Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show

There are charms made only for distant admiration.
—Samuel Johnson

My guess is that Canon cameras were used to photograph the 2008 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.

Note that the site is in Russian, but that doesn't really matter as the subject matter is universal.

Portfolio: Ernst Haas

Superb black and white photography and portraits of celebrities (including Einstein) by Ernst Haas.

His behind-the-scenes photographs on the set of The Misfits are the last memorials to Marilyn Monroe's career.

Other than the first photograph in the series, I can't say I was impressed with his photographs of Audrey Hepburn's wedding; the photos have a distant quality, rather than an intimate quality to them.

His colour photography is breathtaking in framing (see "Locksmith's Sign" in the New York series), composition and contrasts— he makes photography look so easy.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Moon Shot

The Moon. Shutter Priority 1/640s, f/1.4 [1 of 15]

A few weeks ago, just before bed, I happened to take a look outside my window, just before getting into bed when I noticed that the sky was clear and the moon was out— I just had to take some pictures.

Before getting dressed, I checked my journal entry where I recorded the camera settings for the last lunar eclipse I had photographed. I then got dressed and hopped out onto the balcony with my 50D and began photographing the moon. I leaned the camera on the balcony railing for stability, but because of the distance and my 50mm lens, even the slightest vibration like the shutter clicking added jitter to the photograph.

As I was coming back in, I bumped the base of the camera on the sliding door quite severely (if it had been a piece of wood, it would have nicked the wood). Once inside, I carefully checked the body of camera for a dent or a paint bruise— nothing, not even a scratch— phew!.

Update Wed Dec 03 15:54:47 2008: I was re-reading the manual last night and I realize I should have changed the metering mode from Evaluative to Center-Weighted as the subject I am photographing is in the center, and surrounded by blackness.

Update Sat Dec 06 20:17:04 2008: I was taking some night photographs of the freshly fallen snow and playing with the metering modes, I found that Partial Metering produced better exposed photographs (at -2/3 EV).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Top-side LCD

After a month of using the camera, I have to retract my statement about the top-side LCD being "old school". I have found the top-side LCD handy when needing to quickly change the AF modes between One Shot, AI Focus and AI Servo.

The alternate way to change the focus mode, is to use the rear LCD via the QuickControl menu (after pressing the joystick).

RMS Photos

Some nice photographs of RMS (Richard Stallman) in France, taken with a Canon 1D Mark III and a 17-40mm f/4L lens.

Portfolio: Aneta Kowalczyk

Beautiful models, beautiful, hair, beautiful makeup, beautiful clothes, beautiful lighting— all the ingredients (plus a good camera and lens) necessary for beautiful fashion photos (without beautiful clothes, the photographs become erotica).

My guess is that she uses a Nikon.

If you look at the model's eyes in the closeup photographs of the third shoot, you can see the photographer's lighting rig.

Her black and white shoots are also superb.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Black and White Photos

The WWI Memorial in front of Old City Hall, taken from across Queen street, the day after Rememberance Day. [1 of 3]

Bench on the Track 3 platfrom at Exhibition station. I think it's a combination of the the texture of the wall and the lighting that makes this photograph interesting. [1 of 1]

VIA Rail sign on the train-wash hanger at the Willowbrook train yard. Again, the texture of the corrugated metal and the various shades of grey make it interesting. Taken from the moving train in Sports mode.[1 of 1]

A night-shot in Program mode showing the old (now removed) signage (left) and the new signage at the Port Credit station parking lot. [1 of 6]

Both the bench and the war memorial look better after having been converted to black and white. For some reason, the reflection of the train windows onto the concrete is more prominent in the thumbnail than on the actual photograph.

The parking lot signs look good in both modes. The VIA Rail sign looks a bit better in colour. The contrast has been tweaked on some of the photos.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Portfolio: Nick Brandt

Stunning black and white photography of the animal kingdom from Nick Brandt. Try to guess the lens he's using for each photograph.

Black and white photography is my holy grail. I see the world in colour, not as shades of light and darkness. One exercise I perform when I review my photos, is to preview them all in black and white, just to see how they would look— there are some that I think will look great in black and white, but they don't; then there are ones I don't expect to look good, but they look surprisingly good.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ad: Polaroid Land Cameras

During some housekeeping on my Mac, I found a New Yorker magazine ad from the 70s (I didn't note the issue) for Polaroid Land (I assume it means "landscape") Cameras, ranging in price from $200 for the top-of-the-line camera with a f/3.8 lens and 1/500s shutter speed (top right), down to the $25 el cheapo (bottom left).

Update Sun Nov 23 09:58:56 2008: Land does not refer to 'landscape'; it's named after the founder of Polaroid, Edwin Land. When I did a Wikipedia search for Polaroid Land Cameras, there was no entry that redirected to Land Camera.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Considering the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 L

After a suggestion by a faculty member, I am considering the Canon EF 17-40mm L wide-angle lens. Pricing is quite varied:

The reviews are very favourable, as is the comparison with the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L (twice the price for twice the light). The primary advantage over the 24-70mm f/2.8L is the weight (approx. half) and the wider angle.

He also suggested that I could likely negotiate it down to $700, or if I waited until Boxing Day, I could avoid the sales taxes. My lack of people skills make negotiations impossible and I have a low tolerance for shopping-frenzy crowds.

I am hesitating on the purchase because I prefer a versatile lens— usable both indoors (meaning faster than f/4) and outdoors and I prefer a prime (less glass means more light). Canon's wide-angle prime lenses, however, are quite "sucky".

Update Sat Nov 22 16:15:07 2008: David responds with some suggestions:

What's your budget? Canon has a 24 mm f/1.4L for $1300, with a less expensive f/2.8 at $500. 28mm f/1.8 and f/2.8 can be had for $600 and $300. I don't see the half-stop going from 1.8 to 1.4 being worth $700 IMHO.

Gruber shoots (only) with 50mm and 28mm, both f/1.8.

Note that once you get into the f/3.5 range getting any kind of bokeh is difficult at these focal lengths. You probably want to stay below f/ 2.8 if you want any meaningful blur.

Remember that you'll replace your body before you replace your lens, and if you ever stop being interested in photography, lenses don't depreciate as much as bodies.

My budget is virtually unlimited, but at this early stage, I refuse to buy a lens that cost more then the body ($1400) just as a sanity check— I don't want to buy optically fantastic lenses that collect dust at home.

Eventually, I want a (indoor/outdoor) wide-angle lens (24mm or less), a 50mm (I'm happy with my f/1.4 USM) and an indoor sport lens— 85mm (f/1.8 or f/1.2L) or 100mm.

"cannon elf"

Looking through the web access logs, it is regrettable that Canon (often mis-spelled "cannon") makes a camera called the "Elph" (often mis-spelled "elf"), which inevitably leads them here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A LIFEtime of Photographs

Google is hosting the entire photo archive of LIFE Magazine.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

EF 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 II

Two photographs looking south-west and south from the Rogers building at Church and Gould. Overcast skies are great for photographic panoramas and on-location movie shoots, since they bring their own sun.

Sample photographs with Jim's lens at 28mm. My verdict: this is an outdoor lens; indoors, in low light, it delivers blurry photographs unless using 1600+ ISO.

Fantastic Foursome

Jim brought his EOS3000 and I got a chance to use his EF 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 II lens which was the camera's kit-lens.

The wide end (35mm equivalent at 1.6x), is a deep breath of freedom when compared with my 50mm (80mm equivalent at 1.6x). However, being used to shooting at f/1.4 indoors this lens takes some getting used to. Today was a pretty bad day to test this lens outdoors as it was mostly overcast. In general, I would say this lens lacks crispness.

I spent an hour this afternoon shooting 56 photographs in program mode and aperture priority. Most of this shooting was work-related— I will be using these photographs for the departmental website homepage background. I did sneak one photograph of four fashionably dressed students; it's cropped and sharpened.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Gigapan Tripod and Panoramas

A motorized tripod is available, for mounting DSLRs, for gigapixel panorama photographs.

A three-image panorama of the demolition of the United Metropolitan Church's rectory along Shuter street, taken last Thursday. In the background is St. Michael's Cathedral. The camera was held in landscape.

A two-image panorama looking north up Royal York road from the train stopped at Mimico GO station. The original panorama is about 6k pixels wide and clear enough that the sign next to the schoolbus can be clearly read. The two-different shades are because I didn't exposure lock. The colours also look a bit strange because the train had tinted windows.

Last night I switched to shooting 15.1 MP images with the 8GB card; the camera says I can take approximately 1,700+ photos.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Imaging Resource" Review of the 50D

Another good review of the 50D by Imaging Resource; it includes comparisons with the 40D and the Rebel, and has sample photographs.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Jelly Beans

Some more desktop backgrounds (I have configured my Mac at work to rotate them every hour and my Mac at home to rotate them after every wake from sleep).

Two pairs of photographs showing the original and the modified photograph of a jellybean display. I used the Color Adjust tool in Preview to change the exposure and contrast (both increased a touch), temperature (weighted towards blue), saturation (increased) and black level (increased a touch to give the shadows more depth). Av, f/1.4, ISO250, WB: flou. [2 of 2]

I found the originals dull and boring (through no fault of the camera; it was the lighting in the store) so I tweaked the settings to make them more delicious. The green beans need a lot of "healing" as the bit of sugar, visible as white spots, are too distracting at such a close distance. Perhaps if I had stood further away...

I'm sure you will agree that the adjusted images look better than the originals.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

First Manual Shoot

The previous night, I played with the camera in Manual mode and learned about the light-meter and what happens if you ignore it. So, here are the steps (I have used) to take a photograph in Manual mode:

  1. Set the camera in Manual (M) mode
  2. Set the White Balance (sunny, cloudy, etc.)
  3. Set the ISO; e.g. outdoors, sunny=100, overcast=250, etc.
  4. Set the f-stop; e.g. for a close-up, use f/1.4 where center is in focus; for a landscape, use f/8 or f/11 to get everything in focus
  5. Look through the viewfinder; along the bottom should be (left to right) shutter speed, f-stop, light meter, ISO, shots remaining and the camera-ready indicator
  6. Look at the light meter; it will indicate a number to either side of 0.
  7. Spin the upper dial (which changes the shutter-speed) so that the indicator moves to zero (the indicator will move in the direction of spin; that's a nice UI touch)
  8. Look at ths shutter speed and ask yourself, can you shoot at that speed? e.g. if you're shooting hand-held and the shutter speed is at 1 second, the photograph will be blurry.
  9. If you can, take the shot; if you can't, do one of two things:
    1. Reduce the f-stop (spin the back dial) until you get a shutter speed to can shoot at, or
    2. Increase the ISO (press appropriate button on top and spin the dial or press joystick on back and navigate to the ISO setting) and try to get a shutter speed you can shoot at.

The conditions you want before you can take the shot are: first, for the light meter to be centered at 0 and second, for a shutter-speed that is fast enough to capture your photograph.

So, being used to taking photographs where the camera is ready to shoot in under 2s, you can image why I thought shooting in Manual was so terrifying, especially when I was trying to capture the GO train pulling into the station at 20km/h. I would say it took me more than 10s to set the camera and take the first photograph, see it was blurred, under-exposed, etc. and then a few more seconds to re-compute the settings and re-shoot.

I'm sure there are short-cuts to my method, especially if I memorize the exposures/shutter/ISO settings based on known conditions (and note them down in my moleskine notebook) and set the camera before attempting my first shot.

Portfolio: Arnold Newman

Arnold Newman passed away on June 7, 2008. After looking through his portfolio, I realize that many of the iconic photographs of artists I have seen, were taken by him.

I now realize why it's called "portrait" mode. There's a photograph of Woody Allen that is framed in portrait mode even though he's lying horizontally on the bed (99% of photographers would have framed it in landscape); Claude Shannon's portrait is also interesting.

You don't take pictures with your camera. You take them with your hearts. You take them with your minds. The thing is, if you find a good tool to use, that's nice, and it's good to use it...but you still have to have a heart about what you're doing. And again, learn photography, don't learn subject matter. There isn't a single thing about subject matter that hasn't been photographed. Subject matter is older than the hills.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Good Deals

David emailed me about BestBuy having a Sandisk 8GB Ultra II on sale for $49.99. I dropped by this afternoon and picked one up.

I find that the Ultra II is fast enough for my needs. What I need mostly is a week's worth of storage as I shoot about 150 pictures a day (typically three or more of each scene) and only have time during the weekend to look thorough them carefully and decied what to keep.

I think the Extreme III is likely useful for those that need to shoot 6fps continuously.

I also got a couple of good desktop background photos from the candy section, while I was shopping for groceries at the local Metro (aka. Dominion). Photos forthcoming if they turned out well.

Jim also mentioned that Henrys has $50 off the 50D body which means I might be able to get $50 back since they have the Price Gurantee. Update Thu Nov 13 12:06:03 2008: I Dropped by Henrys this morning and got a $56.08 credit on my card. Essentially, I got a free 8GB CF card out of all these deals.

November 11th Journal

Yesterday I shot 144 photographs (not including ones I deleted because they were obviously blurry).

  • Update Wed Nov 12 09:40:25 2008: I almost forgot— I took my first (usable) Manual mode photographs yesterday. I would only describe the experience as the most terrifying three minutes I have spent photographing. This will be a separate journal entry.
  • I used Sports mode to shoot from the moving train, which seemed to work well for the most part.
  • I shot some photos of a party going on in the Interior design building across the street. I used LiveView 10x multiplier to get a close-up of what was going on and used it to manually sharpen the focus. I rested the camera on a window sill.
  • I also did some night photography on the way home (it was cold and my fingers were cold because of the wind (I wore wool-cashmere fingerless gloves), but the camera performed admirably). At the end of the day, I still had 50% charge.
I think I will get another Sandisk Extreme III 1GB card (Henry's has them for $39.99; Blacks has them for $49.99). I wasn't able to find them for cheaper (within walking distance).

But you're sure you could be right
If you held yourself up to the light
And the embers never fade in your city by the lake
—Tonight, Tonight

Photos taken downtown along Church street:

The first thing that is obvious is that the photos are underexposed; since the camera over-exposes in daylight, the camera had -1.3EV exposure compensation set. The next thing that is apparent is the lack of noise at 400 ISO. Program Mode, ISO 400, WB: flou. [4 of 18]

All the photos were taken with the camera braced agains a lamppost. I selected the aperture (2.8-5.6), WB, and the ISO and let the camera calculate the shutter speed (which ranged from 1/8-1/15). I wasn't checking the histogram in the reviews, but if I had, I would have noticed the photos were underexposed. It took 4 tries to get the McDonalds photograph without blowups; by the 4th photograph, the pair of girls hugging in front of the restaurant had left.

Update Sat Nov 15 15:00:57 2008: Perhaps subconsciously, I decided to re-watch The Godfather, Part II this afternoon. The film is famous for not only being better than the original, but for Gordon Willis' "under-exposed expressionism".

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sigma Acquires Foveon

Sigma has aquired Foveon, makers of the X3 image sensor.

Second Unit Film Shoot

This morning, walking up Bay street, I saw a film crew standing just in front of the Design Exchange. I took a picture and then I noticed the assistant cameraman (to the right of the cameraman in photo 1) picking up the camera and giving it the the cameraman, he started shooting high and I looked over to see what he was shooting. As I looked back to the crew, I noticed a EMS crew exiting the DX with a patient. I missed the shot because I didn't realize it was part of the shoot until the cameraman began photographing them. The woman in the last photo is also a character who exited the DX after the EMS crew.

Sequence of shots showing, very likely, the second unit photography for Boondock Saints II. Principal photography is taking place at the United Metropolitan church at Queen and Church streets (the last photo of trailers is looking south from Bond and Shuter street). (photo 1 is a crop).

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Big Picture: Obama

The Boston Globe's feature, The Big Picture, features Obama.

I would guess that Dunand and Young use a Canon.

No. 19 is pretty interesting from a photographer's point of view (and the photographer is pretty hot). You can tell she's using a prime lens because she's leaning forward to compose her shot.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Another Brick in the Wall

I took several wide and close-up photographs of the brick wall for use as the desktop background but I found they are too busy and the icons get lost amongst the bricks. The corner photograph with the blurred edges, below, turned out to be the best choice for a desktop background.

Corner of a brick wall in a parkette behind the Staples store on Yonge. f/1.4 [1 of 1]

The same, but sepia toned. Makes a nice desktop background; the blurry edges are good places for storing icons.

This photo also makes a nice background. I love deep burgundy of the bricks in this photo, which looks nicer than the real wall. The crystalline white substance looked like water damage.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Manual Mode

But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails
—The Tempest, Epilogue

I found a couple of articles written by Bryan Peterson that explain the fundamentals required to use the Manual mode.

The first article, Basic Photo Tips: Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO explains the relationships in the "photographic triangle". The second article, Exposure Basics: Correctly Expose Your Photographs explains why there are six possible ways to correctly expose each shot but only one or two are what you want.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Portfolio: Callie Shell

The Digital Journalist has an album of photographs taken by Callie Shell, who travelled with Obama during his campaign; the Time magazine cover is suprisingly prescient.

My guess is that the photos were taken with a Nikon (I'm not sure about the Time cover, probably because the colour-map was adjusted).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

iPod Bliss

Passengers waiting for the King Street streetcar this morning. Later, I realized that the photograph perfectly represents all the different ethnicities in Toronto. Unfortunately, the camera focused on the building behind the passengers (and for some strange reason, I didn't notice), so the point of interest is blurry.

Exposure Lock

Today, I was browsing through the manual and I discovered, Exposure Lock ("*" button on the back), that can be used when taking panoramas.

If the panorama spans dark and bright regions, the camera re-computes the exposure between successive shots which makes the panorama look unevenly lit when it is stitched. Pressing the "*" button locks the exposure setting and keeping it pressed while panning the camera and shooting, ensures the same exposure is maintained across the entire panorama.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thorny Hedge

Photos taken yesterday morning while walking to work.

It was difficult to photograph the vibrant reds and yellows against a dark, contrasting background.
Except for the first photograph, I find the the colours too overwhelming (at least for a desktop background).
All the photos were taken at the minimum focal distance of 1.5 feet at f/1.4. [3 of 20]
This morning I shot everything in Program mode after last night's low-light shoot. Update Wed Nov 05 17:38:56 2008: Reviewing the photos, I noticed (and confirmed) that the "Shade" white-balance gives a yellow-orange tinge to the sunny part of a photograph taken in the shade. I think the "Cloudy" setting (which is also recommended for indoors photography) gives a better colour reproduction.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Night Shoot

Did some night photography on the walk back home. Tried full auto (with flash) and Creative Assist mode (surpressed flash and reduced exposure). I would have to praise the CA mode for allowing those learning to use the camera, to take great pictures. Photos forthcoming. I didn't take as many photos as I would have liked as I wasn't dressed for standing around in 10°C weather.

Found another usability irritant: the CA mode settings reset after photos are reviewed or if the camera is switched to another mode.

This afternoon, I took a 15MP photograph of a student, who was standing in the Atrium, from about 70 feet away; it was pretty impressive that you could zoom in and see she was holding an iPod Touch or iPhone.

GO Solitaire

Today's photographs were either in A-DEP (automatic depth of field) mode or aperture priority at f/1.4. More pics tomorrow.

A passenger playing Solitaire on her Rogers Blackberry, on the GO Train this morning. This was a lucky shot as the sun fell perfectly to the spot where she was holding the BB. [1 of 4 photos]
100% crop shows lots of chromatic abberation in the hilights.
F430 Ferrari Spider outside the Dundee (Wealth Management) building on Victoria. I have a blurry shot of the cockpit. I really miss the wide angle lens; I had to walk across the street to get the the entire car in the frame. A scooter is parked just to the left of the Spider; I now regret not photographing the two together. [1 of 4]
St. Michaels Hospital hedge along Bond Street. Nice contrast between the sunlit grass in the background and the hedge. [1 of 3]

Some wide photos in A-DEP mode came out blurry. I wonder why.

Verve Photo

Verve Photo showcases documentary photographers.

Documentary photography involves telling stories of people, with still pictures (the captions fill-in the details; the photos stand on their own). Photographing people without affecting the emotions in the photograph because of the camera's presence, is an art that cannot be taught.

Monday, November 3, 2008

DP Review: 50D

David sent a link to the 50D review. Reading it was helpful as an supplement to the dry user manual.

I noticed that the charger that I got with the body-only kit looks different than the one pictured in the review. I still don't know what the AF-ON button ("The AF-ON button allows you to trigger auto focus independently of the shutter release 'half-press'.") is supposed to do— pressing it seems to focus the lens far and then close in small steps— more reading required. Page 10 of the review has a movie that shows AF operating in LiveView mode. Perhaps it's not working for me because I always have the camera handheld rather than mounted on a tripod or stabilized. Page 17 has an interesting comparison of the sensor noise levels of the various cameras; the Nikon D300 is unexpectedly impressive at ISO1600.

Update Sat Nov 08 12:55:45 2008: After re-reading the LiveView chapter, I have a better understanding of the auto-focus in LiveView mode now and it does work (for some values of "work").

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Canon 50D Irritants

A list of things that I expect to work a certain way, or things that make me wonder why they are a certain way (perhaps later, as I learn the camera, I will understand why) and things that generally bother me about the 50d:

  • No auto-focus with shutter button in LiveView mode (if a point-and-shoot can do it...)
  • Blinking numbers or symbols (the shutter speed blinks, the aperture value blinks, a circle blinks when corresponding limits are reached; this is the 21st century: I want a message in English telling me what's wrong and I want it projected in the eye-piece and I want errors coloured red)
  • Multiple ways of setting the same thing; the top-deck status LCD (for backwards compatibility to keep the old-timers happy, I suppose) and the rear status/Quick Control LCD menu (I have re-considered this irritant and accept that the top LCD is useful)
  • The auto-focus points in the view-finder are difficult to see when shooting in low light
  • the CA mode settings reset after photos are reviewed or if the camera is switched to another mode (Tue Nov 04 23:26:17 2008)
  • A photo can be automatically reviewed (for a customizable period) after each shot; I would like to zoom-in to the picture being reviewed without having to press Review and explicitly entering review mode (Sat Nov 15 14:25:53 2008)
  • With the rear LCD on, when you switch to a different exposure mode; e.g. from Shutter Priority to Aperture Priority, the LCD shuts off. In the dark, it's difficult to read the top dial, so the LCD is handy to see what mode you're shooting in. But I have to keep turning the LCD on every time I switch modes. (Sun Dec 21 12:53:27 2008)
  • This is more of a wish— backlit buttons so I can see what I'm pressing in the dark given how much pressing Canon engineers expect me to do. A backlit exposure-setting top-dial would be nice too. Wed Dec 31 22:23:10 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fall Shoot

I left the house early this morning so I could take advantage of the beautiful fall weather which, at 6 degrees Celcius, was quite a change from yesterday's high-winds and near-freezing temperatures.

On the walk between home and work, I shot more than 100 photos. I kept my camera in aperture priority at f/1.4 most of the time as an experiment to see how photographs would turn out. I was expecting some accidental surprises from shooting large vistas at f/1.4 but naturally, they all came out blurry.

Update Sat Nov 01 11:15:32 2008: The fashion shot was the only photo I took, just as the light turned green; the GO Train photo was also a single shot; the red plant was one of eight; the photo of the maple leaves was one of 18. I also increased the LCD brightness to 2 notches above the default, to be able to review photos in direct noon sunlight.


More settings I changed:

  • [wrench2 menu]: enabled live view exposure simulation (in Live View mode, pressing this button simulates what the exposure will look like)
  • [wrench2 menu]: enabled grid display (in Live View mode, a grid is overlayed on the LCD (helps in aligning verticals and horizontals; I found that my photos tend to lean down towards the left)
  • [wrench3 menu]: INFO button displays Shoot Functions (I prefer to use the LCD on the back to adjust my camera settings using the scroll wheel and the cursor controller; the LCD on the top is less than useless because of the number of buttons I have to press)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM is on sale for $1250 at Downtown Camera. Seriously considering getting it (but having second thoughts after only shooting about 100 shots with the 50mm and that the 24-70 weighs nearly a kilogram).

Need to shoot some more downtown landscapes with the 50mm to see its limitations. Maybe I'll just get a 24mm prime used by the backstage photographers featured on Behind the Lens.

Portfolio: Richard Reinsdorf

Richard Reinsdorf's portfolio; the last photograph in editorial no. 11 is technically amazing.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Beijing Press Box

Quicktime VR of the Beijing Olympics Stadium Press Box, 30 minutes before the 100m finals.

Stickers seem to be popular addition to lens hoods. I can't tell what the most popular camera is (Nikon or Canon). I wonder if the white balance is off as all the telephoto lenses are beige rather than white.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

First Shoot

Today, I got the opportunity to shoot photographs in the scenario for which the camera and lens was purchased— three kids running around indoors in low light. From the results, I have to say that I LOVE both the Canon 50D and the 50mm lens. The shots came out absolutely amazing (I shot all the close-ups (less that 3 feet) at f/1.4). The only minor complaint I have is that the camera didn't detect the tungsten light and I had to manually correct the white balance setting.

Todo: 1) figure out how to tell the camera to track a subject as it moves through the autofocus points (I remember reading about it but forgot how to do it.) 2) figure out a rule-of-thumb that correlates f-stop to distance from subject and area of the circle that is in focus (e.g. if I am 5 feet away, and I want everything in the frame in focus, what f-stop do I have to dial; alternatively, I could always switch to full-auto or program mode).

I also took some closeups of a lit candle which turned out quite nicely.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Depth of Field Study

This morning, I decided to do a study suggested in an article I read last night about understanding the concept of depth of field.

I set-up three objects (a LEGO box, a vase and a LEGO object) in a straight line, each about a foot apart, switched the camera to aperture priority (Av), dropped the f-stop value to the lowest setting (f/1.4), focused on the middle object (the vase) and took a picture. Then, I changed the f-stop to the next highest setting and took a picture, and continued until the maximum f-stop (f/22).

Below are three selections of the study: a low f-stop, a higher f-stop and a large f-stop.

f/1.4: only the vase is in focus; the LEGO in the foreground and the writing on the label in the background is out-of-focus.

f/2.2: a larger area around the base of the vase is in focus and more of the label in the background is in focus.

f/18: the text in the label is readable and the LEGO piece in the foreground is in sharp focus.

Reviewing the series of photos, I observed that at the lowest f-stop only a small area around the focus-point was in sharp focus; the rest of the photo gots progressively blurry. As the f-stop increased, the amount of the photo that was in focus increased and the shutter-speed decreased (stayed open longer)— at f/22 the shutter speed was at 0.6s. I now have a better understanding of the relationship between the f-stop, the "bluriness" and the shutter speed.

(Aside: I think "depth-of-field" should really be called "area-of-bluriness".) Eric noted that digital cameras make it easy (i.e. inexpensive) to experiment like this and that an alternate name is "circle-of-confusion".

Friday, October 24, 2008

75-300mm Photo Album

The photos taken with Jim's 75-300mm lens are now available.

EOS 3000

Jim brought his EOS 3000 film camera with a 25-70 mm USM lens (which cost ~$500 at the time); this Rebel model camera was first introduced in 2002. The camera had 7 shots of ISO 200 film remaining. At the 25mm end, the lens showed no noticeable barrel distortion at the edges, while through the view finder. The other noticeable difference was the camera weight; compared to the 50d it was a feather. The lens also had trouble focusing in low light (indoor office flourescents).

I'll be testing the lens on my camera at a later date. I didn't get a chance to upload any photographs due to a meeting I had to attend.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What the Duck

Jonathan sent along a link to a comic about photography— What the Duck.

Choosing the 50 mm lens

The article that convinced me to choose a 50mm prime lens over the usual multi-function lens that Canon ships as a kit with the camera body (Wed Jan 21 16:00:26 2009I noticed I had the wrong URL linked).

This review looks at the three Canon 50mm lenses, el-cheapo, mid-range and high-end; additional review sites are listed at the end.

And of course, there is the famous Zeiss 50 mm f/0.7 lens that Kubrick used to shoot the candle-lit gambling scene in Barry Lyndon, without additional artificial lights.

Canon 75-300 mm f/4.0-5.6 III USM Lens

The New York State sentence for a Peeping Tom is six months in the workhouse.
— Rear Window

Jim brought in his 75-300mm telephoto lens and I had a lot of fun shooting with it today. He said this lens was purchased in the days before there were digital SLR cameras.

First impressions (I have nothing to compare it to): the lens is great for daytime shooting. I managed a few twilight shots but I found that it had the annoying habit of losing focus completely for no discernable reason (maybe because I was shooting through glass?) which required me to manually recompose/zoom-in and focus again. I was able to read the text on a letter-sized sign (in 48pt font?) from half a block away. I was able to read the text in the photograph; it was too shaky to read-it while shooting hand-held. The best descriptor of the the zoom-ring would have to be, "clunky with a bit of wobble". Update Wed Oct 22 23:51:38 2008: This is not an internal zoom lens; the length of the lens changes as you zoom in, unlike the EF 75-200 mm f/2.8 L IS USM (US$ 1700, that Eric recommends, non IS version US$ 1200).

I was hoping to catch someone undressing in front of their window in the many apartments around the university, or a murder being committed, but no such luck.

Update Fri Oct 24 18:36:20 2008: Photos now available.

Update Fri Oct 24 22:12:23 2008: David suggests some alternatives:

What are you planning on take pictures of?

If you're going to take pictures of objects far away that you need to zoom into, then the 75-200 would be useful (remember to multiple by 1.6x to get the "true" length though).

If a good portion of your pictures will be indoors, or for close- to medium-distance objects, Canon's 24-70mm may be of more use.

There are also 70-200 f/4 lenses (IS and non-IS). Both are about US$ 700 less expensive than their f/2.8 counterparts.

Monday, October 20, 2008

First 50D Photos

Tell me exactly what you saw and what you think it means.
—Rear Window

I have finished reading the manual once. I am planning to read it again until I can explain the function of each button to anyone who asks. I estimate about six months before I can shoot comfortably with this camera.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Canon 50D Second Impressions

One of the problems I'm having, is adjusting to the weight of the camera— my right hand and wrist are sore after a shoot. Having become accustomed to holding my lightweight pocket cameras in my right hand with my index finger extended over the shutter button, I instinctively began doing the same with the 50D. However, since the 50D weighs 2+ lbs. and the body is taller, it puts a strain on my wrist and hand. I have to keep reminding myself to hold the camera with my left hand under the lens, relax my right hand and index finger and only use it when i need to compose and shoot.

Settings I have customized:
  • Disable the beep (the camera would beep after achieving focus; I prefer to watch for the AF point to hilight)
  • Reduce LCD brightness -1 level from the default, to 4 (I would probably need to increase this for outdoor viewing, but indoors, 5 is a bit bright)
  • Enable Hilight Alert (blink over-exposed regions when reviewing)
  • Reduced photograph resolution from the default 15.1MP (~5MB files average) to 8MP (~3MB)
  • Disable the flash firing (the camera strobes the flash to meter the scene in low light; this is not affected when flash is supressed neither is flash firing using preset-modes )

I am finding the 50mm lens rather limiting for "landscapes" and large group shots, requiring me to stand quite further back than I am used to with my S60 and also not being able to get the same view angles as with the S60. My next purchase will likely be a wide-angle lens rather than a macro.

Update Sat Oct 18 16:34:15 2008: David responds:

The 50D has a 1.6x crop factor, so your 50 mm lens is acting like an 80 mm one--that's basically a portrait lens.

If you want a lens that has a field of view roughly as wide as your eyes, you would need to get something like the 28mm (f/1.8 available). Multiplying by 1.6, it will act like a 45mm lens; much closer to the "standard" 50 mm view of the old 35 mm film cameras (and current full- frame DSLRs).

If you're planning on doing more wide shots, it may be worth considering getting a wider lens. In a lot of cases it's easier to step in to get a close up than it is to step back to get a wide shot. Also, you can always "zoom in" my simply cropping the picture to get the proper framing that you want. If it's not possible to step back any further you're stuck.

Update Sat Oct 18 21:45:58 2008: Eric has a follow-up to David's comment above, about a, "lens having a field of view as wide as your eyes":

Your eyes have an angle of view that might be as much as 120° (wiggle your fingers off to the side while staring straight ahead to see what I mean). On the other hand, your perception of detail anywhere but straight ahead is atrocious, and then of course there's the "blind spot". So it's meaningless to talk about your eyes' "angle of view".

I'm pretty sure that standard lenses are standard because: the 45° field of view happens (for reasons I don't understand) to be the easiest lens to make so for a given price, the 45°-field-of-view lens is the fastest and has the highest quality.

Lenses have easily-determined fields of view; it's your eyes that don't.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Canon 50D First Impressions

Yesterday, one of my colleagues came in with a Henrys flyer which had a promotion where the purchase of any 50D body or body and lens kit would get a Canon camera bag, a grip and an extra battery. So this afternoon, I called the Toronto store to confirm they had one in stock and I picked one up just after 5PM along with the 50mm f/1.4 USM lens; my boss and my colleague walked down to the store with me. During check-out, when the salesperson asked if I wanted a UV filter, I turned to my boss quizically and he nodded and suggested I get one— it's $50 protection for the $420 lens from poking fingers of young children. As I was paying, the salesperson asked if I was a student (I had earlier said that I was calling from Ryerson when he had asked if I wanted him to hold the camera for me); Ryerson has a popular photography program.

After I got back, I cleared my work counter and while the battery was charging, I read through the manual. After the battery charged (100 minutes to full charge), I had to call my colleague over for help with attaching the neck-strap, as the single diagram showing the procedure was rather cryptic. Fortunately, he is experienced in this, as his wife has a Canon Rebel (film). Next, I tried to open the battery compartment and I gave-up, as I turned to the manual; he calmly reached over, opened it and inserted the battery. I took the 1GB CF card out of my S60 and inserted it into the camera and powered it up. I took a couple of shots and I was quite impressed with the bokeh (photos will be uploaded later). The view-screen is HUGE and AMAZING; it seems to have some sort of optical coating where the oil from one's face that rubs-off on the screen, does not seem to distort the image being viewed.

We had a difficult time configuring the inside of the camera bag using the velcro partitions, to hold the camera. More on this later.

The true test of this camera's capabilities will be in low-light. I tried taking some in my darkened apartment and it had trouble focusing on the far door; it instead kept focusing on a near-wall (I tried manually focusing but the results were blurry; I haven't figured out how to tell it to focus on something else.)

It's easy to take great shots in good light with this camera (in full auto mode). I am now thinking of going professional, hiring an extremely pretty female assistant (interested parties please include a recent photograph with your résumé) to walk around and take readings with a light-meter. Since Toronto Fashion Week starts next week, I wonder where I can get credentials to be able to photograph the models.

Time to watch Blowup again.

Update Thu Oct 16 23:16:43 2008: David suggested getting a Gorillapod.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

GO Trains: Night and Day

Sun Nov 23 00:25:18 2008

This is a Manual mode photograph taken of the old F45, soon to be retired engines, pulling into Port Credit station. It looks a bit underexposed. [1 of 3]

This is one of the new engines being introduced into service which is capable of pulling 12 cars. [1 of 3]

A night shot, taken in Program mode, of the 20:07 train pulling out of Port Credit station (engine is at the rear of the train). [1 of 1]

All the stations are having the platforms lengthened to accommodate 12 cars; the new platform sections can be identified from the thicker yellow warning lines.

Advice for Budding Photographers

David sent me an article on Magnum's blog with thoughts and suggestions about photography from several Magnum photographers.

Sometimes, one photographer's advice to look at other photographer's work, is contradicted by another who prefers to not be influenced by others; I suppose it's up to each of us to decide.

I liked Constantine Manos' advice, "... show us something we have never seen before and will never see again." I would like to think that the "Fantastic Foursome" photograph, above, was inspired by this philosophy.


This blog will go live on a full-time basis when I have finished copying all my old articles from my journal. I have a Picasa Album for my photos.