Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fun with macro in PA...

I just got back from a 5 day vacation in PA. Every year my wife's family rents a cabin on Lake Walenpaupack in PA for two weeks. All the "kids" go up over the long weekend and we have a blast. And of course I have taken the opportunity to do some significant shooting.

For the last several years I have focused primarily on scenic work of the water, and sunsets. Of course by now I have shot that to death and decided that this year I needed to focus on something different. I decided that this year I would try my hand in macro photography, and maybe try to do some night sky pictures. I have tried the night sky thing before in PA but was hampered by clouds, and the lack of a real big wide view due to the crop factor of my camera.

In the past I rented various lenses from for my PA trips. I have gotten the 70-200 f2.8L IS a few times and liked it.. although it was pretty heavy. My favorite two rentals up to this point have been the 400mm f5.6L which did great with wildlife, and the 10-22 f3.5 which made up for the crop factor of my camera last year. If I didn't get the 5d I was going to get this lens. A big dud was a fish eye lens that I tried out last year and really had no idea how to work..

So this year I decided to go with something new and get the macro. My friend Brett (Hi Brett!) has one and it looked like it would be cool to try. I rented the Canon 100mm f2.8 IS. Cost me like $70 bucks with insurance and shipping included. Not too bad for 1 week.

So we get up to PA and I start shooting macro stuff right away. Everything from the caterpillars I see crawling around all over to the knotty wood of the side of the cabin. I quickly realize that natural light was not going to cut it. Pulling the limited knowledge I got with 20 minutes of research in macro photography (done the night before we left no less) I hooked up my 580EX using the off shoe cord and attached my lumiquest soft box. Using f22 and 1/160 (ISO 200) I found that I could get some nice results if I positioned the lighting just right.

So after a few days of messing around at the lake with this setup I can tell you one thing: Macro photography is HARD! Seriously the hardest thing I have done yet. The DOF even at f22 is tiny. Holding the camera steady is nearly impossible and that is amplified with the fact it is heavy as hell and i can only use one hand (with the other I am holding the light). I did use a tripod some of the time but when going after quick insects that just wasn't an option. Most of the good shots I got were of these flowers we brought in a vase. A few others were of insects I happened upon.

All in all it was a good experience trying macro and I think I want to get a lens the next time I have some cash to spend (no time soon). I won't be spending $1000 for the lens i rented.. maybe a less expensive Tamron.

In addition to the macro stuff I had two good sessions with sunsets using my 24-105 and going all out with the tripod and bracketed exposure. I plan on bringing those into HDR and seeing if i can make something nice with them. I did also get some time one night with a clear sky. I tried a variety of things like shooting the big dipper, and getting a wide field at long exposure. The 30-120sec shots seem usable but the longer ones I did of 20 minutes really were very noisy. I have no idea what I was doing wrong with that but I'll do some research and try again in a few weeks. The one shot I love from the night was a long exposure showing the streaks of the stars as they circled Polaris. If i can clean one of those up I think it will end up in my portfolio.

So all in all a good weekend. Now I have to get some time to sort and process in PS. I plan on bringing my workstation up from "The Dungeon" (my office in the basement) and putting it in the family room for a few weeks so I can get through my portfolio work over the next few weeks. I'll write more on that in a future blog.

Final observation.. I really really need to get a real big bag.. I have a LowePro Nova 5, Slingshot 200, and microtrecker 100.. and ended up using all three to bring all my stuff.. I am still debating on if i want to get a big backpack like the Tamrac Expedition x6, or maybe a monster sized shoulder bag... or maybe nothing. I rarely bring this much crap with me (3 bodies, 6 lenses, tripod, and all the trimmings).. my biggest issue is when I want to bring my tripod with me on a hike.. I dono.. still thinking. May end up doing what I usually do and deciding at the PhotoPlus Expo in NYC and ordering from B&H on the spot.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Trying to be non-redundant...

Well here we go again.. I am starting a new blog.

After spending a considerable amount of time/energy on political oriented blogs I decided that I just didn't care anymore. Well not that I didn't care.. I do care.. quite a bit actually. My opinions and the fact that I have a ton of them and like to get up on my soapbox all the time has not changed. However I realized that I don't think anyone really was listening. So why bother throw any kind of time/effort/energy into it if it means nothing to anyone? Most of my "friends" usually agree with me.. and those that don't usually know better then to open their mouths... as Charles Wang said:

"If we both agree on everything, then one of us is redundant"...

So there is really no point to preaching to the choir.. for now you will just have to deal with me ranting in person and the occasional verbal beat down on someone else's facebook posting. (For the record I still consider myself to be undefeated).

I am one of those people who likes to be involved with many things at once. The consequence is that nothing really gets 100% of my effort.. And when you already have to spend 40+ hours per week at work, and then you have a family that you spend time/energy with, there is very little left to go toward "extras".

Soo after some thought and pondering I decided to somewhat clean house of my involvements. It really didn't mean any actual changes as most of the other things I had going on were dieing out anyway. The biggest thing is just establishing a better time management practice with the time that I had available. And after all is said and done I decided that if I had to pursue just one of my "passions" it would be photography. And not just the photography that I had been doing the last few years.. the kind that i started with... what got me into the art in the first place.

Now don't get me wrong.. I have enjoyed thoroughly taking family portraits for my close friends and their friends and their friends of friends (and so on..)... and I will continue to do so for the time being. Creative Designs Photography has been a excellent vehicle for me to learn and practice my art behind the viewfinder and in PhotoShop. However as you can imagine there are only so many shots of "Baby on pillow with rose petals around him/her" that you can take, and so many hours smoothing skin and removing backdrop wrinkles, before realizing your not growing as a photographer. And you know.... while I am spending all that time in my nice controlled home studio environment there is a whole world out there full of "moments" that crave being captured.. I need to get out and start getting my piece of the pie.

This blog is just one of the things I am doing to re-invigorate myself within photography... an attempt to break free of the plateau I have found myself in and grow into the next level (what ever that is). What am I going to write about? Well any number of things. Maybe I'll talk about the shoots I send myself out on.. or maybe I will philosophize about theory and art... and maybe from time to time I'll throw up a tutorial or technical discussion..

I have no idea who is going to read this.. I hope at least my close friends and photographer buddies... I have no idea how often I will post.. maybe several times in a day.. maybe nothing for a few weeks... Please feel free to comment on my postings.. I wanna hear the good or the bad. Hopefully more good then bad.

{beep} turn the page..