Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pops In The Park

My family was in for a surprise Saturday afternoon when we dropped by our favorite Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in front of The Tampa Museum of Art. My kids were itching to run in the water features of the Tampa Bay Riverwalk like the last time we visited.

The Florida Orchestra was presenting their Pops In The Park Concert Series at the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. My family took the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. The kids could play ball in the park and I could take pictures of the refreshing concert event for my PhotoBlog. Hooray!!

The musical presentation was blanketed by the Tampa Bay Riverwalk sunset and the LED light display of The Tampa Museum of Art. With Canon EOS 1D Mark IV in hand and a food vendor's yummy Kettle Korn in the other, I made dreamy twilight and night images of the relaxing affair.

Sunset is truly the magic hour of photography. Beautiful warm glow followed by the ideal angle of light gives any image that extra special touch. The Kettle Korn helped out a lot also.

My son running to be first in line to the Kettle Korn stand. He won.

You can view more in the Pops In The Concert Photo and Video Gallery featuring the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV and the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS version 1 lens.

You can also see more in my Canon EOS 1D Mark IV Video and Image Test Gallery. It is jammed pack with more HD videos and full resolution images to pixel peep.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Babies "R" Us

I would like to welcome Kyle Aviles to the world. No, the new arrival is not mine but a close friend of my family. The stork landed on Saturday at 11:30am with a cute round face and pointy head.

Kyle is number 3 for their family. I can only imagine their kickstart back into infant preparedness. Formula, diapers, burping, and the never ending poop. All I can remember from my kids at this age was the constant flowing vanilla and chocolate swirl soft serve. Just like the machine at The Golden Corral Buffet with the sticky handle.

Kyle will appreciate his legacy lives on the internet. All I got at my birth was a Kodak Pocket Instamatic with the dynamic range of 110 film. This was followed by prints archived in a degrading glue contact sheet page. Oh, the memories!

I photographed Kyle's arrival with the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV with the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L lens. There is something dreamy about the 35mm lens. Maybe it is the ability to compose the shot with a wide angle of view with little depth of field. All I know is the pictures have dreamy bokeh.

You can view more in The Kyle Aviles Photo Gallery shot with the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV and the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L lens.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fort Wilderness Resort

A physical and literary paradox smothers our new adventure into the Magic Kindgom. The irony I am talking about is the word "Wilderness" and "Resort" describing the outdoor Disney refuge in Orlando,FL.

Your eyes are not fooling you. Those are mobile homes disguised as authentic log cabins. The same log cabins that early pioneers of America settled their restless spirit to discover the wild west. I think Disney removed the trailer hitch to give the Wilderness log cabin some authenticity.

The kids could care less of the wilderness menagerie because there were bunk beds and a swimming hole to play in for hours on end.

I overcame the simulated wood grain with endless opportunities of picture taking and non stop charcoal grilling. With 40 pounds of marinated meat,3 bags of charcoal and a bag of real hickory chunks, I began my photo and BBQ odyssey. 20 pounds of leg quarters, 10 pounds of ribs, 5 pounds of italian sausage and 5 pounds of burgers challenged my grilling skill for two days. Why so much meat? The in-laws were invading in droves with savage hunger. Plus, I love grilling meat in the great outdoors. This was the closest to "Wilderness" as we got in the Disney Resort.

After the grilling and swimming, the family ventured to other parts of the Walt Disney World Complex. We traveled via train,monorail,bus and boat to different Disney themed resorts. Our first stop was to the Grand Floridian Resort with its Victorian style buildings.

We took the Resort Ferry boat to Disney's Polynesian Resort in the pouring rain. We joyously discovered in the Captain Cook snack bar of the resort with all you can eat Dole Pineapple soft serve ice cream. The only other place at Disney World that served Dole Pineapple soft serve was across the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House for a $5 small dish with no refills. As a side note, we visited an actual Dole Plantation in Hawaii that served the same Dole Pineapple soft serve.

Fond memories of Hawaii...it seemed only like yesterday we visited the islands. Sandy beaches,tropical winds, L&L BBQ and Costco souvenirs fill my mind when I think of paradise. You can view the golden treasure for yourself in the Hawaii 2009 Photo and Video Gallery.
The Hawaiian Gallery is shot exclusively with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

The tacky souvenir shirt and fake flowered lei will have to suffice for now in replace of the real thing. Hope was not lost during our "Wilderness" visit, we discovered all you can eat Dole Pineapple soft serve ice cream!

You can view more images in the Fort Wilderness Resort 2010 Gallery.
Shot with the Canon EOS 1D Mark III with the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 IS and Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 IS lenses.

Spring Jubilee Has Sprung !

The 9th Annual Spring Jubilee at St. Stephen Catholic School has arrived in full force with rides, games and lots of food! It began with an empty field and then the emergence of white tents and colossal metal arms in the sky. With school kids abound the metal menagerie, the spring fair sprung into action.

The Spring Jubilee has been the annual glorious event for my kid's school as well as the major fundraiser for the church. It has been a Fair tradition longer than I have been at the catholic school and the Spring legacy will likely continue past my kid's graduation.

My daughter is finally big and confident enough to ride the fair attractions herself. She has not gathered the courage to ride the roller coaster but there is always next year.

My son is a different story altogether. A little clingy at times but still wants to show his independence when he is in front of the ladies his age. He is not shy when it comes to the Fair food at the concession tent. Just like his dad, he targeted the fried chicken wings followed with a sugary soda chaser.

I do not want to leave out the amusement fair games and the wake of overpriced trinkets shrinking unsuspecting catholic wallets. It would not be fun for my kids without a simple carnival challenge to win a dollar store prize.

If you have not noticed already, the images are a little grainier than usual from previous posts. I have been using a three year old Canon 1D Mark III with ISO capabilities previous to the 5D Mark II, 7D,1D Mark IV and the Rebel T2i. Three years is an eternity in DLSR years. Technology has escalated the new camera model dynamic to exponential proportions. The 12 to 18 month product cycles are history. Image companies are paying a close watch with each other to see who wins the megapixel and ISO range war.

This brings me back to my Canon EOS 1D Mark III resurrection. With all the emerging technologies and highly critical DSLR technoblogs, the Canon EOS 1D Mark III is still a great camera. It will not win the current ISO competition but in my opinion the Canon EOS 1D Mark III has remarkable skin tone and dynamic range. These two aspects give the 1D Mark III images a film like quality.

To view more Canon EOS 1D Mark III images, check out the Spring Jubilee 2010 Gallery.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

Combine a warm spring day with a lazy Sunday afternoon and you get playful family time in Tampa's Riverwalk. My family are not strangers to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park which is embraced by the new Tampa Museum of Art in downtown Tampa.

You can plainly see how much fun my son and daughter had by the huge grins on their faces. The atmosphere in the park was perfect. Good weather and no crowds proved to be a perfect recipe for fun and photographs. My son's mood turned for the worse earlier in the day and the remedy could not have arrived soon enough. As the picture above illustrates, the medicine worked well.

My daughter was glowing with victory this weekend because her youth soccer team won their first season game despite consecutive losses. Go Cheetahs! You can see her team rise to fame in my recent youth soccer post.

My son will have to wait one more year before he can tear up the turf. He has adopted one of my daughter's pink soccer balls to practice for himself and has no intention of giving the ball back to her sister. The only exceptions would be if there is soda, ice cream or Happy Meal toy for exchange, of course.

The stained glass mural behind my daughter in the photo is from the upcoming Glazer Children's Museum which is next to the Tampa Museum of Art. Every young boy and girl will have to wait until the Fall of 2010 before it opens to the public. I will be one of the many excited families first in line. For now, we can only gaze at the half empty building when we play in the adjacent Tampa Riverwalk.

I am not a fortune teller or a tribal shaman, but I can surely predict my family will be back to this wonderful park many times over. I am optimistic about Tampa's plans for its downtown to attract development, the arts and culture. My wife met the Mayor of Tampa, Pam Iorio, when my family went to the grand opening of the Tampa Museum of Art back in February. We told her personally we are looking forward to the upcoming improvements to downtown.

I will end this post with two HD DSLR videos above. The first one displays the water features of Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. The second video showcases the Tampa Museum of Art Experience.

View more of the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in The Tampa Museum of Art Gallery.

View more HD DSLR Videos and photos in the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV Video Test Gallery.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cheetahs Win First Soccer Game of Season!

My daughter's youth soccer team broke the losing streak that plagued the Cheetahs during the entire season. You could say this victory was a much needed morale booster to this tiny team of spirit.

Over the course of several games, I noticed my daughter's team build confidence in their soccer skill, learn about teamwork and realize youth sports are all about having fun. I also have to mention the much needed sports photography practice during these matches. I am slowly but surely improving this difficult skill.

The season is not yet over. Maybe this victory will bring the Cheetahs over the top to many more wins. Maybe, I will be lucky enough to photograph my daughter kicking the winning goal to the championship tournament.

You can view more of the winning game in the updated Youth Soccer Gallery.

Again my post would not be complete with a HD DSLR video of the Cheetahs in action. This is not the winning game but the game two weeks ago. So enjoy!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Review

As expected, Canon introduces another "L" lens that does not disappoint even the most critical of camera gear junkies. The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM arrived at North Tampa Photography and with a quick wipe of my drooling face I acquired my next piece of camera gear to evaluate on my PhotoBlog. You probably noticed in the picture above I placed Canon's original workhorse EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM version I next to the revised version II to physically see the difference in these lens monsters.

Let us review the obvious differences quickly.
It is more expensive. Not just a little bit, but almost 30 percent of the price of version I. A quick Google Search of prices online yielded $2499 for version II and around $1799 for version I. The difference is not double but it is a significant amount of coin to spend on something else.

The noticeable physical changes are minimal but easily seen to my critical eye. The rubber focus ring is wider for a better grip. The extra fluorite element makes the fore end of the lens barrel slightly wider but does not increase the filter size of 77mm. This of course makes it about 2 ounces heavier and reduces the overall length by mere centimeters. These small variances are overshadowed by the sheer size of this glass. I have used version I extensively and a couple ounces and centimeters will not matter. Bulky is still bulky, but I sacrifice my shoulder for optical excellence.

The Lens Hood ET-87 is a welcome change. The days of the finger print prone Lens Hood ET-86 of version I are history. The Lens Hood ET-87 has a better shape and a quicker push button release mechanism for a smooth mount and dismount. The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM in the picture above is mounted on a Canon EOS 1D Mark IV. I used this camera for the duration of this lens review.

Before I get into the meat of my lens review, I want to give a brief background history of the Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM version I. Canon's lens workhorse was introduced in parallel in 2001 with the 4 megapixel Canon EOS 1D. The original 1D combined the professional film body with digital capabilities. It also introduced the APS-H 1.3 crop factor sensor to the photographic digital world.
9 years is a long production life for a lens. Technology over those years has exponentially increased megapixels, sensor size and overall image quality. Digital image quality have surpassed conventional 35mm film.
The version I of this lens was engineered and targeted for the APS-H sensor and not intended for the unforeseen high resolution full frame digital cameras of today. Canon is slowly on a lens revision campaign for its emerging resolution demanding hardware.

So the ultimate question remains unanswered. Does the version II live up to its price and improvements compared to the venerable version I? It seems version I has satisfied the professional photographic community for over 9 years and I have a permanent place for it in my collection. Too be honest, I was very skeptical when a lens of this stature prompted replacement. How can they improve on the best and for that price point? Let me give examples of the version I at work.

Great color, contrast and optically sound. What else could you ask for? I used version I at my nephew's ranch farm birthday party and with amazing results. I prefer portraits with a combination of ambient and back lighting. It gives my subjects separation from the background as well as a good hair light. You can view more examples of version I and you can view original files for all the pixel peepers out there in this Gallery.

Focus characteristics of version I does not let me down. As a born again youth sports photographer with my kids, AI Servo tracking is critical to get the shot. The picture above was located a local park with a water playground. I had my kids run towards me in the water spray to freeze their expression and sprinting action. You can view all the water park pictures in this gallery.

Now for examples of the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II (version II). Believe me, you are not going to be upset or disappointed with the results and you are not going to blown away with amazement either. I put version II through my normal paces this weekend to justify the improved lens claims and extra expense. I turned the AI Servo on to see the new and improved focusing algorithm by Canon in version II. As you can see in the challenging bird tracking image above, the algorithm worked well.

I am not Rob Galbraith. I do not have Olympic hopefuls as my test subjects shot with massive white L lenses. I just have my kids. You can view more Lido Beach images in this Gallery. Again, the focus did not fail as expected. Impressive but not astonished.

So for 30% more money, does one receive 30% improvement of version II over version I? Yes, you get substantial improvement such as better optical resolution catered to full frame sensors with the addition of more elements, better focusing algorithm for faster Mark IV cameras and a couple of centimeters of shorter focusing distance for versatility.
A big NO on value for the money, especially if you have already a version I workhorse in your camera bag. That 30% is a big difference in my opinion. For current version I owners, the monetary disparity over the version II improvements is a personal decision. Canon made a great lens greater in my lens evaluation.

My PhotoBlog would not be complete with a HD DSLR video to finish off my lens review of the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II. I used version II in the production of this Beach Days Are Back Again HD video shot on location in Lido Beach, FL.

You can view more images and videos in my Canon EOS 1D Mark IV and Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II Gallery

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter Egg Hunting!

Eggs and more eggs filled with melted chocolate. I have to give the most improved award to my son for egg hunting. Compared to last year's egg hunt, my son gathered the candy filled plastic eggs like a jack rabbit.

My daughter was a close second in her egg hording abilities. She had extensive training in her youth soccer games to run fast and hard. She probably knew it was a race against time before the spring day sun melts the chocolate gold inside the plastic treasures.

The usual suspects. I am impressed the kids sat in one place for any specified amount of time. It was enough time to take this photo without too much duress.

Do not count your Easter eggs before they are hatched because this post is only a preview to my next Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens review and test. The Version II of Canon's original fast zoom workhorse will be evaluated in my next PhotoBlog post.

I did not shoot video from this year's egg hunt but I did last year. I assure everybody the egg frenzy was the same as last year as you can see in the video. My kids and their cousins are younger in the Canon EOS 5D Mark II video above. I was still mastering my HD video gathering skills at this point and learning the full auto exposure workarounds before the full manual exposure firmware was released. Enjoy!

Check out more pictures of the egg hunt in my Easter 2010 Gallery.

Beach Days Are Back Again!

My family cannot resist the lure of the sandy seashore. Floridians rejoice with the warmer weather despite the cold snap that plagued the sunshine state in January. What would kick off Easter better than a trip to the coast.

The weather was perfect. Eighty two degrees,no clouds and a slight breeze were the ideal ingredients for the splendid day at the beach. Warm enough to swim and cool enough not to pass out from heat stroke.

It is ironic that I enjoy the beach so much now. When I was in middle school, I could care less about the beach. I grew up surrounded by water on all three sides and I did not even notice the ocean paradise.

Enter Lido Beach in Sarasota, FL. An hour drive south of Tampa, FL leads you to St. Armand's Circle, an exclusive collection of shops and restaurants adjacent to Lido Beach.

Do not think for a moment that there would be no camera gear review or test. This is only one of three PhotoBlog posts evaluating the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM. If you have not already noticed or read, the version II of the Canon lens workhorse (EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM) is more expensive and heavier than its predecessor and I will give my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens review and test in an upcoming PhotoBlog post. Stay tuned!

A trip to the beach would not be complete without a brief HD video and a Lido Beach Photo Gallery. Check it out and stay tuned for my practical Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM review and test.

Here is a blast from the past. My fascination for the ocean began almost 9 years ago. Check out my Hawaii video above. Yes, that is my daughter in the video and the video is 4:3 standard defintion. Sacrilege! How time quickly dwindles away and your kids grow up right in front of your eyes.

Here is one more fabulous beach video shot with the Canon EOS Rebel T1i. I used Nikon AF-D prime lenses with a Fotodiox lens adapter as a workaround to defeat the full auto exposure function. AF-D lenses are wonderful because they still have the aperture ring to manually adjust the f-stop. The current Nikon "G" lenses have the aperture ring missing.

Check out the Canon EOS Rebel T1i Gallery.