Keep Moving Forward… 08.09.10


Do I need, in my kit, a Nifty Fifty?

I never understood the hype around the “Nifty Fifty.” On a full frame (35mm) camera it used to be one of the ‘must have’ prime lenses in your kit. This was back in the day when Zoom Lenses just could not match the image quality of a Prime.

Other ‘must have,’ Prime lenses were 28mm wide angle, 85mm or 135mm medium telephoto, and 200mm or 300mm telephoto. Either end of this spectrum were considered specialized use lenses.

Be that as it may, the 50mm Lens was the all rounder, for street, portrait and social/family shooting, shooting still lifes, etc. Its angle of view is ingrained in our photographic psyche.

However, in this day and age, for the vast majority of shooters (non-professional) the image quality of Zoom lenses is very good. Its when you start getting into situations where you need fast glass for low light applications, or exceptional image quality that the argument for Prime Lenses still renders valid.

To add to this debate, not all comparisons are equal when you change to a different film format. As such “every photographer” doesn’t need a 50mm lens in their kit because it depends on what format the shoot with. Here are the equivalent lenses giving approx. the same field of view based on film-format/sensor-size:.
Medium-format? 85mm;
35mm-format? 50mm;
APS-C format? 35mm.

So when we rave about the “Nifty Fifty,” its bang for its buck and why every photographer needs on in their kit, I have to ask, “Why?”

In portraiture, the 50mm lens has long been abandoned as a recommended goto lens, heck even the 85mm lens has been pushed aside somewhat, due to the compression that longer lenses offer. In this day and age, a 50mm lens is too wide and unflattering to the Sitter. Even though the depth of field and bokeh might be stellar. Even in Photography, there are fashion trends and fads.

As an APS-C format shooter, a 50mm fast prime lens gives me the equivalent of an 85mm lens. I already have a fast, 35mm Prime (Canon) [btw if you haven’t yet got one in your kit, get this] which is the 35mm-format equivalent of a 50mm lens. So, why would I need a fast 85mm prime lens in my kit? What would I use it for? For candid street portraits I prefer a long-ish telephoto.

For studio work with product and still life, fast is not necessary, nor in many cases is shallow depth of field. In the past it only came in handy, for me, with a small portrait studio, and hinged on how far you could move your subject away from the background and still backup to be able to provide a flattering focus on my sitter.

To me, using a fixed prime in a photo studio was a bit like doing math. Length vs width of studio stage, distance from background to subject, distance of subject to camera, working space behind camera, light intensity on subject, on background, blowback etc. Once you have that all dialed in, a few pieces of labeled tape on the floor and a static camera with fixed prime lens and dedicated studio stand can be moved in and out as need be, but: what a waste, locking up money in essentially a single use system. I don’t know anyone who shoots that way anymore.

The small home-base portrait studio, with equipment setup in place in a dedicated room with nothing to move is a lifestyle statement, I know, I used to have my own in a 5x7m ground floor room in Hanoi, but the demands of responding to change on a daily basis for flexibility and versatility means that the, “look at all my fancy gear” in-home studio statement, is nothing more than a self-flagellating, experiment in social preening.

Given the opportunity, would I still set up such a studio? Sure! As a personal, Photography equipment collection and Museum, functional and working, but quaint and wastefully irrelevant, except to possibly a few fellow enthusiasts. Or a minimalist, with lots of storage and a clean, versatile studio stage that can be rapidly tasked to different uses and looks. I can’t can’t decide, not right now anyway.

So, do I need, in my kit, a Nifty Fifty lens? Perhaps we should be saying, “every photographer ought to have a format equivalent 50mm lens in their kit,” but I don’t that such argument is valid any more.

Versatility, flexibility, and rapid responsiveness is the order of, this day and age, which means high quality, well made, zoom lenses are in. Primes still have their place, but they are not a must have item in every photographers kit?

For today, that’s what’s in my
Line of Sight.

Lightroom: Upgrading and Revisioning

Its taken me a few lean years but finally I’ve just upgraded from LR3 to LR6. In the process I’ve learned that I could have been doing somethings better, and one large catalog is not so good. So I’m starting from scratch all over again.

Now, I’m scrutinizing Kevin Kubota’s Lightspeed Workflow (from a CreativeLive session) and setting up Kumu, Goodsync and LR (presets and templates) so that I can reprocess my image storage and management (since 2003) and perhaps gain greater management control over my growing database of images; as well as forward some of my, stagnating for too long, personal work goals.

Having installed the application, re-tasked an ineffectual backup hdd to be my main file storage device, set up my file structures, and started tweaking LR6 with import defaults and Catalog Filters, I’m using a dummy file set of some 700+ kids football fotos that need to be processed before the weekend, as I still need to setup Kumu properly and get my “Client” data entered in chronological order.

That means going back to 2003 and completely rebuilding my file storage system. Its a lot of work, but in the end, if ever one of my models or clients asked for a new copy of a photo, I’ll be able to find it more easily (although I may need to re-edit them all over again, in some cases)

Similarly, this should allow me to sort through a backlog of personal work that has been sidelined for far too long. Now, the task-in-hand is to finish optimizing the LR6 Catalogue and saving a Default that can be duplicated for each job on demand, and add some presets.

And, on the subject of presets, some not so common ones, these are, “Print Presets” also, “Free Presets” from On1, …also, “Brush Presets” from Gavin Seims and of course, Kevin Kubota’s (not free but very good) Presets for Lightroom.

Pinhole Photography 2015

Last Sunday was Worldwide Pinhole photography Day, so I decided to make a pinhole camera and play around with some exhausted Ilford Ilfospeed x.44M B&W Photographic paper as source material for some paper negatives. The camera I build out of a Chinese Tea Tin lined with black gaffer tape and trilled a hole in it for the pinhole using a set of ultra fine drill bits for the Dremel. Camera Specs: 0.4/75mm f/187.5. Single shot, Paper Negative: 55 x 127mm (diagonal 138.4mm) mounted in a curved plane. Angle of view is 85.4°

Here’s some Pinhole math:
1. 75mm / 0.4mm = 187.5 i.e. f/187.5
2. 187.5 / 16 = 11.71875 i.e. 11.7 x exposure at f/16
3. Reciprocity Failure (per Beal, p164): <1 sec none; 1-15 s = x 1.5; 15-30 s = x 3; 30-60 s = x 4; 1 m-30 m = x 6 4: The Ilford Ilfospeed x.44M series of papers seem to be nominally rated at around ISO 400. The Sunny 16 Exposure is apparently 1/4 sec. Now, we know that at f/16 for ISO 400 that gives us a target Speed of 1/400th sec. normally if we keep the speed, then we drop down in the following series: f/16 - Bright Sun, Hard Shadows f/11 - Clear Sky, soft shadows f/8 - Partly Cloudy, Open Shade f/5.6 - Overcast f/4 - Dark Clouds, Rain f/2.8 - Dawn/Dusk f/1.2 - Street Lights, Well lit night. However, if we keep f/16, as the 'exposure' setting, then we need to change the Shutter Speed. This becomes, (based on the Minolta SRT101) 1/500 - Bright Sun, Hard Shadows 1/250 - Clear Sky, soft shadows 1/125 - Partly Cloudy, Open Shade 1/60 - Overcast 1/30 - Dark Clouds, Rain 1/15 - Dawn/Dusk 1/8 - Street Lights, Well lit night. Given these speed ranges we can then translate to Pinhole Exposure Times, thus. 1/4 - Bright Sun, Hard Shadows that is 1/500 x 125. 1/2 - Clear Sky, soft shadows 1 - Partly Cloudy, Open Shade 2 - Overcast 4 - Dark Clouds, Rain 8 - Dawn/Dusk 16 - Street Lights, Well lit night. Next, we need to consider Reciprocity Failure for long exposures. From point 3 above the table now looks like this: 1/4 - Bright Sun, Hard Shadows 1/2 - Clear Sky, soft shadows 1.5 - Partly Cloudy, Open Shade 3 - Overcast 6 - Dark Clouds, Rain 12 - Dawn/Dusk 48 - Street Lights, Well lit night. and now we have a working guideline for exposing our paper negatives. Because this particular film stock is very old, it may be fogged, it may be discolored, and it may be less sensitive to light, so times will need to be adjusted accordingly. Interestingly though, these are relatively quick speeds. Using a tape shutter means that there is very real risk of camera shake when applying and removing the shutter, and the higher speeds can't be obtained with a tape shutter, at least not with the gaffer tape that I'm using. To give an example, if you take a normal sports stop watch and hit the stop/start button with your same finger as quickly as you can, you might be able to clock in at around 0.7 of a sec. Many clock in at double that. If you apply the same logic to opening and closing your middle finger and thumb, wide, on the same hand, as fast as you can, you might just be able to clock in at 1/4 of a second. Now do that with your pinhole camera without shaking it... So, images? Yes, I have one. It's my first successful image from this camera after much trial and error. The negative was processed in 1.5% Rodinol Developer solution, stopped with running water, then (not really) fixed in concentrated salt solution before being dried and scanned on an HP Scanjet 3110 flat bed scanner. The negative was inverted to a positive in Photoshop and then trimmed, dodged and burned using Lightroom. The original is still a paper negative which I might try contact printing into a paper positive at some later date when I have some propper fixer to use for finishing off the prints. 2015 Pinhole on Paper

For today, that’s what’s in my
Line of Sight.

Phantom 3 Drone Camera

Nice piece of kit. Might have to use the Chinese connections to get one of these….
But, at just over a 1000€ price tag, that’s certainly room to pause and carefully consider, the pros and cons…

DJI Announces the Phantom 3: 4K Video in the World’s Most Popular Camera Drone

For today, that’s what’s in my
Line of Sight.

Wood Transfer Prints

So, I was looking at this: and got to thinking:

a) this is really cool
b) the result is better than what I’ve seen for other videos, like this one:
c) nice segue into online editing, and
d) what if the edges were routered after making the picture, and ferous acetate used to selectively stain part of the edge, like at the end of this vid:

This being Germany, my next question was about materials, especially the Gel Medium, which turns out to be called, Malgel. There’s also a different product solution as shown in the above German video, called Foto Potch. Here’re some links:…/Rubens-Acryl-Malgel-seid…/351357531100……/C-KREUL-HOBBY-LINE-Foto-…/251707356271……/Liquitex-Professionell-G…/291420469540…

What strikes me out of all this, is that here is a way to connect back to an older aesthetic involving the actual, selection, contact print creation, support base preparation, substrate selection and actual printing of the image. Its not quite Darkroom Technique 101, but there’s a lot to this that can be challenging in order to produce a single, well made photograph.
Some things to consider, 100% White becomes the colour of your wood – What is the Contrast range for the image, the laser printer paper and ink, the colour photocopier paper and ink, and the wood that you’re printing on to? Is it 6 stops, 8 stops, 11 stops, and how do you modify “your” image for the best print result?

How coarse, grainy, or fine is the wood on which you’re printing and what effect does that have on the sharpness of the final image?

Do brush strokes become apparent in the substate gel media? if so, what creative textural impacts can we introduce? If you press the paper image onto the substrate, are the textural elements lost?
Lastly, I’ve been considering a new project, to review my entire life’s record with photography (some 40 odd years worth) and comparing images that I’ve made with some of those published in Encyclopedias of Photography: not to say my work is as great or better, but to see and compare how I’ve treated similar subject matter with what other photographers in the past have done.

This was to be a digital effort mostly, but I entertained the idea of printing my images more or less the same size as the paper prints of the photographers I would be comparing to.
Perhaps it might be of more interest, at least to me, to take this wood printing idea and apply it to this project, but not just use wood, but also, perspex, slate, corrugated iron, aluminum, etc as support media. That could be a very entertaining idea and way to spend a few months in activity…

Anyway, I think this is a cool idea that is easily implemented in most photographers, home or pro studios, as a side project for playing with. Perhaps it could even add an additional photographic product to your stable?

For today, that’s what’s in my
Line of Sight.

An alternative to the GoPro

An alternative to the GoPro Hero, If you’re traveling in China, this might actually be worth the effort of picking up.

Update: (15 Apr.) I’ve now ordered one of these complete with waterproof housing. Just waiting on the wife’s next visit to Chine to pick it up. Can hardly wait.

For today, that’s what’s in my
Line of Sight.

Mussing on comments by Dean Collins

So, I’m watching DC@Brooks – again; and I pick up just a little bit more.

Blowthrough on the background. i.e. in essence you don’t want your background to be brighter than 2 stops above 18% Grey, reflective… or in other words, no brighter tan 2 stops above the diffused value of your subject… I think I’ve got that right…

so, shooting at f/8 then the background should read no brighter than f/16-reflective; f/5,6 -> then f/11 reflective on the background; f/16 -> then f/32 reflective on the background; etc.

Photographic White and Black
Photographic White is 2 1/3 stops above 18%;
Photographic Black is 4 1/3 stops below 18%…

18% being the middle point.

Photographic Black is 4 & 2/3’s … Lithographic Black (for Magazines), however, is 2 & 1/3 … stops below 18% grey. (Reflective)

I want it darker…. “you’ll get it when its reproduced,” because web-press printing increases contrast by 10-15%

Thats Reflective, NOT Incident…

The standard of measure in Photography is?
What is our (photographic) 1 part? => 18%, i.e. changes by 1 stop…

With this we can measure and effect predictable changes.

If a Subject Incident Reading is f/16 THEN the background needs to be measured REFLECTIVE as f/8 for a photographic (reproducibly Lithographic Magazine) Black… etc.

Shooting with two layers of black, cotton tulle (available from Florists) over the lens, to cut base contrast by approx. 10% …
it helps to manage post-production web-press reproduction of the image, which tends to enhance contrast by 10-15%

Catalog Photography: What needs to be consistent? Colour – i.e. The diffused value of the product. Shadows and Specular is used to identify shape and texture – those are going to be (colour) incorrect, But, what needs to be correct is the base diffused value.

Eggshell Crate paint it black, cut it to size and put it on your soft boxes. Will keep the light on the subject but isolate the background by 2 -5 stops… USE IT its good!

How to get your backgrounds to all have the same consistency and brightness relative to the subject?
Light your subject relative to the brightness of the background such that you maintain the same lighting ratio.
i.e. if in the first shot, your background is 1 stop brighter than your subject? then in every subsequent shot, light your subject to be 1 stop duller than your background, however, you still need to expose for the true base diffused value of your subject.

Lastly, What exposure is it? “Its f/Good…”

For today, that’s what’s in my
Line of Sight.