Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Posts Tagged ‘people

Another Tintype Portrait

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This is the second tintype portrait Bridget had done at Photobooth, and it’s a stunner. I love how it brought out her beautiful freckles. Look at how razor-sharp the eyes are with everything in the frame immediately behind them just melting out of focus.

This little production shot I took with my iPhone 4s shows photographer Michael Schindler getting all his light modifiers in place before firing off that beautiful 4×5 camera. Now you can see what was responsible for those crazy cool catch lights in Bridget’s eyes!

If you live in or around San Francisco, you’ve got to pay this studio a visit and get yourself immortalized on a steel plate, or at least get some help firing up that old Polaroid camera of yours ;)

Written by Jonathan

March 2, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VR: The “Street Sweeper”

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Last week I spent a very busy few days in New York, shooting a wedding for a friend and hanging out with friends in Manhattan. Because of the wedding, I had a bag full of gear and lenses, including my new go-to utility zoom for travel and event photography: the Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII. I wrote a small post on my first impressions of the lens a little while back, but last week I really got a chance to leisurely shoot with it mounted on my D700 and get a better impression of how it performs in various circumstances. After taking it everywhere with me during the trip, I can say for sure that I love the 24-120. In short, it’s sharp, focuses fast, and has a focal range that keeps you ready for just about anything. While I did use many of my other lenses during the trip, I’ll keep a small sampling of images in this particular post focused on the 24-120 f/4.

At 24mm, you’re pretty wide on an FX camera. Great for shooting cityscapes:


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/9, 1/320 second ISO200


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/8, 1/640 second ISO200


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/7.1, 1/200 second ISO200


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/10, 1/250 second ISO200


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/4, 1/60 second ISO1600


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/10, 1/60 second ISO400


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/6.3, 1/160 second ISO200

Images from the 24-120 have great contrast and depth.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/9, 1/320 second ISO200

Added vignetting in the image above. The lens does vignette at 24mm, but it’s easily correctable in post. I tend to add it anyway, so it doesn’t bug me a bit.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/5.6, 1/25 second ISO800


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/4, 1/160 second ISO800


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/4, 1/1250 second ISO1600


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/4.5, 1/100 second ISO800


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/5.6, 1/40 second ISO800

Can you tell I love that 24mm on the wide end? Probably why I keep begging the wife to let me pick up at 24mm f/1.4. In due time…. =)

Of course, it’s also nice to have that range all the way through 120mm in one constant aperture lens:


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 55mm f/4, 1/25 second ISO2000

Shooting static subjects at 1/25 or even lower throughout the range is no problem at all with VRII on board.

Taken blocks away from where I used to live in Brooklyn Heights. Wouldn’t you love to live on Love Lane?

Now for a few shots of people taken with the 24-120mm to further demonstrate its versatility as a mid-range zoom:


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 40mm f/4, 1/1000 second ISO1600


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 85mm f/4, 1/160 second ISO6400

The maximum aperture of f/4 is plenty fast for most instances, especially with the ridiculous ISO capability of the D700.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 120mm f/4, 1/500 second ISO1600

Racking the lens out to 120mm gives you a good focal length for tighter portraits. Took the image above in our hotel room while the wife applied some makeup by the window.

The longer end also helps in catching fun expressions and moments at an event. Here’s an example from the wedding reception last weekend:


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 92mm f/4, 1/200 second ISO2000

I already wrote a post on the wedding, so head here if you want to check out a few more, or see some hi res images on my website.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/4, 1/40 second ISO2500

My cousin Josh, on the right, is out of focus here, but I wanted to use this shot to show how much environment you can show around your subjects with that 24mm wide end of the lens. Here are a couple more:


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/4, 1/500 second ISO6400


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/4.5, 1/80 second ISO1600

At f/4 your depth of field is still pretty shallow. Check out this shot my wife took of me in my favorite store ever, the B&H super store. I never go to NY without paying a visit there! Here I am playing with the incredible Nikon D3s (below). Not too randomize this post too much, but you can see that at f/4, the front element of that fat 24-70 is the only thing in the frame that’s in focus. Could be because the 24-70 is so stinking long =D


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 62mm f/4, 1/50 second ISO1600


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 110mm f/4, 1/80 second ISO800

Back out into the street. Again, the focal range is very flexible for dynamic environments like the streets of New York.

Alright, I only posted this image because if you go to New York, you MUST have a burger at Shake Shack. You MUST!!!

That’s all for now. Still rummaging through images I’ve taken with this lens and others, as well as all the wedding photos I took last week. Stay tuned for more!

Party Photography

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—-Nikon D300s + Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8 at f/5.6, 1/80 sec ISO800

One question I’m often asked is something like : “How do I get sharp photos when taking pictures of my friends dancing indoors? What lens should I get for this purpose?”

Well, in most cases, the answer has less to do with your lens and more to do with whether or not you’re using flash. Just so happened to have hosted a dance party last night at my house, so I took the opportunity to demonstrate what I mean, using a variety of lenses and shutter speeds, and of course, my hot shoe flashes. The dancing took place in my living room at night, which means no daylight pouring through the window to give me f-stoppage. The room is lit by two floor lamps, providing, I dunno, just about f/0.1 inside. Seriously though, even using my fastest lens, I ‘d probably squeeze out a shutter speed of about 1/80th shooting wide open at f/1.4 at ISO3200 in this room. Ouch…not nearly fast enough to stop action under these conditions.


—-Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 11mm f/5.6, 1/125 sec ISO800

Freezing motion in bright day light out doors is relatively simple, right? You can easily hit say 1/640 or 1/1000 and higher, even stopped down, effectively freezing motion. Can’t really do that in a room like this. There’s simply not enough ambient. Using flash lets you shoot at lower shutter speeds and still freeze action.

Wait a minute! How is it that you can freeze motion with low shutter speeds when you use your flash? Another question I get asked a lot. They key, again, is in the pop of light you’re throwing at your subject. The shutter may be going at say 1/80 or even 1/15, but that flash is hitting your subject at like 1/1500th, fast enough to freeze them in their tracks. If you want to imply motion in your dancing shots, you can drag the shutter at around 1/10 to 1/15 (make sure you camera is set to rear curtain sync):


—-Nikon D300s + Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8 at f/5.6, 1/15 sec ISO800

Or select higher shutter speeds to freeze them completely:


—–Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 14mm f/5.6, 1/80 ISO800

Another note: you gotta go manual exposure in scenes like this. Throw your camera into aperture priority, for instance, and it will select what it thinks is an appropriate shutter speed to expose the scene. Well, you’re pointing your camera at darkness, which means it’ll select shutter speeds that are far too low. Use shutter priority and you camera will open up your lens to its maximum, limiting your depth of field options. For the entire night, I dictated the shutter speed and aperture and let the camera’s intelligent flash system work its magic. Worked well in this case too because in such a small, dimly lit room, almost all of the light is coming from my flash units.

Another question I get asked: “My lens doesn’t have VC/VR/IS. Can I still get sharp shots with it?” Yes! None of the lenses I used last night are stabilized:


—-Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135 f/2.8 at 95mm f/5.6, 1/80 sec ISO800


—-Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135 f/2.8


—-Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135 f/2.8


—-Nikon D300s + Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8

It’s important to remember that neither lens nor sensor based image stabilization systems help freeze subject motion. They only help reduce blur induced by small movements caused by the photographer hand-holding the camera. They key, again, is the flash.

Of course, when people are standing still, it’s even easier. =)

Written by Jonathan

August 30, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Street Photography in San Francisco

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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!