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.