Wednesday, July 27, 2016

If You Don't Like Taking A Full Sized Tripod With You, Try This

Tabletop tripod held against a tree with camera in horizontal position. (click to enlarge)
Make sure you press the tripod firmly against the object.  You will find this to be very steady.
I'm not a tripod lover.  I'll use one begrudgingly if I really believe I need it to make my images. With the image stabilization available in most modern digital cameras or lenses, many of the times I would use a tripod in the past, I can successfully do without. Often times, I don't take a full sized one with me when going out to photograph.  But, I always have a tabletop tripod with me.  It is small, lightweight, less costly and a bit more limited in its versatility, but it can be very useful if you need something solid to help steady your camera.  

This is a quick post on some ways I use mine other than setting it up on a table, on the ground or other flat surface.  The images aren't the best, but you'll get the point.  A small tripod can come in very handy in many ways.  I have provided some images with explanations of how I have used mine when necessary.

Same as above but now with camera in vertical position (click to enlarge)

Using your body as a method of steadying your camera when shutter speeds are very slow. (click to enlarge)
This really does work well.  You position your feet about shoulder width apart, push the camera
down against your chest, breath out and when you fully exhale, roll your finger onto the shutter release.
Here is an example of using the side of a building to steady the camera (click to enlarge)
I have a few tabletop tripods. The one illustrated here is a Gitzo G 0011 I bought 20 or more years ago.  It has a very small, but sturdy Manfrotto 3009 ball head attached.  I also have a Manfrotto Pixi Evo 2, which can get much lower to the ground than the Gitzo and a Joby Gorillapod whose legs are flexible and can wrap around most railings and such. All are small, easy to take along and serve me well.

If you don't currently own a tabletop tripod, do some research and if you find one will provide value to your photography, you should look into buying one and taking it with you as you go about your photographic adventures.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Fujifilm Triad—Or Is It The Quadrad?

The 16-55mm Fuji lens is extraordinary, in my opinion.  Unfortunately, one can't get a good idea of
how well it performs from looking at images over the internet. (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 55mm; 1/7500th sec. @ f/2.8; ISO 200
I continue to be extremely pleased with the Fujifilm lenses for the X-cameras.  As Fuji has introduced some very useful lenses, both primes and zooms, I have an opportunity to purchase and use several of these with very satisfying results.

Nikon has its Triad (some say Trinity) of lenses that are somewhat legendary.  They are the 14-24mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8 and the 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses.  Well, I think that Fuji's triad are just as good if not somewhat better.  Fuji's lenses are the 10-24mm f/4, 16-55mm f/2.8 and the 50-140mm f/2.8.  If you want to create a word, I will add the Fuji 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 to those three to made up what I believe is an unbeatable "quadrad!"  The Fuji lenses are the latest design while Nikon's are now quite dated.

Black and white conversion in Lightroom CC 2015 (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 10-24mm f/4 lens @ 13.8mm; 1/1700th sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 200
When I stared using Fuji gear for my photography a couple of years ago, I first purchased the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 and the 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 lenses.  For relatively inexpensive, lightweight general purpose lenses, these two will serve you very well.  In fact, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using these lenses for all of your photography, as long as they fit with the types of photography you practice.  They are excellent.  I soon added the 10-24mm f/4 and was very satisfied that these three lenses as an alternate to the Triad mentioned above, and still take these three as my travel lenses (at times I substitute the 14mm f/2.8 for the 10-24mm, if space is very tight, as it is much smaller). Small, lightweight and very high quality.  Great travel kit.

100% crop of overall image (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ 115mm; 1/40th sec. @ f/8; ISO 400; handheld
If you want to spend a bit more money than the than 18-55 and 55-200, buy the Fuji Triad and what you will get are some of the best professional quality lenses available.  They will give you an edge in sharpness and resolution, build quality, color transmission consistency, contrast, and the image stabilization is second to none.  They focus fast and sure.  A nice bonus is they are very attractively priced when compared to other manufacturers' professional quality lenses.  In sum, you will be pleased with their imaging qualities.

(If you are a prime lens user, I can highly recommend the 14mm f/2.8 and the 23mm f/1.4 lenses.  I haven't yet used the 35mm f/2 or the 56mm f/1.2, but I have not found anything by anyone saying these lenses are not as good or even better than the zooms.)

I continue to be amazed at the images I can make with my Fuji lenses.  The technical image quality is superb.  The build quality is first class and the handling is balanced.  If you can't make a good image with any of these four lenses, it is your fault, not the fault of any of the lenses.

Now, add the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens to your collection and the Fuji "Quadrad" gives you the versatility and quality to do most anything you need to do photographically.  Not everything, but most things.  Focal lengths with a 35mm equivalent to 15mm to 600mm will cover most all situations for most types of photography.  If you want even more versatility, add the Fuji 1.4X tele-converter.  In my tests with the 50-140mm and 100-400mm lenses, one has to look really, really hard to find any image degradation.

85% crop of overall image (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens @ 400mm; I/550th sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 400
Shot wide open and handheld
I am very happy with these four Fuji lenses.  I can't find fault with any of them.  I think Nikon's (and probably Canon's as well but I haven't used Canon gear in a long time) legendary status is in jeopardy

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Looking Back At My First Digital Camera

My first digital camera, purchased in September 2001.
In the summer of 2001, I had the occasion to travel to Seattle for business.  Just prior to this trip, my agency had just purchased its first digital camera so I took it along with me to find out how digital photography differed from film photography and how the quality compared.  The camera was a Canon G1, which was a very versatile 3.2mp optical viewfinder camera.
Walking through the fountain (click to enlarge)

With evenings free and summer bringing a late sunset, I had the opportunity in the evenings to walk to restaurants, visit the famous Pike Place Market and and explore the waterfront.  This would be a good time to try out the G1 and make some images.  Additionally, we stayed for a couple of days after our work ended and took a trip to visit Mt. St. Helens. 

Whenever I traveled for business I always tried to either arrive a day or two early or stay a day or two late and explore the area.  Of course, I always had a camera and a couple of lenses with me.  I've included a few of the images from that trip 15 years ago.

At the time, I was rather impressed with the results of my digital experiment and it wasn't long after that I purchased my first digital camera, a Canon G2.  That was a boost to 4mp, which at the time, was close to state of the art for non-professional cameras.  I wanted to ease my way into digital photography, but was not yet ready to give up my medium format and 35mm film based photography.

I should say that I was fascinated with the technology more than the absolute image quality.  The images, because of lack of any film grain or digital noise (at base ISO) reminded me of medium format images.  Smooth tonality, nice colors and an overall pleasant look.  The instant feedback and ease of use was also very attractive to a guy who almost always used manual focus, manual exposure, etc.  But, I did find it somewhat satisfying as I had never had the opportunity to see instant results.

Recently, I looked up the specs for the Canon G2.  I was surprised as in some ways it very much outdated, but in others, it had features that are still desirable today. Thanks to from August 16, 2001 for the below lists of specifications.  The photos are also from the same site.  You can find the full page here.  

For example, the 4mp is very outdated as is its 1.8" LCD.  The ISO only went to 400 and the top shutter speed was only 1/1000th sec.  But the lens had auto as well as manual focus and one could photograph in manual, program, aperture and shutter priority.  Amazingly, the camera came standard with a wireless remote control and a 32mb compact flash card!  The G2 was a remarkably good consumer camera for mid-2001.
  • 4-megapixel CCD delivering image resolutions as high as 2,272 x 1,704 pixels. (3.87 megapixels effective)
  • Real-image optical viewfinder and 1.8-inch, color LCD monitor with swivel design.
  • 3x optical zoom, 7-21mm lens (equivalent to a 34-102mm lens on a 35mm camera) with auto and manual focus.
  • Three user-selectable focus points.
  • Digital telephoto as high as 3.6x.
  • Full Automatic, Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual exposure modes, as well as four preset exposure modes.
  • Manually adjustable aperture settings from f/2 to f/8, depending on zoom setting.
  • Manually adjustable shutter speed settings from 1/1,000 to 15 seconds.
  • Variable light sensitivity: Auto, 50, 100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents.
  • Center-Weighted Average and Spot metering modes, with an adjustable Spot area.
  • White Balance adjustment with eight settings.
  • Built-in flash with five operating modes.
  • External flash hot shoe.
  • Continuous Shooting, Stitch-Assist, Auto Exposure Bracketing, and Movie recording modes.
  • Contrast, Sharpness, and Saturation adjustment.
  • Vivid Color, Normal Color, B&W, and Sepia options.
  • Remote control and utilities for operating the camera from a computer.
  • JPEG and RAW still image file formats, movies saved as AVI / Motion JPEGs.
  • Images saved to CompactFlash Type I or II memory cards, 32MB card included.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • USB cable for high-speed connection to a computer.
  • Canon Digital Camera 6.0 software included.
  • Powered by Canon BP-511 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack, with AC adapter included.
Buying clothes (click to enlarge)
Here is a comparison between the G1 and G2.  Incremental at best, which I believe is still the business plan of Canon (and Nikon).  No radical upgrades, incremental improvements—just enough to make the consumer want to buy a new camera and spend their money.

Body Improvements/Differences
Enlarged Handgrip, Champagne metal cover
Standard grip,

gray metal cover
Startup screen, startup sound
Maximum Resolution
4.0 MP
3.2 MP
Resolution Settings
Large: 2272 x 1704/11.1MB

Medium1: 1600 x 1200

Medium2: 1024 x 768

Small: 640 x 480
Large: 2048 x 1536/9.0MB

Medium: 1024 x 768

Small: 640 x 480
Signal processing speed
Faster (twice as fast as G1)
Noise reduction
Battery Life
400 images/LCD on

1000 images/LCD off

300 minutes/Playback
260 images/LCD On

800 images/LCD off

160 minutes/Playback
Focusing Points
Manual Focus
Focusing area magnified on LCD monitor, numerical distance values displayed
Metering Modes
Evaluative, Centerweighted, Center Spot, Off-Center Spot
Centerweighted, Center Spot
Manual exposure mode improvements
Metering display when shutter button is pressed halfway; LCD monitor remains bright even when underexposure is set.
White Balance Modes
6 including new Fluorescent H for daylight fluorescents
Program Shift
Color Effects Mode
Movie Mode
320 x 240 — 30 sec.

160 x 120 — 120 sec.
320 x 240 — 30 sec.
Continuous Shooting Speeds
Continuous High: 2.5 fps

Continuous: 1.5 fps
Continuous: 1.7 fps
Startup time, shutter lag, etc.
Interval between frames in Single frame mode
1.6 sec.
1.8 sec.
Slow shutter speed range
15 sec.
8 sec.
High shutter speed and aperture combinations
1/640 — f/2.8~f/3.5 to f/8

1/800 — f/3.5~f/5.0 to f/8

1/1000 — f/8 only
1/640 ~ 1/1000 sec. —

f/8 only
Digital zoom function
True zoom up to 11x combined digital and optical
Digital teleconverter, either 2x or 4x for a maximum of 8x combined
Histogram display in Playback mode
Image magnification during playback
Image erase modes
Improved (fewer steps)
RemoteCapture functions
Improved: Live video can be shown on attached monitor as well as computer screen. Shutter button on camera remains functional.
Displays captured images only. Shutter can be released with computer only. Video out does not function while RemoteCapture is active.
USB Mounter for Mac OS 9.0 ~ 9.1
No (however, software itself is compatible with G1)
Direct Print mode with CP-10
Cropping in Direct Print mode
Accessory Compatibility
Same as G1 plus Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX
Wide, Tele and Macro Converters
Supplied CF Card

This statement from is telling.  

"At less than $900, the PowerShot G2 is sure to be a hit with professionals, corporate users, advanced amateurs, and even beginning photographers who want a high-quality camera they can grow into."

Yep, $900!  That is in the same range as the current 20mp Sonys, Nikons and Canons.
We've come a long way in 15 years.  I know I've enjoyed the ride.  I wonder what I will be writing about 15 years from now?

Falling over (click to enlarge)
By the way, I still have the camera, the battery still takes a charge and it works just as it did when new!

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Newly Discovered Location To Photograph; Part II

The Barbara J and Nikki J, Tyler's Beach, Rushmere, Isle of Wight County, Virginia (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 10-24mm f/4 lens @ 11.5mm; 1/600th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200
In my last post, found here, I mentioned that I thought I pretty much knew everywhere in my area to find interesting subjects.  Of course, I was wrong.  Using the latest technology, Google Earth®, I found a little inlet off the lower James River in SE Virginia called Tyler's Beach in the Rushmere section of Isle of Wight County.  I traveled over there to see what I could find and found a place where crabbers, oysterman and fishermen tie up their work boats when returning from their daily rounds.  

I've now been over there twice and surely I will return during the fall and winter.  Here are some additional images from that small, non-descript, semi-hidden little cove.

X-T1, 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 lens @104.9mm; 1/320th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200 (click to enlarge)

X-T1, 10-24mm f/4 lens @ 13.8mm; 1/280th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200 (click to enlarge)

X-T1, 10-24mm f/4 lens @ 24mm; 1/900th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200 (click to enlarge)

X-T1, 16-55mm f/4 lens @ 16mm; 1/550th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200 (click to enlarge)

X-T1, 16-55mm f/4 lens @ 24.2mm; 1/550th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200 (click to enlarge)

X-T1, 16-55mm f/4 lens @ 55mm; 1/220th sec. @ f/11; ISO 200 (click to enlarge)
The name of these boats is "deadrise."  As far as I know they are unique to the Chesapeake Bay region and its tributaries.  Deadrise refers to the amount of v-shape to a boat's hull.

By using some available technology and spending a bit of time I found an area I had no idea existed.  That allowed me to photograph a number of interesting subjects in multiple ways.  I was pleased with the images I made on those two trips.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Just When You Think You Have Fully Photographically Explored Your Area, You Find A Gem Of A Subject

Rushmere Inlet, Tyler's Beach , Isle of Wight County, Virginia (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 50mm; 1/600th sec. @ f/11; ISO 200
Living in the same region for the past 43 years and engaging in serious photography all of that time, going out on countless wanderings and photographic explorations, I would have thought that I knew every interesting photographic subject around.  Not so!  I was and continue to find interesting subjects that I didn't know existed.
The location in SE VA (from Google Earth®) where I found an interesting little spot to photograph. The Virginia Peninsula is to the right (east) of the James River, which is over 4 miles wide at this point.  Newport News is on the right and Isle of Wight County is to the west of the James River on the left.
A close-up of what I found using Google Earth®.  This view gave me the impetus to pay a visit and
see if this little inlet would produce some interesting images.  We need to use all the available
technology in order to locate new and interesting subject matter.
Earlier this year, I was using Google Earth® to look for places along the various bodies of water in my general area (I especially like to photograph where the water meets the land) and found a small inlet along the lower James River in which I could see had a few fishing boats moored along two piers. Isn't Google Earth® a wonderful resource?  I then made plans to visit this place to see what I could find to photograph.

X-t1, 10-24mm f/4 lens @ 10mm; 1/320th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200 (click to enlarge)

On a March morning, I drove over to this small inlet in an area of Isle of Wight County, Virginia called Rushmere (also Tyler's Beach) and found several working fishing boats as well as several half sunken boats moored along the two docks that extended from the shoreline.  I wandered around the area for a while and made some images.  Since the trees had not yet budded out with spring leaves, the images have that "winter" look.  I knew I wanted to return during the summer as the area would probably look significantly different.  Recently, I visited once more and made some additional images, which, indeed, have an entirely different look.  I plan to return again to look for any changes in the boats that are moored to the two small docks as well as any other changes that I may notice.

Black and white conversion in Lightroom CC (click to enlarge)
X-T1, 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 47mm; 1/480th sec. @ f/8; ISO 200
The point being, as much as I know about the region in which I live, I always seem to be surprised by new photographic finds.  I've learned I can't assume that I've found it all and photographed it all.  Additionally, things constantly change so don't hesitate to go back to a place you may have been numerous times.

Here are a few of the images I made of this tiny inlet with its few deadrise fishing boats as well as the small beach adjacent to the inlet.

I'll show several more in my next post.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Keeping Things In Perspective; The Old Versus The New

Pentax 6X7 and Fuji X-T1 shown for perspective (click to enlarge)
Just when I think that my Fuji X-T1 APS-C sized camera and lenses seem to be too big and heavy for an all-day photo outing, I think back to my 20+ years carrying a Pentax 6X7 with four lenses.  Just so you (and I) can appreciate the difference and be grateful for what we have to work with today, I brought out the old Pentax with a lens to show you some comparison photographs of it next to my Fuji X-T1.  Here are some of the specifications as well.

        Pentax 6X7 w/55mm f/4 lens and Meter Prism        Fuji X-T1 w/23mm f/1.4 lens

Weight               5.43 lbs. (2467 grams)                               1.5 lbs. (692.2 grams)

Dimensions  184 X 175 X 156 mm (approx. w/prism)           129 x 89.8 x 46.7 mm    

The Pentax is 43% wider, almost twice the Fuji's height (98% taller) and 334% deeper!  This giant 35mm style camera is a beast, no matter how you look at it.

(click to enlarge)
Are you kidding me?  The Pentax weighs in at almost 5 1/2 pounds with a moderate wide angle lens!  The Pentax, meter prism (prisms were sold separately and could be bought three ways: waist level, pentaprism without a meter and with a meter) and 55mm lens (28mm in 35mm terms) are really heavy compared to what we complain about today.   

Remember, I also carried a 90mm f/2.8 (normal) lens, a 135mm f/4 macro lens and a 200mm f/4 tele-photo lens. How do all those translate to 35mm?  Exactly the opposite of Micro 4/3.  You halve the focal length as opposed to double it as you would for Micro 4/3.  So a 90mm lens for the 6X7 format had an equal field of view as a 45mm lens on a 35mm camera.  These lenses were very heavy not only because of their size and the image circle they had to cover, but because of the amount of glass contained within each.  No plastic lens elements.  All heavy optical glass.  Top notch optical glass.  

For example, the 55 f/4 shown here alone weighs 25.5 oz. (725 grams).  By comparison the Fuji 23mm f/1.4 (remember also that we are talking about a relatively slow f/4 versus an very fast f/1.4 lens!) weighs just 10.6 oz. (301 grams).  That is 2.5x more weight just for one lens!

When you add filters, accessories and a very large bag in which to carry everything, the weight was well over 20 lbs.  Everything about the Pentax was oversized and you needed a huge bag in which to carry it all.  But carry it all I did.  I took it on airplanes and photographed all over the U.S.  Oh!  Don't forget the large, heavy tripod to hold all this weight steady!  Big, big, big!  But I loved it and never complained as the quality of my images was terrific.

I feel safe saying that the image quality of the X-T1 and excellent Fuji lenses equals or surpasses the huge 60 X 70 mm (2 1/4" X 2 3/4") negatives from yesteryear. There is less grain/noise in comparable ISOs, more dynamic range and better color.  Of course, to change look of your images in the Pentax days, one had to change film.  To change ISO, one had to change film, sometimes in the middle of a roll so there was money wasted. 

Don't think the Pentax lenses were second class.  Before I purchased the Pentax, I put some professionally made approximately 30" X 45" Pentax prints up against the same scene made with a Hasselblad and the Hassy had nothing on the Pentax!  The Pentax was half the cost so I went with the Pentax and it was a wonderful 20+ year marriage for the two of us.  As I have written in the past, I used 35mm mainly for slides and the Pentax mainly for enlargements.  I was never happy with 35mm enlargements, even at 8" X 10". Medium format, with its like of grain, smooth tonal gradations and subtle colors was more to my liking.  It just had a quality that 35mm couldn't match, in my book.

I think the quality of today's sensors is remarkable.  Just think of the difference between the size of the Fuji sensor versus the size of the Pentax film frame.  The Fuji's sensor is 23.6mm X 15.6mm versus a negative or transparency that is 60mm X 70mm. The area of the 6X7 film frame is almost 11.5 times larger than the area of the APS-C sized Fuji sensor.  Again, I"m loving digital photography much more than the old film days.

Below are three examples of images I made with the Pentax over 30 years ago.

 Still life (click to enlarge)

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse before the move inland (click to enlarge)

Steam Locomotive drive wheel (click to enlarge)

If you are interested in learning more about the Pentax, here is a site you can visit by a fellow by the name of Mike Butkus that has info on the Pentax as well as what accessories, etc. were available.  Pentax viewed this as a serious professional camera and had lots of accessories available. It was a first class system, in my opinion.

So, when I think the Fuji may still be too big to carry, I just keep things in perspective as to how they were for much of my photographic career.  Then, I just appreciate what I have.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy! 

Dennis A. Mook 

All content on this blog is © 2013-2016 Dennis A. Mook. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to point to this blog from your website with full attribution. Permission may be granted for commercial use. Please contact Mr. Mook to discuss permission to reproduce the blog posts and/or images.