The Chapel on the Rock – First photo from my trip to Denver/Boulder Colorado

This past week I visited Denver and Boulder Colorado for my cousin Simon’s wedding. The trip was fantastic and I’ll have lots and lots of images and stories to share over the next couple of weeks. To start things off, here is a photo of one of the highlights of the trip. My aunt Glynis took me to this church, near Allenspark, after a long drive into the mountains at Rocky Mountain National Park. The Chapel on the Rock deserved a full HDR treatment (otherwise the mountains and sky would have been completely washed out).

I shot this with the D300s and Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 Pro DX. Five shots at f/8, each separated by 1 stop.

Chapel on the Rock near Allenspark, CO

Chapel on the Rock near Allenspark, CO

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The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art

Finally! Ever since I gave up shooting with Pentax and switched to Nikon I’ve yearned for a lens like the FA 31mm f/1.8 LTD. That Pentax lens was staggeringly good and I hadn’t found anything to match it in the F-mount system… until now with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4.

I’ll start this post with a reminder that I shoot with DX bodies (at least for the time being) so the field of view (FOV) of this lens is more like 52.5mm, acting like standard prime. I’m not going to dwell on technical details in this review. Other sites do a far better job than I’m willing to do, with analyses down to the pixel level and direct comparisons to other lenses (here and here, for example).

Here is my current fast prime lineup, all cover FX lenses in case I ever decide to go that route. From left to right: Sigma 35mm f/1.4, Sigma 50mm f/1.4, Nikon AF-S 60mm f/2.8G Micro, Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G. This is a great combination for FX, and pretty good for DX. A wider prime would still be needed but for now the 17-55mm f/2.8 fills that roll.

DSC_1250Being an f/1.4 lens, I’ve naturally focussed mostly on the wide aperture capabilities. I’m amazed at how sharp it is at wide open. Not only is it sharp but the contrast is quite high, making the in-focus subject pop. Stopping down does sharpen the image even further but really, I find the lens sharp enough at all apertures. It even shines on the D7000, a body I’ve found extremely sensitive to most lenses. Here are a few wide-open examples from the D300s (first two) and D7000 (the next four):

DSC_2807 DSC_2782DSC_1174 DSC_1181 DSC_1206 DSC_1225The effect of shooting at f/1.4 is dramatic, even on a DX sensor. I demonstrate this below with a couple sets of images with a range of aperture settings. The first set of images has minimal post-processing, while the second has one of my ‘fade’ presets applied (click on the images for larger versions).

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The bokeh is nice. It’s not the best but far, far from the worst. I have no complaints here.

I was, of course, expecting the Sigma 35 to be optically excellent but I am surprised at how accurately it focuses on both the D300s and D7000. The performance contrasts my other fast Sigma, the 50mm f/1.4 where I find the focus to be inconsistent, especially on the D7000. In single-point AF, I find that I am the weak link, not the lens-body pair.

Do I have any negative comments?

Well, it is heavy at only 100g lighter than the 17-55. That’s about it. I’m really looking forward to giving it a workout at my next wedding shoot. I’ll end this micro-review with some more photos.

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A Misty Barn Three Ways

Driving home from Guelph, Mitzy and I pulled over at a barn that both of us have always wanted to photograph. You wouldn’t know it from this post, but it’s actually quite red. The mist gives it a completely different feel! I thought I’d show three quick interpretations of the same photo to get a feel for which is most effective.

D300s with AF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 at 34mm f/5.6 15s ISO 200.

Which do you like best?

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One Last Bowl

Last Saturday, Mitzy, Ian and I had one last bowl at the Waterloo Bowling Lanes before they closed for good. Naturally, I brought the camera along. These shots were with the D300s and AF-S 17-55mm f/2.8. I used the SB-900 with Lumiquest Softbox LTz for the shots with flash (with this method).

Very sad to see the place go but at least we got to say goodbye properly.

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Blog Week Day 5 – Farewell to Waterloo Bowling Lanes

Tomorrow night Waterloo’s last bowling alley, Waterloo Bowling Lanes, will close its doors. Soon it will be demolished with a 7 story condo taking its place. I, along with many other Waterloons, are saddened by this. The lanes have been open since 1949 and will be sorely, sorely missed. There’s something special about a run down 5-pin bowling alley. Nostalgic Canadiana, maybe.

Last night, Mitzy and I made light painted composite images of the building to honour its closing. The technique is the same as the one shown here, with 5-10 shots making up each composite.

D300s with Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 PRO DX at 11mm f/11 4s ISO 200

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ObG Thursdays and Blog Week Day 4 – Candid at the Zoo

Here’s a shot of a friendly orangutan at the Toronto Zoo shot about two years ago when my cousin Simon and his girlfriend (now fiancée) Christine were visiting from Colorado. I’m pretty excited to be heading down to Denver/Boulder in a few weeks for their wedding.

This photo also won me $50 in a photo contest at work. It’s rare that I ever get a payback for my photos!

Shot with the D300s with Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8 Pro DX at 135mm f/2.8 1/40s ISO 1600 (and fingers crossed that I could hold the camera steady enough).

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Blog Week Day 3 – Catlantis

Day Three!

On the weekend I did a little photo shoot with Milosz for our new musical project, Catlantis. This particular photo is a bokeh panorama comprised of a full SEVENTY shots with a wide open Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8. My technique for making this kind of image, often known as a Brenizer Method composite, is to set the camera to small JPEG, manual focus, manual exposure and fixed white balance (not AUTO). There’s no need in having a large size JPEG as each shot will only make up a small part of the final. Manual focus, exposure and fixed white balance are important to keep the same look from shot to shot.

I use either Photoshop or Microsoft ICE to do the stitching. ICE seems to handle more complicated stitches better than Photoshop and has a very simple operation where you just drag the series of shots into it and let it run.

So here it is, my biggest Brenizer yet. Shot with the D300s with AF-S 85mm f/1.8G at f/1.8 1/500s ISO 100.

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