Friday, May 30, 2008

Tehachapi Pass in California

Hello Pentaxians and friends. Special thank you to in Spain for incorporating some of my posts on their site, translated in their native language. If only the Governments could get along as well as regular people and photographers do!

Tehachapi is a small and quiet town. It is famous for the Tehachapi Rail Road loop, which I didn't have a chance to photograph this time around. It does have a lot of agriculture as shown above.

The tehachapi Pass in Southern California is home to thousands of electricity generating wind turbines. We need more of those to become energy self-sufficient.

It is a friendly town. Even the cows are friendly.

The area is about 4,000 ft in altitude. Rolling hills, country roads, and wind mills are the common scene. There is some kind of beauty in these wind mills.

We went to Tehachapi this past weekend for some R & R. There isn’t really much to do there but I always wanted to stop and take some pictures. We always drive by when we go to the Bay Area, but it seems we never have time to stop. This Memorial Day Weekend, we drove to Tehachapi and stayed in a small motel. Since the price of gas is so high here, we didn’t want to drive too far. ($4.25 per gallon this past weekend...ouch!)

My step-son is walking the Pacific Crest Trail and we met him there for a few day. It gave him a chance to rest a little, sleep in a real bed, and take a real shower. While he spent some quality time with his mother (my wife), I had plenty of time to go around the area in search of good photographic opportunities. I came home with at least fifty keepers. I will post a collection of them on my Gallery soon but I thought I would include a few here. Of course this is just my opinion…we all like our own pictures.

Many of the photographs required the use of a tripod and a remote control as I wanted to capture some of the wind mills with the blades slightly blurred to accentuate movement. I realized, once there, that I had lost or forgot my Cable Switch CS-205. I use the K20D with the battery grip and was able to use the Remote Control-F which is stored in the Battery Grip along with a spare SD card. Now…how many Companies offer this convenience in their battery grips? I believe Pentax is the only one. Even better, the same Battery Grip fits the K10D as well. You see why I like Pentax equipment! The compatibility with older lenses is unparalleled and the sharing of battery grip between the K10D and the K20D is a first. The ability to store a remote and SD card in the grip is an added bonus.

I hope you have time to go out and take some pictures. It’s relaxing and it relieves the daily stress.

Thank you for reading,

Yvon Bourque.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pentax K20D, a Jeep and a crazy Pentaxian.

Last Monday, I got up early and drove to Silverwood Lake in Southern California. It's about twenty miles from where I live. Once there, I decided to drive up a dirt road that took me all the way to the top of the San Bernardino Mountains. What a nice quiet day this was. I was alone, and I stopped often along the way up to take some pictures. I had my K20D, the DA 16-45, the DA 10-17 and the DA 50-200. The higher I got, the fresher the air got. Only the sound of birds and wind could be heard. It was just me, my camera, my Jeep and Mother Nature. All the stress of the daily grind was gone.

There is nothing like taking a day off and go somewhere away from you job, your family, your town, and everything that you have to deal with on a daily basis. Instead of shooting like I had no time to spare, I took my time and composed the shots carefully. Instead of taking 1000 pictures like so many of us do, I shot less than 100 pictures through the whole day. We live in a ridiculously fast world. We're in a hurry but we don't know why.

Even my pictures taken that day transcend a feeling of peace and tranquility. Of course, it was peaceful and tranquil. I posted some of the shots that were good for pano here and I hope you like them. I might post pictures of the flora at the 8000 ft altiture. It was spectacular.

I had time to use my tripod, check the composition many times before taking the actual pictures, and was not pressed to hurry up at all. I came back home rested and with more keepers than duds. I turned some of the pictures into fake panoramic pictures by cropping the large 14.6mp images that the K20D produces.

All and all, it's good to get away from it all once in a while. You ought to try it. When the stress is gone, your creativity kicks in...I think!

Thank you for reading.

Yvon Bourque

Monday, May 19, 2008

K20D AF Adjustment Chart expanded as per the constructive comments received.

Hello Pentaxians and friends,
Yesterday I introduced an AF Adjustment Chart to help in determining if any particular lens has front or back focus problems. As I often do, I posted the major portion of the article on various Pentax forums. Several Pentaxians emailed me with some good suggestions as to how to improve the chart. I first tested the chart with a lens that focused as close as just a few inches and my chart actually worked at eliminating the back focus problem I had. The lens was a Pentax SMC-F 35-70mm macro. Every time I would take a macro picture, it seemed that the actual photograph would be out of focus when, I was certain that I had focused properly. The K20D, with the AF Adjustment function was the right camera to test and adjust the lens.

I recognized yesterday that the target cross was too small for constant and accurate results. I changed the chart and incorporated a much larger center portion while retaining the overall design. Additionally, I scaled the center portion to almost the size of an 81/2” x 11” letter size paper. I still believe that it is easier to have the chart standing at 45 degree from horizontal while testing the lenses with the camera on a tripod and as horizontally leveled as possible.

If you look at the chart, the center is oval in shape when viewed perpendicularly. The reason for this is because when focusing on the chart with your camera leveled, you will notice that the oval shape turns into a circle, helping in visualizing when the camera/lens is leveled.

The oversized chart can be attached to the smaller chart with paper clips, to retain the 45 degree angle. It is at 45 deg because that way, the depth of field can be seen. If the sheet was flat, there wouldn’t be any depth to it. The Metric and English dimensions are accurate on the small chart, but the enlarged chart shown the dimensions also enlarged. Still, it does show if you have back or front focus errors.

Again, if other suggestions are emailed to me, I will first make sure that we all agree with the improvements and re-issue a once again improved chart.

Now, I assume that we all own and use Pentax equipment. My blog, the other Pentax blogs, as well as the dedicated Pentax forums should all have one thing in common. That is to help each other as Pentax users.

The reason I am bringing this up is that I experienced some rather condescending comments from some members of forums. Its one thing to share your knowledge with the entire Pentax audience, but it’s another thing to be rude and pompous toward other Pentax brothers and sisters. I won’t name any of the forums, as I am sure you already visit every Pentax sites on the internet. At the top of the list for rudeness, is a member from Hong Kong whose name you probably already know. That person should tone down a little from his self-proclaimed expertise.

A Pentax site should be embracing all Pentax users from the person with no experience that just bought a Pentax DSLR today to the most talented and experienced professional photographer in the world, whoever that is.

I wrote before that owning a Pentax DLSR was like being part of a big family. I truly believe that Pentaxians are a special loyal group. Let’s help each other become better photographers by helping each other.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for all the constructive comments.

Yvon Bourque

Above is the new chart with a much bigger and uncluttered center. It is cut and folded in the same way as the previous chart.

The picture above shows the new chart standing at 45 degree from horizontal.

Above is the chart from behind.

Above is what I saw in the viewfinder with the DA 16-45mm at full aperture and as the closest point it could auto-focus.

Above is the enlarged chart, clipped to the smaller chart retaining the 45 degree angle. It is included in the free download.

Above, you can see the enlarge chart clipped to the smaller chart from behind.

Above, you can see the oval shave when viewed perpendicularly to the chart.

Above is the test of the Pentax DA 70mm Limited. It's a very sharp and accurate lens. Notice how the oval is now an almost perfect circle?

Finally, the picture above was taken today, atop the San Bernardino mountains, to show that I am not a pixel peeper, I do take real photographs.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

K20D and K200D on the Pacific Crest Trail

PCT crossing in Big Bear, California.

Hi Pentaxians and friends,

Lately, I have not been able to post new articles on my blog site as often as I would have liked to. My day job is getting in the way of my hobby. I may have to remedy that and quit my day job.

My stepson has just started to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from the US/Mexican border, with the intention of walking it all the way to the US/Canadian border. That’s nearly 2,000 miles. It will take him all summer and part of the fall. We met him this past weekend as he was getting his food supplies in Big Bear, California. I was surprised to see how many hikers walk the trail every summer. They all gathered at the post office waiting for the door to open to get their supplies. They can walk about 100 to 150 miles before the dry food supplies runs out. They mail food supplies ahead of time, in boxes, to small Post Offices near the trail. They all are well organized.

After I had breakfast with him, I drove him back to the location where the PCT crosses the road, at an elevation of approximately 8,000 feet. The vegetation is quite different at that elevation and the wild flowers are currently in bloom. I walked with him for a little while, taking pictures along the short distance I walked. I’m not a hiker myself and I don’t think I could walk that enormous distance, alone, at elevations where the air is real thin. If my Jeep cannot go, I do not go.

On my way back, I had time to myself and took pictures of the surroundings. I had my K200D with the DA 10-20mm and the K20D with the DA 16-45mm. I was amazed at the view and no matter where I looked, there was something beautiful to photograph. In the pictures above, I tried to show that regardless of the distance, there was beauty everywhere, from far away to very close to the ground. All pictures were taken in RAW and converted to JPEG in Lightroom. I had a polarizer on the 16-45mm. The 10-20mm does not accept filters because of the lens curvature.

Although the K20D is a much better camera than the K200D, I have to admit that I do love the K200D. It is lighter than the now retired K10D, but has the same digital engine with the newest updates. The available battery grip makes it very comfortable to hold and it looks good. It reminds me of the *ist D, only better. Unless I am going on a photo trek, the K20D stays at home. The K200D has become my camera of choice to bring with me everywhere I go. It is light, and the picture quality is great. I have the DA 10-20mm attached to it. I find it to be good for a walk about lens. When I get more money to spend, I will probably get the DA 12-24mm, because it has most of the focal lengths I usually shoot at, but being a rectilinear lens, there is less distortion.

Thank you for reading.

P.S. In a few days, I will release a new AF adjustment chart for free downloading on this blog site as well as on my website. I designed it with AutoCAD (Engineering Computer Aided Drafting, for those who are not familiar with the software) and it is very precise. It is designed for all Pentax users, and especially the K20D users, as the camera is capable of adjusting front or back focusing errors, and keep it in memory for up to 20 lenses. It is quite different from the chart floating around on the internet for the Nikon D-70. It will also come free with all our K20D books in the future. I will post the link to download the chart on all major Pentax forums. It will be free for downloading it.

Thank you for reading,

Yvon Bourque