Sunday, December 27, 2009

Welcome to Winter

And new toy report

It’s very encouraging to be getting some light weather systems in for early winter. Fall only brought minimum rainfall with the biggest system being the leftover remnants of a pacific typhoon. I didn’t get a chance to hike in the recent snow, but at least by now the ground has absorbed some moisture, and is primed for receiving more rain without eminent danger of slides.

I haven’t been posting much lately, but I have been getting some hikes in; mostly short loops close to home while keeping one eye on the weather. The skies have been mostly cloudy which plays havoc with me trying out my new toy. My recent hikes haven’t been much to talk about, so I might as well do a post about that.

Last year about this time I had done a blog post called Christmas Week, in which had lamented the lack of extended performance in my trusty little Cannon PowerShot SD 450. This tiny, inexpensive, point ‘n’ shoot has been a sweet little hiking companion; carefree, compact, lightweight, and always accessible. Perfect for carrying on my belt while hiking, and it delivers what I conisder to be exemplary picture quality for its class. The vast majority of the over 3000 photos on my flickr account, and virtually everything displayed on this blog were taken with this innocuous little “idiot” camera, which has never given me any problems. But despite its good points, I have missed countless photo opportunities because it does not provide much control, and because it has very little optical zoom. I recently created a wildlife photo set in my flickr account for all the half decent wildlife photos I have been able to get during my hikes in the past few years. Most of them aren’t really that great, but I have missed a great many more simply because I simply don’t have the capability to get better. And the ones I have gotten leave a lot to be desired. Anyway; after getting terrible photos of those vintage aircraft last year on Mount Diablo, I decided I would look for something better. However, I am far from being some professional photographer, and I don't want to lug a lot of equipment around. I'm just some guy who wants to document my hiking excursions, and other interests. I needed something affordable, and it had to be capable of riding on my belt during hikes so it’s instantly accessible. After some careful consideration, and reading a lot of reviews, and considering that I thought Cannon really deserved to get some product loyalty out of me, I bought a Cannon PowerShot SX200 IS. It’s a bit larger, and heavier, but is quite a bit more sophisticated. It allows me to preselect various shooting modes, and even go totally manual. It also has 12x optical zoom plus a wider angle available, and shoots 12.1 megapixels. I’ve been trying it out under the less than optimal conditions of late, but I am still waiting for some really clear weather. I have a few minor criticisms so far. I still don’t have the capability of using external filters for glare. And owing to the larger optics in such a compact body, it’s a little hard to grip properly. I am still refining my technique for pulling it out and holding it. The flash always pops up, even if you have flash turned off, and the tripod mount is not centered. But overall I like it and I can't wait to give it a real trial in clear weather and good lighting. The photos in this post are some "test" photos, which were mostly taken under challenging conditions, and it's also still new to me. I still have not even tried to use many of the features and modes.