Saturday, January 20, 2018

Christmas Card 2017

Sylvia was going to the ATT Center to watch the Spurs beat the Boston Celtics so I dropped her off at The Quarry to meet our friend. 
I had brought my new camera and tripod and warm clothes, intent on doing some recon for our annual Christmas Card Photo. 
Had a few locations in mind, but also slipped into the familiar "bending like a reed in the wind" mindset--ending up in our favorite "secret" parking lot on the Riverwalk behind The Pearl. 
Started walking while shooting with my phone--taking notes, really--and it was fun because we had just gotten new Samsung Galaxy Note 8s which kick ALL kinds of ass. 

When I came onto this scene I set up the "real" stuff, and had this shot in a couple of minutes. 
Using it's built-in Wifi I sent it from the Sony A6000 to the Note 8 and took a good look at it on the big screen. Then I sent it to Sylvia, because I was heading home and she wasn't going to have to follow me around town for a couple of nights, shivering and bored.  


I expected trouble, because the search for our card picture is a tradition--something we always do together. 
But Sylvia saw it and loved it and you can't argue with success. 

The Alpha 6000 is by far the finest night/tripod camera I've ever owned. 
It's exactly what I designed in my head many many years ago. 
Love using it, and great results. 

Now to find crazy deals on some more lenses, or the deluxe lens adapter so I can use my 3 older A-mounts. They're at the bottom of the range price and quality-wise, but the fact remains that I really like the results for a lot of what I do. 

As for the Note 8, I have some things to say about it's cameras in a future post. 

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. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Galveston Island

The family took a long weekend in a rented house just off the beach.
I had never been to Galveston, and enjoyed it much.
Mostly South Texas-based folks, tho' one couple are currently stationed in Minot, North Dakota.

Our niece graduated from high school--the ceremony of which exposed us all to drenching rain and possible death by lightning. Favorite graduate's name heard: Destiny Dream Weaver.

On the second night we had our usual Monopoly game.
Last summer, despite having buildings on Boardwalk and Park Place early, nobody landed on them for hours so I eventually sold out of the game for $20 cash American.
This time I played better and had some luck, and actually won the game.

When the sun finally came out I made a 5 minute trip to the beach with my Sony F828, and shot around 10 variations of the scene below, in infrared of course:

Jumped back in the air-conditioned truck and went back to the house, knowing I had something special.
I love it when that happens, especially the part about not getting greedy and ending up with a sunburn because I kept shooting when there was probably no point.

Pretty sure I missed a good color long exposure the night before (featuring stormy clouds) because dinner ran a bit long, so by the time I went to the beach it was too dark.

On the last full day a few of us went to the restored part of downtown that caters to upscale visitors.
Shot this one with my phone:

I'm weird, shooting with a 13 year old camera--in infrared no less--OR just using my Samsung S5.
The plan is to change this up in the near future and get something approaching a current mirrorless so I'm excited to shoot inconvenient color and night photos again.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Last Day--Back To Breckenridge

A few of us went back to town for more shopping--mainly grabbing stuff we should have bought two days earlier--and to scout the menu at the restaurant we were going to that night. (It was fancy and great).

I brought the Sony F828 with me this time, as it was a clear sunny day that would be perfect for infrared-only black and white photography.

A terrific time was had by all. 

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Snowmobiles Over The Continental Divide

Finally, the big day!!
We had made a reservation with Good Times Adventures for a two hour tour, and luckily this day featured the very best weather of our entire vacation.
Cold as hell (10 below zero?) but sunny and clear with lots of fresh snow to make everything pretty.

I decided that their loaner boots were better than mine, but all the rest of my gear was fine. Turned out that the heated footwells on our machines made it a moot point.

Now for some contrast:
 This is what the pair of us rode in March 2013 on our Lake Tahoe trip. Terrific fun, but...

 For 2016 we each had our own one of these.
Won't bore you with the specs, but wow! And they were brand new.
Also, because this was Colorado and not California, the throttle didn't have a difficult to operate weasel-lawyer "safety" device that sucked all the fun out of it and sapped your concentration. California sucks, by the way.

One early favorite part of this tour was that after a familiarization cruise through the woods, we got to a big open field with what can only be described as an oval track. Some of the others didn't quite get it, but me and Lisa sure did. I wound that sucker up and flew, passing on the inside and outside a few times and grinning ear to eel. Pretty sure that had the track been bigger I could have hit 60mph or more.
What a rush!
Time for a quick selfie.

Then it was time to get into the meat of the tour--onward and upward to the Continental Divide!

Single file up, sometimes on impossibly narrow trails through the pines, and God was it beautiful!
The sections on roads or across fields were also fun, because you could gawk without getting croaked.
(BTW, our guide was Ivan from Argentina, and he knows almost as much about Ginobili as we do, being their national hero and all).

Up, up, up we went, until the trail spit us out into another world, at around 12,500 feet above sea level .
This is Mt. Guyot, and the slope to the left drains springtime snowmelt waters to the west, while a few meters to the right etc etc. (When I peed behind a tree, I made sure to be on OUR side. California got enough of my whiz on the Tahoe trip).

To me, the divide was more moving than some invisible thing like a border or the equator. After climbing a mountain range, it's very stirring to see and know that everything really does change. Much like the Mississippi River which I've crossed MANY times, or reaching another continent separated by an ocean.
It was a big event in my life--thinking about how it must have felt to all the pioneers hundreds of years ago.

We got to spend a decent amount of time up there--enough for my aforementioned whiz, where I sank into the snow up to my junk and had a vision of needing help to get out--and for pictures and videos.

Remembering photo tips from many years ago, I was glad I had set my phone's camera to +1.5 EV overexposure, because this is almost exactly how I remember it looked up there.

Our trip down was every bit as much fun as the way up.

The scenery was beautiful and my heart was soaring.
One of the very best days of my entire life.