Trip to the Zoo {Chattanooga, TN}

Although I generally feel like we live in a zoo, yesterday we ventured out to the Chattanooga Zoo. For the past week plus, Brennan & Knox have been sick with RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). Although they seem to be feeling much better, we didn’t think it would be a good idea to take them to church & have them be around other kiddos. We have no idea if they are still contagious. But, the weather has been wonderful the last few days & we wanted to get the kids out of the house. I couldn’t bear the thought of us being inside all day. So, we jumped in the Honda & went to Chattanooga for the morning. Here are some pics from the day.

We arrived before many of larger animals decided to venture outside; it looked like the Chimpanzees could use a cup of coffee.

undefinedMy hair looks quite similar when I wake up.
undefinedI almost didn’t post the picture of the Cobra Snake but decided to pair it with the hawk, imagining that the hawk was about to swoop down & snatch it up. Take that cobra!
undefinedThere’s a striking resemblance between our dog, Bailey, & this raccoon. That might explain some things. On another note, when I was younger I wanted a pet monkey. Now, unless it can get a job, I’ll pass.
undefinedundefinedundefinedThis pic was taken just prior to the boys escaping their stroller; it was like a wild goose chase from then on. The boys had a great time, although they didn’t quite understand why they couldn’t pet all the animals.
undefinedI like camels almost as much as I like llamas… that’s saying a lot because I LOVE llamas! If we let him alone for a second, we caught Knox trying to climb into the cages.
undefinedBrennan is a bit more reserved, choosing rather to stick only his arm inside. Thankfully, the goats weren’t too enticed by the rocks he was trying to feed them.
undefinedundefinedThe peacock was strutting his stuff; he followed me around for several minutes. Reminds me of my mother-in-law’s stories of growing up with a pet peacock. Apparently, she had one as a little girl & it would follow her around like a dog. Sounds like fun to me! Can you imagine having friends over for dinner… “And this is our pet peacock!”
undefinedundefinedLazy cat… aren’t they all!
undefinedCan’t you just hear him?! “Daddy… OUT!!!”
undefinedundefinedundefinedProbably my favorite of all the animals at the zoo; it’s a bit unnerving to see it lock it’s eyes on you.
undefinedWe ended the morning with a family picnic at Renaissance Park. It was a great day indeed! What are your favorite things to do as a family? Where are some places we should visit?

All Things New

About this time every year I’m filled with anticipation. For one, I anticipate a new season. I don’t know about you but I’m affected by the weather. Every February I find myself in the “funk”. I’m tired of the rain, the cold, the deadness & I’m ready for new life, a new season, new things. Where’s the sun for crying out loud!?

Second, I’m hopeful for personal growth. It seems the Lord uses Spring to remind me of His work in my life, to plant new dreams in my soul, & to again inspire me to pursue the things of God. I’m encouraged!

Third, I anticipate new adventures, new challenges, new work. Over the past year I’ve been privileged to shoot on behalf of some outstanding clients & friends. I love my job! Just last week I was on assignment in Chattanooga for a 4-day shoot & had a fantastic time photographing that incredible city. We were focused on downtown for most of the week & I was reminded at how much I’m drawn to downtown living. I’m deeply inspired by the city life & Chattanooga boasts one of the best I’ve seen. I’m quite certain that if they had an Ikea, the population would increase 10%… who’s with me?

But most of all, I anticipate the birth of our 3rd child. I can’t tell you how excited I am to welcome another little Finch. As I can’t imagine life without either of our boys, I know I’ll feel the same about our next. And as of around 1:20pm today, I found out that I better start getting used to little sundresses, painted toenails, tea-parties & more… we’re having a girl!!! I can only imagine how this is going to change our lives; I can’t wait for the days ahead. She already has my heart!!

Gear Guide & Recommendations {Part 1: Camera Bodies}

Almost weekly, I receive requests from other photographers as well as beginners who are interested in what gear I use. Those starting out in the field, whether by hobby or trade, are generally curious my recommendations. I generally suggest the same things, so my responses have become fairly standard. However, I knew it would be in my best interest as well as others if I delve deeper into the subject on my blog & spent a bit more time explaining my preferences. Because I’m a Canon guy, I’ll spend much of my time reviewing their gear; it’s simply what I’m most familiar with. At times though, I hope to branch out into the other worlds & provide insight to other brands, especially Nikon. At least, I’ll try to give you alternatives. I suppose it may be helpful at some point to explain why I’ve chosen Canon over Nikon; the reasons are probably less dramatic than you’d think. However, I’ll save that for another post. And since camera related technology advances so rapidly, there is constant need for updating. Consider this a starting point & I imagine this list will be ever evolving. Further, I’m in the process of building a dedicated page on my blog for gear guides & reviews… stay tuned for that feature. It will be a centralized location of the info from these posts.
{As a side note, the below links are my affiliate links, when purchasing through this blog it helps me continue to provide reviews, training & tutorials at no charge. Plus, it helps me provide for my family; thanks for your support!}

Camera Bodies

Canon EOS 5D Mark II
My weapon of choice is the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. I’ve been using these bodies for about a year and a half now & for the most part have loved them. If I had the extra $ I could easily reason upgrading to the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, although there’s yet to present a situation that the 5D Mark II didn’t handle well. Plus with two kids & one on the way, it won’t be anytime soon! I realized the need for the upgrade from the popular 5D when I continually found myself in low-lighting situations that it couldn’t handle. Yet with the 5D Mark II you achieve incredible noise control even at high ISO settings (i.e. 3200), thus allowing you more flexibility in less than ideal lighting. For shooting stills, you’d be hard pressed to find a body that produces as clean of skin tones, colors & gradiations of tones. It’s really ideal for the photographer who’s looking to invest in a very solid prosumer body. You won’t be disappointed. And although I’m not a videographer, I would be remiss not to mention it’s video functionality as well. It boasts one of the largest video sensors on the market & has become quite the staple for filmmakers. Rumor is that one season of “House” was filmed with this bad boy. Ideal for the Advanced Amateur & Professional. Consider the Nikon D700 as a nice alternative, though not nearly as robust in my opinion.

Description (from Canon USA): Canon’s update to the wildly popular full frame EOS 5D is here, and it’s better than ever. The EOS 5D Mark II has a stunning 21.1-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor with DIGIC 4 Image Processor, a vast ISO Range of 100-6400 (expandable to ISO L: 50, H1: 12800 and H2: 25600), plus EOS technologies like Auto Lighting Optimizer and Peripheral Illumination Correction. It supports Live View shooting, Live View HD videos, and more. It can shoot up to 3.9 fps, has 9 AF points plus 6 AF assist points, a new 98% coverage viewfinder, a 3.0-inch Clear View LCD (920,000 dots/VGA) and a rugged build.

  • 21.1 Megapixel Full-Frame Sensor
  • 3.0″ High Resolution LCD Display
  • Live View Mode
  • 1080p Movie Mode
  • Dust & Weather-Resistant
  • Self Cleaning Sensor
  • Broad ISO Range (50-25600)
  • 3.9 fps Burst Mode

Canon EOS 7D

The Canon EOS 7D. I find it somewhat hard to say anything negative about this body. In it’s price class, it’s unrivaled. If you want to upgrade from a consumer level body such as the Rebel series, I’d highly recommend this as your next step. You’d save around $1000 compared to the 5D & would see a considerable difference to your entry level DSLRs. There are only two reasons why I prefer the 5D Mark II. First, the sensor is considerably smaller than the 5D, 60% smaller if I’m not mistaken (1.6x crop factor). What does that mean? The smaller the sensor, the more noise you’ll get. Second, it’s performance in low light is inferior to the 5D. And quite frankly, that’s a big deal to me. As someone who prefers using available light, I like to be able to max out the capabilities of both my bodies & my lenses. Yet, the 7D has considerable advantages over the 5D in two areas. First, the 7D has twice as fast Frames Per Second burst rate (fps), 8fps verses the 5D’s 3.9 fps, which makes it perfect for action photography… sports, racing, small children! The second advantage is in regards to video. Most videographers would prefer it as it seems more suited for such. Ideal for the Amateur, Advanced Amateur & Professional. The equivalent in the Nikon world seems to be the Nikon D300s.

Description (from Canon USA): With a host of brand new features designed to enhance every facet of the photographic process, from still images to video, the new EOS 7D represents a whole new class of camera. Made to be the tool of choice for serious photographers and semi-professionals, the EOS 7D features an all-new 18.0 Megapixel APS-C size CMOS sensor and Dual DIGIC 4 Image Processors, capturing tremendous images at up to ISO 12800 and speeds of up to 8 fps. The EOS 7D has a new all cross-type 19-point AF system with improved AI Servo II AF subject tracking and user-selectable AF area selection modes for sharp focus no matter the situation.

  • 18.0 Megapixels
  • 3.0″ LCD
  • HD Video Recording
  • Selectable Video Exposure + Frame Rates
  • Dust & Weather Resistant
  • 100% Viewfinder
  • Self Cleaning Sensor
  • High Sensitivity (ISO 12800)
  • 8fps Burst Mode

Canon EOS 60D

I’ve yet to have the opportunity to test drive this new body but based upon the specs I can confidently say that it’s an impressive tool. When I’m able to test it, I’ll update this section. Ideal for the Beginner & Amateur. Check out the Nikon D7000 as an alternative.

Description (from Canon USA): With the new EOS 60D DSLR, Canon gives the photo enthusiast a powerful tool fostering creativity, with better image quality, more advanced features and automatic and in-camera technologies for ease-of-use. It features an improved APS-C sized 18.0 Megapixel CMOS sensor for tremendous images, a new DIGIC 4 Image Processor for finer detail and excellent color reproduction, and improved ISO capabilities from 100 – 6400 (expandable to 12800) for uncompromised shooting even in the dimmest situations. The new Multi-control Dial enables users to conveniently operate menus and enter settings with a simple touch. The EOS 60D also features an EOS first: A Vari-angle 3.0-inch Clear View LCD (1,040,000 dots) monitor for easy low- or high-angle viewing. An improved viewfinder, a number of new in-camera creative options and filters, plus HDMI output for viewing images on an HDTV all make the EOS 60D invaluable for the evolving photographer.

  • 18MP APS-C CMOS Sensor
  • 1920 x 1080 HD Video Capture
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC Memory Card Slot
  • Vari-Angle Clear View 3.0″ Flip-Out LCD
  • DIGIC 4 Image Processor
  • 5.3 fps Continuous Shooting
  • Works with all Canon EF and EF-S Lenses
  • ISO 6400 – Expandable to 12800
  • HDMI Output to HDTV
  • In-Camera Editing Options

Canon Rebel T2i

The Rebel series will always be a bit sentimental for me; it’s where I got my start. I talked Joy into letting me spend some of our savings on my first DSLR & we bought a digital Rebel. I probably only used it for a little over a year but I guarantee you I recorded tens of thousands of images; it was a workhorse. For the entry-level DSLR photographer, these bodies are simply hard to beat. Although missing many of the features that a prosumer camera would possess, they are quite impressive. The price tag on a Rebel appeals to a much larger audience & seems ideal for most people’s starting point. For the shopper in the <$700 range, it’s the right choice. If you can spend $700 more, the 7D is definitely worth the extra bling! Ideal for the Beginner & Amateur. The Nikon D90 seems to boast similar specs.

Description (from Canon USA): The new flagship of the EOS Rebel line, Canon EOS Rebel T2i brings professional EOS features into an easy to use, lightweight digital SLR that’s a joy to use. Featuring a class-leading 18.0 Megapixel CMOS Image Sensor and increased light sensitivity for low light photography, the EOS Rebel T2i also has an advanced HD Movie mode for gorgeous Full HD movies. Able to capture up to 3.7 frames per second, it’s ready to go the minute it’s picked up. Advanced Live View, a new wide-area screen, plus features like Canon’s brilliant Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone features ensure brilliant photos and movies, easily.

  • 18.0 MP CMOS (APS-C) Sensor
  • Full HD 1080p Video
  • Advanced Live View
  • 3.0″ 1.04 Million Dot Clear View LCD
  • Up to 3.7 fps RAW, JPEG, or RAW+JPEG
  • ISO 100-6400, Expandable to 12800
  • 63-Zone Metering / 9-Point AF System
  • Compatible with SD, SDHC, and SDXC
  • Eye-Fi Menu Status Indicator Support

As you can see there are several great options for different user levels. Canon has done a pretty good job of meeting the needs of beginners, amateurs, advanced amateurs & professionals. There isn’t a body mentioned above that won’t capture fantastic images given the user’s ability to control the settings, properly compose a subject & shoot. You can’t underestimate the value of knowing your camera inside & out. And although camera bodies are a necessity, I find there’s an even better investment that will more rapidly advance your abilities as a photographer… the lens! Lenses have the ability to make good camera bodies look great. In my next gear guide it seems appropriate that I discuss my favorite lenses as well as my recommendations for alternatives at various price points. Until then, let me know how I can expand on these guides to better help you. I hope you enjoy!