Another Hunt Valley Sunset

Taken tonight, Feb 6.  11 minute exposure

If you look closely at the photo, you might see some imperfections…they are due to dust particles on my 10 stop neutral density filter.  It had been a couple of months since I had used this particular filter, and I forgot to clean it off before mounting it on the camera.

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Nikon D810, Zeiss 21mm Distagon T* f/2.8 at f/22, ISO 64, 666s.  Singh-Ray 10 stop ND filter, and Singh-Ray 2 stop reverse graduated ND filter.

How I Take Pictures of the Kids Playing Sports

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Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 200mm f/2 at f/2, ISO 100, 1/1000s

There are many ways to set your camera up for great shots of the kids playing sports…none of them are any better or more “right” than others…it’s just a question of whatever you’re most comfortable with and whatever you feel gives you the best chance for the quality you’re looking for.

My typical style is to put the camera in “Aperture priority” mode (on the Nikon, it’s the setting with the “A” on the little digital readout screen on top of the camera), and let the camera determine shutter speed (I choose ISO manually).  What ISO number I choose depends on what lens I’m using, how bright the scene is, and what kind of shot I’m going for.  Generally speaking, if I want to get a good freeze on action, I aim for around 1/1000th a second.  Then I experiment with ISO, and take a few test shots.  If there is motion blur in the subject, I bump up ISO or open up the aperture.  If the shutter speed is unnecessarily high, I bring down ISO or close down aperture a stop.

Nikon D4 w/ Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 at 200mm, f/4, ISO 200, 1/3200s.

You can just as easily use “shutter priority” mode, which allows you to set shutter speed on your own, and the camera will adjust aperture to properly expose the shot.  It’s just my personal preference, but I prefer to have control over aperture all the time…especially if I want to isolate the subject with a soft blurry background, or, on some lenses, make sure I don’t shoot at the widest aperture (lowest f-stop), which can sometimes degrade aspects of the image (i.e. objects can appear unnaturally soft, vignetting at the corners, flare, etc…).

 

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Nikon D4, 70-200 f/2.8 at f/4, ISO 400, 1/1600.  

 

Having a faster lens (a lens with a lower f-stop) can be advantageous when shooting action sports.  The extra stop(s) of light you get with a faster lens will allow the photographer to shoot at a lower ISO, ideally creating images with less noise.  For example, instead of shooting at ISO 1600, 1/000 f/4, you can open the aperture to f/2.8 and still shoot at 1/1000 at ISO 800…or if your lens opens up to f/2, you can shoot the same shutter speed at ISO 400.  That’s a nice advantage to have in your pocket.

That said, using faster lenses can be a relatively expensive option, and there is usually no other significant difference in performance between comparable focal length lenses…the image quality is essentially the same (everything else being equal).  If we are comparing, for example, the Nikon 70-200mm f/4 and the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8, the f/2.8 version is heavier due to requiring more glass to handle the faster aperture, but you won’t get a sharper picture from it compared to the f/4 version.  The image quality between both lenses is equally exceptional.  The 2.8 costs over a thousand dollars more than its f/4 brother, basically because of the extra f-stop.  If you only shoot landscapes, I can’t think of a situation where you really need to shoot 2.8…maybe if you’re messing around with depth of field…but that’s an awful expensive option just for shallow DOF.  However…for action, that extra f-stop can be very handy.

The shot below was taken at f/2, ISO 1/1600, 1/640.  The gym was poorly lit (lighted?) by those old, cheap, pale white, flickering fluorescent bulbs hanging from a high ceiling.  If I were to have taken this shot at f/4, I would have had to bump ISO up two more stops, to ISO 6400, to remain at a shutter speed of 1/640.  Regardless of how well your camera handles high ISOs, it would no doubt have introduced more unwanted noise into the image.

But, generally speaking, lenses perform at their best when closed down a few stops from their widest aperture.  So, shooting at f/4 might produce a slightly higher quality image (assuming depth of field isn’t an issue) than shooting wide open at f/2.  These are the things I consider when choosing a specific aperture/ISO number.

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Nikon D4 w/ Nikon 200mm f/2 at f/2, ISO 1600, 1/640s

I’ve never taken action shots professionally…I’ve only take them of my kids and at some other events for fun.  I’m sure pros have tried and true methods of freezing action that trump my home grown technique I’ve described here.

One thing I find to be very important when shooting youngsters: make sure you get down to their level of the action.  If you take pictures while standing up, you will be looking down on everything in the photo, and you are creating a perspective we are used to seeing all of the time.  But if you get down to the child’s perspective (or even lower), it creates a more dramatic point of view, and more unique for adults.

Nikon D4 w/ 70-200mm f/2.8 at 200mm, f/4.5, ISO 400, 1/5000s

 

 

Baltimore at Random

Just a few random shots of downtown Baltimore…

 

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Looking west down Pratt Street

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Legg Mason Complex

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National Harbor and World Trade Center

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A southerly view from atop 1500 Thames Street, at sunset.

 

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Eutaw Street inside Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

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Scarlet Place Condominium Complex

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Babe Ruth statue at Oriole Park.

 

New Zeiss Lenses

Today Zeiss announced a new line of lenses for Nikon and Canon DSLR cameras:  The Milvus.

According to Zeiss, the lenses are optimized for high-resolution cameras (like the D810 I suppose) and offer “practically distortion-free” imagining.  I’m not really sure what “practically” means in this context.  The old line of Distagon T* lenses already offer very low distortion imagery…in my opinion, they are already practically distortion-free.

The new mail of Milvus lenses look slick and modern (similar to the new Batis line of mirrorless lenses)…not that the old line of lenses look obsolete by any means…but the new line does look more weather-proofed.  For example, the Milvus line has a rubberized zoom ring with seamless gaps, similar to the Otus lenses.

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I’m a bit surprised they “upgraded” the 100mm f/2 macro lens.  The old one has such a phenomenal reputation…why mess with perfection?  If it truly is a better lens than the old 100mm, that’s quite an achievement.

Indoor Panoramas

If you photograph the interior of homes and/or any other architectural structure, eventually (and probably pretty quickly) you will encounter a situation where the shot you want is just too wide for any lens you own.  Even if you own an ultra-wide angle lens like the Nikkor 14-24mm, sometimes the shot is still too wide: either you cannot step back far enough, or the angle is too awkward to adequately capture the scene in a manner that’s acceptable to the viewer.  This applies especially  to ultra-wide angle lenses, which are known for producing unkindly amounts of distortion along the edges of a frame.

In many of these situations, you’re probably better off leaving the ultra-wide in your bag, and taking out a more normal angle lens, like a 25mm or 28mm…or even a 35mm.

Use that 25mm lens, and with a vertical orientation (your camera mounted vertically on the tripod), shoot a panorama across the scene.

Panoramas can be a bit tricky when shooting close subjects, especially indoors where there are lots of objects in the frame (i.e. furniture, wallpaper, tables, etc…), so make sure you get plenty of shots across the scene.  I typically like to cover half the frame with each successive shot.  So, for example, I take the first shot on the left side of the frame, then move the camera to the right about halfway across the last exposure (so the right edge of the last exposure is now in the middle of the next exposure)…and so on until I span all the way across the scene.

Another important characteristic of a panorama is making sure each shot is exposed identically…or as close to identical as possible.  Imagine a pano where you have one shot slightly underexposed, and the frame next to it overexposed…obviously that’s not going to work.  To obtain relatively consistent light for an indoor pano, I use HDR for each individual frame.  So, I take 5 shots for each frame, combine them into an HDR image, and use those HDRs for the final panorama.  In my experience, Lightroom’s HDR program does a good job keeping the exposures acceptably close for the purposes of making panos.

To combine the final pano I use Photoshop, although Lightroom can now handle combining panos.

Below is an example of the individual photos taken of a living room, combined into a single pano:

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800 Jessop-3 800 Jessop-4 800 Jessop-5 800 Jessop-6

Those images are combined in Photoshop to create the panorama of the living room:

Not the greatest photograph…there are several issues I have with the final image here.  But, for a rudimentary indoor pano, it serves its purpose.  And, more importantly, there isn’t a wide angle lens available which can shoot this wide, this close, with no distortion.  It also creates an enormously huge file, power-packed with all the resolution you’d ever need in a photograph.

If you ever find yourself getting serious about shooting panos, there are tripod heads made specifically for this purpose.  These types of tripod heads maximize the ability to level and stabilize the camera and lens, so they pivot evenly across the entire scene on the lens’ nodal point.

This article does a very good job describing, in great detail, how to set your camera up to shoot a high quality panorama: Panorama Factory