Friday, July 28, 2017

The perfect walk about travel lens;

I just recently bought a Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5 - 6.3 for my Sony A68 SLT camera. I had always read and heard that one has to sacrifice sharpness with super zooms. Not so with this one although, 200mm is on the low end of super zooms, but it is still a great range of focal length to have in one lens.

It is great for the zoo. You can get by with just one camera. It allows you to take wide angle candids around the zoo of the people and places, and it allows you to take sharp close-up images of the animals. I cannot believe that I survived this long without it. It has all the benefits of a super-zoom bridge camera plus, the detail of an ASP-C sensor. As the days go by, I frequently leave the house with just the camera, and not my bag as it is not necessary to change out lenses.

For you Nikon and Canon owners, they make the same lens for you. It was only $199.00 US, and I can honestly say that I believe it to be as sharp as my Sony 16-50mm f/2.8 and that is a more than three times the cost lens. It is especially good for situations with good light, but I have made some nice photos with it at sunset and lower light conditions.

I can definitely recommend it to anyone interested in an all in one lens. Especially considering the cost.

Here are some more examples: 

Down on the Farm

In the rain

At Photography Meet-ups


Out in the field

At setting sun

Portraits of Pretty Girls

Distinguished Gentlemen


At the Zoo

It performs really well in most all conditions.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

I am looking for input from other amateur photographers!

I have a camera collection that I started a few years back and this is one of them. I bought it at a church rummage sale for $5.00. It is a 35 mm camera and it allegedly works, though I will not try to find out as I am content with the digital process. I like to show them however from time to time.

But, I have started off point. A wise philosopher once said, (actually it was me) "THAT AN EXPERT WAS AN ORDINARY PERSON AT LEAST 25 MILES AWAY FROM HOME" I share this quote because I want to get some other amateur photographers to share their stories and techniques. I am sure that you have a lot to offer and others would appreciate being able to benefit from your experience. In other words, I would really like you to contribute. You will get proper RECOGNITION for your work. Plus, if you don't feel that you can write well, no problem if you give me the facts, I will ghost write the article for you. The more people who do it, the more people will be reached. The way to do that is to realize that each of us have a circle of influence and it will exponentially add up. 

If you are interested you can email me or message me on Facebook. I have a public Facebook page and my email is I hope you like the photo above and I will add a couple more now.

Here is another of the collection

This is another oldie but goodie

Look over the blog posts that are already here and figure out what you would like to add to them. It will be fun, and it will help you get further exposure as a photographer.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Basic Photography: Using Photomatix Essential to boost dynamic range in your images

If you want the best possible native dynamic range in your photos then you should buy a full sensor camera. If you don't have the money for the latest full frame then you may want to get a crop sensor camera and pay $39.00 US for Photomatix Essentials. I do my processing with Corel Paintshop Pro X 8, but often, I additionally use Photomatix Essentials. What I have found is that Photomatix Essentials helps me boost my dynamic range quite a bit without having the halos and other things that accompanies other HDR tone-mapping. The image on the left is taken along the Mississippi River late in the afternoon, close to the blue hour. I was able to boost the dynamic range with the fusion function in Photomatix Essentials. It enhances the details, brightens the image, and gives the appearance of HDR that is not over the top. I seldom use the HDR with tone-mapping presets. However, the fusion preset is perfect.

Here are a couple of screen shots that show the workings of Photomatix Essentials.  It works like most other HDR programs. You can select multiple bracketed images to merge into a HDR image. Many of them incorporate tone-mapping with the HDR, but there are a few presets on this program that use fusion. As I understand it fusion simply fuses together the best aspects of the image to make the dynamic range greater. It fuses the lighter of the shaded areas, and the darker of the highlighted areas to bring the dynamic range into something that more replicates what the eyes see. I have used the above image to show how I made the fused copy.

It is a relatively simple program to use. The Photomatix Essential program is pretty basic without a lot of bells and whistles. You can buy a professional program called Photomatix Pro. The essentials program is $39 & the pro program is $99. You can find these at I only use it to boost the dynamic range of my photos. I do not shoot bracketed images per se. I make the brackets with PSP X8. Furthermore, I do not even shoot RAW images. Oh I can see the eyebrows raising right now but it is the truth. I do not want to take the time to process RAW images so I shoot in jpeg. I think the results speak for themselves. I am sure that if you were to shoot RAW that you would get even better results than I get.

However, because I shoot jpeg, I have to do my brackets differently. The closer I make the bracketed photos to each other the less problem I have with noise. I don't make them anywhere near a stop apart. I make them closer to 1/3 stop difference and sometimes even less than that. I get the best results this way because it keeps the noise down. I like sharp photos and reducing noise tends to soften images. Photomatix has a function for lowering noise in the process. I use that function as it is not extreme. The only place I do not use this is with my portraits. I think that HDR of any kind makes the facial features too hard.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Basic Photography: Low light Photography

Many photographers still prefer film to digital photography. There is a considerable amount of nostalgia for film produced images. There is one area however where digital photography is well ahead of film, and as the months and years go on the gap is widening. The area where digital cameras are well ahead of film counterparts is in low light photography. There is a correlation between ASA (film speed) and ISO (digital image speed.) Whereas 800 ASA was extremely fast film, digital cameras of two iterations back had an ISO of 1600 to 3200 and now, most cameras go up to at least 12,800 ISO. While none of them perform that well at the highest ISO setting, most all current cameras function well at 3200 ISO, by that I mean, produce images with very little noise, and a lot of them do well at 6400 ISO. Sony has a full frame A7SII, that has a native ISO of over 104,000 ISO. What does all of this mean for low light photography? Well, if you have a fast prime lens, f/2.8 or faster, and a camera that performs well at 3200 ISO you can get very good hand-held low light shots. That was not possible even two or three years ago. The above image was with an f/2.8 lens at 3200 ISO. The lens is pretty sharp wide open so you get good results without a tripod.

There are essentially two ways to get good results in low light photography. One is with a fast prime
lens and a camera that functions well at a higher ISO like described above, and the other is the more traditional way, using a tripod, and using a very slow shutter speed. An example would be setting the camera at f/12, ISO 200, and a shutter speed of 5 seconds. That method will get the sharpest low light images. The image on the right was shot in that manner. If you click on the image to enlarge it you will see that the lights are starred. That is a characteristic of low light images shot manually with a narrower f/stop and a slow shutter speed. With that type of photography you have to use a tripod to keep it from blurring. Since I have an APS-C sensor I like to do a form of HDR fusion to get a greater dynamic range for my low light images. Those shooting full frame sensors have a natural dynamic range that is greater and can easily get by with one image. The secret I have discovered for doing HDR fusion with low light images is to make bracket images very close to each other, that is, less than 1/3 EV apart. The closer they are to each other in exposure brightness the less noise. I do not shoot three EV brackets. I create them with my Corel PSP X8 from one shot.

This image on the left was shot hand-held at dusk just before the sun disappeared in what is known as the blue hour. I used the same technique to create close together bracketed photos to make sure that the noise is negligible. The slightly higher dynamic range makes the photo pop and makes it easier to make it sharp. Even when it is a hand-held image shot at f/5.6 to f/7.1. When the closest object is further than 30 ft away then you get a pretty sharp image all the way to infinity. Low light images, at sunset or darker, evening city scapes and street scenes are much more interesting than images shot at high noon or mid day. The best times for interesting photos is early in the morning or late in the afternoon and evening.

One thing that you must do is experiment. You have to be willing to shoot some failures to find out how to be successful. The once nice thing about digital cameras is that you can see the results in the LCD view screen. This makes it possible to perfect what you are doing without returning to the dark room to find out what you accomplished. The other thing that I recommend is to check your exposure meter to be sure that you are at the correct exposure. When I shoot in regular daylight, I like to set my camera at -.70 EV, but not with low light shots. There I want to make sure that I am at .0+/- or if anything at +.30 EV or above. This makes the results much more appealing and avoids having images that are too dark to salvage. If you have a camera that will shoot fairly good images at 1600 ISO, and you have a fast prime, either f/2 or f/2.8, you will find that you can get some really good results hand-held... however, no matter what digital camera you have, you can use manual, a tripod and a slow shutter speed and get really good results.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Basic Photography: What about composition?

I was a painting and drawing instructor for many years. During that time I found that some people just have a natural sense of good composition. Good composition is simply arranging things so that they are pleasing to the eye and interesting to behold. However, there are some basic rules that help improve ones composition, but they also occasionally can be broken under the right circumstances. The image on the left incorporates many of the rules. First I would like to use it to define some terms. Within a photo, painting, or drawing one has to deal with space within the frame of a two dimensional surface. I would like to label these areas of space as positive or negative space. In the image left, the positive space is all the detail of the light and light pole. The negative space is the clear blue sky. You can also think of positive space being the subject. In this photo the subject is the light pole. The light pole creates a stark contrast from the sky. This is not always the case. Many times a plain mono-toned sky is boring and clouds create a dramatic effect, but in this particular image the mono-toned sky helps make the image. This image also provides balance as contrasted with symmetry. Don't get me wrong... there are times when symmetry can be effective, but usually balance is a better device to use. What do I mean exactly? In the image there is a balance of positive and negative space that makes the full frame of the image pleasing to look at. The last thing that I would like to mention about this image is the way in which the pole runs out of the image on the lower left. It is important to have things either run off the page of the image or to be clearly within the confines of the frame. Objects placed too close to the edge are usually distracting.

The image on the right has several aspects of good composition according to the rules of composition. First it is a great example of the rule of thirds.... top third sky, middle third, buildings, bottom third freeway. Just to be clear, thirds can also work horizontally as well as vertically. There is also the rule of diagonals at work in this one. The streets and railroad tracks go back vertically drawing the viewer into the scene. Another compositional piece is selecting the time of day. It is at the end of the golden hour and the beginning of the blue hour. There is enough subject in this one so that many spaces run off the page and some are contained. There is not a concept of negative and positive space so much in this one. However, the focus of the building in the lower left and the buildings running diagonally across the image also helps draw the eye into the entire scene.

The photo on the left is a good example of making the subject the focus of the frame and allowing the background to be muted becoming negative space that enhances the subject. The detail of the brick works to ground the people and the lack of symmetry adds interest. Both of the figures are allowed to run off the page at different places adding interest as well. It is important to have crisp sharp detail with the subject. This image was also taken at a time when the sun was overhead and the lighting is harsh. It adds to the overall brightness of the scene making it work as a candid moment captured in time and space. Another element that adds to the design is the curve of the arms of both grandma and grandson. This is a device that can be used often simply known as repetition. In critiquing the shot, I would say that it would be even more impacting if it were cropped square. While the negative space above the heads works ok, it would be a stronger composition if it were cropped to be a square frame.

Finally the image on the right shows additional aspects of good composition. The truck is placed on the left side of the frame to allow it room to run out of the scene. This helps carry your eye across the entire frame. There is a lot of contrast between the negative and positive spaces within the image. This is also and example of vertical thirds. Finally, I think that this shows a way in which breaking the rules works to add to the composition. The post and pier placed in the center of the frame add interest and make the image just a little off to the point of being interesting. The stark contrast between blue of the sky and the almost black tones under the bridge structure really add over-all interest to the image. I would suggest that you click on all of the images to see them in a larger format to be able to see the detail in each. Keep in mind that rules are made to be broken and you can break them all you want, however, you will only be happy with rule breaking when it works! Please comment and add your experience and perspective. We will cover this again I am quite sure.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Basic Photography: The confusing world of focal length simplified

There are many confusing concepts in photography but one of the most confusing is focal length. The definition of focal length is as follows: "The distance from the surface of a lens to the point of focus." That is easy enough but it depends on the size of the sensor or the film that is the focal point. It is in the size of the sensor or film that a source of confusion enters the conversation. The photo at the left shows a Pentax 35mm camera. I show this because 35mm film and sensors have become the standard for explaining crop factors. I always like to understand it in relationship to what the human eye sees. I can remember, back in the day with the Kodak Instamatic Cameras. I was a young adult in the late 1960's and early 1970's and the Instamatic film camera was a staple to be taken on vacations. When traveling in the mountains out west, and in Appalachia as well, I was always disappointed with any scenery photos that I took. The reason was that they never showed the depth and height of the mountains that I was looking at. I have since found out that the reason was that the focal length for those cameras was very wide angle compared with human vision.

Human vision is close to a 50mm focal length on a 35mm camera. That is likely the reason that most SLR's and other view finder 35mm cameras had a 50mm lens. These cameras most closely mimicked what human vision saw naturally. Therefore, the only camera that focal length is not a source of some confusion is the 35mm film camera and the full frame DSLR. Why am I mentioning this? Well, you need to be aware of crop factors.

As I have stated before in this blog. I own a couple Sony A3000 which are mirroless APS-C cameras which have a crop factor of 1.5. This means that I have to take the focal length of the lens and multiply it by 1.5 to get the equivalent of what a full frame camera would be like. Therefore, if I want to get close to a full frame 50mm lens view, which will mimic human vision, on my APS-C camera, I have to use a 30mm to a 35mm lens. I have a 30mm Sigma f/2.8 lens that actually mimics a 45mm lens on a full frame and it gets me pretty close to human vision. If I use a 35mm lens, i mimic 52.5mm on a full frame camera so both the 30mm and the 35mm will get me close to a 50mm image on a full frame camera. So if you want a view close to what you see with your eyes, and own a APS-C camera, then you will want to choose a 30mm - 35mm lens, or you will want to set a 18-55mm lens on approximately 32.5mm to get that view.

The one thing that you can count on is that point and shoot cameras show their focal lengths in 35mm equivalent terms. So, when they tell you that they have a zoom range from 24mm to 640mm, they are explaining that it 35mm equivalent terms. I hope that I have explained that the main thing to consider is how any focal length will compare with what you see with the naked eye.

Below are some images from my 30mm lens which comes close to human vision.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Basic Photography: Aperture Mode

Aperture mode is exactly what the doctor calls for in portrait photography. The reason is that one can get excellent bokeh with a wide aperture setting on a prime lens. This brings all the focus to the subject. If you are doing manual focus, you can make sure that the eyes are in sharp focus with other parts of the portrait being softer focus moving back to a smooth, delicious bokeh. Set your camera on A priority and make sure that the lens is set to its fastest setting. For example, if it is a f/2.8 set it there, if a f/2 set it there, and if it is a f/1.8 or f/1.4 set it there. You will end up with a professional looking photo that will make you proud.

Above is a photo that was taken with my Sigma 60mm f/2.8 lens. It was on aperture priority setting the camera used a 1/3200 sec exposure with an ISO of 200. If you click on the image it will be enlarged so you can see the way it focuses sharply on the subject, grandma and grandson and blurs the background so that you are not distracted.

Using aperture priority mode when there is a lot of ambient light available works very well. That is the circumstance of the above portrait. With aperture priority mode, the closer you are to the subject and the farther back the background, the more blurred the background and the more bokeh that is present. Below is an example of being close to the subject with a completely blurred background.

This image again was shot with my Sigma 60mm f/2.8 lens wide open.

Now then, if you move away from the closest subjects/objects with a fast lens wide open, you can get all of the background in fairly sharp focus. I use prime lenses wide open in night street photography and have a great amount of success with the results. My Sony A3000 has a native ISO up to 6400 and I find that the results are pretty acceptable all the way to ISO 3200. It is very good at ISO 1600. I have done a lot of hand-held street photography at night and my results are quite acceptable with very little noise.

Both of the above images were shot at night, hand-held with the aperture wide open. This type of photography will become easier to do with much better results as camera sensors continue to improve. Sony has a full frame mirrorless, an A7RII, that has a native ISO that goes over 100,000. It will make unbelievable hand-held low light photos without any noise.

As you can see, aperture priority has a variety of uses that enhance you ability to make photos that you are proud to showcase. I will leave you with additional examples of images shot in aperture priority. Click on all photos to see them enlarged in a slide show format that will allow you to click through them. Also, feel free to comment in the comment section.