NiSi Filters: Initial Impressions

Today I picked up my new NiSi filters.

My filter kit now consists of:

  1. NiSi 150mm x 170mm Nano IR 1.2 (GND16/four-stop) soft graduated neutral-density filter;
  2. NiSi 150mm x 170mm Nano IR 0.9 (GND8/three-stop) reverse graduated neutral-density filter;
  3. NiSi 150mm x 150mm Nano IR 3.0 (ND1000/ten-stop) neutral-density filter; and
  4. NiSi filter holder for Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM.

I just had a look at my new filters, and my initial observations are as follows:

  1. They are extremely high-quality glass filters.
  2. The filter holder for my Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM is surprisingly large and heavy for its size.
  3. A 150mm filter is literally a handful; two hands are needed to safely mount and dismount filters this size.
  4. Extra care will be necessary when using them, as a drop could be disastrous.
  5. They take up considerable more room in the camera bag — particularly the filter holder.
  6. NiSi products are very nicely packaged.

The NiSi 150mm system is quite a change from my former Lee 100mm resin filters.

I am looking forward to using these.

Milson’s Point View

A view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from Milson’s Point at twilight.

Milson's Point View

Milson’s Point View

This year I have decided to make more of an effort to get out and shoot regularly.

For this most recent weeknight shoot (my third of 2017), I decided to re-visit the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which I rarely photograph any more.

The last time I captured a serious image here was in 2005!

So, here it is: the iconic bridge for which Sydney is famous.

New NiSi Filters Ordered

Having recently replaced my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM with a Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM, my Lee 100mm filter system was rendered obsolete.

Unfortunately, 100mm filters are not wide enough to work with the 14mm lens.  What I now need is 150mm filters, and I decided to invest in the NiSi 150mm filter system, which seems to be popular with landscape photographers.

Yesterday I ordered a filter holder specifically for my lens, a 150mm x 170mm 1.2 (four-stop) soft graduated neutral-density filter, a 150mm x 170mm 0.9 (three-stop) reverse graduated neutral-density filter, and a 150mm x 150mm 3.0 (ten-stop) neutral-density filter.

This lineup should nicely cover my needs.

Fortunately I was able to sell all of my other filters in one go (including some screw-on filters which were also surplus to my needs).

I am looking forward to picking up my new filters next week and putting them to use for some landscape photography and long-exposure cityscape photography.

Farewell, Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM

Today I sold my Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM lens.

For a month or two, I had been thinking of offloading it, and once or twice previously, I had entertained the thought of selling it.

I was recently put into contact with someone who might be interested in it, and today the buyer collected it.

According to my lens utilisation statistics, it was my least used lens apart from my one-month-old Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM.

Looking at my images, I have only shot 10 images with it in the last five years. Two images per year is not much, and I only published a total of 36 images during the time I owned it.

I am just not a macro shooter at all, and I find macro photography too frustrating for my liking.

It is a stunning lens and is in near-mint condition, but it just is not the kind of lens I use much or really need (despite having owned it for over nine years), so it is better for it to be in the possession of someone who will exploit its capabilities.

I will use the money from its sale to fund my NiSi 150mm filter system.

My original intention was to replace the lens with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, but as nice as that lens is (I inspected one), it makes no sense at this point in time.

If I ever want a macro lens in the future, I’ll go and pick one up; but for now, the lack of a macro lens in my rig is not a hindrance.

With this most recent sale and last month’s replacement of my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM with a Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM, that amounts to two lenses gone from my lineup in less than two months!

I have optimised my lens lineup in several ways, and I am content with what is now in my rig.

I would still like to replace my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM with a Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM, but for the foreseeable future, that notion will remain confined to the realm of wishful thinking.

Australia Day 2017: Mudgee

For the Australia Day weekend, we decided to take a trip to Mudgee for a few days.

Mudgee is a large regional town in the central west of New South Wales, and it is a three-to-four-hour drive from Sydney.

The main purpose of the trip, other than getting away for a few days, was wine and wineries; but naturally, I packed my default photography rig, with the intention of capturing some of the sights of Mudgee at twilight.

We based ourselves at the Cobb & Co Court Boutique Hotel, where our deluxe queen room provided fantastic accommodation, as seen in this image of the separate lounge in our room:

Cobb & Co Court Boutique Hotel - Deluxe Queen Room Lounge

Cobb & Co Court Boutique Hotel – Deluxe Queen Room Lounge

After dinner and a nice bottle of Mudgee red, we took a two-minute walk down Market Street to St Mary of the Presentation Catholic Church, which I had spotted and trial-photographed earlier in the day, and identified as my primary photographic subject for later that evening.

During the ‘blergh hour’ (my name for the scungy, drab light in between golden hour and evening twilight), I set up my camera and tripod, and composed the view I wanted to capture.  It was just a matter of time before the light would be right.

As it was Australia Day, the streets were practically empty, except for us and three late-teenage or early twenty-something boys who graced us with their presence as they continued upon their mission to become inebriated.

After a few laughs and a photo I captured of the lads standing in front of the church, they departed in search of more alcohol and a good time, and I set about capturing my image.

Here is the result:

St Mary of the Presentation Catholic Church, Mudgee

St Mary of the Presentation Catholic Church, Mudgee

I found my new Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM lens to be an excellent lens for capturing this scene, as the leading line of the path draws the eye towards the imposing spire of the church a short distance away.

Very soon after photographing the church, I turned around 180 degrees and crossed the road onto the roundabout at the intersection of Market Street and Church Street.  On this roundabout is Mudgee‘s clock tower, a central feature of the town.

I found it difficult to photograph the clock tower with my 14mm lens, as it was just too wide — something I am not generally known to say or experience!

There was too much visual pollution due to street lights, the street itself and other unsightly subject matter; I just wanted the clock tower in a nice, clean image, or at least with pleasing surroundings.  I switched lenses, opting for my Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM, which I have not used since mid-2014!

Here is the image I captured as the evening twilight became more rich and intense:

Mudgee Clock Tower

Mudgee Clock Tower

After capturing this image, we headed back across the road to St Mary of the Presentation Catholic Church, where I shot some quirky angles of the stonework, looking up towards the royal blue sky.  (I have not processed any of those images at the time of writing.)

After a few more shots around Mudgee, we headed back to our hotel as the evening twilight gave way to the darkness of night.

The next day was all about wine, but we did venture out after dinner for another twilight photoshoot, which I found frustratingly difficult, as I could not achieve a pleasing composition.

The subjects I wanted to photograph looked great with my own eyes, but through my lenses, a combination of proximity and surrounding subject matter resulted in no pleasing compositions.  I did capture a few images, but by and large, I was not content.

Never the less, it was a great few days away, and we came away with more than just a few pleasing images.

My New ‘Grab and Go’ Rig

Last year I bought a Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II camera backpack for an international trip.

I found it to be an excellent backpack which allows me to carry a good amount of photography gear (including a small tripod) as well as my 17″ MacBook Pro.  I was tired of carrying a separate laptop bag as well as my then main camera bag (a Lowepro Nova 190 AW).

Having gone for a few shoots this year, I decided it was time to properly, and somewhat permanently, equip my Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II with a camera rig which will cover 95% of my shooting requirements, and which I can literally ‘grab and go’.

Here is what I keep packed in it:

  1. Canon EOS 5D Mark II with LP-E6N battery and SanDisk Extreme 16GB CF card
  2. Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM
  3. Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM + hood
  4. Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM + hood
  5. Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM + hood
  6. Canon TC-80N3 Timer Remote Controller
  7. Canon LC-E6E battery charger + AC cable
  8. Canon LP-E6 battery (spare)
  9. SanDisk Extreme 16GB CF card (spare)
  10. SanDisk Extreme IV 8GB CF card (spare)
  11. Hotshoe-mounted spirit level
  12. Princeton Tec FUEL headlamp
  13. Lenspen
  14. Neoprene lens cleaning cloth
  15. Giottos Rocket-Air blower
  16. Business cards
  17. Print of Street Photographers’ Rights fact sheet
  18. Apple 12W iDevice charger + 1m USB cable
  19. Shintaro SH-XCR3 CF card reader + USB cable
  20. Manfrotto M3293A4 tripod and Manfrotto 494RC2 ball head

The tripod is on the outside of the bag, and is affixed to the bag via an in-built tripod foot pocket, and a strap to keep the legs close to the side of the bag.

What is not packed, but can be packed when we are heading away, is the following:

  1. Apple MacBook Pro 17” + AC power pack
  2. Western Digital MyPassport Ultra 2TB hard disk + USB cable

What is also missing is ND and GND filters.  Having recently replaced my Canon EF 16-35mm  f/2.8L II USM with a Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM, I need a new NiSi 150mm filter system to replace my Lee 100mm filter system, which at the time of writing I have not yet purchased.

The good news is that my Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II will easily accommodate this, and there is still room.

Now, this rig covers most of my shooting needs.  What it does not cover, however, is wildlife, for which I use my three largest lenses.

Fortunately, I have two other backpacks which can accommodate those, as well as fit a lot of the equipment packed in my Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II.

I am very content with both the backpack and the array of equipment I have packed into it.  It holds a lot of gear, is not too heavy, and still has room in the top compartment for more gear if I need it.  Plus, it is ready for a shoot ay any time.

 

Re-Visiting a Scene Six Years Later

During the week, I had the unusual opportunity to shoot a twilight cityscape.

It is not something I tend to do very often, but circumstance created the opportunity, which I seized, including a visit to a few of the big city camera stores.

I figured we would afterwards head over to Darling Harbour for some dinner, followed by a twilight cityscape in the area.

The image I had in mind was one I had shot before, but I did not mind re-visiting it, particularly with my new Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM lens, which I was itching to use again after the previous week’s photoshoot in the city.

Here is the image I captured on this most recent outing:

Summer Night in the City

Summer Night in the City

Whilst having dinner very close to this scene earlier in the night, I recalled shooting a summer twilight in the same area some years ago. As it turned out, it was on the exact day (the 19th of January) in 2011 on which I shot a similar image.

This was the image I captured six years earlier:

 

City Lights and City Nights

City Lights and City Nights

It was not my intention to shoot the same scene (the composition, angle and position are somewhat different), and nor did I realise at first that the date was the same date I last shot this scene.

Sometimes strange co-incidences happen, and this was one of them.

Otherwise, it was nice to be out shooting again, particularly as I can go for months without picking up a camera.  Having a new lens certainly acts as a motivator, and I will endeavour this year to get out and about far more than I have done over the past several years.