Sunday, October 25, 2015

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Gallery: Joshua Tree National Park - Day 1

Gallery (40 photos): Joshua Tree National Park - Day 1

I was camped a ways north of Joshua Tree National Park, in the Mojave Desert National Preserve, and in the morning I had gray, overcast skies. I did take some photos near the Sweeney Desert Research Centre, but due to the dull light, none of them made it into this gallery. By the time I got to Joshua Tree National Park, drove around to decide on a campground and secured a site at "Jumbo Rocks", it was already later in the day, so I didn't get a whole lot of shooting in. Thankfully, the skies there was much nicer than what I had in the morning!

For a brief, 1920x1080 time-lapse movie (a 10.4MB download) of the sunset shown in the first photo, click the image above to open in a new window. For this 5 second time-lapse movie, 138 frames were taken over about 34 minutes but unlike my regular photos, they were just processed in Lightroom and not in PhotoNinja.

Link: All galleries from this trip...

Monday, October 12, 2015

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Gallery: Joshua Tree National Park - Day 2

Gallery (65 photos): Joshua Tree National Park - Day 2

How time flies! It's now been well over a month already since my last posting of a gallery from my California trip, earlier this year. This is day two in Joshua Tree National Park, with more shots of amazing eroded boulders and rock formations. I shot quite a bit near the Jumbo Rocks campground, where I had stayed two nights. I did a morning hike from where I was camping, then traveled around Joshua Tree park for the day, coming back in the evening to shoot until sunset at Jumbo Rocks again. There are some great rock formations and views a mere 10 to 15 minutes of hiking from where I had set up my tent, a very cool campsite to stay at for sure!

Link: All galleries from this trip...
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Gallery: Fall, and more XF 90mm f/2 tests...

Fall is coming, the leaves are changing and I spent another day with Fujifilm's 90mm f/2 firmly attached to the front of my X-E2. When I get a new lens, shoot with it, and then scarcely want to take it off the camera... well that's a sign that I really like that lens. My previous lens purchase, the XF 16mm f/1.4, was the same: on my trip to California earlier this year, about half of my 3300 photos were taken with that 16mm. Even though longer focal lengths are not something I use all that often, the 90mm has given me such wonderful results, that I've been using it a lot more than I thought I would.

There seems to be something almost "magical" in how it renders highlights, be it reflections on water, or reflections off metal or chrome.  Look at the large version of photo 43 in the gallery for example, and maybe you'll see what I mean? The 90mm is so sharp that I want to seek out textures too: old crumbling brick walls, rusting metal or decaying, yet colourful leaves. An added bonus is that it focuses very closely, considering it is not a macro. In fact, it offers roughly 1/4 life-size reproduction at its closest focus. Some portrait lenses have a tough time getting you a tight headshot, but with this 90mm, you can frame a face tightly enough to capture just the eyes.

Lastly, I wanted to mention how perfect the aperture ring feels on this lens, despite it being a WR design. Detents are firm and crisp, with full stop detents being distinctly stronger than its 1/3 stop detents, attention to detail which is commendable in my view. This is not the only Fujifilm lens to offer this full-stop/third-stop difference in feel, but it is one of the most obvious that I have felt. This little bit of "tactile perfection" is something that just makes the lens even nicer to use in practice. Not all Fujifilm lenses have felt so good, with the 18-135mm kit lens having a particularly mushy and vague aperture ring for example, but the aperture ring on this lens feels, at least to me, just about perfect. I am stating this as a distinct point of praise for Fujifilm's lens engineers, with the hopes that they take this to heart and not only continue to design future lenses that are superb optically, but make ones that also feel equally superb mechanically...

Saturday, October 3, 2015

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Gallery: Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2 Tests

Gallery (30 images): Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2 Tests

These are my first tests of Fujifilm's excellent new Fujinon XF 90mm f/2R LM WR portrait prime lens. It has a linear-motor (LM) mechanism for fast, quiet focusing and the WR designation means it has a water and dust resistant design. In short, it is a truly superb new addition to Fujifilm's extensive lineup of impressive prime lenses. More comments on its optical quality are in the notes at the top of the gallery. I have provided large, 4000 pixel wide images so you can closely examine its image quality, since smaller ones hardly do justice to the sharpness and clean rendering of this lens.

I was fortunate enough to have some interesting fog over the city during sunset too, although with handheld shots at slower shutter speeds, not enough sleep and too much coffee that day, I fear some of those won't be quite up to my usual sharpness standards. Not to mention the contrast sucking nature of the fog will make things look softer in general too. However, the first set of images done earlier in the day with better light (1-18), those should show what the lens is capable of. Seeing as how I called it a "portrait lens," yes there are a couple of portraits (thanks Nicole!), shot wide open at f/2 as well.

It's likely that this lens might replace the 50-230mm in my general "hike around" kit since for landscape work, when I did use that zoom, I often found myself shooting around 90mm with it anyway, give or take. It has been rare that I ever framed a pure landscape (or even cityscape) shot at much more than 100mm, so the 90mm should work perfectly in a great many instances. Of course, if birds or wildlife are my intended subject, then the 50-230mm will come along as well, or eventually, the upcoming 100-400mm zoom.

The 90mm brings me one step closer to having an ideal prime lens kit. I am now waiting for the new XF 35mm f/2 to arrive (scheduled to ship in November I believe), which will then likely replace the 18-55mm zoom in my kit, which I am now using more or less as a 35mm stand-in. At that point, my primes will be 16mm f/1.4, 23mm f/1.4, 35mm f/2, 60mm f/2.4 macro and 90mm f/2. I do also have the 14mm f/2.8 but I often want wider, so the 10-24mm f/4 will be the standard ultra-wide in my lens kit. Since it is extremely good too, especially in its mid range (around 14mm), the 14mm prime will seem a bit redundant to be honest and I likely won't take it with me on a regular basis. The 16mm is quite close to the 14mm as far as focal length and is so incredibly good, that I wouldn't miss the 14mm all that much I think. The last prime lens I will be wishing for, is something in the 9mm to 11mm range but unfortunately, I have not seen even the slightest hint of anything like that coming...

As much as I like primes lenses, I also have the ability to travel light with a three zoom kit if size and weight are a concern: the 10-24mm, 18-55mm and 50-230mm, all image stabilized and surprisingly good optically, especially the 10-24mm!