Sunday, February 28, 2010

365/59 Color Accent/1

There's a lot left to interpretation with this week's theme, so I'm going to take a best guess and hope that this is what was meant when the theme was announced. A plate with blue markings on it and blue beads on it for the bokeh-background.

50mm f/2.0 @ f/2.8, 1/250sec and ISO 100. Flash bounced into umbrella directly overhead @ 1/16th power.

Plate Color Accent

Saturday, February 27, 2010

365/58 Catchlights/7

I think it's time for another B&W today! She actually posed really nicely for this photo, so I don't care what color this photo is. I also think the photo is ever so slightly OOF, but I can't tell what's causing it. At 100% crop, the photo looked fine, and I'm not about to fight to reshoot this photo.

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/4.0, 1/100sec and ISO 800.

Alexis Catchlights B&W 2

Also, I took a photo of the latest snow storm and converted it to black and white. A little off topic, perhaps, but I just felt like sharing.

Snow 02272010 B&W

Friday, February 26, 2010

365/57 Catchlights/6

two photos today! One of the kiddo, in B&W, the other was more to study catchlights as a technical part of photography. Kiddo was extremely cooperative today, but my inspiration was not. I blew a whole bunch of shots to finally arrive at this photo.

50mm f/2.0 @ f/3.2, 1/250sec and ISO 200. Flash bounced "camera left" (left's just say the bounce surface was slightly color casty) @ 0EV compensation.

Lexi Catchlights B&W

The following shot was followed by the conclusion that only odd, non-circular shapes qualify as a good light source (be it reflective or otherwise) for catchlights. The bigger the light source, the better. Umbrella lights: fail. On camera flash: Big Fail. All is not lost, just bounce your flash off a big light colored wall (white preferred to prevent color casts)!

Sheep Catchlights

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The New E-3!

The new, and fully functioning, E-3 arrived today! I haven't used it enough to be able to to a super extensive write-up on it, but I can share some findings based on the few hundred shutter clicks I've used up so far.

First off: the viewfinder. Between the E-500 and the E-3, it's no contest. It's easily twice as big in either direction, making for very easy manual focus and a much more pleasant experience composing and framing the photo.

Second: The AF system. Uhm yeah. The E-500 says "no" to autofocus in broad daylight sometimes, the E-3 will focus in all but impossible AF situations. I mean, I did try to focus on my black cat with practically no ambient light at one point, and the only way it would lock then was manually, or by using my flash' red AF-assist lamp. It's also miles faster than the E-500. If you needed a reason to upgrade your E-500 to an E-3, this and the viewfinder are it.

Some of you will recall me saying it was unnecessary to have more than 3 AF points. I take it back. All of it. The 11 points it has are not exactly top-of-the-range, however I don't see a good reason to have too many more as I can see it getting very difficult to quickly and reliably toggle between AF points manually if you have more than this. Most of the AF points of the E-3 fall really nicely on the lines of the Rule of Thirds, making it easy to compose properly without having to focus first and then recompose.

Third: Image quality. Miles ahead of the E-500. Those of you who own the Zuiko Digital 50mm f/2.0 Macro lens (or any of the High Grand and Super High Grade lenses) will appreciate the improvement in resolution. If you don't own the 50mm, make it a priority, you're missing out on what's considered to be the sharpest optics for any DSLR out there. I feel that the E-3 does need the better lenses to benefit from the better sensor, so please promise to never stick your 14-45mm f/3.5 - 5.6 on there. You don't swap out a Ferrari's 12 cylinder for a 1 cylinder lawnmower engine, do you?

(FYI, I did stick my old kit lens on there, and surprisingly under similar conditions, the kit lens does perform better. Don't ask, I don't know the reasons behind this)

Some could say the downsides are size and weight. Yes, it's heavy. Very heavy. Much heavier than the E-500. For me, that's a good thing. It gives a sense of solidity and if you have a heavier lens, it will balance much better than with a light camera. It takes some getting used to, but after handling the E-3 for a couple of hours, I felt that the E-500 was too light. I have heard that those who feel that the E-3 is too heavy, the E-30 is a great alternative. It's cheaper, and said to have the same (subjective) image quality as the E-3, and much lighter. I guess if weight is an issue, find a store that has one on display (for folks close to NYC, take a day trip to the City and visit the B&H store) and give it a try! Better yet, see if they have both cameras, so you can compare.

Very important: before you chuck over $1,000 at your new E-3, realize that only certain things about your photography will improve. You won't see a difference between the E-3 and a "lesser model" unless you posses firm knowledge of basic photography (exposure and composition), and because the E-3 is a bit harder to control, and has very few "auto" options, the results may actually be worse. That said, as mentioned before, the much bigger viewfinder will put your composing powers into overdrive. This camera is definitely a capable contender, as far as I can tell so far.

I was bathing the little one this afternoon, so I slapped my flash on the camera (don't have to worry about water now, it's weather sealed, and so is the 50mm!) and took 'er for a spin. Here's a nice example of what proper exposure will do on this camera, and why bouncing your flash at the ceiling is not always the best way to go :P

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/2.2 (oops?), 1/250sec and ISO 100. Flash bounced off the ceiling @ +0.3EV compensation.

Lexi B-time E-3

Ultimately, it's up to the end user to judge whether this is the right camera for their needs, I know I personally am in love.The combination of superb glass and this camera have me sold. No offense to the Canon and Nikon folks, it's not that these 'camps' don't have great glass, but the equivalent quality of the glass doesn't come at an equivalent price. Since I won't find myself shooting at "ISO 6400 requirements" light or doing high speed photography any time soon, I see no reason to jump ship.

365/56 Catchlights/5

My new camera finally arrived! There's so much improvement in so many areas, you can definitely tell the difference between the E-500 and the E-3, and not just the obvious stuff on the outside. The image quality is day and night, and the E-3 has a very usable ISO range. It's no Nikon D700 by any means, when it comes to ISO, but it's still great!

(That said, unless you enjoy shooting in pitch black, or you do weddings in dark churches where strobes aren't allowed, I see absolutely no reason to use any ISO over 1600, no matter how good a camera might be. The dynamic range of any camera is so limited at ISOs over 1600, that it's really for emergencies only, or if you have some Photoshop skills and know how to avoid blown highlights and clipped shadows in darker situations)

Here's my first photo with the E-3:

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/2.0, 1/100sec and ISO 800. Yes, that's after I just complained about the dynamic range at high ISO. You will notice a small but visible hot spot on her nose. This would not have happened at ISO 100.

Lexi Catchlight E-3

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

365/55 Catchlights/4

A more difficult subject today, because my little one went to bed before I had a chance to grab the camera. These cats run when I grab my flash, I'm thinking because of the noise it makes when it recycles, so it makes for a hard photo to take, especially since they don't like to be chased either.

I finally got him comfortable on the couch, light stand set up and here it is!

50mm f/2.0 @ f/2.8, 1/160sec and ISO 100. Flash bounced into 45" umbrella, 1/2 power, camera left.

Boris Catchlights

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Catchlights Day 3 Update

Reloaded the photo in ACR, corrected white balance and ran noise correction on this photo. It looks like the skin looks a lot more natural now.

Lexi Catchlights 3-1

365/54 Catchlights/3

Don't mind the hair, she's having a pre-bath explosion today, It's snowing, so it's another 'cool' picture, no warm sunlight :P The cast you see on either side of her face is random lamp light in the living room reflecting off her face.

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/2.0, 1/100sec and ISO 400.

I would have liked a smaller aperture, but I would need more light, or ISO, for that as the shutter speed is as low as I can comfortably go without motion blur with this particular subject/lens combo. The photo was slightly underexposed and brought back in ACR, and as a result does look less than ideal. All this will change tomorrow, because UPS is scheduled to -finally- deliver my new E-3! Hopefully everything will go smoothly this time!

Lexi Catchlights 3

Monday, February 22, 2010

365/53 Catchlights/2

The kid learned to cross her eyes, my wife really doesn't like it, I think it works for this week's theme :P

It's also a great opportunity to play with my umbrella for off camera flash! So we're all clear, the pop-up flash is about the worst way to set off your off camera flash. It created a nasty hot spot all over her hair. I can't wait 'till I can afford a set of Pocketwizards!

50mm f/2.0 @ f/2.8, 1/160sec and ISO 100. Flash fired into 45" Westcott @ 1/8th power.

Lexi Catchlights 2

Sunday, February 21, 2010

365/52 Catchlights/1

New week, new theme! I definitely like this theme, although I'll probably frustrate my daughter some time this week, because she'll be my main subject. Today only one catchlight. Here is where you could see the somewhat lacking high(er) ISO performance of the E-500 if this photo was posted at full size. Good thing resizing it made the noise grain go away!

50mm f/2.0 @ f/2.0, 1/160sec and ISO 200.

Lexi Catchlight

Saturday, February 20, 2010

365/51 Pictures of Words/7

As a long time user of Macs, I rewarded my brand loyalty with a magazine subscription 4 years ago. Sure, I'm super-biased towards Apple products, but who can say they've stuck with a brand of computers for 20 years? Right.

Anyway, I went with SOOC for this photo. No sharpening applied, no color or brightness adjustments done. Color temperature manually set to 5400K in-camera. Default "neutral" settings for all in-camera JPEG processing options. You be the judge, but I'd say the camera does a pretty good job at JPEG processing with a proper exposure!

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/2.0, 1/60 sec, ISO 100. Focus manually adjusted when the camera decided on focus settings I didn't like.


Friday, February 19, 2010

365/50 Pictures of Words/6

A little less creative than some other days I suppose, but hey, I saw a word, and I took a photo. It's the theme, isn't it?

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/2.0, 1/160sec, ISO 100. Flash bounced "up" @ +1EV compensation.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Umbrella Play

Completely off topic to the 365 themes, I decided to play around with my umbrella-mounted flash a bit more. I think it's love at first sight! It might be time to seriously think about investing in a good remote trigger and maybe a second flash. I love the way I can control light now! Much more precise than simply bouncing light. Here's an example:

50mm f/2.0 @ f/5.6, 1/160sec and ISO 400. Flash @ 1/2 power.

Baby with umbrella flash

Sure I could have opened my aperture, but I wanted more depth of field, and I didn't want more power from the flash, so the ISO had to take one for the team. It's all good, just try to find noise in this image, and don't pixel-peep, I mean noise that actually interferes with the overall quality of the photo ;-)

I think I definitely could benefit from a more powerful key light. This flash will work great as a fill flash in slave mode though!

365/49 Pictures of Words/5

A little present from my wife! She must have felt bad for my camera situation, so she replenished my ridiculously expensive body wash. And it's pretty much the perfect subject of this week's theme! I can't believe how clear the focus popped out of the frame! I guess my eyes got used to the small viewfinder, because this was all DOF work.

f/4.0 happened to be the perfect aperture to get just the word "Philosophy" in focus. That aperture, in combination with my new light setup (45" Westcott umbrella) makes this look great! I invite whoever actually follows this blog to browse back through this 365 project, I suspect there's some clear learning progress throughout the past 50-ish days, although I'm bad at judging this myself.

I would like some CC on this photo, maybe some pointers as to what I could have done better and/or different with the light or focus maybe?

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/4.0, 1/160sec and ISO 100. Flash bounced into umbrella, 1/16th power.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

365/48 Pictures of Words/4

:( My new E-3 is a dud camera. It takes wonderful photos, everything seems to be working perfectly, except for the LCD, which happens to be only partially functioning. The colors on it look like that of a 4-bit screen from back in the late 80's (those who owned a computer with a color screen back then know what I mean), not at all what I was supposed to see. Here is what I took for today's photo (with the E-3).

50mm f/2.0 @ f/4.0, 1/250sec, ISO 100. Flash bounced off the ceiling @ +1EV compensation.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

365/47 Pictures of Words/3

No E-3 today, UPS decided that the measly 4" that fell was too much for them to do the job they get paid for, while the regular USPS actually made it here, no problems. I'm a little lost, creatively, today, so here's the best I could do with my wife's idea and my mood :P

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/2.0, 1/25sec, ISO 100. Flash bounced off the ceiling @ +1EV compensation.


I tried for "ambient light" but ended up having to overcompensate with the flash to the point where no ambient light was left in the exposure.

Monday, February 15, 2010

365/46 Pictures of Words/2

The very last photo taken with my trusty E-500! I'm kind of sad, it's been with me through some rough times, and it's gotten me to where I am today as a photographer. Nevertheless, it's upgrade time, and so it's time to do what must be done.

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/3.2, 1/160sec and ISO 100. Flash straight at the subject, +1EV compensation.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

365/45 Pictures of Words/1

My trusty old Olympus OM-10, this time subject of the photo, rather than the instrument of it! Extra loaded with depth of field effects and contrast today. I love my little home made light tent, it really helps diffuse the light!

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/3.2, 1/80sec and ISO 100. Flash fired into light tent @ 0EV compensation.


This is where the Zuiko Digital 50mm f/2.0 Macro really shines. Super crisp detail, strong contrast and bokeh galore!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

365/44 Shooting From the Hip/7

It looks like my wife's present came! She bought herself an Amazon Kindle, because I felt since she's an avid reader, she should have one. So far she's loving it! Of course, that does mean there will be a photo on here in accordance to the theme of this week.

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/6.3, 1/125sec and ISO 100. I'm noticing I seem to prefer ISO 100 to any other ISO setting, even though, noise wise, ISO 200 and 400 are fine with my camera. I wonder why?


Friday, February 12, 2010

365/43 Shooting From the Hip/6

I wanted to include at least one low-to-the-ground shot, preferably with an angle, but it didn't work out that way. I have the low to the ground shot, let me know if you like it!

Olympus does render the blues really nicely, but I wish I had a better option as far as my wide-angle lens goes. I only have the kit lens at this time, but I'm ferociously saving for the 14-35mm f/2.0. There's a lot of blue fringing around the cables and tree branches that can't be fixed without destroying the blues in the sky.

14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 14mm, f/8.0, 1/160sec and ISO 100.


E-3, Update

The order has been placed! I ordered an E-3, a Westcott 8-foot light stand, a 45" Westcott white satin umbrella (with removable back) and a flash/umbrella mount bracket. Now all I need is a few accessories to connect my flash to the PC sync port of my new camera and we should be set to go!

I know I should probably be heading the "Pocketwizard Route", but I currectly don't have the $350 for a set :P

Thursday, February 11, 2010

365/42 Shooting From the Hip/5

On ILP, I basically already mentioned that under normal circumstances, I would not consider this a keeper, because I wouldn't compose this way on purpose. I was impressed with the way my camera decided to render these colors, and I accidentally almost hit the Rule of Thirds here, which actually enforces the fact that he's looking up at something. If I had done a 6x6 crop, I could have enforced the Rule of Thirds perfectly and, sure, I could have played with the colors more, but I liked the way it was :) Plus this is pretty much as much "from the hip" as it's going to get.

Exposure was perfect here. I did cheat by metering off my hand prior to shooting a random few photos of him, but hey, I wanted to ensure I had control of one of the most important variables in good photography and the theme wasn't "purposefully expose wrong" or "set your camera to P and matrix metering" :P

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/2.0, 1/80sec and ISO 200.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

365/41 Shooting From The Hip/4

Ah, the memories... I gave this very old wooden train set to my daughter, and today we were playing with it. So naturally this became today's subject of this week's theme! I can't believe how tiny that DOF is at this distance at f/2.8! It looks like during my attempt to "recompose", I lost focus by a tiny microscopic amount. It's clearly visible at 100% crop. I also decided to richen up some colors in this photo. You be the judge!

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/2.8, 1/160sec and ISO 200. Flash bounced off the ceiling, no compensation.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Project 365, Day 40 ("From the Hip" Day 3)

The kiddo is getting better with the camera, or rather being the one getting her photo taken! Or maybe I'm getting better with my people skills, who knows. What I like about this week, is that I can have better eye contact with my subject, rather than staring through the lens. It makes for a very unique experience.

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/3.2, 1/160sec and ISO 100. Flash bounced off a nearby wall camera left @ -0.7EV compensation.

These settings were the wrong choice for sure, I would have liked a smaller aperture for more DOF and maybe a positive flash compensation (+0.3EV rather than -0.7) because the photo ended up being a stop underexposed. Post processing fixed the exposure, but I much rather get it right right away. You can only take a shot once.

Lexi (hip day 3)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Project 365, Day 39 ("From the Hip", Day 2)

A portrait of my cat today! Yes, it's shot from the hip, well I didn't look through the viewfinder. I think it's time to compare processing today, since it no longer seems to matter how I handle my camera to get composition to work.

I've always been a fan of "Olympus Colors", but I use Adobe Camera Raw (well, from Lightroom anyway) for most of my processing, thus eliminating that "Olympus" bias to the color curve, because ACR treats all RAW files more or less equal (yes, I realize certain Nikon and Canon cameras have color profile support in ACR, let's ignore that for now). To get proper "Olympus Colors", one has to process their files using Olympus Master/Studio or shoot JPEG. The latter requires perfect exposure and leaves no headroom for highlight and shadow recovery. That said, below you'll find examples of the exact same photo processed 2 different ways (ACR vs. OOC JPEG). To this end, I shot RAW+JPEG (just this once ;-) ).

"Adobe Colors":

"Olympus Colors":
Baby Oly

These files, apart from minor use of a brightness/contrast layer, have had no editing done to them. These files were not sharpened at all apart from the standard ACR input sharpening on the RAW file and in-camera sharpening on the JPEG (which, I believe, is set to "soft" on its current setting). Flickr must add some sharpening to their files.

Olympus E-3

For those few loyal readers I have (of which 3 of them Olympus shooters), I will be writing a mini review of my experiences with the E-3 once I receive it.

It won't be as extensive as the other hundreds of reviews out there done by others, and it will probably be heavily biased in favor of Olympus (but if I really don't like something, I'll definitely make note of it), but I'll attempt to make it a fun read either way!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

"From the Hip" Day 1 Cont'd

So i'm the idiot today, I forgot to turn the AF illuminator in my camera back on, so my nice flash (that permanently lives in the hot shoe) wasn't projecting the AF light on my subject, and no accurate focus was taking place. With my 50mm, it's absolutely critical to get dead-on focus, or it will look really OOF. This just makes me realize that I'm pretty far away from skilled enough for business. Back to the drawing board!

Below is the result from just turning this feature back on. Mind you, I turned it off the other day, because in bright daylight, my E-500 will focus hunt with the flash turned on. Not sure why, but I never claimed to have the best camera :P

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/4.0, 1/160sec and ISO 200. Flash bounced off the ceiling @ (I believe) +0.3EV Compensation.

Lexi Day 1

There we go! Much better. So the rest of the week, I'll have to try and get the little one involved more!

Project 365, Day 38 ("From the Hip", Day 1)

Not happy this week!!! I'm making it a point to choose next week's theme, if it's the last thing I do lol. I thought Self Portraits was pretty challenging, but now I totally have no control! I'm really tempted to call my tripod "the hip" and my computer "from" and tether this whole week and call it a day :P

We all know I won't, but this will be unusually challenging. I won't give up though!

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/6.3 (fail, not enough light, and the DOF didn't help anyway), 1/125sec and ISO 200. Flash bounced off the ceiling-ish, +1EV compensation.

It looks sharp, but I think that's more flickr than anything else. It's clearly OOF and underexposed. I'm embarrassed :(


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Project 365, Day 37 ("Self Portrait", Day 7)

I stole a fellow ILPer's idea for a photo, because, well, it was a good idea! Looks like focus was dead on in this photo, and the browns from the couch do make for nice bokeh :) Still a little under the weather, and I'm too lazy to PS reality and add health to where there is none.

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/2.0 (Bokeh!!!), 1/125sec and ISO 200.

Self 7

Oh, for those interested: I have decided on the E-3, weather sealing was a good reason, this is the other reason. Especially the two cat photos taken in fairly similar light. It looks like the E-3 renders colors much more to my taste (beautiful, instead of "camera-like"). Anyone willing to pitch in a decision on what to do with the little spare money I'll have? It looks like I will be able to afford a full light stand with umbrella and appropriate brackets.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Project 365, Day 36 ("Self Portrait", Day 6)

For those who use a laptop often, this should be familiar. I controlled the camera from this position and I have to say, I wish I had known this forever ago! This makes macro shooting WAY easier when springtime comes!

Lens and camera data:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/6.3, 1/160sec and ISO 200. OCF pretty much overhead @ full power, bounced off the ceiling. I wanted dramatic light, but no thank you to the harsh shadow cast onto the couch. Aperture was a compromise between DOF and exposure this time, I didn't want to increase the ISO too much more. 1/160 sec to eliminate any and all ambient light.

Self 6

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Self Portrait" Day 5, cont'd

I can't get enough of showing off how sharp this lens is. I did another eye macro, and please don't pay attention to the redness (see previous post on why).

Eye No 2

Project 365, Day 35 ("Self Portrait", Day 5)

Today I just randomly got sick (I mean really? It came out of nowhere). A little tidbit of personal information: I take a really interesting cocktail of prescription antihistamines to keep my house dust allergies under control. As a side effect, I usually don't experience colds as severely as most people do. Today however, well you'll see, just look down.

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/2.0, 1/125 and ISO 100. Camera mounted on tripod, flash bounced off the ceiling, +1EV flash compensation.

Self 5

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Self Portrait Day 4, Cont'd

Something about this photo said "I want to be a B&W conversion", so here it is! CC anyone?

Self 4 B&W

Project 365, Day 34 ("Self Portrait", Day 4)

A window pose today. My daughter drew all over the window (window crayons), so I'm guessing we'll keep her art for a while. Nothing special for creativity points today, but portrait is portrait, so here goes:

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/4.0, 1/200sec and ISO 200.

Self 4

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Project 365, Day 33 ("Self Portrait", Day 3)

Well, today I actually had some time to figure things out for this week's theme. Apparently you can tether my camera, which solves a ton of issues I've had with self portraits and focusing.

I plopped myself in front of a window in the recliner, bath robe and all, and put the camera on a tripod. It was probably 6 feet off the ground. Then all I had to do was look up at the camera (remembering that for the focus part of the photo, I had to make sure to look exactly in the middle of the lens with one eye) and hit the "AF button". Then, trying my hardest not to change my distance from the camera, I moved to "recompose" to the rule of thirds, and hit the "shoot" button. Much better than yesterday!

Anyone with CC, please step forward :)

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/2.8, 1/100sec and ISO 200. Camera mounted on tripod @ its tallest setting, camera tilted to the left.

Self 3

Monday, February 1, 2010

Project 365, Day 32 ("Self Portrait", Day 2)

This one was more out of lack of options than anything else. Tomorrow will be better, I promise!

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/6.3, 1/160sec, ISO 100 and Flash 1ft above face level, front and 1/4th power.

Self 2