2008 in Photography

31 December 2008

2008 has been an exciting year in photography for me. I started with a Strobist Meetup in February, and upgrading to a D40 in March, and it's taken over 12000 exposures for me already. The D40 opened the door for lots of new lighting, lenses, and other gear.

I've also gotten all social joining the No Fear Photography group, and photo walking with the Lancaster Photographers group.

While I'm sure I delete more images these days, I've still identified more images this year to be my favorites. Claire even picked a few of these to print huge to give me for Christmas.

My kit has evolved quite a bit. My main lenses are 2 or 3 primes -- a 28, 50, and a borrowed 16, plus a very cheap Sigma 70-300. None of these lenses focus, and only the Sigma meters. I was finding the kit 18-55 lens a bit slow, and my original 55-200VR was too short.

For lighting, I've picked up a couple Sunpak 422D's, a couple convertible umbrellas, and a light stand. These are getting to be so convenient, and I really feel I really have some control of my lights. I've also started using the PVC to hold up my DIY tie-dyed background. I have lots more projects for the 2009.

I've dragged quite a few people into photography, too.

Here are my favorites:

Going back through the images, picking them, and posting them is great fun. I recommend everyone take a moment and do this.

Camera Gear Acquisition Mode

10 November 2008

I've fallen back into a bit of light gear-acquisition mode over the past week.

After my photo class on Tuesday, we were discussing the inverse square law of light and practical application of it, and we determined that given 2 light sources of the same power, you know that you can vary the distances to the subject by familiar distances to get a predictable difference in lighting. Specifically, place one light at 5.6 feet and the other at 8 feet, and you should have a 1-stop difference.

I obviously need a second light of the same power as my first to play this out, so I hit eBay and ordered another Sunpak 422D to match my first one. I couldn't figure out which radio triggers would be compatible with the ones I have, so I decided to just order an optical slave to trigger the new flash. I may still end up buying another set of radio triggers, because it'll be fun to be able to share when playing with friends. A second cheap light isn't so bad.

I'll need an umbrella and clamp for that new flash, so I figure maybe I'll hit B&H or another camera store when I'm in New York this weekend and pick up these things.

Then I went out to the museums this weekend, and tried to shoot available light indoors with my kit 18-55mm lens. I ended up on ISO 1600 before I knew it, so I made a lot of work for myself in post processing to clean that up. I ended up with throwing away many shots.

This got me thinking about replacing my kit lens with some f/2.8 lens in the same range, but they're incredibly expensive. I decided to throw a few bids out there to buy the 28mm f/2.8 sister to my 50mm f/1.8 lens. I love my 50mm, but it's a little close when I want to get more in frame than a head shot. I think I'll find the 28mm useful.

I guess the alternative to buying faster lenses is to work harder to light with my 2 flashes (3 counting the dumb little slave), but I don't run-and-gun too much anymore, since most my lenses are manual (requiring 2 hands), and the kids keep my hands full otherwise.

In my unsuccessful spending ventures, I was going to build a backdrop, but I did not manage to find any suitable material at the local fabric store. They didn't have anything wide enough, so I came back empty handed there.

Claire will be pleased, I'm sure, to see that I'm expanding into using my gadget bag in addition to my normal camera bag. ;)

Gimp Tips from Meet the Gimp

10 July 2008

I've been sitting on a little email note to myself since October! It's just my hot tips I collected from the early episodes of Meet the Gimp. Finally, I'm going to put them here, so I can find them again, and I can delete that email.


Faking some simple adjustment layers:

Nikon D40

18 March 2008

I've had a new Nikon D40 for nearly 2 weeks now, and I think it's working nicely for me. The noise at ISO 400 on my PowerShot S2 was just getting to be too much of a hassle for me, and the opportunity to drop some cash came around, so I went for it.

Stacey and Doug were a great help while I shopped. They're both Nikon shooters, so I knew I could borrow equipment and draw on their vast experience. Dinger also has a nasty case of NAS paired with an odd DIY flair.

The extra couple hundred dollars that a D40x would have cost didn't seem worthwhile just for some extra pixels, so I just went with a D40 with the kit 18-55mm lens. I added a Nikon 55-200mm VR lens to try to get nearer to the telephoto capabilities I had with the PowerShot S2.

After a quick read through the manual (I don't seem like the type, though, do I?), I could pick up and find everything on the camera pretty quickly. The camera doesn't have quite as many buttons and dials as the higher-end Nikons, but I can still change my basic settings pretty quickly -- the dials default is shutter speed, then I need to hold a button for aperture, and I mapped the Fn key to change ISO, so I'm in business. I found the built-in flash configuration to switch it to manual 1/32 power, so I'm in business with my slave strobes.

The minimum ISO of 200 means I'll definitely need my ND4 filter to get some longer exposures, but that's fine. 3200 ISO (HI1) is pretty noisy, but not terribly disappointing. 1600 is surprisingly clean. Indoors I try to stick around 1600, but I'll gladly kick up to 3200 if needed. I can clean up the noise in post production.

I've had to introduce UFRaw to my workflow to get images down to 8-bit for Gimp. I really like having the extra range and flexibility -- I can make some dramatic changes in RAW without losing detail, but it took me a little while to learn what I was doing, and some things (base curve) still sort of allude me. I'm still sort of slow at processing, but I think the results are much better. I'll figure out batch processing soon, I figure. I would get done much quicker if I wasn't consistently holding the camera 1-3 degrees off of level -- I'll have to work on that.

I got to try the camera for travel for the first time on Sunday at Baltimore's St. Patrick's Day Parade. I can barely fit the camera and its lenses in my old bag, so it wasn't too difficult. It's a little cumbersome to have the 55-200mm lens hanging from my neck and chase the kids, but it's possible.

I was feeling some pain having to switch between lenses to shoot the passing parade from the curb, but I quickly settled into my 18-55, and I was really glad I had it. I used the 55-200 later to shoot the kids running and playing. The photos have a surprisingly noticeable "telephoto" feel, though.

I've been able to get much shallower depths of field with this new gear -- that makes me happy, since it was really hard to do with the PowerShot S2. I find myself actually having to work the other way, and closing down the aperature to get a bit of depth back. It's nice to have that control now.

My kit's pretty complete right now, but I hope to get a hold of some old strobes my Mom doesn't use, and her old camera bag. That'll give me a little room to grow. I also have an old full-manual 50mm f/1.8 lens on loan from Dinger which I'd love to have for indoor party photography and maybe portraiture, though I think an 85mm prime would be more comfortable for portraits.

I can't really think of anything more that I'd need the camera itself to do, so I'll probably use this thing for a pretty long time. Pair this thing with a couple more lenses, strobes, and some radio triggers, and I'll keep myself busy for quite some time.

All the Posts

December 2008

November 2008

July 2008

March 2008

October 2006

July 2006

December 2005