The Crocuses have once again returned to the prairies. I saw the most perfect one ever today out back on the prairie and I went back to get a couple macro shots.
Here is the hi-tech lighting setup. Full noon day sun through a reflector scrim. Really nice wrapping and soft light. Nikon D800 with the 105mm macro lens.
They truly are a magnificent aspect of prairie life! 😎
So we had some really neat chunky snow flakes the other day. I ran out early in the morning and nabbed a few macro photos while the wind was low. The trusty 105mm Nikkor and the stalwart Nikon D800 were the weapons of choice for this hunt – maximum resolution and resolving power!
It’s incredible to see the intricacies of frozen water up close like this. I have included a square cropped image here of the larger picture to see more of the detail.
It’s pretty wild stuff to see!
The “ball” images above here are frozen chokecherries. They are almost the same image, the only difference is lighting. On the darker blue image I lit the chokecherry with a flashlight in close and feathered a bit to give the image some shape and specular highlights – which we didn’t get with the flat cloudy ambient light. #Sparkle 🤩
In this block of images you can see the crops of the above. The creative genius of God on display for our viewing pleasure! 😎👍🙏
This is just a quick blog post showing how I was shooting some macro shots of my favourite cameras this evening.
This behind the scenes iPhone shot shows the exceedingly crude setup. Main light is an AlienBee 1600 through a gridded Photoflex soft box. I setup my home made scrim as a big reflector and did a simple blue gelled flash pointed at the back wall to give a bit of colour. Very simple setup with a decent result.
I also shot the good ol’ Nikon Df with an old 28mm manual focus lens from 19 diggity 5. I took more of a macro approach with this shot and used that same blue flash to add that hint of glancing colour to the shadow side. The blue sets it off just that extra little bit.
I shot the same kind of angle of the X-Pro2 but it doesn’t work as well to me. The X-Pro2 is more minimalistic in its design, lending to a more covert external appearance anyways (which I like). There’s just not as much going on for the accent light to bring attention too. Anyways, just a fun little shoot for something to do.
Here’s a link to the Nikon photo in 4K resolution. I shot all these files with the Nikon D800 RAW so there’s resolution to burn. 😎👍
I was out for a little nature walk the other day. I took the D800 and my 105mm Nikkor macro lens which I haven’t shot in a long time. With macro, you need a good tripod to be locked down tight. And, you need cooperative subjects (read: not windy) that stay still. But this particular day I didn’t bring a tripod. In fact, I didn’t even focus. On purpose. With most macro and landscape photography, you want hyperfocal focus and even focus stacking to get a big, crisp, tack sharp photo as the end result. But what would happen if you did nature photography out of focus??
It creates a pretty wild, abstract, bokehlicious result! Give it a whirl! 😎👍
My Nikon lens kit is a pretty basic, do anything kit. I don’t have any of Nikon’s Holy Trinity f/2.8 zooms because they are extremely heavy and expensive. Instead, I picked up the newer, sharper, cheaper, lighter & slower f/4 zooms. 16-35 & 70-200. I don’t have the 24-120 as to my eye, there is nothing interesting happening in those focal lengths. Same goes for the do-it-all, ever versatile, ready for anything 24-70. I’ll never buy it. Too close to uncle Bob’s kit lens focal lengths. Nothing cool optically is happening there. Wide and telephoto is where it is at.
That being said, I’m primarily a prime shooter. I just like them better. A little sharper glass. Lighter in the hand. Easier to transport. Etc, etc, etc #PrimePraise. So for my prime kit, I have a Nikkor 50mm 1.4G & 1.8D, 85mm 1.8G & 105mm 2.8G Macro (And the Fuji X100s at 35mm equivalent f/2). I didn’t have a fast wide angle lens though. I thought about picking up Nikon’s new 20mm 1.8G. It looks awesome. Nassim just got his review done, check it out here. It’s affordable and awesome, a true winner. But I am honestly tired of spending money on photography gear. And, even more so, I didn’t want the 1.8 form factor. The new G lenses are larger and bulkier. Optically better, but just also bigger. I didn’t want that.
I wanted to pretend I had a Leica. 😎 I love the smaller form factor of the rangefinder systems, another reason I love the Fuji so much. But I also have my trusty Nikon Df with all of its awesome old school film inspired manual controls. So I started to think about picking up an old school lens to match. Nikon made some really killer glass back in the day. No AF. No weather sealing. No Magical Nano Crystals. Just glass & metal. So I looked at a couple of fast(er) primes and I settled on the old 28mm Nikkor f/2.8 AI-S. The old lenses in this form factor take the small 52mm filers. They are light and pocketable, much like Fuji’s X-series lenses, but fit full frame sensors.
It’s a sweet gem of a lens. It’s eagle talon sharp, even wide open. Very little lens distortion. Hardly any Chromatic Aberration (unlike much of Nikon’s new G stuff). It as hard stops on each end of the focus which is great for locking the lens into infinity focus for landscapes and astro photography. It’s all sweet, smooth manual focus baby – which is a rather sucky experience on Nikon. They do give you the green-dot-O’-focus but it’s not as good as using focus peaking on the mirrorless cameras. However, the focus and distance marks are still engraved on the old lenses which is awesome, especially for a technique known as zone focusing.
I’d never heard of this before but stumbled across it while looking into the Street Photography Genre. Suffice it to say, in a world without modern Auto Focus, how would photogs get sharp shots in the fast paced, ever changing world of the street? They would stop down and preset the focus on their lenses. This would essentially give the photographer a “zone of focus” – an area in the photo that would have an acceptable level of sharpness. Say f/8 at 5 feet away. This gives you roughly 6 feet of in focus area to work with, 1.7 feet in front of the subject, 4.2 feet behind. You just had to get good at manually guessing how far your subject was from you when you made your shot. If they were in that 5 foot range, you’d nab the shot. It’s actually quicker than auto focus because you just pointed the camera and clicked the shutter button. That’s how they did it.
I wanted to try it out. But I don’t really live near any streets. LOL. 😎 I’ll try it for real when we go to the city. But it does work pretty good, especially with the Df’s low light capability. I can crank the ISO and still have clean images for the small f/8 & f/11 apertures.
Just compose and boom!
It’s a pretty cool technique. And you can do it on the cheap. I picked up the 28mm off eBay for like $250! I was leery of buying glass unseen off eBay and vowed never to do so. But I took a chance and it worked out great. The lens shipped from Japan and was in BETTER condition than what the seller had indicated. It’s essentially brand spankin’ new. Gotta love that!
Optically it’s really sharp, even wide open. I was blown away by the quality. Even on the D800, this puppy holds up. I thought that sensor would eat it for breakfast but it does a great job.
Enjoyed a little photo walk for an hour late this afternoon. Gorgeous weather for a stroll in the ol’ ravine behind our place. One camera, one lens: D800 & 105mm macro. Still such a versatile combination. 😎 Just meandering along, looking for light, colour & texture. Very therapeutic!
The kids got some super rad fiber optic tree things for Christmas. They look cool and have provided hours of entertainment already. So I decided to cash in on the coolness with my macro lens. Just like mini fire works! 😀
FYI: Just as an aside, I tweeted to Sasktel about when the Oxbow area will be getting Fiber for internet. . . . 2017. 😯
It’s been a long stretch with no bloggin’ so today I decided to catch up a bit. I have been über busy as of late with Grad shoots and funerals, plus and impromptu road trip with my boy. So I haven’t been doing much recreational shooting. But this morning after another glorious rain, conditions were perfect to do some raindrop chasing. The D800. For as much as I LOVE my X100s, I won’t soon part from the full frame glory of 36 glorious mega pixels. The color and quality of the images is really superb. Whilst wandering around the yard, I noticed a nearly microscopic spider. And thankfully, she (we’ll call her Charlotte :D) cooperated and I was able to nab a couple of images. There was a slight breeze which really sucks for macro photographers. I was already at IS0 3200 trying to keep a high enough shutter speed to freeze the motion. Tricky business. But super fun! Gotta love Macro. 😎
Bonus Video! BTS of the complete and utter gong show Macro Photography can be in the wind. Or breeze. heheheheh… 😆
A friend of ours was on her way through the hood and was able to stop by for a couple days visit. It was super fun to have Teresa and her (and our new) friend Talitha stop by. We haven’t hung out for many moons as Teresa and her husband have been living in New Zealand for a couple of years. Great to have them back in Canada! And, it was a grand occasion for me additionally because I got to play with the Nikon D800! Teresa is an awesome photographer now based out of Calgary, AB. Check her out at http://teresarehmann.com. We traded some photography as she needed some updated portraits and we needed a family photo that has all of us in it! bwahahhaah… 😎 And, I got to test the D800 extensively. And test I did, plugging all my lenses onto it and running it through it’s paces. I know the sensor is good. But I didn’t know it was THAT good. It is unbelievable. I’m really not exaggerating here. The image quality, the sharpness, the detail, the contrast, the colour, it’s nearly beyond description. And for what I do, portraits, landscapes and macro stuff, it’s a match made in heaven. HOWEVER. And it’s a big however, the files are so huge that they are unruly. We shot everything in RAW pretty much and editing them on my 3.06 iMac with 8 GB of RAM was painful. Slow. Excruciatingly so – packed in the whole Mac and needed a reset once. But it’s worth it! The images are unbelievable, especially with my 105mm macro lens. “Wicked sharp” has a whole new meaning to me! There’s just sooo much detail and nothing hides from that sensor. Probably need a new computer though . . . 😀
I still love Macro Photography. Always will. There is no bigger bang for your buck than a macro lens. EVER! It’s so fun and enjoyable getting up close and personal to the tiny world. But it also takes some rockin’ portraits too. I love the extra bokehlicious num-nums I get when I use this lens. As the sun was sneaking away again for another night, I ran out to get some blossom photos. The kids were playing, it was loads of fun. The light was soft and directional. It was indeed a beautiful evening. Then, my dog rolled in cow crap in the back pasture and ruined the whole night. Sigh. 😉
In the pub “Bobby’s Place” in Moose Jaw, there are his and hers bathrooms like in any other public house. However, in Bobby’s the doors are labeled “Laddies” and “Ladies”. I watched for over an hour as woman after woman went through the “Laddies” door! bwahahaah… 😀 They all came out with the same shock & awe embarrassment face! . . . That little anecdote has nothing to do with this blog post other than it’s about Macro Photography of Lady Bugs. 😉 Sorry for the red herring. Anyways, nabbed these shots of this lady bug today. Everything is super saturated in colour from the rain and dark cloud lighting conditions. I love the textures and the colours in these shots. The lady bug stands out like Shaquille O’Neil in Alameda. 😎
Can you imagine if this thing was people life-sized?? 😯 It would eat you and your family. I often think that, whilst doing macro photography. Blech!
I went for a bit of a relaxing photo walk today with the dog. He’d been cooped up for days on end and needed a run and I hadn’t snapped any shots for a couple of days and I didn’t want to lose my edge. Fall colours and textures are a plenty down in the Oak tree ravines just behind our place. I went out to see if I could find a picture of two.
So at last night’s photography club, we decided to go on the fall photo walk today. Beautiful, beautiful day for a walk in Shepherd’s ravine near Oxbow. I have been in there many times for geocaching and running the dog but low and behold, when we got there today, it was barricaded with a locked gate! CURSES! 👿 We had to park at the top and then hoof it on down into the valley for the mad shots. The exercise was good for us, so I’m not complaining. 😉 It was another fun photo event to be sure. I decided that I was going to shoot macro for this photo walk so all I brought was the 105mm AF-S VR Micro. That and my trusty reflector/diffuser, it was all I needed . It’s way more fun and way less complicated when you bring only 1 camera and 1 lens. Scott Kelby also did a photo walk today, you can check out the website here.
I got the chance to take some photos at my friends riding arena on Friday night. It was awesome to see Dan and the boys wrestlin’ them steers with all their might!! I was stoked to be able to get some western/rodeo shots because the action is super cool and it makes for really dramatic photos, if you blur the action or if you freeze it. You can’t really go too far wrong. Plus, the sunset was beautiful! 8)
Photo Geek Info:
The light was just starting to fade when I started shooting which meant the whole shoot was pretty much in golden light. Which, as we know, is the ultimate time to make pictures! I was using my 105 VR Macro at f/2.8 for nice compression and cream cheesy bokeh. I found that it was almost perfect for this event as it’s fast, sharp and pretty workable for candid portraits closer in and long enough to nab full frame action further out. Probably the ultimate for this would be the 70-200 though with just a bit more reach. I was able to be in the arena for some of the shots which allowed me to get closer than I would at an actual rodeo. Very fun stuff! 😆
Studio?! We don’t need no stinkin’ studios!!!! 8) So tonight I finally had the chance to do some portraits using a 3 light configuration. I’ve been dying to try out the beauty dish in a studio setup and so I finally got to do so tonight. I even persuaded some models to work with me. 🙂
So in the first setup, we did a single speed light that had been gelled as the background light. This light is directly behind the subject and lights the back plane. Then, I put the beauty dish up on a stand and used a silver reflector for the classic “clamshell” beauty light combo. It’s used lots in fashion stuff, but does very well on wrinkly people if you want to minimize wrinkles. The beauty dish chucks light down and the reflector fills in any shadows. It’s cool light. So this was the first setup of the night. Only 2 lights.
OK, next, in setup 2, I added an additional light to the background. This helps bathe that back plane in color/light. For the colour background shots I blasted them each with a gel. For the super white blown out high-key background, the lights were fired straight up with no gels. The beauty dish and reflector fill remain unchanged.
So, finally, we switched things up again for another cool look, still using only 3 lights. This time, I lit the background with a single gelled speed light. I still used the beauty dish/silver reflector combo as the main & fill lights. But, I added a 1/8th spot gridded hair light to add more dimension to the light. It makes a sweet little highlight/rim light that adds another layer of loveliness to the light.
I also got to do a comparison shot between umbrella light and the beauty dish. This is really neat to be able to see the difference in the quality of light. The umbrella light is unquestionably softer. It wraps more and it is more fitting for these little people. The beauty dish has far more contrast and hard edges in the light. But it just depends on what you want to accomplish in your lighting. Jostens and other portrait people almost always use huge soft boxes because they are the softest light on the planet. But for brassier shots, the beauty dish has more punch. Also, the catch lights in the eyes are more pleasing from the beauty dish (they’re round…like the eye) 😉
So there you go. Three lights put to good use. We have lighting, colour, gesture, direction, depth, and mood. Just by moving a few lights, you can have a tremendous amount of versatility! Gotta love that!
Another beautiful evening in Southern Saskatchewan last night. The wind got up nice, nice enough to fly a kite. So we grabbed our trusty wind walker and away we went. I also grabbed the camera and my 105mm macro lens. Why? Usually this kind of shoot lends itself to wide angle. Well, I had an alterior motive – that being compression & bokeh. [Photo geek alert! Just look at the pictures if you don’t know what either compression 0r bokeh are. ;)] Compression is the photography effect created when you use a long telephoto lens to make a photo. The background gets smooshed together, compressed as it were, making for portraits that are pure awesomeness. Add that to f/2.8 and you’ve got sheer awesomeness, photographically speaking. And, top it all off with golden light and 100% unadulterated awesomeness. I just watched Cliff Mautner’s latest Kelby Training webinar called searching for the light and he made this comment again and again about compression. He said that if your images are lacking something, it’s compression. And he’s right. I tend to be a wide angle kind of shooter. But you just don’t get the added loveliness of compression with a wide angle that you get with long glass. So I grabbed my 105mm lens and dialled it in to f/2.8 and went to town. All the images here are shot with the 105mm at f/2.8 (except the obviously wide angle landscape shots near the end). I was super pleased with the shots, technically speaking. I’m always happy with pics of my own kids though (who isn’t, right?! ;)) Try some telephoto in your life. It makes a big, awesome difference! 8)
A while ago my dad bought some lenses off another photographer. On the lenses was a small piece of tape that had various f stop numbers written on them. I wondered about what it all meant. Dad graciously enlightened me. The f stops written on the tape were the apertures that the particular lens was sharpest at. Essentially, they were where the lens was at its best performance for sharpness and optimal image quality.
This can be referred to as “lens tuning” or “lens diagnostics” – whatever you want to call it, its the process of finding out where your lens shoots the sharpest images at. I went digging around the internet and came across some really great videos on how to sharpness test your lens. The people who provided the videos also provided a comprehensive list of Nikkor and Zeiss lens sharpness. When I tried their techniques in the video I came up with the same results they did and they were startling!
If you want to try this, watch the videos and follow them exactly.
I tried three of my lenses in these diagnostics: my “nifty-fifty” 50mm AF f1.8, my 105mm AF-S VR Macro and my 16-85mm AF-S VR zoom lens. The primes were quicker to test because you just sail through the f stops shooting at various apertures. But with the zoom lens, you have to do it at various focal lengths which took a little longer.
Anyways, we will look at the findings of my favorite lens for portraits, my trusty 50mm. In the past, I’ve almost always shot it at f1.8. Why? Because it can shoot f1.8!! It can open up super wide in junk light, making shots possible you might not have otherwise got. But, after doing this sharpness test today, I’m rethinking some things. According to the sharpness chart, the optimal apertures for this lens are:
DX: F/4.0, F/5.6, and F/8.0 (For FX & Film:F/4.0, F/5.6, F/8.0, F/11.0, & F/16.0)
When I compare my test images at f1.8 and 7.1 the difference in sharpness is truly incredible. The 7.1 image is far sharper.
Also, for the 105mm Macro at f2.8 and f8, the difference is wild. It confirms the chart which says DX (normal use/non 1:1 close up): F/4.0, F/5.6, and F/8.0 are sharpest.
And finally, for my 16-85 zoom, the chart’s findings were: DX: 24mm-50mm at F/8.0.
Which tells you that the sweet spot of this zoom is f8 in that range. I included a test shot of the 16-85 at 85mm f8 vs f32 for comparison. It’s striking!
What all this nerdy stuff tells us is two fold. 1) It can confirm for you that the lens you have is accurate and not a dud. If in your comparisons, you see soft images where they should be sharp, you may have a bum lens. 2) It confirms in your own mind where your particular lens should be shot to be at it’s very best (sharpest). Of course lighting conditions, situations and artistic intent play into this, but it’s safe to say if you know where your lens shoots sharpest, you’re more likely to get consistently sharp images if you know the sweet spots.