Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bongmu Lake

At the beginning of October 2013, I left Changwon (just a few minutes from the south coast of South Korea), and moved a couple of hours north to Daegu. I'm now living in an area called Bongmudong, a bustling development just north of the Daegu International Airport, on the city fringes. The fantastic thing about this area is that, cliched as the phrase is, it really does contain the best of both worlds. I live in the Easiapolis apartment complex, right on the edge of the developing area. To the west and south, there are schools, a mall, restaurants and loads of other new stuff being built, all within 200-300m. And on the east... Bongmu Park, with the lake, also just 200-300m away. (If you've read my other blog page, "Bongmu Bug Party", it's the same place where I shot all those insect photos.) The autumn colours are about to start changing, so I've been up at the lake scouting for the best angles. While there, I've been finding some surprisingly great shots, even without the autumn colours.

In my "Fisheye Fun" post, I talked a bit about using a fisheye lens as a landscape lens. It has its pros (massive vistas, easy to focus) and it's cons (distortion at the edges) so it needs to be used carefully. Because of the distortion, horizon lines can't follow the rule of thirds unless you crop later - They must stay at the centre of the lens to avoid the curved earth effect. However, if you do that, and keep any straight lines in the foreground away from the edges of the lens, you're set for some great views that pull in an enormous frame. I shot these first few in the second week of October, early one weekday morning. (Such are the joys of being between jobs - Time to shoot!)

All fisheye shots taken on the Canon EOS 60D with the Samyang 8mm T/3.8 fisheye.

Shot from the northern shore of the lake. Across the surface you can see the water park facilities. There are floating mats and bouncy castles and a trampoline to play on and dive off, plus you can go water skiing, ride the banana boat behind the speedboat, or just take a speedboat ride around the lake. On the hillside immediately behind, you can visit the insect museum, and the terrarium, where they breed orchids and butterflies all year round. (Look for "Bongmu Park Butterfly House"or 봉무공원 나비생태원" by its Korean name.)
Again from the northern shore.

Now from a small cove on the north-eastern side.

Another small cove on the north-eastern side.

Around the eastern side now.

A few days after, I headed back up to the lake in the late afternoon to do some more landscapes. I took my EF 16-35 f/2.8L II USM wide angle
and my EF 180 f/3.5L USM macro lenses, plus both the 60D and 5D MkII bodies. These next 4 were shot with the 5D + 16-35, capped with a variable ND filter for some long exposures. The water was a tiny bit choppy, so unfortunately I couldn't get that beautiful crisp glassy reflection as I had the other day, but never mind.

From the eastern shore.
Also from the eastern shore. The shots above and below have an unfortunate artefact which I've decided to leave in for illustrative purposes. Notice the shadowy crosshatched patches in the sky - That's the result of shooting at a narrow aperture on a wide angle lens that has a variable ND filter set close to full level. Something to keep in mind if you're using a variable NDF.

As the sun started setting lower I switched over to the 60D + EF 180, and shot the water skier against the setting sun. These shots turned out to be the highlight of the day, so the flaws in the above shots didn't matter. I hadn't come expecting this, so in the end, it all worked out wonderfully.

A friend of mine commented on facebook that "Now that [he had] seen the secret dolphin, [he couldn't] unsee it." The thought hadn't ocurred to me, but after he said that, I also see the dolphin every time I look now. To think I am fortunate enough to live within walking distance of such a fantastic shooting location.
Panorama of the lake, shot from a small cove in the south-eastern shore. I had taken my heavy-duty tripod (An Acebil i705 DX) up so that I could use the panning head to follow the water-skiers more smoothly. Sure as eggs, they didn't ski at sunset, so I didn't get any more shots like those above, but as I was walking back around the trail, I found the perfect vantage point. The water was absolutely still, and the sun had just sunk below the horizon a few minutes earlier. The lights had just come on, and the reflections were lovely. I also had my EF 70-200 f/4L USM with me, so I popped it onto the 5D and zoomed out to 70mm. I took 4 more shots for the pano at both left and right extremes, but they turned out to be superfluous. As it is, the shot already has all it needs.

So, I returned to the lake on the morning of November 5th, hoping for some shots of the autumn colours. Well, that worked out just great... There was a low and gentle mist, and no wind, so the water was glassy smooth. These next shots were all shot with the 5D MkII and EF 16-35 f/2.8L MkII, with a variable ND filter on most. Given that the panorama shots were taken with an ultra wide angle lens, there is some distortion and slight colour patching in the skies, but I'm not worried about that too much. The images still stand, and they're all helping me improve on my landscape work.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Early macro work with the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG

So, I didn't always shoot macro with Canon's high end macro lenses... I started off in 2009 with the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG mounted on the humble Canon EOS 1000D (aka Rebel) body.  This is actually a damn good macro lens, even if the body was entry level. The 105 macro is from Sigma's EX range, which means it's their top-end glass, and for the price, it is extremely good value. This is a sharp lens. It's not the fastest for AF, but I almost never used AF anyway, as it was almost always used for macro, and rarely as a portrait or medium telephoto lens. DG tells you that it has a full frame image circle, so it's compatible with the 5D or 1D series bodies. It also comes in Nikon mount, but I'll leave the Nikon talk to people who actually use them.  So, anyway - The Sigma 105 served me well for just over 3 years, when I sold it to upgrade to the Canon lenses I now use. In that 3 years though, I got plenty of great shots. Mostly bugs, but a few flowers, and some other random stuff. So, without further ado...