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.
I’ve been a YouTube junky for a good long while now. And, I also like eating Barbecue. So when you put those things together, you get the Barbecue Pit Boys! I love these guys! Good ol’ fashioned rednecks cooking the finest, choicest cuts of meat over a charcoal grill. . . . Charcoal!? It sounds weird, but it’s true. In Canada, we cook with Propane and propane accessories. Maybe Natural Gas. But charcoal seems so old school. So old world. So . . . foreign. But it’s sooooo delicious! I bought a small kettle grill from Wal-Mart when it was on sale as a season close out for $35 bucks because I just had to see if it made any difference to the food. And boy howdy, does it ever! You actually taste fire in the food! Granted, even if you slow cooked stuff on a propane grill it would have the same effect, but there is something extra in the charcoal (and don’t say Volatile Organic Compounds) 😉 It’s pure delicious!
Today was beautiful! We played outside with the kids this morning and finally got some serious rays. My bald head got red! And it was great! 🙂 I also cleaned the garage, but who cares about that. I went for an evening drive to get obtain the fine water from Alameda’s well and threw the camera in just incase any photos were lingering in the setting sun. There were! Here’s what I came up with this evening. 🙂
I got up today and looked out and behold, there were tons of turkeys, struttin’ their stuff. I grabbed my camera, some camo and went belly crawling for a half mile or so. Last year, they were more tolerant of me and let me get a wee bit closer than they did this year. But it was warmer then than it is now. uggg, this weather is getting depressing. While I was out, it started to snow which was throwing off the autofocus of my 70-300. I missed some shots because of that and for that reason I’m selling a kidney on the black market to get a 300mm f/2.8 hehehehe.. 😉 Anyways, it’s true, in low light, that lens hunts for focus like Rita McNeil looking for prime rib in a buffet line. 🙂 But what can you do? I did do some manual focusing to try and nab the shots I was missing. Here’s the shots of the day. It’s funny how from 330 shots, I get 32 good ones. Roughly 10%
EDIT! Here’s a video of me gobbling! I’m the turkey whisperer.
One of the gaping holes on the Internet was a comparison of the 70-200 f/2.8 VR lens and the 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 VR lens. Fortunately, I was able to borrow the f/2.8 glass and compare it with my 70-300. And, I made a YouTube video of it to share the goodness. Both lenses are great, but they are definitely for different tasks. If I was a wedding or concert photographer in low lighting conditions, I’d want the f/2.8. But it is one heavy piece of glass and in my opinion isn’t as desirable as a walk-around street lens. Enter the 70-300. It’s waaay slower than the 70-200 (autofocus and aperture) but it’s lighter and more balanced on DX camera bodies. But alas, it sucks in low light, and the auto focus hunts around like a blind hyena. Anyways, here’s the video. 🙂
Recently on an episode of Fro Knows Photo, I watched the Fro & Greg edit a RAW file of some girl posed in a sitting position on a concrete ledge with a forest type background. At the end of the show, they were critiquing the shot such that it had been taken with a 50mm f/1.8 Canon. The general gist of what was said was that the bokeh on the 50mm 1.8 was not as pleasing as it could have been had the portrait been taken with a 70-200mm f/2.8.
Now, I happen to love 50mm primes. They are almost the perfect portrait lens on crop censor cameras, producing a sweet 75mm on my D300s. In fact, my new 50mm f/1.4 G lens should be arriving any day now. So while I wait, I decided to borrow a 70-200 f/2.8 lens from Jocelyn, setup my own miniature wedding photo shoot for John & Marsha and do a “which has better bokeh” test. 😉
There are two main things going on that we need to be aware of: Bokeh & Compression. Bokeh is the Japanese word for “stuff that is out of focus in a photo.” Compression is described as an effect produced by a long lens (longer than 35mm) that smooshes and flattens backgrounds. It gives the effect of even more buttery bokeh. There are some people who contest this as a myth though.
For simplicity’s sake, longer telephoto lenses *should* produce more pleasing bokeh because it is “compressed” in addition to being out of focus. This is where Greg was coming from on the Fro episode. So, let’s check the results of my mini-field test and you can make up your own conclusions.
The situation was that John and Marsha surrounded by background and foreground elements (pineapple, spiderplant, gerbs and a happy face flower resting on two toddler chairs and a brick wall). This simulates a wedding couple in a park area with some trees & shrubs and thick forest behind them. The lenses used were Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR, 105mm f/2.8 VR macro, and a 50mm f/1.8. All the lenses were mounted on a D300s on a tripod using mirror lock up and a cable release with VR off. Light levels and ISO remained constant. Distance was slightly changed to try and maintain similar perspective.
Here is a gallery of the results:
What do you think? Which lens has the most pleasing Bokeh? Which lens produces the most pleasing portrait? 🙂
Whilst enjoying my morning cup of coffee, I looked out and saw that it was another ridiculously cold prairie morning. It was -28ºC raw temperature, and then with the wind it was actually -39ºC which is insane. Why do we live here?! 😉 Oh well, gotta take some pictures. I looked at our patio door, you know the old school, nasty, uninsulated, aluminum, gong show, resource wasting kind. It was nicely decorated with frost. I quickly ran and grabbed my D300s, my cable release, tripod and 105mm Macro VR lens. I set it up at 1:1 focusing and made some compositions.
I just love Macro! There is so much going on all around us. If we would only open our eyes to see that we are surrounded by zillions of photos all the time! 🙂
One other insight from the photo shoot this morning. Camera lenses suffer from two main pitfalls. Chromatic Aberration at really low f stops and Lens Diffraction at really high f stops. All lenses suffer from these things, some are better than others. I took two photo crops to illustrate Lens Diffraction (the image gets tooooo sharp and becomes blurry) as a comparison at f/18 and f/51.
This is where knowing your lens and doing your own lens sharpness testing is a real benefit. You’ll know how far you can go before your lens diffraction gets so bad it actually wrecks your shots. This is more applicable to landscapes where you want a higher f/stop for lots of detail, but it also applies to macro too! 🙂 Click the images below for a larger look.
This past Sunday I had the privilege of Baptizing a little girl at our Church in Frobisher and then going back to the families’ house to take some photos. I’m the pastor who officiates your rite, then takes your pictures! 😉 Weddings come as a two for one special, ceremony & the photos cheap! The follow up party was a lot of fun and there were lots of photos to be had. I took my camera bag and used my 50mm f/1.8 lens to nab all the shots. We were inside which meant higher ISOs than I would have preferred but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to get the exposure. I approached the event from a casual/candid/photojournalism type style with only a couple of “posed” shots. It was a lot of fun and the family was very gracious to allow me to celebrate their special day with them.
So tonight I was trying some way cool smoke tricks I saw on Gavin Hoey’s YouTube page. His tutorial is super cool and explains everything so I won’t repeat it all here. But it’s a fun technique that creates some really neat shots!
Then, you can get creative and go the next step further and do some colorizing in Photoshop (or in my case, GIMP). It also works pretty darn slick!
OK, it might be a bit of mis-statement. But it’s more or less true. 😉 What I’m talking about is my history of occasionally blurry shots when shooting handheld with my 50mm f/1.8. I noticed that shots would sometimes be bang on and sometimes they would be off ever so slightly. Most of the time I would lock the camera into Aperture priority mode, dial in ISO 320 (I’m not a huge fan of noise) and let the camera work out the shutter speed. It would work out an exposure for me and I would click and sometimes it would be blurry and sometimes it would be bang on. I blamed it on photographer shake and went on with life, with lots of occasional blurry shots.
Then, I learned about the handheld rule – this literally changed my photographic life! When I finally learned that if your shutter speed drops below 1/your focal length (in my case 1/50th for a 50mm), you’re shot will be blurry if it is handheld. You can compensate for this somewhat by cranking your ISO but your overall picture quality will degrade too. Now, when shooting handheld inside in natural light, I switch to M mode and dial in no less than 1/100 to be safe.
The logic is because the handheld rule originally applied to film and it still works on full sensor cameras. But on crop sensors like my D300s, you have to multiply the focal length by a factor of 1.5 (for Canon crop sensors it’s 1.6). So, a 50mm prime on a C-Sensor camera is actually a 75mm. You’d need a shutter speed of no less than 1/80 of a second to get a sharp shot.
Keeping this rule in mind, you can tell why shots taken in Aperture Priority mode would sometimes be blurry. If the camera calculated your exposure to be 1/60 at f/4 at ISO 320, on a handheld 50mm lens, end result is a blurry shot which is a real drag! Switching to M mode and watching my meter has virtually eliminated my blurry handheld shots.
Try out the handheld rule the next time your taking inside shots in natural light handheld. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes! It’s now become innate for me, that is to say, I never deviate from the principle now as it just comes automatically. I don’t even have to think about it anymore. Which is a real plus! It means I can get back to concentrating on composition and making photographs.
I woke up this morning and looked out my bedroom window and behold! There was a Whitetailed Deer snuggled into a snow bank across the ravine from our house. And not only that, she was framed inside a natural vignette! It was pretty cool looking, so I ran for my camera. After taking the window opener apart, I was able to get my camera in place to compose the shot the way I wanted to.
There were a couple of challenges to over come though. The first was as it was early morning, the light was garbage. I couldn’t setup a tripod because my bed is in the way. So I braced the camera on the window frame itself to try to make a rest. I tried a pillow too but there was too much shake. My 70-300 has the VR technology which helped but with an aperture of only f/5.6 it wasn’t what I would call optimal. So I had to crank my ISO to try to get a sharp image. As a result, the image quality degraded more than I would have liked.
I waited a little while for more light and I was able to drop the ISO to 800 and still get a reasonable shot, but it was still too noisy for my liking. I dropped the files into Aperture and fired up my Dfine 2.0 plugin from Nik. Pure awesomeness results! It magically cleans up the noise without eliminating all the detail from the shot. See the 100% Crop.
As you can see, it is magic for cleaning up noise. Next, I had to fix the color. The early morning light was still too blue. I screwed up by not having my white balance on shade to warm it up to where it needed to be. Thanks be to RAW! I was able to change the white balance in Aperture and warmed it up substantially.
I also did some some tweaking with Color eFex 3.0 to adjust the contrast and enhance the natural vignette by brightening the spot where the deer was lying. A couple other touchups and I had the final image I was happy with!
Another reminder that pictures are happening all around us! 🙂
The weather warmed up a ridiculous amount today. So much so that it was nice enough to go for a walk. And if you’re going for a walk, you might as well bring your camera! Truth is, I messed up my back shovelling snow the other day and sitting is no good for me. So out the door with the dog I went.
What’s there to take pictures of in winter? The landscapes are bleak. Everything is dead. Color has turned into shades of grey. Most of the time it’s too cold to be much fun – especially on the prairies where you have to worry about the windchill. Can you even get pictures worth taking in these conditions? I asked myself that question before I ventured out and hurdled the barbed wire fence behind our house. I tried to do the photo walk Jay Maisel style. Just go out walking – slowly – and take a look at what you’re lookin’ at. The slowly part was no problem for me today. I tried to keep out of the deep snow by walking on old snowmobile trails that nicely packed the terrain. Most of them have been covered over thanks to the driving wind, but you can still see them. At one point though, I ventured off the packed trail and I sunk down to my pants pockets. Great… 😦 But, as I was pondering how to get out of this without wratching my back any further, I noticed a picture.
Seems the coyotes aren’t quite as fat as I am! Must be nice to float across the top!
It’s true though, the faster you rip through an area, the more pictures you miss. Take a few steps, look around. Take another few steps, look around again. Pictures are everywhere. Another thing I noticed about the way Jay Maisel goes out on his photo walks is that he only takes one camera with one lens. So I did the same. I had my D300s and my 70-300. It’s actually quite freeing and fun to try to make shots work with just one lens. The obvious pitfalls – not having wide angle – makes life interesting! As does shooting in Manual, which is pretty much all I shot today. While I was watching Hanky burn off some energy, I happened to look down. I saw the picture, but I couldn’t get it because I had too much glass. I needed to back up a few feet in order to focus on this “last of the survivors” of winter.
I guess the lesson is, there are always pictures around us all the time. We just need to slow down and take a look at what we’re looking at! 🙂