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Thread: Phil's Photo Thread (NSFW)

  1. #61
    Expert PDBreske's Avatar
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    Re: Phil's Photo Thread (NSFW)

    A few weeks ago someone asked me on another forum about the types of lenses I use and what is good to buy. I'm going to repost the message I wrote because I think it's good advice (and it's long and I don't want to type the whole thing again. )

    ---------

    It's been said that some of the less expensive lenses are as good as the top-of-the-line glass that can cost over a thousand dollars. For the most part, that's true. There are times, however, when the value of that costly glass really comes through.

    Aperture and -stops
    If you have a lens marked 5.6, that is the widest opening of the aperture for that lens. (Each full -stop of a lens doubles the amount of light that passes through to the sensor or film. Unfortunately, they're not numbered logically, so you kind of have to know these things from experience, but 4 is twice as much light as 5.6, 2.8 is twice as much light as 4, and 2 is twice as much light as 2.8, and so on. An 1.4 lens lets in sixteen times as much light as a 5.6 lens at their widest respective settings.)

    Depth of field
    Most photographers use aperture to control depth of field, which is the amount of your scene that appears in acceptable focus (from near to far) while using the shutter speed to control the overall exposure. (Obviously, there are times when you need to use shutter speed creatively and aperture and/or sensitivity settings can be used for exposure control.) For wide landscapes, you typically want a very deep focus to get everything from the foreground to the background in sharp focus. An aperture setting of 11 or smaller (down to 32 or 64 on some lenses!) is good for these times. For portraiture, you probably want to use a wider aperture and thus a narrower depth of field to exclude the background by blurring it out. 4 or wider results in only the subject being in focus while anything in front of or behind the subject is heavily blurred. (Apertures wider than 2.8 can yield a focus so narrow that only the tip of the nose is in focus while the eyes are slightly blurry.) The focal length of the lens is another factor that affects depth of field, but most "portrait" lenses are between 75mm and 150mm. Wider angles have wider depth of field and longer lenses have narrower depth of field for any given aperture setting.

    The difference between a good lens and a great lens
    Most lenses will perform best around the middle of their aperture range. Even the most expensive lenses will have some slight degradation of quality at either end of the aperture range, but the better the lens quality, the less noticeable this degradation is. The point is, when you use an inexpensive "kit" lens, you might want to shoot at 8 or 11 to get the sharpest possible image at the expense of a wide depth of field, whereas you can shoot a better lens at 4 and still retain sharpness while keeping a relatively shallow depth of field. If you buy a zoom lens with a variable aperture (the lens is marked 28-80mm 4.5-5.6, for example) the lens lets in less light when you zoom to the longer focal length, so the widest opening available at 80mm is actually 5.6 instead of the 4.5 in the range. Since the lens is probably not at its sharpest at 5.6, you should stop it down to 8 or smaller to get the best sharpness at the full telephoto setting. This may or may not be acceptable for the given scene. A better lens will have a constant aperture throughout its zoom range and a prime lens (fixed focal length) is typically sharper and faster than a zoom lens. (As usual, there are exceptions. Some really nice zooms are sharper than a cheap prime lens.) Shooting with a lens with a maximum aperture of 1.4 gives you the freedom to use a wider aperture and still stay in the middle of the aperture range. 4 on a 1.4 lens is typically sharper than 4 on a 4 lens.

    Manufacturers also use different types of glass for high-end lenses. Extra-low dispersion (ED) and apochromatic (APO) lens elements have characteristics that make them better for photographic lenses (and, in fact, any kind of lens, be it a telescope or a microscope). Lenses marked with ED or APO typically have less chromatic aberration (CA) around the edges and corners of the image. CA causes a fringe or smear of color that outlines details. Sometimes it's more noticeable than others, and can frequently vary depending on the focal length of a zoom lens. Prime lenses are designed to minimize this effect, but a cheap lens can still exhibit some slight CA at the corners.

    After writing all this I have one recommendation. Don't buy any expensive lenses unless you are prepared to upgrade your entire bag of glass. One day with a great lens will make a believer out of you and after that all your other lenses will look like crap. Trust me on this: Ignorance is bliss.

    EDIT to add: Information about ED and APO glass.
    Long before I started hemorrhaging money for guns, I was spending like crazy on photo gear....
    Click here to visit my photography web site.

    "Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence." - Richard Dawkins

  2. #62
    Expert PDBreske's Avatar
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    Re: Phil's Photo Thread (NSFW)

    More advice:

    -------------

    I'll sometimes get the question: "What camera takes the best pictures?" My response is, "The camera that you carry with you all the time."

    Digital SLRs are fantastic machines capable of producing images that rival those made by medium format cameras of twenty years ago. Advances in glass coatings and manufacturing have made even mediocre lenses very good at what they do. But none of this matters if you buy a big, heavy, expensive DSLR system and then leave it at home because "it's too big to fit in my pocket and it kills my shoulder to carry it around all day." A lot of people have spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on something that sits in a drawer or on a shelf collecting dust for lack of use.

    Unless you can justify the added expense and aggravation of an interchangeable lens camera, there is no reason to go that route. True, they do take better pictures than a $300 compact zoom, but only if you know how to wring every last drop of performance from the entire system. A $6000 DSLR wielded by an unskilled shooter will take worse pictures than a camera phone in the hands of a master. I've seen it done.

    Photography is about two things: composition and control of light. Everything else is gravy. (Okay, sometimes being in the right place at the right time helps, but a good photographer knows the right place to be when the action takes place.)

    One way to improve your photography is to share what you consider to be your best work with seasoned amateurs and professionals whose work you admire. Ask for honest, competent critiques and you'll quickly learn what is right and what is wrong with the photos. There are lots of good web sites that can help with this. One that helped me a lot in the last few years is fredmiranda.com. It's humbling to share a favorite photo and hear that it's crap, but that's the only way to get better. When your friends and relatives tell you, "oh, that's beautiful, Honey!" it might feel good, but it doesn't really help you improve.

    Also, don't delete anything from the camera (unless it's an obvious mistake like snapping a photo of the sidewalk as you pull out the camera). Keep every shot and you may find in a few months or years that there is an older photo that can be salvaged with a newly learned digital trick (this is why I shoot RAW images for everything) or that may have an interesting composition you didn't notice when you took it. It can also help to show your progress when you see that your "keeper" rate goes from 1-in-50 photos to 1-in-10. Get a few more memory cards and keep them handy with the camera. A wise man said, "Memory is cheap, but memories are priceless."

    I want to add the best way to make people believe you are a great photographer is to show them only the great photos. If you dump the entire contents of your memory card onto facebook after every vacation, your audience will think, "Half of these suck! Hell, I can do better!" If, on the other hand, they think that everything you shot on that vacation was a masterpiece, they'll say, "Damn! This guy can't take a bad picture!" I'd rather they think the latter.
    Long before I started hemorrhaging money for guns, I was spending like crazy on photo gear....
    Click here to visit my photography web site.

    "Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence." - Richard Dawkins

  3. #63
    Expert PDBreske's Avatar
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    Re: Phil's Photo Thread (NSFW)

    I was asked about an exposure issue when shooting in the desert. The forum member asked why some of his photos were completely overexposed when he was shooting on the sand at midday:

    -----------

    If you had the camera in Auto mode (also sometimes called Program mode), it should have exposed the scene correctly (although probably a bit under-exposed, which I'll cover in a minute), so I would assume you were in one of the manual modes or had one of the settings slightly tweaked resulting in the overall exposure setting being too bright. Even the cheapest camera has a short enough shutter duration or small enough aperture to get a good exposure in the desert sun, so it's not like the camera was incapable of getting a good exposure. Something was definitely wrong with one or more of the settings, but someone else said those images are ruined and that's probably correctonce a JPEG file is over-exposed, it's lost a lot of detail (overblown) to pure white and there is no way to get those details back.

    The desert is a challenging environment, much like snow or dark shade. If you leave the camera in Auto, the exposure system will try to set the shutter and aperture to expose the majority of the scene to a middle-gray value. It does this to avoid over- or under-exposing any part of the image. The problem is when you are in an environment like the desert you are surrounded with brightness and the only way to convey that scene in the final image is to slightly over-expose the average brightness as determined by the camera's exposure meter. You can do this by going fully manual, or you can use what's called exposure compensation.

    There is usually a button or menu item for this feature, almost always accompanied by an icon that looks like a "+/-" symbol (there may also be a lightning bolt with a +/- symbolthis is the flash compensation and it's a different function). Enabling this feature allows you to force the camera to adjust the metered exposure up or down and thereby tune the final image to look more like what you would see with your eyes if you were looking at the scene in person. For a sandy desert or beach scene you might add one stop to the exposure compensation and for snow you might go 1-1/2 to 2 stops brighter. If you were shooting in a cave, on the other hand, you'd want to make the scene darker overall and thus you might decrease the compensation by a couple stops. (Remember, adding or subtracting a stop of exposure doubles or halves the amount of light hitting the film or sensor, respectively.)

    The exposure compensation works in Auto mode as well as Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes. Aperture Priority (A or Av for Aperture value) lets you tell the camera what lens opening you want to use and the camera then uses its exposure meter to set the shutter speed. It changes the shutter speed continuously to meet the demands of the metering system. Shutter Priority (S or Tv for Time value) does the oppositeyou set the shutter speed and the camera decides what lens opening to use. When you then adjust the exposure compensation setting, the camera will further adjust the shutter or aperture to suit your exposure demands, but it will never change the priority setting (Aperture or Shutter) of the mode you are using.

    I might add here that most DSLRs have different means of measuring the exposure coming through the lens. Average meters exactly what it says by taking an average of the entire scene to set the exposure. Center-weighted uses the middle-ish part of the scene. There is also a system called Matrix metering that uses a more intelligent means of figuring out what parts of the scene deserve to be over- or under-exposed and does a pretty darn good job of giving a well-balanced image is varied circumstances. Spot metering uses a very small area at the center of the image while ignoring the areas around that center spot. Most people who really know what they are doing will use the Spot pattern to meter several parts of the scene and then adjust the camera settings based on those different readings. (In fact, when I'm shooting on a location I will typically meter the brightest thing in the area and adjust the manual exposure based on that reading. After that, I leave the settings alone unless the lighting changes or I move to another location. After a lot of experience I can tell you that 1/1250 second, 5.6, ISO 100 will expose perfectly a surfer at midday without blowing out the breaking waves.)

    Since you will most of the time want to control your depth of field and not the shutter speed, you should pay close attention to the aperture setting and let the shutter speed fall wherever it needs to be for a proper exposure. Obviously, there are times when you won't be able to hand-hold the camera and still maintain a steady shot, so a compromise will have to be made to get your shutter speed up to where your image isn't motion-blurred. (Or use a tripod! With a remote shutter release! And mirror lockup! I digress.)

    I mentioned that a JPEG image can be ruined by over-exposure, so I'll quickly give a description of RAW and why it's the greatest thing ever (in my opinion). Each pixel in a JPEG image can have a value of 0 to 255 in each of three color channels (Red, Green, and Blue). You get 256 levels and that's all. Once the white of a cloud has reached pure white (Red=255, Green=255, Blue=255) there is nothing you can do to pull detail from those pixels. You can make them darker, but they will always be the brightest part of the image. When you capture a scene as a RAW file, the camera is saving the picture information in the exact format that comes from the image sensor at the focal plane. It hasn't been compressed or interpreted in any way, so you are able to tweak it in your digital editing software in ways that the camera normally would, but in this case you are doing the work and making the decisions that would otherwise be handled by the computer inside your SLR.

    The white balance setting can be the trickiest part of your initial camera setup, especially when shooting in mixed lighting scenes like inside next to a window with a lamp on the table next to the bed. Should you use the Tungsten balance or Sunlight? Or maybe Shade? If you are shooting RAW, you can make a quick decision (or not at all) and then tweak the WB on your computer the next day.

    RAW formats are also captured at higher bit depths than the 8-bit JPEG format. Some RAW formats are 10-bit or even as high as 14-bit (although your editing software will recognize them all as "16-bit" files). The higher bit depth gives much more than just 256 levels for each color channel, with each additional bit doubling the available levels per channel (9-bit is 512 levels, 10-bit is 1024 levels, etc). When you have that many levels to work with, you can make some pretty radical changes to the original photo and still avoid the "banding" that comes with stretching the exposure too far. Also, RAW files have some additional overhead at the high end, so the blown out highlights of a JPEG might be avoided if you have a RAW original.

    Okay, maybe that wasn't a "quick description" of RAW, but I got it off my chest, so there.

    A note on UV filters: I don't use them and haven't for many years. There are widely varied opinions on this, but after spending hundreds of dollars to equip every lens with the best German-made UV "protection" filters, I found that even these expensive pieces of multi-coated glass would degrade the image just slightly. Would anyone but me notice? I doubt it, but I knew it was there and it bothered me. The argument is that these filters give you an added layer of protection against the elements and pointy rocks. Here's my take: Modern glass coatings make the front element almost impervious to minor scratches from repeated cleaning. I've cleaned salt spray from my lens with the tail of my t-shirt and they still perform as good as new. No fogging or flaring of any kind. Of course, wiping with a shirt and dropping on a rock are two different things. That's what lens caps and neck straps are for, and neither of those makes my pictures softer.
    Long before I started hemorrhaging money for guns, I was spending like crazy on photo gear....
    Click here to visit my photography web site.

    "Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence." - Richard Dawkins

  4. #64
    Super Moderator Underground's Avatar
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    Re: Phil's Photo Thread (NSFW)

    Quote Originally Posted by PDBreske View Post
    After writing all this I have one recommendation. Don't buy any expensive lenses unless you are prepared to upgrade your entire bag of glass. One day with a great lens will make a believer out of you and after that all your other lenses will look like crap. Trust me on this: [b]Ignorance is bliss.
    He speaks the truth.

    I finally replaced my digital still camera last month and got a Canon SX30. I thought about a digital SLR, but I realized the majority of the time I'm taking photos I'm doing something else and don't have a lot of time to mess with it, or use it enough to justify the cost. I'm going to the keys soon and that should give me plenty of opportunity to play around with it though.

    Besides, underwater video crap is expensive enough. I just upgraded my lights last year to dual 35W HID's. Now I just need some visibility to be able to shoot where I want.



    That guy, he said I should be oblong and have my knees removed. But I don't trust him, he plays the banjo.

  5. #65
    Expert PDBreske's Avatar
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    Re: Phil's Photo Thread (NSFW)

    Some action shots:

    Third Annual Sunny Isles Beach Offshore Powerboat Challenge, Florida


    Head of the Indian Creek Regatta, Miami Beach


    Trackdays at Homestead-Miami Speedway




    South Beach skimmers




    Calder Race Course, Miami

    Long before I started hemorrhaging money for guns, I was spending like crazy on photo gear....
    Click here to visit my photography web site.

    "Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence." - Richard Dawkins

  6. #66
    XCR Guru TerraShrewsbury's Avatar
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    Re: Phil's Photo Thread (NSFW)

    you can say it, Phil. Women are prettier ;D
    Resident Forum Slut

  7. #67
    Expert PDBreske's Avatar
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    Re: Phil's Photo Thread (NSFW)

    Quote Originally Posted by TerraShrewsbury View Post
    you can say it, Phil. Women are prettier ;D
    It's hot when you say it. >
    Long before I started hemorrhaging money for guns, I was spending like crazy on photo gear....
    Click here to visit my photography web site.

    "Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence." - Richard Dawkins

  8. #68
    Banned EricCartmann's Avatar
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    Re: Phil's Photo Thread (NSFW)

    you landscape pictures are pretty hot!

  9. #69
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    Re: Phil's Photo Thread (NSFW)

    PD,

    Your new photo thread is the high light of my day. I am living in Cheyenne WY, where the high today was -2F... If its not cold there is the wind... or even better its cold and there is wind. The cold just seeps into my bones. After my teenage kids graduate from HS in 2014 I plan to move to warmer climes.. I keep repeating this mantra in my head and I have been doing this every year for the past 6 years especially in the winter:
    White sandy beaches...
    Crystal blue water...
    Palm trees rustling in the sea breeze...
    Fruity rum drinks with little umbrellas...
    Scantily clad women on my horizon....

    For the past 16 years I have lived in the mountain west, CO, UT, and WY... I am originally from the central coast of CA... It seams only the stupid people out there make the laws so I can never go back and live in one of the most beautiful places on earth... The Gulf coast looks better and better every year.... If the USAF had not closed our base in the Philippines thats where I would have retire. I have been fortunate enough in my life to have been stationed in the tropics twice.... So I do have those memories to think upon when it really gets cold here.

    So please keep posting them, especially the ones with the women in them... I can't think of anything better then a Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and flipflops as everyday wear.

    Anyway thank you again... Your art is much appreciated...

    Dredd
    'Courage is not the absences of fear, its the taking of action in the presences of fear."

  10. #70
    XCR Guru SDDuc996's Avatar
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    Re: Phil's Photo Thread (NSFW)

    Quote Originally Posted by PDBreske View Post
    Age (that's her name) was a hostess at a restaurant on Ocean Drive:


    Valentina was another hostess:


    Perhaps it's obvious I really like freckled noses?
    These two are right up my alley.

    Out of curiousity Phil, do you make your living as a photographer, or is it a hobby?

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