Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Today's walk report: 072914, new lens test.


September 2011 I decided to protect a certain level of sanity in my life by purchasing my 1st DSLR camera. I won't explain how or why I thought this might be necessary but I will say I was right. Application-wise I thought I was buying it mostly for shooting video with plans to "rig out" the camera, taking pictures was only a secondary plus. The thing is I have always had a fascination with and love for photography. As a child there were cameras lying around the house, usually with temporarily forgotten film inside. I played with them--even though I didn't have permission. Over the years my passion for taking pictures had its ups and downs including periods of total abstinence. Anyway, the purchase of a Canon T3i in 2011 created a whole new "exposure" for me in picture taking. I fell back in love with photography and there has been very little video work--however, I am planing to revisit that in earnest once again. Soon.

The reason for starting this post with the word "finally" is I finally got an ultra-wide lens for the Canon T5i I now use. There were 2 lenses I had cravings for right from the get go in 2011. One was a decent telephoto and that turned out to be a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM in June of 2012, the other was going to be an ultra-wide, but I got distracted. Something else I was interested in during my "wonder years" was making small things big. Or at least bigger. Whether it was a microscope or a magnifying glass I wanted to see the tiny stuff I couldn't otherwise see. I entered the world of macro-photography with a surprisingly nice and low cost solution, December 2012. I added this close-up lens to the 70-300mm, creating an entry-level exploration into macro photography. These two lenses continue to be my favorite "run and gun" solution on walks. Despite owning "fanny packs," lens holsters and camera bags, I don't like carrying much equipment on walks.

I further dodged an ultra-wide acquisition in February 2013 by stepping deeper into the macro world when I purchased a Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens. That's my 2nd favorite walking lens, not only for great macro shots but also because it makes me look more closely for photo opportunities than I do with an 18-55mm or the 70-300mm with the close-up. I introspectively search for interesting angles on small stuff. I've learned to think "small." It's a whole different level of observing.

There was another obstacle to the ultra-wide. It was the price point of this lens. I believe the 10-22mm was over $700 retail back in 2011 but even at the current $650 price tag I cringed. Enter the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM, introduced in May of this year (2014) and just recently available for purchase. I hemmed and hawed over this purchase too. It probably went in and out of e-tailer shopping carts a dozen times before I pulled the trigger. I also read just about everything I could find reviewing the lens and debating the acquisition. I even learned how to read a MDF (Modulation Transfer Function) chart, at least, adequately. This has to do with graphing out the optical performance potential of a lens, plotting contrast and resolution of a lens from the center to its edges. You can read more here.  There's also a YouTube video which appears to have been hijacked by someone available here.

Here's the MDF chart for the $650 Canon 10-22mm lens.

And here's the MDF chart for the $299 Canon 10-18mm lens.

Even if you only pick up on the very basics of reading this chart you can see that on some levels the less expensive 10-18mm lens outperforms the older, much more expensive 10-22mm. Granted there are other things to consider in buying a lens, like how it's constructed (the 10-18mm is mostly plastic), lens speed and there is the additional 4mm. For example, a 4mm add to on a 300mm lens doesn't amount to much but going from 18mm to 22mm may be significant. Conversely, the newer 10-18mm has both IS (Image Stabilization) and STM (Stepper motor) features. For the most part I balance price vs. performance. I have to, maybe you do too.

Onto the walks...

Yes plural, my girl Doc and I decided to take a short AM walk just so I could go out and play. By noon that day we were hitting temps over 90º F so there wasn't a lot of enthusiasm for prolonging our walk into that. We decided early to take two shorter walks and catch the sunset that evening. These walks took place 072514, my 1st outings with the new lens.

The A.M. walk started about 9:30. We already had a long day going since we were getting up to watch the Tour de France about 4 A.M. It was also already 77º and climbing. The sun was a little too obvious and I am not using a lens hood. All images shown were shot at 10mm unless otherwise indicated.

Botanical garden, south end.
Shooting up the southern path @ 16mm.
The pond, home of Kevin the wonder frog.
Facing south @ 15mm.
Commemorative fountain @ 12mm.
Looking up into a palo verde tree @ 11mm.
Walk #2, into the sunset.

A 2 image panoramic stitch both shots at 10mm with significant overlap.

Looking north-east.

That's all... thanks for stopping by. Early A.M., beat the summer heat, walk reports are forthcoming.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Today's walk report: 072414, time flies.

It's been a very busy and productive month and the time had to come from somewhere. Quite a bit of it came from here. But that's okay, nobody missed anything.

These photos are from 071914, what would have been my mother's 92nd birthday (she passed peacefully, 030513) and from 072014. 071914 also happened to be the 40th reunion of Doc's and my high school graduating class. No, we didn't go. We took pictures and walked into the evening instead.

071914, Mostly Macro Shots.

Eager to bloom...

No ID.

Deuterocohnia longipetala.
Flower notation?

Tiny flowers, no ID.
White-tailed jackrabbit. Busted!

Sympetrum (Tarnetrum) illotum, aka, Cardinal meadowhawk dragonfly.



3--taking off.
Young adult, large milkweed bugs, Oncopeltus fasciatus.
Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on milkweed.
Danaus plexippus and Oncopeltus fasciatus on Asclepias fascicularis.

Pond flower, no ID.
A busy grass skipper butterfly.
One more, Oncopeltus fasciatus, aka, milkweed bug and a hoverfly.
Desert Willow flowers.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Today's walk report: 071614, but not really.

Truth is, I'm several days late on this. Fortunately it's mostly pictures.

I ran into this butterfly again over the weekend. I had mis-identified this little lady before here as a  Cabbage white butterfly, Pieris rapae and was questioning if I hadn't seen both males and females in the past. Thing was I couldn't find another "white" in my 1st round Googling.

Further investigation, after these photos were taken, led me to
Pontia protodice, aka, Checkered White butterfly. I feel obligated in some sort of nitpicky way about ID'ing stuff I photograph for placement here and elsewhere on the Net, for example, here, but let it be known, it's my least favorite part of the program.

I don't believe I've ever seen a Checkered White before. If I have this is the 1st time I've paid attention. This lovely female was gracious enough to allow me time to pay considerable attention.

Other noteworthy pics from 071214...

Agraulis vanillae, aka, Gulf-Fritillary.

Succulent flowers, no ID.

Opuntia flowers.

As always, comments are welcomed. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Today's walk report: 070714: Catching up, 4th of July weekend.

We just finished up a rather spectacular 4th of July weekend which included lots of photo taking and a big surprise for the 4th itself.

Friday night, July 4th, Independence Day.

We "debated" options for a Friday evening walk, hoping to see some fireworks. We had no idea what was in store for the evening. Last year I had planned to go up to a hilltop at the nearby College campus to see what firework displays I could photograph but that turned out be a non-event when I saw the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department had decided to close the campus and block off the entrances.

College campus, July 4, 2013.
This was a sight I'd never seen. It's a community college, it's a public school and while I've seen it closed to inbound traffic I'd never seen it barricaded by police.

When we read that the campus would be "closed" for the 4th this year I expected the same. This sort of behavior tends to get worse and never better so that's the assumption I had made. I was wrong.

We decided to walk the "bus way" west which runs parallel to our neighborhood on one side and the campus ultimately on the other about .75 miles in. We hoped to see some fireworks out of chance. When we got to the NE corner of the campus I looked down the block and it appeared to be open, no signs to the contrary--no barricades. So we went in and crossed the campus to make it to the top of the hill rather swiftly.

What a beautiful sight! We were alone too for the most part and we saw 100's of firework displays all across the San Fernando Valley, some miles off in the distance and some just a few blocks away, everything from neighborhood celebrations to professional displays. It went from bottle rockets to huge dahlias.

Here's a mock-up I made which no where approaches what we really saw but hopefully you get the idea.

Docken said it was the most beautiful 4th she ever experienced and I would have to agree... plus I had her with me. We watched fireworks for well over an hour, holding each other like lovers do.

Onto July 5th...

It was the start of Le Tour de France today and that meant getting up at 4 AM to watch the race. Actually it meant getting up at 3 AM only to find out that NBC had been re-miss once again in getting the start time right. The race was over shortly after 9 AM and we were off for a walk around 10. It was already getting pretty darn hot too.

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) butterfly.
Blue dasher dragonfly being overly receptive during mating?
Gulf fritillary or passion butterfly (Agraulis vanillae).
Pond flowers, no ID.

Cardinal meadowhawk (Sympetrum illotum).
No ID, water flower.
Same deal yesterday, July 6, AM coffee and cycling with stage 2 of the tour and out after 10 AM for an even warmer walk. We hit 92º by noon.

Mud dauber wasp drinking from the pond.
Monster grasshopper on Salvia uliginosa.
Flowers are dying and seed pods abound.
Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) enjoying the water plants.

Pieris rapae on salvia.
Colias philodice on Salvia darcyi.

Thanks for joining in!