Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Just keep on experimenting

As some know, we recently returned to the UK after some 8 years in the US.

For me, the real downside of our return has been the fact that all my photography equipment was ‘locked away’ in a 40ft container. That all changed a couple of weeks ago, when our US life turned up in the UK.

For those that can’t imagine a 40ft container: think some 400 boxes!

Anyway, now I have all my ‘stuff’, I decided to bring together two of my latest ‘toys’: the new WA macro lens and my new ColorRight Lumenator Pro, a flash diffuser and high output LED system:

In my experiment today I only used the LED element to bring some light onto the scene. I set the WA Macro to F/16, used ML to ‘grab’ my exposure at ISO 100, resulting in a 0.4s exposure.

Bottom line: for those who have not spotted the Lumenator Pro’s entry on to the market, I would recommend you give it a look. It seems to offer help to the macro photographer looking to ensure the right light falls on small and dark scenes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Further experiments in Wide Angle Macro Photography

Just a few words on my continuing (indoor) experiments with the new WA macro lens.

The set up was a simple still life in the kitchen. I set the focus on one pencil and applied a little shift on the lens, to correct for my tripod-pencil geometry. I kept the aperture deliberately open, at F/5.6, to see what the bokeh looked like.

Exposure setting was aided by Magic Lantern, via its auto bracketing, giving me three brackets at 1, 1/4 and 1/15 of a second, all at ISO 100.

I then brought these into Lightroom and used Lr-Enfuse to blend the three images together. I also did a white balance correction and some sharpening in LR, and then exported the image to Photoshop-CC.

In PS-CC I used the select Focus Area tool to create a mask, that I used to bring a little extra ‘focus’ to the pencil tip using a curve layer.

Here are two images that show off the new lens: the first an uncropped image showing the WA ‘reach’ of the lens; the second a cropped image showing the macro capture capability.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A new perspective

I would wager a pint of beer, IPA of course, that anyone reading this post with a dedicated macro lens, ie with a magnification of unity, will be shooting at 50mm or more, and many will have a lens at 100mm. As an example I have the Canon 100mm F/2.8L.

The depth of field at unity magnification is, of course, small, ie hovering around a mm on my full frame 5D3, according to the aperture, but independent of the focal length.

From a composition perspective macro lenses can be limiting as, for example, at a focal length of 100mm the diagonal field of view is just under 25 degrees.

Well now the FoV restrictions have been lifted, thanks to Anhui ChangGeng Optical Technology Company Limited (Venus Optics), a Chinese camera lens manufacturer based in Hefei, Anhui. Their first lens was a 60mm macro with a magnification of 2.

Their second lens, and the one I got in the post today, is a wide angle (15mm) F/4 macro:

At 15mm the diagonal field of view is now pushed out some 110 degrees: thus offering us the chance to take macros and show the environment of the subject.

Another feature that this lens has is a shift of +/- 6mm, which I used in the test image, taken at an aperture of F/5.6.

In this post all I wanted to do was to alert you to the lens and illustrate the wide angle capability with this terrible capture made in front of my TV, with a cloth flower as my subject.

In future post I hope to explore this new lens in the real world!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Filters aren’t just for your lenses

Unlike in the film days, with digital we are ‘protected’ from the non-visible parts of the spectrum, ie the infra-red end and the ultra-violet ends. Most DSLRs have various ‘filters’ in front of the sensor, eg to block IR.

Some argue that UV filters are still of value, but as a lens protector, ie better to break a ‘cheap’ filter than the front of an expensive lens.

Of course, some lens filters are still needed, for instance it is difficult to ‘correct’ for glare in Photoshop, so sometimes a circular polarisers comes in useful. In addition, we all need ND filters to achieve LE shots.

But this post is not about lens filters. It is about the use of filters in another part of our photography system: over our eyes!

As some know, last year was not a good year for me: as I had three eye operations. Two for macular puckering and one for cataracts.

The first thing I noticed was that the eye I had the operation on had a WB shift towards the blue, ie my ‘good’ eye looks warmer relative to my ‘fixed’ eye. I have been told this is usual even in people with two ‘good’ eyes, ie the brain creates a composite WB.

It is easy to test your own eyes. Simply look at a light source by alternately closing each eye and seeing if your perception of the scene’s WB changes.

Although our post processing pivots around WB, in the field, shooting in RAW, WB is not that important.

What is important, however, is simply being able to read the camera and see the scene.

So most of us will automatically turn to our sexy sunglasses. But, bluntly, looking sexy is not that important to me: what is important is capturing my image.

Having experimented with various sunglasses, both prescription and non-prescription, I have finally settled on High Density copper, non-polarised, blue-blocking sunglasses.

The reasons are simple: I found polarised negatively impacted my ability to read my camera’s LV scene. I found glasses that were too dark also made it difficult to read the camera. I also found a full UV blocker made every thing clearer, ie blocking UVA, UVB and UVC.

So, in the end, I went for a rather ‘cheap’ solution from Ideal Eyewear ( that fit over my prescription glasses.

At $18 (in the US) these glasses are cheap enough, that if I lose them or break them, I don’t care. I can, however, now can see the scene in a quasi-HDR way, eg clouds pop.

Bottom line: I recommend you try out this type of sunglasses, and let me know how you get on.