Finding the Photo in the Cruft

Finding the Photo in the Cruft

Nikon D800

Nikon D800

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by the power of software to bring out something interesting in images that might otherwise be a wash, but wouldn’t you know it, I’m still capable of being amazed.

I’m currently shooting with the Nikon D800 of late as part of an assignment (more to come on that later), and I was up in the hills overlooking the San Francisco Bay Area at night, hoping to get some shots of the brilliantly-lit vista that encompassed San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and parts of the Peninsula area.

Of course, I got up there, and everything was completely fogged in. read more…

Tilt/Shift: Working With Perspective-Control Lenses, Part 1

Tilt/Shift: Working With Perspective-Control Lenses, Part 1

This is Part 1 of a series on using Tilt-Shift or Perspective-Control lenses. In this part, we look at the “Shift” functionality of these unique lenses. Part 2, which covers the “Tilt” functionality of these lenses, can be found here.

Anyone who’s ever shot a building or any other structure from the bottom looking up knows that the bottom-up perspective makes it look like the vertical lines of the building are all converging towards the top. This problem is exaggerated with wider-angle lenses, making many of these lenses unsuitable for certain types of architectural photography, where not having those distortions is key. read more…

The Leica Diary, Part IV – An Unexpected Thing or Two

The Leica Diary, Part IV – An Unexpected Thing or Two

The M9 with a 50mm f/2.5 Summarit-M lens

The M9 with a 50mm f/2.5 Summarit-M lens

In this part, I’ll look at a couple of unexpected things I ran into when shooting with the Leica.

Most people who shoot with a Leica assume that the lenses available for it, like the 50mm f/2.5 shown above, are primes. And, for the most part, this is true. I’d certainly had no reason to think otherwise.  read more…

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?

BorrowLenses.com Marketing VP Jim Goldstein

BorrowLenses.com Marketing VP Jim Goldstein

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. read more…

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.

Humingbird shot with a 1D Mark IV and the Mark I 600mm lens

Humingbird shot with a 1D Mark IV and the Mark I 600mm lens

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. read more…

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.  read more…

Notable Storytellers – Sara Lando

Notable Storytellers – Sara Lando

Sara Lando Self Portrait

Sara Lando Self Portrait

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. read more…

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 M9 with a 50mm f/2.5 Summarit-M lens

The M9 with a 50mm f/2.5 Summarit-M lens

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. read more…

Flashing Above San Francisco

Flashing Above San Francisco

Every so often, we get to talk about our friends, whether they’re doing something awesome in front of a lens, or behind the camera. This time around, it’s both.

Alex Huff by Syl Arena. Image Courtesy and Copyright Syl Arena.

Alex Huff by Syl Arena. Image Courtesy and Copyright Syl Arena.

One of our favorite all-round good guys and awesome photographers, Syl Arena, swung through San Francisco a while back and hung out with our very own Alex Huff. Alex has an awesome (yeah, I’m jealous) view of San Francisco from her balcony, and Syl used the opportunity to do a shoot with the new Canon 600EX-RT flashes and the ST-E3 transmitter.

Using the 600EX-RT, Syl balanced the ambient light with flash, resulting in a very cool image. The complete writeup, with breakdown and before/after shots, is on Syl’s blog.

Syl also has a piece up about a personal project he did recently, called “The Faces of American Coal.” It’s one of those deeply personal series of images that will resonate with you. They’re up close, intense, and searching.

Of course, Syl being the consumate teacher, has also broken down his process for taking the images too, so we get the added bonus of seeing what goes into a project like this.

Maine-area folks, a quick heads-up: Syl will be at the Maine Media Workshops, presenting on Canon Speedlites from Aug 19-Aug 25. If you’re around and have never been to one of Syl’s workshops, they’re not to be missed. Head up there and learn about Canon Speedlites from a photographer who’s often cited as knowing as much about Canon Speedlites as many Canon engineers.

Quick samples from the Canon 1Dx and the 600mm f/4L IS II

Quick samples from the Canon 1Dx and the 600mm f/4L IS II

I spent a weekend shooting with the Canon 1Dx and the new 600mm f/4L IS II, and will be posting a writeup of it soon. In the meantime, here are a few sample images taken with that combo.

For what it’s worth, my favorite combination until recently was to shoot with the 1D Mark IV and the old 600mm f/4L IS Mark I. I don’t think it’ll be giving much away to say that the 1DX and the new 600 are officially my new favorite combination for this type of photography.

This image is actually about a 2MP crop from the original 18MP image

This image is actually about a 2MP crop from the original 18MP image

Taken with the 1Dx and the 600mm on a gimbal head at the Don Edwards wildlife refuge

Taken with the 1Dx and the 600mm on a gimbal head at the Don Edwards wildlife refuge

This is handheld, from the top of Mount Tamalpais, 10 miles from, and about 2500 feet above San Francisco

This is handheld, from the top of Mount Tamalpais, 10 miles from, and about 2500 feet above San Francisco

Watch for our writeup of these new beasts from Canon later this week.

Notable Storytellers – Vincent Laforet

Notable Storytellers – Vincent Laforet

Welcome to Notable Storytellers, where we bring you the work of photographers, videographers, and other visual artists we think you should be following. 

Vincent Laforet is a filmmaker and photographer that belongs in any reasonable list of Notable Storytellers (read this short piece to understand why we haven’t mentioned him in this column before). Long before he became one of the pioneers (some, including me, would say he is the pioneer) of making films with video-capable DSLRs, he was a staff photographer for the New York Times – and a Pulitzer-prize-winning photographer at that.

Reverie was the film that started it all. Shot over the course of a weekend on a pre-release 5D Mark II borrowed from Canon (that he wasn’t supposed to have, but managed to get Canon to loan him anyway), it set off a storm in the world of video and put Vincent, an already accomplished and talented photographer, on the map in that rarified world.

Reverie from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.

read more…

Notable Storytellers – Stu Maschwitz

Notable Storytellers – Stu Maschwitz

Stu Maschwitz. Image courtesy Stu Maschwitz.

Stu Maschwitz. Image courtesy Stu Maschwitz.

Welcome to Notable Storytellers, where we bring you the work of photographers, videographers, and other visual artists we think you should be following. This column replaces the “Photo Finds” column on the BorrowLenses.com blog.

Stu Maschwitz is, to use his own words, “a filmmaker, photographer, and writer, with a passion for kinetic storytelling.” To that, I’ll add that Stu is a prolific director and geek whose blog should be required reading for all video afficionados. read more…

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