As many of my online followers and subscribers have probably noticed, I was conspicuously absent for most of the month of September. To make a long story shorter, I have been dealing with some health issues that prevent me from getting the energy needed to go out and make photos. What a shame, too, given that September was the last full month of warm weather here in Japan. As the calendar changes to October, I can already feel the cool Fall breeze setting in. With any luck, though, I’ll beat my current condition and get back to my shutter-happy self sooner rather than later. After all, with Fall comes lovely color changes in the trees, and the temples here in Japan are absolutely surrounded by flora! Continue Reading
It’s a Christmas miracle! No, I’m not dead after all. However, the firm grip of graduate school has my schedule tied up in all sorts of knots. To make a long story short, I have found it nearly impossible to take time to pursue any photography endeavors lately, even paid opportunities. When you’re in five school music ensembles, preparing auditions for military bands, and still squeezing in a couple academic classes on top, any free time quickly gets assigned to eating and sleeping.
Sob story out of the way, I never know when I may get more free time. It may even be as soon as this coming semester, and I may also have more paid opportunities to persuade me to make more time for my secondary passion for photography. Regardless, I am so close to catching up with all my previous work. After this post, I just have to put together the last quarter of my grossly-overdue 2014 Project 52 (which may end up being posted in early 2015, whoops!), and I’m all set! Continue Reading
In the world of fast primes, not often are the specs of “200mm” and “f/2” combined in the description of a single lens. Inherently large and heavy, the ultra-fast design of a 200mm f/2 has long enabled photographers to effectively shoot telephoto in very low light as well as create stunning subject separation simply not possible with a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom. Though the available light advantage afforded by the f/2 aperture is somewhat offset by the high-ISO abilities of modern digital sensors, the extra depth-of-field control still has its place in creative photography. Additionally, when used on an APS-C sensor camera like the NEX-7, a 200mm f/2 helpfully acts as a 300mm f/2.8 would on a full-frame camera.
Though it should come as no surprise, telephoto primes such as the Nikon 200mm f/2 are somewhat bulky and cumbersome even used with a suitable DSLR like a d300 with its vertical grip. When a lens of this caliber is mounted onto a comparatively tiny mirrorless camera such as the Sony NEX-7, the combination looks outright comical. That said, it is far more important to see how the lens performs in front of an unforgiving 24-megapixel APS-C sensor in making photographs rather than how the kit may turn heads at an event. Read on to find out how the 200mm f/2 stacks up as the professional fast telephoto it aims to be. As always, if you are unfamiliar with my lens review style, please read up on this post first! Continue Reading
Structured photo challenges are a great way to focus a photographer’s creativity towards specific subjects or assignments. Last years’ Project 52 with a local photography group was my first foray into this year-long event, and I did not want it to be my last! In fact, I considered to undergo a project 365 this year, but my semester of student teaching kept me indoors and working almost all day, every day. But I could manage one photograph a week, of course. After all, there are weekends to enjoy! As such, this is the first of four quarters of my most recent project 52 that will span most of 2014. These photographs span from early November to just a few days ago, and since I am not sharing an entire year, I can elaborate on each photograph’s theme and backstory a bit more.
So let’s kick it off with week one. All photographs captured with the Sony NEX-7. Click on each photograph for a larger 2000×1333 size:
The first topic for my project was typical for the season, asking for an autumn photograph right when most of the foliage in Kentucky was at peak color. Oak trees have a particularly warm color when they begin to change, and when they are backlit by an equally-warm sunset, the overall aesthetic is pretty cozy. The f/2.8 aperture helps blur out the rest of the sky and treeline in the background just enough to give the subject leaves the necessary “pop”. Continue Reading
Not so hot-on-the-heels of my last post over a month-and-a-half ago, here I am making some time to address my blatant inactivity on the site. As it turns out, student teaching and photography don’t happen to mix very well. My particular placement and accompanying assignments give me next to zero free time for anything else. Seeing as the essentials—sleep, eating, and physical activity—take up the majority of that time, finding a slot to simply “go out” and make photographs is a near impossibility. This busyness has also forced me to cancel my anticipated pre-order of the new Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 OSS, a popular lens that I would have loved to review. That’s the bad news.
However, every now and then I still take photography assignments from my university for sports and other campus events. This, at the very least, helps keep my shutter finger trained and my manual-focus skills honed. Per the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, my student teaching will go only until this end of this calendar year. So in theory, next year I will be able to get back to my usual updating with photo-walks and all manner of lens reviews for you loyal readers to enjoy (many thanks for the recent subscriptions despite my absence). That’s the good news.
In…other news…if you have been living under a rock for the past couple months, there’s been a lot of buzz around the near-future of Sony’s E-mount. Some rumors are claiming Sony to introduce a whopping three E-mount cameras, all with a full-frame 35mm sensor! One is a supposed “NEX-9”—a camera I’ve dreamed about ever since the first time I shot with my beloved NEX-7—while another may be an ILC-9 or a9000 (a full-frame version of the already available a3000). Since that one will be relatively bulky with its pointless DSLR shape, it appeals less to me (well, the added grip of that shape gives it some relevance). Regardless, come mid-October, Sony has the very real chance of taking the mirrorless photography world by storm, and I’ll be watching avidly for pre-orders. 😉
Now, time for some photographs, right? Over the past year, I’ve taken part in my own Project 52, submitting one quality photograph for every week of the year under a supplied theme. My “supervisor” for the project is a local photography group that I’ve joined on Meetup.com, and the ability to see multiple other photographers’ work as the project progressed made the entire process more enjoyable.
All the following (52 in all, so yes, there’s quite a bit of scrolling ahead) photographs below are downsized to a web-friendly 2000×1333 ratio or similar to keep the site’s bandwidth from filling up. Most here are captured with the NEX-7, though a few captured with other cameras found their way into the project. A good number of these photographs have been featured elsewhere on my website in lens reviews or other photographic posts. Also, all photographs are in the ProPhotoRGB colorspace to get correct yellow saturation levels, so depending on your browser and viewing device (I recommend Google Chrome on a desktop computer), these photographs may have odd saturation levels on your screen.
As I get settled in to the relatively low-stress time of summer, my very nearly-full hard drive beckons me to do some housecleaning. Don’t get me wrong here, 24-megapixels of RAW imaging make for a great file to chew through in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4; the problem is file size! At nearly 25 megabytes a pop (more or less depending on the amount of detail captured) and firing off hundreds of shots at a time at my sporting events, a 500 gigabyte hard drive can quickly get clogged.
Since I am both in-between computer upgrades, and cannot back up another external hard drive, every now and then I go through “purges” in my Lightroom catalogue to free up hard drive space. Any photographs that are a) Moderately (or more) out of focus b) Doubles or c) Just “meh” in overall quality get permanently deleted. In a sense, I’m making sure to hold on to my best work, so that I don’t have to dig through any refuse years on down the line.
In my most recent purge, I’m going through most of my sports events and sorting out photographs the best way I know how (and the way I recommend to novice photographers):
- Start looking through a photographic outing (could be something as large as a full athletic event or as small as a walk around the flower garden)
- Realize that only the best work should be saved
- Run through the list, highlighting what “stands out” as far as subject matter, composition, exposure is concerned
- Move highlighted files to the front of the list, then look through the non-highlighted items again quickly to make sure nothing is overlooked
- Take a deep breath, select all the other files, and put them in the trash
With that in mind, here’s some of those “best” shots from my last tennis match and baseball game shot before the end of both seasons. Tennis shots were under awful indoor, fluorescent lighting that required me to shoot both at high ISOs and fast apertures to simply get a useable shot at all. Of course, this was a nice torture test, of sorts, for not only how ISO 3200 performs on the NEX-7, but also how the 85mm f/1.4 produces images wide-open.
Allow me to get some formalities out of the way before anything else. It’s been about three weeks since my last post. Thanks not only to student teaching, but also a commitment to a multi-night pit orchestra production, I haven’t had any time to write new posts, let alone make more photographs outside of my formal photographic assignments.
That’s the bad news.
The GOOD news, it’s officially summer on my end! This means an abundance of free time, or at least, more time I can set aside for photography, lens reviews, and other ramblings I may deem fit for the website. 😉 I’ve got lots of things in store for the next few months, so lets get right to it!
The “fast 85”. About every single lens manufacturer has a lens with a large aperture that covers the wide end of the typical portrait focal length. Canon has an 85mm f/1.2, Zeiss currently makes their own 85mm f/1.4, the m4/3 crowd will soon have a Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2, and even the lowly Nikon 1 system has a 32mm f/1.2 on the way. All of these lenses, when used on their respective camera formats, give a semi-wide portrait field of view that begins to give telephoto compression to images—essential to maintaining natural perspectives on subjects. Combined with their fast f/1.2-f/1.4 apertures, extremely shallow depth-of-field control is possible for marked subject separation from any background.
So then, we have the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AI-s, yet another hunk of metal and glass from Nikon’s film days. This lens has been superseded many times by AF-D and AF-S versions, both sporting fast f/1.4 and f/1.8 apertures. But there has to be an optical reason this lens still fetches a pretty penny online, besides for the allure of collectors, right? Let’s take a look! Continue Reading