Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Serengeti National Park and the Great Migration


After leaving Nairobi, Stewart Edward White wrote, "We walked for miles over burnt out country... Then I saw the green trees of the river, walked two miles more and found myself in paradise."

He had found the Serengeti... and so have we on our latest Photo Safari to Tanzania.
 
In the years since Stewart Edward White first arrived, the Serengeti has become home to two World Heritage Sites and two Biosphere Reserves within the 30,000 km² region. It's ecosystem has inspired writers like Ernest Hemingway, filmmakers like Hugo von Lawick and numerous photographers like us to come and chronicle the unique area through our lenses.

The Serengeti region encompasses the Serengeti National Park itself, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Maswa Game Reserve, the Loliondo, Grumeti and Ikorongo Controlled Areas and the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. This year almost 100,000 tourists, and the six of us on our safari, will visit the Park and leave changed forever.

This unique ecosystem is one of the oldest on earth. The climate, vegetation and fauna have barely changed in the past million years. Early man himself made an appearance in Olduvai Gorge about two million years ago and while species have come and became extinct, the setting has remained the same.

Today, people from around the world are drawn with hopes of visiting the endless plains of east Africa for one of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacle - the 1.5 million animal migration. From the vast Serengeti plains to the hills of Kenya’s Masai Mara, over 1.5 million wildebeest and 200,000 zebra and gazelle make the journey in search for food and water.  The Wildebeest travel through a variety of parks, reserves and protected areas and through a variety of habitat while they are relentlessly tracked by Africa’s great predators,

The migration follows a clockwise pattern that extends over 1,800 miles each year in search of rain ripened grass. They say the only beginning is the moment of birth. It is that period of time as they circle south across the Mara river and come upon the Tanzanian plains. An estimated 400,000 wildebeest calves are born during a six week period early each year - usually between late January and mid-March. Here the herds concentrate at the Ndutu and Salei plains (Southern Serengeti / Ngorongoro Conservation Area) attracting the attention of predators like lion, cheetah and hyena.

The herd then moves as the grass is depleted. They move to the long grass plains and woodland of the Serengeti’s western Corridor, almost to Lake Victoria... and this is where we first came upon this jaw dropping site... and for the next three days we will stay close and stalk the hunters as they prey on the wildebeest, zebra and assortment of other animals. Our goal is to watch the predators and be in position to witness the interaction between hunter and the hunted.
 
From this location they enter the Lamai Wedge and the Mara Triangle before amassing along the Mara River… that iconic river crossing depicted on so many wildlife programs.

It is important to note that the vast majority of travelers do not witness the wildebeest crossing of the Mara. The timing and duration varies widely each year - in years of little rain very few wildebeest cross the Mara River into northern Tanzania and Kenya. But whether they cross or not, the arrival of the short rains call the migration southward once again… it is now that they return to the calving area… and the circle of life is complete.

As I sign off I am sitting here in the dark continent, among formations unique to this part of the world. I cannot help but appreciate the incredibly beautiful and diverse African landscapes that have formed long before man could even measure time. The animals that dot the landscape are merely a decoration, and with or without the amazing animals, I am already making plans to return here again next November.

Sorry you could not make it with us this time as we track down the migration, but as I mentioned, I am headed back to Africa in 2014. Please check out these workshops here...
Namibia with Denise Ippolito in April of 2014
Back to Tanzania to see the migration in November 2014... contact me for details

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Capturing emotion and motion

One of the things everyone wants to capture when on safari is an iconic chase or one of the big five running.

While sitting in the safari vehicle waiting for it to happen I decided I would write about capturing emotion, and motion... tips that can apply to any photography situation, not just while on an African Safari.

Capturing Emotion and Feeling
photo taken with a Nikon D7000 and a Sigma 150-500mm

A good photograph stirs up emotions. From your child in the middle of a good laugh with a friend to a feeling of horror over an image of carnage, photographs should make the viewer feel something strongly.

Before you release your shutter, ask yourself what emotion you want your image to evoke. The feeling of amazement at the beauty before you? Do you want to pull at a persons heart strings and photograph mother and child in a moment of tenderness?

Identify with that feeling before you shoot, capture the scene with as many photographs as you can to give you options and your photographs will likely improve.

Capturing Motion
photo taken with a Nikon D7000 and a Sigma 150-500mm

When it comes to motion you have two ways to go... stop the motion or show the motion. If you want to stop the motion you need higher shutter speeds to freeze the moving object. The problem comes when people freeze the motion and then place the subject dead center... it becomes questionable whether the subject was motionless or in full stride.

The tricks with freezing motion are two things... (1) placement of subject and (2) position in which the subject was frozen by the camera. Use a trick to place the subject to one side of the frame and use negative space in front of the moving subject... give the subject room to move inside the photo borders.

If you want to show motion try to slow down the shutter speed a little and pan with the moving subject... If you keep the camera moving with the subject you will keep some of the subject in focus and some with motion blur... when photographing an animal... keep the camera on the head or front shoulders while you pan and the legs and background will be somewhat blurred.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Tanzania Photo Safari - Notes from Day Two at Ngorongoro Crater


In 1951, the Serengeti National Park was declared. It was an area encompassing the present Serengeti, plus the Ngorongoro area and surrounding Crater Highlands. However much of the southern side of this was already being used by the Maasai. It was then decided to be split into the present-day Serengeti National Park, and the current Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA).The new conservation area now encompasses a large area of the short-grass plains on the southern side of the Serengeti Plain and also the Ngorongoro Highlands, a range of largely extinct ancient volcanoes on the west side of the Great Rift Valley.

The showpiece of the conservation area is the Ngorongoro Crater itself. If you are arriving
by road, as my tours do, traveling through the coffee plantations of the Ngorongoro Highlands, your first sight of the crater is from the rim, where we will stop to enjoy the incredible view. After the first glance down into the world famous Ngorongoro Crater you realize that words fail to describe the immensity of the wilderness in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The plains and woodlands stretch below for miles and miles, framed to the North by the beautiful Gol Mountains, the skyline fading in the haze and the heat.


It has been said that in the early morning, clouds peel back from the walls of the rim to reveal the lush green grasslands of the crater floor and the sparkling Lake Magadi below as if someone flipped a switch to start another day. The crater measures about 16-19km in diameter, with walls of 400-610m in height. The mineral-rich floor of this spectacular bowl is largely flat, open and covered in nutritious grasses – much to the liking of large herds of zebra and wildebeest which graze here, and the predators that they attract.

Birding here is also rewarding, with flamingos and various water birds such as waders, storks and herons often found on Lake Magadi, as well as good numbers of ostriches and the kori bustard, the world’s heaviest flying bird. With such a wealth of wildlife in a relatively small area, it’s little wonder why this is not right at the top of many safari enthusiasts’ bucket lists.

You'll also find East Africa's best population of the endangered black rhino here which are often seen in open grasslands. On rare occasions breeding herds of elephant also pass through the Ngorongoro Crater itself as they migrate at various times of year... but you will often see a scattering of old bulls, including some of the biggest tuskers left alive in Africa today.

The Crater's lion population varies significantly over time, the one constant being their complete disregard of vehicles; they will hunt within yards of a vehicle, and when exhausted even seek their shade beside it. Spotted hyena are even more common here, often competing with the lion, and there's are a small but growing number of cheetah. Leopards are around, especially in the vicinity of the Lerai Forest – a small forest of fever trees notable for their yellow bark.


Home to an incredible density of wildlife, the Ngorongoro Crater is a must-see on any safari in Northern Tanzania. Forming part of the Great Rift Valley, the landscape here is truly unique – where else can you go on a game drive in the floor of an extinct volcano?

Unfortunately the reality of safaris in the crater isn't always as amazing. At certain times of year the sheer number of vehicles in the crater, combined with its enclosed environment, can destroy any sense of wilderness that you will expect to see on an African safari. If you're lucky, this will be mitigated by amazing game sightings; if you're not, it won't be and you will be left disappointed. While the Ngorongoro's wildlife is absolutely stupendous, the Ngorongoro safari experience isn't always as good.

If you want to include the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in your Tanzania safari, talk to us and we will explain why we pick the times we go, the advantages of our safaris, and what you can expect to see on one of our workshops.


Tomorrow we are off to the Serengeti... internet and time will not be readily available for the rest of my workshop, but I will continue my entries and post them as I can...

Sorry you could not make it with us this time, but we are headed back to Africa in 2014. Please check out these workshops here...

Namibia with Denise Ippolito in April of 2014

Back to Tanzania in November 2014... contact me for details

 

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Tanzania Photo Safari - Notes from Day One in Lake Manyara


Photo taken with a Nikon D7000 and Sigma 150-500 f5.6-6.3
 
It was our first full day on our safari, and our first destination...  Lake Manyara.
 
I read a description of the park before I left home, and in that description they asked the following question..."Why do we go to  a 7-eleven?"
 
I laughed at the time... what does an urban convenience store have to do with a Tanzania conservation area? But now that I am here, I understand why they asked that question. They asked because the answer to the question is the same whether you stopping by the corner store or arrive at Lake Manyara... "We go because it is right down the street and has everything you need"

Lake Manyara is conveniently located National Park just outside of Arusha that has everything you need in a National Park in Tanzania... and so much more... its a unique experience.
 
For years Lake Manyara has been tacked onto the beginning of a lot of safari packages available today. While people assume that is a cash grab or an area to use to tune up before the iconic Serengeti or the infamous Ngorongoro Crater, both of which are just a short drive from Manyara, do not sell this National Park short. Ernest Hemingway once said, "Lake Manyara was the loveliest in Africa” and after experiencing it for myself, I have to agree with Mr. Hemmingway.
 
As you enter through the gates, huge and impressive mahogany trees greet you. These magnificent trees draw nourishment from underground springs from the crater highlands directly above the Manyara basin... and the nourishment that powers the growth of the trees, also creates a special environment I am about to introduce you to.  And If that doesn't paint a picture and set the stage for an adventure you will never forget, the heard of elephants that strolled in front of us and posed for us for 30 minutes should.
 
As you drive deeper into the park, the forest thins out and you are introduced to expansive flood plains filled with birds and the first sounds of a safari. Hippos camouflage themselves in large mud pools dotted along the flood plain, and in the lake, can be seen wandering the shores and peeking above the waterline... two eyes, their forehead and those cute, twitching, little round ears sit atop the waterline... much like an iceberg, just a small portion of such a huge animal that churns below the surface.

Then there are the famous tree climbing lions. They lounge in the canopies above, staring over the plain as if they were marking their prey for the hunt that is to come at dusk. But one cannot forget the giraffe, one of my favourite animals. Known as the "danger alarm" because they can spot trouble coming long before smaller animals can, these majestic animals make themselves at home in the open areas, grazing on the long grasses and tree limbs, necks contorted in ways that you just can't help but laugh at.
 
The deeper you drive along the shore the road winds in and out of the various environments, but to our right the incredible Rift Valley escarpment that guides us through our route. The escarpment's face, covered by brush and baobab trees, it is divided by spectacular gorges carved by rivers that flow almost the entire year.... and at the end of the long rains season when I was there... just begging to be photographed because of the heavy flow, emptying into the Manyara basin. The Rift Valley is an area where some of the oldest human ancestor remains have been found... its almost a little surreal to be here in the dark continent, standing where long forgotten ancestors hunted for survival.
 
A relatively small National Park, Lake Manyara covers only 329km2, with the lake covering an incredible 231km2 of the park. While inundated with large troops of baboons, the lake and local environment host a number of herbivores such as hippos, impala, elephants, wildebeest, buffalo, warthogs and giraffes. The Park also provides exciting opportunities for the photographer keen on viewing and observing over 300 migratory birds species, including flamingo, long-crested eagle and grey-headed kingfisher, the white pelicans, yellow-billed storks, and white-necked cormorants. At least 44 species of birds of prey call the area home, including the palm-nut vulture and the photogenic Ayre's hawk .
 
What I found most impressive, and inevitably draws your lens, are the pink patches that are scattered along the shoreline separating lush green grass from the lake’s blue grey waters. Thousands of flamingos have come to Lake Manyara to feed off its alkaline waters. Without a word spoken of this beautiful site, we turn off the safari vehicle engine to listen to the flamingo’s muffled babble with occasional high-pitched whistles soaring from the distance.
 
One day near Lake Manyara has taught me that an African Photo Safari is not just about going to Africa to get the shots of a lifetime. It has shown me that an African Photo Safari is also about taking the time to cherish the sites with the naked eye... creating memories that will always stay with you.
 

Sorry you could not make it with us this time, but we are headed back to Africa in 2014. Please check out these workshops here...
Namibia with Denise Ippolito in April of 2014
Back to Tanzania in November 2014... contact me for details


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Tanzania... another check off the bucket list

It was just over twenty (20) hours that our wheels raised off Canadian soil. But we made it, all checked into our lodge for the night, the Karama Lodge. The people that came with me can now officially check this off the bucket list and just sit back and enjoy this photography workshop with the Photographer's Lounge...

We arrived later in the night at our first destination, the Karama Lodge. We landed just before 8pm and got to see a glimpse of our destination as we descended into Arusha... it was a tease... we have to wait till tomorrow to get this show on the road.

Karama Lodge has twenty-two stilted log cabins definitely offer comfortable accommodation with a natural design. Constructed with local materials, the cabins allow close proximity to the surrounding forest flora and fauna. Each cabin has its own wooden balcony with comfortable chairs where you can relax and admire the spectacular views of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Meru, the Maasai steppes beyond.

The cabins of Karama Lodge are made with natural materials and fit perfectly into the surrounding forest. Every effort is made to protect the local flora and fauna, therefore Karama is still home to a wide variety of forest wildlife, beautiful tropical birds, medicinal plants, flowers and indigenous trees.

Its too bad we can't enjoy this place more. But tomorrow we are headed out on safari and off to a place I know everyone will love, Lake Manyara National Park. Lake Manyara is a "Paradise of Wildlife" that supports over 400 species of birds, great swathes of flamingo and a boisterous community of hippos... and if we are lucky, we will also get to see the famous tree climbing lions, characteristics mostly found only in Lake Manyara National Park.

Until next post,

Kev


Monday, 15 April 2013

SIGMA OFFERS HIGH-PERFORMANCE LENS SYSTEM FOR COMPACT SYSTEM CAMERAS (CSC)

 TORONTO, ON., April 15, 2013 - Gentec International announces three new lenses from Sigma designed to maximize the performance of Compact System Cameras (CSC). The 19mm F2.8 DN wide-angle lens, 30mm F2.8 DN standard lens, and 60mm F2.8 DN medium-telephoto lens make a versatile system suitable for a wide range of photographic pursuits. All three lenses are part of Sigma’s Art line, incorporating advanced optical technology to ensure the highest quality images.

SPECIAL FEATURES
Art line lenses provide the highest level of artistic expression

Sigma is organizing its interchangeable lenses into three product lines: Contemporary, Art, and Sports. The Art line has been designed with an emphasis on artistic expression to meet the expectations of users who value a creative, dramatic outcome above compactness and multifunction. Offering sophisticated optical performance for landscapes, portraits, still-life, close-up and casual snaps, these lenses are perfect for the kind of photography that unleashes the inner artist. While ideal for studio photography, they offer just as much expressive scope when capturing architecture, starry skies, underwater shots, and many other scenes.

System versatility
The 19mm F2.8 DN wide-angle lens has an angle-of-view equivalent to 38mm on the Micro Four Thirds system and 28.5mm on the E-mount system (35mm equivalent focal length). The 30mm F2.8 DN standard lens has an angle-of-view equivalent to 60mm on the Micro Four Thirds system and 45mm on the E-mount system. The 60mm F2.8 DN medium-telephoto lens has an angle-of-view equivalent to 120mm on the Micro Four Thirds system and 90mm on the E-mount system. Together, the three lenses expand the high-performance options for Compact System Cameras (CSC).

Superior optical performance and functionality
The simple shape of the focus ring, the use of metal on almost all external areas of the lens, and the unibody design of the hood all add up to a lens design that is ideal for Compact System Cameras (CSC). Photographers also have the choice of black or silver to match their camera.

Exceptional image quality

The 19mm F2.8 DN lens features three glass-mold aspherical lenses, which provide excellent correction for distortion and field curvature. Inspired by the optical design of Sigma’s DP2 Merrill camera, the 30mm F2.8 DN lens features two glass-mold aspherical lenses, including a high-quality, double-sided aspherical lens, providing excellent correction for distortion and other types of aberration. The 60mm F2.8 DN lens incorporates Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass to help minimize axial and transverse chromatic aberration. Glass-mold aspherical lenses help minimize coma. All three lenses include an inner focusing system that corrects the fluctuation of aberration to maintain image quality regardless of the focusing position.

Telecentric conscious design
The superior telecentric optical design improves the image quality throughout the frame.

Linear AF motor
These lenses benefit from a linear AF motor that moves the lens unit directly, without the need for gears or other mechanical parts. This system ensures accurate and quiet autofocusing, making the lens suitable for video recording as well as still photography.

ADDITIONAL FEATURES
Rounded diaphragm
The 7-blade rounded diaphragm creates an attractive round bokeh at large-aperture settings.
Brass bayonet mount
A specially treated brass bayonet mount ensures maximum precision, greater strength, and superior durability for long-term use.
Evaluation with Sigma’s “A1” MTF measuring system
Replacing an MTF measuring system using conventional sensors, Sigma now employs a proprietary MTF (modulation transfer function) measuring system (A1) using 46-megapixel Foveon direct image sensors. Previously undetectable high-frequency details are now within the scope of Sigma’s quality control inspections.

Made in Japan
All Sigma’s manufacturing, including molds and parts, is carried out under an integrated production system entirely in Japan. Sigma is now one of the very few manufacturers whose products are solely “made in Japan”, with each product reflecting a combination of expertise, advanced technology, and genuine craftsmanship.

The three new lenses are available in black and silver finishes for Micro Four Thirds and Sony E-Mount compatible cameras. Like all Sigma lenses, they are backed by a comprehensive seven-year Canadian warranty. Available in June, the 19mm F2.8 DN, 30mm F2.8 DN, and 60mm F2.8 DN lenses have suggested retail prices of $219.95, $219.95, and TBA, respectively.

About Gentec International
Founded in 1990, Gentec International is Canada’s leading consumer accessory products company, supplying a complete range of photo, video, digital, sport optics, home theatre, electronics, wireless, and mobile audio products to the Canadian retail marketplace. Gentec offers a variety of prominent brands, including Optex, Sigma, SanDisk, Manfrotto, Gitzo, National Geographic, Kata, Avenger, Roots, Gary Fong, Black Rapid, Mobifoto, iQ, Sunpak, Energizer, Bushnell, Tasco, and Zeiss. Gentec operates out of a high-cube, state-of-the-art, fully computerized100,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution centre that offers efficient, seamless service to our customers. With over 90 employees, Gentec covers the needs of its retailers coast to coast using the latest technology systems, streamlined efficiencies, and customer service that is second to none.

Learn more – visit www.gentec-intl.com

SPECIFICATIONS:
Focal Length: 19mm/30mm/60mm
Minimum Aperture: F22/F22/F22
Lens Construction: 8 Elements in 6 Groups/7 Elements in 5 Groups/8 Elements in 6 Groups
Angle-of-View (MFT/Sony): 59.3° / 73.5°| 39.6° / 50.7° | 20.4° / 26.6°
Diaphragm Blades: 7 (rounded diaphragm)/ 7 (rounded diaphragm)/7 (rounded diaphragm)
Minimum Focusing Distance: 20 cm / 7.9” | 30 cm / 11.8” | 50 cm / 19.7”
Maximum Magnification: 1:7.4/1:8.1/1:7.2
Filter Size: 46 mm/46 mm/46 mm

Dimensions
Diameter 60.8 mm / 2.4” | 60.8 mm / 2.4” | 60.8 mm / 2.4”
Length 45.7 mm / 1.8” | 40.5 mm / 1.6” | 55.5 mm / 2.2”
Weight TBD/TBD/TBD

Mounts (AF): Micro Four Thirds and Sony E-Mount (available in Black and Silver)
Includes: Case, Lens Hood (LH520-03)

INNOVATIVE FOLDING DESIGN OF MANFROTTO’S 290-SERIES THREE-WAY TRIPOD HEAD


INNOVATIVE FOLDING DESIGN OF MANFROTTO’S 290-SERIES THREE-WAY TRIPOD HEAD MAKES IT ULTRA-COMPACT

Manfrotto’s new 290-series three-way tripod head, part of Manfrotto’s 290 family of photo supports aimed at passionate hobby photographers who want to take their images to the next level. The new head offers no-nonsense professional features and top quality construction with practical, innovatively-engineered compactness and reduced weight.

Traditional three-way heads typically have long protruding handles that make fine adjustments on each axis easier, but also make the head bulkier to transport or carry. Manfrotto’s innovative three-way photo head features a unique folding design that makes it ultra-compact when closed. Incorporating Adapto, Manfrotto’s proprietary polymer, the compact head also offers considerable weight savings over heavier metal alloys while still being strong and secure, supporting up to four kilograms of camera equipment in any position and at any inclination. Three independent bubble levels - one for each axis of rotation - ensure that the camera can be precisely positioned.

The Manfrotto 290-Series Foldable Three-Way Head (MH293D3-Q2) is sold on its own at a suggested retail price of $89.95. The head is also available in two kits: the four-section, aluminum tripod kit (293A4D3Q2) and the four-section carbon fibre tripod kit (293C4D3Q2). Suggested retail prices are $239.95 and $369.95, respectively.

 

SIGMA CANADA INTRODUCES THE 30MM F1.4 DC HSM LARGE-APERTURE LENS

SIGMA INTRODUCES THE 30MM F1.4 DC HSM LARGE-APERTURE LENS DESIGNED FOR APS-C FORMAT DSLR CAMERAS


TORONTO, ON., April 15, 2013 -Gentec International announces the new 30mm F1.4 DC HSM lens from Sigma. This large-aperture standard lens, with an angle-of-view equivalent to 45mm on a 35mm camera, is a superb go-to lens for an APS-C format DSLR camera and is ideal for many different types of photographic expression.
Featuring an advanced design and the latest manufacturing technologies, the 30mm F1.4 DC HSM lens delivers the highest level of image quality worthy of Sigma’s new Art line. The photographer can leverage the shallow depth-of-field to create beautiful bokeh in snapshots, portraits, landscapes, and many different styles of photography.
SPECIAL FEATURES
Art line lenses provide the highest level of artistic expression
Sigma is organizing its interchangeable lenses into three product lines: Contemporary, Art, and Sports. The Art line has been designed with an emphasis on artistic expression to meet the expectations of users who value a creative, dramatic outcome above compactness and multifunction. Offering sophisticated optical performance for landscapes, portraits, still-life, close-up and casual snaps, these lenses are perfect for the kind of photography that unleashes the inner artist. While ideal for studio photography, they offer just as much expressive scope when capturing architecture, starry skies, underwater shots, and many other scenes.
Large aperture F1.4 standard lens
With its shallow depth-of-field and angle-of-view close to that of the human eye, this lens stimulates the desire to create and is ideal for many different types of photographic expression. The bright viewfinder also aids focusing and composition of images.
Outstanding image quality for enhanced photographic expression
Advanced optical design minimizes field curvature thereby preventing a loss of image quality at the edges of photographs. The use of a double aspheric lens minimizes spherical distortion, astigmatism, and coma. Coma of point light sources is minimized near the edge of the image, and an attractive round bokeh effect is produced at large-aperture settings.
Rear focus system
The rear focus system prevents focus-dependent variation in aberration to ensure high image quality throughout the entire image. The length of the barrel doesn’t change during focusing, which improves balance and stability for easier handling. Since the front of the lens does not rotate, circular polarizing filters are easy to use.
Flare and ghosting conscious design
Advanced optical design and Sigma’s Super Multi-Layer Coating reduces flare and ghosting and provides sharp, high-contrast images, even in backlit conditions.
ADDITIONAL FEATURES
Minimum focusing distance of 30cm
With a minimum focusing distance of 30 centimetres and a maximum magnification ratio is 1:6.8, this lens is excellent for close-up photography.
Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM)
The Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) ensures quiet, high-speed autofocusing, as well as full-time manual focus override by rotation of the focus ring. With the enhanced AF algorithm, smoother autofocusing is achieved. Full-time manual focus is also possible.
Rounded diaphragm
The 9-blade rounded diaphragm creates an attractive blur to the out-of-focus areas of the image.
Ease of use
The new ergonomic design offers comfortable grips and unobtrusive yet easy-to-use controls. For improved handling, the design of the lens hood, lens cap, and AF/MF changeover switch have been updated.
Brass bayonet mount
A specially treated brass bayonet mount ensures maximum precision, greater strength, and superior durability for long-term use.
Newly developed “USB Dock” (optional) exclusively for new Sigma lenses
Designed for the newest Sigma lenses, proprietary Optimization Pro software allows photographers to update lens firmware and adjust parameters such as focus.
Evaluation with Sigma’s “A1” MTF measuring system
Replacing an MTF measuring system using conventional sensors, Sigma now employs a proprietary MTF (modulation transfer function) measuring system (A1) using 46-megapixel Foveon direct image sensors. Previously undetectable high-frequency details are now within the scope of Sigma’s quality control inspections.
Made in Japan
All Sigma’s manufacturing, including molds and parts, is carried out under an integrated production system entirely in Japan. Sigma is now one of the very few manufacturers whose products are solely “made in Japan”, with each product reflecting a combination of expertise, advanced technology, and genuine craftsmanship.
The Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC HSM lens has a suggested retail price of $529.95 and will be available for Canon, Nikon, and Sigma cameras in June. Like all Sigma lenses, the new 30mm lens is backed by a comprehensive seven-year Canadian warranty.
About Gentec International
Founded in 1990, Gentec International is Canada’s leading consumer accessory products company, supplying a complete range of photo, video, digital, sport optics, home theatre, electronics, wireless, and mobile audio products to the Canadian retail marketplace. Gentec offers a variety of prominent brands, including Optex, Sigma, SanDisk, Manfrotto, Gitzo, National Geographic, Kata, Avenger, Roots, Gary Fong, Black Rapid, Mobifoto, iQ, Sunpak, Energizer, Bushnell, Tasco, and Zeiss. Gentec operates out of a high-cube, state-of-the-art, fully computerized100,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution centre that offers efficient, seamless service to our customers. With over 90 employees, Gentec covers the needs of its retailers coast to coast using the latest technology systems, streamlined efficiencies, and customer service that is second to none.
Learn more – visit www.gentec-intl.com.
SPECIFICATIONS:
Focal Length: 30mm
Minimum Aperture: F16
Lens Construction: 8 Elements in 9 Groups
Angle-of-View: 50.7°
Number of Diaphragm Blades: 9 (rounded diaphragm)
Minimum Focusing Distance: 30 cm / 11.8”
Maximum Magnification: 1:6.8
Filter Size: 62 mm
Dimensions: Diameter: 74.2 mm / 2.9” x Length: 63.3 mm / 3.5”
Weight: 435 g / 15.3 oz
Mounts (AF): Canon, Nikon, Sigma
Includes: Case, Lens Hood (LH686-01)

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Landscape Photography Tips and Workshops


Are you a fan of landscape photos? Personally, I am someone that likes to photograph landscapes more than any other subject... probably because they don't talk back like people, or flutter around like a bird. :-)

I always try to look for creative ways to shoot the landscape. It does not always work out, but sometimes  I catch a view point not many people get a photograph of... and those photos my friends are what separates a good photographer from a  great photographer.

So let’s take a look at some tips that have been handed down to me for shooting landscape photos from fellow photographers and some professionals.

Tip 1: Bring a Tripod
Always bring a tripod if you plan on shooting landscapes. Even if the day is sunny, you may need to use a small aperture to achieve a much larger depth of field. In these instances, you may be using a low shutter speed – which leads to camera shake if you can’t hold the camera stable in your hands.
Hence the need for a tripod. I would suggest a ball head on the tripod as it allows for more versatility in moving the camera around and helping you capture a more unique looking composition.

Tip 2: Cable Release
One good tip is to carry a cable release. Instead of using the timer function on the camera, use the cable release. This ensures that you can trigger the shutter at precisely the right timing. In turn, this leads to reduced camera shake and a more beautiful "tack sharp" photo. If you do not have a cable release or a remote shutter activator, the timer on your camera does work as well.
For those of you that are more advanced, locking up the mirror increases your chances of getting a sharper image as well.

Tip 3: Use the Right Filters
Filters are important when taking landscape photos. There are different types of filters that I use – polarizers, neutral density filters and graduated neutral density filters. There are screw on filters and handheld ones as well. I prefer to use the hand held filters to give myself more control of gettign the properly exposed photo right in the camera.
Polarizers are useful for reducing glare from water and other reflective surfaces. These create a more well-balanced and beautiful picture.
Neutral density filters will stop a specified amount of light entering the camera. I tend to use these for shooting waterfalls on a sunny day, high noon sun and occasionally in the winter months when the snow glare is blinding.
Graduated neutral density filters are a slight variation of this – they are dark on top and clear on the bottom, creating a ‘gradual transition’ from the dark to clear area. These filters are good for blocking out bright parts of a scene (say the sky) to create a more evenly exposed picture.

Tip 4: Research the Landscape
One thing to do before taking landscape photos is to do some background research on the landscape. If you’re taking pictures of the Niagara Falls, or the Grand Canyon, try to do some background study on what the most scenic spots are, where does the sun rise and sun set around the subject, etc... There are many sites where you can investigate vantage points. Sites like flickr or google images will allow you to see photos and give yousomething to emulate.
It’s also good to check out the weather conditions of the place you want to photograph. Check the weather network and look at the hour by hour schedule to see what you can expect when you want to visit your location – if the weather doesn’t look good, you may want to try shooting another day.
But, for the diehards like me that like to shoot landscapes, if I know its going to rain, or is going to be foggy... i put on the rain gear, grab the umbrella and get out in the rain. Atmospheric conditions offer fantastic settings that create great depth of field, offer a view not many people photograph... and more importantly greatly reduces the chances of photographing the local family out for a hike with their two dogs and 4 kids.

Tip 5: Lenses
For shooting landscape photos, it’s usually best to bring wide-angle lenses. I also bring along a telephoto lens in case I want to shoot some creative, "zoomed-in" shots.

Tip 6: Composition
I think the most important thing to remember is that composition rules are still important in landscape photos. Make sure you have something in the foreground, mid-ground and background.
Also, when taking photos of landscapes or a photo of a natural setting... have these three things in the back of your mind as you are composing your photo. (1) where is the bright spot... does it draw the eye into the image. FYI, the eye is naturally drawn to light and using light to draw someone's eye into your photograph is a good way to increase the quality of your work, (2) Is the image that sits in front of you giving you a 3 dimensional feeling. Creating a 3d (ish) effect creates more visual appeal, and (3) try and take a photo of your subject from a unique perspective. I mean, if you want the standard cookie cutter photo, set up and snap the photo... but if you want a different look of a subject that has been photographed to death... take some time and study the subject and see if you can find an angle that you may not have thought of at first glance.

Tip 7: Shoot at the Right Time
For landscape photography, an important thing to remember is that you should avoid shooting during mid-day. There is a lot of harsh lighting and bad shadow effects during that period. Early morning or late afternoon tends to be best. So be prepared to miss a few dinners or breakfasts.
I personally shoot all my landscape, OK, well almost all my landscape photos in and around the golden hour... that hour that happens 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunrise  or 30 minutes before sunset to 30 minutes after sunset.

Conclusion
As you can see, landscape photography poses its own challenges. However, bear the above tips in mind the next time you’re taking these photos, and I’m sure you’ll be much happier with your photos when you get home and look at them on the computer!
 
Why don't you join me on our Canadian Adventure workshops... we focus on nature and landscape in some of Canada's most beautiful locations.
 
 

Friday, 12 April 2013

Weekend Photography Idea...


This one is easy... simply grab the camera and head out to one of your favorite spots to photograph. This location is one of mine and every time I go I walk away with something new...

So get out and go photograph that special spot and enjoy yourself.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Sigma Canada announces Kevin Pepper as Sigma Pro Photographer


Ontario, Canada – April 11, 2013 – Kevin Pepper, photographer and operator of the Photographers Lounge, is pleased to announce that he has been selected as the newest addition to the Sigma Canada line-up of Canadian professional photographers. Kevin looks forward to joining existing Sigma Canada professional photographers Ethan Meleg, John Marriott, Gary Black, Younes Bounhar, and Crombie McNeill, and will now be using a variety of Sigma lenses for his professional work, as well as his personal portfolio. Photographers following Kevin will be able to read product reviews, watch videos, ask questions, and see his latest Sigma photos on his blog and social media platforms. Kevin’s photos will also be on display in the Sigma Pro Gallery at www.SigmaCanada.ca/Pro-Gallery.


Kevin says, "I am honoured to be accepted into such a prestigious group as the Sigma Pro photographers. I have always been impressed with the quality of Sigma lenses, and now to be able to showcase the quality through my own photography is very exciting." He further goes on to say, "In addition to personally benefiting from the quality of the lenses, students attending workshops will now have the opportunity to try these lenses in real world settings. My goal has always been to make sure my students have access to the latest photography gear in the market; this sponsorship will provide a key component in achieving that goal."


ABOUT GENTEC INTERNATIONAL

Founded in 1990, Gentec International is Canada’s leading consumer accessory products company, supplying a complete range of photo, video, digital, sport optics, home theatre, electronics, wireless, and mobile audio products to the Canadian retail marketplace. Gentec offers a variety of prominent brands, including Sigma, SanDisk, Manfrotto, Gitzo, National Geographic, Kata, Avenger, Optex, Roots, Gary Fong, Black Rapid, Mobifoto, iQ, Sunpak, Energizer, Bushnell, Tasco, and Zeiss. Gentec operates out of a high-cube, state-of-the-art, fully computerized 100,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution centre that offers efficient, seamless service to its customers. With over 90 employees, Gentec covers the needs of its retailers coast to coast using the latest technology systems, streamlined efficiencies, and customer service that is second to none. To learn more, visit www.gentec-intl.com .

For more information about Sigma products, visit www.SigmaCanada.ca.

ABOUT KEVIN PEPPER

Kevin is a professional photographer based in Cambridge, Ontario. His first love is photographing nature, regardless of the season or weather condition; the Ontario landscape is his inspiration.

But you will also see other styles of photography in his portfolio. From street photography to urban exploration of abandoned buildings and architecture, he loves to capture it all with his camera for his corporate clients and his growing personal portfolio.

Kevin also operates the “Photographers Lounge”. The Lounge is a teaching company created in 2011 and is dedicated to teaching amateur photographers through International and Canadian based workshops.
Website: www.photographerslounge.ca
Blog: http://kpepphotography.blogspot.ca


Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Grow Into Your Photography Gear


After I proof read my next article for PhotoTECH magazine I remembered when I went to media day today at the last airshow... lots of media types there and lots of air show enthusiasts that make the circuit. Most sporting a camera or two.

The "MONEY" hanging around peoples necks was "ASTOUNDING". Canon 5D's and Nikon D4's with battery grips, the big guns with teleconverters attached to give them what I call "peeping Tom" focal length... One guy had a 500mm and the other a 600mm on his camera... he could have had a Toyota Corolla hanging around his neck worth less money.

Don't get me wrong, when you get to a certain proficiency level, the better gear does make a difference. I respect the people that are that good at photography and invested the money in their craft to produce even better quality images.

But what really shakes my head is the people that invest all this money in gear that they do not know how to use.

I am not saying, "Don't invest in better gear." Heck, at the time I was an OLY shooter using an E-30 and E-3 and I was deciding on how to upgrade my gear. But I am at that level. I understand a camera's functions and how to produce a quality photo in a variety of situations. I have been taking photos for over 30 years and honed my craft. A better digital camera has now made me a better photographer. I switched to Nikon, bought two bodies and now have some lenses that could buy me a small used car...

But for those of you starting out, or for the photographers that wants to take things to the next level... my advice... invest in the most important element of taking a better photograph first.... that's the 6 inches between your ears. Before you spend thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars on gear, learn the basics of photography and master the craft. Then buy a DSLR that you can grow into over a period of a few years... take it slow and upgrade to gear jsut past your proficiency level so you always have gear to grow into. This hobby is a marathon, not a sprint. You will continue to learn and grow with every click of the shutter.

Become a student to the passion or hobby of photography and don't over compensate by investing in the $11,000 lens just yet. You will get there... you just need better skills first.

Thanks for reading,

Kev