Tuesday, January 25, 2011

0 Comments
Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

In honor of my best friend.

The way we remember them...
View on Black
My picture of the day is from a photo I took a while back. I had to put my dog and best friend down the other day. She was a part of my life for 16 years.

It is said that part of the healing process is to memorialize your pet. She'll always be memorialized in my heart.

I took a break yesterday from blogging and twittering to grieve over my dog. It was harder than I expected but I'm slowly coming back into focus.

Thank you to everyone who has already sent me condolences and well wishes.

Take care of your loved ones, but don't forget to thank those that love you back, especially the unconditional ones.

Thank you Celidh for the 16 years of unconditional love you gave me. You were a great dog!

Friday, January 21, 2011

0 Comments
Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

Review: Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 vs Canon EF 70-300mm F/4-5.6L

UPATE FOR vistors from http://www.dslr-forum.de found in the comments...

Occasionally one of the third party lens manufacturers comes up with a winning combination and this is one of those times that Tamron does so with it's latest 60th anniversary edition of the 70-300 F/4-5.6.

First off Tamron didn't hold back on anything with this lens. It's got their version of image stabilizing (Vibration Control) and their latest silent auto focus motor drive (Ultrasonic Drive). I had the occasion to compare this lens against the also spectacular new Canon EF 70-300 F/4-5.6L IS USM.

Both of these lenses are priced far apart from each other, but both offer different benefits from each other. If you're one that can't bring yourself to buying anything but a brand named lens then the Canon version will not disappoint.


New Tamron 70-300 vs New Canon 70-300 L
Click to View original
Here's a pair of shots taken handheld. The Canon is much sharper but colour wise they both look pretty good. Both lenses control CA very well, but the Tamron is much softer and the VC motor is a little jittery. I actually found it disturbing, but I found the image stabilizer to be more stable on the Tamron than the Canon (this could be completely perception). The approaches are completely different by the two. Tamron tries really hard to hold the image stable then jumps a little to the next frame position. The Canon is more like a rubber band as it slowly bounces into the next frame position. Either way the performance is about equal.

New Tamron 70-300 vs New Canon 70-300 L
Click to View original
These sample shows how well these lenses holds up as a close up lenses. These remaining shots are taken on a tripod and on the 7D with IS/VC off. The higher pixel density definitely shows the weaknesses of the Tamron lens compared to the Canon. The Tamron has some lens breathing going on so the scale is much larger. Good for Tamron. Performance wise, Tamron is much better as a close-up lens. There's still some purple fringing going on in the text but generally it's still pretty sharp.


New Tamron 70-300 vs New Canon 70-300 L
Click to View Original
On this sample you can see where the Tamron is totally trumped by the Canon one. Hands down, contrast and sharpness blows the Tamron out of the water.

On the 5DmkII it's all a little more forgiving. Considering the pixel density of the 7D is so high, the Tamron fairs okay. I didn't get the chance to test the older non-L Canon but just based on perception I think the Tamron is still a better lens. Overall for the price, the Tamron is good value and is cheaper than the non L version of the Canon, but in close-up situations is much better than the L lens. I'm a macro and close-up shooter so I can appreciate how nice this lens is an up close performer.

I did not test them at 70mm so not all situations were covered, but from a 300mm perspective you can certainly see how they compare. One thing I want to add here, this comparison shows how micro adjust will not make a difference on zoom lenses. The Canon is softer than the Tamron up close @300mm, but far away the Canon is significantly sharper. Calibration of a lens is very complicated, and micro adjustment does nothing on a zoom lens with these kinds of tolerances. One thing that I'll say about the Tamron is that it is consistent from one distance to another. This might be a reasonable argument to choose the Tamron over the 3.25 times more expensive L lens.

The lightweight nature of this lens is probably the biggest seller of this lens. Combined with a low cost, I'd certainly still recommend it. Probably the most likely question is whether or not the L lens is worth the higher price tag. I'm not totally sure about that. If you're a L lens fan, then sure. The Tamron is not weather sealed, but has a Tri axial stabilizer (pitch, roll, yaw), while the Canon only has dual axial stabilization (only the new hybrid IS has three axial stabilization) Picture quality does tell a lot, but on the 5Dmk2 and in the close-up range, the Tamron appears to be an adequate if not equal winner.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

0 Comments
Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

Picture of the Day - Ultra Wide Angle Sunrise

Inner Reflection
View on Black
This is what the Samyang 14mm really excels at, ultra wide angle landscapes. So much of the Victoria Inner Harbour is in focus, and everything is sharp.

This time of the year is great as there's not a lot of boaters or water taxis in the harbour. Water is usually pretty still and great for photo opportunities like these.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

0 Comments
Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

Picture of the Day - Morning Coffee

Morning Coffee

This morning I was tasked to photograph a café for one of my clients.

This shot was just one of those spontaneous moments that just worked out well. The staff offered me a coffee. I obliged and he suggested a latté. When he presented it to me I thought what a great photo opportunity. He thought so as well...

During this shoot I thought of some other things I will be blogging about. Particularly, the fine art of commercial lighting for retail and restaurant spaces (not in the photography sense but for the consumer). Look forward to that entry in the near future.

For now, enjoy a nice latté to start up your day.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

0 Comments
Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

Comparing Lens Correction Profile Software

Last week I did a comparison of Ultra Wide Angle lenses. What I didn't discuss was how do different RAW converters and their Lens correction profiles help a typical 16-35mm image? This time using the different Lens Correction software I own, I compare DxO Optics, Photoshop CS5/Lightroom ACR engine, PTLens, and also for reference an uncorrected 14mm prime image.

Wide Angle Lens Compared

I should mention first that some of the crops look smaller than others. This is to show what happens when lens correction is applied and how much of the original image is lost. Photoshop/Lightroom loses the most, and frankly is not all that impressive compared to the others. However it does some of the CA and distortion correction, but at a huge cost of the field of view.

Lightroom/Photoshop via Adobe Camera Raw shows some limitations here. In the stock profiles, the images are still exhibiting strong CA and requires further intervention. This particular lens has a lot of lens variations, so when the settings were tweaked a little further, the results were much closer to what PTLens produces.

PT Lens does a pretty good job of fixing both distortion and CA. It also loses only a minor amount of the original field of view. it however has some alignment issues still so it's still not perfect.

DxO Optics is by far the best one. This is what equalizes the 16-35 with a prime lens like the Samyang 14mm in this respect. The field of view of course is different but it does show that with the right software that some of the problems that a zoom lenses exhibits can be fixed very well with software. It doesn't mean that it can replace a good prime, but what it does show is that if you want to use a zoom lens like the 16-35mm there are options to improve it without too much sacrifice to image quality.

Overall, the most economical choice is PTLens especially if you use Photoshop in your photography workflow, however DxO is clearly the superior choice here. The caveat with DxO Optics is that there's no third party profiles that can be added like Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom's approach is far more open and has a community of contributors that have created profiles for various lenses. From a general RAW processing point of view, I prefer DxO Optics about 80% of the time and because of that, I recommend it's Lens Correction Profile for problematic images. Also DxO Optics does a far superior job with perspective correction and control over Lightroom or Photoshop. Geometry seems far less distorted and closer to what I'd expect from a tilt-shift lens.

DxO Optics can be purchased directly from their web site available in two versions, the Standard ($169 USD) and the Elite ($299 USD) Editions. The Trial Version can be download here for a limited period of time with no limitations or watermarks.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom can be purchased directly from their web site for $299 USD and the Trial Version can be download here which also offers no limitations or watermarks.

PTLens can be found online at their web site for $25 USD. Comes with a standalone application and also a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop.

Monday, January 17, 2011

0 Comments
Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

Review: Pixel Wireless Timer Remote Control TW-282

If you’re a photographer who depends a lot on long exposure shooting, astro photography, HDR or even studio shooting, you should own a remote trigger of some sort. Whether this should be wired or not is something you’ll have to decide. For a couple of years, I’ve been using various different options and recently acquired the latest triggering system from Pixel HK - makers of the Pixel Knight triggering systems, an alternative to Pocket Wizard MiniTT1s. It’s more inexpensive than the one from Canon, and the biggest advantage is the fact that it’s a 2.4gz wireless system.


PastedGraphic2-2011-01-17-10-00.jpg
Pixel TW-282 - Transmitter and Receiver
It can double as a wired remote if you so choose, but the main advantage of this unit is the ability to use it untethered. The size of the unit may seem intimidating, but it’s shaped very well to fit in my hand. The only thing I wish it had was a lanyard loop hole. I’m likely going to add something so I can hang this around my neck. Out of the package it comes with everything you need to get going. A transmitter unit, a cord for my cameras and the receiver (when you order the remote, you have to specify which cord you want), a hot shoe mountable receiver unit, batteries and owner’s manual.

The manual is horribly translated, but for the most part, easy enough to figure things out. I don’t understand why these oversea manufacturers can’t find a proper translator.

Like most wired remotes of this type aside from the standard single, multiple, and delayed shooting, it’s a full intervalometer which allows for a full range of timed shooting for long exposure or time lapse photography. There’s options to set how many shots you want to take (or infinite), a delay function (which is handy if you set your bulb function to work in mirror up mode), and the length of exposure time. All of this can be done wirelessly through the main remote.

One real handy feature of this remote is the ability to light up the display. This is really handy in low light and especially when I’m doing black card photography where it’s nice to see what the time is (in the past I’ve counted in my head, or tried to read the top LCD display which is very difficult to do in low light). Another handy feature is the ability to use this as a wired remote. The cord attached to the side of the receiver can be pulled out and plugged directly into the top of the main remote. I would recommend this course of action if you plan to do a time lapse series to conserve the battery power of the receiver.
Wind Warning
Wireless remotes are very handy for shots like these: View on Black 

The range is very good. It’s rated for 80 meters (or above according to the manual), but I only tested it at 20 meters (65 feet). It has 99 channels plus a special ALL channel which would be handy to fire all at once if I have multiple cameras with the receiver unit as pictured on top of the camera. The transmitter is rated for 4 years on 2 AAA batteries. The receiver is rated for 400 hours on CR-2 lithium batteries.

Overall the product is very well built. A couple of weird glitches that takes getting used to (like when the remote times out in battery saver mode you need to select the bulb or intervalometer modes again) but for what I paid for this unit I highly recommend getting this over the overpriced wired name branded ones.

If you're in BC, you can order these through Kerrisdale Cameras or Lens & Shutter for around $150.  Booth Photographic Limited is now a Canadian supplier, so if you can get Cameron gear at your local camera stores, they should be able to order them in for you. For more specifications or product information, click on the link.
0 Comments
Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

Picture of the Day: January 16, 2010

Water Sculpture
View on Black
Today's picture was captured near Saxe Point Park, Esquimalt, BC, Canada in the adjacent cove called Inspiration Cove. Most people don't know the name, but it's found on water craft charts.

I didn't have a wide angle lens on me, but decided to just use what I had, which was a medium telephoto length prime, my Canon EF 100mm F/2.8 USM L Macro lens, a superb lens for all kinds of shots.

I've even used this lens for panoramic shots which can be found here. One thing I do appreciate about the combination I used is that it is weather sealed. The rain was coming down all day, and had I not had my waterproof hiking boots and the weather sealed combo, I would have not hit the shore.

Took about 20 shots, and this one was my favourite.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

0 Comments
Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

Ultra Wide Angle Comparisons. Samyang 14mm vs Canon 16-35L II

This is a republished comparison I did here. I was requested to do a comparison of the Samyang 14mm F/2.8 IF ED MC Aspherical lens to something like the Canon EF 16-36mm f/2.8L USM II on my 5DmkII so I put together a series of shots and compared the images.

So first things off, is it fair to compare a 14mm prime to a 16-35mm zoom. Well yes and no. Both lenses are Ultra-wide angle lenses and both are F/2.8 maximum aperture. One lens costs $400 USD, while the other is somewhere around $1600 USD. One is automatic focus and diaphragm, while the other isn't. So why compare? Beyond pixel peeping the versatility of the 16-35 does show it's value, but just for field of view and edge to edge image quality, there is a compelling reason to go with the much cheaper prime.

Landscape shots are really going to benefit the most with this lens, but interior type shots will also benefit from this range. However, by the very nature of all Ultra Wide Angle lenses, do tend to fall victim to a very unique and hard to correct type of barrel distortion called moustache distortion. Lightroom corrects both lenses very well, but in my long time search for the perfect UWA lens, I even have a Nikon 14-24 to try to get distortion free UWA, but it's sharpness was still something that the 16-35 mark II beat, especially in the center (The 14-24 definitely wins points for edge to edge consistency). Sigma 12-24 is also another zoom to consider. I don't own this lens anymore but certainly, of the zoom type UWA's, it had the least amount of distortion. I regretfully did not keep it when I moved from crop to full frame.

So first the images:
Wide Angle Lens Compared
View on Black
Canon 16-35mm

Wide Angle Lens Compared
View on Black
Samyang 14mm

Both of these images were shot at F/8 and on a Tripod. This helps demonstrates what the extra 2mm adds to the image. Distortion, generally speaking, is pretty similar across the board. Both displays a degree of moustache distortion which is easily corrected in Lightroom. The Canon is slightly better in that department but not easily spotted.

But here's where the real differences come in. Below is 100% crops of the images which show the apparent weaknesses of the 16-35 II:
Wide Angle Lens Compared
View on Black
Canon 16-35mm

Wide Angle Lens Compared
View on Black
Samyang 14mm

You'll have to click on the images to see the full sized effects. But on the 16-35, the amount of edge distortion and CA is really apparent. Again this can be corrected in Lightroom, but it cannot correct for the other weaknesses in the lens like sharpness (This is where DxO Optics can make the 16-35 better and unfortunately where there is no current support for Samyang).

Here's another series of images:
Wide Angle Lens Compared
View on Black
Canon 16-35II @F/11

Wide Angle Lens Compared
View on Black
Samyang 14mm @F/11

Wide Angle Lens Compared
View on Black
100% Crop 16-35

Wide Angle Lens Compared
View on Black
100% Crop 14mm

The crops show where the zoom really falls weak in comparison to the prime 14mm. The sharpness is lost and the CA is pretty bad, even at F/11.

Conclusions: Well it's not all fair in comparison. One lens is really suited for a specific task (Samyang for landscape), while the other is designed for more versatility. However when it comes to image quality, the Samyang wins over the Canon L, by a significant bit (specifically the edge to edge performance). For landscape photographers who like to shoot ultra wide, the extra 2mm is a great boon for you. Those interior shooters will appreciate the wider field of view and can use software to correct for perspective control, giving you a very inexpensive Tilt-Shift solution.

In comparison to the Nikon 14-24, the Samyang holds up well against it. I didn't have it with me for testing but I certainly don't see a major benefit of the Nikkor over it. Considering this lens is 1/3 the cost of either the Nikkor or the Canon, it's really hard to beat. But keeping this in perspective, when using Lightroom/Photoshop to correct for the weaknesses of the lenses, it becomes harder to see the differences. Although the sharpness is hard to beat on the Samyang, it isn't supported by DxO Optics which is unfortunate. Using that RAW processor, the 16-35 definitely comes out a winner in the versatility department.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

0 Comments
Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

HOW TO: Focus Stacking done easy with Photoshop CS4 or CS5

Shave and a Hair Cut... (How to do Focus Stacking)I decided that since I'm using a borrowed Canon EF 135mm lens, to try it out for product photography and for focus stacking. I dug out the light tent, and put down a sheet of acrylic plastic to create this shot. Black seamless cloth was laid down in the lighting tent.

Elinchrom Ranger Quadras were set up on either side of the tent. The left hand light was 3:1 with a 3200K gel on it, and the Left hand had the bigger power at 1:3 with no gel on it.

7 shots were taken of this with focus adjusted between each shot. Each image was imported via ACR Raw into CS5 Photoshop.

All images were then stacked by using the command found under the File Menu under Scripts>Load Files into Stack... (this will work for CS4 as well). Because I directly imported all files into Photoshop they should all be opened as separate files. You will then hit the Add Open Files button to load all the files into one document as layers. Make sure all the check boxes are off. You can skip a step if you own Lightroom and use the edit as layers on all the files selected.

Select all the layers in the layers palette and then under the Edit file command, select Auto-Align Layers... Choose the default Auto selection and hit OK. Make sure all check boxes are off.

Next under the same menu command, select Auto-Blend Layers... Choose the Stack option, and this time check the box that says Seamless Tones and Colours

Flatten the Layers and you should have an image like this with everything in focus. You do need a tripod, as well, to ensure your shots are pretty much aligned. With Photoshop, it does eliminate the need to own an expensive tilt-shift lens. As you can tell by these instructions, it's pretty easy to pull off your own focus stack.
0 Comments
Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

Introducing the New Blog

It has been some time since I've done any serious blogging, but I felt it was the time to return to this world. Something that I enjoyed in the past, but just didn't dedicate the time to do so.

Part of doing this again is partially motivated by practicing what I teach. In the classroom, I spend a lot of time discussing the importance of social media and the importance it plays in modern day marketing.Over time I'll be posting various thoughts and techniques in those regards, but also sharing my own personal experiences related to my life long career as a commercial communicator.

What is a commercial communicator? One of the things I describe about designers in the classroom is how they are more than just artists, but they are interpreters. They take an idea from a client and help facilitate a dialogue between the business and the consumer. When I went to school, we called it visual communications.

As the years and my experiences grew, I realized that it's more than just a visual experience that we as designers are responsible for, but it's also very much an emotional and psychological experience. My years in marketing taught me the importance of response and reaction. What seems like a beautiful way to tell a story by one person can be a most offensive thing to others. It is a responsibility for designers, photographers and artists to remind ourselves that the world is much larger than what we perceive it to be. We don't have to pander or cater to everyone out there. That's just not possible, but we need to be aware of them. The others, in a different context can be ourselves. Tolerance begins by understanding our own intolerances.

In the coming weeks, as I work on developing this new blog, I will be continuing to share my small tidbits at my twitter location. Please feel free to follow me and I'll reciprocate.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

T. Lam