Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 Review

Yesterday was pay day I got paid a couple of months ago. That’s not to say that I haven’t gotten paid since then, but since this is just barely getting posted and I originally started this back in January, I thought I’d clarify. You know … for all you millions of followers.


ANYWAY, pay day in and of itself is cause for a rousing round of applause. That particular day got exponentially better as I stopped at the local Jamba Juice to meet up with a kid who was selling his Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8 lens. His reasons for selling aren’t germaine to my point. What is germaine is that I now own it.


“Why, exactly, did you feel the need to drop good cash on this lens?”


Good question. Indeed, it’s a bit of a gamble, considering Canon’s propensity for not playing nicely with all 3rd party lenses. However, it’s hard to ignore all the positive reviews it’s received, and for the price that this guy was selling it, I figured the risk was worth it.


My main reason for needing wanting it is plain and simple: night sky photography. I take pretty good pictures of the sky. I have a stellar (see what I did there …?!) picture of the constellation Orion, setting in early May in 1995. When I developed the film, I noticed a bright pink dot in the middle of the “sword.” My astronomy professor said, “Oh, that? That’s the Orion Nebula.” WHAT?! I’ve been hooked ever since. I’d like to get a telescope at some point, but for now, I’m happy getting pictures of “the big picture.”


And the picture doesn’t get any bigger than capturing a jaw-dropping picture of the galactic center. I swear, I will capture a good an amazing picture of this thing someday. All with practice, right?


Oh. And patience, since it doesn’t even begin rising until about March (edit: Hey! That’s NOW!!!), and even then it’s at like 4 am. That’s *just* about the time that the eastern sky is starting to get that pre-dawn haze of the rising sun. I’ve consulted Starry Night enough to know that the optimal time to start getting pictures of the galactic center is around the middle of April. Especially if you want to do this:



So to the review. Please keep in mind that I’m shooting with a Canon T2i, so the reality is that my crop-sensor is going to actually yield the 16-24mm equivalent of a full-frame sensor camera (I’m eyeballing you, Canon 6D).




This thing is built like a tank. It feels solid, as you would expect a metal-body lens to feel. It has some quirks to it, definitely. The widest aspect to the lens is achieved by rotating the zoom ring clockwise. With all of my other lenses, minimum focal distance is achieved by rotating the zoom ring counter-clockwise. But whatever. It’s not a thing at all. Interestingly, the autofocus vs. manual “switch” is an entire ring that’s located toward the very front of the lens. So really, it’s not at all a switch in the traditional AF/Manual switch sense. Maybe it’s my limited exposure to it, but after playing with it extensively yesterday and part of today, yah … it’s cumbersome at best. Not a big fan. Maybe as I become more used to it, I’ll like it. We’ll see.


Picture Quality


It really depends on how well the autofocus wants to work. Nothing tack-sharp as of yet, but I’ve been shooting at the widest aperture on the widest angle. If I zoom in to 16mm and shoot at 3.5, pictures become noticebly sharper. The problem I have with that is that I already have a 17-55mm 3.5-5.6 lens. 1 extra mm is not justification for buying a whole new lens, in my book. However, only having it less than 24 hours is also not a case for writing off the lens as a lost cause. I have some ideas that I want to try later in the day that will test the lens further. That should help me get a better feel for what its capabilities are


Now … if I’m using the manual focus, the story becomes definitively different. I can get pretty sharp pictures by tweaking the focus a hair each picture, until I get a desirable shot. I also tweak them in Photoshop and DXOptics for fun, just to see how the in-camera jpg pics compare to what I see in my mind’s eye for post-processing.




 Like I said, there’s some playing to still be done with this thing. In the couple of months that I’ve had it, I’ve become more familiar with how it likes to focus, and what its strengths/weaknesses are. Also picked up some invaluable general night sky photography tricks (e.g. using a laser pointer to help focus in relatively pitch black conditions; setting focal distance to infinity also helps; MANUAL focus; etc).


Overall, this lens is a keeper. I’m also looking at upgrading my camera body from Canon T2i to a Canon 6D in the near future. From all reports and reviews I’ve read, that should help a lot with the focusing and noise reduction on images shot at ISO 1600 or greater. We’ll see … but that’ll be a review for another day.


Things are gonna change. Just watch. And read. You’ll see …

I’ve said in the past that I’ll probably expand this site to be more inclusive of other interests. That time has come. Still working out the details, but for now, just know that things are in the pipeline.

doTERRA Links

Okay, you twitterific kind of personage. Here are those links that twitter is rejecting.


Digest Zen


More Digest Zen


Everythingessential has a TON of info about everything EO related (as far as it relates to doTERRA, but since they’re all I use, it works well for me. 🙂 ).

Any questions, you know where to find me. 🙂

Back into Blogging. Again.

we’ll see how long this lasts, but it may stick around a lot longer this time cuz I have everything figured out on my phone and tablet. now I can blog anywhere. question is: will I?

yah … probably. I have a lot on my mind lately, and it’s good to write. it helps flush out ideas, right?

we’ll see.

Indiegogo Campaign: Help Samantha Crain Get a New Guitar

Okay … now I’m just pissed. How does someone steal a guitar out of someone’s car?

Stay classy, Columbus.

Anyway, I’ve started an indiegogo campaign to get her some funds for a new guitar. She works herself to the core to make her music–often working jobs around her town to support her efforts. She cannot buy a new guitar every time someone steals hers.

Oh … did I mention that this is the 2nd time in 6 months that this has happened? Yah.

So I’m hoping this little campaign helps her. If not, I tried. Her music is incredible, and she’s a great person all-around. She deserves some help.

Help her, folks. She could use a solid.

Concert Announcement: Marissa Nadler

Well isn’t this day just getting better and better! Find out that the Flaming Lips are playing the Twilight Concert Series, and Dido has a new CD out! Now, to top off that bit of good news comes this bit of awesomeness.


I FINALLY get to see one of my favorite music artists perform! Marissa Nadler will be in SLC on June 26. She’s playing at the Urban Lounge–one of my favorite venues. Tight, intimate, and thesound is phenomenal.


And she’s playing with Camera Obscura, another one of my favorite bands. That’s going to be a fun night! It’s too bad that it’s an over-21 venue. I’d take the girls to go see that show.


Tix available here.






To He Who Lent Me Pitfall II Way Back Then …

Not that anyone reads this piece of internet porta-potty drivel (which, for the record, I’m totally okay with. I write for me. Technical writing pays well, but it’s disturbingly dull …), but due to a Facebook convo sparked by a friend’s post regarding his robust, illustrious history with computers, I feel compelled to write this piece.


It stems from the fact that my desktop speakers that I bought about 14 years ago with the first computer I built on my own have finally kacked. They’re dead. No worky. THESE ARE EX-SPEAKERS. I ended up buying a new set from Best Buy the other night. My buddy posted that he bought his first computer “33 years ago.” My retort? “Atari 5200 doesn’t count. ;)”  Which then sparked the whole thread about his past history, games played … and we’re to Pitfall.


And really, this post is indeed for a single, solitary person. This person will probably never read this either. Again, that’s perfectly fine.


To “that one person,” I owe you my thanks for a number of reasons. You were a good friend for those few months we were neighbors and classmates. From watching Friday the 13th at your place to wanting to club my brother over the head for lying about caving in his snow fort (which oddly enough is *still* a source of much “consternation” and “raucous debate” between him and me), we had some good times. Your ability to hock a loogie still baffles me.


But really, it was the ultimate selfless act of lending me your Pitfall II game that, for me, forever cemented you in the annals of the “good guy” pantheon. That game propelled me into the gaming world. It became my basis for Gameboy marathons, all versions of Descent, Quake, Unreal, and, more recently, Crysis, Half-Life. Myst, Riven, Myst III … the list is long.


Yet my oversight and thoughtlessness found me packing your game along with all of our games. We packed up the truck, and drove away. It wasn’t until weeks later that I noticed your game. I felt badly about it then, but now, moreso than ever, I feel like I robbed you of time you could have had that in your hands (or, more preferably, Atari console).


And so it is that I offer this humble apology for moving two states away with your prized possession. Yes, yes … I’m fully aware that you ended up getting it back. I vaguely remember calling and asking if it had shown up. So that’s nice.


But what a jackass thing to do … packing and moving with someone’s friggin’ game? Seriously?


So here’s to you, Mr. Nice Guy Spitting Champion. May your gaming fingers always be well-calloused and blister-free.


Hey … it’s like they say: elephants *never* forget. 🙂

State of the Music Industry (Part II)

Wait … when was Part I?!


Okay, okay … fine. So Part I was written a little less than 2 years ago. And no, it really had not a lot to do with the whole music industry–just demolishing the RIAA (which, let’s face it, is a *great* org to demolish and rebuild from the ground up).


Since then, crowd-sourcing funding sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo have hit stratospheric levels of awareness–not just for music, but for film, tech projects, photography, books, art … you name it. Think of a creative projects, and there’s probably already been a project along those lines. Not to diminish YOUR creativity or say that your project won’t fund well (see: TriggerTrap, Timelapse+, and TriggerHappy. All Kickstarter projects designed to interface with your camera for more creative photos, and started in order, all of which funded successfully).


So it’s no great surprise that some in the music industry are using this as a means of raising capital sufficient to fund their projects. It’s becoming a more and more proven model, and it’s so much more engaging for the fans.


However, the term that isn’t getting lost in ANY of this is “industry.” The insanely sweet part to this revolution that I still contest is in its infancy is that your Marissa Nadleres, your Unwomans, your Family Crests … and yes–even your Amanda (BLEEPing) Palmers are all finding new and awesome ways to use their funds more creatively.


Which brings me to my case in point for this go-round: one Marian Call–a self-proclaimed geek who is unashamed of flying her nerd-banner, replete with its federation, rebel alliance, and imperial logos and icons. She does indeed have her phaser set to “stun,” for that is precisely what she does.

Editor’s note: That last sentence might just be the cheesiest line I’ve ever written, outside of the sap my poor wife has to endure. Sorry, Marian … you are the recipient of the fromage du jour.   🙂


At this point, it’s too much to say that Marian Call is the hardest working musician in the industry. However, I don’t think it’s a stretch to list her “selling points,” for wont of a better term:

  • Witty
  • Well-varied depth of knowledge about a range of geeky subjects
  • Hard working
  • Uniquely beautiful voice
  • Incredibly hard working
  • Engaging fan interaction
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Personal responses

So, have I mentioned that she works *really* hard at promoting her music and getting it out there? Her campaigns are nothing less than arresting in their scope. I mean, for crying out loud … the girl played CERN, people. CERN!! You know … particle acceleration at its finest? Making small universes for nano-seconds at a time? CREATING ANTI-MATTER?! Yah …. she played there. To fellow geeks. FOR fellow geeks. I, for one, am jealous–both of her and the scientists. Why? Well sweet merciful hell, why wouldn’t she, if she has the chance? Why else?


In two days, she kicks of a 13-day marketing blitz to draw attention to her “new” release, Something Fierce. “New” in the sense that it’s being re-released; it originally came out in 2011, but this new release is big. Big, I tell you. BIG!!! SO big, in fact, that Maid Marian (fairly certain I’m not the first person who’s thought of that witty moniker) has decided to get all of her followers on board with this campaign.


Starting November 1 and running through the 13th, she will ask that some small task be completed each day. With an army of 14000+ followers just on Twitter, that group alone will be a force with which to be reckoned. For those who complete all 13 days, the possibility of musical wealth untold awaits. “If you complete every Adventure Quest task by November 13th and send me screencaps by email, you will be entered to win some sincerely excellent and very real prizes, digital and physical, with shipping anywhere in the world.”


Really, what this boils down to is genius marketing. Creative marketing. The way of the marketing future. Or rather, I guess the future is already here, isn’t it? What Marian Call is doing is setting a pretty high-bar standard for all DIY-ers in the music industry.This is what persistence and dedication look like, people. Hers is the face of blue-collar music. And well-deserved it is. Are there musicians as hard-working as she is? Sure. Where Marian Call sets herself apart is the sheer creativity of her grass-roots marketing. “…Your task might be to post a comment on an article in haiku, or to draw a doodle of a lyric and post it hashtagged on Twitter, or to write a comment where each word starts with the letters of the last word in the before you … They will be small internet tasks, little 2-minute treasure chests and dungeon crawls, and will involve lots of Us Guys rewarding media outlets that feature the record.”


I’ve already decided that I’m all in. This is too fun to pass up, and she deserves to have a spotlight shine down upon her brilliance.


November 13th. Something Fierce. Make it happen, people. Make it happen …

Apparently I Blinked Once Too Much

Well look at that. 2012 is officially half over. Well, hmm. Actually, it’s more than half over now. Admittedly, only by a day, but still … the first half was just a blur. Next thing you know, it’ll be time for the Super Bowl.

It’s been a pretty significant first half of the year for me and mine:

  • Kids finished up school and are now bored out of their skulls around the house.
  • Wife is busily trying to find ways to keep the kids from killing each other (with much success, I might add).
  • We bought a swimming pool for the back yard: 18′ x 4′. Accidentally set it up inside out to start with, but after draining it, cleaning the underside, flipping it right side out, and refilling it, it’s fine. My back, however, hates me with renewed vigor and zeal.
  • Took in a stray kitten whose mom had been run over on a back country road. She and her kitten brother were milling about the body, sadly and pathetically trying to get the mom to move. How tragic is *that*?! So my wife took one home, and the other is with some friends in another town.
  • Got to see an annular solar eclipse AND a Venus transit within a month of each other. THAT is pretty cool!
  • Took a road trip to Kanab for the eclipse. Met some awesome people, and got to hang out with some incredible friends.

Eventful first half, to be sure … but it’s going to pick up in the next half! Know How I know? IT ALREADY HAS.

Stand by for other new post, coming soon to a blog near you!




New CD Review: Rush – Clockwork Angels

The moment has arrived.


I have heard the new music.


The verdict is in.


Rush no longer needs–nor have they *ever* needed–the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” With this release, they have inducted themselves into their own hall of fame. Once again, their newest offering triumphs over pretty much everything else that’s available today. The songs are epic (not in the trendy sense of “Whoa … that’s so epic, man!!”), cinematic, and … simply VAST. There are 12 tracks on Clockwork Angels, and every single one of them is a home run. Or a hat trick. Or a Gordie Howe hat trick. In fact, that’s it right there–they are the Gordie Howe hat trick to end all. There’s scoring. There are assists all over the place. And there are brutal, drop-the-gloves, bare-knuckle fights that will rend your soul in two.

“Wait … what? how can there be an actual fight?”


Sit back, relax. If you’re reading this on your phone and have Instapaper installed, you might want to open it. This review’s gonna be commute-worthy.


This is Rush’s first “concept album” since their heady days of 2112, Hemispheres, Caress of Steel, etc. However, this CD differs from them in that the concept spans THE WHOLE CD. None of their previous concept albums lasted longer than 1 side of an LP. 2112 clocks in at 20:33. Between “The Fountain of Lamneth” and “The Necromancer,” Caress of Steel‘s concept tracks span 31:27. Cygnus X-1: Book 2″ from Hemispheres lasts a “paltry” 18:08.


Clockwork Angels is over 65 minutes long, recounting the story of a young man longing to leave his lands. He yearns for the enormity and grandiosity of Crown City. After successfully landing work as a carnival worker in Chronos Square, he falls in love, and is rejected. He seeks comfort by seeking out Cibola–the City of Gold, meanwhile working in the port city of Poseidon.


Themes of order, chaos, anger, forgiveness, wonder, love found and lost, heroism, failed journeys … this CD has it all.


You know what? Read the book. It comes out in September. The collaborative book between Kevin Anderson (for all you Star Wars novelists, that name should be *extremely* familiar) and Neil Peart expands on the story told by the CD.


In truth, I’ve had this CD now for about 5 days. I won’t lie: I downloaded it as soon as it hit the torrent sites. Call me what you will. I have every intention of buying it outright on Tuesday; probably two or three times. So no–I’m not a pirate. I am, however, a die-hard Rush fan, and I make no bones about it.


That being the case and knowing that Clockwork Angels was literally days away, I figured it might have leaked. I downloaded it and literally ushered my daughters to the backyard for a couple hours of sprinkler summer fun. Or … late spring, since, you know … it was June 5th. Technically, still spring.


The musicianship on the whole CD is ridiculously superb. There have been so many times over the last few days that I’ve just sat here in stunned silence, thinking “I don’t think I’ve ever heard them at this level … and they’ve been doing this for almost 40 years.” And the lyrics … seriously. This is beyond classic Neil; he elevated his game to a whole new level for this go-round. His drumming is equally stratospheric. There are parts that he sounds like he had 10 arms. Geddy pulls out some bass lines that are simply inhuman. “Headlong Flight” has this bass line that just leaves you staring into the distance, wondering how anyone can play all the notes he hits with just one hand. Alex pulls out all the stops on every single song. His solos range from haunting to twisted and everything in between. There are chords that he plays that I’m fairly confident have never been played by ANYone. “Clockwork Angels” has a couple, as does “Headlong Flight.” There are intense, spine-shattering moments, and moments where he plucks what sounds like a 12-string (“The Garden”) that give me the shivers.


I queued up “Caravan,” though I’ve had that and “BU2B” memorized since early 2010. I figured if I was going to enjoy the new CD,  I was going to enjoy the whole CD.


Even being familiar with the first two tracks through the singles released a couple of years ago, there were subtle differences that were obvious. The echoed chorus at the end of “Caravan,” the lamenting melancholy of the acoustic intro to “BU2B” … even on Neil’s fill before after the second “verse” in “BU2B”, it seems like there’s an extra length to the cymbals. The singles were excellent. The CD versions are even more polished.


Eventually, my playlist navigated to track 3, “Clockwork Angels.” This is where the “Gordie Howe hat trick” reference should make a whole lot of sense. There have been a few times in life where music has literally left my jaw hanging on by the sinewy tendrils of my mandibular tendons. This was one of those instances–where the opening leaves you feeling like you just got punched in the gut and had the wind literally knocked out of you. You *want* to breathe, but you can’t. And even if you could, you’re afraid to because you might miss a single, solitary note, and that pain is inexplicably more unbearable than a complete and utter lack of oxygen.


“Clockwork Angels” is a lengthy one, clocking it at over 7 and a half minutes. It opens with this sad, echoing, almost gregorian chant performed by Geddy Lee, which follows with an “archer’s lob” of cymbals before the full-on frontal assault hits–a barrage of guitar that sounds like it’s straight out of a “Meddle”-era Pink Floyd song. Specifically, “One of These Days.” And it’s sooooo much more dark and ominous than is the PF track. The opening is at once frantic and frenetic, pummeling you with lefts and rights of guitar and bass upper-cuts that leave you wondering when the beating will ever end. Here’s the thing: you do not WANT it to end. You WANT it. You CRAVE IT. But you are denied as the dynamic completely shifts to this whimsical, light and airy melody that recalls moments of driving through a big city for the first time, with the top down, eyes wide, and drinking in all the grandeur and splendor that you’ve always imagined. For example, imagine you’ve always dreamed of visiting someplace like NYC, Paris, Shanghai … and checking out places like the Empire State Building, Ground Zero, or the Oriental Pearl Tower, Eiffel tower, Louvre … imagine visiting any of these places for the first time. That’s the wonder I felt when the transition hit … except that feeling of wonder and comfort lasts precsiely 21 seconds. That’s all the more time you’re allotted to catch your breath and return your trays and chairs to their original upright positions. The next thing you know, Alex comes roaring back and reminds you just why he’s one of the premiere guitarists of all time, pulling out one of the most ace riffs in the Rush arsenal. Following his assault, Geddy and Neil join in and permanently seal upon you the memory of why you started listening to Rush in the first place. If ever there was a moment where you forgot who these guys used to be, or where their roots are, this song will smack you back to remembrance with all the love and force that you deserve.


The lyrics to this are as tight and as Neil-esque as it gets. Here is an excerpt from “Clockwork Angels”:


“High above the city square
Globes of light float in mid-air
Higher still, against the night
Clockwork angels bathed in light


You promise every treasure, to the foolish and the wise
Goddesses of mystery, spirits in disguise
Every pleasure, we bow and close our eyes
Clockwork angels, promise every prize”


When I saw “Carnies” on the track list a few weeks ago, I will admit that I had my reservations. I’m glad I kept those in check. “How I prayed just to get away. To carry me anywhere. Sometimes the angels punish us by answering our prayers.” I love the punch to the song. It has this very “Working Man” vibe to it in the beginning. You’ll read this in the liner notes, but the story behind the song really caught me off guard. I won’t spoil it for you, cuz that’s the fun of reading the liner notes, right?


Which is one of the greatest things about this CD. Each track’s lyrics are prefaced by a little back story. It really helps to tie the whole saga together, and it really whets your appetite for the book (again … September, but seriously … this CD will keep you plenty entertained until then).


The last track, “The Garden,” is one of the most introspective and philosophically deep songs that the band has ever written. I’m ripping this right out of the liner notes, so please don’t confuse this with anything I’ve written. I could never deign to write as such. Anyway,


“LONG AGO I READ A STORY FROM ANOTHER TIMELINE about a character named Candide. He also survived a harrowing series of misadventures and tragedies, then settled on a farm near Constantinople. Listening to a philosophical rant, Candide replied, “That is all very well, but now we must tend our garden.”


I have now arrived at that point in my own story. There is a metaphorical garden in the acts and attitudes of a person’s life, and the treasures of that garden are love and respect. I have come to realize that the gathering of love and respect – from others and for myself – has been the real quest of my life.


“Now we must tend our garden.”


Chills, right? How can you not read that and just weep with hope and aspirations of filling everyone’s lives with joy and love? “The treasure of a life is a measure of love and respect. The way you live, the gifts that you give. In the fullness of time, it’s the only return that you expect.” If this is the last song on the last CD that Rush ever releases, they go out on the highest note possible. There are so many things about this song that is good–from the lyrics, to Alex’s solo that is rife with emotion, to the sheer beauty of the song … if you don’t well up and shed at least a single tear, you don’t have soul. Period. I said it, so you know it’s true.


Answer me this: how is it that a band that’s been around almost 40 years, and has gone through as many metamorphoses as these guys have, can come back to their roots and completely dominate? Clockwork Angels is their masterpiece, in my opinion. Their classics will always be their classics and their building blocks that got them to this precise stage, where they *can* write this kind of music. This is them at their pinnacle best–the culmination of EVERYTHING they’ve ever been.  This was the CD they were destined to write.


In the end, this CD is for every Rush fan that’s ever existed. It’s for every *music* fan that’s ever existed. Clockwork Angels is their definitive work, and if your music collection is without, then your collection isn’t complete.


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