georgmi: (madness)
( Dec. 16th, 2010 11:58 am)
...fell on Friday. I begin to suspect that the end result will be a complete revamp of our hosted Web presence.

BigFolio.com is a company that hosts Web sites for professional photographers. They were recommended to me by someone who, it turned out, was Not a Reliable Witness on any front, let alone when recommending services that might have paid him for the favor. And I, flush with dreams of making a decent living at this thing that I really enjoyed and which got me out into the woods on a regular basis, was perfectly situated for the sales pitch.

Sure, $500 for setup fees to use their pre-existing site templates (optimized for hard-coded to 640x480 screens!) seemed a bit excessive, and the $55/month hosting fees were steep, but I'd only have to sell one or two images a month, and I'd be money ahead, right? And it's not like the fees would tax the budget particularly anyway. We could afford it.

All was not to be rosy, however. )

ETA: Looks like the folks at Dotster read my blog. They just sent me a response, it was informative and correct, and it solved my problem.
Last week was, as usual, an exercise in refreshing my memory of photographic techniques and forcing me to follow those techniques to their ultimate conclusions. I am pleased to note that I ended up with several sequences of images that illustrate very nicely some of those processes, and as time allows, I hope to share those progressions to y'all, with pictures.

Case in point, backgrounds and depth of field. Pictures behind the cut to save your bandwidth )
Bracket your depth-of field. Throwing your aperture wide open might blur your background beautifully, but you may also lose important details in your subject. Closing it down all the way will give you more subject detail, but could resolve that pleasing blur back into distracting graphic elements. Sometimes, an endpoint is where you want to be. Other times, you want to live in the middle.

Case in point, this false hellebore leaf:
False Hellebore 1

which I shot at several f-stops, including f/3.5, which lost the curve of the back edge of the leaf, and f/32, which brought the background into far too sharp of focus, and in the end chose this instance at f/8, about the middle of the road.

ETA: The full set is here. I have this evening's shoot and tomorrow morning yet to go, so I may add some more over the weekend. Assuming I get any more shots I like.
georgmi: Camping on Shi Shi Beach, WA (Default)
( Apr. 7th, 2010 01:28 pm)
Depth of Field, or Why isn’t everything in focus?

So it’s been almost two years since my last “how photography works” post, and I know y’all have been waiting with bated breath, but Depth of Field is a much easier subject to talk about when there are examples to look at, and until recently, I didn’t have any useful examples. But now I do. I actually wrote most of this post two years ago, so if there are disjunctions, paragraphs dropped halfway through, or any other problems with the text, do let me know!

Long, and with images. )

Related topics (will add links when associated articles are written, or you can search on my “photography” tag):
Exposure
Focal lengths, f-stops, photon density, and autofocus
What the hell is "bokeh"?
Depth of Field
Camera shake and motion blur
Using the flash (Yeah, right! As soon as I figure it out myself…)
Film: Reciprocity failure
Expanding depth of field with Photoshop
Digital: The histogram is your friend

Feel free to suggest topics as well, though I make no commitment to address them in a timely manner. :)

Disclaimer/acknowledgments: Except as noted, all the above text is original to me, composed without direct reference to any other source. However, there are some people who have had a profound impact on my knowledge of photography, and it is possible that what came out of my head is very similar in language to what they tried so hard to put into it, so it would be remiss of me if I did not acknowledge their prior assistance.

I am deeply and directly indebted to Rod Barbee, Scott Bourne, Don Mammoser, and David Middleton for their in-person assistance and instruction. I have also been significantly influenced by the written works of Ansel Adams, Art Wolfe, David Gardner, and Galen Rowell. Years of articles in _Outdoor Photographer_ magazine provide some of my background as well.
georgmi: Camping on Shi Shi Beach, WA (Default)
( Dec. 30th, 2009 10:02 am)
Paul Burwell is a professional photographer up in Edmonton, Alberta. He and I (and a couple other guys) shared costs on a wildlife shoot outside Glacier NP a couple of years ago.

Anyway, living in Alberta, Paul sees a bit more snow than we do here in Seattle, and he's started taking pictures of individual snowflakes. He posted one to his blog this morning, and it's fabulous.

As to his technique, when I asked him, he said, "I let the snowflakes fall on my parka, and use a small paint brush to transfer individual, interesting looking flakes from there to a piece of glass where I photograph them."

Beyond that, I expect that he's using a strong, sharp macro lens and a tripod, that the glass is most likely clamped solidly to something so that the plane of the glass is parallel to the plane of the camera's sensor, and that the background color is a piece of cloth positioned several inches behind the glass. Probably a circular polarizer on the lens, and the flake itself is probably not in direct sunlight--note the soft light, and the suggestion of both front- and back-lighting. F-stop is whatever will render the flake in good focus, but throw the background into the land of bokeh.

If I lived somewhere where it actually got cold enough to capture individual snow crystals of a decent size, I would right now be on my way home to get my gear and try this out. Nobody else is here at work anyway.
georgmi: Camping on Shi Shi Beach, WA (Default)
( Aug. 14th, 2008 09:09 am)
Sony was supposed to announce two new cameras today. I'd been hoping that one of them was the A-900 full-frame professional DSLR that "leaked" back in March, but apparently no such luck:

http://www.photoclubalpha.com/2008/08/08/slim-cyber-shot-lifestyle-models-launched/

Honestly, I don't think I could care much less about the Cybershot line if I tried. What I need is to know how much the A-900 is going to cost, when it is going to be available, and how much its availability is going to knock down the price of Sony's current top-of-the-line, the A-700 (currently $1300), because if the A-700 gets down below a grand, I will want one of them too.

Oh, well. There is nothing wrong with my current camera. There is nothing wrong with my current camera, and I am not going to be taking any serious pictures the rest of this year. There is nothing wrong with my current camera. Except the scratch on the sensor. Which can be cloned out of most images. And I'm not going to have an opportunity for serious photography the rest of the year anyway.
georgmi: Camping on Shi Shi Beach, WA (Default)
( May. 3rd, 2008 10:48 am)
The proof of a new lens is, of course, in the pudding. But since I was unable to find a particularly photogenic pudding, I had to make do with the boy's T-ball game. I may be slightly biased, but I reckon he's marginally cuter than a dumb ol' pudding anyway.

The photostream of the game starts here:

PICT0005

For those of y'all who made it past the pictures of the kid, and who actually want to read about how the lens performed, it was awesome. :) My impressions are subjective; at the same time I lack experience with comparable lenses, so I can only compare this experience with the cheaper lenses I've actually used.

Conditions were such as to maximize the strengths of the lens; a sunny day maximizes the light passing through the lens and thus shows the autofocus performance at its absolute best. That said, "its absolute best" is amazing to a guy who's accustomed to working at F/6.3 at these distances. I never once noticed the autofocus even happening; it was aim, press, click. A few times I was unable to hold the AF point over the boy, and in some of those shots, the boy was a little blurry, but that's why I a) take a lot of shots and b) cull aggressively. You got 12 of the approximately 100 images I made at the game. You're welcome. :)

Where I was sitting, I needed the 1.4x teleconverter to get the boy large enough in the frame that it was worth shooting him, so the effective stats of the lens combo were 98-280mm F/4. Sometimes you find that adding a teleconverter to a lens will reduce the sharpness of the resultant image, but if that happened, it didn't make enough difference that *I* could see it. I have a couple of pretty good lenses (a 12-24mm wide angle and a 180mm macro), which I will probably someday do direct comparisons against (to the extent that I can--the 180 will be easy but the the difference between 24mm and 70mm is pretty wide), but my feeling on looking at the pictures I got from the new one is that this is not only the fastest lens I've ever used, but also the sharpest. This is not particularly surprising, since it is also the most expensive lens I've ever used by a factor of three or four. It's nice (very nice!) to find out that the extra money really did buy me improved image quality and camera performance. I'm getting more shots because the autofocus is working better, and a higher percentage of my shots are keepers--first because the faster autofocus means I miss the critical moment less often, and second because the faster shutter speed minimizes motion blur and camera shake.

It does, however, make me really, really want to replace more of my focal range with better glass. Which is going to be expensive. :)
...because I do not want you to know what happens inside my head except in the controlled circumstances under which I normally share. I don't need help "interpreting" my dreams, and the ones I remember generally explore aspects of my personality that you don't need to know about.

But this one was too weird not to say something about, and emotionally neutral enough that I can let it out. Not weird in the surreal sense, except to the extent that who thinks about that enough to dream about it all night long? Also it lets me put on my teacher hat, and I like showing off things that I know. :)

It was Monday night, after I got my new lens. Not too surprisingly, I dreamed about taking pictures with the new lens. But the dream did not focus (that there is a pun, you see immediately. What you do not see right off is that it is a pun *twice*) on the subject of my photography. Instead, it was about bokeh.

WTF is "bokeh"? you ask, and well you might. Bokeh is a Japanese term (alternately spelled boke, but adding the 'h' guides the reader closer to the correct pronunciation) which refers to the quality of the appearance of the unfocused area of a photograph. It does not, in my admittedly limited experience, get much attention in American teaching of the photographic arts.

Broadly, when a point source of light is not part of the area of sharp focus in a photograph, it is blurred into a small disc (we will discuss this as a "circle of confusion" in the Depth of Field article which I will someday write). The distribution of brightness in this disc determines bokeh. If the light is evenly distributed across the disc, this is considered "neutral" bokeh. If the light is concentrated toward the center of the disc, and fades away toward the edge of the disc, this is considered "good" bokeh. If the light is concentrated toward the edge of the disc and fades away toward the center, this is considered "bad" bokeh. These effects are going on with *every* unfocused point in the image, not just light sources, it's just that it's easier to see the effects with point sources of lights.

The reason why "good" bokeh is good is that the different points blend gently into their neighbors, providing smooth transitions between edges. "Bad" bokeh is bad because edges blend into each other discontinuously (because each edge appears as a double edge with a gap in between). At its worst, bad bokeh can make the out-of-focus areas of the image appear jagged and distract from the subject, just the opposite of the effect you're going for when you throw that area out of focus in the first place. The effects are generally very subtle, though, even if you are looking for them and know what you are about. I have never had a lens that allows for as much unfocused space in my images as my new lens will allow (also, as a shooter of landscapes, I tend to try to maximize the depth of field in my images and minimize the areas of unfocus), so I have never paid any attention at all to the bokeh in my images. I am aware of the phenomenon (obviously), but it's never been an issue or an interest for me.

So imagine my surprise when I dream me many dreams over the course of Monday night, all about me taking pictures in various situations with my new lens, and all focusing (and now you see why that is two puns for the price of one) on whether or not I was getting good bokeh out of the deal. Sometimes I was just holding the lens, with no camera attached, and evaluating the bokeh I was getting from it. Sometimes it was little fading-to-the-outside discs, and I was happy. Sometimes it looked like little rolled-up condoms, and I was annoyed.

I expect I will find out this weekend what kind of bokeh the lens actually has, and I will never have these dreams again. Though even for a given lens, bokeh can vary depending on whether the out-of-focus point is closer to or further from the camera than the field of sharp focus. I understand that some Nikon lenses, and formerly, some Minoltas (Minolta has gone bye-bye, and we are saddened), actually allow you to adjust the spherical aberration of the lens in order to change the bokeh effects, but boy, is *that* ever a topic for the Advanced Class. :)

ETA: Because spherical aberration in lenses is about the differential refraction of light waves, and while my math is probably up to it, my ability to *describe* the math is probably not, that's why.

Related topics (will add links when associated articles are written, or you can search on my “photography” tag):
Exposure
Focal lengths, f-stops, photon density, and autofocus
What the hell is "bokeh"?
Depth of Field
Camera shake and motion blur
Using the flash (Yeah, right! As soon as I figure it out myself…)
Film: Reciprocity failure
Expanding depth of field with Photoshop
Digital: The histogram is your friend
(Part 2 will have to wait until after the weekend.)

I knew it was going to be nice. I knew that, theoretically at least, the autofocus was going to be faster, quieter, and more accurate.

Digression the first: Focal lengths, f-stops, photon density, and autofocus.

This gets long, and there is a little math... )
The short story: Oh. My. God. What an *awesome* lens.

Related topics (will add links when associated articles are written, or you can search on my “photography” tag):
Exposure
Focal lengths, f-stops, photon density, and autofocus
What the hell is "bokeh"?
Depth of Field
Camera shake and motion blur
Using the flash (Yeah, right! As soon as I figure it out myself…)
Film: Reciprocity failure
Expanding depth of field with Photoshop
Digital: The histogram is your friend
georgmi: Camping on Shi Shi Beach, WA (Default)
( Sep. 13th, 2007 12:59 pm)
Been thinking about photography again, what with the trip to Yellowstone just past and the trip to Vermont coming up next month. Thinking about photography makes me think about the book(s) I want to write to help people get more out of their photography. I see so many people out there, taking pictures that I just *know* aren't going to turn out the way they could; I want to run up to them and tell them what they're doing wrong, and how they can do it better. But I am *positive* that this would be universally annoying and wouldn't do anybody any good. Also, it might lead to questions like, "How would you take this picture?" to which the answer is often, "I wouldn't," for a variety of reasons, and then it would seem like I'm condemning their taste *as well as* their competence.

But here, I have a (reasonably) friendly audience, and I'm not singling anybody out for a specific criticism. (As a rule, I don't criticize other people's pictures unless they specifically ask me to. I'll point out things that I think work particularly well in the image, but no negatives.) I do, however, believe that there are some common things that most people don't understand about photography and that a basic understanding of these things can make anyone a better photographer pretty quickly. I also believe (OK, I more than believe this--I know it for a fact) that the limiting factor in almost every photographer is in the head, not the camera. Once you know your gear and its limitations, great photographs can be taken with almost any camera, from your 1.5MP cell phone camera all the way up to the 8"x10" view cameras used by Ansel Adams and William Henry Jackson. (Your format may limit what you can *do* with your images, but that's another article.)

PS: Comments on the usefulness and understandability of the information presented below are encouraged, as are suggestions for topics of future, similar articles. I’m interested in comments from everybody—if you know what I’m talking about and I got it wrong or missed something, or if you don’t and all I did was confuse you, let me know. It’s often tough for me to pick a logical and useful path through a topic with breadth and depth and interconnections, given my penchant for digression and distraction. Questions, no matter how specific or general, are also welcome. I am here to help.

So, anyway. Exposure. )
What is exposure? )
Controlling exposure )
Cameras and eyes )
Handling exposure extremes )
Practical steps )
Example image )
Related topics )
georgmi: Camping on Shi Shi Beach, WA (Default)
( Jul. 7th, 2006 11:22 am)
Got back from Kalispell last night, just in time to disrupt a boy's bedtime. I hadn't been home since Friday evening, so I suppose it's to be expected that he'd be somewhat excited to see me.

I'm hoping to have time this weekend to sift through the images I made and find the good one. Given that I've got almost eleven gigs of pictures to sort, it may take me a while. If there's anything worth sharing, I'll do so here (which I think means I'll have to start paying for my account, but oh well.)

I should probably be catching up on work, so I'll leave y'all with the highlights: Hot weather. Thunderstorms. Mostly vicious light. Too damn early. AAA is a good thing to have. Tourists suck. Baby animals are too cute. Don't be a Dick.

EDIT: MOSQUITOES!
georgmi: Camping on Shi Shi Beach, WA (Default)
( Jun. 8th, 2006 04:59 pm)
The good: My camera (Konica-Minolta Maxxum 7D) is no longer an orphan:
http://www.learningcenter.sony.us/assets/di/cameras/alpha/index.html

The not-so-good: I haven't exactly been adopted by Daddy Warbucks. Yet. The Sony A100 is a "hobbyist" SLR, designed to compete with the Canon Digital Rebel and the Nikon D50, not a pro model or even a semi-pro like my 7D. Dick Badger is still going to tell me my 7D is the second-best Cracker Jack prize he's ever seen.

extended waffling behind cut )
georgmi: Camping on Shi Shi Beach, WA (Default)
( Mar. 28th, 2006 01:45 pm)
New blog post and photo album up at http://spaces.msn.com/georgmi

Waterfalls and puking and cars, oh my.

In the not-too-distant future, there should be one more Maui post, this one with beaches and various items related thereto.
Posted to my blog and added some photos from the Maui Ocean Center at http://spaces.msn.com/members/georgmi
.