Thursday, March 29, 2007

Capital or Capitol?

I always forget. Nevertheless, I live in a government town. Got some good weather on Sunday, so I grabbed the camera and went a-shootin'. Here's some of the results.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007


As I was shutting the lights off and 'logging off' the house (i.e. shutting all the lights off and making sure the back doors were locked, etc.), I noticed a moth hanging out on the back sliding glass door. I see a lot of pictures of moths from the top, but not too many from the bottom. Looking at the various textures, I thought it would make for an interesting macro. So, I grabbed my 50mm f/1.4 AI-S and slapped the PK-13 extension tube between the lens and the camera. I also grabbed my still-ball-bungeed-paper-snooted flash, and experimented with different lighting variations. I didn't like the direct, focused light on the moth that the snoot created, thinking it was a bit too harsh and didn't really show the detail. So I turned the flash a little more sideways, using the diffusion created by the white paper to light the moth. And, since most people like sharpness across the entire focal plane, I turned the aperture ring up a bit to capture more detail in the wings. Personally, I like the selective-focused version just as well (because of the depth that selective focus seems to portray to my eyes), but I suspect more people will find this image more pleasing:

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Okay, so Tim has drug me into reading Strobist stuff. Now I'm hooked -- especially on the DIY stuff (since I'd already blown a fair wad on my portable studio box, and a few other things). I've just ordered the cheap eBay remote (and hopefully they'll finally answer my e-mail so I can get the second receiver, for my old rubber-banded SB-28, which will certainly still get some use), and I made a stop at the Evil Empire (Wal-Mart) since that was the only place in town that I knew I could find the ball bungees. And, I bit the bullet and bought an umbrella bracket and a 45" umbrella, knowing that I'll need those things if I'm going to ever shoot more weddings. But, most of the other accessories will certainly be of the DIY variety.

In reading Strobist, though, I wanted to play around with snooting. I had a little different, simple idea, ball-bungeeing a regular old piece of printer paper. It's not a true snoot, though, because the paper allows for some diffusion. I chased my poor dog around first, and she didn't really like that. So, I grabbed my other favorite subject -- who LOVES posing for the camera -- my 5-year-old son, and chased him around with the 'snoot'. Here are some of the results.

And, finally, my favorite. I've probably over-saturated the colors, but considering I was hiding in the bathroom waiting for him to run down the hall, and I aimed the 'snoot' just perfectly (holding it down about waist level), and fired right as he saw me:

Maybe I'll post that one as my first contribution to the hugely massive Strobist Flickr group...

Oh, one more shot. I played around with a new self-portrait. Unfortunately it's rather small since I shot it with my new Tokina 17mm lens (as I did all of the pictures in this post) and blown up a little bit. But it's sorta cool with my face completely blown out on the right by the diffused light through the paper, yet with the other side of my snooted face and reflected in the massive 77mm polarizer that I had on the front of the lens. I'll have to grab my 50mm or my 100mm and see if I can recreate the shot:

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Friday, March 16, 2007

An Equivalents Sort of Day...

I'll have more pictures shortly, but here's a 1200 px background to add to my Equivalents series...

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tokina AT-X Pro 17mm f/3.5 First Impressions

I mentioned it in my last post, and my 'new' Tokina lens was waiting on the front doorstep for me to come home from my desk job today. First thing I noticed was that it was about as big as I expected it to be. Petty wide for a prime, wide-angle lens, and its heaviness and quality just says "professional" in every manner. With my previous Tokina lens purchase, in spite of its imperfection, I was pleased enough to want to try a more modern lens from Tokina. It's now my most expensive lens, ironically with all the Nikon/Nikkors I have, and the quality definitely shows.

I took the lens out back, and just wanted to see the angle of view. I forgot to switch the camera back to matrix metering, so the exposure's a little off, but I'm amazed nevertheless, at the quality of the details in this lens (click on thumbnail to view a 100% crop -- I chopped the sky off to make it a little more interesting):

While it's not a very interesting picture, the thing I've noticed right away is that this lens is SHARP! To put things into perspective, I normally leave the sharpening at "normal" or, if I need a little extra boost, I'll set it to "medium high" in Capture NX. With this scene, I actually brought down the level to "Low" -- and at that level, it's still quite good. You have to apply some sharpening to RAW images, because they tend to be a little bit softer. With this lens, I might actually be able to reduce the sharpening set in the camera. Wow. Just. Wow.

To further illustrate how sharp this lens is, here's one picture that I shot at 1/2oth, and clearly didn't hold the camera steady enough (I was antsy in anticipation, and also was chewing gum). While it's clearly got some motion blur, it's still evident that this lens is very, very sharp:

One more example, shot at f/5.6, so the depth of focus is rather limited. But, again, I set the sharpening to "low" in Capture NX and converted it to JPG. Other than changing the color mode to Mode IIIa (which my camera doesn't have), and adding the usual bit of saturation to compliment this, that's all that I've done to this image:

It's clear that this lens will be a favorite in my arsenal. I loved shooting at 18mm on my Nikkor 18-70 AF-S, but wanted a prime lens at either 18mm or 20mm. This Tokina, at (at the cheapest) 1/2 of the price of the going rate for the AI Nikkors (let alone the AF ones), clearly meets the need I was looking to meet for a lens at that focal length range.

One more picture -- since it was sunny outside, I wanted to test the lens flare capabilities, and also see how it handled IR. So, I slapped on my generic IR filter, grabbed some things in my back yard to function as a make-shift tripod for the 8-second exposure, and shot several pictures. This is the one I thought suited best for posting, and so I spent the time to clean up the massive noise and converted it to sepia (hey, I think I'm the only one doing IR in sepia...):

Okay, final picture. Got up this morning and decided to add one more IR picture, but this time in cyanotype. It's not perfect, but I just love how this turned out.

I love Tokina's pro glass. If I do ever decide to go with a 12-24 zoom, I'm not going to hesitate saving the extra hundreds of dollars and get the Tokina. I have a feeling that this 17mm, though, will definitely become a favorite very quickly.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Playing with Lighting...

Last week, I picked up an Interfit Attache Portable Photobox, to play with lighting smaller objects, with a little motivation to see if I can prep some items for selling on eBay. I didn't get the version with lights, figuring I could play with the flash(es) that I have, and maybe get some more full-blown studio lights at some point. The problem is, I've had very little training on studio lighting techniques, so I'm just playing around at this point. In doing so, I'm learning a lot, and having some fun. Here are several shots I've taken of things around the house.

I was in a hurry to get this shot of Erin Glenn Velvet Ass Rose -- I'd only remembered that I wanted to test-shoot with this bottle that we were about to open for dinner. Didn't quite turn out like I'd hoped. That's what I get for being in a hurry and not knowing what I'm doing in the first place...

Enos Slaughter autographed baseball. From my Enos Slaughter baseball collection. Threw it into sepia to give it that vintage look...

My favorite lens. Nikon 100mm f/2.8 Series E. I still can't believe I paid $55 for this lens. Just a fantastic lens for a lot of what I do. I especially like it for macro work attached to the PK-13 extension tube. Small, light, sharp, bright. Just a fantastic lens.

My 70-210 F/4 Series E zoom lens. It was the first Nikon lens I bought, but it's about to go on the market, since I have two newer lenses (one being my faster Tokina 80-200 F/2.8 constant) that I use more frequently. It's a very good lens for certain things, and I've taken a lot of excellent shots with it. I just need the room in my camera bag for my latest lens purchase that hopefully will arrive next week.

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