Fourth of July Fireworks with a Canon TC-80N3


Just before I left for the weekend I snagged a TC-80N3 remote timer from Glazer’s for the single purpose of shooting fireworks. It was a joy to sit back and watch the show with the timer and camera doing all the work for me. Three second exposures every five seconds for an hour? No problem at all. About half the show I had the timer churn out photos, for the other half I took over. Naturally the results were quite a bit better when I was at the shutter, buy hey, when your timer is churning out the shots there is a fabulous air of “free work” floating about. Or was that just the black powder I was smelling?

While the remote is versatile and effective, (details well defined in this Luminous Landscape article) my gripes are as follows:

  • No OFF Switch?
    When is the last time you bought a $100 electronic device you couldn’t turn off? (Well, besides a watch?) Sure, the thing hardly draws any juice, but a complete lack of power control makes me think the one time I really need the thing is when the battery is dead and I can’t find a spare. “I dub thee Achems Timer.”
  • It’s Not Small
    The TC-80N3 is about the size of a big squashed cigar…hardly an easily stowable item in a compact camera bag. It also feels extremely hollow, making me assume that it could easily be reduced in size by a few inches.
  • Short Cord, Expensive Extension
    The cord built in is only about 2.5′ feet long, which is fine for most applications, but I’m sure I’ll end up rigging up a homemade extension for it. Canon wants $80 for 33′ of simple cabling? I don’t think so.
  • Expensive!
    I’m not such a blind devotee to the palace of Canon to see that an item like this is absolutely unnecessary. Intervalometry should be built into every digital camera they throw out the factory door, it’s as simple as that.

So a few complaints but the device delivers exactly what is claimed. I can’t wait to shoot a meteor shower or try a bit of time lapse.


And what a Fourth! Many thanks to all who worked hard to make it happen. More photos to come.


Shooting the PLY Office

PLY Interactive, Inc. Office

The day before yesterday I shot a bit around the office to get some images for our forthcoming website. The object was to get things atmospheric, abstract, basically just for backgrounds as opposed to feature page elements.

The top photo was snapped at 1/8 of a second at f/11, from a tripod about a foot off the ground. (I provided the skilled modeling of course.) The next two are of our conference table, and the last is of an Eames plywood chair with Josh in the background. Fun stuff.

PLY Interactive, Inc. Office
PLY Interactive, Inc. Office
PLY Interactive, Inc. Office

Photos That Aren’t Good Enough To Publish

WordPress keeps saved posts that aren’t published in a neat little “Drafts” box above the writing fields, poised for future edits and publication. I often have the Drafts bin chalk full of snippets of writing, snapshots, and links, but probably 90% of what ends up there never gets published—it’s unceremoniously trashed instead. Sometimes I’m not happy with the writing and sometimes I’ve simply had a change of heart. Sometimes I have lingered at the bar too long one evening and decided I should be forced to “test” my most recent backup the following day.

This is the season for spring cleaning, so a purging of the Drafts is certainly in order. This time however instead of deleting all the perspective images-n-limbo I offer a few of them reprieve.

Red bag in a fence, Seattle, WA

Snapped along a fence in the neighborhood; I like the image but don’t feel it’s as strong as it could be. There’s nothing terribly inspiring about the subject matter (I think it’s a bag a newspaper came in), and something about the angle of the shot bugs me.

Pedestrian walking beside Western Ave, Seattle, WA

Walk Safely
Taken right after this one, (I liked them both, but the other quite a lot more) even though this one adds the human element.

Treebranch in bloom overhanging water in Seward Park

Treebranch in Bloom in Seward Park
I like the bit of lens flare, and the interesting cast giving to the blooms as they are backlit by the sun. (This was taken almost straight up into the sky.) The light is so harsh on the blossoms however I think it comes across a little darker than your average flower shot, and the perspective of the camera isn’t obvious enough to explain this.

Light fixture's paper shade

The underside of a light shade, kind of a cool shot in which I tweaked the levels considerably to add contrast. Reminds me a bit too much of a wasps abdomen?

So there they are, the images that for one reason or another I felt were unfit for publication. Published now, oh the irony

SF Weekend in Brief

Tower observation level of the De Young Museum, San Francisco

On Friday we toured the Conservatory of Flowers, the new de Young (tower observatory level pictured above), the Botanical Garden, skipped through Chinatown, and even hit the biggest tourist trap of them all, the wharf. After great Chinese at the House of Nanking we had drinks at San Francisco Brewing and Vesuvio. Breakestra and Ohmega Watts (pictured below) finished off the night. Quite a day.

Breakestra and Ohmega Watts on stage in San Francisco

Sadly rain limited the outdoor activities somewhat on Saturday and Sunday but the SF MoMA, the Asian Art Museum (pictured below), and the Museum of the African Diaspora showed no ill effects. Many thanks to Chris and James for making the trip possible.

Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

My Lens Bet & Canon’s Full Frame Sensors

Before purchasing my 17-40f/4 L I made a small bet with myself. It was simply this: Canon will produce more and more full-frame digital SLRs, less expensive ones, and eventually introduce them into bodies smaller than the formidable 1 series.

I love shooting at a wide angle and dreaming of using the 17-40 at it’s native focal length on a digital body sealed the deal for me, so when it came time to make that lens choice the EF-S 17-85 hardly even had a chance.

With the 5D recently released, thankfully it turns out I was right on the money. Now of course my being correct means absolutely nothing—I’m not in any position to shell out $3300 for a 5D body, but after a few years who knows where a used 5D’s price point will be? And though it’s my estimate that cropped sensors will still be the norm for 3-4 years in many DSLRs, eventually many more models will convert to full frame sensors when the cost of production reaches a more reasonable level, which is all great news. For now I can drool over the 5D and cross my fingers I’ll be able to afford a 30D if it comes out late February at PMA 2006.
(Another prediction, how crazy I am.)


I’ve been informed, quite correctly, that Bob Atkins said as mutch about a possible 30D just yesterday. (So much for being the first one out the gate with that.)

That Red Ring Means Bidness—Canon 17-40mm f/4L

Canon 17-40mm f/4L USM lens

I’m extremely excited to add this guy to my arsenal. It’s a gorgeous wide-angle zoom with professional sharpness and excellent build quality. Though it’s very affordable for Canon’s “L” series professional grade glass, it’s not cheap—but it’s the kind of lens that is not only a safe investment, (well used copies regularly sell for only $75 less than new on eBay) but also it’s a tool that will last for years.

My Digital Rebel has an APS-C sized sensor, which means with it’s 1.6 crop factor the focal length is actually 27-64mm in practical use instead of 17-40mm as it would be on a full sensor width model. This is exactly where my bread-and-butter range is, and where I demand the best detail. It’s also got Canon’s Ring USM, which provides lightning auto-focus in conjunction with full-time manual. Though I truly wish this lens was a tad faster, any more than the constant f/4 throughout the range is not really necessary at all, and I’m really looking forward to reeling off some serious pics.

I long debated between this lens and the EF-S 17-85 f4-5.6 IS USM model, which has a ton more length and image stabilization to boot. It was a tough decision but I finally chose the 17-40L for a few crucial reasons:

  • Constant f/4—The variable f4-5.6 of the 17-85 EF-S annoys me.
  • Compatibility—The EF-S is digital only, which could hurt resale value and be useless if I ever have a full frame camera.
  • Quality—The “L” lens is top notch- can’t be beat in this price and focal range.

In the end it was close—I’d love the extra range offered by the 17-85 and the IS, but I don’t take enough photos in that range to make it worth losing the quality on the wide end and the forward compatibility. Heck, I can always swap them out later if I like, but for now I’m very excited with my choice.

Now about that macro and telephoto I need…

Happy Fourth of July

Fourth of July Fireworks

Happy Fourth of July. We had an excellent time on the ranch and I had a more than a few chances to snap off some shots: Above is big blast taken in a 10 second exposure at 17mm, and below is a 4 (perilous) second exposure of Gipp and Brandon (Or is that Kirby, little help anyone? I can’t quite tell.) lighting a couple of penultimate fountain fireworks, captured at f 14.1 / 50mm with my wee EF 1.8 prime.

I know everyone is looking forward to seeing shots of the whole pig roasting magnificence, but I’ve decided they’ll require a succulent post unto themselves. Also potentially worthy of further recognition were my renting of a $3500 lens for the weekend for $30, (yes I think this will prove habit-forming) and a new hot-wing preparation (keyword: SMOKER) that was something barely short of life-altering. I hope you too had a good holiday.

Brandon and Gipp Redman Lighting Fireworks

Naches Peak Loop Trail or ‘Phlox Phest 05′

Small lake along Naches Peak Loop

On Saturday Laura and I had a nice walk on the Naches Peak Loop Trail just off of Chinook Pass, soaking in the weather and wildflowers. The trail winds circuitously for grand views of Rainier, and for a quick side trip we hiked down to Dewey Lakes along a chunk of the PCT.

Phlox in Mt. Rainier National Park

It was Phlox Phest 05, I seem to not be able to take enough pictures of these tiny wildflowers. They ranged from brilliant white to pale blues and vivid purples. Just wait until the Paintbrush and Lupine are in bloom.

Phlox trailside in Washington

Shooting Seattle Center

Outdoor Sculpture near Seattle Center and the EMP

I spent most of the day yesterday enjoying the sunshine and snapping random pictures- walking down the hill to downtown and then up through Seattle Center, eventually making my way all the around Lake Union to Wallingford to meet up with my bookclub. Here are a couple of shots of the sculpture right next to the EMP (one being a kind of a sepia rendition), and one of a rooftop pipe I found in a Seattle Opera parking lot.

Pipe high on a Seattle Opera parking lot
Outdoor Sculpture near Seattle Center and the EMP

Out Snapping Pics

Derelicte - Port of Seattle

On Saturday Laura and I took a walk down on the water from Lower Queen Anne through Myrtle Edwards park all the way to Maggie’s Bluff. I had no idea that bike trails carried all the way around the Port of Seattle down there, but sure enough–it’s a very nice walk. The waterfront views do however give way to slightly more “urban” enrions when you pass under the Magnolia bridge. I was struck by some of the scenery (happily not in a physical manner) and decided to launch my “Derelicte” gallery of imagery. (I do realize that if you haven’t seen the movie Zoolander this is not amusing in any way.) Either way I hope you enjoy.

Derelicte - Magnolia Bridge
Derelicte - Port of Seattle

Back at the Safe

Safeco Field, From the bullpen

Today was my first day back to the Safe for the year. Though it was a disappointing one-run loss to the Rangers (just like last night), I had a great time. Thanks Tim for the tick.

Safeco Field

The pic below I snapped from behind the fence down by the bullpen- Gil Meche warming up before the game. Click on the image for a larger pick.

Mariner's pitcher Gil Meche warming up in Safeco's bullpen

Tatoosh Hike


On Saturday I decided to venture about as high as the snow would let me and I ended hiking up Tatoosh Mountain, whose trailhead is just a few miles from the cabin. I should have known better than to continue when the big patches of snow started encompassing the trail around 4000 feet but of course often enough I just don’t “get it” do I? Alone in the wilderness, ice, snow- I’ve got shorts and a T-shirt, two powerbars and water- what could possibly go wrong? Just before I thought I’d have to turn around in utter and complete disgrace, and after probably a 1/2 mile in snow sometimes up to my hips, I discovered the ridge to the final peak was nearly totally bare.

It was an exciting revelation, a peak would somewhat justify the gashes on my shins from the ice and the bit too perilous ascent. I suppose my REI dividend is going toward some trekking poles and snowshoes? “First tracks” indeed. I can just about guarantee I was the first up Tatoosh this year.

Tatoosh Peak


Tatoosh lookout lies in the heart of the Tatoosh Wilderness that adjoins Mt. Rainier National Park’s southern boundary. The wilderness was designated in 1984, with 15,800 acres to its credit- Tatoosh peak is 6,310 feet, and the site of a former fire lookout. It was first made famous by a book of the same name, written by Martha Hardy in 1932. Hardy was a fire lookout who once worked the peak.

Thanks to RCM for joining me in Packwood- the Peters Inn isn’t for the faint of heart on karaoke night.

The Amazing Seattle Central Public Library

Seattle Public Library
Seattle Public Library
Seattle Public Library
Seattle Public Library

I finally made it to the Seattle Central Public Library. The Rem Koolhaas masterpiece was everything I hoped it would be and more. It’s truly an instantaneous Seattle landmark, a quite possibly a structure that redefines a library for a time when libraries need just that. I’m going back. Very soon.