This summer, I have searched for some local photo-friendly spots that I can use to test out lenses and other gear. There are local parks, trails, and the like in North Chicago, but little to nothing that compares to the sprawling metropolis/park areas I saw on the daily in Japan. Some of the smaller areas and bike trails are great for getting out for an afternoon of fresh air, but they don’t offer much in the way of a bonafide picturesque and scenic location. Thankfully, I did not have to search too far to come across the excellent Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, IL. Housing 27 separate gardens and four nature areas on 385 acres of land, the “living museum” has so many great places to make some great photographs. As it should be no surprise to some of my readers, I’m very excited they house an extensive bonsai collection as well as a well-manicured Japanese-style garden (that I plan to visit on my next trip!). In a summer filled with Navy Weeks and other projects, here’s a few photos made during a day trip to help keep my photographic chops sharp.
It looks like the days of comfortable sandal-wearing weather are just about finished for the year in Japan! With the chill, of course, comes the late and colorful Fall in the Tokyo region. I managed three great trips last year covering Kamakura, Yokohama, and the huge Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo. This year, due to factors outside my control–including a residence move and strong winds messing with a lot of the foliage–I could only get out once (and relatively late in the season). This year I gave Sankeien Garden another shot, as last year I toured around a bit too early in the season to capture any fall colors. A few photos from that day will likely make it into my end-of-year recap from other photo outings that didn’t make it into their own post. Until then, stay tuned!
Review-wise, I got my personally-anticipated Laowa 15mm f/2 review up and running earlier this month. The lens performs great, though it doesn’t quite measure up to its price point on APS-c. Much cheaper lenses like the newly-released Sigma 16mm f/1.4 will likely outperform it. When I happen upon a full-frame camera that suits my photography needs, though, the Laowa will surely shine. In the meantime, I am enjoying the increased corner sharpness thanks to the lack of field curvature. It’s just a matter of time before my trusty Rokinon 16mm f/2 goes up on eBay, and when it does, you all will be the first to know! Apart from that, I would love to review a couple more lenses from my kit before moving on to other new optics (my 400mm f/2.8 is begging for a review…if only I could lug it around with me more!).
Looking over other photography news in November, Panasonic announced what looks to be a challenge to Sony’s A9 in the form of their own G9. Honestly I’m not sure what the point is in spending so much on a small-sensor camera like that (diminishing returns have to kick in at a certain point), but I still hope it performs well and adds to the competition. Lens-wise, Leica decided to up their ultra-high priced (and usually very-high performing) game and announced the Noctilux 75mm f/1.25 ASPH. At $13,000, this crazy lens makes even high-quality medium-format lenses look cheap by comparison. Besides, if I was a collector, I’d go for a triple-lens set for even less, like the 100th Anniversary Nikon Kit for a much more “affordable” $8,000 (chump change, really!).
That about wraps up November’s update, guys and gals! I’ve got big plans to hit the ski slopes heavy this winter with camera in tow, and may even make a journey to the northern island of Hokkaido to check out some real heavy snowscapes in mid-winter. Much of this is up in the air as I eventually transition back to the States, but regardless of what gets thrown my way, I’ll try to always have my camera handy. As always, have a great day, and thanks for dropping by!
Every year when September rolls around, I have little to complain about. The weather starts cooling off from the oppressive heat of the summer, oceans are still warm to explore in, and various flora are still alive and kicking to add some greenery to photographs.
In spite of some great weather and photographic opportunity, however, September is also one of the busiest months of the year at work. In addition to last-minute preparation for Navy advancement exams, this marks the second year I’ve participated in Yokosuka’s annual “American Sound in Yokosuka” concert, as well as two other “Hojinkai” jazz concerts in Miura and Kawasaki. In fact, the weekend I’m posting this website update is one of the few times I have had a couple consecutive days off this month!
Day job aside, I’m still working on writing my Laowa 15mm f/2 review, and have already made all the necessary product and technical test shots. All that’s left now is to go out once or twice more to get more real world photographs! On my first outing with the lens, I returned to a sunny Yokohama and walked around the whole day to see what I could find. By sunset on Osanbashi Pier I captured the ever-colorful Cosmo Clock with my other trusty Laowa, the 105mm f/2 STF. Due to my attempt at a quick turnaround in reviewing the lens (by comparison, my recent review of the Rokinon 16mm f/2 has select photographs from three years of shooting), I’m hoping I can still run the lens properly through its paces. First impressions, however? It’s a fine wide-angle with few faults!
Otherwise, in the wide world of photography, there isn’t a whole lot to report back on. The awesome Nikon D850 has launched and is starting to become widely available, while Sony launched the RX10MkIV, another evolutionary upgrade to its great bridge camera line. The rumor mill is still stirring for Sony’s next “pro” camera, as the A7 (as well as the A7s/A7r) is well overdue for an update. Meanwhile, I’m still just sitting over here hoping for a full-frame a9000 in the NEX rangefinder-style body. Honestly, it’s just a matter of time. 🙂
That’s all for this September update, guys and gals, thanks for dropping by! If all goes well I’ll have a couple days the next two weeks to take the Laowa 15mm f/2 out again to try and get some sample photos to do this compact optic justice. Until then, thanks for dropping by, and as always, have a great day!
Longtime followers of my website may know that the 105mm focal length is one I have gravitated towards for many years of my photography. From my beginnings with the classic Nikon 105mm f/1.8 AI-s, I enjoyed the pleasure of dabbling with other lenses such as the up-close Nikon Micro 105mm f/2.8 AI-s and even the super-compact Nikon 100mm f/2.8 Series-E. All three of these lenses provide a medium-long telephoto on the APS-c cameras I used them on, and they all served their uses in my photography. In fact, I still dust off the Micro 105mm f/2.8 for all of my product shots! However, until late last year, I had all but abandoned the focal length for general photography and transitioned to the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AI-s instead for my moderate telephoto needs. The 85mm has less chromatic aberration than the 105mm f/1.8 at equivalent apertures, focuses close enough for quasi-macro shots, and provides much more separation than the Series-E lens ever could.
At the same time, there was always a lens that intrigued me in the Sony lineup: the 135mm f/2.8 STF. With a special apodization element, the lens rendered out-of-focus backgrounds unbelievably smooth, giving “creamy bokeh” a whole new meaning. Even ignoring the current $1400 price tag, the lens wouldn’t make a lot of sense for my style of shooting on an APS-c camera. So for a while, the 85mm f/1.4 remained my go-to for low-light medium telephoto work. That is, until Venus Optics came onto the scene with their unique 105mm f/2 STF lens in mid-2016, promising the same kind of bokeh-smoothing effect with its own apodization element, all at a moderate price tag of $700! At this price point, and with these kinds of features, the obvious curiosity concerns its performance wide open as well as the effectiveness of its apodization element. Does it deliver? Read on to find out! As always, if you are unfamiliar with my lens review style, check out this post first! Continue Reading
After a full day of wandering around central Seoul, I was still pretty excited to get out and do it all over again the next day to see what else I could find. After all, in the megacity of Seoul you can just pick a direction to walk and eventually stumble across some cool sights! Being our last day, however, I headed out with a friend to hit as much as possible with the help of Seoul’s (incredibly cheap) metro. Continue Reading
Now that all the pleasantries are out of the way from finally hitting 1,000,000 views on the site, it’s back to quickly catching up with my most recent international trip to South Korea! Part one of my travels saw me more in the countryside of South Korea, exploring some cool spots in Gyeryongsan National Park. Just a few days later, however, our group finished our performance with the Republic of Korea Navy Band and we had a whole two days to relax and see the sights of downtown Seoul! Last year, free time was essentially non-existent, so I pretty much didn’t know what to do with myself with so much opportunity to explore. Continue Reading
Photography competitions and workshops can be a great way for photographers to hone their craft in specific ways, given certain guidelines, rules, and themes. For those more competitively-oriented, the possibility of some top prize or internet recognition can be all the motivation one needs to join in. But, for the more “casual” like myself, I tend to avoid the stress of the competitive scene in an art I am not currently pursuing for profit. Thankfully, not all contests are geared to the competitive persona! Continue Reading