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NATIONAL REVOLUTIONARY MARTYRS’ SHRINE, TAIPEI, TAIWAN

Built in 1969, the main building, based on the architecture of the Hall of Supreme Harmony in Beijing’s Forbidden City houses about 390,000 spirit tablets. The spirit tablets to honor the dead who fought for Taiwan, Republic of China, mainly during the Xinhai Revolution, Northern Expedition, Second Sino-Japanese War, Chinese Civil War, and the First and Second Taiwan Strait Crises.

But it is the honor guards who go through the changing of the guard ceremony that’s worth seeing. Their precise and intricate procession every hour is the result of rigorous training and discipline. Once reaching the guard post the soldiers from the four branches of the military stand frozen until the next change of honor guards.

Tourist tempted to try to move the statuesque guards but be warmed, plain clothed secret agents are around to warn those who get too close.

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Changing of honor guards captured with Canon EOS 50D+24-70 f/2.8

A PREVIEW

Getting up at 7am to get ready for a location shoot is never easy after finishing up a large reunion event the night before. With barely 3 hours of sleep and Manila being in the middle of a typhoon my car sped towards some flooded streets before arriving a little after 8:30.

Despite the bad weather everything went very well, a little more than expected. It helped that Erika and her family were in very bright spirits and were natural in front of the camera. That is already half the battle won.

Thank you, guys for a great time.

Photos below shot with EOS 50D + EF 85mm f1.8/EF 24-70mm f2.8L. Captured in RAW, processed in DPP and further enhanced in Photoshop.

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DREAMY SIDE OF WAITING

Awhile back, a rainy night and on a budget airline, there was a flight cue on the tarmac. The lights inside the plane were all turned off to let passengers enjoy the wet glistening view of the arrival docks.

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This is my happy accident.

As I waited for a shot to come into view I could feel my seat mate’s inquisitive stare of the barrel that was the EF 24-70 f/2.8L with hood. I was seated in the aisle seat and I bet he was sorry for choosing window. Good thing he didn’t grab the camera and thrown it down the aisle.

My trigger finger waited until another plane passed and got off 2 shots. This one is the second frame and that plane had to probably pass ours to get to the back of the line. I checked the LCD screen to confirm my shot and said thank you to my seat mate. The plane arrived 15 minutes early without a further lens barreling incident.

A SIMPLE REAL WORLD SHOOTING REVIEW

I had the pleasure of testing out this lens through Canon Taipei, Taiwan. Mounting the 15mm on my dslr a test shoot inside and a walk outside the store ensued. For 20 minutes frame after frame of downtown Taipei was captured on my Canon 50D.

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Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye (Canon Taipei price NTD24,000-approx. PHP36,000) is equivalent to 24mm in full frame numbers when used on a 1.6x crop body (EOS 550D, 50D or 7D). This lens first produced in 1987 still holds up to today’s dslr technology. It was fast to focus albeit with a buzzing sound for lack of USM, small, light weight and is the only lens in Canon’s line up with an intentional distortion (fisheye).

I was surprised at how fast the Canon 15mm focused on AF without having USM (Ultrasonic Motor) but the whirring and buzzing sound of yesterdays lens technology was pretty obvious when used indoors. It doesn’t have full time manual focus so switch flicking is necessary and the MF ring was a tad too small to operate with my stubby fingers. It doesn’t take much though to go to infinity with this wide a lens. Focus ring is not as smooth like other old EF lenses (85mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.4). The coarse rotation of the focus ring is quite evident. I can relate this to my EF 28-70 f/3.5-4.5 from 1987 (I still have today and yes, it works on dslr’s).

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The front element of the lens is convex and sticks out of the lens. It won’t hold any standard screw on filters (it does have rear slots for holding up to three gelatin filters). To protect the convex element a metal hood is permanently attached with front lens cap being metal in construction that fits smoothly over the hood.

Based on the time I had, the EF 15mm fisheye is very pleasing to use. Both indoors and out I had no trouble with focusing. I always use the center focus point, and corner to corner sharpness is excellent. Very solid feel when mounted on the 50D much like the weight ratio of EF85mm f/1.8 mounted on. The photos were not examined at 100% pixels as I want to keep this review as real world realistic as possible.

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One other aspect to think about is this lens can not be used on a x1.3 or x1.6 crop dslr to achieve the full fisheye effect. A crop sensor uses the middle part of the sensor and it would just be restricting the 15mm’s full potential. True Ultra Wide Angle lenses are much better alternatives made for crop sensors like the Canon EF-S 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 USM an equivalent of 16-35mm on full frame. Or wait for the upcoming Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM (approximately 12-24mm on full frame) which I’m eagerly waiting for more performance reviews and hoping to get an actual hands on with.

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The final verdict- I would love to have this lens for a full frame cam to get the funky cool view. But would not see much use on crop dslr’s. On the business end, the UWA’s would fare better in the long run for events and client acceptability. In the meantime, the Canon 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye will have to go into the wish list.

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All photographs captured with Canon 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye mounted on a EOS 50D x1.6 crop sensor dslr.

SEEING STARS AFTER 40 MINUTES

Going on vacation is a good thing. It gives the daily bump and grind a little break and lets your inner photographer do what it wants.

Doing star trails is an easy task so long as the necessary elements cooperate. And a few of those are controlled by mother nature. A clear night sky without too much light from the moon is as important as having a dslr remote for bulb. What’s a night sky without too much moon light? Well, a simple gauge is total blackness when you look through the dslr’s viewfinder. It would be a great plus without clouds as they reflect the light from the moon.

Mac_star_trails_001FPxComposing, obviously will be difficult. So it’s either do a guesstimate or shoot test shots on bulb setting til you get it right. Opting for the latter an initial 2 minute exposure told me to adjust composition to include framing elements such as the trees.

Turn off AF and IS and manually focus to infinity. Plug in your choice of remote and use a steady tripod with a ball head.

Now that the dslr set up is raring to go make sure a dark colored cloth is handy to cover up the viewfinder so no ambient light will spill onto the sensor. And make sure to time the exposure (duh…).

Shoot in RAW when possible and adjust white balance in post processing. That way the white balance can be set to auto and keeping the settings as simple as possible. All you will have to worry about is the aperture. Start at f/5.6 and adjust accordingly.

This exposure was at 20 minutes (not bad considering this was a first try). The 50D then took another 20 minutes to process the exposure as the long exposure noise reduction was turned on. The camera produces a black background to counter the noise in that extra time. In total this single exposure lasted 40 minutes.

If you have any questions or comments don’t hesitate to use the comment box. Thanks for reading.

AT NIGHT AND IN GOOD WEATHER

MacAnHe_002z 101Taipei 101 at night is an amazing sight to behold. It was the tallest building (509.2 meters) in the world until The Burj Khalifa in Dubai topped at 800 meters tall.

Taipei weather is very unpredictable and on this night it cooperated.

Shot details: Canon 50D, 8 sec, f/5.6, 42mm, ISO 100, RAW.

Raw processed in DPP, slightly tonemapped from 16 bit TIFF file in Photomatix, further post processed in Photoshop, final uploaded photo is an 8bit JPG file at 1024 x 632 resolution.

This ones definitely going to the large format printers next week. At 350 dpi and 18×24″ I hope it comes out the way it’s seen here. Or it’s going to be an expensive test print…

…IN YOUR LENSES

Stumbling upon a recent article ‘Finding the Sweet Spot’ by Ontario-based photographer, Steve Richardson, reminded me of questions posed by friends on particular lens sharpness of various makes. Generally, a standard answer would be-the relative optimum sharpness of a lens would be f/7 to f/8 to f/9 or the maximum aperture of the lens and decrease aperture by 2-stops. With the Canon 24-70 f2.8L a bias answer would be that it’s sharp throughout.

Of course, sharpness depends greatly on brand and sheer luck. A dependable brand (Canon, Nikon, Olympus Zuiko, Zeiss, etc.) will produce lenses with about an 85% success rate without obvious flaws. Until it gets dropped and the focus mechanism will need repair.

With third party brands (Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, etc.) sheer luck plays a huge role in getting a sharp lens. As too many factors come into play and most notably, third party lenses are reverse engineered from actual samples of lenses from the  big two-Canon and Nikon. Resulting in a bigger chance a buy will result in a faulty lens. From a personal stand point, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 and 10-20 f4-5.6 are excellent and cheaper third party options to their more expensive counterparts but still not impervious to flaws.

Pro quality lenses are also prone to it’s fair share of faults. Take the Canon 85mm f/1.2L II(US$1,800)-it’s not necessarily sharper than the Canon 85mm f/1.8(US$400) but the L version has weather sealing and produces a much more beautiful bokeh(background/foreground blur) than the non L f/1.8. Do these factors substantiate a purchase for a greatly more expensive lens? To each their own.

After thorough research and lens purchase the best thing to do to ensure a good copy is to test it’s sharpness. Here is a very simple and effective way of doing it. Just follow the simple instructions on Steve Richardson’s post over at Photogrpahy Bay.

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Shot details: Canon 50D+EF 85mm f/1.8 USM, AV Mode(Aperture priority), f/2.0, ISO 100, AWB, Flash Off, Adobe RGB, Center-weighted average. RAW converted in DPP and post processed in Photoshop. The photo was cropped to approximately 2/3 of the original 15 mp and zoomed in (right) to check clarity of detail.

In ‘Finding the Sweet Spot’,  the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II was used for testing. Photographer Steve Richardson’s copy of this lens had a maximum sharpness  at  f/8. Does this mean the nifty-fifty should be used at all times at f/8? Determining  lens sharpness should not deter you from capturing good photographs at any aperture. It is just a guide for knowing the exact opening for maximum sharpness when the need arises. All lenses should be used to it’s full potential by testing different apertures and shutter speeds on various subjects and compositions.

This author has used the nifty-fifty from it’s maximum opening of  f/1.8 to minimum opening of f/22 and gotten excellent results time and time again. Not every photo is equal but you will get a good one most of the time. Finding the sweet spot on the cheapest and lightest lens in Canon’s line up only makes the nifty-fifty much more fun to shoot with.

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