American Burro

I’m probably gonna have Lenny Kravitz’s cover of The Guess Who’s song American Woman stuck in my head all night after writing that title.

I certainly couldn’t keep this one from hanging around my door. Tom Petty’s American Girl would probably rhyme better and burros certainly know how to take it easy.

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This burro was walking along a 55 mph highway on the side of the Colorado River, I stopped to take their picture and they fearlessly crossed the road. I am going to guess he or she has been given a lot of food from passersby previously.

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It was fairly entertaining when the whole herd surrounded the truck I had borrowed and I’m pretty sure they were shaking me down for food. I think they could tell right away I wasn’t going to give them any because they wandered away after a couple minutes. I didn’t want to feed them and encourage them to get hit by cars. If you do want to feed burros, a trip to Oatman, Az would be my suggestion.

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I think I might have accidentally made a political statement with that last picture with donkeys, cloudy skies, setting sun and an American flag.

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All shots were taken with either a Canon EF-M 22mm f2 (review) or a Canon EF 100-300 L 5.6 (No link because eBay is about the only place to get one of these ancient beauties).

The only shot where I was worried was the next one. The mama herded me away right after I took the shot.

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My family also hiked a couple miles out to a really cool rock art area. There were probably 20-30 rock circles each with a different center art. Normally it probably isn’t quite so green.

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Canon EFM 15-45 f3.5-6.3 review

When Gene Siskel reviewed Attack of the Clones he gave it a 2/4 and mocked the romantic dialog, “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth.”

When he was asked what the greatest film of all time was, he answered, “Citizen Kane…That’s the official answer.”

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Canon EF-M 15-45 f3.5-6.3

Unfortunately, the Canon EF-M 15-45 f3.5-6.3 is not the Citizen Kane of lenses, The Canon EF-M 15-45 f3.5-6.3 is a lot more like Attack of the Clones. I’m not going to search for the Blu-ray copy I received as a gift, but if it’s on TV, I might sit down and watch it. Sure, the dialog and acting can be stiff. Some of the scenes look like a cheap sets with expensive CGI backgrounds. But on the other hand, you have Yoda’s fight scene with Count Dooku. Overall, it makes for a very average film.

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Telephone Utility pole shot with Canon EF-M 15-45

It’s not a terribly fast lens at f3.5, of course it’s even worse zoomed at f6.3. The image stabilization helps a bit, but unless it’s a sunny day you will be shooting pretty close to open or at a high ISO leading to distortion/pincushioning, vigneting or lots of noise. Most of these can be fixed in Lightroom or Photoshop, but getting a blurred image because your subject moves while you are shooting at 1/15 of a second due a lack of light makes it stay in the bag more than it should. Sharpness also doesn’t seem to be it’s strong point as you might be able to see in the next image or by looking at the utility pole above.

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Canon EF-M 15-45

Even stopped it down, at the zoom end it’s still softer than I would like. However, my macro shots with it seem to usually turn out, it might still be soft, it’s just taking up the whole sensor so it’s not as noticeable.

Below are two comparison shots, the first with the Canon EF-M 15-45 f3.5-6.3, the second with the Canon EF-M 22mm f2 (review link). These are direct from camera with only cropping and lens adjustment done in Lightroom. The 15-45 was set to 21mm. If you look closely at the nearer middle support, you can see the bullet holes from when the bridge was strafed in WWII.

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15-45mm

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22mm

If you compare the railings near the top you can see a bit of softness and lack of detail in the 15-45mm vs. the 22mm. At this end of the zoom, it compares very well to the 22mm.

I had anticipated using the lens for video work with it’s built in IS and nearly silent stepper motor, but I’d have to use a selfie stick (adding more weight) to get the lens back far enough so I wasn’t just a massive head filling the frame. Walking around in the woods with a selfie stick seems like a good way to smack my camera into a tree.

One nice feature is the lens can retract bringing the front element to a fairly compact 4 cm/1.75 inches. It has a plastic body and a plastic mount,  weighing in at 130 grams. Mounted to the camera it doesn’t fit into my coat pocket nearly as nicely as the Canon EF-M 22mm f2. So it stays in the bag or in another pocket unmounted a majority of the time.

One other important factor to consider is the lens is really a 24-72mm lens due to the 1.6x effect from the camera’s APS-C sensor; which is actually a really useful range for traveling if you can only take one lens. But it doesn’t hit the sweet spot for portraits or really go wide enough for small crowded rooms. I would venture to guess it was a lens designed by marketing so it wouldn’t sabotage the Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 and also be a more  affordable kit lens then the Canon EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM.

If you have infinite money, I’d suggest you buy a Sony a7R II and a lot of Zeiss prime lenses and carefully select which ones you need for each trip. Also, please buy me one for recommending it to you.

If you don’t have ten thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket, you could buy a Canon M5 with the 15-45 kit. Perhaps, later on get a Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 and/or Canon EF-M 22mm f2. The 15-45 is the affordable jumping in kit lens, it covers a nice range, it has some softness issues but it’s small and light and it has good color and little lens ghosting. I wouldn’t plan on making posters with the any of the zoomed images, but for viewing on a 1980×1024 computer or tv screen, it will make a nice image.

Now that I think about it, maybe the Canon EF-M 15-45 f3.5-6.3 it isn’t Attack of the Clones – Maybe it’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Siskel gave that film 3 stars. Nah, overall, it’s a very average lens, but zoomed…here everything is soft and smooth.

Desert in bloom

If you are not in the American Southwest right now, you are missing a once or twice in a lifetime photo opportunity. Rainfall the past several weeks has turned the desert from a martian training ground into a brain bewildering rocky green landscape.

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I’ve visited Palm Springs and Lake Havasu several times the past few years and was looking forward to hiking some trails in the area and capturing some burro pictures. Instead it became an opportunity to take photos of amazing blooms of desert flowers and cacti.

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I imagine it’s only going to get better this week and next as more and more flowers begin to open. It was totally offsetting to have my feet sink into damp soil instead of sending up small dust clouds with each step.

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I brought an ancient Canon 100-300 f5.6L lens for taking long shots, I only carried it when I knew something would be in the distance. The majority of the shots were with my Canon EFM 15-45 f3.5-6.3 and Canon EFM 22mm F2 lenses, which fit into my travel pack while hiking.

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I really wish I could have stayed for another week to see the cacti blooming and even more flowers to fill the landscape.

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Canon EF-M 22mm f2

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In 2014 Chevrolet released a rear wheel drive, four door sedan; it looked like a family car; it looked like a Malibu. It was anything but. The Chevrolet SS packed a 6.2L V8, and could leap from 0-60 in 4.5 seconds. It instantly became one of the best sleeper cars of all time. You could pull up next to a sports car and innocently ask, “Hey, wanna race?” All the while, knowing not only were you going to win, you were going to leave them in your dust. It was made to crush the fantasies of men in their midlife crisis, and then make them question their manhood. The Canon EF-M 22mm f2 is a lens designed for making people with their huge expensive L glass question if they are overcompensating.

The Canon EF 50mm f1.8 or “nifty fifty” is probably Canon’s most famous sleeper lens. Much like the nifty fifty, the Canon EF-M 22mm f2 is a tiny lens that looks like a low budget lens – unfortunately, it’s not quite as affordable as the Canon EF 50mm. And much like the Chevrolet SS and the nifty fifty, this lens is a sleeper.

While the Chevrolet SS sported a magnesium tubular frame, a huge engine and flappy paddle shifters, the Canon EF-M 22mm f2 isn’t hiding quite as much under the lens hood. The plastic body sounds hollow and the front element is only about 12.5 mm; however, it does have a metal mounting ring so I don’t fear swapping it on or off my camera body. It focuses quickly and silently thanks to its stepper motor. Oddly, it’s the only Canon EF-M lens not to have built in image stabilization. But with the f2 speeds you don’t miss IS too much.

As you begin proofing photos taken with this lens on a computer screen, you find yourself thrown back into your chair like you stomped on the Chevrolet SS’s gas pedal. Colors pop vibrantly. There is very little chromatic aberration and as you can see in the above photo it’s incredibly sharp even at it’s widest aperture. Opened up the lens has a nice round bokeh thanks to its 7 blades. With the f2 aperture you can play around with the depth of field and blur the foreground and background making your subject stand out. In the bird photo above I was pretty close to it’s minimum focusing distance of 6 inches or 15 cm. I have not had any lens flare issues. You might have to up your ISO settings for night time photography.  Currently, this is the fastest EF-M lens, unless you buy an adapter to use faster EF or third party lenses, it’s the best choice for shooting at night.

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It weighs a mere 105 gram and that alone would guarantee a permanent spot in my travel bag if it wasn’t on my camera 80% of the time.  I really like just how small this combination is with a Canon M body, I can easily put it in my coat pocket and always be ready to capture whatever happens around me.

If there is one lens you need to get with the EOS M line, it’s this one.

Joby Gorillapod GP2-E1EN review

Have you ever received a re-gift from your sister and had it sit in a drawer for many years, only to pull it out and realize you are an idiot for for not using it?  I’m the idiot here.

Of course, originally, I was putting too heavy of a camera on it. Joby’s website doesn’t do a very good job with discontinued models so it took me a while to figure out exactly what model I had.

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That being said, once I got my Canon M5, the Joby Gorillapod GP2 became the best travel tripod since sliced bread.  It’s about 10 inches long and can be carried easily in my bag. Sure, resting it on the ground I can’t get it to eye level, but using my cell phone as both a trigger and viewfinder it works pretty well. It also doubles nicely for a walking around stick for holding the camera in your hand or for taking handheld videos. Just make sure you activate the lock so it doesn’t go flying off.

Joby claims the capacity on this model is 800 grams. The tripod’s weigh comes in at 165 grams.

My Canon M5 weighs 427 grams with batteries plus 15 grams for the the ef-m 22mm f2 lens for a total of 442 grams. So I could even put a slightly heavier lens on. You wouldn’t want to put an EOS 5d Mark III on it.

tree-jobyPros:

  • Locks so you don’t accidentally hit the quick release button
  • Fits in my camera bag
  • Affordable
  • It weighs a lot less than just about any other tripod

Cons:

  • Doesn’t look as cool as a carbon fiber full size tripod
  • Low to the ground
  • You need to setup the legs perfectly to make sure you don’t tip the camera over or so it doesn’t fall off a railing or tree branch since it’s so lightweight.

To go with a current product, the GorillaPod Hybrid might be your choice if you want a flexible tripod with a ballhead that can support 1000 grams. But, weighing in at 191 grams you would be adding about 26 grams, which isn’t too bad. Another option is the 91 gram iStabilizer SpyderFlex. It has a 816 gram load limit according to their support email. I have not had a chance to look at one yet, but saving 74 grams isn’t too bad.

All in all it’s a great travel tripod that sometimes forces you to be a little extra creative in settting up a shot. It’s unfortunate they don’t have a current offering that is this lightweight. My advice is to get a Joby GP2-E1EN GorillaPod Flexible Tripod while they are still available or take a chance on a SpyderFlex and let me know what you thinik.

Welcome!

I used to carry around a Bogen 3021 tripod (5.75 lbs) with a 3030 head (2.3 lbs) I carried my gear in a Lowpro Mini trekker backpack (2.6 lbs), a Nikon D70 (1.5 lb) with a 80-200 F2.8 lens (2.9 lb), a 50mm 1.4 (0.6 lbs), a 500mm f8 (1.8lbs), a Tamron 24-70 f3.3-5.6 (.6 lbs) along with a SB-26 flash and an extension cord along with several filters for each and replacement batteries (2.5 lbs).

That comes to 20.55 lbs of gear when I headed out on an adventure. Usually I could convince my wife to carry the tripod, which brought my weight to 12.5 lbs and hers to 8.05 lbs, which is still more than I wanted to carry. The weight is probably why I stopped taking pictures with dedicated camera gear and started using my cell phone or a point and shoot, but there wasn’t enough camera resolution with the change to digital. And I was never happy with my shots.

But in the past few years, all that has changed. Lets explore how to avoid killing your back and instead kill your wallet, and have fun taking photos!