Wings over Houston in Houston Texas

This past weekend was the Wings over Houston air show in Houston Texas. Here are two of my favorite shots of the weekend. Will post a few more photos at a later date.

Red Bull helicopter doing flips

Red Bull helicopter, Houston Texas

P-40K Warhawk

P-40K Warhawk, Houston Texas

Clik Elite Contrejour 35 bag review

Recently I was in the market for a new camera bag. I had a Lowepro Slingshot 300 aw camera bag that was just over one shoulder. This bag was great for just carrying it around town and on short trips. However lately I had been noticing two issues with the bag. The first was that the top compartment zipper was constantly splitting and coming open so any gear inside had the potential to fall out without me knowing. The second issue was that the bag was constantly sliding around my waist while riding my motorcycle even with the waist strap on. Riding one handed on a motorcycle trying to adjust the bag as it slides is not the best thing to be doing. For those reasons I started looking for a new bag. I was looking for two main things in a new bag. The bag had to be a backpack style with two shoulder straps and a waist strap. The second requirement was that it had to have a side entry to the camera compartment. My cousin had purchased a couple of bags from Clik Elite and was saying a few things about his bag. I went to their website and checked things out but never purchased anything. After months of dropping the subject I went back to their site to see what they had. I was thinking that the Clik Elite Contrejour 35 was way to large of a bag and it was just outside of my price range. After a while I decided to check to see the measurements of that bag versus that of airline carry on luggage requirements. It is just slightly larger than carry on requirements but it should pass. I have not gotten a chance to test this yet though. I will be doing so later on in August when I take a trip down to the Houston Texas airshow. After seeing how close the measurements were I bought the Contrejour 35 instead of the Contrejour 40. I have taken the bag on several road trips to Baltimore Maryland, Washington DC and trips on the bike around Northern Indiana / Midwest Michigan. The bag was a little rough to carry around the first day because I was not used to carrying a backpack much any longer but after that everything feels great. Taking the bag on trips on the motorcycle is great as well. The last trip I took with it on the motorcycle it was raining fairly well. I put the rain cover on but because of the wind (70MPH on the highway) it did not like to stay on. I may have just not been pulling the elastic on the rain cover right enough but thankfully it is tethered so I did not completely lose it. I am considering getting industrial strength velcro and making two bands to go all the way around the bag at the top and in the middle for when I ride. Even with no rain cover on the bag held up nicely to the rain. My gear was all in plastic zip lock baggies just in case but everything was dry where the camera gear was. The only part that got wet inside was the top of the bag where the CF cards are stored and it was soaking into the material. Overall I rather enjoy this bag and will have it for some time. Below are a few pictures of the bag. To view larger view click on the picture.

Front and side views of bag:

Front
Side

Back view of the bag. Able to put hydration pack in the back. No problems holding a Canon 70-200mm f2.8 lens and several other lenses.

Back
Back open

Side camera access. It is possible to get a camera with a battery grip in/out. The red piece in the unzipped area is a blanket. The main compartment goes all the way from the top to the bottom of the bag with access through the side of the bag. To fit a laptop in you need to slide it in from the top not the side.

Side
Side open

Top compartment showing digital media storage areas and other little pockets. Main compartment has a large zippered bag that you can put gear in so it does not slide all the way to the bottom.

Top
Top

Updated:
I have had this bag for several months now. The more I keep using the bag the more I like the bag. Just this past weekend I went to the Wings over Houston air show in Houston Texas. I flew down with this bag and a small gym type bag for my luggage. No checked baggage for this trip at all. The backpack fit perfectly in the overhead bin no problems! Continental/United flights never even questioned if the bag was to large. After forgetting to empty a water bottle in the backpack and forgetting a fruit cup from the air show in my backpack I got stopped by airport security. They had to check my bag. It was so easy to walk the airport security guy where everything is and how to open the bag. He was impressed with how quick it was for him to search the bag. Then at the air show they check every bag coming in as well and it was a breeze. The only complaint I have is that I don’t go on enough trips. Will need to work on that one! :)

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Blueberry Festival fireworks 2010

Here is a a clip of the grand finale of the 2010 Blueberry Festival fireworks. This clip is best viewed full screen.

A few new photos

Here are a few new photos from some trips so far this summer:

Pagoda in Patterson Park Baltimore, MD

Pagoda in Patterson Park Baltimore, MD

Capitol Building, Washington DC

Capitol Building, Washington DC

Gettysburg, PA

Gettysburg, PA

Trip up the Blue Star Highway in Michigan

Back on May 22 I took a nice trip up the Blue Star Highway in Michigan. The section I was riding was from Hagar Shore Rd (Exit 7 on US 31/196) north of Benton Harbor to Glenn Michigan. I just had to stop and take a few shots with the Canon 7D I was carrying in my backpack. As you can tell from the photos it was kind of foggy and it was a bit chilly but a great escape for a ride.

Blue Star Highway, Michigan
Blue Star Highway, Michigan

Tip: Choppy playback of video on computer from Canon 7D

I had previously been rather disappointed with the quality of video playback from the video that the Canon 7D takes. When I would open the videos using VLC player or any other media players I have installed the video would be all choppy. After doing some searching I came to the conclusion that it was more than likely my slower compact flash (CF) card which is a 4GB 133x card which only operates at 20.0 MB/s. Since CF cards now go up to 667x (100 MB/s) I thought this is a very plausible situation. I now have a new 16GB 400x (60 MB/s) card waiting to come in the mail to see how much that helps. However, after taking some spur of the moment video of some friends kids while over at my house and previewing the video on the camera the video played back just fine. With this new information I started doing even more searching and I found this tip on how to have smooth playback in VLC and it seems to work rather well.

Step 1: Open VLC player and navigate to the Tools menu and select Preferences.
Step 2: In the lower left corner of the Preferences dialog box change Show Settings from “Simple” to “All”.

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Step 3: Then navigate to Input & Codecs > Other Codecs > FFmpeg and change the option called “Skip the loop filter for H.264 decoding” from “none” to “all”

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Now try to play your video back again and see the difference.

When you hover your mouse over this select option it says:

Skipping the loop filter (aka deblocking) usually has a detrimental effect on quality. However it provides a big speedup for high definition streams.

Now you can enjoy smooth playback of your video from your Canon 7D DSLR.

Hunter Ice Festival – Part 2

The Hunter Ice Festival is a 3 day festival that starts on a Friday night with lots of carving, setting out sponsor’s sculptures and lots more. While I was playing with the wireless Speedlight flash system on the first night I caught this little boy looking up at one of the main sculptures in amazement. I only got two shots off and thankfully one of them turned out since the father was telling the boy to step back.

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On Saturday you get to see more of the tools that get used while carving these sculptures. Anything from angle grinders, chainsaws, picks, chisels, dremel tools, custom made jigs and cloths irons get used.

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Some people use templates made out of paper to help start the carving process.

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While others just have a drawing and go at the ice just by looking at it.

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When doing night photography with a flash you can easily tell where many of the different blocks are.

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More photos in the gallery at: Hunter Ice Festival, Niles Michigan

Rock On! – Hunter Ice Festival, Part 1

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Today kicked off the Hunter Ice Festival in Niles Michigan. This is my first year going to this festival and so far I think that it will not be my last. How can you beat ice carving and fire? This is my first time getting out with my new Canon 7D and seeing what it can do. I was working with the wireless Speedlight trigger and some higher ISO’s due to hand holding of the camera in crowds. More photos to come once the weekend is over.

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Canon 7D is here!

So I can’t wait to continue learning all of the different features of my Canon 7D. I purchased it as an upgrade to my Canon 40D. Not exactly sure what I am going to do with the 40D just yet. I may keep it around so if I do different photo shoots I can just grab a different camera instead of changing lenses. What I can say though is that I was a little worried when it arrived. The UPS man showed me this hole in the side of the main delivery box and asked me to check the contents to see if it was damaged. Thankfully B&H packed it with enough air pockets that nothing was damaged.

Box from B&H that came by UPS damaged containing my Canon 7D

There will be several future postings on what I like/dislike about the 7D as compared to my 40D.

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