Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Hello, everyone! Welcome back from the holiday weekend! I hope you all missed me, but otherwise had a fantastic time. In addition to the holiday, I also had a birthday over the weekend (happy birthday to meeeeee!), which makes it all the more pathetic that I did absolutely nothing since we last saw each other. Absolutely. Nothing. I didn’t even toss up a blog post. That’s okay though, judging by the traffic figures, it looks like none of you were around to read it anyway, because you were all out having the fun I should have been having.
Today’s picture was taken atop Guanella Pass, which is in Colorado, sort of on the eastern side of the Rockies, fairly close to Denver actually. It’s a nice drive, gets you right up into the high country, and it’s where you’d go if you wanted to hike up Mt. Bierstadt. I only mention Mt. Bierstadt because it was the first fourteener I ever hiked, back when I was growing up out there. Sadly though, I forgot my camera that day, so all I have is memories. Although even more sadly, I have a horrible memory (which is a big part of the reason I started taking pictures back when I was a kid), so even those are fuzzy. That is NOT Mt. Bierstadt that you’re looking at, it’s actually right behind me from this vantage point.
On another note, I realized the other day that it’s almost the end of 2010. Which means… you need another calendar! Remember how I was selling those last year? Hmm, yeah, they weren’t actually that much of a hit, it turns out. But hey, that’s no reason not to do it all over again, right?? So let me know if you want one. They make mediocre gifts (a better idea for that would be a huge canvas print, I could hook you up with one of those too – I just charge what it costs me to print it at Costco), but it’ll at least give you the warm fuzzies.
This concludes our broadcast for November. Next time I see you, it’ll be December!
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel XT, Tamron 28-300mm VC lens. 1/60s, f/22.0, ISO 400. Focal length: 35mm.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
There, see? Something mountainy. Yesterday, I promised a picture of a mountain, and today I delivered. Gosh, I’m so reliable and honest. Sadly though, this is the last picture that I’m going to post until next week, due to the Thanksgiving holiday. So, I sure hope you like it. Otherwise you’ll be left with nothing but a sour taste in your mouth over the entire long weekend. You may even have to go elsewhere (oh, no!) in search of your photographic fix.
This is, as the post title would suggest, a picture from North Cascades National Park, a few hours northwest of Seattle. Sometimes people call the North Cascades “The American Alps”, which always makes me chuckle a little bit. Because people call a LOT of things “The American Alps” or “The Switzerland of America” or variations on the theme. (Are you listening, Ouray, Colorado??) I just love the implicit inferiority in a statement like that. It’s like you’re not even trying to claim that you’re an interesting place on your own. It’s like you’re agreeing with whoever you’re talking to that sure, the Alps are the greatest thing ever and nothing could ever compare, but hey, this is kinda the closest thing we’ve got to it, so I guess you’ll just have to deal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disagreeing, the Alps are really fantastic, and I’d LOVE to live there. But, well, I don’t. So I guess I’ll just have to deal with the American version. How sad.
That’s it, folks! I’ll see you next week!
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens. 1/320s, f/13.0, ISO 200. Focal length: 44mm.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
You’d think that, given that it’s a short week this week (Thanksgiving is this Thursday for those of us in the states – which means that a lot of folks get Thursday and Friday off) that I’d make sure to post every day that I could, so I could at least get in three posts this week. But no, you’d be way wrong. Waaaaaay wrong. Wow, how’s it feel to be so wrong? I bet it stings, just a bit.
We got some snow here in Seattle, so it’s definitely winter now, but I’m still going to keep tossing some fall color pics your way for awhile. Like this one. This came (like a lot of other pics I post here) from the Woodland Park Rose Garden, across the street. Just like the last post, this picture was also edited 100% in Lightroom, instead of Picasa. My feelings about lightroom haven’t changed a whole lot since then. It’s still fairly powerful, but DOG slow. Whereas in Picasa I can take a picture from zero to processed in less than a minute, I find myself taking 10 or 20 minutes for each one in Lightroom. Not because I’m doing anything crazy (I’m still just tweaking the exposure) but just because it’s so dang unresponsive. Garr, it’s frustrating. But, all that being said, I’m leaning toward buying it, because it does have one killer feature that isn’t in Picasa: noise reduction. For those times when you just can’t get around using a high ISO, being able to smooth the noise right out is really really nice. Granted, there are a lot of other choices for noise reduction as well, and in fact I already own an old copy of some software called NeatImage, which works really well. But, the interface to it is a bit kludgy (the newer versions may very well be better, I’ve had this one for several years), and it’s completely external to my workflow and doesn’t fit in nicely, so I find myself very rarely using it. But the way it’s implemented in Lightroom is really nice and intuitive and useful (other than the maddening slowness), so I think it’d be a nice tool to have. But, if I find out that Picasa adds a noise reduction filter that works even reasonably well (or if Picnik adds one!) Lightroom would be gone. I guess I should do some research to see if something like that is coming, before I drop the cash, huh? Hmmm..
Okay, that’s it for today. Tomorrow I’m going to post a mountainy picture, then you’re on your own until AT LEAST next Monday. Man oh man, how are you going to get by??
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens. 1/100s, f/3.2, ISO 800. Focal length: 50mm.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Hello, hello. Looks like I managed to squeeze in one more post this week afterall. Congrats! This is Lower Yosemite Falls, in Yosemite National Park. I had mentioned in the last picture I posted from Yosemite that some bad weather rolled in while we were there, and this was the result. This was the day that we were going to spend driving across the park to the eastern entrance, and also do some hiking here and there. But, it was raining pretty steadily, and they ended up closing the road through the park anyway. So, blah. Gave us an excuse to take the rental car back to the airport early and avoid an extra-day charge. But, it at least made the waterfalls look nice.
Today’s picture is actually interesting for another reason though. Or I suppose I should say, “today’s picture is actually interesting though.” Why’s that, you ask? (Hahaha, who am I kidding, you asking that would imply that you’re reading this, but I know better.) Well, it’s because, a few days ago, I downloaded a trial copy of Adobe Lightroom, and I’m putting it through its paces. Normally, I do all of my image management and touching up using Picasa, the free tool from Google. It’s… not great. But it’s fast, and it gets the job done. It only has a few tools to choose from, but if you know how to use them, it’s actually surprisingly powerful. But, there are definitely limits to what it can do, and often it’s clear that I’m using it in ways that it wasn’t really intended, so it can feel like a giant hackjob at times. Thus, the Lightroom trial.
After a few days, I’ve got mixed feelings about it. On the surface, it seems extremely powerful and slick. But, after using it for a little while, I’ve realized that even with all of the crazy fancy tools, I haven’t really found myself able to do much that I couldn’t do before. I mean, sure, there are tools that Picasa flat-out doesn’t have, light noise-reduction. And the tools definitely allow finer-grained control of exposure and color. But it’s an incremental improvement at best, not a night-and-day difference like I would hope for (and expect, based on the price.) Also, it’s SO EFFING SLOW! It’s amazingly unresponsive. Using it feels like I’m riding a tricycle on the freeway. Granted, a large part of the problem is that I’m using fairly dated hardware. But, even on my crusty old desktop PC, Picasa runs like a champ. Performance and the responsiveness of the UI is one thing I may not be able to get over.
Oh, right, I think I forgot to mention this part: today’s picture is the first picture that I edited purely in Lightroom. Actually, not quite true. It’s the second. But it’s the first one I’m posting here.
I’m going to keep using Lightroom, as it’s entirely possible that I’m not giving it a fair shake, because the controls are clearly not what I’m used to. (I’ve been using Picasa for YEARS – literally! – so I’ve gotten embarrassingly proficient with it.) I mean, I’ve got 30 days of free trial, I may as well use them. But I’ve got a feeling I’m going to run back to Picasa with open arms and tears streaming down my cheeks at the end of this crazy experiment. We’ll see.
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens. 1/200s, f/4.5, ISO 400. Focal length: 11mm.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Hey, look at that, you all got lucky today! Just when you had given up on your dreams of seeing a new post on this lovely Wednesday, a picture of a rose appears. I of course took this one across the street, in the Woodland Park Rose Garden, earlier this summer. I took it using the old 105mm Kiron macro lens (with a Minolta mount!) that I picked up (very) used on Ebay earlier this year. It’s a tough lens to use, for a number of reasons (which I’ll detail out here in a bit), but every time I come across a picture I took with it, it just takes my breath away. I keep trying to justify not using it, and instead using a lens that’s easier (again, see the list below), but man, this lens takes nice shots.
So, what’s so tough about using this guy? Well, mostly stuff that I’ve mentioned several times before. First of all, it’s manual focus. Which I know, is a lame thing to complain about. But, seriously, it’s really easy to get wrong. Especially when you factor in part 2, which is that the aperture control is totally manual. Meaning, it has a physical actuator that can be used to automatically control the aperture (so that it’s wide open while you’re focusing, but then it steps down when you hit the shutter button), but new, modern, electronically controlled cameras don’t know what to do with a little spring-loaded knob that you need to push aside to open the aperture. So, you have to deal with trying to focus with the aperture stepped down, which (obviously) greatly reduces the amount of light you have to, you know, focus with. Also, (somewhat less obviously), stepping down the aperture has the expected effect of lengthening your depth of field, so whereas it’s really easy to see exactly where the point of focus is when the aperture is wide open, it can be really tough when just about everything LOOKS in focus through the view finder, especially when everything is also very very dark.
Then, to top it all off, the range of stuff you can even focus on with this lens is pretty limited. Meaning, you can’t focus to infinity. Why that is has to do with the difference between the lens that uses an old Minolta mount, and the camera that uses a Canon EF-S mount. So, you see, the lens expects there to be a very specific distance between the rear of the lens and the sensor. If you have a lens that has the same mount as your camera, this isn’t an issue, since the mount points are designed to put the lens at exactly the right distance. But, different mounts require different distances. Some longer, some shorter. Canon’s EF mount is generally pretty convenient, because it requires a shorter distance than most others. Meaning, the mount points on the camera will put the lens CLOSER to the sensor than most non-Canon-mount lenses want. Why is this convenient? Well, because you can’t just attach a non-Canon-mount lens to a Canon. You need an adapter. So if the lens wants to be further away than the camera wants the lens to be, then you just make the adapter the correct width to make everybody happy. The camera doesn’t actually care about how far away the lens is, it just has it’s mount points at a certain location. But the lens DOES care, so you can make the adapter the right width. But, as I mentioned, that only works if the lens wants to be FURTHER than the camera’s mount wants it to be. If the distance is the same, or the lens’s ideal distance is shorter… well then it doesn’t quite work. And the way that the “not quite working” is manifested is that the range of stuff you can focus on moves closer. To completely make up numbers, let’s say a lens would normally be able to focus on anything between 10 feet away and infinity. If you mount it (using an adapter) on a camera who’s mount needs a shorter distance, you’ll instead be able to focus on things that are (again using made up numbers) 5 feet away to 20 feet away. It moves the window closer, and makes it smaller. It’s exactly the same thing that happens when you use macro extension tubes. In fact, that’s the whole idea behind macro extension tubes – you move the nearest focus distance much closer to the camera at the expense of being able to focus on things that are more than a couple inches away. So, the old Minolta mount is one of those few exceptions to the “Canon EF is a convenient mount” rule. It actually wants a shorter distance than the Canon EF/EF-S mount. So, if you’re using it as a macro lens (and you’re thinking about tossing an extension tube on anyway) it’s not really an issue. But if you want to use it as a general-purpose lens, well, then you’re out of luck.
Phew, that was a lot more words than I was intending to use today. That wiped me out.
On a completely unrelated note, I’ve started reading more and more the blog of a guy named Bill Hess who lives in Wasilla, Alaska. He’s been a professional photographer for quite awhile, and his blog is regularly updated and is a joy to read. Today’s post in particular was about being invited onto the set of a film they’re filming up in Alaska, so if you haven’t visited his blog before, it’s a great time to start. Click here to visit.
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Kiron 105mm macro lens. 1/200s, aperture unknown. ISO: 400.