Thursday, July 17, 2014

Impressed? You bet.

...but first...

A newsflash from my friends at Topaz Labs.

They've put Topaz Remask on sale at 50% off for the month of July. Offer expires July 31

Think about the last time you created a mask in Photoshop. Even the most experienced photographers dread masking. Getting a decent mask can take hours and rarely gives you the results you need. ReMask is an awesome product: check it out for yourself!

Here's the link to the Topaz ReMask page. If you order, use the code "julyremask" at checkout to get your 50% discount. You can also download a 30 day free trial and see for yourself.

By the way, if you enter "faczen" in the code field at checkout, you get 15% off any Topaz product, including the full bundle. Use this link to get to their main site.

Now: How was I impressed?

First, by some outstanding customer service, and then by some great products!

If you've read my blog regularly, you'd know that I use a wonderful lightweight carbon fiber tripod and ball head made by a British company called "3 Legged Thing". The tripod I have is called "Brian" (I recently learned how they named their tripods. Each one is named after the artist that was playing in their design room when the product was conceived: read about it here. "Brian" is named after Brian May from Queen).

I broke Brian. Twice. See below. Anyway, I wrote them and within a couple of days, I had a response from 3LT. They're sending me the replacement parts and all I have to pay for is the shipping. It wasn't their fault, it was mine, but they are a GREAT responsive company.  Check out their stuff at B&H here

Second, by some neat products I got to try.

I was exceedingly impressed with three pieces of photographic gear I happened to be able to try in the past week.  Let me present the three new ones, in the order of likelihood that I might buy them!

Nikon 105mm micro-Nikkor f/2.8 VR lens

Gail B brought hers with her when she came to visit yesterday. I put it on the D800 and made a few informal test shots. That's an excellent piece of optics.

In addition to being exceedingly bright, as are other f/2.8 lenses, the build quality of this lens, its weight and form factor all made it a pleasure to use. But even better were the results, this is one tack sharp lens. I only spent a few minutes with it but I know I want one. Unfortunately, Gail wasn't interested in the offer I gave her and was far too observant for me to surreptitiously spirit it into my bag! Here are a couple of shots

People who regularly shoot this kind of stuff will scoff at this picture of a fly on a daisy. HOWEVER: it was handheld, a quick shot and I didn't bother to reset my camera so it was at a really STUPID setting of 1/8000 sec, f/3.2, ISO 800. A little LR adjustment and a Hi-Pass layer added in PS is all that was done to it. And I didn't shoot it from that close, this is really a 100% crop. 

This was a more reasonable setup, 1/160 second at f/16, ISO 200 on the tripod, no crop, direct sunlight. Intensely sharp where it was focused, as you can see from the blowup below.  

Same shot, 100% crop. Nothing done to it, outside LR. Colour me impressed. 

So I want one of these and it's bubbled to the top of my shopping list. You can get it at B&H here. My birthday's coming up...

Induro CT414 Tripod

Again, Gail brought hers with her. Brand new, she hadn't yet set it up. We threw the Gimbal mount on it and put the big 600mm on and it handled it with ease. There were several things I liked about this tripod: it's carbon fiber so it's extremely light and deceptively strong. The build is excellent and attention to detail is great. The friction nuts are big and solid and tightened down in a positive fashion. It extends up to considerable height. Not cheap at $660 US (legs only) but worth it. You can get it at B&H here.

When I compared my 3 Legged Thing tripod to this one, well it's apples-and-oranges. Mine is a lightweight, portable CF tripod that folds down to nothing but it doesn't have anywhere near the strength or solidity of the Induro. I tripped and almost fell last winter and broke the tripod trying to support myself. There's no doubt the Induro wouldn't have broken. I also broke the top of the column a couple of days ago but that was my own stupidity, mounting the gimbal mount and 600mm lens on top of the telescoping column. 

Nikon 600mm f/4 super telephoto lens

I have Dr. Ron's 600 mm lens here for a few days. This is one really serious piece of gear. The optical quality of this lens is undeniable. This copy of the lens is for sale at a huge discount because the autofocus is not working right. When I say a "huge discount", I mean about 85% off the retail value.

It\s not my thing. I'm slowing down physically and can't handle the kind of shoots for which this lens would be ideal, but to anyone who has birds or grizzly bears or... in mind, this is the lens for you.

I did mount the lens on my tripod (then broke it. The tripod. {sigh}). But if you want tack sharp, here you go:

This sign had to be 100 yards away.See the grey blob just to the right of the sign? Look about 500 yards further away and you saw... 

...this swan swimming about a mile away. I didn't even know it was there until I pointed the lens out there. 

I know, silly overprocessing, but just for fun. This Osprey was having a bad hair day. 

This is the 600mm lens, with Gail's D800 on the back, mounted on my gimbal mount which was attached to Gail's Induro tripod. By the way I took this picture with the 105mm lens, so that brings this whole thread together! 

At the White Water

I shot the Andrew Weslake Memorial Race at the Minden Wildwater Preserve last weekend. This is my favourite shot from the whole day.

The water was crazy high and fast. This wasn't even at the faster section upriver. Tala (I think that's her name) was one of the organizers: I saw her several times setting the course up – but she was also a competitor. The only thing about this shot? Her facial expression wasn't great (she had her eyes shut against the splashing water). But this tell the whole story for me. 

The Minden Times bought both a photo (not this one) and my story on the race. Can't say I agreed with the editor's choice of photo, but hey... They've bought several of my images over the past few weeks. The links aren't up on their website yet, but I'll pass them on as soon as they are.

See you next week!

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