Sunday, April 5, 2020

Sony Diaries #1037: The amazing Beercan!

The Minolta 70-210F4, aka The Beercan, is an amazing lens, arguably the best value telephoto zoom. It can still be found on Kijiji or Craigslist for $80-125. It seems  the production majority were good copies. I've had 3 copies but I have only kept the best one. This review by Kurt Munger reaches the same conclusion as other reviewers: great optics, great value. The Beercan was launched in 1985 and is compatible with the Sony Alpha line (I use this lens on an A77II) and with the A7 series using an LA EA4 Adaptor. Actually, it seems to me that the Beercan looks sharper on the A7III than it does on the A77II, but this observation is not based on any scientific testing.
Below are two versions of the same shot, uncropped and cropped. There is chromatic aberration (the purplish fringing around high contrast areas) such as around the wings but for the subject matter, I can live with it.
1/500 F4.5 ISO1000, shot at FL  200 (300mm)

Sony Diaries #1036: the Mallard couple is back

Every year, this Mallard pair pays a visit to the small seasonal pond in the back of the house. With the stay-at-home guidelines in this Covid19 times, I'd be home when they came. Still, it took my birder wife to alert me to their presence. So it's another year, another set of Mallard photos.
We used to think mallards mated for life; a quick Google check indicated that they only stay together until the female lays her eggs.
This pond lies behind a crisscrossed thicket of branches so the camera had to be set to Spot focus to shot through the gaps in the thicket. Anticipating the mallard's movement through the thicket is essential since the Minolta 70-210F4 (Beercan) is notoriously slow in grabbing focus. But it's not bad for a 35-year-old lens design that can be had on Kijiji/Craigslist for $100; if you're lucky, you'll get a good copy. All the shots were at the 200 (300mm length for this crop sensor)
The mallards were wary of my every movement and since  I wasn't behind a duck blind, I had to stand still or move slowly. Both flew away 15 minutes after I started taking the photos.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Sony Diaries #1035: Wrestling/Pinning down an image to suit my vision

More often than not, a pedestrian straight-out-of-camera (SOOC) image contains a diamond in the rough that when cleaned up, and polished with the right tools, will turn out to be something worth printing/showing off.
SOOC, documentary style, snapshot. Initially attracted to the colours and juxtaposition of the cat and the woman. 
Cropped for compositional strength, some colour saturation/vibrance applied. 
Final Image, eliminating distracting elements, toning down highlights, selective contrast control, selective colour saturation/vibrance control. Prints/Digital Downloads of this and other images will soon be available from my website. Details to come in mid-April.

Sony Diaries #1034: John

Sometimes, most times, and I wish it happens all the time, I get the image(s) that I feel reflects the person in front of the camera. My knowledge of my subjects varies in depth. Unlike most of my subjects for whom the portrait session is the first time I see them, I have known John, on and off, for 25 years at work. The few people I can honestly say that I know very well are my immediate family members.
My thoughts on John: An intelligent, empathetic, free spirit who has kept it all together through fatherhood and heightened work responsibilities. As with all my subjects, I encouraged them to come up with ideas. As an insightful photographer himself, John had ideas on how he wished to be portrayed.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Sony Diaries #1033: What's in my (lighting) bag?

Taking portrait photos is about capturing photons and I'm not ready to cede control of my lighting to the availability of natural or existing light at any photo location. At the same time, I realize that taking full control of lighting requires a closet-full of lighting gear. So I have to strike a balance: augment the existing light with my light, or vice-versa. Regardless of the ratio of existing to added, the added light should not call attention to itself.
In a previous blog post, I detailed my set-up for a group portrait. The setup here is for portraits of from 1-5 people.
The heart of this package is the Westcott Rapid Box Octa-S, and a Godox TT685S with a Godox X1T Transmitter. The two clips are for securing the reflectors to the light stands. And then there are the batteries.
In portraiture, a black reflector reduces or blocks out unwanted light, both quantitatively and qualitatively, falling on your subject, helping to accentuate the contours of the face and body. A white reflector does the opposite, "throwing" light into an area. The Neewer kit is a 5-in-1, with black, white, silver (more specular light effect), gold (adds warmth), and a diffusing material (for diffusing harsh light sources such as the direct sun).