Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Land Iguana

Its been difficult finding the time to go through and do the final processing of my Galapagos images. One thing that is really challenging about photographing in the Galapagos are the backgrounds. Some photographers still manage to get great images though (note: I am not claiming to be one of them). The Land Iguanas were particularly challenging in this aspect (especially as you are trying to respect the park guidelines and not get too close or disturb the animal).

This may sound odd, but I am not a fan of extensive Photoshop work on photographs. There are some photographers who wouldn't think twice to clone out every errant thistle, grass or even "clean up" the surface of an animal or bird. There's nothing wrong with this, every photographer needs to draw their own line, I just know where mine is.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D4, 70-200 f/2.8 II @ 95mm, f/9, 1/200s, ISO 400.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Canon 50mm f/1.2L Focus Shift

I have written up a quick analysis of focus shift with the Canon 50mm f/1.2L. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Going Really Wide

Ultrawide angle photography is very challenging. Its challenging because its hard to compose an image where including so much of what you see actually creates an interesting composition.

Perspective distortion also makes it very challenging to photograph people with an ultra wide angle lens. You definitely want to keep the face out of edges or corners of the image.

I chose to compose the image above that way because I wanted to place Maya's milk cup in the lower left of the frame with Maya approaching in the upper right-hand portion of the frame. Seemed like a way to get interesting composition at the time.

Technical Specs: Nikon D3s, 14-24 @ 14mm.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Oriental Lily

This is an "orienpet", an Oriental Lily with garden resistance. This was a stack of 27 images, which was necessary to get the sufficient depth of field.

Technical Specs: Canon 5D2, 180L, f/11, 1.3s, ISO 200, 27 images stacked.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Clear Night at Lick

Last night, took 4 friends to the Lick Observatory for the summer visitor program. Unlike the last two years, the viewing through the scopes was great this year. We had clear skies and good seeing. This also meant I could get the image I've been after since last year, one with the large dome facing the milky way.

We were first in line to get into the observatory. There was a gentleman there with an Astrophysics 160 "Starfire" trained on the sun which gave some very nice views of solar activity while waiting for the observatory to open.

We saw the Omega Nebula (M17) through the 36" refractor and a globular cluster (M92) in Hercules through the 40" reflector.

In addition, we saw Jupiter and the 4 Galilean moons through the AP 160 as well as Andromeda through an AP 130 "Gran Turismo". We also saw the Great Cluster in Hercules (M13) through a Celestron C11. All the views were great and a fun time was had by all.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Supervised Exercise

There's something about this image that makes me laugh every time I see it.

On a different note. This site is now a B&H affiliate so if you want to buy stuff from B&H (which I would highly recommend), I would appreciate it if you could do so by clicking on the B&H link to the right.

Also from now on, all gear I talk about will have direct links to B&H to make it easier for you to get the right stuff.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D4, 800 f/5.6 IS, f/8, 1/640s, ISO 1250.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Zeiss Distagon 21 on Sony NEX

The Zeiss Distagon 21 f/2.8 has a reputation for being one of the best wide angle primes out there. I've found this reputation is quite deserved. Thanks to a F-mount to Sony NEX converter, I had the chance to try this lens out on a Sony NEX-3 recently.

The Zeiss lenses have a wonderful micro contrast and saturation to the images they render. None of the images have had saturation boosted in post, only curves adjustments to optimize contrast.

Manually focusing a lens on the NEX-3 is easy but not trivial. Two quirks of the NEX-3 that get in the way are:
  1. MF Assist zoom always defaults to the center of the frame so you have to keep moving it back to the area of interest.
  2. Half pressing the shutter button zooms back out to full view when you are in MF assist zoom. Since I usually half press the shutter before taking the shot (so that I don't have to mash down the shutter button while taking the shot, minimizing shake).
There may be workarounds for both of these issues, but there aren't a lot of customization options on the NEX-3 so I'm doubtful.

I am very pleased with the image quality (both the high ISO IQ of the NEX-3 and the wide open IQ of the Distagon). This is a 100% crop of the first image, wide open, ISO 1250.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Heliconia Schiedeana

Heliconia's don't typically survive in northern California, mostly because it can go below freezing in the winter here. Kim took a chance and bought one two years ago (we had to take a trip to a nursery near San Diego to buy it). I guess we've been having mild winters because it flowered this year.

Since the flower is in a slightly challenging area to access in the yard and surrounded by distracting elements, I waited until night and then used light painting to make this image.

Technical Specs: Canon 5D2, 85L II, f/11, 15s, ISO 100.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Sony NEX-3 First Images

I received a Sony NEX 3 a few days before leaving for SIGGRAPH two weeks ago. It was the only camera I took with me for my 5 days in L.A.

Though my eventual plan is to use this camera with Leica M mount lenses, I had only the 18-55 kit lens with which these first images were taken. These two images were taken at ISO 1600 and at low shutter speeds of 1/15s which is possible because of the optical image stabilization in the 18-55 kit lens.

I am fairly pleased with the image quality. To my eye, its easily on par with the Canon Rebel T2i (a.k.a. 550D) which shouldn't be too surprising since the NEX-3 also boasts an APS-C sized sensor. The image quality is a noticeable step ahead of the Olympus EP1 which I tried last summer.

I did manage to get myself a Nikon F to Sony NEX adaptor from eBay and so I had a chance to play around briefly with a Zeiss ZF 35 f/2 on this body. Manual focus on the large high resolution screen is no problem (especially with manual focus assist).

The above two images were taken at ISO 3200 and 6400 respectively. Again, the image quality is quite acceptable and I like the way the Zeiss 35 renders images.

I have a line up of Voigtlander lenses ready to use with this body and am now just waiting for Voigtlander to ship their M mount to NEX adaptor. Fun times.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


I noticed the way the early evening light was striking this Bean leaf a few days ago (sun was side lighting the leaf). I was a little windy today so I couldn't focus stack to get optimum sharpness everywhere but overall I find the venatian pattern to be very interesting.

Technical Specs: Canon 5D2, 180 macro, f/11, 1/60s, ISO 400.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Another DOF Stacking Success

I saw this orb weaver spider pretty late this evening. The sun had set and it was getting dark quickly. It was so small that I had to use extension tubes on a macro lens to get it to fill the frame. This meant having to stop down a lot to get sufficient depth of field. Also, since the spider was in the shade, even at ISO 6400 I was getting shutter speeds of 1/4s @ f/10 (and f/10 was providing nowhere near enough depth of field). There was also an occasional slight breeze so lowering the ISO or stopping down even further was out of the question (the shutter speeds would be even slower). So I took three images, each with the focus point moved slightly more backwards and hoped that Photoshop's Auto Blend would work. I was pretty happy to see that despite the spider having moved slightly because of the wind, Auto Align and Auto Blend did a great job.

I just printed out a 13x19 of this image and despite the slow shutter speed and high ISO the print is beautiful.

Technical Specs: Canon 5D2, 180 macro + 36mm extension, f/10, 1/4s, ISO 6400 (stack of 3 images).

Monday, August 02, 2010

Rolling Clouds

I knew I was going to have fun working on this image in post when I took it. At the time I composed the shot I knew I wanted a B&W toning and to dodge and burn the clouds to accentuate its edges. I finally had the chance tonight. What do people think? What could be better?

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds3, 70-200 f/2.8 IS @ 188mm, f/5, 1/2500s, ISO 200.