Hard at Work

Hard at Work

I’m working on a piece on tilt-shift lenses for our blog and I wanted to get some shots of the historic forts in the Marin Headlands at sunrise. So, I hauled my carcass out of bed at 4:30am and made it to the headlands shortly before sunrise. Turns out, it was one of those beautiful days where the upper reaches of Conzelman road, which overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge and downtown San Francisco, was right above the marine layer. So I pulled over to shoot a bit from there, and guess who I ran into? Our Marketing VP, Jim Goldstein, was out in force, shooting time-lapse videos with two bodies, a dolly, and other miscellaneous gear. This was my first time up there this early (I tend to shoot a lot in the evenings, when I don’t have to ingest large amounts of caffeine to keep my eyes open), and apparently, I had the luck of the beginner, as Jim said it could take as many as ten tries to get the atmospheric conditions we had that morning. Jim, for those of you who aren’t familiar with him, is a professional photographer himself (that’s kind of a running theme with BorrowLenses.com hires – we’re all either pro or avid amateur photographers). You can find out more about him on his blog, http://www.jmg-galleries.com/blog/, or you can follow him on Twitter (@jimgoldstein) or on Google+ at https://plus.google.com/+JimGoldstein/ Jim also has an excellent eBook out now called Inspired Exposure, which tackles an element of photography we often don’t think about as still shooters: time. From Light Painting and Star Trails photography to time-lapses and cinemagraphs, this...
Playing With Canon’s New Big Guns

Playing With Canon’s New Big Guns

Canon’s 1Dx and 600mm f/4L IS II lens have been two of the most sought after (and repeatedly delayed) items in their inventory for the past year or so. Now, Canon is finally shipping them with some regularity, and we took this opportunity to put this new combo through its paces. I love photographing birds. A few years ago, I started with a Canon 100-400mm lens and a Rebel XTi, and shot from the comfort of my car. Eventually, I moved up to a Canon 1D Mark IV and a 600mm f/4, or a 500mm f/4 lens. The 1D MKIV/600mm combo became a favorite, and I managed to capture some really cool images with it that are part of my Natural History portfolio. Of course, since then, Canon has introduced its successor to the 1D MKIV and the 600mm f/4. The 1Dx takes over where the 1D MKIV left off, introducing a bigger sensor and better high-ISO performance, among other things, whereas the new 600mm Mark II comes in at slightly shorter and much lighter than its predecessor. I took this combo out for a spin to see if it would match up to my old favorites. As with my previous reviews, I focus more on the shooting experience out in the field, rather than lab tests and results. Handling Canon 1Dx The first thing I do with a new camera is go through the settings to customize it to my specifications. The Canon 1Dx’s menu system is a lot like the 5D Mark III’s, which itself borrows a few things I loved from the 7D, such as the...
The Leica Diary, Part III – Focus

The Leica Diary, Part III – Focus

Part I of the Leica Diary can be found here. Part II can be found here. Zone focus. Those are the two key words you need to know about focusing with a Leica. If you’ve used a rangefinder before, you already know this; if you haven’t, then read on. Leica cameras don’t focus like the DSLRs, ILC (Interchangeable Lens Compacts like the Olympus E-P2), or point-and-shoot digitals that we’re all used to. For one, Leica lenses are all manual-focus lenses. For another, unlike most other digital cameras today, you’re not focusing through the lens (TTL). You’re actually using a separate viewfinder to do the framing and focusing for you.  Take a look at the image below. It’s a bit hard to capture the view through a Leica’s viewfinder, but see that slightly bright rectangle near the top-left of the circle? That’s your focusing aid. Now, see how the part of the poster that’s in that rectangle is doubled?  Well, on a Leica, you adjust the focus ring of the lens till the two images merge into one. That’s the first way to focus a Leica, and when you’re at a wide-open aperture like f/2.5, it’s the surest way to gain critical focus. But that’s not how zone focusing works. Google defines zone focusing as “A way to focus that utilizes the depth of field scale rather than the actual distance from camera to subject. Zone focusing is most useful for candid, street photography.” To understand this, let’s take a look at the lens barrel of a Leica. In the image below, you’ll see that there are a number of markings...
Notable Storytellers – Sara Lando

Notable Storytellers – Sara Lando

Welcome to Notable Storytellers, a feature where we point you to some of the best visual storytellers around, from photographers and videographers to VFX and graphic artists. Sara Lando is an Italian photographer who first came to my attention through her work on David Hobby’s Strobist blog. An occasional contributor there, Sara is a commercial photographer based in Milan, Italy. I devour Strobist.com with regularity, and remember seeing Sara introduced as the European correspondent last year. I also remember reading an article by her on photographer Christoph Martin Schmidt. Her recent series of articles, however, weren’t about another photographer, or even a technique – not necessarily, anyway. These were more of an “approach philosophy” piece. I quote David Hobby: Picture a tiny Italian woman gesturing continuously as she uncorks a full brain dump (from a very, very creative mind) on all of the little things that many people never think of when photographing others. As I was listening I kept thinking, “Someone should be writing this stuff down RIGHT NOW.“ I read the article. Then read it again. It was, I realized, pretty damn good. And insightful. So I clicked through to her portfolio, and got a really wide grin on my face. I love finding photographers whose work inspires me. It used to make me groan at the distance I have to cover to get that good, but now it just drives me. Sara’s work is definitely, without a doubt, inspiring. What fascinated me about Sara’s portfolio is the range she covers. Not in terms of subject matter — she sticks mostly to people — but in terms of...
The Leica Diary, Part II – Coming To Grips

The Leica Diary, Part II – Coming To Grips

Part 1 of The Leica Diary can be found here. Hold the Leica in your hand and the first thing that goes through your mind is, “Dang, that 50mm lens is tiny!” The second thing that goes through your mind is, “This is a full-frame camera? It’s… kinda small.” The Leica looks like a point and shoot. It doesn’t feel like a point-and-shoot, but it looks like one. Hold it in your hand and it feels… well, it feels like a piece of history. Which, given the fact that it isn’t all that different from the M-series film camera it succeeds, makes sense. In my hand, the Leica feels dense. There doesn’t appear to be any wasted space here, either. The shooting controls on this 1.3lb body are sparse and easily reachable with my right hand, so my left stays on the lens. Speaking of the lens, a number of Leica’s lenses have this nifty little notch towards the bottom that makes focusing the lenses a lot easier. With your right hand on the camera and your left supporting the bottom, your left index finger drops into that notch perfectly. On the 50mm f/2.5 Summarit, a short, perhaps 120º throw moves you through the lens’ full focal range. I’ll have a post on focusing with the Leica later (it really does deserve its own post), but suffice it to say that it’s very, very different from manually focusing a lens on your DSLR. The top has just two controls – the shutter, which is in the center of the on/off/shooting mode switch, and the shutter speed dial. Again, painstakingly simple...