Kansas City Zoo Photo Club Meeting Minutes
January 19, 2004

The meeting started with Randy Wisthoff, the new Kansas City Zoo director, speaking to the club.  He told us about his background.  He is the former assistant director at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha.  He discussed current challenges at the zoo and some of his plans for the near future.

 This summer we will have feeding of lorikeets, which are Australian parrots.  We also have gutted the Tropical Asia building and will be using half of it, about 5,000 square feet, for a traveling reptile exhibit this summer.

 Randy said these are exciting times, but we need to balance the budget.  That is his main task for this year, along with driving up attendance.  Attendance has dropped in recent years, from about 700,000 annually in 1998 to about 400,000 in 2003.  Attendance at the IMAX has dropped to about 130,000, compared to about 400,000 in its heyday.  Yet we had more employees when Randy came on board than in 1998.

 Why is attendance down?  Randy said the city put $50 million into the zoo in 1995 and built all of Africa.  A lot of money was put into the zoo then, but nothing new has been added since then.  The most successful zoos add new exhibits and buildings every three to four years, to keep the public coming back.  Relying on traveling exhibits doesn't cut it; you must have new buildings.

 It is a 1.8-mile walk to the chimp exhibit.  Most people coming to the zoo are pushing strollers, and they just won't do it.  The zoo has lost some of its luster, excitement, and urgency.  Randy wants to create new excitement at the zoo.

 He explained that all of the buildings at Omaha were built with private money.

 The zoo is carrying about $2.5 million in debt right now.  Randy discussed the upcoming vote on the bond issue.  If the bond issue passes, that will help a lot.

 He has talked to two major employers and a foundation about making donations to the zoo.  They all are interested, but want us to earn their trust first.  We have to make progress on the budget and run the zoo on a balanced budget this next year first; then we may be able to get some donations.

 Randy said he looks forward to working with us and wants to bring the zoo back to be a source of pride in Kansas City.  He asked us to take good pictures and help the zoo out when we can.

 Randy was asked if there are any flyers on the bond proposal that we can put on display in offices, and so on.  He said not yet; it's still being worked on.  He asked that we let people know that if they vote for this bond issue, it won't affect their taxes, and it will help the city, the zoo, and Liberty Memorial.

 The rhino baby is due to be born at any time and weighed 85 pounds at last report.  We will have a camera on the mother and baby, and we want to have the baby on exhibit before very long after its birth.  Marie Bohndorf said there is a Web site with cameras already monitoring the rhino.  It's at http://www.thekansascitychannel.com/webcams/.

 After Randy's informative and inspiring talk, Bill Pasek said that tonight we are fortunate to have two guest speakers.  He introduced Mitch Pence, from Photographx Unlimited.

 Mitch said that Michelle Riley asked him to speak a couple of months ago.  He wasn't sure what to speak about, so decided he would try to cover it all.  He brought some equipment that we can look at later.  Mitch asked about the club and what its goals were.  Bill read the club's mission statement.

 Mitch explained that the shop is a full-line camera store located at 64th and I-29.  They do a little of everything there, including offering a rental studio that is fully equipped, with three lights, and they will show you how to set things up.  They also have a darkroom for rent at $5 per hour, including chemistry (not paper).

 They sell lots of equipment at the shop.  Mitch planned to bring a lot of the more popular equipment tonight, like the Canon Rebel D or the Nikon 1D, but realized that they are sold out right now.

 Mitch said the industry is changing drastically on a daily basis.  Digital photography is now more prevalent than film photography.  Mitch said this was not exciting to him.  Kodak will no longer be producing 35mm and APS reloadable cameras, though it will continue to sell film.  It will be introducing three new films.  Mitch pointed out that Canon introduced 50 new products, and half or more were digital.

 Mitch asked what kind of digital cameras the group used.  A range of responses led him to the conclusion that this group consisted of high-end digital users:  Fuji 602, Canon D60, Nikon D100, Minolta Dimage A1, and Canon 1Ds were among those named.

 Mitch said there were pros and cons to digital photography that he won't get into in great detail right now.  It is controversial.  The quality of reproduced pictures depends on the size.  35mm is equivalent to a 15-megapixel camera.  It is hard to compare silver halide to pixels.  The 1Ds has 11 megapixels; this is getting close to 35mm in quality.  You can scan film, but you don't have to buy or process film with digital cameras.

 The Pentax istD camera is a new digital camera that is very viable for Pentax shooters.  Pentax auto-focus lenses will work with it, and manual-focus lenses will mount.

 Mitch asked how many Minolta users there were in the group.  A couple of members raised their hands.  There will be a new Minolta digital introduced at PMA in February.  It will be a prototype.  Mitch said he has used Minolta since he was 17.

 Mitch expressed the opinion that Minolta has sat back too long on the digital front and lost a lot of clients to Canon and Nikon.

 The Canon G5 is a photographer's digital camera.  He discussed its features briefly.

 A Sony 8-megapixel camera is out now, though he hasn't seen it.  Sony has been known to duplicate or split pixels.

 The Nikon Coolpix is a low-end camera at around $200.

 Which camera to buy depends on what you are planning on doing with the camera.  If you want to make good 4x6 images, just about any digital camera will do, except a Sony Mavica with a floppy drive.  The Nikon 5400 takes 4-megapixel images.

 Mitch also sells lots of 35mm film cameras.  You can get some good buys if you watch carefully.  For example, you can get the Nikon N75 for under $300 with a lens.  You can get some really fine equipment for not a lot of money.

 Mitch discussed medium-format cameras.  There are still lots of medium-format cameras out there, and probably lots of good deals on used ones.  Several members said they used medium format.  It gives you a bigger negative and hence a sharper picture.  Lots of professionals started with 35mm, then went to a 645, and then a 6x7.  Finally they end up with a 6-megapixel digital camera.  This is a reduction in quality, but if you can get a digital back for a medium-format camera, that would be the best of both worlds.  However, the cost is prohibitive, and the file size is quite large.

 Mitch said he sells the Seagull TLR, a medium-format twin lens reflex camera.  You can get one for as low as $130.  There are two models; the lower-priced one does not have auto-stop on advance.  Negatives are 6x6.  The next one up in price is $220, which still is not too expensive.

 Slide processing still is available at Mitch's shop.  They teach a basic photography class as well.

 Chris Nederman said she still shoots film and is thinking of buying a Tokina 24-200 lens.  She asked if he had any recommendations about that.  Mitch said he doesn't have experience with Tokina.  He has sold Sigma and Tamron lenses.  Tamron lenses have had very few problems, though Sigma lenses have had a few.  Chris said she has read both good and bad about Tokina lenses.  Mickey Norton said he had read good things about them.  Mitch said he didn't know of anyone in town who is selling Tokina.  He said you can find lens test results online.

 Tamron has some digitally integrated lenses -- a new feature -- of fine quality, like the 28-75mm f/2.8 Di lens.  A rear element on the lens accesses CMOS to make better use of light through the lens.  It works fine on film as well as digital.  It is f/2.8 throughout and doesn't shift.  You can get it for around $380, whereas a Nikon would be $1,600.

 Wide-angle lenses are popular for digital photography, due to the perspective change on digital cameras.

 Mitch was asked if there was some place that scans negatives at decent quality.  He said his shop scans at 300 dpi, which is just more than 1 MB per negative.  They charge $8.95 to put a roll on CD, with the other four rolls at $3 apiece, so a five-roll CD is about $25.  Negatives are still better to print from.  You can scan to TIFF, but that takes an hour to write to a CD.

 They have a mini-lab and take lots of pride in their quality.  They can print from any digital media you want.  It used to be that there were only three different types of media to print from; now there are nine.  It changes every day.

 Mitch passed out some free handouts about his shop, or what he called "propaganda".

 Jim Rendina asked if he had experience with non-OEM batteries for digital cameras.  There is a huge difference in price, but how is the quality?  Mitch said he doesn't have a lot of experience with this but has just ordered some off-brand batteries to try.  He said he would be cautious.  They probably don't have as long a life.

 If the batteries are NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) or Li-Ion (Lithium Ion), they can be charged at any time.  If they are NiCad (Nickel Cadmium), you must run the battery all the way down before recharging. 

Mitch ended his enjoyable presentation at about 8 p.m.  Bill called for a brief break so we could look over Mitch's equipment and enjoy cookies that Bill brought.

At about 8:15 p.m., Bill resumed the meeting by introducing our guests for the evening.  Sarah said she had an interest in nature photography, and Megan said Sarah had told her about the club.  Their friend Antonio said he was interested in photography in general.  Bill welcomed them to the club and invited them to come back next time, when we have heat!  (The room was cold because of a problem with the furnace.)


Libby McCord was not present, so there was no treasurer's report.

Bill moved on to old business.

 He said that Carla had done a great job with a brochure for the club.  We plan to put copies on the photo stand in Deramus (once it is located again) and in the office.  Nice job!

 Tell Bill if you need any corrections to the meeting nametags he made up.

 Bill asked Sarah O’Brien if she had any news from the zoo.  She said she had nothing to report.  She doesn't need photos of anything in particular right now, but would like to get us out when the rhino baby is born, which should be any day now.  Luyisa, the pregnant rhino, is full-term, and the staff is on 24-hour call. 

Jim said he received a few pictures tonight for the photo stand.  He would like to change them out by the end of February.  Bring 5x7s or 8x10s for the stand if you have pictures to display.  He received more landscape 8x10s than we could use last time, so please try to take some portraits.

 Steve Brewer said the Web site was updated a week ago, including the zoo gallery, the newsletter section, and the main page.  We need more pictures -- he has received only 23 new ones.

 Gary Gingrich suggested that we limit images to only two shots of the same animal.  For example, we had five or six shots of elephants on the page.  He encouraged everyone to turn in a variety of animals instead of multiple shots of the same animal.

 Jim said you can send him pictures via e-mail or on CD.  If the file is too big, it can take a long time to convert the images.  Submit images at 72 dpi resolution; the Web page cannot display the image at any higher resolution than that anyway.

Peggy Lawrey said she has received some matted pictures for the gift shop.  These seem to be popular right now, rather than framed images.  Let Peggy know if you have pictures to submit.  We are going to display them further down the wall, so she has room for more.

 Jim had talked to someone at the zoo about painting the wall in the room so it is suitable for our projected images.  It is on his to-do list to find a source for paint.  He was told that if we buy the paint, the zoo will paint the wall, but if they buy it, they quoted a price of $125 a gallon for two gallons.  This seems like too much.

 Bill called for any new business.

 Linda Williams has agreed to moderate our Tech Talk tonight on filters.  Linda said she is not a really big filter user any more, though she used to be.  She uses a polarizer and a split neutral density filter (a two-stop soft-edge) for landscapes, a 25 red for black and white, an 81A warming filter, and a blue filter for indoors.  She does not use filters for wildlife.

 With her Canon camera, she debated round screw-in versus square filters.  She went with round, but this is not good for the split neutral density filter, since you can't put the horizon line in the middle.  The square ones are plastic.

 You need something to carry your filters in.  You can use a Tupperware or plastic box to hold them all compactly.  She used to use a Tamrac holder that had mesh plastic pockets, but it left marks on her filters.  Now she uses a screw-top container with some soft material in between.

 She doesn't use UV filters on her lenses.  She read that it leads to a loss of sharpness and a blue cast, plus you have two surfaces to keep clean.  Others said they used them to protect their lenses.

Polarizer filters are good to minimize glare from water surfaces or buildings with a lot of glass.  They also give deep blues to the sky.  But they can take out two stops of light.  Linda said if you crank your polarizer filter to the maximum, it can look too unnatural.

 Jim explained that older polarizers were linear; they did not work as well with auto-focus cameras.  The newer ones are circular polarizers, and you need these for the newer cameras.

 What about using filters with digital cameras?  Peggy said her brother uses polarizers with his digital camera all the time.  Gary said he doesn't use filters with his digital camera -- he can get the same effects using PhotoShop.

 If you buy the higher-priced filters with a filter holder, you only have to buy one good filter, instead of buying one to fit each size of lens.

 Bill said next would be our Buy-Sell-Trade session.  We will try this for a few more months and, if there is not good response to it, we will drop it.

 Bill said that Light Impressions had sent a bunch of stuff to him in error.  When he contacted them about it, they told him to keep it.  He has some sleeves for negatives for sale -- no reasonable offer refused!

 Steve said he had some 120 and 35mm 36-exposure print film to sell.

 Jim has a Sony 707 (5-megapixel) digital camera he is going to sell, because he had it for six months and then bought a D100.  It comes with three cards, four sets of batteries, and a Zeiss lens.

 The subject for Tech Talk next month will be "Film versus Digital", and Stuart Riley will moderate it.  He also will be our speaker next month. 

The meeting adjourned at 8:40 p.m.  The next meeting is February 16 at 7 p.m.

                             -- Tracy Goodrich