Fun Holiday Gifts For The Photographer In The Family

What photographer wouldn't love a lens coffee cup.. It’s simply a statement about looking cool and letting the world know who we are. What photographer wouldn’t want to walk into his/her office, or studio, gripping one of these awesome looking cups? The lens cups can hold hot or cold liquids. They have models that look like Canon, or Nikon, lenses. 

Today's Digital cameras LCD screens are great for viewing our shots indoors or even in partial shade, but in direct sunlight, the harsh sun rays all but completely wash out our ability to review our work in the field. Meet the photographers newest best friend. The HoodLoupe from Hoodman. The HoodLoupe is worn around your neck just like a normal loupe. When it is time to review your shot; bring the HoodlLoupe up to your image and place your eye up to the eye cup for complete glare free viewing. The HoodLoupe has a +-3 diopter to accommodate those with less than perfect vision. HoodLoupe adjusts focus just like a binocular eye piece... you turn the eye piece in or out to set for your vision. Each Hoodloupe is encased in a user friendly rubber for comfort and protection from bumps that will occur throughout your shoot. Comfortable lanyard and compact protective storage case included. Now for the downside, it's pricey but, in my opinion, it's well worth it.

Do you know your Lens Sweet Spot

Ever wondered why your cameras sharpness seems to vary from shot to shot.  One shot would be tack sharp, another shot just didn't have the same sharpness and would be a little murky . While there are many factors that affect an image sharpness, you can increase your chances of a tack sharp shot by knowing your lens' sweet spot.

That's right, every lens has a sweet spot.  The sweet spot refers to the aperture setting of a given lens that yields the best overall sharpness. The fact is, that lenses are not uniformly sharp at every aperture, nor at every focusing distance.

So how does one go about identifying a lens' sweet spot?

Here's what you'll need:

  1. DSLR Camera w/ a self timer

  2. A Tripod

  3. Newspaper or sheet of paper with printed text on it.

Now, tape the newspaper to a wall making sure that it's as flat to the wall as possible. If the light is required then set it up and shine it on the newspaper. Next, set up your tripod with the camera on it at a distance that will allow you to fill the frame with the newspaper. Set your camera on aperture priority mode. Set your aperture to the maximum that the lens will allow. Depending on the lens that you are working with, the minimum and maximum aperture values will be different.

For the purpose of this article I will be using the Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II.The maximum aperture of this lens is f1.8 and the minimum aperture is f22. Next, focus the lens on the newspaper.  For each shot we will us the cameras built-in 2 second self timer function to prevent any vibration caused from pressing the shutter . Next we want to take a series of images carefully adjusting the aperture down by one stop at a time (example – f1.8, f2.8, f4.0, f5.6, f8.0, f11, f16, f22). Once we have completed each of the exposures it’s time to download the images to our computer and have a look!

The above image shows 100% crop examples taken from the top left corner of each of the images.

  • F1.8 is downright fussy & soft.

  • F2.8 is better, but still soft.

  • F4.0 is much better.

  • F5.6 better still!

  • F8.0 Now that's sharp as a tack.

  • F11 softening a bit.

  • F16 still softer.

  • F22 softer still.

Well based on results from the above examples, this particular lens offers the best overall sharpness at F8.0.

For my Canon 50mm f1.8 - The SWEET SPOT is F8!

Now go ahead and test all of your lenses, and identify the "sweet spot", the results may surprise you!

 

Sometimes Old Is New Again

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I've come to realization that sometimes technology can inhibit or even stifle ones ability to enjoy what they love, taking photographs. No better example with this was with my dear mother. All her life, she enjoyed photography. Throughout the decades of my families life, there was my mother, making sure our life was documented and enjoyed.

She always had a camera with her. When a unexpected special moment presented itself, there we all were, standing around caught without a camera to capture the moment.  If it hadn't been for my mother, over one third of my life would be un-captured.

Then came along digital photography. Ah progress! What a great advancement!  Computers, printers, cell phones, what a wondrous thing! No more film! I totally embraced the whole digital world with open arms, and never looked back.

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As soon as digital was taking hold in the market place, film was dying faster than 8 track tape. Polaroid was one of the first companies to fall. The death of Polaroid meant the death of my mother's cameras. Polaroid film simply became too expensive and too hard to find.

At first glance we figured we would simply introduce her to a bright shiny new digital camera, and that would be that. But it wasn't. My mother never embraced technology, especially computers. And she had a really hard time trying to understand things in a digital world.

The family taught her how to use the new digital cameras, and she started taking pictures again, only finding her stopping after the initial newness wore off. My mother started photographing less and less, and seemed to completely lose interest.

Over the years, my mother, the family photographer for generations, simply stopped taking pictures at all..

Today, I believe I now understand what happened. It wasn't the camera, or loss of interest, it was because technology was preventing my mother from enjoying work. She could take pictures, but these pictures became trapped in the camera. She was unable, to master  the hand to hand combat skills on how to get the pictures out of the camera and into a print. 

She lost her independence. Her ability to simply enjoy taking photos and putting prints into photo albums. Think about it, if you had to rely on other people all time when you wanted to share or print a photo. Losing ones independence. to enjoy what you love, is a terrible thing. 

Luckily, I stumbled upon a new type of Polaroid Instant camera, and in fact, the film is even cheaper than the original Polaroid film. Fujifilm has a complete line of instant cameras named InStax. The reviews are very good, and they say that the image quality was even better than the old Polaroid film.

I didn't hesitate pushing the Amazon Buy Now button. In fact, I've found out that this camera is incredible hot with the teenage community. Todays teenagers have never seen a Polaroid before, and are just blown away when they see a print come directly out of the camera!. The instant camera is having a unexplained rebirth. Anyway, the new camera is now on it's way to my mother, complete with a couple packs of film. I hope that this will rekindle her love for taking pictures again. No one should be denied to enjoy the wonderful world of photography.