Owen and Mitzy Visit the UK Part 1: Cambridge and Brighton

Mitzy and I took a trip to England and Scotland this past May. While Mitzy had arrived a couple of weeks earlier, the first leg of our time together was in Cambridge, along with a jet lagged train ride to Brighton.

Picking the right photo equipment was a tough job but in the end I went with the D700, AF-S 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 G, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 and AF-S 85mm f/1.8G.  Too much weight to carry all together for an outing but not bad if I left a lens or two at the flat.

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Uncle George Runs 100,000 Miles

This morning my uncle George, who has been running since 1967, ran his 100,000th mile. That’s a bit over four times around the world! To celebrate he called on all of his running friends to be with him as he hit this amazing milestone.

You can read a great article here.

Naturally, I celebrated by taking a photo.  Below I show two versions of the same scene. The first is with the Nikon AF-S 18-35mm G at 18mm on the D300s. The second is a panorama of 7 shots with the Nikon 135mm f/2 DC on the D700…. a drastically different perspective.

Which do you prefer?

D300s with Nikon AF-S 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 G at 18mm

D300s with Nikon AF-S 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 G at 18mm

D700 with Nikon 135mm f/2 DC. 7 shot stitched panorama.

D700 with Nikon 135mm f/2 DC. 7 shot stitched panorama.

Ice Storm Engagement Session with Kaitlin and Sean and Alice

On the morning of the recent ice storm I had the pleasure meeting up with Kaitlin and Sean (and their daughter Alice) for an engagement shoot. We first had some fun indoors with some shots in the front window… thanks so much to Kaitlin’s family for letting me dismantle the entire living room (including all the perfectly arranged gifts) to make room. I shot natural light only and used the gold side of a large reflector propped up on a chair to add some fill against the extreme backlight.

After the indoor shots we braved the icy outdoors. These photos really don’t do justice to how absolutely treacherous it was and I give much respect to Kaitlin and Sean for managing to look so relaxed and natural while fighting to stay standing. Also for being so brave despite branches and trees falling in the near vicinity.

I shot with the D700 and made full use of the Sigma 35mm f/1.4, Sigma 50mm f/1.4 and the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8. I even managed to squeeze in an icy Brenizer method pano.

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Visiting TRIUMF, Vancouver – November, 2013

During my trip to Vancouver I spent the day at TRIUMF, BC’s Cyclotron particle accelerator. I’d worked at TRIUMF 10 years ago so it was naturally exciting for me to make my first trip back since moving back to Waterloo… and of course I had to bring my camera along. The main building at TRIUMF (the Meson Hall) houses the Cyloctron, under a stack of concrete blocks, and multiple beam lines feeding experiments. As you’ll see, the magnetic field from the Cyclotron is so strong that paper clips stand on end, aligned to the field.

D700 with Nikon AF-S 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 G and AF-S 60mm f/2.8 G Micro.

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A Trip To Vancouver – November, 2013

I recently visited Vancouver, a city that I lived in 10 years ago while on an 8 month co-op work term. I found the whole trip pretty nostalgic and I took advantage of the excellent weather to check out my old house walk around the waterfront, downtown and Stanley Park. On my last day I joined fellow photographer Ilia for a and hike up Quarry Rock in North Van. Thanks so much to Fern and Dave, Lisa and Marianne and Rebecca and Andrew for the excellent dinners!

I took the D700 with me along with the Nikon AF-S 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 G and AF-S 60mm f/2.8 G Micro. Here are some of my favourite shots that resulted.

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Quarry Rock

Quarry Rock

HDR of the view from Quarry Rock

HDR of the view from Quarry Rock

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Nikon 135mm f/2 DC Show and Tell

In my previous post I showed how the Nikon AF-S 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G filled my needs for a wide lens. As one of Nikon’s newest lenses it has a compact, light build and modern design. Needing a telephoto at the opposite end of the focal length spectrum I had the option of the brand new Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/4 VR, recently on sale for a reasonable price. What I really wanted was a nice, fast prime. I scoured online every once in a while and last week hit the jackpot. A used Nikon 135mm f/2 DC!

This is a highly regarded portrait lens and short telephoto. It’s one of the oldest lenses that Nikon still sells and has remarkable build quality with an all metal body. Mine is the non-D version (something I didn’t even notice when buying it) but that only limits flash metering. It’s somewhat rare, too, as it’s expensive when bought new. The cost of this used copy was much more reasonable.

‘DC’ stands for ‘Defocus Control’, something of a misnomer as it is actually a ‘bokeh fine tune’. A control ring at the front of the lens shifts a pair of optics to tune the spherical aberrations to optimize either the foreground or background blur as I’ll show shortly. Even without using the defocus control, the blur is spectacular. Truly.

f/2

f/2

f/2

f/2

f/2.8

f/2.8

Like I said… truly spectacular. And, thanks to the super-shallow depth of field when wide open, it’s great for Brenizer Method bokeh panoramas.

15+ shot Brenizer Method bokeh panorama at f/2

15+ shot Brenizer Method bokeh panorama at f/2

Now, while the autofocus is reasonably quick for a screw-drive lens, the accuracy leaves something to be desired. When researching this lens in forums and reviews, AF accuracy was the number one complaint. I’ll demonstrate below. Here is a shot at f/2.8 that took four tries to nail the focus on my dad’s face.

f/2.8

f/2.8

With focus nailed, it’s razor-sharp, but when it’s off you really notice! Here are a couple of crops. The first is of the image above while the second is from a previous attempt.

f/2.8 (well focused)

f/2.8 (well focused)

f/2.8 (slightly out of focus)

f/2.8 (slightly out of focus)

Now on the defocus control. The method for using this feature is as follows:

  • Set the lens to the desired aperture.
  • Turn the ‘Defocus Image Control’ ring in either the forward or reverse direction from 0 to the R or F number that matches the aperture.
  • Turn to an R or F number that is greater than the set aperture and you get an unpleasent soft focus

Turning the control ring in the R direction improves the quality of bokeh behind the subject (but has a negative impact on foreground blur). Likewise, Turning in the F direction improves the bokeh in front of the subject (but noticeably hurts the background blur). Here is a demonstration, with three images of the same subject at f/4. The first is with the control ring at 0. The next is with the control ring at 4 in the R direction. The third is with the control ring at 4 in the F direction. Notice the subtle difference in bokeh at the foreground and background.

f/4 with DC ring at 0

f/4 with DC ring at 0

f/4 with DC ring at R4

f/4 with DC ring at R4

f/4 with DC ring at F4

f/4 with DC ring at F4

Here are some crops to demonstrate even further:

135mmDC-at-f4-background 135mm-DC-at-f4-slight-backbround 135mm-DC-at-f4-foregroundI’m in love with this lens. I really am. However, I hope that I can figure out a way to work around the focus inconsistencies to really get the most out of it. I know it will take some work… and I’m looking forward to it!

I’ll leave you with some more examples, including mandatory cats and Mitzy.

f/2.8

f/2.8

f/2.8

f/2.8

f/4

f/4

f/2

f/2

f/2

f/2

f/4

f/4

f/2.8

f/2.8

f/2.8

f/2.8

f/2.8

f/2.8

f/4

f/4

f/2.8

f/2.8

f/2

f/2

f/2

f/2

f/2

f/2

f/4

f/4