Monday, December 29, 2008


Medium softbox and white seamless (and a beautiful toddler).  D3, 24-70 f/2.8, 1/250@f/16.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Camera Bag Zipper

There is not much information available about the bokeh characteristics of the AF Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 D, so I thought I'd give it a workout before I used it for portraits on a Nikon D700.  
I picked a fairly stark (and convenient) B&W subject to make the effects of chromatic and spherical aberration easy to see. The shot is Nikon D700, 105mm, f/4.0 @ 1/60s using on camera flash for fill.  

The Micro Nikkors are highly corrected to control chromatic and spherical aberration.  What we see here is, I think, a pleasant bleed of black into the white background, with no hint of chromatic aberration or geometric distortion.  I must say that even compared to the Leica-M 90mm f/2.0 Summicron and Zeiss 180mm f/4.0, my pre-digital portrait workhorses, the transition from dark to light feels very smooth, despite the Nikkor having only a seven blade diaphram.  

More serious tests to come, but this is encouraging.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Beauty Lighting

Making progress with the portrait lighting.  This photo of Trina uses Joe McNally's classic beauty light formula with softboxes above and below.  Retouched in Photoshop and Lightroom.  D3, Nikon 105mm f/2, 1/100 @f/11, ISO 100.  I strongly recommend Joe McNally's book: "The Moment It Clicks".  It's a wonderful and inspirational book, one of the best photography books I've found.

Sand Dollar

This unusual piece is a petrified Sand Dollar and was a gift to my wife from her generous husband.   D3, Nikon 60mm f/2.8, 1/200 @ f/32, ISO 200

"Brick by Brick, My Citizens, Brick by Brick"

Macro lens + medium softbox + black velvet.  This Denarius was struck during the reign of Hadrian around 120 AD.  D3, Nikon 60mm f/2.8, 1/200 @ f/32, ISO 200

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

St. Louis at Dusk

St. Louis, December 7th at about 5:00 PM.  Nikon D700, ISO 200, 50mm f/1.8D, f/5.6 @ 1/100s.  It was nearly dark.  The first few shots were over exposed by quite a bit, giving great detail on the statue, but bleached the sky and blew out the moon, so I did a -1.0 in camera exposure compensation.  I'm finding the D700 tends to expose for shadows.  Cropped in Lightroom 2 with some added post crop vignette.  The sky color is straight out of the camera.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Seated Buddha - St. Louis Art Museum

My first picture of this Buddha dates back to 1971.  At the time is was behind glass and I shot Kokak Ektachrome 160T on a Nikon F.  Today, I revisit the subject with a Nikon D700, ISO 1600, 50mm f/1.8, f/2.0 @ 1/500s, WB tungsten, 14-bit RAW.  I can say that this new shot has better color, more detail and is noise free compared to the Ektachrome grain.  I used Lightroom 2 to crop to 4x5, take the exposure down -0.76 and add gradient filter effect top and bottom.

Running Artemis Study #4

Today I made a trip to the St. Louis Art Museum to give my new Nikon D700 a workout.  I wanted to revisit some shots I made with a Nikon D100 to get a feel for differences in handling and image quality.  My first stop was to see "Artemis Running".  With half the exhibit rooms emptied out, I'm pleased that Artemis is still on display, although in a dark corner.

Tech details: Nikon D700, 50mm f/1.8D, ISO 1600, f/2.0 @ 1/500s, 14-bit RAW.  I use auto white balance and auto exposure because I usually find Nikon's approach to be naturalistic and pleasing.  In this case, however, I used Lightroom 2 to set WB to tungsten and take the exposure down -1.0.  Reviews I've been reading agree that the D700 tends to over expsose, but it is too early to tell for me.

The image is nearly noise free, even at the pixel level.  The D700 is shaping up to be my favorite camera yet.

Moon: December 7, 2008

View of the moon from my deck using my new Nikon D700.  The "lens" is an old, inexpensive, Celestron telescope that is the quivalent of 1000mm @ f/11.  Starting with the "sunny 16" rule, I figured that the moon needs about +1 stop, so for ISO 400 I used 1/400s.  This shot is hand held, so in spite of the lens, it could be sharper.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Egyptian Abstract - St. Louis Art Museum

On the lower level of the St. Louis Art Museum, there is a room with a sky light.  On a sunny afternoon, visitors are treated to interesting show shadows cast on the wall.  In the foreground is small Egyptian antiquity.  Nikon D100, ISO 1000, 24-85mm @ 85mm, f/5.6 @ 1/200s.  Selenium conversion in Lightroom 2.  

Monday, December 1, 2008

Oktomat Photography Experiment

This year for my birthday I received an Oktomat camera made by the Lomography company. It's a fun a little camera that shoots eight consecutive shots over 2.5 seconds, using an aperture of f/8 and shutter speed of about 1/100th of a second.

I took the above shots using Walgreens brand ASA 800 film. The first is of the Tivoli in University City, while the one of the Arch was taken by sticking my hand and camera out the window while driving on the Poplar Street Bridge over the Mississippi.
Some thoughts on the Oktomat experience:
  • I liked the tactile experience of using film again and the nostalgia of smelling the chemical coating. But it was a real pain trying to thread it into the camera.
  • Nice ergonomics. I'm becoming unhappy with the bulkiness and handling of a lot of digital cameras. This one was light and fit well in my hand.
  • Not being able to review a shot after you take, especially in a camera like this, makes it hard to know what you are doing right and wrong. This is a especially a problem because of the next point.
  • 10 bucks to develop 24 shots and have them burned on a CD! That's a shocker after getting used to 'free' digital pictures.
  • The view finder is a little inaccurate, as you can see with the large amount of sky in the Tivoli picture.
  • One of the 'charms' of this camera is the light leaks, which can sometimes give an unexpected coloring to a photo. In the two rolls I shot, I thought they simply ruined the picture.
I'm not sure how often I'll use the camera, but taking it out every once in a while will be fun.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Nikon D100, ISO 200, 24mm, f/11 @ 1/250s.  The light was very flat, so some curves adjustment and WB applied in Lightroom 2.  A few people were removed using Photoshop CS4.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Ragtimers at Dressel's Pub

The St Louis Ragtimers play at Dressel's every year on the night before Thanksgiving in honor of Scott Joplin's birthday. I brought the wide lens and showed up early because i hoped to get in close and get a shot like this. The stage was fairly dark and I eventually used just a straight-up bounce (SB-800) at -1 2/3. I would have liked to fill the shadow under the hat but any straight-on light seemed too strong. The lights seen in the window are street lamps on Euclid. The B&W conversion is the Aged Photo preset in Lightroom with the saturation all the way down and the brightness kicked up. Nikon D200, ISO 400, 1/20 at f/4, Nikon 12-24mm at 24.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Young Lion

This male lion is around two years old.  Nikon D2x, ISO 200, 1/125 at f4, Nikon 300mm f/4, lens, Gitzo carbon fiber tripod w/RRS head.  I'm also using an RRS replacement tripod ring - the original Nikon ring is notoriously unstable.  

Friday, November 14, 2008

Infrared Water Lily Pads - MoBot

Nikon D100, ISO 200, 105mm Micro w/Polarizer and Hoya R72 Infrared filters, f/16 @ 1/6s, Bogen tripod and ball head.  The original is dark red and very flat, despite the backlight.  Retouching in Photoshop CS4 to remove coins on the upper left pad and a stray leaf on the foreground pad, then Sepia conversion in Lightroom 2.  After some hit and miss results, I find that the best workflow for digital Infrared is to edit in Photoshop first, then finish up in Lightroom.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Three Lily Pads

Early September, late afternoon light at Mobot. Shooting around the Chihuly glass is getting very difficult! Nikon D100, ISO 200, 105mm Micro w/Polarizer and graduated ND, f/16 @ 1/15s using -0.5 exposure compensation.

Bald Landscape 1979

A while back I scanned some negatives of landscapes I shot in the late '70s and just got around to looking at them in Lightroom. This is a straight scan, no manipulation. I took this between setups on a fashion shoot, using the exterior of a building 180 degrees behind the shooting position. If memory serves, this from a Leica M2, 50mm w/B+W black net filter, f/8 @ 1/25s on Agfa 25 developed in Rodinal. A Starbucks beverage of your choice goes to the first person correctly name the location :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Autumn, Heron Pond

At Heron Pond I was amazed to find the Bald Cypress had turned and were dropping leaves.  Nikon D3, ISO 200, 1/25 at f/8, Nikon 24-70mm lens, WB 5000k, Gitzo Carbon Fiber Tripod w/RRS Head.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Marble Torso Study #2 - Phantom of Liberty

I find this work one of the most intriguing pieces in the St. Louis Art Museum.  It just dawned on me that I've been admiring this statue for more than 50 years, making it perhaps my oldest friend!  Nikon D100, ISO 800, 50mm, f/1.8 @ 1/80s.  Cropped and color corrected in Lightroom 2.

Abandoned House, Karnak, Illinois

Not exactly St. Louis, this is near Heron Pond in the Shawnee National Forest.  I used the Direct Positive preset then reduced saturation by 15.  24mm at f/8.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Decayed Gourd Study

Lightroom 2 antique greyscale conversion with the contrast dialed down.  The print actually looks like an albumin contact print.  The detail blocks up in the JPEG conversion, but the seeds really pop.
Here is the original grab shot with Nikon D100, ISO 200, 24-85mm @ 85 in Macro mode, f/11 @ 1/350s.  Cropped in Lightroom 2.1.  The color reminds me of a much better execution of the same subject by Irving Penn from ~1959.  Even just doing a casual homage makes me appreciate just how amazingly good Penn is.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Fence

FenceKodak EasyShare LS743, 4.0MP, White Balance: Daylight, Flash Mode: Off, Hand held

Monday, October 20, 2008

for Tyler: Four Flies and a Bee

Pumpkin Farm - number one grandson picked this one out of thousands and requested a picture. Nikon D100, ISO 200, 60mm, f/9.5 at 1/320s.

Having a Bad Day?

Just when you thought things couldn't get worse, a giant lizard jumps out of your underwear drawer, hungry for a snack! At least you wife will stop razzing you about that bronze club you keep on the dresser, you know, just in case. Nikon D100, ISO 200, 50mm, f/11 @ 1/400s.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

First Photoshop CS4 Picture

Photoshop CS4 has some very nice new features applied to classic tools. For instance, the clone stamp now has a preview - you can see the effect before it is applied, making for faster, more accurate editing. This picture is Nikon D100, ISO 200, 105mm Micro, f/16 @ 1/90s. Color and exposure corrected in Lightroom 2, then some minor clean-up in Photoshop. I'm looking forward to getting to know CS4.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Buddha Bust #5 - St. Louis Art Museum

Bust of Buddha from the St. Louis Art Museum. Nikon D100, ISO 800, 50mm, f/2.0 @ 1/40s. This is my fifth version of the statue.

Infrared Test 2a - Water Lily - MoBot

Here is the final picture for Infrared Test 2 - Water Lily. First in Lightroom 2 I added a gradient, tilted slightly from the upper right. Next, some dodging, burning and spot clean-up in Photoshop CS2. Finally, back in Lightroom 2, applied the standard sepia preset and dialed down the default highlight levels. I think I'm finished...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Infrared Test 2 - Water Lily - MoBot

I got the Infrared filter out again today. Here is the "straight" shot, Nikon D100, ISO 200, 105mm Micro, f/16 @ 1/10s with circular polarizer.

Infrared RAW image, same camera and lens, f/16 @ 1/6s, but this time with a Cokin 007 filter (equivalent to a Kodak Wratten 89B). I like how it drops the water to a pure black and eliminates the leaf coloring. A straight B&W conversion from the color would not have these benefits.

The same file as above converted to albumin print tint in Lightroom 2. It still needs some Photoshop work to give the blossom a pure white to make it pop, but I like the overall design and 1890's feel. I'll post an update if I ever get around to finishing it :)

Pink Lotus Blossom - MoBot

Usually noon is not good landscape light, but I got lucky with surrounding trees acting like gobos. A MoBot worker cut the bloom two minutes after this was shot. Nikon D100, ISO 200, 105mm Micro, f/16 @ 1/60s, cirular polarizer.

Detritus #22 - Pond Drain, Tower Grove Park

I haven't had a new entry in the "Detritus" series since 2004, but this one raises the bar for complexity in accidental still life. I didn't touch a thing here. It reminds me of an art director with whom I worked for many years in my commercial days.

Nikon D100, ISO 200, 35mm, f/5.6, 1/60s, on-camera flash, 8x10 crop in Lightroom 2.

Climatron Flower - MoBot

I came upon this beauty shining through in the dappled sunlight. Nikon D100, f/5.6 @ 1/500s, cropped for 8x10, otherwise straight from the camera.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Marble Torso - St. Louis Art Museum

Astounding workmanship by an unknown ancient.  Nikon D100, ISO 400, 50mm, f/2.8 @ 1/40s. Remind me to start doing crunches.  

Monday, September 29, 2008

Infrared Test 1, Tower Grove Park Fountain

Recently I had a few questions about digital infrared technique and my early experiments, so I thought I'd share my first shot on this blog.  First, a "normal" reference image, Nikon D100, 105mm f/2.8 Micro, f/11 @ 1/500s.  No manipulation.
Same camera and lens, using a Hoya Infrared R72 filter, f/11 @ 1/8s (camera automatic exposure).  The R72 passes light above 720nm.    

Curves auto-correction of the red image above in Nikon Capture yeilds an interesting false color image, not unlike a color infrared image.

Finally, a B&W conversion in Photoshop.  I think the effect is somewhere between a true B&W infrared film capture and a Photoshop channels manipulation. 

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Praying Mantis

This was a giant Praying Mantis found in some backyard grass. No cropping - I was very close to it. Taken with a 90 mm Tamron macro lens and Canon Digital Rebel. ISO 200, f/16, 1/20 sec.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pinhole Test 1 Update

Same pinhole shot with a little Lightroom 2 post processing: color correction, curve adjustment, slight sharpening, boosted saturation and a vignette.

Pinhole Test 1

I've been meaning to try this for years, not sure why it took so long... First, a reference shot.  This is my back yard, late afternoon.  Nikon D100, 50mm, f/11, 1/350s.  Focus was on the bench.  Note the complete lack of water in the background :)  I chose 50mm for the first reference test because my pinhole "lens" is a body cap with, you guessed it, a pin hole in the center.  I estimated the distance from the cap to the sensor to be about 48mm, so it seemed like a good fit. 

The pinhole shot, Nikon D100, ISO 800, pinhole body cap, est. f/180, 1/2s.  Angle of veiw is wider than the 50mm.  Color shifted -700K, but I found it was easily corrected.  I was expecting edge fall off, but illumination is very even.  The ISO noise looks enhanced by the large circle of confusion, much like film pinhole pictures look more grainy. 

I'm not trading in my Nikkor glass any time soon, but I've always wanted to explore the world of photographers like Ruth Thorne-Thompson.  Now I'm one step closer. 

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hummingbird in Flight

These are aggressive little guys - buzzing around, dive-bombing each other. Need the ISO of Ray's camera to stop his wings. Canon Digital Rebel, ISO 400, f/4.0, 1/100 sec. and taken with Canon's 300 mm f/4 lens.