It took a while to make the determination that I wasn’t able to discern whether my problems with photography had to do with my kit/gear or with my skill set. There’s the old adage about the “real” photographer who does not need any special or great gear – he can make all things happen on the merits of his skills alone.
Believing this, I kept with the outdated kit for a long time, thinking I could hone my skills. It never really happened, and now I realize that I was not able to determine what the real problems were because my older gear was hiding the answers from me. OK, so “hiding” is not the correct word to use, as the camera obviously had no malice intended for me. But, it didn’t seem to me that the gear was helping me to find the problems, and I wasn’t sure what to do to correct that issue.
Recently, I decided to upgrade my gear in a last ditch attempt to make something good happen. I thought that an upgrade to full frame status would surely make a difference in my photography, and after a lot of calculation I determined that the Nikon Z7 would fit the bill.
The problem is, I’m a little cheap when it comes to camera gear outlay. I had been buying minimal gear online (used stuff) for a small amount of money. $Two thousand for even a used Z7 was disagreeable. So … what was the next best thing?
Sticking with APS-C might be OK if I thought I had a shot at some kind of incremental improvement. After a lot of calculation, I was able to match (what many think is) good gear with my cheapo budget limits. I bought the Fujifilm X-T2.
The incremental improvement was immediately obvious to me. I bought an adapter for the Fuji so that it could use some of the glass that I already had, as a starting plan. It was clearly obvious after only a couple weeks that the same old glass I’d been using with older, less capable gear – was suddenly transformed – by a significant increment – by a system that would allow me to determine what was at fault (my gear or me).
It turned out to be both (my gear and me). My eyes are not what they used to be fifty or sixty years ago, and I rely on focus peaking for my shots. My older gear has focus peaking, but it took the Fuji focus peaking system to make me realize that the older system was not showing me the error of my ways. Additionally, I think the extra megapixels of the X-T2 really are making a substantial difference.
A reason for the incremental improvement is the larger number of focusing points available in the X-T2, combined with the great techniques that are employed by the camera to use those points, to show exactly where the DOF (depth of field) starts and ends. Such inspection may have been possible with my older gear, but it was not intuitive to me exactly how I could accomplish the task, easily and efficiently. So – my newest photos with the X-T2 are benefiting from better decisions on my part relative to aperture selection for DOF, and distance to subject for DOF enhancements.
The photo that is at the top of this page is (believe it or not) an incremental improvement over what I’d been getting from my photography. It does indeed have a depth of field problem, but the good part is that I know exactly how it happened. For other recent shots with the X-T2 see my photo repo at:
The newest X-T2 shots are all the pink/rose flower pics.
It remains to be seen whether or not I can parlay the additional knowledge gained from the X-T2 camera’s precise DOF informer and focus-peaking system – to printable results. Stay tuned.
Figure 1: Still coming up short
So, I upgraded my kit to have a camera without the anti-alias filter (a Pentax K5 /iis), and a Sigma lens. Yet, the results so far leave me still wanting that sharpness factor. I’m using the Sigma 18-250 mm lens in the shot shown in figure 1. Click the picture to see it in full size. Doesn’t the detail of the pic just lack something in terms of the sharpness factor? Do I need a full frame camera to get what I want? Is it the lens, the camera, or the picture taker that’s at fault?
There was plenty of light, a quick shutter, apperture set at f/8 or so, focal length set to about 50mm equivalent in order to stay away from the extreme end of the len’s capability, and a steady hand. In addition, the IBIS mech was enabled. The shot should have been just tastey, right? Am I too picky?
The focus point was selected to be about the half way point of the scene (distance) – which was pretty close to the infinity mark.
Figure 1: Shot with my smc Pentax 18-55mm f3.5-6.2 kit lens.
It’s the strangest thing. For months it seems I can’t take a sharp shot. Recently I dug the old kit lens out of the bag (cheapest thing Pentax ever sold, probably), and shot some photos. Finally, there was a little clarity in the photos it took. I have a slew of older Pentax nifty fifties and a 35 mm Pentax as well as a newer Sigma zoom. I was getting nothing. So what’s wrong with this picture (pun intended)? Clicking it will take the viewer to the smugmug page repo where I keep the larger size photos.
Figure 1: The DoF (Depth of Field/Focus) equation.
Depth of Field ain’t so tuff.
Recently I needed to take some photographs of the antique glassware that my spouse collects. This is easy with a point n’ shoot, since its depth of field is pretty good thanks to the short focal length that most point ‘n shoots have in their built-in lenses. The point ‘n shoots usually have a wide angle (anywhere from 6 to 15 mm – but sometimes variable up to higher focal lenghs with fixed zoom offsets).
Figure 1: My Pentax K5 probably isn’t under warranty now.
So … I guess my K5 has long been out of warranty anyway. About a year ago the mirror-box went out of calibration. Anyway – I think that’s what happened, and I thought about sending it in for a re-cal. Subsequently the LED/Live-View screen went belly up, and finally the main board. The cost trade-offs seemed to imply that fixing the K5 was no longer an option, so I decided I may as well take it apart and see what makes it tick. After a dozen or so tiny little screw removals …
Have you ever asked yourself why those photoless days – the cloudy ones, are so diffused and blue?” Probably not, because it seems to not be an important question to ask yourself. Unless you’re me. I love deep-diving the trivial things, it seems.
Blue light scatters, and red light is absorbed. Actually, some blue light is absorbed, and some red light scatters, but it’s more often the other way around. So, on a bright sunny day, all the light comes from one spot in the sky, right? But on a cloudy day, it seems to come from every direction. That’s because it IS coming from every direction, as a result of scattering. When you take the red and yellow out of the color spectrum, what is left? Well, green and blue are what remains – but it’s the blue we mostly see, because there’s not much in the clouds to reflect green light. Water reflects blue light pretty well. So, now you know the answer, and I’m sure you feel much more fulfilled.
Photographers hate cloudy days. With the red and yellow all being absorbed, what is left is mostly scattered blue, and only 1/3 of the pixels in the photographer’s camera can catch blue light. So, the camera sees 1/3 of what it could see on a sunny day. No wonder the cloudy day pictures are dull and uninteresting.
An overcast day is the worst sort of day for a photo guy. The IR and the red tones are obliterated by the water vapor in the sky, and what’s left is a mono-tonish blue that uses only about a third of the pixels in your shiny new camera. The result is often boring, but I’ll admit that creative photographers sometimes manage special photos in spite of the clouds and blue light.
Figure 1: Nature made a surrealistic sculpture, awaiting my lens
The photo in figure 1 is of water swept grasses. Click it to see it in full size. Nature makes some very pretty stuff by accident sometimes. Lovely to be there to catch it.
For those wanting to see my smugmug collection of similar photos, the link can be followed by clicking this :
Figure 1 : Bee shot taken with K5, Pentax 50mm /f1.4 vintage lens
Recently I started to take macro tube shots of bees in my area. This is quite an addicting facet of photography, I must say. I’m a rank beginner at this task, but so far have managed a few semi-interesting shots. The picture in figure 1 is one of my favorites thus far (clicking on the photo will show it enlarged on smugmug).
Figure 1: Should I go mirrorless?
When I first used my K5, I was enthralled. It was easily the most solid feeling camera I’ve ever owned. Most cameras give me the feeling that I have glass in my hand (smile) – and that I have to be careful. The K5 made me feel like I had a hatchet in my hand and that tossing it into a spiraling arc that ended on a cleaved tree trunk would do it absolutely no harm.
Well, I kick-started my photography hobby for a second time recently after a hiatus of about 37 years. I bought into the theory that I could populate my lens arsenal with vintage stuff and save a bundle. In short order I had over a dozen lenses in my possession, none made after the date they want to check on driver’s licenses in order to purchase hard whiskey. Some were made not only that many years ago – but multiples of that many years.
My vintage lens collection is growing by leaps and bounds. I have gotten some good results from some of the lenses, and in some cases I find that they equal or exceed a number of currently available (newly manufactured) lenses.
However; not every vintage lens can be used safely on every camera. I think the old film cameras must have had larger registration distances between the mirror and the rear of the lens barrel. Certain lenses, when they are focused at some point in the direction of infinity on the focus ring, protrude from the rear of the lens mount.
I’ve been collecting quite a few vintage lenses, and I consider some of them to be very good lenses, while others seem lacking. I’ve decided to create a “Sharpness list” for these old lenses (most are older than 30 years old, and some are over 40 years old).
I should mention the methods I’m using to determine what is (at least according to my eyes) a sharp lens. I am using an image focus comparison chart (a “fine resolution” spoked star chart), affixed to a wall, and illuminated with daylight.
Figure 1: Just one of those photos that needed more space
I’d been dabbling in the realm of photography for the past couple years, after a hiatus of almost forty years. I wasn’t a very knowledgeable photographer back in the eighties, and really have only incrementally added to my repository of things to know in this realm of photography.
Most blog sites are (well, of course they are) – meant to be more for blogging than for photography. I finally realized how tiring it must be for viewers who can’t really see my photos in high detail – due to size or layout or navigation restrictions, all the while I talk or write about those photos. Subsequent to this epiphany, I set up a photo repository (on a photo site designed specifically for photos) in order to remedy that situation. Don’t get me wrong – this blogger platform is great for blogging, but for photos it works in a more ancillary mode. The platform is more versatile if you want to run your own server, but I’d rather take the site’s photos, rather than worry about its security setup.
Technically, I could switch to another theme more suited to the photo. But in that case I’d lose the nice textual format that is the mainstay of the blog. It’s a bit of a catch-22. Anyway …
I started with a Kodak Brownie in the sixties, and eventually bought an enthusiast’s level Olympus film camera. Later, when the film process became too complicated, I bought one of the first digital point ‘n shoot Kodaks. I kept shooting my casual pics with that style of camera throughout all of the intervening years, but such casual shooting doesn’t necessarily qualify anyone as a photographer or improve their game. The whole idea behind such a consumer camera is that one can know absolutely nothing about photography and still, at least some of the time, take reasonably usable pictures.
So, my latest adventures are blessed with more disposable time, and boy – can learning the ropes of the photographic arts dispose of quantities of that! Whilst I learn, I hope you can enjoy some of my stuff, as posted at the above referenced link.
The dust level in one room of my house reached 3.5 million particles per cubic meter, where the particles were detected at a size of less than two microns (with some potentially as small as 500 nanometers) – using a Dylos 1100 (“Pro” version) electronic particle detector. I have several detectors of various sorts. Often, the alarm on one of them is triggered in the middle of the night. The other detectors do not have audible alarms. In search of the cause of huge night-time spikes in the level of particulates, I used an IR camera to take shots of the affected room.
Figure 1: Homemade “DIY” power adapter for Sigma SD14
I really have come to appreciate the Sigma SD14 camera that I’ve been using for over a month or so, applying it for IR photography. It really shines there, due to the Foveon class sensor that outdistances most competitors in terms of IR sensitivity. I have captured time-lapse photos that I believe contain as low as 1.5 microns (high mid-infrared) wavelength light. This is ordinarily not possible with the standard Bayer sensor in most camera brands, based on the info (veracity unknown) – that I’ve come across in my internet meanderings.
Figure 1: Antique maritime binoculars shot by the SD14 (by Sigma).
So, it seems that camera comparisons are never really apples and apples, but instead apples and oranges or pineapples. Why compare a camera that is circa ~2007 (the Sigma SD 14) with a much newer camera such as the K5 from 2013?
Figure 1: An unexpected explosion of infrared on my dry erase board.
Is there such a thing as an infrared bomb? I’m hard pressed to explain the picture in figure 1, one of the first infrared photos I’ve taken with the SD14. I had just taken the shot in figure 2 (a photo of me looking like an infrared zombie) – and had gotten up to check the camera. Without touching the tripod, I snapped off another shot of the dry erase board that hangs on the wall behind the chair I had just vacated. The photo of figure 1 emerged as a result.
Figure 1: Does this void the warranty?
I had been wanting to try the famous Sigma Foveon sensor for a long time, but wanted to put a toe in the pond before becoming a Foveon aficionado extreme (When I become an aficionado, it’s always extreme).
Figure 1: The only shot that was big screen viewable, without cringe.
I know what it’s like to be a balloon. I had that deflated feeling once again this weekend, after a trip to the local lake. The scene was spectacular, and was easily the most beautiful nature scene I’d personally witnessed to date. In glee for my fortuitous presence at the scene next to the lake, at just the right moment, I snapped over two hundred photos.
So, computers should make painting easy, right? That’s what I thought when I went to create a custom color for my truck. But, the truth I found has a different description than “easy”.
I like the 1958 Buick Chieftain’s tropicana turquoise, but wanted a little lighter color than that for my antique 1984 S10 Chevy pickup truck. It occurred to me that I could perfect the color on my computer, and transfer it to a tint mix formula for an automotive paint. Doesn’t that seem like a reasonable thing to be able to do?
Figure 1: Three old film camera lenses – a Tokina is mounted.
Who shoots green mode anyway? Sure, using old film lenses limits the number of modes you can use on the K5. For the lenses shown, only Av (Aperture priority) and M (Manual) modes are available. But Av is about as automatic as I want in most cases. I like to have the diaphragm and the ISO completely under my control.
The Coyote and the Disintegrator
The coyote could navigate with uncanny ease. North, South, East, or West – the animal could find his way easily, picking his path better than a man with a map. For eons, the masters of the animal universe could only ponder the means by which the coyote traveled. Or, for that matter – the birds of the sky or the fish of the sea. They all had the ability to move without effort, in the navigation of their life paths, never missing an exit ramp, never with the slightest bit of inaccuracy. All that man could do about this, was ponder.
(This post is an add-on to the post about old vintage lenses).
Note: the author is an amateur photographer, and does not possess a degree in medicine or nuclear physics. All articles are his opinion, conjecture, or short night results.
Figure 1-3 : A plate from the 20s, 30s, 40s.
I love to use old (vintage) camera lenses for my photography, but tend to stay away from the oldest ones. Up through the sixties, and (for some lens companies) – into the seventies and beyond – lenses were sometimes made with radioactive glass. When this glass was marketed, the term “rare earths” was sometimes used to imply a glass additive or lens coating that contained thorium.
Figure 1: The White towel test on an orange filter
So, I take my walks in parks and on green-ways, and I notice the way people dress. The women wear bright colors often, and the guys wear the drab and dreary: gray, faded blue, and white. I guess that’s par for the species for various reasons we won’t delve into, but I had the fleeting thought that these fellows would not look very much different if they were photographed in black and white, versus color.
|DarkTable||Yes||No||Prelim/Devel only?||Mask only?||Photo edit – Strong CC|
|Gimp||Yes||As Animation||Yes||Yes||Paint/Photo Edit|
|DaVinci *||Yes||Yes||No||No||Film Finishing|
|Krita||Yes||As Animation||Yes||Yes||Strong Drawing, Also photo edit|
|Blender||Yes||As MJPEG, others||Yes||Yes||2D/3D Drawing, Video edit|
|Lightworks*||Yes||Yes||No||Mask only?||NLE for Video edit|
|Natron||Yes||Yes||No||?||Video clip ed, multi|
Table 1: Some attributes of various linux graphics software entries **
Note that table 1 is not at all inclusive of every known graphics software project, but is an enumeration of a few projects that I am aware of and that have some substantial following of users.
I won’t vouch for the absolute accuracy of the feature list, as I’ve used only one of these packages very intensively, and most of them not at all. I would advise to check out the features of the various projects, and make you own determination as to which may be a good choice to try. For the most part, the items are free, so there shouldn’t be much downside to a trial and error approach to this.
Figure 1: The K5 is shown with a Tokina lens from the 1980s.
I started shooting with a bridge camera about two years ago (the FujiFilm s8600). This was an attempt to bootstrap a photography interest of mine that had started in the early eighties (with an Olympus OM-1) – but which never managed to progress past the level of a novice, and hasn’t to this day. There was always something more important to do, other than to teach myself to use a camera. Now retired, I am devoting a lot of time to the task of catching up with the post millennium photography world.
Figure 1: A low pass (visible light blocking) filter, that allows infrared to pass thru it unblocked.
Normally, IR is invisible to the human eye. So, how could a person detect infrared radiation with the eye? It can be done indirectly. In figure 1 is the low pass visible light blocking filter known to all IR photographers. It blocks visible light (notice that it is jet black, even when held in front of a bright lamp).
The thing is, the human eye can detect IR already. It can detect even down to the level of upper level “far” IR!
Figure 1: Cameras that shoot for free software
On my videomiscellany.wordpress.com blog, I’d mentioned that I try to find and use cameras that enable the use of free software (as in GPL, etc, and not free as in no cost). I’d started a table to list the cameras that can shoot (stills or movies, but preferably both) in free formats.
Figure 1: A very simple, cheeeep, IR detector for hobby photography
A lot of hobby photographers are using IR cameras, or retrofitting common cameras to do IR photography. If the camera is a retrofit, then the photo hobbyist may not know the level of IR before a shot is taken.
This easy junk box build is a way to discover at least a ball-park guestimate of how much IR is present before a shot is taken.
The nice thing about this detector is that it uses a photodiode that reaches all the way down to 1.7 um (micro-meters) in the Near IR / Mid IR boundary area. Some newer cameras may be able to take photographs in that band.
Figure 1: Poor depth of field, or the blowing wind?
This blog is closely related to another one of my blogs (called videomiscellany.wordpress.com) – which currently is targeted towards the journal-ling of experiences related to a nascent video-making hobby that I’ve recently adopted. A first thought was to include photography as part of that site, but I’ve decided to split the two things, and make a separate blog to document any random bits of photonic decoupage I manage to produce. WordPress makes adding a blog pretty easy … so why not? I think I have seven now, mostly with names ending in “miscellany.”
I think I may be a miscellaneous person.
I thought PhotonRain would be a good name for a photography site, but it’s apparently a name used already (by a rock band?) – as determined by a quick search that may not be accurate. Storm Of Photons is a second choice. While that name doesn’t belong to musicians, it’s considerably less lyrical. Oh well. Ever notice that all the good names are taken already? I guess that’s what happens when you live on a rock with 7.6 billion people, and half of them are on the internet.
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton