Monday, June 30, 2014

Kudos to UnitedCamera

A few weeks ago, my Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens bit the dust. After several years of service, being backpacked while I biked around, the focusing mechanism failed on me.

I went on the web and got a price quote from this repair place called UnitedCamera.  Their basic "Repair and Calibration" service was $94, which seemed to include the necessary repairs.  Return shipping was part of the fee.  I packed up the lens and shipped it to them in a small USPS Express Mail box.

Within days, they sent me an email, informing me that they received the lens.  They gave me a confirmation number and a URL at which I could track the status of the repair.  In a period of a day, the status went from going to a technicians desk to "repair parts on order."  That last part took most of a week, and then suddenly it was repaired an being shipped back to me.  Since return shipping was part of the repair fee, I fully expected snail mail.  What a surprise to see that it came 2-day USPS Priority.   I got it back this Saturday.

I'm a happy camper.  The lens is working like new.  I've resolved to treat it more kindly.  Don't know how I'll transport the camera and lens if/when I go biking again, but I'll have to come up with something better.

Need a lens repair?  I wholeheartedly recommend UnitedCamera.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Eye of the Beholder

What Matters Most is How You See Yourself

This idea came to me when I saw someone's Lync status read:  "The chicken is the closest living relative of Tyrannosaurus Rex."  I'm told the factoid came from underneath a Snapple lid.

List of Ingredients

  • Shot my son's old Jurassic Park T-Rex with my iPhone camera before I left work.  Yes, I keep Rex at work.
  • Used a rooster shot I took at Shields' Greenhouse this Spring.  He's a photogenic little cuss.  
  • Grass is from a recent picture of the Mountainlair.  
  • Table and mirror are basic Google stock images.

Lares and Penates

A lot of people I work with have decorations in their office space.  I like to think of them as descendents of Lares and Penates, household deities and guardians.  Is it something cultural or innate that makes us desire these mascots? 

Here are some of mine (a few more fish are sitting atop my monitors):

(A side note here:  the above picture is the first taken with the 8 megapixel camera that's built into my new iPhone 5s.)

I guess I have a thing for fish.  The Pink Panther is just an old friend from my first office job.  The penguins are, of course, the Linux mascot.  One incongruity is the absence of any duck figures, for I also have a "thing" about ducks.  Odd.  Ducks.

Now that I think of it, there is a cluster of peanuts sitting atop my CD cabinet.  I've kept them because they remind me of ducks.

Oh, look!  Another penguin!

This could be an interesting basis for a photo project:  shooting the various Lares and Penates of fellow cube dwellers.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Getting by

I'm beginning to think that losing your favorite lens can sometimes be a good thing.  For the past couple of weeks, I've had to make-do while my beloved macro lens has been sent in for repairs.  It has historically been my walk-around lens, which probably also a good reason why it finally broke down.

The good with the bad, however, is that I'm still motivated to take pictures, so I'm playing around with my other lenses.  Most recently, I've re-discovered my first generation nifty fifty.   Here's a shot that I took with it at noon today:

You may note by this picture that although I am without macro lens, I'm still shooting as if I have a a macro lens.  Still, I notice that this picture is "softer" in some way.  I've been reading that many people consider the optics of the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens to be better than average.  There may be something to that.

There's certainly something to the notion of stepping out of one's comfort zone being a good thingTM to do -- now and then, at least.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Took my camera along with me when I made a cube call on the main campus.  On my way back to my car, I managed to get off a few quick shots.  Here's an angle I've shot before:  a view of the Mountainlair from Stewart Hall (shown reflected in the center).

Unlike previous shots, this one is tack-on in focus.  Credit is due to the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM lens.

This is a self-portrait of sorts.  I'm reflected in the glass at the end of the sidewalk, directly behind the parked bike.  It's comforting that I still cast a reflection.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

I need a hero

I've found my hero today.  A news release in EurekaAlert! tells the story of John Jelesko, a Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences researcher, who has isolated a naturally occurring fungus that kills seeds and seedlings of poison ivy.

I hate poison ivy almost as much as it hates me.  It seems endemic to this part of the country, and I don't even  know how I manage to get most of my cases.  Suspect the cats.

In reading the article, I surmise that this Colletotrichum fioriniae fungus does not kill mature plants.  More's the pity.  This is one life form that I would not feel the least remorse in seeing it become extinct.

A SYTL for today's title:

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ready for Launch

This is a Kniphofia, perhaps better known as a red-hot poker plant.  It had rained last night, and you can still see the droplets towards the top.

The water droplets are pretty little mirrors of the surrounding scenery.  As you can see by their reflections, however, the shot would have worked better in natural light.  The ring flash appears as three burn-out spots in each droplet.

This just goes to show what a fine macro lens it is was.

It's sad to think that this may be the last photo taken by by my trusty EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens.  Something in the focusing mechanism -- perhaps a gear -- has failed, and I cannot get it to focus manually or automatically.  I'll be boxing it up and shipping it for repair in the next couple of days.  Looks like it might cost around $100 to fix.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Dreamscape Bridge

In light of techniques I've recently learned in Photoshop, I've gone back to some of my old pictures and re-edited them.  The bridge over the Castleman River is a favorite, and I think I did improve on this one.

At the time that I took this back on October 23, 2011, my best technique was to use a couple of free Photoshop actions called Touch of Light and Touch of Darkness.

Here's the reworked version:

One might accuse me of using a little too much sharpness in this, but you're really only getting a High Pass filter combined with an Overlay transparency mode.

I went back a few years again and dug up an article, "Pulling Dreamscapes via Orton Effect" that I had more or less forgotten about.   This bridge shot was a good candidate for trying that effect:

Monday, June 2, 2014

Gold bug sighted!

My first blog posting of this year is titled "Gold bug."  I mention this because yesterday (June 1) I spotted one on a columbine plant near my back porch.  I ran into my house to get my camera, but by the time that I had returned, gold bug had flown.  Damn it.

Next time, I'm going to catch the bug first, then worry about finding my camera.

Pink Primrose

When it comes to taking macro shots, I'm still not progressing much beyond my back yard.

Meet the Pink Primrose (Oenothera speciosa).  There's a little black ant making its way to the center of this flower.  I cheated a little and used NIK HDR Efex Pro to bring the veins in this flower.