Sunday, September 27, 2009

Something Different

Week 15

This week is about getting away from it all but instead of travel to an exotic country we went to a wildlife festival in Waterton Park in Southern Alberta.

The wildlife festival had multiple speakers and fieldtrips and there was a two hour photo course on wildlife that we went on where I took this picture. I photographed a number of animals in Waterton, but this black bear was the best shot. Some of my most favorite photographs are of birds and wildlife so I enjoyed getting this one.

When we first saw the bear, he was maybe 100 meters away and pretty small in my 70-300 zoom at 300mm focal length. The pro had a 600mm Nikkor AF-S 1:4 with a 1.4 extender and I tried that with better results. He recommended aperture priority at f/8 to make sure the face was well focused front to back with the long lens and that is where I had it. Unfortunately, the bear was in grass and shrubs so they weren't great shots. I took my camera off the 600mm so someone else could try it and put the 70-300 zoom back on the D3.

In a minute or two he started to amble down the hill and to the left. He disappeared into a gully and then came out. Just before he climbed down to the road I made this shot. Light is from fairly low morning sun to the right. I took a string of shots at 3 frames a second while he was turning his head and caught the face lit nicely.

The camera is a Nikon D3, ISO 200, set in aperture priority and still at f/8 from the long lens. The lens is a AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm 1:4.5-5.6 G ED VR. The resultant shutter speed is 1/200 second which is probably a bit slow. The D3 lets you set a minimum shutter speed (it varies ISO in the case of fixed aperture if shutter speed drops too far) and I'll set that in future at 1/300 second probably. The bear is maybe 30 meters from me and moving away and to the left. I had the presence of mind to frame him pretty well at least.

The post was to tweak curves for contrast and I also put a vignette around it. I cloned out some small rocks in the lower right. I could have left them in or cropped them but found them distracting and liked the original composition. I did crop it to 8x10 starting in the far lower right up to the top of the frame.

Idea based on Take a Break , pages 132-133 in the book 50 Photo Projects, by Lee Frost

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Peace Festival

Week 14

This week is about festivals but I've strayed from the book quite a bit. The chapter in the book is about going to Venice to photograph the Carnival. I don't think I'm going to get to Carnival this year, but it just so happens they were having the Calgary Community Peace Pole Unveiling Celebration this morning so I went there instead.

The Venice Carnival is brimming with people that are in costume and photogenic. The Calgary Celebration is a little lower key but I did photograph this lady. She goes by the name Shanti Amani Salaama, the Peace Fairy, at least for this festival. Festivals are a great place to photograph people though. You see a lot of real characters and they actually like to be photographed :-). Other good spots are Renaissance Festivals, Battle Reenactments, other Mardi Gras celebrations, you get the picture...

Light is from late bright afternoon sun over my right shoulder. You can see the hard shadow on her face. I was using a Nikon D3, ISO 200, at 1/2000 second in aperture priority. The lens is a AF Nikkor 300mm 1:4 at f/4 to minimize depth of field since the background wasn't too appealing. I've been working on reduced depth of field this week and here is another example with two blackbirds.

Post processing was minimal - basically a crop and slight contrast increase.

Idea based on Festival Spirit, pages 38-39 in the book 50 Photo Projects, by Lee Frost

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Week 13

I do reflections from time to time, but usually end up not caring too much for them - for one thing mine often seem too symmetric. Sometimes they seem best blurry - see for example this picture of Story Bridge. But today I was trying for a sharp reflection and something more offbeat.

The location is Kananaskis Upper Lake and the light is afternoon sun from the left. The lake has a lot of dead stumps along the shore and that was to be the main subject. Of course there is a lot more in the frame, maybe too much. But somehow it comes together for me. There is fair balance for one thing. I really like the roots on the tree, they look like an octopus' arms. I thought it might be good in square format and framed it with that in mind when I shot.

The camera is my D3 and was in aperture priority at f/22 - I might have set it a little more open but I wanted good focus from front to back. A lot of people worry about diffraction at small apertures but I don't for small pictures and the interntet. Probably should have set it at f/16 and taken a little more care anyway :-). The lens is a Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 at 24mm. I took a couple of frames but thought this one worked best for a reflection. It is set at ISO 400 so I can hand hold at 1/80 sec. Probably should have had a tripod too :-).

Post processing consisted of the square crop and going into lab mode with soft light to get a bit more contrast and punchier color. I dialed lab color back to 50% to tone it down it a bit.

Idea based on On Reflection, pages 82-83 in the book 50 Photo Projects, by Lee Frost

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Normal Lens

Week 12

The 50mm prime lens, also known as a standard lens or normal lens, came on a lot of 35mm cameras and was mounted on the first Leica that made 35mm popular.

I have several 50mm lenses for my Nikons, both manual and auto focus. They are nice because they are small, have low distortion, usually are very sharp, and are fast - down to f/1.4 or even f/1.2. Even the slowest ones are faster than the amateur zooms that come on most cameras today. Here is a shot taken at night in very low light with Nikon's cheapest current lens - a 50mm f/1.8 autofocus. I had to pan to keep the boat sharp but it shows what is possible.

Why is a 50mm lens considered normal? Actually there is a range that fits in this category and it varies according to film or sensor size. Typically normal perspective as perceived by humans is taken to be equal to the diagonal distance of the frame. For a 35mm frame the actual dimensions are 24mm x 36mm so the diagonal is 43.2mm if I have done my math right. That means a 50mm is actually a slight telephoto in the 35mm format.

Older rangefinders often came with a lens around 42mm to 45mm in focal length, including the camera I used to take this picture - a Kodak Signet 35 from the early 1950's. This is closer to an ideal normal perspective, at least according to the mathematical definition I've used above.

Back to the photograph. It was taken in a hotel room as we were waiting to move into our apartment. I took it because of the quality of the filtered light coming through a large window on the left side of the frame and it gave me a chance to test the lens wide open (in this case only f/3.5). I thought it would probably be a bit dreamy and not too sharp given the age of the lens but actually it is pretty sharp. Film is modern Kodak 200 bought in a drug store.

It is a bit overexposed and not on purpose. I determined exposure by taking a snap with my Nikon D3 which came up with f/3.5 and 1/15 at ISO 200. The Signet 35 doesn't have 1/15 but there is a 1/25 shutter speed so that is where it was set for this hand held picture. So why is a faster shutter speed overexposed? Probably because the shutter needs adjusting after all these years.

There is very little post processing in the picture. I straightened it a bit and took some shine out of the framed picture on the wall using the cloning tool. I like the way the out of focus areas look but can't tell how much of that comes from the film, the camera and lens, or the relatively low resolution scan. The D3 is quite a bit sharper and of course exposure is "better" but I like the Signet 35 look.

Idea based on Standard Bearer, pages 120-121 in the book 50 Photo Projects, by Lee Frost