Category Archives: 50mm F2.5

The San Diego Waterfront

It’s been a little more than a week since my last post.  My wife,  2 Cairn Terriers and I spent the Thanksgiving holiday at the Chula Vista RV Resort on San Diego Bay (if you have an RV I highly recommend staying there).  We had a wonderful time together, and I was able to do a little shooting!

In addition to the photography, I also need to mention a resource that photographers should note when in San Diego – Georges Camera & Video.  There are so few real camera stores around anymore that it’s a real treat to find one.  I love George’s Camera, it’s packed full of all things photography, and they have a friendly and very knowledgable staff.  I was able to find a Lowepro slinger bag that is working perfectly!  If you’re in the North Park area of San Diego, be sure to visit George’s Camera!

Back to the photography!   One of the things I’ve been wanting to do while in San Diego was to take a night/evening shot of the San Diego waterfront.  I’ve seen so many great shots by other photographers online, and have always wanted to try it for myself.

One of my challenges was finding a suitable location.  Although I’ve been to the Chula Vista and Coronado areas many times, I just couldn’t seem to find the right spot.  That is until my morning bike ride around the Bay.  The San Diego Bay Bike Trail goes right past the RV Resort and dumps you out near the Coronado Golf Course.  I continued to follow it around and ended up going under the Coronado Bridge and found Coronado Ferry Landing.

Coronado Ferry Landing was the perfect place for my night shot of the San Diego waterfront!  I was directly across the Bay from Seaport Village, the large hotels and convention center.  Another important consideration was that this area looked very safe for a guy walking around alone with camera gear.  I planned on using my Canon 60D on a tripod and there’s nothing stealthy about it.  Unfortunately, it’s large and can attract attention.

I actually made 2 visits to the Coronado Ferry Landing.  My 1st visit was just ok, meaning my images were not bad, but not exactly what I was working for.  The fog started to roll in early and gave the image below  a hazy, grainy look.  See for yourself:

Above – Canon 60D, RAW, Auto ISO (3200), 0.8 seconds, 50mm Canon F2.5 lens.

My 1st visit was not a complete waste of time, as I did learn a couple of things.  One of the things I learned was to do a better job of keeping an eye on the weather.  Fog can add some interest and mystery to an image, but I didn’t want it for this shot.  Another thing I learned was to pay attention to the settings on the camera!  I forgot to check the ISO, and didn’t notice until I was done, that it was set to Auto.  Sometimes that’s ok, but not this time.  I wanted to control the ISO setting, not let the camera decide.  I also didn’t do any bracketing of exposures with HDR in mind.

I waited a couple of days to try again.  This time the weather would cooperate and the fog would not be a factor.  I checked all of my cameras settings and configured it to shoot 3 bracketed exposures, +1 and -1 f-stop from the original exposure.  Here’s the result:

Above – Canon 60D, F8, 0.8 seconds, ISO 400, Canon 18-55mm EFS IS Lens.  This is an HDR image.

The shot above was taken with the sun just starting to set.  There was a beautiful twilight glow and the lights were just starting to come on.

This next image was taken when it was much darker and is a single RAW file, no HDR.

Above – Canon 60D, F16, 15 seconds, ISO 400, Canon 18-55 EFS IS Lens.  Singe RAW image.

I was very pleased with the image above.  This was an experiment with a longer, slower shutter speed.  I did this purposely to see if it would have a smoothing effect on the water.  I think it did, and as an added bonus, brought a little more detail to the sky by making the clouds visible.  They would have otherwise been lost in the darkness with a shorter exposure.

That’s it for now.  I have more photos to go through and edit.  Maybe it’s time to go into more detail on the HDR process I follow.  I’ll give it some thought and see what I can do.  In the meantime, go out there and experiment.  You’ll never know what can happen unless you try.  Who knows, maybe you’ll surprise yourself with a photo that really pops!

If you have some advice for evening/night shooting, don’t be bashful!  Share your thoughts and images and I’ll post them here!

Until next time – Happy Shooting!

 

Astrophotography

Astrophotography is a very interesting niche in the world of photography.  This unique form of photography is very different from what one would normally take pictures of and can be very expensive.

So far, I’ve only really dabbled in this form of photography, and have had some very limited success.  Although I have 3 telescopes, I’ve learned that they are not really suited for astrophotography.  Since none of them has a motor driven Equitorial Mount, (computer controlled, star finding, sky tracking mount) I’m limited as to what I can do.

There are a few different methods of using a telescope for astrophotography.  They are:

  • Afocal
  • Prime Focus
  • Piggy Back

Afocal is probably the easiest.  All you need to do is put you camera lens up to the eyepiece of the telescope and press the shutter.

Prime focus can be a little tricky.  Using an adaptor, you connect your camera body to the telescope and it becomes your lens.

And finally, the piggy back method.  To use this method you would mount your camera to the tube of your telescope.  The telescope should have a very stable Equitorial Mount, aligned with celestial north, and a motor drive.

I’ve only very briefly touched on some very detailed subjects, so I think it’s only fair that I provide some links that you can use to get more information:

Astronomy For Beginners,  Popular Photography How-To: Astrophotography, and Astropix

Here’s a picture I made of the moon, and the setup I used.  To make the moon photo, I connected my Canon 60D to my Orion 90mm Mak telescope (Prime Focus Method).  I also had the 60D connected to my 13″ Macbook Pro so I could use Canon’s EOS Utility program.  By doing this, I had the benefit of controlling the camera from the computer, and a much larger view screen to work with.

Close Up, Prime Focus Method 60D and Orion 90mm Mak

60D and Orion 90mm Mak

The Moon

There’s another aspect of astrophotography that I haven’t mentioned yet, and that is wide field astrophotography.  This is where you put your camera on a tripod, and using a remote shutter release, you make long exposures of the night sky.

Wide field astrophotography can be as simple or complex as you want to make it.  The simplest method is to attach the camera to the tripod, point to the sky, focus to near infinite, and release the shutter.  Unfortunately your results will be less than spectacular.

In order to properly perform wide field astrophotography,  you’re going to need to do a little more.  Some of the additional steps include:

  • Increase your ISO  – I use a minimum of 1600
  • Lock your mirror up
  • Attach and use a remote shutter release
  • Shoot in RAW
  • Spend time post processing

There is a lot of great information available online.  Rather than re-write all of it here, I’m going to point you in the right direction and you can do your own research.  To start off, here’s a great post in the Timescapes Forum – Ultimate Astrophotography Resource Thread 

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I’ve had some very limited success with astrophotography.  Part of the problem is my location.  The light pollution is off the scale here (in between Los Angeles and San Bernardino, California) and being able to see anything in the night sky is very difficult.  Because of that I don’t get a lot of practice.  But when I have the chance, I give it a go!  Here are some examples:

The Night Sky

The Milky Way

Both of these were early attempts at wide field astrophotography.  While they are not the greatest night sky images you’ll see, I’m pleased with them (flawed as they are).  I wasn’t really sure of what I was doing at the time, and to have any results at all was amazing.  And staying up to watch the Milky Way come into view is a breathtaking experience!

As for these 2 images, yes, there are quite a few things I could have done differently.  Using my Canon 40D, I had the ISO cranked up to 1600, and my Canon 50mm lens was wide open at F2.5, and finally my shutter speed was 30 seconds.  And there’s the problem, 30 seconds is too long with a fixed tripod!  That’s why the stars are little oblong pills instead of neat points of light.  But that’s ok because when I go out again, I will try shortening up the exposure time.  Trial and error yes, but that’s how I learn and figure out things for myself.  One of the things I’ve learned is I need a tracking mount for wide field astrophotography.  You could spend a lot of money and buy a commercial model, or build one yourself.  Here’s a link on how to build you own – Barn Door Tracker.

I’d like to leave you with a link to a website of someone who really knows what they are doing.  The site is GoldPaint Photography,  and in addition to some fantastic examples of wide field astrophotography, you’ll see some stunning time-lapse videos.  Check this site out and be inspired as to what can be achieved with a little knowledge and determination!

Until next time – Happy Shooting!

From Oops to Acceptable!

Are you “that guy”?  The one who comes to family functions with your camera?  In our family it’s usually me.  I just can’t help it, and I’ve been at it for quite a while.  If it’s you, you’ve probably heard the same moans and groans that I have.  But, you are also doing the family a great service!  Things change over time, especially kids and grandkids.  You may be capturing those fleeting moments that will never come again, and looking back at your photos most of your family will agree.

I found myself in a family function a couple of weeks ago.  For reasons I can’t explain I got out my trusty old Canon 40D and 50mm F2.5 and new Tamron 70-200 f2.8.  All of this gear fit nicely into my Tamrac medium sized slinger bag.  I could have brought my much newer 60D or Sony NEX3, but just wanted to use the 40D that day.

It was fun sitting back and snapping a few frames without having to intrude in the grandkids play or interrupt conversations.  The faster lens that I had with me also allowed some indoor shooting without flash.  This was a great event to welcome back an out of town family member, an addition to the family, and bring four generations together (offering many photos ops)!  As the day wore on, I did end up popping the flash on, and setting it to fill rather than provide all of the illumination.

For this post, I want to share just one of those moments.  To start off, here’s how my camera was set up:

  • F/5.6
  • 1/200 second
  • ISO 200
  • Auto white balance
  • Aperture priority
  • RAW
  • Fill flash (to soften any shadows caused by high midday sun).

Here’s the original as it came out of the camera:

While it’s not bad, it could also be a lot better.  To critique this, I’d have to say that I’m not pleased with the overall composition.  I like my subjects expression, it’s not one of those kids mugging for the camera forced smiles.  And her hair is a little wind blown, very natural for a kid at play.

Leaning against a tree seems to work, and there’s no look of discomfort here.  I think main problem area is how her hands are cut off.  Unfortunately it looks like she has two long stumps instead of arms.

There’s another distracting element, and that’s the exposure.  It was the middle of the day, no clouds in sight, and very bring out.  Not really the best time for photos, but sometimes you have no choice.  The background is on the verge of being completely blown out, and there are some hot spots on my subject.

Luckily, I had the camera set for RAW.  Shooting in RAW has it’s advantages, and being able to adjust your original exposure by up to 2 stops is definitely one of them.

When I open the file in Photoshop, the 1st thing that happens is Camera Raw starts:

As you can see, there are quite a few adjustments that can be made, including Exposure.  In the next screen shot I made a couple of small tweaks.
You can see by the pointer/arrows where I made my adjustments.  To try and tame some of the bright areas I decreased the exposure by 3/4 of a stop, and increased my blacks by 10.  This seemed to add just enough contrast to the scene without going overboard.
Before opening the image in Photoshop, I’m going to crop it here.  No real reason to do it in Camera Raw rather than Photoshop, it’s really your choice.  I did it because I wanted to see how this would look as just a head and shoulders shot, and I like it much better.  
Now that I’ve finally gotten the image in Photoshop, there’s really only one thing I want to do.  I have a filter by Nik Colorefex for portraits called DarkenLighten Center.  Here’s what it looks like:

The only adjustment I made using this filter is the placement of center.  For this photo, I put the center right on her nose.  Here’s the result:

Personally I like this version much better.  Most of the distracting brightness of the background has been eliminated, and by focusing on a larger head and shoulders shot theres more personality and playfulness jumping out of the image.
For the critics, yes I agree with you, I could have done any number of things differently to make this the perfect image.  But this is what I had to work with and made the best of it.  This shot isn’t going on the cover of a magazine or will probably not win any awards, but it makes me happy!  And I’m sure that the rest of the family and some friends will agree that this shot did capture this little girls personality perfectly in that moment in time!
My intent in sharing all of this is to encourage anyone reading to take your camera to family events.  Don’t worry about the comments or any complaining.  Without being too much of a pain, grab some shots.   Some will be better than others, but that’s ok.  Maybe some of the information above will help you tweak a couple of shots you didn’t think worked into something worthy of your scrapbook or online album!
* Thanks to Andy for giving me permission to use this image, I appreciate it!