Thursday, June 25, 2009

Railroad perspective in black and white

Funny this, 5 views, 2 favorites and 1 comment. So the few people who see it like it.

I've just upgraded my Dxo filmpack. Lovely piece of software, highly recommended.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Esther being herself

Originally uploaded by j_wijnands.
Despite the obvious mistakes here I really do like her expression

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Panorama time

Originally uploaded by j_wijnands.
Sometimes you just got to.
Does this justify a panorama head for a tripod? Not yet.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Blackberries and chocolate as far as the eye can see

Bakesale at the kids' school. Liked the looks of this cake. Jpg and even set to vivid, get an eyeful people, this is something you wont' often see...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Graduated Neutral Density filters part 1

Let me start with a disclaimer. This post describes my experiences. I am by no means an expert, I’m just writing this to order my own thoughts, for the fun of it and for the slight chance that people with even less knowledge than I have may find it useful.

All example pics are clickable and will lead to flickr where you’ll find different sizes and full exif.

A recent article in Amateur Photographer got me interested in using neutral density filters in my landscape photography. Landscape shots can be demanding because you’re often dealing with a lot of dynamic range. A typical landscape shot can end up like this.

Shot in matrix metering. 3/4 of the picture is sky so the camera tries to expose the whole scene properly but ends up with a sky that’s more or less acceptable and a ground that’s just too dark.

I must add here that my Nikon D300 outperforms the s*** out of my old D50. With the D50 the ground would have been much darker and lost detail.

Anyway, enter the gradual neutral density filter.

What is it?

It’s a filter where one part is colored and the other part isn’t. They exist in two main types, screw-in and rectangular in a holder. I’ve looked at the screw-in type and consider it less than ideal. It’s not flexible, you’re depended on what the manufacturer has decided for you.

Instead I went for a system with rectangular filters. Because I’m on a limited budget and because of availability I went for Cokin. Cokin is a well known French filter maker that many of us remember from the film days. They’re not dead yet even though I don’t really see a use for many of their products any more.

Cokin makes filters in 4 sizes. For us hobby photographers on a limited budget only the smallest two are of interest. A-system which will fit lenses up to 62mm. I went for the P-system which will fit lenses up to 82mm. P-system is a bit more expensive but because the filters are bigger (84mm wide instead of 67mm) there’s more room to move them and some of the lenses that are on my someday list have a 67mm thread.

Cokin sells single filters but also kits. I selected the H-250 kit  which includes:

  • Gradual Grey G2 (ND2)
  • Gradual Grey G2 (ND4)
  • Gradual Grey G2 Soft (ND8)
  • P-system holder

Now for the holder to mount on the filter thread on the front of your lens you need an adapter ring. They are relatively cheap and available in loads of sizes. I selected 52mm for my 50mm and 18-55 zoom and 62mm for my 28-105mm zoom. I bought all this mail order from Foto Konijnenberg. Ordered and paid on Monday, received it yesterday.


I also ordered the P255 stackable hood, more on that in a future post.

Using it

Open all the packages, slide the appropriate ring in the holder, screw it on your lens and you’re ready to go.

It’s not quite that simple of course. I started by digging up the old Velbon tripod I have on long-term loan from my dad. Went to a nice spot just outside town and set up. I metered in spot metering off the ground of the image and then set the camera on the tripod. To establish a baseline I first took the shot in matrix metering:

Like I said, results like you would expect. I then slid in the first filter, the 121L which should help cover a two stop difference between the sky and the ground.

It took me some fiddling to get it properly positioned. Fortunately I remember something I read here where they advise you to use the DoF preview button to check the placement of the filter. That does help.

I then tried the 121S which is a whopping 8 stops but with a softer transition between the colored and the blank part.

So… it does work. What I have learned already is that your metering requires real attention when you’re doing this. You do need to know rather exactly the difference in stops between the ground and the sky. That’s a matter of shooting discipline.

What I need to learn and to gain some experience in is positioning the filter properly and quickly and shooting without tripod. Yes, I know  I shouldn’t but the main reason I bought this kit now is our family vacation to Cornwall and Devon this summer and I can’t have the rest of the family waiting around for minutes while I set up for a single shot.

There you have it, my first small steps in filter usage and yet another step in learning proper landscape photography.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

One of my worst shots in a long time

tiny frog
Originally uploaded by j_wijnands.
Well, that's what I thought when I noticed how badly this was focussed. Then I looked again and noticed it has a certain something. The incredible Dof..

Just don't view it bigger.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Forest view

Forest view
Originally uploaded by j_wijnands.
This is one of those pics that's just very me. Shot in Leiduin, an old estate with english style landscape gardens. I very deliberately exposed for the light green near the vanishing point. The trees are darker but it all very much reminds of how it actually is there.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Simple birdshot? Or not?

Originally uploaded by j_wijnands.
The wren, also known as winter wren or, in dutch, winterkoninkje. At 10cm length it's a LOT smaller than the common house sparrow which we all know as a tiny bird. It's so small and light that I suspect it's the smallest bird of north-west europe.

It's quite easily startled, usually it's a challenge to get closer than 5 meters to wild birds like this.

In this case I was very lucky. This bird followed me for a few meters hopping from branch to branch, chattering at me. It came so close that I could get this shot with my humble Sigma 70-300.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

young planespotter

young planespotter
Originally uploaded by j_wijnands.
I love pics like this. Spent an hour or so with Bas and Akos shooting some planes. Bas is now using my D50.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Going Walkabout

Or, as close as you can get in my densely populated world.

My friend Akos has just bought a D90 and was interested in going outside and putting it trough it’s paces. I figured it might be nice to have some company on one of my walks and I find it rewarding to help a new photographer with those faltering few first steps. So on a bright sunday morning we set out for my 8km walk near Zandvoort.

Yes, that’s me on my size 16 Meindls with my new White Rock hat. For some reason I can’t take pictures well while wearing sunglasses and I find that now I’m older bright sun on my head gives me sunstroke way faster than it used to so this is my solution. On my right hip a 1 liter canteen US Army model I picked up in a local army surplus store for a few euros. On hot days like this protection from the sun is important but drinking enough is even more important. A doctor once told me that if you don’t need to piss you don’t drink enough. Still good advice I think.

The photography kit is safe in a lowepro flipside 300.

This walk leads you along a lot of rather bare dune landscape. Just one good shot there of a caterpillar crossing the road.


A bit further on I did manage a good landscape snap.

And here’s a shot Akos did of me doing this:

The color difference is significant. I think mine is close to the truth, the other shot seems a bit overexposed and more saturated than mine.  I like this a lot, it shows clearly what photography means for me. Just me alone with nature capturing it’s beauty.

Near the end of our walk we saw a lot of young rabbits.

A few years ago myxomatosis took a terrible toll on the rabbit population. I’m glad to see it’s recovering now. Not only because adolescent rabbits such as this one are a nice sight but also because they are an important part of the food chain.

I had hoped to get a better shot of a sand lizard but it was just too warm and sunny and these lizards are very quick when they are properly warmed.

This one I shot the day before.

That’s it. A nice walk, healthy exercise, some good shots from a small bit of nature that manages to survive in the overcrowded west of my country. The walk itself is mapped here.

Some day I hope to visit one of the bigger nature reserves in North America for some serious hiking and shooting.