Destination: Dundas, Ont. Day-Trip Hiking

“The search for something to do.”


More photos coming eventually! I’ll let you know from my Facebook page when I add more!

The above panorama is from the highest view over Dundas, Hamilton, Ont. taken on December 27, 2015 at a sight called Dundas Peak. It’s a short walk through a forest path off of Harvest Road, Passing Websters and Tews Falls along the way. Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to pass easily between Websters and Tews falls as a fence has been built between them.

Take Short off of Harvest all the way through to the dead end parking lot, and Websters falls is footsteps away. To access Tews, park in the lot off of Harvest. The lots are monitored via by-law officers, and parking is roughly $10 a day, payable by cash or credit. According to, a shuttle is available from alternate parking at the Christie Lake Conservation Area on holiday weekends.

Tews is an Amazon-looking falls along Spencer Creek. It’s about ten metres shorter than Niagara Falls and spills into a heavily forested gorge. The flat rock face doesn’t stretch much past the falls itself, but the escarpment ridge allows hikers to walk along either side for fantastic views.

IMG_3761 Falls Full.jpg

Canon Rebel SL1 | Canon EFS 18mm – 55mm | f/22 | 1.3sec | ISO 100 | December 27, 2015
Continue up the stairs past Tews falls and hike along the wooded path to find the cliff that overlooks Dundas. The path is somewhat maintained, but roots and debris from trees are often obstacles. For those with pains, balance or age holding them back, a set of hiking poles will make the trip safer, easier and more enjoyable. It is not an even path, there are many inclines.

The park is especially scenic in autumn, when transitions in leaf colour cascade through the gorge below.

Standing atop the rock face I often stop for a hot drink from a thermos and stare out at the city in the distance, or down at the skinny creek trickling away from the falls a few kilometers in the distance. Families stop in quickly, couples sit on the rocks and embrace in the seclusion, adolescents crush beers and get loud (hopefully they clean up after themselves,) but for the most part this is a quiet, and if you are lucky, private spot to reflect.

Speedlight Review (Yongnuo YN-560 II)

The search for a powerful, trustworthy speedlight that doesn’t cost $400 could leave someone penniless and frustrated. This flash is a good’n.

Edit:  January 7th, 2018. — The flash still works!  I have just upgraded to the YN-685,  a more recent model with ETTL and other advanced functions. The 560 II is still in my bag, but I use it as a background light for business headshots.  Considering the flash cost me around $100 and it lasted around 3 years (so far) to justify the purchase it only has to make me $33 a year.


I bought this flash about a year before posting this article to replace an ancient Vivitar. I used the Vivitar in combination with the Yongnuo, but only that way.

Portable flash has come a long way since I had previously used it as a youngster with my mother’s Minolta Maxxum to photograph graffiti under bridges. When I got into the market for the devices, I was astounded at the prices. Canon marks flashes with real on-camera capabilities above $300. As a student, that was way out of my price range, and I was unwilling to gamble on 3rd party companies.

My mind was changed about a year before this article’s original posting in a photography for journalism course when my instructor told me that Yongnuo was a trustworthy brand. I was surprised to hear him advocate El-Cheapo when he was using $3000+ cameras, Canon speedlights and Pocket Wizards. He didn’t seem the type to pinch pennies on gear…

The YN-560 II is (almost) everything someone could want in a camera flash.

Almost, as it only has a centre pin contact and, therefore, cannot make use of the advanced flash settings. There is also no way to expand its function to include ETTL, high speed sync or rear curtain sync.

It’s fairly powerful, with a guide number of 190′ at ISO 100 at 105mm zoom (it can light a subject almost 200 feet away when the camera is set to ISO 100 and the flash at maximum zoom).

Without knowing it, I tested this once. Photographing a subject across a pond that was roughly 100 feet wide, my idea was half-baked, but the flash did it’s job!

It also has all the movement to compete with name-brand flashes. It rotates and tilts so the photographer can use it on-camera and bounce the flash to avoid that direct lit, dimensionless, flat look. Also, red-eye is mostly eliminated because of the flash head’s distance from the film plane.

The YN-560 II has a recycle rate on its most powerful setting around 2.5 – 4 seconds, meaning it takes under four seconds for it to recharge and flash again. In continual flash mode, or the camera in drive mode, it fires at 1/4 power a maximum 3 times, and 1/8th a maximum of 7.

1/8th power with this flash can be plenty for 3/4 or taller portrait photography flashed through an umbrella at ISO 100 and apertures ranging up to f/8.

The build seems frail, though this flash has been dropped from a 6′ light stand up to… several… times… It still functions perfectly. As far as weather resistance, the battery compartment is most likely to be vulnerable, or perhaps where the swivel connects the flash head to the body. It’s not likely that it would last long in adverse conditions, but this one has survived a small share of condensation from temperature differences and misty/snowy days.

I’m probably really lucky about the tumbles it took…

Used with Energizer 1.2v 2300 mAh NiMh batteries, the flash charges quickly. In power modes under 1/1 it functions for a long period before the strain on the batteries is noticeable, 50+ shots at 1/4.

No longer carried by companies like B and H due to updates in the product line, the flash is still available from sites like Amazon. An updated model may be adviseable since they’re in the same price range.

Yongnuo Speedlights on Amazon

Price Range:

  • $89 – $110


  • 90° degree tilt
  • 270° degree rotation
  • 24 – 105 zoom light focusing (24, 28, 35, 50, 70, 80, 105)
  • 1/1 – 1/128 power settings with 1/3 incremental stops between divisions
  • Notification sound for full charge/ ready to fire
  • Two slave modes for proper pairing with other flash and camera shutter
  • multi flash mode
  • Remote trigger cable and DC in covered by rubber flap
  • 109′ GN at 105mm, ISO 100


  • Four AA batteries
  • Specified DC adapter

I should let you know that if you click a link here and buy something from Amazon I will make a small commission. You don’t pay anything extra. Everything I list I have faith in as a product enough to recommend it, and have used myself.

I hope to provide you with enough information to make an informed decision about your purchases. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me, and if you plan on buying a product I’ve mentioned, please use my links!

Understanding the Handheld Limitations, A Course in Photography, Section 2, Chapter… Undecided

Certain settings are impossible to use with certain lenses. It’s best to understand a few basic principles before setting out without a tripod.

There are many times when a tripod or extra gear is simply not practical. Without the extras, a photographer needs to know what their camera can produce in its bare-bones state.

Combine the photographic triangle (aperture, shutter speed and ISO), controlled by the camera, and a lens of given focal length and the limitations are easy to see.

Most beginning photographers will have a “stock lens,” whatever the camera was sold with. This lens is often considered “slow.” The definition of a slow or fast lens refers to its aperture setting. Minimum apertures are often listed on the lens on the plastic surrounding the glass. Stock lenses are often in the range of f/3.5 – f/5.6.

A “slow” lens is not a bad lens, many stock lenses have impressive capabilities. You can also spend many hundreds of dollars on a slow lens.

The “f/#” is an equation for how “wide-open” the lens is. “f” being the diameter of the lens and the number being a division created by the iris blades. ISO is how fast a camera can record an image. Shutter Speed is how long the camera has to record the image.

More on aperture, ISO and shutter speed later, if you are having trouble adjusting these settings you may need to switch to a Manual Mode

Aperture, ISO and shutter speed work together to determine how an image will look. Limitations to handheld photography will be seen when the shutter speed drops below a certain point, and will be further affected by the lens’ focal length. If your shutter speed is too slow, your body or your subject(s) will move too much to take sharp pictures. Longer focal lengths (bigger zooms) magnify any motion blur that is present.

A rough rule that proves to be very effective is to match or exceed the focal length with the shutter speed. This rule is meant to take sharp images from a hand-held camera, it does not account for subject movement. Great for fruit stands, landscapes, passed-out roommates — just about any still subject. However, any photographer will have difficulty taking sharp pictures with a shutter speed of more than 1/30th of a second, no matter the focal length, unless the camera or lens has stabilization technology.

In practice, a lens with a focal length of 50mm has a minimum hand-held shutter speed of 1/50th of a second (1/50sec). A 300mm lens has a minimum 1/300sec shutter speed.

Having a “faster” lens (able to open up wider, has a small f-stop division number) will allow faster shutter speeds at lower ISO (high ISO is considered low quality due to grain). Further, depending on subject matter, the minimum hand-held shutter speed for a lens may not be fast enough. Careful, as well, as the closer a subject is the more pronounced the limited depth of field will be from a wide aperture.

My benchmark shutter speeds for portrait photography using ambient light (no flash) are 1/60sec and 1/125sec. I find these do a good job of eliminating blur from subject movement, and most of the time allow reasonable apertures with low ISO.

A good investment for any photographer is a 1.8 lens around 50mm. These can be found from name brands to match cameras from around $100 – $150. Gambling on 3rd party is out of the question for these as prices are very similar.


All those extra stops open up a lot of light conditions to hand-held photography.

I use a Canon EF 50mm 1.8 II. It’s my sharpest lens, runner up is the 18-55 EFS that the SL1 came with.

The only downfall of a prime lens (fixed focal length) is to adjust composition a lot of foot work needs to be done. No pampered zoom capabilities, but the trade-off is a very high quality lens for a low price.

I should let you know that if you click a link here and buy something from Amazon I will make a small commission. Everything I list I have faith in as a product enough to recommend it, or have used myself.

I hope to provide you with enough information to make an informed decision about your purchases. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me, and if you plan on buying a product I’ve mentioned, please use my links!

Unlock the Real Potential of the SLR (Manual Modes)

I’ll be posting more detailed articles about these modes later, for the time being, you can check out your camera manual to get a good idea of how to use them…


Cameras these days advertise as “will do it all for you! An idiot could take pictures with this camera!” Wrong. You are the photographer. You decide on creative choices like shutter speed, aperture, ISO and angle. Also, a camera is an idiot in a lot of situations.

Because the camera is an idiot, I avoid program modes at all times. On a Canon camera, the running man, person, mountains… They are very functional in their specific conditions, but I am experienced enough (most of the time) to be fast without them. I just recently made a lot of use of the P mode, considered one of the creative modes on a Canon brand, but still too automated for my liking.

Tasked with photographing a fundraiser for a young-and-expecting women’s shelter, I was confounded by a tiny bar’s mixed-light. From the front, a huge bay door converted to windows provided a pool of natural light that faded away towards the back, where the left was a yellow-looking light and the right appeared to be tungsten lit.

First I shot with flash, eliminating ambient light with a fast shutter and closed aperture. I assume people will be annoyed with flash, so I avoid using it as much as possible. Especially in enclosed spaces. I then switched to natural light only, switching between a slow 18mm – 55mm EFS and a fast 50mm EF.

Near the window things went OK, but creatively was limiting. Anywhere else and people looked all sorts of odd colours. Trying to figure out the best settings left me chimping constantly, and I’m sure I missed a lot of moments. I decided on the P mode as my best option, and switched only my white balance for the latter half of the evening. I even gave up so much as to use auto-ISO, which isn’t as terrible as I always thought it would be. 


The “Creative Modes” are common in function in most DSLRs. They may have slightly different names, but they essentially perform the same. Some have extra modes, but the main ones are (as appearing on a Canon camera):

P – sets aperture and shutter speed automatically. Allows user to set ISO. Seems to do its best to set up for hand-held photography, but not always (Not a very creative mode, actually)

Av – Aperture Priority: user sets aperture, camera decides on shutter speed. User sets ISO.

Tv – Shutter Priority: user sets shutter speed, camera decides on aperture. User sets ISO.

M – Manual: User sets everything. A.K.A Master Class, Man(ly) Mode. User sets ISO.


A-Dep – as far as I know sets aperture to make sure as many things are in focus as possible, then sets shutter speed. Does not prioritize for hand held. User sets ISO.

These modes are so-called creative because they allow you to make real decisions about how a photo looks, like the depth of field or motion blur. At first, they are confusing. With experience, a photographer is able to snap the camera as close to the preferred look as possible, only to make minor adjustments. It takes experimentation, a lot of it, but these modes do become second nature.

My advice: using these modes at first might be a little slow, and you will mess up a few shots. That being said: are you a photographer? Then get into them! You will be thanking yourself less than a year later. Promises.