Thursday, October 31, 2013

Spider Macro - Happy Halloween!

Guess who found a spider in the bathroom yesterday? I did! Guess what I did with it? Well, I didn't kill it. However what I did might still sound a bit mean. I picked it up with some tissue, and dropped it in my sink. Then I went ahead and set up for macro photography using my Canon EOS 5D Mark III with my Kenko Extension Tubes and Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens. I had to push the spider back in my sink a few times for these shots. LOL I decided to post these photos up as it is Halloween, and I guess it fits the theme pretty well. So happy Halloween everyone! Hope you have a safe one.

Full Resolution Photos and Prints: If you want to see full resolution photos or buy prints of any of the photos you see, they are up on my portfolio for viewing. To see my best macro photography for 2013, use this link. To view my best insect photos of 2013, use this link. To see all of my 2013 at home and backyard photography photos, use this link.




These are all the photos for today. I hope you have enjoyed them. Also have a safe Halloween! Please don't forget to share with your friends and family members! Also, if you want to get notifications when I post up more photos, "Like" us on Facebook or follow me on Twitter and Google+. These links can also be found on the top of the right sidebar.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

HDRs Redone - Pleasanton, CA

I recently went back and redid some of my old HDR compositions into 32-bit ones for a more natural look. 32-bit HDR compositions usually look more natural and gives better color than a 16-bit HDR (which was what I was doing before) so I went ahead and redone all of them. Today, I am here to show you the new HDR compositions from several photos I shot in Pleasanton, CA last year. You can see the ones from Arroyo Del Valle Trail here and the one from Hansen Park here.

Full Resolution Photos and Prints: If you want to see full resolution photos or buy prints of any of the photos you see, they are up on my portfolio for viewing. To see my best photos from Pleasanton in 2011 and 2012, use this link. To see all of my photos from Pleasanton in 2012, use this link.

This was shot at Arroyo Del Valle Trail on the trail to Pleasanton Tennis & Community Park. This was taken on the side near I-680. 

 This was shot on the bridge connecting the trail to Pleasanton Tennis & Community Park facing I-680. 


This is a photo facing the other direction.  

A photo of autumn foliage at Hansen Park.

These are all the photos for today. I hope you have enjoyed them. Please don't forget to share with your friends and family members! Also, if you want to get notifications when I post up more photos, "Like" us on Facebook or follow me on Twitter and Google+. These links can also be found on the top of the right sidebar.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Panoramas Redone - Death Valley National Park

As I learn more photo processing techniques, I get better and better with my results. Recently I went back and redone some of my panoramas that I made amateur mistakes on (all of them had sudden white balance shifts). Today I am here to show you the new results I have from my trip to Death Valley National Park in 2012. You can view my original trip photos in Death Valley National Park here. If you want to view them a bit larger, just click on one of the photos and a slideshow should load and fit the image to your screen.

Full Resolution Photos and Prints: If you want to see full resolution photos or buy prints of any of the photos you see, they are up on my portfolio for viewing. To see my best work from Death Valley National Park, use this link. To see all of the photos from my Death Valley National Park trip use this link.

Message from the Photographer: I have finally finished processing all my road trip photos from the SF Bay Area to Vancouver, BC, Canada. I have also finished identifying (as much as I can) the wildlife, flowers, and locations of the images. That means, I will start on my portfolio today. Soon you guys will be able to view my photos at full resolution and buy prints and other stuff from there. :) This also means, this blog will be rebranded soon to Naturetastic Blog as that will be the name of my new photography business. You can still access this blog from the original URL though. It will just redirect you too the new one.

Panorama in Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, CA.  

 A two photo panorama in Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, CA. 


Driving into Death Valley National Park, I shoot this panorama of the Eastern Sierras.  

 Panorama at Mesquite Dunes. When I first did it, there were some really bad white balance issues with it, so in this one, I fixed it, but the colors still looked a bit weird. I think when I shot this, a cloud moved in front of the sun part of the way through so the lighting changed. 

These are all the photos for today. I hope you have enjoyed them. Please don't forget to share with your friends and family members! Also, if you want to get notifications when I post up more photos, "Like" us on Facebook or follow me on Twitter and Google+. These links can also be found on the top of the right sidebar.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Canon GP-E2 GPS Review


Today I am going to review the Canon GP-E2 GPS. Before I get started, I would like to say that I have used this device for close to a year now, so I can give you a pretty clear look at the device. The device itself is compatible with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EOS 6D, Canon EOS 1DX, Canon EOS 7D (with limitations), and a few other Canon cameras.

The device itself attaches to the camera via the hot shoe, and can communicate via either the hot shoe or a USB cable, with the exception of the Canon EOS 7D which is limited to just the USB cable. With the USB cable design, if you do want to use a flash on camera, you can always store the GPS somewhere else and use a flash, or if you don't have a flash, you can conveniently store it right on the camera's hot shoe. Here is a photo of the GPS on my Canon EOS 5D Mark III.


Here is a photo of the device on a Canon EOS 7D with the USB cable attached. I read a review of a guy who accidentally broke the USB port on the camera because the camera strap got tangled on the wire. If you use it this way, be very careful!


The device it self has a "modified" hot shoe with 1 pin missing. So I am guessing it works sort of like a USB port on camera because of the 4 pin design. Here is a photo comparison between the GPS device and a off-camera flash extension for Canon.


The device itself is around the same height as an AA Eneloop battery. I have 2 photos of it with and without the Eneloop battery. Here is a photo of the GPS device alone.


And here is a photo of the GPS device by the Eneloop battery.


One AA battery is enough to power the device. Even with the battery inside, this device is pretty lightweight. You can configure how often for the GPS to update its position. You can do so in the supplied Map Utility, or inside your camera's menu system. I have it configured to update every second. On the instruction manual, the estimated run time for this set up is around 8 hours. Using my regular Eneloop AA Battery (2000 mAh), I actually got around 10 hours out of it, and with my Eneloop AA XX Battery (2500 mAh), I actually got around 12-13 hours out of it. The device itself is very energy efficient.

Let's continue talking about the design of the device. The notification lights is a bit awkward. It flashes, takes a break and flashes again. 1 flash is Good and 3 quick flashes is Bad, this is for both GPS reception and battery level. I would rather have a constant red/yellow/green indicator. There is room for improvements. If power was an issue, they could have at least put a button on there that we can press to trigger a status update.


The device itself will record GPS location (if there is reception) and the altitude (if enough satellites are available). The GPS device will even record the compass direction when it is enabled (with the exception of the Canon EOS 7D).

Also in the device, you can record the route that you took by switching the GPS to LOG on the mode dial. Your route will be recorded in the flash memory in the GPS device. This is useful when you want to use a flash, using multiple cameras, and don't want to stick on the USB cable. No compass information will be stored if you do it this way, however the GPS locations can by synced back onto the images in post right inside Map Utility as long as all photos were shot on a Canon camera (there are ways around this, I tell you about that below). To get the route data out, you need to hook up your GPS to your computer and port it out via Map Utility which is the supplied software that comes with the device.

There are a few things I don't like about this feature. The USB port on the GPS look's like a special port, but really isn't. The port is designed slightly differently, but can be used the same way. They only supply you with the special USB cord with the device required to connect the device to your camera. They don't give you any instructions in the instruction manual on how to connect it to your computer. With the "special" looking port, many people get confused on how to plug that special USB cord for the camera into your computer. You aren't suppose to use that USB cord for the camera for this operation. What you are suppose to use is the USB cord that came with your camera! They created a very very hard optical illusion there and I didn't like that very much. Took me a few hours and Googling before I found out. Their customer support was crap too as they told me that I was actually suppose to get one and I was missing one. Almost 1 year later, haven't received anything in the mail even though they promised that!

Another thing with the GPS log is that it is in Canon NMEA format. What is Canon NMEA you may ask? Well it is just a corrupt standard format with all the information in there marked as "invalid" except for the 1st and last records. Canon probably did this so the GPS can't be used with other brand cameras as Map Utility will only map photos taken by a Canon camera. There is a way around this and it is by using the software GPSBable which will convert the Canon NMEA format into any format and you can use another software to do the mapping. Just make sure you have the software accept the "invalid locations". The Map Utility software only allows you to convert to Google Earth KMZ in the software. Below is a screenshot of what the map looks like in Google Earth. This is a route I did to test it out at a local park called Shadow Cliff Regional Park located in Pleasanton, CA.


If you are using the GPS device to record your route, it does make a new file every 24 hours according to GMT. That means if you live in another time zone, you may get several map files instead of just one. Below is a screenshot of the Map Utility with the several route files that the software created while testing the route feature. The one I have activated is from Shadow Cliff Regional Park in Pleasanton, CA. You can also see that Map Utility is pretty much just a software with Google Maps embedded. I found some issues with the map loading slowly and freezing up, but I think this is because Internet Explorer is "hosting" the frame, so this isn't Canon's fault.


You can also have the software display your photos over the route file. The software will automatically activate the correct route file. Below is some of the photos I shot at Shadow Cliff Regional Park in Pleasanton, CA mapped out. The software will also display the compass location on the pin if you had the feature activated.


Shadow Cliff Regional Park was a pretty open area with some trees, but mostly just open grass areas. The GPS was very very accurate when I shot there and the worst I had was being around 5 feet off. This was not the case when I went shooting the Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco. Being surrounded by tall skyscrapers, the device got pretty inaccurate when I got there. I did some drawings of the route and photo locations files I got while in San Francisco. The red lines was the original route the GPS recorded. The blue line was the correct route I drew in. The green circles and arrows point to where the photos were suppose to be located.


As you can see the device is not very accurate when being surrounded by skyscrapers in San Francisco. Here is another "corrected" screenshot.


The device however was very accurate for the entire BART ride on the way there. It was pretty fast to update too, except when BART entered tunnels. Whenever the device looses the signal, it will draw a straight line between the where it first lost the signal to where it regained the signal. This is why you see that line between Oakland and San Francisco.


So to summarize the accuracy, this device performs well in open areas such as forests and recreation parks, but when you get into big cities, it will get inaccurate fast from skyscrapers.

Now let's talk about the improvements I would like to see in this. A focus assist beam would have been nice. They just needed to add an LED inside (like 5 cent in cost?!), but they would have a small issue with only 1.2v to 1.5v with the one AA battery. I wouldn't mind the weight of an extra AA battery if they added that feature. Would have liked the Speedlite radio control system inside (extra price is fine with me). It is not like they need an LCD on it, all the controls are in the camera's menu, just needed to add a chip and radio inside. Could have also added a optical trigger (again, a few extra LEDs would have done the job). For the price, would have preferred to have at least one of these features in it.

To summarize my review, I believe this device is worth it for every penny as long as you have a compatible camera except the Canon EOS 7D due to the limitations. I found it very useful in mapping out my shots and being able to tell my followers where something was taken. I always felt sad when someone comes to me and asks where I shot it because they want the same shot, and I had to tell them I had no clue. The device is very accurate and great for the great outdoors and big open areas, however, no GPS is going to be perfect in a big city with skyscrapers, including this one. I would recommend you use Eneloop battery with this device as you will get almost a whole day of shooting with one. Canon definitely have some room to improve, but I believe I got a very great deal out of this.


So this is pretty much for my review. Here is a "list" version of my review:

Pros:
  • Lightweight
  • Runs on 1 AA battery
  • Very energy efficient (going a bit longer than predicted in the instruction manual)
  • Tracks fairly accurate in open areas
  • Records Location and Direction, and Elevation if reception is good (with the exception of the Canon EOS 7D).
  • Easy to find location and direction of photos after you've taken them
  • Easy to see the route you've traveled on if you used LOG
  • Map Utility uses Google Maps
Cons:
  • Canon NMEA is "corrupted", they purposely marked most of the location data invalid. Easily fixed with GPSBable.
  • Map Utility only exports KMZ (easily corrected with GPSBable).
  • Not so accurate in big cities with tall buildings.
  • Notification lights kind of weird. As I have mentioned, I would prefer a constant red/yellow/green indicator instead of the flashing red LED.
  • Takes up hotshoe, but you can always use a USB cable and stick it somewhere else.
  • Limited use with the Canon EOS 7D.
  • Comes with cable to hook up to your camera but not computer. You are suppose to use the USB cable from your camera, but they've given you a very hard "optical illusion" that you have to figure out with no instructions at all!
Future Upgrades:
  • Radio Flash Trigger
  • Optical Flash Trigger
  • Focus Assist Lamp
Please don't forget to share with your friends and family members! Also, if you want to get notifications when I post up more photos, "Like" us on Facebook or follow me on Twitter and Google+. These links can also be found on the top of the right sidebar.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Photos Redone - Fremont Mission Peak and Wildlife

As I learn more RAW photo processing techniques, I get better and better with my results. Recently I went back and redone some of my photos that I felt I didn't adequately process the first time through that was worth reprocessing. Today I am here to show you the new results I have from Fremont Mission Peak in Fremont, CA and one bird photo I shot near Pier 39 in San Francisco, CA. You can view my original photos from Fremont Mission Peak here. You can view my original photos from Pier 39 here.

Full Resolution Photos and Prints: If you want to see full resolution photos or buy prints of any of the photos you see, they are up on my portfolio for viewing. If you are interested, please select one of the links below:
Message from the Photographer: Being a US National Parks lover, I have created a Google+ community and a Google+ fan page dedicated to US National Park Photography. If you are interested, please join! You can find the community here and the fan page here. Also second part of my message. Remember that a few month back I took a road trip from the SF Bay Area to Vancouver, BC, Canada? I always shoot RAW which requires post processing, but right now I am done with the main processing part. What I am currently on is what I call the "black and white run" which I check to see which photos I like to process in black and white, and process them that way! Once I am done, I will begin posting them here on my blog, and I will also begin setting up my portfolio. :) Hope you enjoy!

This is a photo shot near the trail head. 

 Here is another landscape shot of Mission Peak. 


I thought the rock formation looked pretty interesting. So here is a photo of it.  

Female Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus

These are all the photos for today. I hope you have enjoyed them. Please don't forget to share with your friends and family members! Also, if you want to get notifications when I post up more photos, "Like" us on Facebook or follow me on Twitter and Google+. These links can also be found on the top of the right sidebar.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ferry Building/Pier 14 - San Francisco, CA (Part 2)

A bit over a week back (on 10-12-2013), there was a small photowalk in San Francisco, CA that I had attended. We took photos in the Columbus Tower area and the San Francisco Ferry Building area. I will be splitting the photos into 2 parts. In these 2 parts, I will have photos of the Columbus Tower, the Transamerica Pyramid, California Street, the San Francisco Ferry Building, and photos from Pier 14.

Full Resolution Photos and Prints: If you want to see full resolution photos or buy prints of any of the photos you see, they are up on my portfolio for viewing. To view my best sunset and night shots of San Francisco, use this link. To view all of my photos from that photowalk, use this link.

<< Previous Part

Today will be the photos from the San Francisco Ferry Building and Pier 14.

Message from the Photographer: Being a US National Parks lover, I have created a Google+ community and a Google+ fan page dedicated to US National Park Photography. If you are interested, please join! You can find the community here and the fan page here. Also second part of my message. Remember that a few month back I took a road trip from the SF Bay Area to Vancouver, BC, Canada? I always shoot RAW which requires post processing, but right now I am done with the main processing part. What I am currently on is what I call the "black and white run" which I check to see which photos I like to process in black and white, and process them that way! Once I am done, I will begin posting them here on my blog, and I will also begin setting up my portfolio. :) Hope you enjoy!

Long exposure of the San Francisco Ferry Building. The distortion you see on the photo was due the fact that the photo was shot at 16mm. 

Here is a black and white process of the above photo. 

Here is the park near the Ferry Building. You can see the Bay Bridge off in the distance. 


Long exposure of the Embarcadero still standing in that park near the Ferry Building. 

A black and white process of the photo above. 

After the Ferry Building, the photowalk group split. The others went home, I went to Pier 14 to shoot more photos. Here is a photo from Pier 14 of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco at night. Off in the distance is Rincon Park. You might recall this park from a blog post I posted before. 

More photos of San Francisco at night from Pier 14. You can see the tip of the Transamerica Pyramid in the center and the Ferry Building is off to the right. 


While Treasure Island was completely not visible to the naked eye at night, I wanted to see what a long exposure would look like. I shot the rest of these photos at the end of Pier 14. This photo is of the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island. I had no clue there were 2 lights shining up at the sky on the island at night.

A photo of San Francisco at night. You can see the tip of the Transamerica Pyramid in the center and the Ferry Building is off to the right. 

A low angle shot of Pier 14 with San Francisco in the background. 

If you didn't notice on that first shot I took of this scenery, the moon caused a bit of a starburst at the top of the image. Since the moon was higher off in the sky, I decided to try another shot for a cleaner look. 


Now walking back to the Ferry Building and back to the BART station to get home, I shot off 2 long exposures of the Embarcadero. 


Portrait of the San Francisco Ferry Building. 

A black and white process of the photo above. 

These are all the photos for today. I hope you have enjoyed them. Don't forget to also view Part 1! Please don't forget to share with your friends and family members! Also, if you want to get notifications when I post up more photos, "Like" us on Facebook or follow me on Twitter and Google+. These links can also be found on the top of the right sidebar.

<< Previous Part

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Columbus Tower/California Street - San Francisco, CA (Part 1)

A bit over a week back (on 10-12-2013), there was a small photowalk in San Francisco, CA that I had attended. We took photos in the Columbus Tower area and the San Francisco Ferry Building area. I will be splitting the photos into 2 parts. In these 2 parts, I will have photos of the Columbus Tower, the Transamerica Pyramid, California Street, the San Francisco Ferry Building, and photos from Pier 14.

Full Resolution Photos and Prints: If you want to see full resolution photos or buy prints of any of the photos you see, they are up on my portfolio for viewing. To view my best sunset and night shots of San Francisco, use this link. To view all of my photos from that photowalk, use this link.

Next Post >>

Today will be the photos from the Columbus Tower area and California Street.

Message from the Photographer: Being a US National Parks lover, I have created a Google+ community and a Google+ fan page dedicated to US National Park Photography. If you are interested, please join! You can find the community here and the fan page here.

It was starting to get dark when we got there, as this was a pretty late photowalk. As you can see, it was already starting to be a long exposure with the streaks of light. 

We focused on the Columbus Tower area for the majority of the photowalk. 

Here is a portrait shot of the Transamerica Pyramid. 


A photo behind where we were standing. 

We kept shooting the Columbus Tower under different lighting conditions as the sun sets. 

Here is a black and white process of the photo above. 


A police car happened to have drove through when I exposed this picture creating streaks of blue light. 

Getting really dark outside. 

A zoomed out shot. The distortion was from the fact that I shot this at 16mm on a full frame. 

A portrait shot of the Columbus Building. 


After the Columbus Building area, we walked toward the San Francisco Ferry Building. Here is a shot of California Street at where the street intersects with Kearny Street. 

Here is a black and white process of the photo above. 

These are all the photos for today. I hope you have enjoyed them. In the next part, I have photos from the San Francisco Ferry Building area and Pier 14. Please don't forget to share with your friends and family members! Also, if you want to get notifications when I post up more photos, "Like" us on Facebook or follow me on Twitter and Google+. These links can also be found on the top of the right sidebar.

Next Post >>
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