Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Using Old Manual-focus Lenses on Digital Cameras

Decided to bring my Nikon 85/2.0 AIS lens out of retirement and mount it on my D800E DSLR. This was my second Nikon lens, purchased when I switched to Nikon cameras in 1983 (Yup, 40 years ago...). 

My choice of Nikon in 1983 was rather fortuitous.  Within a few years there would be major changes in the camera world, first with the introduction of auto-focus, and second with the increased use of electronics in cameras.  Canon introduced the new EOS mount to replace their FD mount, immediately obsoleting any investment in manual-focus Canon gear.  Minolta did something similar with their new Maxxum mount (which eventually became the Sony alpha mount).  Olympus got out of the interchangeable-lens SLR market completely.

But Nikon choose a different path.  They kept their existing F mount (originally introduced in 1960!) and added electrical contacts and a mechanical screw-drive linkage to support auto-focus.  So it was possible to use existing manual-focus lenses on the new auto-focus cameras, and use the new auto-focus lenses on manual-focus cameras.  I actually purchased my first auto-focus lens years before I had an auto-focus camera to match it with.  

The thing is, there was a definite change between the manual-focus and the auto-focus lenses.  They just felt different.  Whether it was due to a greater use of plastic in the lenses, or design changes to accommodate auto-focus, I don't know.  The focus ring on old lenses is SO smooth, it feels like you are using a precision instrument. Switching back to a manual focus lens is about the photographic experience, the feel of the camera in your hands. This doesn't mean I'll be switching to manual focus for paid assignments (not really an option with my old eyes), but this is just about the joys of shooting.

About the Photo: One of our cats, Creamy (short for Creamsicle) ISO1600, 1/125 second at f2.8. Mastin Labs Portra 160 film preset.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Fall Fantasy


Friday, December 13, 2019

2019 Bettis Holiday Party

It started 36 years ago...

In 1983 I was working as an engineer at the Bettis Atomic Power Lab in West Mifflin.  The company was planning their first employee Holiday Party, and they wanted to give everyone a free 4x6 print of their children sitting on Santa's lap.  They asked if I would be interested in taking the photos and distributing them to the employees afterwards.

Back then, of course, everything was shot on film.  The biggest problem was making sure that the photos were sent to the right parents. Each parent filed out a card with their name and address,and we had to make sure we kept them in order to they would match up with the prints.  We also had to limit each family to one shot per family.

The one thing I remember most from those early years was the line waiting to talk with Santa stretched around all 4 sides of the hall we were in, with a 2 hour wait to talk to Santa!  After that we implemented a numbering system so that no more than 10 families were in line at any given time.

I've been shooting this with a digital camera since 2003, which has simplified things immensely.  The photos are uploaded to an online gallery, and parents can download the file to print on their own.  I have also kept previous years' files online as well, and it seems every year I have one or two parents who will go through the earlier files and order prints from 4 or 5 years' worth of visits.  I love seeing the progression as the kids grow older and new siblings are added.

Shooting digital also means I can shoot more than one photo per family.  In recent years, in addition to the standard posed shot, I've been trying to include more candid shots of the kids as they intently tell Santa what is on their list, and that they've been good this year.

If you are looking for this year's photos, please click here

Monday, June 18, 2018

Remembering Joe Denardo

This past weekend Pittsburgh lost an icon, retired WTAE (channel 4) weatherman Joe Denardo passed away.  Much was made of his forecasting skills and broadcasting career.  Much was also made about his community and charity work, especially Project BundleUp and the Moon Township Parks & Recreation Board.  But I knew Joe from another charity:  The Myron Copy/Foge Fazio Golf Classic to raise funds for the Autism Society of Pittsburgh, which I have been photographing for the last 7 years.  Joe and Myron were broadcasting colleagues at WTAE, and Joe always made it a point to come out for the event.  In recognition of his many years of support, the Autism Society of Pittsburgh gave Joe a green jacket (like the Master's Tournament) in 2012.  The 2018 outing as held last Monday.  Sadly, Joe was not there.

From a photographer's standpoint, Joe was the best.  He WANTED to have his photo taken.  Almost every year, I would get to the country club and walk into the lounge where coffee and pastry were set up.  Joe would see me and immediately call me over to get a photo with whomever he was talking to.  If he ever noticed me pointing my camera at him, he would stop what he was doing and pose. 

Everyone who met Joe always has a favorite "Joe Story" to tell, so here's mine.  Every year, at the start of the golf outing,  Joe would always take the microphone and give the golfers his weather forecast for the day.  One year rain was predicted all day, but Joe told us that the rain would hold off until 2 pm.  It was a bold prediction, and looking at the sky, I thought there was no way that was correct.  Sure enough, right at 2, it started raining.

Joe said it would...

Monday, June 4, 2018

Gabby's Senior Session

How cool is it when a girl that wants to include her pet lizard in her senior photos!

Our shoot was at Gabby's favorite spot, the working farm at Round Hill Park.  This is a very nice shooting location, with plenty of great spots to shoot at.

Unfortunately on the day we had scheduled it was a cloudy day, with no chance that the sun was going to peak out for us.  So I made it a point to bring along my flash equipment, and we made out own sunshine.  I used one flash with a full CTO gel to one side and slightly behind Gabby.  This was my "sun".  And then used a second flash on camera with a 1/4 CTO filter and a bounce diffuser for a slightly warm fill light.  Increasingly this has become my go-to setup for outdoor portraits.  It is easy to set up and move from location to location.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

"Game of Thrones" Themed Photoshoot

Because I am a bit of a lighting geek, when I see a photo that I like, I will study it and try to reverse engineer how the lighting was done.  I've done it since I was in college.  Back then, if you had found a hypothetical copy of Playboy in my dorm room, there were lighting notes scribbled in the margins next to the photos.  Hypothetically, of course.  Serious geekiness, what can I say...

And this geekiness applies to TV and movies as well.  I will totally lose track of the plot because I get caught up in studying how a scene was lit. Fortunately there are DVRs, On Demand, and YouTube, so I can go back and get the plot points I missed.

A couple of months ago I was watching scenes from "Game of Thrones", and I noticed how they use color casts (white balance) to accent certain locales.  Scenes that take place in the desert usually have warm yellow/orange tones,  while scenes in "the North" (especially Winterfel or Castle Black) have a blue cast that emphasizes the cold.  And I thought "I know how to do that!"  That was where the idea for this shoot was born.

This was a bigger production than the personal photoshoots I've done in the past.  It was a challenge to pull together everything I needed for this shoot:  A red-haired model who was interested and available, a location that could pass for a castle, appropriate clothing and props, and of course, snow.  As it turned out, the biggest problem was the snow (or rather, the lack thereof)!  Even though it was officially winter, the weather here in Pittsburgh didn't want to cooperate.  We had lots of warm weather and lots of rain, which resulted in a lot of flooding and landslides in the area.  As the weeks passed and we got closer to spring, I was about ready to give up on being able to pull this shoot off.  Then a freaky series of storms blew through, and we had snow!  It wasn't going to last though, so I had to scramble to schedule the shoot on short notice.

A special shout out to my model, Hope Marie.  It was our first time working together.  She came prepared, ready to shoot, and didn't complain about the miserable weather conditions (25 degrees, no sun, and 20 mph wind gusts).  A true professional who was a joy to work with.  I look forward to working with her in the future.

For my fellow lighting geeks, here's the technical details. Godox AD200 main with Full CTO, 1/2 CTO, and a MagSphere. Godox V860ii-N rimlight with 1/2 CTB. Both lights full power. Nikon D800E. 80-200/2.8 at 135mm. ISO 100, 1/250 sec at f4.5. WB 2200K, tint -30.  Pullback for the first shot included above.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Recreating a Sunset Using Flash

One of the problems we have as wedding and event photographers is that we usually don't have any control over the environment we are shooting in.  If the church uses their Kindergarten room as their bridal room, you can't ask for another room.  If the weather isn't to your liking, rescheduling the wedding for another day isn't an option!  You have to play the cards you are dealt, and still capture the day the way your bride wants to remember it.

Off-camera flash (OCF) can be a powerful tool in these situations.  You can use lighting to accent some things, and de-emphasize other things.  You can use both the intensity and color of lighting to create a specific mood for your photos.

Last year I was second-shooting a wedding the same weekend that the remnants of Hurricane Harvey blew through our area.  The sky was solid overcast, and I knew early on that there was no way we were going to get any sort of nice sunset.  The venue had a small pond with a dock that stuck out into it.  It was a great setting, but the bland available light wasn't going to do it justice.  Nothing that adding some flashes couldn't cure.

I put my most powerful flash (a Godox AD200) on the shore near the dock, facing the couple standing on the end of the dock.  This was going to be my "sun".  I didn't raise it up too high, because I wanted to mimic a low sun right before it dips below the horizon.  I put a Full CTO (Color Temperature Orange) gel on it to give a warm glow.  I had a second flash on my camera to provide  a little fill, so the side of the couple facing away from the "sun" wouldn't be in complete shadow.  I used a 1/4 CTO gel to warm it a little, but not as much as my "sun".

The resulting photo had a nice warm romantic feel to it, but the sky was still an ugly gray.  I lowered the white balance of the image from normal daylight (5500 degrees Kelvin) to 4000 degrees Kelvin.  This cut down the orange somewhat, but it added a wonderful blue tint to the sky and water.