I was recently inspired by a recent series of portraits by our very own Alex Huff. Titled “Chiaroscuro Portraiture,” it features these gorgeous close-up portraits of the men and women in her life, each one of which is a study in how to render the interplay between light and shadow.
Alex takes these images in front of a grey background, and through a combination of getting in close to her subjects and using one light, sends what little you might see of that grey to almost pitch black. I began to think of what I could do if I didn’t have a backdrop to shoot against, if I needed to make a portrait in a relatively brightly-lit area. In theory, it could be done; a basic understanding of the Inverse-Square Law reveals that much.
But what if all you had was a basic modifier and a couple of speedlights, not a big studio strobe? Could you still do it? I had to give it a try. read more…
Not too long ago, I switched to the Nikon D800E with a series of prime lenses for all of my primary photography. I love the Nikon, and it’s proved to be a fantastic system, capably handling just about everything I’ve thrown at it.
The downside is that it is, truly, a system. A big, heavy system. I quickly found myself looking for a smaller, carry-around camera for some of my more photojournalistic endeavors, and immediately turned to the family of mirrorless cameras out there for an answer.
Of these, there is no shortage. You have the awesome Sony NEX-6, which I’ve raved about in the past. There’s also the Sony RX-1, the Panasonic GF3C, the Fuji X-Pro1, and the subject of this article, the Olympus OM-D E-M5.
I’ve had the Olympus OM-D E-M5 for the past few weeks now, and have been using it as my primary “take everywhere” camera. It’s small size, lens selection, and great image quality combine to provide a system that’s flat-out my favorite in this category. In this article, I’ll present my experience shooting with this little thing, rather than a full-on technical review.
Metabones Canon EF to Sony NEX Speed Booster Adds Full Frame Versatility in the Crop Sensor Video World
Make No Bones About It: the Metabones Adapter is Kind of Amazing
The Metabones Canon EF to Sony NEX Speed Booster allows you to mount any Canon EF-mount lens onto compatible Sony NEX E-mount cameras, such as the Sony FS-700, Sony FS-100, or Sony Alpha NEX- 7. What makes this simple adapter anything but simple is its ability to increase your maximum aperture and make your lens 0.71x wider! Think of this adapter as being the opposite of a teleconverter. A teleconverter expands the image being projected onto your camera’s sensor, giving us a telephoto crop but also losing light in the process. Teleconverters are popular among nature and outdoor sports photographers who need the extra reach and don’t mind losing a little light to get it. The Metabones Speed Booster, conversely, narrows the image being projected onto the sensor. The image then fills the cropped sensor similarly to how the lens would fill a full frame sensor. The resulting image is still slightly cropped, but less so than if you were just shooting with the crop sensor alone and no adapter. read more…
Reviewing the Sigma 15mm f/2.8 and Nikon 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lenses for Night Sky Landscape Photography
David Kingham is a lanscape photographer who focuses (pun intended?) on the night sky. He field-tested some of our fisheye lenses to see which one is most suitable for this kind of work. If you’re interested in astrophotography and landscapes, check out Kingham’s findings below (reprinted here with permission):
Fisheye Lenses for Night Photography
by David Kingham
I’ve been looking to add a fisheye to my arsenal of night photography lenses, but I was never able to locate solid information on what the best lens is for my style of night photography, specifically. I knew I needed to do my own testing to know for sure. I received the Sigma 15mm 2.8 and Nikon 16mm 2.8 from BorrowLenses.com and I needed to go someplace spectacular to test them out–what better place than Canyonlands National Park?
Canon has added yet another camera to their cinema line, the 1D C. This addition gives professional and novice filmmakers alike a formidable number of shooting choices, not to mention access to a wide variety of cine-lenses. It is also a very sports-friendly camera, shooting at 14 FPS for up to 400,000 cycles with its newly-designed shutter and carbon fiber blades. But what really stands out about this camera–especially when compared to the established C300 and the new C100 and C500? read more…
Photographer Marc Muench took a compelling photo while out in Death Valley National Park. The sun is setting and it appears as if the night is rolling in at hyper speed, allowing the stars and clouds to shine through the still-bright sky. This image is, indeed, a composite but not so much a composite of completely different images–it is more of a composite of time. This simple technique is what Muench likes to call “Time Bracketing”.
Steve McCurry is one of the most prolific photographers alive today. His photograph for National Geographic’s June 1985 cover of Sharbat Gula (also know as the “Afghan Girl”) is one of the most recognizable portraits in history, and his imagery has graced NatGeo’s pages many, many times since.
McCurry has repeatedly proven himself an absolute master of the portrait. His street portraiture, especially, carries tremendous impact. He has an uncanny ability to capture his subjects’ essence, distilling it in a split-second into an image that can range from haunting to exciting and everything in-between.
The Canon MP-E 65mm Macro Lens is one of BorrowLenses.com’s most unique lenses. The MP-E is more than a macro lens–it is a portable microscope with the ability to fill an entire 35mm frame with the texture of something as small as a grain of rice. Floating internal lens elements keep the resolution sharp throughout the range of focus at 1x, life-size, to 5x magnification, or 5 times life-size.
The Canon MP-E 65mm’s magnification essentially begins where other macro lenses, such as Canon’s 100mm, end. The focus distance range is very small–only 41mm at 5x–but this allows for tremendous detail of very small objects, including the tips of pens or the eyes of a butterfly. Since this is a dedicated macro lens, it cannot focus more than a few centimeters away from the front element. This is not your ordinary 65mm lens and to properly shoot with it you will need a couple of tools.
What You Need to Shoot
This lens is manual-focus only and you will need to use a macro rail, such as our StackShot Extended Macro Rail or our Mini Novoflex Focusing Rack. These provide essential support to prevent blur from lens shake (which is very noticeable at higher magnifications) and allows for micro adjustments in distance to and from your diminutive subject.
Macro Ring Lights
The effective aperture is going to be much smaller than what is displayed on your camera due to the extreme magnification of the lens. Keep this in mind when calculating your exposure–your aperture needs to be multiplied by the magnification, plus 1, that you are using. For example, if you are shooting a penny at 5x magnification at f/13, you are effectively shooting at f/78 (f stop x (magnification + 1).
As you can see in this picture of the penny, even with a 1 second exposure and an LED lamp, there is not a lot of light on the subject. Also, when hovering over a very small subject, you tend to cast a shadow on an already dark scene. A macro ring light is essential for combating these very small apertures. This lens is compatible with our Canon MT-24EX Macro Twin Ringlite Flash.
Patience for the Little Things
This is not a lens for the impatient! It may take several micro adjustments and a steady gaze to get your subject sharp but the rewards are as great as the details the Canon MP-E provides. Check out a few of our images taken with this lens below, shot between 2x and 4x magnification:
Other Macro Options
Canon’s 65mm MP-E is in a class of its own but there are other fantastic macro lenses to try out, especially if you are looking to just play around and don’t really want to commit to rails and macro lights–yet. Here are some of our recommended lenses:
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro USM
This is a 1:1 macro lens so you can still reproduce small items at life-size magnification. The Hybrid IS makes this lens a little easier to hand-hold than the MP-E and also doubles as a fantastic portrait lens.
Nikon 105mm f/2.8G AF-S VR IF-ED Micro
Another 1:1 magnification lens and also very sharp. The Vibration Reduction is helpful when hand-holding and it is also a great portrait lens. It is the favorite go-to lens for The Furrtographer for capturing both animal portraits and extreme close ups of their interesting features.
Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro
Comparable to the Canon EF 100mm for its 1:1 magnification and portraiture use but also employs a double-floating element design similar to the MP-E.
Penxtax 100mm f/2.8 WR Macro
Much like the others above only this lens has 6 weather seals–very helpful when photographing bugs and flowers outside in all conditions. This lens also has a quick shift feature that allows you to alternate between manual and auto focus very easily.
Panasonic Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro ASPH/MEGA O.I.S.
This lens is for the micro four thirds fans out there. It is the 35mm-equivalent of a 90mm lens on a full frame camera but still shoots at 1:1 and allows you to focus as close at 6″ from your subject. The Optical Image Stabilization helps with hand-holding and still doubles as a fine portrait lens.
There are many more great macro lenses to try out on our site!
Show Us What You Got
It’s a small world out there and we’d like to see how you capture it! Did you get interesting results from one of these (or other) macro/micro lenses? Feel free to share your images in the comments below.
When we recently received the Olympus OM-D E-M5 (there’s a mouthful for you) in our warehouse, I wasted absolutely no time in snagging one of the bodies and taking it for a whirl. My “whirls” usually last a few weeks so that I can put the camera to use in a variety of different ways, and given the feedback I’d heard from other photographers about this diminutive body, I was eager to put it through its paces.
Two weeks later, I have my conclusion: Olympus has an absolute winner on its hands.
The Micro-Four-Thirds platform isn’t a closed-loop system. Olympus and Panasonic both make bodies for it, and there’s even an MFT-based version of the enormously popular Blackmagic Cinema Camera on the way. Panasonic, particularly, has two lenses that I decided were going to be my go-to lenses for this test: the 12–35mm f/2.8 and the 35–100mm f/2.8 lenses.
Together, these cover the equivalent of the 24–70 and 70–200mm lenses in 35mm terms, giving me the focal lengths used by most photographers. Because the OM-D features a 5-axis, in-body stabilization, that entire focal length is stabilized as well. read more…
Buffer Sluggish on 5D Mark III? Ditch the SD Card!
Photographer Jeff Cable discovered something interesting about the 5D Mark III when he was doing some high-speed shooting–it’s slow, but only under certain circumstances. His advice? Pass on using the SD slot if you happen to be writing the same image to both cards and care about clearing your buffer quickly:
“…YOU DO NOT want to put a card in the SD slot. Why? Because, for some reason unbeknownst to me, Canon decided to build the 5D Mark III with one very fast CF slot which supports the newer UDMA7 protocol and a standard SD card slot which does NOT support the high speed standard (called UHS – for Ultra High Speed). This is really strange because many other cameras have come out with UHS1 compatible slots over the last year. Without UHS support, the top speed that can be achieved by the SD card is 133x. This is true even if you purchase a 600x SD card and insert it in the camera. The best you will get is 133x…” read more…
A while back, we put together an article on how to use softboxes with your light of choice. At that time, I mentioned that we’d be putting together a cheat sheet that would allow you to figure out which softbox could go with which light, and what you’d need to make it work. Well, that cheat sheet is here.
Holiday events have a way of filling a room. Being tasked with running a party photo booth for friends and family can be daunting, especially if your budget isn’t big and your space isn’t, either.
We put together a simple, fun photo booth using portable items that you can rent from BorrowLenses.com. There are various ways to make a booth–some even more simple than this, many more complex. This is just how we did it and you can improve/build upon it. If you do create a booth, feel free to share links to your fun party pictures in the comments below and tell us how you made it!