Posts Tagged ‘35mm f/1.4 AIS’

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…

Nick vs. Arista Premium 100

Friday, October 10th, 2008

My normal mode of film buying is to pick up a few rolls at a time. This is partly because I’m a stingy bastard, even with my own hobbies, but mostly it’s because I haven’t really settled into a groove regarding what emulsions work well for me. I definitely love Portra 800, but shooting a steady diet of just that wouldn’t make a lot of economic sense.

I recently broke with this trend to pick up ten rolls each of Arista Premium 100 and Arista Premium 400. These are — by all reports — rebadged Kodak Plus-X and Tri-X. I need to shoot these films for the Laney photo classes, so they make sense in that regard. I also find myself really warming to Plus-X, now that I no longer suck so hard at shooting it.

I recently developed and scanned the first roll of Premium 100, and I got some shots — particularly with the 35mm f/1.4 AIS — with which I am extremely pleased. Maybe unreasonably so.

Two Leaves (Arista Premium/PX:015:25)

Recovered Shopping Cart (Arista Premium/PX:015:20)

Recovered Shopping Cart (Arista Premium/PX:015:21)

Banana Bell (Arista PX:015:15) (View Large)

It’s a bit odd. One of — if not the — main things that initially appealed to me about film was the ability to shoot grainy images at high sensitivities and get usable results. For this reason, I expected Tri-X to immediately rock my world, but I find that the contrast of Plus-X has an immense appeal that Tri-X does not automatically provide. I really do need to start developing at home, because I know there are ways to get Tri-X to behave more like I want it to. : )

In the Dark with All the Pretty Lights

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008


I woke up at 3AM this morning, and couldn’t get back to sleep. I went through my morning ablutions, and pounded the “j” key through my feeds in google reader, and reviewed new posts to my flickr groups since I’d gone to bed. That left me with whole hours to kill before I could plausibly catch a bus to work.

This would have been a great time to have an all-night (or at least open early) eatery, but, bizarrely, there’s almost nothing in the way of food and caffeine in walking distance that opens until, like, 6:30AM. I live a block away from a gigantic university — where are these kids going at 4:00AM to satisfy their munches?

Well, whatever. I ignored my lack of food and caffeine and set about making some images. Then, when Peet’s finally opened at 6:30, I set about starting the editing process, while I still had the somewhat manic mindset. In my sleep-deprived state, I got pretty experimental, in two main areas — specular highlights (I don’t normally set out with them in mind) and a rejection of realistic white balance. Some of the results were quite interesting.

Descending Angel

This is probably my favorite of the group. I like the symbolism, both of the cruciform/angelic inverted figure and also of the sulphur-yellow-and-scorched colors of the carport. I particularly like all of that when embodied in that most mundane of all vehicular storage areas.

Keep The Fire Burning

This is the First Church of Christ, Scientist. It’s an awesome, wonderful building, that looks less like a Christian church than it does like Elrond’s townhouse. I’ve seldom had much luck photographing it, probably mostly because I have crappy instincts when it comes to architectural photography. This shot doesn’t highlight the bizarre design motifs of the building, but relies instead on light and shadow and leading lines — photographic fundamentals.


I don’t entirely know whether or not I like this image. It is a good example of an image dominated by specular highlights (something I’d been meaning to create on purpose, rather than by accident, following a thread in the D40/xD60 club group. And beyond that, it’s also an interesting image in terms of the positioning of the tip of the vine inside the specular highlight — a nifty effect, which makes for a surreal image that has a certain appeal. But it does not fall within what Minor White referred to as the “thin red line of uniqueness to the man,” meaning that it doesn’t seem like an image of mine.


This image, made after the sun had started attempting to rise through the mist and clouds, feel more like my own, although I could not tell you why. It was made through a fogged window toward part of a string of lights, which were not on, with other lights, which were on, in the background, contributing an oddly streaky set of specular highlights.

35mm f/1.4 AIS Before Dawn – a set on Flickr

35mm f/1.4 AIS

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

Crossed Leaves

A thing of beauty. My first non-non-AI manual lens. It will replace my 35mm f/2 O and 50mm f/1.4 S for regular carrying purposes, and will probably be the lens most often on my camera when I’m not looking for birds.

35mm f/1.4 AIS

Rørslett says that this lens

Its imaging capacity quickly increases when the aperture is set to f/2.8 and peak performance is reached between f/4 and f/5.6. In this quite narrow range it produces tremendously sharp images. To illustrate its imaging potential: In the peak range it is possible to discern objects that actually measure <1 mm within a recorded area of 5 by 8 m. You'll need at least 40X magnification to observe these tiny details on the film, but they certainly are there . This shows the unbelievable level of detail that can be resolved on film by this lens!

Which is one of the reasons I bought it — because my 35mm f/2 O, especially when shooting at f/2-f/2.8, is a bit soft, especially when thinking about film enlargement, rather than digital, where sharpening is simple and fast.

But while that’s part of the lens’s appeal and a big part of why I bought it, so far, I just haven’t been able to stop shooting at f/1.4. Sharpness, shmarpness, look at this:

35mm f/1.4 Test Shots

And this:

35mm f/1.4 Test Shots

Woo! Sharpness is overrated. Bokeh is where it’s at!

Of course, neither sharp focus nor soft focus nor great or little depth of field in and of themselves are enough to make a photograph worthwhile. But it’s good to have these tools when you need them, and this lens definitely expands my toolkit.

I’ll try to bust out the tripod and do some test shots comparing this lens with the 35mm f/2. I already tried this last night, but I had my tripod set up too close to a TV, and I wound up with crazy flare from the TV, affecting the 35mm f/2 considerably. I was able to determine (from some handheld tests that aren’t conclusive for sharpness) that the f/1.4 AIS is about 1/2-2/3 of a stop faster than the 35mm f/2 when shooting at f/2. This is doubtless attributable to the lack of multicoatings on the 35mm f/2.