Setting Sail

As the leaves begin to think about changing, and the nights grow colder, the sunny days of the summer are slipping into memory.  I had the good fortune of taking the family to Florida this past July.  It was a crazy summer as my son graduated from High School and prepared to head off to college.  I was thankful to put together a few days where we could spend some time together as a family.  We  visited an extremely popular mouse in Orlando and then spent some time with our toes in the sand in Clearwater.  It’s creating memories like this that I hope my kids will take with them throughout life to use as armor against all the craziness they will undoubtedly encounter.

The gatherings on the beach at sunset were always amazing.   These were some of the most breathtaking sunsets I can recall.  On this particular evening, the sail boat you see above added a nice element to the scene.  I hope you like it.

Rainy Day Off Experimentation

Well, today is my day off and its pouring rain outside.  So, I thought I’d put on Spotify, and goof around in Photoshop for a while.  This is another image of Oak Leaves which are just starting to shoot.  I photographed them with my 105 Macro mounted on a tripod, and I put a white sheet of paper behind for a clear background.  I posted a high key shot the other day, and for today, I thought I would try an over the top effect complete with a texture.  I love textures, but have not really been pleased with my past results.  Todays attempt seems a bit more to my liking.  Interestingly enough, it is also my most blatant use of a texture and I like it more than when I try to be more subtle.  Who would have guessed.  I guess it just goes to show you a little experimentation yields some interesting results.  Have a great day and all the best to you!!

Springtime Reminder


We are well into Spring here in the northeast and we have gone from cold and wet to just plain wet.  It has rained part or all of every day for nearly 2 weeks.  So with that in mind, I thought I’d throw up a quick post to remind anyone who has been in my shoes, that the sun is just above the clouds.  Here’s a picture of some 8 foot sunflowers from last year that I took while out enjoying that big glowing orb in the sky.  See ya soon!!!

Spring Leaves

I’m so happy that Spring is finally arriving here in the Northeast. March was our snowiest month of the Winter, and April was no bargain either. Finally however, May has brought Spring like weather. Even though today’s high was a meager 48F and the house’s heat actually kicked on a few times today, Spring is here…this is how I know.

Earlier this week, I made my first journey to the yard and began the dreaded spring clean up. Dead leaves that fell after I was done raking for the season, a host of limbs and branches and all sorts of entropy laden factors made my yard a serious mess. But any trip to my yard usually provides and opportunity for photographic inspiration as well, and so we have today’s picture.

While out raking, mowing and blowing, I couldn’t help but notice the tiny leaves that had emerged from their buds in the last few days. Their colors and details were so beautiful. Like mini, concentrated versions of their full grown selves, they took on a unique quality. I knew I had to capture them somehow. So, when I was finally done with my real work, I ran into the house, and grabbed my camera and Macro lens. I also got a clip board and taped some plain white paper to it to use as a background. I’d seen this done with flowers and though I’d give it a try with these tiny leaves. Well, despite all the peril inherent in Macro photography, my consistent banging of the background into the stem as I fired the shutter, and the wind, I managed a few shots I am pleased to say are keepers. Here’s one of those shots today for you to see. I hope you like it and Happy Spring to those of you in the northern hemisphere. All the best!!

DSLR vs Mirrorless – Part III The Sum up

So where is this all going? A fair question for sure. Will mirrorless replace the DSLR? Once upon a time many thought film and digital could coexist. From a practical standpoint, I think we know how that turned out. Here’s what I think. For what its worth…

I think mirrorless is beginning to prove itself a worthy contender in the photography landscape. Sony has led the way so far, and the A9 has landed right in the middle of the DSLR party. The truth is that at some point, DSLRs will go away. No one will be using a DSLR 100 years from now. But will they be using one 25 years from now? 10 years? 5 years? At some point, something will come along and change the photography landscape, and mirrorless appears to be the first contender to try to be that technology.

Along the way however, some things will change, and that may remove one of the primary benefits of mirrorless technology. This is size and weight. It seems as though pros are especially committed to a full frame sensor. As a matter of geometry, this will increase the size and weight of both the camera and the lens you attach to it. Bigger sensor means a bigger (and heavier) camera. Bigger sensor also means a bigger square surface to cover with light from the lens. This means the lens must also be bigger (and heavier) to make an image circle large enough to cover that sensor completely with light. It appeared to me that many mirrorless manufacturers tried to sell pros on smaller sensors which results in smaller lighter cameras. Some pros may have jumped at this, but the internet seems loaded with “pros” and “joes” just waiting for a full frame mirrorless sensor. Sony did it, and has won awards (and sales) aplenty for the effort. Now everyone is sitting back waiting for Nikon and Canon to do the same. The rumor sites seem to point to a release within the year.

Another problem that may stall mirrorless is the lens conversion issue. If you own DSLR lenses, you can’t use them on mirrorless without an adapter. Here’s where the physics of light gets in the way. Basically DSLRs have a big flapping mirror in them that swings up and down. The lens needs to get out of its way, so there is a big space between the back end of the lens and the sensor. The lens is designed to assure that the light passing through the lens falls into focus on the sensor after passing through this open space. This open space is called flange distance, and because mirrorless cameras don’t have mirrors (hence the name) the flange distance is significantly smaller. This smaller flange distance allows a mirrorless camera to be thinner and more compact, but it also means you cant put a DSLR lens on it without an adapter. That’s because with the shorter flange distance, the light hasn’t come into focus yet when it reaches the sensor of a mirrorless camera using a DSLR lens. Therefore you need an adapter or new lenses. That’s bad news and ultimately expensive news for a potential Mirrorless owner with $1000’s invested in DSLR lenses, because say what you will about lens adapters, most agree, they are nobody’s friend.

Well, this post went way long and I’m sorry about that. I hope these last few posts have helped increase your understanding on mirrorless vs DSLR. If you’re planning a purchase, I hope this will help you make a better, more informed decision. After all, none of these cameras are cheap. Looking down the road for the long haul, there are more questions than answers on how to best spend your money right now. I’ll admit to being a gear monger wanna be, but I’m also pretty cheap, with a kid in college and mortgage to pay. I want to make good informed decisions, and not break the bank at the end of the day. So I’ll wait a bit before I buy my next camera and see where the dust settles on this one.

Please enjoy another image I’ve taken with my mirrorless camera. These two Ponderosa Pines rose above all their surroundings at Black Horse Canyon in New Mexico. It had been a long day of hiking, and these trees made an incredible sound as the breeze blew through them. I was sleeping in a matter of minutes listening to them, even with that bright full moon. All the best to you.

DSLR vs Mirrorless Part II: My Experience

When mirrorless cameras came out there were some photographers who jumped right on board and sang it’s praises incessantly.  To be honest, I wasn’t too thrilled.  I don’t know why exactly.  I guess it was because I didn’t like people dissing my beloved DSLR, and the thought of “upgrading” was not one I was very fond of.  I’m not stubborn, but change was not in my wheel house this time around; especially with some of the notable short comings with the early models that I mentioned in part one of this blog.

Then something happened.  I had committed to a two week hike with my son as part of a Boy Scout experience at a place called Philmont.  It promised a two week trek through the back woods of New Mexico, waking with the rising sun, hiking several miles over mountains and through canyons to the next camp site; day after day for two weeks.  A total of 89 miles, 2 summits, and a host of other cool stuff (like a fossilized T-Rex track).  All stuff photographers drool to be a part of.  The only problem is you take everything you need for those two weeks and carry it on your back.  While tents, rain gear, and sleeping bags are part of the necessary equipment, 10 pounds worth of camera gear is highly discouraged. It was time to shop for another camera.

I poured over the potential alternatives and mirrorless kept coming up as the natural answer. I wanted the ability to shoot RAW, a fully manual camera so I could choose, ISO, shutter speed and f stop, and interchangeable lenses in a small, lightweight form.  That eliminated DSLRs and most point and shoots.  Either too heavy or not functional enough.  I scoured reviews of all the usual suspects and settled on a Nikon J5.  In short, it had all the functionality of a DSLR, and the whole thing including camera, lens and battery weighed less than the walk around lens I attach to my D810.  I wasn’t cheap but I got one.

Overall, I had a great experience with the camera.  It was super convenient to keep out at all times, held in place by a carabineer that I could undo in less than 2 seconds to grab a shot when I wanted.  I took close to 1000 pictures and went through  2 and 1/2 batteries in the process.  Not bad.  My pictures looked great, and I can honestly say there is no way I would have taken so many pictures with my DSLR because it would have been stowed most of the time.   Many of the advantages of mirrorless besides weight and size were also appreciated.  Such as super fast focus, high frame rate, and an articulating screen, something more DSLRs are starting to have, but not at the time of this hike.  My biggest complaint was the low light performance which left me hoping for more.  At the end of the day however, I was pleased with my choice and still use the camera today when I’m doing stuff with the family, and don’t want to be weighed down by my big D810.

I have one more post to do on this and I promise to get it out soon.  I just want to talk about the current state of mirrorless and where I think this is all going.  I’ll also discuss why mirrorless isn’t necessarily lightweight or compact anymore.  In the mean time, I’ve included another shot with my mirrorless  J5 that I took while on my Philmont hike.  This is the Maxwell trail camp at Sunset.  I hope you enjoy it.  Until then…All the Best.

DSLR or Mirrorless Part I – A History

Kahoolawe Rain seen from Wailea beach

I love my Nikon D810, as I think I’ve already mentioned in previous posts. There’s plenty of reasons why, but one I never considered was because the inside is so familiar to me. It has that big flappy mirror, and a shutter, along with that big ol’ sensor right where it ought to be. The same spot where the film was stretched between two rollers when I used SLR’s back in the 1900’s. The path of light came through the lens, reflected off the mirror, got bounced around by a pentaprism, and eventually found my eye. Pretty familiar stuff actually. In fact, it’s all I’d ever known until a few years ago. Then, along came the mirrorless revolution.

These cameras had all kinds of names from “next Gen” cameras, to “EVIL” cameras. (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens if you were wondering). The truth was no one knew what to make of them, or what to call them. The path of light was much simpler. It comes through the lens and falls on the sensor. So how do you see what your taking a picture of? That’s the EV in EVIL. An electronic viewfinder shows you not the actual light, but the sensor’s version of the image created by the light falling on it’s surface.

This was a serious industry disruptor. Dinosaurs like me liked our big flappy mirrors in the DSLRs so we shunned them, and at first it really wasn’t much of a competition anyway. Mirrorless cameras weren’t very good, especially in low light. There were other problems too, like a rolling shutter in the EV that could get you seasick taking action shots, but there were/are serious advantages too; like very high frames per second shooting. After all, there’s no mirror flapping around to slow things down. Another was focus peaking, to highlight any out of focus areas in your image, and a big advantage was a greatly reduced size and bulk factor that came with these cameras. It was starting to become a compelling argument, but for a photographer image quality, in ALL settings, trumps features, and bulk, any day of the week.

So went the early chapters of this book, but times have changed.  Some of these advantages stood the test of time and others did not, but some of these disadvantages have also begun to be addressed and things are looking brighter for the mirrorless revolution.  Part II of this post will discuss my experience with mirrorless (yes, I bought one) and where I think things are going. In the mean time, enjoy this picture of a beautiful sunset on Wailea beach in Maui. For those of us caught in the midst of a cold and snowy winter, it is a reminder of the good warm days soon to come. Any yes, it was taken with a mirrorless camera, not my DSLR.

Until next time…all the Best!!!!

Gloomy Tuesday


It’s a pretty gloomy day here as I look out my window.  Actually, not a bad day for photography, but honestly, there’s never a bad day for photography.  I’m rushing to work though, and I thought I would just put up a shot of an equally gloomy day I spent in New York recently.  Gloomy days just scream black and white, so I fired up the ol’ monochrome conversion skills and got to work.  I hope you like it.  Have a great day where ever you are, and remember the sun is just above the clouds.

All the Best …John

The Trouble with Presets

There are a ton of new photo enhancing software packages coming out now.  There are some pretty big names putting their foot forward and, like a Phoenix from the ashes, an old friend has been reborn.  This last reference is to the Nik collection of software that has lived a precarious life as an editing program that has been sold from one company to the next, given away to anyone who wanted it for a while, then eventually killed by its developer and left for dead.  With this track record it’s probably easy to think it was junk, but quite the opposite is true.  This suite of programs was used universally by countless photographers, including myself, and seemed to be everyone’s favorite secondary processor after the 800 pound gorilla that is Photoshop.

With all this attention to secondary image processors comes a concern from myself.  Most of these programs deal with Presets, or filters.  This basically means that the program applies a host of global edits to your photo to give it a variety of “looks”.  This could be anything from a retro look, to a high contrast black and white, to a host of film emulations with color casts, blurs, and vignettes added.  This is all well and good, and I don’t deny that sometimes you can be taken aback by the results of these presets, but overall I give them a thumbs down.  I feel they squash the creative process.  I don’t see any true expression coming from the clicking of a button and seeing 20 potential developing scenarios to scroll through.  To be fair, you have countless ways to tweak these effects, but in the end they are all based on these original fundamental presets.  Where’s the exploration?  Where’s the experimentation?  Where’s the risk?  This make photo processing expedient and safe.  There is no journey to this process.  It’s just not for me.  I’ve never used one and probably won’t any time soon.

I suppose there is some value in seeing what “could be”, and yes, there are some wild presets out there, put forth by these software companies and photographers who will sell you whole galleries of these things to use in the programs.  In the end however, the result is someone else’s vision.  Maybe I’m missing something, what do you think?

Enjoy today’s picture.  It’s an image I got recently on a late afternoon walk in a nearby park.  I love this time of year.  Photography is almost simple with all the beauty created by the fall colors.  I hope you like it!!

Until next time…all the best!!!


Fall Leaves are Fallin’


Hi Everybody!!  Just a quick post today to keep up with everything.  I thought I would share a shot I took on a recent walk through a nearby park.  The fall leaves are in full tilt here in the Northeast and it’s beautiful.  Of course, the high winds most likely lead to a dramatic transformation by the week’s end.

All the best to you and see you soon!!