Monday, December 31, 2007

A walk on the wild side.

If looks could Kill
Originally uploaded by Cajie.
I decided to take the family to the Toronto Zoo. Probably not a very good idea to visit a zoo during a time where the outside temperature is zero degrees.

It was freezing, with snow everywhere. Most of the animals were either hibernating or hiding in their warm homes. But there was still plenty to see and do.

The kids had a good time though the little one got tired with all the walking and the freezing cold; and I ended up carrying her most of the time.

The high point for me was this lion exhibit. It's designed in such a way that you get to see the lion face to face with only a wall separating the lion and a tasty snack. This particular lioness was looking the other way and I waited around 15 minutes near the exhibit hoping he will turn his face. Finally he did, and I managed to to get this shot.

Here are some more pictures that I took at the zoo.

Zero Degrees

First Steps
Originally uploaded by Cajie.
We travelled to Toronto, Canada - and my kids went berserk with all the snow around. Erika (my 4-year old daughter) had never seen real snow before but you wouldn't know that seeing her embrace it like a long lost friend.

I took them near the Toronto harbor area which has an outdoor skating rink. The temperature was zero degrees celsius, which for everyone (except for me and my wife) seemed to be nice and balmy.

I rented out some skates for both the kids - Shawn can do some basic skating (He learned at the Kuwait skating rink), but it was first time for Erika.

As the sun went down, I had a very hard time convincing Erika to get out of the rink.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas

Christmas Crib
Originally uploaded by Cajie.
Last night, I happened to be at the Catholic church just as they were unveiling this year's christmas crib. Luckily, I had my camera bag in the car.

When the organizers saw my camera gear, they immediately requested that I do an "official" photograph of their creation. This meant that I needed a tripod, which I always keep in the car.

The funny thing is that everyone who wanted to take a picture with their camera phone or point & shoot gave me a wide and respectful berth; assuming I am some official photographer - which, in this case, I guess I was.

So I ended up doing this "official" photo of the 2007 christmas crib. I also ended up taking some pictures of the organizing committee.

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year 2008.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Nikkor 17-55 f2.8, First test shots.

Souq Sharq Mall
Originally uploaded by Cajie.
I got my first chance today to try out the new 17-55 lens. It looks and feels great and allows me to take pictures that were not possible before.

This picture of a local mall is taken wide open at 17mm at f4 and ISO 640 giving me sufficient hand-held shutter speed of 1/50th of a second.

What is more interesting for me is that at this ultra-wide angle, the distortion (though it exists) is minimal and well-controlled.

This is going to be the lens that stays on my camera body 95% of the time from now on.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The beast has arrived.

Originally uploaded by goan_in_q8.
I have been toying with the idea of purchasing this lens for a long time, but the price was just beyond my reach. I just could not justify paying $1400 for a lens with a range of 17-55mm, when my $300 18-70mm DX lens was giving great results, plus extra range upto 70mm.

But what sets this lens apart from the 18-70mm lens is that this is a fixed focal lens - just like my 80-200 f2.8. It has a constant maximum aperture of f2.8, which means that regardless of what focal length I choose, the widest aperture is guaranteed to remain at f2.8. This is great for low light photography.

I was finally convinced to pick this thing when I saw Amazon offering it for $1200. Though not cheap, I decided to throw caution to the wind and closed my eyes and hit the order button.

The first impression I got when I held this lens in my hand is that I better hit the gym. The thing is built like a tank and carrying this thing around for a long time is definitely going to test my frail muscles.

I have not yet got a chance to test the image quality of this lens, but I am looking forward to doing so in the next few days.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Farewell to a trusty tool.

Originally uploaded by goan_in_q8.
I just sold this lens, as I ordered the Nikkor 17-55 f2.8 lens, and expecting to receive it in the next few days.

The 18-70 served me well during the 2 year that I owned it - first on my D70, and then for the past few months, on the D200. It is fast, wide, light in weight and offers a good zoom range that is ideal while travelling, or general walkabouts.

As of now, more than 90% of the work posted on my flickr account is taken with this lens. I had come to learn it's quirks and how to work around them. For e.g., it distorts heavily at the wide angle. In this photo, the nearest lamp post looks like it is curved instead of appearing straight. Nothing much can be done about it because that the nature of lower-end glass.

The 17-55, on the other hand, is a professional grade lens, and hence distortion should be minimal. I say "should", because I have not yet tried this lens, nor held it in my hands. I have simply ordered it based on the recommendations of fellow photographers.

Some people asked me why I would give up the advantage of the wider zoom range (18-70), and pay 4 times the price for a lesser zoom range (17-55). Well, it's true that I will be crippled because I do not have anything from 55mm to 80mm (My 80-200 f2.8 does duties from 80 to 200mm).

However, it's not just about zoom range. For e.g., for half the price, I could have picked up the 18-200 VR wonder lens. But what sets the 17-55 apart from all these amateur lenses is the constant f2.8 aperture for the entire zoom range. That means, whether I set the lens at 17mm or 55mm, I can keep the aperture at 2.8, which in turn, means I can shoot great photos in very low-light conditions.

At least, that's the theory.

And my 1300 dollars are riding on that theory.