Sunday, October 16, 2011

Say Hello to my Little Friend !! (Al Pacino - Scarface)

Well made that jump !
Into the world of the big guns, quality and precision manufacturing, along with a pound of magnesium frame combined with another 1.5lbs of Canon 4L gooey goodness.

Picked up a Canon 5D.

Originallyreleased in 2005, and then later followed up by the dream machine the Canon 5D Mark II. This 12.5mpix Full Frame piece of happiness has made it into my hands.

Have to love Kijiji !!
This 5D came with the Canon 24-105mm 4L IS USM lens, if anything this purchase was about that lens, just to bad it had a camera attached to it.

L series lenses are the lens of choice when it comes to Canon. This is their premiere lineup of lens, high quality glass and combined with IS (Image Stabilizer) and very fast focus, makes it a real addition to the lineup.

It is just over 3 pounds of camera happiness, without the grip installed ! Its hefty and feels ultra solid in the hands.

And noticeably bigger when compared side by side the Canon T1i.

I could have easily gone out and blown $4000 on this setup by picking up the new Mark II and the same lens, but why when there are so many good used camera's on the market for a fraction of the price.
This one is no exception, forget the pixel count or the lack of a good screen on the back, this camera is about taking pictures, not video, not live shooting like a point and shoot. Setup it up wrong and it will deceive you, do it right and the results will come.

And of course it came with, wait for it.......another freaking camera bag !!
Holding it all is a Lowepro Classified 200 AW - just what i needed another big camera bag to haul stuff around in. yikes.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Rebuilding of the Square

If you recall from past post on Aug 20th, 2011 I was taking my first (and maybe only plunge) into wedding photography.  Out in Dutton area, west of London, just as we finished taking the last picture , the rain started, and by the time we got back to the reception area it was pouring solid. End of the worl d kinda rain.

That was only a small hint of the storm system that was getting ready to roll in from the north across Lake Huron and pummel the town of Goderich, Ontario , about an hour north of London.

View Larger Map

Over the last now 15 years of living in Southern Ontario, I have either driven through or spent a day in Goderich. Sat at the outdoor patio of the Bedford Hotel, located on The Square of downtown. The Square surrounds the Municipal Courthouse and was home to many festivals and open air markets.

Sorry had to borrow an image of The Square from the web -courtesy of (thank you). take note of how many trees surround this photo of the old court house, not much was differnet when i had visited in the past.

On Aug 21st , 2011 that all changed when at aprox. 4pm a tornado touched down in Goderich, causing severe damage to local business, homes and all but clearing every tree around The Square.

Here is my pic of The Square on Sunday Oct 10th, 2011 - there are maybe 3 trees left on the far side of the courthouse, mostly protected by the building.

The reason I had traveled there on Sunday was that the previous night I went out to take pics for one of many "Rebuilding the Square" events being held to give aid to the town of Goderich in the spirit of rebuilding this area. Hopefully back to some of it former glory, though as we know, will be some time before trees cover that space again and offer the shade they once did.

A 133yr old church after the roof was torn off .
From the looks of it they are trying to restore it, the trusses were still intact and stored on the ground while they resolve the structural issues.

The event I attended was in the town of Exeter, about half way to Goderich along highway 4, at the South Huron Recreational Centre.  My interest was that Hurton Merv and the boys would be out playing a few numbers along with a few other local bands, so more exposure for me and chance to meet some new people.

Was a good time, between local highschool, big band, jazz band and rock acts there was quite a spread of music. Unfortunatley attendance was low, though they had sold over 500 tickets and made $3k on silent auction. Not bad for a small town on a Saturday night of Thanksgiving weekend.

Of course Merv was out making friends as only Merv can do. What is it with singers in rock bands ???

Booze Hounds got things started up after the easy listening start to the night. High Energy non-stop barrage. I dont think they had one break between tunes.  Great stuff !!

Followed up by Hurtin Merv and the Boys doing what they do best.  They know how to get people out on the dance floor and keep them there.

Mr Terry , White Strat  in hand cutting through.

After a good set, Sarah Todgham joined them onstage for a few numbers and then sang a few solo songs.

Next up Bender, great players , big sound. Look forward to hearing them in smaller place that is not so much the empty gym sound that was going on that night.

Was thinking as I started writing in here just now, that most of us that were bred, born and lived in Canada all our life. dont really know or have experienced any natural disaster to this magnitude. We live in fairly dense communities well sheltered from it all.
Not saying we don't have it happen as anyone living on the East or West Coasts will tell you. Just we don't experience this in the Montreal or Toronto's of Canada.  OK the occasional ice storm knocks out the power or someone flips a switch in the USA and we survive for 3-4 days with no power (remember that blackout).  i have lived most of my adult life in Northern and Southern Ontario, nothing happens here. It snows to hard stay home. 

So next time your sitting in your home while it rains or snows outside, in comfy London,ON or Sudbury,ON, Toronto or Shippenville,PA and you dont worry about what will happen next, think about those people that live in areas that get hit all the time.   Southern US states that get pummeled by Hurricanes and Tornado's.  The Philippines in the midst of non-stop typhoons for last few weeks. The flooding that happens in Southern China every year, washing away roads,towns and people. Japan !!

I ended my time in Goderich by going down to the beach area on Lake Huron, all redeveloped in the last few years and really nice.  Plenty of parking, great play areas and the most spectacular sunsets.

Of course took the usual array of pics as the sun set down over Lake Huron.

And then out of no where a guy poling himself along the shoreline, riding some sort of flat board maybe a big surf board.

Maybe something he does every day , who knows.
Struck me that considering whats happened to Goderich this year (and other places around the world) how life had returned to some what normal, people doing what they always do, out walking, sitting on the benches, sitting in the cars, watching that sun set, one more time on the day.

Was a calm moment on the water. A calm moment watching him go by.

A very lucky moment to catch him in the sun that way.  my pic of the year so far.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Quest for the Perfect Bag

For those of you that have dived into the wonderful world of camera's you know that there is an endless world of fun things to add to your ever growing arsenal of gear.

If you dont care about this stuff , please dont read haha

And yes it is endless.  I will rant a little about camera gear, why we buy what we buy and ultimately talk about bags haha

Once you step into the world of DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera's it is world of options, lens, flashes, gizmo's, filters, cables, mounts, memory, software........ and something to hold it all in when your out and about.

If you have a camera and a bag to hold it in and happy , please dont read any further haha

Of the photographers I know, they all have multiple camera bags sitting in the closet. What worked yesterday wont work today.

Get something to small and your fighting to get the camera and that new lens in there.
The opposite is your find yourself carrying around a duffel bag full of stuff , most of which never sees the light of day.

Hence the quest for The Perfect Bag.

I will share a few of the ones that have come through my door and also my way of doing things.

First is, 99% of the time my camera is out and ready to take pics.  Hangs on my shoulder, sits in my lap, arms length away. Its powered up and ready, though in standby mode to save the batteries.
So my camera bag is not about carrying the camera, though i need that functionality at times.

As a sidebar to finding the Perfect Bag, I will mention straps. First thing if you own a DSLR camera, first thing to do is get rid of the strap that comes with it. If anything it will give you neck pain the moment you put the camera on. And after a day of that you find yourself regretting the moment you didn't buy that handy little Canon G11 that fits in your pocket.

Check out the Fast Access Strap by Matin, available at Vistek, you can sling it over one shoulder and the handy neoprene strap doesnt slip off (unlike the existing strap with the camera)  and can also be worn as a Sling strap. Any pics you see of me with camera are with that strap, camera hangs at just the right length and easy to use. For reference I also have an R-Strap though did not find the pad as good as the Fast Access.

Anyways back to bags.
I have different bags for different uses. But the one use that was the hardest for to find a bag was when traveling. I had a Lowepro Sling bag 200 - great bag , very comfortable, but limited to holding camera gear. No room for personal items. So it gets used for those, need gear and comfort type jobs and access to the vehicle for other stuff.   And it screams Camera Bag !! steal me

  Have a Tenba Large Messenger bag that is both camera and laptop bag. Great bag, durable , 5yr warranty (they already replaced the strap for me under warranty). Though add the camera insert and its like hauling around a carry-on suitcase. and not very practical though as a laptop bag and holder of work related, with some camera extras it does the job. Still  my daily carry bag and after 2yrs still going strong aside from the metal clips wearing out on the strap. The Bing wants to wash it, so I know have to keep a close eye on it and out of her hands and soap. Am sorry but the dirt and grime of the world (or part of it) is on that bag !!

Last year before China, I tried a Kata Sling Bag, well made , great reviews but go figure , most of what i carry wont fit in it, and of course no real room for personal items. And like the Lowepro, seems kind of big to haul around when out and about.

Then i figured out part of my problem.
Stop carrying around so much stuff , no need for it. Focus on taking pictures (focus thats funny) forget about the gear. Take what you really need not what you might want handy.
Do  I carry a big flash with me everywhere ? No. Why? Most people dont care, they want that spur of the moment pic, dont care about quality etc. All about the moment.

What I am saying is plan a little. Where am I going ? What kind of pics am I taking ? What are those pics being used for ?

My camera has the Canon EF-S 17-85mm lens mounted at all times. Kinda like a Swiss Army knife for the camera. Does most things pretty good. And reviews and what not aside, there is some inherent quality built into these products (Made in Japan by the way) . This lens has now been to China and Spain and 90% of my pictures are taken with that. Sure I would love the Canon EF 24-105 F4 L series lens but hey thats $1600 plus taxes.

Ok so camera and lens hanging from my shoulder and now i needed something to hang on the other side.
After 2 days at Henrys Photo with my bag of stuff with me, I found my goto bag for day-day going out.  The reason I spent so much time was that, you really need to take your camera and goodies to a store, put it in various bags, try it on. How  does it feel ? Is there room for my stuff ? How will I feel after lugging this around for the day ?

Now for the faint of heart, this stuff is not cheap ! You will be astonished at the prices. Yes you can get inexpensive bags, they serve their purpose , I have some.  Even go look through Kijiji, EBAY or local classifieds you will find someone unloading a bag for a good price. They are searching to ha.

After making the Sales Girl at Henry's patiently pull down bags, blah blah about the benefits etc, I chose the Think Tank Retrospective 5.  She tried to talk me into the 10, much larger version, but really i didnt need another suitcase to carry around.

Small so it limits me in my choices when deciding what to bring. What do i really need. For reference I can easily pack everything you see in that bag.

Sigma 70-200mm lens, Canon Flash, Canon 50mm f1.4, spare batteries for everything, mobile, sunglasses, wallet, passport (it has nice inside zippered pockets to keep the thieves away), extra memory. Pull out that Canon 50mm and you have room for a small water bottle. The bag comes with a Life Time Warranty , rain hood, and does not say Camera Bag to loud.

That setup lets me go out and do outdoor events, bar bands, even someones house party, though i might swap out the Sigma 7-200 f/2.8 for the Sigma 10-20mm wide angle.

You ask , Doug what about your usual array of stuff you bring along ?  Well the idea is that I carry most of it in my Carry On bag when I travel, and then pick and choose what i need for that day or destination and load up this bag. Things get left in hotel rooms while I am out.When its plane time , all goes in the Carry-on and I then use my small bag to carry the camera.

The Canon XTI and Sigma 18-55 f/2.8 step in to model for carry on mode.

Is this bag inexpensive ? NO its not at all. Does it work ? YES

What I am saying is think about what you are buying and why, be a bag, lens or new camera body. Kijiji classifieds online is full of people that bought something that they really didn't need or even know how to use (expensive cameras do not make great pictures). I have resisted upgrading my camera body (Canon T1i) for that reason. I dont think my picture taking abilities are even near justifying that expense. Though when I do I know that what I have will work with it.

If your wondering how i take these pictures, I use one flash, simple white umbrella, piece of Dollarama white poster board and a piece of white foam core (used to bounce some light in the bottom of the bag)

And you would be surprised but a lot of product photography is done in a very similar way. Cheap easy and works.

Tested the bag this past weekend at a Charity event for Goderich rebuilding fund, held at the South Huron Rec Centre. more on that later.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

All Over - Back Home

Wrote this headed home, after a few sleepless nights as we tried to soak up as much of Barcelona as humanly possible.

Ok after 8 days of Trade show and then 3 days of unwinding in Barcelona its time to head home.
Hard leaving days of +26c and wonderful cool nights to be back in Canada at 10c – yippee
The show itself was the usual array of big machinery, lights, sounds , big money spent dazzling potential customers to drop that next $500k on the latest and greatest textile machine.

Every morning for the 8 days , the people were lined up waiting to get access. The show started everyday at 10am and ended around 19:00 (well at least for us)

Just an example, of one of the booths. This particular booth was made up of a wire frame with a nylon covering so they can get that nice shape. This all to show off the latest and greatest machine they were offering up to potential clientele.

Right next to us was an Italian company showing off a Stenter Frame all painted up like some Ferrari.

The stenter is used to set the width of a piece of fabric by slowy stretching it width wise and then heat setting.
The cool stuff are the advancements made on computer control , like this extra large embroidery machine, that also does sequin application.

Rope braiding machine, the rope being braided was about 3” thick when all done , I had to hold the camera up high over the edge of the barrier to get this shot. Just massic and real cool to see in action.
The rope wound up on a 6ft spool at the end of it all.

First hotel was Tryp Aureoporta Barcelona, nice looking hotel , efficient but really not the greatest, water temperature was always an issue and the internet was so bad we never bothered using it again. Oh and that internet cost 8euro/24hrs .

  Every morning we took the same bus at the same time, eventually you start to stop looking at scenery and get closer looks at things you pass on the road. Like the large billboards advertising a local Escort Service.

The Bar worked, so a few nights were spent sitting in the main area, waiting for tomorrow.
Then show was over and we were headed into the center of the city. Our Hotel of choice being the Hotel Gran Via. Not overly expensive, fast internet (a requirement) hot shower, ok beds, and walking distance from everything. 
ok so we are sandwiched between a costume store and a Bingo Hall, but its home for a few nights.
This is a view up the main staircase.

And we walked  !!!! Our estimate is that we walked over 20kms for our times in the city, we walked to the beach when we did and back home. The fun part is you see things that you don't normally see on the bus or in a taxi. Like this appliance/electronics store selling the SMEG brand of fridges. 

Another thing about walking is having that time to watch people. One thing i noticed here were the couples , young and old, out walking, holding hands, sitting on benches. Caught these two while taking the long way home along the beach area in Barcolenta. Light was fading fast so B/W worked best.

Every where you turn here there is some building that you go oohh aahh over, every corner and you spot something different. 

One thing is obvious, where very other city out there has torn down old to make new and shiny, Barcelona has managed to fit it all in. Original facades remain while windows and doors have been made to fit. So the comforts of modern life have been adapted into this city.
Easy to find some modern high tech building sandwiched between the old, because as we know space in large cities is at a premium so you build where you can.
Our first night out after the show ended (Thursday) was our blow out. Great diner at the Salamanca Restaurant, down by the water, near the marina. Awesome place, busy, hectic, great service awesome food.  We got home at 7am the next morning ! sorry cant show pictures from that night haha. 
Hey we are on free days now , after being woken up by house keeping at 9am, few Tylenol, shower and we were out the door. No time for sleep when your in one of the cool cities of the world.
First stop was a trip to the beach to relax after a night out nuttiness.  
Beaches here and this one on the south side of the city are clothing optional, yes that’s right you can hang it out for the world to see if you so desire. As did “naked man” (as we called him) older guy , well tanned , wearing a smile, sandals and his morning paper on his arm , looking for a place to sit and read his paper. Sorry no pics, have to have some sense of privacy on the beach haha. Though yes if you were wondering he was circumcised haha.
Lots of topless, lots of bum.
After a day on the beach and some recovery , it was out for another great meal, more wine (imagine)

One thing you notice here, people enjoy good food and good wine. Restaurants are busy. On most streets you could find a few café’s , restaurants, place for a coffee and some tapas (Scooby snacks) or a full blow meal. There are a few ‘chain’ restaurants but really why bother when there is so much to offer out on the street. Tourism is big here so lots of support for that sort of thing.
Next day out again
Ok some fun, we happened to be at Starbucks getting our fix, and from the second level and through the windows and banister there was this girl with her friends, obviously well dressed, quite stunning. Reminds me of someone I know in PA.  So took a few pics, why not.

Speaking of Starbucks, the series, Where is Josh and Starbucks pic of the day.
So we wandered down the streets of Barcelona, headed to the beach area once again, and while going thru the back alleys of older Barcelona, we happened upon a church. Wedding party out front, and the ceremony just wrapping up inside. So in the doors we went. Crazy awesome old church.

Closer shot of the alter area . You can actually see the couple up there finishing the ceremony.

And who do we spot outside !!  Well the well dressed girl from Starbucks earlier on.

Took me 5 minutes to get that, shot as I was continually blocked by one person or another.
The beach area itself has some great buildings, of course modern from what you usually see up in the city.

Back end of the Casino and the what looks like a giant fish all done in a bronze material.

And if your feeling a little tight from the stress of life or whatever your doing, 5euro gets you a “massagy” on the beach from one of the asian girls (I  say girls loosely) they spent the whole time asking “massagy, senor massage”

Ok a day of bake under the sun complete, another great meal in the planning.
So we decided why not and headed back to our favourite restaurant the Salamanca for another couple of hours of wine and food.
This time we were actually sat near the entrance off the covered walkway, watching tourists come in to see the fresh fish and shellfish layed out.

When ever English speaking people came to view the menu and the big guy tried to talk them in , I turned and added my two cents. This turned into the fun, finally getting up and talking with people and getting them in the door ! That was worth two bottles of Grand Torres wine on the table.
My biggest accomplishment was getting four ladies from Leeds in the UK to take a table. We ended up at their table and then going out to the bars close by. 

All part of what we do here at Dunline, "People Helping People" haha

They flew down for the weekend , a 2 hour flight from home. This seems to be a pretty common thing here in Europe , people head out for the weekend on a cheap short flight. A few nights ago we had a couple from Copenhagen join for the festivities, was the same for them. Most have been here a few times, come down for sun, food and fun.
Of course there are always Girls With Camera’s out and about.

Morning came quick when we got back to our hotel at 6am for some sleep !!
Last day out for touring !
No visit to Barcelona is complete without a visit to Gaudi’s Apartment building the  Casa Batllo

Quite the place, you get to go in for a few dollars, enter through the center courtyard 
Then take an elevator up to the top , for a view of his design and the city around you.

A look down the centre courtyard from above.

Of course lots of tourists up there taking pics, like the Japanese School girls, who then proceeded to hand over Iphones and camera's to get their picture taken.

When you exit you go down some stairs into the museum part of the building, this is where you learn how he made his designs, using shapes and structures from nature to guide him. He was also a great ergonomist, his designs for chairs and simple handles shown in how they fit the human form and hand.
Then off for some Scooby snacks and relaxing.
Of course more pictures of girls with Camera’s. this particular area is home to a lot of famous shops,Cartier, Luois Vitton etc so you can imagine most of the photographies here were women haha

Back to hotel to freshen up and then out for diner and a night visit to La Sangria Familia.
First the older side

You don’t realize the difference between old stone work and new cast concrete buiding style being used on the nwer side of the building till you see it lit up at night.

Back to the hotel !! All done, tired , overfed ready to head home.
I would recommend Barcelona to anyone, lots to see, lots of ways to relax and enjoy the city. People are friendly (love the tourists) life is pretty calm here. The only stumbling block is the cost ! Life is expensive here, a bottle of good wine is around  15-20euro – that’s $20 - $28 canadian. A simple Scooby snack and some Coke Zero’s will run you $40-$60ca Though life is slower more relaxed, people go out late at night here. Where in London,Ontario most people have eaten by 9 , Barcelona life is just starting. Restaurants were packed at 10:30pm. Bars don’t open till 11pm and close at 4am on weekdays. 7 Mojitos with lots of Rum will run you $70ca But then cab fair home is cheap and only one cab service here so price is standard across the city.
There also plenty of bike stands to rent a bycicle or a scooter and for something different a Go Car - good for two people, has GPS to guide you to historic sites and when you arrive, plays some audio description.

Worse part was getting to the airport to realize there is nothing to see at the gates for Air Canada ! We could only look below us to see all the great Duty Free Shops and food places. Disappointing but our very last meal in Barcelona was at MacDonalds – yikes
This place is definitely worth another visit just to get to the places there was no time for.

OK back to reality of the office, the desk, timetable, clean the apartment , get groceries and await the arrival of The Bing from China.