Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Posts Tagged ‘2.8

The Last Minute Group Shot

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This morning I attended a graduation ceremony for a group of students who successfully completed a rigorous training course in American Sign Language. It was an exciting event that drew a few hundred people, mostly friends and family of the students. Bridget and I were involved heavily in helping run the course, and I even brought my camera to every session to document the entire semester. This morning, I arrived about an hour early to help set up the A/V equipment needed to run the graduation, but soon after I arrived, I was asked to take a class photo. A group of 35, a relatively dimly lit hall crowded with people, and uh oh…I didn’t have my camera. On top of that, the shot needed to be done BEFORE the graduation started.  The wife ran home and grabbed whatever she could for me while I set up the A/V. By the time she got back with some camera gear, however, we only had about fifteen minutes or so to get the shot. A photographic nightmare! I was sweating bullets as I frantically set up a light stand camera right with an SB-900 through an umbrella, feathered high and left. Second light is hand held by my wife standing on a chair camera left, feathered high and right. Now I had about 8 minutes until the start of the graduation program. Gulp.

See how many people were there? This is the reason why I had to use my ultra wide lens for this group shot. There were a TON of people already on site, including a crowd of people with point and shoot cameras behind me. This meant I couldn’t back up very far. So I mounted my Tokina 11-16,  rushed like crazy to try to get all the students in some sort of order, fired off four or five frames, and that was it, time to start the ceremony. Whew….trust me, it was harder that in sounds!

View the “last minute” group shot larger here.

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Camera Specs: Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8

Written by Jonathan

July 10, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Me, Suki, and the Forest

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One foggy morning in San Francisco this week on a much needed day off work, Suki and I headed out of the house. Hoping to get a nice shot of her for my 52 week photo project, we headed for a local park. Though located right in the city and surrounded by neighborhoods and shops, once you enter Mt. Davidson park, you forget you’re in a city at all.

Strolling through the forest made me feel like a character in an episode of Lost! Because of the dense fog and light rain that rolled over the city earlier in the day, the forest was very damp. Trails were muddy, and the trees dripped water down on us constantly. Suki and I both got pretty dirty as a result. It was also extremely humid, which made the climb to the top of the mountain particularly uncomfortable, especially since I had photo gear. The top image was taken using an off-camera SB-900 unit through a shoot-through umbrella, which I carried and set up in the mud all by myself (and no, Suki did not help me).

Suki was fascinated by the forest. She loved to run ahead and check out what was further down the trail. If I lagged behind, she’d turn around and wait for me, giving me this look that seems to say “hey, what gives? Hurry up will ya!”

Notice how dirty her face is from sticking her nose in the wet plant-life that surrounds the trail. Good thing I had clean rags in the car!

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Shot Data:
Camera: Nikon D300s
Top: Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 13mm f/4, 1/200 Sec ISO200 (CLS triggered SB-900)
Shot 2: Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 11mm f/3.5 1/500 Sec ISO200
Shot 3: Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 11mm f/6.3 1/80 Sec ISO200
Bottom: Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR at 300mm f/5.6 1/500 Sec ISO800

Soft, Wrapping Light

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Suki likes to hang out in the same room where I keep all my photographic equipment, so often times I’ll just go in the room, set up, and start photographing her. She’s there anyway, right? Last week, I decided to get a nice shot of her face, especially since I didn’t have a chance to go outdoors and make an image of her for week 11 of my 52 week project. There aren’t any large windows in the room and it was late afternoon, so it was artificial light or no shot. Suki is just about as soft to the touch as she looks, so I wanted to convey that softness in the photo.

Light from a bare strobe is not soft. It’s hard and harsh. So to make it as soft as possible, you need to diffuse it…a LOT. This is how I did it:

What you see here are two SB units (SB-800 and SB-900), firing up into an all-in-one umbrella with its reflective shroud in place. The light from the two units will hit the umbrella and come back down towards Suki, but not before it hits another layer of diffusion: a skylite diffusion panel. Using two units increases my light volume and keeps my recycle times shorter than using just one, since all this diffusion makes the SB units work harder. Now I have a bigger light source relative to my subject, and a softer quality of light (learned all this from Joe McNally!).

Poor Suki. Relaxing in a room, and all of a sudden these huge pops of light start going off above her head. This was her initial reaction to the big diffusion panel:

The sounds of the camera, the pop of light, the whine of the flashes as they recharge, the big beeps they make to indicate they’re ready to go, someone’s voice saying “look at me! look at me! stay! stay!” …. it’s a lot for a dog to hear and see. But Suki’s pretty used to it now.  In fact, she gets bored and sleepy after a while:

But hey, the final week 11 shot was worth the trouble, right Suki?!

Camera: Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC and Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8

Dealing with “Quick Blinkers”

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Oops! Blinked!

One thing I’ve noticed in photographing Suki using flash: She’s a quick blinker! She has her eyes closed in countless photos I’ve taken of her using my speedlights. On one recent evening I was trying to get a shot of her face using an off-camera strobe, and her eyes were closed up in every single shot. What to do?

When using Nikon’s speedlights in i-TTL mode, whether hot-shoe’d to the camera or fired off-camera through Nikon CLS, the flash will fire a monitor pre-flash when the shutter button is pressed. The camera uses this pre-flash to analyze things like color and reflectance on the subject, and based on what it sees through the lens, it will then send instructions wirelessly to the off-camera speedlight(s) on how it should fire during the exposure.

If your subject is a quick blinker, however, these pre-flashes can pose a problem for you. If he/she blinks in reaction to the pre-exposure flash, their eyes could still be closed during the actual exposure! This is where FV lock can be handy.

FV lock, or Flash Value lock, allows you to initiate the monitor pre-flash yourself, separate from the entire exposure sequence. I have this feature assigned to one of the programmable buttons on my D300s. I simply frame the shot, hit the button, and the flash fires while the camera’s meter reads the scene. Suki blinks, but it doesn’t matter, because I haven’t taken the picture yet. I’ve just let the camera decide what it’s going to do with the remote flash. Now when I hit the shutter button, the camera skips firing the monitor pre-flash and uses the data it already collected from using FV lock to command the remote flash to fire. I can now get light on Suki before she has a chance to blink!

Problem Solved!   –   Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135 f/2.8  -

Once activated, FV lock will lock in the determined flash exposure value in the camera until you either power-off the camera, activate FV lock again, or allow the camera’s meter to shut off.

Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8 AT-X 535 PRO DX

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(Taken with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3)

My wife is keenly aware of my equipment wish list, and came home from work yesterday with several photographic goodies for me, including this fast telephoto from Tokina. My fast zoom kit is now complete, with three constant aperture lenses covering an 11-135mm (16.5-200mm full-frame equivalent) range.

What I love about my three-lens system is how compact the optics are compared to their full-frame counterparts. This 50-135mm f/2.8, for instance, is a lot smaller than I thought it would be at 5.32 inches in length, weighing 1.86 lbs. To get similar focal length coverage with a constant aperture on a full-frame Nikon camera, you’d need a lens like the $2400 Nikkor 70-200mm VRII, which is a whopping 8.1 inches long at a hefty 3.2 lbs. To me, this is a big advantage of the DX system: smaller, lighter optics that make for better mobility and portability. Not to mention affordability: I picked up all three of my third-party constant aperture zooms for less than the price of the new Nikkor 70-200 VRII alone (Tokina 11-16, Tamron 17-50 VC, Tokina 50-135).

I shot a bunch of images last night to make sure I had a good copy of the Tokina 50-135, and am astounded at the results so far. This is one sharp optic! It relies on my camera’s focus motor to drive focus, so it doesn’t focus as fast or as quiet as an AF-S lens. I find the focus motor in my D300s to be pretty fast, however, and had no problems tracking my dog around the house in low light.

(Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8 at 85mm f/5 ISO400 1/60 Second)

Like my Tokina 11-16, this lens features very high quality construction, with a rugged all-metal casing and exceptional fit and finish. The zoom and focus rings are well-damped and move with buttery-smooth precision, and the included (but not removable) tripod collar is also a plus for me. What’s missing? VR and AF-S, but at the price I (er…the wife) paid, I think I can live without those features for now. I really hope Nikon releases some DX lenses in this range, but I’m not holding my breath!

There’s relatively little information on this Tokina on the internet incidentally, which I find strange since it’s so excellent. In fact, from the research I did before receiving it as a gift, it appears that Tokina discontinued this lens.

Update:

Want to see more images taken with the Tokina 50-135mm? Head on over to my Flickr page. I just got back from a trip to Japan, where I used this lens extensively. You can view my Japan set by clicking here. Enjoy!

Sharp?

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Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/2.8 ISO200 1/60 Second

Is the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC sharp at f/2.8? Mine is. Focus accuracy is good too, so I must have nabbed a good copy. It does tend to vignette more than I’d like at f/2.8, but I can live with it.

I just realized that Suki is two years old as of last month. She’s a completely different dog than when she was a puppy. She’s independent, yet obedient and affectionate. She loves everyone she meets, human or dog (though the last time she met a rabbit, she turned into “Hunting Wolf”). She’s completely exceeded my expectations not only for her breed but for dog ownership too (she’s our first). I never thought I’d love an animal so much!

Sunset Portraits

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Nikon D300s + SB-900 (Camera Left) + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 14mm f/5.6 ISO100 1/200 Second

Bridget and I attended a wedding today that was right across the street from the beach. I didn’t take any photos at the wedding, but I seeing as I always have my camera with me, I decided to take some photographs of my lovely wife after the event with a beautiful sky and ocean as a backdrop.

Nikon D300s + SB-900 (Camera Left) + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 16mm f/9.0 ISO100 1/250 Second

The above shot reminded Bridget of a CD album cover. I really like the warmth in this photo, which gives it a very “golden sunset” appearance.

Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/5.6 ISO200 1/20 Second

There’s a reason why Bridget is so bundled up here. It was really cold, no more than around 50 degrees. There were also lots of cold and annoying gusts of wind that kept threatening to topple over my lighting rig. I used a smaller shoot-through umbrella to prevent this, but as you can see, there were times when Bridget had to step in and save my SB-900 from falling into the dirt. I’d post all the pictures of Bridget making miserable faces due to the cold, but I’d rather spare her the embarrassment (more like spare my myself a butt kicking!).

Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/5.6 ISO500 1/13 Second

This shot (above) was the last one for the evening, and I was running out of light fast at this point. I started having to nudge my ISO up to avoid shutter speeds I couldn’t hand hold. Plus, at this point, we were freezing! I love the coat Bridget is wearing here too. I actually picked it out and bought it for her at a store in Ginza, a large and beautiful shopping district in Tokyo.

Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 11mm f/5.6 ISO200 1/30 Second

Can you tell I’ve been experimenting with hot shoe flashes? I thought I’d finish this post with this goofy shot I took of Bridget in our home last night. She has this great umbrella that we got at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco. It has a blue sky with white cloud design on the inside. I lit Bridget with an SB-900 on camera left and kicked some light into the umbrella from behind her with my SB-800, both fired wirelessly using the built in flash on my D300s as a commander. Please excuse the mess in our living room! (it was a very impromptu shoot)

Written by Jonathan

November 22, 2009 at 5:14 am