Owned by my laptop

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

– Albert Einstein

I know my HP laptop’s screen is unreliable and that the slightest change in viewing angle results in a shift in contrast and yet, out of laziness, I keep trying to edit photos on it anyway. I had been using an image that I knew was underexposed as my laptop background in the idea that if I’m viewing the screen correctly, the image will look underexposed. While this works, I have to be seated at my desk with my chair at a certain height. etc. etc. etc. It was just dumb and isn’t a good substitute for a decent screen. With my ADD, I kept forgetting that I needed to adjust the angle of the screen or that I needed to be sitting at my desk for it to work properly. I could just use my crt monitor hooked to the vga out and be done with it, but I carry the laptop all over the house as it has taken over the roll of tv and entertainment in our house. That being the case, I think it’s time for a desktop. Let’s hope Santa is in a giving mood this yr.


I’ve been zoom framed

“Zooms are popular and can be useful tools, though I find that primes often help photographers hone their vision especially when learning. It forces you to move to frame, rather than zoom to frame.”

This is a quote by Paul Gero that I pulled from his guest post on  His article is a good read, but this one quote really got me thinking that I zoom to frame way too much.  When I visualize an image I do think about what focal length to use, but when I’m “in the thick of it” I don’t take it into conscious consideration other than wide angle distortion.  I do know in general what different focal lengths do to the foregrounds and backgrounds, but I rarely really think about it.  While I also know some of those choices are automatic, I should still be making an actual decision about it.  I think I will take Mr. Gero’s great advice and use my zoom as if it were a prime for a little while.  Maybe after that I’ll make a few more actual decisions instead of just zoom framing.  As a side note, I also use alliteration more than I should.


Feedback or just noise?

? drawn with water on an envelope cause I didn't have a pen?

Q: Are all responses good whether they are negative or positive?

A: What is the feedback for?  Do you need only positive reviews?  Will it help you grow at what it is that you are doing?

Q: Should you always consider the source or compare your work to the person giving the feedback?

A: Do you trust this person?  Have they given good advice to others?  Would you expect others to do the same to you?

Q: Should you just ignore everyone and move on?

A: Can you let go?  Can you do your own thing with no input?  Should you?

Q: Can you write a post that is only made up of questions?

A: Well can you? Should you?

Quotes Text

M. Kenna

“One has to constantly practice even if it doesn’t seem that interesting”

This is a quick quote from Michael Kenna speaking of the benefits of taking photographs daily pulled from Photography Monthly’s podcast. Kenna’s interview is a good listen as you don’t often hear the point of view of a well publicized fine print artists and he’s one of the best.

Text Tips

Quick Check, Slow Read

Nikon D700

Almost all of the camera equipment I have ever owned was purchased used. While this isn’t something to be proud of, I do like to think I know a thing or two about cameras and lenses. I have run into the occasional problems with lenses, but I made sure I had the option to return them if they had issues. I have also purchased a few lenses and cameras from people on Craigslist as well and as long as you know what you’re getting and tried it out when you made the purchase, you should be covered. There are a few things that I always check and I’m putting them up here in the hope that you might find some of it useful.

Camera Check
There’s not much that can go wrong with a DSLR camera that you can’t check in just a few minutes other than maybe a future shutter failure. The absolute first thing I do when I get a new to me camera is check the battery compartment for corrosion. Corrosion can be a sign of many things and if you’re planning on using the camera on a daily basis it’s best to keep your distance. Now, does the camera power on? You might ask, why would I not just turn it on first, then check the battery compartment? Sometimes battery doors can get wonky or battery springs can get loose and I like the check the compartment first so that I know I just put the battery back in the camera myself and it required no additional effort or weirdness. The rest of the checks I’ll just put below in list format.

2. Use your own memory card and make sure it works in the camera.

3. Check all the terminals and look for bent pins or junk stuck in them.

4. Check the camera’s lens mount (look for brassing or scratches) and be sure that the mirror box looks clean (no actual dirt or water spots).

5. Use you own lens, Does the camera recognize it?

6. Does the shutter work and sound OK?

7. If the camera can do multiple frames per second, test it and make sure it will. If the shutter is dying, sometimes you can actually hear the frames get slower and it will affect the exposure.

8. Does changing the aperture and shutter speed actually change the exposure?

9. Check that all the modes on the dial work as they are supposed to.

10. Does the LCD Screen work?

11. If the camera has live view or video, be sure that they work as well.

12. Do all the buttons and dials work?

13. Test the hotshoe (they can get burn out and not function).

14. If the camera has a pop up flash, check that as well.

15. If the camera can do remote IR flash, check that as well if possible.

16. You would have already done this by now and it almost goes without saying, but be sure the viewfinder looks good (clean) and that when using spot metering, the meter actually changes based on the scene.

17. Take one completely black (underexposed) and one white (overexposed) frame. View them on the LCD and look for dead pixels on the LCD and on the sensor.

18. Compose a picture, select a focus point and AF on it and capture it. Play back the images and check that your focus point is in fact, in focus. Be sure to do this with a lens you already trust.

19. If the camera has a diopter control wheel, be sure that it works. Set it up correctly for your eyes, select a focus point and take a manually focused capture. Check playback to confirm your focus point is in focus.

20. If the camera says it comes with all the accessories, check that it did. Most manuals list exactly what is included with them all the way down to the quick start guide.

21. Last but not completely least, be sure the battery charger works!

22. It depends on if you care or not, but sure what you’re buying is for the US market. If it’s not, the manufacturer’s service facilities won’t work on it. That’s not to say that there aren’t other places that can, just be sure you know that going in.

Lens Check

1. Look at the front and rear lens elements. Are there any scratches? Angle the glass towards a light and look at the reflection. Are there any marks or swirls in the lens’ coating?

2. This one is kind of up for debate, but hold the lens towards a light source and look through it. Is there dust or fungus on any of the inner elements? While some dust is normal on almost all lenses, fungus is not. Fungus is a deal breaker for me because it etches the glass and can never be fully removed without a re-polishing. Dust on the other hand isn’t something I worry about unless the seller said the lens had just had a fresh cleaning or is supposed to be new. A film can also be present on older lenses. If it’s supposed to be a clean lens, make sure there isn’t a lightly frosted look to the inner glass as it will affect the image quality.

3. Check the lens mount for brassing. While brassing isn’t a deal killer, again, if the seller said in like new condition, be sure that it is.

4. Check the lens terminals. Make sure the pins aren’t loose and that it doesn’t look like someone did a crappy repair job.

5. Mount the lens to the camera. Check to see that there’s very little play between the camera mount and lens mount. Also make sure the camera doesn’t show any kind of error message when moving the lens and holding the shutter half way down.

6. Does the lens AF? Make sure it does.

7. Does the lens focus to infinity and up close through the entire zoom range.

8. If the lens has a focus scale, check for cracks in the plastic. Then check that the scale matches what the lens is doing (i.e. if you’re focused to infinity be sure the scale shows infinity).

9. Use AF and select a focus point; take a picture. Review the picture and check focus. If your camera works with every other lens you’ve mounted on it, but not with this one; there’s a problem.

10. Use manual focus and be sure it’s smooth; if it catches, there could be a problem. The same goes for the zoom; If it catches, there could be a problem.

11. Check that the filter threads have no flat spots and that a filter will screw into them

12. If the lens has IS and other switches, be sure these features work. On most image stabilized lenses, you can hear the IS motor working.

13. If the lens is supposed to have full time manual focus override, be sure that it works.

14. Set the lens to infinity focus and focus on something up close. Does the lens AF as fast as it’s supposed to? Different lenses will have different focusing speeds, but knowing how slow or fast it should be is important. If it’s horribly slow and it’s supposed to be lightning quick, there’s a problem.

15. Check the lens grips and be sure they’re snug. While loose grips are pretty common on older lenses, they are normally cheap and easy to replace. If it’s a known problem before you buy the lens, be sure that you can get a replacement and that they’re not discontinued. While this isn’t a huge deal, I’d hate to use rubber bands on a lens I just paid through the nose for.

16. Check the outer condition of the lens. If the lens is supposed to be new, check that the lettering isn’t starting to wear off and that there aren’t scuffs in the paint.

17. To get real picky, look at the screws that hold the lens together. Professionals use the correct screw driver sizes so that there’s very little damage to the screw heads. If the lens screws are all mauled up or mis-matched, it might make me think twice. If it’s a new lens, then that’s a no go.

18. Do a shake test. No, i mean give the lens a little shake. Does anything rattle? If it does, what is it and where is it?

Most of all, know what you’re buying before you buy it. All newer DSLR camera manuals should be available online for free download from their manufacturer. Read through the manual before you get the camera so you know that it is the camera you want and how the features work. Know the life expectancy of the shutter (normally in the manufacturer’s specs) and how much it cost to repair if you’re buying a well used camera. There are also many many places that does lens reviews. Read over those reviews as they sometimes list common problems to look out for on used equipment. Be an informed buyer and it might save you some trouble in the long run.


I’m working on it

I haven’t posted up in quite some time now and it’s not because I don’t have ideas, I just haven’t found a way to present them effectively. My wife and I were talking the other day (go figure right?) and she said something that I hadn’t really thought about. I tend to post “articles” more so than blog posts. I know these can be one in the same, but for some reason when I think of things I want to post, they all turn into magazine pieces. I know part of my problem is that I don’t really have any personal projects because I spend most of my time playing with my 8 month old baby boy; but that’s not really a problem for anything else other than this blog =). I will have a few more large informative posts soon, but I want to start making smaller posts based on more daily photography related quotes and insights. I read a lot of photo related information, but never write anything down only to see the same information later and be like “I was going to do that last year”. To try and stave off this redundancy, I think blog posts are the key.


Nikon D700 vs Canon 5D ii

5D ii

This is not going to be the definitive be all end all this is what I should choose even if I don’t have the money to buy either article, but I have learned enough about these cameras from using them to give an opinion.  First off, I went 5D ii for the video alone.  To me, having a baby meant that I needed video to capture some of those moments that you never get back once they’ve grown just a month older. When I bought my first DSLR, I went with Canon; so coming back really wasn’t a big deal for me.  Here are a few of the pros and cons of both cameras that I have come across:

Canon 5D ii


1.  High quality video even in low light (even 640×480 looks great)

2.   Since Canon cameras have a shorter flange to sensor distance, there are many many options when it comes to using older manual focus lenses.

3.  Canon color ( no matter the lens, straight out of the camera Canon looks great to me)

4.  The availability and cost of professional lenses (weather sealing just a bonus)

5.  Worked as a usb drive as soon as I plugged it in


1.  Focus points and ease of use in selecting a new focus point.  If you’re an AF-on focusing button person who focuses then composes then it’s not a big deal.

2.  Viewfinder, it could just be me, but it seems harder to pay attention to the corners of the frame without having your eye jammed into the back of the camera.

3.  Button layout isn’t as user friendly as the D700.  With the 5D, when you adjust ISO you have to really pay attention to the light meter before you press the shutter and know how many more stops of light you need before you hit the ISO button because the viewfinder won’t show you the changes live like the D700.  The location of the on / off switch is a pain too.

4.  Focus point confirmation is just a beep and you need a chip to get that confirmation beep from mf lenses

Nikon D700


1.   AF points and ease of selection.  Also how the focus point you’re using stays lit up at all times

2.   Button layout with almost everything easily changeable without taking your eye from the viewfinder.  Also the feel of the camera in hand is great

3.  When adjusting ISO, it displays the changes in metering live,  just one less thing to think about

4.  Wireless TTL and a cheap SB-600 go a long way

5.  Focusing with a manual focus lens is so easy it should be illegal.  It tells you which direction you are off by in the viewfinder


1.  I could never get the color rendered so that it would display correctly in PS if I just save the image instead of using “Save for web”.  Also, windows preview never displayed the colors just right either.  It was always off.  If I used save for web, never had a problem, but the exif is stripped from the image.  There may have been some way to fix this, but I never managed figured it out.

2.  Viewfinder…You’d think it would be in the pro since It seems easier to look through than the 5d, but it’s got 3% less coverage.  On top of that, the D300 has a 100% viewfinder that’s top notch; why couldn’t they carry that over?  I know Nikon has it’s reasons (price or pop-up flash), but- oh well

3.  Never worked as a usb drive on PC when the D300 did. another go-figure moment

4.  No IR remote.  I know it’s a cheap fix, but come on!

5.  Not as many pro lens choices as Canon.  We could argue about it, but it’s a fact



The real tests are how does the camera feel in your hands, how easy do you find it to use, and what are you going to be shooting?  Does either company offer a specific advantage in pricing or options? (like remote shooting software being included with Canon’s DSLR’s)  Are there certain types of lenses that one company offers that you want to use that aren’t available anywhere else?  The best thing to do is try one for yourself before you buy.  Finding that your hand cramps because the grip is too big or not being able to see through the viewfinder with your glasses on is a real crapper after you’ve already bought the camera.


Attempting to Fail


I don’t really have a lot of projects and diy attempts. Part of that is due to the fact that if I find something I want to do, I search forever trying to find the perfect way to do it before I ever make my first move. This leads to me doing nothing more often than not; so I’m going to try and make it a goal to attempt more diy / projects and post about it even if it doesn’t work or I don’t like it. Can you call it success if there was never a chance of failure?


Yeah …..I might be full of Crap.

That whole “it’s March” post….well….I….yeah….turns out it might have been BS as my D300 is up for sale due to a recent purchase. I know right? When a good deal comes along I have a real hard time passing it up. That is why I currently have a D700 sitting on my coffee table and own some of the lenses I do. Now I don’t just buy anything because it’s a good deal. If I find what I’m semi-kinda looking for at a really good price then that’s when I buy. Most people call that shopping. The thing is, I always tell myself I’m not in the market for it even when I’m looking. It doesn’t make a lot of sense when I actually think about it, but..what ev. My wife knows what I’m doing and just rolls her eyes though because she knows that part of what I enjoy about photography is trying new gear. It doesn’t actually have to be brand new as long as it’s new to me. I honestly believe that all photographers enjoy gear hunting. I know some will say that the camera is a just a tool and it doesn’t matter what kind you have as long as it takes a picture and I can agree with that halfheartedly. But I have also been told that tools are what allow you to do your job and not having good ones really isn’t an option. Thereby, having good tools allows you to do a better job. Right?

If you don’t know how to use the tools you have, then what good are they. That’s common sense. If you know the exact tool you need and don’t own it then it’s common sense to rent, borrow, or buy it. The thing is, common sense isn’t what always drives a person to make a new purchase. What fun is being practical? We’re human; we want flashes that can evaporate small ant villages and lenses so sharp they can cut metal. Is that what we need? Maybe. Maybe not. If you don’t know what tools are available to you, how can you make an informed decision?

The photographers I read about have posts about the latest lenses, flashes, cameras, and software releases and how they plan on using them and that’s great. I have no problem with that, but some of the beginners who also read those blogs begin to think that newer is always better. While there is truth to that, I think they need to be aware of what’s actually available first. The professional photographers always buying the newest equipment didn’t start with the newest equipment. They honed their craft on whatever they had and worked their way up. They already know what is on or had been on the market and why they do or don’t need those tools, but they sometimes only post about how pretty a new lens is or how they want to use it. They don’t always post about how they used an older version of the same lens so much it broke and that is really the only reason why they’re upgrading. Know all your reasons before you buy and make an informed decision. You’ll be the one benefiting from it in the future. Am I saying all this to justify my new purchase… i don’t’s a possibility, but just remember what this is titled.


It’s March

It’s about this time every year I decide to sell all my camera gear and start over. Maybe go full frame or switch brands. Maybe just sell all my lenses and replace them with the same but newer models. I would say I don’t know what causes me to think these things and waste time comparing specs and prices, but I do know the cause. It’s because I’m cooped up without any time to go outside and shoot. It’s because being inside means I want better high ISO performance. It’s because new lenses focus faster. It’s because other people are doing it (never a good reason to do anything btw). It’s because it has video or a 100% viewfinder. It’s because the grass is always greener through a different lens. There are always too many reasons to change, but I have to ask myself; “self, are these the right reasons?”. They never are. So I try not to make the changes at this time of the year. If I really need something then yeah I make that change, but I never run with these delusional flights of fancy. For some reason though, thoughts of change always creep in. I could say ” I’m not doing this next year”, but truth be told I enjoy making these decisions. It may drive me crazy for a couple of days, but when It’s over I at least know the going rate and specs of every camera in my price range. Heck, If it weren’t for this time of the year, I wouldn’t even know what my price range was (selling everything gets me $x amount of moolah). If I have any advice for someone going through these same thoughts, I would say “mull it over”. Then mull it over again and again and again until you are sure you are making decisions for the right reasons. If you find yourself looking at new cameras and or lenses, just be sure to check your calendar. You might just realize it’s your time of the year.