Posts Tagged ‘105mm f/2.5 K’

push it!

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

I went to a photowalk on Monday night — a first for me. It was nice to have an excuse to go out and photograph at night, which is something I don’t do often enough. I took my D40, Nikkormat, and tripod, and got some interesting shots — a mixture of half-baked long exposure stuff and street/event photography, some of which I was tolerably pleased with.

Ferry Building Photowalk

Ferry Building Photowalk

I mostly shot with the 35mm f/1.4 AIS on the D40 and the 105mm f/2.5 K on the Nikkormat, although I popped the 35mm on the Nikkormat as well later in the evening and put the D40 away.

I had Tri-X in the Nikkormat, rated at 1600. This was my first time pushing film, and I was surprised at how well it came out. The grain, while certainly plentiful, is not unpleasant, and pretty much all the important detail was captured. The contrast worked out quite nicely.

SF Photowalk 2/2/9 (Tri-X)

SF Photowalk 2/2/9 (Tri-X)

SF Photowalk 2/2/9 (Tri-X)

By the way, in case you’re wondering what I look like when I’m setting up a shot on a tripod, the answer is here. In my defense, the camera adds ten pounds and turns you into a grimacing wallaby.

With apologies to Mr. White.

Friday, January 9th, 2009

On my way home from work yesterday, my attention was caught by a fallen branch. The branch sat at the top of a gentle slope up from the Channel park to the East 8th sidewalk. I would not have noticed it — in fact, I probably walked past it for days or weeks without doing so — except that I happened to be off the path.

As a result, there was a brief moment in which the branch was silhouetted against the late afternoon sky, revealing a strange and compelling shape. And also a familiar one — the branch twisted in on itself is a common element in Minor White’s photography, and some of his most striking and enigmatic images feature them. That brief glimpse stayed with me through my commute, and I resolved to see whether I could make something photographic of it.

Branch, Three Views (C)

I knew there was no way I could convey anything interesting about the branch if I photographed it in situ. There was quite a lot of clutter in the area and in the skyline beyond; even if I got down on the ground, there was no way I could get the thing silhouetted against the sky — my initial view of it depended on the eye’s ability to immediately discard visual clutter.

So, during my lunch break today, I did something which I do not normally do — I moved the damn thing. (I usually prefer to document things where and as I find them.) I dragged the thing down next to the channel, leaned it against a bench, and propped it up (to prevent it from rolling) using the card wallet I use to hold my business cards, bard tickets, and bus pass. (I managed not to forget it when I left, although it was close.)

I made many different exposures with three lenses (35mm, 105mm, 400mm), varying my camera position extensively. My two main considerations were the relationship between the shapes within the branch, and the relationship between the branch and the rest of the scene. The primary factor in determining these relationships is camera position; the secondary is the choice of focal length and aperture.

The image at the beginning of this post is the last one shot, using my 400mm f/5.6 to fully isolate the branch from its context. In this shot, I chose a camera position such that the rear fork of the branch crosses behind the forward main segment. This preserves the three-dimensionality of the object despite the flattening effect of the long-range perspective and shallow depth of field.

Branch, Three Views (B)

Proceeding in reverse chronological order, the middle image to survive the culling process was made with my 105mm f/2.5, with my tripod legs fully extended and the center column somewhat extended, so that the camera is looking down past the branch. This permits the shapes of the background to come through, but no detail. In this vantage, I was able to capture birds moving in the air or water in several shots. (These are my normal lunchtime subjects.) In this one, two egrets perch on the far bank of the channel, just above forked end of the branch, while two others fly, one with cupped wing mirroring the penultimate curve of the branch.

Branch, Three Views (A)

The first surviving image (there were a few other test shots before it) was made with a normal lens (35mm on crop sensor), stopped down to f/11 or f/16 for depth of field. The result does not render the background sharply, but does allow a degree of detail to come through. This, together with the flattened background and foreground created by the square-on camera angle, allows for useful juxtapositions in the composition, with the branch bracketed between the four bare trees, the two lower works cupping the boundary between the far bank and the channel, and the top of the tallest tree becoming another fork of the branch, extending from the vertical segment.

For each image, I adjusted the saturation and color cast of various segments, warming the branch and cooling the background, or the opposite, and then applying a blue- or yellow-filtered black and white conversion in Capture NX.

These images are, as suggested earlier, derivative to a greater or lesser extent (or, put more favorably, they are a reference or — for the ultra-mega-douches in the audience — “an homage”); I consider them basically an exercise in composition. And while I wouldn’t blame anyone for being unimpressed by them, I consider them a success, and a well-spent forty-five minutes…

Berkeley on New Year’s Day

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

For quite a while now, I’ve been shooting a stream of birds and strobist shots. As I mentioned in a previous post, that’s mainly a function of how freaking cold it’s been here, although there are other factors — how busy it was at work before the break, how quickly it’s been getting dark, etc. And I’ve also been pushing myself on a lot of sedentary and non-photographic tasks, like updating the site.

But I got myself out the door for a while today, packed just my three essential lenses (35mm f/1.4, 55mm f/3.5 Micro, 105mm f/2.5) and left the strobist junk at home. Good thing, too, because I’ve been all too conscious as I go back over my images of 2008 and put the site in order that my best images are made just walking around with open eyes and seeing what’s to be seen.

I was expecting to see a lot of post-New Year’s Eve detritus, but surprisingly, there was very little. I mean, even on mornings after non-holidays, streets in my neighborhood are strewn with underwear and single shoes; however, the streets today were free of both. I surmise people just left their underwear and shoes at home last night before they went out to party.

There were a few signs of the festivities — a discarded box of Lindt chocolates, an apartment building door propped with a newspaper (next to a beer can and some unidentifiable spillage), and this wonderfully ironic benchside tableaux:

The spray that does it all

I sincerely hope that no one took seriously the suggestion to spray their bedsheets with lysol. ::shudder::

The light was…weird. More directional than it should have been, or so it seemed at the time.

Behind Church, Dana and Haste, Berkeley, CA (View Large)

This scene caught my attention because of the way the little area behind the church — framed by the two staircases — was illuminated by the sun, while the entire street and the side of the church and surrounding street where I stood was shaded. I initially set up my composition and exposure with the garden house in mind and no idea that there was a man pacing along that elevated area. He only was only visible after I corrected my camera position by taking a step to the left. I was surprised to find him, and as you can tell by his tiny expression if you click there, he was also somewhat bemused.

Somewhat later, as I was starting to head back, I passed by these two elderly ladies with their banner:

Young people these days... (View Original)

I switched from the 35mm f/1.4, which I had been using before, to the 105mm f/2.5, in time to catch the rather blase young men passing by the banner…

You can see by my stubble that I am a web designer

Monday, December 29th, 2008

During my time off for the holidays, I’m growing some epically (is that a word) scraggly stubble, and I figured that was a sign that it was time to update my web site. I’m in the process of working on that now. I bought a copy of the excellent Coda from Panic Software. Not that I’m qualified to use it (I vaguely recall just enough about html and CSS to get myself into trouble), but it’s a very useful tool for creating and maintaining sites in a rational and bloat-free manner. (Coda being bloat-free, not necessarily my site.)

Holiday Stubble

I’ve already fixed some minor problems and started putting myself on a better footing to keep the site up-to-date going forward. I’m also going to take a crack at replacing the flash galleries with plain html. This is partly a preference for not relying on the software tools I used initially to create those galleries (sad to say, it was iPhoto), partly to do with editing and updating these things, and partly an ideological bias against the increasingly commonplace overuse and abuse of flash in web design today. Not, again, that I’m qualified to wage a one-man war against flash, but I know that when I visit web pages, I always find it heartening to encounter a photograph that isn’t encapsulated in stupid a flash interface.


Note that this does not indicate any claim on my part that I’m going to write standards-compliant HTML. Seriously, that’s probably not going to happen, no matter how long my stubble grows.