13 March

Get Dirty at Down to Earth Week, March 14-19

As you all know, part of what we’re trying to do differently here at oopoomoo is run a business without running the planet into the ground. Despite a lot of doom and gloom on the internet, there are quite a few groups out there doing great work and proving that being sustainable doesn’t mean being poor in any sense of that term. From time to time, we’ll be talking more about that on the blog and hoping to hear your thoughts, too. While there may not be any easy answers, there can be guiding principles that create a framework for all of us to move forward in positive directions.

Boy with spider on his shoulder

© Darwin Wiggett

What are some of the things that we’ve done? It’s been gradual, so far (much as we’d like to capture the powerful sunlight our house is bathed in almost every day, we haven’t put up solar panels yet). But incremental changes start to sum up to a lot. You may have noticed the leaping frog in the blog sidebar — that’s the logo for Bullfrog Power, a company that allows consumers a chance to ‘green’ their energy consumption. The way it works is, for the amount of electricity and/or natural gas that you use, Bullfrog Power will inject into the energy grid an equivalent amount of energy from renewable sources. You pay an additional monthly fee for this, and the amount depends on useage. For us to green oopoomoo HQ (our home) costs around $30 per month. Since we are already pretty conscientious energy users, this doesn’t significantly add to our utility bill. In other words, it’s a pretty cheap way to brag about how oopoomoo aims toward sustainability. No matter which way you slice it, we’re going to have to get creative with our energy sources and useage, so it’s important to support technologies that are taking steps in that direction. If you want to read a thoughtful book that dispels the rumours that renewable resources are too small of scale or too expensive, check out Calgary’s own Chris Turner’s book, The Leap: How to Survive and Thrive in the Sustainable Economy.

Wind turbine near Pincher Creek

© Samantha Chrysanthou

Another step we’ve taken is to try to learn more about how to run a sustainable business and live a sustainable lifestyle by joining other like-minded groups. REAP (Respect for the Earth and All People) is one such non-profit based in Calgary that we’ve recently joined. A collective of businesses that are profitable in the ‘now’ while keeping an eye on a sustainable future, REAP members are locally owned and contribute more to their economies than your average chain store. We have to be honest here…one of the coolest things about REAP is that it connects people to great businesses such as those related to food! Restaurants, farms, grocery stores…you name it! And this week, REAP is hosting its Down to Earth Week with events across Calgary relating to living the good local and sustainable life. Darwin and I will be at Boxwood restaurant tomorrow to sample delicious wine from Birds & Bees Organic Wine Farm and Meadery and hors d’oeuvres prepared by Boxwood chef Andy Love and sourced from Top of the Mountain Beef and Greens, Eggs and Ham. Yum! As we nibble our goodies, we’ll hear the inspiring stories behind these producers and how, by choosing local and sustainable farms, Calgary restaurants like Boxwood and River Cafe are making a difference.

Red tomato

© Samantha Chrysanthou

We’ll also be volunteering at the REAP table from 1-4pm on Sunday, March 18 at “Naturally – Mother Nature’s Trade Fair“. The trade fair is free-admission and family-friendly, so come learn more and make sure you stop by and say hi! There’s lots more events, including a screening of the award-winning film, “And This Is My Garden”, so do check out Down to Earth week March 14-19 if you are in the Calgary area, and pass along the opportunity to friends and neighbours who may be interested. Even if you’re not in this area, post a comment about what your community is doing to build resilient, healthy communities!

Round Leafed Orchid, Kootenay Plains, Alberta, Canada

© Darwin Wiggett

Speaking of healthy, resilient communities, tomorrow evening (March 14, 6pm) the Town of Cochrane is having an informational meeting on the question of bringing transit to town. This issue has caused quite a stir with some prominent town folk being quite vocal in their refusal of any form of transit. Transit was a key part of Cochrane’s Sustainability Plan that was derived from public survey, so this is an important question to this community. Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of misinformation put out by a small but organized group of naysayers. Whether you think transit is right for Cochrane or not, this is a great opportunity to hear the facts. So we encourage Cochranites (and Calgarians who work in Cochrane) to come to this meeting to hear and be heard. This is what democracy is about!

Whew, what an exciting week!

Children walking away down a road

© Darwin Wiggett

7 March

Seven Advantages of Using Tilt-Shift Lenses

Below are seven reasons why we like to use tilt-shift lenses for nature and outdoor photography. If you want to learn exactly how to use a tilt-shift lens, be sure to come to check out our new eBook The Tilt-Shift Lens Advantage for Outdoor and Nature Photographers.

Reason 1: Center and Edge Sharpness is Incredible.

A tilt-shift lens projects a very large image circle compared to a regular lens (see photos below). The closer to the edges of the image circle, the less sharp the projected image. Any part of the sensor that captures pixels near the edge of the image circle will be softer than pixels captured from the centre of the image circle. When set to the ‘zero’ shift position, a tilt-shift lens projects a giant image circle so that even the edges and corners of the sensor are capturing the sweet spot of the image circle.

When you compare the edge sharpness of tilt-shift lenses with regular lenses of the same focal length, the regular lenses fall short. For us this sharpness advantage is huge! We love having files with corner-to-corner sharpness.

Corner sharpness of a regular 24mm lens at f8

Corner sharpness of a 24mm tilt-shift lens

Reason 2: Horizontal and Vertical Panoramas Are Easy

With a tilt-shift lens, panorama photography is super easy. For a horizontal pan, mount your camera in landscape mode on a tripod and make three images: one with the lens in center position, one with the lens shifted to the right and then one with the lens shifted to the left. All three images will overlap perfectly and merge seamlessly in software. For vertical panoramas, the camera is in portrait orientation and the lens is shifted up and down vertically. Small sensor cameras give 3:1 ratio panorama images while full-frame cameras come in at about a 2.42:1 ratio. We cover some of the finer points in making panos from tilt-shift lens in our talk including exposure and software concerns.

Some sample vertical panoramas

Reason 3: Shift for Megapixel Images

Wanna make giant megapixels images with your camera? Well then just shift the lens in the opposing orientation to your camera to make megapixel rectangular images. For example, if your camera is in landscape orientation but you shift your lens up and down, you’ll get a big rectangular image that will increase your megapixel count by almost 100% (more with small sensor cameras). Shifting with a wide angle tilt-shift lens will also give you the coverage of an extreme wide angle lens but without the extreme distortion. For example, in the photo below using a full frame body and a 17mm lens, I increased the pixel count by 92% and the coverage of 17mm has increased to something in the 10-12mm range on a full frame camera!

Megapixel, mega-wide captures!

Reason 4: Shift for Perspective Control

Any time you point a wide angle lens up or down, things will start to distort; building and trees will look like they are falling over. With the shift function, perspective control is super easy if you know how to do it!

No perspective control

Perspective control using shift

Reason 5: Tilt for Miniaturization

We see this one a lot. It seems most photographers think tilt is only for making things miniature-looking. You can use it for that but tilt is really about altering the plane of focus to where you want it in the photo. The miniature effect happens when the tilt is opposite of the subject plane.

Miniature effect using tilt

Reason 6: Tilt for Infinite Looking Focus

Sam and I love tilt best for matching the plane-of-focus to the subject plane so that we have photos that are super sharp from foreground to background. Tilt allows us to control the plane of focus independent of aperture. Tilt for plane of focus is the most useful feature of these lenses but it can be super tricky! We’ll be discussing at our talk the Most Common Mistakes photographers do when tilting for focus (are you guilty of it?)

Both photos were taken with a 45mm tilt-shift lens at f2.8; the left without tilt, the right with tilt into the plane of focus (notice how sharp the entire subject plane becomes once the lens is tilted so focus matches the subject plane)

Reason 7 – Tilt and Shift Together for the Ultimate in Image Control

In nature photography when we use tilt-shift lenses, we are almost always using the tilt and the shift together. We might use shift for perspective control while tilt is for control of the plane of focus. Or maybe we are using tilt for focus but shift to make a panorama. The combinations and benefits are truly astounding! These lenses, while offering incredible creative opportunities, may not be for everyone. If you own a tilt-shift lens but haven’t been satisfied with results, or if you are thinking of purchasing one (they’re not cheap!), then come out on March 10th. If you have a tilt-shift, bring it along (if you don’t, no need to fret as we’ll have ours there). We plan to release a new eBook on these lenses in May, but we find there is nothing like a hands-on, guided discussion for fast and easy learning!

Tilt and Shift together