Monday, February 27, 2012

The 2012 Chicago Auto Show

The Lexus Lf-Lc concept of the most awesome cars in the chicago auto show.

When my friends asked me if I was interested in going to the 2012 Chicago auto show I definitely said yes. I have gone to the Chicago auto show before but I've never gone there with an ultra wide angle lens. Photographing cars means you need to capture the entire car in the frame without moving away from the car too much. Realizing it's the last day of auto show I know that it's going to be ridiculously packed...and shooting a car from a distance will be troublesome as people would be walking in front of you at all times. Also capturing the cars in crazy angles makes the shot more interesting, instead of just a car in the middle of the frame.

My camera bag consisted of a full frame body, my 17-40mm f4L, a 430exII speedlite with my stofen omnibounce. And of course I was right...the venue was crazy packed. So I snapped my 430exII in my hotshoe and I adjusted my settings. For this kind of shooting, I set my camera to shutter priority, auto ISO, and the exposure compensation to +1. Shutter priority means I can set my shutter to around 80-100/sec, which is perfect for shooting handheld indoors, auto ISO allows me to forget about adjustments to my ISO when I have all sorts of lighting conditions inside the venue, the +1 exposure compensation means that my short lens will still enable me to shoot at wider apertures and higher ISO. Aperture priority and shutter priority is also dependent on the lens you are using, as I am using a short lens, the camera will think that a higher shutter speed or a narrow aperture is enough for the exposure to balance out. By adding a +1 exposure compensation I am tricking the camera to use either a wider aperture (for shutter priority) or a slower shutter speed (for aperture priority) for shooting. This also enables my camera to use a higher ISO indoors. I am shooting a 17-40mm f4 lens which means it can only go down to f4 as a maximum aperture so I can leave that alone. F4 really isn't bad for shooting indoors as f4 doesn't give that really thin depth of field. I really can't go below 1/80th sec and that's the reason why I set it to shutter priority.

The Fiat 500. Small but sexy.

The Scion IQ...smaller and sexier.

The Scion FRS, looking forward to you this spring.

I stood up as high as I can for this shot. I love how I framed the Mazda RX8 on this shot.

I shot this Subaru BRZ kinda far as it was behind a protective fence. I love how it turned out though.

Shooting low for cars with an ultra wide angle makes the car look like it's jumping out form the frame.

I had to extend my lens for this shot...seems to work, not so dramatic but works!

I had to extend my lens for this shot too.

This was the car that nobody left alone.

I shot this head on. It looks like a robotic bug.

I had a good time. Now it's time for that Malaysian seafood at chinatown!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Canon 20mm f2.8

The Canon 20mm. Love it or hate it lens.

A couple of days ago I managed to get my hands on a Canon 20mm f2.8 lens. It's a pretty neat lens. Not too heavy and not too much of a toy feeling to it. It's something in between. I have experimented on a couple of wide angle lenses and I must admit I have an admiration towards them. Especially when I got my full frame Canon body. When I was shooting an aps-c body my 28-135, 17mm, 18-50, were basically just regular lenses to me. I then got a Sigma 10-20mm and I was like whoaaaaaaa...this 10mm point of view (equivalent to a 16mm in full frame) was craaaaazy. I didn't really use the 20mm range of that lens, I was shooting it at the 10mm range like 98% of the time. I then made the bold move to a full frame which means that I now have access to an even wider range of wide, ultra wide, and ultra ultra wide lenses.

For around $450 to $500 you can get this brand new. The Canon 20mm f2.8 USM lens was one of the first ultra wide lenses I have used in my full frame body. By the way, ultra wide lenses for full frame are around 17mm to about 20mm. Above 20mm it becomes a wide angle lens and below 17 would be ultra ultra wide. The 20mm on an aps-c sensor body will be a 32mm lens, as the aps-c bodies have that 1.6 cropping factor for lenses which means the real range is multiplied by 1.6. A 32mm lens is still considered wide for 35mm or full frame...not as wide as a real 20 though, although it is still useful for landscapes and scenery shots.

The lens attached to a Canon 5d mk2

It's a pretty solidly built lens.

I tried this nifty lens when I was trying to decide either to get a 20mm or something wider. I ended up with a Tokina 17mm and reviewed it here. It's not that the Tokina was was just cheaper, wider, and better built than the Canon 20mm. It really doesn't matter now as I have sold the Tokina 17mm a long time ago. So After I sold my Tokina I decided to give the Canon 20mm another look. I got hold of a copy and took it out for a spin. This time I was impressed more than when I tried it the first time.

The Canon 20mm is a pretty well built lens. The barrel is plastic, the mount is metal. It uses a 72mm filter which is really easy to get, plus using a regular uv filter for it does not cause that much vignetting, which is pretty common for ultra wide angle lenses. It's light, and is not troublesome when it is attached to your neck the whole day. It does not feel like the Canon 50mm 1.8 mk2 which is Canons most plasticky lens, although it's not as sturdy feeling like the Canon 70-200 2.8 IS USM which is pretty much built like a tank with its full metal barrel. It pretty much feels really secure when you mount it on your body.

This lens is excellent for landscape photography, which I think 90% of the time users of this lens is going to use it for. The ultrasonic focusing is quick, precise and pretty much silent. Manual focusing override is supported as you can grab the focus ring when the lens locks on to your subject for focusing, which means you can tweak your focus without switching the focus switch to manual. Focusing is pretty much precise as ultrawide lenses tend to focus on anything that's in the frame. They usually have a very wide depth of field and everything pretty much is in focus.

The colors are pretty contrasty. I added a bit of color during pp.

Sharpness is pretty good for this lens. The corners are not as sharp especially when you shoot the lens wide open...although not a lot of photographers who shoot landscapes shoot at the lenses maximum aperture. For landscape shots you usually close down your lens to around f8 or more, so the 2.8 maximum aperture of this lens does not really matter. Wide angle lenses are notorious for having soft edges and this lens does have the same curse. Shoot this lens to around f4 and narrower and you'll be fine. The weird thing about this lens is that you'd have to find the sharp sweet spot of it. Once you find it, the lens gives you an unusual sharpness on that spot. Sometimes it's so sharp that I forget that I am using an ultrawide instead of a normal or macro lens.

The detail on the tree is incredibly sharp. This was the shot that wowed me.

Notice the plant in the picture...the thorn like texture is incredibly sharp in the stem. I might have found this lens sweet spot!

The lens does not come with a lens hood...the lens hood to use with this lens is the Canon EW75II lens hood. It's around $30-$40 online which I think is pretty high for a lens hood. You might find a cheaper aftermarket alternative.

The 20mm is pretty wide enough for most landscape application.

The ultrawides just pull you into the frame.

I have read reviews about this lens online and it's pretty much a love it or hate it lens. The first time I have used it I wasn't really impressed with it. I decided to give it another chance and I was impressed, especially after I've heard about that sweet spot thing. The only gripe I have about this lens is that it's pretty pricey at around $450-$500...if it was priced around $300-$400 I'd buy it. For around $180-$200 you can get yourself a Tokina 17mm f3.5 ATX which is better built and has its own lens hood and is a tad sharper. The Canon 20mm though is lighter, has better focusing and is easier to store because of the detachable hood. The Tokina is wider, but the Canon has manual focus's really up to you.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

St. Charles Japanese garden

Before anything else I just wanted to say...THIS IS MY 100th POST!!! It's awesome that I managed to keep this blog goin!

We visited the Japanese garden at St. Charles Il. one afternoon when we were around the area. The weather wasn't so nice as it was raining like crazy that day. It's surprising how it's like a week after the winter season officially started that we barely had any snow yet. I can't complain though, I don't like snow a lot. So we parked by their parking lot and walked around. The place by the way had a lot of trees.

So out I went with my camera in hand. I had my 17-40mm attached to my 5d. It was kind of a mild to a moderate drizzle and it was a good thing I had my weather resistant lens attached to my camera. In this kinda weather, having a sealed lens attached to your camera is a plus, although be very careful's weather resistant not weather proof! It can only handle a small amount of moisture and then the water gets in.

I set my camera to aperture priority. Set my aperture to around f5, and then set my ISO to auto. It was overcast and the scenery had barely enough color to it. In cases like this, I'd rather set my ISO to auto than deal with adjusting it later, when the lighting situation changes. This is actually a perfect time to use this feature. It was pretty dark so my camera still shot pictures at less than 80th of a second at f5 with an ISO of 320. I set my file type to RAW rather than JPG so I'll have more flexibility in post processing my photos.

Basically the sky looked grey, the surrounding was dark and everything else felt gloomy. I'll deal with that later during post processing. All I wanted is to just go around and shoot some good scenery.

The garden was awesome. It had a bridge, a mini creek, a little house, everything that you'll find inside a Japanese garden. Although, the best time to view the garden is during times when there's snow on the ground. It still looked pretty without the snow so I continued shooting. When I was done, I had every view of the bridge and creek...that was the highlight of the garden I guess.

I'll probably be back here when there's snow...or better yet when the flowers start blooming in the spring!

I think this is a museum by the garden. Didn't have the chance to go there as it was raining.

A lake near the garden. It was foggy when we went.

The 17-40mm provided me with an awesome angle of view of the trees.

I bet this looks awesome in spring and summer

The garden during winter. Would've been more awesome with snow.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

My Perfect Grade Strike Gundam

Being a long time Gundam modeler, I purchased a perfect grade Strike Gundam for myself for christmas. This was actually my first time to build a Gundam in years! I remember the last Gundam that I built was from around 3-4 years ago. So I was kinda rusty when I built this. Actually, opening up the box made me cringe a bit. In my mind I remember the days when I built my perfect grade Wing Zero. That took me a while to finish. This one actually just took me around 15 hours straight. Not too bad as what I expected.

When I finished it, I was so eager to take shots of it. So I took it to my mini studio and started taking shots. These were all taken with my 5d mk2 and my Canon 100mm macro 2.8. Using 3 strobes and my light table. One strobe per side of the model, and one strobe behind the light table. I love how the light table gave these a really clean appearance, especially with the white background. I set my shutter speed to around 125th/sec and my aperture to around f9.

Here are the rest of my shots: