Category Archives: photography

Quick Test: Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0 – 5.6

As some of you know, i bought the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II camera this fall and I really like it.   I was thinking of taking it hiking at Lake O’Hara this summer.  I need to purchase an ultra-wide angle lens.  My choices come down to the Sigma 10-20mm F3.5 EX DC HSM for my Pentax DSLR or the Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0 – 5.6.  The Olympus has some horrible reviews.  Some of the worst that I have ever seen.  At the same time I keep looking at sample images and they looked okay to me.  

Here is the problem with most camera reviews, you never really know what the review is expecting nor what they are comparing them to in their mind.  On the other hand, when you can look at a large collection of images online, especially taken by people who know what they are doing and know how to test a lens, you get a good idea of what you can expect.

So I took the Olympus out for a test today.  Here were some of the shots I got.  Nothing artistic, I just wanted to see how it looked in the corners and look for something called chromatic aberration.

Cavendish Building in Saskatoon

Of course I took a shot of the Cavendish Building because I am haunted by it.  I can’t find any history on it at all.  Ahab had his whale.  I have this building.

Superior Millwork in SaskatoonThe Ramada Hotel in Saskatoon

I like the Ramada Hotel.  First of all I remember coming into Saskatoon the first time and seeing it and thinking the Soviet Union had invaded Saskatoon and now all of the city will look like this.  Also I appreciate the investment they have made into the hotel to upgrade it.  Finally, I know how hard it is to get the entire hotel into the frame.  This lens did it.

The Ramada Golf Dome

I know, it’s a giant blob that we call the golf dome.

As for what do I think?  I love the weight of the lens and it’s compact size.   Combined with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II, it is a lot lighter than my Pentax K-3 and the Sigma 10-20mm.   As for the image quality.  When I got home, I imported the files in DxO Optics Pro.  It is software that corrects lens flaws and does a remarkable job.  It also lets you look at the corrected version and the original with the click of a button.   There was almost no correction on the lens and I didn’t see any chromatic aberration.  Like the sample images I looked at on 500px and Flickr, the corners were sharp.

As for which one  I will purchase, I need to take the Sigma 10-20mm F3.5 EX DC HSM out for a test and then I will make up my mind.

What’s in the Bag of NHL Defensemen P.K. Subban?

En Route Magazine caught up with Nashville Predator’s defenseman P.K. Subban and asked him how he packed his carry on bag.

What's in the Bag of NHL Defenceman P.K. Subban?

For years I would being everything but the kitchen sink with me on flights and I would spend the flight trying to get at the stuff and failing.  Now when I fly, I bring a messenger bag, my wallet, a Moleskine/Pen, my Pentax MX-1, and maybe my 7” Tablet.  When I get to the airport I may or may not purchase a magazine but often I find myself reading and enjoying the in flight magazine.  I then go and purchase a large bottle of Aquafina once I clear security. 

For those of you who sneak your oversized rolling suitcase and take up more space than allowed, I hate you and feel you should be a no-fly list.

Photography Workshop in Saskatoon and Regina

Noted Saskatchewan photographer Ryan Wunsch is holding photography workshops in Saskatoon and Regina this April.

Upcoming Event: DSLR Photography Workshop with Ryan Wunsch in Saskatoon & Regina

This workshop will explain the technical aspects of your camera in an easy to understand method. ISO, Aperture, Shutterspeed, RAW files, Dynamic Range and similar topics will be explained and make sense.

Other topics such as composition, lighting techniques, creativity, equipment worth having, gadgets that are a waste of money as well as digital photo editing will also be covered.

Your landscapes, vacation photos, wildlife, still life, portraits, pictures of your family and even selfies will be much improved after taking this 2 day workshop. The workshop is a mix of classroom and practical hands on learning with 1 on 1 time available throughout the 2 days.

This course is beneficial to all skill levels. If you have just bought a camera and don’t know how to turn it on, this class is for you. If you have been shooting for a few years but want to learn how to achieve that extra wow factor, this class is for you. If you are an accomplished photographer and just want to get excited about photography again, this class is for you.

To register for the Saskatoon workshop, click here.

To register for the Regina workshop, click here.

Ryan is one of my favourite photographers anywhere.  His ability to capture an amazing photo out of a subject I probably wouldn’t care about if I drove by it on the highway is remarkable.  Not only does he have skill but I realize from watching his work over the years how hard he works to get these perfect shots.  There are so many times I see him post something to social media and I look at the weather around Leader and realize how miserable it there.  Meanwhile I am sitting at home because I don’t want to go out.  He may be one of the hardest working photographers in Canada.  No wonder his work is getting so much attention.

If you want to get serious about photography, I can’t think of a better photographer to learn from.

Inside My Bag: Hiking and Landscape Photography Kit

We have a marketing campaign starting at work in a while that revolves around what staff have in their camera bags.    Here is my bag and gear that I pack to take along for day hikes into the mountains.  Of course I don’t hike with all of it but most of it will go with me to Banff and Yoho National Park this summer.

Inside My Bag: Hiking and Landscape Photography Kit

The Bag:

Manfrotto Off Road 30 L Hiker Backpack.  Last year we spent hiking through the backcountry of Banff National Park.  This year we are spending part of it hiking the Alpine Circuit of Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park.  Later this summer we will hike almost 25 kilometers to three different alpine tea houses so my wife can drink tea.  Doing that much hiking means that I want a backpack that is comfortable.  With it’s external frame and hip belt, this bag does a pretty good job of carrying the camera and other gear that I want to take on longer day hikes.

The pack is packed and tossed in the back of the car.  I keep the Ricoh WG-4 in the front seat with me in case something interesting happens on the road.  When we get set up in a campsite or a trailhead, I evaluate what lenses and gear that I will want and then what gear I will carry.  At that point it often comes down to three lenses, the 18-135mm and the 70-300mm but I like having the 35mm and 28mm lenses for the trip.  I have long wanted a longer zoom lens but the SIgma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lens is too big and heavy and my wife also shoots Olympus and has the Olympus M. Zuiko ED 75-300mm F4.8 – 6.7 II Lens which is equivalent to the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary and less than a quarter of the weight.  Actually since she is carrying it in her bag, it weighs nothing.

The Contents:

  • Pentax K-3: I have the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II but the larger sensor and increased dynamic range of my Pentax means it will be the camera that I carry on those hikes.  I normally always have my grip on my camera but when climbing in the mountains, shedding weight is a big deal so it gets left at home.
  • Two 64 GB Lexar Platinum Cards.  Two 32gb Sandisk SD Cards as backup.
  • Three Extra Batteries:  That is excessive for most hikes but we like to stay at unpowered campgrounds because I find they have less partying.  While the washroom in the campground has power, it often has a powerbar full of cell phones being charged on it at all times.  I will probably pick up another two for this year. 
  • Pentax SMC DA 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 ED AL (IF) DC WR: Over the last two years of hiking I have seen countless tourists carry and be frustrated with their 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on mountain hikes because it is too long to capture the views on winding trails or take in the views on mountain passes.  Sometimes your best option (especially in good light) is a more versatile walk around lens.
  • Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Lens for Pentax:  Last year I watched people try to take selfies of The Boss (the alpha grizzly bear in Banff) with a cell phone.  That bear even eats other bears and has been hit by a train and just shrugged it off.  I prefer to not risk my life for a shot so I use this lens to keep some distance between myself and things that see me as dinner.
  • Pentax smc DA 35mm: Sometime during the trip I will head into Banff one evening and want to take some photos of the township or take some nice portraits of the family.  I am always torn over bringing this or the Pentax smc DA 50mm but on a APS-C camera, 50mm is often too long for street photography or if I am in a restaurant.  I lose a half stop of light with this lens but I get more shots in the end.  I really need to upgrade to the Sigma 35mm f1.4.
  • Pentax D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro: Many of you love macro photography.  I am not one of them and only bought this lens because of peer pressure.  My wife however loves macro with a passion so sometime on a trip I will find myself laying down and taking a photo of a flower and hating every single moment of it.  I just hope I don’t get bitten by something.
  • I won’t take it hiking with me but I will bring along my Pentax-M 28mm f2.8 lens.  It is manual focus but ideal for taking late night shots of the stars and the Milky Way.  The bad part of this lens is that I have to be awake in the middle of the night to use it.
  • Nalgene Water Bottle: For obvious reasons.  If it is a really hot day, I will also bring my Swell Water Bottle. You have no idea how amazing cold water tastes on a long mountain hike.  Why two bottles?  I have gotten sick then last two times I have had water out of a “pristine” mountain glacier stream. 
  • Gerber Scout Knife: Last year a male wolf came into our campsite and sniffed my head through the tent.  The wolf was between my axe and myself and all I had was this knife.  I like to think that if it came down to it I could have defended my kids with it but I have watched The Grey and know it would probably have won.  Luckily the wolf hadn’t watched The Grey and went back into the woods.
  • Adidas Saskatchewan Roughriders Receiving gloves:  I had some lightweight Nike jogging gloves for hiking but these are tackified in the fingers and palms giving you a firm grip on your camera.  If they are good enough to make the game winning catch, they are good enough for me to hang on to my camera.  They have been one of my best purchases of 2017. 
  • Niteize Carabineer light.  I have one of these on all of my camera bags.  If we are out too late or something goes wrong, I want to be able to be seen in the dark.  I also have one on my all black dog so I can see her at night.  It’s another one of those things that brought all sorts of people by our campsite who had children that wanted to check out the “blinking dog”. 
  • Panasonic HX-WA02 Camcorder: If I am going to shoot some video in the backcountry, I use this.  For this summer, I plan to upgrade to a Nikon Keymission 80 camera which is both lighter and smaller but has some really great features for hikers.
  • 52-Inch Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod: For taller photographers, there seems to be only two alternatives.  The one is to carry a medium duty tripod so it is tall enough or carry a lightweight tripod on the trail and have to crouch over or kneel down when using it.  I prefer to crouch down.
  • Primus Classic Stove and Fuel: I carry one of this with me on cooler days and long hikes.  There is nothing better than stopping on a long hike and a cool day and cooking up a box of Three Cheese Kraft Dinner.  To save space, I toss the box and keep it in a zip lock bag.  It is the same amount of food as the the macaroni and cheese MREs but is about 15% the cost.
  • Clif Bars: They are easy to eat on the trail, give you a boost, and are edible even if not my favorite thing in the world.
  • Mess Kit: It’s not the best quality mess kit out there but it is lightweight and can cook the above mentioned Kraft Dinner.  Since contracting giardia twice in Banff over the years, I tend to boil up some water during that time.  If we are eating near a creek, I tend to boil the water up, pour it in the Nalgene and then put the entire bottle back in the glacier water to cool it back down. 
  • Nikon 10×25 binoculars: I have found myself hiking through alpine meadows that are frequented by grizzly bears.  Scouting it out works for me.  It saved me big time last year as I was able to see a grizzly feeding right in the middle of a trail I was about to walk down.
  • Ricoh WG-4 Ruggedized Camera: I look at this two ways.  It’s an addition camera battery and there times when I want a waterproof camera that can take high resolution files.   With the carbineer, I keep it clipped to the front of my pack.
  • Business Cards: I don’t know why but everywhere we went in Banff and Yoho National Parks people wanted to meet, pet, and take selfies or family portraits with my dog.  This generally led to them wanting to email me the photo or stay in contact with them. I gave out a ton of personal business cards and got some photos back of strangers with my dog.  Some said it was the highlight of their trip.  I don’t get it at all. 
  • Magellan eXplorist 110: There isn’t a lot of cell coverage once you leave the highways in the National Parks.  I have needed a GPS before but it is nice to check to know how much farther we have to go.   The last thing I do when I leave work on a trip is pick up a pack of Energizer Lithium batteries.  There are devices you want to have the best batteries on the market in them.  This is one of them. 
  • Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies.  This guide book is broken into multiple different books.  The big book is used at home for deciding on which hikes we want to go on.  Then we take the smaller and lighter trail guides which have the trail maps in them on the hike.   If there is one book that I recommend every hiker owns, it is this one.
  • A Lighter:  I get asked by friends if I have an alternative fire starting method like some fire steel or maybe a bow and rope to make fire without a lighter.  The answer is no.  I just carry another lighter.  I have never understood the principle of backing up a really effective method of starting a fire with a far less effective one.

Urban Photographer: Pamela Julian

This video was done by a competing camera store but I love it and the work that Pamela Julian is doing.  It is one of the best things that I have seen all week and a must see for you urbanists that read this blog.

Of course while watching this video, I realized that Saskatoon’s downtown is laid out on a north / south axis which means it is hard to capture the sunsets that I have captured while travelling in other cities.

Real World Test: Capturing the Saskatoon Blades with a Nikon D750, a Canon EOS 7D Mark II and an Olympus OM-D E-M5 II

This is kind of fun.  I work with Derek Elvin and he is a great sports photographer.  He tested out a full frame Nikon D750, a Canon EOS 7D Mark II and an Olympus OM-D E-M1 II at a Saskatoon Blades game last week at SaskTel Centre.

Real World Test: Capturing the Saskatoon Blades with a Nikon D750, a Canon EOS 7D Mark II and an Olympus OM-D E-M5 II

He brought in some photos to work and a write up on all three cameras.  I edited and I think the result is a good look at three competing camera systems.  What surprised me was Derek’s conclusion that the mirrorless Olympus OM-D E-M1 II out performed the Canon EOS 7D Mark II which is a camera that designed for sports photography.  If you are sports shooter, it’s worth a read.

Also, I’d like to take a moment to say that the Calgary Hitmen have one of the ugliest jerseys and logos that I have ever seen.  They are the worst in the WHL if not all of hockey.

Purchasing a Drone

I have wanted a drone for a long time.  I was going to purchase a DJI Mavic Pro drone this spring.  If you have no idea what I am talking about, check out the video below.

Wendy (and Mark) were totally supportive of my decision to get one of these.   I get questions all of the time for how we afford the gear.  It’s a weird question because people who ask me often have expensive hobbies of their own.  Photography is our hobby and it is less expensive than ATVs.  That being said, Wendy and I will sit down and figure out what gear we want to buy in a year and then save towards it.  I have a “lens fund”.  Every time I get paid, I put some money in the “lens” account and that goes towards buying a couple of lenses each year for Wendy and I.  Mark does the same thing now that he is working.

With us going to Lake O’Hara this summer, I wanted an ultra-wide angle lens for this summer.  I haven’t decided if I want the Sigma 10-20mm F3.5 EX DC HSM lens for my Pentax or if I want an Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0 – 5.6 for my Olympus OM-D E-M5 II.  Either way that was above and beyond what I wanted to spend for my drone.

Then while out and about this Christmas, I saw the Yuneec Breeze.  It is small and portable like the DJI Mavic making it easy to take places but less capable.  While it says it shoots 4K video, it really used that 4K video to shoot 1080p video that is stabilized.  That isn’t bad because I don’t generally shoot 4K UltraHD video anyways.  What I like about it is the price and the fact that Oliver could even use it.  The trade off is speed and altitude.

Initially I wasn’t that excited about it.  The initial real world tests sucked in part because no one was doing anything cool with it and didn’t know how to fly a drone.  It was nerds talking about a drone while struggling to fly it.

The other day I saw that DJI was still selling the DJI Phantom 3 Standard for about the same money as the Yuneec Breeze.

It is way more powerful the Yuneec Breeze which is both really cool but I realized Wendy and Oliver would never use it.  Wendy likes it but as she said last night, “I would not feel comfortable using it”.  It also isn’t nearly as portable.  Both the Breeze and Mavic fold down really small.  The Yuneec Breeze is compact enough to fit in a 10 inch by 10 inch case and has the sensors to fly and hold it’s position inside.

If you have any muddled thoughts or ideas, let me know in the comments.  I am not buying until March so I will probably change my mind and then change it again many times between now and then.  Also you don’t need to point out, “You can’t use these in any Parks Canada parks and you don’t know seem to be vacationing anywhere other than a National Park in 2017”  I know, that is a big issue for me right now too.

Buyers Guide to Pentax Lenses

A Pentax Lens Buyers Guide for Pentax DSLRs

Pentax is behind Canon and Nikon when it comes to market share.  One of the things that I keep hearing while the cameras are great it doesn’t have the lens option to allow you to put together a decent photography kit.

As Pentax user I have always denied that but I decided to put together a buyers guide for lenses here back in 2013 that I felt was pretty impressive.  When I started doing social media for Don’s Photo in 2015, I moved it over to their blog but every time I looked at it, I realized that I had forgot a few lenses.  I finally got around to updating it today and I am blown away at the options that Pentax users have to put together a solid set of lenses from Pentax, Sigma, Rokinon, and Tamron.

I got asked a while ago how I pick what products I choose.  Stock levels some times play a small factor.  If I know the store can’t get a product because it is backordered for months, I generally don’t write about it because what’s the point of getting someone fired up about something that they can’t get until 2023.  Basically I need to get fired up about it or a colleague is fired about it and that gets me excited about it. 

With Pentax being a brand of camera that both and I use and love, it’s probably a little more personal then other brands that Don’s Photo sells in that each of these lenses have been heavily debated and researched by Mark and I.

Photographer’s Guide to Saskatchewan

Photographer’s Guide to Saskatchewan

I needed this book for work which is convenient because we sell it at work.  I could have just borrowed it and gotten the information that I needed from it but that doesn’t see any money go to the authors.  I guess I could have written it off but I wanted to bring the book home and use it here.  So I did what I needed to do.  I bought it over the holidays and I am really happy I did.

After reading it, I have really enjoyed it.  It is only 208 pages long and has about 200 photos in it.  It gives one some great ideas on where to travel to and where to photograph Saskatchewan and have it looking it’s best.  It also helped me figure some things out about some trips next summer.  I want to visit Grasslands National Park but I had no idea what I want to see is not in the part of the park where I would have visited (sorry Val Marie, I’ll visit another time).

The book does talk about photography but it’s title could very well have been “Where to Find Everything Cool Looking in Saskatchewan”.  As a photographer in Saskatchewan, you need this but if you just like to travel and see our great province, you will want it as well.

You can get the book at Indigo/Chapters, McNally Robinson and as I mentioned, Don’s Photo.  I can’t recommend it enough.

My vlog gear

So back in October, I decided to shot a video for each day of 2017.  There is absolutely no way I am shooting 365 videos in 2017 but I am going to try.  Here is the setup that I am using for this project.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 II

Olympus OM-D E-M5 II camera

It is a great camera and I bought one used this fall.  Wendy has the Olympus O-MD E-M10 II but it isn’t weather proofed nor does it have a mic jack.

I know I was going to get the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 but… a colleague (fine, call him my boss) is upgrading to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II and was selling his.   Better video focusing than the Canon EOS Rebel SL1, smaller, and it has a flip out screen.  Since I can borrow Wendy’s lenses if I need them (more on that later).

Sigma 19mm f/2.8 DN Art

I actually gave this lens to Wendy for Christmas a few years ago but then when I gave her a Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens for her birthday last year, it was redundant so we gave it to Sean Shaw with her Olympus PEN camera.  It’s a great lens for video and with the camera, is a great rig.  Wendy also has the 30mm and 60mm versions of this lens which means that if I need something longer, I can borrow that.

Sigma 19mm f/2.8 DN Lens

While I wanted this lens when I started to put together this kit and ordered it in from Don’s Photo.  It is an Art series lens so you know it is sharp.  Like all Sigma lenses, it comes with a seven year warranty.

Rode VideoMic Micro

Compact and inexpensive microphone.  Perfect for this.  It also comes with a dead cat.  Almost identical to the one Wendy gave me for our anniversary (which was for cell phones)

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Joby Gorillapod Micro

It’s weird.  Off all of the camera gear I have bought, this is my favorite thing ever.  It cost me almost nothing.

Joby Gorillapod Micro 250

 

I have a couple of them (worst thing about working at Don’s Photo is that because subconsciously I know that I can get some stuff there so I don’t always pack well and I pick up one at work.  That makes Wendy mad because it really is a waste of money based on lack of planning.  She uses the tripod as well so that saves me too).  Back to the tripod.  I also bought the Joby smart phone holder.  You can get small ones or even one for tablets.

Joby Grip Tight Mount

I attach that to the Joby Gorillapod 250 and use it to mount my cell phone on it for everything from time lapses to just short videos.  It’s great and small enough to go in every bag.  It also has a low centre of gravity which means that I am confident when I screw my Pentax K-3 to it that it is going to stay put.  If it won’t, it’s only falling less an inch.

Cullmann Magnesit Copter with CB-2 Mini Ball Head

I use the Cullmann Magnesit Copter Mini Tripod with CB-2 Mini Ball Head.  I have some cheaper mini-tripods but this thing is amazing.  Steady, durable, and lightweight.

Cullmann Magnesit Copter Mini Tripod with CB-2 Mini Ball Head

I can’t recommend it enough and as proof, I own two of them.