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May 11,2008 (WeekendEdition)

We reviewed the Trek-Tech VersaMount almost exactly a year ago.  During that time the VersaMount has lived up to its name.  Folks here use it all the time in combination with the TrekPod for both our studio and outdoor photo shoots.

The best part about the VersaMount is its ability to be placed anywhere along the length of the TrekPod.  We got the rotating head (MagMount) to make the exact positioning of the camera faster and easier, even at odd angles.

Shots of insects in flight are fairly difficult to get, but gear such as the VersaMount and TrekPod make them a lot easier to capture...the fast autofocus on the Nikon D40 didn't hurt neither :-)  [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


May 10,2008 (WeekendEdition)

Mornings are the best time to be out photographing flowers.  The air is stiller, the light is not too contrasty, and most biting insects are not yet feeding :-) 

One thing to be careful of when shooting early in the morning is that dew and moisture are still everywhere.  While droplets on the leaves and petals make the shots more interesting, all that wetness is not so great for the gear.

The Kata E-690 Element Cover was designed with such assignments in mind.  With the cover on, the camera is protected and we can still freely manipulate all of the controls.

We were quite happy with how easy it was to set up, use, and get the E-690 cover on and off the camera/tripod rig.  The drawstring in the front opening made it simple to get a good fit around the lens.

The sleeves on the sides are long enough so a good portion of the arm may be inserted and the drawstring pulled closed around it.  Our question to you readers out there is...how would you cinch close BOTH ends? [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


May 9,2008 (FotoFriday)

We have been reviewing a lot gear for the RainyDayPhotography folks lately.  Many of you have been asking for more of the same.  Well, get ready for a weekend full of photo gear and gadgets! 

Since our weekend begins on Friday, we'll start with a look at an item (Element Cover E690) from Kata designed for those who won't let a little rainy weather get in the way of their photography.

Camera equipment and water never got along well.  This is especially true for digital SLRs.  Kata designed the E-690 Element Cover to be both compact and easy to use.  The cover has openings on both end, a large zipper, and a clear top/rear panel.  There are drawstrings at all opening for a snug fit and for keeping things out.

The cover will fold up flat for transport.  It will fit easily in most camera bags.  Next time the weather turn on us, this cover should be able to keep our camera well protected.  [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


May 8,2008 (TravelGearThursday)

The Tom Bihn Ego bag has seen daily use since our FirstLook post last June.  We thought we would do a quick "almost one year" follow up on it today.

We use the Ego mostly for carrying the 15" MacBookPro and related gear (mouse, power supply, etc...).  When in a hurry, some have managed to stuff the new Nikon DSLR in with everything else. Even with the daily use, this bag looks almost new.  With Bihn's use of top notch material and the bag's excellent build quality it was not suprising that the Ego held up incredibly well. 

We recently discovered a new use for the Tom Bihn Ego: cat carrier!  We realized this when we found Eliot napping in the bag.  Apparently, the main compartment is big enough for one 10 pound cat to rest comfortably.

Note that this may not be an "approved" use of these bags and you will probably NOT be able to take your pets as "carry-on" luggage, but at least know that your Tom Bihn bags are useful in surprising ways :-)  If for some reason you need to transport two furry interns, we would suggest taking a look at the roomier Aeronaut[Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


May 7,2008 (WayCloseWednesday)

It has been sunny these past few days.  The irises and tulips are loving the rays.  We thought it would be a great opportunity to take advantage of the light and see what the Nikon D40's kit lens can do on getting up close and personal, at least with the flowers blooming out in the RainyDayGarden :-)

We took most of these shots early in the morning using the 18-55mm lens with the camera on a tripod.  Our first close-up test was not too structured.  We just wanted to get a feel for what we can expect at different zooms.  Click on any of the images to see the larger versions.

The three images of the purple tulip are all the same shot just cropped and saved at different resolutions in Photoshop.  You can see the details at full resolution here.

The red tulips shots give an idea of the range of subtle shades which can be resolved with the D40/18-55mm lens combo.  How to print these subtle shades is a problem we tackle another day!

Close-up photos are not difficult to take, but does require a sturdy tripod, good lighting, and a lot of patience.  Some readers have asked about creative accessories (specialty lenses, close-up filters, etc...).  Many of these will give the photographer additional creative control of the image capture process.  We will be taking a look at some of them in a few weeks. [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


May 6,2008 (GarageTechTuesday)

This weekend the "check engine" light came on in the Boxster while we were driving back from the SOS event.  We thought... bummer, we just had the car fixed in April! 

Then we thought... oh good, it would be the perfect opportunity to give the CarMD a FirstUse test.  We had introduced the CarMD to RainyDayGarage readers a few months back.  The kit comes complete (USB cable, AAA batteries, software) with everything needed.

The CarMD OBD reader is ready to use once the batteries are installed.  Just plug it in the car, turn it on, listen for the 4 beeps, and read the code. 

Of course, as you can see in the photo, the connector is oriented such that we couldn't see the display while connected.  This wasn't a problem since all of the data is stored in the reader.

The kit came with some software on a CD.  We will install it later and try it out. For now, we'll just look up the code in the Bentley Porsche Boxster Manual.

This CarMD OBD II code reader is very easy to use.  We like the built-in LCD display as it makes reading the code much faster compared to the CarChip.  What we don't know yet is if the CarMD will allow us to reset the "check engine" light without having to take the car into the shop.  I'm sure we'll have more to say about the CarMD as we continue to play with it.  [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


May 5,2008 (MoreNikonsMonday)

Carolyn recently obtained access to a brand new Nikon D60 as part a consulting gig.  The RainyDayPhotography folks here managed to convince her to let them play with it by promising that they would not take it apart :-)  They did a quick look and found some obvious upgrades.  Whether these changes are worth the extra money is not yet clear.

On the surface, the two cameras looked almost identical.  Internally, the D60 has a larger sensor density (10MP vs 6MP).  The camera software came with a few refinements: rotating LCD grapics, sensor cleaning on power-off. 

There are probably other software upgrades, but they will have to look at the D60 more closely before they can comment on them.  The D60 kit now comes with the newer 18-55mm AutoFocus lens.  This version has the "vibration reduction" feature which we love in the 55-200 AF lens.

With access to all of the new gear and with more coming, we are looking forward to a very "photographically-active" Spring and Summer. 

We want to remind readers that at the end of the May we'll be giving away two prizes. Read all about it here.  Send your answers to us before the end of May.  We'll pick the winners on June 1st.  [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau

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