While out letterboxing, Summer and I came upon a hidden gem of a local preserve in Port St. Lucie, Florida: Oak Hammock Park. The winding path took us through seemingly endless palms, palmettos, and oaks. We entered the path near dusk, and while the air was thick with humidity, we didn’t really get eaten alive by mosquitoes. Strange!
I was very glad that I took the Fuji X-E1 with me; its light weight makes it easy to take anywhere, and the image stabilization built into the 18-55mm lens is surprisingly good. The image above is very sharp despite being made at 1/17 sec hand-held!
As I mentioned in my posting the other day about learning from my mistake, we enjoyed a lovely scene over the wetlands of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. While my 5D Mark II was packed along for the ride, the camera I actually reached for was my new Fuji X-E1. Why? It’s small and light enough–and the IS built into the 18-55mm lens good enough–to let me “hail mary” the camera above my head for a better angle on the landscape. I certainly won’t abandon 35mm format anytime soon, but I continue to be impressed by the capabilities and quality available with compact systems.
It has been a while since I have posted here. I had the best intentions of crafting my new Web site format in a different location, perfecting it, and then replacing the Web site here overnight. Sometimes, life has other plans! I’ve been trying to give Light’s Edge Studios the space it needs to really showcase the range of skills and abilities I’ve developed over the last nineteen years, and the quality services I provide using my experience.
Photographically that includes everything from mulltimedia storytelling, book publishing, wedding and celebration photography, professional and personal portraiture, and of course my roots in natural history: landscapes and wildlife. But to make all those images, videos, and books, I had to develop other skills along the way, such as fine art inkjet printing, and what better place than here to offer to consult on photographic technique, issues, equipment maintenance as well as equipment selection. I’ve used several cameras and lenses over time. Recently, I sold my Micro Four-Thirds system and I’ve begun to work with a Fuji X-E1. I have more thoughts on that camera to share, but suffice to say that over the years, several people have asked me “what camera should I buy?” and I am more than happy to ask about their needs and wants in equipment. I then narrow a list of options for them from hundreds to choose from to a selection of two or three.
To be sure, there will be more adjustments and edits in the coming weeks, but for the most part, the web site is up and running, which means I can returned to regularly scheduled blogging!
Here in the United States its Thanksgiving, a day to be with friends and family. In the spirit of sharing, I thought I’d post one of the images that blends a technique I’ll be writing more about soon: blending HDR and stitching to get large photographs with incredibly wide tonal values while still looking pretty “normal!”
The same day that I explored Medoc Mountain State Park with my partner and rescued a slider on the return home, we discovered an amazing botanical gardens. Marked with a simple sign on US 401 , we had no idea what was beyond the small parking lot. Allen DeHart, who created the space with his wife and recently bequeathed the property to Louisburg College, found us as we were making our exit. Little did we know that DeHart was the author of a book on our shelf at home, Trails of the Triangle, and also participated in the creation of the Appalachian Trail as well as North Carolina’s Mountain to Sea trail. While we were not there for the most ideal light, this is an amazing place. This is place to which we will return.
This weekend we went exploring a bit. Rain pushed our plans back a bit but we arose early Sunday morning and headed out towards Medoc Mountain State Park, about ninety minutes northeast of the Triangle. Once a volcanic mountain, the “peak” is now 325 feet above sea level and is entirely forested. All the same, it was a gorgeous, cool (if humid), overcast, and surprisingly minimally-buggy morning hiking in the woods.
As with a lot of hiking in the East, I find myself looking down at my feet a lot. This has the benefit of avoiding (most) roots and errant rocks, but it also gives me the opportunity to see things that others might easily miss. The small details are often just as interesting as the whole.
While I packed several lenses for the trip, I found myself hiking the majority of the time with my new 50mm f/1.2L. Some of that is the “new, shiny” effect of a new lens, but it’s also that I’m trying to work within the limitations of a fixed focal length: using the “human zoom” of getting closer or backing away from my subject, and thinking a bit outside of the box.
When we returned to the trail we found a cluster of Tiger Swallowtails sitting on the ground. I did not expect them to stay put while I ran to the car to grab my macro lens, but sure enough one let me approach! It was a good day for walking in the woods.
One good thing about being slightly less than sure-footed is that I frequently look down at where I’m walking, and see things that I might otherwise miss. As much as I love breathtaking, expansive landscapes, sometimes it’s the small and quiet moments that really affect me the most–particularly on a journey of self-discovery and renewal.
Parting Thoughts on the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS Mark II lens
When I first received the new 70-200mm lens from Canon Professional Services, I was instantly reminded why I sold my old 70-200mm f/2.8 (non-IS) a few years ago: it’s big and it’s heavy. But it lets in a lot of light, and you can achieve very nice, selective focus with it. I didn’t have an opportunity to make any portraits with it, which is too bad because I think it would be an excellent lens for that application. I did take it out on the street, but I was very conscious of walking with an enormous white monstrosity: subtlety is not an option with this lens.
A Worthwhile Upgrade?
The image quality is remarkably high (although I wouldn’t consider its resolution to be any greater than it’s f/4 stable-mate, and while the image stabilization is improved over the previous version, I did not think it any better than the aforementioned 70-200mm f/4L IS. That said, this is the first zoom lens that I would consider using with the 2x teleconverter on a regular basis.
If you currently own the older IS version of this lens, you might wonder if it’s worth the upgrade. I would offer that I believe the image stabilization is certainly better, but if you shoot sports, that might not matter to you at all. The image quality is higher, and will enable you to use the 2x teleconverter freely. If neither of these features interest you, then you can probably pass on this lens and wait for something “better.”
Over the weekend, Arthur Morris posted on his blog that he was experimenting with the new 70-200mm f/2.8L IS Mk. II lens with Canon’s 2x II teleconverter, which turns the lens into a 140-400mm f/5.6 lens. When using this combination, the short end should be avoided with this combination because 140mm is encompassed by the lens’ natural zoom range. I was intrigued by Artie’s post because he was so excited by the image quality he was getting with this combination, and since I had such a lens on hand from Canon Professional Services, I thought I’d go out and give it a try, and I was impressed: it is sharp, and it works well!
Now, I could do this with my 70-200mm f/4L IS lens, but then I’d be working at f/8, and would have to stop down to f/11 to overcome the vignetting that is inherent to working with teleconverters, so I usually only work with the 1.4x TC. The bottom line is that this is a surprisingly useful application for the new zoom lens, especially for nature photographers, but for most other forms of photography as well. I certainly wouldn’t argue it’s “as good” as having a 300mm prime and a 400mm prime lens, but not everyone carries those two lenses with them daily!