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Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

UCSB 1982 Graduation

The 1982 UCSB graduation looks a lot like the 2009 graduation.

The 1982 UCSB graduation looks a lot like the 2009 graduation.

I have mentioned before that I am in charge of converting about six hundred family slides into a digital format.

I looked into services where I send out my slides to get them converted, for the amount that I have I figure I can just do it myself.

Then I thought that I should try doing it myself without any fancy equipment and just use the camera gear I have. I did some tests using the above slide that my grandfather took at my parents UCSB graduation in 1982. First I tried my 50mm f/1.8 to see how that would do. The cropped image came out at too low of a resolution (about 1000 pixels on a side).

My +3 Macro filter came to my mind. I screwed it onto my 55-200mm just to humor myself. I was able to get almost a full frame image of the slide, at max aperture there was terrible bloom but setting it to f/11 solved that. In the end I got the above image. Not terrible for what I was doing (light reflecting off of computer paper) but by no means what I want as the final product.

This was all done in consideration of using a dedicated macro lens with a slide holder from Nikon or other camera company. I have been give a budget for the project and my thought was to keep the macro lens that would need to be purchased as my payment for doing this. However what I would need for this is not what I would want (need: 60mm Macro, want: 105mm Macro).

Now I need to decide between dedicated slide scanners that range from one to two hundred dollars. There just seems to be a dearth of information on this subject outside of the two thousand dollar scanner range, and past 2005.

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Neat Reflection

Accidently stumbled onto this effect.

Accidently stumbled onto this effect.

Over the weekend I found two of my grandfathers old lenses from the early 70’s (more on them in a few days). I wanted to test out how close they could focus compared to my newer lenses (shown in the photo). On this lens, a 24mm I think, the focus ring twists the opposite direction that I am used to from my 50mm f/1.8. So instead of focusing on the 18-55mm lens I focused to infinity and got this shot.

I have not done much with reflections before and this reflection off of a UV filter was really neat. I tried onto a lens directly but the curve did not really give a single sharp reflection.

Now I will need to figure out something to do with reflections like this.

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An old book, I think it was from the sixties.

An old book, I think it was from the sixties.

At a family reunion this weekend I took on the task of preserving some old media.

My grandmother has a box of 35mm slides taken from the late fifties to the eighties that I want to convert to a better preserved format. Initially I thought I would be tackling just the slides, but along with the slides came another bit of media.

Two thousand feet of 8mm film. The oldest reel is from the 1939 World’s Fair. Luckily all the film is still in the original Kodachrome boxes so I know the date of development, the content of the film and the type of film used.

So over the next few weeks I will be exploring the possibilities of converting to a high quality digital format for preservation and sharing. I hope to find a local (Sonoma country) camera or video shop that can do the conversion and possibly cleaning/restoration for us for a reasonable price. This is one instance where I would be more then willing to pay a bit more for either better quality conversion or a professional who will not break the brittle film.

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Redwoods

Impossible to photograph well.

Impossible to photograph well.

Visited the redwoods last weekend, I was thinking about what lens to bring to take good photos when I remembered: it is impossible to photograph redwoods to encapsulate the feeling of awe.

The trees are too tall to be able to get a good root to top shot without a super wide angle lens, and any distance between the tree often leads to other trees getting in the way. On the forest floor the deep shade is interspersed with direct sunlight giving a very mottled coloring that is either over or under exposed in places.

And the height, the muffled sounds, the hollow ground are all impossible to capture with a camera. Or at least very difficult to do.

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200mm with a Marumi Macro 3 lens attached.

200mm with a Marumi Macro 3 lens attached.

I got a new set of filters today, 3 Marumi filters: a +3 macro, a circular polarizer and a neutral density. After looking at all of them I immediately put the +3 macro onto my lenses to try it out in my backyard.

At first I tried it with a 50mm f/1.8, I could focus a lot closer to the lens but the region I could focus shrank a bit. It was small to begin with. If I was shooting still objects they photos would have come out sharper with a better focus. However I was thwarted by a light consistent wind.

Then to try out the extreme I put it on my 55-200 VR lens keeping it at 200mm. The focus distance went down from about three feet in front of the lens down to a foot or so. Again the focus region was small but this lens had autofocus. Or at first I thought that this would make it easier, the AF for either the lens or the camera body (D6o) was slow and not very good with macro. I quickly reverted to manual focus (except when trying to shoot moving bees).

The image quality was alright. For the 50mm it was pretty good, not as sharp as it usually is but not bad either. At 200mm it is not that sharp and there is a lot of soft glow spread around the image. The images at smaller focal lengths did look better and I only practiced in direct sunlight. Though I feel that there might not be enough light to use the +3 lens by hand without direct sunlight.

I don’t have a dedicated macro lens or any other close-up lenses to compare this Marumi lens with but so far it has been fun to play with. I don’t know how I will use it in the future or if the images will be sharp enough (maybe I should not do 200mm?) for decent macro photography.

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The old Nevada City fire house at the top of Broad Street

The old Nevada City fire house at the top of Broad Street

This is the old fire house in Nevada City, California located at the top of the main street through town.

I took 9 exposures (at f/3.8) ranging from 1.6 seconds to 44 seconds. I wanted 45 seconds but a car was coming and I had to finish the exposure a little bit earlier then I would have liked.

As I usually do I used Photomatix Pro to compile the HDR using the following settings:

  • Strength: 100
  • Saturation: 50
  • Luminosity: -2
  • Light Smoothing: High
  • Microcontrast: +10

Tone Settings:

  • White Point: 1.196
  • Black Point: 0
  • Gamma: 1.01

Color Settings:

  • Temperature: 0
  • Saturation Highlights: 0
  • Saturation Shadows: 0

Smoothing Settings:

  • Micro-smoothing: 2
  • Highlights Smoothing: 30
  • Shadows Smoothing: 0
  • Shadows Clipping: 50
My three main critiques of this HDR has to be the glow around the top of the trees, the top of the fire house is a bit overexposed and the movement of the flags.
There is not much I could do about the flags since there was a soft breeze, I suppose I could see about photoshopping a set of still flags from one of the exposures.
However I am very satisfied by the night sky usually there are bad star trails, straight up black or just generally fuzziness.

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Nevada City's Broad Street at night.

Nevada City's Broad Street at night.

Last year after the fourth of July parade and when the sun went down Nevada City was quiet. A few cars remained parked on the streets, not another person was walking the streets and nary a car drove down the main thoroughfare.

With that knowledge in had I had an idea: I wanted to take a few long exposure night shots of Broad Street to make an HDR image (exposure of 2 minutes to 1/4 of a second). So after dinner I was at the top of the street looking down and I set up my tripod as usual.

Then cars started to come up the street. Well that was fine cars are allowed to use the streets I suppose.

They came up the street very slowly, very carefully and often with their high beams on. Then they slowed down when they neared me and looked very slowly as they drove by. These were attendees of the local fair coming home after the fireworks finished, and they celebrated with several choice beverages based on their driving habits of the evening.

In the end I did not get a photo that satisfied me in terms of exposure and lack of high beams. I shall endeavor to try again tonight in the hopes that many people will be home, have left town or perhaps driving a bit faster then seven miles per hour.

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I once knew the names for this type of bronze vessel, it now escapes me.

I once knew the names for this type of bronze vessel, it now escapes me.

I went to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco today on the way back from dropping someone off at SFO. As always I enjoyed the exhibits (they had Samurai’s this time), but the trip highlighted the challenges of photographing in museums.

First I had all of my camera gear with me since I was unsure of what I would be doing before and after the museum, at this point that just constitutes at Think Tank Photo Streetwalker backpack. However there was a size limit on bags in the museum so I had to check my bag in the complimentary coat check. I was allowed to take my camera with me but not the bag. I had to decide which lens to take with me, knowing that no flashes are allowed I chose my 50mm f/1.8 for the high speed.

With no flash and no tripod I would have be limited mostly to all handheld shots and museums are surprisingly dark places (for the most part). I rarely went below an ISO of 400 and kept the aperture at f/1.8 the entire time. I would have liked a zoom lens for the wider angles and even a zoom but the kit lenses I have are far too slow.

With a high ISO I am pleased how the photos came out (the Samurai exhibit did not allow photography) the only problem I faced was the lack of an autofocus. Usually I am fine with manual focus, however it was combined with low light so I was below the standard 1/50s exposure time (since it is a 50mm lens) and was often at 1/20 or 1/40. It was necessary to manually focus with a shallow depth of field and steady the camera.

I utilized the usual trick of bracing against walls, pillars, signs and the odd chair though this museum had a dearth of conveniently located propping points. In the end I relied on the high ISO, an exposure compensation of -1 or -2 and the large aperture. I realize now that I should have set metering to be just at the focal point instead of factoring in the entire frame, the rest of the frame tended to be black if not dark and unnecessarily increased the exposure.

Back home when I went through the photos I found myself holding them to a different standard compared to other subjects. Instead of evaluating the photos of the art pieces by their content I did it by lighting, sharpness and focal plane. Only if a given piece had multiple sharp well exposed photos did I start to look into composition and even subject matter.

Now if I could only remember back to my Chinese Art History class to figure out what I photographed.

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The Humanities and Social Studies building courtyard at UCSB, in HD.

The Humanities and Social Studies building courtyard at UCSB, in HD.

This HDR photo posed a little more challenge then previous ones. In the past when faces with these I did not really like the photo enough to dedicate the time to find a way to solve it. The problem: the night sky.

With many HDR photos taken at night the night sky turns into a mess of noise and artifacts, a result of the processing software. To avoid these using Photomatix Pro I upped the Shadow Clipping and then adjusted the remaining settings to make up for this. In the end this is what I used:

  • Strength: 80
  • Saturation: 55
  • Luminosity: +4
  • Light Smoothing: High
  • Microcontrast: +10

Tone Settings:

  • White Point: 0.604
  • Black Point: 0.161
  • Gamma: 1.23

Color Settings:

  • Temperature: 0
  • Saturation Highlights: 0
  • Saturation Shadows: 0

Smoothing Settings:

  • Micro-smoothing: 2
  • Highlights Smoothing: 30
  • Shadows Smoothing: 0
  • Shadows Clipping: 50

These settings worked well and I used this preset for several other photos taken in the same night.

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    Nothing like Class IIIB green lasers.

    Nothing like Class IIIB green lasers.

    An experiment in light painting done in a lab instead of actual lab work.

    I believe the bottom reflection is purely from the internals of the lens, I did not have a lens filter on at all. It probably did not help that it is a particularly bright laser.

    One day I will get around to spelling my name out in the air with glow sticks.

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