Category Archives: photograpny

New Camera Time…

Recently I’d rediscovered one of my favorite blogs about photography, David Hobby’s Strobist site. I hadn’t looked it for a while and it got me thinking about lighting again. I own two Nikon SB-800’s, great (but discontinued) flashes. I’ve used the before for a few things but have never really gotten the most out them.

Well that got me thinking about cameras. It turns out my last DSLR purchase was back in 2006 when I got a Nikon D80. I still have it and used it as recently as last year (which, you might note wasn’t all that long ago). But it’s getting a little creaky in some ways. I don’t care much about the number of pixels it has, but newer sensors have better dynamic range and handle higher ISO settings better. What to do?

I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a new body. Money is almost always better spent on glass. I don’t have a lot of glass and what I have isn’t great – though it’s definitely good enough for my level of ability. It’s also Nikon glass. Functionally that means unless I want to about face and go start collecting glass from another manufacturer I might as well stick with Nikon. They make great cameras and lenses. So does Canon. I guess at a professional level it might be worth arguing over (though your time would better be spent shooting), but not at my level.

It was also a good time of year for sales and closeouts. As it turns out Nikon has just discontinued their D5100, replacing it with the D5200. Now the D5100 is a very nice camera from what I’ve been able to gather. It’s not quite at the bottom of their line, but it’s close. On the other hand even the bottom of the line (D3200) can make beautiful images.

There were some drawbacks though, and in some ways they are major:

  • No Flash Commander Mode!
  • No built-in motor meaning I need to use AF-S lenses (or focus manually – not a huge deal really)

With the two SB-800’s the first bit seemed like a bit deal. The AF-S requirement turned out not be such a big deal, my 18-200 zoom is an AF-S lens so I can use it if I want. So is the 18-70 I have around, the kit lens from my D70 way back when. I do have a nice 50mm f/1.8 (everyone should have one), but it’s not AF-S so…well nothing’s perfect.

I ended up by the D5100 with a kit 18-55 VR lens for a very good price on a long financing contract that will let me pay no interest for far longer than it’ll take for my tax check to arrive (which will more than cover it). I really am not a big fan of buying stuff I don’t have the cash for, but in this case it’s safe enough and little enough money that one paycheck would cover it with change left over (though I’d be squeezed on bills).

I also ordered the NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8 DX AF-S lens which I’d heard is an excellent prime for DX cameras. It is.

I have also decided to learn to use my flashes off camera…in manual mode…that is, I’ll have to calculate the power output rather than relying on the circuitry. People have been doing this successfully for quite some time so I expect it’ll be fine. To that end I purchased some inexpensive radio triggers (Cowboy Studio). They work well as far as I’ve been able to determine so far.

Ultimately I have to use the camera in order to make this all worthwhile and that’s the plan for the year. I’m going to improve my photography…so much for New Year’s resolutions. My other resolution is breathe for the entire year.

The D5100 with the 35mm f/1.8 lens turns out to be very, very sweet. I haven’t had a chance to do much yet but today i took a few shots to help illustrate a conversation on a bike list to which I belong. The conversation is about using Pitlock seat tube locks to keep one’s saddle safe. I use them on both my Quickbeam and my Hunqapillar and decided I’d take a couple of shots for the benefit of the folks participating in the discussion.

Now these aren’t great shots. But they are straight from the camera. The colors are dead on. The exposure is great (used aperture mode) and the focusing is perfect. I’m quite happy. Yes, I could have done with another camera, lots of them in fact. But as a quick test I’m pleased. Now that I’ve broken the ice with the camera, I can go learn how to use it well and hopefully make some beautiful images (and continue documenting all this bike stuff).



New camera…not really…

I just received a ‘new’ Leica M3 the other day. I didn’t really need it, but to be honest, I had a lens around that was just crying to be used and…well you probably know the rest of the story.

I love photography and wish I were better at it. I’ve made a few good images and I have some idea of what I like in an image but it really takes practice. That’s one reason I like cameras that let you adjust everything manually. Mind you, I make a ton of images, perhaps in this case I should say take pictures, with cameras set on auto. But it’s when I actually have to think about what I’m doing that I’m more likely to make something I like.

A Leica M3 is about as manual a camera as you can get. There’s no meter. There no ‘mode.’ There’s just the aperture, the shutter speed, the film, and a lens. It helps to have a light meter, but one can really estimate the light and make an okay image, at least with print film.

So…how am I doing?

Let’s see. Today I loaded the camera up and immediately messed up at least a half of roll of film by not locking the lens in place. Sigh. I loaded another roll and gave things a try.

Not anything to write home about, but I’m still impressed…not with the images, but with the camera and lens combo.

I was using the Sunny 16 Rule and more or less took these shots unmetered. Focusing the old Leica was easy and accurate. The film is cheap Fuji 200 consumer print film. It’s not great, it’s not bad. It’s what I had.

Here’s the deal. The camera was focused on what I wanted it focused on. I got the exposure more or less where I expected it to be. In short I wasn’t surprised by what I got. That’s a great start in my book. Now I just had to practice, practice, practice. It does get easier with time.


Real photography is harder than I remember…

I used to make images, now I seem to take snapshots. Photography takes practice and I’ve been rusting for a while. Mind you, I enjoy snapshots and they definitely have their place, but it’s good to spend time practicing too…

To that end I’ve acquired a Fujifilm X100. It’s a bit of a throwback to a lot of the old Japanese fixed lens rangefinders I’m so fond of, though it is not a rangefinder (has the look though). It does have a fixed lens though so composition is everything. It can make spectacular images when the brain behind the lens is up to it…me? Not so much.

It arrived today in time for me to run off to the Punahou Carnival and spend some time playing. Here’s one…

Ride at Punahou Carnival 2012

Thunderstorms last night…

Yesterday I was lucky enough to get in a decent ride before the weather decided that we needed a real scouring. Thunderstorms moved across the state unleashing rain, hail, lightning, waterspouts, and bringing us downed trees, power outages, as well as some spectacular fireworks.

My friend Andy Collins took some images last night and gave me permission to post them here. Pretty wild stuff.

Lightning - Branches of Fire

Branches of Fire - Photo Credit: Andy Collins

Honolulu Lightning

Honolulu Lightning - Photo Credit: Andy Collins

natures fury lightning

Nature's Fury - Photo Credit: Andy Collins

Thanks Andy!


I came down with a nasty cold which, I suspect, was caused by my moving in and out of the heavily air conditioned buildings in San Antonio. They really kept things cranked up there. The weather outside was just fine for me though…I like hot.

Anyway I’ve been on my back since Friday afternoon and am still feeling under the weather. I’d love to get out for a few minutes sometime today, just to say I saw the outdoors, but it’s hard to say whether I should even try. I’ve been looking at websites which attempt to answer the question of whether sick people should exercise like the Mayo Clinic.

I did manage to spend some time putting up the rest of my San Antonio Mission Trail images though. I really enjoyed that part of my trip, perhaps because no air conditioning was involved.