Saturday, December 31, 2011

Consider Her Ways

On this final day of the year, the ant continues to forage for the last vestiges of a fruitful autumn, lest a long winter catch her unawares. "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise." Proverbs 6:6.

Keep Them Dogies Rollin'...


Friday, December 30, 2011

Work Hard, Play Hard

Well "work" may be a bit of hyperbole, but we have been working on a few tricks. Darby has "sit" down pat, and is making headway on "shake." 

But today's was an altogether new adventure...the Fultondale Dog Park. Since no one else was there, we had the run of the place. Darby almost didn't know what to do with all that unexplored space. So we ran, and sniffed, and picked out lovely sticks to carry about. It was a good time shared by all.

Then she came home and promptly killed a lizard (much like this one).

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tokina AT-X Pro 35mm f/2.8 Macro Lens Review

I have acquired a Tokina AT-X Pro 35mm f/2.8 Macro lens for my Canon Rebel T2i. The lens is among Tokina's DX line, meaning it is designed for APS-C sensor cameras; in APS-C sensors the 35mm focal length is effectively 55mm, thus becoming a "normal" lens. I was looking for a lens of this focal length to serve as a stop-gap between my Tokina AT-X Pro 12-24mm f/4 and Tamron LD Di 70-300mm f/4-5.6. I have long used my EF 50mm f/1.8, but it recently took a bad spill (here), and has never been the same. But the 50mm is a bit long for many of my purposes, so the 35mm fit the bill just perfectly.

Additionally, Tokina's 35mm is a Macro lens. A real macro lens, that magnifies down to 1:1, which at 35mm means about 5in from the subject. Because of that, when you're focusing at 1:1 with this lens, you are essentially touching the subject with the nose of the lens, because it extends as it focuses. So if you're looking to do macro work on anything that moves, this won't be the lens for you. Also you and the lens will get in the way of the light at such close working distances.

All of the photos below were hand-held, so any deficiencies in sharpness (which probably can't be determined at these small sizes anyway) are likely a result of that and most of them being shot at f/2.8. 

Canon Rebel T2i, Tokina AT-X 35mm f/2.8, 1/800s @ f/2.8, ISO 100
I have only had the lens about a day but put it through some paces this morning while waiting for my dog to play and do her morning business. The shallow depth of field at f/2.8 is enjoyable.

Canon Rebel T2i, Tokina AT-X 35mm f/2.8, 1/2000s @ f/2.8, ISO 100
But as with my other Tokina lens, the primary weakness of the 35mm is that it suffers from chromatic aberration. The photo below is a 50% crop of Darby's (my golden retriever) fur to show this effect, which isn't as bad as some. Clicking on the photo will cause it to be seen at a larger size.

Canon Rebel T2i, Tokina AT-X 35mm f/2.8, 1/2500s @ f/2.8, ISO 100 :: 50% Crop
This lens is exactly what I wanted it to be. It has Tokina's usual sturdy build. It uses Tokina's clutch mechanism for alternating between manual and auto-focus. The focus is somewhat noisy and not super-fast, but there is a limiter switch that allows to have a smaller focal range to manage. The filter thread is 52mm, which is nice in that it matches the threads on my 50mm lens. And in addition to close-up work, this is a nice general purpose lens (though I don't have any examples of that at present).

Canon Rebel T2i, Tokina AT-X 35mm f/8, 1/125s @ f/2.8, ISO 100
Canon Rebel T2i, Tokina AT-X 35mm f/2.8, 1/500s @ f/2.8, ISO 100
There are more technical reviews available for this lens, but my purpose here is to convey its value and show it in use. For my purposes, it was a better buy than the equivalent Canon EF 35mm f/2. While the Canon is an f-stop faster, it's also about $30-ish more and doesn't have the close-focus abilities. Additionally, Canon's is an old design (though well-reputed), and the Canon's build quality is inferior.

If you're interested in purchasing this lens, you can do so at Amazon, and by following this link, you can support me: Tokina 35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO DX Macro Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras.

UPDATE :: I recently discovered that this lens has a large enough image circle to work, without significant vignetting, on Canon full fame or film cameras. I am pretty excited about this, as it will me to use the lens on my Canon EOS 3. Of course, that is a pretty wide angle focal length for a macro lens and will likely only have limited usefulness in that capacity; but as a general purpose lens, it should be excellent.

Monday, December 26, 2011 Play

One of the things I received for Christmas was the newly-released GoPro HERO2 Surf Edition Camera. I got the "Surf Edition" so that I can mount it to my kayak. But between now and the time I get out on the water, I'll have to video what I can find. So for my first video, I captured Blake and Darby at play.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Way of the Sluggard

Proverbs 15:19: "The way of the sluggard is as a hedge of thorns...." That "hedge of thorns" was Darby's teeth in this case. I barely saved this guy from instant and squishy death. If he hadn't been so slimy and hard for her to get ahold of, he would have gone the way of the cricket.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Berlin! Berlin! Wir fahren nach Berlin!

I still haven't had a chance to get out and photograph anything recently, so I'm reaching back into the Europe bag one more time (at least). My favorite big city in my 2004 trip to Europe was Berlin. I was really intrigued by the city: the West looked like so many other European cities, but the East was a contrasty enigma; everything was either run-down and concrete from the Soviet Era, or sparkling and new, having been built in the previous fifteen years. Remnants of the wall that severed the city for four decades still remain, and the photo below has become my favorite from that city because of the inherent symbolism.

Canon A-1, FD 50mm f/1.4, Fuji Provia 100F (Orange Filter)
In thinking about this post, I looked up some quotes about Berlin that I could incorporate. Ultimately, I decided against that, but there were some gems that I felt compelled to share.
  • "Berlin is the testicle of the West. When I want the West to scream, I squeeze on Berlin." - Nikita Khrushchev (1963)
  • "Berlin is the newest city I have come across. Even Chicago would appear old and gray in comparison." - Mark Twain (1892) [As a side note: at that time, Chicago was a young and burgeoning metropolis, earning a reputation as the country's Second City. For an incredible read about Chicago in and around 1892, I suggest Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City.]
  • “We want that Berlin becomes richer and stay sexy.” - Mayor Klaus Wowereit, during his 2011 municipal election campaign (2011)
  • And finally, the post title, "Berlin! Berlin! Wir fahren nach Berlin!" ["Berlin! Berlin! We're going to Berlin!], was a chant during the 2006 World Cup.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Know What's Cuter than Puppy Paws?

Well probably nothing...

...unless it's a puppy chasing and capturing an inanimate object.

In case you missed it, Darby was introduced in a prior post on Thursday.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Introducing Darby

About three weeks ago, I went and picked out our Golden Retriever. At the time she was four weeks old; she wasn't ready to come home with us. So we decided to wait until I finished finals to bring her home.

Darby at 4 weeks
Well, I finished finals yesterday, so we went this morning to pick up Darby. The naming was a more arduous process than one might have imagined. But I think we landed on a good one. Darby seemed to take to us right away at the breeder's place. The ride home was nerve-wracking for all of us, but with an hour to drive, we eventually all settled in.

And now we're home and getting settled in to a new residence.

Darby at 7 Weeks

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

on to the Greek Isles

In order to keep going what appears to be a theme in European travels, due in large part to my recent inability to get out and take photographs, I present photos from the Greek isles of Santorini and Naxos.

Santorini, Greece :: Greek Orthodox Church :: Canon A-1, FD 50mm f/1.4, Fuji Provia 100F

One of the most interesting parts of our 10-week trip in 2004 occurred while we were on Naxos. All of Europe was engrossed in the EuroCup. Greece had never advanced in international competition, having previously only made the field in two - the Euro in 1980, and the World Cup in 1994. On July 4 (as it turns out, nobody else cares about American Independence Day), Greece defeated Portugal in the Finals. As the match wound down and it was apparent that Greece would win, my companions and I went to the town square. Our efforts were gratified, when Greece won and who island erupted into bodies painted white and blue, fireworks, and people hanging out of car windows and flooding the streets. It was easily the most exciting event I've ever witnessed. 

Naxos, Greece :: Ruins :: Canon A-1, FD 50mm f/1.4, Fuji Provia 100F
Naxos, Greece :: Star Trails on the Beach :: Canon A-1, FD 20mm f/2.8, Fuji Provia 100F

Each of these photos can also be found at my website: Europe.

Monday, December 12, 2011

And Now for the City of Lights

Since I posted about London the other day, I thought I ought, perhaps, to post photographs from the other European city which I have visited an equal number of times, Paris, France. Most of these will be equally touristy, and revolve largely around that city's more infamous landmarks.

Above: Arc de Triomphe
Below Left: Eiffel Tower in Fog         Below Right: Eiffel Tower across the Seine River

Above: Moulin Rouge
Below Left: Arc de Triomphe                            Below Right: Mona Lisa
Palace of Versailles, Hall of Mirrors
These and other photos from my trips to Europe can be found at my main site, here. All of the above photos were taken with a Canon A-1 and either of these lenses: FD 50mm f/1.4 or FD 20mm f/2.8.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dreaming of London

For whatever reason that people dream dreams, I dreamt last night that I was on a little vacation in London. I have been a couple of times, but it's been a while. So I thought I would post some photos that I took on visits there.


All of the above photos were shot on a Canon A-1 with either an FD 20mm f/2.8 or FD 50mm f/1.4.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Manfrotto 460MG

A short while back I posted about my bulky, overweight Bogen 3047 Pan/Tilt tripod head. I wanted to replace the handles with the smaller knobs found on the Manfrotto 460MG. To find more information I posted my question as to that possibility on, only to discover that switch was not possible. However, someone from that site did offer to trade his Manfrotto 460MG for my Bogen 3047, and I leaped at the opportunity.

So having received the Manfrotto 460MG, here are my observations. The differences in weight and bulk were immediately discernible. The 3047 weighs in at 3.4lbs, while the 460MG is a petite 15.5 ounces; that's a difference of 2.5 pounds. Even the quick-release plates on the 460MG are smaller and lighter. In the 3047's defense, it is designed to carry 16lbs (versus 6.6lbs for the 460MG), and I just don't need that sort of heft. Additionally, the 460MG has knobs rather than long handles, and its design allows it to be more compactable. 

After using it yesterday for a bit, I think the 460MG is not as smooth as the 3047, but that's a sacrifice I can live with, with the improvement in portability. (Unfortunately, the outing didn't yield any post-worthy results.) Another thing I'll miss about the 3047 is its 2-way level; the 460MG has only a bubble level, which is serviceable but not nearly as nice. That could always be remedied by purchasing a hot-shoe 3-way level.

Overall, I'm pleased and expect this tripod head to yield years of support as have its other siblings that I have owned. If you're looking to purchase this head, you can purchase it at Amazon, and accomplish two things: support me and get it at its best price.

Please feel free to leave any comments or questions you might have. I strive to make this as informative as possible.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Last of the Tomatoes

There have been many posts since April about my tomato plants and the fruit they've yielded. But those plants have finally succumbed to the elements. There is only one tomato left, so until next Spring...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Winter is a Harsh Mistress

Comes now Winter, a harsh mistress, bleeding the life and color out of all who dare withstand her.

Canon Rebel T2i, EF 50mm f/1.8 II, 1/250s
I liberated this post's title from a similarly titled Robert Heinlein novel; dissimilarly, I suppose, this blog isn't likely to win any Hugo Awards

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Noccalula Falls

In honor of the recent notoriety Noccalula Falls is receiving as a result of a trio of kayakers paddling over the waterfall on Monday (link), I have decided to post my only photo of the falls. Noccalula Falls is near Fort Payne, Alabama.

Noccalula Falls, Alabama (c.2003) :: Mamiya M645, Sekor C 45mm f/2.8