Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rule of Thirds with the Canon Rebel T2i

Recently I've noticed a trend where photographers have been talking about getting it right in the camera to minimize the amount of post processing that is done. One way of getting it right in camera is, if you follow it, is to use the rule of thirds when composing your shot. If you're not familiar with the rule of thirds here's a very brief overview of it.

For any picture if you were to place a tic-tack-toe grid over it where the horizontal and vertical lines intersect are the best spots to position the main subject of the picture. There's more to it than that but that should give you a basic understanding which is all that's needed.

This morning I was experimenting with the Rebel T2i and wanted to see if any of its 9 individual focus points aligned the a rule of thirds grid. I mounted the camera on my tripod and then one-by-one shot the same picture using each of the 9 focus points. Afterwards I loaded the images into Photoshop and added a rule of thirds grid over them.

Simulated Rebel T2i Focusing Screen
I have some mad Photoshop skills don't I? I created that simulated focusing screen from scratch! In each of the photos below, numbered 01 through 09 the number below the photo corresponds with the focusing point shown above. For all shots I focused on the hole in the front door of the birdhouse. Also you can click on each image to view a larger version which makes it easier to see the grid.
This 1st picture was taken using the center point. As you can see everything is nicely centered between the two vertical lines of the grid. The center point is probably the most used focusing point when folks don't use all 9. I know I used it a ton when shooting sports and still use it quite a but when trying to shoot birds in flight. The center focusing point is also the only cross-type sensor on the camera which means it works better than the remaining 8 due to its extra sensitivity.
This 2nd picture was taken after moving the focus point to #2. As you can see it does a pretty good job of aligning with the intersection used by the rule of thirds. I plan to use this focusing point from now own whenever I want to compose a picture where the main subject is in the upper right hand corner.
This 3rd picture was taken after moving the focus point to #3. As you can see it's outside of the grid lines so I really can't think of a time when I would use it off the top of my head.
This 4th picture was taken after moving the focus point to #4. Just like with #2 is does a darn good job of lining up with the rule of thirds grid. So far points #2 and #4 are on the "to use" list.
This 5th picture was taken after moving the focus point to #5. While doesn't line up with one of the vertical lines it does remain on the lower horizontal line so it's one I would use in a pinch. #2 and #4 remain my preferred choices for subjects on the right side of the frame.
This 6th picture was taken after moving the focus point to #6. Like #2 and #4 before it I'll use this one for subjects appearing in the lower left hand portion of the frame. We're up to three preferred focusing points #2, #4, #6.
This 7th picture was taken after moving the focus point to #7. It has the same issues as #3 only on the opposite side of the frame.
This 8th picture was taken after moving the focus point to #8. Like #2, #4, and #6 it does a very good job aligning with the horizontal and vertical intersection of the grid. It's one I'll use for sure.
This 9th picture was taken after moving the focus point to #9. Like #5 it falls along the horizontal line so it's one that I'd use if for some reason I didn't use #2 or #8.

Am I trying to say that I'll only use 5 of the 9 focusing points on the Rebel T2i from now on? Nope, not at all. What I'm suggesting is when you want to follow the rule of thirds (and we all know rules were meant to be broken) I'll use focusing points #2, #4, #6 and #8 as the composition I'm going for warrants. I would encourage you to repeat this same sort of test with subjects you like to shoot. 

Oh and for the curious all shots were taken with Donna' Rebel T2i and EF-S 55-250 lens set at 55mm. Lens and camera were mounted on the Induro CT314 Tripod. Aperture was set to f/8 and shutter speed varied, ISO 100.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Induro Gear Guide Part 5 - Balancing Your Camera/Lens on the GHBA Gimbal Head

Welcome to Part 5 of my Induro Gear Guide. This part was originally going to be the wrap up but while reading some documentation about the GHBA Gimbal Head I decided to add another part before the wrap up. Basically the documentation said that a properly balanced camera/lens should remain in the last position you place it even with the main tension knob for the Gimbal Head completely loose. This got the wheels turning because I was wondering how close to achieving this I have been with the way I have been mounting the camera/lens onto the Gimbal Head. Normally I would align the center marks on the clamp and quick release plate and shoot away as shown below.
Initial Installation
Normally I keep some tension on the camera/lens using the main tension knob so for grins I decided to loosen the tension knob completely to see what would happen. The result is shown below.
Not Good
Not good at all! Clearly the camera was way out of balanace and needs to be adjusted within the quick release clamp. Since it was tail heavy I knew I needed to slide the camera/lens forward in the quick release plate and try again. I tried moving the camera forward about half of the available distance I could move it forward. Locked it down and then manually leveled the camera. When I released the camera the nose still tilted up, but no where near as bad as it did the first time. I don't have a picture of the camera/lens that's not zoomed in on the clamp but you can get an idea of how it looks based on the angle of the camera/lens as shown below.
While the balance was certainly better after the first adjustment I decided to move it a little further and try the test again. This time when I released the camera/lens it didn't move or if it did it barely moved. As you can see from the picture below I had to move the lens plate pretty far forwad to achive the proper balance. I haven't had a chance to shoot with the camera/lens in this new postion but I'll be trying it out this coming weekend and will post a follow up next week.
If/When you buy a Gimbal Head you'll probably want to invest in an extra long lens plate which is what I have attached to the 400 lens. The one I bought is from Berno and costs $27.00. The link below is for the plate on Amazon. If you use it to buy the plate I'll earn a small commission and you'll get a plate that'll allow you to achieve a perfectly balanced camera/lens combo on your Gimbal Head.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Scott Kelby's Lightroom 3 Book

Without a doubt one of my favorite photography related authors is Scott Kelby. I really connect with his writing style and sense of humor he includes in his books. When I ordered the replacement GPS Photo Tracker I also ordered his newest book for Lightroom 3.
Scott Kelby's Lightroom 3 Book
I bought Lightroom when version 1 was released but didn't really use it much. I felt Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP) was good enough for me (yes I'm an idiot sometimes). When Lightroom 2 was released I upgraded and the decided to really start using it. Man oh man am I glad I did. Now that Lightroom 3 is out I rarely launch DPP and when I do it's normally to check the details of a photo to decide if I want to import it into Lightroom or not. After I've had a chance to go through the book I'll post an in-depth review of it. If you want to pick up your own copy from Amazon use the link below to buy it and I'll earn a small commission.

Replacement AMOD GPS Photo Tracker

AMOD GPS Photo Tracker
Last weekend I was an idiot and left my GPS Photo Tracker on the hood of the truck while Donna and I left to go shoot some pictures. After searching our yard and neighbors yards we came up empty so I ordered a replacement and it arrived yesterday. I use this to record a track log while Donna and I are out shooting and then use RoboGEO software to embed the GPS information into the EXIF data stored in the image. Once that is done I can upload the photo to flickr and it will automatically appear on a map showing the exact location where the photo was taken. Another cool feature is when your photos contain the GPS information is the Photo Album on our iPod Touch and iPad have the ability to show a map where the photos were taken. I have used this model of GPS tracker for a couple of years now and it has always performed flawlessly. It uses 3 AAA batteries and easily records a full day of our travels to the log files it creates. What I normally do is turn it on before we leave the house and then put in into a holder on the front strap of my backpack and there it'll sit all day dutifully logging our position while Donna and I are out shooting photos. If you want one the link below will take you to Amazon where you can buy it and I'll get a small commission.

Induro Gear Guide Part 4 - Induro GHBA Gimbal Head

Welcome to part 4 of my Induro Gear Guide. In this part we'll take a look at the Induro GHBA Gimbal Head. Which I'm sure stands for Gimbal Head Bad Ass because it totally is :). According to the Induro web site it weighs 1.1 pounds and for lenses up to 300mm. But Zack you're using it with a 400 are you stupid or what for exceeding the lens focal length recommendation? Well here's the scoop on that. I bought the GHBA before Induro added the the focal length recommendation. When I read this on the web site I contacted Induro asking for clarification. I'll summarize the response I received from Induro and then move on with my discussion of the GHBA Gimbal Head. The short direct answer is: it works with the 400, don't sweat it. :)

The longer answer is: Seems a lot of folks were asking Induro about a maximum focal length or lens weight for the various Gimbal Heads so Induro added this information to their web site just recently. Because there are so many different factors that come into play: camera body/lens combo, battery grip installed or not, flash attached or not, the length of the lens, etc they decided using a focal length was the best way to make a recommendation.

While I was waiting to hear back from Induro I did some of my own investigation. I wanted to see how the weight of my EF 400 lens compared to the EF 300 f/4 and EF 300 f/2.8. According to the specifications I found on the B&H Web Site my 400 weighs 2.8 pounds. The 300 f/4 weighs 2.6 pounds and the 300 2.8 weighs 6 pounds. Let's assume the camera body weighs another 2 pounds that would put my 400 with body at 4.8 pounds, the 300 f/4 at 4.6 pounds and the 300 2.8 at 8 pounds. Based upon that I would say as long as your camera/lens combo weighs 8 pounds or less the GHBA Gimbal Head should support it just fine. One very important caveat is that you are using a lens that has a tripod collar and you're mounting it to the GHBA Gimbal Head using that and not trying to attach it using the camera body.

Here's what I'll do since I'm such a nice guy. If you have any doubt that your camera/lens combination will work with the GHBA Gimbal Head send me your camera and lens for testing and I'll let you know if it works or not :)

With the Ballhead quick release plate locked into the groove on the side of the ballhead you slide the GHBA Gimbal Head into position and lock it down as shown below. You'll also want to tighten the main tension knob on the Ballhead. You don't want the Gimbal Head moving around in the Ballhead socket while you're trying to use it.

Induro GHBA Gimbal Head on BHD3 Ballhead
One thing that concerned be before I bought the Gimbal Head was how is it held in position so that it can't accidentally slide out of the quick release clamp if it should accidentally loosen up. See those two little tabs in the picture below -- that's how it's done. What you do is open the quick relase clamp and insert the Gimbal Head then slide it down until the tabs are resting against the side of the clamp and the securely tighten the tension knob to lock it into place. Once that's done you're ready to mount your camera/lens and start shooting.
Locking Tabs
Depending on who you ask you'll get different answers to the question -- Which side should be used when mounting the lens? According to famed wild life photographer Moose Peterson you should use a right side mount as pictured below. His reasoning is this allows you to rest your left hand on the lens for proper long lens technique. He recommends placing your left hand on top of the lens when shooting. He may be on to something since he routinely shoots with 500 and 600mm lenses but he's also using a different Gimbal Head so perhaps that has something to do with it as well.
GHBA Gimbal Head with Canon EF 400 Lens Right Side Mount
My preferred method is to mount the lens as shown below. Instead of resting my hand on the lens I normally rest it on top of the "T". This allows me to accomplish three tasks without removing my hand from the shutter button: (1) I can manually focus the lens, if needed, (2) I can loosen/tighten the tension knob on the lens if I want to change orientation, and (3) I can control the tension on the main tension knob if it needs adjustment. So who's method is better? Well mine of course, but seriously it doesn't really matter which method you use. Try them both and see which one works best for you. If you're currently using this style of Gimbal Head I'd love to hear if you use a righty or lefty mount.
GHBA Gimbal Head with Canon EF 400 Lens Left Side Mount
One thing you'll read about when researching Gimbal Heads is how they provide a near weightless feeling when your camera/lens are mounted and balanced properly. (Probably balance can be achieved by sliding the lens forward or backwards in the quick release mount. That's why I have a long lens plate attached to the EF 400). What they say is true, it's not marketing hype. I resisted going with a Gimbal Head because I felt there was no way that it would work for me. I felt I would be too constrained using it. My background is in sports photography so I'm used to being able to move the camera into any position I want as the action changes to get the shot. I don't feel the least bit constrained using the Gimbal Head and the set up you see above his now how I shoot most of the time.

I am 100% certain my birding photography has improved since I've started using a Gimbal Head. That being said is do I have any dislikes or regrets about buying it? Yes but again my dislike is one that I probably shouldn't mention but will anyway. I'm slowly incorporating flash into my birding photography and right now there isn't any kind of accessory bracket available that would allow me to mount my flash above the camera like you can with similary style Gimbal Head manufacturered by a different company. I have a son that is currently serving as an Aircraft Mechanic in the Marines (Quick shout out to all service men and women in all branches. A huge THANK YOU for your service) and I'm going to see if he can use his sheet metal skills to fabricate something for me. Of course the ultimate solution would be if Induro made one for all of their Gimbal Heads. That would make me one happy camper.

I also have one regret after buying this Gimbal Head. Had I known in advance that I would enjoy using it so much I wouldn't have bought the BHD3 BallHead and GHBA Gimbal Head. I would have gone right for either the GHB1 or GHB2 Gimbal Head instead. Using a Gimbal Head has changed my game that much that I always want to shoot with it. For now, though the combination of Ballhead and separate Gimbal Head gives me the best of both worlds. When I do get that Canon Super Telephoto I'll probably buy the GHB2 Gimbal Head to go along with it but we'll see by the time I can buy that lens Induro may have come out with a GHB3 or something else that would work better for me.

Cost for the Induro GHBA Gimbal Head - $204.00. The link below is for the Ballhead on Amazon. If you use it to purchase one I'll receive a little commission and you'll get an easy to use Gimbal Head that you'll love as much as I love mine.

Induro Gear Guide Part 3 - Induro BHD3 Ballhead

Welcome to part 3 of my Induro Gear Guide. In this part we'll take a look at the Induro BHD3 ballhead. I don't know what BHD really stands for but to me it means Big Heavy Duty and that's a good thing! This ballhead is a beast and I couldn't be happier with it. According to the Induro web site it weighs 2.2 pounds and is rated for a maximum load of 55 pounds. While I doubt I'll never have any camera gear that is that heavy it's nice to know I'll not outgrow this ballhead anytime soon.
Induro BHD3 Ballhead
Mounting the ballhead to the tripod is as simple as screwing it on. One feature that I probably should have covered when writing about the tripod and is absolute genius, in my opinion, is the inclusion of set screws in the base of the tripod head. After screwing the ballhead onto the base you can tighten the set screws to securely lock the ballhead onto the tripod center column. I can't tell you how many times with my previous setup that I'd pan to the left only to have the ballhead start to come loose from the tripod center column. I probably could have fixed it with a little locktite but I didn't have any at the house and never remembered to buy any when I was shopping at the local Lowes.
Canon 7D mounted on BHD3 Ballhead
Once mounted on the tripod you can mount your camera or lens using any Arca-Swiss compatible quick release plate. I have several universal ones that I bought off of eBay that I use with various cameras and lens tripod collars. Kirk Enterprises sells universal plates for $17.00 each and I bought enough for each camera body and tripod collar that I own. This allows me to attach the plate to each camera/lens and leave it there instead of having to swap it out when I want to use a different camera/lens.
Canon EF 400 f/5.6L Lens
To facilitate with balancing your camera/lens the quick release mount on the tripod and some quick release plates come marked with a center line. By aligning these two marks the camera/lens is centered properly on the ballhead as shown below. Also notice that the plate installed is longer than the tripod mount. This allows you to either slide the plate forwards or backwards as needed to customize the balance. For example I may mount the lens centered as shown when shooting with the Rebel T2i because it's lighter than my 7D. When I shoot with the 7D I may adjust the position slightly forward or backwards to adjust for the heavier camera body.
Ballhead and Mounting Plate Alignment Marks
The beauty of using a ballhead is that you have a virtually infinite amount of positions you can use to position the camera. This takes a bit of getting used to at first but once you use one for any length of time you'll never want to go back to using a regular tilt/pan head. By adjusting the various knobs on it you can control just how much tension is required to move the camera/lens. If I'm shooting a static subject I'll often lock the ballhead in place to make sure I have the most stable platform possible. Also, notice the notch cut into the side of the ballhead. This allows you to rotate the camera/lens combination to the side. This makes it possible to shoot in either a horizontal or portrait mode without having to remove the camera. If you're shooting with a lens that thas a tripod color like the EF 400 does then you can loosen its tension knob and rotate the camera which is very handy.
Cutout on Side of Ballhead
With the ballhead adjusted over to the side as shown below you can actually use it like a Gimbal Head in a pinch but as you'll see in part 4 using a Gimbal Head is SO much nicer than trying to use this setup. Something else I would do is instead of positioning the knob down as shown below I would position it towars the top so that it doesn't hit against the ballhead body.
Lens Mounted Sideways
I have no doubt that this ballhead will exceed my needs regardless of which camera/lens I mount on it. Is there anything I don't like about it? Glad you asked I have one minor nit and I honestly shouldn't mention it because it's so trivial. The knob on the bottom left in the picture above is the knob that controls how much tension is applied when you rotate the ballhead. Despite loosening it as far as it will loosen the ballhead still requires more resistance than I would expect to rotate the camera. See, I told you I shouldn't have mentioned it. As I think about it more I really can't fault the ballhead for this. It's designed to deal with loads up to 55 pounds and I may be putting what 5 or 6 pounds of weight on it at this point in time. It's no wonder it's stiff I'm only using about 1/10th of the ballheads capacity. Something else to keep in mind is I've only had this ballhead a few weeks so it hasn't been used enough to get broken in. Check back with me in 6 months time and we'll see if this continues to be an issue for me or not. I seriously doubt that it will.

One final thought - I'll be honest and say that I was seriously considering the Really Right Stuff (RRS) BH55 Ballhead. Several big name photographers use it and rave about how great it is and I have no doubt that it's a very fine Ballhead; however when you consider the BHD3 is less than half the cost of the RRS Ballhead the decision became a non brainer for me. I went with the Induro BHD3 and I had enough $$$ left over to buy the GHBA Gimbal Head that I'll be writeing about next. Cost for the Induro BHD3 Ballhead - $228.00. The link below is for the Ballhead on Amazon. If you use it to purchase one I'll receive a little commission and you'll buy an absolutely fantastic Ballhead.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Induro Gear Guide Part 2 - Induro CT314 Tripod

Welcome to part 2 of my Induro Gear Guide. In this part we'll take a look at the Induro CT314 Carbon Fiber tripod. I'll provide a description of the tripod, its features as well as things I like and don't like about it. This post is heavy with pictures so it may take a bit to load. When looking for a new tripod I wanted something that would work with my equipment now as well as something that would work with my equipment 5 or 10 years from now. I know at some point in the future I'll be getting one of Canon's super telephoto lenses and those work best on a tripod. I also consider the tripod as the foundation for my photography gear so like a house, if it's built on a solid foundation you should be good to go. Weighing in at 5 pounds the CT314 tripod is rated for a maximum load of approximately 40 pounds.

Induro CT314 Tripod
This is how the tripod looks when you take it out of the box. In addition to the tripod you get a carrying case and a tool pack as pictured below.
Included Tools and Tool Case

Tripod with Center Column Fully Extended
Having an extra long center column is a nice addition but it also has its drawbacks. One of them being that it limits how low you can position the camera on the tripod as you'll see shortly.
Tripod With Legs Splayed and Locked
Before anyone bothers to tell me yes I know the center column isn't straight :). That's my fault and not the fault of the tripod. I just didn't lock one of the legs properly. Crooked center column aside you can see that with the legs splayed into the first position you can get down fairly low with the tripod.
Tripod With Legs Fully Splayed
Notice how the center column is straight this time. See I'm a quick learner :). Here you can clearly see one of the drawbacks of the extra long center column. You can only get your camera so low using it. Fortunately Induro has a solution to the problem. They sell a separate column that is shorter and allows you to get down very low.
Extra Long and Optional Shot Center Columns
I've never used the tripod with the longer center column. I knew I wanted to be able to get down in the weeds, literally, with the tripod so I bought the shorter center column and that's all I've used. 
Tripod Fully Splayed With Short Center Column Installed.
Photo assistant Tiger.
Now that's what I'm talking about. With the short center column installed and the legs fully splayed you can get down low for those ground level shots.

The tripod includes a spring-loaded hook that attaches to the bottom of the center column. You can hook your bag or something else to it to get the tripod that much more stability (not that it really needs any). One problem for me though is the hook just isn't quite big enough to fit around the handle of my camera backpack as shown below.
Camera Bag and Tripod Hook
Don't fret though, I have a simple solution for the problem.
Camera Bag and Tripod Hook -- Problem Solved
By using a large carabiner I'm able to hook one end around my camera backpack handle and the other on the hook. This works like a champ.
As I mentioned in part 1 one of the issues I had with my old tripod was that it wouldn't extend high enough for me to use without squatting down. That problem was easily solved with this tripod.

Tripod with Bottom Legs Extended

Tripod with Bottom and Middle Legs Extended

Tripod With All Three Legs Extended
I realize the third photo makes the tripod look 10 feet tall. It isn't. That's due to the angle I shot it from.

Tripod With All Three Legs Extended
To give you some idea of the height of the tripod the fence behind it is 6 feet tall.

Tripod Center Column Locking Ring
See that locking ring above. Make sure it's nice and tight otherwise you're liable to think there's something wrong with the tripod when there really isn't. Don't ask me how I know this tidbit of knowledge -- it's a secret :).

Overall I'm extremely pleased with the tripod. I can't thank Eric Brown enough for his review which turned me onto Induro's product line. Although I am extremely pleased with it there are a couple of things I didn't like but have managed to solve bot of them quite easily. First I didn't like that the tripod only comes with the long center column. The short column is a $55.00 accessory. It would be nice if Induro offered the tripod with our choice of center columns. The second being spring loaded hook on the bottom of the center column not being long enough to accommodate my particular backpack; however, that problem was easily solved with the addition of a large carabiner. Am I being overly picky about my dislikes? Probably so especially since I was able to solve both issues easily. It's tough for me to find any serious fault with the tripod. I have no doubt it'll be supporting my gear for years to come. Total cost for tripod and short column: $605.00 and worth every penny of it.

As I use the tripod in the coming months I'll be certain to post follow ups about it. I plan to include shots of it being used out in the field. It's nice to see it on a clean concrete pad but just how often do we shoot from that environment?

So what didn't I cover that you think I should have? Please let me know where details are lacking and I'll add them. If you prefer to email me privately instead of leaving a comment send them to zack at zdpictures dot com.

If after reading this fantastic guide and feel inclined to buy one of these tripods I'd appreciate if you'd use the link below. It's an affiliate link from Amazon and if you buy I'll earn a small commission. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Induro Gear Guide Part 1 - Introduction

Not long ago I posted a photo of my Canon PowerShot D10 mounted on my Induro Tripod/Ballhead. (Link to Previous Post). Below is a similar shot but this is my advanced set up for birding :).

Advanced Tripod Setup
Pictured is the Induro CT314 tripod, BHD3 Ballhead, and GHBA Gimbal head. This is the setup I now use for 99% of my shots taken with a camera mounted on a tripod. Normally I use a 7D and EF 400 lens and not that dinky Powershot D10. Over the next few days I'm planning to post reviews of each of these components.

Prior to buying this Induro gear I had been using a Velbon tripod and Kirk BH-3 ballhead. I liked this combination because it was light but there were a couple of major drawbacks with it. First the Velbon tripod did not extend high enough for me to use it without squatting down. As I have grown to use a tripod more and more this became a major problem. It was possible to get the camera to eye level but I had to extend the center column to do so and extending it just made things unstable. The Kirk BH-3 ballhead is a very nice one but it was rated for a maximum load of 15 pounds. While this may sound like a lot of weight I was experiencing some slippage with the ballhead. Upon returning the ballhead to Kirk they replaced it, no questions asked. Kudos to Kirk for the fine customer service. I'm going to sell the Kirk ballhead on eBay and stick with my current Induro one instead because the new ballhead is rated for a much heavier load and eventually I'm planning to add the Canon EF-500mm monster lens to my collection.

Investing in a tripod setup is something I spent a lot of time researching and fretting over. I knew I wanted something that would extend high enough that I wouldn't have to squat down and I also wanted something that would get down low to the ground. This was an essential requirement because I like shooting stuff up in the sky or trees and Donna likes shooting flowers so I wanted a tripod that would meet both our needs. I wanted it to be relatively light and rock steady. I find it somewhat funny when folks complain about the weight of their gear. If you don't want to lug around an extra 5 pounds then lose 5 pounds from your body :). While the new tripod setup is heavier than my old setup I'm kind of like an old pack mule -- the weight difference between the two isn't great enough that I've noticed any difference. I spent hours reading reviews and forum posts to find out which tripods people liked and didn't like and why. Gitzo was the name I saw most often and so I started leaning heavily towards Gitzo.

While doing my research I found the Photography Minute Blog by Eric Brown. Since he's a fellow Canon 7D and EF 400 shooter I knew his tripod needs were similar to mine. After reading his Induro CT314 Tripod Review I started looking at Induro's gear and it wasn't long before I knew I had found the compnay that I would be buying my tripod gear from.

In my reviews over the next few days I plan to write about the thinks I like and don't like about each of the products I now own. Hopefully this information will help the next person considering such an upgrade have an easier time making a decision that I had when I went through it. If you're reading this and are undecided and don't want to read all of the other posts here's the answer to the $64,000 question -- buy Induro. You'll love it.

As I write the reviews the text below will be turned into links to those reviews.

Induro Gear Guide Part 2 - Induro CT314 Tripod
Induro Gear Guide Part 3 - Induro BHD3 Ballhead
Induro Gear Guide Part 4 - Induro GHBA Gimbal Head
Induro Gear Guide Part 5 - Balancing Your Camera/Lens on the GHBA Gimbal Head
Induro Gear Guide Part 6 - Wrap up

Monday, July 26, 2010

Picture of the Week (POTW) #6

Picture of the Week for the period 18-24 July 2010. Donna took this one Saturday afternoon not too long after I took the John the Heron shot. She took this using her Rebel T2i and EF-S 55-250 zoom lens. Exposure was 1/90 at f/4.5, ISO 400 and lens zoomed to 74mm. I really thought I had a great hummingbird shot we would have selected but in the end I agreed that this one would be better so that we have something other than birds. I 'spose I should have called it Bird Picture of the Week. 

This week we had a pretty easy time picking the POTW because, for some strange reason, we didn't take a single shot prior to Saturday so we ended up going through a much smaller set of photos than we normally do.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Too Hot For Boots!

So Donna and I are having a nice dinner Friday night at Ye Olde Fashioned Ice Cream and Burger Cafe when in walks this fine young couple who proceeded to place their order. Notice anything odd about her attire? Kids these days, doesn't she know it's just too darned hot to be wearing boots this time of year?!

Click Image for Larger Version
Oh yeah since this is photography related blog this photo was taken with my LG cell phone. :)

Fish -- It's What's for Dinner Featuring John the Heron

John the Heron* fishing for his dinner. This was taken Saturday afternoon while Donna and I were headed out to take some pictures at one of the parks on the Navy base where I work. As we were driving into the park we spotted John and I pulled over and managed to get this shot before he gobbled it down. This is why it's important to have your camera turned on and ready to go when you leave home. If I had to take the time to get the camera out of the bag, turn it on, remove the lens cap, extend the lens hood, etc I would have missed the shot. This was taken with my 7D and EF 400 lens. Exposure was 1/2000th at f/5.6 ISO 400.

Something else I learned is to NOT leave your GPS logger sitting on the hood of the vehicle you're driving. I had set it on the hood so that it would get satellite lock before we left the house and I forgot to put it in the truck when we left. When I remembered it we drove home and looked for it. Sadly it's gone so I'll have to order another one. If you're curious the GPS data logger I use is this one: AGL3080: Amod AGL3080 GPS Data Logger.

*I picked up calling Heron's John after reading Weekend Birds II Blog Post by Brent Pennington. Be sure to check out Brent's other work. He's one hell of a photographer and always has something interesting to say in his posts.

The Wink

One of the few times I've seen a Mourning Dove sitting on something other than the ground. This one seemed to be quite curious and spent several minutes moving along the fence checking things out. I shot this with my Canon 7D and EF 400 lens. Exposure was 1/80th at 5.6, ISO 400. Camera/lens where mounted on Induro CT314 tripod and GHBA Head.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Domain Name

Not really sure why I did it but on a whim I purchased the domain name today. This was about the only combination I could find that wasn't already registered so when I saw that it was available I grabbed it. Z is obvisously for Zack and D is for Donna. Since we use this blog for hosting pictures the domain name seemed to make sense. I'm still figuring out how to get things setup through Google but eventually you'll be able to email me using or Donna at Now ain't that special :).

Juvenile Eastern Bluebird

This juvenile Eastern Bluebird is part of the family that is using the birdhouse in our backyard. There's a 4th member of the family but it's pretty rare that you see all 4 of them together. This shot was taken with Donna's Rebel T2i and my Canon EF 400 lens. Exposure was 1/1000th at f/5.6, ISO 1600. I'm not sure why the ISO was cranked up so high unless I had the camera set for auto ISO which is most likely the case. I have been experimenting with different ISO settings and metering modes to see what produces the best results for me.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Picture of the Week (POTW) #5

Picture of the week for the period 11 Jul - 17 Jul 2010. Saturday morning Donna and I were headed to Cypress Gardens (every 3rd Saturday is free admission for us). On the way we spotted a turtle crossing the road. After we passed it I turned around and went back to make sure it made it across the street safely. Not sure why I do that but I've done it at least 4 or 5 times in the past couple of years. Anyways this is a Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) and he was a big one and strong! At one point he was trying to go back into the street and I was trying to prevent him by blocking his path with a piece of PVC pipe I found nearby. With his low center a gravity it was quite a challenge to convince him that he really didn't want to go back across the street. I finally got him headed in the right direction and once he was marching off through the grass I took this shot.

This was taken using Donna's Rebel T2i and our recently purchased EF-S 55-250 zoom lens. Exposure was 1/250th at f/5.6, ISO 400 and the lens was zoomed out to 179mm. I shot this while laying on the ground to try and get as as close to an eye-level perspective as I could.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Splish Splash I was Taking a Bath

This female House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) was taking a bath in the bird bath last weekend. It was quite an event to watch. She'd flop around in the water for a little while, fly off and then come back and do it all over again. She looked like she was having a fun time doing it. These photos were taken with Donna's Rebel T2i and my EF 400 lens. Exposure for both photos was 1/500th at f/5.6 and ISO 200. Camera was mounted on my Induro CT314 Tripod.