Sunday, September 18, 2011

A New Direction

Wow, it's been some time since I have posted here. What's that commercial tag-line: "Life comes at you fast..." Yeah, it sure can. This past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind. Nonetheless, I have been itching to post about a couple things. Motivation can be a strange thing though.

What Happened with the Business Cards?

I did finally receive my business cards from VistaPrint. Whoops. If you have been looking for a printer and read any reviews about VistaPrint, I can say from experience the unsatisfied reviews are probably not unfounded. They messed up my cards. 1500 of them.

As you can see, for some reason the foiling is out of phase with the content on the card. Also, a mysterious extraneous set of numbers is foiled where it should not be. When I called VistaPrint to ask about this, they couldn't explain why the misprinting happened but offered to reprint the cards at no charge. When I requested to re-upload the files for them (because I speculated it had something to do with the upload) they refused citing another upload as a "new design" constituting another full charge. Since I had checked and re-checked my files prior to the first upload quite thoroughly I knew there was no way the file was the issue. I was worried a reprint would result in 1500 more cards with the same issue. I again asked if I could re-upload the files and have someone there just look to see that the files were obviously the same. No luck. VistaPrint was very kind in offering me a full refund and allowed me to keep the cards. Their service was alright but I don't think I would go back to them for business cards.

While the mistake isn't that noticeable, in fact no one I give them to really seems to see it, even after I tell them, it's still a matter of professionalism. It bothers me. But, money being what it is, and considering photography is not my primary source of income, I have been using them.

Continued Shooting and the Incurable LBA

Over the past few months of "radio silence" I have continued shooting quite regularly for a local food publication, Sauce Magazine (Excerpt posted above). That has been a wonderful experience because it keeps me shooting with assignments, deadlines, client interaction, and all the other aspects of the photo business that I enjoy. Also, it's nice to pick up an extra check now and then.

Some new lenses and come in and some of the others have left. I am unsure of how much I will be documenting on these because my attention has recently been diverted. More on that later. Among the things leaving, I finally sold the Panasonic GF1 and I have abandoned the Micro-Four-Thirds system for the time being. As much as I loved everything about it's potential, the 4/3 sensor just could not win me fully over. ISO performance leaves me wanting. Something about how the JPEGs are processed also doesn't sit well with me. The video is cool but has been far surpassed by newer cameras (also the GF2 and GF3 do not appear to be the same kind of camera as the first incarnation; they are paired down and directed towards users with less desire of fully manual capabilities). The M4/3 lenses are just too expensive. As the list of disappointments became greater, the decision to sell became easier. While it isn't a bad system, it isn't for me right now. Also, the Tokina 300mm f/2.8 (the second time I have owned this) is gone simply because I also own the Tamron 300mm f/2.8 107B and cannot justify both. Being that I love the 107B so dearly, the other had to go. (I just noticed my title on the Tokina 300 included the word elusive, which I now feel is probably not the case. It's scarcely available on the used market but there seems to be one or two always around. Not nearly as rare as the 107B.) The Canon S90 P&S camera won out of my Canon G10 as being my go-to compact so the G10 has moved on. And lastly, the Nikon D300 has left the bag.

While it was a pretty big sale for me, I'm not saying I didn't get any packages...

For the bread-and-butter kit, I replaced the D300 with a D7000. I cannot say enough great things about this camera. It's excellent. Regarding lenses, I picked up a couple rarities, the Vivitar Series 1 Solid Cat Lenses, both the 600mm f/8 and the 800mm f/11. I will most likely have a write up on these, though plenty of info can be found for them online. Very cool looking lenses!

The doughnut bokeh produced by these catadioptric lenses can be overwhelming but when used carefully can also create a beautiful ethereal effect. I personally really like the look of the OOF areas in the image below.

I also found the Tamron SP 17mm f/3.5 Adaptall-2 51B ultra-wide. Also a pretty slick lens!

Below is a shot I made with the Tamron 51B while I was out on a beautiful day just playing around. As can be seen the lens tends to flare easily, though ultra-wides often do. This image had some post processing as well so it isn't pure, out-of-camera.

I have been doing quite a bit of shooting with these new lenses and cameras but as I said earlier, my attention has shifted recently. Unfortunately, the new activity requires the same enthusiasm for learning, extensive knowledge of the product back catalog, and wallet capacity...Cycling.

A New Endeavor

As far back as I can remember, I have always had a bike. When I was younger, we (the neighborhood boys) always had BMX bikes. It wasn't until late high school that I got a serious riding bike, a GT mountain bike. In college I got my first taste of speed with an older Schwinn World road bike and I loved it. Even then though, the older steel framed bike weighed quite a bit and I didn't really have a grasp of what a lighter, performance road bike with quality components could do for riding. Then a fortuitous garage sale bestowed upon me a Specialized carbon fiber bike from the 90's at the wallet-friendly price of $75. Since then I have been off and on riding when life permits.

Specialized Allez Epic with a Shimano 105 setup

Recently however, something clicked. Perhaps a new neighbor who also rides and has encouraged me to come out riding with him has been a catalyst. Having moved back to the city, riding is an excellent alternative to driving saving gas and giving me a great workout. Whatever the reasons, I have found myself trying to get on the bike whenever I can. Just like photography, I find myself wanting to personalize my "kit". I have begun building a bike. It turns out the cycling world has just as many inconsistencies and exceptions as that of the camera gear world. So begins a new adventure...