Sunday, September 29, 2013

New Camera

I've been considering the Sony RX100m2 (or II) since it was announced a few months ago as an upgrade to the original RX100. I've been happy enough with the Canon G12 as my "small" camera, but I was attracted by the small size and high image quality of the Sony. I finally gave in and bought one on Friday (From Don's Photo since I believe in supporting local retailers even if it costs a little more).

It's substantially smaller than the G12, but it has a larger sensor, higher resolution, and better low light performance (high ISO). It doesn't have a fully articulated screen like the G12, but the screen does tilt up and down which is almost as useful. And the screen is double the resolution. What I will miss are the external controls on the G12. It had separate dials for many functions whereas the RX100 relies more on on-screen menus.

Sony Rx100 II versus Canon G12

My first test was of a flower from a bouquet on the dining room table. It was quite low light, but it came out pretty well.


I took a few more shots at the Farmer's Market Saturday morning, somewhat awkwardly because I had a shopping bag and a coffee in one hand and was trying to operate an unfamiliar camera with the other hand.


It was a beautiful sunny day so when the sun got a bit lower in late afternoon I wandered down the back alley and over to the nearby community garden to see what I could see. I took a bunch of closeup shots. The RX100 does quite well at this but it will only focus close when fully zoomed out to wide angle. The G12 is similar but it will focus closer than the RX100 when you zoom. However, the RX100 has double the resolution so you've got more leeway to crop.


slideshow or overview of set (31 photos)

It's going to take awhile to get accustomed to all the features on the RX100, but I'm definitely impressed by the quality of the images. (All of these images were shot Raw and processed in Lightroom.) And the tiny size will be great for everyday carry and travel.

One of the factors in choosing the RX100 is that it's one of the top rated compact cameras for underwater photography. There are several companies making underwater housings including Ikelite, Recsea, and Nauticam.

The user's manual that comes with the RX100 is pretty skimpy, especially considering how many features the camera has. I picked up Gary Friedman's guide (in ebook) which is helpful.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Print of the Week

I thought I'd pick something with a fall theme. As usual I like the flowing water and the reflections, and the yellow leaf adds a nice splash of bright color.

leaf in water
(click to view larger)

This was from my Wells Gray Water set.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Alberta Travel Notes

Some places we stayed or ate at on our last trip.


Matrix Hotel - Not cheap, but not bad for the big city. I picked it because I was avoiding big chains, it was in a reasonable location, and there was a coffee shop and a good restaurant on the same block. The lobby and the rooms were nice but nothing outstanding. They have free wine and cheese in the evenings in a nice lounge with an outdoor patio, which is a bonus. I avoid most free/included hotel breakfasts because the food and coffee are usually crappy and they tend to be an orgy of disposable cups, plates, napkins, etc. I almost didn't bother with the Matrix's breakfast, but I was glad I did. They had real plates, cutlery, and even cloth napkins. And the food was actually pretty good - even a frittata. I also had an excellent supper at the Wildflower restaurant next door.


Syrahs - We've been meaning to try out this restaurant since we often walk by it on the way to Coco's Cafe where we go for coffee. It's a small, fairly classy restaurant beside a wine shop. They didn't have a lot of vegetarian options, but what I had was good. It
didn't seem as touristy as most of the places in Jasper.

Bow Lake

Num-Ti-Jah Lodge - We had stayed here once before and enjoyed it, and we had a lovely stay this time as well. It's not cheap, but the off-season rates aren't bad by Banff / Jasper standards, and it's a beautiful spot with a good restaurant.


Brewster's Mountain Lodge - Most of our time in Banff we camped at Tunnel Mountain, but mid-week we decided to have a break. Brewster's is right downtown in Banff, within half a block of some of our favorite places to eat (Wild Flour Bakery, Bear Street Tavern, Bison Restaurant, Nourish Bistro). Our room was nice and it was great to be able to leave the car in the underground parking and walk everywhere. I wondered about the noise level in downtown Banff, but our room was quiet. We made the mistake of going for the breakfast here, sadly it was the usual disposable assortment.


Fairmont Palliser - I was searching for a smaller, non-chain hotel, but the Fairmont actually had the cheapest special rate ($129 for an upgraded room) and a good location so we figured we'd give it a try. Our room was certainly luxurious and the hotel is a great old heritage building. It was Saturday night and all the good nearby restaurants were booked up so we ended up eating in the hotel restaurant but that turned out to be a good choice. The menu had a whole page of vegetarian / vegan / gluten free options and they use healthy local ingredients. If you can get a good room rate like we did, I'd definitely recommend it.

See also: blog posts from this trip and photos from this trip

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Prints of the Week

Saskatoon has been building a new police station and they were looking for pictures to hang on the walls. Shelley sent them links to some of my photos and they ended up choosing four of them. It's always interesting to see which photos people choose. In this case I assume it wasn't just a matter of what they liked, but also what they thought would go best in the station. I'm flattered that they liked my photos enough to want to use them. (If anyone else is interested in a print of any of my photos, just let me know.)

canada geese on snow


pelican splashdown

sunset bicyclist

I printed them 16x20 on Epson Exhibition Fiber paper on my Epson 3880 printer using Lightroom and I was pretty happy with how they came out. The paper is about $5 a sheet and it takes a fair bit of time (and probably $5 worth of ink) to print this size so I do test prints at 4x6 and 8x10 before doing the final prints. I'm getting better at judging how a print will look but there's still some trial and error.

I was a little nervous about the one of the path (second one) because it was quite old. Not that digital images fade, but that meant it was taken with my previous always-in-the-pack camera - a Canon SD700 IS. It was a decent camera when it came out, but it was only 6 megapixels which is not a lot for 16x20. (Less than my current iPhone's 8mp) But I enlarged it with Perfect Resizer and it came out fine (IMO). Apart from the resolution, I also wish that I had a raw file to work with rather than a jpeg since that would have given me more leeway to process it.

I had major problems trying to get the manual rear feed on the printer to work. I had just used it with this size of paper on the weekend, but this time I just couldn't get it to work. Either it would say the paper was not loaded correctly, or it would appear to take it and then when I went to print it would give an error. It kept saying there was a paper size error, but I double and triple checked all my settings and still couldn't get it to work. In the end I just used the regular sheet feeder and it worked fine. On the positive side, it would reject it before doing any printing so I didn't waste any paper.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bow Lake Sunrise

"Photography is not about the thing photographed.
It is about how that thing looks photographed.”
- Garry Winogrand
magic mountain 1
(click to view 13 photos)

After meeting up with Shelley in Lake Louise on our last trip, we spent the night at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge on Bow Lake. We'd stayed here once before quite a few years ago and enjoyed it.

Despite a good supper in the lodge restaurant accompanied by a bottle of wine, I managed to drag myself out of bed early to take photos around the lake during sunrise. It was cold (-5c) so I put on a warm jacket and toque but I should have put on some gloves - my hands froze. (bringing back memories of ice climbing!)

There were several other people out taking photos, all of them with tripods. As usual, I didn't get out my tripod, but I did use my new Jobu Designs monopod. The other photographers were set up waiting for particular shots but I'm much more of an opportunist, preferring to wander and see what catches my eye.

It was a beautiful morning but I wasn't sure I'd made any great images. Glancing through them after downloading to the computer, I still wasn't too impressed, which is partly why I haven't processed them till now. But going through them again, I find there are a few that I quite like.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Photos of the Day

The sunshine tempted me outside for a walk this afternoon. I wasn't thinking of photography, but of course something caught my eye. For a moment I thought "darn, I didn't bring a camera", but then I remembered I had my iPhone, which I used to take this batch. (I still tweaked them a little in Lightroom.)

(click to view 8 photos)

There are two places I know of along the trail that have these seeds. I'm not sure what it is or if it's a native plant. Does anyone know?

Getting the ladybug in focus was a fluke. It's what I was trying for, but it would have been hard to manage even with the DSLR, let alone with the iPhone. I was poking at the screen trying to get it to focus on it, but I didn't think it would work! Another good example of the value of trying multiple shots. After all, it doesn't cost anything.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wells Gray water

One of the highlights of Wells Gray Park is that it has a lot of waterfalls, including Helmcken Falls, the fourth largest in Canada. I love water and waterfalls so, as you can imagine, I took lots of photos. Here are some of my favorites:

(click to view 31 photos)
Moul Falls

The salmon jumping up Bailey's Chute were a challenge to photograph since they only jumped every few minutes. I ended up resting the camera on the railing, aimed in the right direction, and when I'd see a salmon I'd fire off a high speed burst and hope to catch something. I couldn't zoom in much since I didn't know where they'd jump. When I was reviewing my photos, at first I was wondering why I took so many of just water. Then I realized those were all the shots where I missed the salmon!

As usual with flowing water I was playing with both slow shutter speeds to blur the water, and fast shutter speeds to freeze it. Some of the images I converted to black and white since the color didn't add much.

See also: Blue River Photos and Details of Wells Gray Park from the same trip.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Banff Rock

We just spent five days rock climbing around Banff using the new Banff Rock guidebook by Chris Perry. We hadn't rock climbed in the Banff area for a while and it was nice to find a bunch of moderate stuff to do.

This guide is a long awaited update to the old Banff Rock Climbs by Murray Toft. I'm pretty sure I bought my copy when it came out in 1985, probably at the Banff Book and Art Den at its old location in the Clock Tower Mall. (Sadly, this bookstore is no longer with us.) This guide led us up a lot of great climbs in the Banff area. My copy eventually got so worn from use that a friend had it rebound hardcover for us.
We arrived in Banff after lunch the first day so we just went to Robbie's Rock - about a 10 minute walk from the Mt. Norquay road. There are four bolted routes - a 5.7 and three 5.8's. It was a good warm up.

The next day we went to the Black Band area on Tunnel Mountain. It's another short approach. We did the two 5.8's, the two 5.9's, and two of the 5.10a's. We gave up after that because it was just too darned hot in the full sun! We hadn't expected +30c in the middle of September in the mountains!

Aftonroe is on the right hand buttress
Thursday we did Aftonroe - a nine pitch 5.7 sport route in the Guides Rock area of Mt. Cory. It's pretty cool to have a long easy bolted sport route. It wasn't especially challenging, but it was a lot of fun and great views. It took us about two hours to climb the route. (Some of the pitches are quite short.) We had the route to ourselves until the descent when we passed two other parties coming up as we rappelled the route.

We followed with a day at Sunshine Slabs and Paddock Wall. These are just at the start of the road up to Sunshine. The road was closed due to flood damage, but parking at the gate only added a few minutes walking to the climbs. Again, we climbed till the heat got to us.

Our last day we went back to the Black Band and did the rest of the 10a's and the 10b. We both agreed that these are some of the easier 10a's we've done. Not that we're complaining!

Shelley rappelling off one of the Black Band routes

Friday, September 13, 2013

Blue River Photos

Driving from Jasper to Wells Gray Park I stopped at Blue River. I had planned to go to Clearwater, but the weather looked threatening so I figured I'd get my tent up before it rained. As it turned out, it only sprinkled in the evening. (It rained more in the night.) I've passed through Blue River on the train and the bus, but never stopped. There's not much there, but I enjoyed wandering around and taking photos of the sunset and the reflections in the lake.

In the morning it was very foggy in Blue River, but the road went over a pass and emerged out of the clouds. I actually passed the viewpoint and stopped and turned around to go back to take some photos. The other side of the pass I was down in the fog again by the river.

(click to view 21 photos)
lake at sunset

These photos actually precede the previous batch - Details of Wells Gray Park

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Details of Wells Gray Park

The southern part of Wells Gray Provincial Park is mostly forest. It's hard to take good photos of "forest" so I concentrated on small details - leaves, moss, flowers, etc.

(click to view 40 photos)

More photos to come from this trip.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Mt. Robson

Decent views of Robson today on the way by. 

This was taken with my iPhone, more shots to come from the big camera. 

I'm posting this from the campground in Blue River. Hard to escape the Internet these days, other than voluntarily :-)

Should Wilderness Have Rights?

I'm headed out to BC to attend Speak to the Wild. I'm looking forward to both the speakers (including Candace Savage and Trevor Herriot) and to visiting the wilds of Wells Gray Park.

One of the topics is whether wilderness should have "rights". It's a good question.

Traditionally, wilderness has been something to be conquered, subjugated, tamed, extracted from, and profited from. The idea of it having "rights" was not a big issue.

To me the question is somewhat nonsensical. It's a bit like the mice trying to decide whether the other occupants of the house have rights. (Fleas on a dog might be a better analogy.) I'm one of those "traitors" to the human race that think that nature and wilderness are actually more important than people.

Of course, the other side of the question is what the chances are of actual getting wilderness rights into the law. I'd say slim to none in our current political climate of democracy by the money, for the money. We are far too full of greed and lust over extracting and selling our natural resources. If anything we're more likely to continue the trend of weakening ("streamlining") our environmental laws.

In some respects Canada has lots of wilderness left (unlike many countries). But the sad fact is that there is nowhere remote enough to escape destruction if some extractable resource is found there.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Highway Hawks

When we're driving on the highway I always see hawks on fence posts or hay bales or telephone poles and I think I should stop and take photos of them. Since I was by myself driving today I thought I'd give it a try. It's harder than you might think. First, you have to spot them in time, which is challenging at 100 km per hour. Then you have to make sure there aren't any other cars too close behind you. Several times I passed some gorgeous hawks but there was no way I could stop.

The hawks always look so peaceful sitting there as you whiz by at high speed. However, as soon as you stop, especially with the rumble strip to cross to the shoulder, they tend to get spooked and fly away.

The first one I stopped for was perched on a hay bale. He was a little ways from the road and didn't take off when I stopped. However, I didn't have my camera out or the long lens attached. I was just about ready when he lazily launched off the hay bale. He landed in some trees, a little too far away to get a good shot. And he didn't stay there for long either.

(click to view larger)


My next few tries the hawk flew off before I even got stopped. This was my best attempt. I stopped a bit past him, which meant I couldn't shoot out the window and use it to brace the camera. I took this shot from just beside the car. As soon as I tried to approach closer he few off.


Pictures or not, they are beautiful creatures and I'm glad to see them.