Sunday, August 13, 2017

New Camera, New Outlook

Been awhile since I last posted.
Pretty sure nobody comes here anymore but I should keep on doing this, and more often.

My 55th birthday happened 2 weeks ago, and I finally got a new main camera.
The Sony Alpha 300 (then a used 200 when I dropped it) was made in like 2007, and I grew to loathe using it (them). The 300's sensor-shift image stabilization system was thrown way to one corner and got stuck there, so framing was a guessing game and a quarter of the image was soft.
Big, heavy, with a dim and small viewfinder. I had expected the 300's "Live View" feature to mimic my original F717, in that you could frame shots on the LCD instead of the viewfinder--even at night. But came to find out that it didn't "gain up" the screen to mirror your settings, so it was as useless at night as the viewfinder.
Also, only 10.4 megapickles.
Usable ISO was around 1600.
I liked the "look" of my bigger zoom and 50mm prime even though they are the cheapest in Sony's line, but over the years I decided that big heavy DSLRs weren't for me.
I've been looking at the Sony A6000 since it came out in 2014. I liked how it stayed in the line even after newer versions with higher #s in the name came out, and the price dropped a bit.
I liked how it was very small and light.
I liked that it didn't have image stabilization in the body, but many lenses including the "kit" lens had optical stabilization.
So we got me one from B&H Photo, ordered through the link at The Online Photographer blog so he would get a kickback to help pay for his dental work.

I went with the graphite finish because I'm tired of black, silver is too conspicuous, and white is just a fashion statement. I think it looks badass, and it does it's job SO well. 
24 mp, electronic OLED viewfinder, flip-up/down LCD screen that gains-up (which rules on a tripod at night!) and even 4K video at 60fps. 
Instead of buying more lenses for it, I'm leaning towards getting an adapter so I can use a couple of my old lenses on rare occasions. Save about $1000 that way. 
I'm glad it has a normal hotshoe for flash and triggers, as the weird Sony/Minolta shoe was a pain in the ass. 

I really love this camera, and making pictures is fun again. 

Went to The Pearl complex last weekend, where I found out how much easier this camera is to use at night. 
Had very little practice under my belt by then, but found that all the controls are very logically placed and intuitive so it was effortless right off the bat. 


Today I shot this leopard from hanging out on the fountain of a friend's pool. 

To use the best codec for 4K video requires an SDXC card of 64gb or more. 
I had written that off at first because of the cost, but then found a SanDisk of the correct specs for $30, reduced from $100. Had a giftcard, so it all fell into place. 

My first camera--Sony F717--came with a 32mb card. Megabytes! 
I soon found that every year the card capacities would double, while staying at the same price of around $35. In the F717 and later F828 I doubled every year until making it to 1gb. 
For the Alpha DSLRs I had a pair of 4gb CF cards and never needed more. 
This one uses SD, and also Sony Memory Stick Duo, so I already have some spares for stills. 

Smaller and lighter camera bags! Very nice.  


Monday, January 30, 2017

Christmas Card 2016

For the 10th anniversary of sending out my own prints as Christmas cards, 11th card in fact, I decided to go back to the beginning and take another photo of the Alamo and HEB tree. Wanted a different viewpoint, so did some pointless research on places I might gain a higher perspective and eventually decided in October to just go downtown and see what I could find.
Across the street there's a row of three-story buildings that house all sorts of tenants, from touristy stuff on the ground floor to offices etc higher up.
The one I had in mind the whole time seemed like the best place to start, so we found a sort of general lobby entrance and barged right in.
Found stairs and started climbing, acting like we knew what we were doing.

On the top floor we came out of the stairwell to find ourselves in a long hallway with various businesses, but the one directly in front of us was the intended target from an "angles" perspective--and it turned out to be a high dollar steakhouse.
The place was seemingly deserted to I kept "boldly going" to the windows facing the Alamo and took a shot with my phone. Exactly what I had been picturing in my head for the past year. Success!!
Then we heard footsteps, and the bartender walked in and started his spiel: "Do you have reservations, or just here for drinks?" etc etc, and I told him the truth of why we were there and asked if he thought it would be okay if we came in for drinks some evening around sunset and maybe took a few pictures out their middle window. Surprisingly, he copped an attitude along the lines of having to ask the owners and suggesting that buying dinner would be the likely price of admission. Wow.
I mean, 55 cards, 55 prints, and 55 stamps is already pretty steep every year, and this ass thinks we're going to drop an extra $200 for the "privilege" of getting a decent photo?

We make the proper responses and grab a card, then head out to the hallway, where it got even weirder.
A waiter came up to us and started acting like Sylvia was Selma Hayek or someone of equal famousness, and we both got completely creeped out. You really should make sure the Ecstasy wears off before starting your shift, hombre.

So, we were still going to stick to the plan and make the shoot happen for the price of a few margaritas and beers with hopefully a less douchey bartender, after Thanksgiving when the Christmas tree in front of the Alamo is lit. On like a Tuesday evening so crowds are small, right after sunset so the sky is a nice rich blue when doing a long exposure.

Then while doing some early holiday shopping at The RIM, we remembered that we'd been meaning to check out a new multi-use commercial development across IH10 called Eilan, consisting of a swanky hotel, apartments, professional commercial spaces, high-end retail along the lines of Ruth's Chris Steakhouse (seeing a theme here).
They already had their decorations up, and I took some promising test shots with my phone.
2 nights later we were in the area shopping again and I had my "real" camera and tripod along, so we went back to Eilan.

So yeah, we both knew instantly that this was the shot we wanted. The Alamo from up high can wait. 
Quick, painless, pretty, and the cards went out a bit earlier than usual. 
And within days of posting it to Facebook, several friends posted photos of themselves in the exact same spot.......coincidentally. 

It's our fifth card photo with water in the central foreground.