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Posts Tagged ‘equipment’

I love geometrically repeating subjects.

I love geometrically repeating subjects.

I mentioned a while ago that I joined the Think Tank Photo affiliate program, mostly to see what would come of it. So a few weeks ago I found I could add a link to the free bag offer and put it on the sidebar to the right.

The funny thing is I never actually knew what the free bag was until today. So when you buy over $50 of product through the affiliate program (which is pretty much most of the bags) you can get one of the following for free:

If I did not have the Streetwalker backpack I would probably use one of these to hold my accessories. Though it is really only useful if you are using the belt system, otherwise any bag would work.

I use this bag to hold my lenses if I need to throw them loose into another bag, it fits all of my introductory lenses and holds them securely. It also has a rain cover for a bit of extra protection in wet climes.

I have handled these when working with Think Tank inventory but I have not used them. I would say they would work well for several small things, feels less protective than the Lens Changer 50.

Feels just like a Lens Changer in durability and build but for a large flash unit.

If I was to buy a Think Tank bag new I would go with the Lens Changer 50, just for the usability. I know that for some of the lens I bought they did not come with a case of any sort, if they did it was weak and flimsy. Having an extra bit of protection on my lens lets me chuck them into a backpack for the day or the week and not worry too much about them (I try not to sit on them, I don’t think any soft bag would help there).

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Rainy Photography

 

Rainy days have such great sunsets.

Rainy days have such great sunsets.

Today it rained in Santa Barbara for the first time in a while that combined with me finishing lab early required, nay demanded that I go out and take photos. The rain drops falling on the lagoon, the moody sky rife with distinct clouds and a gentle cool to the afternoon drew me out immediately upon getting home.

Of course I have no actual experience taking photos in the rain. Thinking of this on the way home I came up with a quick and sort of efficient system.

I started off with my camera on my tripod and a plastic bag over the camera. I had all of my gear in my Streetwalker and an umbrella in my off hand. When I wanted to take a photo I put the tripod down (either tripodding or monopodding), hung the plastic bag on the tripod and held the umbrella in either the hand adjusting the zoom or between my head and shoulder. It was slightly awkward and I really wish I had zip-tied the umbrella directly to the main shaft of the tripod. Maybe a clip of some sort.

Changing lenses was surprisingly easy. I discovered that I can hang my bag on my tripod for extremely easy access to all of my stuff plus a small clean platform to do the lens changing. And no water got into my camera body (always a plus).

I did manage to drop my lens into the sand though. I thought I had secured, I picked it up and slow motion kicked in as it fell. Plopped on the sand I feared the worst, I snatched it up to find that only the lens cap had hit the sand, no optics or mechanical parts were damaged. A UV filter (that I only use as dust protectors now) did manage to make a journey into the sand.

I need to streamline the whole photographing rain thing, I just have so little opportunities to do so here in Santa Barbara.

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An HDR shot of the Santa Barbara Dock.

An HDR shot of the Santa Barbara Dock.

I finally got around to testing out the Streetwalker’s (I reviewed it here) ability to hold a tripod.

The Streetwalker has a pocket on the bottom of the outside that holds two of the three tripod legs, there are then two straps to hold it in place. One strap is at the top of the pocket (for the third leg) and the other is at the top of the bag to secure the tripod in place.

The latches on the straps are fairly secure and are locked into place so the tripod won’t loosen the straps while moving around.

Of course with the tripod on the bag is a bit bulkier, aside from the weight there is not an extra three inches of the tripod sticking out. While this may not be a problem to some people I have a feeling that I will eventually hit or run into something. Hopefully what I break won’t be expensive.

The bag easily holds my tripod, a Bogen 3411 a six foot tripod with some heft to it. Lighter and smaller tripods will easily fit without a problem and without adjusting the weighting of the bag too much.

With the tripod in place it is difficult to access the contents of the bag, if the top strap is released about the top third of the bag can be accessed. However when the strap is unlatched the tripod tends to slide to either side.

I am just glad it is able to fit my tripod so I do not have to carry a separate tripod case around with me.

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The effects of a circular polarizer

The effects of a circular polarizer

For Christmas I received a circular polarizer from my brother. I was finally able to put it to good use on a walk through the newly restored creek of Santa Rosa.

I did not really know what to expect. I have read that it helps with bright skies and can improve or reduce reflects. So I did what works best when given a new piece of equipment, I went out and experimented.

It really did improve the quality of my shots during the day. At night it did not do much for me since it really reduced the light available.

When it stood out was when I used it with the above shot of the power lines against a blue sky. With the filter rotatoed to give the least effect the overpowering blue of the sky drowned out the details of the metal. With the polarizer working it gave the effect above (I didn’t edit the photo at all).

Now I want to see how it would work when combined with HDR and perhaps the ocean.

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Diesel not so thrilled with his new hat.

Diesel not so thrilled with his new hat.

For Christmas I received a Nikon SB-400 flash for my camera, which is good because it is what I asked for. I wanted the flash unit because I never use the flash on my camera, I always utilize ambient light. With the seperate flash I will be inclined to actually use it as it will not directly drain the batteries of my camera.

Of course I now need to learn how to use a flash. The operation of the unit is fairly simple: place on camera, lock, turn on and tilt. I have not delved into the usage of the flash my camera, I have just used it on the default P setting (regulated the shutter speed to 1/60″).

I used it today at my grandmothers to take photos of our dog Diesel (seen above). I couldn’t use ambient light as I do not have a lens fast enough for the light of the room, I also needed to catch him in motion as he attempted to thrust his festive hats off of his head. 

I found that the angle of bounce for the flash is fairly easy to ascertain given the room and the subject. I did not use much of the direct on flash but opted for either 30 or 45 degrees. Straight up was not too useful so far but I bet that it will be useful. Except for the part where the closer to straight up the flash goes the more you blind yourself with the flash, always fun.

One thing I want to investigate with the flash if if I can trigger it manually either on the camera itself or separately. I want to try out high speed photography where you have something in a dark room, use a long shutter and use the flash to capture the motion. The SB-400 might not do this as it is just a basic flash unit.

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Festive masks for the season.

Festive masks for the season.

 

A week ago I finally received my belated birthday gift (belated as it was not released yet) a LenBaby Composer. A Lensbaby is a prime camera lens that rotates in a ball socket, instead of having a plane of focus there is a movable spot (sweet spot). Because of the rotating and unusual focus it is a manual lens without a CPU. The lack of a CPU translates to manually setting the exposure (no exposure metering in the camera).

After a week I find that it is a fun lens. While certain subject appear dull with a normal lens my Lensbaby allows for a new take on the same subject. What’s more it brings out a higher degree of creativity. My particular lens is 50mm so aside from the unique ball socket and manual exposure it is the same as my loved f/1.8 50mm lens. Except that the Lensbaby has a maximum of f/2.0. 

Aside from finding the “sweet spot” choosing the aperture is also unique. Normally a lens has a small computer inside allowing for the lens aperture to be set by the camera or going furtyher back there is a ring to set the aperture. This lens has neither. Instead the aperture is set by physically changing out the aperture ring. The rings are made from a semi-soft magnetic material that is held above the lens by three magnets. The lens comes with a small tool that holds the rings with a magnet on the back switch them out.

This may seem like an inconvenience and it would be if you were shooting in continually changing lighting conditions or fast subjects. However I feel that for the most part this type of shooting is not the target of a Lensbaby. What it does allow is for custom apertures. The background blur of a photo is caused by the focus but the shape of the blur is determined by the aperture. That is why some lens produce certain pointed stars. Kits are sold allowing for custom made aperture disks, but I thought it can’t be that hard.

 

My simple aperture alteration tools.

My simple aperture alteration tools.

With tools at my disposal I took some post-it notes and a knife and jury-rigged some test apertures to see what would happen. Because I used purple notes that did not block all light a slight purple tint invaded my test photos. Here is how my purposefully out of focus Christmas tree came out:

 

First attempt.

First attempt.

A bit more creative second attempt.

A bit more creative second attempt.

 

So far I like the lens. I am not yet fully versed in how to use it, that will come with practice. I still find it funny that my lens acquisitions are in a way slowly regressing in ease of use. First I had autofocus VR lens, then a prime non-VR manual lens and now a Lensbaby that lacks exposure metering (with my camera at least). And yet it is the simple lens that are spending the time on my camera.

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A nice November sunset.

A nice November sunset.

I have a love hate relationship with protective lens filters. On one hand I want to keep a UV filter on my lens to protect them from the world. On the other hand why I am I putting a cheap piece of optics in front of my nice lenses? 

The advantages of having the UV filter is that they seem easier to clean and a filter would protect my lens if I happened to drop it. Of course when I am shooting in the day without direct light sources (like our friend the sun) the filter is not a detriment to shooting quality, that I can tell at least.

Now of course there are a few disadvantages to the protective filter. The major use is the persistent presence of lens flares, a minor issue is potential aberrations in the image. I am assuming this last part is an issue but I don’t have any metrics to test it.

In the end I find myself just taking off my lens filters and treating them as extra lens caps when shooting at night. Since when I potentially have lens flares it is the same time that I am using a tripod so there is a greatly reduced chance of dropping the camera.

Unless I tip over the tripod.

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