Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Nikon D7000, Lensbaby Scout with pinhole optic, 6 sec., ISO 100, retouched

Inspired by an exhibit of Ruth Thorne-Thomsen’s photography at the Nelson, I decided to drag out the pinhole optic for my Lensbaby Scout and experiment with it.

When I first got the optic, I found myself frustrated with the lack of control it entailed. It’s difficult if not impossible to precisely aim a pinhole, so that wasn’t what I was used to at all. I also found the images fuzzy. Uniformly fuzzy, an aperture that small eliminating depth of field pretty much entirely, but fuzzy nonetheless.

After looking at the photos in the exhibit, I was comforted to learn that the fuzziness wasn’t something I was doing wrong. And the aiming issue was nowhere near as big a trick for me and my digital camera (where I could instantly check the results) as it would be for a film photographer or even an artist using light-sensitive paper (as Thorne-Thomsen did).

However, when I opened an experimental shot in Photoshop to adjust the light levels a bit, I noticed something interesting. The picture was speckled with dozens of tiny ghost images of the pinhole. I’d never encountered this before, but I’m assuming the effect is similar to what you’d get with a creative aperture. Click on the image to blow it up for a better look.

Nikon D7000, Lensbaby Scout with pinhole optic, 6 sec., ISO 100, retouched, enlarged

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ethnic Fest 2013

Nikon D7000, 200mm (28-200), 1/60, f/5.6, ISO 640, adjusted
Last Saturday I took some shots at the college’s annual Ethnic Festival. I try to time the Saturday photography seminar I teach once a semester to coincide with an event like this with some good photo opportunities. This year we missed the dance groups, so photogenic moments were fewer and farther between.

The one thing I forgot from last year was that the light in the field house is deceptively bad. It looks okay to the eye, but it’s dim enough to make a camera struggle. The shot at the top of this post was far too dark straight out of the camera:

Nikon D7000, 200mm (28-200), 1/60, f/5.6, ISO 640
And that was at a relatively slow, 60 shutter. Fortunately, fixing that particular picture was an easy level adjustment in Photoshop.

When I slowed it down further, however, the lighting got better but other problems cropped up. A 30 shutter is about as slow as I can go and not pick up camera vibration. And even then, I have to concentrate on holding the camera still. If I pay attention to my grip, I end up only with motion from the subject (though at this slow speed even that will show up in the picture):

Nikon D7000, 200mm (28-200), 1/30, f/5.6, ISO 1000
But if I’m not careful, the camera moves and the whole picture gets messed up:

Nikon D7000, 200mm (28-200), 1/30, f/5.6, ISO 1000
In retrospect, I should have cranked the ISO up a bit more and found ways to adjust for the resulting graininess.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

SAC Museum 2

Nikon D7000, 10.5mm, 1/25, f/2.8, ISO 1600

This shot turned out to be an interesting demonstration of lighting, transparency and reflection. I took it looking through a window into a small booth containing a training station for air crews.

As a general principle, anything lit will show up and anything dark won’t (sort of the nature of photography as a whole). When you shoot a surface such as glass that can either reflect the light from the outside world or let the light from inside pass through, you can end up with a mix like this.

The spots inside the booth that are lit up become stronger visual elements than the shadows underneath the plane behind me, which is why you can see the training station fairly well. But the spots in the booth that are dark (especially up toward the ceiling) don’t compete with the strong, reflected light from the museum’s roof.

The result is an almost surreal blend of interior and exterior light. It’s hard to get an accurate sense of space from this image. Normally I don’t care for visual “tricks,” but this one kinda works for me.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

SAC Museum

Nikon D7000, 18mm (18-55), 1/160, f/6.3, ISO 200

Actually, this is the Strategic Air and Space Museum. But I’m used to this branch of the Air Force being called Strategic Air Command, so it feels better to me as SAC.

These shots of the SR-71 Blackbird in the main entry hall show off different lenses and different framing options. The first shot (above) is a fairly standard composition with one of my everyday use lenses. It’s at the lower end of its focal length range (18mm), so I’m getting a little distortion. But because the airplane itself is made of long, curving angles, the distortion doesn’t mess up the shot.

Nikon D3000, 10.5mm, 1/160, f/6.3, ISO 100

Now I’ve switched to my other camera, where I’ve got my 10mm lens mounted. On the minus side, this isn’t as dramatic a shot of the Blackbird. On the plus side, the wider angle provides a better sense of the space in the hall. I also like the frozen motion on the kid in the right-hand side of the shot.

Nikon D3000, 10.5mm, 1/160, f/6.3, ISO 100

Then by tilting up a bit I get this result. The top of this picture is actually the ceiling behind me, making for some strange perspective. I like the geometry of this image, the solid, iron-shaped roof floating in a web of thin lines.