Wednesday, December 30, 2009

RAW, higher ISOs, landscapes

We'll be traveling again this weekend, and I plan to use the time off to experiment with a few more things on my XT.

1. Shooting in RAW. I keep forgetting to try this! It may actually take a quick look in my manual to learn how to change over to RAW format.
2. Higher ISOs. I tried ISO 800 over Christmas, which I think could have given pretty excellent results had I some good noise-reducing software (need to look into prices for that). But I'd like to also try 1600... "just to see." I'm curious!
3. Landscapes at large apertures. It's been several months now since I've really given thought to shooting with my old kit lens. Since it has the widest angle of the two, it's my only option. One reason for experimenting with this is to see if I would really get some use out of an ultra-wide-angle lens (like the EF-S 10-22). Another reason is to see if there's any way I could justify a full-frame purchase (a used 5d is the only one I'd be able to get my hands on).
4. Shallow DOF. Another experiment that could partly justify a full-frame purchase. Also, it's cool!

Results to follow.

(It's nice having this free time to use for photo experiments -- otherwise it'd be for schoolwork, likely!)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Photographing family

So, my prime did well over the holidays. However, shooting with an SLR gives you a handicap right out of the gate. People notice you & your camera. You wear it around your neck, and everybody says something to you about it. It's hard to get a candid. A longer zoom would help with that, but most long zooms don't have as low an f-stop as my prime, which means they wouldn't be as useful to me. Plus, even with IS, a longer focal length means more shake is likely. At least the prime is a shorter lens... slightly less obtrusive.

I gave my cousin Dave my Polaroid for Christmas. He took it out of the box and promptly shot off almost an entire casing of film, ha. I'm just glad he likes it. I'll miss it, but I honestly never use it anymore. It's kind of a hassle to bring along most places. But it's a neat little machine, and it makes pictures with character.

This was shot at ISO 800, f/1.8, and a shutter speed of 1/40. I was shooting quickly -- I could have taken a little more time to make sure the focus was right on, but I didn't, and it shows. Ah, well.

My prime lens did so much better in Gran's living room than the silly kit lens. Even with low, uneven lighting. This was also shot at ISO 800, f/1.8, shutter speed 1/40:

I changed the white balance significantly on those first two. The "auto"-white balance on my XT actually kind of sucks -- pretty much every single indoor photo is way off (too golden). Although, shooting with my new lens was fun because another cousin of mine just got a Nikon D3000, and he has no idea what his camera is capable of. He was wondering how I was shooting without a flash and actually getting good photos. So I got to explain a little bit about f-stops and what a "fast lens" is. Not sure he'll retain any of it, but it was fun.

This last one was taken in the bowling alley. I did very little post-processing for it other than cropping. Specs are ISO 800, f/2.5, and a shutter speed of 1/80:

I'm glad I remembered to try out some higher ISO shots. As you can see, this one came out really well. Just a little bit of noise when viewed full-size. I probably could fix it completely if I got some noise-reducing software like dFine. I should have tried a few at 1600, but maybe next time. All in all, I'm really proud of my little XT! Should have some more opportunities this coming weekend to experiment further with ISO.

Friday, December 18, 2009, flash

This shot of Mer from the last post ...

... could have been much better if I had utilized some flash equipment.

I am learning so much. And I have found my place on the web. The forums at have already helped me immensely with decisions about gear and post-processing techniques, and of course all of the reviews are really nice. I've made a wish list, which is probably a bad thing. In order (I think):

1. EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5 (goes for about $720 on Amazon now)
2. an upgraded crop body (details below)
3. EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 (going for about $990 on Amazon now)
4. a longer zoom (this is so far in the future that I'm not spending time thinking about it now, ha)

I've pretty much decided that I'll stick with crop bodies for a while. Full-frame bodies are expensive, heavy, and offer advantages that I'll probably not even use (at least for many years, if ever!). Though the one thing that appeals to me about them is the fact that the larger sensors mean that those bodies perform better in low light. However, I think I can get more than adequate performance with crop bodies, good lenses, and the right exposure settings, so saving money by staying with crops is definitely the plan.

I'm interested in the 50d and 7d now, but if they come out with a "60d" (thanks, in the next 6-8 months, that could be a definite possibility. My must-haves are:

1. excellent ISO performance at higher ISOs
2. at least 10-12mp (which pretty much all cameras have now)
3. an improved AF system (read about some problems with the 7d here, which is no good)

Also, to go back to my first point about the photo of Mer ... I obviously need to invest some time and money into learning about flash. Most will say that the on-board flash is useless in almost all situations, which I tend to agree with, unless of course you're shooting on Auto and just want a quick snapshot to record something specific. So, that means I'll need an external. Speedlite? Much more research to do in that dept., and some equip. there should definitely be on my Wish List.

I should have named this The Blog About How I Spend All My Money.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

50mm prime at night

We went to see the National Christmas tree over the weekend. I took the 50mm to see how it did at night. The results were mixed, but I have a feeling that's partly because of the operator ;) I think some of them were lucky shots, but I learned a lot.

I didn't use flash on any of the shots. I put the specs above each. I realized when taking note of all the specs that I should have tried to up the ISO on some of them. Why not? Test the Rebel XT and see what it can really do. If I'm trying to figure out which body to upgrade to, I need to know where my current equipment is lacking.

First, Ye old tree. It was a little... lumpy-looking. And it had a growth on its side at the bottom, ha. Let's just say, a little less than impressive. But it was fun to see the tree for each state/territory, and lots of the buildings in the district were decorated as well, so that was cool. And there was a yule log! Specs: 1/160, F1.8, ISO 400:

M&J were great sports and put up with my many attempts at photos of them. I'm also pleased with this one, though there's a bit of blur when blown up (camera shake, I'm sure). If I could re-do this shot, I would up the ISO to 800 and see if I could have stopped down a little while still allowing a faster shutter speed, which hopefully would have resulted in less blur. Ah. This was taken right beside the big tree. The smaller tree behind them is the one for Virginia. Specs: 1/5, f2.2, ISO 400:

You can't really see them, but there were two Christmas trees on the "back porch" of the White House, on either side of the door. Specs: 1/60, f1.8, ISO 400:

This was back at M&J's place, with their lovely Christmas tree in the background! Specs: 1/40, f2.5, ISO 800:

Had to give this shot a try. I love M's reflection on the shiny part of the ornament. Specs: 1/50, f2.5, ISO 800:

Then M got super-excited about my camera and we ran around her house pulling interesting-looking things off the shelves to shoot. The chess set did well -- some of hers are even better than this one :) Specs: 1/10, f3.5, ISO 800:

Their black dining table made for some nice reflections.

Overall, I'm fairly pleased with how the lens did outdoors at night -- as long as there was enough light to light my subject even just a little bit, I could usually get the shot. I realize I could definitely have done much better with it if I had some flash equipment (& the knowledge to use it), but I'm not into night photography enough to make the purchase(s) worth it. Besides, I already know what lens I want next, which is bad, because it'll be a little while before I can afford another one :)

Fun weekend!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


So, the white balance is off in the images from the last post. But I'm too lazy to post the color-corrected versions.

Also, here's a shot at f/4.0, ISO 200, with a much faster shutter speed. The sun was shining in through the windows Sunday morning after all of the snow we got on Saturday. The cat in the background is just an added bonus -- she walked into my frame! Guess she has a little bit of "diva" in her after all ;)

Talk about tack-sharp! I'm pleased.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

More images from the 50mm

So, I have some new images from the 50mm. These were all taken with manual focus, at the suggestion of a friend.

Specs for this one:
f/2.8, ISO 400, exposure time 1/6

Specs for the one below:
f/2.8, ISO 400, exposure time 1/5

Specs for the one below:
f/3.5, ISO 200, exposure time 0.6 secs
This one was also lit by a lamp from above and slightly behind the scene.

Specs for this last one:
f/3.5, ISO 200, exposure time 1/3
In addition to the lamp from above, I also added another lamp (relatively low light) that I placed behind me and to my left, shining directly on the blue book.

I think the first blue book photo looks better than the second one, with the additional light. I probably could have messed with the settings more on the last one, but my camera battery died pretty much right after I took this picture. Bah!

In general, I find them all sharper than the two images in the previous post. I think the manual focus helped, but also, the f-stop on them all is at least more than twice. The ISO is also up. Win, win :)

More images to come, I'm sure! This lens is awesome!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.4

The lens has arrived. I got a chance to take a few shots of one of our foster cats tonight. One disappointment in these photos is the lack of sharpness I thought I'd see. However, I think that's because the focus is off in both of these, and I think that's because I had the lens wide open. I did read in reviews that it's a little soft wide open. I think it was also having trouble focusing because of all the fur, the whiskers, etc. I was pretty close to her, too.

Neither of these shots really highlight it, either, but the bokeh with this lens is, as advertised, amazing. I can't wait to get it in some different conditions and see what it can do. I hope to have a much better handle on these indoor, low-lit shots by the time Christmas is here so I can take some good photos of my family.

On another note, kitty is cute! More from this lens soon...