Friday, January 30, 2009

Which is digital, which is Velvia 50?

Can you tell a difference?

Camera:  Nikon D300
Settings:   24mm, ISO 200, f/22, 1/30 sec., manual WB.

Camera:  Nikon N90s
Settings:  Fuji Velvia 50, f/11 @1/8 sec.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

San Diego, January 2009

This is what happens when I'm in San Diego. First, I'm up really early (jet lag), so I grab a camera and before sunrise I drive up to my favorite doughnut shop in Cardiff. As I'm ordering, Rob Machado walks in right behind me. Rob is a pro surfer and Solana Beach local celebrity. Then, I drive down to Seaside Reef to see if the surf is worth taking some pictures and another pro surfer (either C.J. or Damien Hobgood, I can't tell) is pulling aerials in waist high surf, less than 100 feet from shore.

Here's more of Hobgood and another guy whose performance was way above the rest of the guys in the water:

Monday, January 19, 2009


50mm, 1/15 sec, f1.4 ISO 1600, auto WB.

50mm, 1/30 sec, f1.6, ISO 100, handheld, shade WB.

50mm, 1/90 sec., f5, ISO 100 handheld, auto WB.

Ice Cold Fun

Believe it or not, this was shot in color. Gives you an idea of what a mid-winter day looks like in D.C. This is a Rails-to-Trails bridge that crosses over Canal Road in D.C. Nikon 50mm, f 5.6, 1/125 sec. at ISO 100, cloudy WB.

Nikon 50mm f 1.4, 1/125 sec at ISO 800. The depth of field is amazingly shallow at f1.4. No complaints, though. Without this lens, I wouldn't have a picture at all.

Nikon 50mm, f5,1/250 sec., ISO 280, exposure at -0.7.

Shooting on this grey, overcast day was really difficult. There "seemed" to be enough light, but really, it was rather low light. In order to stop motion, I had to move the shutter speed up, but that kept driving the ISO through the roof, leaving very grainy shots.

I need to find a way to set the camera to default to "action" mode, instead of landscape mode. The default I normally use is pilfered directly from Rockwell, which I suspect is set for landscape, and is generally suitable, but it may be time to start experimenting with the shooting "banks" the camera makes available....if you know how to program them.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Landscapes and Lenses

Nikkor 50mm, f2.2, 1.20th sec at ISO 100, cloudy WB, corrected with DxO

Handheld, Nikon 10mm f2.8, 1/15th sec @ ISO 1600, manual white balance, corrected with DxO.

This shot was taken about 15 minutes after sunset on a frozen pond. I shot this in RAW, and ran the file through DxO's new high ISO processing module (which was free). Normally, any brightly colored area on super high ISO (1600, here) would be horribly grainy, but DxO did a really nice job of making the pink look great, without blowing the details on the air bubbles in the ice.

One of the things that shooting a modern dSLR did to me, was to allow me to take good pictures, without spending a huge amount of money on hyper expensive equipment (lenses, tripods, etc...). I could work on composing pictures, rather than making sure I got the right f-stop, or shutter speed or whatever. The camera takes care of the details and lets me do the "important" stuff, like catching the right facial gesture at the exact instant. Digital SLRs are great at allowing an amateur to take very competent pictures without spending $3,000 on each single lens. I don't want to sound like a stuff shirt, here, because I've only started taking pictures on a regular basis in the last 2 years and I'm not some expert or anything. But, here's what I mean. After about a year of re-teaching myself how to drive my camera (shutter speed, ISO, aperture - and manually manipulating these functions), I asked my Dad if I could use his mid-90's film SLR. And I started shooting with film and digital, instead of just digital.

I noticed right away that the the color slide film I picked is very, very thirsty for light. It loves to soak up bright colors and the more light you give it, the better your colors look. Previously, I had never really noticed a lack of light making a huge difference with the dSLR. Instead of low f-stop numbers and expensive glass, the dSLR makes up for the lack of all that expensive stuff, with automatic ISO, and VR lenses.

So, since I started shooting film again, I wondered how much difference a really fast "pro" lens would make. Not fast-focusing. Rather, a lens that would allow the film to get a LOT of light, really fast, with no gimmickry. So, after letting my curiosity get the better of me, I went down to the local camera store and bought a used (but practically brand new) Nikon 50mm f1.4 lens. It's the cheapest "fast" pro lens I could find. The first and third shots above were taken with this lens on the D200.

Over the course of my first hour with the lens, I snapped probably 100 digital shots. Right away I noticed a difference. Somehow, these pictures look less "virtual" and more "real." I'm not really sure I can explain it any better than that. Over the next day or so, I'll try to post similar pictures, taken with different lenses, to see if I can illustrate the difference between a good shot with a "digital" lens, and a good shot with this "film" lens.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009