G.G.A.S.*: Canon 100-400 mkII

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*Galloping Gear Acquisition Syndrome

I am generally happy to remain ignorant of the latest bells and whistles that the camera manufacturers have added in order to sell another piece of gear that no-one really needs. However, of late my head has bean turned by lots of new doodads. The latest in this parade of head turners is the updated version of Canon’s 100-400mm lens. I had the original ‘dust pump’ version of this lens which I eventually retired because it never saw much action and following it’s use I ended up spending a while cleaning the sensor on the body that it was used on. Having said that, there was a certain novelty factor to the way that the lens extended to change focal length. For the weight and number of times I used the lens I decided to leave it on my desk at home and make do with my very much lighter 70-200mm lens.

There are times however when the extra reach can allow you to make the photograph that you have in mind. The image above is a case in point. I’d tried with my 70-200, it really wasn’t working, click on the image below to see what I mean. Nixon_150115_6450

While getting closer was certainly an option I had an opportunity to use the new 100-400 lens and made the image below using the same settings as I had with my 70-200mm. Nixon_150115_6462

Immediately noticeable on the LCD screen on the camera was that the image made using the 100-400 was sharper than that made with the 70-200 even though all the camera settings and lens settings were the same. This in inevitably led me to wonder what if I dumped the 70-200 and replaced it with the 100-400 lens. That way I’d have a nice sharp lens capable of the extra reach when I need it. My only concern is the weight – a chunky albs. We’ll see how I get on!

Beavertail Lighthouse Scouting Trip

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What’s the weather like where you are? Here on the New England coast it’s been bitterly cold this last week – a polar vortex the weather guys seem to call it. I was in Jamestown recently to photograph around Beavertail lighthouse with the temperature cold and feeling colder because of the wind chill.

This was the first time that I’d actually gone to Jamestown with the intention of photographing around the lighthouse and, although I had prepared as well as I could, I wasn’t prepared for the difficulties that the cold would present. I was playing with the 24 mm tilt-shift lens again but what I quickly found was that I was too clumsy with gloved hands to operate the buttons and knobs that you need to work to adjust the lens. I struggled along the best that I could but was very frustrated by the time I was done.

I did however get a couple of images that I liked and managed to find a couple of fun spots that I plan to return to in the coming weeks.

Friday Inspiration: Michael Fletcher

Amberay from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.

Michael Fletcher is the film maker behind the documentaries that support the Ninety Degrees Five projects. The twin brother of photographer Christian Fletcher he turned to film making in an effort to differentiate himself from the stills that he’s brother was making. I’m quite glad that he did since I really enjoy his style of film making. I wish that he had a fully fledged website of his own. Instead I’ll point you to the video section on his brother’s website here and to his page on Vimeo.

Enjoy a few of my favorite videos above and below from the over 70 that Michael has posted.

Lofoten – A Photographic Adventure In Norway from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.

Born to Fly – Canon 1Dc from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.

Friday Inspiration: Ninety Degrees Five

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It seemed appropriate, given where my head has been in the last few weeks, to look at the collaborative group Ninety degrees Five this week. One of the questions that I’ve been asking is ‘as a beginning photographer how can you accelerate your improvement’ and realized that being part of a working group can greatly help. While I was thinking about that I was also wondering once you ‘make it’ whatever that means to you then what. Does the group that you’re a part of still work for you, do you move onto a new group that are more aligned with where you’re currently at? Where do the modern day masters go for feedback?

It was interesting then for me to come across Ninety Degrees Five, Les Walkling, Tony Hewitt, Peter Eastway, Christian Fletcher, and Michael Fletcher. These four photographers and a film maker are in essence a group of modern day master photographers who are working together in the way that I described in my blog post earlier in the week. The image above of Dampier Salt Flats is by Les Walkling and is from the Pilbara Project. The projects that the group has completed include ‘South West Light’ and ‘2016 Shark Bay – Inscription‘.

One of the things that came out of the Impressionists was a group sensibility within which the individuals still had a indue voice. I think that could also be said for this group too. The work hangs together as a whole and yet they clearly have distinct voices. Check out the videos below for more about the Pilabara project and South West Light.

The Pilbara Project from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.

52 Weeks On: A Pilbara Project Exhibition Trailer from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.

South West Light – A Photographer’s Perspective from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.

ND5 – A photographers Perspective – ‘Come on…..really! are you serious?’ from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.

Into the Film Vortex Once More

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I almost jumped off into the world of film photography recently. I was at a skate park when my Canon (it’s hardly inconspicuous) drew the attention of one of the teenage skaters. He told me that he’s just sold his DSLR to fund the purchase of a Hasselblad 500 series camera and then went on to extoll the virtues of film over digital. It did make me stop and think.

There is a mystique surrounding film for me – I came late to photography, never owning an SLR camera until the digital system that I got in 2005 – and so I feel as though I’ve missed out on something special.

It is quite possible to emulate the look of film using software packages such as those made by VSCO. While I’ve played with these software packages quite extensively never having shot film to any great extent I don’t have a good point of reference to know how close they get. If these emulations are good representations of the film that was/is available I’m glad that I didn’t have to deal with the imperfect color rendering – it would have driven me insane.

If you take the camera body out of the equation the only other piece that could have an impact on the particular look from a given film camera is the lens. While it’s not possible to use the exact lens same Hasselblad lens on my Canon cameras it is possible to get Zeiss lenses that are compatible. This was the path that I decided to pursue.

The image above is taken using a 18mm Zeiss ZE lens. I’ve had some fun learning to use this lens. The biggest challenge for me has been the fact that it requires manual focusing, so my reliance on autofocusing was out of the window, I do still get the reassuring ‘beep’ when the image is in focus by holding down the shutter release button. The other trick that I’ve been relying on is the ‘live view’ function and zooming in to check on my focus.

I’m not sure that I can tell the difference in quality in images made using this Zeiss lens and the Canon equivalent but they do feel better.

Friday Inspiration: Mitch Dobrowner

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I was simple stunned when I first saw Mitch Dobrowner’s photographs of storms in Lenswork – the image above only scratches the surface of this unique body of work. It’s been interesting to follow the increase in awareness of Dobrowner’s storm photographs over the last few years which has included everything from stories in Wired magazine, National Geographic Magazine and coverage on CNN and ABC. A book of the storm photographs was published by Aperture in Sept. of 2013.

Listen to Mitch describe his work and see him in action below in the video below and click on the link to hear his artists talk at the photo-eye gallery.

Artist Talk by Mitch Dobrowner at photo-eye Gallery from photo-eye on Vimeo.

Camera Profiles & Picture Styles

I feel like I must be the last person on the planet to have stumbled upon the utility of picture styles as they seemed to be called by Canon or Camera profiles as you might find them in the Lightroom Develop module. Do you use them as part of your raw file workflow?

Up to this point the first few steps following import of a photo into Lightroom have been to apply the lens profile, add a small amount of sharpening, crop & straighten if needed, set overall brighteness and adjust contrast. Then I’m over in photoshop for more adjustments.

I did play with picture styles a very long time ago and decided that they weren’t doing much for me. Since then I’ve studiously ignored them. When I have some time I will often click around prices of software just to see what things do. That’s what I was doing when I clicked through the various picture styles that are available beyond ‘Adobe’ that I had been using.

Adobe

Faithful

Neutral

Portrait

Standard

Of the 4 additional picture styles I feel like Landscape, used for the image at the top, gives me the best base to build from for this particular image. Still some work to do on this image but less than I would have had to do. Well worth a look.