So I set the camera to iso200, F/8, 3 seconds, and set the self timer to start a 35 minute exposure starting at about 11:55 and ending around 12:30. The camera thinks the shutter is being held down and takes back-to-back 3 second exposures, and I get to enjoy the fireworks or sleep. In general, I like my self timers for purposes like this (they also work great with sunsets when you want to photograph them and watch them – this lets you enjoy the event with your significant other). Self timers are also great when you can set things up early, then enjoy some adult beverages which may otherwise prevent you from taking the images.

Tip #5 – If you are trying to take the lazy aproach, be prepared to work with what you get.

Expanding on Tip #5, 2 years ago I set everything up on a self timer, taped a dark cloth to the window, and went to bed. When I woke up, I had about 300 photos, only 100 of which had fireworks. But, the tape I was using didn’t hold, so the 100 fireworks images all looked like this.

Crap.

While it was disappointing, the right half of the image turned out, so there was hope. Since I knew that the D800 has a crazy high resolution, and I can make big prints from even a vertical crop of a horizontal image, I did just that.

This cropping was able to save my image

I like the results. Especially considering the non-ideal situation that caused these to be my only options. I am setting up one of my cameras for the fireworks this year to try to get something similar.

As I write this, there is about 9 hours remaining in the year. I’m going to spend the next few hours getting 3-4 cameras set up and ready, then probably sit down for a relaxing day. Once the cameras are set up, I’ll make a post on Instagram with what the setup looks like.

Happy New Year! And best of luck in 2017.

-Brad

A Quick Update

Hello!

I realize I haven’t been very good lately at updating this blog.  I’m hoping that changes in 2017 and for the remainder of 2016.

In short, I’ve been crazy busy and have barely made time for what needs to be done here.  I also recently took a 4 week trip to Australia and New Zealand, and I am still working through the photos from this trip.  There is always so much to do that I am not finding the time to do things.  I’m sure there’s a few posts in here somewhere.

Anyways, going to try to get better updates in the future.  So, let’s see what happens.

-B

Photographing the Grand Canyon – Matkatamiba Canyon

I was recently fortunate enough to be able to travel down the Colorado river and photograph the Grand Canyon.

One of the lunch stops on this trip was at Matkatamiba Canyon, which is at mile 148, just before the Matkatamiba Rapids. Our goal was to make it up to one of the waterfalls in the slot canyon and photograph it. Due to how this canyon winds around, it can support a lot of photographers at once at most locations.

Upon arrival, we found the entranceway had deeper water than there was in previous years.

This was not off to a good start. We had to cross a neck deep path with camera gear. While I may have been able to make it, some of the shorter members of the group would not, or at least their camera gear would not.

The solution was to use some of the folding tables as a bridge.

Some of the other people in the group decided to climb the rocks and make it over. Being taller, I took the option of holding my camera gear over my head and wading through the creek.

After passing through this creek, there were two waterfalls to climb. While this first one doesn’t look like much, the right side was extremely slippery, and, at least two people fell. One person managed to have their camera call into the water, but, it was an older Canon 1D series, so it was fine after it dried out a bit.

After this waterfall, there was a chest deep section, followed by a waist deep section, followed by another waterfall to climb. I do not have any pictures of this last waterfall, because there were a bunch of people trying to photograph it, and I wanted to get out of their frames as fast as possible.

At this last waterfall, the slot canyon narrows greatly. I was able to take a quick stop about 1/3rd of the way up to take this photo. There was a small pool here where I could take a small break from the climb.

I was now at a point where only a handful of people would try to venture. Once I got to the top of the stream, I took a look around the corner.

This looked quite nice, and very well could have been my shot. I decided to set up and take a few shots while deciding how much further I wanted to go.

As I was debating whether to continue up or turn back, some other members of my group showed up. One of them climbed up and let us know we were about as far as you could go. I decided if I was almost there, I might as well go to the top. So I did.

About the time I got to the top, a few people were ready to leave. The guides then showed up, having taken a goat trail to get there. They helped a few members of my group get out and head up the trail. A few members of my group decided to start to venture back down the creek. I then had it all to myself.

Since I had all of my camera gear, and a great little spot all to myself, I decided not to waste it, and, carefully set up my camera. At the bottom of the area, there is place to put bags down and keep them mostly dry. Here, there was no such spot.

The pink duct tape on the camera serves a few purposes. #1 – Identification – by the first day, everyone knew that Pink Duct Tape was mine. #2 – Dust Protection – the Grand Canyon has very fine dust that gets everywhere. The duct tape helped keep this dust out of the sensitive parts of the camera. #3 – Pink = Professional. My other camera was marked with Star Wars Duct Tape, so I could tell them apart at a distance.

And here, after all of that story, is the final image. It only took about an hour in Photoshop to get to this point.

Matkatamiba Top

The top of Matkatamiba

Until next time
-Brad

Blogo Ate My Posts!

I was very close to having a great post tonight about my recent trip to the Grand Canyon.

However, I use the software called ‘Blogo’ to write my posts.  It had an incident, and, it ate the post I had spend close to 2 hours working on.  So it will be a bit longer before I have the post ready.

Also, while attempting to write this post using the software, it refused to give me a box to type in.  I had been quite happy with the software before, but after tonight, I think I’m done with it.