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Inventory Check: Too Much Gear

April 4th, 2010

Too Much Gear

It’s been quite a long time since my last entry, and I wish I had a better excuse than laziness. But that’s all I got. So, to celebrate the return of my blog, let’s take a minute to reflect on all the gear that I have acquired in the almost two and a half years of dabbling in this craft known as photography.

“It’s not about the gear!” is what they always say. And they would be right. It’s definitely possible to take great pictures with just about any DSLR these days, from the entry level D40 to the pro-camera D3. But the gear head in me always tend to speak the loudest in my head. So why fight it? I tell myself I’m helping the economy, supporting people’s livelihoods, saving the world. Whatever works. Without further ado, here is latest list of yummy gear for you to enjoy:


  • Nikon D90
  • Nikon D40


  • 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor (D40 kit lens)
  • 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor
  • 24mm f/2.8 Nikkor-N (Factory AI’d)
  • 28mm f/2.8 Series E
  • 35mm f/2 Nikkor-O.C
  • 35mm f/2.5 Series E
  • 36-72mm f/3.5 Series E
  • 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor-S
  • 50mm f/1.8 Series E
  • 50mm f/2 Nikkor-H
  • 50mm f/2 AI
  • 55mm f/3.5 Micro-Nikkor-P.C
  • 55mm f/3.5 Micro-Nikkor-P.C (Factory AI’d)
  • 70-210mm f/4 Series E
  • 75-150mm f/3.5 Series E
  • 80-200mm f/4.5 Zoom-Nikkor AI
  • 85mm f/1.8 Nikkor-H (Factory AI’d)
  • 100mm f/2.8 Series E
  • 100-300mm f/5.6 AI-S
  • 105mm f/2.5 Nikkor-P (Sonnar Type)
  • 105mm f/2.5 AI
  • 135mm f/2.8 Series E
  • 180mm f/2.8 Nikkor-P (Factory AI’d)
  • 200mm f/4 Nikkor-Q
  • 300mm f/4.5 Nikkor-H (Factory AI’d)
  • TC-200 2x teleconverter
  • TC-16A 1.6x teleconverter

Everything else

  • Lowepro Fastpack 250 (Artic Blue)
  • Lowepro Slingshot 200AW
  • Lowepro EX-140 (Gray)
  • Lowepro Topload Zoom Mini
  • Lowepro Transporter Strap
  • Manfrotto 190XPROB Aluminum Tripod
  • Manfrotto 488RC2 Midi Ball Head w/RC2 quick release
  • Manfrotto 681B Monopod
  • Manfrotto 234RC2 Swivel/Tilt Head w/quick release
  • Giottos tripod carrying strap
  • Nikon SB-24 Speedlight
  • Nikon SB-25 Speedlight
  • Sunpak 433AF flash (Nikon dedicated)
  • Vivitar 5200 flash
  • Stofen Omnibounce knock-off diffuser
  • Cactus V2s 4-Channel Wireless Flash Trigger Set (2x )
  • 2 male-male PC Sync cords
  • Rosco swatchbook (flash gels)
  • 7 ft light stand (2x)
  • Swivel flash mount umbrella holder w/cold shoe (2x)
  • 33″ white umbrella (2x)
  • Cokin CBP40052 P-Series Holder w/52mm Adapter Ring
  • Cokin Graduated Neutral Density Filter Kit for P-Series (121L, 121S, 121M)
  • Vivitar Close-up filters (No. 1, No. 2, No. 4)
  • Tiffen UV filter, Hoya UV filter, various Sky 1A warming filters (52mm for most)
  • Tiffen Circular Polarizer (52mm)
  • Sandisk Extreme III 4GB SDHC w/Micromate USB 2.0 Reader (2x)
  • PQI 4GB SDHC Class 6
  • Targus TG-BGD40 Battery Grip for D40
  • EN-EL9 generic battery for D40 (2x)
  • PK-3 extension tube
  • Mennon camera grip wrist strap
  • Jianisi Nikon remote (ML-L3 knock-off)
  • Giottos large rocket blower
  • Lenspen
  • Nikon microfiber cleaning cloth
  • Rosco Lens Tissue
  • Mr. Bear

To be honest, there’s just no way I actually use all this stuff very often. There are some lenses that I haven’t even had a chance to try out yet, since I tend to gravitate towards the ones I have tried and liked. But I’ll get around to it eventually. Trust me. Moving forward, you’d think there’s no more gear left to buy, right? Looking back on my last gear post, I have pretty much purchased all that I set out to get. So I should be content now, and look into improving my photography skills and worry less about gear. Yeah… I’ll get back to you on that one. Meanwhile, here’s the new wishlist:

  • Lambency flash diffuser (Gary Fong knock-off)
  • 42″ 5-in-1 reflector
  • Split prism focusing screen (Katz-eye or other brands)
  • Background stand and various muslins
  • MB-D80 battery grip for D90
  • PC sync hotshoe adapter (2x)
  • Colorimeter & monitor calibration software (Spyder3)
  • Yet another camera bag (shoulder or waist pack)
  • ND2, ND4, ND8 cokin filters (not graduated)
  • TBD

That’s all I can come up with for now. I’m sure I’m missing something. The TBD is a placeholder, to allow that wishlist to grow. My wallet’s not going to be happy with me. Yikes.

Christmas in the Airport

December 25th, 2008

What better way to spend Christmas day then being at the airport? As I wait to board my flight back to NYC, my eyes wandered around my immediate area. What can I do for the next hour to kill some time? I reached in my new Lowepro Fastpack 250 and grabbed my D40 out. I quickly scoured the walls for any open sockets to plug in my laptop. Powered up and verified the free wifi. Everything was set — It’s time to update my blog.

Despite being stuck in the airport for the majority of the day, I really can’t complain. Reflecting back on the events of 2008, life has been pretty good to me. I’ve still got my job (knock on wood), I’ve got a wonderful girlfriend, and I have all my photography toys. With so much negativity in the media and the ongoing recession, it’s important to have something positive to hold on to. So I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who’s been a part of my life, and to wish you all a Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

The Kung Fu Kid

September 8th, 2008

It was a particularly warm day in San Francisco as the annual Chinatown moon festival was being held. It’s been awhile since I’ve gone shooting, and even longer since I’ve been to SF, so I thought it would be a good day for a trip. Since I was born and raised in NYC’s Chinatown, it’s good to see some things are still the same: the large crowds. Nothing like all the pushing and shoving to make you feel right at home. (Be careful with the little old ladies — they’re the most dangerous).

Besides the huge crowds, there’s also some great entertainment as well. Live singing, lion dances, and martial arts are just some of the festivities. Of course, having grew up in Chinatown, I’ve seen it all before. But this time it’s different. This time it’s behind the camera.

I got a great spot to watch the show. Front row seats, with plenty of space so I’m not elbow to elbow with the rest of the crowd. That’s because I’m actually standing right in the afternoon sun. So while everyone is watching the show in the cool shade, the few photographers among us were front and center in the sun. I guess it’s the price you have to pay to get the shot. But hey, I’m not complaining. Honestly, I didn’t even realize how hot it was under about 400 shots later, when I felt my camera being a bit warm, and my bare arms were getting pinkish from the sunburn. (I’ll remember to wear sunblock next time)

I wound up using the 75-150mm f/3.5 Series E lens mostly for the versatility of the zoom. It has a great reputation and it didn’t disappoint. After reviewing the shots, I found a few keepers, but also found a couple things I should’ve done differently:

  • Learn to use fill flash. It was the middle of the day, so the sun was casting some harsh shadows. Also, the light was coming from the side which made the faces pretty dark. Then there was that white tent in the background which definitely meant blown highlights. All I had was the pop-up flash, but I need to start learning how to use fill flash so I can illuminate the face without over-exposing the rest of the image.
  • Get closer. There were too many distracting elements in the scene. Getting a full body shot would mean having other unwanted objects in the frame as well. There were speakers, metal structures that were just getting in the way. I find the most pleasing shots I had were actually fairly close and above and waist. Plus, using the longer focal length gave me better subject isolation and apparent depth of field.
  • Time the shot. The D40’s 3fps continuous mode isn’t fast enough to freeze the action that really captures the essence of the martial arts. You want to capture that kick as its fully extended, not while the leg is retracting. Too many of my shots were of the martial artist’s backside, which shows nothing interesting. I need to learn to anticipate the move. Part of this is understanding the sport or action that you’re shooting. I guess I need to watch my kung fu movies.

Thanks to the Yau Kung Moon Lion & Martial Arts Group, I got a few nice photographs of martial arts in action. I’ve always wanted to learn martial arts when I was a kid. The foam nun-chucks which I use to I smack myself around with every now and then are still in my room. And even if I don’t know kung fu, I can still appreciate its art form through photography.

The Jellies of Monterey

August 19th, 2008

Having taken a 2 week hiatus from shooting, I find myself a bit rusty with a camera in my hands again. Took me sometime to reacquaint myself with the intricacies of manual metering & focusing. The first couple of shots from my trip to Monterey Bay Aquarium were complete garbage. Fortunately, the shoot wasn’t a complete wash. By the end of the day, I was back on my game, and end up with a few nice shots to show for it.

Having a smidgen of experience on shooting aqua-life (see Shark Attack post), I was aware that light was going to be the main problem. So I packed accordingly: a 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor-S, 35mm f/2 Nikkor-O.C, and a 55mm f/3.5 Micro-Nikkor-P.C. All low light performers, plus a macro for the up close and personal. The large aperture lenses are great for these dark conditions, but the trade-off is the razor thin depth-of-field. The next obstacle is choosing a shutter speed that is slow enough for hand-holding, while fast enough to stop the subject motion. When you have low light and moving subjects, even VR/IS isn’t going to help. Finally, I find that ISO 800 is pretty much the highest I want to take it before noise becomes an issue. I have to admit, I find Canon’s high ISO performance to be slightly better than Nikon’s when comparing entry level DSLRs. Of course, the D3 blows everything out of the water, but that’s in another lifetime.

The jellyfish exhibit is easily my favorite attraction in the aquarium. It’s a shame that they will be closing the exhibit on Sept 14, 2008. So anyone out there that will be in the Monterey area, do check out this fantastic exhibit before it shuts down.

I feel fortunate that I was able to capture a few good shots in there with my DSLR — something I couldn’t do when I had my point-n-shoot. From the crowds I experienced, I can see many others shared the same enthusiasm. I had never heard so many DSLRs firing away all at once. Everybody who had a DSLR was literally holding down the shutter button. Click-Click-Click-Click. I remember all the point-n-shoot folks backing off because us DLSR shooters were so into it. Sony, Canon, Nikon, Pentax — you name it, it was there. It was literally a sea of a cameras at the aquarium.

Shark Attack

August 5th, 2008

Meet Jaws Jr. I met him at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom as part of the shark exhibit. I didn’t get many keepers from that shoot, so this is probably my favorite out of the bunch. Having never shot aquatic life before, shooting this gave me a preview on what to expect on my upcoming trip to the Monterey Aquarium.

Starting with the technical side, the entire room was extremely dark with only an ambient blue/green-colored light to give the effect of being underwater. So I took out the 50mm (my biggest aperture lens). Even wide open at f/1.8 and ISO 1600, with a shutter of 1/80, it pictures were still underexposed. Flash was out of the question because of the glass window. Slowing the shutter speed to 1/50 or less may have been an option, but I was trying to avoid subject motion blur. This is one of those times where a D3 would be perfect. Crank up that ISO to 6400 or higher and fire away at 1/200 and still be exposed correctly with no noise. Oh man, one can only dream… Anyway, post-processing can bring the exposure up a little, but only to a certain extent. Because of the high ISO, changing levels in post results in an extremely noisy image.

Depth-of-field was extremely narrow, as can be expected at f/1.8. Sharpness is acceptable, but not tack sharp. These guys move fairly quickly and with lots of random movements. I end up pre-focusing on certain spots and waiting until the subject swims into the focus area. Requires lots of patience, but it seems to work. The 50mm is perfect for these kind of shots. The distance is about right for the focal length. And most importantly, you get that wide aperture of f/1.8. Wish I had a f/1.2 Noct-Nikkor, though. Oh baby, the amount of light I can get… (dreaming again)

Stay Away From Ebay

July 31st, 2008

Latest ebay shopping spree

I’ve been clean for almost 2 months. Ever since I got my 17th lens back in June, I realized my camera gear addiction was spiraling out of control. So just like that, I quit ebay. No more daily routines of adding new auctions to my watch list. No more updating my spreadsheet for lens pricing (which has now grown to over 3000 entries). I even stopped visitng the Flickr “No metering lenses on Nikon DSLR” group — the primary source that was responsible for this addiction.

I thought I was cured. My wallet felt heavier, and I was starting to use my gear more instead of buying more. Everything was good, until I had a relapse. One week later…  and the above picture is the result. Dammit.

As I looked on ebay, I told myself I was only looking and wasn’t going to buy. And when I started to bid, I told myself I was only bidding and wasn’t going to win. And when I won, I told myself… “Doh. How did that happen?”.

So now I have a 4th zoom lenses in the ~50-200mm range that I don’t need (Already have a 55-200mm VR, 75-150mm Series E, and 80-200mm f/4.5). And I have a 4th flash that I don’t need (Already have a SB-24, Vivitar 5200, and Sunpak 433AF). Finally, a 1.6x teleconverter which is likely going to sit in my drawer like the 2x teleconverter has been doing all this time.

I know that’s pretty insane. I know with the amount of money I spent on these old lenses, I could’ve gotten a new AF Nikkor. But there’s something about old glass that appeals to me. Nevertheless, enough is enough. I’m quitting ebay for good now. If I ever buy any more gear from ebay, you have my permission to shoot me.

A Gilroy Gardens Portrait

July 22nd, 2008

Wild Wings Bird Show

With photography, sometimes you just get lucky, and this was definitely one of those times. My weekend trip to Gilroy Gardens (Bonfante Gardens) started out pretty ordinary, but ended up with some of my best shots to date, especially for portraits. I had originally planned on taking macro shots of flowers and possibly a few landscapes. My best shots, however, came from the Sumer Safari event that was going on in the park. I didn’t know it was being held, and I had packed my bag for macro and wide angle shots. If I knew about the wildlife shows, I would’ve packed some more telephotos also. As it turns out, this gave me a chance to finally use a highly regarded lenses that I’ve been neglecting, the 105mm f/2.5 Nikkor-P.

The 105mm f/2.5 is generally regarded as one of Nikon’s best portrait lenses. It’s well known for being very sharp and for its creamy smooth bokeh. Although my version is older, a pre-AI Nikkor-P, I was still anxious to try it out and see for myself.

Now, I’ve never considered myself a portrait shooter. In fact, I consider myself almost “anti-portraits”. In the age of autofocus, people get impatient with you if you take more than 3 seconds to take the shot. With my manual metering and manual focusing, I haven’t been able to get a subject to hold still long enough for me to take the shot. So I tend to stick to landscapes and wildlife, where I don’t feel the pressure of being rushed.

Before I say anything else, I have to commend to the owners of the Wild Wings Bird Show. It was one of the most entertaining animal shows I’ve seen. The fact that the stunts were done with birds is simply amazing. Of course, these exotic birds also make for some really photogenic subjects, especially when you have their trainers able to control the stunts they do. And the best part came after the show, when the trainers were nice enough to hang around and let the audience get closer to the animals. And when everybody was distracted trying to pet the animals, I went for portrait shots of a trainer and her parrot. These came out to be the best portrait shots I’ve taken so far.

I mainly shot in f/4 for shallow depth of field and to get that blurred background. However, I was often standing too close for a 105mm, so the shallow DOF actually made it more difficult to get both the trainer and parrot in focus. (I think this is one of those times where a 85mm f/1.4 would be ideal, especially on DX bodies — but that’s a $1000 lens, so ouch). I’m starting to learn to trust my eyes more than the AF confirmation dot, which made focusing a bit faster. And the focusing ring on my lens is tighter than my other lens, and that actually helped for fine tuning the focus. ISO was set to 400 so that I could maintain a reasonably high shutter speed of 1/320 to 1/500. I like to go conservative on the shutter speed to eliminate as much camera shake issues as possible. In post-processing, I bumped the saturation a little, as I always do (I like colors to have some pop) and just a tad of sharpening. If you look at it at 100% crop, then yes, it’s not tack sharp. But as you can see from the image above, the results are still very satisfactory.

Although I’d like to believe my photography is improving, I have to admit that luck is a important factor that is always needed. Being there at the right place at the right time makes a huge difference in deciding what shots you get to take home. I was fortunate enough be there to take some great portraits and wildlife. This shoot was so much fun, that maybe idea of doing more portrait photography isn’t that bad after all.

Not Enough Camera Gear

July 16th, 2008

What would a photography hobby be without the love for camera gear? I shamefully admit that I enjoy buying new/used camera equipment even more than actually going out and using said equipment. The fact that a lot of the gear shown in the above photo have not actually been used is evidence of that. I don’t even know why I bought it in the first place!

Prior to my D40, I’ve been wanting to own a digital SLR for years now. My Nikon Coolpix 5200 point & shoot was good enough for snapshots, but not very fun to use. So when the D40 deal on amazon showed up on Fatwallet, I finally took the plunge. The deal came with a D40 + 18-55mm kit lens and 55-200mm VR lens. At the time, I believed I was all set and nothing else would be needed. To say I was wrong about that would be an understatement.

First, I discovered the wonderful world of Nikon manual focus lenses and their even more wonderful price tag. After buying my 50mm f/2.0 Pre-Ai lens on ebay, I was hooked. They call it the Nikon Acquisition Syndrome (NAS), and to this day, there is no known cure. They should really put a warning on the box or something before selling this camera to people. I thought I was buying a camera, but what I got was an incurable addiction. Thanks Nikon.

But camera gear addiction is more than just lenses. You also need a bag(s) to carry your gear. And of course, everybody needs cleaning supplies. Every photographer should also have good support as well — a good tripod and head are a must. And if you’re fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to discover strobist and flash photography, then the amount of gear you need to get just goes through the roof (multiple flashes, light stands, pocket wizards, umbrellas, etc.) There is no end in sight.

It’s been 7 months since I got my dSLR. I didn’t realize I had accumulated so much gear in that amount of time, until I laid it all out. Here are my toys:

  • Nikon D40
  • 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor (kit lens)
  • 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED II AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor
  • 24mm f/2.8 Nikkor-N (Ai-converted)
  • 28mm f/2.8 Series E
  • 35mm f/2.0 Nikkor-O
  • 50mm f/2.0 Nikkor-H
  • 50mm f/1.8 Series E
  • 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor-S
  • 55mm f/3.5 Micro-Nikkor-P.C
  • 75-150mm f/3.5 Series E
  • 80-200mm f/4.5 Zoom-Nikkor (Ai)
  • 100mm f/2.8 Series E
  • 105mm f/2.5 Nikkor-P
  • 135mm f/2.8 Series E
  • 200mm f/4.0 Nikkor-Q
  • 300mm f/4.5 Nikkor-H (Ai-converted)
  • TC-200 2x teleconverter
  • PK-3 extension tube
  • Lowepro Slingshot 200
  • Lowepro Topload Zoom Mini
  • Lowepro Transporter Camera strap
  • Bogen/Manfrotto 681B monopod
  • Bogen/Manfrotto 3229 head w/ RC2 quick release
  • Samsonite tripod (piece of junk)
  • Vivitar Close-up filters (No. 1, No. 2, No. 4)
  • Tiffen UV filter, Hoya UV filter, various Sky 1A warming filters
  • Vivitar 5200 flash
  • Sunpak 433AF flash (Nikon dedicated)
  • SB-24 flash
  • Stofen Omnibounce knock-off flash diffuser
  • Roscoe swatchbook (flash gels)
  • Giottos large rocket blower
  • Lenspen
  • Nikon microfiber cleaning cloth
  • Cokin 52mm adapter
  • Jianisi camera remote (ML-L3 knock-off)
  • Sandisk Extreme III 4GB SDHC memory cards (3x)
  • Mr. Bear

The truth is I’m just getting started. I already have a queue of items waiting to be purchased. It’s just a matter of time before I need my next fix and buy something else. Here are some possibilities of what’s coming up:

  • Cokin ND-Grad kit w/ filter holder — currently backordered
  • Tripod & ball head (undecided brand & model)
  • Circular polarizer (undecided brand)
  • Cactus V2 wireless flash transmitter & receivers
  • Lambency flash diffuser (Gary Fong knock-off)
  • Various strobist equipment
  • Backpack style bag for travel
  • DK-21M magnifying eyepiece
  • Katz-eye split prism focusing screen
  • extra battery (EN-EL9)

These are just some of items I currently came up with off the top of my head. Given more time, I’m sure that list will steadily grow. When will the addiction end???

July 4th, 2008

July 5th, 2008


It wouldn’t be the 4th of July without a few common themes: the American flag, BBQ, and of course, fireworks. The BBQ didn’t happen this year, but I sure wasn’t going to miss the fireworks show. Especially now that I have a digital SLR, fireworks is just one of those shots you just have to try for yourself. And even though it’s a little cliche, shooting fireworks is definitely a lot of fun.

Let’s start at the beginning. A few days prior the the holiday, I already started my research. Like any good photography, doing some homework ahead of time will help you immensely on the field. I picked out the location, and made note of when the show was going to start, and the gear and settings I was going to need for my camera. Here’s a brief summary:

  • Location: Central Park located in Santa Clara, CA. It’s close to home, and the crowds shouldn’t be as bad as San Francisco.
  • Time: Show starts at 9:30pm. I figured I better be there around 8:00 to 8:30pm. That should give me enough time to find a good spot, set up my gear and so on.
  • Gear: My D40 dSLR is the bread and butter of the shoot, of course. For focal length, I decided to go with a 24mm lens, 50mm, and 100mm. I could’ve went with my kit lens and saved myself from having to carry additional lenses, but I enjoy using my manual lenses much more. For support, I have my budget $8 tripod. Without any wind, and my camera being very light, the tripod should be acceptable. And I finally got a chance to actually use my remote shutter release. I’ve been buying too many toys without using it. Well, that purchase has now been justified.
  • Settings: Since this is my first time shooting fireworks, I checked online for some tips on how to shoot them. Aperture should be set to f/11 or f/16 for large depth of field. Shutter speed should be set to Bulb for variable shutter speeds that can be adjusted on the fly. The lowest ISO should be used, in my case ISO 200. Although it’s at night, fireworks are actually very bright, so these exposure settings should be sufficient to capture the image correctly. White balance is set to Auto, and I always shoot in RAW, so white balance isn’t a big issue as long as there aren’t any external light sources with weird lighting.

With that, I was all set for the shoot. I arrived around 8:00pm to find a lot more people than I had anticipated. After 10 minutes of trying to find parking. I finally joined the march to the park and followed the crowds. Everybody was hauling their lawn chairs and blankets, while I was hauling my tripod and lenses. After I found a good location, it was time to set up. The first thing I noticed was that my tripod was just too short. Even fully extended with the center column, the height was only up to my neck. I found myself having to squat for the entire time of the shoot. (My days of weight training at the gym are finally paying off) The 3 way adjustments on the head aren’t the easiest to use either, and locking the position required me to really tighten the knobs, otherwise it would slip. I was cursing the damn thing the whole time, and made a mental note to get a real tripod for next time. But you gotta work with what you got, and once locked in position, the crappy tripod was better than nothing.

This was my first time in this park, and I had no idea how close the fireworks display was going to be. Is it going to be far away, so I should use my longer telephoto (100mm)? Or will it be really close so I can use my wide angle (24mm)? I couldn’t answer those questions until the show actually starts, so I’m going to have to work fast here changing lenses if necessary. (A zoom lens like the kit lens would’ve definitely helped here.) The recommended focus was at infinity, which would be pretty easy to do, even on manual lenses. I opted to go with the hyperfocal distances, even though it made focusing a bit harder considering you can barely see the depth-of-field  & distance scales on the lens because of the low lighting. Not sure if it would’ve made any differences either way.

Once the show started, the first thing I did was move to a different location. Turns out my good spot had an obstruction that was blocking half the fireworks. I quickly moved to a new spot which had an unobstructed view and set up my tripod there. Now what focal length to use? I started out with the 24mm, but found it actually too wide. I ended up using the 50mm the whole time, which worked the best out of the lenses I had with me. I believe a 35mm would’ve been ideal, but once again, you gotta work with what you got. I also  found portait orientation to be much better than landscape. The one thing I was lacking was a foreground, and landscape orientation just didn’t work without one. And lastly, I had to get my timing right with the remote shutter release. What ended up working for me was to open the shutter just before the big explosion, and then leave it open for about a second after the explosion and then close it. After a few tries, it was able to capture the signature light trails pretty consistently.

All this can be pretty overwhelming for a newbie like myself, especially when most of my initial setup had to be changed once the show started. But that’s just the nature of the shoot. I should’ve done a little recon and physically go to the location to check out potential good spots and contingencies. Nevertheless, the shooting was an excellent experience. Even my girlfriend, who is also a beginner dSLR user, had a lot of fun shooting the fireworks using my monopod, and she’s not as uptight as I am with my camera and settings. The most important thing is to have fun, and on this shoot, everyone had a great time. In the end, we all got some very nice pictures to take home.

Diablo 3 Announced!

July 1st, 2008

“Holy Sh!t!” was my first reaction, having just found out that my all time favorite game is finally coming out with a much awaited 3rd installment. It’s been 8 years now since Diablo 2, and I still remember it like it was yesterday. Funny, I can’t even remember much of last week, but somehow I still remember much beloved Diablo 2. Stay awhile and listen…

Let’s start with Diablo 1, the original classic that started it all. I remember going back to my dorm after classes were over. It was nice and sunny afternoon in a late summer Ithaca day. Perfect for a stroll in the gorge or hanging out with friends. But I felt a force compelling me — urging me to go back to my dorm room. It was overwhelming me. Resistance was utterly futile. Once in my room, I shut the blinds and immersed myself into the world of diablo. And there I sat for hours on end, hacking and slashing demons and succubi until the evil has been vanquished. I destroyed a mouse from all the essessive clicking. But diablo has been defeated. Or so I thought.

When Diablo 2 came out around 2000, I didn’t buy it right away like most addicts. Diablo had laid dormant inside me for a few years now and I was able to repress that urge to buy the game. But I was only prolonging the inevitable. Once I bought the game, it was over. I still remember the first character I made, a necro summoner. This was D2 classic, where the blood golem/Iron Maiden (BG/IM) combo was bugged so the necro was practically immortal. Add 10-15 revives and you got an unstoppable army. Of course, that character is no longer viable in the latest patch (also, the character has been deleted on bnet), but it was fun while it lasted. He was my only character to ever find my one and only SOJ. After years of playing, I have never found a single SOJ again. He’s also wearing:

  • Wormskull – +1 nec helm. Cheap item by today’s standards, but still nice.
  • Silks of the Victor – +1 all armor. A bit heavy for a necro, but I like the looks.
  • Videla’s Fetlock – Yea yea, crappy boots. But I can run like the wind.
  • Frostburns – +40% mana gauntlet. Oooh, I love never running out of mana.
  • Nightsmoke – cheap belt. Nice % goes to mana mod.
  • Ume’s lament – +2 nec wand. Nice.
  • Sigon’s guard socketed with perfect diamond – nice +1 all with some resist all to go with it.
  • SOJ + rare ring & ammy – can’t remember the mods

This is all from memory of a game character I played about 8 years ago. At the time, this setup was good enough for hell Act 4. I took my necro to level 74 (at the time, it was very hard to level up), before I started trying out other characters. Then the summer of 2001, LOD came out. My friend (bigdoggrok) and I went to pyramid mall on the first day it came out to get the expansion. And for that summer, I had a job and it was to play D2: LOD. Eight to ten hours a day. I played until 6am in the morning, when I was too tired to continue. Then I slept a little and got up at 2 in the afternoon to continue. Nourishment was obtained by making pit stops to Subway’s and HK chinese food, and it was only because it was necessary to sustain my gaming. The massive new items and changes in LOD made the game that more addictive. I was a diabloholic and loving every minute of it.

And for the next year or two, diablo 2 continued strong. I made every possible cookie cutter characters out there: whirlwind barbs, frenzy barbs, javazons, bowazons, pikazons, hammerdins, zealots, chargedins, poison necs, skelemancers, meterorb sorc, firewall/chain lightning sorc, chargebot sorc, just to name a few. Even tried out the unfeasible skills just for the fun of it, like inferno sorc, singing barbs, and so on. The items in LOD were godlike compared to D2 classic, so there was always a new item to sought after or a new level to reach.

Eventually, you do get tired of doing baal runs for all these years. You get tired of doing MF runs and accumulating so much junk that all your mules are full. (I was never into trading since I was a pack rat) So like the rest of my friends, we stopped playing. My characters got deleted due to inactivity and I uninstalled the game. But every few years, every now and then break out the CD and install it again. It’s a whole new ball game now with the latest patch. Ubers, keys … I can’t compete with these guys and their elite items. But I don’t play for ladder or for items anymore. It’s just for nostalgia and little bit of fun. Nothing like relieving stress by killing some monsters.

But even as fire up the game every so often, I had lost the addiction that held me hostage for so long. I no longer had the desire to play all day and all night. The same goes for all PC gaming in general. Maybe it was because my PC had fallen too far behind to keep up with the games. Or maybe I was getting older and games don’t appeal to me as they once did. Whatever the reason, I’ve been on a gaming hiatus for the past 5 years. Until now…

Blizzard dropped the bomb on us when they announced Diablo 3. There had been rumors throughout the years, but it was all false. But this time, it’s for real. FINALLY. I haven’t been this excited about a game since 2000 when D2 and LOD came out. After years of being out of the gaming, I felt the urge to get back into it again. But this time, it will be different. I’m older now, with a steady job and girlfriend. I can’t play all day and all night like I used to back in college. I have responsibilities and commitments that I have to answer to. I will fight the urge to go out and buy D3 on the first day it comes out! I will not lock myself in my room for the next 12 hours after (if) I buy the game! Diablo 3, I will not play you!!!

Diablo: “Not even death can save you from me!”

I’m doomed.