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

 

Super Wide Landscape

The sun was setting and the rays made a golden line on the sea.  The fisherman’s boat met the golden line, highlighting the boat.  On the other hand the bridge in the foreground becomes another straight line, linking the two lines is the horizon in the background, making it an inverted triangle composition.

Be aware of the “lines” in your frame, and you may be surprised by the simple shapes it makes; these shapes will help your composition significantly.

Enjoy shooting!

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

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

Tripods Prohibited

Sometimes there are places where the use of tripods are not allowed, yet with the limited light source and no flash, some sturdy support is needed.  The above photo was taken in a church in Germany.  I used the donation box as my support, and propped the lens up with my phone.  This allowed me to take a long exposure photo to show the movements of the visitors.

Try to think out of the box, especially at places where you don’t have a second chance to take the same photo.  I am not sure if they actually allow people to place cameras on the donation box, but surely I got the photo I wanted, and I was happy.  Also you may consider bringing a small Gorilla pod with you, which maybe allowed to use.  Don’t let the surroundings limit your creativity!

TL

 

三腳架

最近有朋友問我關於選擇三腳架的問題,想在這篇blog裡面分享以下我的看法。

其實對我來說,不論你是否常常拍夜景,一枝可靠的三腳架是攝影器材裡面非常重要的。我說的可靠是指在正常的天氣情況底下,它也可以保持相機的絕對穩定,還有不會容易因碰撞而變形的。

在地方跟時間容許的時候,我必定會用三腳架來固定我的相機,確保照片的銳利度。不論在陽光底下還是傍晚時分。當然這也可以調低感光度來控制雜訊。

至於市場上這麼多選擇,應該買哪一支呢?我建議可以花多一點,買一枝負重能力強(>5kg),而且比較輕身的,方便携带。要記得一枝品質好的三腳架是可以用一段很長的是間的。

TL

“新”玩具?

幾年前當爸爸得知我買了一部新DSLR (Canon 450D) 的時候,他說他也有一部SLR寄放在加拿大親戚的家裡,一部Nikon F3。當時的我不認識這部專業級的機皇,但是因為希望有機會嘗試機械相機的手感,所以要求了親戚如果有機會回港的時候把相機帶回來。

昨天,這部F3回來了。我懷著興奮的心情打開了Nikon原裝的相機袋,發覺裡面不單裝了F3機身,還有當時Nikkor最快的鏡皇50mm f1.2定焦鏡頭跟43-86mm f3.5變焦鏡頭。所有設備看起來都跟新的沒兩樣,鏡頭沒有發霉,機身一條花痕也霉有。

其實F3是一部手動+半自動相機,也即是說它可以做到我們現在的Av mode功能,以一部1980出產的相機來說真的走在時代的尖端。而1981年出產的Nikkor 50mm f1.2 到現在也是Nikkor 系列裡面光圈最大的鏡頭,它們結合起來就變成當時頂級的配搭。拿上手的一刻便可以感受到它的重量,全金屬機身給與了耐用的信心。對於習慣了光圈在機身調教的我來說,在鏡頭調教光圈是另外一種感受。因為沒有為它準備電池,所以昨晚只可以用機械快門,但是快門的聲音很棒,不能用現代的機種來比較。

當我買到了適用的電磁跟菲林之後,就可以嘗試用這部上代機皇來拍照,再在這裡分享用後感,敬請留意!

TL