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
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
It seems that every year, spring sports season comes and goes with such an undecided vigor. Much like spring weather, one week it’ll be cold and dreary with only a single game to shoot, whereas the following week brings warm weather and a multitude of home games. This past weekend fit into the latter category, sporting generally warm temperatures with five games to photograph in four days (three on Saturday, one on Sunday, another on Tuesday). Needless to say, my shutter count—and eye fatigue—went up tremendously in a short amount of time.
I figure a good exercise to keep from over-saturating this post with too many photographs is to cull four of my best photographs from each game: 2 baseball, 1 softball, 1 tennis, 1 lacrosse. Let’s see what I dig up. All captured with the Sony NEX-7 and Nikon 300mm f/2.8 AI-s ED or Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AI-s. P.S. A good number of these are in the 2:1 crop ratio. Since this is how my images are sent in to my supervisor for displaying, I usually shoot with this in mind.
Another week, and one step closer to a break. At least, that’s been my train of thought for the past month. As always, it seems, the times leading up to finals week (starting tomorrow) are always a killer in trying to find time for photography. In a way, however, writing posts on here is a way of taking a break from studying, though I do feel a bit productive at the same time. 😀 Besides, last week I couldn’t afford any time to do an update. Not today!
A lot has happened lately. Let’s get down to it. Continue Reading
To make a long story short, I am in a bittersweet mood about my NEX-7 finally being back in my hands. I’m happy I finally have a “real” camera again, but am a little disappointed that A)The sensor cleaning function still doesn’t seem to work and B)The rear LCD turned out to be peeling when I took the plastic off (when I sent it in, the rear LCD was immaculate). I believe Sony has sent me a refurbished NEX-7, instead of my own camera. Not too keen on getting back a camera in worse shape than when I sent it in for repair, so I’ll be contacting them this week to see what the deal is.
But in the meantime, I’ve been busy! I photographed everything from tiny flowers to the sky this past week and managed to shake off my “camera blues” from not having my NEX-7 for over three weeks.
First up, I learned a little bit more about light painting in my photography class. Though I feel this genre is overdone and cliqué in many ways, I tried to be as original as possible Continue Reading
Electronics, what with their extremely numerous and complex construction, have the potential to malfunction all the time nowadays. When hundreds of working parts are crammed into any one object, something is bound to eventually go wrong. Of those many parts, my NEX-7’s sensor cleaning function has stopped working properly recently. I decided to attempt a repair starting last week so I would a) Have it covered under my one-month-left warranty and b) Get a fully-functional camera ready for the majority of baseball/softball/lacrosse/tennis season.
So, being without my NEX-7 sucks, I won’t shy away from saying that. But, thanks to a generous father, I borrowed a Nikon d300 to still get the job(s) done this past week in photography. Some of my very early readers may know that I transitioned from a DSLR to a NEX. Due to the Thailand flooding that crippled Sony’s major factory, that transition was ANYTHING but smooth. In December of 2011, I was starting to really get into more advanced photography with my school paper’s Nikon d40. As an old, 6-megapixel CCD-sensor camera, it didn’t really do well in specialized situations (such as sports) where high shutter speeds were needed in relatively low-light. I pre-ordered the NEX-7 at this time. However, the athletic director was still interested in hiring me on–the shots I COULD get in ideal situations were good enough that he saw my potential. The problem? I wouldn’t get the NEX-7 until March of 2012!
So, enter the d300. A 12-megapixel CMOS-sensor beast of a DX-format DSLR. In its prime, it was the choice for event photographers who shot DX-format. Manageable noise even at ISO 3200, a fast 7 fps continuos shooting rate, more manual controls than a casual photographer could shake a stick at, and a rugged magnesium-alloy body wrapping up a professional package. In the right hands, it still is an extremely capable camera in almost all shooting scenarios, and DX-format photographers are clamoring for a successor (the d300s doesn’t count, and Nikon has stated the new d7100 isn’t the flagship DX model).
It has been about 10 months since the last time I heavily used this camera–the only subjects I’ve had to use it on are product shots of lenses attached to the NEX-7! This past week was a surefire struggle for me, as there are many advantages and features of the NEX-7 I have become accustomed to (which I may write an article on in the near-future). Using manual glass on a DSLR is an awful experience compared to on a NEX. Thankfully, for a lot of this past week’s shots, I used a nice autofocus 80-200 f/2.8 ED that I bought for my Dad on Father’s day.
But enough rambling, let’s get to some photographs! All the following captured with the Nikon d300 and 300mm f/2.8, 85mm f/1.4, and 80-200mm f/2.8 ED (which I may have to take an in-depth look at someday).
First up, Transylvania University has fielded their first-ever Lacrosse team this year, and I photographed their first home game (which ended in a win!). Conditions were pretty terrible though; low-light, rain/snow, high winds, and trying to focus my 300mm made every movement a challenge. It still didn’t stop me from coming back with some great action shots though. 😉