Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year & Project 52 Launch

As we approach the end of 2009 let me wish you all a wonderful and prosperous 2010. At the same time I would like to announce that I will be starting a project 52 (1 photo per week) for 2010. I will post all shots, all processing info and all locations here on my blog. So back to the celebrations, Happy New Year!

Project 52

More Russians

Some more russian lenses I have thought of since my previous post on the subject which are quite well regarded. Also wanted to mention the fact that I have finally ordered a Jupiter-9 85mm f2.0 M42 mount lens. It may take a few weeks to arrive from Russia itself though. Anyway, back to the lenses. This list should get you started on a collection of great fun Russians

  • Zenitar 16mm f2.8 fisheye (still made new in all mounts)
  • Mir-20 20mm f3.5 (quite wide on a film or full frame SLR)
  • Mir-24 35mm f2.0
  • Mir-1 37mm f2.8 (but the later Mir 1-B is reported to be a bit soft)
  • Volna-9 50mm f2.8 Macro around 1:2
  • Industar 50-2 50mm f3.5 pancake (VERY small)
  • Industar 61 LZ 50mm f2.8 also Macro around 1:2
  • Helios 44 series 58mm f2.0 (some discussion about which is best HERE)
  • Jupiter-9 85mm f2.0
  • Helios 40 series 85mm f1.5
  • Tair-11a 135mm f2.8
  • Jupiter 37 135mm f3.5
  • Jupiter-21 200mm f4.0
  • Tair-3 300mm f4.5

A Backlit Brenizer Angel

A Backlit Brenizer Angel
Originally uploaded by jezza323

Another Brenizer Panorama from the Toowong Cemetary taken yesterday. This one is again with the Tair-11a on K200D. Its 58 images stitched with Autopano Giga 2 and edited (cropped, curves, colours, exposure brush) in Lightroom 2.5.

Processing :-
  • Shot in Manual Mode, ISO 200, f2.8, 1/320 sec shutter - Pentax RAW (PEF), custom white balance.
  • Imported into Lightroom 2.5
  • All shots in pano exported to subfolder "Pano-5" as 16 bit TIFFs
  • Stitched using Autopano Giga 2
  • Saved-as 16 bit TIFF
  • Imported result back into Lightroom 2.5 library
  • Edited in Lightroom as show below (click pics for more detail). I did use a preset for most settings. Also cropped but not shown.
Exposure Brush to show more detail in the Angel

Develop settings

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Flowering about your Resting Place

Another Brenizer shot I took today in the Toowong Cemetary in Brisbane. This one was also taken with the Tair-11a 135mm f2.8.

  • 42 shots taken with K200D, manual mode, ISO 100, f2.8, 1/640 sec, custom white balance, shot in JPEG (to save space)
  • Import into Lightroom 2.5
  • Stitched with Autopano Giga 2
  • Save as 16 bit TIFF
  • Import result into Lightroom 2.5
  • Edit as shown below
Lightroom Edits (click for larger)

Autopano Pro and Giga

Following on from my previous posts about panoramas, and the Brenizer narrow DOF panorama technique. I am briefly going to give Autopano's panorama stitching software a plug, and explain how I use it. Autopano is one of the best panorama stitching applications around. I never have had any problems with it (that weren't fixed by an update shortly later!) when stitching panoramas, even those as large as 100 shots.

I use Autopano Giga 2, although I really only use the features in Autopano Pro. My usual workflow for a panorama is as follows :-
  • Shoot in Pentax RAW, Manual mode but Auto White Balance
  • Import into Lightroom 2.5
  • Set a custom white balance on 1 image from the panorama
  • Select all images in panorama and sync the white balance to the value I chose.
  • Export all images in the panorama to a new subfolder (eg. Pano-1) as 16 bit TIFF
  • Open the new subfolder in an explorer window
  • Open Autopano
  • Create a new group in Autopano
  • Select all the files in the subfolder in the explorer window, and drag and drop onto the new group in Autopano
  • Edit the settings on the group in Autopano. Set the project folder to the subfolder location. Turn off Auto colour correction, sometimes I will increase the number of control points if there are few features in the images.
  • Click the Detect button in Autpano, it will then stitch the images and render a small preview.
  • Click the Render button in Autopano next to the preview. It will show a dialog with the render options. I render to a 16 bit TIFF with ZIP compression, and I change the output folder to be 1 above the subfolder (the same folder as the original import from camera). Also don't forget to check the output size, if the panorama is not going to be printed extremely large, scale down the render, it will save a lot of time! And finally I change the filename to match the subfolder name, eg Pano-1.tif.
  • Once rendering is complete, I return to Lightroom, library and synchronize the import folder, select Import new files, show import dialog before importing.
  • Then I deselect the All option and only select the base import folder where I saved the panorama to.
  • My Pano-1.tif file should now be present along with the original panorama frames in the library, I can edit it as I please (crop, curves, colours etc)
  • And the final step is to export to JPG for publishing and also to DNG for archiving purposes.
Well that workflow took a more to write down than I expected. I hope it helps you out next time you are doing a panorama!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Rusted Shed on a Cloudy Day

Rusted Shed on a Cloudy Day
Originally uploaded by jezza323

This is a Brenizer pano of a shed I spotted on the side of the road near Minden, Qld. I shot it with my Tair-11a (135mm m42 mount) wide open (f2.8). It is a 45 shot panorama. I would have liked to get a bit closer, to narrow the DOF a bit more. But this is as good as I could get without gumboots.

Shot in JPEG (to save space on my card)
Stitched with Autopano Giga
Adjusted levels and colours in Lightroom 2.5
UPDATE: I have since re-cropped this image and re-posted, it works much better with a tighter crop.

The Brenizer Method Pt 2

Well writing the previous post and seeing my rather lame attempt at the technique inspired me to go out into my back courtyard and try again on my basil plants. I used my Tair-11A lens (135mm) at f4.0, the final image was 100 shots! Again first is a single frame, followed by the full resulting image. The narrow DOF really makes the subject pop.

The Brenizer Method

I mentioned in a previous post a way to use panorama shooting to get a very narrow depth of field (DOF) on an image. This technique has come to be known as the Brenizer Bokeh Panorama method. A quick overview is using a fast telephoto lens (for example, 85mm f1.4 or 135mm f2.8 etc) to get a very narrow depth of field, but you also end up with a narrow field of view (obviously). So to build up your normal image you take lots and stitch them together. The man this technique is named for is Ryan Brenizer. And you can find his original guide HERE. I first read THIS guide, and find it a bit more informative. Ryan Brenizer has also published a How To video HERE. I highly recommend giving this technique a go. I have tried a couple with my Tair 11-A (135mm f2.8). The first photo following is a single shot of the panorama, to get an idea of the field of view. And then the final result. This one would have worked better had I been a bit closer to the subject (and reduced the DOF some more).

So, if you haven't tried this technique before. I suggest you get out there and give it ago. As you can see from the links I posted with the guides, you can produce some spectacular images! Don't forget all the tips from my panorama post still apply.

UPDATE: Took another demonstration shot

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Photobuddy for iPhone

I mentioned this iPhone app in a previous post briefly, but its worth its own post. You can find the official page here. It is VERY full featured and easy to use. It has the following things to offer a photographer :-
  1. Sunrise/Sunset time calculator based on location
  2. Exposure adjustments. Set an exposure (ISO / aperture / shutter speed) and add a filter, or adjust shutter speed to calculate what aperture is required for the same exposure etc.
  3. Exposure presets - some basic settings for certain situations, great for a camera with no light meter, or just to learn
  4. Depth of Field (DOF) calculator. Input your lens focal length, aperture and subject distance (you can calculate any 1 of these provided you have the others). You can then adjust various settings to work out how to get the depth of field you want.
  5. Flash calculator. Input your ISO, aperture, guide number and subject distance (you can calculate any 1 of these provided you have the others), then adjust as required.
  6. Angle of view calculator for your camera/lens combination
  7. Bracketing calculator for those manual mode HDRs (or if you want to do a larger EV variation than your camera's bracketing mode allows)
  8. Distance calculator. Input your subject size and focal length and find out how far away you need to be to fit it all in the frame.
  9. Grey wedge screen. Displays a greyscale image on the iPhone screen for helping with colour adjustment. Of course its not that useful because the iPhone screen is not colour correct either.
  10. Colour Temp chart. Some common scenarios and  the associated colour temperatures.
  11. Bulb timer. Know how long since you started your bulb shot.
  12. Bellows compensation calculator. Calculate how much light you will lose for a given focal length and bellows (or extension tube) length.
The items I find most useful are the Bulb timer, I always use it for any bulb shots I do. The Exposure calculator and the sunrise/sunset calculator. These alone make it worth the asking price, let alone all the extra features!

Tair-11A 135mm f2.8

As I mentioned in an earlier post. I bought a Tair-11A M42 mount lens on Ebay. I have seen great shots from this lens on flickr, and read plenty of great reports on it. This lens is 135mm prime, aperture is a preset adjustment and ranges from f2.8 to f22. It focuses from 1.2m to infinity and has a small built in hood.

It truely is an amazing lens. Incredibly sharp, very smooth bokeh (out of focus highlights) and is a joy to use with a lovely smooth focusing ring. Here are some shots I've taken with it since it arrived.

First a bokeh test

Then this little bird came along

And to prove how sharp this lens is - this is a 100% crop of the bird from another shot

And a technique tester shot. A panorama to get the narrow DOF effect. I'll explain this technique in a later post

A Late Christmas HDR

Just thought I would share this shot I took on Tuesday 22nd December at King George Square in Brisbane's CBD. This is a 3 shot HDR taken at +/- 2.0 EV steps, in Pentax RAW format (PEF). I took it using a my tripod, K200D and Pentax SMC DA 18-55mm AL II f3.5-5.6 lens with +2.0 EV bias (this means the shots is actually 0 EV +2 EV and +4 EV), no filters. I used the +2 starting EV to get more details from the christmas lights. The base shot settings were f13, 10 secs, ISO 100 in Av (Aperture priority) mode.

Processing was as follows

Lightroom 2.5
  • Import
  • Export all 3 files as 16-bit TIFF format
  • Generate HDR - settings shown below
  • Tone Mapped using Details Enhancer method - settings shown below
  • Save As 16-bit TIFF
  • Import
  • Crop (rotated slightly)
  • Export to JPG for Web

Cheap ND400 filters Pt 2

Here we go, finally have a shot I can post from my cheap Ebay ND400 filter.

This shot was very underexposed. I allowed for about 9.5 stops of extra exposure (I use the PhotoBuddy app for the iPhone to work out exposures) but I would say this particular filter needs more like 11-12 stops extra. A Hoya ND400 filter is specified as a 9 stop filter. This shot has +4 stops of exposure in PP (Lightroom) and the colour cast is mostly corrected (but not totally) by adjusting the white balance. Here are the settings from lightroom and the shot. Its nothing special but it does display the problems with the colour, and obviously incorrect number of light stops filtered. As you can see I am at the limit of adjustment for white balance, but the photo still shows a slight purple cast. This means you will not get true colours from this filter.

Tips for Shooting Panoramas

Shooting panoramas is something I have done a little bit of now. It allows you to really get some great large images, without having a super expensive camera or lenses. Some tips I've found from experience.

  • Avoid Parallax - Landscapes work best, where most of the image is at infinity focus or close to it. This avoids parallax error. (see here for a good article about parallax error)
  • Camera Orientation - Shoot with the camera in portrait orientation when doing a landscape orientation panorama, this gives a much better final image, not too wide for the height. With a portrait orientation panorama, shoot with the camera in landscape orientation.
  • Manual Exposure - Set the camera on manual mode, so all shots will be at the same ISO / shutter / aperture. You can use another auto mode to get the required exposure for the panorama. Pick the point in the panorama which will be brightest, and use the exposure information to guide your manual settings.
  • White Balance - If shooting JPG also set the white balance (dont use Auto white balance) so that the white balance is the same for all the shots (if you shoot RAW then make sure you set the white balance to the same for all shots before you merge the panorama).
  • Overlap! - Make sure you overlap shots by plenty. Better to have too many photos to stitch than having gaps. I aim for about 50% overlap. To do this when you compose the next shot in the sequence, have something that was at the very edge of the previous frame, and move it to the centre of the next.
  • Shoot Extra - Go extra around the edges. Dont stop where you want the final cropped panorama to finish. When correcting distortion you can often lose parts of the edges of the image. So go an extra row if you are doing a multiple row panorama, and go for an extra shot at either end of what you would like to show in the final image.
  • Manual Focus - Make sure the camera is set to manual focus. By all means use autofocus to get the correct focus, but then switch to manual. This will make sure the focus doesnt change between shots.
Thats all I can think of just at the moment, I'll add more if I think of them! :)

Good luck panorama shooting.

Russian lenses

I believe I may have a problem... I thought I had enough lenses for a while, until I saw a Helios 44-2 M42 lens (58mm f2.0) for a tiny $15, I did a quick search of Flickr and liked the look of the images from it. I bought it and its a great lens, not just great value for $15, but just a generally great lens! This lens led me into researching Russian lenses in general. I then was able to get a Mir-1 (37mm f2.8) M42 from the PentaxForums trading section from an Australian member, it included the lens, original hard plastic case and instruction in russian. I just recently replaced my Hanimar 135mm lens with a Russian Tair-11A 135mm f2.8 M42, and hope to add add the very popular Jupiter 9 (85mm f2.0) M42 lens to my collection. If you don't know much about these well regarded (and quite cheap) Russian made lenses, I suggest you look into them.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

IR72 Filter exposure issues

Along with my cheap ND400 I bought a cheap IR72 filter, again just to play with the effect more so than anything else. Again the filter is for my DA 18-55 AL II lens which I would like to replace in the future.

As some people may know, DSLRs have a filter in front of the sensor which blocks most of the IR wavelengths of light at upto 95% effectiveness. This means that when you go and place a filter in front which blocks all visible light below 720nm (like an IR72 filter) your required shutter speeds get VERY long.

Upon receiving my filter I went about taking some shots at ISO1600, 0.5sec, f4.5 handheld (got to love that Pentax Shake Reduction). What I found was that the images just came out like I had a red filter in front, not very IR at all. Today I finally got my tripod out and did some testing, I found to get a proper IR like image I needed to shoot at around ISO400, 30sec, f11 in broad daylight. The effect that you want from an IR filter is tree leaves and grass coming out white, while everything else is more like a black and white image (probably with a very red cast to it from the camera though!)

So here are some key points for shooting IR with a modern DSLR which has the sensor IR block filter still in place.
  1. Shoot RAW - you will need to play with the white balance quite a lot to get a decent image. RAW also allows some give in exposure which means you dont have to get it exact (I am finding it hard to find the sweet spot).
  2. Shoot in Manual mode - you will need to play with aperture, ISO and shutter speed to get a good exposure. The camera won't really know whats going on.
  3. Go for LONG exposures - If the shots are not coming out how you expect (looking for grass and trees to have white leaves) don't be afraid to up the exposure some more, and then some more again! Remember I needed to go to 30 secs at ISO 400 to get the proper effect with my camera. Different cameras will have different filters on the sensors though, so play with your camera to find out what works for you.
  4. Check your focus - AF should still work fine, however, it may shift slightly from what is the correct focus distance (due to light wavelengths). So make sure you check that the things you want in focus are actually in focus.

Cheap ND400 filters

I recently bought a cheap (very cheap) ND400 filter on Ebay for my DA 18-55 AL II lens. I picked the cheap option because I just wanted to play with the effect, but didnt want to spend lots on a filter for a lens I hope to replace soon.

Anyway, back to the point. Colour cast. This is where the quality difference really becomes apparent. The cheap filter produces a very pronounced purple cast. I havent tried to process any of the images yet, it is possible that setting the white balance can overcome the colour cast, but it should not be necessary.

Just another case of getting what you paid for I suppose! I will post some samples of pre and post processing soon.

UPDATE: Shots and details now available.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Well I have unexpectantly won an Ebay auction for a Tair-11a. I'm really looking forward to playing with this lens. Will post some shots as soon as I a hold of it.

UPDATE: A review of my first day's use of this lens is - Tair-11A 135mm f2.8

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Choosing a Tripod

In choosing a tripod I had to limit myself to something around $200. In this range there are few options which are of a large size. I looked into the Velbon range, but I was a bit concerned about the build quality. Teds Camera had a special going on the Slik 500 DX Pro at the time. It's actually huge, stable and perfect, and of course much cheaper than the similar sized Manfrotto 055 series.

When purchasing a tripod, remember its probably worth splashing out a bit, because this is something that can last forever! A good stable tripod will always be useful. The Velbon range was a bit cheaper, but not as stable. The Manfrottos were much more expensive, and smaller and lighter. The 055 is about the same in stability (in my opinion) but I found the Slik to be more stable than the popular Manfrotto 190 series when comparing in the store.

Last lens purchases

My final purchase was from a local forum which has a photography section. A member had upgraded his telephoto lens to something a bit faster and had his slower Pentax FA 100-300mm f4.7-5.8. I was looking to buy an AF telephoto lens at the time, so I checked its rating on the PentaxForums lens review section, and snapped it up.

This leaves my current line up as follows - Pentax DA 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 AL II, Pentax F 35-70mm f3.5-4.5, Pentax FA 100-300mm f4.7-5.8, Pentax M 28mm f2.8, Mir-1 37mm f2.8, Pentax M 50mm f1.7, Helios 44-2 58mm f2.0, Hanimar Auto S 135mm f2.8.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More Gear!

After buying DSLR I went a bit Ebay crazy for old P/K and M42 lenses. It turns out this is not the best idea if you dont really know what you are buying, which i did not. I ended up with a few cheap lenses, many of which had some sort of mechanical issue.

I realised I was wasting money. I did some more searching around and discovered This site provides some good insight into which lenses are worthwhile, and the trading section provides a good place to acquire all sorts of Pentax gear. The general consensus is that SMC (super multi coated) Pentax lenses are the pick for build quality, colour and contrast.

I went back to Ebay, and kept a good lookout for some decent SMC Pentax lenses. I managed to get hold of a Pentax SMC -M- 28mm f2.8 lens for a reasonable price. It is quite well used but it is lovely and sharp, and a great focal length on a digital APS-C sensor. Added to this were the two lenses I had borrowed from Dad's old K1000 kit. A Pentax SMC -M- 50mm f2.0, and Tokina 100-300mm which has some hazing in the rear elements, and the one good lens from my previous Ebay purchases, a Hanimar 135mm f2.8 M42 which seems to be quite good.

Later I got hold of a Pentax SMC -F- 35-70mm f3.5-4.5 on Ebay for a cheap bid. This is a well regarded older Pentax AF lens, it is quite small, sharp and cheap. Then I went looking for a better 50mm. I found a Pentax SMC -M- 50mm f1.7 (the sharpest of the Pentax 50mm's) after putting in a low bid. Soon after I was able to upgrade that to a Pentax SMC -A- 50mm f1.7 (has camera controlled aperture) for about the same price as the -M- cost me. I sold the -M- soon after.

Missing from my lens range was a telephoto lens. I bought a Tokina RMC 70-210 f3.5 manual focus lens from PentaxForums for a reasonable price. It seemed like a good cheap manual focus alternative while I waited to be able to afford something better. I took some very nice shots with this lens.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Camera Dilemma

When I first looked at SLRs in mid 2008 I was looking at something small, the smallest one there was in fact - the Olympus E420. I played with 1 in a shop, but decided I wasn't ready to buy yet.

After discussing DSLRs with my Nikon and Canon owning friends at length, both seemed to recommend a Canon. So I went to get a hands on look at the 450D at my local camera store. However upon closer inspection I discovered the 450D to be quite uncomfortable to hold, it was a bit too small for me to grip nicely. This threw a bit of a spanner in the works, as the 40D felt lovely and comfortable, but was outside my price range by quite a bit.

It was at this point that I remembered that my Dad used to have an SLR. I gave him a call and discovered he had a Pentax K1000 with a few lenses. So I got into looking at the Pentax DSLRs. As it turns out, Pentax DSLRs are compatible with all Pentax lenses (some via adapters though).

Once again cost came into the equation - the K20D was about the same price as the Canon 40D - out of my price range. The previous model was the K10D. This seemed to be a good option. I had recently seen a Samsung GX-10 sell 2nd hand for less than half the price of a new K20D (the Samsung GX-10 is a rebadged K10D).

I decided I was ready to purchase a Pentax K10D, 2nd hand. They were cheap and plentiful a month or 2 earlier. Demand seemed to have suddenly peaked, availability was down and prices were up. Then I discovered the Pentax K200D. Slightly smaller than the K10D/K20D/40D, but larger than the Canon 450D, and with the same sensor as the K10D. It seemed to be a competitor to the 450D but had in body IS (SR) and had a top LCD, which the 450D did not. Pricing was cheap, very cheap compared to the 450D.

I went shopping for good prices. After a couple of weeks I dropped by my local JB Hifi, the K200D was on special for only $644. About 2 hrs later I went back to the store and I was the proud owner of a Pentax K200D DSLR with a Pentax SMC DA 18-55 AL II f3.5-5.6 lens.


I have decided to start recording some of the information I collect in my brain before it comes too full. I read a lot of forums and general stuff on the internet, lately I have been particularly interested in photography. So I am going to try to pool any useful information I gather here. I will also do some equipment reviews, link to some bargains, link to other interesting blogs, articles, photographers, photos and so on.

Hopefully this blog can be useful to someone out there. I know it will help me to keep all my info together, and make it easy to find those little details I had forgotten about!