Archive for the ‘Photo Gear’ Category

Conch Shell at Daybreak on Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Conch Shell at Daybreak on Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

As I continue to edit and process the images I created on the island of Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands, I came upon this one of a perfectly intact conch shell that my 6 year old daughter had found one day. I made sure to hang onto it for a few days to use as a prop at sunrise. When I began to optimize this image file I began daydreaming of the amazingly, wonderful conch chowder, which was served in restaurants on the island. I guess I’ll just have to go back next winter for more :)

The above photo was relatively simple to create. I used my Nikon D800 with the Nikon 18-35mm lens and a Singh-Ray 3-stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density filter. All of this was mounted on a Manfrotto BeFree Tripod, which is a great, light weight tripod designed for travel photography. If you did not get a chance to read my review of this tripod yet, please follow this link. I would then await the waves to wash in to shore and then as they retreated back into the ocean I would create the images, until I captured what I considered to be the most pleasing, outgoing wave blur.

Please click on the image to see the larger, sharper version.

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Sigma 15mm Fisheye Lens-McLachlan

For the folks that have been following along here at the blog you may recall I spent a great deal of time last summer using a Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fisheye Lens, which was loaned to me by Gentec International, the Canadian distributor for Sigma lenses. Today I am pleased and honored to have been featured in a recently designed promotional piece for this lens. Each of the images featured on the promo card were created as I traveled throughout my home province of Ontario, Canada. To view more of my photos created with this lens please follow this link to the Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Fisheye Lens and scroll through the various thumbnail images, clicking on each to view the larger, sharper version. This lens was an indispensable tool for my frog-scapes, landscapes, and everything in between…not too mention highly addictive and a ton of fun too :)

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Sunrise on Cayman Brac (Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm leans, & Manfrotto BeFree Tripod

Cayman Brac Sunrise (Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm Lens)

During my recent trip to the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands, Gentect International the Canadian distributor for Manfrotto tripods was kind enough to loan me the Manfrotto BeFree, which is a small lightweight tripod designed for travel. When the tripod arrived at my home just prior to my departing I knew instantly that this lovely little tripod would be perfect for my travels, and throughout my trip I was constantly reminded why having a small light weight tripod is so beneficial for travel.  Whether I was using my wide angle zoom or my large and heavy Nikon 80-400 mm VR lens the tripod met my expectations of what should be expected in a travel tripod – lightweight yet sturdy.

Great Egrets in Cayman Brac Wetland (Nikon D800 & Nikon 80-400mm VR Lens

Great Egrets in Cayman Brac Wetland (Nikon D800 & Nikon 80-400mm VR Lens)

First and foremost the Befree Tripod comes with an attractive and very useful carrying bag. I would often hang the tripod from the handlebars of a bicycle to ride down the road to nearby photo destinations.

Manfrotto BeFree Tripod Bag

Manfrotto BeFree Tripod Bag

The Manfrotto Befree Tripod weighs in at only 3lbs and is 15.75 inches in length when fully closed and boasts a maximum payload of 8.8 lbs. As is the case with most tripods designed for travel it is not overly tall when fully extended. With the center column extended the tripod will reach a height of 56.7 inches and 48.4 inches tall when the center column is not extended. Since I am 6 foot 1 inch I did find this a tad short, but I also much prefer to photograph my landscapes from a lower perspective, so this was not really too big of a concern to me. Also, it should be noted that when any tripod’s center column is extended the stability of said tripod becomes immediately less stable. As a result I was not extending the center column during use, and I would advise strongly that folks avoid extending the center column of any tripod unless they absolutely need to do so.

The Manfrotto Befree Tripod comes with its very own mini ballhead incorporating Manfrotto’s quick release system that has been in use for a number of years. I have found this to be a very functional system that provides the convenience and stability a photographer would need. The quick release plates easily screw into the tripod threads on your camera by means of a collapsible-type of thumb screw and once tightened to the camera you can then tighten a small set-screw to prevent the quick release plate from twisting during use.

Three features I particularly liked about this tripod were; one of the legs has a rubber section incorporated into it which I found greatly improved the carrying comfort and which would be very handy for use in cold climates. Secondly, each leg has a silver adjustment tab that allows each leg to adjust independantly for use on uneven terrain or to fold it down for storage inside the carrying bag. Lastly, the legs of the Befree are four section legs that are controlled by three lever-type cam-locks. I found closing and locking the levers to be a very simple process, I would loosen each leg-lock, close the legs, and then with one simple motion use the palm of my hand in a rolling motion to close all three of the locks.

The leg-locking levers and mini ballhead are protected by misuse from airport baggage handlers due to the manner in which the Befree folds down for travel. The leg-locking levers and ballhead are protected by being positioned inside the sturdy aluminum tripod legs.

Below you will see a series of images that better illustrate the fantastic features mentioned above. Please click on each image to see the larger, sharper versions. If you are looking for a small, light weight tripod for your next travel adventure do consider the Manfrotto BeFree. I found it to be an amazingly light, yet sturdy tripod that ensured I was able to create the tack sharp images I demand from my work. This tripod will become my brand new companion for all of my travel photography needs.

Manfrotto BeFree Tripod

Manfrotto BeFree Tripod

Manfrotto Quick Release Ballhead

Manfrotto Quick Release Ballhead (note base is notched for storage too)

Manfrotto Quick release Plates

Manfrotto Quick release Plates

Rubber Carrying Handle Incorporated Onto Tripod Leg

Rubber Carrying Handle Incorporated Onto Tripod Leg

Three Position Leg Adjustment Tab

Three Position Leg Adjustment Tab

One Hand Technique For Closing Leg Locks

One Hand Technique For Closing Leg Locks

Folded Position For Travel (Leg Locks and Ballhead Protected)

Folded Position For Travel (Leg Locks and Ballhead Protected)








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Agawa Rock_2307Agawa Rock in Ontario’s Lake Superior Provincial Park

On my recent trip to Lake Superior Provincial Park, which is located north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Gentec International, the Canadian distributor for Sigma lenses, kindly loaned my the Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fish-Eye Lens. Having visited this park on four separate occasions, I knew exactly how and where I would put the lens through its paces. In the image above that was captured at Agawa Rock, I waited for the late day sun to cast shadows of the evergreens upon the massive, pink granite cliff for an interesting perspective, knowing that the distortion qualities of the lens would curve the evergreens in towards the cliff.

Katherine Cove_2004Sunburst at Sunset at Katherine Cove, Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ontario

In my previous post I shared a similar image of this sunset at Katherine Cove. Above you will see the fish-eye version of the same scene. The Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fish-Eye lens captured the sunburst much better than my Nikon 18-35mm lens did. At first I was unsure about the distorted horizon in this capture, but the more I look at it, the more I really like the distorted qualities of the image, and the nice thing with fish-eye lenses is the creative opportunities they provide photographers due to their ability to distort the landscape.

White Pine Roots and Granite_1926White Pine Root-scape on Granite Outcrop

After I had finished photographing various compositions at Chippewa Falls, which was also featured in the previous post, I turned to see this interesting root-scape spreading out across the granite outcrop. With the rounded look of the granite outcrop I immediately reached for the Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fish-Eye to accentuate the effect.

I found this amazing lens to be most useful along woodland trails and the rugged Lake Superior shoreline where the terrain did not allow much room for a photographer to roam, without ending up in the lake :) If you love photographing creative landscape imagery be sure to add a fish-eye lens such as the Sigma 15mm to your tool kit. The possibilities are endless when it comes to fish-eye lenses and the Sigma 15mm version is capable of photographing almost twice as close as the Nikon 16mm version!!!

Be sure to click HERE to read my review of the Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fish-Eye in Denise Ippolito’s Creative Photography eMiniMagazine – an amazing, free, on-line resource for photographers wishing to explore their creative side. Be sure to sign-up for the mini-mag…it’s free!

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Male Bullfrog on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
Technical Specs:
ISO 6400
f22 @ 1/40 second
Live View

The last couple of weeks have been rather hectic, after returning from the cottage on Horseshoe Lake in Ontario’s Parry Sound Region I was only home for a couple of days prior to heading back to the cottage. During my first of the two stays I spent several nights working with the Bullfrogs. By the time I had noticed this fella with his head lifted nicely out of the water it was already getting quite dark out, as can be seen by the late setting sun reflecting in the frog’s right eye. I could have easily given up and called it a night, but if you don’t push yourself or the limits of your gear you will not know what is achievable down the road. It is very important for photographers to get to know both their limits and those of their equipment.

To create the above portrait of this male American Bullfrog I positioned my canoe in front of him and then sat in the bottom of the canoe for increased stability. Then utilizing the Live View feature of my D800, a bubble-level in the hot-shoe and a Nikon 105mm Micro Lens I framed the image. To capture the low perspective the camera and lens were hand-held at the water’s surface. In fact, both the lens hood and quick release plate were getting wet. As night was quickly falling upon the frog and I an ISO of 6400 was dialed in, which gave me 1/40 seconds at f22. The small aperture was necessary to maximize the depth of field at this close range. The canoe was sitting relatively stable due to very shallow water conditions at this location within the marsh and prior to pressing the shutter I took a breath then I clicked the shutter while holding the breath. This technique will help keep your body relatively still for slower than desired exposures, producing a better percentage of keepers.

When viewing the above image on my computer after I arrived home, I was quite impressed with the low-level of noise present at such a high ISO. It is critical to maintain proper exposure by remembering to expose to the right (ETTR). If you have to brighten a poorly exposed frame you will surely introduce noise into the image. In Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) I did perform a tiny bit of noise reduction and later in Photoshop I removed several dust bunnies :) Otherwise this is how the image appeared on the LCD screen in the marsh.

After I created several frames of this fella he lunged forward and gobbled up a smaller frog that I had not noticed, in one quick motion. Bullfrogs are notorious for their canabalistic tendencies.

Please click on the image to see the larger, sharper version and the D800 quality at high ISOs.

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Woodland Interior_9943Woodland Interior at Killbear Provincial Park, Ontario

I often found while photographing with the Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Fisheye Lens that I was creating images of subjects that I would normally walk by and not give any passing consideration to their photographic possibilities.  The Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Fisheye Lens was on loan to me for  a week by Gentec International, the Canadian distributor for Sigma lenses. With the fisheye lens mounted on my Nikon D800 it was like a whole new world of photogenic subjects materialized before me. One such scene is the image above of a large boulder that was most likely deposited here by receeding glacial action long ago. The boulder sits beside the footpath that is the Twin Points Trail in Ontario’s Killbear Provincial Park. In fact each of the images in this post are from this lovely and scenic trail leading out to the Georgian Bay shore. As you proceed along the trail, closer to Georgian Bay, the pink granite typical of the area becomes more prominent among the numerous rocky outcrops within the woodlands and along the shoreline, which can be seen in the two photos below.

Killbear Provincial Park_29Granite Outcrop at Dusk, Killbear Provincial Park, Ontario

Pink Granite and Woodland Interior_9953Pink Granite Woodland Outcrop at Killbear Provincial Park, Ontario.

Stay tuned for more fisheye fun and do remember to click on the photos to see the larger, sharper versions.

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Winter Wheat_487Winter Wheat Field near Thornton, Ontario

As mentioned in my previous post I recently spent a week photographing with the Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Fisheye Lens that was on loan to me from Gentec International, the Canadian distributor of Sigma Lenses. I had a ton of fun using this lens and the creative possibilities that it offered me were virtually endless. I enjoyed using the lens to capture bullfrogs, landscapes, water lilies, rusty old wrecks, and waterfalls too. In fact, I photographed roughly 1,500 images with this lens during the week in which I used it. The main subject I sought to photograph with the lens was the bullfrogs on Horseshoe Lake, in the Parry Sound region of Ontario. I will share many more of these with you in future posts.

The Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Fisheye Lens is a diagonal fisheye lens in that the scene is shown full frame within the field of view. Circular fisheye lenses are shown as a circular image within the field of view. Fisheye lenses are noted for their extreme wide angles with significant visual distortion. Yes, distortion can be your friend when used creatively. When a fisheye lens is pointed downwards the field of view will have a convex appearance and when pointed upwards a concave look. This aspect of the fisheye lens creates unique perspectives and intriguing effects on a wide variety of subjects. I personally love the rounded look that can be achieved as it resembles our planet, which is round.

Bullfrog_8922Male Bullfrog on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario

This lens was an outstanding performer for the bullfrogs that I sought as it has a close focusing distance of 5.9 inches. Nikon’s version will only focus down to a tad over 10 inches, while the Canon equivalent will focus to slightly more than 8 inches. That’s a huge variance when you are photographing smaller subjects.The lens was used on my Nikon D800 where I was able to play around with the sensor crop features of the camera to capture both full frame and 1.5 sensor crop images. The latter was useful for images such as the one above, while the former captured the bigger picture seen below.

Bullfrog_9257Male Bullfrog on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario

And with the Fragrant White Water Lilies in full bloom I could not pass up the opportunity to capture such beautiful blossoms with the fisheye perspective.

White Water Lily_227Fragrant White Water Lily Blossom

One evening after supper I decided to give the lens a work out with some low light conditions over at Lower Rosseau Falls. I created numerous compositions at this location with the camera firmly mounted to my tripod to capture the flowing motion of the river. Due to the extreme wide angle it is often tricky to compose images with a downward pointed fisheye lens as the tripod’s legs will be poking into the frame however, with a little practice and patience you will get the hang of it. For the B&W image of Lower Rosseau Falls I could not compose the scene without one leg in the frame, so back home in photoshop I cloned out the leg, which was in the lower right area of the frame.

Rosseau River_8530Rosseau River in Ontario’s Muskoka Region

Rosseau River_8568-B&WRosseau River in Black & White

My next excursion with the Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Fisheye Lens was on the shores of Georgian Bay in Ontario’s Killbear Provincial Park. The rugged shoreline here is note for its wind swept pines and beautiful pink granite. I really enjoyed the creative possibilities that the lens offered me here. The significant distortion qualities of the lens were used for artistic purposes which can be seen in the Killbear Provincial Park images below.

Killbear Provincial Park_9839Killbear Provincial Park, Ontario

Killbear Provincial Park_9720Killbear Provincial Park, Ontario

Towards the end of my photography trip, a family function led me to the Peterborough area of Ontario. I decided at the last minute to take along the fisheye lens one last time before returning it to Gentec International. I was glad I did as I was staying near Millennium Park and the design of the park lends itself well to the distortion qualities of fisheye lenses. Due to the over-cast, white sky conditions I chose to convert the image to black and white.

Millenium Park_Peterborough_Ontario_358-B&WPeterborough Ontario’s Millennium Park

The fisheye perspective is my new favorite way to create imagery. When the distortion qualities are used to accentuate curves in the landscape they can often have a very pleasing effect. The majority of the photos I captured using the lens were done so handheld. All of the bullfrog-scapes were done using the Live View function of the D800 with the camera held millimeters above the surface of the lake. To maximize my depth-of-field I tended to stay in the f11 – f16 range of the lens. Each and every frame I captured the auto-focus was accurate, any blurred images were a result of errors on my part or by pushing the hand-holding limits too far and shooting at shutter speed that were just too slow. If you don’t push these limits you will not know what you can accomplish in given situations. While reviewing the images on the computer at home I did notice some chromatic abberation in the extreme corners but for me this is no biggie as it can easily be corrected in photoshop.

I do not test or review lenses by photographing charts and such to examine their sharpness from corner to corner. I much prefer to take the gear into the field and see how it will perform with my style of shooting, with the subjects I love to photograph, and to genuinely find out will it get the shot I want. I can honestly say that I loved using the Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Fisheye Lens and will certainly be adding it to my tool kit in the near future. It far exceeded my expectations and the lens literally spent the better part of my travels attached to the Nikon D800. I would highly recommend this lens to anyone wishing to explore the wonderful world of the fisheye and unleash their creativity.

Do remember to click on each of the images to see the larger, sharper versions and let us know which is your favorite and why.

Throughout my travels I did come across a new rusty old wreck, with bullet holes nonetheless, and another wreck near my home, which I decided to give a quasi-grunge look. See these images below.

Old Rusty Mercury_8604Rusty Mercury Truck with Bullet Holes

Rusty Old Chevy_420-alternateOld Cheverolet Truck with Quasi-Grunge Treatment

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