Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Posts Tagged ‘70-300

Suki and the Trolly

with 6 comments

Watch out Suki! Well, she’s actually not in any real danger here. This particular spot where we took Suki’s latest image for my photo project, combined with a real long focal length, gives the impression that Suki is in danger from on-coming traffic. In reality, she’s quite safe, comfortably surveying the scene from a sidewalk.

The image above was actually a test shot that I ended up liking. I noticed that Suki kept getting distracted while I was shooting. In this case, a loud sea gull pulled her attention away from the camera.

In this image, it was a group of tourists across the street yelling “look at that doggie! Hi doggie!!!!” that made her turn her head. While I thought this was pretty annoying at first, the resulting curve in her posture turned into a really appealing pose for the image.  Besides, most of Suki’s best images are taken when she’s not looking at the camera.

Nikon D300s + Nikkor AFS 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 VR

Written by Jonathan

August 10, 2010 at 10:42 pm

An Unexpected Shiba Meet-Up

with 4 comments

This past weekend after our week 30 photo shoot, we relaxed at a nearby park with Suki, the camera, and my favorite coffee ever.  I mentioned this in my previous post, but the above image is a good example of how you can make your subject appear larger than they are in real life.  I shot this photo from a position much lower than Suki’s, and with my lens racked out to it’s longest 300mm focal length, which increases her prominence in the frame.

That morning we actually ran into two other Shibas! One was a red one like Suki. The other, named Akahi, was black with some sesame mixed in:

They were perfect for each other! At one point I couldn’t help but whip out my phone and get a clip of them playing:

This is HD video from the iphone 4 (change the resolution to 720p above for best results). If you look closely you can see that Suki is actually on leash when she takes off after Akahi. Towards the end of the clip you can see that my wife loses her grip on the leash and Suki just bounds away, dragging the leash along the grass. So funny =)

Written by Jonathan

August 4, 2010 at 8:44 am

Life Without My Mid-Range Zoom

with 9 comments

Found an optical defect in one of the inner elements of my Tamron 17-50mm /f2.8 VC a couple weeks ago. As soon as I discovered the problem, I shipped the lens over to a Tamron service center. I promptly received notice from Tamron that the issue would be repaired under warranty, but I’m still waiting for the lens to return. At first I thought I’d have a real tough time without the lens, but I must say that so far, I don’t miss those mid-range focal lengths very much at all. I think it’s because the 17-50mm range just doesn’t give you a whole lot of control over the perception of space and distance in a photograph.

I usually like to either expand foreground and background elements using an ultra-wide lens, or compress the foreground and background using a long telephoto. An example of the latter is seen in the image above. Shot at 165mm, you can really see how compressed the elements in the frame are, giving Suki a really powerful presence in the photo. In contrast, check out a similar image shot at 78mm:

See? Not quite as dramatic, right? Even Suki is disappointed, as you can see by her facial expression. Now if you really want to isolate your subject from the background, try an even longer focal length:

Same location, only with my lens at 280mm. The background gets so compressed at this focal length that it becomes unrecognizable, which completely isolates Suki in the foreground. This is the kind of creative control that a telephoto zoom lens can give you. So the next time you’re out taking photos, think about what you’re trying to accomplish before you start rotating that zoom ring. Are you zooming because you’d rather stay in one spot instead of moving closer to your subject, or are you trying to alter the perception of space and distance in your image? It’s almost always best to consider the latter first.

Ok, so it’s not that I don’t want my Tamron 17-50 anymore. It’s usually the lens I grab first if I have no idea what I’m going out to shoot. But I know now that I can definitely live without that focal range.

__

Camera Specs: Nikon D300s + Nikkor AFS 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR

Don’t Start with a Plan

with 4 comments

When I first started Suki’s 52 week project this year, I tried my best to have a very specific concept in mind for each image, planning each shot as meticulously as I could before we even headed out the door. I’m nearly halfway through the project now, and I’ve learned that having a plan is not always the best way to get a great shot. Reminds me of what Jay Maisel, a highly regarded NY based photographer once said:

Not knowing what you’re going to shoot is the great adventure. If you go out knowing what you’re going to shoot, the great adventure is gone. Most people work to have a plan; I’ve worked to not have a plan for shooting when I go out.

I love this advice, and I’ve done my best to incorporate the principle behind it not only in my 52 week project, but in my photography in general.

Nowadays, the only planning I do when I go out to take a photo of Suki is deciding the location. Once we’ve settled into a spot, I then start scanning the area and coming up with ideas. It forces you to be observant, to look intently for interesting compositions, lines, and light. Instead of locking down on a specific plan, you find yourself exploring with a free and clear mind, and exploration and adventure is what makes photography great.

My best images of Suki this year are the ones where no planning was involved, where I’d just say “hey, let’s go to [insert location here] and try to get some sort of shot of Suki.” The images you see in this post, for example, are from a series I shot of her last Sunday during an early morning stroll. No plan involved. Just me, some camera gear, and a Shiba Inu. We walked and walked until I saw an element of the environment that struck me. It’s a great way to approach your photography. Just make sure you always have your camera with you!

My Favorite Lenses

So lately I’ve decided that my two absolute favorite lenses in my bag right now are…..[drum-roll]…. The Nikkor 70-300mm VR (used in the top image) and the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 (used in the third photo from the top). Yup. My longest telephoto and my widest wide-angle. Both allow me to greatly exaggerate the perception of distance in an image. Want to really add some impact and dimension to your photos? Move further away from your subject and rack out your telephoto lens. Using an ultra-wide? Move in super close to your subject. Experiment and see what happens!

____________________

Camera Info:
Nikon D300s
1st image: Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR, 260mm f/8, 1/400 second, ISO200
3rd image: Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, 11mm, f/16, 1/320 second, ISO200
CLS triggered SB-800 + SB-900 used in both images

Street Photography in San Francisco

with 4 comments

I recently watched a video that involved Photoshop guru Scott Kelby spending a day with Jay Maisel, a highly regarded photographer who lives in New York City. They explored the streets of Manhattan all day, cameras in hand, and Jay shared his extensive knowledge and experience the whole way through.  I loved seeing such an experienced photographer talk about his methods and thought processes while out creating photos on the street.  Seeing the way he interacted with people in order to get natural photographs of complete strangers was also a real treat.

There were tons of great points on improving your photography that Jay expounded on during the photo walk, but a few of them really stood out for me.

For example, he said that one of the greatest ways to improve your photography is to practice it regularly, daily if possible. This involves committing yourself to carrying a camera with you at all times. He mentioned that if the camera is with you, you’re improving your skill even if you don’t use it. How? Your awareness of your camera causes your eyes to search for interesting subjects while you’re out on the street, which helps hone a a key skill for a photographer: his or her ability to observe, anticipate, and react to what happens in an environment.

Another point I appreciated is that photographers should be more concerned with “picture quality” instead of “pixel quality.” He encouraged the use of high ISOs out on the street, even in relatively good light. Why? It keeps your shutter speed high, and gives you the depth of field and bracketing flexibility needed for capturing good frames in a highly dynamic environment like the streets of New York. Basically, it helps you “get the shot.” Sure, lower ISOs give you technically cleaner images, or better “pixel quality,” but our aim as photographers should be, once again, the “picture quality.” After all, what’s the point of a cleaner image if it’s blurry or you couldn’t nail the exposure? Jay typically shoots at ISO1600 on his Nikon D3 when out on the street (yes, having a D3 helps).

His lens of choice? The bargain-priced Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR. Does it matter to him that it’s not the sharpest, fastest, highest performing glass in Nikon’s lineup? Nope. He chose this lens for the photo walk because of its smaller size, lighter weight, and wide focal range. A good example of choosing an appropriate tool for the job.

As they roamed the streets, Jay demonstrated how highly tuned and focused his photographic eye is. He was catching moments, shapes, colors, and compositions in the environment that Kelby wasn’t even aware of.  It really inspired me to get out and try exploring my own neck of the woods and looking for interesting things to photograph with these new points in mind.

So, on a day off last week and after having lunch with the wife out in the city,  I started walking the neighborhood with my camera. I brought along a single lens (the 70-300), and slowly explored the neighborhood. Check out the gallery above for a sampling of what I came back with that day. Not really the best images I’ve ever taken (and WordPress degrades the quality on these unfortunately), but I had such a fulfilling time out there that I’m anxious to head out again for another photo walk and to continue developing my skills. I just wish I had more time!

In other news, I just found out that Adobe Lightroom 3 is officially out of Beta and available for download! It’s got great new features and runs much faster than before. If you’re a Lightroom user, you must check it out!

Me, Suki, and the Forest

with 10 comments

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!

______________________________________________
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

Expand or Compress?

with 8 comments

I thought that after picking up my Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8, my Nikkor 70-300mm VR lens would no longer be a relevant tool in my camera bag. But after having both for some time now, I have to say, I’m glad I didn’t get rid of the Nikkor. Why?

While the Tokina allows faster shutter speeds in lower light due to its constant f/2.8 aperture, the sweet thing about the Nikkor is its much longer focal range. When racked out on my D300s, I get a a full frame equivalent of a 450mm focal length in a compact, lightweight package with the Nikkor 70-300. The reason why this is important to me is that it allows me to really compress the foreground and background elements of a scene using those long focal lengths.

This kind of compression can give your photos real power and subject isolation, and can also help you exclude undesirable surrounding elements from the image you’re trying to create. The images here from Suki’s last shoot this weekend illustrate this point. I received many inquiries after I posted my week 10 photo on flickr (chosen from this series) about where I took the photo. Some people said it looked like Suki was on mars (hah!), and others thought that the background was the sky. Since I shot the photo at 240mm, Suki was compressed so close to the golden background that it was hard for many to tell exactly where she was (the background was all water, as you can see here). This was the exact effect I wanted to create, and I couldn’t have done it without using such a long focal length.

Conversely, using a super wide angle lens expands the foreground and background elements, and gives an exaggerated sense of space around your subject, as can be seen in this photo of Suki, taken with my Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8.

Above: This shot was taken at a shorter 70mm. You can see much less compression as a result.

One trick I learned from studying Moose Peterson’s (a very well-known landscape and wildlife photographer) work is to try to avoid composing with your zoom ring. In other words, use your feet to get into position and compose your shot, then select a focal length based on how much you want to expand or compress the elements in the frame. Good advice!

Nikon D300s + AFS Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR, varying focal lengths