Take me out to the Ballgame

I am a baseball fan. And at risk of alienating many of the readers, I am a Phillies fan.

I have had the chance to tour the Citizens Bank Park twice. During my most recent trip, I brought my D850, about a week after I’d returned from the Faroe Islands (posts on the Faroe Islands trip will come…. at some point).

During this outing, the tour passed a wall in one of the nicer floors of the stadium. This wall is covered in baseballs.

My first attempt at the balls on the wall perspective

While this photo is mostly unedited, it is one of the few in focus to show what I was initially thinking about on this photo. I will admit, I do like this perspective. However, I was not happy with any of these photos. Perhaps I will be able to try again soon. Quite often when working the scene, you’ll find hints of things you like, even if you don’t like the final result.

At some point after this photo, my wonderful, beautiful, and amazing girlfriend who totally didn’t write this line started to take some interesting photos of this wall.

I really like this framing. It makes it look like the wall goes on forever, is clear what the subject is, and the images goes left to right. Left to right is the preferred kind of image in parts of the world where we read left to right.

I know this is basically the same as the last photo, but it is right to left, so it isn’t the same

I didn’t edit the previous photo, but you can see that the framing feels different. Right to left vs left to right is very different, at least in the USA.

If you like this second version better, let me know. Maybe I will revisit it and edit this photo to be a ‘keeper’ version.

Anyways, that’s all for this image. Until next time.

-B

2019, a Review

I always like to put a technical look into the year before and try to summarize it in the first 3 months of the following year.

The Technical Stuff

In 2019, I created 21,940 photos and about 48 videos. This makes 2019 my 2nd most prolific year, behind #1, 2016 (the year where I went skiing for New Years, visited the Big Sur coast in California, spent 5 days rafting down the Grand Canyon, went to the Olympic Peninsula, and spend a month in Australia and New Zealand). 2019 is the first year where my photos used more than 1 TB.

So many photos…

2019 was defined by 3 large photo events. #1, like 2018, was the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC. #2 was a 2-week trip to the Faroe Islands and Norway in August. #3 was a trip over New Years to Banff, AB, Canada. #3 will show up on the 2020 year in review as well.

2019 has some smaller events as well. This included a trip to several historic rail roads in Pennsylvania (Jim Thorpe, Strasburg), several trips to the beach, and a Hot Air Balloon Festival in Lancaster.

Unfortunately, I was unable to visit Longwood Gardens for the Christmas Lights this year. Oh well, maybe in 2020.

Not shown, a GoPro, because LightRoom cannot open the video files

In terms of cameras used per year, this is the first year my D850/D800 won. In 2019, I clearly preferred my newest camera over the D750 for 2016-2018. These results surprised me, because I thought they would be closer together. I think there is a reason for this, which is revealed in the next section. For the first time since 2009, my D300 is not on the list. Guess it might be time to get rid of it.

Lenses per year gives some insight into the camera per year

Wait a minute, my most used lens was a 200-500mm? Where did that even come from?

The 200-500mm lens was a new purchase for 2019. It was primarily purchased for the previously mentioned Faroe Islands trip in order to chase puffins. This is also the reason the D850 had more photos in 2019 – the autofocus on the D850 is just better, and puffins are notoriously obnoxious to try to shoot. The majority of those 6471 images are of puffins. The rest are, mostly, me attempting to shoot images of the moon.

My second most used lens was last year’s most used lens, the 24-120 f/4. What can I say, it is a really good lens for when I want to save some weight. The third most used lens was last year’s number 2, the 24-70 f/2.8. Guess I really like this focal range.

Everything else was about in line with the usage in 2018.

The breakdown of Camera:Lens Combination is:

D850/D800

D750

I don’t usually look at these results before writing this post. This actually surprises me. The really surprising part is how little I used the D750 last year.

The Good Stuff – New Stuff

As previously mentioned, in 2019, I aquired the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens and a GoPro Hero 7. And yeah, I now own a selfie stick too.

The Good Stuff – Travels

I mentioned this above, but, 2019 was a lot of smaller weekend trips, with a really big trip to the Faroe Islands and another one to Banff.

The Bad Stuff – Gear Repairs

For the first time ever, I had a non-warantee repair on a camera lens. My camera bag, unfortunately, fell out of my car. The 14-24 lens was damaged and needed to be serviced at a Nikon repair center. It was quite expensive, but the service center did a really good job and the insides work like it was new.

The Bad Stuff – Missed Goals for 2019

I was not able to meet my goal of learning how to produce videos better nor generating an income from photography. While I realize it is a poor craftsman who blames his tools, one of the reasons I’ve struggled with video is because my laptop, which is a now-3 year old Lenovo, simply struggles too much to make videos consistently.

2020

For 2020, my plans are this:

1 trip currently being planned – Cherry Blossoms in DC in the March-April timeframe.

Goal: Actually start to make some money, whether it is stock photos or something else.

Goal: Update the blog more often. Learn how to use Gutenberg, which has replaced the old WordPress post editing system.

Goal: Work on learning how to make videos, maybe even launching a YouTube channel.

Stretch Goal: Work with a brand to showcase their gear in amazing locations.

To the future-
-Brad

Brad’s Travel Tips: Quick Tip – Hotel Business Cards

For a Thursday, here is a quick travel tip: When in a new city, always carry the business card of your hotel.

This is a travel trip that I have never seen elsewhere. Everyone who uses this tip always thanks me.

If you have the business card, it has the address where you are staying, and just as importantly, it has the phone number of the front desk. If you are in a place that is new, and doubly so if you are in a place where you cannot speak the language, this is all you need to get to your bed. If there are any questions, the driver can call the front desk. This is also helpful if you do not have a roaming plan.

That’s it. A simple, small piece of paper. Enjoy.

-B

2018, A Review

Better late than never.  A look-back at 2018 and the photos I took during that year, from a technical an analytical perspective.

I originally wrote this in February of this year, but never published it.  I’ve done light editing, but left the rest as it was.

In the second of my look-back posts, I’m going to try to cover the events of my last year in Photography.

The Technical Stuff

In 2018, I created 15,014 photos and 131 videos.  This makes 2018 my 5th most prolific year, behind #4, 2010 (the year I spend 18 days in Hawaii).

ImagesPerYear

Unlike past years, 2018 did not have a single dominant trip.  There were 3 events in 2018, the National Cherry Blossom Festival in April, a week long trip to Utah in July, and the local Pennsylvania Christmas Celebrations at Longwood Gardens and Bethlehem in November/December.

CamerasPerYear2019

For the cameras used per year, I clearly favored my D750 for the 3rd year in a row.  But for the second year in a row, the reason is somewhat clear.  I use the D750 for star trails/low light situations where only the D850 can come close.  Since the D850 is a purchase late in 2018, we’ll have to see what happens in 2019.  I still prefer the D750 for my first time exploring an area due to the weight.  I frequently combine the D750 with the 24-120 f/4.0 due to the high quality and lower weight.

LensesPerYear2018

My lens usage in 2018 wasn’t even close.  The 24-120 f/4.0 lens was by far the favorite, accounting for nearly half of the photos taken last year.  It really is a solid N-Series lens from Nikon, and it has really become a favorite, all-around, no-compromise lens for when I can only carry a single lense.  It is also the cheapest of my N-Series lenses, as it was sold in a kit with my D750.

The other lens I want to call attention to is the 28-105 f/3.5-4.5.  This is my oldest lens that I still use.  It was the one that Ken Rockwell once called the worst lens Nikon has ever made.  I love it.  It is far from perfect, but it has a macro mode that produces some great images.  These are from a D750 and D300 (itself a 10 year old camera) from 2018.

_DSC8696

_DS38883

I have had this lens in constant usage since 2002, when I bought it as a pair to my Nikon N80, a film camera, for my college photography class.

The breakdown of Camera:Lens Combinations is:
D800/D850

Lenses8008502018

D750

Lenses7502018

While my D850 is more or less a replacement for my D800, in November and December, I did find myself using the D850 in the very low light conditions where I would previously have used my D750.  I think the results for 2019 will be interesting.

The Good Stuff – New Stuff

As mentioned above, in 2018, I was finally able to acquire a Nikon D850.  Due to the release of the Z-series, this may be my last Digital SLR, but time will tell.

The Good Stuff – Travels

In 2018, I only had 2 trips.  The first was a long weekend to Washington DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival, something I hope to do in 2019 as well.  The second was a week long trip to Utah for the Milky Way.  This trip was somewhat of a bust, but it did result in one of my favorite trips of 2018 and one where I learned a lot about lightning photography.  I plan on going back to Utah in 2020 to try again.  My trip was with Enlighten Photography ( https://www.zion-photography.com/ ) out of Zion National Park, a company I highly recommend, and a company I will be using in the future.

The Bad Stuff

Knock on wood, there was nothing I would consider the ‘bad stuff’ in 2018.  I did get somewhat unlucky in Utah – in that I did not get my target images – but I still got some phenomenal images and the trip was worth doing.

I did not, however, accomplish my 2018 goal of getting great video produced.  I also was unable to make progress in making photography a side job.

2019

As of now, my plans for 2019 are this:

2 Trips – Cherry Blossoms in DC in March-April timeframe.  Faroe Islands in September timeframe.

My 2019 goals are: Generate income from photography that pays for the trips, and learn how to better produce video because video seems to be important.

My 2019 stretch goals are: Work with a corporate sponsor to showcase their gear at an amazing place.  I managed this image, but Eddie Bauer (maker of my jacket, I love this jacket) did not reply – https://www.instagram.com/p/BlZhrP5h3oA/ .

To the future-
-Brad

An Upcoming Topic

I’m currently working on finishing up something that was requested of me a few years ago.

I’m working on what looks to be a 2-3 part post on traveling super light on a photo trip, based on my rafting trip down the Grand Canyon about 2 years ago. On this trip, I was limited to 30 lbs of ‘stuff’. This stuff included all of my photo gear, cloths, and consumables for 6 days. I hope it comes off as a very enjoyable and helpful read.

Brad’s Quick Travel Tip #2 – Avoiding Long Flights

The inspiration for this post comes from my father.  In a recent conversation, my father said that he would never visit Australia, simply because he never wanted another 15 hour flight.  I showed him how you can get to Australia without any flight over 8 hours.

The secret for USA to Australia and New Zealand?  Hawaii.  From anywhere in the USA, you can get a ~6 hour flight to the West Coast (LA, San Fran, Seattle, etc), where it is a ~6 hour flight to Honolulu (HNL) Hawaii.  Auckland, New Zealand (AKL) or Sydney, Australia (SYD) are a relatively inexpensive 7-8 hr flight from HNL.  Or if you’d prefer, Denver (DEN) to Honolulu (HNL) is about 8 hours.

Alternatively, HNL to Japan’s Tokyo Narita (NRT) is about 8 hours as well.  Although this is probably not worth the effort, as NYC (JFK) to NRT is about 12 hours and Seattle (SEA) to NRT is about 10 hours.

On the other side of things, a person living in Sydney Australia can get to Europe without any flight over 8 hours.  This person would go SYD to HNL (many airlines, including QANTAS, Jet Star, Hawaiian), HNL to SEA (Hawaiian or Alaskan), SEA to KEF (Keflavik, Iceland on Icelandair), then finally KEF to anywhere in Europe.

This tip likely works best for Americans.  Due to flight schedules, there may be a 24-48 hour layover in Hawaii, which is such a terrible thing.  I am aware that most non-Americans do not like doing international transfers through the USA.  But no matter who you are, it is an option.  And if you do not like the long haul flights, this is an option to avoid them for a large portion of the world.

Until next time-
-Brad

Brad’s Quick Travel Tip #1 – American Airlines

I recently traveled on American Airlines and I discovered something interesting.

I live in Seattle, and as a result, I have a Frequent Flyer card for Alaska Airlines.  Alaska and American have a new partnership.

As a result of this partnership, having an Alaska Airlines MVP number, grants you early boarding on American Airlines.  I have the base status on Alaska, but, I was still able to board the plane before about half of the rest of the plane.  American boarded their higher tier frequent flyer, high tier people in the OneWorld frequent flyer plans, and First/Business class before me, but I boarded before the people who purchased regular tickets, with the AAdvantage ‘Gold’ status members or OneWorld ‘Ruby’ status members.  See here – https://www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/boarding-process.jsp

So, if you are traveling in coach, do not otherwise have any airline status, do not intend to build miles on American or OneWorld airlines, and are not flying in business/first, you can sign up for the Alaska MVP program and board before most people.  It doesn’t cost anything, and it does not even require you to have ever flown on Alaska Airlines.

Enjoy!
-Brad

The Math of the F/Stop Progression

As a quick post, I’m going to mention something that everyone seems to have difficulty with.  This is a little math-heavy and I’ll try to simplify it.

F/stop progressions.  Why do I have to double my shutter speed when going from F/2.0 to F/2.8?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to double my shutter speed when I go from F/2.0 to F/4.0?

The F/stop is related to the diameter of the aperture of the lens, or the width of the circle of light that shines on the sensor or film.  The key word here is ‘circle’.

Everyone remembers that the area of a circle is area = pi * r^2.  The number in the F/stop is related to the Diameter, which is 2 * radius.  If you want to cut the area of the circle in half, you need to divide the diameter (and thus the radius) by the squareroot of 2.  The squareroot of 2 is 1.4142136 … but for our purposes, 1.4 is good enough.

This is why the F/stop progression is 2.0, 2.8, 4.0, 5.6, etc.  Each of these numbers are about 1.4 apart (2 * 1.4 = 2.8, 2.8 * 1.4 = 2 * (1.4 * 1.4) = 2 * 2 = 4).  Each stop is the same as increasing the diameter/radius by 1.4, and doubling the size of the opening.

Now you may be thinking to yourself, “self, this makes it look like the numbers are in reverse order”.  The piece to understanding the order is in how the F/stop is normally stylized, F/2.8, F/4.0, etc.  The / in math means divided by.  It means the aperture is set to the focal length divided by the number represented in the F/stop.  For example, on a 120mm lens, at F/4.0, the aperture is 120mm/4.0 or 30mm.  If we stop down to F/8.0, the aperture is 15mm.  A circle with a 30mm diameter has an area 4 times the size of a circle with a 15mm diameter, thus, F/8.0 lets through one quarter the light of F/4.0, and is a change of ‘2 stops’.

I hope this helps understand everyone understand one of the less obvious parts of photography.

-Brad

Useful Tips : Photographing Fireworks and Getting a Result

Happy New Year everyone! This is going to be a quick post about photographing fireworks, and making the best of what you get. It also includes some tips for people who just want to go to bed early.

Tip #1 – Arrive early. In most places, there will be a lot of competition for places to view and photograph the fireworks. If the fireworks are starting “when it gets dark enough”, like the 4th of July in the USA, you want to arrive about 2-3 hours before dark and set up. If it is at midnight, like New Years Eve, you want to be in place at least 3 hours ahead of time, depending on how popular the spot is.

However, if you are photographing from a place you own or rent, you are fine. I like to use my apartment window because #1 – I can set up during the daylight, and #2 – January is cold, and I want to sip my champagne in peace.

Tip #2 – Fireworks are a big light source. This light will bounce around and can create reflections or illuminate things you don’t want seen. If you are shooting through a window, the fireworks can light up your room and cause reflections in the glass. Use a black cloth to eliminate this reflection as much as possible. I like to tape the cloth around the lens and to the glass, if possible. If you don’t have something that is black, use the darkest color available.

Tip #3 – Find your settings early. My go-to is iso200, F/8, 3 seconds. I like 3 second exposures.

Tip #4 – If you can leave your camera, use a self timer. I prefer to use the internal timer when possible (my D800 and D750 both have internal self timers). My older cameras do not. So I set the camera to iso200, F/8, 3 seconds, and set the self timer to start a 35 minute exposure starting at about 11:55 and ending around 12:30. The camera thinks the shutter is being held down and takes back-to-back 3 second exposures, and I get to enjoy the fireworks or sleep. In general, I like my self timers for purposes like this (they also work great with sunsets when you want to photograph them and watch them – this lets you enjoy the event with your significant other). Self timers are also great when you can set things up early, then enjoy some adult beverages which may otherwise prevent you from taking the images.

Tip #5 – If you are trying to take the lazy aproach, be prepared to work with what you get.

Expanding on Tip #5, 2 years ago I set everything up on a self timer, taped a dark cloth to the window, and went to bed. When I woke up, I had about 300 photos, only 100 of which had fireworks. But, the tape I was using didn’t hold, so the 100 fireworks images all looked like this.

Crap.

While it was disappointing, the right half of the image turned out, so there was hope. Since I knew that the D800 has a crazy high resolution, and I can make big prints from even a vertical crop of a horizontal image, I did just that.

This cropping was able to save my image

I like the results. Especially considering the non-ideal situation that caused these to be my only options. I am setting up one of my cameras for the fireworks this year to try to get something similar.

As I write this, there is about 9 hours remaining in the year. I’m going to spend the next few hours getting 3-4 cameras set up and ready, then probably sit down for a relaxing day. Once the cameras are set up, I’ll make a post on Instagram with what the setup looks like.

Happy New Year! And best of luck in 2017.

-Brad

Compressed RAW Files

This post is my thoughts on this well intended, but slightly misguided, post on Digital Photography School.  NOTE – this post was written in June of 2016, if something changes, updates will be noted here.

Personally, I always shoot at 14-bit Compressed RAW.  For me, it is better to shoot at 14 vs 12.  While using 14-bit does create larger files, for me, this is not an issue.  But, I do not work weddings or sports where shooting 14-bit may clog down the system due to processing large numbers of large files.

Now, I like math.  I like math a lot.  I also understand light and electronics.  Here are my thoughts.

14 bit raw does not buy you much except when it does.  To fully explain what it buys, I have to explain how your eye works vs how an image sensor works.  I’m going to use an example.

If you take a room with 1 lit candle, then add 1 more lit candle, your eye will really notice the difference.  If you take a room with 1000 lit candles, then light one more, your eye will not notice this at all.  This is because your eye works on relative brightness.  Doubling the light is very different vs an increase of 0.1%.  However, a camera works off of absolute brightness, which means that both examples are the same increase in brightness, or an increase of 1 candle.  Minute Physics has an explanation of this.

With the Gamma Curve, and relative brightness levels, what does the bit-ness mean and what does it give you?

The simplest answer – the bit-ness matters in the shadows and the shadow detail.  If you have a well lit scene with very little shadow detail, there will likely be no easily discernible difference in 12 vs 14 bit.  There will certainly be differences between 12 and 14 bit RAWs, but they are mostly in the file size and the after capture flexibility.  The less you want to push the shadows in the final image (vs at capture) the less 14 bit matters.  If you shoot HDR or shoot brackets for some kind of HDR usage, you should be fine with 12 bit.

In this part, I do not disagree with the DPS post.

Where I do severely disagree with the post is in compression.  This part of the discussion shows where the author lacks computer science skills.

Side note – this is about lossless compression only, and is based on my experience with Nikon cameras.  This does not cover lossy RAW, which is available on Nikon and Sony cameras.  Nor does it talk about sRAW files.

Much like how in photography every choice you make is a trade-off, compression is the same.  But in compression, the trade-off is more interesting.

Let’s take a file that is 100MB.  In this situation, the file can be compressed to 60MB with 1 additional second for processing time.  This file can be uncompressed with a modern CPU in half a second.  The question very quickly becomes — does compression make sense?  The next question is, how long does it take to compress the file, and is the storage system able to handle uncompressed vs compressed faster.  For storing the file, if you can transfer 20MB/sec, the 100MB file takes 5 seconds to transfer and the compressed file takes 1 second to compress and 3 seconds to transfer, for a savings of 1 second.  If you can transfer 100MB/sec, the larger file transfers in 1 second, and the smaller file transfers in 1.6 seconds.

If you shoot compressed RAW, opening the file on a computer later could take slightly longer (due to needing to decompress the file).  But a computer normally is fast enough that this doesn’t matter.  You may not notice a difference in the compressed file vs the uncompressed, especially if you have a SSD and a CPU from the last 3-4 years.

Compression may shorten the battery life on your camera.  The longer the camera CPU and sensor are idle, the better your battery life.  Transferring and compressing both use power.  With a relatively new camera, this is unlikely to make a difference of more than 5% change in the number of images per charge.  My DSLRs can shoot nearly 1000 images on a single charge, so +/-50 isn’t a huge deal.  With a modern camera and a slower memory card, it is more likely that you notice that images save faster if you use compression.  Only once you hit the fastest of the fast for memory cards (say, a latest generation QXD card) would compression increase the time required to save a RAW to the memory card.  I am not saying you should buy cheaper cards, but I am saying that most people will not need the fastest generation of cards, and would be better off buying 2-3 of the previous generation of cards for the same price.  Also, if you compress your files, they will take up around 30% less space on the card, making those 3 64GB last gen cards even better than the 1 128GB current gen card.

In short, the math proves that for the vast majority of people, compressed RAWs will be a benefit.  I will be happy to edit/append this post if I am wrong within the next 2-3 years (note, the year this post was written or updated).

-Brad