Joseph, New York, Photography

You Asked For It – Compact Cameras

Today I would like to talk about compact cameras for two reasons.  The first reason being I had minor foot surgery on Tuesday and I still find it a little hard to get around with shoes on so I am being a little lazy in not having to go out and take new photos.   The second reason for writing this post is practically everyone who has a big DSLR camera usually also has a compact camera they take with them when they go on vacation or just want to travel light. All of these photos were taken about one month ago, with a Sony RX100 Mk. 1 compact camera on my walk back to Penn Station from 69th Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan.  I originally went to Manhattan to pick up a Macro lens for my Fuji X-T1 but then I got the idea to ask Patti K. (a fellow contributor on Monochromia) to meet me at an Upper East Side Starbucks for a cup of coffee and to shoot the breeze. Meeting Patti was truly the highlight of my day and my friend and I talked with her for about 1 1/2 hours but thats a story for another post.

Most of you are probably saying why do I need a compact camera when I have my iPhone or smartphone with me all of the time and that is a perfectly legitimate question.  Some people like Louise Whiting or Patti K. are accustomed to taking photos with their iPhones and, I have to admit they are extremely creative with them (for those of you who don’t know these women check out Monochromia our black and white only blog, they are two of our main contributors). As for myself shooting with a phone is sort of a hit and miss situation sometimes I get great shots and sometimes they really suck 🙂  Maybe this is because I don’t shoot enough with my iPhone or it could also be because I have big sausage like fingers and I am always afraid of dropping it.

For those of you that have success shooting with your phone I tip my hat to you and all I can say is “whatever works for you”.

For those of you that are familiar with my work and what cameras I enjoy using it should come as no surprise that I love Fujifilm cameras.  I previously shot with a Fuji X20 camera but when I purchased my X100s I sold my X20 because I couldn’t see myself using it that much with the X100s.  That was probably a mistake on my part because I really loved that camera and the images it was capable of producing.  Since then I sold my X100s along with my X-Pro 1 and X-E2 and I have settled on using two cameras with the same control layout.  Those cameras are a pair of Fuji X-T1’s and while I love them sometimes I just feel like being able to throw a camera in my pocket to go into Manhattan traveling as light as I can.

Being I am a cheapskate I stumbled across a Sony RX100 Mk. 1 on Craigslist (classifieds) and bought it for around $200 with a handful of accessories.  I usually am not a fan of cameras without any sort of viewfinder because I don’t like holding cameras at an arm length away from me.  It makes for an inherently unstable camera holding position. A camera with a viewfinder will add another point of contact such as your forehead that will help stabilize it.  On the plus side the Sony viewscreen seems to be bright enough in to use in bright sunlight.

Here is an image of the Sony RX100 that I purchased

Sony1 (1 of 1)

I photographed the camera with a ball point pen in front of it to illustrate how small the camera actually is.  Its small but fairly heavy for its size being made from die cast magnesium.

If money was no object I probably would have bought another Fuji, this time the X30.  I might even still do that  in the near future.  I really love the fact that now the Fuji X30 has an electronic viewfinder and very similar controls to the other Fuji’s.  The sensor is smaller on the Fuji than the Sony but I rarely shoot above ISO 1600 so I never had any issues with high ISO problems when I owned the X20

I love using prime lenses on my X-T1’s but when it comes to traveling light I would rather have a zoom lens.  Thats one of the reasons I bought this Sony (besides being a cheapskate) because it has a very sharp Carl Zeiss branded lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8 at its widest setting but quickly changes to f/4.9 an the telephoto range.  The Fuji X30 has a maximum aperture if f/2.0 at its widest setting and it only slows to f/2.8 at its longest telephoto setting.

Okay Joe I’m getting tired of hearing about your cameras whats the point of this article ?

The point of this article is this – what exactly is important when purchasing a compact camera to supplement your DSLR.  Image quality would be number one on my list followed by the ability to shoot in RAW as well as jpg.  Usually compact cameras have a lot of items buried in the menus, so controls and function buttons are also important.  It’s no fun searching for a setting in the menus when trying to shoot a rapidly changing subject or scene. Lens speed is also important.  Do you recall me saying I rarely shot above ISO 1600 with my Fuji X20 ?  That was because it had a very fast lens for a compact camera.  Another great feature to have is WiFi built in to your compact camera as well as GPS.  The ability to upload your images instantly to social media is important to most people.  You can purchase SD cards such as “Eye Fi” to instantly transmit photos to your phone or tablet but I personally would rather have this feature built in to the camera.

Built in GPS is also great because if you are on vacation and want to document where you visited with a map view you will need some way to tag each one of your photos with GPS coordinates.  Most programs like Apple Aperture, iPhoto, Lightroom and I believe Photoshop Elements provide a way to compose a photobook within the program and also show a map view of where you took each image.  The Fuji X30 along with the X-T1 and X-E2 have a feature called Geo Tagging and this works in conjunction with a free app you download for your smartphone and the camera will access your smartphones GPS feature to tag your images (pretty cool solution).

Image quality on compact cameras can be quite pleasing especially when equipped with a fast aperture lens so you can achieve shallow depth of field.

Future

A compact camera is excellent for street fairs or taking photos at a farmers market.

Baskets

There are so many vendors with different products for sale at street fairs with a wide variety of colors and textures to photograph.

Hats

Fresh roasted corn is always a favorite at street fairs and my friend Carmela just had to have one.

Rcorn

Compact cameras are also great for street photography because you look more like a tourist rather than a photographer.

SmartLook

The tiny inconspicuous nature of a compact camera makes them less threatening to subjects.  I was able to take a shot of this gentleman watching his girlfriend shop without him even knowing.

Busstop

Having a compact camera to suppliment a big DSLR is handy.  If you are a blogger,  cameras in the 12 to 16 megapixel are ideal especially if the camera is equipped with WiFi to make mobile uploads effortless.  Some people also enjoy compact cameras more than a full size DSLR. There is something to be said for being able to travel very light and be inconspicuous.

Looking for some of the features I mentioned above will most certainly make your experience using a compact camera more enjoyable.  I personally don’t do much social media but the WiFi feature on my cameras comes in really handy for me simply because I immediately get to see my images on a larger screen (my phone) than the cameras LCD screen.  Some of the features might seem like overkill in a camera but when you start to think of your camera as a tool rather than just for snapshots it will start to seem like a Swiss Army Knife with a feature or tool for everything.

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Joseph, Photography

DSLR Or Mirrorless ?

First I would like to say this post is purely my opinion so please don’t think I am singling out any particular manufacturer or promoting one system over another. I am giving my reasons for switching and my thoughts are probably out of sync with the majority of readers so as I said in last weeks post “to each their own”.

Well I finally took the plunge into the mirrorless camera world wholeheartedly yesterday. I had been building a Fujifilm system along side of my Nikon System for about a year now and I had found myself using the Nikon less and less, sorry about that West 🙂

I already was using a Fujifilm X-T1 so when the opportunity arose to get another X-T1,  Vertical battery grip, 56mm f/1.2, 23mm f/1.4, Fuji Flash and a handful of Fuji batteries and other goodies I jumped at it. I’m sure you are saying “Oh No Joe” you must have spent a small fortune on that gear. Actually I swapped my Nikon gear for the Fuji gear (except for some items which I will sell separately) so it didn’t cost me a penny. Now I am not the first person to jump ship from a DSLR to the mirrorless world but at least I have had the opportunity to use the Fuji gear side by side with the Nikon gear to sway my final decision.

Why in the world would you do a silly thing like that Joe ?

To me it the glass (lenses) is a very important aspect in deciding which system to go with. It also has a lot to do with the camera controls but more on that later. You see way back when I was an eager young buck I remember deriving great joy from going out for a days worth of shooting with prime lenses on my Canon F-1 film camera. I had a lot of those marvelous Canon FD prime lenses and all of them were fast. I don’t remember having any lens that was slower than f/2.0. I did not own a single zoom lens. My images were really good with those fast lenses and then Canon had to go and upset the whole apple cart by changing the design of their lens mount.

You might be saying to yourself “I don’t remember Canon changing their lens mount Joe” but they did. They had to change the mount design to one that would accommodate the newer cameras that were beginning to appear with electronics.

Those great Canon lenses were called breech-lock lenses and they were machined so well that all you would have to do was face the camera lens mount up and line up the dots and the lenses would practically mount themselves. All you would have to do is twist the breech-lock ring about 1/3 of a turn and your lens was securely mounted. There was no twisting of the lens against the camera body. The only thing that moved was the breech-lock ring so there was no lens mount wear or wobbly lenses. Yes those were the good old days.

So when Canon changed their mount I traded in all my gear for Nikon. One of the great things that Nikon had been able to do is retain their original mount design so not to alienate users who had accumulated years worth of lenses. Every Nikon F mount lens will fit every Nikon SLR camera no matter how old it is. The older lenses might not meter on the newer cameras but they will fit. Why Nikon was able to build upon their original mount design to accommodate electronics and Canon did not is beyond my scope, but to say the very least I was pissed. So for the next 35 years I built a Nikon system.

The time seemed to fly by and every couple of years when Nikon announced a new camera I was at the local camera shop checking it out, and most of the time buying it. Each new generation of Nikon added more and more features, so many in fact that I was sure I never use all of them. I noticed a strange thing that happened along the way though (and I am strictly talking about myself here). The more features that were added to the cameras the less I would enjoy using them. Either you would have to twist a wheel in front of the camera to change the aperture, or hold a button while twisting a wheel to adjust exposure compensation. Some features were only accessible by diving into the menu system.

Thats great, something else I have to remember.  Besides getting the correct exposure and composing my shot I had to remember dials, wheels, buttons and menus. Don’t get me wrong, having a bunch of features is great but I just didn’t feel right to me the way these features were implemented. I fully embrace technology when its enjoyable. I’m not an analog man in a digital world.

OMG look at all those glorious dials 🙂

XT1 (1 of 1)

I guess I’m just old school, I like aperture rings on the lenses and knobs to twist with numbers on them. This is one of the reasons I started to like the Fuji cameras more and more. Besides having some of the best APS-C sensors in the business they have dials for shutter speeds, ISO, and exposure compensation. They have aperture rings on the lenses where some of us think they should be on every make of camera.  I like the way the Fuji X-Trans sensor reproduces color and B&W, and I do believe it has something to to with the non-traditional layout of the sensor (it is not a Bayer type layout).  I also liked the fact that Fuji has eliminated the AA filters on the sensor (anti-aliasing).  I know other manufacturers have removed these filters also but not at this price point. Across the entire Fuji line these filters are gone so the sharpness of the images is more to my liking.  Originally before jumping ship I was hoping when Nikon announced the df camera I would love it but, to me the Fuji X-T1 has better ergonomics.

The Fuji glass is also impressive. They have a complete lineup of fast prime lenses and the only zoom I have felt a need to buy is the 55-200 Optically Stabilized lens (yes Gale VR or OS lenses do work). Almost all of the lenses are tack sharp also. I enjoy using the fast lenses a lot, it reminds me of my days with my Canon F-1. The fact that the X-T1 has dials instead of wheels (it has wheels but you can choose not to use them) is just icing on the cake for me.

I was also very impressed with the quiet operation of the camera. If you turn the beep off you can hardly hear the shutter. There is no mirror slap as on a DSLR when you press the shutter, so I can use slower shutter speeds with a mirrorless and get sharper slightly images. There is no optical pentaprism to add weight to the camera. There is an electronic viewfinder and it is a superb one. I could look in the viewfinder and adjust the exposure compensation wheel  and see in real time what the image will turn out like without removing my eye from the viewfinder and looking at the rear screen.

When doing time or long exposures with a DSLR you have to cover the eyepiece or it will affect your images. There is no need to cover the eyepiece on a mirrorless.

Over the years I have used and owned a lot of Canon and Nikon glass and I have really never had any complaints with the sharpness of the images.  I do find that most of the Fuji glass has a “bite” to it for lack of a better word (looks a bit sharper).  As far as the Canon and Nikon bodies go I have never had any major issues almost all of them were totally reliable (my Nikon D200 had over 190,000 shutter actuations) on the original shutter and was still going strong.  I want to be very clear that I have nothing against these big manufacturers.  The Fuji system just fits my slower deliberate style of photography better.

Just because the Fuji system fits me does not mean everyone will like it. Some reviews I have read indicate that Fuji’s are not beginners cameras or are “Quirky” but I don’t find that the case at all. For anyone looking into upgrading or buying a DSLR camera I suggest you take a look at mirrorless along with DSLR’s. There are a lot of mirrorless brands such as Sony, Fuji, Olympus and Panasonic Lumix (Olympus and Panasonic are micro 4/3 sensors which are smaller than APS-C sensors) that offer considerable bang for the buck. Mirrorless technology is rapidly maturing and when image quality is compared to DSLR’s it is almost indistinguishable.

I’m sure in time I will find some disadvantages to mirrrorless also but the way I see it the advantages will far outweigh the disadvantages.

Here is a video clip that Patti K. sent me in a comment (Patti is one of our Main Contributors on Monochromia).  This is a pro that decided to go mirrorless and a lot of the reasons I switched were similar.  I hope you enjoy the clip and thank you to Patti for sending it – Why I moved to mirrorless

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Joseph, Photography

You Asked For It: Photo Editing Programs

Today I would like to discuss some of the various photo editing programs available to post process your images.  I will also give you my views on Macintosh versus Microsoft Windows systems.  Please note I am not advocating or endorsing one type of computer OS over the other I am merely stating my experience with both.  Todays post was actually inspired by a question from Gale in Florida about post processing.

Why I Prefer Macintosh

Lets discuss computers first because I want to be brief on this subject. I personally prefer the Macintosh OS over Windows (and this is coming from a person who owned a computer business for ten years building generic computers running Microsoft Windows). Like I said I am not endorsing I am merely stating my preferences. I find the Macintosh systems seem to require less system resources than Windows systems while running the same programs.

Huh ?

Okay let me give you an example. I sometimes will edit images on my Macbook Air computer which only has 4 GB of RAM without issue. Of course I would prefer to edit images on my Mac Mini with 16 GB of ram and a big screen but sometimes I would rather just sit on the couch with my wife and edit images on my Macbook. If I were using a Windows based system with the same processing power and 4 GB of RAM, running Adobe Lightroom 5 would be frustrating for me. In my experience the Mac programs seem to load faster than the Windows counterparts and take up less hard drive space. Some of you might say RAM is pretty cheap these days so why not just add some memory and use the Windows systems. That’s wonderful if Windows is your preference but when comparing apples to apples (no pun intended) the Mac system will load programs faster with the same processing power and memory, and I am confident saying that. The other thing I prefer about the Mac system is all of the Apple software such as word processing, spreadsheet and presentation is free and will import Microsoft Word or Excel files. The OS (operating system) upgrades are also free so I don’t have to spend money when the next generation of software is available. If I wanted to start processing RAW files immediately iPhoto is already on the Mac so if I didn’t have the extra cash to spend on Adobe Lightroom at the time I could still shoot RAW images with my camera and post process them. These are some of the reasons the Mac system is a better fit for me. As I stated previously I am not endorsing or suggesting one system over another, I am just stating which works better for me, and why I prefer it.

Image Editing Programs

Okay so lets get to the meat of the post, image editing programs now that I started the controversy about computers above.

When you buy a camera most of the time it will come with a CD that has their own brand of image editing software. These proprietary programs are used if you shoot RAW images because for some stupid reason every camera manufacturer has their own RAW files. With Nikon the files have an .NEF extension, with Olympus they end in .ORF.

Why these files are different is beyond my scope of understanding but it would just make a little more sense to me if all these manufacturers would get together and standardize a file format for RAW images. They did it with .JPG images so why not RAW.

Adobe Lightroom is in my opinion the standard for post processing images for people like me (advanced amateur).   You can import just about any file format including RAW images into one program.

But Joe why would I spend money on Lightroom if my camera already came with a software CD ?

Thats a really good question Joe, I’m glad I asked me. Lets use me as an example.

I am a long time Nikon user as most of you already know. Lets say I was a loyal user of the software provided by Nikon to post process images. I took the time to learn all aspects of the Nikon software and I am so familiar with it I can process images with my eyes closed (which would be a pretty neat trick).

Now I decide to buy a Fuji camera because I heard great things about their image quality. I’m very excited when I get my new Fuji home and while I am waiting for the battery to charge I decide to load the software that came with my new camera. I eagerly await for the software to finish installing and as soon as it finished I quickly open the program.

What the hell is this ?

This is nothing like the Nikon software I am accustomed to. Oh crap this is totally different and now I have to learn a whole different program to process my Fuji RAW files.

This is the exact reason you invest in Adobe Lightroom. You take the time to learn Lightroom and it will import any brand of camera RAW files along with .JPG’s of course. You learn one program and use it for all of your post processing needs. By taking the time to learn Lightroom you streamline your post processing immediately.

Another great feature of Lightroom is Plug Ins. Practically every manufacturer of image editing programs provides Plug Ins for Lightroom. For example I use NIK software’s Silver EFEX Pro sometimes to process my black and white images. They provide a Plug In so I can run Silver EFEX from within Lightroom. I just drop down one of the menus in Lightroom choose to edit my image in Silver EFEX and when I am done it automatically exports my image to Lightroom and puts me right back to where I was before I dropped down the menu. I actually use the complete suite of NIK software programs but since Google purchased the company I find myself using a suite of programs fro onOne software called Perfect Photo Suite (which by the way is a free download). When onOne comes out with new versions of their image editing suites the make the previous versions available for free. I would imagine they do this in hopes you will love their software and upgrade to their latest version, which is not free. To me the current version is well worth the $89 they charge for it. The NIK software suite is also very nice but I just find myself using the onOne software more recently.

There are free programs available such as Google Picasa that you can use for post processing your images which is fine. I just don’t think anything can match the power and versatility of Adobe Lightroom and the Plug Ins capability is just an added bonus to me.

So I hope all of you found this post of some use and I hope I cleared up some questions that you had Gale.

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Photography

You Asked For It – Macro Photography

In this post I would like to discuss Macro photography so a brief explanation is in order to explain what exactly “Macro” is.  Macro photography is different than close up photography.  I am sure most of you have seen the do it all lenses advertised and some of you might even own one.  You know the lenses I am talking about – 24-105mm with macro or 80-200mm with macro.  Well here is a little news flash, these are multi-purpose zoom lenses with a close focusing function.  They are not Macro lenses.  True macro lenses are fixed focal lengths 60mm, 90mm, 105mm, 180mm, 200mm and so on.  True Macro lenses (or as Nikon labels them Micro) have the ability to reproduce subjects at a 1:1 ratio.

Oh crap Joe you’re not going to start with this math again !

No don’t worry what I mean by 1:1 ratio is that Macro lenses can reproduce something life-size, if it is 1 inch square it will reproduce a life-size 1 inch square on your image with no cropping or enlargement.  This is called reproduction ratio and it is listed in the specifications on all Macro lenses.  If you look in the specifications on the multi purpose lenses with so called “Macro” mode you will most likely see something like 1:2, 1:4 or even 1:5 and that is why these lenses should be marketed as multi purpose zooms with close up function, not macro.

I have been using a Tamron 90mm macro lens (Nikon mount) for about a year now but if I had money to burn I would buy a macro lens in the 180mm to 200mm focal length.  I happened to run across this Tamron 90mm for a great price used so I purchased it.  The lens is shown below and happens to be spectacularly sharp, as all macro lenses should be.

Macro1

But Joe if you already have a macro lens why would you buy a longer focal length macro lens ?

There is a simple reason, to increase my working distance from the subject.  I use a full frame sensor camera so the 90mm Tamron is actually 90mm.  Remember way back when we were discussing depth of field and sensor size when I explained if you use anything except a full frame sensor there is a focal length multiplication factor ?  Well lets say I was using an APS-C sensor camera like the Nikon D7000.  Then my Tamron 90mm would actually work out to be a 135mm (90mm x 1.5 = 135).

The closer you are to your subject the more likely it is that you are going to block the light or at least shade the light.  With a longer lens you have a greater working distance and you don’t run into the problem above.  The working distance on the Tamron I am using is about 3.5 inches at 1:1 reproduction. If I was using a 200mm macro lens the working distance might increase to as much as 11 inches. You also have a greater chance of not disturbing insects or butterflies on flowers if you are further away from them (not to mention getting stung by a bee).

So lets see a few examples.  Today was a little chilly outside so I gathered up some leaves and brought them into the house.  In the first example I will just show you a natural light image straight out of the camera.

Macro2

This image is a 1:1 reproduction which means the leaf was the same exact size as in the image. This image was taken at an aperture of f/32 and you would expect the depth of field to be very deep or sharp. If you look at the photo closely you will see that the veins of the oak leaf are in sharp focus but the water droplets are really not tack sharp. This particular lens goes down to f/64 but it really would not make too much difference if I used that aperture because when working with macro lenses there is no such thing as great depth of field. The difference in height between the veins and these water droplets cannot be more than 1/128 of an inch yet at f/32 the depth of field is still shallow.

Okay so lets get back to the lesson, I really don’t like the flat natural light on this image so lets try some flash in the next image.

Macro3

This is a little better but the lighting is still flat because the flash was shot from a head on position (you all know me by now I’m a texture freak).  Lets try a little side lighting to bring out the texture of this subject.

Macro4

Do you see how much of an effect lighting can produce.  On this photo the Flash was placed at the 9:00 position just to the left of the image.  Lets try  another light placement.

Macro5

This image was taken with the flash at the 12:00 position and it also provided a little backlighting as evidenced by the white area in the middle right where the white background is showing through the leaf.  Although all of these images are very different they were all taken at the same aperture f/32. It is the lighting that is making them look different.  I finally settled on the image below.

Macro6

This image to my eyes was the closest to the original with only a boost in the texture which was achieved by the flash in the 7:00 position and being hand held slightly elevated.

Now some of you are probably asking yourselves why didn’t he just use the on camera flash. The reason I used an external flash is because if I used the on camera flash I would have introduced a shadow from the macro lens into the image because of the close proximity of the on camera flash and lens. I used a Nikon SB-700 Speedlight in wireless mode.

I suppose after telling you I used the SB-700 Speedlight in wireless mode I should explain. Most of the Nikon Speedlights have a mode called “Remote” and most of the Nikon cameras except for the less expensive ones have a mode called “Commander” mode. The Nikon D70, D70s, D80, D90, D200, D300, D7000, D700, D600, D610 and D800/D810 all have commander mode available in the camera. This simply means you can set your camera to control external Nikon Speedlights wirelessly with full TTL control “Through The Lens” exposure control. I’m sure Canon and other manufacturers have the same thing but you will have to check your instruction manuals to see what they call it.

Nikon also calls their system “Creative Lighting System” and here is where you find it in your menu system. I am using a Nikon D610 as an example but the menus are very similar in the cameras mentioned above.

The first menu will be shown in the Custom setting menu and it will be listed under Bracketing/flash select this.

Macro7

The next menu will be Flash control for built in flash.  The default setting is TTL, you will have to change it to Commander mode.

Macro8

The next menu is a sub-menu of Flash control for built in flash and notice I turned the built in flash OFF as indicated by the two dashes.  Being I only used one external Speedlight I am only concerned with Group A which I set to TTL with No exposure compensation and Channel 1 (yes with the Nikon CLS system you can control the output of you external Speedights from the camera position without touching your Speedlights).  Also notice that you can set multiple groups of Speedlights if you desire to do a multiple light setup for portraits and the wireless function really comes in handy (if you have ever tripped over a wire and destroyed a Speedlight you will understand).

Macro9

The only step left to do is set your external Speedlight to Remote and be sure to pop the built in flash on your camera up.  Also make sure your external flash is set to channel 1. The built in flash will communicate with the external flash through infrared signals. It will not fire it will only control the remote.

Macro10

A word to the wise is after you are done with your remote lighting session switch your menu settings back to their defaults. Your pop up flash will not fire until you do.

I hope those of you with macro lenses or about to purchase a macro lens will find this post handy and also anyone who owns one of the Nikon cameras listed above will experiment with remote wireless flash. It is simple to set up and can really improve your photos by moving the flash off camera. Hmmm maybe that should be a separate post, LOL.

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Black and White Photography, Joseph, New York, Photography

You Asked For It – Techniques For Better Images

Today I would like to discuss some techniques that you might find useful (or maybe not). This is not going to be technical in any way so there will be no calculations or math of any sort. Now that I got that out of the way hopefully most of you will stick around and read the entire post.

Different lenses have different angles of view (remember we discussed this in a previous post), and one of the most difficult lenses to master is the wide angle lens.

Why do you say that Joe ?  

Most people approach wide angle photography the same way as if they had a 50mm lens on their camera and most times they are unhappy with the resulting images. Wide angle lenses don’t really work too well when they are used in a point and shoot fashion. The angle of view is way to wide and the resulting images have no impact because everything looks so small in the photo.

Let me show you the first example which was taken with a Tokina 12-24mm f/4 lens. I just pointed and shot the photo. All of the examples will be in black and white so I don’t distract you with colors.

WideAngleOne

As you can see in the above photo there is no impact or point of interest. Everything on the horizon is tiny and there is a picnic table covered with snow smack in the middle of this shot (don’t panic over the snow these were taken last winter). Now lets try using our feet and move around a little bit (I know zooming is easier). I would like everyone to get used to looking at a scene and moving around it looking at it from different angles. One of the first lessons I learned way back in the dark ages when I studied photography was to photograph one object from every angle I could think of. Now lets take a look at the next example which was taken with the same lens.

WideAngleTwo

What do you think ? This photo has a lot more impact and all I did was take a few steps forward and use a slightly lower shooting angle. When shooting with wide angle lenses it is always good to have an object in the foreground being the depth of field is so great. Lets take a look at another example with The Tokina 12-24mm lens.

WideAngleThree

I guess this photo would work for a casual snapshot but there is really no point of interest or impact from this angle. Yes its sharp and the clouds are nice but thats about it. Now lets see what happens when we take a couple of steps to the left toward the rocks.

WideAngleFour

Notice the three large rocks to the lower left. They are the same rocks as the previous image so all I did was move a little bit to the left and used the rocks to sort of anchor the image or add a little more impact.

If you will take the time to approach common objects and use about 10 minutes of your time to move around them and take photos from all different angles and varying heights I will guarantee your image will improve. Next time you go out shooting try it. I bet the first image you take won’t be the keeper after you see the same object from different angles.

Lets try another example this time using a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens.

WideAngleFive

This photo was taken on a foggy morning at a local park. I used a lower angle and I thought this image would be the keeper. After taking various images of the same scene from different angles and distances I liked the image below.

WideAngleSix

In this scene I moved back a little and stood on a large rock to get a higher angle. To my eyes this is a little more like I saw that day before looking through the viewfinder. The flow of the trees through the scene look a little smoother to me also.

Sometimes getting a better shot has nothing to do with moving around. In this example I will use the same lens and shoot the scene in landscape mode (not the camera setting but the orientation). Lets take a look.

WideAngleSeven

There is nothing of interest in this photo it’s just too busy. Now lets take the camera and change the orientation to portrait (turning the camera sideways).

WideAngleEight

Thats better, all of a sudden by just changing the orientation of the camera the image improves. Its less busy and the composition falls into place. Now the boat and docking poles become the points of interest. The image was improved greatly just by turning the camera 90 degrees and I didn’t even have to move my feet 🙂

So whats the moral of the story Joe ?

The moral of the story is don’t stand still and use your zoom to vary your images. Take the time to move around your subject and shoot it from all different angles. I really think you will be very surprised at the results you get with your images.

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Joseph, New York, Photography

You Asked For It – RAW vs. .Jpg

This is the sixth installment of the “You Asked For It” series and today I would like to discuss RAW files versus .jpg files or why you should shoot RAW.  Sometimes I don’t practice what I preach and I shoot .jpg files with my Fuji cameras.  For some reason I am just in love with the .jpg files that come out of the Fuji’s.

Okay now that I confessed to you that sometimes I cheat and shoot jpg files you are probably wondering why the hell should I listen to you Joe you’re a cheater !  To be perfectly honest I only cheat when I specifically need smaller file sizes which is one advantage to shooting .jpg (the file sizes are considerably smaller which means you can fit more images on your memory card).

JPG Files

So lets get down to the nitty gritty and figure out what in the world I am talking about when I say .jpg file.  If you own a DSLR camera and you look in your owners manual you will find that your camera is capable of recording two or more types of files and one of those choices will be .jpg.  When you set your camera to record .jpg files you are telling your camera to employ a compression scheme to the file and most likely to correct for some minor lens distortions such as pincushion distortion or chromatic aberration.  You are probably saying Joe what does that mean in english.  Pincushion distortion is typically found on wide angle lenses where vertical and horizontal lines seem to bow or curve.  Chromatic aberration is when you magnify your image you see a color fringe around the edges if your subject.

So why should i stop shooting .jpg images if the camera corrects for all these things Joe ?

Because you have less control over your final image when you shoot .jpg images. While the camera is correcting for these distortions and busy compressing these files so you can fit more images on your memory card it is processing your files. Processed files have less latitude when you try to adjust different parameters in Lightroom or whatever program you are using to import these images into your computer.

RAW Files

RAW files are exactly as the name implies unprocessed uncompressed raw data.  When you set your camera to shoot RAW you will notice a few things.  The first will be your memory card will hold a lot less images.  If your card held 1000 images of .jpg it will probably drop down to about 250 RAW images, so these files are a great deal larger than .jpg files.  The next thing you will probably notice if you are someone who shoots sports and has their camera set to continuous high speed mode (I like to call these spray and shoot) is that you will be able to shoot a lot less images before your camera buffer fills.  Once again in plain English your camera buffer holds the images until they can be written to your memory card.  If you are a sports photographer who holds the shutter button down to have the camera continually fire to record a sequence of shots your camera will fill its buffer faster with RAW files (because they are larger) and when the buffer fills your camera will slow down until it clears the buffer enough for more shots to be held in it.  In plainer english if you shoot .jpg files and your camera had a buffer capacity of lets say 25 continuous shots before slowing down you might get 10 shots with your camera set to RAW.

So enough talk and lets get some examples.  What I am going to show you is a couple of examples of images that I have purposely under exposed by four stops. Please take note that all of these images will say .jpg because when I export images from Lightroom I have it set to convert them into .jpgs but please be assured that some of these files were RAW before being converted.

TutTwoNEF.jpg
This file is from my Nikon D610 and was underexposed intentionally. My camera has dual SD card slots so it is simple to shoot Raw on one card and .jpg on the other card simultaneously. Most cameras with single card slots can do this also but RAW and .jpg images will be recorded on the same card.

TutFour.jpg

This is a .jpg file as shot in camera and was adjusted in Lightroom to bring it back to the correct exposure.  No other corrections were applied such as color tint or anything other than exposure.  Notice how the colors just are not quite correct and all the detail in the sand is lost.  I want you to take notice of color of the boat on the left and the trees in the background.  This photo might be good for emergency purposes but there is nothing in this photo that was retained that was faithful to the scene I saw.   This photo probably could be adjusted a little more but its kind of like when you make a mistake painting and the more you mess with it to correct it the worse you make it.  Why would you want to spend more time post processing your images if you make a mistake with your exposure just for the sake of fitting more images on your memory card.  Memory cards are pretty cheap just buy a larger capacity one.

TutFourNEF.jpg

Here is the same image that was shot in RAW.  No other corrections were applied such as color tint or anything other than exposure. Notice the sand is more accurate in color along with the sky.  The sand retained a little more detail than the .jpg file.  Also take a look at the hull of the boat on the left which is the correct shade of blue.  Notice the trees in the background are green and not bluish/black like in the .jpg file.

Please go out with your camera and experiment with RAW files.  Raw files can be called different things by various camera manufacturers .  When I used to have my Olympus OMD E-M5 camera the RAW files had an .orf extension and on Nikon they are called .NEF.  Whatever they are called you should learn to use them because they are much more flexable than .jpg files.  Most people think after you take the photo your job is done but if you really want to take your work to the next level you will have to learn how to correctly post process your images.  Post processing is really where a RAW file shines.

Ansel Adams was a great photographer but he was also a master of the darkroom.  He would spend hours tweaking his images in the darkroom to achieve the exact look he wanted.  In todays world we have the luxury of RAW files and programs like Lightroom to take the place of the darkroom.

For those who are interested here is a video of Greg Cazillo fine tuning a RAW file from a Nikon D3x 24 megapixel camera.  It’s interesting how the image transforms from the out of camera shot to the finished product.  I hope you will take the time to watch it.

Chromatic Aberration

Pincushion Distortion

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