Thursday, April 25, 2013

Holy Name Cathedral Chicago, Illinois

Holy Name Cathedral front.
Holy Name Cathedral is a church in downtown Chicago that is a popular church for weddings. Outside it's basically a church in the middle of the city.

The back of the church.
Holy Name cathedral was put in place after the Cathedral of Saint Mary was destroyed during the great Chicago fire in 1871. The cathedral can seat 2000 people. The cathedral caught fire again in 2009and suffered extensive water damage. It was a good thing that it was saved and is still standing in the heart of Chicago.

The right side view if the church.
Visiting the church it's really pretty much common sense to bring an ultra wide angle lens with a full frame body to capture the extreme angles in which the church looks awesome wherever you look. I decided to bring my Canon 6D equipped with of course my 17-40mm Canon f/4L lens.

The awesome view of the altar.
The inside of the church, like any other ones is kinda dark. It was the afternoon so there's sunlight that you can see coming in through the stained glass windows, which makes the shots more dramatic. I set a lower shutter speed to let more of the natural lighting be captured into the photo.

The view from way back.
Shooting at this speed, I had to keep my hands very steady. One good technique for doing this is to keep your hands near your torso. Works for me I'm not sure about other people though. The church is gorgeous inside. It seemed like everywhere you look, there's a photo op waiting for you.

And the shot of the famous altar.
Keep in mind when shooting inside churches to limit your shutter noise and your flash. I shot all of these without using a flash which is pretty much useless in an area this big. I'll be back here next month to shoot a wedding.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Varavon Slide Cam Lite 800

One of my favorite video equipment to use is the camera slider. This particular piece of equipment allows you to do smooth panning shots of your subject. It also gives your videos this professional look that big hollywood production companies have. Nowadays that video is so popular that almost every video camera is cheap and on almost all mobile devices, the equipment that they used back in the days to produce professional looking videos has gone down in price. The rigs, lighting, and even the camera sliders are now affordable for everyone.

I needed a slider for a small production that I was doing so I decided to look for one online...and there were a ton of choices. There were different types from different manufacturers. There's basically 2 types...the friction ones and the bearing ones.

Frictions camera sliders usually just use friction to move the camera plate from one side of the slider to the other. They have lubricated rails to make the camera plate slide easily. They are usually cheaper but the cheaper brands don't have the smoothest action. In video where every movement of the camera counts, this smoothness of motion has to be put into consideration to produce professional looking videos. So I was thinking friction based camera sliders are good for the value but I'd rather pay a bit more to get the smoothness that I want.

Bearing camera sliders use bearings to produce smooth, flawless motion from side to side. The camera plate usually just glides giving it an almost perfect motion. I looked for the best value in bearing camera sliders and I found the Varavon Slide Cam lite series. I decided to purchase one.

I purchased the Varavon Slide Cam Lite 800 which is the 32" version of the slider. The 24" version might be too short for me so I decided to get the next longer one. Varavon is a popular company that produces video equipment. From rigs to jibs and everything in between. I've read that the Varavon sliders have very good quality so I decided to just get one.

The slider came in a few days later and I was pretty happy about the package. The box included a bag for the slide, the slide itself with the adjustable legs, a lubricating device for the slide, a set of allen wrenches for the tension adjustment, and it came with a free focus adjuster for lenses.

The construction of the slide is very high quality. The screws, the mounts seem like they are machined to very strict tolerances. Everything just fits perfectly. It feels really sturdy too, I wouldn't try it but it seems like it can take the abuse of being carried around in the set or outdoors.

The slider action is VEEEERY smooth. This is why I never regretted spending a bit more dollars in getting this instead of a cheaper slider.  The camera mount is very light to move around...although you can adjust the tension using the allen screws at the bottom of the camera mount. You can also tighten the stopper on the side of the camera mount to stabilize the mount while you attach a camera or a tripod head to it.

The bottom of the slider has 1/4 and 3/8 sized screw holes for tripod head plates so you can mount it either way. IT also has screw mounts on both sides for mounting vertically into a tripod, this also allows you to mount both sides on 2 separate tripods for more stability. I just purchased a heavy duty fluid head so I can just mount it from the center using a heavy duty tripod...remember you need a heavy duty tripod and head for you to mount it in the center...otherwise the head wouldn't be able to support the slide and move when the camera is on either one of the sides.

I have been using my Varavon Slide Cam Lite 800 for months now and I am pretty much very happy with it. This summer I am taking it to a few location shots so I can make the most out of it. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My first bird photos of spring

After a long winter of rarely taking photos outdoors, spring is here again. It felt like spring was delayed for too long. Although the past winter season wasn't really bad at all...I can't complain.

With spring comes showers, and flowers and chirping birds in the morning that were gone during the winter. One spring morning I heard birds eating the bird seeds in our bird feeders so I prepped my dslr in our loft. 

I attached my favorite Canon 400mm f/5.6 to my 6D and got ready to head downstairs. It was pretty overcast outside so I set my ISO to auto so I wouldn't bother tinkering with it while I take shots. I then set my shooting mode to shutter priority and set my shutter speed.

This brave one was so hungry it didn't even move when it saw me.

I went out near our bird feeders and found a pair of doves chowing down the fallen seeds from our bird feeder. They just looked at me and continued to eat. I guess they were so hungry.

This one waited for me to get closer to take my photo.

This day officially starts the bird season for photography! I cannot imagine how many bird photos I'm going to take this year.