Tag Archives: lens

A Canon 5DS, A 100mm Macro Lens, and an Anole Lizard in Southeast Texas

Anole

I recently splurged and purchased a Canon 5DS (50 mp, baby!) and Canon 100mm f2.8L macro lens.  I’m trying to regain the photo mojo I feel I’ve lost since my mother’s death this past February.  Her passing, plus being stuck in southeast Texas for the hot, humid summer, has enervated my photographic instincts.  So, when I saw a couple of anole lizards having sex on the wall next to the back door of my mother’s house, I trotted back to my apartment (I live next door) to grab camera and lens to capture the moment (yeah, lizard porn).  By the time I returned to the house, the two had gone their separate ways.  I instead, turned my camera onto this little lizard trying to blend in with the black, rust and green colors on the wrought-iron fence.

Little Green Lizard

Anole lizards are beautiful little creatures anywhere from 2″ – 6″ in length, from snout to tail tip.  Normally, they are a brilliant, almost-neon, green hue.  But, when they feel threatened (and who wouldn’t if a large camera and lens combo was bearing down you), they change color like a chameleon to blend in with the surroundings.

Matching The Colors Of The Fence

I haven’t used my new camera or new lenses (yes, plural) much … yet … but this is a start.  I am blown away by the detail this latest Canon addition provides.  Not the fastest thing on the market concerning fps (frames per second), but the shutter click is much quieter than the 5D Mk II (and definitely quieter than the 1DX), and has a really nice feel to it.  It does take up more space on the memory card, so I’ll have to invest in a few with more GB (32, 128).  But, from what I have seen thus far out of my camera, it’s all worth it.

Anole Lizard In The Sun

Can’t wait to try it out when I travel to Santa Fe, NM for the long Labor Day holiday weekend in September.

 

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Filed under 5DS, Canon, Equipment, lizard, macro

Low-Light Photography and A Night at the Museum

Cyborg Rex

The Cyborg Carnivore – that light looks like a laser eye

I am not a big partier.  I used to go out more during  my college days, but that was eons ago and I would now much rather do something sans crowds….unless, of course, it’s an interesting venue and I can tote along my camera.

My company’s 2014 Employee Appreciation Party  was held at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  With the exception of a few exhibits, we had the entire place to ourselves.   I couldn’t refuse the photo ops, now, could I?

Greg Hills Talk

The Dance Floor and The Welcome Speech

I knew the light would be low or bright only in spots, but I did not want to take along a flash because I did not want to ruin the ambience that available light bestows.  Flash would have created shadows and would have destroyed any of the neat available-light colors seen in these photos.

Hall Of The Dinosaurs #1

Hall Of The Dinosaurs #2

Hall Of The Dinosaurs #3

The shots above are of the Paleo Hall, where tables and food stations were set between the skeletons of pre-historic denizens

So, I set the ISO high – varying it between 1000 and 2500 on my Canon 1DX and used my Canon 24-70mm version II lens.  The shutter speed was between 1/40 and 1/60 and the f-stop was set to 4.

I applied what  is called  the “spray and pray” method of image capture (I’d never heard this before until just recently).  It means you hold down on that shutter button, clicking away  (the “spray” part) and “pray” that one of the images comes out the way you want it.  I’ll go with that.  It’s always worked for me in the past and I have plenty of memory cards.

The View From My Table

A View of the Dance Floor from My Table

The Foucault Pendulum

Foucault’s Pendulum

Hall Of The Egyptians

Hall of the Egyptians

The Paleo Hallway

The Paleo Hallway

Ready To Do Battle

Face Off!

Stegasaurus

Spotlight on the Stegosaurus

Triceratops

My Favorite Dinosaur:  The Triceratops

I applied noise-reduction software to all of these images because the high ISO settings required elimination of the inherent grainy look.

Becky And Friend_H5T7981

Me and A Friend

I joke that someday, when I become a famously-recognized (and wealthy) photographer, I will rent this museum’s Paleo Hall for a reception.  Winking smile

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Filed under Canon, Canon Lens, Equipment, Houston, low light photography, Photography

A Short (and Unscientific) Review of Tamron’s New 150-600mm Lens for Canon Mount

Canon 1DX and Tamron 150-600

The Canon 1DX  and Tamron 150-600mm lens

Because this Tamron 150-600mm lens is so new, Lensrentals didn’t have it in stock for my original reservation date. So, I told them to send it when they could. One week later, it was in my hot little hands. Here’s my take on this brand new lens.

The Tamron 150-600mm  lens retails for $1069 at BH Photo and at Adorama and is available for Canon, Nikon and Sony mounts.  Right now (well, as of Feb 15), you can only pre-order the lens here in the USA.

Out of the box:

  • It weighs .03 lbs less than the Sigma 50-500mm, so both are equal in terms of heft.
  • When I first received the lens, I discovered that the lock switch did not work at the 600mm focal length. A Lensrentals tech told me that the lock switch was there only to work at the 150mm focal length to make sure the lens didn’t accidentally move out to a longer length while one was carrying the lens on their shoulder.  Really?   I should think the lock switch is supposed to work at any focal length, and not just the 150mm focal length. I may hate the locking mechanism on my Canon 100-400 but at least it works at all of the focal lengths.
  • If you have microfocus adjustment on your camera, test the lens to make sure the focus is hitting like it should. On my 1DX, it was spot-on. On my Canon 5D Mk III, it was front-focusing.

A Day at the Park

I took my Canon 1DX and this lens out for a morning spin at Brazos Bend State Park, located about halfway between my home and Houston. Btw, mornings are the best time to go out there for birdlife and for few-to-no crowds. I made a return trip later in the day and the place was packed. I got out of the car, looked at all the people and then at the full parking lot at one of my favorite stops, got back in the car and came home.   As I was exiting the park, I looked over to the entrance and saw a long line of cars waiting to get in.  No thank you.

How did this lens do?

As far as image resolution – and this is my opinion only, based upon my own photographic results – I believe this lens is as good as or better than the Sigma 50-500.  I kept the f-stop between 8 – 10 because I’d read other reviews indicating sharpness was better achieved at these apertures (same as with the reviews I’d read about the Sigma lens).   Had it been an overcast day rather than the gorgeous, sunny day that it was, my ISO would have moved from 500 up to probably 1000 – 2000.  As it was, I kept my ISO between 250-500 depending upon the light at any one spot.  My shutter speeds ranged between 200 – 800.

After reviewing the magnified images on my camera’s LCD screen, I was ready to throw in the towel concerning this lens.  Then, when I got the photos downloaded to my computer and I could get a better look at them, I was blown away at the sharpness. Yet another lesson to me that I should never quite trust what I see magnified on my camera’s LCD screen in terms of resolution clarity.

(Note:  To see high-res versions of these low-res uploads, click on each image)

Ibis

The original, cropped a little to get rid of extraneous stuff.  Only adjustments were my normal curves and sharpening – things I apply to all of my images so nothing else special was done

Ibis

65% crop of the original

BUT…. while this lens produces very nice images, it still has some quirks.

Focusing…..Oy Vey

I’d read other reviews about this lens having an issue with tracking and focusing. Yup. I had problems myself, but I don’t think to quite the extent that some reviewers experienced. Tamron didn’t do such a great job with the focus tracking, and I had a difficult time trying to get the lens to focus on anything in motion. Out of all of the photos I took while tracking movements of the birds, maybe 2 or 3 were in-focus. And I was using a Wimberley gimbal tripod head to keep things steady. I highly doubt I would have gotten those 2 or 3 decent shots had I tried to hand-hold the lens even with image stabilization engaged.  The Sigma 50-500 was much,  much better at tracking action images like birds in flight.

And speaking of focus, I discovered that it’s practically non-existent if using any of the focus points other than the ones in the middle of the screen. My 1DX has multi-focus points, and I sometimes use different points whenever I am in Servo Mode because the part on which I want to focus (like the eyes) may be in the far left, far right, upper or lower portion of the image;  to have moved the focus smack dab in the middle of the composition would have cut out a part of the subject.

Aside from the items above, focus – as long as I used the middle focal points – worked just fine and was relatively quick.

Image Stabilization (VC)

Because I kept the camera and lens on a tripod, I didn’t really use image stabilization except a couple of times. It’s just different from what I am used to with my Canon lenses.  At least the image stabilization with Tamron is not so jumpy and unpredictable as with the Sigma 50-500.

A Couple of Questions:

  1. Do I think this a good lens to use for sports (or any other type of fast action like birds in flight or bears battling for a prime spot at Brooks Falls)? No, not at this point in time. Won’t be until Tamron gets their focus tracking issues fixed – if they ever do  (Tamron, I hope you are reading this post).
  2. Would I purchase this lens for my own uses? Hell yeah! I’m gonna get one….AFTER waiting awhile in the hope that Tamron gets all that focus stuff fixed. It’s a fantastic lens for getting stationary or reeeeaallllly slow-moving shots, but not so much for the faster action.

Ibis In The Tree

Little Blue Heron

Soakin Up The Rays

Gator

This lens doesn’t quite match the resolution output of a Canon prime, but like the Sigma 50-500, it’s an affordable option. Since my credit scores are not quite to the point that I could attempt to take out a loan for the Canon 600mm, this Tamron 150-600 (when the focus problems hopefully get ironed out) will be a great alternative.

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Filed under birds, Brazos Bend State Park, Canon, Equipment, nature, Parks, Photography, Tamron 150-600

A (Unscientific) Review of the Sigma 50-500mm at the 500mm Focal Length

Blue-Winged Teal

Blue-winged teal (I think) at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

As of late, I’ve been suffering a little cabin fever on the weekends. I want to do something photographically (other than edit archived images), but don’t know what. My part of southeast Texas is not the most photogenic for landscape imagery, but it is definitely a treasure trove for bird photography; Brazos Bend State Park, a number of wildlife refuges including Brazoria and Aransas NWRs, the wetlands parallel to the Gulf Coast and Padre Island National Seashore are all within a 30-minute to 4-hour drive away.

I go out to the nearby state park and Brazoria NWR often, but the birds tend to be skittish and are generally too distant for the reach of my Canon 100-400mm lens, thus requiring some degree of image cropping during the editing stage. After seeing others with their big honkin’ primes out at these places, I always suffer a little angst over the fact that I don’t own a super-telephoto, myself. So for yucks and giggles, I reserved a number of super-telephoto lenses with Lensrentals.com to try out over the next couple of months: The Sigma 50-500mm, Tamron’s new 150-600mm lens, Canon’s 800mm prime and I even decided to try out (for the fun of it) the Nikon D800 camera and Nikkor 600mm lens.

This particular post is about my thoughts (with samples) of the Sigma 50-500mm lens at its longest focal length (because I only want the long length for birds – I’m not interested in any of the shorter focal lengths since I already own that aforementioned Canon 100-400mm which I love…well, except for that damned push-pull zoom mechanism).

This is a TOTALLY unscientific review. Everything written here is my opinion only. I’m going to try not to be much of a “pixel-peeper”, either, but I do have high standards that I expect from my full-frame Canons and a good lens.

The photos in this post are relatively low-res;  if you want to see a higher-res shot, just click on the photo and it will take you to that image that I’ve uploaded to my photography website.

My thoughts:

A Canon 1DX and this lens are a little bit heavier for my small hands than my 1DX and 100-400. But then I had no intention of hand-holding this lens as I planned on attaching it to the Wimberley gimbal tripod head I recently won off of eBay (saved myself $200 and it works like a charm).

Canon and Sigma

The Sigma 50-500 at it’s 500mm length, attached to my Canon 1DX on a Wimberley gimbal head and Induro tripod legs

I like Sigma’s focus ring (unlike that stupid push-pull of the Canon 100-400 – what the hell was this company thinking at the time it did that??).

I also like the easy lock switch (My Canon 100-400 has a ring that you have to turn to get the lens to lock at a certain focal length – to get it to stay locked, you need to make sure that ring is turned clockwise as tight as possible).

I’d read in other reviews of this lens that one needed to set the f-stop to at least 8 for optimal sharpness. So all of my images taken at Brazos Bend State Park and the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge were between f8 and f10. Because the weekend has been warm but cloudy and overcast with some rain (and a little bit of sun here and there), and to offset the small amount of light getting in through the aperture because of the f-stop settings, the ISO ranged between 400 to 2000 depending upon the outdoor lighting conditions at any particular moment.

Goldfinch

A goldfinch (I think) at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

Sigma’s OS (analogous to Canon’s IS and Nikon’s VR – image stabilization) is really odd and I don’t like it at all. It was as if the lens took on a life of its own whenever I switched from non-OS to OS. I’d look through the viewfinder and try to focus on a subject only to have the lens actually jump to a slightly different point in the composition. I had to keep moving the lens back to where I wanted the center focal point to be and then quickly snapping the shutter button. I don’t have that issue with my Canon 100-400 or 70-200. As a result, I only snapped a few shots with the OS turned on.

I captured a few images from my car window (cars make good blinds). I did this because had I gotten out of the car (heck, had I even opened the car door), my subject would have flown away. With my 100-400 lens, I don’t need a bean bag for stabilization and it’s easy to hand-hold. With this Sigma lens, I wished I had a bean bag. I’d anticipated this issue, though, so I used a pillow I’d brought from home on which I rested the camera and Sigma lens for stabilization. The bean bag is going to be a near-future purchase.

Hawk

A hawk on a fencepost at the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, Texas – taken from my car window

I had pretty much figured this lens just wasn’t going to cut it for me. I’d read too many reviews about Sigma’s inconsistent QC issues, but I figured Lensrentals would have tested the lenses before putting them out for rent (and this lens was inexpensive to rent for a few days).  Nonetheless, I would magnify the view of an image on my camera LCD and what I saw caused me some consternation. So imagine my total (and very pleasant) surprise when I got home and saw the day’s photos after they’d been downloaded to my computer. Ok, some of the shots were a little grainy because of the high ISO, but at an f-stop of at least 8, and on a tripod, my images turned out quite nice! Moral of this story: don’t base your judgment solely by what you see on your camera’s magnified LCD screen.

Conclusion:

I know I only had this Sigma 50-500mm for a couple of days.  So, this review is not in-depth.  That being said, I totally agree with the comment of  one of my Facebook Fans:

This lens will never take the place of a Canon or Nikon prime, but it’s definitely an affordable substitute.

Migrating Geese

Migrating geese making a stopover at Cross Trails Pond, Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, Texas

Next weekend (hopefully), I’ll see how the newly-released Tamron 150-600mm measures up.

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Filed under Brazoria NWR, Brazos Bend State Park, Canon, Equipment, Parks, Photography, Sigma lens, Texas, Wildlife Refuge

Christmas Fun with the Canon 250D Close-Up Lens Filter

Pirate Nutcracker Ornament

I recently received my December 2013 edition of Photoshop User.  Within that edition is their “Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide”.  Naturally that was the first thing I turned to upon opening up the magazine.

Jingle Bells

The Canon close-up lens filters were items reviewed in this gear guide.  These can be used for a Canon or Nikkor lenses.  It mentioned how fun these little items were and compared to a real dedicated macro lens, they can be purchased at a fraction of the cost.  So I figured, why not?

Snowflake Ornament

These filters come in several thread sizes, and there are actually two different filters.  The 250D (which is what I ordered) is good for focal lengths of between 30 – 135mm, while the 500D is good for focal lengths of 70 – 300mm.

On Camera

I affixed the close-up lens filter to my Canon 40mm lens to create a light, easy to carry, pseudo-macro lens which I then used to photograph ornaments on my Christmas tree.

All of the images you see of the ornaments in this blog post are totally un-cropped, so this should give you an idea of just how close I can maneuver my camera and lens to get these shots.  Mind you, the depth of field (DOF) is pretty shallow (as you can see) and no, it’s not a dedicated macro.  But, for what is essentially a magnifying glass (utilizing pretty good glass) that is light to use, easy to affix, easy to pack into a gear bag, and produces pretty darned good close up images, I’d say my $87 (this includes 2-day shipping) was well-spent.  It’s going with me on my forthcoming December road trip to Big Bend National Park.

Christmas Ball Reflection

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Filed under Christsmas, Close-Up Lens Filter, Equipment, Holidays, Photography

The Trickiness of Christmas Lights and Portraiture

I like buying local when I can, and I like buying hand-made. So when my friend Sabyn of Simplysabyn crocheted an adorable little Santa holiday hat for a baby, I asked her if she made them for big people, too. Yes, she did. So I ordered one. After receiving it, I thought it would make for a great Facebook profile pic to get a portrait of me modeling the hat in front of my Christmas tree (yes, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet and I have the tree up, lights, ornaments and all).

My goal was to try and get a relatively well-lit shot of me but with all the color and brightness of the lit tree in a darkened room behind me.

Easier said than done.

My first experiment was a shot of me and the tree using only the ambient light given off by the tree. My Canon 5D Mk III was set up with my Canon 85mm f1.2L lens on a tripod. The ISO was set at 1600 with an f-stop of 5 and a shutter speed of 1/10 second. I used my $20 Pixel-brand wireless remote shutter release to get clear images of myself. Oh, and I used myself as the model because I not only like the way I look but I was also the only one around at the time. I wanted to do this experiment right then and there, and I don’t mind doing this over and over until I get it the way I want. I figure other models would get a little bored after awhile. Plus, I wanted to send the final result to my friend Sabyn so she could use them on her FB site if she wanted.

Christmas Becky - Ambient Light

After many takes, here is the resulting image using only the ambient light. The entire image was cast in a golden-red hue which was further emphasized by my red hat and red fleece top. Interesting, but not quite what I was aiming for.

So I brought out a single light stand and screwed in a 500 watt bulb in front of which I put a 24” white umbrella for diffusion since 500 watts at close range is pretty intense – particularly since I was still trying to get the color and glow of the tree lights behind me. The camera was set at ISO 320 with a f-stop of 4.5 and a shutter speed of 1/30.

Christmas Becky

As you can see, the light was great on me, but it totally eliminated the ambience of the tree lights and ornaments.

I’d been working on this for over an hour, was hot and sweaty and more or less done for the day. It wasn’t until the next day that I considered using my flash off-camera. The only problem with that was my focus issue. I couldn’t have my Canon dedicated flash remote trigger on the camera *and* a wireless shutter release (I probably could if I had a different setup). In the end, I relied on manual focus. That was tricky because the only light in the room was provided by the Christmas tree. So I had to set up one of my camera backpacks in the chair in front of the tree, then shine a flashlight on the backpack to help me get the focus correct. Eye roll. But it worked.

This little photo session took forever, because I just couldn’t get the whole lighting thing right. I set the flash to one side of the camera, then I set the flash to practically in front of me, then I set the flash directly behind the camera and raised the stand about a foot above the camera. Finally, just as I was about to give up, I decided to try something. Leaving the flash on the stand behind and above the camera, I deliberately set the camera shutter speed slower than the flash, so that the flash would trigger but the camera shutter would be open for just a bit longer after the flash went off. ISO was 160, the f-stop was 7.1, the shutter speed was ½ second, and the flash intensity was set to between 1/128 and 1/64 (with it being closer to the 1/64 mark).

Christmas Becky-Flash

Ultimately, I had to brighten my face up post-process, but by golly, I got what I was working for: a nicely-lit view of my face and the colorful, glowing ambience of the tree behind me.

Christmas Camera Becky-Flash

Christmas Camera Becky Ornament

Photography is all about practice, experiment, and climbing that learning curve.

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Filed under Canon Lens, Christsmas, Equipment, Flash Photography, Holidays, Photography, Portraits, Studio Lights

An HDR Perspective of the Mt. Desert, Maine, Starscape

This morning, laying aside all of the other things I should have been doing, I perused  the news feed on my Facebook photography page and noticed an image posted by another photographer of a night shot processed using HDR techniques.

Hmm, I thought to myself, this might be an interesting test of my own star shots I captured while in Maine this past October (2013).

Normally, an HDR image is composed of 3 or more bracketed images (with different exposure settings).  Now, while I did get multiple images of the same comps using different settings, I chose instead to simply create two duplicate images in Photoshop of the original processed image,  change the exposures in those duplicates by +2 and –2, then process all three images together using Photomatix.

Below are the results.  I’ve posted both the HDR-processed images as well as the original processed image, and you can see whether or not there is any difference.

A Sea Of Stars

A Sea of Stars – Original

A Sea Of Stars-HDR

A Sea of Stars – HDR

Pointing The Way To The Milky Way

Pointing the Way to the Milky Way – Original

Pointing The Way To The Milky Way

Pointing the Way to the Milky Way – HDR

The Road To The Night Sky

The Road to the Stars – Original

The Road To The Night Sky

The Road to the Stars – HDR

Headlight Star Shot

Headlight Star Shot – Original

Headlight Star Shot

Headlight Star Shot – HDR

After processing the images through Photomatix, I went back and added some curves adjustments as well as contrast, brightness, and exposure adjustments.  While I think the HDR technique added some light/shadow nuances to the images, I am not  certain I couldn’t  have pulled similar results from just regular processing.

I am still on the fence regarding HDR in general, but I do believe the images above were improved using this technique.

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Filed under Equipment, HDR, Maine, Night Photography, Photography, Star Photography, Travel