Over the last year or two, I’ve become interested in vintage lenses, and have accumulated a small horde of them. Particularly, old Minolta mount lenses from on average 50 years ago. In particular, there were a couple that I really hadn’t used since purchasing them – not even sure if they were from a garage sale or a pawn shop, but they looked neat, so I picked them up.
I decided to take our girls on a trip to the zoo, and concluded that it might also be a good time to test out a couple lenses.
One is a Minolta 50mm f/2.8 – an all-metal tank with very few bells and whistles. Simply a pedestrian workhorse yearning for a new life on the end of my Nikon DSLR. The other lens I chose was an off-brand, and Image 80-200mm f/4.5. Another curiosity, this ancient piece of glass had some quirks, such as skipping f/5.6 altogether, and a pull over metal shade.
The testing grounds returned some interesting results. I shot both stills and video through a Nikon D7000, and was pleased with what I gathered. The zoom lens was far more sharp than I had anticipated, but also revealed amazing depth of field with creamy, blurry backgrounds. Even in low light, this lens performed fantastically. No real noticeable noise at all, and vibrant colours – especially on a chameleon hanging out on a branch.
Switching out the prime lens, I was happy with the speed of this old clunker. Again, tack sharp and impressive colour from what I had assumed to be garbage glass. I kept this lens wide open at f/2.8 for the majority of my shooting that day, and was not disappointed.
The only real drawback is that these are manual lenses, so it does require some practice to get used to not simply punching a button (for all you back button focus lovers). However, this is also adds to the beauty and appeal of these old lenses. The nostalgia feel is what these babies are all about; the challenge to create with seeming limitations. We’re artists, after all, and sometimes introducing a confine is what can break us out of a creative slump.
Another great advantage of shooting with old manual glass is that you can test out a lens in general. If you’re interested in a 50mm prime, for example, but don’t want to spend the big bucks on a new brand name model, spending a day with a cheapo version might aid in your decision. I have an old Nikkor 200mm f/2.8 that I purchased just for that reason – would a new lens with those qualities be worth it/ Why not test out an older version for under $100 to find out! With the Minolta mount lenses, I picked up an MD-NIK converter – basically a piece of plastic with some glass inside to “convert” the old lens into a Nikon one. These start anywhere from $15, with the sky being the limit, if you want to purchase an autofocus compatible version.
Even if you should come across a lens that simply will not mount to your camera body, there’s always free-lensing. Or, isn’t he cases of an old camera that came with the purchase of a few lenses, you can take it apart and show your kids how a camera works. I’ve done this, and also took the opportunity to grab some macro images of the pieces, saving interesting parts for future art projects.
We’ve likely all received the call, someone claiming to be from the Canadian Revenue Agency saying that you’ve neglected to pay your taxes. I’ve posted a YouTube video about my experiences over the summer with these scammers, but really wanted to talk with one and see how profitable the scam really is.
Today, I had my chance.
A little background on how the scam works, a caller (usually recorded) claims you’ve skipped paying your taxes, and you need to call them back. After some aggressive tactics, including verification of personal information, they inevitably offer a solution to paying immediately before (as they claim) officers will come to take you off to jail (spoiler alert: they won’t). Eventually, they offer the solution of purchasing prepaid cards, usually iTunes gift cards, warning not to purchase the full amount at one retailer as to avoid suspicion.
Once you have the cards and reveal the pin numbers – you can guess what happens next. Yup, they clean out the cards and you’re left with a depleted account.
I’ve known people that nearly get sucked in by these scams, fearing that they are real. Usually, the scammers will prey upon new Canadians or the elderly. If scammed, victims are likely to be too embarrassed to report the crime, and it’s nearly impossible to track down the scammers as they use untraceable cell phones. Sometimes they will even mimic a seemingly local phone number to hopefully dupe people.
Today, I had a brief chat with one of the scammers. Now, how accurate the information is that they provided is questionable, but if there is a grain of truth to their proposed numbers, it is sad indeed.
For full disclosure, I revealed to the caller that I knew about the scam, and just wanted more information on if they actually make money off their victims. I asked the lady claiming to be from the CRA how many people she talked to today. Her claim was over 200 calls. Of that number, about 10 per cent of people were successfully victimized. From prior calls I received, the ask was anywhere from $2500-$4500, so if one in 10 people get scammed, the business is quite lucrative. That 10 per cent number seems high to me, but even a one per cent success rate is a very good pay day for the criminals.
I also inquired how much money they usually make in a day, and Ms. Anonymous CRA Caller quoted me $10,000 each day. Now, this could be sheer bragging and an inflated number, but considering how persistent these callers are, it wouldn’t be that far of a stretch. Our call was unfortunately cut short as the fake agent disconnected the line. I also tried calling back, and after explaining to another “agent” that I had a couple more questions, the line mysteriously was disconnected again. Further attempts suggest that my number has been blocked - I suppose they don’t like to be bothered by unknown callers…
The CRA does not call or email people in the methods described. If there is an actual discrepancy with what you paid or owe, they will use legal means (such as an official letter). Even the emails these scammers send will seem legit (using logos and letterhead), but the CRA will not request personal information like the scammers do.
If you have shared banking information with a suspected scammer, contact your bank immediately to place an alert on your account. There are resources available that can help, including your local RCMP detachment.
I used to shoot quite a few hockey games. Like, a LOT of hockey games. So many, that I burned out the autofocus motor in a Sigma lens one season. There were quite a few occasions where I'd cover three games in one night, catching the initial minutes of the first period in one town, driving to the next for 10-15 minutes of the second period, then catching the final moments of the game in Town Number Three. As many of you know, I used to be a media guy, and at one product I worked for as editor, we busted our butts to cover a huge area (and we did it well, quite proud of our work there!).
Anyway, this season, I am proud to announce that I'm the official team photographer for the Brooks Bandits. Now, I won't be at every home game, but will endeavor to hit as many as possible - keep an eye out for me!
It's been a little while since I've shot hockey at this level, but the AJHL is my favourite. The guys seem just a little more hungry when they're on the ice; they have a little more to prove as the AJHL essentially launches careers into the big league. It is exciting hockey to watch, and the Bandits are an intense team to follow. The fans know this secret, as Game Night in Brooks is a big deal.
Shooting hockey can be a little tricky, and it isn't something you can do well with any old gear. Fortunately, the CRA has great lighting, and several sweet spots for me to get all the action. Where things get a little tricky lies in the speed of what's happening on the ice.
With the high action comes high shutter speeds, so it's a fine balance of how high one's ISO can be set without adding too much grain. You want crisp, clear images of high speed action with little distractions. Oh yeah, and make it look interesting to boot. Yes, shooting hockey isn't easy, but the challenge is lots of fun! Fast zoom lenses are key, and being able to predict where the action will happen allows more opportunity for those cool images.
Want to see the final product? Keep an eye on the Bandit's Facebook page. If you see an image you like, and you would like a print or any other product I offer, by all means drop a line.