Japanese Tea Garden

Another view at the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Jose.  I like how the weeping tree settles over the pond.

Photo Details
Location
Japanese Friendship Garden, San Jose, California
Camera
Nikon D800
Lens
Nikon 16-35 mm f4.0
Image
RAW
Focal Length
16 mm
Exposure
 f5.6 with ISO 200, 3 exposures at 1/250, 1/500, 1/125 sec
Post Processing
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom then Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 using 3 images

Japanese Friendship Garden

This beautiful and tranquil garden is an expanse of peace in the middle of the city. The Japanese Friendship Garden is a living symbol of the “Sister City” relationship between Okayama, Japan and San José.

I used my Nikon D800 with 16-35 f4 lens  set at 16 mm focal length and f8 aperture on a tripod and took three different exposures at 1/1000 sec, 500 sec and 250 sec.

3ExposureHDR

After bring in all the images into Adobe Lightroom, I exported the three images to Nik Software HDR Efex Pro 2 to have it use all three images and create a single image, using the best exposure from each image for different areas, a technique called HDR (high-dynamic range).

Here are a few more images I took.  All were from a 3 eposure set and process in a similar fashion.

JapanesGardenHDR

FJK_0519_HDR-Edit

FJK_0555_HDR

WordPress Twenty Fourteen Theme

One of the new default themes for WordPress is Twenty Fourteen.  Is this a good theme to use for Photographers? This theme has a nice magazine layout and handles images well, supporting a “Featured Image”, which is the image that appears above this post.   The complexity is that there are several different options on how this featured imaged can be displayed.  If the right side bar is enabled in the WordPress theme, the image will be smaller.  If you use featured content at the top, you have an option to select either a grid format, with a reduced image size, or a slider approach where the image takes the full width.

To control the crop you would need to crop before uploading your image to WordPress.  I setup a custom crop in Photoshop.

By experimentation, I discovered that an image 1038 wide by 576 high will work best for all scenarios.    Otherwise it will crop an equal amount off the top and bottom of the image, assuming the original ratio is 3:2, as is the case for most DSLRs (the ratio of 35mm film).  In Photoshop I setup a custom crop ratio using 1038×576 that makes it easy to crop the image before I upload to Word Press.

2014CropFirst

This ratio is 1.80:1, which is close to that used in wide screen cinematography.  However most advanced still cameras use a ratio of 1.5 (3:2), which is not as wide.  It is a weakness of the WordPress Twenty Fourteen theme and so far there is not an easy way to customize this theme to use a different aspect ratio.

How about the images inside the post?  They don’t get cropped to a set aspect ratio as the featured image does.  Since the images inside the post are click-able to view the full image, you may want to use a larger size.  I often pick a width of 1920 pixels, which is as wide as most monitors now days.  A color version of the featured image would then appear as shown below, but if you click on it, a full size can be viewed.

FJK201401--7

However you can see that when viewed inside the post this image is not very large.  With this theme only the featured image, at the top, is large while those inside the post are constrained, even though I used an image with a width of 1920 pixels.  This may be enough of  reason to not select this theme for displaying your photography.

One of the advantages of the Twenty Fourteen theme is that it rescales for mobile devices.  If you look at how it looks on a smart phone, you can see the advantage of using a featured image for each post.  Both the left and right side bars disappear and the right content sidebar is accesible from the drop down.  Each post has the image to the left and the title to the right, which makes this a very friend theme for a smart phone.

IMG_0935

Is Full Frame Worth the Price and Weight?

I recently moved from a Nikon D300 (1.5 crop using a APS size sensor) to a Nikon D800 full frame and wanted to do a comparison.  Realizing that the differences would be hard to see with full size images on this website, I used a small crop area, as shown in the above photo.

The difficulty in doing this comparison is the vastly different pixel count between the D800 and D300. If you are making a large print the image of the D300 needs to be enlarged by 1.71 times more than the D800. So I used a smaller crop for the D300 images, then resized to get 740 pixels across.

Since this is not a scientific experiment but just one to satisfy my own curiosity, I decided to do a comparison using only the lens I have for each format size.  Therefore the differences can be partly due to the lenses.  The size of the crop for the D800 images was 1/10 the horizontal dimension of the original image, producing a  740×740 pixel crop due to the D800’s amazing 36 megapixel sensor (7,360 x 4,912 pixels).  The Nikon  D300 has a 12 megapixel sensor.   Click each image to see enlarged since this blog might resize to fit.

D800 with both Nikon 16-35 f4 and Nikon 24-120 f4 vs D300 with Tokina 11-16 f2.8

Starting with the widest I can go on both cameras (16 mm equivalent full frame) the full frame D800 is clearly sharper.

D800-16.0-35.0-mm-f-4.0-Lens-at-16-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6

D300-11.0-16.0-mm-f-2.8-Lens-at-16-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6
D300-11.0-16.0-mm-f-2.8-Lens-at-16-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6

Going a bit less wide, 24 mm equivalent full frame, I used both new full frame lens set to 24 mm and the Tokina set to 16 mm, or 24 mm equivalent for full frame.   The first two images from the D800 look similar, as I expected based on my other comparison post between these two lenses.  The 3rd image with the Tokina on the D300 is clearly less sharp.

D800-24.0-120.0-mm-f-4.0-Lens-at-24-mm-1-500-sec-at-f-5.6

D800-16.0-35.0-mm-f-4.0-Lens-at-25-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6

 

D300-11.0-16.0-mm-f-2.8-Lens-at-24-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6
D300-11.0-16.0-mm-f-2.8-Lens-at-24-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6

 D800 with Nikon 24-120 f4 vs D300 with Nikon 18-200 f3.5-5.6

First at a moderate wide angle (35 mm full frame equivalent).  Here  the D800 full frame is much better.

NIKON D800 24.0-120.0 mm f-4.0 Lens at 35 mm 1-320 sec at f - 5.6_

D300-18.0-200.0-mm-f-3.5-5.6-Lens-at-36-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6
D300-18.0-200.0-mm-f-3.5-5.6-Lens-at-36-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6

Next is a short telephoto (70 mm full frame equivalent).  Again a rather noticeable difference It is a combination of the full frame D800, 36 megapixels and a better lens.

D800-24.0-120.0-mm-f-4.0-Lens-at-70-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6

D300-18.0-200.0-mm-f-3.5-5.6-Lens-at-69-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6
D300-18.0-200.0-mm-f-3.5-5.6-Lens-at-69-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6

Moving out to the longest I can shoot with the D800 (120 mm), the difference is similar.

D800-24.0-120.0-mm-f-4.0-Lens-at-120-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6

NIKON D300 18.0-200.0 mm f-3.5-5.6 Lens at 135 mm 1-320 sec at f - 5.6_

In summary, if you want to make large prints, then the full frame setup clearly has some advantages, but for sharing photos on the web, the APS size sensor will give you just about the same advantages for less money and less weight.

Lightroom Plugin Analyzes Metadata

I discovered a very cool plugin for Lightroom from Lightroom Analytics that takes your metadata and gives you all types of cool graphs.  It involves installing a plugin into Lightroom to export the meta data for the selected images.  You then open up a HMTL page and drag the exported data into the finder, and you are all done with a lot of graphs.

I recently acquired a full frame Nikon D800 and was wondering what lens I should buy.   To see what I have been using, in Lightroom I used the filter to see all of the thousands of images taken with the D300 and exported the metadata using this plugin.  Then I dragged the produced file into their webpage and it produced all types of graphs, including the above one.

I then looked at one of the other graphs it produced to see what focal lengths I actually used and I saw this graph, that reported them in actual focal length and also equivalent full frame.  Click the images to see enlarged.

RealFocalLength

From these charts I see that I like to shoot very wide, from the widest I had (18 mm for 35 mm equivalent) up to about 100 mm.  There were several items in the telephoto range, mostly at 300 mm, but not as many as very wide.  From this I decided to get a mid range zoom and an ultra wide zoom .

Next I looked at what apertures I was using and what shutter speeds.  The program produced these charts.

AperatureUsed

Most of the time I was stopped down to 5.6 or smaller so spending the extra money and weight penalty to get the f2.8 pro lenses maybe was not needed.  I opted for the level between the pro and consumer and purchased the Nikon 16-35 mm f4 and the Nikon 24-120 mm f4.

By using the metadata from my past photography I can better understand what type of equipment will best serve me when switching to the full frame format camera.

To cover the longer reach, I brought of our retirement my 200 mm f4 prime lens and will give that a try.  With 36 megapixels on the Nikon D800, you can easily crop if you need to get more reach.

There are many other graphs such as which camera body you are using the most (including smartphones), focal lengths, exposures, exposure bias, as well as details for each of the lenses.  Check it out.

Do You Need an Ultra Wide Lens?

I already purchased a Nikon 24-120 mm f4 lens for using a the full frame format Nikon D800. When I was shooting a D300, I had a ultra wide that I really liked, so I decided to also buy an new Nikon 16-35 mm f4 lens.  I could have bought a fixed prime ultra wide but I am not interested in constantly swapping lens.  My setup gives me an overlap in the range of 24-35 mm, where I do a lot of shooting.  I was curious in that range is there any reason to switch the the other lens, or should I just use whatever is on the camera.  I toke the same image with each lens from the same point and did small crop of the whole picture, using the crop area shown in the image above,  which across is 1/10 the horizontal dimension of the original image. Camera was set at 200 ISO, f5.6.  All shots were hand held and auto focus.

At 35 mm, this is how the tight crops compare.  Click and each image to view enlarged to a 1:1 crop.

D800-24.0-120.0-mm-f-4.0-Lens-at-34-mm-1-500-sec-at-f-5.6

D800-16.0-35.0-mm-f-4.0-Lens-at-35-mm-1-500-sec-at-f-5.6

I then shot both at 24 mm

D800-24.0-120.0-mm-f-4.0-Lens-at-24-mm-1-500-sec-at-f-5.6

D800-16.0-35.0-mm-f-4.0-Lens-at-24-mm-1-500-sec-at-f-5.6
D800-16.0-35.0-mm-f-4.0-Lens-at-24-mm-1-500-sec-at-f-5.6

The differences are not visible to me, even for this small crop.  I could do a crop in the corners, but being a practical photographer and not overly concerned about detailed charts this simple experiment is sufficient for me to conclude that there is no reason to switch to either lens so if I need something in the range of 24-35 mm, use whichever is on the camera.

For some they may question the need to buy an ultra wide zoom when I already could go to 24 mm, but there are times when I want something wider and I like the unique perspective that the ultra wide lens offers.   This is such an example.

D800 16035 f4 at 17 mm 1/400 sec at f10
D800 16035 f4 at 17 mm 1/400 sec at f10

For those who are into taking expansive landscapes, check out one of the ultra wide zoom lenses.  You can always crop an image to get in closer but sometimes you can not go wide enough to get the right perspective.  The Nikon 16-35 mm f4 lens gives you that extra wide angle and still goes to a moderate wide angle of 35 mm, making it a great walk around lens for some situations.

 

 

Nikon 24-120 f4 Lens

I just received a new lens, this one is a Nikon 24-120 f4 lens designed for the FX (full sensor size) camera.  I was looking for a mid range zoom and would have liked to get the 70-24 f2.8, but it was a very pricey and of limited zoom range, so I opted for the 24-120 even though it has somewhat mixed reviews.  I did some quick testing using my Nikon D800.  There are plenty of tests out there that use charts and you can get details, but I only want to use with the types of photography I might use it in but at the end I do give some links to real tests.

The first shot was at the widest range and using a rather wide aperture since the lens is it’s weakest there, 24 mm at 5.6.

FJK_0482-24mm

I then turned on the Vibration control, zoomed to 120 mm, opened the aperture all the way to f4.0 and hand held this shot at 1/40 of a second to test the vibration control and to see the other end of the zoom range.

FJK_0487-120mm

From the last image, I cropped only a small area to show the oranges near the center of the image.

120 mm f4.0, 1/40 second hand held - crop

Not bad, for a hand held shot at such a low shutter speed.  The vibration control seems to work well.   If I use another image taken at 70 mm, and do a crop to get a similar area it is not as sharp.  This  shows me that if I settled for a 24-70 mm zoom and needed to crop the image, I would have to overcome quite a disadvantage compared with this lens with a longer reach.  Of course in an ideal world one would have the Nikon 24-70 f2.8 and the Nikon 70-200 f2.8, but those two lens together would cost close to 5 times what I spent on this lens.

70 mm, f4.0, 1/50 second, hand held

This was just a quickly test, to make sure the lens was working correct.  My initial sense is that this lens is not as sharp as the Nikon 16-35 f4 that I recently purchased nor is it as sharp as the Nikon 24-70 f4 that I had a chance to use last month.  However it does provide a nice range and seems sharp enough for my needs.  It sits between the very expensive 24-70 mm f2.8 with a limited range and the 28-300 f3.5-5.6, which has even a very wide zoom range and a cheaper price..  I considered the 28-300 mm but I have been a Nikon lens with a similar wide range on my Nikon D300 and was always wanting something sharper and there are usually tradeoffs when you have something with over a 10x zoom range .   For those interested in detailed numbers test, you can see the DxoMark scores for these three lens mounted on a D800.  Click the link below to get to the details for each lens, here I just give the overall score, which let me to think my choice was kind of in the middle ground and a good match for the ultra wide Nikon 16-35 f4 lens I also own (reviewed here).

Nikon 24-70 f2.8: Score = 28
Nikon 24-120 f4.0: Score = 22
Nikon 28-300 f3.5-5.6: Score = 17

Nikon 16-35 mm f4 Lens

This morning I purchased the Nikon 16-35 mm f4 lens and immediately headed down to Carmel area to test it out.  It was rather large, as I expected but the weight was not so bad.   I find myself shooting a lot of landscapes and the Nikon 24-120 I have on order will not always be as wide as I want.  You can always crop but you can’t match the unique perspective of the very wide lenses.

I love some of the photos I was able to get with this lens when paired with a Nikon D800. The one above was taken at 17 mm, ISO 200, f10 and 1/400 second shutter speed.  It was post processed in Lightroom 5.

A super wide lens is not something you would normally take portraits, but this one turned out nicely.  Check out the small crop area of the camera strap to see how sharp this lens is.  It is the sharpest Nikon zoom lens I have ever owned.

FJK_0344

FJK_0344-2

For those interested in detailed test reports, this lens received a DxOMark overall score of 23 when mounted on a D800.  Not bad for a super wide angle zoom.  By comparison the much more expensive Nikon 16-24 f2.8 had a overall score of 28 but this lens can not accommodate filters and has a more narrow range.

Sunset Pacific Ocean

Many times I have gone down to the coast hoping for a beautiful sunset only to be disappointed as the cloud cover seems to quickly take over as the sun just is setting. We were taking some landscapes at Point Lobos and decided to wait for the sunset. The only problem is that I only had a ultra wide angle lens with me. Fortunately my Nikon D800 has a lot of pixels so I was able to do quite a crop using Lightroom 5, fixing the horizontal horizon at the same time.  I was able to get the result shown above.

SunsetCrop

Photo Details
Location
Point Lobos California State Reserve
Camera
Nikon D800
Lens
Nikon 16-35 mm f4
Image
RAW
Focal Length
35 mm
Exposure
f8.0 with ISO 200, at 1/160 sec
Post Processing
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Point Lobos – California State Reserve

Just south of Carmel, California is a State Reserve called Point Lobos that has some breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

Photo Details
Location
Point Lobos State Reserve, Carmel, CA
Camera
Nikon D800
Lens
Nikon 16-35 mm f4.0
Image
RAW
Focal Length
16g mm
Exposure
1/240 sec at f5.6 with ISO 100
Post Processing
Adobe Photoshop LightroomNik HDR Efex Pro 2 using 5 images of varying exposure