For anyone enjoying my photography, I’m maintaining my favorite photos on 500px.
I’ve known for a long time that fan clubs affect my selection of a particular product or technology, and have been trying to articulate just how they affect the thought process involved in selection. My recent experience in the world of photography has helped me work through that enough to write about.
I generally remain neutral about the technologies I get involved with, as I believe each technology has it’s own place and purpose. I learned this holds true in computer languages, operating systems, and nearly everything else in life. It is interesting, though, to watch the fan clubs of all camps and the impact they have on neutrality and public opinion. In many cases, it actually works against many manufacturers to have such zealous fans. This too holds true of all things, ranging from computer languages to cameras.
I’ve recently purchased a Nikon D610, which appears designed to compete with the 6D (not the 5D), but surprisingly does give the 5D a run for its money (and just completely blows away the 6D). Let me say first, the 5D3 is an excellent camera, and has more features than the D610. But it is also $1200-$1400 more expensive – you could almost buy two D610s for that money! Unlike Canon with their 6D, Nikon doesn’t make an “entry level” full frame. They just dive right into pro photography in the full frame world. While Canon’s 6D seems designed to appeal to soccer moms who heard full frame is cool, the D610 is more of what you’d expect from a pro camera, such as the 5D is.
I had considered spending much more on a D3X, a full frame $8000 camera; the D3X lacks a lot of important things the D610 has, however. Among these are a self cleaning sensor, good low light noise, video autofocus, high ISOs, and so on. Even if the two were the same price, the D610 has better image quality, a faster frame rate, and better dynamic range.
A recent article demonstrated how to color match strobes essentially by purchasing an overpriced light meter for $1200. There is a much easier way to do this using Camera Raw. The only catch is you’ll need to bring your laptop to a shoot with you.
One of my favorite open source projects these days is Magic Lantern, which is a “free software add-on” that “adds a host of new features to Canon EOS cameras that weren’t included from the factory by Canon”. One of ML’s newest features is a module named Dual ISO. Dual ISO takes advantage of the sensor in some of Canon’s high-end cameras (such as the 5D MK II and MK III) to allow the camera to capture an image in two different ISOs, greatly expanding the dynamic range of the camera. Think of it as “almost HDR”, but it’s all taken with only one shutter click, so you can use it on moving subjects, and at high speeds.
I took this with my Canon 5D MKIII and 35mm f/1.4 L, playing around with a couple cheap portable soft boxes I picked up for a commercial shoot. When you’re doing restaurants and bars, you can’t lug around heavy plug-in lighting. These cheap little guys take six AA batteries a piece, and work just great for $500.
The makers of E.H. Taylor aren’t actually the client here, this was just a practice shot (although I sent them a copy as a thank you for making such a fine bottle of whiskey). The secret to getting those nice soft catch lights on either side of the bottle and glass is to position two soft boxes on either side of the bottle, and adjust accordingly.
I recently traded a handful of lenses and other Canon gear for a Nikon D800 with a 14-24mm f/2.8 and 24-70mm f/2.8. I still have the Canon 5D3 with the 70-200mm f/2.8 and 16-35mm f/2.8, as the Canon’s focusing system is far superior to Nikon’s. In terms of image quality and dynamic range in the ISO < = 800 range, however, the Nikon really blows my mind. The photo below (titled, "Neglected") is a 100% crop. I kid you not. I took this with my new D800 and the 14-24mm f/2.8 (at f/11, bracketed with seven exposures and later merged into an HDR).
The first immediate thing that amazed me was the amount of color and contrast the Nikon sensor and glass manage to preserve. I didn't even really notice just how brilliant the sunflowers were outside in the cold when I was taking the photo, but the Nikon sure did. I could have posted this SOOC and it still would have looked good. In contrast, I took a 14mm photo of an old church with purple windows about a week ago, using my Canon and at-the-time 14mm f/2.8 II. The color performance was so poor that the windows turned out black (even if I turned the shadows and saturation all the way up). I ended up having to turn it into a black and white. I don't own that lens anymore.
I went back to the raws to pull out some of my favorite photos of Reine (a small town in the Lofoten islands of Norway). A different process allowed me to apply some better toning to them and I also came across a great panorama I put together with my wide angle lens. Enjoy.
I’ve seen a lot of these for Nikon out there, but not any real good ones for Canon. Here’s a before and after of a show that was horribly underexposed. I didn’t think it was usable until I tweaked it in camera raw. The only thing I’ve done in this photo is to pull up the shadows, blacks, some whites, vibrance, and clarity using camera raw. Amazing how much detail was there. The sky is still nice and smooth, not pixelated, and not very much noise at all – certainly nothing that can’t be corrected. I’m impressed.
After reading one of many that simply track your MAC address around town, I thought a little bit more security was appropriate. Your MAC address can be tracked regardless of whether or not you actually connect to a WiFi network, as your laptop is almost always scanning for nearby WiFi access points.
Below is a simple bash script I wrote that runs on OSX (and can be easily adapted to other OS’s) that will randomize your MAC address every 30 seconds, and help prevent MAC-based tracking such as what the NSA and friends are testing out. It only does this if you’re not currently connected to a WiFi access point, otherwise your connection would get reset. Copy this somewhere and run it as root when you log in.
Every “professional” photography book I’ve read makes it gospel that you have to shoot landscapes at f/22, in order to ensure that the foreground and background is in focus. Special thanks to these guys for teaching millions of photographers to create blurry photos. Lens Diffraction, and an explanation as to why shooting at f/22 is likely giving you soft photos, when sharpness is what you’re trying to achieve. Check out http://fstoppers.com/what-is-lens-diffraction-on-dslr-camera for a more in-depth explanation. Most of my shots are around f/5.6 – f/11 these days, and have turned out much sharper, even with a foreground.