Saturday, May 23, 2015

New Orleans' Royal Street - Leica IIIC and Summar 5cm f2 Lens

Royal Intersection, by Reed A. George
Leica IIIC Sharkskin, Summar 5cm f2 Collapsible Lens
I was scanning a roll of film that I shot in New Orleans, while attending the LHSA Spring Shoot 2015 when I came across this shot.
This corner on Royal Street, at Rouse's Grocery, is one of my favorite spots in the city of New Orleans. Always hosting live musicians, rain or shine, it's a real crossroads for everyone who frequents the French Quarter - musicians, tourists, locals, and yes, police officers. This image says a lot about this particular place that I love so much.

Friday, May 22, 2015

In Honor of our World War II Veterans - DC Mall Flyover

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a media event for the World War II Memorial Flyover, an event where dozens of war era aircraft flew in various formations over the National Mall in Washington, DC.
(Click Here) to read about the event, which took place on Friday, May 8, 2015.
On the day before the event, my associate, Rob, and I got to go to a local regional airport and witness the take-off of several of the airplanes that would take part in the event.
I brought along my Nikon D700, 35-70mm f2.8, and 70-300 f4.5-5.6 AF-S G lenses. All of the images below were made with the 70-300.
The event began with a short press conference, and then we were allowed out on the tarmac. Preparations for the day's flights were underway.
B-29 Superfortress, by Reed A. George
B-17 Crewmembers, by Reed A. George
Then, the engines started to crank.
Cranking up, B-17, by Reed A. George
We were warned about the noise, oil, and propwash (wind) that would result when this happened, and the B-17 didn't fail to deliver. It was quite a thrill to be so close to these aircraft.
B-29 Cranks Up, by Reed A. George
As the planes taxied for takeoff, we got some close up views of them in motion.
B-24 Liberator on Taxi, by Reed A. George
Here's my favorite shot from the day:
Between the Props, by Reed A. George
I used a gradual neutral density (ND) filter on my 70-300, to prevent the pure white skies from overexposure. It's a subtle effect, but I think it helped. Sure would have been nice to have a cloud or two.
Once all of the aircraft were lined up for takeoff, the staff lifted the barrier tape and let those of us with media passes out closer to the runway. At this point, having captured decent sharp images of all of the airplanes on the ground, I started thinking about what made this event unique. It wasn't the aircraft alone. I had photographed some of the crew, which I cannot see on a normal trip to my local Air & Space Museum (yes, I know I'm lucky, not everyone has the Udvar-Hazy Museum ten miles from their home). The real unique point, though, was to see these old beasts in flight. Asking Rob to be sure and capture sharp images of them taking off, I decided to try some panning, in an attempt to show the motion in my images.
I consider myself to be pretty good at panning, matching the angular speed of my moving camera to that of the object I'm tracking. Doing that with these big aircraft turned out to be really challenging. I set the 70-300's VR to "Active," which is supposed to be designed for panning. Every shot came out blurry. Not just most, all of them. Finally, turning VR off completely, I was able to capture one decent panning shot of the B-29. Here it is.
Superfortress Takes Off, by Reed A. George
So, I worked hard for it, but feel that I captured most of the feeling of the event that I was after. What an incredible opportunity.
I hope that many of our remaining World War II veterans were able to see or watch the live feed of this event. It's really something to see these 70 year old airplanes still in prime running (flying) condition.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Practicing my Telephoto Technique - Nikon 70-300mm AF-S VR and the Ducklings

I am anxiously awaiting delivery of a used Nikkor 200-400mm f4 zoom lens that a friend and I have decided to co-own. It's an expensive lens, so this made it possible for both of us to have access to it.
Most of my lenses, especially telephotos, are older technology. Starting with the Ai-P 500mm f4, which is my longest lens, it's manual focus. It's a true beauty, and makes wonderful photos, but clearly doesn't have the latest AF-S focusing. Then there's my 300mm f4 AF-I, which does have autofocus, but not the blazing fast AF-S.
In fact, the only long lens I have with AF-S is the 70-400mm f4.5-5.6 G VR zoom lens. So, I decided to take that lens out for a quick shoot before work yesterday, to practice my focusing technique. Based on the video by Steve Perry that I posted yesterday, I set up my D700 for back button focusing and gave it a try.
Not an action shot, but here's the best shot I made in that fifteen or twenty minutes of shooting yesterday.
Spring Ducklings, by Reed A. George
Nikon D700, Nikkor 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 G AF-S Lens
iso 800, f8, 1/500 sec
I wanted to test out the back button method, in which you leave your camera set to continuous AF, and use the button on the rear of the camera to decide when to freeze the focus, if at all. When photographing action (e.g. birds in flight), you just keep the button pressed, and the camera will focus through the entire shooting sequence. For static objects (e.g. these ducklings), you get the focus point you want, then release the rear button, locking the focus at that point. This worked very well for me here.
This 70-300mm lens is very good. It's not as sharp as I expect the 200-400mm to be, which should be obvious when you compare the specs and prices. But, I think it did a pretty good job for me in this case. And, it's very light and fast.
I can't wait to see what the 200-400 can do!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cottonwoods Blooming on the Potomac River

On my most recent kayaking trip on the Potomac River, I shot this image of a cottonwood tree, blooming and losing its blossoms to the river surface.
Cottonwoods on the Potomac, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5
iso 160, f3.3, 1/160 sec.
As you can see, I made this image with the compact, waterproof Lumix DMC-TS5 camera. It's a great companion on kayaking trips, as it's really well-protected against water, dirt, sand, and shock. I think it makes very nice pictures for a compact point and shoot.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Use Nikon Autofocus? You MUST Watch this Video by Steve Perry

I have been shooting some wildlife recently with my Nikon cameras. With the spring weather finally here, I love to get out in my kayak and photograph birds and other wildlife.
My current telephoto lenses are a 300mm f4 AF-I (very old autofocus lens) and a 500mm f4 Ai-P (manual focus). Both are excellent optics, but are a bit dated. I have worked on my manual focus technique with the 500mm, and can even catch the occasional sharp image of a bird in flight.
Bald Eagle in Flight, by Reed A. George
Nikon D700, Nikkor Ai-P 500mm f4 Manual Focus Lens + 1.4X Teleconverter
iso 1600, f5.6, 1/1000 sec.
Of course, things get easier with autofocus, especially Nikon's modern AF-S lenses. I'm about to get my hands on a lovely 200-400mm f4 AF-S VR lens, so I'm reading up on autofocus technique.
Here's an outstanding 12 minute video by Steve Perry, showing some of the key concepts for successful autofocus with Nikon DSLRs:
If you have problem with getting to the video, (Click Here).
One of the techniques that Perry practices is "back button" AF. This means using only the back AF-on button to focus, and not the typical half-press of the shutter release. With the camera set to continuous AF (AF-C), you simply let your finger off of the back button when you want to lock in focus, or keep pressing to follow and focus on a moving subject. Really helpful.
Just to try it out, I took my D700 and 70-300mm AF-S VR lens out tonight and gave it a shot with some flying geese. It worked really well. I literally can't wait to get my hands on that 200-400!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Springtime is for Photography

Springtime is for Photography, Pinhole Included
Nikon Df, f/180 Pinhole Body Cap
I'm so happy that it's springtime again. Makes me want to be outside shooting every day.
Hope you're using the nice weather to get out and make some art.
For my friends in the Southern Hemisphere, don't worry. It's all just cycles; your time is coming as sure as winter will be back here before we know it.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

French Quarter in the Rain - Leica IIIC and Summar 5cm f2

I recently attended the LHSA (International Leica Society) Spring Shoot in New Orleans, Louisiana. One of my favorite places to photograph, I was hoping we'd get some inclement weather to build some mood into my pictures. I was not let down - it rained on and off, sometimes quite heavily, during my whole trip. I loved it.
Here are some shots of street musicians playing in front of Rouse's Grocery on Royal Street as a rain storm rolled in and subsequently left.
All were shot with the Leica IIIC and Summar 5cm f2 lens. One of Leica's earliest fast lenses, the Summar is infamous for being being soft. I happen to have a clean copy, without a scratched front element, which is rare. I find it to be a wonderful lens.
Shooting iso 400 film (Kodak TMax 400), I couldn't quite get a fast enough shutter speed to capture the rain as I wanted. I hope that you can see it in images 2 and 3.