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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Canon Portals Event :: Santa Monica, CA

     Canon Portals is a pop-up in Santa Monica where you can borrow some Canon gear for free, and shoot at their various photo set-ups.  It is located next to the Tesla store at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.  Upon entering, you'll be prompted to sign a waiver on a tablet, and from there you'll go to the counter where you can borrow a variety of Canon bodies (with lenses attached) to use.  From there, you can wander aimlessly around all the stations.  Each station is geared towards getting creative with your photography or utilizing certain features of your camera.  For example, there are stations that encourage you to use reflections in your composition, play with the shutter speed, and use string lights to create portraits. 

Here are some tips if you plan on attending:

1)  Bring your own model.  This could be your children, spouse, friend, etc.  It wasn't clear whether there would be models at each of the stations, so I didn't think to bring someone to shoot.  If you don't bring someone, you're pretty much left to take photos of yourself, or take photos of the set-ups which can be kind of boring. 

2)  Bring a good portrait lens and a good wide lens option.  I brought only one lens (a 35mm) which was fine for the most part.  Luckily, the station geared towards taking portraits had an RF to EF adapter and I was able to use the 85mm lens they had.  

NOTE:  They loan out bodies with lenses attached, but when I asked the guy at the front counter to just borrow a lens, he said they didn't have any lenses to loan out.  I thought this was kind of weird to loan out bodies with lenses attached, but not loan out just the lenses on their own.  This made no sense to me, and the guy didn't even offer to let me borrow a body just so I could use the lens. 


     Here's a shot from the reflection station - basically a backdrop of the Manhattan bridge from the Brooklyn side of New York City.  I could've used a wider lens for this.  

     Luckily, the people working each station were good sports about posing for photos. 😃

     My friend Eddy was a good sport about posing on the magic carpet LOL.

     He's realllll excited about getting to use the EOS R.

     He was so excited that he volunteered to pose at the confetti station. 😄

     I referred to this as the "Tron" room for obvious reasons.  I would've liked more time in here, but there were some people waiting outside to come in and shoot.

     Since I mainly shoot photos of people, I think I enjoyed this station the most.  It's so easy to forget how something as simple as a string of lights can add a different dimension to a simple portrait.

     Thanks to Brian for being a great model!

Upstairs, you'll find a bunch of personal printers.  They were showcasing the Canon Ivy, the Selphy wireless printer, and a Canon full size printer/fax/scanner combo (which I didn't get to take a look at).  They let me print 5 photos from the Selphy printer, and being a long time user of Selphy printers, I was excited to use the small CP 1300 version.  The version I have is a lot older, but uses the same ink-free technology and photo paper.  I love the prints from the Selphy printer and still recommend it to people asking for a good print at home solution for 4x6 prints.

     Apparently, they got rid of the ball pit! Ugh! 😔


     This was an interesting set-up, but I felt I couldn't really utilize it much because I would've needed a wider lens.  A lot of people used it to take selfies.

     If you're looking to try out a Canon body, this is a great way to test it out for free, and whether you're a seasoned shooter or beginning novice at photography, this is an easy way to try to get more creative and get some help learning about your camera if you need it. It is free to go to the Canon Portals pop-up and no reservation is necessary.  Happy shooting! 😊


Afternoon Tea at the Plaza Hotel - New York City

     For as long as I've been a Sex & the City fan, I've wanted to have afternoon tea at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.  Having been to both casual and fancy afternoon teas, I already knew what to expect, and one of my friends who had been to the Plaza tea swore it was the best one she's been to.  This was to be a little splurge and a birthday gift to self, so I even had a more dressy outfit planned.  Well, unexpected travel interruptions (a.k.a. the AirTrain service from JFK not working) had me scrambling to get into the city with enough time to shoot at Central Park and make it to tea on time.  Not surprisingly, I chose photos over personal appearance, and my blouse and pointy-toed flats turned into jeans and sneakers, topped with a 20 lb. backpack full of camera gear.  Classy.

     We arrived early to a 1:00 pm reservation, and were seated almost immediately at a small table with palms casting shadows on the table.  I really wanted better lighting, but the Palm Court (where the tea service is) was quite dark compared to my expectations.  At this point, I was just happy to be sitting down, so I didn't request a different table.


     I decided to go with the palm shadows.  After all, this was the Palm Court!😉





     I had a fruity Darjeeling tea called Margaret's Hope.

     When the tier of food came, I was so happy and excited to eat.  My friend wasn't lying - the finger sandwiches were delicious.  I felt a little bit like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman when she accompanied Richard Gere to a fancy dinner ill-prepared to deal with fancy eating etiquette - except I wasn't dressed nicely, and I wasn't with Richard Gere.  😄 Instead, I was with my friend Jon who eats slowly, which made it all the more apparent that I was scarfing down my finger sandwiches like I hadn't eaten in days.  I believe Jon benefited from this because I was able to tell him how good the next sandwich was going to be hahahahaha!

NOTE:  The food here is for two people.  Surprisingly, I wasn't still hungry afterward LOL.

     This one was the best.  It was some kind of medium rare-ish cooked beef with some herbs on a little bun.  I could've eaten like 10-15 of these easily. 

     After I ate devoured everything, I was pretty much ready to leave and was waiting for the check to come.  Then lo and behold, I see the waiter walk up and plop down this little tray of macarons with "happy birthday" written in chocolate on the plate.  This is when it dawned on me that when I made the reservation, I told the gentleman over the phone that it was my birthday hahaha - SCORE!😃😃😃 (These macarons were some of the best I've ever had BTW!)

     If you've always wanted to have tea at the Plaza, I highly recommend it.  It is pretty pricey for afternoon tea - $75 for the service without alcohol.  I believe the ones that include champagne (or other alcoholic beverages) and caviar start at $100.  Prices for the holiday season are slightly higher though, so you might want to check out their latest menu online.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Canon EOS R Review - For People Who Actually Take Photos

     Back in September (yes, I know that was a long time ago), the Canon Experience Center was hosting an event for their new EOS R mirrorless camera.  I wasn't in the market for a mirrorless camera at that time, and honestly, never really gave it serious thought.  I had just gotten my 6d Mark II, and was happily shooting with it.  I struggled to find a suitable title for this blog post, and a friend suggested I come up with something that really grabs people's attention, and what better title to grab people's attention with than one that insults all the camera bashers out there who probably spend more time on threads bashing cameras than out taking photos? 😏

     Anyway, back to the EOS R.  The only reason I went to this event was to be able to actually see and use the camera.  I knew very little about it, and figured this was a good opportunity to use it before having an opinion on it.  What I knew going into this was that the EOS R got a lot of hate for it's cropped 4k video and lack of dual card slots.  Since I'm not and never was an avid video shooter, my main interest in the EOS R was its image quality.  I'm currently shooting with a 5d Mark III and 6d Mark II, and because I am happy with the image quality of these cameras, I wanted to see how the EOS R images would compare. 

     Mistakenly, I thought it would be as easy as arriving and testing out the camera.  Luck would not be on my side, as I had to sit through a little over an hour's worth of tech talk and a short lecture from a photographer who shoots commercials about his experience shooting with the EOS R.  Even though I learned a lot of tech-y things and enjoyed the slide show, nothing beats actually using the camera yourself to take photos.  For me, shooting style is very personal and specific to each photographer.  I wanted to see how the EOS R felt in my hands, and how intuitive the buttons and dials were.  Once we were set free, they had a bunch of EOS R cameras for people to shoot with their own memory cards as well as different stations set up with models or simply to ask a Canon rep about the camera.

     One of the things that I didn't like was the line of people waiting to use the camera and new RF lenses.  I definitely felt the pressure to hurry up and take some shots before letting someone else have their turn.  All the following photos were taken with the EOS R and the RF 24-105 f4L or RF 50mm f1.2L lenses. 



















     Hey, did I mention they had tons of food and drinks there?  Yeah, that was pretty awesome!  I made a mental note to self to go to more Canon events in the future. 😊







     After taking some shots, I took my memory card out, grabbed some more food, and headed home.  When I finally was able to look at the images, I was pretty pleased with the image quality - especially considering they were taken in low light.  Like I said, I did not have plans to buy this camera, but I was curious enough about it to go back to the Canon Experience Center one more time (this time without the crowd) to use the EOS R again.  I don't know if they would actually let you leave the building with the camera, and I didn't think to ask.  I just took photos of whatever was inside, and those of you who have been there know that while it looks nice from a technical standpoint, there isn't much to take photos of so I had to settle for their little train set up. 










     Here's the 5d Mark IV next to the EOS R.  This picture makes their size difference look a lot bigger than it really is.  While smaller and slightly lighter, the EOS R isn't as compact as its competitors.  



     So what did I think of the camera?  Well, let's put aside that the video was not a factor since I don't shoot video.  While I also didn't like the lack of dual memory card slots, it was something I could live without since I wouldn't be considering the EOS R for use in my professional work.  One of the Canon reps placed the EOS R as a bridge between the 6d Mark II and the 5d Mark IV, and I thought that was a fair statement.  The camera isn't marketed to be used for professional work, even though it certainly can produce it.  Here are the pros and cons I took away from using the EOS R twice:

PROS:

1) Faster focusing - I definitely saw a difference in focusing compared to my Mark III and 6d Mark II, no doubt due to the thousands of focus points in the EOS R.

2) Size and weight - I kinda enjoyed the smaller size and weight.  Despite it being larger than I expected, the camera still felt good in my hands and I found shooting with it quite an easy transition.  

3) Touch and drag focusing - I thought this was weird at first, but got used to it over time.  Basically, you can change the focus point via a button (which takes more time), by tapping anywhere on the LCD screen, or by touching and dragging your finger on the screen to move the focus point.  You can even designate the drag area to different parts of the screen.  

4)  The new RF lenses - Canon makes top notch lenses, and the new RF lenses are no exception.  The introduction of the new function ring is also intriguing.  You can designate it to change just about any of the camera functions. 

5)  Image quality -  Hands down the number one thing I look for is image quality and the EOS R did not disappoint.  I found the images to be on par with the 5d and had more clarity than the 6d mark II.  I know there are people who pixel peep and will come up with their criticisms, but honestly, unless you are shooting for National Geographic, people need to just chill the F out about that. 

6)  The fully articulating LCD screen - I bought my 6d Mark II for the fully articulating LCD screen and let's face it - once you go flippy screen, you'll never want to go back!

CONS:  

1)  No dual card slots - I'll just leave it at that.  It is what it is. 

2)  Size - I do wish it was a TAD smaller.  However, I wonder if I'd still enjoy shooting with it if it were a much more compact camera.

3)  Pricey lenses -  Yes, you can buy a $99 adapter (or their control ring adapter mount or their yet to be released drop in filter adapter mounts) and use all your EF and EF-S lenses with the EOS R, but if you plan on buying the new RF lenses, be prepared to shell out some major cash!  There are four new lenses, and the RF 35mm f1.8 macro is the most affordable at $499.  The RF 24-105mm f4L is very sharp and will set you back about $1,099.  The RF 50mm f1.2L is $2,299 and while being an amazing lens, is quite large!  It basically negates the smaller size of the EOS R body.  Finally, the coveted RF 28-70mm f2L lens is $2,999 and a force to be reckoned with.  Yes, it is f2 throughout the entire focal range, but the size of this lens is just ridiculous.  The filter thread size is 95mm!  I'd love to see the cost of those filters!  All this aside, I still want this lens - c'mon, it's f2!  The Canon rep justified the price to me by saying that it's like getting a great prime at every focal length from 28-70 and also a zoom lens in one.  Hey, the guy's got a good point LOL.  I'm gonna have to save my pennies for this one!

     But what about all the other things people hate about the EOS R, you ask?  Well, quite honestly, those things don't matter to me.  Like I said, every photographer's shooting style is different, and  I paid attention to the features that impacted my shooting style.  Unlike a lot of the haters, I also actually used the camera before forming my opinion, and I suggest you do the same if you're considering the EOS R.  The improved focusing and Canon color that I love were present in this smaller, lighter body and that was enough to sell me.  Ha!  That's right, I bought one! More photos from the real world to come in future blog posts! 😄

Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers 2018

     Christmas is right around the corner, so here's your 2018 gift guide for the photographer in your life!  I have some really affordable selections this year!  Enjoy! 😀

1)  Travel Planner $5.56

I'm ashamed to admit the degree to which I plan for trips.  It doesn't even matter if it's a day trip, road trip, or air travel.  I love planning, and these travel planners from Mochi Things basically took all my neurotic planning and put it all into one handy book!  Click the link to see just how detailed this planner gets - amazing!  I may even pick up one of these for myself!



2)  Fingerless Gloves $11.89

I learned recently how important it is to have these when shooting outdoors in cold weather.  Regular gloves, while warm, just don't do the trick because you need your fingers to change settings, often times on a touchscreen LCD.  You can find these at so many price points, but I thought these were a great compromise between cute and practical.  If you're looking for major cute factor, check out this pair from Kate Spade - and buy me a pair, too! 😉



3)  Photo Album/Binder $18.86

Every year, I tell myself I'm going to print more photos instead of letting them sit on my hard drive.  This might be at the top of my new year resolution list!  How cute is this album?  You basically take your printed photos, slip them inside these mats that are hole-punched and keep them in the binder.  I love that you can rearrange your photos, or curate a nice set to share while giving you the option to switch things up!



4)  The Bucket List Coffee Table Book  $23.79

Not only will this book give you a severe case of wanderlust, but it makes for a great coffee table book to peruse even when you aren't traveling or taking photos.  It's filled with beautiful photos and inspiration to fill your travel bucket list. 



5)  Premium Photo Books from Mpix from $39.99

A few months ago, I finally had some photo books made.  It was something I had put off for a long time, but was so rewarding to have once it was finished.  The hardest part is picking which photos you want to include!  I couldn't find a gift card option on their website, but Mpix does great photo book with many options.  Perhaps you can summon up your creative side and make holder that includes a Visa/Mastercard gift card?



6)  Peak Design Tech Pouch $59.99

All photographers have a bunch of little bits and bobs that go along with their expensive hobby.  What's a better accessory for an expensive hobby than an expensive tech pouch?  I've been lusting after this for a few months, and now they're readily available on Peak Design's website!  It's pricey, but look. at. that. organization!  I may need this in my life. 😃


7)  Moment Lenses starting at $69.99

This made my list last year, and I don't even feel bad about having it on my list again!  The only thing preventing me from buying these right now is that I have an older iPhone.  Rest assured, once I get a new iPhone with a better camera, this will be the first thing in my shopping cart!  There are a variety of lenses, and I love that they are 1) well made and 2) made of real glass.  Their website offers so much more than just a place to buy these lenses, too.  You'll find tips for photography, and photos from some amazing locations/trips!  Check it out!



8)  Ona x Passion Passport Bowery Bag  $149

Like every bag addict, I also looked at the Ona Bowery bag as an option to carry my gear for a light day of shooting.  Being all leather, the price point was a bit too much for me to pull the trigger.  Low and behold, Ona has come out with a collection of Bowery bags made of weatherproof canvas in different colors!  I'm definitely eyeing this orange one in the color "clay".  It would still look cute as a purse even if you weren't carrying camera gear in it.  




9)  LaCie Portable External Hard Drive  $159.94

Photographers can never have too much storage.  I first saw this product at WPPI back in February, and was definitely intrigued.  I love how rugged and durable it looks, and from what I've read, it is very reliable.  



10)  Leica D-Lux 7  $1,195

Ha!  You knew I had to have at least one crazy item on this list, and here it is!  Recently Leica released their D-Lux 7 camera.  I had the Leica D-Lux 6 and ended up selling it to get a Canon G7x.  I still remember the day my friend Patty and I were in the Leica store in Washington, D.C. and decided on a whim we would both buy ourselves a D-Lux 6 camera.  I loved that camera, but will admit I was never impressed with its image quality, especially as better options were being offered by other camera makers.  Well, aesthetically, I am drooling all over the D-Lux 7.  It even has an electronic viewfinder (EVF), and while I'm not a huge fan of EVF, the D-Lux 6 didn't have one, so this is an upgrade (complete with an upgraded price, of course)!  The specs on this camera are nothing to write home about, but that's not why you buy a Leica, is it?  😏



     Hopefully, I gave you some good ideas for what to buy the photography-obsessed person in your life.  Thanks for reading, and happy shopping! 😊