Where is my DSLR?

DSC00874-2

This was taken a while back when I want to Kaohsiung, Tainan.  It was actually taken after my breakfast, I left my DSLR in the room and I only had my point & shoot with me.  The view and light was excellent and so I just shot the photo in Panorama mode in the Sony DC (it was a TX-10), the result was pretty pleasing.

I did some post processing adding some noise and tweaked with some curves to get the film effect.

As cliche as it is, the best camera is the camera you have with you; of course you can say you will return to the place 30 mins later, a day later, a week later…  but it will never be the same, so shoot it when you see it.  Even your camera on your smartphone will suffice…

Enjoy!

TL

Hide and Seek

You see the pictures and videos from National Geographic and Animal Planet, and kinda take them for granted.  Once I gave it a go during my trip, I realise it is one of the more challenging shots to take.

Actually I should count myself lucky to actually see a cheetah attempting to hunt an impala.  Although it was a failed attempt, it was already very exciting to me.  According to the local guides, it is rare to see such feat.

Technically it is difficult to focus on both animals at the correct angle.  Just like the photo above, I had to shoot behind the cheetah, forcing only one of the subjects in focus.  I think I used f5.6 for the shot, yet with my trusty 5D mark II, the focusing speed and the limited AF points really make it difficult to focus.  This frame really made me understand the limitations of my gear.

The other realisation for me is that an excellent wildlife shot (especially a picture of hunting) requires a lot of good planning, study of animals, patience and luck.

Give it a go if you have the chance!

TL

 

At the Beach… and afterwards

I took a lot of photos along the beach in To Wo Sha last month.  It was quite a fruitful photo trip with a friend.  It was the first time I properly go out and shoot with my fish eye zoom (Canon EF8-15 f4L).

With the ultra wide angle and the intended distortions, composition becomes different from the norm when using a wide or a standard lens.  More things will be captured and you need to be very careful to avoid or include things you want.  Peripheral vision becomes necessary.  It will come with a lot of practice, so shoot more.

For this blog I want to share some tips of taking care of your gear, rather than photo skills.  Especially after a long day hot day at the beach, your lens and camera will be covered in salty moist air, and maybe some small sand blowing onto your precious class.  If you did some lens changes there may also be some which went into the camera body.  So you must remember to use your dust blower to clean your lens, the body with a dry cloth, and the sensor/mirror to make sure everything is kept properly, otherwise the salt and moisture will corrode your gear which can be rather costly.  The gear should also be placed into a moisture controlled container.  There are a lot of choices in the market, for simple seal plastic box with some dehydration packs, to electric ones which cost around HKD1000 (depending on volume).  These will keep your camera dry and in top form, and is a must for anyone serious about photography.  Go get one!

TL

Street Snap – Prague

Whilst walking around Prague during my Europe trip last year trying to get a good landscape on the Vltara River with the bridges, I saw 3 teenagers sitting on a low wall.  With a wide angle lens (24-70mm f2.8L), I quickly shot a few frames of this interesting view.  I captured the bridges on Vltara River, giving the photo some background.  The subjects were showing a relaxed and happy sentiment, even thought we cannot see much of their faces.

The challenge to take good street photography is not only capturing the moment of your subjects, but also to be aware of the surrounding environment, the background, the sky etc.  You have to make quick decisions and execute, it all comes down to practice, practice, review and practice…

TL

 

Rowing in the Sunset

A photo taken with my smartphone with a tiny 5 megapixels camera.  I can feel the camera struggling to expose correctly given the back lit environment.  The sun was setting, and the flare gave this photo a slight twist.  The small boat gave perspective to the view, and I was quite impressed by the layers of mountains that was captured by this tiny little phone.  Again its not that camera that’s important, its the idea you want to convey.  Keep shooting!

TL

Local Events 2

This year I participated into one of the most exciting annual sports event in Hong Kong, the Rugby Sevens.  The atmosphere is amazing, everyone was having fun and enjoyed their time.  My second reason to entry is of course to take more shots!

I brought my fish-eye zoom with me, which allowed me to capture the above image at the 14mm end at f7.1.  Most of the photographers may focus the action on the pitch, yet for this special event, it is also a carnival where the fans will dress up and become photo subjects as well.  Enjoy!

TL

Film in 2012

Back in February, I found my dad’s Nikon F3 camera and started playing with it.  After a months time, I have finally finished a full roll of 36 frames, and collected the developed negatives today!   For the past few years I was able to see the shots I have taken immediately on the camera’s LCD screen, and they can also be examined closely back at home on my computer at day end.  It is truly a special feeling when you have the anticipation of not knowing how well the photos will come out, and have to wait for a few days for development before getting the negatives back; the sensation of holding negatives in hand is just like bringing myself back in time, maybe 15 years back where all cameras just use film.

The above photo was taken by the Nikon F3 with a 50mm f1.2 lens, using Lomography’s ISO400 B&W lady grey film.  It has then been scanned directly from negative to digital.  The scanned quality is not perfect, and the resolution is rather low, but somehow it feels different from DSLR outputs.  Maybe its the low quality which gives it the “retro” feel, or maybe its just my own experience which makes it look different (or just a photo taken by a low quality digital camera with basic sensor!?)

My point is even though I have been shooting with DSLRs for quite sometime now, I am always able to learn new skills and tricks when going back to SLR working with film: the manual focusing lens, the confidence of shooting a few frames in your mind without the “luxury” of checking the result immediately etc.  I highly encourage DSLR shooters to find a film camera to experience how photographers shoot back in the 80s.  The feeling of waiting for the photos to be developed (unless you have your own darkroom) is certainly very interesting.  You may not like it, buy there is no harm in trying!

TL

Fish Eye Lens

This is the first gear review on this blog; I have been contemplating if I should do gear reviews as I am a believer of creativity over gear, yet after searching on the net, most reviews focus on the technical aspects of the gear, the size, the weight, the performance, the resolution etc, but rarely elaborate on the user experience and feel (there maybe user review on the sharpness, focusing speed etc.).  I will try to approach this “gear review” from a different perspective.  Please leave comments and let me know if this is useful for you or not…

After thinking for a while, I have finally invested into a new lens, the Canon 8-15mm f4L Fisheye zoom lens.  It is certainly not a cheap lens, as it costs over HKD10,000 (USD1,300), yet the biggest obstacle was that I was unsure if its useful or not.  After using it a most of the time during my Malaysia trip, I was totally convinced that it an excellent addition to my gear.

For the rational bunch (like me), you will be thinking that the fish eye is really a fun lens, and its not as “practical” as a 50mm f1.2L, 24-70mm f2.8L II, 70-200mm f4L IS which is in the same price bracket.  If you are currently not a proud owner of the lenses I just mentioned, then you should really consider getting those before getting the fish eye.

OK, back to the fish eye experience.  Out of the box, it feels solid as all L series lens do, and opening the lens hood will reveal the massive concave glass.  On the 5D mark 2 it feels balanced and mobile.

In action, the lens opens up a whole new world of creativity, especially at the 8mm end.  I have been to KL a few times, yet with the fish eye I manage to see the city in a whole new way.  Composition is totally different from the conventional ways, peripheral vision is extremely important to make sure everything in the frame is intended.  The sharpness, colour, saturation, chromatic aberration is well controlled, image quality is top notch.  I also tried to use it to take group shots for 8 people sitting round a circular table, and again it allowed me to capture the scene in an interesting way.

In short, I think this is an excellent lens to add to a complete working focal range, if you have lenses which covering 16mm to 200m already and is looking for some zest for your portfolio, I highly recommend this lens which opens up your creative possibilities.  Landscape photographers should certainly use it, and in the right hands wedding and portrait photographers will also find its uses.

TL

Blue Sky

Circular Polarizing Lens filter, or CPL, is an invaluable tool for landscape photographers.  It is one of the rare tools which cannot be replicated in the post processing.  It can make the skies bluer, the seas clearer with better contrast.

The way it works is they align the light rays getting through the filter onto the sensor, and can reduce the refraction from the dust particles in the air, and also works on the water reflection.  These effects cannot be reproduced by Photoshop.  So I highly recommend budding landscape photographers to bring along 1 CPL with you next time you go shoot.  Depending on the diameter of your lens and also the quality of the filter, price varies from around HKD400 (USD50) to HKD1200 (USD180) for the top notch ones, e.g. B&W.  Try it out and you will never leave home without it.

TL