Archive for the VWBlog Category

Why I’ll Never Be an Actor

Posted in eBooks, Filter, Good News, Humor, Instruction, Photography Gear, Techniques, Videos, VWBlog with tags , , , , , on May 26, 2011 by Darwin

Note: To see all future reviews please note this blog is no longer active, please visit us over at oopoomoo.com

Some of you may have seen the goofy video that Samantha and I made called “Six Silly Uses of the UV Filter“.  That video is below if you haven’t  suffered through it yet. You wouldn’t believe hard hard it was for me to make that video (or if you know me, you might not be surprised at all). It seems I just couldn’t and still can’t memorize lines. So much for my acting career…. Oh well, check out the blooper video below and watch me stumble over and over and over again. I may not be able to act but at least I am having fun – I think. Be aware there is a bit of cursing involved (I seem to remember how to say those words perfectly well!). And of course Samantha was flawless (well almost).

The Sigma 85mm f1.4 as a macro lens?

Posted in Art of Photography, Articles about Photography, Good News, Lens Review, Photography Gear, TCBlog, Techniques, VWBlog with tags , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2011 by Darwin

Almost anyone who has been photography for awhile knows that an 85mm focal length lens is considered perfect for portraits. The lens is flattering to the human face and an 85mm lens is relatively small and unobtrusive. With a fast aperture of f1.4 you can get micro-thin slice of focus that makes your subject pop off the screen in a sea of blur. No wonder wedding photographers, journalists and fine-art photographers love a fast 85mm lens (see this review of the Sigma 85mm lens for portrait shooting).

I had planned to use my Sigma 85mm lens to do pet portraits and kid photos but have not yet set up any shoots of these subjects. This weekend for grins I went out with just the 85mm to see what I could do with nature subjects. Right away I found out that the Sigma focuses really close and at f1.4 I got a really lovely wash of blur that looked painterly (see below).

Closest focus with the Sigma 85mm lens at f1.4

I loved the look of the shallow depth-of-field but wanted the lens to focus even closer. The easy answer of course is too add an extension tube which is simply a hollow tube that pushes the lens away from the camera and allows the lens to focus closer. To learn more about extension tubes see this link.

I grabbed my set of Kenko extension tubes and slapped the 36mm tube between the camera and the Sigma 85mm lens. Suddenly the Sigma portrait lens focused super close and I could make frame-filling photos of all sorts of wee things in nature. I loved the soft painterly look I was getting using the lens wide open at f1.4. And the best thing, at such wide apertures, is that shutter speeds were lightning fast so I could just hand hold the camera and get tiny pricks of sharp focus in a wash of blur. The Sigma 85mm f1.4 is now going with me in my nature photography photo bag  as my ‘artistic ‘macro’ lens. I am looking forward to taking it with me on my upcoming spring photo tour. Watch out Monet!

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

The Weekly Photo – May 2, 2011

Posted in Good News, Photography Gear, TCBlog, VWBlog, Weekly Photo with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2011 by Darwin

On April 26 I went out to photograph the newly blooming prairie crocuses that were popping up all over the wild spaces here in Cochrane, Alberta. I was busy with my Canon Rebel T2i and my Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 lens on extension tubes photographing the crocus below:

©Darwin Wiggett

Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement and looked behind me to see what I first thought was a dog coming over to visit me. A quick second glance told me this was not dog! A coyote was only 3 feet away from me! I grabbed the camera off the tipod and made this snapshot! You can see the Cochrane water treatment plant in the backround.

©Darwin Wiggett - A surprise guest! (shot at 21mm!)

The coyote was extremely brazen and then walked over to my f-stop photo bag and sniffed it.

©Darwin Wiggett - coming in for the snatch!

Right after I snapped the shot above the coyote made a dash for my camera bag and started hauling it away! Needless to say, I grabbed the bag and tugged it away from the coyote (hey, no one is taking my f-stop bag from me!).

The coyote then ran above me on the hill and looked off into the distance with enough time for me to take another photo using the pop-up fill flash on the Rebel.

©Darwin Wiggett - Coyote in Cochrane, Alberta

The coyote lost interest in my camera bag and slowly wandered down the hill and into the river valley. I was left dumbfounded by the encounter (someone must be feeding this coyote for it to be this forward with humans!).

Minutes later I saw an osprey take a large trout from the Bow River! It was a crazy day for wildlife encounters! I went back to making macro photographs but just could not believe what happened to me. BTW, the f-stop bag  (a Tilopa) withstood the attack by the coyote with no harm done to it!

©Darwin Wiggett

Fabulous Film Friday – April 29, 2011

Posted in Art of Photography, Articles about Photography, Fabulous Film Fridays, Image Processing and Software, Instruction, TCBlog, Techniques, VWBlog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2011 by Darwin

Anyone who follows this blog knows that I use Nik software products as a regular part of my image processing workflow. In fact, almost all images that I post on my blog have been ‘sharpened’ using Tonal Contrast in Nik Color Efex 3.0. Tonal Contrast was not designed to be a ‘sharpening’ plug-in but for me it makes web-sized JPEGS pop off the screen. I prefer this method over all other sharpening methods I have tried! For example, check out the two images below, one sharpened using Smart Sharpen in Photoshop, the other using Color Efex (both images are 35mm film captures from my Canon EOS-1n, a 70-200mm lens and Fujichrome Velvia 50 slide film).

©Darwin Wiggett - Smart Sharpen in Photoshop

©Darwin Wiggett - Sharpened with Tonal Contrast in Nik Color Efex 3.0

My other favorite Nik product that I am head over heals about is Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. I thought the original Silver Efex software was good but version 2 is even better (I could go on and on about why and likely will in future posts!) but for now just know that Silver Efex Pro 2 makes black-n-white imagery easy and creative!

Anyone familiar with Fabulous Film Fridays knows that Samantha and I love our Holgas , Beep and Bop (yes we named our cameras) which are medium format toy cameras. We scan in our negatives from the Holgas and then do minimal post-processing to get the scans to look like the film. But sometimes, taking the Holga colour film scans and funking them up in Silver Efex Pro 2.0 adds just an extra touch of mood to take the image to the next level.

For example, the image below is a typical vignetted, soft dreamy Holga shot (photographed with Bop). But by adding a little Nik Silver Efex spice, using the Film Noir 1 preset,  I got a shot that is moody and artsy. My Holga, Bop meets Nik. Bop and Nik, a match made in heaven!

©Darwin Wiggett - Silver Efec Pro 2.0 with Film Noir 1 preset

As a final example here is a straight shot from Bop the Holga using Fujicolor Reala 100 film. A nice shot but lacks a little pizazz.

©Darwin Wiggett - Film scan from a Holga

And here is the same photo run through Silver Efex Pro 2.o using the Yellowed 1 preset. A single touch of a button and wow now we have art!

©Darwin Wiggett - Nik Silver Efex 2.0 with Yellowed 1 preset

If you are interested in getting any Nik software just use the discount code DARWIN to get 15% off anything Nik sells! Thanks Nik!

And  consider this your last reminder if you want to participate in our Holga Hustle and Print show on May 7 in Banff National Park. To sign up email me at wiggett@telusplanet.net We have a few spots left and anyone with any film camera is welcome to come. All results will be posted on Samantha and my blogs!

New eBook – Advanced Filters for Digital Nature Photography

Posted in Art of Photography, eBooks, Filter, Good News, Image Processing and Software, Instruction, Photography Gear, TCBlog, Techniques, VWBlog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2011 by Darwin

Note: To see all future ebook releases, please visit us over at oopoomoo.com

Samantha and I have just released our latest eBook on Advanced Filters for Digital Nature Photography.

This eBook continues where our last eBook, Essential Filters for Digital Nature Photography, left off and introduces photographers to advanced filter techniques that lead to creative imagery often impossible to replicate in software.

Learn how to use in-camera filters to create unique and desirable effects. Darwin and Samantha cover the Gold-N-Blue and Blue/Yellow polarizing filters, the 1.5 stop hard-edge grad filter for reflection photos, the Daryl Benson reverse ND grad filter, and specialty ND filters like Lee’s Big Stopper and Singh-Rays trio of Vari-ND filters.

Learn how to correct colour casts caused by filtration in post-production, see why a 1.5 stop ND grad is the solution for perfect reflection photos, discover why the Daryl Benson reverse ND grad is an essential filter for prairie and desert photography, and be creative by using ND and Vari-ND filters to ‘paint with time’. Finally, Darwin and Samantha show you the creative power of combining two or more of these filters for expressive and creative photography. The eBook costs $10, is 49 pages long and is available here.

Weekly Photo – February 15, 2011

Posted in Good News, Inspirations, TCBlog, Techniques, VWBlog, Weekly Photo with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2011 by Darwin

Technically, I am supposed to post a weekly photo every Monday, but yesterday was Valentines Day and so it was a day off from the office for obvious reasons. By the way, I happened to have my best Valentines Day ever. Wow! But I can’t really talk about that 😉

Anyway, I am posting the weekly photo here today. On my photo tours I ask participants to post their six best images from the trip to showcase their work. In the past, I never posted my own photos but I have had a number of requests to do so. Below are my six favorites from the January 2011 Winter Photo Tour. If anyone is interested we just happened to have a last minute cancellation for the March 2-6, 2011 Winter Photo Tour. Contact Alan at the Aurum Lodge at info@aurumlodge.com to book this last spot (it will likely go fast so hurry if you are interested).

©Darwin Wiggett

Abraham Lake at Preacher’s Point, Canon EOS-1ds Mark III, Canon TS-E 17mm lens, 1/50th at f10.

 

©Darwin Wiggett

A lucky sunset at Preacher’s Point from the evening before the tour started. Canon EOS-1ds Mark III, Canon TS-E 17mm lens, 1/8 th at f10.

©Darwin Wiggett

Snowshoe path at Mistaya Canyon, Canon Rebel T2i, Canon 17mm TS-E, 1/50th at f11

©Darwin Wiggett

Mistaya Canyon, Banff National Park, Canon EOS-1ds Mark III, Canon TS-E 17mm lens, 1/60th at f8. Notice the three little photographers at the top of the frame.

©Darwin Wiggett

Salt-stained road (Highway 11). Canon G11, 1/30th at f4 (hand-held).

©Darwin Wiggett

Ice detail on Abraham Lake, Canon G11, 1/50th at 6.3

Winter in the Canadian Rockies eBook

Posted in Art of Photography, Articles about Photography, Books about Photography, eBooks, Good News, Inspirations, Instruction, Photography Gear, TCBlog, Techniques, VWBlog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2011 by Darwin

I am pleased to announce that Winter in the Canadian Rockies is the newest eBook in David duChemin’s Craft & Vision library and the latest in the Print & Process series.  In this monograph I set about to capture the spirit of Canada’s most striking mountain range in the heart of winter. Photographers of all levels, and geographic persuasion, will hopefully find inspiration and insight in this body of work, and the accompanying discussions.

In the eBook, I discuss in detail the joys and difficulties of working in the cold to capture the abstract and artistic beauty of this magical place. I also discuss my tips and techniques for both winter and abstract photography. I love winter photography and hope to inspire you out of hibernation to see the best the season offers.

Winter in the Canadian Rockies – Print & Process is available now as a downloadable PDF for just $5USD.

Special Offer on Craft and Vision PDFs

For the first five days only, if you use the promotional code ROCKIES4 when you checkout, you can have the PDF version of Winter in the Canadian Rockies for only $4 OR use the code ROCKIES20 to get 20% off when you buy 5 or more PDF ebooks from the Craft & Vision collection. These codes expire at 11:59pm PST January 22nd, 2011.

Samsung EX1/TL500 Review – A Canon G11/G12 Killer?

Posted in Articles about Photography, Camera Review, Photography Gear, TCBlog, VWBlog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2010 by Darwin

Note: To see all future reviews please note this blog is no longer active, please visit me over at oopoomoo.com

This past weekend I went with Samantha to visit her brother Andy Simpson. Andy had taken a Samsung EX1 digital point-n-shoot camera to Maui for two weeks and was raving about the camera. He said I needed to try the camera and see how I thought it compared to Canon’s G11/G12 cameras. Andy let me use the camera for a day of dabbling and I compared the Samsung EX1 with the Canon G11 and the Sigma DP1x (the two point-n-shoot cameras that I own). Here is a brief summary of what I found.

(Please note, I am not sponsored or paid or receive kickbacks from either Canon or Samsung. This test was purely for my own interest. Be aware however that I am sponsored by Sigma Canada. I have provided a detailed and I believe fair review of the Sigma DP1x here. The results of this field test are mostly between the Canon G11 and the Samsung EX1 because those two cameras are feature for feature very similar. The Sigma DP1x is included only out of passing interest. I have yet to actually use the Canon G12.

Canon G11 Features:

  • 10 MP 1/1.7 inch sensor
  • 28-140mm equivelant lens
  • 2.8 inch tilt-swivel LCD
  • RAW image capability
  • dedicated exposure comp and ISO dials
  • face detection
  • image stabilization (2-stop shutter speed gain)
  • great macro capabilities (to 1cm)
  • 15 seconds to 1/4000 shutter speed
  • f2.8-8 aperture range
  • VGA Movie Clips

The Canon G12

  • all of the features of the G11 and…
  • front control dial (in addition to rear control dial of the G11)
  • hybrid IS for close-up photography (4-stop shutter speed gain)
  • multi-aspect ratio shooting
  • HD Video
  • HDR shooting mode
  • HS system (better high ISO performance)

The Samsung EX1/TL500

  • 10 MP 1/1.7 inch sensor
  • 24-72mm equivalent Scheider-Kreuznach lens
  • 3.0 inch tilt-swivel LCD
  • RAW image capability
  • front and rear control dials
  • face detection
  • image stabilization (2-stop shutter speed gain)
  • multi-aspect ratio shooting
  • great macro capabilities (to 5cm)
  • 16 seconds to 1/1600 shutter speed
  • f1.8-f7 aperture range
  • HDR shooting mode
  • VGA movie clips

The key selling feature for me of the Canon G11 and G12 series is the tilt-swivel LCD. Anyone who followed my Daily Snap for 2010 knows how much I loved the G11 for the tilt-swivel LCD to get really creative angles that are difficult without this feature. I love the feature so much that I feel lost without a tilt-swivel LCD. There are very few point-n-shoot cameras on the market with a tilt-swivel LCD and RAW capability (which is the second most important camera feature for me). Samsung’s EX1 not only has a tilt-swivel LCD and RAW just like the Canon G11/G12, it also has a feature list that compares well with Canon’s G-series cameras. But the Samsung betters the Canon cameras with a bigger LCD, a super fast lens (f1.8!) and a wider angle lens (24mm equivalent). The Canon’s have more telephoto reach, slightly closer macro capabilities and the G12 has HD video.

I took out the Canon G11 and the Samsung EX1 and shot the same scenes with both cameras. I was interested in how well each camera handled (ergonomics), how the files compared to each other and how useful were the slight differences between the Samsung and the Canon G11.

The Tilt-Swivel LCD

Both the Canon G11 (the G12 is the same) and the Samsung EX1 have a tilt-swivel LCD with the same range of movements. I preferred the Samsung LCD because it was physically bigger and the images was displayed larger on the LCD. I also liked the look and feel of the images on the Samsung LCD better, but this latter is a matter of personal taste. Really, all three of the cameras have a great LCD display that most people will love.

The f1.8 Aperture

The ability to shoot fast (f1.8-f2.4 depending on the zoom range) with the Samsung EX1 is a blessing. I loved it to do indoor existing light photography. Also it was great to get a shallow slice of focus which is difficult to do with a small sensor point-n-shoot camera. I can see this as a great advantage for travel photography and low light shooting. Below is a shot taken hand-held at 1/10th of a second at f1.8 at 80 ISO with the EX1

Samsung EX1 at f1.8 for a thin slice of focus

The Wide, Wide View

I am a wide angle lens fan. I see the world from a wide angle point of view. On my full frame camera a 24mm lens is my absolute favorite and so it is easy to understand why I prefer the big wide view of the Samsung over the Canon G11/G12. You would think that there is not much difference between 24mm equivalent (Samsung) and 28mm equivalent (Canon G11/G12) but check out the photos of Brando below taken from the exact same spot.

Canon G11 at widest angle setting = 28mm

Samsung EX1 at widest angle setting = 24mm

The Long View

The Canon G11/G12 has a longer telephoto setting than the Samsung (140mm equivalent vs. 72mm). For a lot of people the longer reach is really important. I am often racking the Canon G11 all the way out to pull in distant landscapes and make extractive intimate details. I admit to missing the extra reach on the Samsung. Pictures like the image below of a distant landscape across a river are hard to do with the limited telephoto range of the Samsung EX1

Telephoto landscape with the Canon G11

Fast and Easy Camera Controls

Anybody who follows this blog is likely to know that I really dislike the layout and buttons on the back of the G11. They are too crowded together and leave no room for my thumb to hold the camera (see here for more complaining!). The Canon G12 will be a little better in this regard with the addition of a front dial to the camera. But even that camera has a back panel of crowded buttons and dials that would drive me crazy. The Samsung also has a rear and a front dial but there is more space for my thumb on the back of the camera than on the G11. I simply can not use the Canon G11 with gloves on and so winter photography gets a bit chilly. I tried the Samsung with gloves on and had no real problem operating all the controls. I found the controls intuitive and user friendly (more so than the Canon G11).

The Lens

Samsung touts the use of a Schneider-Kreuznach Lens on their camera as getting the ultimate in sharpness. Schneider optics have a legendary reputation among photographers. So it is no wonder Samsung uses the optical company’s name to help sell the camera. But does the great lens really make a difference? I took an image of the sign below at f5.0 on both cameras hand-held using auto-focus and 1/100th of a second. Both RAW images were processed exactly the same way in Adobe Camera RAW.

©Overall Photo of Sign

Here is a comparison of center sharpness:

Canon G11 - Center Shapness

Samsung EX1 - Center Sharpness

The sharpness at the center of the image looks very similar to me. There might be a slight edge to the Samsung, but in practical terms, you’d be hard-pressed to see any difference in prints between the two cameras. Where the differences in the lens quality starts to show up is at the edges of the frame. Below is a scene taken with both cameras at f5.0, ISO 100, hand-held (this time at 1/160th of a second).

Overall tree scene

The next two photos compare edge sharpness between the Canon G11 and the Samsung EX1:

Canon G11 edge sharpness

Samsung EX1 edge sharpenss

The Samsung more clearly wins the edge sharpness test. Also the Samsung has less colour fringing at the edges of the frame. In the photos below colour fringing becomes stronger at the edges of the frame in out-of-focus high contrast areas on the Canon G11; Here is the overall scene:

Old Building - overall scene

And here are the frame edges showing the amount of colour fringing exhibited by each camera:

Canon G11 fringing

Samsung EX1 fringing

Overall, there are not huge differences in image quality between the Canon G11 and the Samsung EX1 but the Samsung does have the edge when pixel-peeking. In the real world of print and publication these differences are really minor and negligible.

Video

The real winner with video at least on paper would be the Canon G12 which gives HD video where the others do not. I did not test video between the cameras.

Practical Controls

I mostly use aperture priority and manually select my focus point. Exposure compensation on the G11/G12 is easy with a dedicated dial. On the Samsung the front dial does the job just as fast. To alter the focus point on the G11/G12 you need to push the focus point selector and then use the rear thumb-wheel to move the selector around. Same on the Samsung, but on the latter I could do with gloves on, I could not with the G11.

File Quality Compared to a Big Sensor Point-n-Shoot

Just for fun, I took a few comparison shots between the Samsung EX1 and the Sigma DP1x which is a point-n-shoot with an APS-sized sensor. The Sigma has a dSLR-sized sensor, a prime lens (28mm equivalent) and delivers stunning image quality. How did the Samsung shape up in this comparison? Here is the overall scene:

Fort overall

Fort Detail - Samsung EX1

Fort detail - Sigma DP1x

The Samsung can not compete with the big sensor on the Sigma but the Sigma is a specialty camera with a fixed prime lens. Really, it is not fair to compare the two cameras but we can clearly see less colour fringing and much better resolution in the Sigma file. To see how the Sigma DP1x compares to the Canon G11 and the Canon Rebel T2i (a 35mm dSLR camera) check out this review.

Conclusion

The Samsung EX1 gives the Canon G11/G12 a run for the money. For those who love a fast wide angle lens, the Samsung comes out on top. Personally I am willing to give up some telephoto reach for a lighting-fast super-wide lens. But that’s me. I think the controls on the Samsung are better than on the two Canon cameras mostly because I hate Canon’s crowded back panel. And I prefer Samsung’s bigger LCD. The Canon G11/G12 has the edge for longer telephoto shots and closer macro. The G12 has HD video and 4-stop image stabilization. I did not do any high ISO comarisons so I can not comment on whether the new HS system on the Canon G12 gives better high ISO performance or not. Personally I prefer a faster lens at lower ISO than a slower lens with better ISO performance. In the end, I think it is a draw and which camera you choose depends on your needs, wants and preferences. If I did not already own the Canon G11, I would definately buy the Samsung EX1/TL500. If you want a tilt-swivel LCD point-n-shoot camera then your two top choices to consider would be the Canon G12 or the Samsung EX1 followed by a used Canon G11. Based on current prices the Samsung EX1 is the best buy of the bunch – see below!

For other reviews of the Samsung EX1/TL500 see:

Luminous Landscape

dpreview

Steve’s Digicams

Buy the Canon G12 ($450), buy the Samsung EX1 ($350), buy the Sigma DP1x ($600) — the Canon G11 is discontinued and only available used.

The Many Faces of Samantha

Posted in Humor, Photography Gear, Techniques, VWBlog with tags , , , , , , on December 20, 2010 by Darwin

Back in March Samantha and I went into the studio with Scott Dimond to play with Scott’s ring flash. Samantha provided the entertainment. Face number 5 is the face I see whenever I leave the toilet seat up!

©Darwin Wiggett

2011 Photo Tours – Aurum Lodge

Posted in Instruction, TCBlog, VWBlog, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2010 by Darwin

For those interested in my photo tours in the Canadian Rockies based out of the Aurum Lodge please note the following status for each tour:

Winter Magic in the Canadian Rockies

  • Jan. 26-30, 2011 (2 spots left)
  • Feb. 24-27, 2011 (wait-list only)
  • March 2-6, 2011 (wait-list only)

Spring in the Canadian Rockies

  • May 30-June 4, 2011 (wait-list only)

Fall in the Canadian Rockies

  • Sept. 17-23, 2011 (wait-list only)

Fire and Ice in the Canadian Rockies

  • Nov. 9-13, 2011 (wait-list only)

Spots for the 2012 season are filling fast now that the 2011 season is almost full so if you are interested contact Alan at info@aurumlodge.com to book your spot. For the 2012 dates see this link.

For those interested in photo workshops in the Canadian Rockies for 2011, the following workshops still have space available:

October 2011 Weekend Workshop at Baker Creek, Oct. 27-30, 2011

Light Matters Masterclass: Creative Expressions,  Nov. 2-6, 2011

Be sure to check out Photo Tours vs Photo Workshops to see which product is the best match for your photography. Hope to see you in the Rockies!

 

©Darwin Wiggett - The Deck at Aurum Lodge