“A lot of photographers think that if they buy a better camera they’ll be able to take better photographs. A better camera won’t do a thing for you if you don’t have anything in your head or in your heart.” Arnold Newman
The Sony 35mm 1.8 lens for my A6000 came yesterday and I wanted to experiment. Since its snowing, sleeting and raining today I decided to shoot indoors. To conduct a proper test I put some large white roses on a shaky table, set up two daylight balanced full spectrum bulbs with reflectors, forgot to turn off the lamp with the regular bulb and drank four cups of iced coffee. But I did use a tripod and an iShoot L bracket, shot in manual and used the self timer.
My first impression with this lens is that the closest I can get is about a foot away, so filling the frame without cropping will take some thought. It seems that focusing wide open this close is tough but easier at f/4 and above with enough light. The lens goes from f/1.8 to f/22 although the sharpest aperture is probably about f/8, which I will obsessively determine on the next sunny day above 30 degrees.
The main reason to use a fixed focal length prime lens is that it encourages you to focus on composition. If you need to zoom you move closer, which is easy unless you’re on the bank of a lake or river, in which case you simply buy a boat. Prime lenses are also compact, allegedly sharper and sometimes inexpensive although not this one. The Sony 50mm f/1.8 is about $200 dollars cheaper but it’s also bigger and depending on what you photograph possibly not the perfect all around lens.
I plan to shoot wide open or a stop down with flowers so I really wanted to see what the rose looked like at f/1.8. The flower is past its prime and so am I and this photo is far from perfect. But as cinematographer Conrad Hall said: “There is a kind of beauty in imperfection.” I think I like Marilyn Monroe’s quote better: “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”
Some people understand that in photography it’s all about the light. They scout out a location, set up a tripod, check their camera settings and patiently wait for the golden hour that usually lasts a few minutes.
Other people will shoot something they find interesting when they’re standing in front of it, even if conditions aren’t perfect. I’ll fix it in Photoshop they think to themselves, sometimes converting to black and white or using a filter or special effect.
The problem is that photography is all about the light, and most of the time you can’t make a bad photo great by playing with curves, levels, exposure and all the other tools in Photoshop.
Award winning photographer Jay Maisel once said: “There is no bad light. There is spectacular light and difficult light. It’s up to you to use the light you have.” I think that’s a little like saying there are no bad dogs, but if you watch The People’s Court cases with flesh eating Pit bulls you might disagree.
I’m posting this photo as an example of what not to do because the light was bad and I couldn’t fix it in Photoshop. I can go back this afternoon with a tripod and patiently wait, maybe even get a great sunset reflected in the windows, or I can remind myself of another Jay Maisel quote: “There is no one solution to all problems. It’s the problem itself that can lead to the solution.”
I think a giant sandwich and an afternoon nap in a nice warm bed might be the solution in this case. If it’s good enough for Dagwood it’s good enough for me.
The golden hour, also known as the magic hour, refers to the period just after sunrise or just before sunset, and its length depends on where you are and what time of year it is.
Some say that the golden hour is an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset. It seems as easy as falling off a log, just show up at the right time and your photos will be amazing right? No.
The afternoon is a lot easier for several reasons. You can see where the sun is and decide where you want to be. You can also decide if it’s worth waiting around or if the clouds will block out all that beautiful light. Also there’s a good chance you’re already awake.
I prefer the morning because I’m a masochist, and because it’s usually much calmer. But instead of finishing dinner and heading out late afternoon I have to set my alarm, fortunately I have insomnia so I’m already up.
If you’re taking photos in your backyard you can wake up at first light or slightly earlier, otherwise you need to give yourself a few hours. Consider the drive, stopping for coffee, reflecting on the meaning of life (should be done while it’s still dark) and time to set everything up.
So today I got up at 3:30, decided to go out at 4 and was in place with coffee reflecting by 5:00. I watched the sky get light, the clouds open up then close again before it got darker and a few minutes later it rained.
Of course you can take photos anytime, especially if you’re not shooting landscapes, you just won’t have that warm, magic light that photographers crave, you also won’t have to get up knowing it might rain on your parade.
Walt Whitman once said: “To me, every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle.” It may help to tell yourself that while waiting for the storm to pass and realizing that you could easily be in bed dreaming of rainbows and unicorns.
Note: rainbows only happen near the golden hour when the sun is low in the sky and unicorns are rarely found in the daytime, plus you need a virgin to lure them in close enough for a good shot.
I like to get close to things, especially flowers, but from what I’ve read the Sony 30mm f/3.5 Macro Lens leaves a lot to be desired. So I did some product testing with the 16-50mm kit lens that came with my camera.
This photo was shot in Aperture Priority at f/16, ISO 125, 1/80 sec and zoomed all the way out to 50mm. Fortunately it was as calm as clam shells and the light was as warm and fuzzy as my brain on Valium and Vodka.
I was only about 12 inches from the flower, maybe less, but many of my brain cells were lost during my Valium and Vodka years so I’m not sure. I think some were sharper with a shorter focal length but this was just an experiment and I like the composition of this one.
I will not win any macro awards with this lens and I will not be bringing home the macro trophy, which is a shame because it has a giant fly on it. But it’s good to know I can get decent shots with this lens if a lily ever crosses my path again, in good light with no wind, on a tripod from 12 inches away (more or less).
I went back to the park this afternoon for two reasons, I have too much time on my hands and I like to watch the progress of the spring flowers. And I’m obsessed with photography and if I don’t get out of the house I go stir crazy, so four reasons.
Yesterday the crocuses were closed for the day and today they were open for business. What a difference a day makes, twenty four little hours…
I wasn’t going to post these photos because I felt they weren’t good enough. The first shot is the original; the second one is cropped and processed in Lightroom. The flower is perfect, but the photos are far from it in my opinion. “Live your life as an experiment” said Chögyam Trungpa, so I will consider that and maybe learn something in the process.
I’ve been at the garden of five senses in Lancaster County Central Park photographing these snowdrops since they came up early this month. Out of close to a thousand images I saved less than ten, because none were exactly what I wanted, none of them were perfect.
I was taught in rehab, both times, that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity, but I was not there for a photography obsession. As every photographer knows, a photo can always be better; we know this is true from all those terrible shots of Bigfoot.
So when does the search for the perfect photo go from an enjoyable hobby to an all consuming obsession? Maybe it’s a question of quality, an inquiry into values. But as Robert Pirsig found out, this is a very slippery slope.
In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig said; “You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.” Oh.
So no more going back to the park at dusk every afternoon waiting for that amazing light and trying for the perfect photo, been there, done that. I’ll go back at dawn when the sun is rising just over the trees tops, lighting up this little patch of miracles in a way that I can only describe as perfect. And I’ll try again.
This is a photo I took of some old keys, obviously. It was a simple matter of arranging, lighting, taking a few shots on a tripod, processing the RAW files in Lightroom, editing in Photoshop, and then a little tweaking in Photomatix Essentials for an HDR effect.
So I asked myself, am I obsessive, compulsive or possibly both? I wasn’t sure so I did some research on the five types of OCD.
The first type is cleaning obsessions, such as cleaning your camera and lenses with a special microfiber cloth kept in a special package and folded in a special way.
Next are checking obsessions, which can include checking camera settings frequently like shooting modes, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focus points, exposure mode and white balance.
The third type is obsessions without visible compulsions, which can involve intrusive thoughts such as previsualization, and in extreme cases this is known as Dryshooting.
Not surprisingly there are also hoarding obsessions, which may involve accumulating tripods, lens hoods, filters, and new equipment of all kinds whether you need it or not (do not keep a copy of the B&H photo video catalog under your bed).
And finally, obsessions with ordering, arranging and counting compulsions, which would realistically be almost everything else involved with photography.
So in my case, the answer might be yes, but it gives me something to do and it’s much better than sitting in a recliner, drinking vodka and watching daytime TV. (I’m guessing).