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Jul 23, 2014

Kiwi's Haircut, Summer Disappearing and Our New Addition Getting Closer

  Photograph Kiwi, Watching Out the Window? No! by Jay Scott on 500px

It has been a little bit busy around here, lately, hasn't it? I guess there has been a small gap in the shooting and baby preparations so I've had time to process photos and post. Summer is passing by s quickly despite my best efforts to make the most of every day and opportunity.

Certainly there are a few more nonessential things left to do but we both feel like we are as prepared as we can be, for the things we have some degree of control over. I have a few picture frames to paint, yet. There is a minor bit of decorating to be done but, like I said, that is not essential. The feeling I have is like that of the approaching winter. By that I mean in preparing while there are minimal restrictions. Every late summer and autumn I find myself trying to get done every last thing I can that is most easily accomplished before there is snow on the ground. What usually ends up happening is that the snow does not interfere nearly as much as I think it does but each year I find myself in preparation mode before the weather adds its additional challenges to everyday life.

Kiwi has had a recent haircut, as shown by the photo above. Next week will be my turn along with a trip for physiotherapy. The thing is, this baby could take up to a month to arrive which would actually be quite a bit of time in the scheme of things. Wow! Every time I say those words it seems a bit surreal. I have moments of complete acceptance of all of the good things about come our way, along with the uncertainty of the changes. Then I have moments like right now when I can't quite believe it, yet.

Angie's friend was commenting on thinking about taking their new son for swimming lessons in the fall but said that maybe she would wait until spring and they could do it together. That was a big reality check for Angie when she thought, "we're going to have a baby!" It's not just about the pregnancy. It's about the rest of our lives. Today, in fact, as I was making my way down the street to make a photo for Challenging Reality, I was thinking how helpful it would've been to have had a little helper for either a push or to carry a piece of gear. I know that won't be for at least a few years but I look forward to the opportunity to teach what I know and have been taught, as well as reap the benefits of a little helper.

I'm sure that our current little helper, pictured above, might have a few jealousy issues. But there's almost no reason she can't be involved in all of our activities. There will be plenty of attention for her and plenty of delicious droppings of food from little hands learning their dexterity. That won't be for a little while, but it will probably be more interesting to our food-driven dog than my lap has been the last while.

I will add to the photo below, as we have additional shots and as time permits. However, with it being as close as it is there is much more reason to post promptly because we just don't know when the last post and last progress photo will be!

Jul 21, 2014

Strawberry Rhubarb Bars

  Photograph Strawberry Rhubarb Bars by Jay Scott on 500px

Yes, I'm pleased with this new camera. I still stand by that it is just a tool. The best tools, in the right hands, often produce the best results. I suppose the bars in this photo were made with the help of a KitchenAid mixer. It made for great results, but without a recipe and understanding of ingredient interaction, my wife would not have made such a successful dessert.

I'm very much looking forward to making more photos with this D810. Setting up to make something special was difficult when you just want to shoot. There may be a photo walk day in my near future.

I was just looking at the photo on this post. The quality is so much better on 500px. Must be the way the site interprets it. Regardless, click on the photo and pop over to the 500px version, if you're inclined to see it optimally.

One New Baby is Here

  Photograph Rainbow Loom Critters by Jay Scott on 500px

Picked up my D810 yesterday. I'm very impressed with the image quality, build, buttons, feel and all improvements I see from my D700. Who would've thought that my first test photo with it would be the two Rainbow Loom critters generously given to each of us from a sweet little girl from our church. Thank you, Rebecca! Shot on an obsolete black CD-RW containing a copy of Return to Wolfenstein. How ironic that I'm watching Nazi Mega Weapons on Netflix while I work on this.

For the record, the dynamic range on this body is superb. However, I was going for dramatic to make the colours pop so I blackened the blacks in post. Love that ISO 64 when working close for macro photos with speedlights. AF is blazing fast, everything just feels so good in hand. Yes, a lot of money, but I've shot 19 photos with it and feel this good about the decision.

Jul 18, 2014

On Failures and MB-D10 Clone Troubleshooting

The above photo was an example of a failure. Benjamin Von Wong recently shared the results of a two-year collaboration to complete a ultraviolet photo session with some people who are skilled in the art of body painting with ultraviolet paints and makeup. That got me interested in the process. Not long after that the guys at Digital Rev gave their best attempt at some UV photography and it was settled. I needed to give it a shot.

Working under the assumption that our lovely planters full of purple peonies would luminesce under ultraviolet light, I set up my $20 light from my bachelor pad days clamped to a light stand with a reflector on the opposite side, flower holder at the ready, just waiting for the super moon to rise.

Mosquitoes being thoroughly ravenous, I gratefully accepted Angie's help to test the lighting and get things in place. The short version of it is the flowers did not luminesce, the moonrise calculator forgot that Saskatchewan does not follow daylight savings time meaning that the super moon did not rise when expected, and our rescue, just so that we could get something made, was to colour on the flowers with a pink highlighter. And that's the half-way excuse for photo you see above. But, I learned something about the exposure of shooting under UV light and maybe there are some other photos to be made in the future.

Speaking of fails, learning and troubleshooting, the rest of this post is entirely for the benefit of people looking to troubleshoot any problems they might be having with a knockoff battery grip for their camera. It is entirely technical and you will not be missing anything if you came here just looking to see a photo and read about my process. Thanks for visiting and see you on the next post.

DSTE MB-D12 Knockoff Troubleshooting

It's not that the Nikon brand MB-D12 battery grip for the D300, D300s and D700 is terribly overpriced but with the intention to upgrade my camera fairly soon I did not want to spend the money on it. In addition to that I wanted to see how I felt about a battery grip (paralyzed hands, and all) before I decided on the addition of one for the next body I would purchase. Being a knockoff I was willing to accept some of the compromises such as a diminished grip, less distinct and sturdy feeling buttons and a degree of play in the connection points. The grip was not without its minor imperfections, but for the price it was absolutely adequate for my needs.

The differences I felt and the issues I encountered are as follows:

  • The e-dials have a very good click to them but are lacking the rubber coating which makes them slightly harder to grip for easy turning. I doubt this is an issue for someone with functioning fingers.
  • The navigation pad has a small amount of play but this does not affect one's ability to navigate or adjust your AF point.
  • The markings, such as the on-off indicator switch, show signs of rubbing off, already after about three months or 3500 handheld frames.
  • Some inexplicable power issues, such as the battery draining over a short amount of time even with the camera switched off, seem to be better, which I will elaborate on in a moment.

The power issues I encountered may or may not have been related to the grip, itself. Initially I found that the grip was draining both the battery in the grip and in the body of the camera over a period of approximately 3 to 4 days. Even with diligently turning off the switch on the battery grip (this switch should only control the ability of the controls on the grip to function, it should have nothing to do with the power usage of the camera) it did not seem to make a difference. What did seem to help was making certain the grip was attached to the camera body as snugly as possible. I'm not talking about stripping the threads of the tripod mount, but a secure fit, ensuring full contact of all pins and connectors between the grip and the body seemed to help.

This may or may not have been the cause of the battery drain. As with most lithium ion batteries there is a breaking in time. Now that I have run the two new DSTE batteries that I ordered through a number of full drain and full charge cycles they are doing very well, one performing better than the second one. This may have been the cause of the battery drain more than the grip, itself. Cycle your batteries properly when you first get them and you should be able to eliminate one factor of this, if it arises for you.

The second issue that I had with the grip was greatly concerning because I was afraid it was going to affect or damage the camera. Using my initial, two year old, secondary battery (EN-EL3e) which was also made by a third-party manufacturer, I would make an exposure with a shutter speed slower than 1/60 of a second and the mirror would not flip down, I would receive an error message and no exposure would be recorded to the card. I was able to reset the camera simply by pressing the shutter button again but I would need to power cycle the body in order to return to shooting. After power cycling it would reset to approximately f/4.0, 1/160", ISO 200, which is not uncommon for me to be at and it may have been the setting the last successful frame was made with. The initial purpose of the longer shutter speed was for a photo which included four flashes and some electroluminescent wire for a thirty second light painting, using rear curtain flash sync. When this error occurred, and failed to lower the mirror, it did not fire the hot shoe, which would have triggered the PocketWizards to fire the flashes.

I was concerned that my shutter or mirror was in need of servicing even though this body has been incredibly well taken care of and is still at only about 60,000 actuations but, things do wear out. Thankfully this was solved by replacing that battery with one of the new, third-party EN-EL3e batteries. My OEM battery now stays in the D700 body. Before the battery grip, I was regularly rotating between that initial second battery and the OEM Nikon battery that came with the D700. Why it decided to not like the battery grip, I do not know. As soon as I put in a new, fully charged, DSTE battery everything was functioning perfectly.

That has been my experience. Because of how well everything is working now, with my D810 due to arrive any day, I had preemptively ordered a second battery grip, the MB-D12 clone by DSTE, from Deal Extreme, the first grip (MB-D10) being ordered from eBay. Since then, I was given the opportunity to buy an OEM Nikon MB-D12 for the price of $229 CAD, more than a 40% discount off the standard retail price in Canada. That was below what I was willing to pay for a Nikon brand grip, to be put on a brand-new camera, so I took to opportunity. The $400 price tag was too much, hence my ordering the second grip from DSTE. I will be selling it but keeping the DSTE EN-EL18a, charger, and EN-EL15 ordered from

I hope this has helped you in troubleshooting any problems you may have had and that a fully charged battery or tightening of the attachment screw solves your camera's hiccups.

Jul 17, 2014

Zoo 2014 - 7

We all know how quickly the summer passes us by but as I look back at these photos, most of which were made six weeks ago, it still felt so much like spring. Now, after today's visit to the flower gardens, it definitely has that progression to it. There are still a number of the small, delicate flowers but they are clearly transitioning into the heartier ones that deal best with the heat of July and August.

The petite little daylilies were as vibrant and nice as ever but the taller lilies had begun blooming, already. When that starts happening you know there are fewer and fewer types of blooms left to show off their beauty before they are gone and the leaves begin draining of their green to make way for the colours hidden by chlorophyll.

Our lawn has clearly slowed down its growth and does not look quite as rich as it did a few weeks ago. A few of our other plants that are a bit younger are always a little bit behind the average. That's fine with me because we get to enjoy them just a little bit longer in our yard and any day now the first of our lilies will open. I look forward to photographing the red and the tiger lilies.

One of the main purposes of this earlier trip to the zoo was to scout for what was our upcoming photo session. I snuck into some back areas of the zoo that are seldom visited by patrons because of the unexciting exhibits back there when I caught some movement of the corner my eye. My first thought was, "Wait a minute! That animal's not in a cage." It was just a rabbit but a playful one which let me shoot for five minutes and came within two feet of me. It was foraging in one of the areas I had great hopes for for our session. Unfortunately, a week of rain turned that beautiful green strip you see in the bottom photo to a swamp.

Now, as a significant storm rolled through Saskatoon a few hours ago, a second wave is hitting us. I hope that the tennis ball sized hail seen in Alberta and parts of western Saskatchewan stay away from us. So far it's just been rain and a little bit of wind but I've heard about places between here and Kindersley that have had windows destroyed and crops wiped out. The Southeast part of the province already took enough of a beating with excessive water this spring and I really hope that we are able to make it through this summer without damage.

Jul 8, 2014

Zoo 2014 - 6

It's been a while since I posted about my trips to the zoo. There have been a few more since I last wrote about it but, already, I find myself finding it less exciting than it was earlier in the year. I've tried changing on my style and techniques to experiment, learn a little bit and see if I can't create something different than I have already. Sometimes it works, sometimes you learn from failure and sometimes you see the same thing you saw the last time through. At least we are in the season when as one type of flower finishes blooming another begins.

As I write this we have had more than double our usual rainfall and it shows in the mosquitoes. The swarm that flew into my van when I chose my first location for this week's Challenging Reality post was enough to make me squirm. I closed the door as quickly as the electronics were close it and chose somewhere not as interesting but without lot more pavement and far fewer 'skeeters.

Before our unexpected monsoon season there is just a nice amount of water to create a reflection with the light and grass to play among in the meditation garden.

The light in this next photo is definitely not something I would want to be doing portraits in but if you are looking for sharp contrast with bright colors the light near noon is what you are asking for. When else can you find ridiculous bright highlights with incredibly dark shadows? It may not be the best or portraiture but it has a beauty and character all of its own.

Jul 2, 2014

Ma & Pa

  Photograph My Folks by Jay Scott on 500px

A couple of weekends ago mom and dad came up to visit as a likely last visit together before our baby arrives. The plan was that on Saturday dad and I would go fishing at the Forestry Farm in the morning then mom, Angie and Angie's family would join us for a picnic. After our lunch I was planning to set up a few lights and make some nice photos of our family in which to decorate our baby's room with. Unfortunately, the weather would let us have no part of it and we had a week of rain before my parents arrived, and then a dreary day on the Saturday we planned all of this for. At least we were able to take mom and dad out to the Berry Barn for a nice supper.

It wasn't terribly rainy that Saturday but I had been through the park the day before and the puddles in the picnic area must've been three inches deep. There was no way that they were going to drain by the time we wanted to have lunch there the next day. Because of this I did the best I could with the tools of my disposal and made the photo of my parents you see above. I just needed a portion of our living room to complete the job. We will need to be proactive about completing the other photos but at least those other family members live in the city.

Though I am not at liberty to share them, yet, we had our maternity/family photos done last week and, from what we have seen of the preview, are very happy with them. It helps that we knew our photographer quite well, are confident in her style and easy-going nature and that all of us involved were pretty laid back about the process. She has an immeasurably greater amount of experience working with people than I do so I was taking mental notes the whole time. She also offered me the opportunity to shadow her on some of her shoots in the future, which I intend to capitalize upon because observing a professional work like that is invaluable experience and education.

Here's one BTS  shot from the session:

Love that tree (from 2012):

I have been continuing on with Angie's biweekly photos. Below you'll see her at 34 weeks, the photo we made just this past Monday. She had to change outfits from the original series because those early maternity clothes just were no longer fitting the ever-growing tummy. We will be continuing the regular photos but probably switch to weekly as her growth will be that much faster in these last few weeks. I will post a new series of photos in the next little while.

From here on down is just camera talk. If you're interested in me and what I'm interested in you will probably want to keep reading. If you only came for the photos you won't miss much if you stop reading right here.

On a different note, it was 3 1/2 years ago that I bought my D700. The model was a few years old at that time and has been a fine camera. It was replaced two years ago by its big brother, the D800, which was actually in a higher category than the D700, was a hugely popular camera with image quality rivaling cameras 10-20 times its cost. The announcement was made last week to replace it with some significant and some less significant improvements and upgrades. I've been saving my pennies, balancing the budget, and have decided to move forward with this new body, the D810.

Normally I'm not an early adopter of technology. I like the things to come out, the problems be found and fixed, then I'm ready to buy in if it's the right technology for me. Because this is not a complete overhaul, but some additions and improvements, I feel confident that it is not going to be something that needs the bugs worked out. Some of the newer technology, that had me pull back, I learned has been implemented by other companies with smaller systems. Nikon has simply scaled it up for this body. It's not that there isn't room for problems but I feel that Nikon will look after their customers, especially after some widespread problems with a previous body. It took a bit of yelling by the customers but Nikon came through. I don't think it should have taken them as long to fix the problem as it did, but I believe they learned their lesson.

Hopefully it's here in time to begin the recording of priceless memories as soon as they begin with the arrival of our baby. I'm sure she won't mind a small mortgage of her education fund in the short term for dad to have a new toy/tool to preserve the memories of her growth. :-)