Sunday, January 31, 2010

Panasonic has upgraded its "tough" TS1 compact camera to the TS2

It's been a year since Panasonic came out with its first waterresistant, dustresistant camera, the TS1.  I had hoped to buy a copy of that first version but instead during these past 12 months I bought my first dSLR (by Olympus) and several lenses, and also just before Christmas bought Canon's new top-end compact camera, the S90.  Neither of these have weather seals, however.

The TS1 announcement was the reason for one of my first blog entries, in January of 2009.  Subsequent online reviews helped me be all-the-more certain that this would be the camera for me, as a replacement to my aging Pentax 33WR (WR= water resistent) which for years I have carried with me fishing.  The Pentax's 3.3 megapixels is more than adequate for computer monitor viewing and makes excellent 8x10 prints.  But the LCD on the camera is very small and is nearly impossible to see in the sun.  Like many cameras of its day, it also has a eye-level optocal viewfinder, though perhaps better described as a "peep hole".  But the viewfinder seems to be no longer linked with the zoom lens, so it is really only good for pointing the camera in the right direction when I can't see the LCD (which is whenever I am wearing polarized sunglasses.)  Nevertheless, I may try to go another year with it, as I have always been happy with the results, which you can read about here in an article I wrote five years ago.

Here are some features:
  • Swim down to 10 meters underwater (so go ahead and fall in the water while wading, as I do about once every two years)
  • Drop proof from a height of 2 meters (I had to replace my first Pentax 33WR because it dropped out of one of my stupid velcro-closed fishing vest pockets onto asphalt next to the car)
  • Dust proof  (take to the beach)
  • Freeze proof (take skiing)
  • Take movies (of no interest to me)
  • Optical Image Stabilization (very important in my opinion, and this is thought to be improved over last year's model.)
  • A very useful zoom lens that ranges from 28mm wide angle to 128mm telephoto
  • A very useful zoom macro that focuses at 30cm to infinity
  • A less useful wide angle macro that focuses as close as 5cm
  • 14 megapixels (A horrible idea, as is 12 or 10 mp.  Three is plenty and 6 is all you need unless you want prints bigger than 15".  More megapixels just reduces image quality for computer viewing or any prints smaller than 15", IMHO).
I think that when the reviews come out on the TS2 (FT2 in some countries), it will come out above all the competition.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Information from Bob Marriott's Flyfishing Store

My little essay the other day (see my prior post) about fly fishing catalogs prompted me to email Bob Marriott's about their hardcopy catalog.  I received a nice email from Steve Oulette who I have talked with from time to time when I placed orders over the last 10 years or so.  He's actually been there for over 14 years, so he's a real fixture at the brick-and-mortar store in Fullerton, California.  (Store front image was copied with permission from Bob Marriott's contact information.)

Steve told me that the poor economy and the cost of printing/mailing are two reasons their last catalog was printed in 2008.  One other complicating factor is that manufacturers and suppliers were fine-tuning their prices even into January, making it difficult for Marriott's to get a catalog out the door before March or April. 

But Steve did say they take great pride in their online catalog.  Prices are current and I can see now that product images are plentiful.  I am told they sell over 40,000 items, with online pictures of everything they carry and SKU numbers listed for everything they sell.  I will miss the catalog (don't we always miss things the most after they are gone!?) because I find catalogs are great when you feel like browsing and dreaming.  But I am impressed with their Web site; I find Web sites are better and faster than catalogs when you know what you want.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

January research arriving

At our house the arrival of the new year's fly fishing catalogs is known as "research".  As in, "I'll be a little late to work today because I am at home doing 'research' ". 

It seems I once received more than a dozen catalogs.  But in recent years the number has declined to just a handful.  Likely, the Internet has changed things for some companies as has the cost of publishing a catalog and the cost of postage.  And I also simply don't buy as much fly fishing stuff anymore, especially now that photography has entered the scene as a serious hobby.

This year, like clockwork, catalogs from Cabelas, LL Bean and Orvis arrived on the same day.  I don't buy as much fly fishing stuff as I used to (how many vises do I need?  I have four!), but from these three vendors I at least buy a few clothing items or Christmas gifts each year... enough to keep me on their catalog lists I presume.

Perhaps the most complete catalog is the one from Bob Marriott's, but I haven't received one for a couple of years.  I think the last one I received was nearly an inch thick. It lists tons of products. But because it features very few product pictures, the catalog is best if you know what you want.  On the other hand Bob's Web site has improved greatly so hunting for the products is fairly easy without a catalog.  I like the fact that if you buy $100 worth of goods (easy to do with their inventory) you get free shipping.  Not quite as good as the "old days" when the limit was $50, but still pretty good when compared with, for example, cabelas which is known for its high shipping rates.

I see that last year I received catalogs from Hook & Hackle, Stone River Outfitters, Feather-Craft and The Fly Shop.  So, there's hope that more winter research will arrive.  (I think Dan Bailey has dropped me... and for good reason as I have never purchased anything from them.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Friday afternoon trip to the Marlboro Fly Fishing Show

I spent a few hours this afternoon (Friday) at the FF show in Marlboro, checking in on some old friends and meeting a few new people.  I took my new pocket camera (Canon S90) and snapped about 40 random shots inside the building.  If you're interested, I have posted them here:

Below are five of the 40 images.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dragonflies as macro subjects

Perhaps this is a bit off-topic as the dragonflies here were not used as fish-bait; nor were they used as inspiration for some new fly pattern.  But, during the last couple of summers I have been having fun taking macro shots of dragonflies and butterflies.  Dragonflies are of course desired food for fish.  When fishing the farm ponds around my home in the summer, the bass often leap out of the water in hopes of catching a passing dragonfly or perhaps one landing on a lily pad. 

I once saw the front half of a dragonfly buzzing on the surface.  I am sure a bass was somewhere nearby enjoying the back half.  And of course, because dragonflies are aquatic insects, fish enjoy the big ugly nymphs that crawl along the rocks underwater and migrate to the waters edge to emerge as dragonflies. 

As reported in a blog post on July 3, 2009, I had the thrill of photographing the half hour process of a dragonfly emerging from its nymphal body.  If you didn't see the post, the sequence is on my photos Web site here: 

The two closeup images I am posting here today were actually taken in my back yard during the summer.  They recently scored well in monthly competitions in my local photo club.  Fortunately, dragonflies are relatively easy to photograph.  They stay motionless for long periods, and if you accidentally scare them off, they will often return to the same perch within seconds.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Paul's "Looper" adult Chronomid pattern

My friend Paul has been successfully fishing for trout these last few months, after most of us have put away our gear.  I think the last time I fished was in September, but Paul and our friend Jim have been happily fishing the kettle ponds around Plymouth (south of Boston and north of Cape Cod) right through December.  They have been very sucessful.  Almost always this has meant fishing in the late afternoon for just an hour or two. 

To be perfectly honest, Paul has also pointed out that he feels this year's weather pattern (temperatures, amount of sun, etc.) and perhaps a bumper stocking program might also have been reasons for the fabulous fall fishing.

Paul and I talk frequently by phone, and when he described the fly he was constantly (consistently?) catching fish with I recalled the article he wrote for this Web site on his Chronomid patterns.  I thought the fly he had described was #2 in the article, and Paul confirmed by email yesterday that that fly (posted again here) was indeed the one he's been using.  As he stated in his email: 
This loop-wing adult Chironomid pattern is nothing more than the already famous Griffith's Gnat tied shorter on the front half of the hook with a loop of gray polypropylene yarn to represent the wing, and to add floatation and visibilty to the fly as it sits on the water. This fly is most effective when fished with little or no imparted motion. If the fish are actively feeding on adult chironomids, they will eventually find your fly.
Paul likes it in a size 16, and Jim fishes both 14 and 16.