Tag Archives: photography

Photo of the Day: Office Space Rock Stars

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I’ll have a full write-up of my workshop later today, but here’s a teaser image from it. One of my mantras that I shared with the group is to keep pushing yourself until there is a decent possibility you might fail — if all of your shots are pretty good, you’re not expanding yourself. (Of course, this has to be at times where you are safe to fail on a few frames. The first kiss is probably not the best place for it).

So I let the group watch as I decided to give myself a challenge: I would find the most boring, ugly place around and take photos right there. So I found a featureless office hallway with the ugliest green fluorescent lighting you’ve ever seen. The only thing it had going for it was the natural perspective of a hallway. So I took my awesome couple and sat them down, so that we could see that perspective better, and I lit them with a very warm, tungsten video light. With white balance correction, that turned the ambient from a horrible puke-green to a kind of funky and cool deep turquoise, a nice contrast to her red shirt, and of course this is kind of a funky couple.


Photo(s) of the Day: New Year’s Eve at War? (Point&Shoot photos)

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I had such a fantastic New Year’s Eve, thanks to being around some great people. I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico with some new friends. One of them was originally from the area, and had an invitation to a party for friends and family at one of his mother’s friends’ houses. It sounded like such a change from the normal club scene that we had to take up the offer.

I’m glad we did. Everyone was so warm and inviting, celebrating first the San Juan-time New Year’s and then the New York-time New Year’s with dancing and an amount of fireworks that would get you thrown into a federal penitentiary in New York. Since I decided against bringing my expensive Nikon D3s out on New Year’s, I captured the scene with my friend’s automatic point and shoot, the Canon 780. I embraced the limitations, switching to black and white mode, pushing it to ISO 1600, and pre-focusing and metering so I could get the shutter speeds and exposures I wanted. Whereas the D3s can capture pretty much any scene with more literalism and detail than your eyes can, here I embraced the expressionistic quality of a limited camera. And I had a great time — as my friend said, “These look like you spent New Year’s in Beiruit!”

A few more:

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Shante and Akili: 10/3/08

Surgeons in Love

Mea culpa. I’ve been racing so fast to get photos and products to my wonderful clients that I haven’t had the time to properly tell their stories here. I have a lot to say, though, so I’m going to try an interesting challenge: I will post something to this blog here every day for the next 25 days (behavioral theorists will note that’s long enough for an action to become habit-forming). Some of it will be discussion of photography tech, some of it will be tips, and some of it will be write-ups of the fantastic weddings and events I’ve been lucky to shoot, such as the fantastic wedding of Shanté and Akili.

Talk about a power couple: BOTH Shanté and Akili are surgeons. It’s only fitting that a young couple who has worked so hard to get where they are got married at a castle — the gorgeous Lyndhurst Manor in Tarrytown, NY.

If you have the time, I strongly recommend viewing the full slideshow of the wedding. Both of them looked awesome, and the party was energetic, to say the least.











Review: Sigma 70mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro

Taken with the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 Macro

DSLR lenses are specialized tools — they can open up new opportunities that point-and-shoot cameras can’t, but they also have some limitations. Usually the first way a new user discovers this is when they try and take very close macro shots that had worked great on their point-and-shoots, and finding out that the fancy new camera can’t focus anywhere near as close.

The good news is that there are a slew of specialized macro lenses for every model of DSLR. The bad news, of course, is that they cost more money. But the good news is that pretty much every macro I’ve ever heard of is exceedingly sharp, even from brands like Vivitar that don’t always inspire confidence. So what would it mean if a company released a lens so sharp that even users of all these other tack-sharp macros were surprised? And what if it were one of the cheapest lenses in its class?

At first glance, that’s exactly what Sigma seems to have accomplished with the 70mm f/2.8. Review after review have noted how sharp it is, even wide-open, from corner to corner. It sounded too tempting to resist, so I picked one up for myself. Here’s what you need to know about this lens:

  • Yes, it’s extremely sharp. Sharp enough to be noticeably better than even other amazingly good lenses, like my 24-70mm f/2.8. It also has nice color transmission and great contrast. I like sharp photos on the principle that you can always make things less sharp later, but it is noticeably unforgiving on human skin — the tiniest crows feet wrinkles show up even at f/2.8. It’s a perfect portrait lens for kids and a great focal length for headshots on APS cameras (equivalent to a 105mm lens, a classic portrait length), but you might want to have a good make-up artist around for adults. On the photo above, I purposefully left the clear-as-day fingerprint on the man’s ring to show you the precision that excessive sharpness requires.

    But remember, all macro lenses are pretty darned sharp. Unless you have a super-high resolution camera, like the new 14+MP APS cameras or the 21MP 1DS Mark III, the difference between them may not be all that noticeable, and other factors might matter more.

  • Good, smooth bokeh This is not true of many of the older macro lenses, and can be important because true macro images often have incredibly narrow depth-of-field. In the image above, the food stands out because of sharpness and clarity, but the specular highlights of the glasses behind blend nicely without being distracting.

  • Underwhelming autofocus It’s hard to make macro lenses with good autofocus, because there’s such a huge range between macro distance and infinity. What you see above is the Sigma 70mm focused at infinity on the left, and focused at 1:1 on the right. As you might imagine, it can’t rack all that lens back and forth very fast, so if your camera hunts through the range to find the right focus mark, you’re guaranteed to lose a few seconds of time, and possibly the photo you wanted. This makes it a much less useful lens for shooting moving objects than an internal-focus design like the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro, which racks through its focus range comparatively quickly. The Sigma does have a focus limiter switch, but even then it’s not speedy. To save cost and size, it doesn’t have Sigma’s HSM in-lens focus motor, which means cameras in Nikon’s entry-level DSLR class cannot focus with this lens at all.

    The huge focus extension also means that when you are focused all the way in, you are incredibly close to your subject, close enough to knock your lens hood against it if you’re not careful. If you’re shooting animals who might be scared of a lens in their face, you might want something longer like Sigma’s 150mm f/2.8 Macro.

  • Poor lens hood design. If you like to use lens hoods, you might be disappointed at the outdated screw-on hood, which cannot be fastened to the lens backward for easy storage and which renders the lens cap pretty much useless. If you switch between lenses often, this makes the task of getting this lens ready for flare-free shooting much more onerous than it needs to be.

In short, this lens is an optical marvel, but it is a specialized tool for specialized tasks. The first thing to consider is whether you really need macro, or if you can make do with the close-focusing of your existing lenses. The second thing is to consider whether this lens hits the sweet spot of usability versus cost. You can probably easily find a used manual focus macro for dirt-cheap that performs admirably, but then you’ll lose focus (and maybe metering ability). You can also find a lens like the 105mm f/2.8 VR that’s more usable for non-macro shooting, but it costs a lot more money. If you want fantastic macro performance with autofocus at a good price, or you simply want absolutely ludicrous optical quality over AF speed, this lens could be for you.


Quick booking note

Quick message to the newly engaged — if you plan on getting married on a Saturday in 2008, you’ll want to contact me soon. My free dates are few and far between once May begins. Any free spirits getting married on weekdays will probably have better luck, since my editorial and commercial clients tend to book with relatively little advanced notice.