Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Experiments II: Stress Test (Mature Content)

It may not be explicit in it's (possible) violence, but I wanted there to be a story that would develop as one looks at the photo. Much like fiction stories,   these images have a life of their own. I don't think they need any more explanation than that.

The Experiments II: Stress Test

Thanks again for stopping by!

Experiments: Literal and Fictional

I have been  trying to broaden my artistic horizons for a while now. Between writing and photography, I've learned more about myself, and now have a better understanding of developing stories with light, shadow, description, and metaphors. Surrealistic images are my passion. I've tried to fight it, but things just are what they are. I can't be afraid of myself. The images I create and words I write are, yes, part of me. But they're also stories I would like to tell that have nothing to do with me. Ideas and characters are just that: they're works of fiction created by the mind. This doesn't mean they're part of me, it just means that I gave them life.

With that long introduction out of the way, I'll be adding another set of images to my blog. These will be drawings/sketches that may be either digitally created (on my phone via the Sketchbook Mobile Express app) or  physical drawings on paper. I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes. It's exciting to see others' progression, as well as my one.

The photo above is part of the process I took in developing the photo below. This will be one of the drawing projects I will be working on in a series called "The Experiments."

Let me know what you think of the drawings, the Sketchbook application, or about your artistic endeavors.

Thanks for visiting!

The Experiments I: Communication Isolation

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Darkroom (film service experience)

I first started this blog as a way to share my thoughts and my film photography. There's something about seeing negatives and prints that still gives me a buzz.  The long wait between taking a photo, developing the negatives, and seeing the scans/prints gives my a strange sense of satisfaction.  For the last few months I have been trying to use my film camera as a way of staying on my toes. Honestly, truly, I like using film because no one can ask you to show them how the photo came out. Any photo I've taken is mine to enjoy. I snap the shutter for my own personal satisfaction. Whether it be to capture my beautiful wife or some small moment in time, it's photography to document my life and what brings me joy. Regardless of how little or trivial, those quiet moments are the ones that you live most of your life. Might as well keep track of them, right?
With that said, I had three rolls of color negative film that I needed developed. Both Wal-Mart and Walgreens have send-out services. At that rate, I might as well go with a company that specializes in film. I had heard good things about The Darkroom from both the Film Photography Project podcast and Flickr. It seemed like a decent place to work with. And I especially liked the ease of which their services ended up being.
The way I went with was paying with my check card before even mailing the film. They noted on their website that this was the quickest way so I took their advice on it. I bought a padded envelope and printed the mail slip to stick to that envelope. The Darkroom pays for the postage, so that's a plus. I put in my three rolls of film (Fuji Superia 200 and 400, and Kodak Ultra 800). I dropped this off at the post office that same day. Two days later I received a confirmation email of having received my package. Things were getting tense now since I've been looking forward to seeing these photos for a while now. I wondered how long it would take to have them scanned and available online.
On the third day after having sent the film, my photos were already scanned and uploaded on their website! I could easily view my photos, rotate them, share a link with friends, and even download them. I'm also given the option to order prints from their website. Later that day I got an e-mail to let me now that my cd's and negatives were on their way back to me. The package came in on November 1st. So within one week I got through the process of getting my images, and it wasn't even that long that I had digital access to them.
I was blown away by the results and how the company took care of my images and film. They offer many different options regarding scans, film types, and prints. This is definitely a must-use service if you still use film. Please visit their website when you have a chance; it's worth your time.
Oh, and one last thing. The package I received included one cd for each roll of film, my negatives cut and sleeved, print cards with an overview of the images on the cd, and even a new envelope for future film. All I need to do is drop the film in, seal, and take that to the mailbox. How neat is that?!
Have a great day!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Party

Had a great time at my parents' Halloween party. We got to dressed up and 'acted the fool' for a couple of hours, played Just Dance 4, and watched a  low budget movie that turned out being much better than expected. My sister did a great job choosing it! 

Monday, October 29, 2012


For the last few months I have been using my film camera to document moments of my life. I’ve been documenting the simple times that I see and experience; I photograph for me and me alone. If you haven’t tried it, it’s a pretty refreshing experience. With the current age of Facebook and Insta-everything, it’s a breath of fresh air to capture things for the sake of capturing them. Our life is full of those ‘off-moments’. These are the quiet times we spend by ourselves and with loved ones. There’s no social rating system or view recorder. There are no opinionated internet folks to point out the obvious. It’s just a feeling and a snap.

After a long wait between taking photos and finally seeing them, all those memories start flooding back. The smells, the smiles, and the times when you’re taking things slowly become as tangible as the film those moments were recorded on. Flipping through photographs is like falling in love: there are mistakes, surprises, and a knowing that everything will be alright.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be more active (less lazy) regarding posting. I have a short review, photos, and more random thoughts coming through. I may even throw in a sketch or two. Here's a couple   for now!

Up is Relative

Baby Bean Baby

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Mindful by midnightrook
Mindful, a photo by midnightrook on Flickr.

This is from a couple of months ago, still one of my faves. The way the light reflects off his eye is really what gets me. I intentionally left the door to help frame the subject. The detail in the fur and face are crisp, but overall this is a soft, dreamy photo. My opinion, o'course.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mistakes and Achieving Goals

Life is about trial and error. We make multiple mistakes in the hopes of a possible solution. In my case, my photography continues to be a series of ups and downs, as well as periods of not being able to capture interesting scenes.

With that said, I reached one of my goals of having my work featured by a photographer I admire. Steve Huff, who runs the website SteveHuffPhoto.com and has documented tours with the singer Seal, shared an article of mine on his website alongside three of my photos from a recent trip.

Needless to say, I have been almost speechless since then as this has been a great source of pride and a humbling experience as well.

Below are the three photos that were featured, and the link to my essay.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Face to Face

I spent maybe half an hour at a local park searching for Macro opportunities. I only had one chance, and it was well worth the heat! They were standing very still, so I set the camera on the ground and did a relatively long exposure. The natural light look ended up turning out pretty neat.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Insight, Definitions, and Therapy

So I’m sitting here thinking and can’t stop the thoughts. I’ll go ahead and share my thoughts with you, my kind readers, in the hopes it’ll be appreciated in some way. This’ll also bring down my stress level because this is my form of therapy.

Photography is a means of communication. It transcends time, distance, and memory. An image, or series of images, can bring you closer to someone else’s country, town, kitchen table.. smack dab into the middle of their lives. Through social networking sites, we can watch someone’s pet or loved one grow up. On Flickr I follow many proud dads and moms that bring their kids up in the social network spotlight. I see their kids as THEY see their kids. I see the good and the bad, the cute and the sad, as well as the surreal. I learn how to improve my photography by seeing amazing photography. Furthermore, by seeing others put their hearts on the line I’m less afraid to do so as well.

For the street photographer, documenting those ordinary moments puts the entire world into perspective. The interesting strangers they encounter become my characters- the scenes are their stories. There’s a fine line to street photography’s delicate simplicity. If the image is too simple there’s no story; too much disorganized chaos and there’s no story either. The images that just ‘work’ have a scene, story, and its characters. All these parts coming together form a balance that puts me, as the viewer, both as a spectator in the scene and a participant.

The macro photographer, like the street photographer, also documents ordinary moments. They need to look for an interesting character, a scene, the right light, and a story. For my macro, I try to find that sense of personality in my subjects. They may be tiny insects, but it’s not until you see them face to face that you realize how inquisitive and intelligent they are. Not to mention fast! Like a street scene, these moments come and go in an instant. If your eye can align the frame into a weighted composition, followed by your finger pressing the shutter, then there’s a proud moment indeed.

I really enjoy looking at photos. Before I started this visual/documentary hobby, I collected automotive photos. I loved the sleek lines, the motion, and how the photos gave such life to these inanimate objects (as opposed to living/breathing organisms). I still look at thousands and thousands of photos every month. I love the scenes and the stories, whether they are of the photographer’s mind or literal in nature. I look at the beautiful, the ugly, the dangerous, but am always moved most by the surreal.

So, how do I define surreal? Well, let’s start with what I don’t mean. I’m not talking about taking different images from different photos and making something new. This is definitely surreal, but basically in the ‘unreal’ realm. There’s no right or wrong, and there are many photos like this that I like. As far as not being surreal, I’m don’t get excited by things that you can tell are staged (such as forced perspective). Again, not that it’s wrong or bad, but that’s not what moves me the most.

Jean-Pierre’s (that’s me) definition of surreal: The scene, character, and time of day are all normal each by themselves. Everything in the image, on an individual basis, would be perfectly normal. It is moment in which the world aligns itself so that everything shows up within one frame at the same time in a way that’s not contrived, only captured by an astute eye, in an easy to digest way. The photo depicts where, who, and how, but makes you question them all the same. You are still asking yourself the why: why are they there? Why is the scene so integrated with the character? Why is this mood depicted, and why isn’t there any other mood?And that’s really it, a surreal image is a strong composition that creates a particular, storylike, otherworldly mood.

So all these meandering thoughts and words.. but to what end?

Your guess is as good as mine. But if you see the world any differently, or if any of this makes any sense, I think typing all this out was well worth the effort. I’ve just a learned a bit more about myself, and my photography, through this stream of consciousness article.

Thoughts, concerns, disagreements? Let the world know in the comments below.

As usual, thanks so much for taking the time out to visit my site and read my article.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Little Spider

I finally had a chance to sit outside to try out the light modifier I put together. The front yard was a bust, but after a little while sitting in the back I noticed this tiny guy/ gal. I wasn't sure at first if it was just a bit of dust, so I checked with my camera and saw it was a creature. I moved the leaf it was on to get it in a better position and light. At first she was a bit scared and was covering her face. After a short while they saw I was no threat so they scurried back and forth trying to see what I was doing. This was my favorite photo from the ones today.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Crumb Snatcher [Featured on Futurity.org]

As I mentioned at the end of my last macro post, I had something that I wanted to share. If you have stopped by my FLICKR, you may have already seen that the photo above was featured on a research article. I had set this photo to be re-blogged for one of the Flickr groups, and it just so happens that someone used featured my photo to talk about a lab study on the same morning I had input that option. Out of the thousands of photos of Drosophila, they somehow found and liked mine.

For me, this is an awesome thing. I want my photos out there because I want people to see how cool the subjects I photograph really are. The Drosophila above was friendly, they let me get very close (within two inches). They would fly away when I would get close now and then, but would always return. They found some sort of tiny morsels and I was able to get this photo.

Photography is about learning, collecting memories, and sharing them in an interesting way. We all have a unique perspective, and I hope that I continue to become better at achieving consistent results so others can learn alongside me. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Macro Photography Journey- Part 2

Drosophila Staredown

Life size is a matter of perspective. We see tiny leaves and insects all the time, no big deal. To the naked eye, we see these subjects like an astronaut might see the Earth from space, or a person looking up at the sky and seeing a disc-shaped moon. With macro, I have a newfound love for nature with all its life that goes mostly unseen. Seeing creatures as they really are is a singularly rewarding experience. There’s an interaction with these little life forms, I have questions about them and they’re just as inquisitive about me. They have so much personality; macro photography lets me see them as they are. I’ve gone from stargazer to astronaut.

My final setups involved using a clamp to hold the lens and tele-converter together (donated by my Dad) and a little bit of tape to keep things in place. It took a couple of attempts to hold them together, the first time the 35mm wasn’t perfectly straight so there was distortion. But my third lens setup was truly the charm. At roughly 1.4x magnification, I have enough close-up ability to get details in tiny bugs, but not so close that I can’t get some of their environment in the photo as well.

My issue now has to do with light and depth of field. Wide open at F3.5, I have about half a millimeter in focus, no kidding. At F8 I have a decent amount in focus, with F11 and F16 being better in terms of depth of field but with slightly noticeable diffraction. These are the apertures set on the lens, but the amount of light hitting the sensor is even less because of the modified tele-converter. I’m thinking that the amount of light is still halved, so F8 is like F11, F11 is F16, etc. An external light is critical; I have no off-camera flash and am still challenging myself to not spend money.

Fly in the Hand, Two in the Bush

All of the macro photos you have seen have been with the on-board flash. Playing around with different flash settings has yielded decent results, but I wanted to have the light coming from the side (and not straight on). I set out to build a diffuser, and after cutting up rolls of paper towels, Styrofoam cups, and small boxes, I’ve ended up with something decent. Using an elongated can, a cupcake plastic holder, tape, and aluminum foil, I’ve created mini Frankenstein flash unit. I haven’t had time to experiment with it much, but it does give the photos a more natural feel. A co-worker donated the last piece of the puzzle, and I hope to put this setup to use over the coming months.

I have one post left in this series, something I’m very proud of that I’d like to share. Thanks for stopping by, and please feel free to leave comments, critiques, or follow via RSS feed.

PS: If you have a chance, please stop by my new Flickr Group: http://www.flickr.com/groups/ef40stm/

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tiny World 1.0+

 It has been one and a half months since my last confession.

This blog, for me, is a confession of sorts. I get to say what I’ve been doing, haven’t been doing, and what I should be doing better. Discussing different topics that mean something to me is a beautiful, double-edged source of release. On one hand, I get to get things off my chest. However, I always feel like moving on to the next experiment once I’ve posted on my blog. There’s always the next subject. This isn’t really bad, since it keeps me on my toes and trying to learn as much as I can. But at the same time, I would like to concentrate on one subject at length to truly gain an understanding, a deeper connection if you will, of myself as a person and my subject as.. well, as something more than a decent image.

Most of my time has been spent making nature photos. Part of that has to do with nature not complaining or yelling at me when making its photo. Nature sits still but is always changing, so each day holds something new. It’s fun to take scenes out of context; I like to develop characters out of inanimate scenes. With all that said, this post is the first of many regarding this subject, but I have a separate project in mind as well.

Catching Some Rays

On my path to create new images and move beyond what I’ve already done, I started Macro photography a couple of months ago. In photographic terms, it’s where the subject of your photo is depicted at life size when compared to your sensor, or larger than that. An insect that is 5 millimeters long would be 5 millimeters long on your sensor; this would be 1:1 or 1x magnification. One attractive aspect to Macro photography is that you can find subjects in your own house or backyard. A few square feet of grass or shrubs can yield dozens of photographic subjects, or even on your front stoop!

Gently Fearsome

My only issue when starting was that I couldn’t afford to buy a new lens dedicated to macro. I challenged myself to spend no money in the pursuit of this new genre. After a considerable amount of research, I opted to use my vintage lenses to get the magnification I needed. I started with a 35mm lens reversed onto a 135mm lens, which resulted in roughly 3.5x magnification. The results were instantly intriguing. A few millimeter-long insect/arachnid now filled the frame. This was incredible, and I knew I was on the right track. After experimenting with this setup at different focus ranges and apertures, there were two issues. First, the depth of field was ridiculously shallow. At decent apertures I had maybe 1 to 2 millimeters in focus. This made it beyond difficult to get little creatures in focus. The second issue was that the 135mm I own is a pretty beat-up lens. It has very large blemishes, scratches, and is extremely soft. At this magnification, those imperfections are also magnified.

Jumpy the Spider

As you can see from the above photo, I needed a setup that yielded better optical results. I own a 2x Soligor tele-converter that cost $12 at a flea market, but the results were awful. The single piece of glass in there was, quite honestly, piss poor. I got the idea to try and remove that glass. Internet searches were made in vain; I was on the verge of hammering out that glass. My phone has a video-recording feature, and part of the feature is to record with the flash continuously on. With this, I used the phone as a magnifier to take a closer look at the tele-converter. With this method, I saw there were two notches at opposite ends of the lens element. I used a tiny pair of needle-nose pliers, each side pressing into each dot, and rotated the lens until it was out. So now my tele-converter is an extender (I can now focus even closer to my subjects with no optical loss, only less light hitting the sensor).

My first tries were with a 50mm screwed in; this yielded the first photo in this blog post. Not 1:1, but neat nonetheless. All of this was with one goal in mind: to reverse the 35mm lens onto the modified tele-converter to hopefully reach something a little bit better than life size magnification.

On my next post I’ll be discussing what I ended up with as my lens setup, photo samples, work-arounds, and the light modifier I built.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Birthday Lunch

Had an awesome birthday lunch with my co-workers. Celebrated three birthdays for our team. Great food, awesome cake, incredible company!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

These Lively Times

Spring is now in full force. Never have I been so motivated to capture this steady transition; the spark of creative energy bursts forth! I've reflected over my life these last few months, improving my quality of living and treasuring the moments that are important to me. It's no easy feat, and as all my endeavors it's a work in progress. With that said, I've made remarkable headway as a result of hard work and constant motivation from my wife, family, and co-workers. You know who you are, and I thank you.

Here are a few photos I've captured. I've been pushing myself photographically, and even if it might not show I feel good about the progress that's been made.



Smooth Transition

Imminent Sunset


Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Kit Lens and Other Techniques- Part 7

Learning What Kind of Photography You’re Interested In

I love Asian food. I love teriyaki chicken. I love rice with soy sauce on it. I love the texture of chicken made over a pan. I love using chop sticks when eating food out of bowl; it helps me to slow down and enjoy my food. I can really taste the mix of the salty alongside the sweet and smell the aroma of the simple ingredients. With photography, you need to SLOW DOWN and SIMPLIFY. It isn’t a race or a textbook. You are creating images of subjects you enjoy. You photograph things you love. Essentially, your photography is a part of you. Your photos reflect what interested you in that moment in time. Take your time, and keep it simple. The more you show in your photograph, the more hidden your subject/intent will be.

The kit lens allows you to do this for the fact that it is a lens. It’s meant to allow you to use your camera to make photos. You need to think ahead of time about what your lens can and cannot do. When a photo opportunity arises, it should be a matter of lifting the camera and taking the photo. After using the kit lens, you’ll learn everything it does well, everything it does badly, and everything you’d like to photograph. Once you’ve narrowed down what you love to photograph, you’ll know if an additional lens is necessary or not. If the kit lens does everything you need, save your money and go on a trip! But if there are things that the lens cannot do no matter what, then you might see in investing in a lens that does what you need. By doing the Prime Lens Conversion exercise, you’ll have figured out what focal lengths you might like. If you want to do bird photography, you’ll know that you’ll need a lens with lots more zoom/reach. If you do primarily indoor, low-light photography, you might want a lens with a larger maximum aperture. In turn, if you like photographing full scenes, you could get a wide angle lens. If you prefer in-your-face portraits, then you can get a lens that is more like what your eye sees, or a lot closer, to isolate your subject. You know now that your feet can help in this as well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short series. I tried to cover a lot of information as concisely as possible. There’s so much more, technique-wise, to try to explain. But this is a primer to get all that technical mumbo-jumbo out of the way so you can just go out and make some interesting photos. Even I deal with wanting absolute perfection in every photo and not end up with it. But it’s all about learning. It might take months or years to get to where you personally want to be. As a hobby, however, the photographic knowledge you acquire will let future generations know who you were, what you saw, and what that moment meant to you.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for stopping by. Everyone can enjoy photography, whether from a cell phone or a more expensive camera. Gear is rarely the deciding factor of what makes a work of art. If you can imagine it, you can create it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Kit Lens and Other Techniques- Part 6


This is generalized as an advanced technique, but I promise you that on the wide angle end of your kit lens (setting your camera to f11) this is super easy. You can do this in full manual exposure mode, but I’d recommend Aperture priority if you’re not sure. Set Auto ISO if you like as well… this is meant to be fun!

Now, your kit lens does not have a focus distance guide. You’ll need to figure it out for yourself, but an easy way to set the focus would be to see the halfway point between focusing closely and focusing for something far away. These settings will allow for an extremely deep depth of field so almost everything between a couple of meters away to almost infinity will be in focus. So now all you need to worry about is framing, clean backgrounds, and pressing the shutter button. Easy peasy!

For those who have a camera with face detect, and plan on making photos of people, use this setting instead. You can still use this kind of focusing if you like, though!  


Short Distance Call

This is the next to the last post regarding kit lens techniques. Feel free to leave questions!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Kit Lens and Other Techniques- Part 5

Turning Your Kit lens into a Prime Lens

Prime lenses help train your photographic eye. You physically need to move back and forth to frame your subject. You see the effects of how focal distance affects depth of field. With enough practice, you will have an idea of how much will be in the frame even before you lift the camera to your eye. You can replicate these learning tools with your kit lens simply by setting your camera to a focal length and putting a little piece of tape to keep the zoom ring from moving. My suggestion is to set the camera to where the focal length allows for a 3.5 or 4 aperture. (Background: My first SLR was a 35mm film camera, and my first lens a 35mm 3.5. I went almost a year with just this before using a different focal length). I currently have my kit lens set up like this (set to 20mm on a crop sensor, roughly 32mm field of view on a full-frame body).

Things You Will Learn

 1.       Cleaning up your backgrounds. The depth of field will be deep. This translates to having more in focus. You will need to pay attention to what is behind your subject. Is there a tree sticking out of their head? Are there cars behind them? Is there something distracting in the background? You will learn how to put both your scene and your subject together. This contextual balance is key.

2.       Tunnel Vision Correction. When you take a photo, your eyes get fixed on what you’re photographing, but the camera sees more than what you’ve zoned in on. When you zoom in, you further minimize the effects of background issues. However, having a wider field of view and deeper depth of field will mean that, consciously, you need to decide what does and does not belong in the frame. If you’re trying to capture the beauty of a slow moving creek, you would want to include different rocks, flowers, and shadows. However, you would want to exclude signs, floating trash, cars, etc.

3.       Learning the benefits and faults of different focal lengths. There’s no magic setting for a good photo. There’s no perfect camera or a do-it-all lens. Your camera can’t tell you what is beautiful and what is dull. You make these decisions. Once you spend a couple of months on this single focal length, you can zoom in or out a bit more. Rinse, and repeat. You’ll see certain things change. Going from wide angle to zoomed in all the way, you’ll notice that the depth of field is narrower. There’s less perspective distortion when getting very close to your subject. In my opinion, it’ll be more flattering to people’s faces (research the effects of wide angle lenses and focal length compression).

4.       Self-Fulfilling. The more you understand your camera and how to use it, the better you’ll feel. The more settings you set manually, the more you’ll understand the effects of light, aperture, and shutter speed. Beautiful photos can be made even with your camera is set to Full-Auto, so don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. The point I’m trying to make is that the more you understand the settings, the easier it is for you to utilize the automatic and Semi-Automatic features. YOU are the photographer, so if your camera can’t make the right decision you need to be able to get the photo you want yourself. This is your hobby/passion/obsession. Don’t let the camera, the tool used to express yourself, get between you and your art.

I'm glad you've hung in there through-out this series! Things are starting to wind down, so there'll be two more posts to round out this topic.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Kit Lens and Other Techniques- Part 4

Finding Light

Photography is all about light. Without light, there’d be no photography. The quality of light, its direction, and the number of light sources all change the mood and impact of an image. In the case of the kit lens, light is even more important. There’s artificial light, via your flash and lights around the house, and then there’s natural light. You don’t need to just be outside for sunlight, you can use light streaming in through a window (the larger the better). There are many resources out there on how to use sunlight, including these topics that you should look into: the Golden Hour, photographing in harsh/direct sunlight, How to Diffuse sunlight.

Learning how to use sunlight will help you make the most of your kit lens. Have your photographic subject (whether that be a loved one, a plate of food, an interesting object) sitting in front of a window. You can diffuse the light with a sheet, a thin curtain, or simply with the blinds. You can use a large white poster board to help direct more light to their face or to fill in shadows. When you’re outside, you can have your subject's back to the sun and use the on-camera flash, in this case referred to as ‘fill flash.’

BunBun- Gone, but never forgotten

For inanimate objects, a tripod can work wonders. Or you can just find a stool or any steady object. If this is the case, you can go ahead and turn the IS off. Set the camera to a two to ten-second delay. This will ensure that the camera is completely still before the shutter fires. This works with every kind of camera. There’s also mirror lock-up, and if this feature is offered, which it would not be on a mirrorless camera as it has no mirror, you’ll be able to find out how to use it you’re your camera manual. If you’re outside in bright sunlight, go ahead and keep the IS off. The shutter speed will be more than high enough for taking handheld images. Remember, available light can always be used. It’s your eye and knowledge that will determine the best way to use that light. Your settings will affect the final image. 

As a photographer, you use shadows, blur, textures, and shapes to tell your story. Look for interesting angles and opposing ideas in your photos. An easy to digest, visually appealing idea is more interesting than just a sharp, well-focused image that says nothing.

In my next segment, your 'zoom' kit lens will become a 'prime' lens.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Kit Lens and Other Techniques- Part 3

Zoom lenses were created to be a prime lens’s versatile counterpart. If you want to show more in a photo, you zoom out. Of course if you want to have a tighter field of view, you zoom in. But there’s an additional zoom you've had all along, it is called Foot Zoom (jokes aside, if you do not have feet then whatever way you have to physically move your body and camera farther or closer from the subject will work). An example would be taking a photo of your significant other. In this make-believe but entirely possible scenario, you’re in a restaurant with light from a bulb shining right on their face. You pull out your camera, since you carry it everywhere like a good photographer should, zoom all the way in on their face and take a photo. The photo then comes out grainy and blurry!

But wait, Image Stabilization?!

Hold your horses! Zoomed in, the maximum aperture has become smaller and the camera has had to compensate by raising the ISO, or how sensitive it is to light. Also, the shutter speed may have been slower so the smallest movement from the subject would cause blur (IS is for your shaky hands, not someone’s shaky face).

Now, you will learn this tried and true technique. Set your camera to Aperture Priority, zoom all the way out, and set your aperture as wide as it will go. Slowly zoom in until you see that the aperture changed to f4. Take the photo again. You’ll notice two things. First, there’s a lot more of the scene. Second, the photo is slightly less grainy and not blurry. Now three things are coming into play: you’re zoomed in, causing your aperture to be at f5.6. At f4, you’re letting in twice as much light (1 stop). You can also have a slower shutter speed because the wider you go, the easier it is to stay steady (1 stop due to longer shutter speed). So roughly two stops gained translated to your ISO dropping about two stops, resulting in a cleaner image. Lastly, you took a photo of your significant other in the context of a scene. You might see other people eating, sunlight bursting in through windows, or perhaps a waiter/waitress taking someone’s order. This makes for a much more interesting photo.

These were taken by my wife, Cecilia. The first is at ISO 6400, 55mm. The second is at ISO 800, 23mm. even at almost the highest ISO, the first photo isn't even that noisy at this size (click to view at 700 pixels on its longest side). With that said, you get a better idea of where we're at and what I'm wearing. A little bit more 'story,' you could say.

The upcoming post will be about thinking in terms of light, shadow, and shapes.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Kit Lens and Other Techniques- Part 2

So, the kit lens. As you zoom in, the maximum aperture gets smaller. On Canon cameras, the focus ring turns, it extends, and has a super short throw; even the slightest touch can make it go out of focus (in manual focus mode). They’re often buzzy and plasticky. Even though these are negative aspects, they can translate to very positive uses.

Aesthetically speaking, they are pretty small when compared to more expensive zooms, and the fastest primes lenses are about the same size, if not larger. They are very light, so attached to a camera body they are a joy to carry around all day. Then there’s the noise. Consider the kit lens as a piece of charcoal. In the wrong hands, there’s an awful, smudgy mess. In the right hands, works of art can be created if you’re willing to visualize and get your hands dirty. Onlookers will consider you just another tourist or newbie, never thinking that you’re creating a beautiful image that includes them as central characters.

Having a very short focus throw means that in Auto Focus mode, focus is fast. There isn’t a lot of glass to move inside the lens, so this aids in quick focusing in ‘good’ light. Another awesome aspect of kit lenses is that they have a pretty good ‘close focusing distance.’ This means you can get pretty close to what you’re photographing. Though not as close as a dedicated macro lens, it’s usable and only as weak as your creativity.

The Pillar

Kit lenses nowadays often have built-in ‘Image Stabilization,’ also known as IS or VR. This means the lens itself is trying to make up for your shaky hands. So, with the IS turned off and your shaky hands, you might have to have a shutter speed of, let’s say, 1/125th of a second at ISO 800 (indoors, wide angle, static subject). With IS turned on, you get up to 3 stops of stabilization (8 times more light). So you could, in theory, bring your ISO down to 100 for a much cleaner image. Uses for this include food and still-life photography.

Ice Cold

Fried Goodness


In Part 3 of this series, I'll be covering a little more information regarding Image Stabilization, Shutter Speed, and ISO. Thanks again for stopping by!