Shareware Beach

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Sunset Over the Chao Praya River

Filed under: Photography — Jan @ 17:33

Sunset Over the Chao Praya River

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Polarizing Pictures

Filed under: Photography — Jan @ 11:57

A key benefit of an SLR camera over a compact is that you can put some nice lenses on the SLR. On top of that, such lenses are threaded, making it easy to put on filters. Though many filter effects, particularly color filters, can be easily replicated (or even done much better) by post-processing RAW files, that is not at all true of polarizing filters. Digital camera sensors don’t record the light’s polarization. Most light we see isn’t polarized anyway.

Sunlight does become polarized as it travels through the atmosphere, and tends to stay polarized as is reflected. A polarization filter filters out light that’s polarized at a particular (adjustable) angle. They can make the sky appear a deeper blue, reduce haze and reduce or even eliminate reflections on water, foilage and even people. The filter will have the most effect when you turn your shoulder to the sun.

Below you’ll find two pairs of photographs. Each pair was taken with the exact same (automatic) camera settings. The only difference is that for the first picture, I turned the polarization filter for minimum effect, which gives about the same result as not using the filter at all. In the second picture, I turned it for maximum effect. As you can see, filtering out the reflected highlights yields a more saturated picture. There’s more detail in the shadows because there are less highlights to be kept from overexposure. Which style you prefer is of course a matter of taste. But I do know I’ll never leave home without the polarization filter in my camera bag.

Portrait lit by sunlight

Portrait lit by sunlight, reflections filtered with a polarizer

Forest river glistening in the sun

Forest river, reflections filtered with a polarizer

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Christmas Photos

Filed under: Photography — Jan @ 20:45

December 25th is an ordinary working day in Thailand. Buddhism being the dominant (95%) religion, that’s no surprise. They make up for it by celebrating New Year three times a year. So you won’t see any Santa or tinsel tree in my pictures.

I spent much of the day taking random pictures in our back yard trying out some new techniques and equipment. In the early morning I practiced on the full moon. In the afternoon, a random shot of the sky came out surprisingly well. Maybe it’s Christmas after all!

Full moon peeking through a tree

Christmas shining through the clouds

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Nice Lens, Baby!

Filed under: Photography — Jan @ 17:57

As I’ve been taking my photography hobby more seriously, I’ve started to run up against the limitations of the Fuji F30 I’ve been using for the past two years. It’s a great pocket camera, but in the end it is a pocket camera. Particularly the tiny dragon-eyes-inducing flash you find on any pocket camera doesn’t cut it.

So the Olympus E-510 became my first SLR camera. Besides the fact that it has all the features I could want, I really like the fact that it’s relatively small and light. Particularly the kit lenses are very light, yet are optically just as good as kit lenses from other brands. If there’s anything I remember from my very first camera purchase, a 35mm film “compact”, is that a camera sitting on the shelf because it’s too big or too bulky doesn’t take many good pictures. I can easily walk around all day with the E-510 and FL-36 flash on it, without it starting too feel heavy. In fact, I did just that at the ESWC last month. I got good results, but also found I still have much to learn.

Besides the flash hotshoe, another key benefit of an SLR is that you can change the lens. As a beginner, I’m particularly interested in trying new creative options and exploring the capabilities of my tool. So I got myself a Lensbaby 2.0, which is a lens that you can bend. There’s absolutely no electronics in it. You focus by compressing it. You change aperture by swapping aperture discs. With no disk it’s f/2.0. f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6 and f/8 round aperture discs are supplied. I also purchased the creative aperture kit, which includes a star-shaped and a heart-shaped f/4 disc, as well as solid discs for you to cut up. (But heed the manual: don’t cut your fingers–you need those to focus the Lensbaby!) Specular highlights will take the shape of the aperture.

Here’s a shot of the low-hanging fruit on the mango tree in our garden. Sunlight, which I overexposed, comes through between the leaves.

Low-hanging fruit on a mango tree.  Taken with E-510, Lensbaby 2.0 and star-shaped aperture.

The main creative ability of the Lensbaby is that only a certain part of the image will be in focus, depending on how (or if) you bend the lens. Here’s a more typical shot that the Lensbaby is great for. Notice how Samira’s left eye (to the right in the picture) and nose are (nearly) in focus. There’s plenty of depth of field for her face. Yet, her right eye (at the left) and chin are out of focus. In the background there’s a bush with mostly red and some green leaves. Only a little bit of sunlight is coming through between the leaves.

Samira.  Taken with E-510, Lensbaby 2.0 and heart-shaped aperture.

I did not do any post-processing to either picture, other than shifting the exposure a little bit on the mango tree shot. The E-510 meters through the Lensbaby in P mode, but it seems not as well as through the Olympus lenses.

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