30 September 2018

First Month in South America - Colombia

"It's ludicrous that this place exists and everybody doesn't want to live here."
~ Anthony Bourdain speaking about Colombia

Faro Punta Gallinas, the most northern point of South America Very remote and desolate area.
Heading into Cartagena, Colombia from Guatemala, City felt like jumping into a pool of cold water. I knew I was going to do it, but I was highly nervous about it. Colombia represented an entirely unknown for me and while you can research as much as you want, there's nothing like stepping off a plane and feeling that air of a totally different country. What did I notice first? The fact that there were a ton of black Colombians and therefore more people that looked like me. So, like Belize, I wasn't the only black person around. Probably the next thing I noticed was that the only dogs on the street were on leashes being walked by their owners. In several places in Central America, you can expect to see stray dogs in various stages of health.

Ojos de Agua
I was a day late getting to my hotel due to a missed flight. I stayed in Cartagena for two days before heading north to my hotel at Eco Hostel Yuluka near Tayrona National Park. Yuluka is a beautiful property and I had one of their larger and better rooms with an open air shower. It was quite gorgeous. On day two, the weather opened up and so I left for Tayrona just down the street to see what shots I could get. Its definitely wise to bring water as this is about a two-hour hike to get to the main beach at El Cabo. The sun was fierce that day and the return hike was toughest coming back. Its a good thing there are several places to get water as I definitely ran out on the return trip. Awesome hike. Great scenes. Beautiful beaches. Be sure to check out the links because its definitely worth the visit. Consider an over night stay.

Outdoor shower and bath, Guacamaya Room at Eco Hostel Yuluka, Santa Marta, Colombia near Tayrona

I was extremely disappointed that the trek to Ciudid Perdida was closed for the entire month of September. I heard different explanations as to why that was. One was that recent heavy rains destroyed the trails, but I also heard that some of the facilities at the overnight stays were in need of desperate repair. But I got over it. My highlight of Colombia came a week later when I headed further north into La Guajira, and well beyond Uribia.

Tayrona National Park

I took a 2-day 4x4 tour with Alta Guajira Tours up to Punta Gallinas which is the most remote and northern point of South America. My thoughts were to try to do this on my own and I was told by Victor at Yuluka that it was not safe. He was correct. The idea was not only dangerous but also not safe. A single vehicle breaking down out there is not a good position to be in. We passed a broken down tour truck and before long, there were about 4 other trucks there to render aid. Turned out to be nothing serious and we were all back on the road, but imagine 4 tourists stranded out there.

Local native girl of the Jusayan Indians of La Guajira

The first day concluded at Cabo de la Vela which is a small village on the coast were we spent the night in hammocks in an open cabin on the beach. We locked our belonging up in a secure building or left them in the vehicles and then took what we needed to our hammocks. Myself and my other 4 cohorts watched the sun set and called it a night.

Waking up with my cohorts after a night on the beach at Cabo de la Vela

The next day found us continuing our journey with a four hour back-country drive to Punta Gallinas with a few stops to sight-see along the way. These were different beaches and dunes where we were given a few hours to take pictures and enjoy the water. We reached Punta Gallinas right before sundown along with a few other trucks in the convoy that followed. Our lodging for the night was nearby, again in hammocks under a covered pavilion. Out here, though it was dark. The night sky with a new moon was lit up by stars from horizon to horizon. Some saw the Milky Way for the first time in their lives. About 10 of us sat out under the stars and fellowshipped together, represented by countries from Austria, France, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands. I was the only American.

Night under the stars near Punta Gallinas
We talked about a gamut of subject matters, including the suspicious alcohol content in the mysterious whisky-rum type concoction that we were drinking. We definitely discussed what was going on in America with this administration. You might be highly surprised at the world view of the US lately. There's not a place I go that I'm not confronted at some point about the state of our politics. In a discussion with a Canadian couple, I felt the strong impression to apologize on behalf of my country and to reassure them that all of America does not feel the way this administration does.

The last two weeks have been spent in Cartagena, where I got to do some work for a local restaurant, Medellin, and a few days in the capitol city of Bogota. I got to explore these cities, but only a bit. Much of my time was spent editing photos and getting some organization efforts done. Those first two weeks north of Cartagena was probably the busiest two weeks of my entire trip. On October 1st, I fly to Rio de Janeiro and begin the Amazon River trip that I'm looking forward to. So, stay tuned. What I know for sure is that I will have to return here to Colombia. I want Punta Gallinas with a model, spend more time in Cartagena, do Ciudad Perdida, explore some of the islands out this way, and push further through Colombia past Bogota, like Cali. I could do a full 90 days here exploring this country.

UPDATE: This just crossed my mind. I may indeed do the Amazon River gig and then right at the border where I was thinking of crossing into Iquitos, Peru. Well, possibly scratch that. I'm giving serious consideration to crossing into Leticia, Colombia and returning to Bogota. Its only $100 for a flight back here. Who knows? Find a spot to live for a month. Take some Spanish classes. THEN head to Ecuador, by land...do the Galapagos Islands, and slide on into Peru by Christmas. We'll see.

25 September 2018

Canon and Nikon Mirrorless - My Thoughts Plus Some

Art Model, Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

"Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse." 
 ~ Winston Churchill

Mirrorless has been around since 2004, but hit mainstream in 2006 when Leica went digital with the M-Series rangefinder, the M8. Was it perfect? No, but that moment was the writing on the proverbial wall.

I felt like that was the new evolution of cameras...going electronic and that it should have been explored more thoroughly by Canon and Nikon. Nikon did jump on it after a few years with Nikon 1 system. I thought it was cool, but still a bit half-hearted attempt. In my opinion, Nikon had the opportunity to become an industry leader here instead of continuing to follow behind Canon. A more serious attempt/commitment would have been an APS-C sensor in the Nikon 1 bodies instead of the 1-inch CX sensor with a 3x crop. I suspect they didn't want to cannibalize DSLR sales, but I'm sure they look back in hindsight and wonder if a more bold move would have blocked Sony from claiming the No. 2 spot in camera sales and reviving their brand.

Art Model, Brittany Vipond @2008 Terrell Neasley

So now, Nikon and Canon are getting into the game of full-frame mirrorless. I want to do this post without sounding bitter. I shoot Sony. I'm not a fanboy of anybody. Sony does the job and I applaud their vision and willingness to innovate so spectacularly. Everybody talks cliche-ish about Sony's innovation, but its the truth. When they came out with the QX-system a few years back, basically a bluetooth lens with a sensor that could be utilized with your phone... I knew those boys were , hungry and wanted to compete. Nobody asked for this. It was just an idea and they took it to market.

For years I've been knocking Canon for incremental improvements and riding on the power of market share and a failure to listen to that market. They let Sony do all the market testing and gauge public response to mirrorless tech. Now that its way more than obvious that mirrorless is indeed the future, The two major camera manufacturers want to get serious about the game. I confess, I do have a little bit less respect for that lack of vision. But also, their entry into the full-frame market is only just that... an entry. They still have a long way to go in developing their cameras and lens line-up. They still played it safe. Albeit Canon has Auto Focus tech that likely rivals anything out there, its revolutionary, but not a game-changer. AF is already pretty damn fast in many systems. How fast do you really need to be? How much of an incremental speed upgrade and thereby increase in effectiveness does it offer? In addition, the sensor on this new camera is not new. Its basically the a 5DM4 without the mirror. I will give them props for the LCD flip out, as opposed to Sony cameras that only tilt.

Art Model Melissa, ©2009 Terrell Neasley

Now, here's the kicker that was just reported today regarding another full-frame entry. I can absolutely respect the collab from Panasonic, Leica, and Sigma! Panasonic has been in the mirrorless market for years and steadily putting out great systems in the Micro Four-Thirds arena. The GH5s is one of the best systems out there for video. AND NOW...it was just announced they too are entering the full-frame market with TWO full-frame cameras. I can definitely get behind this. They actually come out of the gate with a new S1R and S1 system that can rival Sony systems and even possibly surpass them in video capabilities. Neither of Nikon's systems nor Canon's new cameras can come close to this.

I have been a fan of Fujfilm mirrorless for years who have made some of the most superb APS-C sensor cameras on the market. They have categorically jumped over the full-frame sector and dove headlong into Medium Format when they came out with the GFX-50s 50MP system about 2 years ago. Now they have double-downed on that commitment with announcement today of the affordable rangefinder style Medium Format GFX-50R 51.4MP system. AND...AND... Listen to this.... They ALSO announced the development of another (presently unnamed, but likely GFX 100"x") flagship Medium Format 100 megapixel system. Its not entirely "affordable" per se, but at the expected $10,000 price point is still a third and fifth of the cost of the Hasselblad or PhaseOne 100MP systems, respectfully. And with all those Photokina announcements, let me also add in Leica who is also putting out the Leica S3, a 64MP Medium Format system, expected to come in at about $20,000.

So, I'm all for Sony having some competition. All companies will get complacent if they don't have a reason to change, innovate, or otherwise better serve their customer base. I think it'll be at least 3 to 4 years before Canon or Nikon have matured into the full-frame world. Sony systems are now utilized in every aspect of photography when they came out with the a9 and a lens line-up for sports. I would guess Panasonic will make this transition is much less time, as they already have the mirrorless background and the advantage of Leica's current full-frame mounts.

Art Model Viki Vegas, ©2011 Terrell Neasley

21 September 2018

My Prediction Four Years Ago on Mirrorless Cameras vs the DSLR

***REPOST from 08 June 2014**

In light of the new Canon and Nikon mirrorless systems that have just came out, here is a repost that I talked about 4 years ago. I was definitely off on point number 4 with the Lytro systems. They didn't make it. While the number 2 point on "no shutters", electronic shutters come in these newer cameras now to increase frame rate and faster shutter speeds. So, I'm going to just drop it right here and talk about it tomorrow. 

What Will the Future Pro Camera (DSLR) Look Like?

Art Model Katherine and Hades, ©2008 Terrell Neasley
"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
George Bernard Shaw

This is one of the debates that spawn rumors about the demise of the DSLR. Every since the Mirrorless systems have been on the market and gaining steam, the question has been on whether or not the DSLR will survive. But I pose a different question... WHY do we CARE??

I guess the people who care most about this question will be the DSLR loyalists who can't make the transition to something new. These will be the Canon or Nikon users who swear by their larger full frame systems and large fast glass. The DSLR has been around since the mid-1930's and has been successful since the '60's as the go-to system over the rangefinder. Its transition to digital in the early 90's has spawned an out of control evolution, dare I say REVOLUTION in the field of photography. But the main feature of the DSLR, which gives it its TTL benefits, is the MIRROR. The mirror sits in a mirror box and reflects the image the camera sees into a pentaprism that bounces the image up to be seen through the viewfinder. This mirror box accounts for the size of the DSLR, even though technology has allowed many of them to be smaller than the cameras they replace.

But here are a few things I think the pro camera will have in the next 6 years and the DSLR will go the way of the twin lens reflex. Sure it'll be around, but it will not be mainstream.

Art Model, Mary ©2006 Terrell Neasley
1. No Mirror Box
Well, I think this is first and most obvious. Current mirrorless systems are gaining ground fast. 3 things that kept DSLRs above the Mirrorless systems this same time last year were Speed WITH auto focus AND metering between shots, full frame resolution, and again with speed with respects to frames per second. Well, we now have full frame mirrorless systems with the Sony A7/A7R systems. The A7R boasts a sensor pretty much the same as what's in Nikon's 36MP D800E. In fact, Sony MAKES the sensor for the D800's. They are also gaining in frames per second since the Olympus OM-D EM-1 will shoot at 10fps, but the problem is that is can only do this at a locked AF and exposure. Trust me, somebody's gonna be promoting that feature within the year. By proving the mirror box as an antiquated system, I predict most cameras being sold in 6 years will not have one.

2. No Shutter
I think this too will disappear before long as tech improves. Cameras are quickly becoming computers that take pictures. Firmware updates come as about as frequently as ones for your desktop, (although not quite as much for iPhones). So how will we take pics? Simple...the sensor will soon easily turn on and off in blinding speeds and eliminate the restrictions of an 1/8000 shutter speed. You'll be able to get 1/128,000 shutter speed on your new pro camera and stop a bullet in flight as it is discharged from a firearm, provided you had enough light. But who's shooting above 1/8000th of a second shutter anyway? The main gig the faster shutter will be used for shall be frames per second. With a sensor that cuts on and off with blinding speed, you be looking at sports photographers who'll be able to shoot 100 frames a second. Yeah, media capacity will have to increase as well.

Anonymous Art Model, ©2006 Terrell Neasley
3. Video Capture will be much more common
Every single camera made these days will do 1080p video. Well, except for Nikon's Df. The Canon 70D has features more attuned and designed for video use even more than photo. Video quality will improve and in 6 years, pro-level cameras will likely shoot 6K video. It might just be easier to shoot video instead of attempting to capture that decisive moment photographically and then pulling a single hi-res image from the video file. But I still believe video is gaining in popularity. Therefore more people will want to learn video capture the same way people are flocking to cameras and photo. Technology has made it easier to capture, edit, and share images. Vids will be no different.

4. Lytro Tech in Mid-Level Systems and Above
If you hadn't at least heard of the Lytro system, you're wrong. Lytro uses revolutionary tech to allow post capture focus points. Basically, with shallow depth of field compositions, you can elect to change the point of focus and chose something in the foreground or change it something in the background AFTER you've already taken the shot and are editing it in your post work. I'll let you read up on it instead of getting into a bunch of details when all I want is a paragraph for this post. But suffice to say, the company just announce its latest version of its light field capture camera. But I have a feeling that a major manufacturer will buy the company out and integrate its tech into its own systems. [Just came across this article about an MIT team using this same technique for cell phones.] Nikon hasn't shown this type of innovation in recent years and Canon tries to play it to safe stay traditional. I see Sony picking up this company in the next few years and integrating it into their mirrorless systems. Watch and see what I tell you.

Art Model Viki Vegas ©2011 Terrell Neasley
5. More Wireless Options
Wireless options will be the norm for any new camera coming out in about 3 years. Pro level systems will be no different. It will be a standard feature, but they will do more. Your camera will essentially be a phone that takes pictures instead of making calls with a 4G, LTE, or whatever they may be calling it in a few years. Simply put, it will have its own IP address and be able to connect to internet at will with wireless speeds that will be able to transmit directly to the cloud no matter the file size. Wireless capabilities will, before long, reach speeds and capabilities that far outpace the camera files sizes and it will be seemingly instant. Cameras will likely still have high capacity media cards, SD or otherwise, but images will have the ability to download straight to a cloud storage source instead of just to your phone or tablet.

Art Model, Tiffany ©2008 Terrell Neasley
6. Cameras with Apps and Touch Screen Functions
Menus are being simplified big time. Sony and Fujifilm have camera controls that are becoming more similar to App controls and it will continue. The Leica T is probably leading the pack in this regard. Our Leica rep for B&C Camera came by to update us on some Leica training. He introduced us to the Leica T system that has just hit the shelves. There are FOUR buttons on this thing. Everything else is operated via touch screen and app functions. In fact, let me just say that this system is probably the prototype for the rest of its systems. Likely the M-series will be modeled after this same tech in a few years. Its been Samsung who has been the spearhead in this regard, though. They started it with the Galaxy point and shoot cameras which has not evolved into their NX systems. The NX-30 is, in all likelihood, the camera that will most likely meet all of my predictions if they don't falter or get knocked out by competition...again, I'm thinking Sony.

In any case, I don't see the DSLR being in the picture in its present form anyway. But back to my original question. Why do we care? Cameras and photography has been in a constant state of evolution. The DSLR replaced the Film-based SLR. They are still around, but less and less people are shooting with them and manufacturers aren't producing them any longer. Prior to the SLR, pro photogs used entirely different systems. This link depicts early sport photography cameras that weighed in at 120 pounds. The thing looks like a howitzer. But my point is that technology drives change and cameras cannot stay the same. So why do we care whether or not the DSLR will still be here in 6 years. The DSLR is a tool in order to do photography. IMHO, its the photography that matters. How its captured, doesn't concern me as much as long as its good quality per my standards and looks like what I imagined it to.