Natural Art: The Photography of Brad Hill

 

Brad Hill: Blog: Q3 2009 (July to September)

Short-winded blatherings on whatever is currently occupying the part of my brain that deals with photography. Updated sorta weekly.

23 September 2009: Off to the Great Bear Rainforest - with my Olympus E-P1

I'm leaving for the Great Bear Rainforest early tomorrow AM (leading my annual "Spirit Bears and the Great Bear Rainforest" Instructional Photo Tour). I normally end up taking a good 50 lbs of camera gear on this trip - everything from wide angles through to my beloved 200-400 mm f4 VR and my 600 mm f4 VR. But in a move that may shock some of you, I recently sold ALL my Nikon gear and will be going on this trip with JUST my Olympus E-P1 (equipped with its 14-42 mm zoom). So I now will be weighed down by only about a pound, instead of 50 lbs. Hiking up and down those rocky streams is bound to be a whole lot easier this year!

Just kidding - of course I didn't sell my Nikon gear - and it's all coming with me on this trip (plus the little E-P1). I do plan on shooting as much as possible with the Olympus. I have to admit I have very mixed feelings about this interesting little camera. It has a hard-to-describe appeal to it, and in the right situations it can produce some very impressive images. But it can be darned frustrating to use. Expect lots of comments about the E-P1 (and hopefully lots of images shot with it) when I return sometime around October 6.

Until then - may Photeus smile upon all of you...

Cheers...

Brad

Feedback to: feedback@naturalart.ca.

27 August 2009: Sony Gets Serious with the A850 - HMMM....

Most serious nature photographers use one of two brands of cameras - Canon or Nikon. For many years now these two manufacturers have held a stranglehold on the market. And for good reason - both produce a variety of excellent DSLR's and offer a wide array of lenses and accessories. And, at least to my thinking, it's good that there's at least two camera makers competing for your photographic dollar - they continually drive each other to new heights in product innovation and quality. But...while no one would seriously accuse them of colluding to keep prices high, their products (especially their "professional ones") aren't what you'd call inexpensive.

Just a few years back Sony decided they wanted to become the "third" major power in the DSLR market. They purchased the Konika-Minolta product line and quickly began to churn out new "Alpha" dSLR's that looked amazingly like, and had feature sets very much like, the Konica-Minoltas. At first no one paid them much attention (myself included) - they weren't offering truly professional products anyway...

But then in September of 2008 Sony announced the 24.5 MP A900 - three full months before Nikon announced their first 20+ MP DSLR, the D3x. The D3x does, in fact, use an image sensor made by Sony that has the same resolution as that of the A900 (but it is NOT the same sensor). To be honest, the spec of the A900 didn't match that of the D3x and, if one believes the sensor ratings listed on dxomark.com (which I do), the sensor doesn't perform nearly as well as the D3x (go here to see comparative image sensor rankings). In particular, the D3x beats the A900 in all 3 parameters measured on dxomark.com - colour depth (only marginally), dynamic range (by almost a stop and a half), and low-light ISO (by over 500 ISO). BUT, and this is a BIG but, at about $7500 USD the D3x costs about 3 times what an A900 costs (going for $2429 USD at US1Camera today). Hmmm...

Now, today, comes the A850 from Sony. What is it? Basically an A900 that's very slightly down-spec'd. How down-spec'd? Hardly at all - the frame rate is slightly lower (at 3 fps instead of 5 fps), the viewfinder has only 98% coverage (compared to 100%), there's a slight difference to the metal finish of the body, and...the cheap remote that comes with the A900 is an extra $30 optional extra with the A850. But the biggest down-spec is the "at launch" price (which we know will drop soon): a mere $2,000 USD. TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR A FULL-FRAME DSLR WITH 24.5 MP IMAGE SENSOR. HMMM...

To date, both Canon and Nikon have been largely been ignoring what Sony has been doing (although some argue that the aggressive pricing of the Canon 5D MkII is due to Sony's A900). Are top and/or established pro's switching over? I'm not seeing it YET, likely because of the lens investment they have with Nikon or Canon (and partly because the A900 spec still doesn't match up too well against the D3's OR the 1Ds's). But what I am seeing is some new young (neophyte) pros, and/or enthusiastic semi-pro's, starting their initial professional equipment purchases with Sony. And while they know their current pro lens selection is a little weak (compared with Nikon and Canon), they're confident enough that it won't be for long - and they're willing to gamble on Sony.

Most Nikon-o-philes think a D700x (think D700 with the 24.5 MP sensor of the D3x) is coming soon. Before today most who are "in-the-know" with Nikon thought the D700x wouldn't be cheap - likely in the $4,500 (USD) or so price range. Nikon hear this: you better pay attention to what Sony is doing with their pricing and respond accordingly when you gives us the D700x. If not, there's going to be more and more of us saying...

HMMMMMMM...

Feedback to: feedback@naturalart.ca.

24 August 2009: Bottomfeeder - A Good Read; An Important Read...

I just finished reading "Bottomfeeder - How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood" by Taras Grescoe (available here on Amazon.com; here on Amazon.ca; or here on Chapters.indigo.ca). I'm an avid conservationist and one who spends a lot of time in the Great Bear Rainforest of BC, a globally unique ecosystem that is completely dependent on healthy oceans and I can honestly say this - if you care about the future of this planet, this book is a complete MUST for you to read! Taras Grescoe finds a way to give the background and facts about the depletion of the oceans in an entertaining and highly readable way. But, more importantly, he gives us the simple tools - and simple questions to ask ourselves (and our local seafood vendors) - that can make a real difference in keeping our oceans healthy.

Too busy to read the book but you're still interesting in eating seafood in an ethical and sustainable fashion? Ahhh...no problem...just go to seachoice.org and use their excellent SeaChoice Database to help you make ecologically responsible decisions when choosing seafood.

Too busy to read the book but you're interested in eating seafood ethically and sustainable AND YOU"VE GOT AN IPHONE? Then no problem! Just download the SeaChoice iPhone App (for FREE) directly from Apple's App Store (and here's the link to get it now).

If this month's complete and total collapse of the sockeye salmon fishery on the Fraser River isn't enough to convince you that we ALL have to act now, well...then there's just no hope.

Just do it - get and read the book OR go to SeaChoice.org or get (and use) the SeaChoice iPhone App! It's simply the right thing to do...

Feedback to: feedback@naturalart.ca.

18 August 2009: Leica S2 - Revolutionary Product Line or Evolutionary Dead End?

Leica, the venerable German camera and lens maker, released key details about its revolutionary new S2 digital camera and S system lenses on Sunday, August 16. The revolutionary new camera was first unveiled at the Photokina tradeshow in 2008 and now we know that S2's and S-System lenses will be showing up in selected dealers this coming October. And, we have a lot more detail about the camera's specs, including price. For ONLY $30,000 (US), you too can own a Leica S2 and one lens! In the natural world of animals - and in the very unnatural world of product development - innovation in design can lead to a high degree of success. Or, as is the more normal case, it can lead to extinction. It will be interesting to watch how the S2 fares over the next couple of years. While I hope the experiment works, my money says we're seeing the introduction of an evolutionary dead end, with extinction of the camera (or Leica itself) being the most likely outcome...

HUH? What's an S2? Ahhh...good question. In short, the S2 is a revolutionary new digital camera that is most simply described as a BIG DSLR - BIG body, BIG lenses, BIG image sensor (with of course, the BIG resolution of 37.5 megapixels), and, with a MSRP of $22,995 (US) for the body alone, a really BIG price tag. Leica wants us to think of the S2 as a camera with the features and convenience of use of a DSLR but the image quality of a medium format camera. Leica claims that this new product was developed from the ground to maximize what can be done with new digital technologies, and that it is a "...clean break from legacy categories such as the "35mm" or "medium format" and was developed solely for the digital domain." For the record, I think this type of fresh thinking (and R&D investment) is admirable - but I wouldn't bet on the S2 surviving. But, I'm getting ahead of myself...here's a few key specs of the S2:

• 37.5 MP resolution (7,500 x 5,000 pixels - 3:2 aspect ratio)
• Sensor size: 45 x 30 mm (0.8x lens focal length "magnification" factor)
• ISO 80 to 1250
• Two file formats - DNG (raw) or JPEG (basic or fine)
• Shutter speeds - 1/4000s to 32s
• Frame rate: 1.5 fps with up to 8 DNG images in single burst
• Metering: Multi-segment (5 segments), center-weighted, spot
• Exposure Modes: Aperture priority, shutter priority, program and manual
• Autofocus: Single central crosshair sensor
• Dimensions: 160 x 120 x 81 mm (6.3 x 4.7 x 3.2 in)
• Weight: 1.4 kg (3.1 lb)

Available compatible lenses at launch: Two - Leica Summarit-S 70 mm f/2.5 (for $4,495) and the Leica APO-Tele-Elmar-S 180 mm f/3.5 (for $6,495). Leica promises two additional lenses by the end of 2009 (APO-Macro-Summarit-S 120mm F/2.5 and Summarit-S 35mm F/2.5 ASPH) and that they are "...planning to prioritize the expansion of its range of S lenses in the near future."

Those who are familiar with Nikon camera specs will notice a few things: the image sensor of the S2 IS big (about 25% longer on each axis than the full-frame FX Nikon image sensors) and the resolution is about 13 MP more than on a D3x (but there are only 25% more pixels on vertical and horizontal axes). So pixel pitch is virtually identical in the two cameras (at about 6 Ám). BUT...virtually every other spec - from ISO range to autofocus capability to frame rate falls far behind the D3x (or, for that matter, virtually any professional level dSLR from any manufacturer).

So...when all is said and done, for almost 3 times the price of a D3x (which many, including myself, argue is too high) you get 50% more pixels, choice of up to 2 lenses only (but with two more promised in 2009), and an impoverished feature set (compared to current top dSLR's). Hmmm...what am I missing here? How does this add up? Given that I think the D3x is over-priced I'm loathe to make this next statement, but I have to say that the Leica S2 makes the Nikon D3x look like a real bargain!

But what about image quality? At present, this is an unknown (and the S2 better deliver on this front!). While the large sensor (compared to dSLR's) SHOULD be a good thing, tests at dxomark.com show that every digital medium format camera tested to date - EXCEPT the $40,000 Phase One P65 Plus - ranks significantly behind the D3x in image sensor quality (despite the D3x having a smaller image sensor than all the medium format cameras). So it can't be assumed a priori that the S2's larger image sensor will out-perform that of the D3, and nor can it be assumed that the ultimate image quality of the output will surpass that of the D3x.

To be clear - I LIKE the fact that Leica is attempting to be innovative and is creating a totally new category of camera. The idea of the Leica S2 - the image quality of medium format with the convenience and portability of a DSLR - seems good. And, I HOPE that the product delivers great images. But, one has to wonder how many people are going to line up to fork out three times the price of the already expensive D3x, especially when one considers what is really gained by the increased investment (which, at this point is totally unclear). In terms of design and features (especially resolution), it's just too little, too late. My money says that besides a few collectors who have more money than god, very few working photographers will see any logic to investing in the new S System from Leica. Unfortunately, I think the S2 is destined to follow the Wooly Mammoth and Dodo Bird first into obscurity and then into extinction. But I hope I'm wrong...

Feedback to: feedback@naturalart.ca.

10 August 2009: Some Thoughts on the New Nikon Products...

Within the last 10 days or so Nikon has announced several new products, including two new dSLR's (the D300s, the D3000), two new SLR lenses (updated versions of the professional 70-200mm f2.8 VR and the prosumer 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 VR), and 4 new CoolPix point-and-shoot digital cameras. I've been receiving a fair amount of email asking my opinion of these products and which of them I'll be adding to my stable of Nikon products so...here ya go...

NOTE: I don't pay much attention to the entry level dSLR market (where the D3000 resides) or the point-and-shoot market (where are those CoolPix models are from), so my thoughts will be restricted to the D300s and the two new SLR lenses. For specs on the D3000 or the Coolpix models, check out dpreview.com. For fewer cold specs, but more insight into these products, check out Thom Hogan's website - bythom.com (note that you may have to go into the News Archives to find all the info).

The D300s Body: A Significant Update?

Description: When Nikon updates a camera and sticks the "s" designation on it, it's just that - an update. Normally Nikon tweaks one or two minor things, and...PRESTO...the DXXs is produced! In all fairness, this time 'round there were more than just a few minor tweaks and this is a pretty big update - new features on the D300s include video recording (720p HD video, including autofocus while recording), a new SD card slot to accompany the existing CF slot, slightly faster continuous shooting (up to 7 fps from 6 fps), a socket for an external microphone (primarily for video recording), plus 7 other minor tweaks (tho' one of them - Quiet Drive Mode - will be very welcomed by wildlife shooters and is something I've wanted Nikon to bring back for several years.). The main features of the camera (image sensor used, resolution, build quality) remain unchanged from the D300. The D300s has a MSRP of $1799 USD in the US and $2099 CAD in Canada and should be available in late August or early September in most markets.

My Thoughts: I've made no secret of the fact that I wasn't thrilled with the D300 after using one (two actually) for several months. On paper the D300 looked great, but between build quality issues, autofocus and other failures in the field, and various glitches and gremlins, I found I couldn't really trust my D300(s) under tough shooting conditions and I ended up selling mine (details of my D300 experiences can be found here). While there are some new features in the D300s (like the ability to record video), it's basic still photography functions and build quality are unchanged. So, as a non-video shooter, I'll sit this product introduction out (i.e., NOT buy this camera) and wait to see what the D400 has to offer when it's introduced sometime in 2010.

The Right Move? Did Nikon make the right move in introducing the D300s? Maybe. Nikon has sold huge numbers of D300's, but sales were surely tapering off on this model. Nikon will likely see an upwards spike in sales by introducing the D300s, and it will be accomplished without throwing too much R&D money at the product. So...from a business perspective it probably makes sense. I don't see many current D300 owners buying a D300s, unless they absolutely want/need video recording ability (with autofocusing capability). There will be some "fence-sitters" who didn't get around to buying the D300 that may now be pushed over the edge and buy the product, but I'd be surprised if there are too many of them...

But one thing about the D300s puzzles me. If you check out the test results of the quality of the image sensor on the D300 and the lower-priced D90, you'll see that the D90's sensor performs significantly better than that on the D300 (go here on dxomark.com and check out the rankings). The D90's sensor performs only slightly better than the D300's in color depth and dynamic range, but thumps it in high ISO performance. Even the D5000's image sensor soundly beats that of the D300. And all have virtually identical resolution of 12.something MP. So...why didn't Nikon upgrade the low-light performance of the D300s (which is pretty bad) by going with the better image sensor of the D90 (or D5000)? Too many surplus D300 sensors still in stock? They got a better deal on buying the D300 sensors? I have no idea what the answer is, but if the D300s outperformed the D300 by 300 or so ISO (like the D90) does, and if Nikon marketed this fact, they could have had a winner on their hands. Heck, I might have even considered buying one...

AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Zoom Lens: It's about time!

The first version of the 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens was almost legendary for its image quality and build quality. But most of it's reputation was earned when everyone was shooting cropped sensor (DX) bodies or film. And, unfortunately, this lens wasn't designed with a full-frame (FX) digital sensor in mind and performed far less well on the D3, D700, and D3x. Given the importance of this lens to almost any serious Nikon shooter, Nikon knew it had to update the lens quickly. And, to their credit, they have. The updated 70-200mm f2.8 VR is supposed to ship in November and has a MSRP of $2399 USD in the US and $2799 CAD in Canada.

The new version (the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II) is slightly shorter, but slightly heavier, than its precursor but has two more high-end ED elements in it (7 vs. 5 in its precursor) and an all-new optical formula built from the ground up for use in full-frame (FX) cameras. And, the new version comes with an updated vibration-reduction system (VR II) that gives you an extra stop of vibration reduction compared to its predecessor (4-stops improvement over no VR, compared to 3 stops in the previous version).

Long story short: Nikon will sell a bezillion of these. Both pro shooters and serious enthusiasts have been anxiously awaiting this lens and will snap up all available stock as soon as it ships. I ordered mine 2 days before its announcement and know that several other shooters who ordered their's from the same Nikon dealer before it was announced. By the way, if you're a DX shooter (and plan to remain a DX shooter), and you already own the FIRST version of the 70-200mm f2.8 VR, it probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense to upgrade to the new version of the lens. All you'll be gaining is one extra stop on the VR and your current lens works just fine (i.e., GREAT) on your DX body...

AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200MM F/3.5-5.6G ED VR II Zoom Lens: Hmmm...why bother?

OK - let's call a spade a spade - this update qualifies as a minor tweak, at best. The only difference between the new lens and the one it's replacing is a zoom lock (to avoid zoom creep when the lens is pointed down) and a new and improved "Super Integrated Coating" (Ok, I bite, how do you integrate a coating? Isn't a coating, by definition, on the outside of something and NOT integrated?? Marketing-speak goes oxymoronic.). This lens is supposed to hit store shelves in September with a MSRP of $849.00 USD in the US and $999.00 CAD in Canada.

Anyway...both this new lens and its precursor are lens designed for shooters who have convenience (of carrying just one lens) higher on their personal priority list than image quality. To be fair, this is a very, very convenient lens to own and leave on your camera. It's a great travel lens for capturing snapshots on a DX body just got a little better. And Nikon will sell a bundle of these to entry level (and some intermediate level) shooters and those buying it will love it. End of story. Oh, not quite the end - I won't be buying one (and I don't think too many readers of this blog will, either).

Feedback to: feedback@naturalart.ca.

5 August 2009: The Galapagos of the North...

I'm back after a great trip to the Queen Charlotte Islands (aka the "Haida Gwaii"). For those who don't know, the Queen Charlotte Islands (also known as the Haida Gwaii) are an archipelago of between 150 and 400 islands (depending on how you define an island and how you define a rock!) located between 50 and 130 km off the northern coast of British Columbia. The island chain stretches about 300 kilometers on a north-south axis and of variable width. The Charlottes are sparsely populated by humans (total population of about 5000 humans, most of which are found on Graham Island in the north) but packed with wildlife, including the largest black bears on earth, an assortment of aquatic mammals, many seabird colonies, and an amazing population of a diminutive form of the Sitka (Black-tailed) Mule Deer (population guesstimated at 255,000 animals). And, of course, jaw-dropping scenery. The Charlottes are simply a paradise for nature photographers of all bents...(including bent wildlife photographers like me, and bird photographers, and landscape photographers, and forest photographers, etc.).

The Queen Charlottes are regularly called the "Galapagos of the North" - and for good reason. The islands are located far enough from the mainland of British Columbia that they are completely isolated from many terrestrial (and/or weak flying or dispersing) species and, as such, have developed a totally unique array of species, including some endemic species and/or sub-species found no where else. And, like the Galapagos, humans have managed to create some biologically interesting (and, in some cases, ecologically devastating) situations through some accidental - or poorly thought-out - species introductions.

Selected images from my recent trip aboard the Ocean Light II are now beginning to filter in to my Gallery of Latest Additions. In the coming weeks I'll be adding one or more images per week - make sure you click on the tabs below the image for more info about the image (both anecdotal field notes and technical photographic info about each shot).

Feedback to: feedback@naturalart.ca.

16 July 2009: Off to the Charlottes - back in early August...

I'm leaving today to do some shooting in the Queen Charlotte Islands (aka the Haida Gwaii). I haven't shot in the Charlottes before so this is more-or-less a reconnaissance trip and I haven't got much in the way of preconceived ideas about the subject matter. But I am hoping to come back with images of whales (Orcas, Hump-backs and possibly even Blues), other sea mammals, seabirds, and more. Should be fun!

Updates to this website will resume in the first week of August.

In the meantime, I hope Photeus (the ancient, pagan, greek goddess of digital photography) smiles on all of you...

Cheers...

Brad

14 July 2009: Coming High-end Nikon dSLR's?

After a period of relative quiet, the Nikon rumour mill is moving into high gear again. By general consensus it's probably safe to say that a number of new lenses (or upgrades to old lenses) will be announced soon, and I think also we'll see at least two new high-end dSLR's in the near future. There may also be some lower-end dSLR's in the works, but because I'm not interested in this part of the market, I don't pay much attention to what's going on in it...and I'm definitely NOT qualified to comment on the likelihood of new consumer models appearing soon.

Here are the higher end dSLR's that I think we'll see announced and shipping by no later than the end of October:

1. A New "Top-of-their-DX-line" Body.

There will be a successor to the D300 announced soon (likely in the next couple of months). Almost everyone who claims to be "...in the know" (which doesn't include me) believes this. You'll see some disagreements over what it's going to be called - some believe it will be the D300s, others are convinced it will be the D400. I personally have no clue (and don't really care). There's more consistency in the rumour mill about the specs tho' - a DX sensor with a resolution of 16 to 18 MP and HD video capabilities. There will also be a number of other tweaks as well, but likely nothing that's particularly earth-shattering. High ISO performance? Well, photo-sites on this camera will be smaller than on the current D300 (which generally means MORE noise), but since the D300 was introduced sensor technology AND imaging engines have improved (which generally means LESS noise). My guess is that this camera will slightly out-perform the D300 in low light (i.e, will perform marginally better at high ISO's), but only by .5 to 1 stop (at the most).

Notice that I referred to this body as "top-of-THEIR-DX-LINE", not a "top-notch" body. I think it's clear that Nikon considers their FX bodies to be their "professional" tools and the build quality of their various bodies reflect this. To be competitive, Nikon has to price this camera under about $2,000 CDN, which means that it will be built at the "prosumer" level and not the professional level. This means it WON'T be produced in Japan, and that while it will be robust enough for MOST shooters it won't be "environmentally sealed" as well as any of the current Japanese-made FX bodies and it won't take the physical abuse as well as any of the current Japanese-made bodies.

I've made no secret of the fact that I would love Nikon to build a truly professional DX camera body (again). But, being realistic, Nikon is probably right in thinking that the size of the market wouldn't justify introducing a $3,000 FX body (built in Japan and with the "toughness" of their flagship cameras). I do know many wildlife shooters who would buy one in a flash, but a whole lot more folks will buy a sub-$2000 DX body!

Will I buy a D300s/D400 as described above? Likely not - it MAY depend on what else is introduced at the same time. BUT, I personally didn't have great experiences with the D200 and D300 bodies, and unless I'm absolutely convinced that the D300s/D400 has jumped dramatically in build quality, I probably won't get one of these...

2. A New "Smaller" Hi-res FX Body.

Here's exactly what type of camera I mean - a body similar in size and build quality to the D700 with a 24.5 MP sensor in it (the D3x sensor). To maintain an equal number of bullet points on it as the Canon 5D MkII, Nikon will likely add video to this body (you can tell what I think about the need for video by THAT comment!).

There's considerable disagreement out there about whether or not this camera is about to be introduced. One school of thought thinks this: "The D700 is still selling well, why would they kill it by introducing a D700x?". Hmmm...if this camera was named a D700x AND priced at $3,500 there would be merit to this argument - it would be perceived to compete with the D700 and kill it. But the critical point - this camera would be VERY different than the D700 - more resolution for sure, but with poorer low light performance, and priced far higher. Nikon would be wise to call it a D900, not a D700x. The D900 would NOT be in the same market space or used for the same thing (or the same buyer and shooter) as the D700 is - it would be in its own market space and be sought after by a user with different needs. Just like the Canon 5D did years ago when it was first introduced.

The other school of thought (which I subscribe to) is this: Nikon ALWAYS likes to use their sensors in more than one body and the D3x has been very well received as the "top dSLR on the market". BUT, because it is priced SO high, many potential buyers have balked at buying it (just like I have). There's a very large pent-up market just dying to get their hands on a 24.5 MP FX camera and they would be willing to pay a high (but justifiable and reasonable) price. I had previously guessed that Nikon would price the camera at around $4,000 (CDN), but a well-regarded Nikon-o-phile (Thom Hogan) who is far more in the "know" than I am recently told me (in a personal email) that the big question is whether or not Nikon can get enough sensors to meet the sales demand of a D700x (or D900 or whatever it's called) and thus it may end up being more expensive than people expect. So...raise my price guess to $4,500 to $5,000 CDN for this new camera.

To be clear - I think this camera is coming and will be announced before the end of October. It may be very pricey...but I will order one of these in a second (unless Nikon decides it's worth $6,500 CDN). And, I think this camera will sell amazingly well for a dSLR that's really pretty pricey...

What About Lenses?

I have no clue about what Nikon has planned with wide angle primes - there's lots of rumours out there about new ones in the pipeline. I think the biggest gap in the lineup for FX shooters (who Nikon considers pro shooters) is a 70-200 mm f2.8 VR (the current one works great on DX cameras but not on FX bodies) - I can't believe we won't see an upgraded version of this lens soon...it's just such a critical lens for so many uses that it would be foolish for Nikon to drag its feet on this one.

Feedback to: feedback@naturalart.ca.

9 July 2009: Nikon Canada Service - A Positive Story...

I know it's popular these days to get attention to websites and/or blogs by dumping on big corporations like Nikon and Canon for their poor service - this entry is the polar opposite - it's about GOOD service from Nikon Canada...

My June 17 entry (below) detailed my first major malfunction of any of my professional Nikon gear - my trusty Nikkor 200-400 mm f4 VR zoom lens simply quite focusing (both AF and manual) during a recent trip to the Khutzeymateen Inlet. Upon my return I found out I was extremely lucky - when I returned the lens to my shop (in Calgary, AB) we found I had 10 days left on the 5-year warranty that is offered by Nikon Canada. This assumes of course, that the problem was covered by warranty. Long story short - my shop sent the lens to the Nikon Canada service centre and...presto...just over two weeks later my lens returned - all fixed and all covered by warranty! Yippee! Finally - good service happening just the way it should - no quibbling over whether or not the malfunction was due to abuse, no unreasonable time delays in getting the lens repaired and back to me, no hassles at all. Thanks Nikon Canada - you did the right thing, and I now a whole lot of folks know it!

Now, if you could just drop the price of the D3X by $2,000 I would be totally happy, and I'd buy one in a flash ;-)

Feedback to: feedback@naturalart.ca.

7 July 2009: Hey...Where Ya Been?

I've been receiving a number of emails lately asking me two things:

1. Why haven't you been updating your blog as frequently as normal?

2. Are there any spots left available for your Instructional Photo Tours in 2009 or 2010?

I'll answer each of these in turn...

1. Why haven't you been updating your blog as frequently as normal?

Sorry! Between leading instructional photo tours, this being my busiest shooting season, my girlfriend and I getting a new (and sleep-depriving) Portuguese Water Dog puppy in June, and dealing with logistic issues associated with my instructional photo tours in 2010, it's been hard to find time to fit in normal body functions, let alone work on my website! And, July 4th another time-grabber began - the Tour de France (I'm an ex-bike racer and rabid cycling fan). On the positive side, I HAVE been adding fresh images to my Gallery of Latest Additions on a weekly basis! But I'll make a renewed effort to keep this blog fresh too...

2. Are there any spots left available for your Instructional Photo Tours in 2009 or 2010?

Not many! Here's the status of my coming photo tours:

Spirit Bears and the Great Bear Rainforest - Autumn 2009. Sorry, this trip is totally sold out.

Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen - Spring 2010. Sorry, this trip is totally sold out.

Spirit Bears and the Great Bear Rainforest - Autumn 2010. 5 spots currently remaining (but dates for this trip just became available yesterday!). Trip dates: September 20 to September 29, 2010. Additional information available on my "Seminars & Workshops" page. Brochure available in late July.
9 July Update: Now down to only 3 available spots, and with two of these three on temporary hold...it's looking like this is very likely going to be a "...ya snooze, ya looze..." situation...

I have been asked if I will be offering any additional Instructional Photo Tours in the near future. My answer: possibly. I will be doing a reconnaissance trip in the 3rd and 4th weeks of July sussing out the potential of a new area (and subject matter) for another Instructional Photo Tour. If the area I'm checking out and all the logistics look right and I decide to offer this new tour, I'll post information about it (dates, cost, brochure) by mid-August at the latest...

Feedback to: feedback@naturalart.ca.



Blog Archive - not so fresh but still very readable and relevant...

2013 - The Whole Shebang
2012 - Almost The Whole Shebang
2011 - The Whole Shebang
2009 - October to December2009 - July to September2009 - April to June
2009 - January to March 2008 - October to December 2008 - July to September
2008 - April to June 2008 - January to March 2007 - October to December
2007 - July to September 2007 - April to June 2007 - January to March