Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Naperville Illinois lights tour

The trolley that we were in.
Christmas eve of 2013, we decided to go on a trolley tour in Naperville Illinois. Naperville is a suburban city of Chicago. Voted as one of the best places to retire in the United States, it is a really neat place full of restaurants, shops and a lot of places to go.

Very nice light display with a very nice message.
My wife saw an online ad for trolley tours and decided that we should do it with her family.  It was a very smart idea to do a tour a couple of hours before Christmas day. It was cold, but it was pretty worth it.

The brightest part was the deer.
For this tour I decided to bring 2 bodies and 2 lenses. I brought my Canon 5D MK2 and my 6D, together with my trusty Canon 24-105 f/4 and my 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens. I was going to use the fisheye lens to take a photo inside the trolley with the family but I ended up using the lens in the entire tour. I let my wife use the 5D with the 24-105 installed.

Very nice display in this neighborhood.
The 15mm f/2.8 was excellent for the tour. Being very dark, the lens allowed me to shoot in low light without setting my ISO too high. The best thing about it is that it gave me a weird point of view in all of my shots.
Looked like the owner spent a lot of time decorating this house.
Christmas lights are always mesmerizing. A lot of houses in Naperville were decorated nicely for the holidays. It was indeed a very nice place to go during the holiday season.

One of the more colorful light displays on the tour.

Nice capture on the side of the house.
Being inside the trolley was kind of a challenge for me because the widows were fogging up and I had to wipe my window clean each and every time I took a shot. I also had to watch out for the glare coming from the window. Other than that, the tour was fun, and I was able to get a lot of interesting shots.
My best shot of the night.
The trolley tour was great. The tour ended up giving all of us smiles in our faces. I was just glad to experience the nice lights in Naperville this holiday season.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Door County Maritime Museum in Sturgeon bay WI.

Ship models everywhere
As we were going around Sturgeon bay in Door County Wisconsin, we saw the maritime museum near downtown Sturgeon bay and decided to check it out. This is one pretty neat museum. A lot of interesting things to see and watch.

The museum is big. 
The museum has 2 floors. The bottom floor houses a lot of naval history, models, and much more. The second floor has a pirate exhibit as well as a pirate painting gallery. A lot of stuff to see.

The dioramas are very fun to look at.
The bottom floor has never ending displays of model boats. From tugboats to warships...this museum has everything. The dioramas as so entertaining to look at. I was so glued looking at a diorama of an old building with excellent detail on it. Even the water was detailed.  I probably spent around 30 minutes just looking at it.

Those are tools that are attached to the wall.
There was a display of old ship building tools and there was a story on the wall telling how those tools aren't used anymore because of the way modern ships are built that those tolls weren't used anymore. It was kinda sad but it is what it is.

A real working periscope.
One of the most awesome display is an actual working periscope. You take a peek at it and you can see around downtown Sturgeon Bay. Being photographer, I was surprised how sharp the periscope was. The range of it was pretty good too. It was awesome to see one in real life.

This room displays engines used in boats.

A captains office.

A real decompression chamber for divers.
One of the most unique displays in the museum was an actual decompression chamber for divers. It was kinda freaky looking inside but it's nice to see a real one in front of you. Inside it was a mannequin of a diver being decompressed.

One of the fancier boats in the museum.
Being in a museum, I know my 15mm/f2.8 fisheye is a good lens choice to use. it is so wide that it gives you a very weird point of view. I love it...especially when I can shoot wide open at f/2.8 when there is very low light.

Another fancier boat.

Gauges in the engine section of the museum.
The pirate section of the museum.
The pirate section of the museum is actually pretty neat too. They have a miniature town with lots to see. There is actually a fake prison where you can go in and have your pictures taken. It also has a pirate dressing room where you can dress up as a pirate and have your picture taken.

Another part of the pirate section of the museum.

The front of a pirate ship.
The pirate ship display has a video game in it where you try to fire canons at a pirate ship to try to sink it. The controls are in the canons itself. I probably had about 6 tries until I destroyed the pirate ship.
The pirate ship equipped with a video game.

More boat models.
When visiting Door County Wisconsin, the maritime museum is one place you shouldn't miss. There is plenty of displays here which makes the museum really interesting.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Brookfield zoo photo contest 2013 winner

Every year Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield Illinois holds a photo contest. Last year I was able to win 2nd place in the adults category. This year I am proud to say that I won the grand prize out of 400 or so entries. Here is the photo that won me grand prize:

My winning shot
It is a picture of a green heron taken in Florida. I just spotted it taking a break from hunting. I was using my Canon 400 f/5.6 lens that day which was perfect for blurring everything out other than the subject itself. A lot of people were asking me if I added the bokeh on this shot. This shot is processed as it was...only the colors were saturated a bit and a bit of sharpness added in but nothing was added in the photo.

The link to the winners for the contest is in here:

Congratulations to the other winners!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Joe Mcnally One Flash, Two Flash seminar tour

The seminar all access tag and the course sheet.
Being a photographer, keeping your skills fresh and keeping up with new techniques is always a good thing to do. As what all other artist says all the time learning is endless...and when you stop trying to learn means it's basically the end of your career. In photography there are always new things to learn. From new lighting techniques up to new photography technologies, the amount of information out there is endless.

kelbytraining.com is one of the websites I go to for learning new techniques from lighting to post processing. Scott Kelby is one of those names that pop up automatically when you talk about photography and Photoshop. I have attended some of his seminars and they are really good seminars that you will end up learning a ton of things.

Joe Mcnally is one of the instructors from kelbytraining.com. He photographs for National Geographic, Time,  Entertainment weekly etc. just to name a few so you know he means business. His seminar tour called One Flash, Two Flash came to Chicago Illinois on October 23rd of this year and I made sure that I was able to attend.

The seminar is about using speedlites as your lighting source for portrait photography. He talked about techniques for placing speedlites, the proper settings, some speedlite accessories that you can buy for portable artificial lighting, and a lot more. Usually when I photograph portraits in the field I rely on my speedlites for lighting. I try to avoid bringing studio lights because they are bulky and require more power. This seminar will teach you to exploit the hidden power of your portable speedlite system.

I highly recommend the seminar. Joe Mcnally is a very good instructor...hopefully the seminar comes back to Chicago next year for more. For information on the tour click here.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

This years first visit to Crabtree Nature center

One of the pretty creatures at Crabtree nature center.
This years first visit to Crabtree Nature center was great. We went there when the weather was great. The only this was, there were not too many birds as we went there around noon, and birds usually hide out to keep out of the heat and come hunting later on in the afternoon.

One of my favorite dragonfly photos.
For trips like these, I usually go big. I was expecting to photograph birds so I brought along my Canon 400mm f/5.6L lens. Realizing that I needed a macro lens for my secondary lens the least time I went, I went and brought along my Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens. The last time I went I just brought my 400mm with my 50mm 1.8 and boy did I regret not bringing a macro lens along. This time I was smarter.

A similar shot I did that won a Brookfield Zoo award last year.
This trip my 400mm mostly stayed in monopod. I was using the 100mm macro more than I expected to use it. There were a ton of dragonflies and I just snapped on. I am so glad I had my macro with me. I caught some pretty cool close up shots of dragonflies just standing on a leaf, and it seemed like the dragonflies just stayed put whenever I got close.

A bird shot I took while on our way out.
My 400mm never really became useless that day. On our way out we saw a couple of birds hanging out by the feeders. It's pretty nice how Crabtree Nature center set up their bird feeders. They are by the Entrance and near the washrooms by the visitor center. You'd pass them by before you leave and you usually will see a lot of birds by them, fighting over the food.

My last shot of the day.
I will definitely go back to the nature center when it becomes cooler. Maybe I will see different species of birds next time. Other than that the trip was worthwhile.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

2013 Blueberry Festival Plymouth Indiana Parade

The parade was started off with a 5k/10k run.
Labor day weekend is great when going to the Marshall county annual Blueberry festival. The 2013 Blueberry festival was capped off with the annual Labor day parade on the morning of Labor day September 2 2013.

The official Blueberry festival mascot.
The parade was started off with a 5k/10k run with different runners from kids to adults. The most amazing runners were the firemen with full gear going through it all the way. After the runners trickled down a bit the parade started.

One of the motorcycle guys in the parade.
The parade was started with police cars and cruisers with all their lights and sirens on. Followed by marching bands all over Indiana. A lot of good stuff marching by one after the other.

One of the few bands that played.
On parades like these, I like to use my trusty Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM. Paired with the awesome Canon 6D, this setup is more than what I need. I never did intend to bring out a secondary body with a shorter lens in it.

A kid and his Mustang.
The 70-200's f/2.8 maximum aperture allows me to focus on a single subject in my viewfinder and isolate it from the background. This time I shot between f/2.8 and f/3.2...very wide apertures but the best for blurring out the background for isolation. I then set my shooting mode to aperture priority so I can shoot according to the aperture that I want. It was pretty sunny and my ISO was set at ISO 100.

One of the weird cars in the parade.
Shooting in very wide apertures such as f/2.8, it requires speed as the most subtle movement from your subject will throw your focus away. The technique is to shoot right away as soon as your focus locks. Wait for half a second or more and your focus is off...you have to be fast.

Triton High School band.
There were a lot of high school bands that were in the parade. All of them were pretty good. Playing covers of classic marching band tunes as well as more modern pop songs.

John Glenn High School.
The parade wouldn't be complete without cars. There were a lot of them. From the classic Model T up to the most modern Ford Mustang. It's like having a parade and a motor show at once.

Cars, cars, and more cars.
There were also a lot of animals. People in horses, and people with dogs from a dog obedience school were among the people in the parade. The people with dogs representing an obedience school even demonstrated the tricks that their dogs learned from the school. Pretty neat stuff.

Another classic car.

Another fun car in the parade.

Argos Maching Dragons.

Comedians in a classic car.

A girl and her horse.

Yogi bear in a float.

Hot rod in the parade.

Great Balancing act.

Another classic car.

Darth Vader walking around.

The bounty hunter.

More troopers.
And then there was the costume guys which in my opinion were the coolest in the parade. Leading them was Darth Vader walking with storm troopers and his other minions. It was a pretty cool moment!

Female version of Kerokerokeroppi?

That dog is well trained.

More costumes.

Beauty queens all in one float.
Labor day is great watching a parade like this. For some interesting people and animals to photograph I would recommend going to the next Marshall County Blueberry festival parade next year!