Archives for posts with tag: 70-300mm

I find, much to my regret and humiliation, that I am fairly consistent in my failure to post regularly. I tell myself this is because I’m selective and perfectionistic, and only post when I have something unique and generally interesting to say. I tell myself that, but the truth is I am both lazy and highly distractable. So I’m going to try an experiment that will compel me to post regularly. I will randomly (really, randomly) select one or two orposibly three photos every day from my whole history of photographing stuff (a number of years that I would prefer not to disclose, in the interest of maintaining the bloggerly illusion that I am both young and sprightly) and say just a few pertinent (or impertinent, as the case may be) things about them: where they were taken, what the circumstances were, what–if anything–about them might be interesting to others.

We’ll see how this works. Here we go…

"Eat Cake" in pink script on the side of a white stucco building with an intense blue sky

I’m starting with a bit of a cheat, since this is a pretty recent photo. It was taken at the Sweet & Saucy Shop, a bakery in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood of Long Beach, I was here for a cake-tasting as part of the traditional process involved in selecting a wedding cake. There is, by the way, nothing at all wrong with a cake-tasting: Regardless of anyone’s personal feelings about my right to be legally married (thank you, United States Supreme Court), I think we can all agree that cake is nice (and the cake at Sweet & Saucy is particularly creative and excellent). Anyway, when we arrived the sun on the white stucco was spectacular, and the sentiment of the sign was too good to pass up. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my Nikon with me, so I took this using my phone. The result is still good, even if the photography snob in me discounts it as not a real photograph. (Photo taken with a Samsung Galaxy Siii 12 megapixel smartphone)

Macro photo of a grasshopper near North Pond in Lincoln Park, Chicago

Now this one was also taken fairly recently. It’s obviously a grasshopper, photographed in a pretty outstanding macro. It helped that the grasshopper was on a fence near Lincoln Park’s North Pond in Chicago, and the weather in early October was coolish–which makes for slightly sluggish and therefore more photogenic grasshoppers. Anyway, I’m very proud of the detail in this.  (Photo taken with a Nikon D7000 with a Nikon DX 18-105 lens)

Aerial view of a rock quarry in upstate New York

Finally, just the opposite of a macro: This aerial photo was taken from a United jet somewhere over upstate New York, en route to Boston last July. I travel a fair amount for business, and always get a window seat for just this purpose, as I believe I’ve written about before. The detail here is good, and I like (or rather, don’t like) the juxtaposition of the huge scar in the earth surrounded by dense forest. (Photo taken with a Nikon D90 and a Sigma 70-300 lens)

So there we have it. Next time I do this, I may just do a very short post with one photo, or a long and rambling post with one photo, or more pictures and fewer words, or the other way around. Sometimes I’ll stick to a specific topic,when I have something to say about it. Otherwise I’ll just put up a photo and say a little something about it. I’ll try to keep me guessing, and see where that leads me, in terms of being a better and more committed blogger.

For a wider selection of randomness, visit my online gallery: EButterfield Photography.

I love bokeh. Well, really, who doesn’t? Bokeh is a term derived from the Japanese boke-aji (ボケ味 for those of you who read Japanese), which translates as “blur-quality.” Not to be That Way, but seriously: leave it to a culture that finds serenity and beauty in raked gravel to notice that the out-of-focus is often more lovely than the actual subject of a photo. Partly intentional, largely accidental, bokeh refers to the wildly and often beautifully out-of-focus background effects achieved when one part of a photograph is in focus and the rest is not.

That’s the important part, that first phrase: “partly intentional, largely accidental.” So much of bokeh depends on a fairly precise and unpredictable (at least for me) interaction of lens, focal length, light, weather, and probably the phases of the moon and alignment of the planets that it’s almost magical. It’s an effect that, to me, is like a little extra prize I discover when I first open the photo files. Oh sure, I may have had some idea that the close-up focus of a photo will likely result in interesting background effects, but I, at least, can’t accurately predict it. (If other, more clever, photographers have this whole “creating bokeh” thing down to a science, please don’t tell me; I’m perfectly happy with the “almost magical” thing.)

It’s the unpredictability of bokeh that makes it so appealing, I guess. I can plan and control and manipulate to my heart’s content, but I still can’t do everything. Bokeh is like a lovely little reminder that I do not control the world. (That I need lovely little reminders that I don’t control the world is, I suppose, an issue I should be exploring in more depth, perhaps with professional assistance.) I’ve included some of my favorite examples of bokeh from my photography here, because I can.  This is, after all, my blog. You want your bokeh samples shown, write your own blog about it.

 In any case, the bokeh becomes at least as important as the main subject, providing a flat and abstract background from which the focal subject emerges. Bokeh is a function of light and lenses that transforms an otherwise good image into art. Recently, I’ve been obsessing with the fish in the new little ten-gallon aquarium I put in my kitchen. Earlier, I know I said I’ve been obsessing with the snails, but I’m also obsessing with the fish. (The plants and bubbler seem safe from obsession for now, but I make no guarantees.)

I’ve been using a macro lens, as I’ve also mentioned before: a 105mm 1:2.8 Sigma DG Macro lens, and various manual and pre-set settings on a Nikon D90. For my through-the-glass-and-water aquarium shots, I’ve been using only the camera’s built-in flash, although I’ve also played around with supressing the flash and using only ambient light from the kitchen fluorescents and the little bulb in the aquarium top. The trouble with those shots, of course, is that the exposure times are longer, and the goldfish tend to move around a bit more than the snails do. More rapidly, at least.

So here are two examples of what happens when a macro lens is focused on a goldfish. Remember, we’re interested here not just in the fabulously captured little fishly faces, but in the blurry background as well, and how nicely it all works together.

 Close-up of a calico fantail goldfishclose-up of a calico fantail goldfish

What I really love about these is the way the fish blend into the background, the way their already-colorful bodies become part of a big, abstract, kaleidoscopic flatness. It emphasizes the clarity of the bits that are in focus (their eyes and mouths particularly), and manages at the same time to transcend the banality of “oh that’s blurry” by virtue of the extensiveness and drama of the blur. I suspect that the action of light through the water that’s behind the little fellas, and the motion of the water itself, plus the motion of their fantail fins wafting about all work together to contribute to the overall effect. In any case, it’s not just out of focus; it’s beautiful.

It’s not just macros of goldfish where this can happen. Here are two other examples of what I tend to think is pretty remarkable bokeh. One resulted from the interplay of late afternoon sun and leafy trees (using a Sigma DG 70-300mm lens), the other from focusing close-up on something other than a fish (in this case, molten glass in a glass blowing demonstration at the Orange County Fair, with a Nikon DX 18-105mm.

 ball of molten glass at glass blowing demonstrationShirtless young man walking out of a clearing

I’d love to take credit for it, but the effect took me by surprise when I downloaded these from the Nikon. Oh, wait a moment.

Er, rather, I mean: The bokeh effects were totally planned by me, using expert care and skill, and I could do it again any time. If I felt like it. Really.

OK so I admit I’m Bad: Sometimes I do not carry a full array of lenses with me when I go out into the world. Sometimes I just grab the Nikon D-90 and slap on whatever lens seems most appropriate to where I’m going, and make do. I know this makes me a bad example, a poor photographer, and probably should prohibit me from writing any blogs about photography, but who am I to run afoul of the current cultural abhorence of competency. I have a computer, dammit, and that qualifies me to blog about whatever I want to.

So this brings me to what I’m on about today: the wrong lens, and the right photographic opportunity.

Surfer surfing near Huntington Beach, CaliforniaI  set out last Sunday for Huntington Beach Pier, where I expected to take sports-action photos of surfers from the pier, which, because the surfers are actually some distance from the pier, would require the Sigma DG 70-300mm lens. That would  result in photos more or less like the one here.

I’ve actually had very good luck with surfer photos using this lens. While I covet the enormous, bazooka-size telephotos I occasionally see being hauled around by other photographers, this one does the trick well enough, at least until I find myself stringing for Surfer Magazine. They have not yet knocked on my door, however.

Anyway, I digress. The point here is that I went to Huntington Beach prepared for one sort of photography (and even, in my mind, also prepared for some bird photos, for which the lens du jour was also sufficient), but, as sometimes happen, another opportunity presented itself.

At the street end of the pier, we encountered three muscular young men who were preparing for a street performance, loudly busking to rustle up a crowd suitable to the occasion. They were The Flying Tortillas, a group of performers  who proceeded to engage in breakdancing, acrobatics, and tumbling (followed by a spirited passing of plastic buckets and not-so-subtle pleas for financial support). They spun, leaped, and hurled themselves through the air quite impressively. The problem, obviously, is that I was in a small circle of onlookers, no more than five or six feet from the performers, with entirely the wrong lens.

The solution, obviously, was to change how I looked at the Tortillas. Instead of thinking about their performance as whole people hurtling themselves around, I tried to think of them as patterns, or disembodied parts. So I used the zoom as it was intended, and got in close. By not trying to force the whole scene into view (which would have required that I leave my sweet spot at the front of the crowd and go stand twenty feet away, where I would be unable to see the performers at all), I was able to capture some interesting, unique perspectives of what the boys were doing, even from up close. As it happened, I even managed to get acceptable action shots, like this:

street performer upside down in a mid-air somersault

The lesson, then, I guess, is two-fold: One, don’t be lazy by avoiding having the right lens for a variety of unexpected opportunities. Two, if you’re going to be lazy (as I undoubtedly will continue to be, being generally weak-willed by nature), then be flexible in how you use the tools you’ve got. I could have just enjoyed the Tortillas’ show and not bothered with photos, since I had the wrong lens. I could have given up a prime viewing spot to stand back father to accomodate more traditional framings using the lens I had. Or, as it turned out, I could just force the lens I had to accomodate the moment, and be flexible in how I viewed the event. Not having the right tool for the job, it was OK to use the tool I had.

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