Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Posts Tagged ‘tamron

Life Without My Mid-Range Zoom

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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

Thoughts on the Canon Powershot S90

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I realized, after posting the photo above to Flickr, that it’s very likely that Bridget was the one who actually took it! I was using my D300s with the Tokina 11-16 fitted when we arrived at this scene in the Maruyama area of Kyoto. She had the Canon S90 on her, and while I did ask her to hand it over a few times to get some shots in this area myself, I can’t remember for sure if I actually took this one. Oh well! This image was processed in-camera using the S90’s “Film” color mode, and I added a touch of vignette in Lightroom 3 beta. So Bridge, if you took this, good job!

Speaking of which, Bridget did take a lot of fantastic photos with the S90 during our trip. She really took to the camera because it’s such a joy to use. I would set up a white balance appropriate for the scene for her, set the camera to Program Auto (usually), and program the control ring around the S90’s barrel to adjust exposure compensation. Then I simply told her:

“If it’s too bright, twist the dial this way. If it’s too dark, twist it that way.”

That’s it!

With that awesome control ring allowing easy access to exposure comp adjustment, she was able to focus on composing, and the camera stayed out of her way (the control ring is that black bezel you see around the lens in the image above, and is the S90’s coolest feature). I often used the camera in the exact same way myself. The S90 tends to expose a little hotter than I prefer, so I’m usually dialing in at least -1/3 EV when I’m shooting with it (the above shot has a -4/3EV dialed in by either me or Bridget, can’t remember!). I also found that it was a lot of fun to use the S90 in full manual. The control ring around the lens would set aperture, and the control wheel on the back would set shutter speed. Wow! I felt like I was using a film camera again! The combination of seeing the live view preview, a live histogram, and a live EV read-out on the LCD while composing made it dead simple to nail the exposure I wanted every time. No compact camera has ever given me a control experience like this one!

Here are a couple sample photos that show how great the JPEGs produced straight from the camera look from the Canon S90 (neither of these were adjusted in post):

I finally feel like I have a true compact camera with the control and feature set that can be utilized and appreciated by both a beginner and a more advanced photographer. Good job Canon!

So anyway, we were heading up to this huge temple in Maruyama-cho. To get to it, you had to scale these ridiculously steep stairs. The first image was the view from the bottom. Here’s what it looks like from the top:

I’m not sure this image really tells you just how steep these stairs were, but they were STEEP. Worth the climb, however. =)

Top Image: Canon S90
Second Image: Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC
Third and Forth Image: Canon S90
Fifth Image: Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8

Riding the Shinkansen

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My friends in Kyoto tell me it takes them a good 9 hours to drive to Tokyo from where they live. We traveled the same distance in about a third that time on a Japanese bullet train, or Shinkansen, last week. These trains really haul! Check out the video posted above that I took from a window on the Shinkansen we took over the weekend. See how fast those houses fly by?  It’s insane!

Inside, accommodations are very comfortable. This is the standard car. The “Green” cars have even larger seats with more legroom (for a price of course).  A beverage and snack service rolls through each car on a regular basis.

Train stations in the big city can get really crowded and busy in Japan. This particular day was extremely light. Well stocked food and beverage stores are located on the train platforms. Japan is all about convenience!


Top: Video by Canon S90
Shinkansen Interior: Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 11mm f/2.8 ISO200 1/200 Second
Shin-Osaka Station: Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 14mm f/4.5 ISO200 1/80 Second
Beneath the Platforms: Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 11mm f/6.3 ISO200 1/15 Second
Zzzzoooom!: Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 22mm f/8 ISO200 1/80 Second

Written by Jonathan

April 7, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Beautiful (but cold!) Tokyo

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Spent this past weekend in Tokyo, and it was freezing! The cold weather made touring at night pretty difficult, but we and our very nice friends from Chiba went out and braved the cold anyway. On our last night in Tokyo, we went to the Tokyo tower, where I took this shot. Normally, the tower is lit orange from top to bottom, but my friends tell me that during Sakura season, they light the tower in the color pattern you see above.

I was hoping to blog about my trip often and chronologically, but I’m so busy enjoying Japan, that I decided the less time I spend at the computer the better. I’m in Kyoto now, and it’s beautiful. Much much warmer weather, which means tons of cherry blossoms to see and photograph!

Top: Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/2.8 ISO1000 1/10 Second (handheld)

Bottom: Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 17mm f/2.8 ISO1600 1/8 Second (handheld)

Written by Jonathan

March 31, 2010 at 6:33 am

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

Sunlight in the Evening

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I took this photo Bridget by the window in our study a couple weeks ago. The interesting thing about this image is that the source of light is not the sun. This shot was taken late at night, long after the sun had set. I was experimenting with using strobes to re-create the look of sunlight softened by a window.

I placed one of my Bowens monolights on a light stand out in the backyard, roughly ten feet from the window, positioning it towards my subject at an angle that the sun might be at in the late afternoon. Its lowest power setting from this position gave me f/8 at ISO200. These lights are powerful!

The window diffused the incoming light, which wrapped around Bridget nicely and created a daytime sort of look in the middle of the night. I don’t have a way to fire my SB units via a radio signal yet, but when I eventually add that capability, I might try using this technique much more often in a variety of locations.

Camera Specs: Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/8 ISO200 1/200 Second

Written by Jonathan

February 23, 2010 at 9:43 am

f/2.8 + VC

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Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 42mm f/2.8 ISO1400 1/15 Second, Handheld

I love keeping my camera with me at all times, but I can’t always lug my tripod around. That’s why the constant f/2.8 maximum aperture coupled with vibration control in my Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC zoom lens makes a killer combination for shooting hand-held in low light.

I took the night shot above on the way home from work a couple nights ago. I stopped to park near this old highschool (that will soon be shut down incidentally), and was drawn by the warm amber light in the archway. I love how the light’s warm glow mixed with the dusky blue sky. Using a variable aperture zoom at this focal length, or even a constant aperture zoom without vibration control would have forced me to use a much higher ISO and would have made this shot very difficult if not impossible to capture without a tripod.

Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 19mm f/2.8 ISO220 1/15 Second

This shot is not as sharp as it could be, but considering that I took it from the passenger seat of a car that is just starting to move away from a stop light, I can accept the results. Of course, shooting wide open doesn’t give me the most ideal, razor-sharp results I get from shooting in the Tamron’s f/5.6-f/11 range, but I love the flexibility that the wide aperture gives me in combination with the highly effective VC, a major reason I chose this lens over Nikon’s very expensive 17-55mm f/2.8.