Monthly Archives: December 2010

lonesome

My mom is in Australia for the holidays, she went with a relative of mine and is planning to stay there for three weeks. I think it’s fantastic, it’s the first time she’s traveled anywhere without my dad. I know she loves to travel, but a part of me wishes she was around. It’s my first Christmas without my parents being around. It’s interesting, just the other day I woke up and just curiously looked to my cell phones. Deep down inside I was just hoping for some text or missed call from my mom, and really really wishing there was just some message somewhere from my dad. I know, it sounds silly, I feel like I’m a little boy again and hoping with all my might that I’ll be able to communicate with him. Even if it’s a one way channel.

Which reminds me, a very cool thing happened the other day. One of the lights in my garage went out. They’re the giant florescent lights my dad put up so he can do work in the garage at night. Well the other day they just went dead, and I dreaded having to get new bulbs for them. They’re literally 5-6feet wide. And just today when I went into the garage and turned on the lights, they magically worked again! I know there’s some scientific or rational explanation for it all. Maybe something was loose, maybe somehow the water shorted out the switch. Who knows, but I guess the first thing that came to mind was, haha…my dad loves fixing things, and I wanted to believe that he fixed those lights for me. I sorta laughed to myself in the garage and thanked him for lending a hand. The strange things people do I guess. But I wanted to point out that I’m very grateful for still having a parent. I don’t know what I would do if both of them were gone, but I guess I’m realistic as well.

Another random thought crept into my head recently. We go to my dad’s resting place to give him flowers every week, I think I should also give my mom flowers every week so that she can enjoy them while she’s still with us, vs the other way around. It just makes total sense right? Ahh, I’m getting sentimental during the holidays.
But wanted to give a toast to all the good and loving parents out there. I’m very grateful for their thankless jobs. And I hope one day to be a proud father, so I too can have a thankless job =)

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5D Mark II Review

Yes I’m a bit late to the party. The truth is, since the Mark II’s release, I never really had the impetus to upgrade my old 5D classic camera. In fact, I ended up selling my old 5D camera, but just recently I had an urge to dive into the complex world of video, so I borrowed my friend’s 5D mark II for a few weeks. Here’s my little review.

The 5D II is a solidly built camera, who’s pedigree came from the xD series of cameras from the Canon prosumer linup. Magnesium body, some weather sealing, and a very (repeat, very very nice LCD screen). The good thing about the LCD screen is it’s so crisp and clear, and of course the bad thing is it lies much more than my other screens. At least on my Mark III, the pictures viewed on that LCD just looks awful, then I’m pleasantly surprised by how amazing they turn out. Conversely, the pics all look great and sharp on the 5D’s gorgeous screen, yet I’m crying when I import some of them to the big screen.

The autofucusing on the 5D II, I must admit is a tad better than the original classic. There’s a bit more lag time though compared to a 1D series body, but that’s really to be expected. The 5DII was never meant to be a sports camera. (Though it can be used as one if you’re very patient). The one annoying thing I find is 21MP. Yes, the files are huge, which makes storing and processing a royal pain. There’s an optional sRAW mode which reduces to approximately 10MP, which may be tolerable, but I haven’t really resorted to that yet. Shooting burst shots on this camera gives your memory card a huge workout. The one area where this camera shines with flying colors is it’s low light high ISO capabilities. I’ve been shooting ISO 3200, and the thing simply is superb. Low noise, just fantastic pics and decent shadow details.
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It does better lower light in my opinion than the 1DMarkIII. Granted, the flip side is I’d rather have my 1D Mark III so it can autofocus in low light. Video is fairly simple, it’s the main reason why I wanted to borrow the body. That’s just a whole different beast, the only way I can describe video is, when I’m doing photos, all I have to think about is the angle of the shot, the light, compose and shoot. For video, you have to think about the angle, the light, the camera movement, time, sound. It’s like going from 1 dimensional world,to a 4 dimensional world. It’s simply put, quite mind boggling to the senses. I haven’t really used the video to it’s pull potential, I think I will purchase a T2i to start really playing with video, but I’m very excited about the possibilities.

Bowling event that I shot some video on. My autofucusing skills really suck since I’m so new to it. But I think I’ll get better with time.

I’m still working on my video opus though. Just haven’t found that cool idea yet.
BTW, disclaimer so I don’t get sued. (though quite frankly, I’m not sure if these help). The music on the video is Bethoven’s 5th, rendition by David Garret. Music Copyrighted by David Garret. No I didn’t quite ask your permission to use it Mr. Garret, but this is for a stupid personal video. And I’m broke. Ok end disclaimer.

As for the 5D mark II, on it’s own, it’s a great camera. Would I go out and buy one?
The answer is no. I love my 1DsII for my full frame needs, it doesn’t do half of the things the 5D does, but it’s built like tank, takes great pictures, has both SD and CF cards for backup, and I know I can trust it in the pouring rain. With that said, if I did win the lottery, I would consider a 1D mark IV as a worth upgrade to my older 1DII bodies. But haha, I’ve spent 4k on my 1DIII, there’s no way I’m spending that much cash on another camera again.

The anatomy of a photo

So onto week three of my quest to make interesting photos for myself. This week I was going to tackle asparagus and dirt. I tried Asparagus for a few minutes (I may come back tomorrow), but nothing immediately cool came to mind. I had a few ideas, but they didn’t quite pan out, so I shelved it. Onto dirt!
When I think of dirt, I think of death, or mud, or worms. Immediately, the old black plague children’s rhyme came to mind. “ashes to ashes, we all fall down”.
So my theme was death, and perhaps rebirth, since I’ve had my fair share of sadness and death recently, I didn’t want to get too gloomy.
I knew what I wanted, now it’s time to implement! I went with a full frame camera, and shot at 50mm first.

Here are my test shots at 50mm.
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test shots

It kind of had the look that I was going for, but I wanted to get a bit closer, and the lens didn’t allow for that. Since that lens has a minimal focal distance of about 6 inches or so, I didn’t get as close as I would like. So I switched to my Carl Zeiss 28mm which I knew allowed me to get close. I took a few test shots.
Since it is a purely manual focus lens, I knew it was going to be difficult to focus since my other hand was obviously occupied holding the dirt. I set the focus for closest setting and moved my body back and forth to do the focusing.

test shots

But something about it didn’t do it for me. The result was too wide, which shows too much of the wooden pot. I don’t want that to be the focus and it would be too distracting. So I went to my chest of goodies and picked out the one lens that I knew would most likely do it. 35mm 1.4

test shots

I know it can focus pretty close, and after a few test shots, I knew this was the right one to use.
Here’s my final shot that I chose for ‘dirt’ straight out of the camera. No processing at all.

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Since I always shoot raw, the photos come out very neutral and bland. The intent is it is up to the person who post processes to add any additional colors, tones or contrast. So I add my basic tone, and my favorite the vignette (darken edges) to lure the eye towards the subject.

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This probably works best, since the flower doesn’t over power the dirt, and I shot this in front of a wooden flower pot to give the over all photo a natural brown tone.

Then I decided perhaps I try doing a two tone sepia print. The theory behind black and white, is in the absence of distractions, such as color. The subject stands out.
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But after some consideration, I realize that it ruins my intent, which is to show dirt. But the flower is washed out, so you don’t get the subtle theme of rebirth.
So I experimented with the cliche of isolating a color. Yes, I’m aware this has been over-done to death by many photographers, but I find some people still like it. And after all, this is ‘MY’ personal project so I really could care less what anyone thinks.

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After some consideration, I decided, despite my protest of not caring what everyone things, lol, I do in fact care. That and I’ve done this before already many times in the past. Highly not interesting, so I moved on to something more avante-garde. Just throw out the colors, add blue tones, desaturate the colors and up the contrast till the cows come home.

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The final result was pleasing to me, and it’s a contender to be the de-facto photo representing ‘dirt’ in this project. It’s a close call between that and the original standard color one. But I think the edge goes out to the last one, simply because it stands out some. Who knows, maybe that type of processing is over-played. Honestly, I like them both!

Fun Fun Week

So I did nothing but work this weekend. Yaay me. I’m soo looking forward to Xmas vacation. Wooo as an added bonus, property taxes are due. I love this time of year. $7.2k It’s like a Christmas present that keeps on getting larger each year. I could of sworn when I moved her 9 years ago, my property taxes amounted to roughly 3.6k. And I remember complaining back then too, haha. Double in 10 years, fantastic new!

Oh and my Mom’s also headed to Australia in a week or so I’m going to want to spend some time with her before she takes off. But I did manage to take a few photos! The only fun I’ve had all week! But I was relatively tired of shooting for other people. When I first started photography, I used to love driving around taking pictures of random things, exploring my world, and trying to create things for creations sake. Somewhere along that journey, I became somewhat disillusioned by the whole thing, I lost my creative spirit. I no longer shot for myself, fiddled with my camera, to fail and to fail spectacularly. That’s what I miss, and what I wanted to revert back to finding my creative spark.
So I started a quest to list common items and try to make them interesting. What I used to do was go to find the worse locations and force myself to find good angles and shots. The theory was it’ll sharpen the mind when doing quick events and I don’t need to stumble around looking for shots. They say the ‘eye’ can’t be taught, but I think it can be honed. Practice, does make perfect. So I asked my friends on Facebook for ideas, and came up with this list:
broccoli, Egg water, fork, asparagus, money, dirt, Artichokes, pomegranate, white paper, ice, candles. Interesting on how these ideas germinate in my head. I think the rule of thumb is follow my instincts.

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Broccoli, I had fantastical visions of Ewoks from Star wars, lit by a full moon. I think I knew that would be a it difficult to pull off, and I happened to be setting up my Christmas Town Train at the moment, so that’s where the trees shot came about.

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Regarding the egg shot, my mind immediately thought about the yolk in the inside. Red, full of life, and I imagined cracking the egg, showing a huge fissure to the inside. Thinking the idea being impossibly, I set out to do a macro shot of cracked shells, but I figured I’d take a stab at my fissure idea. Turns out some impossible things are indeed possible.

fork

oxidation

Forks were simple affairs, I cheated. I didn’t quite know how to make a fork in itself interesting, but I knew the properties of the fork. Steel, and defects that we normally do not see with the common eye would make for an interesting shot. I used a MP-E65 Macro lens, the setup was rather difficult. I think I had roughly .075mm of actual depth of field. So it’s fairly razor thin. That makes photographing things 5x rather difficult. As stupid as it sounds, that fork and subsequent pomegranate shot took a good 3+ hrs. Posted is the shot that I went with, titled Fork. It was done with a single pomegranate seed below it for color. The second shot, was more abstract, and I rejected it due to it’s somewhat dark nature. (Don’t get me wrong, I love that sort of thing, but I wanted to try something different, something out of character.

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pomegranate fail

Pomegranate was the hardest of all, thus far. The first thing that came was the red juice of the pomegranate running down someone’s neck or teeth or pooling at the belly button. Just some vampire like shot where the seeds were substituted for blood. I didn’t have a model in hand, so I was experiment with plan B. I never liked any of my results, they were quite awful. i experimented with the outside shell, making butterflies or plant scenery with it. But I thought it would be too similar to my broccoli shot. So The end result just came out of happenstance. Cutting the red fruit, buts of juice and items were left on the blade. I focused on the blade, tried a few variants, and eventually I came up with something that satisfied me. The ‘Dexter’ was named after the television series about a serial killer that kills other killers.

I’m also considering exploring video and cinematography. I have a few ideas for short videos, or videos for clients, but photography still holds a huge place in my heart.