Sunday, September 24, 2006

Grasshopper Atop the Windowsill

So, I grabbed my camera this afternoon, as my son made friends with a grasshopper that had found its way onto our window. Actually, I was after the dragonfly that was perched in our yucca tree. While dragonfly macro shots are relatively common, I have yet to actually shoot one, and I wanted to see what it was like. Unfortunately the act of opening the screen door spooked the dragonfly enough to make me lose my chance. Nursing a sore throat and a horrible cold, I discovered that I didn't have a memory card in my camera anyway, so I wouldn't've been able to get a picture of him even if he had been a little more patient.

Nevertheless, the grasshopper didn't seem to mind me out there poking my lens in its general vicinity. I'd slapped on my PK-13 extension tube and my 70-210 MF zoom lens to capture this shot. While it certainly has its limitations, at least my camera will meter with MF lenses (so long as they're AI-compatable).

I'll probably go out and clean the cobwebs off, but other than that distraction, I find the lines and colors in this image are quite fun.

If you'd like to use images in this blog post, please e-mail paul(at)

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Leaves, they are a-Changin'

I absolutely love taking pictures in the lighting this time of year. My latest project is to document the changing of the colors of a specific leaf cluster and maple pod, as well as the leaves in the background, from a certain Japanese maple tree that I love shooting.

September 7th:

September 21st:

I'll edit this post in the next week or two.

If you'd like to use images in this blog post, please e-mail paul(at)

Friday, September 15, 2006

New Web Site!

Finally. I've had the hosting for several months now, but hadn't had the opportunity to sit down and wrap a decent design around my photography to come up with an easy-to-use web site.

So, ignore the "wet paint" signs, and come visit my new photography web site:

I've built a commenting feature so you can add comments to my pictures (and read others' comments as well).

Thanks for stopping by!

If you'd like to use images in this blog post, please e-mail paul(at)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

More Fall Foliage

I love playing with extension tubes and macro, especially with the lighting and shapes and colors this time of year. Here are a couple shots that I just can't escape from. I'm drawn to the blue skies contrasted with the freshly-turning leaves on the Japanese maple tree in our front yard. It's almost like a grand finale at a Fourth-of-July fireworks show -- nature's way of exploding one last mega salvo before the grey duldrums of the pre-winter rains. That's life here in the Pacific Northwest, anyway...

If you'd like to use images in this blog post, please e-mail paul(at)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Got Bokeh?

My camera bag is overflowing again. I'm trying to slowly assemble a usable set of Nikon lenses and accessories, as the wife and the budget allows. Obviously I don't yet have the budget for the latest-and-greatest, top-of-the-line stuff that Nikon is producing for dSLRs today. One of the main reasons I switched to Nikon, however, is that I could spend a lot less money on older manual-focus lenses with optics that still are very, very good. And while Nikon's corporate philosophy of planned non-obselescence may be better described as planned non-extinction, the path I've chosen with my D1H allows me to have reasonable functionality with older lenses (which are abundant and reasonably-priced in the used market).

I wanted to add a short telephoto f/2.8 lens to my arsenal, because I've been invited to co-shoot a wedding, and the fastest lens I have is my 18-70 3.5/4.5. I thought about buying a 50mm, but I've never been much of a fan of the 50mm focal length (pretty unusual for a photographer, I know), and for about half the price of a decent 50mm 1.8, I could get a 100mm 2.8. After debating whether or not to spend the extra $40 or so, I decided that I didn't need the extra 35mm that the 135mm 2.8 would give me. After re-reading Ken Rockwell's review, I decided so keep an eye on the 100mm 2.8 Series E lens auctions on eBay (after having passed up the opportunity to purchase one at the last camera show I went to).

Since all of the other lenses I want are WWWAAAAAAAYYY more expensive than that lens, I decided to spring on a Buy-It-Now lens to get it here before my cousin's wedding this weekend. I figured I could practice up for the other wedding in October. It arrived today, about a day faster than I'd expected. Yay good eBay seller!!!! Yay USPS Priority Mail!!!!

So now, believe it or not, I have my first ever prime lens. I've always used zooms, as (like I mentioned earlier) I'd never been much of a fan of the 5omm focal length, and I generally like the freedom that a zoom lens gives you. Well, I guess you could say that I did cut my teeth a bit in the prime lens world by shooting with a medium-format TLR camera (which I would LOVE to get back into using).

In purchasing a faster lens, I wanted to find a lens that compresses DOF, too, hence the need for a longer focal length (than 50 mm). I'm a huge fan of both extremes of DOF -- from seeing every pine needle in the entire forest through Ansel Adams' F/64 world, to isolating one single pine needle with a macro, shallow-DOF lens. One of the ways to determine lens quality is by looking at the bokeh on the out-of-focus areas in an extreme DOF shot. There's a good read here on bokeh, with links to examples from different lenses, so I won't even try to reinvent the wheel by writing something up on that. While I cannot really validly compare the image below with some of the early shots I made of this same tree around this time last year with my 8008s and 70-210 zoom (since, you know, DOF is pretty different between f/2.8 and even f/4), I can testify to the quality of the 100mm f/2.8 Series E. It's a nice, nice lens, and has great bokeh!

In spite of dogging my 70-210 Series E lens a bit over here, they do produce quality images. They may be ugly and plasticy and a Nikkor's outcast foster brother, but they're still good lenses, and the optics (which, of course, is the MOST important feature of a lens) are definitely Nikkor. As Ken Rockwell points out:

...everyone was afraid of the Series E lenses and few people bought them. Oddly, more people bought the crummier cheap brands that weren't as honest about what they were selling. Too bad, because the Series E were great lenses and far better than the discount ones.
That's an important thing to keep in mind. A lens produced by Nikon for Nikon camera is almost always (there are, of course, exceptions) going to have higher-quality optics than an off-brand, cheaper lens. In this particular case, of course, the price/performance ratio is pretty darn outstanding. It gives me a lens to use for lower-light photography with good bokeh for shallow DOF shots, and for tight candid portraits. My ugly, plasticy Series E 100 f/2.8 still has Nikon optics. I didn't buy a Nikon so I could put a Vivitar lens on it...

Keep an eye out over here. I'm in the thick of redesigning my photography web site. It's one of the better designs I've produced for a web site, and I'm actually a bit excited about it.

If you'd like to use images in this blog post, please e-mail paul(at)