Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Right Lens for the Job

by Kelly

I have a confession to make...this is not the post I thought I was going to be writing today.

I guess I should back up.

So this past week I was chatting with my friend and FOL sister, Dotti, about gear. She reached out to me wanting to know what I thought about my new Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L lens that I had received from Santa this past Christmas. So I gave her my two cents worth which was, for the most part, very high praise due to its large aperture and overall sharpness.

In addition to my conversation with Dotti, I also had the chance recently to visit with another photog friend who happened to make a point of asking my about my gear - she had spotted another "red stripe girl" and wanted to know what I thought of my "L" glass. To which I gave the same high praise I had given to Dotti.

At any rate, it got me to thinking about gear and my new lens - my third 50mm lens (I literally wore out my f/2.8 compact macro) - and it made me wonder how my fancy new lens actually compares to all of my other lenses. So I decided to do a little experiment on the dahlias that have started blooming in my garden.

For the purpose of this comparison, I shot the same basic scene with the following lenses:

  • Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.8
  • Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L
To try to reduce the variability as much as possible, I shot in manual mode with an aperture setting of f/2.8, 400 ISO, and 1/640 shutter speed. I tried, as best as possible, to stand in the exact same location (except with the 100mm macro) and focus on the upper portion of the large, open bloom near the center.

Here are my individual shots.

At first glance there isn't a remarkable difference between my shots, however after a little closer inspection there are some subtle differences, mostly in the size and shape of the background bokeh.
  1. Notice the shape of the bokeh in the first 50mm ("Nifty-Fifty") - do you see how the background bokeh has sort of a rough, pentagonal shape? It's a function of having fewer blades in the lens - a tradeoff which is, in part, what makes the Nifty-Fifty so affordable. 
  2. With the 100mm macro lens, I had to step back a few feet in order to get about the same framing as the others. But what I love is how smooth and dreamy the bokeh is. I actually purchased this lens a couple of years ago from Terri and I am always happy with the quality of photos this lens produces.
  3. In my shot taken with the 50mm L series lens, you might notice a deeper teal outline around some of the individual 'bubbles'.  This is what is known as chromatic aberration and it is my only minor complaint about my new lens.
OK. So we've established now that all of these lenses produce good photos, but what I really wanted to know is how they compare in sharpness. Because that's what L glass is known for - impeccably sharp images. So to test for sharpness, I cropped each of my shots in tight around the main flower that I focused on. 

Here they are side-by-side.

I betcha can't tell which one is which.

This is what I meant when I said this wasn't the post I had planned. 

I really expected the 50mm L image to jump off the screen in terms of sharpness and it just didn't. So what I learned from this experiment is that being mindful and intentional with exposure and having a sufficiently steady hand (or something steady to lean against) is the key to producing nice, sharp images.

That being said, however, I do believe that each of these lenses serves a unique function (outside of producing sharp images). I love my 24-70mm lens for giving me a wider focal length and a little more breathing room in my shots. And I love my 100mm macro for being able to get up-close and personal to my subjects. I also love my new 50mm lens because (like Dotti) I love the framing of 50mm as it most closely matches our natural view with our eyes. Plus having the option to shoot with a super wide aperture allows me to capture scenes with lower light.

So I guess the moral to this story is to decide how and what you love to capture, and choose the lens that best serves the function and your wallet. Then let your heart, your head, and your hands do the rest.

Until next time,


Monday, June 26, 2017

The Little Things

by Dotti

What makes you happy?  It’s the little things that make me happy, like Gerbera daisies and the color red.  

Recently I came across a “class” that resonated with me, made my heart sing, sounded like just what I needed to launch my photography into summer. I’d like to tell you about it.

Some, maybe all, of you may have heard of Karen Walrond. I’ve been following Karen’s blog and her work for several years. An original Shutter Sister, Karen soon went her own way with her own message. She’s a wonderful photographer, an excellent writer, a very insightful person and has an impressive professional resume.

A couple of weeks ago she launched her 21-day #shutterhappy project and I decided to jump in. It's something you can enroll in at any time so if you're interested, give it a try. The premise is that gratitude helps us attain and maintain happiness. The objective is to cultivate a habit (hence the 21 days) of looking every day for things that make us happy and taking a photo of at least one of those things. We’ve talked about this very thing here at FOL on more than one occasion and I believe it to be true so let’s chat about it today.

Here’s the cool thing: I’m barely half way through the project but all day long, I find myself looking at things and smiling because I realize how grateful I am for them. Most of them are simple things. For instance  -

A simple breakfast on the back porch -

The first swallowtail this season on one of our butterfly bushes -

The flowers on my back porch –

A coneflower ready to bloom into all its fullness and beauty –

The happy orange of a tiger lily - 

The blue of a hydrangea –

Some of these are my direct response to Karen’s prompts, some are just things that made me pause in my day and pick up my camera. Being more observant of things around me, particularly the little things that I’m grateful for has put a smile on my lips, my "center" seems calmer, I find that I’m happier.

Now I’m not na├»ve enough to think that it will always be easy. When  life gets tough, this practice will be harder but I believe even practicing a wee bit of gratitude at these times will help us weather these storms as they come.

Whatever it is that makes you happy, take the time to say thanks and smile at yourself and your gratitude. I think you’ll be glad you did.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Focus On You

This week we've officially entered SUMMER. I am not ready for the heat and humidity, but I am ready to enjoy the summer flowers. I don't know of another flower that says summer better than a simple, sweet daisy. Honestly, can you even look at one without smiling?

I love these daisies against the gorgeous blue sky that Evangelina Murray has captured. Her photo makes me think of happiness and light and makes me feel a little nostalgic. I had daisies in my wedding bouquet way back in the early 70's!!  You can see more of Evangelina's beautiful photos on her Flicker stream.

Keep those summer photos coming to our FOL Flicker stream. Just a reminder that our focus this month is backlighting. Early summer mornings are a great time to get out and capture the light!

© Focusing On Life