Tag Archives: Tokina 11-16 f2.8

Non-Photographic Vacation: Day 5

Very slow wi-fi here at the Bryce Canyon Lodge, which can be forgiven because everything else is exquisite. We started the day at Capitol Reef National Park, then meandered along Route 12 (an awesome motorcycle road, but pretty nice in a car too) to make our way to Bryce. Tomorrow we go exploring, weather permitting (we arrived during an impressive thunder storm).

Turn in any direction in any part of Capitol Reef National Park for a beautiful view.

Turn in any direction in any part of Capitol Reef National Park for a beautiful view.

When he was a little boy, this behavior drove me crazy. Now it's kind of amusing.

When he was a little boy, his need to climb everything drove me crazy. Now it’s kind of amusing.

Making friends everywhere we go.

Making friends everywhere we go.

Bidding farewell to Capitol Reef.

Bidding farewell to Capitol Reef.

Taking a break on Route 12, which took us through deserts, forests, mountains, canyons, and all the way to Bryce.

Taking a break on Route 12, which took us through deserts, forests, mountains, canyons, and all the way to Bryce.

The view right outside our cabin at Bryce Canyon Lodge. Tomorrow we explore!

The view right outside our cabin at Bryce Canyon Lodge. Tomorrow we explore!

At the Kiva Koffeehouse outside Escalante. After we return I'll blog about the many photographic lessons I've learned on this non-photographic vacation, but the most important lesson so far is this: I thought that I was taking this trip for John, so he could see this part of the country that I love so much. But I realized today that he is also taking this trip for me.

At the Kiva Koffeehouse outside Escalante. After we return I’ll blog about the many photographic lessons I’ve learned on this non-photographic vacation, but the most important lesson so far is this: I thought that I was taking this trip for John, so he could see this part of the country that I love so much. But I realized today that he is also taking this trip for me.

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Filed under Just for FUN, Nature Photography, Travel and Vacation, Uncategorized

Non-Photographic Vacation, Day 2

Today we visited the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, and then did reconnaissance at Canyon de Chelly. Tomorrow we plan to walk into the canyon, weather permitting. Today I also learned that I should bring all of my gear on car trips, because I wanted longer lenses and bigger flashes at various times, and I learned that I have dozens of nasty dust spots on my sensor, which I won’t be able to deal with until we get home.


Petrified wood, shot with the 11-16 Tokina. You know, one of the lenses I wasn’t going to bring on the trip.




Driving along, John asked when we would get to the painted desert, and all of sudden we came around a curve and both said, “Oh!”


While we were admiring the Painted Desert, two ravens showed up and hung out with us. I’d like to believe that they were our spirit animals, but I’m pretty sure they simply noticed we were carrying a cooler. They followed us around and got very close.


John decided that they were caretakers of the area, welcoming us.


John makes friends wherever he goes. Here, he and one of the ravens compare and contrast the music of Dead Prez and People Under the Stairs.


I snapped this image of John, but then remembered that I should keep a subject’s head and shoulders above the horizon…


I got his head and shoulders above the horizon, but somehow misfocused. Good thing this is not a photographic vacation, because I’m making lots of photographic errors.


We got to Canyon de Chelly late in the day, and the light was getting good.


While we were at another overlook, it rained at this one. By the time we arrived, the ground was wet but the rain was gone, leaving this.


The clouds were very helpful, although the rolling thunder was terrifying for those of us up on the overlooks.


Canyon de Chelly is a pretty good looking part of the world.

From a mural at the Petrified Forest visitor's center.

From a mural at the Petrified Forest visitor’s center.

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Filed under Nature Photography, Travel and Vacation

We Live in Wondrous Times

ISO 3200. If you were a photographer in the film era, you understand my daily joyous astonishment.

I’ve been trying to talk myself out of buying the new Nikon D600, but my D7000 is making the best argument against an “upgrade”. I went out last night to grab a few publicity shots for Senga Classic Stage Company’s upcoming production of  Halloween Tales from the Women’s (and Men’s) Locker Room. I carried the big bag of camera gear, and a car-trunk-full of lighting gear, but I only used one camera and one lens for 90% of the shots, and none of the lighting gear. I got a powerful reminder that these modern cameras make damn good images at ISO 3200, particularly if the images (or, at least, the subjects) are well exposed. Sure, there’s some compression of dynamic range and a little bit of noise in the shadows. But it absolutely won’t matter in the newspaper. Interestingly, pretty much all recent DSLRs, from the cheapest to the most expensive, produce excellent quality images in situations that would have challenged a film shooter’s limits. Maybe someday I’ll get a D600, but for now I keep falling back in love with my D7000.

Are you a good witch or a bad witch? Or a very good bad witch?

Note to self: Bring some light colored fedoras along for future theater shoots. An off-white Homburg would have helped this image a lot.

Papa’s ashes take a spill. ISO 3200 offered me a fast enough shutter speed to catch the action.

“The showers are broken.” Part of making ISO 3200 work is “letting the shadows fall where they may.” If I tried to lighten any of these images, they would reveal a lot of grain/noise. Even then, it would hardly matter in a newspaper.

Nikon still doesn’t understand red very well. It overexposes at the drop of a hat. That’s okay in a generally dark shot like this, but it gave me fits in shots of the drag queen (see top of post, or below).

A woman playing a man playing a woman, wondering about the son she has never met. The robe actually features a subtle, detailed pattern, but the red was just too much for the Nikon sensor. I had to desaturate reds in all photos of this actress. But still, ISO 3200!!!!

Some of you probably avoid the higher ISO ranges on your digital cameras, but you really should experiment.

I shot all of these with the D7000, and all except the first image with the 17-55 f/2.8. I used the Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 for the first image. Had I lit them myself, I would have worked for better hat and hair lighting, but that would have taken a long time and likely introduced other unintended consequences as well. It’s reassuring to know that I can show up with a smaller bag of tricks in the future.


Filed under Camera Gear, Dance and Theater, Low Light

Skewing Perspective to Fit the Message

My boss recently shared how happy she was to get a “twofer” by hiring me: She gets a marketing professional who also happens to be a photographer.  I’ve been thinking about how best to use my skills to integrate our messaging into every aspect of our visual marketing. I got a chance to experiment with the concept this week, when I attended one day of the School Food Initiative’s week-long Culinary Boot Camp.

At Boot Camp, local food service workers learn how to transform their school cafeterias from “heat-and-serve” to cooked-from-scratch environments, providing healthier, less commercially processed foods – usually far more economically.

Our foundation prides itself on our entrepreneurial heritage. We were founded by Paul Orfalea, the man that grew Kinko’s from a single, 150 square foot shop into a two billion dollar chain. We don’t just make grants to prop up the status quo; rather, we create initiatives like School Food to take action on problems that can be solved NOW. We like to say we’re changing the way philanthropy changes the world. We look at things differently, and I thought about that while making photos at Boot Camp.

I don’t know if this experiment will pan out, but currently, our website and brochures feature pretty standard commercial photography – everything looks just right. But if we look at things differently and take action, maybe our images should look a little skewed, conveying a sense of motion and energy.  Maybe.  Here are some of my experiments.

During Boot Camp, some attendees arrive early each day to prepare breakfast for the full group. This composition is supposed to emphasize the delicious looking scones while also noting the professional looking (because they are professionals) team in the background. Ultimately, it’s the food that counts, because if kids won’t eat the healthier food we prepare, then the School Food Initiative is for naught.

Chef Instructor Claud Mann shows how a breakfast burrito assembly line speeds completion of the task.

Timers, scales and thermometers are critical tools for cooking from scratch. The Boot Camp participants are pushed hard all week, and I was impressed by their focus as they learned new tools and techniques.

The School Food Mobile Chef Instructors push the students hard, yet maintain a fun and friendly environment. Can you tell how many ways the camera is tilted, or do you mainly notice the smiles?

Speaking of smiles, I didn’t tilt all of the images, because the technique does not always suit the image. I like this one because it shows the absolute focus of the students as they handle raw chicken, and the natural joy Melissa Bishop derives from the camaraderie of her School Food team.

As I work on the visual style for our marketing materials, I’ll try to refine ideas like this, looking for unusual angles and perspectives.

And just in case you’ve come to believe that Culinary Boot Camp is all fun and games, here is a reminder that one should not cross Chef Naomi!

As I develop the visual style for School Food and our other initiatives, I’ll continue to experiment with tighter, more skewed compositions that emphasize key messages. In this case, their gazes should direct your eye to the thermometer. Too bad it’s a yellow thermometer…

Perhaps the best part of my new job, other than working for a philanthropic foundation that’s trying hard to make the world a better place, is that in order to craft perfect images for the School Food Initiative, I’m going to have to attend a lot of Boot Camps. When’s lunch?


Filed under Composition, Motivation

Getting Wide, and Outsmarting Midday Light

Somehow, I managed to spend my first thirty or so years of photography without a wide-angle lens. I haven’t mastered the Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 yet, but the learning curve is a lot of fun.

In the prior post, I said this one would be about shooting with a wide angle lens and fill flash. As you may recall, I wrote that post in a bar, and this is a good time to invoke Hemingway’s dictum: “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” I’d rather be blogging about my latest dance shoot, but…

I’m still learning how to handle a wide-angle lens, and the learning curve has steepened with the Tokina 11-16 f/2.8.  For these shots during the Family Fest portion of the Ojai Storytelling Festival, I practiced shooting from a low angle when possible, but I also felt unafraid to exaggerate perspective and distortion by tilting the camera as needed. Because a wide-angle lens provides greater depth of field, I also felt comfortable setting the camera to auto-area focus and shooting without looking through the lens.

Taking advantage of the wide-angle lens’s depth-of-field and the camera’s auto-area focus mode, I can get the camera low without overworking my back and knees. Hooray for technology! A little bit of fill flash lightens the kids without making the image look artificially lit. Without fill flash, I could expose for the background or the kids, but I couldn’t have both.

It was a bright,beautiful day, and would have been far too contrasty without fill flash.  My own recipe for midday light includes setting the Nikon SB800 for Balanced Fill Flash, which attempts to balance the flash with the camera’s ambient light exposure. However, TOO much balance looks unnatural to me, so I also set the flash to underexpose by 2/3 stop.  This way, shadows are lightened, but not eliminated.

With the wide-angle lens, auto-area focus mode, programmed exposure mode, and balanced fill-flash -2/3 stop, I could point-and-shoot from pretty much any angle and get a sharp, well exposed image. The composition didn’t always work, but hey, you can’t have everything. Where would you put it?

There. Now I can start work on a blog about my latest dance shoot. D’oh! I mean, I have no idea what the next blog will be about. Whew.

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Filed under Camera Gear, Camera Settings