Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Photo Class 3/30

The Bund in Shanghai, China
Lesson 3. No assignments for this one. Oh well. The picture above is from my May 2011 trip to China (business, not pleasure unfortunately). It was taken long before I had my dSLR, just a little Nikon point and shoot. It's quite noisy when seen full-size. Night landscapes are definitely one of my favorite types of photo.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Photo Class 2/30

This is lesson 2 of the photo class. But first, an explanation of the picture above. I set out to capture an image of the Moon and Jupiter, since they were really close together in the sky the other night (Jan 21). I wasn't very successful, though maybe someday I'll make a composite picture since I got decent exposures of the moon, and of Jupiter, but not of both together. I suppose it's a dynamic range issue, since the moon is significantly brighter than Jupiter. Anyway, back to the photo. It's not remarkable except for the little dots that look more like sensor dust than anything. Jupiter looks awful, I think it's overexposed and the wind was blowing more than my pitiful cheap tripod could handle so it's elongated too. This may be the engineer in me or maybe it's the astronomy nerd, but this photo is still awesome. That's because three of those dots are moons. Below and to the left is Ganymede, on the opposite side of Jupiter but about the same distance away as Ganymede is Io. Up and to the right from Io is Callisto. Finally down and to the right from Callisto is a star, Omega 2 Tauri. I'm still amazed that I captured this with my camera, even if it is kinda crappy from a photography perspective.

Anyway, now on to the boring part, since the rest of this post is probably really only of interest to me. The assignment for this class was pretty much to identify my camera's specifications and then to compare it with another camera. Not too difficult, because I'm a tech geek and the comparisons are something I've been doing anyway since I've been contemplating a new camera body for better low light capabilities. I've also been lusting after a fixed aperture lens.

Camera sensor/body stuff (Currently own a Canon Rebel XS, comparing to a Canon EOS 60d):

  • Resolution - Rebel XS is 10 megapixel, the 60d is 18 megapixel
  • Sensor Size - Essentially the same. XS is 22.2mmx14.8mm, 60d is 22.3x14.9
  • Sensor Quality - They're both APS-C CMOS sensors. The 60d is a generation or two newer, and has better low light capabilities (wider ISO range, and less high ISO noise)
  • Shutter - max shutter speed for the XS is 1/4000s, 1/8000s for the 60d. Flash 
  • Light Meter - the XS lacks spot metering, the 60d also has a better evaluative metering system (35 zone vs 63 zone)
  • Focus Detector - both use phase detection. 60d has more autofocus points (9 vs 7) as well as more capabilities for each autofocus point
  • Image Storage - both use SD cards, though the 60d can use the newer SDXC cards
  • Framing - viewfinder magnification is .81x vs .95x, the mirror system is pentamirror vs pentaprism and the coverage is .95x vs .96x so the 60d would have a brighter and more magnified viewfinder
Lens Stuff (currently own a few, but comparing the Canon 18-55 f3.5-5.6 IS to the Canon 17-55 f2.8 IS):
  • Focal Length - Same on the telephoto end, but the 17-55 has a 1mm focal length advantage on the wide end. That turns out to be a little bit significant, it's a 4 degree increase in the field of view
  • Aperture - The 17-55 has a fixed 2.8 maximum aperture so it lets in more light all through it's range. Especially significant at 55mm focal length, where it's 4 times as much light. The 18-55 has a smaller minimum aperture through some of it's range, but I don't think there's too much reason to ever shoot below f22.
  • Focus System - This is a big difference. The 18-55 has a micro-motor for focus. The 17-55 has a ring USM motor, which is faster, quieter and allows for focus adjustment even when autofocus is enabled.
  • Stabilization - The 18-55 finally wins! 4 stops of stabilization vs 3 for the 17-55
  • Other Features - The 18-55 focuses closer, so it has a higher maximum magnification for close-up pictures. The 17-55 also has some fancy coatings and lens elements that I don't understand.

Photo Class 1/30

This is something I've been intending to start for a while, but a combination of laziness and fear of putting my pictures out there for the world to see has held me back. Anyway, a few months ago my friend h3rl337n355 acquired a new camera and started this photo class. I said that I'd start it too, so this is the assignment from the first lesson. My favorite photo that I've ever taken.

Purple Coneflower
There's a lot that I like about this photo. I like the vivid colors, I like the bokeh, I think there's pretty good separation between the foreground and the background. I like the detail, you can see the pollen, the creases of the petals, the hair(?) on the stem.

The photo I'm going to comment on is number 34 from the lesson. I really like this photo. I like the composition, the silhouette, the birds adding interest to the sky. The only thing I dislike is the banding around the sun, but I'm not sure what you could have done about that.

Well, that's it for lesson 1. Lesson 2 should be coming shortly, since it's right up my alley.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


View from the Pinnacle in Berea, KY

I'm James. I'm an engineer in Kentucky. I'm a big fan of the English soccer team Arsenal, as well as the Cincinnati Bengals and the Memphis Tigers.

I'm starting this blog to post some occasional random thoughts and in an effort to improve my photography. I've always been interested in photography, but that interest has really expanded since I got a dSLR (Canon Rebel XS) last April. As an engineer, the technical aspects of photography certainly appeal to me, but I also think it's a good opportunity for an artistic outlet. In that vein, I have to balance the urges of the engineer in me, which is to photograph purely to document and the desire to actually improve as a photographer in the artistic sense.

I am a technophile and a gear head so photography will inevitably (or maybe it already has...) turn into a money pit. I am a bit of what I'd call a hobby whore. I have a long history of starting a hobby, obsessing for a while, spending good money on it and then losing interest. I hope to avoid that pitfall with photography. We'll see.

Photography is also a great excuse to engage in other activities I enjoy... Live sporting events, travel, hiking, hanging out with friends, visiting family etc. I'll be starting off with assignments from an online photography class that one of my friends is also working on, and then probably following that up with some Strobist activities. Thanks for reading.