Maryland Renaissance Festival 9-2-13

We visited Revel Grove again today, this time with our friend Lynn in tow. Since Lynn is not going to be heading out the Festival as often as we are this year, we did pack in a lot of activity -- I think we caught six or seven performances this day! Our feet are tired, and our muscles sore, but a splendid time was had by all. We also ran into one of our favorite former baristas from our favorite local coffee shop.

We also paid another visit to R.E. Piland Goldsmiths, a fine jeweler who has had a shop at the Festival for as long as I can remember, with an eye to finally get our permanent wedding bands. I think we've just about made up our minds which ones we want. All I'll say for now is that the rings are from their Silver Celtic Wedding Bands collection. There will be pictures once we get the new rings sometime in the next few weeks. We will be looking into getting Donna's diamond reset as well.

Due to other commitments, we won't be back at the Festival until the weekend of September 21.

On a "photo-geek" note, I took all the pictures yesterday and today with the old Maxxum 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5 lens. I'm pretty sure I'll be sticking with the Minolta (and Sigma) lenses when I use the SLR through the rest of the Festival run. As old as the Maxxum lenses are, they're sharper and faster than the more convenient Tamron 18-270mm all-in-one lens. Furthermore, I really prefer the way these old lenses render colors -- I spend far less time "fixing" in post processing, and can concentrate more on "creating" instead.

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Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6D EX DC HSM First Impressions

After a bit of an ordering fiasco last week, Donna and I headed up to Manhattan on Sunday to pick up my new Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6D EX DC HSM from B&H. We had a great time wandering around the city taking in the sights and taking plenty of pictures. It was a great time. It was also the first time I spent a day using the new Tenba Large Messenger bag and not being able to drop it off in the car if it got too heavy. While I traveled "lite", I still carried a camera body and three lenses, as well as extra batteries, filters and memory cards. After being on the ground for about five hours solid, I'm happy to report that with the exception of my feet, I was comfortable the whole time.

Getting back to the new lens ... I had originally planned to buy the Tamron SP AF10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di II, but after some additional research, I found that the Sigma was a significantly sharper lens in lab tests. Now, I know that lab tests don't always equate to real-world results, but the differences in the tests were significant enough to get my attention. With the prices being similar, I decided to go ahead and get the Sigma.

I was certainly not disappointed in my choice. Build quality is excellent. The lens feels solid and decidedly non-plasticy. It is amazingly sharp throughout its zoom range, especially when stopped down to f/8 or f/11. I'd say it's almost on par with good quality primes of similar focal length, and also with lenses costing much, much more. Color and contrast are excellent, and chromatic aberration is nearly non-existent. Of course, at the widest zoom settings, there's a fair amount of barrel distortion, but that's to be expected with a lens this wide. That distortion wrought havoc with the Sony SLT-A35's auto-panorama mode.

Below is a sampling of pictures I took while we were doing the "tourist thing." I used the new Sigma lens exclusively, and the images are straight from the camera, with the exception of resizing and watermarking. Some of the images are in-camera HDRs.

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18-270 PZD at Piney Run

We spent a great afternoon wandering around Piney Run Park, and I used the time to test out the new Tamron 18-270mm PZD lens. Here are a few pictures I took.

We had never visited Piney Run before, and I've got to say, it's a really nice park -- better than anything Howard County has to offer. There's a nice sized lake with two launching ramps which seems to get a pretty constant breeze down it's length (good for sailing), and there are several excellent trails, a nature center (we didn't go in), a bunch of nice picnic areas, and a little ampitheatre. Nice park. We'll be certainly be going back.

While I did manage to make a few good photographs, I have to say that I am not as enamored with the new version of the lens as I had hoped I would be. Don't get me wrong -- it's not bad. But I don't know that it's really any sharper than the original, it doesn't focus significantly faster, and it's just as mediocre in low light. Still, it's a great walk-around lens.

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New Additions - First Impressions

All the new goodies arrived today, and I immediately popped open the box containing the new Tamron 18-270 PZD. One thing that really surprised me was the difference in size between this lens and the older version. I don't know if the difference is because the Sony version lacks the vibration reduction, or if the newer lens overall is just smaller.

I've only taken a small number of test shots, but so far, the sharpness seems to be a little better than the older version and achieving focus is considerably faster. The zoom is not as smooth as the older model, but if it's like the other Tamrons I've owned, it will probably smooth out after a couple days of use.

I also very quickly attached the BlackRapid RS-7 strap. Having the strap attach to the bottom of the camera is really just the right place to do it. One of my big, big gripes about traditional straps is that they're forever ending up between my eye and the viewfinder, especially when I'm shooting a vertical. With the BlackRapid, that just plain can't happen. Nice. And, it almost feels as if the camera is not there.

I'll be loading up most all of the kit and caboodle over the next couple of days to see how it all works together. I am thinking that I'll be adding a couple more items to my new "must have" list -- I'd like a light-weight convertible tripod/monopod, for instance. But, look for some more comments over the next few days.

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