My 1978 Honda Motorcycle Rebuild

Two years ago I decided that I wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle as a fun challenge for myself. After doing lots of studying and passing the M1 and M2 license tests, I realized that if I ever want to actually ride on the road, and not just in a parking lot while I was learning, my next step would be to find my first motorcycle. I ended up buying a motorcycle off of a friend for $100. This bike was from the 70’s and did not include any form of paperwork whatsoever (more on that later).

Finding my Bike

After seeing the few photos of the bike (shown above), I decided that it wouldn’t be a huge investment even if it never ran so I decided to buy it before ever seeing the motorcycle in person. When it came time to pick up the bike, I was over-the-moon excited just for the fact that I officially owned my first motorcycle, no matter what condition it was in! (Spoiler alert, the condition was rough). I brought the bike to our garage and spent several days cleaning it up as much as possible with rags, cleaner and steel wool. Normally I would never suggest steel wool on a motorcycle, but this one had a sever case of rust everywhere so it couldn’t hurt.

Starting the Teardown

Next up, I took off all of the least daunting pieces and one-by-one cleaned, labeled and polished them up as best as possible. This made it very easy to know which parts would need to be replaced eventually. I also downloaded a pdf version of the original owners manual for the bike as well as a complete shop guide to use as reference.

Dealing with all the Carbs

One of the areas that I knew I would eventually need to clear out on the bike was the carburetors. With the bike sitting outside for so many years without ever running, I thought that if there was even a chance the engine would run again, I would need to take the carbs off the bike and clean them out well. This was also around the point where I couldn’t understand why the owners manual didn’t match my bike exactly, even though I knew the bike was a Honda CB400 from 1978. It turns out, one of the previous owners must have swapped out the original 400cc engine for a similar 450cc engine from a different bike This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as it gave the bike a little more power (although the updated engine didn’t include a kickstart like the original would have, only electric).

After removing the carbs off of the bike, I noticed multiple areas where the gunk inside them was hindering how they function, no wonder the bike never stood a chance of starting up before this!

The Engine’s First Chance

With the carbs cleaned out and put all back together, it was time to see if the motorcycle engine would even turn over, or if it was seized and I was out of options.

To my surprise, after a few tries the Honda started up! Keep in mind it ran very rough only if I kept giving it lots of gas. Idling at the moment was really not an option. This was an exciting point for me, because it meant my time and effort was not all for nothing. I quickly moved on to other areas of the bike now that I knew the engine would be ok with some more tweaking.

Repairing the Chain

Initally, I had assumed that I would need to buy a new chain for the bike because the current chain was completely siezed inbetween some of the links and had lots of rust across the board. I did lots of research online and after taking the advice of many people online, I submerged the chain in oil for multiple days, individually loosened up each link by hand gentily using plyers, and cleared off the rust with steel wool and a wire brush on my drill. Who would have thought that the chain ended up functioning great once I put the work in!

Here Comes the Paint!

One of the most fun parts of working on the bike was when it came time to paint. Even though the ownership described the bike as blue, it had been painted glossy black at some point before I took ownership of it. I decided to keep as much chrome on the bike as possible, and everything else (besides the gas tank) I spray painted matte black from a aerosol can.

With lots of painters tape masking all the different areas, and even more patience, I was able to bring some life back to the bike and freshen up it’s look.

Somewhere to Sit

One of my last hurdles was what to do about the motorcycle’s seat. The original seat had been very roughly covered in generic materials years before, and since then it had been worn right through with a combination of riding use and being left outdoors.

My original thought was to purchase an inexpensive café racer-style seat from Ebay and that would be the end of it. But once I put the new seat on the bike I realize how ridiculously small it looked unless I made major alterations to the bike frame which I didn’t want to do. I ended up deciding to take apart the original seat.

I remove the worn material and original foam from the metal base of the seat to find that it had been heavily rusting out. As I was about to through out the old seat, I decided to see what the metal looked like underneath all of the rust, and it turned out to be salvageable! I spent many hours brushing away piles of rust with a steel brush attached to my drill. I then had my Dad’s help to spot weld a couple areas where the seat frame had been cracked from lots of use.

By the time the seat was completed, I had cleaned off all of the rust and recovered it with a proper leather upholstery from Saddleman. The seat turned out much better than my original option from Ebay ever could.

Showing it’s Name

All that was left to do on the bike now was to add the small details like the missing Honda emblems to the gas tank and mirrors because they were the one thing missing when I had bought the bike for whatever reason.

Safety First!

My very last step was to buy brand new tires for the bike. Even though the tires that the motorcycle came with looked in good condition, they were made so long ago that the rubber compounds in them would not have been very reliable. The tires were a few hundred dollars, which hurt considering they were triple the cost of my actual motorcycle, but the wheels are an area I did not want to cheap out on!

The Final Result

Before I bought the motorcycle from my friend, it had been abandoned and left out in the rain and elements for who knows how many years. After months of working to get the bike back up and running and after eight trips to Service Ontario, yes eight, I finally had all the paperwork and everything sorted out so that I could now officially call this Honda CB400 bike my own.

This motorcycle is now my daily commuter vehicle during the nice months and a great hobby for any weekend! It may have been a lot of work and stress, but at the end of the day, I learned a lot about motorcycles function and I get the satisfaction of riding to work each day on my own DIY project.

4 Types of Lighting for Your Home Photography Studio

Let me guess, you have been a photographer for a little while now in one form or another, and you are now ready to take that next step into setting up your own photography studio. This is an exciting step that allows room for more opportunities and to be more creative! Besides the bare minimum of a camera body and a lens, one of the most important areas to invest in for your home studio is lighting. Here is a list of 4 styles of lighting for your home studio and why you should consider each of them!

#1 Natural Light

One of the most important aspects of photography is lighting. The saying goes bright pixel are sharp pixels and light can really make or break a good photo. When you are first starting out in photography, the only light source you have is the one that is readily available to you, natural light. The majority of photography taken outdoors relies on the sun (or moon) as their main light source, but we can’t forget the power of natural light in home studios.

If you are wanting to set up your own home studio, try your best to find a room that has a large window that has sunlight coming through it. Two things to note, thin white curtains are amazing on a window for creating a soft light source for nice, natural looking shadows, and if you are planning on using any form of artificial studio light, be sure to find black out curtains or have a dark sheet over the window when you are not wanting the natural light in your photos.

#2 Speedlights or “Flashguns”

The second form of lighting that photographers use in their home studio is off-camera flash, speed lights or “flashguns”. you can pick up a manual speedlight for around $80 and although they are not as powerful as something like a studio strobe, they are small, versatile and very useful when paired with lighting modifiers.

One of the biggest benefits of using speedlights is that they are light and portable. You can use a speedlight attached directly to the hotshoe on the top of your camera for a wedding photos, and then that same week you can use the speedlight off-camera in your studio space for anything from model photos to product photography.

If you are going to use a budget speedlight off camera, then most likely it will not have any wireless capability built into the flash. For this reason it is a great idea to purchase a pair of these Yongnuo Wireless Recievers for around $40. One of the receivers attached to the top of your camera, and the other connects to the bottom of your speedlight to allow you to have a wireless flash. I have a pair of these receivers from several years ago and they still work great! On a quick side note, these also work as a wireless remote for your camera and you can also attach the receiver to any studio strobe that isn’t wireless (you’ll read more about that below) If you are interested in attaching light modifiers to your speedlights, be sure to pick up a couple of these speedlight brackets to attach them to your Bowens modifiers.

I have a pair of these receivers from several years ago and they still work great!

#3 Continuous Lighting

If you have a very lean budget for lighting, another option is to use continuous lighting. These are similar to your typical light bulbs that are always lit, but on a brighter scale. You can pick up two continuous lights including soft boxes for them for under $100. One of the benefits of continuous lighting is that you are always able to see how your lights will effect shadows etc in your photos.

In the past few years, continuous lighting has largely been heading towards LED light panels which work better than bare bulbs, but these panels are much more expensive and not worth the investment unless you are also doing lots of video work. I would still strongly suggest going with one of the other lighting options as continuous lights are not very bright for photography and are used more often in videography such as video interviews.

#4 Monolights or “Studio Strobes”

Lastly, most professional studio photography work takes advantage of monolights or “studio strobes”. These are the large lights that you have come to recognize in most studio setups. They can vary significantly in cost from the $150 Godox SK400 to around $2000 for the Profoto B10. Keep in mind that unless you use different adapters, the studio strobes that you purchase will need to be the same mount as your modifiers. This is why my recommendation, especially for someone starting out in flash photography would be to purchase one or two strobes by Godox like the one listed above.

Almost all strobes take advantage of having two light sources. There is a large bulb in the centre called a “modelling light” which is a form of continuous light that can be turned on and off to see how your light will effect shadows in your frame, and there is the actual “flash tube” which flashes extremely bright and gives off a popping sound. It is worth noting that when you fire a strobe, the modelling light will shut off briefly and will therefor have no effect on your photo.

Strobes from budget brands like Godox or Neewer work with the Bowens mounting system which is the most universal style of light modifier. If you stick with the Bowens mounting system, you’ll always have a good selection of lighting modifiers at your disposal.

5 Reasons You Need “MyGearVault” on your Phone

#1 It is the best way to keep all of your gear organized

I don’t know about you, but when i first got into photography, especially studio-based product photography, I only had a small amount of gear which I could keep organized in one large camera bag. Since that time, my amount of gear has grown to include all sorts of essential equipment such as more lenses and camera bodies, studio lights, reflectors and light modifiers, wireless triggers and much more. With all of this additional gear, it can be overwhelming when trying to decide what you have at your disposal, and what you are needing for your current shoot. MyGearVault created by photographer Jared Polin is an extremely useful photography app that allows you to catalogue all of your photography and videography equipment so that you always know exactly what you have in your studio space and the information about each item. The app conveniently comes with some default categories such as lenses, data storage, lighting, audio etc. which you can easily add your various pieces of gear into for quick reference.

#2 It allows you to customize “kits” for easy planning

One of the features of MyGearVault is the ability to make custom “kits” for different photography situations such as weddings, travel, videography, studio etc. This allows the photographer to include only the gear for that specific purpose into each kit, giving them a form of check list any time they are planning a future shoot. For example, if I am on location at a business one day shooting some product photography, but the weekend is coming up and I know the very next day I will need to be heading out to shoot a wedding, all I need to do is select the “Wedding” kit on my app, and it will give my own customized list of gear that I most typically shoot with at weddings including items that can easily be overlooked like spare batteries, filters, cables etc. I have found this feature to be one of the most useful reasons for keeping my gear up-to-date in MyGearVault.

#3 It allows you to submit insurance claims if the worst case scenario should happen

If by any chance you have some of your gear stolen, you have access to all of your gear’s serial numbers and information so that you can easily submit a police report. The app even has a “Stolen” button, so you can enter a serial number and the police report into a searchable database. This way, if someone tries to verify your gear item as your own, MyGearVault will be notified. Last but not least, MyGearVault has access to top rated insurance companies to help you find the best insurance policy for your needs.

The app even has a “Stolen” button, so you can enter a serial number and the police report into a searchable database.

#4 It is very intuitive and just looks great!

I would be the first to say that I have tried many other organizational apps for my gear and I always felt like they were lacking in one area or another. As a professional Graphic Designer and Photographer, I can tell you that the MyGearVault app is both well thought out and well designed. This makes the entire experience of inputing and referring back to your gear much more appealling and it feels less a chore and more like browsing through a camera store (except you already own all the gear!)

#5 It is completely FREE

That’s right, this app is completely free and does not even include any in-app purchases or upgrades. Whether your camera gear consists of just a camera body and kit lens, or a full studio set, with this in mind, why would you not download the app and stay organized?

Our Great Western Canada Adventure!

I am not exactly the greatest writer, but I have been wanting to write a blog post about our Out West trip for a while now. Hopefully the photography will make up for the less-than-perfect writing and still allow you to experience a small portion of what we saw while we travelled together!

This past summer my wife, Deanna, and I finally made a decision that we had been putting off ever since we were married, to travel out west and see the Canadian west coast. Being a photographer, I had seen countless images from Alberta and BC’s national parks and I had always wanted to see them for myself. We decided to fly out on July 6 and spend two full weeks out west to make the most of our time there. Since sometimes our priorities are different, we decided to go to Alberta for the first week for me to get my photography fix, and then we would fly to Vancouver island in British Columbia to spend a more relaxing second half of the trip finding nice coffee shops and visiting with her Grandparents who live there on the island.

We started our trip off with a bit of unexpected luck. We needed to wait for a couple hours once we landed in Calgary, Alberta either way, so when Air Canada had overbooked our first flight, we gladly said yes to a free lunch and $400 between us. Furthermore, once we landed in Calgary and went to the car rental company, they had run out of our cheap car option because of the Calgary Stampede, so they upgraded us to a beautiful new VW Tiguan SUV (Deanna still keeps telling me we should get that as our future vehicle)

Our travel vehicle for the first week of our trip (with only 1,400km on it before our trip!)

After we were all sorted out with our new vehicle, we took off from Calgary towards the mountains. Our first stop right before the National Parks was to go to Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary. This place was the home of dozens of wolf dogs of varying amounts and we were able to get up-close with a couple of the wolf dogs and capture some great shots of the beautiful animals.

A wolfdog we met at the Yamnuska Sanctuary

As we continued towards the mountains, I finally realized the massive scale of them. We began to drive right into an intense lighting storm as we passed the first mountains and I couldn’t believe the way they looked in the storm. I kept on asking Deanna if she could see what I was seeing (of course she could and was).

One of the mountain peaks as we entered the National Parks

Just after we drove through the storm, we entered the first park to see a group of cars on the side of the highway. We decided to take our camera and see what all the commotion was about, expecting to see a deer or bear off in the distance. When we arrived at the fence with the others, we couldn’t see anything. Then suddenly a full sized grizzly bear stood up not 20 feet from us in the grass! It was an amazing site, but after taking a couple quick photos, we decided this wasn’t our best plan, so we agreed to leave the bear alone and keep driving.

The Grizzly Bear we saw (not zoomed in very far)

Our last stop before finding our AirBnB was at the famous Lake Louise that everyone talks about. We couldn’t deny how beautiful and surreal the lake and it’s surroundings were, but with the busses full of tourists (like us) and the way it was built up, we really didn’t need to stay long.

Since the first half of the trip was more my end of the deal, I chose a tiny home for us to stay in for the week from AirBnB. The location in Spillimacheen looked rustic and cute in the photos online, but it turns out it was extremely rough and forced us to spend the most time possible out and about the whole week!

The view from on top of the Natural Bridge

The next day was a full one, we began our adventure with a trip to Sunwapta Falls in Yoho. We then went stopped at the side of the road on our way to Emerald Lake, another well known location, to see something they called the “Natural Bridge”. This turned out to be one of my favourite locations to shoot photos from as it wasn’t too busy, and the landscape of the natural rock bridge was incredible to see. We then continued on to Emerald Lake where we stopped to get a coffee from the single building in the middle of the lake. Next up was an adorable town called “Field” where they had a music festival happening (the festival took up one small pub-like building), but while we were there we enjoyed a yummy coffee at the Siding Cafe.

One of my favourite shots of the trip showing Sunwapta Falls

One the way back to our tiny home, Deanna pointed to a small road on the side of the highway that I had completely overlooked. We turned the car around and stopped at this location to find one of our favourite places from the whole trip. We ended up at a small lake called “Faeder Lake” with just one other family there, and it had an incredible view of the mountains in the background with water so calm it imitated glass.

The view we had across Faeder Lake

Our last hike of the day was on a trail called “Hoodoo Trail”. At this point, we were very tired so we agreed to have Deanna stay in the car and I would do the quick hike myself to see if there were any good vantage points for some photos. After walking by myself for 15 minutes, I finally passed the first people I had seen the whole time. They mentioned that the Hoodoo Trail takes roughly two hours of hiking up steep inclines and that there are warning to make sure to have bear bells on you at all times to warn nearby bears that you are on the trail. I decided to turn around and go back to Deanna and our car. Our very last stop for the day was at a surprisingly nice restaurant and series of cozy cabins known as the “Cedar House”. You need to drive all the way up a mountain to get to their location, and once we arrived, we had the nicest dinner we have had in a long time prepared by their house chef.

Emerald Lake showing the coffee house we enjoyed

The following day we decided to make our way up to Jasper National Park. As we drove the four hour drive to Jasper, we passed incredible glaciers and ice-fields (remember this was July), and went to places like Bow Lake, Bow Summit and Peyto Lake. Our images from Peyto Lake may look photoshopped or fake, but that really is how the lake looks when you are there. Breathtaking.

Peyto Lake from our viewpoint
(Fun Fact: this image was also featured on the official Banff Tourism Instagram page)

We spent only a couple hours in Jasper once we had arrived, because remember, this was still a day trip with a four hour drive each way. While we were in Jasper, we went to a great shop called the “Bear Claw Café”. We then ventured just a little more north of Jasper to “Pyramid Lake” before heading all the way back to our tiny home, seeing more bears on the way.

One of the hundreds of icefields we drove past on our route to Jasper

That night, I wanted to experiment with some star or “astrophotography” around our tiny home in the country. I ended up staying outside until 2:30am to capture the images I was wanting (Astrophotography requires a lot of patience).

Our tiny home at 2:30am (It looks much nicer from the outside!)

The next morning, we decided we needed a bit of break from our intense adventuring. We took a shorter trip into Kootenay National Park to where we saw the Radium Hot Springs, Sinclair Canyon, and lots of wild elk and bighorn sheep. This still counted as our “down day”.

The next day was our last day experiencing Alberta and all of the National Parks. We started the day by hiking for an hour or so up Johnston Falls to see both the lower and upper falls (The upper falls are quite a trek to get to, but definitely worth it). We got into the massive lineup of cars for the second time to try and get to Morianne Lake, but we eventually realized there was no way to get there because it was so full of tourists.

After that, we went into the Town of Banff to explore for a while and we ended up at the a great coffee shop called Evelyn’s Coffee Bar, and then the Banff Brewing Company for a fun bison burger lunch and beer tasting. We then drove back to Calgary where we started a week earlier to a hotel and began to prepare for the second half of our adventure.

Our last stop to view the mountains as we headed back into Calgary
Our last stop to view the mountains as we headed back into Calgary

Once we landed in Comox’s small island airport, we were greeted by Deanna’s Grandma and we spent the next few days exploring around Union Bay on Vancouver Island where they live.

A typical view of the forest under a massive canopy on Vancouver Island

A few days later, Deanna and I ventured off on our own in a second rental car and travelled towards the town of Campbell River to a second AirBnB. This location was much nicer in every way when compared to the tiny house I had chosen previously (good job Deanna!) We explored the local town for the next day, where I was able to find a Baby Brownie camera which I love. They were originally sold for $1.25 during world war II!

Trying to see the tops of the gigantic trees inside of Cathedral Grove
We heard so many interesting stories about the old day of logging in the forests from Deanna’s Grandpa Gerry

We then continued across the island, visiting some of the largest trees in the entire world in “Cathedral Grove”, and stayed the following two days in the town of Ucuelet, just outside the more common Tofino surfing town.

A mule deer just 1o feet from our rental vehicle waiting as we packed up our AirBnB

After spending some time checking out the local Amphirite lighthouse and beaches, we finally made our way to our last destination, Tofino, British Columbia. It took a lot of careful driving on part to make it through the mountains on the one and only road into the town, but once we got there, we spent our day doing what we do best. Taking tons of photos and drinking at the local coffee shops and cafés.

Amphirite Lighthouse on the Pacific Ocean 5 minutes from where we were staying

It turned out that the trip we had dreamed of having together ever since we were dating became our favourite trip to date. It is amazing how many things you can squeeze into two weeks if you are careful and plan ahead of time. We now have all of the great memories from this trip, and 6,500 photos to visualize it.

The sun setting on over the ocean on one of our last days out west

Full Frame vs. Cropped Sensors, 8 Things You Need to Know

#1 Full Frame cameras typically have the highest quality images

When it comes to the discussion about cropped vs full frame sensors whether it is a APS-C or micro four thirds, there is a never-ending debate about which sensor size is “better”. No matter what you believe, it is hard to argue that in terms of overall image quality, full frame sensors have a leg up on their competition. There is an argument that if two cameras have the same amount of megapixels, the cropped frame camera will be sharper because the pixels on the cropped frame sensor are smaller. Although this may be true, in my real-world tests it really doesn’t make a difference to the naked eye and full frame sensors still produce better results at the end of the day.

#2 Full Frame lenses are universal and a better investment

If you are just getting into photography for the first time this may get overlooked (I know it was with me). If you start getting into photography on a APS-C or Micro Four Thirds “cropped” sensors, if you ever decide to switch to full frame camera bodies, the odds are your lenses will not work properly. When I first decided to transition over to a full frame camera body, four out of my five lenses which I had spent $100’s of dollars on had to be replaced with proper full frame lenses. They are two ways to avoid this difficult situation if you decide to upgrade to full frame. The first option is to only buy full frame lenses from the start and use them on your cropped frame cameras because they will all work without any issues. The big downside being that full frame lenses typically cost much more, but at least all of your lenses will work on all your camera bodies. The other option is what I decided to do, which is to purchase a full frame body and use the one lens I had that was compatible while still using my cropped frame camera body for my other lenses until that time when I could “upgrade” to more full frame lenses over time.

#3 Full Frame cameras give you a shallower depth-of-field

Although this could be seen as just one minor benefit to full frame cameras, a lot of the time this is one of the biggest deciding factors for “upgrading” to a full frame camera body. Just to set the record straight, full frame sensors do not actually give you a shallower depth of field, but because of the crop factor of cropped frame sensors, if you have both camera’s showing the same focal length, and at the same aperture, the full frame camera will give you a shallower looking depth-of-field. This is great for when you are wanting to separate your subject or model from the background, and it is why photographers spend exponentially more money on professional lenses that have slightly lower f-stops to let in more light and give them shallower depth-of-field.

This is why photographers spend exponentially more on professional lenses!

#4 Full Frame cameras are miles ahead in terms of quality when you are shooting in low light

The fact is that full frame cameras are just simply better in a few ways than cropped frame cameras, and one of those areas is in low light or astrophotography. Full frame cameras have physically larger sensors in them (hopefully you know that by this point in my article). For this reason, they are able to take handle low light much better and with modern sensors, they are much more equipped to handle noise reduction in photos. I first started into astrophotography on my cropped frame Nikon D7100, and although my current full frame D750 on paper has similar specs, because of the larger sensor size, the two camera’s are not even comparable in low light photography. When pushed to their limits, cropped frame cameras will introduce much more unwanted noise in your photography.

#5 Cropped Frame cameras and lenses are more affordable

There is a reason he majority of photographers start out on cropped frame cameras. For the exception of a couple high-end sports-focused cropped frame bodies, they are much cheaper to buy! This also goes for their lenses. With a smaller sensor, you don’t need as large of glass in your lenses to fill the frame which makes them cheaper to produce and more budget-friendly. If you are wanting to have the ability of getting professional results from a camera, but it’s not in your budget to purchase a full frame camera, all of the modern cropped frame camera options are more than adequate at producing professional results.

#6 Cropped Frame cameras and lenses are much smaller and lighter than their Full Frame counterparts

This is a pretty simple concept to understand so I won’t spend much of your time on it. A physically smaller sensor means a physically smaller and light camera body. When you pair that with “beginner” cameras that don’t need as many features and buttons, you get something like the Nikon D3100 which is incredibly small compared to even the smallest full frame camera while still having many of the most important features. If you are doing lots of travelling, this may be a huge benefit to you (and your back!)

If you’re doing lots of travelling, this may be a huge benefit to you!

#7 Cropped Frame cameras are very good for wildlife and telephoto photography due to their crop factor

One specific area where shooting on a cropped frame camera body really comes in handy is with wildlife photography and when using ultra telephoto lenses. Cost of a lens aside, if you are needing to shoot wildlife from extreme distances, using a telephoto lens on a cropped frame camera will allow you to view the subject up closer. As an example, if you were to shoot something far away with Nikon’s 55mm-300mm VR lens, the 300mm zoom is actually the equivalent of 450mm on a full frame lens. So instead of purchasing a lens for a couple hundred dollars that gives you the equivalent of 450mm, you would need to spend a couple thousand on a full frame 500mm lens which is really meant for professionals.

#8 At the end of the day, both sensors are great, it just depends on what you’re shooting and what your priorities are

The age-old question of which camera is best really comes down to what your priorities as a photographer are. For the majority of photographers who want to seriously get into the field, full frame camera bodies are the way to go. But if you are someone who loves to take wildlife photos or if you don’t want to sink as much of your hard-earned money into something that very well could be just one of many hobbies, cropped frame cameras are definitely the way to go. No matter which camera body you are using, the really skill and creativity comes from you, the photographer.