105mm, ISO 640, f/5.6, 1/1250
Summer and Winter may just be the easiest seasons to photograph regardless of where you may find yourself on the planet. Both seasons take some time to get through, and provide plenty of opportunity for photographs for even the busiest people. The seasons of change however, Spring and Fall, present a fast-paced challenge for many throughout the world. When I was in Japan for the past couple years, Spring was the most difficult time of the year to photograph due to not only my work schedule, but also to the fleeting cherry blossom trees almost necessary to provide ambiance for the Japanese setting. Depending on the type of cherry blossom tree, a window of 3-4 weeks was pretty generous.
Here in North Chicago, I found myself getting rushed through the millions and millions of leaves changing over the course of only a couple weeks. Due to an unseasonably warm early Fall, the landscape here didn’t begin to change until mid-late October. However, arctic air–and the high winds that accompany it–blew in so quickly that the splash of color everywhere was all but gone by the start of November. Combine that short turnaround with a couple busy workweeks, well, let me just say I was in a rush to capture whatever I could in my little corner of the Midwest. Continue Reading
Well…I’m finally doing it. After years of owning this 11-pound tank of a telephoto, it’s time to put together a review of “Big Papa”. I’ve shot with the lens for events and wildlife sparingly, in my time in Japan I couldn’t just drive anywhere with this optic in tow. All my photowalks consisted of train rides and lots…and lots…of walking. Now that I’m finally back in the States, and I have a high-performance full-frame camera to test on, I have the opportunity to really get out there with the lens and try some more wildlife shots, and perhaps some sports/events if I get the chance. Thankfully I do have at least a few shots over the years that will easily find their place in the review if needed. Continue Reading
Slowly but surely I am upgrading the lenses in my kit to be full-frame compatible. Longtime readers of my site already know I sport a deep collection of Nikkor AI-s lenses, ones that I could easily adapt to a full-frame a9000 or the like. As time goes on, however, I begin to notice the problems the old optics exhibit almost universally: low sharpness/contrast wide-open, mediocre flare performance, and relatively pronounced chromatic aberrations at larger apertures. I’m starting to see the benefits that modern optical formulas can provide where vintage lenses can rarely match.
With the Laowa 15mm f/2, I have found my wide-angle option to cement itself as part of a full-frame-ready kit. Featuring a native E-mount optical design, the compact and fast lens feels right at home even on an a6500, and performs quite admirably all-around. Does the lens perform up to its steep price point compared to the competition? Let’s take a look! As always, if you are unfamiliar with my lens review style, check this post first! Continue Reading
I knew it would happen eventually. As I gradually grew out of my telephoto lens bubble I was so happy to stay in for a few years, it came time to look around for a decent wide-angle lens for travel photography, wide street shots, and one-shot landscapes (constantly having to stitch together shots with my 32mm Touit anytime I wanted a wide shot got tedious fast). So, about three years ago I scrounged around for a deal on a used Rokinon 16mm f/2. Although it was APS-c only, 16mm is still decently wide and f/2 is a nice aperture for low-light handheld shots.
Unabashedly a “plastic-fantastic” lens, does the Rokinon 16mm f/2 hold up on the a6500? After three years of shooting, let’s find out! As always, if you are unfamiliar with my lens review style, check this post first! Continue Reading
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
32mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/1000, 5 images stitched
Now that all the pleasantries are out of the way from finally hitting 1,000,000 views on the site, it’s back to quickly catching up with my most recent international trip to South Korea! Part one of my travels saw me more in the countryside of South Korea, exploring some cool spots in Gyeryongsan National Park. Just a few days later, however, our group finished our performance with the Republic of Korea Navy Band and we had a whole two days to relax and see the sights of downtown Seoul! Last year, free time was essentially non-existent, so I pretty much didn’t know what to do with myself with so much opportunity to explore. Continue Reading
16mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/1000
Photography competitions and workshops can be a great way for photographers to hone their craft in specific ways, given certain guidelines, rules, and themes. For those more competitively-oriented, the possibility of some top prize or internet recognition can be all the motivation one needs to join in. But, for the more “casual” like myself, I tend to avoid the stress of the competitive scene in an art I am not currently pursuing for profit. Thankfully, not all contests are geared to the competitive persona! 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