Monday, October 23, 2006

A Semi-Surreal Walk Through the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge...

While these photos would be excluded from my current "Group F/1" philosophy, they certainly started out well within that realm. I just discovered an interesting setting that really exaggerates the noise reduction algorithm for this set of pictures in NeatImage. So, in spite of going beyond the Group F/1 (yet to be finalized) manifesto, they're still interesting pictures with the applied effects.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

My first Dragonfly!

Since dragonfly macros are somewhat cliche, and I'm trying to have some cliche work to practice on, I've wanted to take a picture of a dragonfly. So, here's my attempt to see the world up close next to a dragonfly. Unfortunately, I didn't have my PK-13 attached, but it's still a somewhat interesting shot nevertheless:

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Catch me now, I'm falling!

(and, uh, no -- I didn't Photoshop that leaf into the picture)

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Wedding Photographer in Training

Well, that went really well today. I learned a lot, and got to spend some great time with Dave. It was a tough location to shoot a wedding -- practically no natural light in the sanctuary; lights that threw an interesting color cast on every picture in there. I won't even mention the worst thing that happened to me (too embarrassed to mention it, and simultaneously shell-shocked by the fact that no one got seriously hurt).

I got to borrow Dave's 70-200 f/2.8 VR. Big mistake. My faith tells me it's wrong to covet my neighbor's possessions, so I won't spend hours here discussing my lens envy. All I can say is -- wow. That's by far the most incredible piece of camera gear I've ever used in my lifetime. The image below is nowhere near perfect, but (so far) it's my favorite image yet. The fact that I shot it at 1/20th of a second, hand-held, at 200mm and got that amount of sharpness just blows me completely away:

Wow. Just. Wow.

But, then again. Maybe it's the F/2.8 that I'm attracted to. Certainly the VR helps, but here's a shot with my 100 F/2.8 Series E lens that didn't exactly cost what the 70-200 would:

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Friday, October 13, 2006

More from F/1.8

Just happened to snap a few pix this morning as I was leaving for work. I know I keep flooding this place with photographic studies of leaves. But I'm just so drawn to the lighting, color, shape, texture, focus and blur all interacting...

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Life at the Other End of the Aperture Ring.

For the past few months, I've been conversing via e-mail with a fellow I've never met in person (but will soon) who's changed the way I look at the world through my camera. I've been open to rediscovering my style as a photographer, and wanting to really narrow down upon something that would suit me and yet allow me to discover a whole different world that only the mind of a photographer can see. Provided, of course, that I actually would able to un-mothball my ability to see images again...

In the years of photography training I had (I actually have more formal education in photography than I do in my current occupation as a web programmer), my philosophy was to continue to capture images in the sharpness and clarity that Ansel Adams and the folks of Group F/64 so thrived upon capturing themselves. That group photographed the West in the tightest of detail, rendering pin-point sharpness in their landscape photography.

While I never had the courage to delve into debt enough to explore the view camera world -- I did pursue getting as close as possible by using medium-format cameras. I discoverd my fascination for using the 6x6 square format, even though it was harder to find frames for my pictures. I started with a $45 Ricohflex 120 TLR that I picked up at a camera show, and inherited my grandfather's Zeiss TLR, which had a MUCH crisper lens. Unfortunately I'm still hunting for a good medium-format negative scanner so I can scan some of the negatives I shot back in those days. I made a few prints, but it's hard to scan an 11x14 print, too. So, you'll just have to trust me when I say that I really enjoyed capturing Mt. Rainier and the Cascades in 6x6 120 format. I shot a lot of 35mm, too -- which, of course, isn't nearly as sharp as medium-format and large-format film.

When it came time for me to prepare to graduate from community college, I had to decide what I wanted to really do when I grew up. One of the options I was seriously considering was to continue down the path of photography. In high school, I won an award for my photography achievements, and really enjoyed life in the darkroom and behind the camera. When I hit college, the digital world was just starting to open up, and scanning photographs to manipulate them in the early version of Photoshop was something else.

I decided, however, that I was much more risk-averse and wanted to settle into a career that would be much more stable. So, I graduated from community college with the intention of pursuing an education degree and becoming an elementary school teacher. I'd always enjoyed working with kids, and it seemed like the right path for me to pursue. One thing led to another, of course, and I ended up ditching my ed major and surviving college with a degree in German (but with a minor in Teaching English as a Second Language).

Neither of which helped me, much, in getting my current job. Of course, since the web was pretty new and graphic-based web-browsers (let alone operating systems) were still somewhat new themselves, so college degrees didn't really exist for what I do. My background in photography gave me enough of a design sense to get into web development, and my music and technology hobbies also helped. Before long, I was building web sites and exploring streaming audio using RealPlayer -- several years before MP3s became chic.

While my current web job fell pretty much into my lap (thanks, God!), I'd put my photography hobby pretty much on the back burner. Sure, I took snapshots with my point-and-shoot, and every once in awhile I'd pull out the Minolta 7000i and shoot some film. My first two digital cameras were point-and-waits (er, I mean point-and-shoots), and I had very limited control over them.

I first got the bug to get a DSLR last fall, so I went out and bought a Nikon 8008s to tide me over until I could buy one. Used it for awhile, and then I got my D1H.

Life hasn't been the same since. Just ask my wife.

In buying the D1H, I wanted to rediscover myself as a photgrapher. I mostly have been into shooting scenics -- especially, like the Group F/64 folks, everything-in-focus landscapes. However, I've always had a bit of a fascination for macro photography, and since I've grown a massive addiction to baseball, I wanted to explore taking pictures at baseball games, too. Of course, there's still the desire to shoot the narrow-aperture stuff, too.

My new-found friend helps run a very popular Mariners baseball blog and also finds work as a wedding photographer. His approach and experience as a photographer is to capture the love and joy between people. To inspire in his images the emotion and affections of that moment in time. From what I've seen, he's an excellent wedding photographer. He's invited me to co-shoot a wedding with him, and I'm really excited for the opportunity. While our styles are certainly different, we have similar philosophies -- "Truly memorable moments are captured, not created" is the way he phrases it on his web site. While I have shot a couple of weddings before for friends and family, it was something that seemed to go against the grain of my skills and passion as a photographer. However, as I learned a few weeks ago upon practicing at my cousin's wedding, it very much can fit within my style.

See, Dave Cameron has encouraged me to look at life at the other end of the aperture ring. I've been so stuck on capturing scenes at f/8 or higher that I've pretty much ignored what life looks like at f/2.8 and lower. It all started with a simple discussion about a new lens Nikon has introduced that, while hard to find, has garnished rave reviews by those people who were able to get their hands on one. I mentioned that I really wanted to get the 18-200 VR for shooting my baseball pictures with, since it gave me a nice 10x zoom factor so I wouldn't have to change lenses. He countered with the notion that, while it's really nice to have such a convenience, it comes at a cost of f/stops. He mentioned that he'd bit the bullet and bought the 70-200 f/2.8 VR, and hasn't regretted the expense for one minute. His philosophy was that it was better to have the narrow depth-of-focus in order to capture the depth and emotion of a moment, and that he hates shooting anything higher than f/4.

This made sense to me, too, especially when related to sports photography. The consumer-grade lenses that I've been able to afford have variable f-stops and generally jump up to f/5.6 at the longer focal length. But when you see the pros shooting the games, to get the images we see everyday in the papers and on the major sports web sites, they typically have super-fast telephotos in the f/2.8-f/4 range. In addition to getting the faster shutter speeds needed for sports photography, the wide-open f-stops also make the players stand out more by decreasing the depth-of-focus.

Fashion and portrait photography, too, has a tendency to have this shallow-depth effect. While I don't yet have the budget to spring for a f/2.8 telephoto (or even an f/2.8 zoom), I have had the budget to find some cheaper prime lenses to apply these principles to the photography I tend to explore. I also bought a PK-13 extension tube to really be able to focus closely and explore the world of macro photography. Extension tubes actually exaggerate this depth.

Today, I received my Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF. It wasn't the D version, but that didn't matter much to me. I'd already explored the world of Bokeh with my first fast lens purchase (the 100 f/2.8 Series E). Once I discovered the way light and line dance, twist, and fade, I was hooked. With my new 5o f/1.8, I'm even MORE hooked. This has become my passion and my pursuit. After all, our eyes focus pretty much at f/64. It's pretty interesting seeing things the way a camera sees things at f/1.8-2.8. I sent Dave an e-mail asking if we should join forces and form the Anti-F/64 Group. Sorry Ansel -- you're still one of my favorites, and you always will be. But it sounds like a good plan to me.

Anyone else wanna become a member of Group F/1?

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

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

It's Still Autumn

Here's proof:

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