Tag Archives: photography

Living with the Fujinon 56mm f/1.2 Lens

Over the past year, I’ve been using the Fuji 56 f/1.2 almost exclusively in my photography. It’s easily the best lens I’ve ever owned, bar none. The other night, during the lunar eclipse, my wife and I travelled to a remote spot away from the city lights. We were still close enough to the city to see the faint glow of some streetlights, signs, and stoplights. I dialed the 56 mm lens down to an apurture of f/1.2, pointed the lens in the direction of the glow, and tilted the camera’s LED panel so that my wife could see the display on the back of it. “It looks like it’s daylight! Wow!” was her response. She suspected that I really had some sort of night-vision camera I hadn’t told her I had purchased.

But no, the camera was the same old Fujifilm X-T2 I’d been toting around for a couple years. The 56mm Fuji lens could just gobble up the light. It worked pretty good for the moon, as well. The lens has some nagging little drawbacks, however, notwithstanding the fact that I’ve put it on a crop sensor camera (the X-T2) – and the effective focal length is a hefty 85 millimeters. It means I often have to back away from my subjects (what is sometimes called sneaker-zoom). But, that’s not the downside for me.

It’s the manual focus that’s the nagging point with the 56. It can hit the focus spot-on perfectly, with patience. It almost seems to have two different focus points, meaning that as you turn the ring, the focus gets to a point that is almost spot-on perfect, but if you turn it just a little bit further, it seems to go thru a less focused bit, and then is finally perfect. Sometimes I am tricked into stopping at the first “almost spot on” turn of the ring. Maybe the “less focused bit” is only in my imagination, because we’re really splitting hairs at that moment.  Maybe it’s my old eyes, my incorrect perception, or just a funky copy of the lens, but to me and my eyes it’s what it seems to be doing. 

Still, I want the best the lens can deliver, so I fuss with it until I have the perfect focus.  There is a lot of turn right at the point of focus, which means I tend to go back and forth, trying to get it absolutely perfect, instead of having a single turn position that is the best focus position.  It takes more time, but with patience you get there.

Maybe it’s backlash? It might be, because the issue seems to get better if you “come into” the focus from the opposite direction.  So, I have learned to turn past the focus point(s), and return slowly from the other direction. Anyway, with patience enough to continue to the perfect-focus spot from the “almost perfect” turn position of the focus ring, one can get spectacular results.

I make a big deal about the focus, but really – in spite of that nagging little detail – this is the best lens I’ve ever had.  Its IQ (image quality) and low light performance and color are outstanding enough to offset the focus taking more time.  It wouldn’t work (at least for me) for fast action wildlife in manual focus mode.

When, I slap my wide angle lens onto the camera, I get a serious degradation in quality (my wide angle IQ is far inferior to the 56). But, I am always happy to see the fast-focus to near-perfection, with no mirage in between, when I use the wide angle lens. It’s soooo much less tedious than the 56mm in this way.

I find myself using the 56 mostly for people shots.  It seems to be a focal length that works well for people shots, albeit I have to back away from them sometimes in order to not show quite as much detail.  The 56 mm Fuji lens is talented enough to make that a consideration!  All in all, it’s a keeper, even with the focus being such that it’s more time consuming to use it.  Maybe Fuji will come out with a slightly improved focus, or maybe I can trade mine for another copy.  It’s probably more trouble to do the latter than what is needed, based on the overall picture.  Either way, for the right purpose, ya can’t go wrong with this lens, IMO.

As Fuji 56 owners already know, this lens is built like a tank.  It makes many of my other lenses seem pretty wimpy in that regard.  One final thing I should add is that I take a majority of my shots with the aperture wide open or close to wide open, rarely above f/3.5, and that may be a factor in the focus situation.  I’m usually working with a shallow DOF.  Perhaps at higher apertures, the situation would change.



Slowly improving with the X-T2

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.

Depth of Field Ain’t so Tuff

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).

Read more about my DoF

Bad Day for A Photo: Why is it Blue?

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.

Nature’s sculpture: Water Swept Grasses

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 :



Buggy for Bees – macro photos


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).

Read more about the bees …

Vintage Lens Honeymoon

Is Over.

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.

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Bigger, Bolder Pictures

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.

Doing Interval Photography with a Sigma SD14

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.

Read More …

Infrared Photography with an SD14

Figure 1An 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.

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Rare Earth Plates for Breakfast?

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.

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Monochromatic Filter Fun – the White Towel Test

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.

Read More …

Graphics Software for Linux

Application ColorCorrection Video ARM Arch Paint Description
DarkTable Yes No Prelim/Devel only? Mask only? Photo edit – Strong CC
Gimp Yes As Animation Yes Yes Paint/Photo Edit
Inkscape Some No Yes Yes Vector Graphics
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.

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Photography On the Cheap

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.

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Easy-Simple IR Detector

Figure 1:  A very simple, cheeeep, IR detector for hobby photography

Posted 06-08-2018

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.

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Twisted Photons

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.

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