AJ Henderson AJ's Blog

October 16, 2013

Cat in a box

Filed under: Personal,Photos — AJ @ 5:35 pm


Shadow loves any box she can get in.

July 5, 2013

Birthday and More Photo Investments

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Photos,Technology,Work — AJ @ 6:31 pm

So, hit 29 this year.  For a combined birthday present and business investment I decided the time was finally right to pick up the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II.  As some may be aware, there is currently a $300 off sale going on from Canon that is reflected across all retailers.  In addition, I found it on Buydig with another 5% off (plus 1% from my credit card), free shipping, a free multi-coated Hoya UV filter, a free cleaning kit and free 2 day shipping.  The cleaning kit was kind of a joke and 2 day shipping didn’t matter since it came from NJ and had to wait until I was home to sign for it anyway, but the filter was a nice $60 bonus.

I got it on Friday after my birthday and just before Autotask’s summer engineering picnic.  Wanting to give it a try, I swung by home and picked it up.  It was a great day for really putting the lens through its paces.  It was cloudy with on and off rain leading up to an all on down pour which gave me a chance to try out the weather proofing.  I’m pleased to say it held up very respectably.  I was using the 5D Mark iii with the battery grip on it (which notably does compromise the weather sealing a little bit, but only if water comes up from the bottom of the grip.)  I did finally head for cover when it got to an all out down poor, but through multiple small to moderate rain showers I was able to keep shooting no problem.

The only problem I noticed with the weather sealing (and I’m not sure if it was the weather sealing’s problem or not) was that two minor very small spots of condensation formed under the top LCD panel where I’d been handling it.  It was exceptionally humid though and the rain caused a very rapid temperature change, so I think this may have just been condensation and it evaporated within the hour with no ill effects.  Otherwise, there were no signs of any problems from the rain.  I’ll probably still pick up a rain coat for it for added protection, but it’s nice to know that the weather proofing really does work.  (Plus it’s a bit fun to get weird stares from people wondering why you are shooting with an expensive looking camera in the rain without concern.)

Rain or shine, the focus was fast and very accurate, though I did find the limit of modern AF point selection.  Since I was shooting mostly vollyball from fairly close (mostly individual player shots) and following the ball itself, I had to leave it on full autofocus.  While the reject rate was only about 1 in 3, I was a little disappointed because I normally am aiming for closer to 1 in 5 or so.  That said, I think it was probably an unrealistic expectation for conditions.  Between the net, the ropes holding up the net and other players, there was a lot of movement and shifting the shot very fast and it still held up 2 out of 3 shots focusing on what I intended.  Even on the shots where it didn’t focus on what I wanted, something was in sharp focus.  So the camera doesn’t quite read minds, but it is very fast and accurate.  This was also before I had a chance to micro-adjust the lens.

As far as sharpness goes, I was a little disappointed, though I think this was again a result of unrealistic expectations.  I was comparing it to the results from my 24-70mm f/2.8L II which has got to be just about the sharpest lens on the planet.  While, in my opinion, the sharpness of the 70-200 doesn’t even remotely approach the sharpness of the 24-70, it still isn’t anything to complain about.  Reflections are still pretty clearly visible in people’s eyes at portrait distance.  It’s also still easily twice as sharp as my 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS is, and as previously mentioned, the AF is so much faster and tighter.  The full time manual focus, shorter minimum focus distance, fixed lens length and orientation and extra speed round it out to make it quite satisfying even if it isn’t as magic as the 24-70 was.  (f/2.8 across the entire range is a beautiful thing.)

Shot in the Rain

A quick shot while heading for cover when it started to down pour

Motion stopping and great focus.

Motion stopping and great focus.

Since then, I’ve also had a chance to try it out a bit more for indoor work and flash work while doing a bunch of portrait work while my brother-in-law was jamming on his guitar.  They really show the power of f/2.8 and the accuracy of the focus even in fairly dim conditions.

Portrait at 142mm f/7.1

Portrait at 142mm f/7.1

Low Light with Flash, 200mm f/2.8


Depth of Field at 85mm f/2.8

Portrait, 70mm, f/2.8

Looking forward to the first wedding I’ll be shooting with the lens on the 20th.

January 9, 2013

Traveling with Kitties

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal — AJ @ 11:53 pm

So Cole (one of our cats) had an eye infection just before we were going down to visit my parents for the holidays.  Since it would have cost us over $300 to board the cats together and have him be able to get the treatments he needed, we decided to take them with us on a plane.  While it wasn’t exactly cheap (Southwest charges $75 per carrier per direction), it was actually far less painful than we expected.  Neither cat has ever been particular fond of their carriers.  When taking them to the vet, we have a chorus of dissonant meows the entire way there and back.  Following the recommendations of a number of online sites, we got two new soft carriers for traveling with so that they wouldn’t associate the vet and other unpleasant experiences with them.

While the trip started out a little worrisome with non-stop meows on the way to the airport, as soon as we got there and got out and started to walk around with them at our side, the meowing stopped almost completely.  We had put their harnesses on before putting them in the carrier so we could leash them up for going through security (they have to x-ray the carriers and you carry the cat through) it turned out to be completely unnecessary as neither cat even tried to get out of our arms, even when one of the carriers got stuck on the other side of the x-ray machine for a few minutes.  After we were through security and the cats were back in the carriers, we had a pleasant time talking with other travelers about Cole and Shadow and being able to pet them while waiting for the plane.  (While they were not allowed out of the carriers, the carriers we got have a little slot specifically designed so you can reach in and pet them.)  The only unfortunate event on the trip down was that we hit a delay on our second flight and it made it so Cole didn’t quite make it to the final airport before he had to go to the bathroom.  In retrospect, I wish I had thought to take a photo because I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look so ashamed and timid in my life.  While I feel bad for the little guy, it was incredibly cute in its own way.

After getting the cats to my parents house, the fun really began.  They spent about 45 minutes to an hour just exploring all the nooks and crannies of the garage before we finally decided to pick them up and bring them inside.  I’ve got a few great photos of Shadow covered in dirt and dust and cobwebs from exploring that I’ll be posting after getting them transferred off the laptop.  After that, they actually both surprised us by being very shy.  We brought them to our bedroom and they both promptly hid under the bed for a few hours unless we came in, closed the doors and coaxed them out.  By later that night however, they were starting to get braver.  They were roaming the bedroom itself pretty freely unless someone else came in and Cole was starting to venture out a little to see if people were safe to meet.  Shadow started creeping to the edge of the room a little bit later and I was able to take her around the house by petting her and moving a few feet at a time, though as soon as she saw anyone else, she ran back towards the bedroom.

Their hesitation went on for about two days, but by the end of the third day, they were both moving around the house and interacting with people pretty freely.  Cole really enjoyed being around so many people like we expected, and while Shadow did come around people some for attention, she really enjoyed having a big house to run around and play in.  We did keep them locked in the bedroom when we were out of the house just to make sure that there wasn’t any trouble and keeping them locked in the bedroom with us at night lead to a little stress since Shadow loves to misbehave to get a reaction and then run away which made it hard for Danielle to sleep for the first few nights.  But then between some inventive use of a spray bottle and realizing that Shadow wasn’t doing any damage, Danielle was able to sleep well.  It was really nice to be able to sleep with the cats since we normally can’t allow them in our room at night since they like to jump from the window sill above our bed down on to us, which is rather unpleasant when you are in a dead sleep when they do it.

When it came time to leave, the cats didn’t want to go and it was just as hard to get them in there carriers as it had been coming down, and once we did, the meowing began again, but it stopped about half way to the airport (it was an hour drive from my parents’ house).  And again, they mostly just slept and/or checked out people walking by from the safety of their carriers on the way back home.  The trip back was entirely uneventful as far as the cats were concerned and they flew amazingly well.  I guess the advice we read that if your cat can sleep, your cat can fly really is accurate.

Oh, one last important note if you are considering traveling with your cat.  One thing we found pretty clearly when we were researching is to not use any sedatives.  Apparently they interact weirdly with cat physiology and altitude and it can be a very bad combination for the cat.  I’d definitely recommend a soft carrier that you can sling over your shoulder so that your cat knows you are there and has the comfort of being up against you.  Having a slot to be able to reach in and check on them is also a huge plus for both the cat and your comfort.  While it wasn’t a problem going through security either time, I’d still recommend harnesses and leashes as a precaution.  It’s better safe than sorry and you never know what might startle them in to a panic.  Also, as a nice little side perk, when traveling with a cat, since you have to carry them through security, you seem to always get the metal detector line instead of going through the worthless and invasive body scanners.  They actually opened up the metal detector specifically for us in Raleigh and then closed it after we went through.  I’d be willing to travel with our cats in the future (including the $75 fee) just for that.

An A/V Christmas

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Photos,Technology — AJ @ 11:30 pm

Picked up a Speedlite 600EX-RT for Christmas and have been using it with the older one as a secondary flash.  It’s been working pretty well so far.  I notice that there are sometimes exposure issues that I have to deal with by taking a few photos and sometimes the optical transmission mode is a little bit flaky for the dual flash, but still overall a very nice setup.  I am particularly liking doing 75 degree bump flashes with the white card extended when shooting close ups with the 17-40mm lens.

Also got Magic Lantern Alpha 3 loaded up and running.  No record continuation yet, but the clean HDMI output is nice and the focus indicators make it FAR more usable as a video camera.  Looking forward to getting a chance to give it a try at Excel next weekend.  The one minor issue I’ve noticed with the clean output is that when you go to adjust the ISO, it still displays the overlay on screen instead of being able to just work off the LCD panel.  Shutter and aperture work fine though without anything on screen.  Still looking forward to getting a lens in the 30 – 70ish range, but haven’t decided when or which one to get yet.  I’ve definitely been feeling the pain of missing anything in-between 40 and 70mm.

Taken with the 5DMiii with the 600EX with the 75 degree bump and reflector extended.

Taken with the 5DMiii with the 600EX with the 75 degree bump and reflector extended.

October 13, 2012

Terra Nova 2012 Men’s Retreat Photos

Filed under: Church,Cool Stuff,Personal,Photos — Tags: , , — AJ @ 8:21 pm

I’ve gotten through touch up on the first batch of photos from the Men’s Retreat and am in the process of posting them to the site. Right now, it just has the photos that I flagged as 5/5 stars.  The gallery is a Flash gallery export from Lightroom, so it might not be possible to save the images directly from it, but if you see one you’d like a personal copy of, drop me an e-mail and I’ll be happy to provide you with a high quality version of whatever photos you want.  I’ll also probably be posting some of the photos directly to Terra Nova’s Facebook page in the near future after Phil gets me access to do so.  Hopefully I’ll have time to go through the three and four star photos some time in the next week or two, but it’ll take some time with nearly 350 photos to go through in those two categories.

Terra Nova 2012 Men’s Retreat Gallery (5 Star)

September 20, 2012

A/V Upgrades

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Photos,Technology — AJ @ 5:27 pm

Well, it has been past time to replace the GL2 for a while now and I finally got around to upgrading.  The latest addition is a Canon EOS 5D Mark iii.  I also picked up the battery grip, a Speedlite 320ex flash, two 64gb memory cards and a 70-300mm image stabilizing EF lens to supplement the 17-40 L series lens I already have.  For audio capture I also picked up a Zoom h4n digital recorder.  For mobile processing I updated to a top end Lenovo Y580 with Adobe Master Collection CS6.

All in all, with the solid low light performance of the 5D, this rig should keep me going for quite some time and means I finally have up to date video capability again and this time at a higher quality than ever before.  Since I do this as a professional hobby, I’m open to helping with most non profit projects or very reasonable rates for commercial projects to help cover equipment costs.

I’ll eventually be updating to an underwater enclosure and strobe, a shotgun mic for distance audio and a master capable Speedlite for studio purposes (the 320 is slave capable).  I might also look in to some additional rigging for the camera, but I’ll need to see how I fair freehand first (which hasn’t been an issue in the past.)

I uploaded some quick free hand, raw camera shots from my toying around last night at http://www.ajhenderson.com/5d/.  There are also a quick rack focus test and a sample video of my cat, Shadow.  They are all using the existing lighting and iso settings up to 25k.  Focal ranges go up to 300mm with image stabilization on for the shots of the side of one of the apartment buildings in our complex.

December 21, 2011

Ice Cream Sandwich and the Galaxy Nexus

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Technology,Work — Tags: , , , — AJ @ 8:27 pm

Well, I got myself a gnex on release day.  The best part has to be the ease of grouping apps and the dual core speed.  Following shortly after that is the recent apps button to allow easy transitions between apps when multitasking.  The 4g speed is also wonderful since I got to keep my unlimited data.  I also tried out google wallet tonight at Rite Aid and it worked perfectly.

On the downside, sound quality is not as good as my fascinate was, but this may be an issue with my phone as others are reporting good sound.  Swype isn’t available yet, though the keyboard isn’t too bad.  The new location of the menu button takes some getting used to and I still occasionally am deleting emails when I mean to mark them as read.  There also is not yet a car dock that includes audio and power quick connects.  Rumor is it should be available soon though.

I had a bit of exciting time rooting.  Actually a week before getting the gnex, my fascinate bricked off a ota update and I had to rebuild it.  Well, it was a good week for bricking because I did the same to my nexus within four hours of getting it when trying to root.  Two tense hours later I managed to find a stock image and was able to adapt a shell script to get the steps for reflashing my phone to stock from fast boot.  It is now running quite happily rooted though.

The one last thing to figure out now is if the sound is actually bad on my particular phone and if it is a problem in general, I’ll need to decide between a Bluetooth DAC from Sony or Samsung or waiting for USB host support so I can use a higher quality USB DAC.

July 11, 2011

Travel Woes / Finally Actually On My Way To Peoria

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Work — AJ @ 6:16 pm

So apparently Mitch (Pearl Companies’ CTO) and I have something in common.  We both apparently have horribly bad luck when traveling.  This winter he must have tried three or more times to get to the Latham office only to have it snowed out each time.  Now I’ve had similar luck.  The first time I tried flying out in June I got a 103 fever the night before I was supposed to fly out and we had to cancel at the last minute.  This time around I was supposed to be flying out with 3 other coworkers but someone put in their notice and they had to cancel all but me for the trip because there were things that needed to be done with that.  Finally, this morning at 4am while I was on my way to the airport, I managed to get a flat tire on my car.

On the upside, I was able to get the donut on pretty quick (15 minutes or so) and still got to the airport with plenty of time, but still…  Apparently they now have electronic boarding passes at Albany International Airport.  They just send you an e-mail with a link to a boarding pass page that gives a QR code style barcode that they read at the checkpoint.  It’s pretty slick though only supported by the left most check-in lane at the moment.  I was pleased to find that most of the useless “security” stuff wasn’t at ALB yet, though I was actually pleasently surprised to notice a few actual good ideas on their part for security proceedures that could actually make a bit of difference and were fairly non-intrusive.  Too bad we couldn’t do that before wasting billions on useless backscatter machienes, but then again, lobbyists and government contractors need to be able to put nice food on their solid gold tables and make people feel safe regardless of any actual impact on security.

March 4, 2011

WordPress 3.1 Test

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Technology — AJ @ 1:53 pm

Just testing mod integration with wp 3.1

February 28, 2011

Shadow asleep on Danielle’s lap

Filed under: Personal — Pipeline @ 2:24 pm
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