Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pentax announcement of the K10D replacement.

If you are in Digital Photography and haven’t heard of the following, you must be dead or from another planet.

Last week, Nikon announced a new DSLR, the D300, that will be in direct competition with whatever model Pentax replaces the current K10D with. Just a while before, Canon announced the EOS 40D. The Nikon will have a new 12.3 megapixels DX-Format CMOS Sensor, a 3” color monitor, live view shooting and an astounding 51 points autofocus system. Canon new EOS 40D has a 10.1 megapixels APS-C Format CMOS Sensor, 9 points autofocus, a 3” monitor and has live shooting modes as well. Nikon will undoubtedly step ahead of Canon in sales lead with this camera. Both cameras will have little or no noise at high ISO.

Being a diehard Pentax fan, I can’t deny my envy. I was hoping for an announcement from Pentax, and indeed, they did have an announcement. They announced that the long awaited 645 Digital was no longer a priority for Pentax. In this fast changing digital world, “no longer a priority” simply means that it will never be a reality. I am sad to hear that.

So, we just have to wait for Pentax introduction of the replacement for the K10D. I have a suspicion that they will have a new sensor as well, (hopefully full size and in the neighborhood of 12 megapixels), the live view has been a rumor for quite a while, the 3” monitor will likely be available and the number of AF points is okay the way it is with 11 points autofocus with 9 being cross-type. The Nikon D300 and the Canon EOS 40D will be selling around $1,500.00. I anticipate that the new Pentax will be less expensive. Mister Hoya-Pentax, please don’t make a fool out of me.

Just for fun, I altered the K10D with PhotoShop with what I would like it to be. THIS IS NOT REAL. My version has an 18 megapixels full frame CMOS sensor, a 3” color monitor that can be rotated in all positions and has live view shooting. A maximum ISO of 1600 with little or no noise is attainable. All of the important controls, Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, AF point selection, Raw button, Exposure bracket, Shake reduction and more, are accessible through buttons or switches instead of cumbersome menus. Hey…some of these advanced features already exist on the K10D. Could the K10D be ahead with some features? Watch for its replacement, it should be interesting. I do think that my K10D will serve me good for quite a while.

I hope that in the weeks to come, Pentax will once again surprise everyone with a new and pleasant bombshell.

Remember that the camera is just a tool. It's the person behind the viewfinder that counts. Ansel Adams took some pictures that are still astounding today, with "old school" equipment. Can you imagine what he would have done with the digital technology? If you don't know who Ansel Adams is, it's like saying that you never heard of the Beatles!

Yvon Bourque

Thursday, August 23, 2007

New York, New York

New York is the symbol of American freedom (and world freedom for that matter) throughout the world. It is probably why terrorists chose to attack New York in 2001, (911) as we will always remember it. It may have been one of the worst tragedies in the United States history, but New York remains the most vibrant city in the USA. We were in New York a while back. Of course I had my camera gears and the first free moment we had, I dragged my spouse to B&H Photo which is undoubtedly the biggest camera & equipment store in the world. I remember the sales person asking me, after I had bought a CPL filter, “Did you find everything you need?” and my answer was “Yes I did, do you know where I could find the money I need for it all?” There is at least one of everything photographic in that store.
Most city people head out to the country side, on weekends, to take pictures. Other than Central Park, New York does not offer much greenery, wild animals, pristine lakes and mountains. It also just happened to be raining most of the time we were there. If you combine the weather elements, the traffic, the concrete buildings, the noise, one would think that there isn’t anything worth taking picture of in the Big Apple. On-the-contrary my friends, I was amazed at the excitement and vibrant mood of the Big Apple. There is always something going on, night and day. There are millions of lights and probably as many taxies. Street performers are everywhere. Food vendors are at each street corner, and their chow fills the area with wonderful smell of roasted peanuts, hotdogs, and cooking onions, all strong enough aromas to mask the exhaust fumes and to make you hungry.

I went crazy shooting everything in sight. Of course, I can’t present all of them here, and indeed, I am not displaying my very best shots. My point is to show how easy it is to make wonderful photographs in New York City. I particularly liked shooting at night with all the city lights and bustling crowd in Time Square. I suppose it is similar in the world’s biggest cities, but I was never able to afford such a trip.

Atop the Empire State building, we saw two birds (ravens or crows, I suppose) standing on the guardrail as if they were the guardians of the city.

There was a fire in an office building while we were there. The fireman looked exhausted. He wasn't too happy that I was taking his picture. None-the-less, after 911, they became heros, and who doesn't like to take pictures of heros? One shot is all I took.


A simple photograph of taxis, while I was in a taxi myself, can render some pretty amazing shots. Of course, that’s just my opinion, but taking that one mundane picture and working with PhotoShop Elements, interesting results can be achieved. Like it or not, while in New York, I couldn’t stop thinking that this is probably what the future reserves for us. Eventually, the population growth will be such that we will all live in populated areas like New York. The ethnic mixture is everywhere, and that is certainly a good thing.

Thank you for reading my blog,

Yvon Bourque

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Clouds over my head.

Most of us like bright sunny days. The sunshine seems to put one and all in a good mood. There are even statistics that say that people living in an above average rainy area are more prone to depression and that the suicide rate is higher in those places. Facts or fiction, the point is that sunshine is a good thing…except for many photographs.
When there are no clouds and the sky is blue throughout, lighting on photographic subjects is, in most cases, too harsh. The disparity between the shadowy and sunny areas is either too bright or too dark. When taking photographs of people, they are squinting or in an area too dark for proper exposure. Of course, you can use spot metering, but the bright portion of the picture will likely be overexposed. You can use fill-in flash and that works great for people pictures or close-to-the-camera pictures. What about nature photos, commonly labeled as landscape photography? Do you like a nice foreground such as a beach, meadow, buildings, people, animals, etc, with a perfect blue sky? Personally, in some cases, it’s okay but it is kind of bland.

On the other hand, most of us don’t venture out in the rain or when a storm is brewing. In this day and age, we have wonderful tools to help making our pictures accurately reflect what we see or what we would have liked to see. Many consider image manipulation as false photography. I agree that when a photograph is “photo shopped” to the point that all elements in the picture are false, that is, in my opinion, too much. It becomes like a painting, everything is overlaid to match your creative impulse. It is then a “painting” instead of a photograph.

Back to the blue sky, surely you have taken some picture that were good except that the sky wasn’t what you wanted or what you had seen the day before when you didn’t have your camera with you. With PhotoShop or any other digital imaging software, you can change a bland sky to one that fits the scene or mood. You can insert a sky background similar to the one you saw when you didn’t have your camera.
When I’m out and about with my camera, I have taken the habit of shooting the sky. Sometimes the sky has big puffy clouds, sometimes it has black rain clouds, other times it has a nice colorful sunset type appearance, sometimes a storm is brewing, etc. I keep these images in a dedicated folder on my computer. When I shoot a scene and I am not completely satisfied with the sky, I change it. I have rescued many pictures that way. I don’t think it’s “cheating”, because the sky was probably similar at one time or another. When, and if, you make a collection of sky images, save them as taken. Do not manipulate them until you insert them in a photograph. It will be easier to match the foreground that way.

I am assuming that you already know how to work with your digital imaging software. I suggest that you always use layers.

If you live in a city like New York or Los Angeles, you can always get rid of the polluted sky and replace it with a clean one. It won’t do much for the environment, but it will make you feel good…perhaps.

Try to do something everyday to reduce the pollution on our little planet. Your children and grandchildren will inherit what we make of it.

Read OK1000 Pentax Blog's post on going green with digital photography. It is very well done and will make you think. Kudos to Michael Gaudet.

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Saturday, August 4, 2007

Take your time and get it right to begin with.

A little while back, Anne and I took a few days off and drove to Sequoia National Park for a retreat away of the daily grind. We rented a small primitive cabin with no phone and no TV. Our cell phones were also out of range. Of course, we did have our Pentax K10D and a few lenses and tripod. The idea was to get away and spend some time with Mother Nature.
We got up early the first morning and headed toward the park. The giant sequoia trees are found scattered, mostly along the west slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, between elevations of 5,000 and 7,000 feet. We got to the top about twenty minutes after sunrise. Morning mist and fog were present all around us. We took advantage of the situation and took many pictures. In some areas, the sun was piercing through the thick fog, and projecting rays of light. The atmosphere was almost magical. Of course, with pictures, you can capture the visual, but the birds chirping, the wind whistling through the trees, the smell of fresh mountain air cannot be expressed with any pictures. For us, every time we look at the photographs, we hear the sound and we smell the smell in our minds.

The lenses used were the Pentax DA 16–45mm and the DA 18-55mm. All photos were taken with the camera mounted on mu Giottos tripod. I know …the Pentax SR system allows you to take hand-held pictures at low speed without blur. But, if you have the time, always use a tripod. Not only does it produce clear pictures, but it allows you to scan the scene while the camera is stationary. I find that the composition is less spontaneous that way, which is a good thing with landscape photography. Why rush?
We did the same trek two days in a row and brought home many memorable pictures. It’s tempting with digital cameras to take hundreds and hundreds of pictures, without taking the time to compose. The law of average certainly produces at least one good shot for every 100 clicks. The problem with that is that you don’t learn the fundamentals of photography and it is also a lot of pictures to edit once back home. Why not take the time to get the best possible pictures to begin with. Keep the machine gun shooting for sport photography.