One of the things about photographers, we are always trying to make the scene as beautiful as it was in person, but to be honest, without a little trickery it simply isn’t done. So, I thought I would show you what is commonly done.
As you can see it is very blah. Part of the reason, is that I exposed the photograph for the sky, so ground is underexposed. This is a very common technique because sky highlights and details are often very important. Probably not quite as important in this photograph since the clouds are a minor component.
Our eyes when we see a scene like this in real life, will be constantly adjusting the focus and brightness as we look over the landscape. If we look at the sky, our eyes will adjust to see the most detail. And the same thing keeps happening as our mind and eye scan the scene. But it doesn’t seem to happen the same way with a photograph.
So, the battle is to make the photograph look as I remember the scene in my mind. While I want to emphasize certain things about the scene, I believe it should look real enough that people don’t respond that it is fake. I use Adobe’s Lightroom for basic modification of photos. The first step was to modify the photo to make the foreground and bay look as I remember.
I will not detail every step, but the major adjustments were to increase the exposure by a little more than an f-stop, increased the clarity, vibrance, and saturation. The grasses in the foreground, look a little blue… but they were getting a lot of blue sky illumination, so this makes sense. The same thing with the sand and water in the bay. But, this is the way I remember it, so I am happy.
The mountain and sky beyond the bay are over exposed now. Many times the method to fix these issues is with a gradient tool that is found in Lightroom.
The main effect of the gradient tool was to reduce the exposure. I also used a brush to bring out the clouds a little more. The gradient started at the first ridge and ended by the time it hit the horizon at the far mountain. It basically took out an f-stop of exposure that was added earlier. There is some brown in the ocean that looks a bit purple in the smaller version. This is actually a kelp field. When it is viewed in the larger picture, it looks a bit more realistic than it does above.
I believe this picture will become at least a 20 x 30 inch print in my office soon. It captures a magical moment in time with my wife. I will be posting this picture in the project section of this web site soon. It will also be making an entry in the gallery section as well along with some other nice shots of the Big Sur area of California.
As some of you probably know, my wife and I took a vacation to California just before Memorial Day. We had a great time and a couple ideas for blogs came up. Today, I will start with the easier idea.
In the past I have had zero luck getting decent pictures of birds flying. As many of you know, I shoot Sony. Some of the naysayers of mirrorless cameras will tell you that you can’t get good pictures of moving wildlife with a mirrorless camera, or at best, it will be very difficult.
As you can see in the picture above there were lots of birds and it was possible to get reasonably close. It was a beautiful day and the SeaGull is a good sized bird, so I thought, let’s try this flying bird picture thing again.
The first 8 pictures or so, were disappointing. Then, I double checked my auto focus settings. So, I set Zone focusing on the center area. And set AF on continous. I don’t believe that I used the lock-on auto focus. I moved the ISO to 200 and shot in Aperture Priority at 5.6. Shutter times went from about 1/500 to 1/2500th of a second depending on how many rocks were in the picture. I also set my panning 70-200mm lens to a panning mode. I believe it disables the horizontal stabilization when in this mode.
I had the camera set in continuous shooting at 2.5 frames per second. While it would be nice to have a little more speed. I assume the pictures below are about a half second apart and does a decent job of showing the process. My camera can go to 5 frames/sec, but I don’t believe it refocuses between frames at this speed.
Another Landing, this one was pretty close to me and isn’t cropped real heavily.
The last shot was a 1/500th of a second and shows some camera shake. From the original file, I can see that I moved a ways in that half second, nearly a third to a fourth of a frame.
What about birds in flight?
Once I set the auto focus correctly, I was extremely happy with the results. The camera focused quickly and held the focus on the birds as I followed them through the sky. Probably a 90% focus hit ratio or higher. The only real problem I had was what I think was camera shake when the shutter dropped to 1/500th of a second or so. All shots were at about 200mm.
Considering that there are about about 3 or 4 Sony mirrorless cameras that are better suited for this. I am very happy with the results. The only thing
I will be posting these and a few other images in a gallery soon so that you can look at them a little closer.
Just like a good carpenter wants to have quality tools in his tool box, and the right tool for the right job. So, the Pro wants to be in the same place, good equipment and the right lens or lighting equipment for the situation.
For the most part full frame cameras are used by the professional. These cameras in my opinion can produce images comparable and probably better than the medium format camera of 30 years ago. Some of the high end fashion and magazine cover shooters may use a medium format digital today. But the expense can be very high, up to $45,000 just for the camera. The lenses aren’t inexpensive either. It should also be pointed out that the pro may use any other cameras from the advanced amateur in some situations. The APS-C and micro 4/3rds is adequate for work that won’t get past the web and shallow or razor thin depth of field isn’t needed. Many are also considering the 1″ sensor cameras for their non-paid work, for their family or similar situations. It is a small camera, so they don’t have to carry around huge amounts of gear and in most situations it can produce a good picture.
Another feature that I didn’t hit in the last blog, is that most of the amateur and pro photographers want to shoot in ‘RAW’. The reason that we say, that we want to do it, is to be able to use the increased dynamic range of the photo (usually 14 bit vs 8 bit in jpg). That is true, but it can also save us from errors that we as humans make. Such as setting the wrong color balance, or underexposing, or over exposing. The ability to change, contrast, color balance, brightness can turn an average photo into something special.
In the full frame camera world, there are 4 companies today. Nikon and Canon have dominated in the past. Sony has made significant gains that the last few years. And, Pentax is just now re-entering this market. I say re-entering because in the past, they made very popular cameras for the 35mm film market. They made one attempt to make a full frame digital camera a few years ago, but it was a flop. Their new full frame K-1 is getting very good reviews and for the Pentax faithful, it will provide a good place to land. Pentax, it should be noted, has a couple entries in the medium format category as well, which are reasonably well priced in their sector.
The full frame camera can run from about $1500 to $6000. So what are the differences? One of the differences, is that the pro would like a camera that is reasonably weather proof or resistant and is sturdily built so that it can with stand the occasional hard bump or drop. But, there are also other differences and I will try to explain by breaking photographers into 3 categories, Portrait, Landscape, and Sports.
The portrait photographer is looking for color depth on the top of his list. Ability to shoot photos quickly is good, but he usually has to wait for his studio strobes (lighting) to recharge a half second or 2 seconds. So shooting 5 or 15 photos in a second isn’t too important.
The landscape photographer is looking for dynamic range. In other words to be able to catch detail in the shadows and in bright sunlight. Again shooting 5 frames a second doesn’t matter. A high resolution camera will probably be at the top of the list as well.
The sports photographer is looking to be able to shoot a many frames per second and to have an excellent focusing mechanism to follow the action. He also wants a camera that he can push to a high ISO, so that he can use a fast shutter speed and stop motion, also to reduce camera motion blur. Resolution usually isn’t as important to a sports photographer, because lots of pixels will slow his camera down.
I would like to cover two more topics quickly.
The first is a short discussion of how these cameras are viewed in the market place.
Canon and Nikon are the old standbys and have a large installed base and due to the investment that people have in their lens systems, it is difficult or at least a well thought out decision to move to a different manufacturer. They both make excellent lenses. Sony has been the ‘other’ guy for a while. Sony of course makes their own sensors and they also make all the Nikon FX and DX sensors. Canon has fallen behind some in the last few years in their sensor quality, showing more noise in shadow areas and not being able to pull as much detail out of underexposed areas. In fact an independent rating organization (dxoMark.com) rates the sensors in cameras and Sony and Nikon cameras completely dominate the top 16 places of the full frame cameras, with Canon finally coming in at number 17. Canon’s last two releases show some progress in this area, these cameras haven’t been rated by DXO yet, but they will probably crack the top 10, probably not past that.
Sony has taken a progressive approach and is making their cameras without a mirror. All 4/3rds cameras and many APS-C camera are mirrorless. These cameras are gaining strength in the market place. Native Sony lens selection has been very limited until recently, but the design allows Canon, Sony A mount, Nikon and other lenses to be used by using an adapter. People like the idea of not having a mirror that is causing vibrations and the view finder showing exactly what will be in the picture. The EVF has improved enough in the last few years that many consider it better. There is also some size savings that many consider an advantage. Speed of focusing isn’t up to the level of the best DSLRs, but the last camera released by Sony in APS-C format has made the focusing debate a close call. Better in some situations, not as good in others.
The second one is the concept of the ‘bridge’ camera. Basically, a bridge camera is a long zoom fixed lens camera. It will probably zoom out to 200mm and some cameras up 2,000mm effective focal length. These exist in the 1/2.3″ format as well as the 1″ format.
Customers in this category will have a very broad range of choices and desires. But, remember they are interested in controlling most every part of photography. This includes Field Of View (FOV) and Depth of Field (DOF).
Cameras with 3 different sensor sizes fall into this discussion. 1″, 4/3″, and APS-C. There are interchangeable lens cameras and fixed lens cameras available in all three categories. I put the 1″ sensor in this category, because you can start to do a good job in controlling depth of field with this sensor and low light shooting starts to improve significantly. But you will also see that costs start to escalate significantly in this category.
Nikon was the first company to attack this segment with their One series. Just to put a line in the sand, the camera sell for about $900 today. Lots of good features, but my problem with this camera is the f4.0 lens. Since it is a smaller camera, I would have liked to see a f2.8 lens. For an ILC, switching lenses and other hassles of this type of camera, there needs to be more reward. Faster Prime lenses can be purchased. Lenses run about $150 to $900 for this camera.
Recently Nikon added fixed lens cameras to their 1″ or CX line. Actually these are called DL cameras for $650 to $900 depending on the lens attached. These cameras begin with a f-stop of 1.8 and the longest zoom has wide angle f-stop of 2.8. The Camera with the longest zoom 24-500mm has an f-stop range of 2.8 to 5.6. The least expensive camera has a 24-85mm zoom and an f-stop range of 1.8 to 2.8 for $650. The mid-range has a 18-50mm zoom and the same 1.8 to 2.8 f-stop range for $850 (wide angles are generally more expensive).
While Sony wasn’t the first to market with a 1″ sensor, they do make all the 1″ sensors for Nikon and of course for themselves. But, Sony, is about the only camera maker that is seeing profits go up, and I think to a large degree it is because of cameras in this category. Sony was the first to offer the 1″ sensor in a fixed lens camera. They offer 7 different cameras in this segment. Prices range from $500 to $1,500 for these cameras. The $500 model, RX-100, doesn’t have the BSI, but it has a good 28-100mm lens which is very functional and a maximum f-stop of 1.8. The most expensive (RX10-III) has the BSI sensor, 24-600mm lens, and a 2.4 to 4.0 f-stop range on the zoom. Not to mention 4k video with 960 fps video at 4k for slow motion effects. While these cameras are expensive, they are loaded with features that make them very capable.
These cameras will provide much better low light capability than cell phones and much better zoom performance than the 1/2.3″ sensors. Plus, what they can do with video makes them very attractive.
Then there are the micro 4/3rds format. This is a larger sensor, and I think all cameras made in this format are ILCs. Panasonic and Olympus sell this format. There is a large installed base and lots of lenses that can be purchased to custom fit your needs. If a person wants an ILC system, this sensor size is the smallest that I would recommend. Bodies without lenses start at about $400 and go up to about $1300. Lenses cost about $150 to $2500, although the vast majority are $200 to $600. But, it is a huge selection which is nice.
The next sensor size is the APS-C. About every major camera maker is in this category. Although there is a divide between Mirrorless and DSLR. I won’t touch that controversy today, but I do have my opinion. But, ultimately they are capable of producing the same quality pictures. Body only packages begin at around $300 and basic lens kit packages start at around $400. A high end body will be around $1600. Lenses start at around $150 and go up to a little over $2000. So due to the fact they are a little larger they are a bit more expensive than the 4/3rds lenses. These camera lens combinations can provide excellent results in a variety of situations. They will generally provide better low light capability than their 4/3rds brethren.
Remember I talked about some advantages to being small to level the playing field. One of them is that the 1″ cameras are capable to doing faster frame bursts than the APS-C cameras. They also might be able to provide better FPS in the video mode as well, which will result in better slow motion effects. Basically, since the sensors are smaller and usually a few less pixels, they can read the data off the sensor faster, and move on to the next frame or picture quicker.
As you can see there is a big range with what you can do here and spend. $500 can get you into a good system. If, being small and taking very good pictures in a variety of situations, the 1″ sensor with a fixed lens is the way to go. If you want more flexibility and don’t mind carrying around a little more weight, the MFT and APS-C are good choices.
I want to start out this blog on why today’s camera phones actually do a pretty good job. If you go by the ‘size matters’ analogy, quality should be poor at best since a full frame camera is about 50 times larger. The better cell phones have sensors that are just a little smaller than the green 1/2.5″ rectangle below at 1/3″. I should point out that this diagram is not to scale. Depending on your screen, maybe 3x larger than life.
One of the smaller negative films, disc camera, had an image size of about the 2/3″ rectangle, but image quality was less than what a modern cell phone can do today.
To keep things a bit simpler, let me wave a hand and describe the factors that level the playing field between a large sensor and the smaller sensors. Basically picture quality relates to a signal to noise ratio. In general, a larger sensor will create more noise. The relationship isn’t linear, but it levels the playing field some. Also, another development in the last few years is BSI, back side illumination. This has improved low light performance greatly in the cell phone world.
As we are talking about leveling the playing field, it should also be noted that the cost of making a fast lens for a small sensor is cheaper. It is also easier to design a zoom lens with a smaller sensor.
Ok, so we have the basics down, right? Let’s talk about the person who would like a camera with a better zoom, Type 1.
A point and shoot camera with a 1/2.3″ (6.17 x 4.55 mm) BSI sensor (just a little bigger than the 1/2.5″ sensor) and a 30x zoom can be bought for around $350. In other words, it covers a 24-700mm full frame equivalent focal length. It has a minimum f-stop of f3.5 to 6.4. It will take good pictures in sunlight when zoomed in for your kids ball games… but it will struggle for an indoor shot at graduation or something like that. Most of these cameras have a minimum f-stop around 3.5, so while the sensor is larger the f-stop doesn’t let in as much light… so shooting a group picture in a dimly lighted restaurant won’t be any better than your cell phone. Your cell phone does well because it has an f-stop of about f2.2 or f2.4.
Or a Canon with the same size BSI sensor and a 12x zoom (25-300mm) for about $200. This camera has an f-stop of 3.6 to 7.0, so it has considerably less zoom, and on average it will probably perform less well in low-light situations compared to your cell phone. But, the low light performance difference may not be noticeable by most people. The picture above is of a another Canon that was released at the same time, 10x instead of 12x zoom, f-stop of 3.0 to 6.9, and not BSI sensor for $50 less.
These cameras are small enough to put in a large pocket or purse, so they are easy to take with you. Pretty much every brand has a camera or two in this range. But, due to the quality of the cell phones today, the market for these simple point and shoot cameras has decreased in the last few years. But, if you are Type 1 and want some real zoom on your camera, this is the least expensive way of doing it.
Questions? Please feel free to ask in the comments or e-mail me.
I am amazed at the changes in the photography world in the last 20 years. Yes, cameras have become little computers that gather images to last forever. I bought my first digital camera in June of 2000. I wasn’t on the bleeding edge at this point, but I was on the leading edge.
In 2000, I will put photographers in 4 categories:
Casual shooter, probably owned an instamatic or a smaller film size that had limited capabilities, but it was inexpensive to buy.
Intermediate photographer. They probably owned an inexpensive 35mm camera with a fixed or zoom lens that was easy to carry around and could provide nice pictures.
Advanced Amateur or professional. They owned an SLR camera that used 35mm film, but with a large lens selection and better lenses, they were able to create better pictures
The Professional, They probably used a 35mm camera and also a medium format camera and maybe large 4×5 cameras.
One characteristic that was true then and is still true today, bigger is better (in most situations). It makes sense, a bigger camera/lens/film/sensor will catch more light which makes it easier to capture a better detailed picture. This is true today with digital cameras, but there are some factors that level the playing field some.
When I bought my first digital camera in 2000, the technology had advanced enough that a digital camera could be bought to satisfy the needs of all four categories. Although they didn’t satisfy all the needs of the advanced amateur or Professional. But most professionals saw that technology was changing and digital was the future, so they adapted and learned the technology along the way. Ok, one of the best Professional cameras in the 2000, was a joint effort between Kodak and Nikon, that cost about $10,000 and had 2MPixels (MP). It did take good pictures though.
Fast forward to today. A quality Professional full frame (35mm) will cost $2,000 to $6,000. These Cameras will have anywhere from 25MP to 50MP. Plus expensive lenses to go with it. Times have changed.
Let’s look at our 4 photography categories.
The Casual shooter is happy with their cell phone. And, they should be, the modern cell phone can take better pictures than what the film cameras they were buying in 2000 were capable of doing.
The intermediate photographer is using their cell phone, but they may be buying a digital camera that has a significant zoom. Since their cell phone doesn’t really zoom. But, they aren’t overly concerned with low light shooting and depth of field.
The advanced amateur is concerned with low light shooting and depth of field control in their pictures. They probably have an interchangeable lens camera (ILC)
The Professional will of course have several cameras. But their best camera will most likely be a Full Frame capable of shooting 20MP and up pictures. They may also go up a step to a Medium Format digital camera (costing $8,000 to $45000). Some still shoot film in the medium and large format categories. Yes, some still shoot film in the 35mm format, but they are becoming a rare breed, and I don’t expect to see a revival as we are seeing with albums/records in the music world.
In the next 3 blogs, I’ll look at what cameras make sense in categories 2, 3, and 4.
This is actually a commercial that Sony created for the Thailand market. It is really funny. It is a parody pointed at the extremely large DSLRs on the market and how there tends to be a tendency to not put slick and easy features in them, because it is not ‘Pro’. I hope you enjoy it.
I know that I said in one of my earlier posts, that part of the reason that I wanted to blog was to help myself grow in my photographic ability, and also as a person.
Well, today is the first test of that. I was happy with the way Ruby’s photo shoot went, but well, it wasn’t perfect. So, here is my full honest report.
We took these on one of those days when it was cloudy most of the day, and then turned very sunny in the late afternoon. Cloudy days can actually be great days for pictures, it is easier to saturate the colors and very seldom do we have nasty shadows to deal with. So, I had full sun to work with and the show must go on. But, there are ways to deal with it.
The two images above aren’t sized the same, but you can see the difference between using a flash and not using a flash. The image on the left isn’t using a flash and the one on the right is. the flash was off camera above the subject and about 45° from the shooting angle. The flesh tones are more even and you can see Ruby’s eyes better. But, we still have nice highlights on her hair. On a larger image you can see the reflection of the flash in her eyes, which adds interest as well. After taking the pictures too, I like the green grass and purple creeping charlie because it adds color to the photo. The trees are too close to her hair color… although the sun highlights save it.
But the problem was, since I wanted to shoot wide open… which on this lens is f2.8, I had too shoot 1/500th of a second shutter speed. This forced the flash to go into HSS mode. It works, but with a flash that is marginally strong enough to do this… it overheated eventually.
This picture is nice, but shows some minor effects of the flash. You can see Ruby’s chin shadow on her neck and the dolls hair shadow is visible as well. But, you can still see contours on Ruby’s face and clothing, so it isn’t bad. I switched to a wider angle lens to get some of the purple flowers in front of the subject, which I think worked pretty well. I probably should have put the beauty dish on the flash to soften the light some which would have been better. Next time in these conditions I will do that.
The other point, which I was well aware of, is that a major challenge is to get the child or photographic model to relax. We tried multiple times to get her to relax, but not always as successful as I would have liked. But, while walking back to the car, I was messing with the camera, trying to figure out if I did something wrong with the flash to cause it to stop working. But, we told Ruby that we were done. When we did that she started to act like a child and picked some small white flowers and tried to give them to me. At this time, I got three of my favorite pictures. What I find interesting is that I can still see her left eye through the flowers, which to me means that she was interacting with the camera or me… kind of special.
About two years ago, we took a very memorable DreamTrip to Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico. One of the highlights, was a guided tour into the mountains to see
the real Mexico. In particular, San Sebastián, Jalisco, Mexico. Just outside of San Sebastián there was a lovely Tequila Hacienda.
It was operated by a man of spanish decent. It was a joy to see a small operation operated by a delightful man with a strong passion for what he is doing.
We learned that the only real Tequila is made in the Mexican state of Jalisco. The worm that is often thought of as residing in the bottom of the bottle, is only an imitation to confuse us ignorant americans (I plead guilty).
I have never brewed beer or wine at home, but I did do a research project while in college on the feasibility of farm scale ethanol plants. The process is basically the same, but with more care in choosing the materials, recipe, and love of the process.
The first step is the harvest of the Blue Agave plant. They are interested in the bottom part which looks a little like a pineapple. There are fields of these plants in this area, almost like we see corn in central Iowa. The ‘pineapple is diced into small sections for better cooking and later for the fermentation process.
Next it has to be cooked. The cooker is the half dome furnace. It almost looks like an igloo, but obviously for cooking. You can see some of the smoke or moisture seeping out through the seams of the block (visible near the top left hand corner). These joints need to be sealed for the best results. You can see where he has filled the seams with the darker mud in the picture below. He was filling the cracks as our tour bus arrived.
After it cooks for about 2 days (if my memory is correct), it is put into barrels along with water and yeast to ferment. When it is done fermenting the solids are removed and the distillation process begins. The distillation occurs in the piping and furnace behind the operator. The final product is in the barrel on the right side of the picture above.
At this point we were all waiting for the sampling to begin. And yes, it was very good and we did bring home some. Everybody on the tour had a good time and Don Lalin sold significant Tequilla. Some of the people on the tour also toured the ‘more commercial’ plant in Puerto Vallarta, they said this tour was much more fun and had the craft appeal which is so important today.
Hi, my name is David Smith. While many photographers go by their name (you know Bill Jones photography). David Smith photography is just too plain for me. I am a 60+ embarking on second, maybe third career, but it is unbelievably fun.
It is my goal to provide quality professional photos for my clients, but along the way, provide education to my clients and to whoever else wishes to read my blog and become a better photographer.
One thing about photography, it is a journey, even the best photographers can become better. So, I am not going to present myself as somebody who always gets the best picture, but it is my goal to continually get better and provide interesting photographs that can be enjoyed for generations.
My journey began as a young boy. My father had dark room equipment and I couldn’t wait for the days when we would put the newspaper over the basement windows to create our basement darkroom. Watching a picture appear in the developer solution was magic in my mind. Photography has had a grip on me ever since then.
Eventually, while in College, I finally got an SLR camera. It was fun to finally to be able to better compose photographs and use focus for my creative nature. My major was agricultural engineering and we were required to take a limited number of S&H electives. I decided it would be fun to take a photo journalism course. I did it just to have fun. At the end of the course, my instructor suggested that I should consider a career in photo journalism. I decided at the time that engineering would provide a better future. But, it is time to pursue that dream.
I went to graduate school and was able to pursue a number of photo opportunities with my spare time. I was able to get a Canon AE1 which is a legendary classic along with an AT1 (manual exposure) and a small assortment of lenses. I did a number of informal portraits, a couple weddings, sports photography, and many news photo shoots. Shooting ISU basketball and football games on the field was great fun. While, I didn’t have the fast and long lenses of the Register’s ‘Big Peach’ photographers, I thought I did pretty well. Learning to anticipate plays and where to position myself was of great value. The same is true today. Where do you position yourself with respect to the light? When do you anticipate a smile or the look on the face that you desire?
I then got married and there were other priorities. I still had my cameras, but it was more about family pictures and catching simple memories. I had become increasingly frustrated on how to organize my photos. Then on a vacation to Colorado, I lost many photos due to user error (ok, I am not perfect). Digital was starting to happen at this time. While the quality didn’t compare to good 35mm photography, the ability to Catalog and organize the photos on my computer was very attractive to me.
My first Camera was a Sony DSC-S50. Then a DSC-F717 followed by an Olympus E500. These were followed by a Sony NEX 5n and now a Sony A7 II. Another blog post will describe what I learned from this.
I will go into more detail on these stages in my life later. But, for now, keep those shutters clicking!