Back to the Challenge

Day 67 - Curves

I’m back to shooting for the 2009 Photo Challenge this week with this shot for the Curves theme.  We took a day trip to Bodega Bay to do some whale watching, but the wind was furious and the surf too wild to see anything.  Fortunately, the tide was low so the tide pools were easily accessible.

The wind was definitely a force of nature yesterday. The Sonoma Coast can get darn windy, but yesterday was something else. I was worried about sand blasting my camera so I kept it tucked into my jacket when I wasn’t shooting. The wind literally pushed my 6 year old backwards as she walked and our parked mini-van was shaking from the wind. We didn’t spend a lot of time out in the elements, but long enough for this shot of natural curves.

I took a dozen or so shots of these mussels trying to get the curves just right, but in the end none of the shots compared to how they look in nature. The patterns and colors were truly spectacular if you took the time to appreciate it. Most people gravitate to star fish or sea anemones, but these guys are worth a look.

I took last week of the 2009 Photo Challenge off.  I just couldn’t get into the theme – Emotion. Emotional shots to me can’t be planned. I knew there was no way I could take an honest emotional shot given that I work full time. I see a lot of joy and happiness in my kids, but I didn’t want to use them as subjects. I’m also not entirely comfortable taking pictures of strangers. That is an area I need to work on, but I don’t think the Photo Challenge is the right venue.

My Top 10 Photos of 2008

I hadn’t considered doing a post summing up my year in photography, but today I saw a tweet from Phill Price reminding people to submit their Top Ten to Jim M. Goldstein’s blog project. I’ve run across Jim’s blog before, but for some reason I haven’t subscribed in Google Reader. Well, that has been fixed.

I usually find it hard to pick shots I like. The shots I like are often not the ones that get the most views or faves. I went through my Zooomr photostream and picked the ones I like best that were also favorites of the Zooomr community. So here are my best shots of 2008, in no particular order:

Dreaming of Summer
Dreaming of Summer
Elk Lake, Oregon. One of my favorite places.

Seeing Stars
Seeing Stars
My wife always has fresh flowers in the house, so I get a lot of opportunities to take flower shots.

Barack Obama, plate 6
Barack Obama, plate 6
I had to include one of these shots. I was one of the highlights of the year for me, and the nation.

Return to Earth
Return to Earth
Morrison Planetarium, Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

Heartland Dreams
Heartland Dreams
Somewhere near Southwick, Idaho. Another shot from our summer vacation.

What do you hold in
What do you hold in
A fence post near Petaluma, CA

Everything you want
Everything you want
Taken in Redding, CA at the Sundial Bridge. Also from the summer vacation.


Another shot of flowers in my house.

Visual Pollution
Visual Pollution
Power lines in Petaluma, CA

Petaluma, CA

2009 Photo Challenge – Days 1-5

I’m trying the Photo Challenge again this year. Last year didn’t go so well, I gave up pretty early. I’m going into the 2009 Challenge with modest expectations. The challenge is a photo-a-day with a new theme everyday. The details of the 2009 challenge are on the Photo Challenge blog. The daily theme is posted the day before, so you don’t have much time to plan.

I know I won’t be able to take and post a photo everyday this year. With work, kids, vacation, etc it just isn’t possible. I’m hoping for 300 shots for the challenge. Even those 300 might not be daily, but if I know starting out that I can’t get one a day, I won’t be disappointed if I don’t make it. If I get 300, I’ll feel I accomplished my personal goal. And I think that is the point of the challenges – grow as a photographer and have fun.

After five days I’m keeping up. I’ve taken and posted a shot everyday. It’s not easy, and they aren’t are all shots I would normally post. Since the Photo Challenges use Flickr, I finally went ahead and upgraded to a Pro account. I still prefer Zooomr, but will be posting all my photos on both sites from now on.
Day 1 – Chair
Day 1 - Chair

Day 2 – Pen
Day 2 - Pen

Day 3 – Music
Day 3 - Music

Day 4 – Book

Day 5 – Window
Day 5 - Window

Macros for a Rainy Day

It rained all day, and I was bored by about 9 a.m so I decided to shoot some macros indoors. I don’t have real lights, so I grabbed the lamp from my desk and set up on the dining room table. It’s not an ideal lighting situation, but it worked. I used my reversed 50mm lens mounted on the kit 18-55mm that came with my camera. These are the best of what I came up with. The reversed lens adds a lot of vignetting, which I cropped out to varying degrees on each of these shots.

Unfortunately I didn’t take many shots more because I broke my little toe. That made it a little hard to stand up and move around. I spent some time at urgent care and then a lot of time laying around wishing I could pay better attention to where I walk. I am, truly, always breaking something. This time it was myself.

The sound we wish for
The sound we wish for

Finding What We Lost
Finding what we lost




I got bored the other day and decided to shoot some more macros using the Poor Man’s Macro technique. This penny happened to be on the window sill above the kitchen sink. I was shooting on the counter, next to the sink, because there was plenty of natural light. I think I dug it up in the yard a couple of weeks ago. I’ve blogged about a couple of other shots taken using the reverse lens technique here and here.

I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of this technique. First, I use a tripod now. That really helps keep the camera steady and frees up one hand to hold the reversed lens. I also started switching between manual and auto focus. Once you steady the camera, you can select the focus with the normal lens. It makes a big difference. Between changing the focal distance and actually moving the subject closer and farther from the camera I gained a lot of flexibility in choosing the focal point for the shot. I do need to figure out a way to mount the lens on the camera. My hand started to cramp up from holding the lens.

Overall, I’m pleased with the results this time. I had a good time taking the pictures and coming up with different things to shoot. I’m making list of other items to take macro photos of, so I’m sure to be posting more of Poor Man’s Macro shots soon. At least it will give me something to shoot as the rainy weather starts up again.

I also downloaded the trial version of Lightroom, so the EXIF data is now being read by Zooomr. You can get the shot details there. A friend on Zooomr also posted a very similar photo of a penny today. I guess we had the same inspiration.

Here are a few other shots from the macro session:

Links 1

Self Defense

It’s kinda creepy

It's kinda creepy
Just a quick post. I shot this at my youngest daughter’s soccer game two days ago. Not much to say about it, just look interesting at the time. I knew I wanted it to be a high-contrast black and white image when I shot it. It pretty much came out how I planned. Cool. As for the title, that’s what my oldest daughter said when she saw the shot.

Also, I wanted to point people to publicengery’s recent blog post. His stuff is awesome, and he rides. I’m jealous, biking is something I want to do much more of. Keep riding Dave.

Shot Details:

Shooting Date: 9/10/2007 17:55:05
Shutter Speed: 1/400Sec.
Aperture Value: F5.6
ISO Speed: 400
Lens: EF70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM
Focal Length: 300.0 mm

Lego Man Macro

Self Portrait
I’ve been experimenting again with Poor Man’s Macro with the reverse 50mm lens I mentioned before. What I’ve learned so far is that the focus ring on the reverse lens doesn’t make much difference. None that I could tell. It’s also better to use manual focus on the normal lens, otherwise it has to hunt around a lot, or you have set a single focal point and not an average. For this picture I think I used manual focus, but it can remember for sure.

It also helps if you can steady your hand against something while shooting to reduce forward-backward movement. Getting the focus just right is tricky, so you want to be as still as possible. This Lego man was on top of my dresser so I could steady myself on the dresser. The dresser is right next to the window, which faces roughly southwest so the sun was shining through quite nicely.

In terms of processing, I didn’t do much – just some contrast. The vignetting is from the reverse lens, but it worked nicely for this shot. I probably should have wiped the dust off before shooting. Next time.

Shot Details

Taken 8/30/2007 6:17 PM (GMT-8)
1/125 second
ISO 500

Poor Man’s Macro, Take 2


After my first attempts at the Poor Man’s Macro, I decided to give it another try with my new camera. At some point in the past couple of weeks it dawned on me that I had an old Canon T70 with a 50mm lens on it that I could use for macro shots. The only problem was finding the camera. It turned out to be stashed in the attic with my wife’s old Pentax. Both were great cameras that we used until they stopped working.

I pulled the lens off my camera, but couldn’t figure out how to open the aperture all the way. When the lens is off the camera, the aperture closes down, which makes the lens useless for the Poor Man’s Macro. Luckily my wife’s old Pentax also had a 50mm lens that didn’t close down when off the camera. So, now I have a second lens I can reverse without taking the 18-55mm lens off my camera.

To take this shot I simply held the 50mm lens in front of my regular lens, but reversed. I’m still unsure of whether to use a large or small aperture on the normal lens. The depth of field is already compressed, and the slightest movement forward or backward changes the focus. I think the compressed depth of field comes from the reverse lens since the aperture is wide open. I don’t think the aperture on the normal lens matters. I’m also unsure of where to focus, and if changing the focus on the reverse lens matters. I need to experiment more with the focus ring of both lenses to see how they impact the images. Right now I just move closer or farther from the subject to change the focal point.

It is somewhat difficult to hold the reverse lens in the right place. An adapter of some kind would help, but since the lenses are different sizes I doubt I can find a reversing ring that would work. I may have to build my own. Having the reverse lens actually mounted on the normal lens would allow me to experiment with changing both focus rings. I’ll keep playing with this technique to see what works best for me.

I took a lot of pictures, but this is the only one that worked out. I converted it to monochrome in Digital Photo Professional and did some contrast adjustment.

Shot Details:

Taken August 23, 2007.
Normal lens: 55mm
Reversed lens: 50mm
1/50 shutter speed, f5.6, ISO 800

Dahlias in Golden Gate Park

The things you know

On our day trip to San Francisco last weekend, my wife had to take me by the dahlias outside the Conservatory of Flowers. I’m glad she did. I’m so bad with flower names I probably couldn’t have identified a dahlia myself, so didn’t really know what to expect until we got there. I had no idea dahlias came in so many sizes, shapes, and colors. My wife is a florist, so I’m a little ashamed to admit me floral ignorance. But I do like to take pictures of flowers, and this was an excellent opportunity. I geotagged the image on Zooomr so you can find out how to get there, but if you want to see them you’d better go soon. The flowers were a few days past their prime (according to my wife) so won’t be as spectacular much longer.

We went there late in the day, around 6:00 pm, so were able to park right next to the flowers. There were several other people taking photos of the dahlias, including a few people with the exact same camera I have, the Canon 30D. I’m still getting used to the controls on the camera, so I was slowed down a little. I still managed to take a couple of dozens photos in a few minutes. There are so many varieties and great shots, it wasn’t hard to take a lot of pictures. I wish I had thought to write down the flower names as I shot, or at least took shots of the little plaques with names. I’m going to need to get a notebook to start writing things down. The JPG records EXIF data, but usually there’s more going on in a shot than what EXIF records.

I used my 70-300mm IS lens to get the shots. The light was starting to fade, so even with the image stabilization a couple of shots were blurry.

Here are two other shots, the second one is the same variety as the main image:
Your Shining Face

What will be

On Closer Inspection

On closer inspection

Last week Thomas Hawk blogged about the Poor Man’s Macro technique that he read about in a JPG Magazine article back in February. Basically, if you don’t have a real macro lens you can take a standard lens, flip it around, and hold it in front of the camera to get a macro effect. Well, after a cursory read of Thomas’ post I gave the technique a try. My first few attempts did not work, at all. Then I finally figured it out, and came up with this shot. It’s the passenger side rear view mirror on my car.

I used my 18-55mm lens set at around 50mm to take this picture. I first set the exposure with the lens on the camera, then took it off and shot through it backwards. Because the lens is off the camera, the aperture is open all the way so I could only control the shutter speed. Fortunately with digital SLRs, you can see the shot immediately and figure out the right shutter speed. Metering with the lens on at the widest aperture gets you pretty close, but I had to change the shutter speed to get this shot.

The technique requires a steady hand and lot of experimentation. I tried several shots of some outdoor plants, but had a really hard time because the breeze kept blowing my subject around. With the Poor Man’s Macro, the focal range is extremely small, so the slightest movement can blur the entire image. I left the focus on the lens set and moved back and forth while looking through the viewfinder to get the shot. I suppose you could try and stay still while adjusting the focus ring, but I think that would be too hard. It’s also a little tricky holding the lens in exactly the right position to get the shot.

Also, the technique is not without risk. The JPG magazine article explains how to set it up with a two lenses, which is probably a better way to go. By taking the lens off your camera you expose it to dust. I have an inexpensive Digital SLR that is worth less than most lenses at this point, so I figured the risk was minimal. But I would recommend the two lens solution if you can manage it. I don’t like taking the lens of my camera, so I was little nervous while shooting. But the effect is so cool, I couldn’t resist.

definitely going to continue to experiment with this technique under better conditions and with different focal lengths. It was fun to try something new, and I like the results. Here’s another shot I took:

Ideally I would like to get a real macro lens because I love macro photography, but I might try to set up a two-lens Poor Man’s Macro system. I’d like to see how those photos vary from how I took this shot, and how it varies from using a real macro lens.