This blog includes photography mostly done around Vancouver Island and Victoria BC, with Olympus cameras and lenses. While images deemed printable make it to the galleries, the blog updates may also show just curious every day's shots.
Let's start with the very last November image and then move to all the illumination and Christmas shots. There are Butchart Gardens (of course!), downtown and Sidney images, almost all of them are of a night variety. The only exception are a few Christmas Day daytime shots in Sidney which I inserted to give you a little break from the holiday lights. Happy New Year!
November, as expected, yielded deep autumn colors, fallen leaves and some close encounters with peacocks. Let's go over this fall's crop. As none of the images requires any comments, I'll just leave them for you to scroll through.
Photographers love accessories. Countless gadgets and gizmos, looking cool, pleasure to fiddle with. Some opening new ways to use our cameras and take different kind of shots; some making it easier to do what we do, and finally some promising all that but never delivering, eventually being relegated to the bin of maybes - as in "Maybe some day I'll find use for it." Rest assured that day will never come. Rest equally assured that won't stop any of us from purchasing yet another one, in hope it will fall in one of first two categories.
One of such accessories is all kinds of camera support. Aside of traditional tripods and bean bags, there are table tripods, mini-supports and creative solutions for non-standard outdoor situations. One of the newest offerings in this field caught my attention with its promise. It's a hybrid of a table tripod and Gorillapod, combining the compactness of the former and universality of the latter. With table tripods generally being not very sturdy and Gorillapods being not too compact, the promise of Miggo's latest product Splat looks, well, promising. According to the website description, it's small; it's light; it's sturdy; it allows almost infinite number of positions, wrapping around tree branches, hanging from the nail in the wall and staying on camera without adding much bulk. There are three versions offered: for Go-Pro cameras, for Point-and-Shoots and smaller mirrorless, and for DSLR. First two being priced at $19.99 didn't look right for me. My Olympus OMD EM-1 with grip and several 4/3 lenses is not the smallest combo, so I looked at the DSLR version. At $24.99, it was difficult to resist the urge. So, does it deliver?
The package in which it arrived looked just right. Functional, attractive yet unpretentious, easy to open without scissors (unlike a clamshell atrocity), yet reliably protecting the goods.
Taking it out of the packaging and bending its legs (flexible stainless steel and silicon, according to Miggo's website), I threw it in my light box to take a few shots for you. Legs feel sturdy, easy to bend yet giving reassuring sense of being capable to hold under the load.
As seen here, it takes the camera about 4 inches above the surface. Manipulating the legs, you can get about 5 inches. Brass 1/4 screw is a standard fit to your camera tripod connection:
On the opposite side there is a locking ring, convenient to operate with your fingers:
Looking at the feet, there are multiple non-slip dots
and en eyelet on one of the feet, intended to hang your camera on the nail in the wall:
That about exhausts overview of the Splat's external features, although I probably shouldn't have failed to mention pretty blue color. From here I moved on to test its functionality. I have started with easy stuff:
Sure enough, being rated to hold 2.6 lb (1200 g), Splat hasn't even noticed Yongnuo 560II' 350 g. The only thing I wanted to check here was the stability of the whole combo with the flash head directed forward at 90 degrees. No problem there at all.
Now, let's move to a bit more involved stuff. E-M1 with HLD-7 battery grip, both batteries in and 12-40/2.8 in front of it weighs 1165 g - that's just under claimed 1200 g (and probably right up there with wrist strap), and in my experience those claims are often a tad exaggerated. In practice, those exaggerations mean that as you approach the weight your support gizmo claims as max load, it may still hold but you need to be extra-careful with its position, angle, type of the surface etc. Slight deviation from optimal can lead to noticeable creep in the best case and send your camera down crashing in the worst. So, this test was to determine whether Splat is one of those accessories that formally match the specifications but require you to lower your expectations in real life situations, or it's truly useful within the parameters the manufacturer claims.
Putting the combo on a tripod, I opted for the crash-forgiving airbed (you will notice the slight give under the Splat's legs), set it on the surface and probed its stability by pushing it in all directions with my hand. Not only did the legs hold firmly under camera's weight with no slightest tendency to creep down, the tripod also held very nicely against the side push - it returned to the vertical position unless I simply overturned it.
At this point I was ready to pronounce the Splat a smashing success and gather enough bravery to move outside and the the hard surface - not that it added much to the test above but the weather was nice and you may get tired of the sterile studio photos:
Just as sturdy and stable. No surprise there though, I wouldn't expect fresh air to influence Splat's performance. My next thought was to put a flash on top of the combo, but it felt like a pointless exercise. When I pushed the camera down with my hand applying force that obviously exceeded the weight of the flash, tripod held with reassuring firmness, without slightest feeling of being close to its maximum capability. So I changed my mind and decided to go for broke.
If I put my Zuiko 50-200 with tripod collar, EC-14 teleconverter and MMF-3 adapter on my E-M1 with battery grip, I am at 2065g! With that wrist strap, ~2100g - that'll show this little thing who is da boss.
If you are inclined to check my numbers, here they are broken down by weight in grams:
E-M1 with battery - 497 g
HLD-7 with battery - 286 g
MMF-3 - 42 g
EC-14 - 170 g
50-200 with tripod collar - 1070 g
Here is what happened: nothing. The thing held its own as if I haven't exceeded its max load almost by factor 2!
This angle shows the whole contraption with both the teleconverter and adapter a bit better:
That's 4.63 lb load vs. 2.6 max per specifications. Impressive overdelivering. Have I remembered to put my flash on top of this combo? You bet. You can guess what happened - that additional 350 g changed nothing. The thing held.
On this pleasant note, I moved outside again to test the practicality of the advertised ability to hold the camera in "countless positions." Tree branch was of course first thing to try, and Splat worked as promised:
Do make sure to wrap those legs tightly and test the stability with your hand by trying to rotate the combo around the branch before letting go.
The car door was the next thing that came to my mind. No problem there:
Before taking the Splat out for a walk, I tried to wrap it around the camera and see how that works as a carrying/protective position. Looks somewhat odd but again, works as advertised. Here is the view from the side-bottom:
With all the testing in and around the house, this review would be incomplete if I hadn't taken the Splat for a field trip. Oceanside seemed appropriate for the occasion. First case has been pretty straightforward, as putting a camera at the rock requires very little creativity. Nonetheless, setting the Splat on the surface and leveling the camera by manipulating the legs was quick and easy.
You'll have to forgive the quality as my tablet is not exactly the grand low-light shooter.
Here it is a bit closer:
Here I had to get a bit more creative. It takes some try and error to find the way to stabilize the contraption on the round bar. Using the vertical pole as a support for the front leg solved the problem. I'd suggest to use some kind of insurance when you do it first time - neck strap for instance - to guarantee the safety of your equipment.
In this case I used the back of the bench. You really can adjust this thing in a myriad ways.
Finally, one more way to use it that I came up with on the go: thanks to thin profile of the tripod legs you can put it in a delicate setting without harming anything. Here you can see it in the middle of the flowerbed, flowers undisturbed.
CONCLUSION: Splat delivers on all its promises, and massively overdelivers on one, namely on its max load. Being light (111 g) and small, it's easy to throw it in your bag and have it ready for the appropriate conditions. Will it replace your conventional tripod? In some cases, sure. It's easy also to think of situations where your traditional tripod can do a job which Splat can't, so let's think of it as an addition to the tripod rather than replacement. All in, all, it takes permanent place in my bag.
It's rather autumn reds and yellows, as you can imagine, but let's pretend that we are sad about summer end - even though the fall season is a true photographer's paradise. With that in mind, let's try and prove the case.
Butchart Gardens - no fall-themed post can be done without it
Beacon Hill is close second. This is newest addition, Moss Lady
Pumpkin Patch in Central Saaninch
Back to Beacon Hill Park
Japanese Garden, last of fall colors
That's it for now, but the next month post will probably have some more of the fall colors.
Let's start with flamingo, for no other reason that they are cute
Little E, ready for take-off
My favorite backyard guest
They are plotting something, don't they?
Life is a beach
Aesthetics above all
Sidney gathered to watch Blood Moon eclipse
It appeared but haze made the show quite weak.
Well, rainbows go with island rains like cigar with whisky
Our daily view
Some night photography for the end of the post
Let's start with a cat, for no other reason than I like them
Elk Lake sunset
Perseids Meteor shower.
Breakwater. Brother and sister paddle-boarding by the cruise ships
Butchart Gardens fireworks
Chinese Dragon Fountain
Sidney Car Extravanganza
... and some spectators.
We started with a cat, let's finish with one too
July turned out very productive. A lot of images, difficult to chose. So, without further ado and with as few words as possible.
My favorite breakwater
And of course Sidney
See the Bald Eagle enjoying sunset view?
Now, that was an adventure - went up above the Town of Sidney in a bucket truck, to photograph the view from high vantage point for the promotional brochure:
Yup, that's my truck far down. I also had to learn how to control it since the panel is right up there in this same bucket, fitting just one person.
Back on Earth and to the breakwater
Street scene in Sidney. Pretty girl and bikes - all the components for a good photo, right?
Beach without music? Not in Victoria.
Two ships. Look closer to find second one
Epic sky over Sidney
Waiting for fireworks...
...and fireworks themselves
Not only is this going to be our usual monthly crop of the photos, it's also a whole different view of the world - through the eye of fish. Or, to put it better, using new toy, a fisheye lens, Samyang 7.5 mm (as if you care about such details).
It presented a dazzling array of new opportunities in my most favorite town of all, Sidney by the Sea:
opened new eyes on the Butchart Gardens:
worked fine to showcase Marigold Nursery, our go-to place for everything that grows:
showed itself as a great forest/lake lens during Elk Lake walk:
gave a few splendid views in Beacon Hill Park:
and finally demonstrated its formidable abilities as an architecture lens around Royal British Columbia Museum:
Now that you had your fill of fisheye images, probably more than you ever wanted in a single blog post, I promise to mix it up in the following posts with more conventional views. Consider this one an outburst of excitement about a new toy.
As April showers promised, May flowers arrived right on cue
Oak Bay marine
Willows Beach. Heavy construction
Sidney never ceases to amaze. You sit on the beach enjoying quiet evening, and then this happens. Two killer whales swimming by, so close to the shore that if any beach goers took a swim they would be right in their way
As orca swam right under the pier, even cormorant and seagull looked on in awe.
Butchart Gardens. Laburnum exlosion
Stairway to heaven
Bench that beckons
Blue poppies arrived
Pansies - smile-inducing flowers
A few images from my photoshoot with Centrepointe Ballet School:
Let's finish with serene sunset at the Sidney shore
April means... you guessed it, tulips first of all. Tulips in Sidney,
tulips in The Butchart Gardens
and cherry blooms downtown.
Meanwhile, inhabitants of the jungle a.k.a. Victoria Butterfly Garden live their own life
and live it to its fullest:
Thought those were all tulips you were going to see? Think again
Hummingbirds got really active this year for some reason. Sugar we buy for them starts making a dent in the budget. They pay me back by being good models
Finnerty garden as always has rhododendrons in droves
as well as some other flowers
and some creatures loving their life:
Our Sidney friend. Must be the kindest large dog I've ever seen.
Cattle point moved right to the summer
Let's finish with hummingbirds again. This little guy helped me to grill some meat
and these came for a night cup.
Well, this being Victoria our flurries consist of petals mostly. Let's begin with some crocuses
...and make sharp turn to birdies (the name's Shadow)
...only to switch to insects
...but get back to birdies quickly.
Looks like someone's getting a lecture
Elk Lake, doggies heaven
Petals, as I promised. Soon to be a flurry
Sidney shore, charming as always
with fine dining options. This seagull got an octopus for dinner
while this Heron is still studying the menu, while enjoying seat with a view.
One carefree duck
Wow, that's a lot of birds in this post... Downy woodpecker
Been a while since last crocuses, hasn't it
or cherry blooms
not even speaking of magnolias
or moss explosion
Boar-scarer, always reminds me a fight scene from Kill Bill, Folks from Butchart gardens said this on my Facebook page: "This is called shishi-odoshi (鹿威し) which literally translates as "deer-scarer..." but indeed it is used to scarе wild boar and other animals in Japan. We've never heard it called a deer-scarer in English - always boar-scarer.
Petals! One of the less visited corners of The Butchart Gardens. Red petals fall off at the top of the stream which carries them through the entire Japanese garden. Design of a genius
Let's finish with these two cute messy eaters having a dinner right behind my patio door. Taken with vintage manual lens, through the glass.
My East Coast and prairies friends will have to forgive me for the humorist title. Yes, February in Victoria IS cruel - to the RoC (Rest of Canada). Judge for yourself.
Let's start with forest, shall we? Centennial Park in Central Saanich
Tod Inlet. Blooming moss
Crocus time in Victoria. Started at least couple weeks earlier than usual this year
Sidney shore. Mt. Baker framed by posts...
This Great Blue Heron enjoyed sunset view along the Dallas Rd., not far from the breakwater.
By now, that Heron was ready to sue me for harassment, so I switched to humans. They enjoyed sunset too.
Yeah, this blooms too. Micro-iris of some kind?
Butchart Gardens, Japanese section
Fisgard Lighthouse. Somewhat different view from traditional
And, of course some of my favorite inhabitants of the Butterfly Gardens. Little E,
Well, no so blah - January in Victoria is not exactly your typical "dead of the winter" view. Let's start with downtown, to illustrate the point.
This is part of the collection of hand-themed sculptures scattered through the downtown. This one is right on the causeway. Locals will recognize with ease the reflection of Coho ferry in the mirror
Causeway in the night
Nice January day on the breakwater...
...and the spectacle of a seal dining on his fresh catch - Giant Pacific Octopus
Beacon Hill Park never disappoints - peacock supervising ducks.
Amazing sunset at the Dallas Rd.
Then there was a storm. And after the storm, sun peaked out
Meanwhile, in the Butchart Gardens...
Time for some birds photos, especially since there is no lack of those here. This seagull is dining as well - got a crab for a snack today.
That's no seagull:
Downy Woodpecker, came to dinner to our feeder:
Not sure whether it's the same guy, but he was posing diligently, right at the Sidney Pier entrance.
Since we are in Sidney, this sunset happened right there.
And so did this moon
and this duck, put together from driftwood by some creative soul:
My favorite pier after the rain:
Grilling is inalienable part of winter living in Victoria
Aquarium (Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre)
One more Sidney sunset, and we are done with January. Not that February promises to be any easier, mind you.
December, as always, provides a lot of opportunities to shoot holiday lights, so large part of this collection will be about those. There are a few more themes to this month though, so you won't get tired of the festive illumination alone.
Let's start with some birds:
Empress Hotel built a skating rink this year. Here is daylight shot of it, night time ones will follow
Now, some illumination in Sidney
Star trail over Christmas tree
Downtown lights. Promised skating rink in the night:
December post can't omit Butchart Gardens and their stunning display. There are no iconic shots of Sunken gardens etc, but they are pretty much the same from year to year, so I tried to get some other views and angles.
These are a few shots from the Lochside drive, just south of Sidney, our usual walking route
Even inhabitants of the Butterfly Gardens enjoy festive lights:
Now somewhat different views, so your eyes get some rest from all the lights. Fort Rodd Hill:
Swans at the Esquimalt Lagoon:
Got some rest? Back to festivities. Holiday store windows in Sidney:
Enough of winter views. Spring is coming. In Sidney...
...and downtown. Yes, first cherry blooms!
That was rather large post but it was rather eventful month!
Magical autumn light is always generous to photographers. A few cold clear nights offered some new opportunities, but we will get to it at the end of this post. For now, more traditional fall images.
These guys enjoy the fall too
...and cross the road in a very disciplined fashion:
That's a whole lot of leaves to clean!
Walk along the Ross Bay during nice sunset yielded this series, ending at the Clover Point:
Beacon Hill Park as always offers a lot of opportunities. Let's start with these willing models, as they climb the branches of a giant sequoia:
Magic of last sun rays:
My favorite bridge
... and a peacock from the previous post, reaching the end of his runway and walking around me as I rudely block his path with my intrusive camera. I swear he murmured something like "darn paparazzi..."
Finally, about those clear cold nights. They bring bright stars, and I got to do what I always wanted to try: star trails. My first three shots at it (pardon the pun), two from Sidney and one from downtown, with majestic Empress Hotel: