Thursday, 15 January 2009

Felixstowe visit over winter

I was pleased with the way this shot turned out. Firstly, the sky was doing some wonderful things, with beams of sunlight breaking through the clouds. The surf looked good and I had a good, if unplanned subject. The lad was playing "chicken" with the surf and I knew there would be lots of opportunities if I was quick.

Because I was shooting into the sun, I knew that there would be a few challenges to overcome. Apart from catching the action, I knew lens flare could be a problem, even with the lens hood attached, and that exposure would have to be carefully controlled.

I shot in RAW, so I had leeway over the exposure and set aperture priority and a high f-number, so I woudn't have to worry about focus. Then, to get the exposure about right, I exposed for the sky and used exposure lock before re-composing for the lad, placing him close to one of the rule-of-thirds' power points.

In composing, I made sure I got the diagonal lead-in from the surf, taking the eye to the beach huts and headland. And then I took three or four shots, following the above plan each time.

It was all a bit quick, the lad was off somewhere else almost immediately, so I had to make do with what I'd captured. It had to wait until I got to the digital darkroom before I knew I'd got the shot - and only then after applying a graduated filter to the sky and tweaking the contrast and levels. (I did lose a couple through lens flare, and poor subject interaction / position.)

Ok, I admit it, it sounds like a 10 minute job, but actually I spent a couple of hours on it in the darkroom. Sad perfectionist that I am ;)

I was a bit put out that I got a few blown highlights, less detail around where the sun was breaking through. It's not too bad, though. What do you think?

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Experimenting with my new Sigma 10-20mm lens

I got an unexpected gift of a new lens for my camera when I stayed with my brother and his family over Christmas. The lens was a Sigma AF MF Zoom 10-20mm f4-5.6 EX DC. For the uninitiated this means it has both auto and manual focus (AF MF) with a focal length of 10mm at one end of the zoom to 20mm at the other. The aperture varies from f5.6 at the long end of the zoom to f4 at the 10mm end.

The first shot was 10mm focal length, 1/15th second at f4, ISO 100. I added the vignette and applied a bit of dodging and burning to bring out the texture of the wood.
Oh, and in case you didn't recognise it, it's a lap-panel fence, looking down.

This second image was taken looking down another section of fence, angled using the lens to fill the frame. Technical shot details as above, but 1/50th of a second shutter speed. Again, the (heavy) vignette is mine with a final touch of d&b, contrast adjustment and a tweak on the levels. As an aside, don't you find the portrait version has much more impact? A good example of how a little thought in the framing and composition can add much more oomph to an image.

The third shot shows the rear of the house. I've chosen something with familiar geometric shapes so you can see the distortion. You can make out a little bowing on the leftmost arch but other than the normal wide-angle distortion, the lens does a good job. Once again this is the 10mm end of the zoom, at f4 and 1/160th second.

Finally, shot on Boxing Day in a low evening sun. Again this shot was taken at the wide angle end of the zoom (f4, 1/640).

Overall conclusion as judged by this short outing? It's a solidly performing, ultra wide angle lens that I'm happy to have in my camera bag. It won't see as much use as my Canon EFS 17-85mm IS USM but gives me that added flexibility (beware, it's really 27mm-136mm on the same scale as the Sigma - Canon don't apply the crop factor in their lens designations).


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