Sunday, December 29, 2013

Delays, Delays, Nothing But Delays

As usual, I meant to have this post before the holidays had arrived, not after. Oh well, distractions abound. I wanted to wish all my readers a happy and joyous holiday and New Year's celebration. I will be photographing Gwar in concert tonight at a venue known for having proper concert lighting. 
If you are unaware of who, or what Gwar is, I urge you to look up their live work on YouTube, it's a sight to behold. I fully expect to come back with ruined clothes (Gwar are well known for spraying their audience with all sorts of liquids during the show) so I'm going in grungy outfits with a rainpouch for my camera gear.
I probably won't get to processing and sorting the pics until the New Year, so check back here in 2014 to see samples.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Something I've been meaning to do

I've been wanting to play a musical instrument for decades, and some years ago I bought a number of guitars, thinking I'd find time to learn. Well that never happened and I ended up giving them away to a friend, and selling the more valuable ones.
Fast forward to today, and my life has changed (for the better!) so with more free time, I picked up a bass guitar and signed up for lessons. This is an Ibanez SR500 in solid mahogany good with active pickups. The sound is stunning, deep rumbling to light tones, and I hope I can do it justice.
Firmly attached to the Ibanez is Ollie, a snow corn snake who was a rescue. It's quite difficult to get snakes to pose properly for the shot and I ended up with a dozen or so outtakes.
Gear used: Nikon D2x, Tamron 17-35mm lens, Manfrotto tripod and studio lights set at 45 degrees from each other.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fun With Chemistry

I ordered a bunch of frozen meat (mice to be specific, for my reptiles) and it came packed in dry ice. A huge block of it. So after I did the usual fun experiments, it was time to break out the camera and lights for some shots.
Here is one, just before the bubble burst. Shot with my Nikon D2x, the 50mm Macro, tripod, and a set of studio lights, one giving a 50% flash to light it up evenly. There is no post processing on these shots, they are all straight out of the camera.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


One advantage of a crowded venue...crowd shots! Given the lighting from the angle I was, I had to drop the shutter speed way down to 1/40 of a second, risking motion blur but felt any blur would add to the energy of the shot


Toxic Holocaust lead singer/guitarist here. The band consists of only three members, so getting a group shot is difficult. Add an active mosh pit and it was pretty much no chance of one. Nonetheless, I did get some dynamic shots on individuals here.

Ramming Speed

Even with the cyclical lighting the lighting was only so-so. And of course some of the most dynamic poses came when the lights were at their worst.
Case in point, great pose, terrible lighting, so off to LightRoom for conversion...

Concert Work

Haven't done a packed concert in a while but one came through my town. Local favourites Municipal Waste, along with thrashers Toxic Holocaust and punk bands In Defense (pictured here) Ramming Speed and Unsacred.
I knew the show would be packed so my best chance to get some good shots was for the opening acts. There was serious moshing and stage diving going on throughout the entire show so I had to watch where I was, lest I get sucked in and have my camera gear damaged.
I settled on ISO1000, typically with a shutter speed of 1/200 and of course, shot wide open, f/1.8 to 2.8, depending on the lens used. I fluctuated between the 50mm, 28mm and the 80-200mm. The venue was well known (to me) to have very iffy lighting, so I was pleased when I discovered they'd done some upgrades.
Furthermore, the venue was using a lighting computer with a set progression of  lights so it was very easy to time.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Local Nightlife

Went to a great punk/metal show the other night, and these guys were hanging out waiting for the show to start.
Nikon 28mm f/2.8, 1/40sec (it was dark outside) and converted to B/W

Sunday, November 17, 2013


 A study of wood grain and effect on a cloudy day. ISO 100, F/8-11, Nikon D2x. Images converted to B/W.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Can I Play With Madness?

Nearly a full moon, perhaps this weekend it will be. In the meantime, the clear night and bright moon helps with getting the settings dialed in. I'm pretty sure I've got it set now with the reflex lens. f/8, 1/800 sec, ISO100, Tripod (of course) on mirror-up/time delay mode (to minimize blur)
I didn't expect to see it again, it was supposed to be cloudy tonight but fortune smiles upon me again.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Werewolves of London

So I'm fighting a cold this week so I've been laying low, but the moon has been so beautiful lately, that's it's hard not to go shoot it. Nearly full and the skies are clear with no wind ('tad chilly however) so perfect weather to go moon hunting.
Not quite as sharp as the others, still on my 500mm reflex lens, ISO100. I discovered that really dark scenes like this lose a fair amount of detail as the ISo goes up, even slightly, so keeping it as low as it will go but since the moon is nearly full, the extra light it reflects offsets the fast shutter speed, allowing me to capture the image with minimal motion blur. I'm also on some lovely cold medication so if the sentences don't make total sense, blame NyQuil.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I have a wonderful Tamron SP 500mm Catadioptric (AKA reflex, or mirror) lens that I use for the NASA rocket launches. It's also pretty good for shooting the moon (for large definitions of "pretty good") but getting a solid moon shot is somewhat of a trick.
See a reflex lens trades length for portability and weight saving. A normal 500mm lens, like Nikon's latest 500mm f/4 lens, weighs in at 136.9 ounces. That's 8.5 pounds, or equal to carrying a one gallon jug of water your entire photoshoot session. This is in addition to carrying around all your other camera gear...
Then you have the length of the lens, it's 15.4 inches. Quite a beast and not that portable. In contrast, the reflex lens weights a mere 595 grams (1.3 pounds) which is a huge savings in weight, so you can carry it around all day without breaking off your arms. In addition, it's only 3.6 inches long, (with the Nikon mount) so another savings. Unfortunately, the light weight contributes to camera shake since it's not enough weight to help dampen motion, and given the 500mm focal length, you need a fast shutter speed to avoid blurred shots. And because the light path is folded in on itself (the reason it's so short) motion blur is really evident unless you use a tripod. 
But the trade-offs become a non-issue when shooting the moon, since a tripod is going to be mandatory anyway. But there are other disadvantages, and one is a killer:
It's an absolute nightmare to focus properly. Because of the folded light path and trick construction, the lens is hypersensitive to minute adjustments in focus, so it's almost a guarantee your shot will be out of focus unless you are super careful, have lots of practice, or have a camera that has focus confirmation. Actually, you need all three of those to get a good shot out of a reflex lens. Reflex lenses are more than capable of producing great shots, but because they are so finicky, very few people *get* the shot, and as such, reflex lenses have a reputation of being poor substitutes for the real thing.
So, to the moon shot at hand. Contrary to what I had expected, the moon moved at a good pace through my viewfinder, and the initial shots exhibited motion blur. Not much mind you, but enough to dull the image. So, back to research, and try again. I upped the ISO to 800 and changed the shutter speed to 1/1000 of a second. The aperture remained at f/8, since it's fixed anyway (a feature of the folded light path of a reflex lens, you get one aperture only) and took a few shots. 
Unfortunately, what I reduced in motion blur, I gained in noise, which reduced the overall sharpness, so the final result, even after some post processing work, was an image that wasn't to my satisfaction. So, back *again* to try new settings. I reduced the ISO to 200, making noise non-existant, and reduced the shutter speed to 1/200 of a second, which introduced motion blur, but I was able to compensate a little in post, and more importantly, the details remained. 
So to make a long story short, I feel I can get better out of this lens, I just need to find the right combination of settings. Meanwhile, enjoy the shot. More to come as long as the weather co-operates, that is.

Real World Testing

 Laboratory tests rarely reflect the real world. So I thought I'd take out the JC Penney 135mm on a test at the local park. I could not have asked for a better fall day. Near 70 and sunny, the lens performed admirably. I attached it to my Nikon D2x, set the aperture at f/8 and went to town. The pictures you see here have not been adjusted for clarity or sharpness, but have had some colour correction.
The focus on the 135 is nicely damped with a smooth solid feel that never strays from where it's been set. With the built-in lens hood, stray light was kept to a minimum. Store-branded lenses like this (Sears also made some) are hard to find on eBay, so I don't know if they are all this good, or I lucked out here, but ultimately I'm very pleased with the results.

Total Mystery

During any move, commonplace things disappear and little used things...disappear as well. Case in point here, looking for something else entirely, I ran across two un-processed rolls of B/W film. Having no idea what was on them, I made the trip to my local developer and handed them over. 
As it turned out, not much exciting was on either roll, with this image being the highlight. Taken several years ago (at least) at a rodeo, this cowboy was preparing for his ride.
I don't recall any settings used, or even the camera I used, though I suspect it was the Nikon F4s and of course Kodak's BW400CN.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bark At The Moon

Taking a break from my manual focus lens reviews, to shoot with a manual focus lens in a real-world setting.
In this case, the Nikkor 300mm f/4.5 manual focus lens, on my Nikon D2x. It's as difficult to get the moon in focus as it is to make a moon shot look interesting.
This is a 100% crop, to show detail. 1/30sec, f/16, ISO 200, tripod of course.
As the moon comes into fullness, I''ll see if I can't get better shots of it.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Cheap n' Cheerful Part Two

For my next lens test, I am reviewing something of a mystery. It's a lens by JC Penney. For those not in the US, JC Penney was a mid-tier department store that used to sell more than just clothes. They were successful enough in the 70s to sell re-branded camera gear, ranging from the Big Three (Pentax, Nikon and Canon) to numerous smaller ones (Mamiya 35mm SLRs.) Their pull in the photographic world is long gone, but examples of their presence still remain.
This 135mm f/2.8 lens for example:

I picked this lens up on eBay some years ago, in unused condition, for less than 5$US. I've used it here and there, always pleased with the results, but never really delving into its capabilities until now.
For starters, it's a solid chunk of metal and glass. The front rim claims "coated optics" (Yeah, but coated with what?) and comes with a built in retractable hood which slides into place with a pleasing sound. A slight twist of the hood locks it into place, a neat touch on a budget lens.
JC Penney didn't make this lens, but tracking down who did is a mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes.
I've read dozens of articles claiming it was originally made by Nikon/Albinar/Tokina/Sigma/etc. but no authoritative links backing anything up. After hours of reading I'd come no closer to finding out the real manufacturer. It's virtually identical to the Albinar, but Albinar itself was merely a reseller of other lenses, it never made their own, so that's no help.

Regardless of who made the lens, it's a cracking good one. For reasons I'm unclear on, 135mm f/2.8 lenses were easy to make back then with good contrast and sharpness. Here are examples from this lens both full shots, and 100 percent crops. Same rules applied to this shoot as did the Tamron one.

While the Tamron lens is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful lenses I've ever seen, the JC Penney one is better built and has a nicer feel to the focusing.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Post Tamron Len Review

These are just some thoughts on the lens I reviewed below. I'd been meaning to post them earlier, but life gets in the way of a hobby sometimes.
The focus is easy to turn, too easy, there is a sense that the lens will fall out of focus when the camera shifts, but it hasn't happened, at least not yet. The advantage of the free turning focus is you can track a subject with just one finger, and support the lens with the rest of that hand, although I do not shoot video (and probably never will, such things require a completely different skill set) I suspect this lens would be ideal for such a task.

I will be posting more lens reviews in the coming month, starting with another 135mm lens.
Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Cheap 'n Cheerful Lens Review

Since I have been able to acquire my favourite Black and White film, I've wanted to use more manual focus lenses on the Nikon F3HP. Trouble is (or was) that I had only a few manual focus lenses. So off to eBay to find some cheap n' cheerful (under 20$ US) lenses to test and shoot with.
Over the 40 some-odd years the Nikon F mount has been around, hundreds of no-name makers have put out lenses in that mount. I thought it would be fun to find some of those no-name brands, long forgotten, and put them through their paces.
I've not been successful in that regards.
What I have fouond, however, are some very nice well-known brand lenses. Starting with Tamron.
I've actually had this one for some time now, but I didn't have a proper mount for it. Way back when, Tamron had a brilliant strategy, rather than make lenses for each mount (Canon FD, Nikon F, Pentax K, Minolta MD, etc) and increase production costs, make one lens with a universal mount, then sell special mounts for each camera. Thus, Tamron's Adaptall mount was born.
This 135mm f/2.8 lens was bought for pennies (well under 5$ US) because it was advertised with a Canon FD mount. FD mounts are obsolete these days (Canon switched to EF and to a lesser extent, EF-S) and converting them to modern digital Canons is somewhat problematic, so FD lenses languish in the dustbin of history and as such are dirt cheap on eBay. But since it was an Adaptall mount, off the FD mount went, on went the F mount and the lens could have a new life. For starters, look at this lens, it's a work of art:

The lettering and distance lines are of a beautiful font rendered in a delicate shade of blue. The feet markings are in orange, easily distinguishable from the meters, the silver of the lens stands out and brings something special to the look. The knurled focus ring has the perfect amount of grip and the built in lens hood snaps in place with satisfaction. In short, this lens is a work of art. I wish modern lenses looked half as good as this one does.
But a stunning lens is nothing without the sharpness and clarity to back it up. Thus, a test was born.

In order to test the lens against the other ones I have, the test needed to be fair, and repeatable. All elements had to be identical, from lighting down to subject matter. For all my Cheap 'n Cheerful lens tests, the following parameters were in effect:

Nikon D2x
ISO 100
1/5 sec shutter speed
Two 150 watt hot lights on full burn
Xevoz Quick Slinger toy.

No PhotoShop or other alternations have been done to the subject. What you see, in terms of clarity and sharpness and all other factors, is what you get.

First image here, the full shot:

And here is a 100% crop of the above image:

Tamron produced this lens from 1976 through 1979. When it was introduced, the initial price (in Japan) was 24,000 yen, this (roughly) translates to 500$ US today. So the depreciation value is pretty much total. Given this was long before any kind of special coatings or optical tricks, or even computer aided design, the lens holds its own for sharpness and colour rendition. Now this is a "laboratory" experiment, under controlled conditions, and eventually this will only be used on film cameras, where the grain of the film will come into play, as well as the weather and so forth. BUt I am pleased with the lens, very pleased, and am actively seeking out other Tamron Adaptall lenses.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Accidental Portraiture

From the metal band, Spiral Fracture. This is their lead guitarist. Nice guy and one heck of a shredder. The lighting when they were on stage was very iffy and most of the pics weren't very good, but I liked the way the rig backlit his hair.
Had my camera cranked to the max settings for this. 50mm f/1.8, 1600ISO, 1/100 sec shutter.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Apocalypse is upon us

 A good friend of mine is in a metal band. A proper thrash metal band and was playing at a local club known to have good lighting. Naturally I had to be there, I've been away from concerts too long and I needed to get back into it.
The show was hampered by two things, my rustiness for one, and the lighting guy was asleep at his job. He only woke up when Hypokalypse (my friend's band) hit the stage. About that time I got my skills back, and here are some of the results.
The band knew how to interact with the audience, which always helps to make good shots, and they had a fog machine which diffused the light, making it better to shoot by.
Nikon D2x, 50mm f/1.8 at 1600ISO with a 1/100sec shutter speed. Run through PhotoShop to reduce noise.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

One Last Action Shot

Again, in film, manual focus 135mm. The scissor dancers were under a tent so the lighting came from the side, with a little fill light from some overhead cans. They were in full swing, leaping, dancing, swirling around. Getting one in focus was quite the challenge. From the local folk fest, shot with my Nikon F3HP

That Old Time Religion

As I mentioned earlier, here are some proper film shots with my Nikon F3HP. There is a smooth look that I just cannot get with a digital SLR. I think in large part because the grain on film is truly randomly placed in the creation process, whereas in digital, there is no true randomness. The top shot was done with a 135mm f/2.8 and the bottom one with my 50mm dedicated Macro at f/8. This was for a contest, of sorts, and I wasn't real pleased with the lighting, but that was part of the rules, so I worked with what I had. A true photographer would have used some GoBos (Go Betweens) so adjust the ambient light to his advantage, sadly I don't have any.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Back to Cheating

 This weekend it was still raining cats and dogs (I know, I just stepped in a poodle) but the Alex Meixner Band was back to rock the local folk fest. Although I wanted to do more film work, I also wanted to save my remaining roles of BW400CN for other things, so out came the D2x and 80-200mm lens.
The lighting at the show was a mix of ambient light from the side of the tent, and white lamps mounted near the ceiling. The pictures I took in colour were uninspiring. The colours were muted and the overall feel lacked punch.
So, out came the B/W conversion tools built into Lightroom. After conversion of a few I felt they were much better, so I converted all of them to Black and White. Here are two of my favourite shots.

By the way, if you look up Alex on youtube, his live shows are much better than his CDs. He really interacts with the audience and gets them going.

An Assortment of Oddities

Around June of this year, my system finally gave up the ghost. Admittedly it was an ancient rig and while I had all my data backed up nine ways from Sunday, re-installing all my software onto a new PC was tedious. Setting things back up the way I was used to (preferences in Lightoom, Chrome, etc.) was a real pain.
Just prior to my PC taking a nosedive I'd shot a large gathering of bands and never really finished processing them after the new PC was up and running. By that point I'd moved on to the Belize shots, Colour Runs and taking care of the new house. So given a rainy three-day weekend (let's hear it for State work) I managed to force myself through them and pick the best.
Here is a selection of them. ISO 1600, 50mm f/1.8 and around 1/125sec shutter speed. The concert was crowded, given Nile were headlining but the lighting was flat, mostly white which made for dull shots. 

Proof That Men Cannot Win

So the other day, my girlfriend and I were discussing pets, and she had mentioned a story about an owner that had lost her cat, and had posted a lost ad on the local CraigsList. The story had a happy ending, as the owner was reunited with her cat, but in the process, had been given a lot of grief from various people claiming she didn't love her cat, etc etc etc.

My girlfriend's comment was that most cats are outdoor animals and should be let out from time to time.
I agreed with her.
She stated I was wrong.
So, there you have it folks, proof positive that even when you agree with women, you are wrong.

As the law of thermodynamics states:
Zeroth: You must play the game.
First: You can't win.
Second: You can't break even.
Third: You can't quit the game.

Now for the record, I am not a cat person, and my gf knows this. When I was agreeing with her, I was agreeing for an entirely different reason, and she knew it. Hence calling me wrong.

But the point still stands, even when we agree with them, we are wrong.
Let that be a lesson to all you male followers of my journal. If a woman says something, grunt and pass out.

It's the only way to win.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

More Film Work

Shooting with a film camera is easy. Shooting with a manual focus lens is easy. Shooting a concert in a brightly lit area is easy.
Shooting a concert with a manual focus lens onto film is difficult. Very difficult. I cannot begin to imagine how concert photographers back then did it. Probably sat and waited for one good shot.
Here is a prime example, an energetic accordion player at a local folk fest, shot in B/W on BW400CN film with the Nikon F3HP using a manual focus 135mm f/2.8 lens. Not sure I nailed the focus however. Nonetheless I am pleased with the shot. I will be doing more folk fest work tomorrow, but I'll be going back to digital cameras and auto-focus lenses. 


We have had a rainy summer here. This is a river that you could walk from one side to the other (about 1/4 mile) without getting your feet wet. As you can see, that's no longer the case. The river is much more interesting when the bottom is revealed, tons of rocks and water-worn branches make for good photography.
Fujicolour film, ISO200, Nikon F5, 17mm lens.

Come on and Join the Vertigo

Same story as above, a colour converstion, shot with the F5 and a 17mm lens, giving that slightly fisheye effect. 
Parking garage staircase near where I work.

Back to Film

I managed to score a deal on my favourite film, BW400CN, which I took out shooting today in my Nikon F3HP. This shot isn't from that roll. Instead, this is from my Nikon F5 in some Fujicolour film, converted to a stylized Black and White look. The proper stuff in undergoing developing and will be here shortly.
Angel, from local Cemetery, 50mm lens.

Government Shutdown

As I have mentioned before, this journal isn't a platform for anything other than photography, but when it interferes with photography, it's fair game to rant about.
Case in point, NASA launches are on suspension until the gov't decides to start back up again. It's still giving money to foreign countries on a daily basis, most of whom don't like us (historically, current NSA events notwithstanding) but furthering man's knowledge of the universe around him? Well that's just gonna have to take a back seat, son.
In any case, no more rocket pictures, links or stories until further notice. But always one to stay topical, here are a few shots of still life for your approval (shown above)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tiger Tiger

So I went to a private zoo today and they had a white tiger cub on brief display. Here he is with his owner (I blew the focus on the shot of just the cub himself as they passed by) over his shoulder.
Cute little guy, will get much larger very quickly.
Nikon D2x, 80-200mm f/2.8 @2.8, ISO400

Friday, September 20, 2013

Simple Seagull

This is what you get when you nail the focus on the reflex lens. The distracting bokeh is minimized because of the textured sand, and the sky behind the gull is uniform. 
The D2x has a focus confirmation setting when using manual focus lenses and it was spot on here (using a tripod helps as well, as reflex lenses are really susceptible to camera shake because the lens is so light.)