Be Original


Hello all, I’ve been quiet for a while here, for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, I’ve been busy as life has been pushing me in new directions.  My move to Ohio, the new job, and other factors have led to me using my camera less and less.

I want to remain true to the idea behind the blog, which is that as I learn and create new content, I strive to share that education and content here. The danger is regurgitation of others ideas. You start to lose your identity when you try to use the creative works of others to identify yourself.

You may ask why I am choosing now to write and publish this post. The reason is a new ad from Apple:

This is NOT an Apple piece of copy.  They have shamelessly ripped content from another creative and are (I think) trying to pass the idea off as their own.  This was from a movie in the 80s called The Dead Poet’s Society. It starred Robin Williams as a prep school English lit teacher, John Keating, and his character said these words to his students.  The verbiage is fantastic…in context.  But they’ve not even done that – the timing and delivery has been edited down to fit in the more convenient 90 second segment, which I find abhorrent!  That move was meant to inspire people to be original, and to stay true to who they really are – not to sell technology products being made by children in China.

In my own personal opinion, Apple has completely changed the timbre of the message.  They are trying to say that to be unique and creative, you need to use their products to create your own verse – and this is not true!

I am publishing this today, because I suspect that many creative out there are now in a younger generation, and may not have even heard of Dead Poet’s Society.  If you want to be a creative, you simply must rent this from Netflix, YouTube, or where ever, and watch it.  Amazing movie, and I hate seeing Apple desecrate it like this.  Let’s at least give credit where credit is due!

As a final note – if you really want to be inspired, check out some of the photography and videography that comes from this movie!  There are some scenes that really have planted themselves in my mind since I first saw it, including:

1. The bagpiper on the lake.


2.  The cloaked figures running through the trees in a foggy wood


3.  The birds taking flight

birdsAny memorable scenes others have that they’d like to share?  Thoughts on being original versus borrowing from others?  Would love to hear what others think on this subject too!

Can the Nikon J1 Swing a Die Hard Canon Fan

Nikon J1

It should come as no surprise that the Canon brand of cameras has been my chosen system….and has been for quite some time now.  What may come as a surprise though is that I look at a lot of other brands all the time.  I’ve looked at Sigma, Pentax, Olympus, Sony, and yes…even Nikon!  In fact, that’s the subject for today’s post!  I take an in-depth look at the Nikon mirrorless camera – specifically the J1.  Believe it or not, I actually liked quite a bit about it.  Let’s dig right in and see how things fared!

Nikon J1

I like to keep reviews as objective as possible, so when looking at cameras, I consider four main areas:

Form Factor:

The first question I asked myself is: “Does the camera  feel good in my hand?”  Personally, I felt the form factor to be a little box-y.  The mirrorless lineups are great, but being used to an SLR, this thing felt like I was mauling it and my traditional gripping techniques quickly had to change.  The lack of a viewfinder also made some accommodations required in how I composed my shots.  I guess this would be an adjustment that needs to happen regardless of which brand though, as all mirrorless cameras are by design, a lot smaller, and most are moving away from the viewfinder mechanism.  So – here the answer is a neutral “meh”.

The next question I asked was “How are buttons and menus placed and positioned for access?  Is it intuitive and make sense on where to find different functions?”  The answer here is a heartfelt Yes!  While I may be something of a technophile, the menus were very easy to navigate and each and every button was easy to identify the function with only one minor exception.  When shooting in manual mode, the dial controls the shutter, but the aperture is controlled by a separate toggle above that.  In other small form factor cameras, a single dial controls both, and alternates from a function button.  It took me a bit of reading the manual to figure that out (and who ever reads the manual?).  I’d actually count this as a con just because I found everything else so well-laid out.  The bottom line for the look and feel of the camera is a +1 for me!

Accessory items:  Next up, I asked myself if this would be easier to pack than my SLR?  With an SLR also comes a spare battery, charger, tripod (or or gorilla pod), at least one if not to additional lenses, and memory cards.  The space ads up, and especially for someone who travels a lot for both work and pleasure – the accessory factor is a substantial one.  I was able to take the entire camera and lens, and stuff it in my cargo pocket of my pants.  So, any additional lenses, SD cards or anything else I’d like to bring (like a Gorilla Pod) could easily fit in my other pants pockets.  In fact, when I was working with the cumbersome EOS SLR, the J1 was tucked nicely in one cargo pocket, the gorilla pod in the other, and the Canon occupied all my attention.  When I had the J1 out and shooting, I had to always keep half my eye on the SLR to keep it from swinging all over the place, crashing into a pole, the ground, or a passerby.  An SLR is not easy to pack away, but this J1 sure was!

Image Quality:  The most important consideration for me was image quality.  Here, I was quite happy as well.  I could shoot in full manual, shutter priority, aperture priority, or any of the custom modes one would expect in an SLR.  I could also shoot in raw.  And while newer SLR’s are also incorporating video, the video funtion of the mirrorless was quite impressive as well, shooting in full HD – 1920×1024!  Let’s take a look at some sample shots from the J1 that I took when I was out shooting with a friend recently in Portland OR!

Let’s not forget the video quality too.  Here’s a fun short snippet I took as a train rolled literally two feet past our photo walk!

Cost:  After image quality, the next biggest consideration most people have is that of cost.  How much to buy into the system?  My additional questions here are the cost of accessory items.  After all, a new camera system ultimately means you are going to get new lenses, new media cards, and all sorts of other accessories.  With mirrorless cameras coming of age, I think this is going to be a huge consideration.  So, the base price for the J1 is $500!  You can get a traditional SLR for that price these days!  The trade-offs?  Well, let’s see…the mirrorless is smaller, has fewer accessories, and…what else?  The only accessory item that kind of made my eyes bulge out was the 10-100 lens at a whopping $750!  That’s on par with SLR lenses.  I wish the vendors would just make a converter mount for their SLR lenses to mount on these…and in all likelihood, if the vendor doesn’t, some third party supplier will ultimately fill the void.


The final verdict?  I could be swayed into this as a second system… 🙂  I’ll never give up the SLR, but as far as travel cameras go…the Nikon J1 really packs a punch!  Thanks Ashton! 🙂

Canon Custom Functions: Shutter and Focus

Shutter Programming on the Canon DSLR Line

That’s right – two videos in two days…quite exciting for me – the blogger of 3x/week!  I’ve got a lot of content forthcoming and for some of it, am so excited I just don’t want to wait anymore.  Some people call me crazy – they say “Hold off…space it out, pace your posts and give people information piecemeal.”  I say, “No way, the audience always wants more than what I am giving…”  So, that’s what I am doing – a second video tutorial in as many days – this one:  How to adjust the Custom Functions in your Canon SLR!


One of the least understood areas of any SLR is that of custom functions.  Once you start getting into customizing the configuration of something already as complex as a DSLR, people quickly lose interest in the minutia.  The problem is that some of the configuration settings can be made to really help you improve your photography.  One of these is moving the focusing mechanism off your shutter release.  The shutter release really does quite a few things – it opens the sensor to the light, thus letting an exposure actually happen.  It also programatically tells the camera to immediately meter the scene to evaluate exposure values, and also by default starts to search for a focusing point.

That’s a lot to ask from one button, and often times when composing for an image, many photographers find that focusing for one item in the scene, then composing for another is very useful in getting a creative vision to life.  To do this normally, you have to press the shutter only halfway down, recompose while holding that delicate balance, and recomposing.  Yes, there are other ways to do this by picking a single focusing point, but why even do that when you can make focusing its own dedicated function?  Most DSLR’s these days actually have a spare button built in for you to program to one of many different options.

Nevertheless, people still fear the custom functions.  Something about the words “custom”…”function…”program”…makes people cringe and run quickly in the opposite direction.  It’s really not that difficult though, and easy to adapt to.  Once the adjustment is made, you can now use your thumb to focus and your finger to capture!  It’s such a seamless transition, many photographers don’t even bat an eye, and they almost always notice a greater sense of creative control – which is why we buy SLR’s in the first place.  Want to see how it’s done?  Watch my short 2 minute video here on the process.  You’ll be amazed at how easy it is!

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