Tucson Trip: Monument Camera

Monument Camera -- by Joe Reifer

Monument Camera -- by Joe Reifer

I just returned from 5 days in Tucson Arizona. The weather was 70 degrees and sunny, and there was a lot to see. I didn’t bring a lot of camera gear, but did plan to make a few 360 panoramas. I was going to borrow a tripod, but ended up purchasing an inexpensive monopod instead. I needed a bushing to mount my Nodal Ninja R1 panohead on the monopod, and I found one at Monument Camera for $1.99. Monument is an old school camera store with a collection of old cameras, darkroom supplies, and lighting equipment. There’s also a poker table with Canon EOS chips, a collection of deer antlers, and some other interesting memorabilia. The nice fellow behind the counter let me test my monopod camera setup in the store. If you like old cameras and find yourself in Tucson, Monument is a fun place to visit.

Step inside and look around in the interactive version of the pano

Bodie Night Photography: 5D Mark II Wide Angle Lenses and Noise Reduction

Bodie at night: 1927 Dodge truck and gas pumps -- by Joe Reifer

Bodie at night: 1927 Dodge truck and gas pumps -- by Joe Reifer

The 1927 Dodge truck and gravity gas pumps are a popular subject for photography at Bodie ghost town. This 24 minute night photograph was taken during the 2011 Mono Lake Night Photography Festival.

Wide angle lens for night photography

I shot the entire night at Bodie with a Canon 5D Mark II and an Olympus OM 18mm f/3.5  lens. The Olympus OM system lens can be used on the 5D II with an OM-EOS adapter. The Olympus lens is small, light, and easy to zone focus at night. At an aperture of f/8 or f/11 the lens is quite sharp across the frame, and offers better edge performance than Canon zooms. The Olympus lenses also have a different signature look than other wide angle lens choices. The 18mm is hard to find and can be expensive. The Olympus 21mm f/3.5 is a more readily available, reasonably priced alternative. The 24mm f/2.8 is also quite good. If you prefer a standard wide angle to a super wide lens, the Olympus 28mm f/3.5 is a stellar performer at f/8, and can often be purchased for less than $50. My adapter for the 28mm cost more than the lens!

Image stacking and long exposure noise reduction

Four exposures of 6 minutes at f/8 ISO 200 were combined for the final 24 minute image. There were about 25 night photographers shooting at Bodie — exposure stacking was very useful for removing people and light painting from the foreground. Using this stacking technique also meant that I did not have to run long exposure noise reduction (LENR) in the camera. This helps productivity and battery life.

5D Mark II Auto setting for long exposure noise reduction (LENR)

Photography instructor Scott Martin let me know about his experiments with the Auto setting for long exposure noise reduction (LENR) on the Canon 5D Mark II. Normally I do not recommend letting the camera decide what to do, but Scott’s LENR experiments may prove otherwise. There are 3 settings for LENR:

  1. Off — long exposure noise reduction does not run on any shot.
  2. On — long exposure noise reduction runs for the same amount of time as your exposure. A 10 minute shot with LENR set to On will run noise reduction for 10 minutes after the exposure ends.
  3. Auto — long exposure noise reduction will run if the camera determines it’s necessary, for the amount of time necessary to optimize the image.

Here’s the really interesting part — noise reduction won’t necessarily run for the same amount of time as the exposure. Auto LENR runs for as long as necessary to reduce noise — this could be shorter or longer than the original exposure time.

I’d like to thank Scott for sharing his Auto LENR research, and I look forward to my own testing. If you have experience with the Auto LENR setting I’d love to hear how exposure time and temperature correlate to when noise reduction kicks in, and how long Auto LENR tends to run.


Night photography: Farewell, Pearsonville Junkyard

Our one night Farewell, Pearsonville Junkyard Workshop was a lot of fun. The strange weather patterns of 2011 brought intense rushing storm clouds over the Sierra, with a full moon high above — perfect conditions for night photography. Some amazing images from the photographers who attended the workshop are starting to appear in the Pearsonville Workshop Flickr Group. Thanks to everyone who attended — were those some awesome clouds or what?

After our ceremonial midnight toast, a light rain started blowing. There was still some blue sky and moonlight, so I attached the Think Tank Hydrophobia Rain Cover and kept on shooting. The cover is meant for a 70-200mm lens, but also works fine with a 24-70mm. The Hydrophobia is wonderful piece of design and engineering. Accessing the controls with your right hand is easy, and both the rear and top LCDs can still be viewed. The cover is easier to install if you remove your camera strap. The only issue for night photography is that you can no longer see the manual focusing scale on the lens. Next time I will carefully zone focus the lens and then use gaffer’s tape to prevent the focusing ring from moving. Gaffer’s tape is also handy for securing the Hydrophobia from blowing in the wind for long exposures. In addition to the cover, you’ll also need the proper eye piece accessory for your camera. Use this special referral link to receive a free gift on orders of over $50 from Think Tank. Bad weather can make for some great shooting!

Last minute gift ideas for photographers

Behind the bank, Rhyolite ghost town -- by Joe Reifer

Behind the bank, Rhyolite ghost town -- by Joe Reifer

Behind the bank, Rhyolite ghost town — by Joe Reifer

Need a last minute gift idea for the photographer on your holiday shopping list? Below are a few ideas for you. Thanks for using these affiliate links to support this blog while you shop for your favorite photographer.

  1. B&H Gift Card: $50. $100. $250. $1000.
  2. Photo-eye bookstore gift certificate
  3. A gift membership at your local museum, such as SFMOMA ($80).
  4. A gift certificate at your local camera store or photo lab. My local spots are Looking Glass Photo, Photo Lab, and Lightwaves.
  5. A gift certificate towards a photography workshop at Santa Fe, Maine, or perhaps even a night photography workshop.
  6. A camera bag from Think Tank Photo, such as the Retrospective 10 shoulder bag ($149). Use this Think Tank link and get a free gift when you spend $50 or more.
  7. The recent reissue of John Gossage’s classic photo book, The Pond. Photo book expert Gerry Badger says: “Adams, Shore, Baltz – all the New Topographics photographers made great books, but none are better than The Pond.” ($40.95)
  8. Speaking of Gerry Badger, his thought provoking 2010 book The Pleasure of Good Photographs would make a great gift. ($19.77)
  9. And if you didn’t get caught up in the fever of New Topographics this year, the book is fantastic. ($47.25)
  10. One of my other favorite photo books of 2010 was Lee Friedlander: America By Car. Really superb. ($32.97)
  11. Maybe a print of this night photo of the S.S. Minnow is just what you need for the wall. Just holler.

Need more gift ideas? Here’s a list of photography books 2009, and the gift list from 2008.

Canon 5D Mark II wide angle lens sharpness issues

Canon 5D Mark II wide angle lens sharpness issues -- by Joe Reifer

Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon on a Canon 5D Mark II. (Click the image for a larger view).

Both images are 1/350 at f/11 ISO 200. Both are 100% crops (1:1 view) in Lightroom. The images have identical post-processing. So what’s the difference?

In the on the left the bridge is near the center of the frame, in the image on the right it’s along the right edge. After extensive focus testing, this copy of the Zeiss 21mm produced results that were consistently soft in the background about 10% of the way into the frame. Here’s the problem in a nutshell:

Camera and lens manufacturing tolerances may not be tight enough to produce consistently sharp results with wide angle lenses on high-resolution cameras like the Canon 5D Mark II.

I’ve now tested 3 copies of the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 and 2 copies of the Canon 24mm TS-E II, and only 1 out of the 5 lenses was acceptably sharp across the frame. Unfortunately, the 1 lens that was sharp was a rental. Three of the lenses were soft on the left edge of the frame in the background at f/8-f/11, and the Zeiss above had the same issue but on the right side.

The Zeiss 21mm and Canon 24mm TS-E II are both extremely sharp lenses, which seems to exacerbate the problem. The mountains in some of the photos I took yesterday were very sharp everywhere except the right 10-15% of the frame. Because everything else is so sharp, this makes the out of focus area even more apparent.

If you enjoy shooting with wide angle lenses and make large prints, this may end up being a problem for you sooner or later with high resolution 35mm digital. If you’re thinking about upgrading to a 5D Mark II, or buying a new wide angle lens, here’s a very important article to read:

“This lens is soft” and other facts — by Roger Cicala of LensRentals.com

In addition to the excellent article above, Lloyd Chambers’ subscription site has some informative articles including Brand new blur and Testing Guidelines.

The bottom line: buy from a vendor with a good return / exchange policy, and carefully test any lenses after purchase to make sure they’re sharp on your camera body.