200mm, ISO 100, f/2, 1/2000
Better late than never, I always say. I took some much-needed time off this past July 4th Weekend to catch up with some personal errands, so getting a website update out in time wasn’t a top priority. 🙂
That said, I can keep this month’s update pretty short and sweet. Aside from finishing up my South Korea posts, June saw me get back into the motions of writing lens reviews with my personal favorite Laowa 105mm f/2! Definitely give that lens a look-see if you find yourself wanting super-creamy bokeh in almost every shot. Currently I am working on a review of my Rokinon 16mm f/2, which has served me pretty well over the past year. Not a great lens, but for the price it does a good job at a relatively wide focal length.
As you can see in the title image, I had a little fun working a July 4th Color Run on base to help get my action photography muscles back in shape. For more shots from the powder-filled day (and yes, my camera gear and I got covered…), check out the department’s photo album here. I think I may start wearing a clear poncho to these kinds of events to protect my stuff!
In the world of Sony, the month of June has been a relatively quiet one. The A9 is, of course, garnering a lot of attention for shaking the foundation of the DSLR-dominated pro market, so I can only hope that continues (along with tech from the crazy camera trickling down to other models in the near future). As such, that’s all for this quick update, guys and gals, thanks for dropping by! As always, have a great day.
Longtime followers of my website may know that the 105mm focal length is one I have gravitated towards for many years of my photography. From my beginnings with the classic Nikon 105mm f/1.8 AI-s, I enjoyed the pleasure of dabbling with other lenses such as the up-close Nikon Micro 105mm f/2.8 AI-s and even the super-compact Nikon 100mm f/2.8 Series-E. All three of these lenses provide a medium-long telephoto on the APS-c cameras I used them on, and they all served their uses in my photography. In fact, I still dust off the Micro 105mm f/2.8 for all of my product shots! However, until late last year, I had all but abandoned the focal length for general photography and transitioned to the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AI-s instead for my moderate telephoto needs. The 85mm has less chromatic aberration than the 105mm f/1.8 at equivalent apertures, focuses close enough for quasi-macro shots, and provides much more separation than the Series-E lens ever could.
At the same time, there was always a lens that intrigued me in the Sony lineup: the 135mm f/2.8 STF. With a special apodization element, the lens rendered out-of-focus backgrounds unbelievably smooth, giving “creamy bokeh” a whole new meaning. Even ignoring the current $1400 price tag, the lens wouldn’t make a lot of sense for my style of shooting on an APS-c camera. So for a while, the 85mm f/1.4 remained my go-to for low-light medium telephoto work. That is, until Venus Optics came onto the scene with their unique 105mm f/2 STF lens in mid-2016, promising the same kind of bokeh-smoothing effect with its own apodization element, all at a moderate price tag of $700! At this price point, and with these kinds of features, the obvious curiosity concerns its performance wide open as well as the effectiveness of its apodization element. Does it deliver? Read on to find out! As always, if you are unfamiliar with my lens review style, check out this post first! Continue Reading
Old with the New
32mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/200
After a full day of wandering around central Seoul, I was still pretty excited to get out and do it all over again the next day to see what else I could find. After all, in the megacity of Seoul you can just pick a direction to walk and eventually stumble across some cool sights! Being our last day, however, I headed out with a friend to hit as much as possible with the help of Seoul’s (incredibly cheap) metro. Continue Reading
105mm, ISO 100, T3.2, 1/30
Oops! It seems I am a tad late on April’s website update. Just a couple days ago I returned from a work trip to South Korea to perform with the Republic of Korea Navy Band (you can see some of our work on Facebook), and since then, have mostly sat in my room to relax. Hey, a guy’s gotta get some sleep when he can! Continue Reading
Koishikawa Korakuen Viewpoint
32mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/2000, 46 images stitched
Whew! I can definitely call this year’s Sakura coverage a success on my end. After scoping out locales in Yokohama and executing my photography plans at the right time, it was just a matter of a few more days before the area’s cherry blossoms would begin to fall to the ground, almost all at once! In an effort to get more of the “big-city” picture, I managed to catch time for one last trip for hanami-hunting, this time in everyone’s favorite megacity, Tokyo! Continue Reading
Lit in Time
32mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/1000
What a difference just five days can make! Continuing after my last post along the Ooka River in Yokohama, I made sure to return for another walk at just the right time to catch almost the entire area in full bloom! Even though the festival itself was well-finished up at this point, I joined crowds of thousands to partake in the Japanese custom of hanami, simply known as “flower viewing”. The tradition almost always refers to Sakura viewing, however, and with it usually comes the appreciation of the transient beauty of the flowers and their relation to life itself. As such, this time of year usually invokes feelings of joy mixed with a bit of melancholy. Continue Reading
32mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/1000
Spring has sprung, as the saying goes, and this year marks my second go-around at one of the more popular times around Japan! Unfortunately for all those involved in planning special events and meals, the main attraction of the fleeting Sakura bloom ended up delayed by about a week in the Kanto region. Persistent cold and cloudy, wet days kept much flora dormant up until only a couple weeks ago. Foolishly hoping that the weather would break and the initial blooming forecasts were correct, I headed out to Yokohama with a couple friends to walk along the Ooka River during their 2-day Cherry Blossom Festival. Continue Reading
Matsu-no-ochaya (Pine Teahouse)
32mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/50
I have always been of the mindset that in late winter, if there’s no snow on the ground, most outdoor photography is just plain difficult. It’s still cold, most flora is dead or in hibernation, and days are short enough to limit time out and about. That said, it is hardly an excuse to stay inside. Gloves exist for a reason, not all plants succumb to the elements, and with some careful planning a photographer can still get many hours of adventuring in before the sun sets! Continue Reading
32mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/1250, 8 images stitched
As I have mentioned many times in previous posts from 2016, I doubt I will ever run out of things to do or see in Japan while I am here. From the countless temples and shrines to the annual festivals across the country, and the meticulously-kept gardens to the many scalable mountains (Fuji-san, I hope to conquer you this summer…), I find it funny that I am beginning to run out of local destinations close to base. Sure, I could probably go to Tokyo and Yokohama five more times each and still not see the half of these cities, but in a lot of ways these cities are a lot of the same that end up lending similar photographic opportunities.
As it stands, I only have time about once or twice a week to go out and explore, and in those times, I am pretty confined to someplace within a couple hours train ride. On the occasional 4-day weekend or two weeks of leave in summer, I have the chance to really go outside my comfort zone like I did in Osaka and Sendai! Otherwise, I end up in these dead months of winter twiddling my thumbs trying to figure out a new and exciting place to visit within arms reach. Thankfully, I am not quite to the point of having seen everything, as I managed a trip with a friend to visit Odawara for a while last weekend on a beautiful but cold Sunday afternoon. Continue Reading
16mm, ISO 100, f/2, 1/1000
After a good, long run, I can finally say that after this post I am fully caught up with my main photographic adventures from 2016. Save for a few shots here and there (that I may share by themselves on social media), this post joins 27 others from mostly my first year living in Japan. So with that, consider this my “monthly” website update for January, but for the whole year of 2016 as well!
During my break around Christmas, I got to spend some much needed time with friends and family. In addition, I managed to catch up on a lot of sleep that I previously missed out on in my barracks room. Photographically, though, I still wanted to put my new α6500 through its paces to see how it holds up to my style of shooting. If I can ever manage the time, I may write up a real-world review comparing it to my trusty NEX-7. In a sentence though? The α6500 is a far more capable camera than the 5+ year old NEX-7, yet from a manual-control perspective the NEX-7 doesn’t suffer from any of the performance quirks the α6500 exhibits. Continue Reading