Tuesday, January 24, 2012
January 24, 2012 - State of the Union or 4 More Beers!
In honor of the State of the Union address tonight - we have here "Four More Beers!" Hopefully this should be amenable to folks from either side of the aisle, give or take the teatotallers party, which I'm not too concerned about.
The beers pictured here include the 80 Shilling from Mad Fox - shown here ensconced in a Outer Banks Brewing Station Growler, Oude Kriek from Hannsens's, La Trappe Quadruppel and Winter Solstice from Anderson Valley. Yes, these are "just the beers in my fridge" at the moment. Or, rather, some of them. Some are local, some aren't. In the spirit of bi-partisanship, we'll drink each of them.
Photo was taken with my Canon 5dII and the Zeiss 28mm lens. Used flash - mounted on a light stand, to the right of the photographer. Shot the flash through a white "shoot through" umbrella, which you can see clearly if you look at the reflections on the bottles.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
January 22, 2012 - Elecraft XV222
This is the weekend of the ARRL annual January VHF Sweepstakes. It is one of the many radio contests - this one is specific to VHF and higher frequencies. The idea here is to work as many other stations in as many different Maidenhead Grid Squares as possible over the contest weekend, which runs from 1900UTC on Saturday to 0300UTC on Monday. I made a total of 36 contacts - no, not anywhere near winning. Was just nice to get on the air.
Biggest things from this weekend - found I could tune my old G5RV on 6m, after having changed out the old Balun for a newer one, and, got the XV222 transverter, pictured here with the FT-817nd "IF rig" working. This was pretty much the first chance I'd had to put it on the air and make some contacts. Was a fun build. I built the kit last fall. Am overall very pleased with the quality of the product and the experience I had building the kit. Had one mis-queue with the inductors (had 2 sets of them swapped in the position they needed to be on the board) but, with a bit of email support from an Elecraft Engineer, was able to get that sorted out and get things working. It is, based on today's experience, about 3kHz off - to work on 222.110mhz or 28.110MHz on the IF rig, I need to tune to about 222.112.90 or 28.112.90 on the IF. Could be worse.
Photo was taken with the 5dII and the 28mm Zeiss lens. Flash, somewhat obviously, off to the left just a bit lower than the shelf on which the radio was sitting. ISO 100, 1/60th, f/4.0 - E-TTL full auto. Flash was gelled with 1/4CTO. Shot this with the ambient lights turned off - though there were a couple of computer monitors running.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
January 21, 2012 - QSL Cards from the Bureau
Letting my geek show here a bit. Got a few QSL cards from the bureau today. Yes, I'm an amateur radio operator, and yes I still send QSL cards back and forth to confirm my QSO's, even with all of the electronic logging and online logs like the ARRL's Logbook for the World. My dad is a ham, and I grew up seeing him get cards from all over the world, and eagerly waiting for envelopes from the bureau.
This was a small bunch - only 5. I suppose perhaps they got sent as postage rates are about to change. I never know quite when they'll arrive. These are all Europeans, not really any that I needed to confirm. The oldest is from 2006, the newest, late in 2011.
The photo was shot with the 5dII and 28mm lens - pretty much the same setup as yesterday with the beer, only I added the white shoot through umbrella for this. Flash is off to the left. ISO 100, 1/60th, f/4.0.
January 20, 2012 - Victory Headwaters Pale Ale.
Victory Brewing Company of Downingtown Pennsylvania is, in my opinion, one of the best breweries in the country. Their beers are always well crafted, flavorful and very fresh. The subject of today's picture is a bottle of Victory's Headwaters Pale Ale. This is a fairly recent addition to their lineup - hoppy and refreshing. At 5.1% ABV it falls into what I'd consider a sessionable beer - you can have more than one without needing to consider dialysis. So many beers these days have adopted the "imperial" moniker and thrown in more of everything. This isn't one of those beers, rather, just a well made drinkable pale ale. Would that more breweries could concentrate on making quality styles, versus trying to outdo the other guy. Cheers to Victory!
Photo details: Canon 5dII, Zeiss 28mm f/2.0 ZE lens, hand-held. ISO 100, 1/60th second at f/7.1. Used a canon 430exII flash off to camera right, gelled with 1/4 CTO, triggered with an ST-E2. Retouched slightly in Lightroom.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
January 18, 2012 - Quebec 7yr Cheddar from Cheesetique. Went to dinner at Cheesetique. We were going to go to Screwtop, but aborted that, after not getting seats. Dinner was pretty good. Picked up some of this cheddar afterwards. It is just wonderful stuff. Very piquent flavor, a bit dry and crumbly texture. There's some crystals as you bite into it. Know its available a few other places around, but this alone makes the trip to Cheesetique worthwhile. Also grabbed a chunk of Chimay cheese, which is not pictured here.
Photo was taken with the 5dII, 28mm Zeiss f/2.0 ZE lens and the 430ex flash. The flash was on a camera stand to the right of the camera. Had a bit of paper around it to try to limit the spill of light around the cheese.
This is a bit the opposite of yesterday's photo - this is just a sea of light colors. Needed to keep from overexposing it, while still maintaining some contrast.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
January 17, 2012 - Lioness
I do, honestly, intend to avoid posting cat pictures. Tonight, the best I can say is that it isn't a panther picture. It is a beautiful lioness statue that our friends brought back from a trip to Africa last year. This statue is very dark wood - and so, tends to be referred to as a panther here at home, though it isn't. CKB suggested this as a subject, pondering how it would be possible to get a picture of something this dark.
The trick, of course, is that the statue is fairly reflective and has good contours, perfect for creating specular highlights and giving texture to what would otherwise be an inky sponge for light. I just needed to provide enough light coming from a couple different directions at once. This took some experimenting.
My set was the dining room table. For a backdrop, I used a red crushed velvet curtain - I think was intended for CKB's apartment, before we got married, but got shelved for years until I dug it out for photo purposes. I threw that over the back of a couple chairs and spread it out over the table. I used two cork trivets underneath as a stage for the statue.
As far as lights go, I currently only have a single flash - the 430ex. This I mounted this on a light stand behind a white shoot-through umbrella. It was triggered remotely with an ST-E2. I started with the light stand to the left of the camera, generally above the statue. Shot a few frames like this, adjusting aperture and shutter speed until I had almost the look I wanted. This frame ended up at ISO 100, 1/60th @ f/4.5. The flash was the "key" light, and was aided by a chandelier from directly above, plus a CF off to camera left. If you look close, you can see reflections from each source.
From there it was mostly a matter of framing by moving myself around and adjusting the angle of the lights. Going with the "available light means using any light source (or modifier) you have available," I added a small bit of fill with a reflector almost flat in front of the statue and another off to one side. For these I used a couple of 14" pizza pans I had on hand in the kitchen. The light stand eventually got moved around to the right and the umbrella was positioned fairly close to the statue.
The frame was cleaned up a small bit in Lightroom. Cropped and straightened, then adjusted the contrast and fill light. White balance remains "as shot." Enabled lens profile corrections and then added just a touch of post crop vignette. Titled it, added it to the target collection and published to SmugMug. Thanks for reading, comments welcome!
January 16, 2012 - 1991 Penny.
Showed the blog to a friend today. He is someone I've known for approximately half my life. He too is a techy and photographer, someone whose opinion I value. He took a read through the blog and pointed out a couple things. First - my critiques sounded defensive. I'm not sure I can argue that without, uh, sounding defensive. I'm not sure I'm even going to try. Part of what I'm aiming for here is a collection of my notes and thoughts on the pictures I take, even if it turns out to be public navel gazing of a sort. I am, for the most part, fine with it - though will perhaps try to turn things around a bit and write more on why I chose a particular image, rather than the things I could have done better, but didn't. He's right, it is defensive, though I do plan to continue sharing some of my thought process.
His next point was perhaps the more important - he asks for more on the thought that went into creating the image. Why did it mean enough of something to capture, process and post? What story is there to tell, rather than the bland tech behind it and the self serving critiquing after the fact.
And, this brings us to tonight's photo - a penny worth of my thoughts. It seemed appropriate, if trite, while I was mulling my friends input. This penny may be about as much as the image is worth - but it is today's story. I do need to think a bit more about what is going into my pictures, rather than just firing away and then posting online. My point here with this blog was not just to take a picture a day, but to get better at doing doing so. Part of getting better is the technical parts, but a larger part is the story and the narrative behind why the picture was worth taking.
This frame was shot with the 5dII and 50mm f1.4 lens, plus a Canon EF 12 II extension tube. Lit the scene with a halogen floor lamp, up and to the right, plus a 430EX flash right and just about level with the penny. Exposure 1/200th at f/1.4. ISO 100. The penny itself is stuck with a bit of gaffer tape to a piece of black granite tile, purchased from the local Big Box home improvement store. I tried bouncing the flash off the wall, from underneath, but was't getting quite the relief I wanted on the coin.
What you see above is was the last shot in the series. I started with the penny clamped in spring clamp used previously, resting on a small couch-side table. I fired a couple shots of this, but thought the clamp cluttered the picture and was holding the penny too close to perpendicular. I next moved to leaning the coin against a small roll of gaffer tape, firing a couple more shots. That improved both the angle and the colors (black, vs blue) - but still created too much background clutter.
Remembering I had a handy roll of gaffer tape, I folded up a small bit and used it as a stand, affixed to and mostly out of site behind the penny. Couple more frames, and I'm feeling like its getting closer. The table itself had some texture, it is wood with a rough slate tile top.
Remembering a trick noted in David Hobby, aka The Strobist's blog post on shooting a shiny new gadget from 2006 (wow, has it been that long??) I dug out my black granite tile and stuck the penny to that. Also added the flash underneath the table, pointed at the wall behind the penny. I shot a few more frames, trading lenses a couple times to get a tight macro view of the coin. I ended up with the 50mm and extension tube. The final adjustment was to move the flash off to the right, sitting on the arm of the couch, aimed at the wall. This helped pick up the relief on the coin - you can see the high-lights on Lincoln's face and jacket, as well as on the edge of the coin and in the lettering.
NB: I did have a little bit of help along the way:
Sunday, January 15, 2012
January 15, 2012 - Eastern Market Washington DC. Ran down here this morning for a bit of shopping. Am a fan - and am glad that it has been revitalized after the fire several years ago. Picked up a few bits of this and that - chili makings, lemons for Caesar dressing, and shrimp to steam for dinner. Today was colder and windy. Not as many folks outside, but still everything was well attended. They've torn down the temporary structure that was used while the market was being rebuilt. Only wish is that parking were easier to find. Sunday shopping - didn't have to pay a meter. Tons of history in this place. It was used as a hospital during the civil war.
Photo details: Canon 5dII, handheld, natural light. 70mm focal length. ISO 100, 1/100th @ f/5.0. Retouched with Lightroom - mostly just color balance and overall exposure. No real cropping, though straightened up the frame slightly.
Critique: This probably deserved more of a wide angle than I shot here. Framing is a bit odd - almost too tight. Was fighting to keep the top of the flag pole and the people's feet in the frame at the same time. Was shot mid-day, which isn't usually conducive to a great angle of light. It is just past mid-winter and the sun is at a fairly low angle. That gives a bit of drama, but also created some odd shadows.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
January 14, 2012 - Pizza Night. We've been making home made pizza for a while now. CKB makes the dough, I do the topping and cooking. Tonight's came out pretty well - she had done some tuning with the dough, carefully logging the changes. This one was part sour dough and part normal yeast, plus was kneaded for an extended time on low in the mixer. As you can see it turned out nicely fluffy.
Photo notes - 5dII, 50mm lens, handheld. Used the 430ex flash, gelled with 1/4 CTO mounted on the camera, but bounced off the ceiling. Exposure is 1/60th at f/4.0, ISO 100. Tuned up slightly in Lightroom.
Critique: Nice rich colors - the pizza pretty much tasted as good as it looked. Didn't have to do too much post processing, filled the frame and there wasn't a whole lot of cropping possible. I'd have liked to have had a bit longer depth of field here, to get more of the pie in focus. The flash was on E-TTL so everything was pretty much program settings. Could have moved to manual, adjusted the exposure and thereby created a bit more depth and drama here. But, this was dinner, and it was hot and ready to serve, so I'll admit my priority wasn't 100% on taking the photo.
Friday, January 13, 2012
January 13, 2012 - Dessert at Proof. Ran downtown and met folks for happy hour and some eats at Proof. Good Fun, good friends and ya, the wine and food excellent too.
Photo Notes - ya, you guessed it, iPro Fish-Eye lens on the iPhone. ISO 800, 1/15th, f/2.4. Had the camera resting on the table to keep it steady while I took the shot. Lit with available light - of which there wasn't a whole lot.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
January 12, 2012 - Some nights even the cat doesn't want to cooperate.
Tonight is one of those nights. Creativity is at an ebb, I'm tired, even the cat didn't really want his picture taken. Or - Sorry for the cat picture, next time I'll take a shot of my feet.
Canon 5dII, 50mm f/1.4 lens. ISO 1600, 1/60th @f/3.5. Lit with two halogen bulbs, both back behind the camera and to the right.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
January 11, 2012 - Washington Monument. Snapped this on the way home from a Caps game. The weather was pretty much awful - only saving grace was the temperature was above freezing, so it wasn't snowing. Saw the monument in the fog and the rain as we stopped at a stoplight. Rolled down the window and grabbed a quick shot with my phone. CKB didn't even notice I'd done so, until she saw the picture online later.
Photo Notes: ISO 800, 1/15th, f/2.4, handheld iPhone - no extra lenses.
Critique: Basically a snapshot here. If I'd been carrying the big camera I might have stopped and gotten out to walk around to get a few more shots. Will have to keep this in mind for future rainy, murky nights with low hanging fog.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
January 10, 2012 - DIY Clamp mount gadget. This is the clamp with 1/4-20 screw mount that I used on Commuting Fun shot a few days ago. It really is about as simple as it looks. One 1/4-20 pan head screw, a 1/4-20 nut to hold that onto the clamp, a washer and a square-ish flat bit of metal with a 1/4-20 tap on it. The bit of metal was a left-over from a computer rack-mount kit from several years ago. The clamp is a ~$1 item from the local big-box hardware store. I can't/won't claim to have had an original idea here - have seen lots of implementations of this on other blogs, such as Strobist.com.
Taken with Canon 5dII, Zeiss 28mm f/2.0lens. ISO400, 1/30th at f/2.0. Everything was hand-held and lit with overhead incandescent lights.
Monday, January 9, 2012
January 9, 2012 - Snowmageddon 2012
Image was pretty simple - 5dII on a tripod. with a Zeiss Distagon T* 28mm f/2.8 lens. Exposure 4/10th of a second, f/8.0, ISO 400. Lit with a 2 AA-Cell Maglite, with the LED bulb. Used a Canon RS-80n3 wired remote trigger to fire the shutter.
The Good: quick and easy here. Found a bit of snow on the hydrangeas, parked the tripod and fired a few shots off. Was using "P" program mode, so let the camera do most of the thinking. Played the light around a bit, which if you want, you could call it light painting. I'm not thinking it was fancy enough for all that. The LED light is a good bright bluish white - there's a lot of power in a small "spot-light" kind of package. Who needs a "gridded spot"??
The Bad: Another Quick and Easy shot with "ya get what you pay for" results. Could have done some more composing. Here we have another big ball of stuff, basically in the middle of the frame.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
January 8, 2012 - Wine and Cheese at Screwtop
Tonight was the monthly pick-up for Wine Club at Screwtop. We met friends, did the tasting, and then grabbed a table for a bit more wine and some food. We started with a Cheese and Charcuterie Sampler - some of which is pictured above.
Photo was shot on the Canon 5DmkII, using the 50mm f/1.4, handheld. Exposure: 1/160th @ f/1.8 - ISO 100. Lit by available light - which in this case was a window camera left plus a bit of overhead halogen or incandescent lights. You can see a bit of the competing color balance - warm sparkles from the lights, plus the cooler sky colors. Minor retouching was done in Lightroom. Working the short Depth of Field again - the 50 is good for that.
What do I like about this frame? I like the overall warmish, inviting colors. I'm a big fan of wine and cheese, so for me, the subject matter is appealing. The contrasting shapes are fun, as well. Yes, that one cheese really is that orange. And delicious too! As was the Blue.
What could I have done better? I think my composition needs work. I tend to do most of my shooting with spot metering turned on, and the focus locked at the center point. I think this leads to everything being right smack in the middle of the frame. My bad habit is to just fire the frame, without recomposing to add a bit of interest. I had some of that going on here. I did do a bit of cropping, which is helped things a bit, but still, I have a lot of 'look right here in the middle' going on.
Saturday, January 7, 2012
January 6, 2012. Saki Cat - Always the whirling dervish. She loves to fetch and will retrieve over and over and over, returning whatever it is, dropping it nearby and trilling, until you throw it again. Shown here is a crinkly happy-face fuzzball, which is one of her favorites. And, she'll alternate who she brings it back to for the next throw. She'll dig it out from behind things, if it lands there, or out from the midst of other things - such as the basket of shoes we have by the back door. Over and Over and Over. Always a ball of energy.
The photo was taken with a Canon 5DmkII, a 50mm f/1.4 lens, and available light. Exposure: 1/4 second at f/1.4, ISO 200. The camera was handheld, which likely accounts for some of the lack of focus. The constant motion of the cat accounts for most of the rest. Using the wide aperture gives me a very short depth of field - this is one of my favorite go-to methods for cat photos and the like, focusing attention on piece of the greater whole. I was shooting from a low point of view - with the camera was basically sitting on the ground. This is another of my preferences for cat or pet photos. Shoot from their eye level, their point of view.
What could I have done better? I feel the photo is a bit flat, color-wise, and soft, focus-wise. I probably could have use a tripod or similar, though that can be tough if you're following a moving target like a cat. I could alternately have cranked the ISO a bit to give me a higher shutter-speed which would have been easier to handhold without completely sacrificing the motion blur. The 5D2 is good enough in low light that wouldn't have introduced my noise; that was one of the reasons I bought it in the first place.
Finally, looking at the picture, I think its likely time for a new cat toy - that one is looking a bit too well enjoyed.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
January 5, 2012 - Cynthia K.. My very patient wife, partner, roommate, and part time photo model.
Canon 5dII + Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8. Exposure, 1/60th @ f2.8 ISO 100. Lit with a Canon 550EX speedlight gelled with 1/4 CTO (never heard that before) to the left and slightly behind the camera, triggered with the ST-E2. There was also a floor lamp with 2 halogens bulbs, out of the left side of the frame, aimed at the wall. Flash was set at -1ev and had the built in diffusion screen pulled over the front. Retouched in Lightroom - light balance adjusted, contrast and highlights increased, saturation dropped slightly. There's a gradient shadow across the bottom right corner, plus and a slight post-crop vignette added.
This was a quick portrait after we got home from dinner this evening. I was enjoying how she looked in the scarf.
What could I have done better? Lots. Lights could/should have been more diffuse - note the hard shadows. Needed a bit different place to take the picture - the couch isn't very conducive to a good seating position to pose for a photo. And, we have the odd corner of the window sill in the background. I had to do a bunch of cropping in Lightroom, which indicates to me that I needed to spend a bit more time setting up the picture and then composing in camera.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
January 4, 2012 - Killer Kale.
Canon 5dII, EF 24-70 f2.8 USM zoom @50mm. 1/60th @ f/5.6, iso 200. Lit with overhead incandescent floods, plus a Canon 550ex speedlite gelled 1/4 CTO held below the camera pointed up at the kale, and a 430ex speedlite set to 1/16th power, buried in the greenery and aimed straight at the vase. Used an ST-E2 to trigger them strobes. Retouched in Lightroom to adjust the white balance, contrast, crop and then added some post crop vignetting.We get a "green grocer" box now and then - today they screwed up and we got part of ours and part of one that probably should have gone elsewhere. There were 3 bunches of kale included. Not really sure what to do with it, other than use it as a photo subject. Anyone want some kale? Speak up!
Improvements - probably could use a bit more context to say "kitchen" in the background. I actually cleared the decks a bit, moving appliances and trying to angle myself to cut the paper towel holder and the sink out. I do like the hard shadow, ala Ed Wood, in the back ground. If I had another light, I could have given it some contrasting color.
Sad note today - Penn Camera is filing for Bankruptcy.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
January 3, 2012 - Commuting fun. Wasn't really ready for this today. I suppose that neither was anyone else.
Photo Notes: Another iPhone with iPro fish-eye lens. ISO 64, 1/320 second @ f /2.4. Had the phone mounted to a spring clip using the iPro case which has a screw mount adapter for standard 1/4-20 thread. You can see a bit of a clip in the upper right hand side of the photo. The clip was wedged under the passenger side visor. I was using the headphone "+" button as a remote trigger.
I was trying to be careful about adding distractions in the car. The phone was far enough away that it wasn't in my field of view, and I couldn't see the screen while I was driving. So, no temptation towards chimping - just shoot and hope.
What would I do better next time? I suppose the easy answer is "use a better rig" but, really, the iPhone is a nice size here - it was relatively unobtrusive and non-distracting. The remote trigger capabilities of the headset worked well. I could trade the fish-eye for the wide lens, something to try next time.
The clip probably needs a bit of tuning; I'd like to not see it in the frame, first, and second, I'd like to have everything a bit more secure, rather than just thrown together and wedged into the visor, as it was. This was a ten minute hack with available hardware. I did actually use a screwdriver at one point to assemble things, but only to tighten the 1/4-20 screw down enough that it didn't randomly fall out.
Also - guess I need to give the car a wash. Hmmm.
Monday, January 2, 2012
January 2, 2012 - This is the "product shot" for my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Telephoto/Macro lens that I used to post the lens for sale online. I've had this lens for a few years and it has, quite frankly, been a shelf queen. There really isn't anything wrong with it, but it isn't a lens I've ever used a whole lot. My biggest gripe, if there is one, is that the focus is a bit slow. This is actually fine if you're shooting macro shots of things which aren't moving very fast, but isn't very conducive to getting sharp pictures in any sort of dynamic situation. I've probably shot fewer than 50 frames with this lens in the time I've had it. I still have the Canon 1.2 extension tube, which can be used to shoot macro, which is something I find I don't do that much.
Hopefully, it goes to a good home and I get a few dollars for more gear.
The picture was taken using available light plus flash. There is a bare incandescent directly above and a "daylight" compact florescent at camera left and back. Neither of these lights contributed much. The flash was again my 430EX II gelled with 1/4 CTO and bounced off of a handheld reflector. This is a very similar shot to yesterday's bread photo. I will admit that this was a quick shot and probably could have used better focus, composition and lighting. For the intended use, it is probably better than average. Best of all, it didn't take too much time to pull off.
I know - blogging isn't a particularly "new" activity. We'll see where this goes.
I've been a photographer for many years. For the now, its a hobby for me - something I do for fun, something which isn't "work."
I shoot mostly with Canon gear, currently a 5D Mark II. It, likely, is complete overkill for most of the photography I do, but does deliver some nice low-light capabilities. As so many other folks do these days, I tend to have my iPhone with me more than the DSLR. You'll see pictures from both here. I absolutely subscribe to the mantra that the best camera to use is the one you have with you.
I will be adding some notes about the photos, how they were taken and what gear I used. Please feel free to add comments. Please be civil. I reserve the right to delete comments as I see fit.
Be forewarned, there will likely be many food and cat pictures, possibly a few beer, motorcycle and ham radio shots as well.
If you like what you see, please click through the photos - I'm using SmugMug for hosting. See http://photos.brauhaus.org for more of my pictures.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
January 1, 2012 - Home made bread from a recipe in the "Beard on Bread" cookbook. Didn't rise quite as much as I hoped, but turned out pretty well, none the less.
Photo was taken sitting on my stove - note the two parallel lines behind the bread. Photo was taken with a Canon 430EX speedlite mounted on the camera pointed to the right. I used the lid from the plastic bread box as a reflector, up and to the right. Flash was set to 1/16 power and gelled with 1/4 CTO. There is an under counter light just behind and to the left of the bread.
Couple things I'd adjust - first, the specular highlights off the stove in the background - either I need enough light to show what it is, or the reflections need to go. And, I'd adjust the DOF so that the whole face of the loaf was in focus.