Ecstasy and agony

While attending this year's SuperHero Street Fair, the neck strap on the V1 managed to slip free of the buckle, causing the camera to drop a foot or so to the sidewalk. The hood on the 30-110mm has several scratches and nicks. The left corner of the V1 also has some chips. Not a good day.

The event was more populated with costume revelers this year, making it a constant shoot fest. I used all the lenses in my small bag (35mm, 50mm, 30-110mm, and 10-30mm), with the 50mm getting the least use as it was a bit  too long. I do love how the V1 kit can be so small yet have such breadth and depth. I do wish that F-mount AF lenses were able to use AF points other than the center as focus-and-recompose is a pain for events.

I haven't gone through all the images as 2013 is still calling. In the meanwhile, here are some that jumped out and demanded to be edited.

The downside of digital

It's finally over. After almost two months, I've finished editing the final photo from the Bay to Breakers. I was there for five hours, which explains why I ended up with so many shots. Staying later means more photos of the party crowd. Not too many nude runners this year (or I missed them due to the crowd density).

The pictures came out nicely despite the sun coming out later in the day. The usual kit of D3+70-200mm VR+TC-14E. No flash this time. The usual case of eye strain after the event, and a hungry belly.

Complete set of photos can be found here

Hit rate: 566/2,510, or 23%

Now that the B2B ordeal is over, I can go back to my regular editing schedule, which puts me further back to September of last year. Sigh.

Popping the cosplay cherry

I've been to several comic book conventions, JPop festivals, and cherry blossom parades. But I've never attended a pure cosplay event. I managed to attend one last weekend, and it was a bit of overload. Lots of people in costumes, and lots of photographers milling around them. Some photogs even brought lighting setups with them. Talk about dedication.

I only managed a few shots, as most of the time I was just gawking and enjoying the view. Hopefully I'll be better prepared for the next one. I stuck to my favorite portrait lens (the 105mm f/2DC), and it didn't disappoint. There are times when I'm amazed at what this lens produces. It has a pop that's lacking in the 70-200VR. Hopefully Nikon will update it with an AF-S version so I can use it on the V1 and D3200.

On a side note, there was one photog using a view camera. It was interesting to watch him do the careful setup and focus required by such a large rig. It would be nice to see his results, given the care and time he put into his photos. Another one was using a medium format Mamiya, which was a surprisingly light rig. Large format rights would be fun to try, but my manual focus skills are pretty nonexistent, so it wouldn't be much fun.

Hit rate: 16/58, or 28%


Full album can be found here

On another side note, I've been stuck trying to edit photos in a chronological order. So future posts will be jumping back and forth as I find albums that are more interesting or need more timely processing than others.

Scanning adventures

I've had the Nikon Coolscan V for a week or so now. The output is the best of the three scanners I've tried (my ancient Epson Perfection 2450 flatbed and a Plustek 7600i). Clean negatives come out nice and sharp. Old, faded negatives come out decent. Scanning is still a slow process, especially if you add more processing. But the XPS 8700 and the Coolscan V work well together, allowing me to do other things while a scan is going on (unlike the Epson and Plustek that would only let you scan when connected to my old XPS 420).

I still haven't had much luck cleaning film. PEC-12 works on some negs, but leaves bad scratches that ICE can't clean up. Old slide film holds up better than negative film. I'm not sure if it's the film itself or the quality of processing. I'm storing the negs in archival sleeves as a lot of the PVC (and other unidentified plastic) sleeves tend to attach to and damage the film. 

Film just doesn't hold up to digital; The grain structure takes away detail and sharpness when compared to today's digital cameras. The only exception would be black and white film. There's something about it that I can't re-create in digital, no matter what plugin or preset I've tried. 

My technique also sucked big time. Lots of good shots were ruined by being out of focus, or having bad exposure. AF is definitely a big help for me. Not having EXIF information, I can only guess at the camera and lens combinations along with exposure settings.

But the fun part is discovering a few gems. 

Even more toys

Things have been a little busy on the hardware front. Getting the Dell XPS 8700 set up has been a bit of a chore, from locating product keys and install files to getting the settings back to where they were before. But that's almost done. Maybe another week or so for the minor programs.

My 64GB Lexar Pro 1066x CF card finally arrived. The D3 would not fully recognize the card; I could format it in the camera (that takes a bit of time), but then the camera indicated zero remaining shots. A quick check of Nikon's website shows that I'm two revs behind on firmware updates. Another 10mins or so to download and update the camera, and I now have 1.7k (NEF + JPEG fine) remaining shots. Hopefully the buffer will clear up faster the next time I'm doing surfing shots.

My daily craigslist search has produced a Nikon LS-50/Coolscan  V scanner. Searching the interwebs gives me the drivers needed for Windows 8. The Nikon Scan software isn't too bad. Image quality of scanned Ektachrome results in vibrant colors. Sadly, the slides have some dirt on them that Digital ICE can't remove. Scanning film is a slow process, and requires quite a bit of patience. Well worth it to save those family moments.

New hardware time

For the past month or so, my primary computer (an eight year old Dell XPS 420) has been giving the BSOD on random occasions. I've tried everything (short of re-installing Windows) to stabilize the system, with little to no effect. So I bit the bullet and ordered a new Dell XPS 8700. I figured that since my old XPS lasted a good amount of time, a new XPS would do the same.

The new system arrived today, and it's a big disappointment, to say the least. The case doesn't have the elegance of the old XPS (and not even that of my older Dell 8400 that pre-dated the XPS 420). It looks just like any other case, and is actually on the cheap side. The cage for adding a hard drive didn't fit well, and I actually cut my finger trying to push it into place. The CPU fan is just a simple fan, with no shroud (unlike my other two Dell systems). There is no elegance to the design (and I say this having been a design engineer for test equipment). Sad cost-cutting measures. Hopefully this system will survive for eight years too.
XPS 8700
XPS 420
Inspiron 8400
I also got a new printer, a Canon Pro-100. My Epson Stylus Photo 2200 was in need of ink, and the $300 rebate (in the form of an Amex card) offer on the Canon (net cost of $35) made it a no-brainer to order a new printer. The Canon is surprisingly huge and heavy. It doesn't really fit on the Metro shelf that held the Epson. I thought of putting it on a bureau in my bedroom, but then I'd have to walk back and forth to get my prints (plus it negates the work-rest separation principle). So the Canon is jutting out of the shelf in the office for now.

I haven't printed anything on the Canon yet as the new computer arrived the next day after the Canon. Setting up a new PC is a pain; I don't want to migrate everything over as the older PC was having some issues.

It's going to be a long weekend.

Gallery software update

So my website host has required me to update to PHP v5. The Menalto Gallery software that I've been using on all my websites is version 1, and the latest is version 3. I decided to ugprade to version 2 as it's compatible with PHP 5 and should be more stable.

It took several days to do the upgrade, with multiple hiccups along the way. The template I'm using doesn't replicate the old look of my galleries, but it works for now.

Take a look and tell me what you think.

Jumping ahead

The World Cup in Brazil is coming up, so what better way to celebrate than with Carnaval SF. This year I had a scheduling conflict, so I went to the staging area instead of attending the actual parade (similar to the St. Patrick's Day parade earlier this year). It's a bit more fun as the parade participants are more willing to pose, and some actually practice their dancing.

I went with only one body and lens, the D3 + 28-70mm. I could have used a little more reach for some shots (not really the in-your-face type), and a little more FOV. Sounds like the 24-120VR would be a good fit for situations like this. I used the SB-800 for some shots, but I wasn't happy with the results (as usual).

Two issues: too many people taking selfies, and too many other photographers!

Hit rate: 261/1,059, or 25%

Complete set of photos here

State of the (hardware) nation

I said goodbye to an old friend today. After a few months of half-hearted craigslisting, my trusty D2H has gone on to another home. Digital cameras are not an investment as I sold it for 8% of its purchase price in 2003. But it has taken over 65k images, some of which are my favorites. The colors out of the camera are vibrant (more so than the typical Nikon body of the time), and the AF is fast and with great frame coverage (something the D3 lacks). I loved the portraits that came out of this camera, with a great balance of resolution and color.

On the other hand, the resolution and high ISO performance are sub-par compared to the current state of digital. I recently bought a D3200, so the D2H had to go. I still have the D1, but something is wrong with it as it won't take any photos with a card installed.

So what's my kit? The D3 (for low light and when I really, really need to get the shot), the V1 (for walking around, video and when I don't want something heavy), and the D3200 (for when I need 24MP). The D3 is the oldest of the bunch (85k shots in 6.5 years), but I don't see replacing it soon.

Godspeed D2H, may you find a second life with your new owner.

More toys

Just a short update, since this blog hasn't been too active.

I've added a bit of hardware over the last few months, mostly sourced from craigslist (home of the occasional bargain). I managed to snag a D3200 with less than 10k clicks. Having 24mp is going to be fun, although the images I've taken so far have that Sony look of the D100 and D200. The shutter is pretty quiet, and the body is rather compact. The large file size puts a strain on my ancient Dell XPS 420, and forces me to use Lightroom (which is horribly clunky compared to ACR). After having used it a few times, it makes me re-evaluate the V1, as the D3200 is small enough compared to the D3.

I also added a 50mm f/1.8G and 35mm f/1.8DX. I couldn't resist the 50mm as it's the Df version with the chrome ring, bringing back the classic 70's Nikkor look. The 35DX functions as a portrait lens on the V1, and a normal on the D3200. More on these two lenses as I get to use them on both bodies. Drawback of the 50mm is the need for a 58mm filter, a size that's not in my kit.

With the arrival of the new body and lenses, I've been trying to sell my D2H and 50mm f/1.8 AF on craigslist, with very little success. It might be time to try eBay.

When is a parade not a parade?

When you don't have the time to attend a parade (because there's another event at the same time), you can just go to the location where the parade attendants are staging themselves before the parade. The St. Patrick's Day Parade happened to coincide with the Brides of March event a few weekends ago, so I ended up having enough time to take shots up to the point where the parade goers began to march.


The atmosphere is a little different. The kids are restless (as kids tend to be when they're forced to wait). The parade vehicles are being made up, and some people are practicing their routines.


It's also been some time since I've used the D3. The optical viewfinder is a thing of beauty after months of using an EVF. The 70-200mm VR remains one of the best lenses I've used, and it's unmatched for parades. It looks like my left forearm is OK as it didn't hurt at the end of the day (the major reason I switched to the V1). The right elbow is another story!


Complete set of photos are here.

Hit rate: 66/243, or 27%