Should You Purchase a Lens Right Away

By John Frelich

Think of the times you look at a lens and think of a trip you’re ready to take. If only you had a 100-400mm lens to get some good zoom images.  Then you go to the various Photographic stores and see the price somewhere around $2200 for a camera manufacturer’s product. The prices can range higher or you consider a secondary manufacturer but still look at prices around $1500. Then you explore the grey market but fear something going wrong with the lens and no one will repair it. Finally, you look at refurbished or used lenses but are still apprehensive.

Well why not consider renting a lens for a weekend or longer trip? I just did a weekend workshop and rented a lens from Tempe Camera. Picking it up on a Thursday afternoon and bringing it back on a Monday afternoon cost me $93. The  price for a similar used lens is around $1700 so was it worth it? I tested it out on around 2,000 images and found that the quality of the images was “Good to Very Good.”

Notice I didn’t say “Great.”

When I evaluated the number of times I could rent the lens before I would equal the current value it was greater than 15 times. How many times will I be shooting images requiring this lens? If I hit 15 it will take several years. By that time will Nikon make a 100-400mm lens that will give me what I want? This zoom lens has been made for several years now so the technology that was used is waning.

Also secondary manufacturers like Tamron and Sigma are advancing their products at a fast pace. So if you’re not using a good lens on a regular basis, rental is a great way to get limited uses at a comfortable price. BUT, not all rentals are the same. A good camera store keeps their products in excellent condition. When online you must also consider the shipping and insurance costs both ways. That can be greater than the rental cost of the lens.

The key to success is if you live in a metro area like Phoenix and can find a local store that in essence let’s you try a product (rental) it gives you the best way to limit expenditures.

P.S. I have the first model of this lens and it serves as a paperweight because of its slow focusing and “soft” results. If you’re rich please ignore this advice. You won’t need it.

John Frelich is a Volunteer with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Stabilizing Your Camera

By John Frelich

How many times have you heard that you need to avoid camera shake? About every time you discuss cameras with any of your friends and/or colleagues. But are tripods and monopods the only way, especially when out and around? Generally nothing can beat a good tripod with a remote shooter.

But if you attend any of Nikon’s or other camera manufacturer’s lectures you realize other means are available. One Nikon presentation I attended they included all types of tricks and techniques e.g. leaning a camera against a wall, laying it on a rock or other flat surface.

So here are a few others. Below is an image of a miniature tripod made by Kenko. It not only lets you get flat near the ground but also will allow you to tighten it around a pole or small tree. It is not easy to find in the States but I did find it in Japan for $35.

Too much money? How many of you have travel pillows filled with rice or man-made filler e.g. Styrofoam balls? These were popular years ago and will allow you to place them on uneven surfaces or an engine running vehicle. If not in your storage area, you may also find them at Garage Sales.

Finally, why not try a piece of foam pipe insulation? If you have some left after wrapping the legs of your tripod against hot and cold temperatures this is a great way to use some scrap.  Because it opens to wrap around a pipe, that opening can be used to put on the sill of your car door window so you don’t have to “brave” the elements or challenge the fortitude of some wild animal you want to photograph. It is also said that it will help stabilize an image while performing a “panning” function without leaving the vehicle.

John Frelich is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Is there an Artist inside?

By John Frelich

Do you find something lacking in your photography? Are you envious of others who get great close-ups and macro photography? I know I am but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an excellent image in your portfolio or where you may be taking a trip, local or far away.

Seek out variations of images that you’ve seen and liked before in planning a shot. Below, I had seen some nice flamingo images in the past and liked the flow of the birds, their coloring and texture. So I went ahead and visited a zoo, saw something I really liked and submitted it for a contest. See below for the result.

In a recent workshop I saw the flow of manes of some Scandinavian horses and think I will wait until something associated with the image comes up in a contest. Keeping a portfolio of “fun” images sometimes “pays off.” If not, you can always please yourself.

John Frelich is a Volunteer with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Following Through

Author: John Frelich

Ft. Ross 03

To me an important aspect to photography is the ability to follow through with obtaining your photographic interests. To do so doesn’t necessarily mean getting award winning images. It can fill in certain voids you have for your portfolio and personal interests. In an earlier blog I wrote about the Russian colony north of San Francisco, Fort Ross.

At first I thought it was a story perpetrated by story telling guides. The more I looked into it I found there were mixed signals of its existence and purpose. Finally this summer I went to the last California mission, San Francisco de Solano that is now a California State Park in Sonoma, CA. What I learned in history was the fact that the fort not only existed but also remained active for around 30 years, a Russian colony here in the lower 48 states. That is not covered in any history books East of the Mississippi.Fort Ross 06

Because of that I now have the basis for what I hope will be an interesting short slideshow for our photo club. While there is not much to be seen from the remaining buildings it stands high in the minds of local Russians. While there, we saw caterers setting up tables because a wedding was going to be held in 2 hours on the grounds. To further set the scene all of the arriving guests spoke in Russian and the Ranger was cleaning a cannon that would be fired in celebration.

The moral is the same for all elements in photography – follow through until you complete your objectives.

John Frelich is a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Nikon’s “Live View” Grows Up

Author:  John Frelich

For those of us who felt like “2nd Cousins” to our Canon brethren because we couldn’t just focus and shoot in “Live View,” a new day has dawned. With my D700 I had to focus in a limited area of the image and then close out “Live View” to then capture an image. Those with Canons didn’t have to do the same and would look at us strangely when discussing the problem.   The process was mainly used to manually focus on an off center spot to get the best possible results.

Recently I purchased a new D810 and was going through a Field Guide for the camera. Under the topic it updated the capability of the Nikons to shoot either in a manual or tripod based process but also discussed how auto focus (or manual) can be used as well as a split screen process to focus on both sides of the viewer and on the subject. From that point of focus you can just capture your image by pressing the shutter button.

For those interested in video capture the D810 also added capabilities that go beyond the original still image system becoming a hybrid digital single lens reflex camera that could take video. From the little time I’ve had the camera it seems that this entire process has clearly been improved.  Has this been passed down to other models, everyone will have to research this for themselves.

John Frelich is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops