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.

New Lens: Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM

Today ushered in a new chapter in my photography, and simultaneously closed another.

A new lens joined its brethren here in my photography den; and an old friend parted ways.

Now, I am not one to buy gear very often.  My days of ‘Gear Acquisition Syndrome’ (GAS) are well and truly behind me; and I have settled on a photography rig which allows me to achieve what I want to achieve.

Being in a position whereby gear is not a limiting factor, is indeed a good position.  Sure, there is always something that would be nice to have; but something that is nice to have, as opposed to something that is necessary for my photographic objectives, is quite a different matter, particularly when it comes to spending money to placate a want rather than a need.

However, every now and then, a new piece of equipment joins my rig, often unexpectedly and rather suddenly.

Today, the spectacular Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM lens found its way into my rig under those very circumstances.

For some odd reason, I had read The Digital Picture‘s comprehensive review of this lens (amongst others) quite recently, and I had pondered, both recently and a number of times throughout the years, the possibility of replacing my beloved Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM with the wider, 14mm prime lens.

For years it was one of those “it would be nice…” scenarios, but today it became a reality.

At 4:16pm I declared that I was actually thinking about doing this.

At 5:33pm, l declared that I had actually done so.

I have never progressed from “I’m thinking about…” to “I just bought…” so rapidly.

The plan I had was to visit my main photographic supplier on my way elsewhere to see what kind of a deal I could get.  When I visit (which is maybe once every year or two), the guy there always recognises me, talks to me for a while, and gives me a good deal on anything I buy.

The visit was purely for research, but it went a bit further than that, as the lens was there (which I did not know before visiting), and the price was right.  I solved two ‘problems’ in one hit.

Firstly, he discounted the listed price of lens for me; and secondly, he gave me a good trade-in deal on my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM.

As the 14mm prime was intended to replace the zoom, I did not want to spend a significant amount up front and then need to sell my nine-year-old Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM, which has recently been superseded by a Mark III version.  A trade-in was perfect.

The salesman was surprised at the remarkably good condition of my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM, to which I responded by stating that I take good care of my gear.  Indeed, I do.

The combination of the initial discount and the trade-in value put the price firmly in the “I can do this right now” category rather than the “tempting, but I cannot justify the expense now” world of misery.

So, the deal was done.  My beloved Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens stayed in the shop, and a brand-new Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM departed with me.

I honestly did not plan any purchases this year at all, and while I periodically think about lenses and cameras I would like (there is always something), there is a massive difference between the wishful thought, and the cash-depleting reality.

So far, 2017 has started off quite nicely in the photography department, with two pleasing shoots having taken place.

Tonight, I had plans to expand upon that.  And now I was armed with a new lens and all the kid-in-a-candy-store excitement a new toy brings.

Some people’s photography becomes re-invigorated upon acquiring a new camera or lens; some people’s photography becomes re-invigorated as a result of shooting a pleasing image.  In my case, a combination of both scenarios was achieved tonight, and my initial impression of theCanon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM is that it is a brilliant lens.

I have shot extensively with my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens over the past nine years, and according to my lens utilisation statistics, it is my most frequently used lens.

However, I wanted an even wider lens for a more expansive view, and I also wanted to switch to a prime.  Most of my lenses are primes (now seven out of a total of eight), and even though the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM is a zoom, I rarely ever used its zoom capability, sticking fairly religiously to the 16mm setting, and at times forgetting that the lens’s focal length could be changed, which I realised after moving my tripod rig to a slightly different position.

So, now I have a new Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM lens which opens up new possibilities and has given me a psychological boost.  Additionally, I took it for a shoot only a few hours after purchasing it, and I landed a pleasing series of images (about which I will post separately).

I hope my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM finds its way into the home of someone who will love it as much as I did, and that it will bring years of rewarding images.

I look forward to getting back into photography, and a new lens may just help do that.

Mount Wilson: Cathedral of Ferns

During an exploratory day-trip to the Blue Mountains west of SydneyDave and I decided to look around Mount Wilson, a place of which I had heard in photography circles, but never visited.

We encountered the Cathedral of Ferns, where we stopped to capture a few images of the beautiful, lush foliage.

Here is one of them:

Cathedral of Ferns

Cathedral of Ferns

The weather was on our side on this day, as it was overcast with some occasional drizzle, which made for excellent shooting conditions.

Naturally a fantastic time to visit Mount Wilson is during autumn when all the rich colours are on display; but in spite of being there at the ‘wrong’ time, the weather certainly was on our side.

First Photoshoot of 2017

My first photoshoot of 2017 began eather early in the year, with a visit to Featherdale Wildlife Park on the 2nd of January.

This is only the second time we have been inside a zoo or wildlife sanctuary/park since our travels to South Africa and Kenya in 2012 and 2015 respectively.

For some time, Featherdale Wildlife Park had been on our list of places to visit, and when some friends from Queensland, who come to Sydney for Christmas and New Year’s Eve every second year, indicated they wanted to go, we made a day of it.

I shot quite a lot of photos, and have lots of material to review; but I managed to publish two of my favourite images of birds.

One of my stand-out images of the trip was this profile of a black-necked stork (otherwise known as jabiru):

Jabiru in Profile

Jabiru in Profile

The colours on this jabiru are striking!

Using the 560mm focal length, I was able to isolate the jabiru from her grassy background and render the details of her plumage in razor-sharp detail.

Moving onto a much smaller bird

The Little Penguin

The Little Penguin

When photographing a group of penguins, trying to capture a single penguin in isolation is rather difficult.

Fortunately I managed to capture this cute creature after he moved away from the others.

This image was captured with the stellar, rare, discontinued and highly-coveted Canon EF 200mm f/1.8 USM lens, shot wide-open at f/1.8.

All in all, it was a pleasing and productive day, and I shot more images in one trip than I have shot for months.

More images are to follow.

Tančící Dům at Twilight

Apologies for my lack of updates over the last few months.  I have not been shooting much at all.  I have shot a few images, and published some older images which were worth a visit.

In the mean time, here’s a new image from a mid-year shoot.

A view of Tančící Dům (the Dancing House) in Prague, at twilight.

Tančící Dům at Twilight

Tančící Dům at Twilight

This is a slightly different composition to my earlier image of this unique building.

Here, more of the intersecting roads can be seen, and despite outward appearances, it is not as deserted as it looks.

It was a matter of timing to avoid cars and trams; but a careful look will reveal the streak of a car’s tail lights as the vehicle passed through my frame.

Views of Prague at Twilight

It is hard to believe, but it has been over a month since our trip to Prague.

While it was a short European getaway for only a few days, photographically, it was very productive and rewarding, and I certainly landed a few pleasing images in that short time.

Life has been quite busy since then, and I have unfortunately neglected to post about some of my images; so, below are the two images I captured on our first twilight in Prague.

Charles Bridge by Night

Charles Bridge by Night

From a photographer’s viewpoint, no trip to Prague would be complete without capturing an image of the iconic Charles Bridge at night.

The Charles Bridge (Karlův most) is a bridge in gothic architectural style, which was named after the esteemed King Charles IV.  It runs across the Vlatva from the Old Town to the Lesser Town, and is major route to Prague Castle up on the hill, adjacent to St Vitus Cathedral.

In summer, during the day, and indeed for much of the night, Charles Bridge is crammed with tourists and street merchants selling all manner of souvenirs.

Here is a view along Charles Bridge towards the Lesser Town on the other side, and Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral in the distance.

Praha Twilight

Praha Twilight

We had encountered this location earlier during the day on a four-hour walking tour of Prague, and I decided that it would be a good location for a shoot at twilight.

Despite the hoardes of tourists in the area, this easily accessible spot allows for a fairly uninterrupted view along the north side of Charles Bridge, plus the still reflections of the shoreline on the Vlatva.

Travel and Tripod Tales of Woe

Last week we flew into Tel Aviv via Hong Kong.

The airlines unfortunately left half the HGK-TLV flight’s luggage in Hong Kong, including all our clothes, and my tripod — a Manfrotto MT293A4 and 494RC2 travel tripod combo I had specifically bought for this trip.

The morning after we arrived, we had to go buy a new tripod, and new clothes, as we were flying to Prague the same night, and there was no way on Earth our luggage would be here by the time we needed to leave.

I bought a Vanguard VEO 235AB travel tripod at a camera shop ten minutes from here.  I’ve never used that brand before, but it is a nice little tripod which, as it turned out, handled the job well.  I will probably leave it here in Tel Aviv so that I don’t need to carry a tripod the next time we visit.

So, there we were, in Prague, at our hotel, after yet another annoying flight.  I decided to set up my tripod for the next day’s photography, so I unpacked it.

The ball head has a quick release plate, which I attempted to install, only to discover that a pin protrudes from the base of the mounting plate.  No problem, as according to the manual, the tripod included an Allen key to adjust it.  I took out the Allen key, and then discovered that the screw to adjust the pin actually takes a flat-head screwdriver, not an Allen key!

The Allen key is also used to adjust the tension on the leg hinges, but naturally, the Allen key supplied was too small.

Not only did I have the world’s most useless Allen key, but I also needed a flat-head screwdriver, which I naturally did not have.

Fortunately, despite the pin obstructing the quick release plate from sliding all the way onto the mount, there was enough space for it to be securely held, so I was able to use it after all.

Phew.

Our luggage did eventually turn up in Tel Aviv, but we were well and truly in Prague by then.

So now I have two travel tripods.

Morals of the story:

  1. Airlines do occasionally misplace/lose/delay luggage.
  2. Procure travel insurance (we did, and we will claim, as well as seek compensation from the airline).
  3. Keep multiple tripods in strategic locations (y’know, like spies do with passports, cash and pistols).
  4. When buying a new tripod, check that it is all ready to go before you have gone.
  5. Know the locations of camera shops at your destinations.