This journal documents my experiences with a Canon 50D, my first DSLR camera, purchased on Oct. 16, 2008. It is a showcase for my photography, includes comments about the camera's usability, with suggestions for improvement and discusses photography-related topics. This month, I realized that my 50mm/1.4 needed an adjustment to focus properly at wide apertures.

Good Friday Foto: Pawnbroker's Display: Hearts and Crosses


Fri Apr 02 11:40:11 2010

Last week, I promised to show why I hated my 50mm, but that will have to wait until a later date.

On Wednesday, I walked past a window display of jewelry (the image on the right) at Simon's Pawnbrokers on Church Street and I realized that it would make a Good Friday Foto.

I cropped the original photograph and performed about four hours of Photoshop work to remove some gold medallions and earrings, and replace them with crosses from elsewhere on the display.

If I was a journalist, I would've asked the pawnbroker to physically re-arrange the display and then photographed it. The end result would have been the same in either case.

The image could use a few more hours of Photoshop to fill-in the blank spot on the right hand side.

Who Criticizes the Critics?


Fri Apr 02 14:51:26 2010

At the end of the article, How to Get, Give, and Take Photographic Criticism, there is a link to a discussion thread on Flickr critical of HCB's photograph, "The Bicyclist" (it was a clever sting operation designed to embarass the Slashdot of Photography).

The some of the comments are priceless.

BBC Wildlife Magazine Photo Tutorials


Sat Apr 03 12:20:17 2010

BBC Wildlife Magazine has a series of tutorials on photographing nature in various settings (zoo, birds, golden hour, cold weather). Each tutorial offers tips on composition, lighting and gear, etc..

Toronto Street Scenes: Late Night Cravings


Sat Apr 03 15:13:35 2010

From Late Night

Center Weighted Average metering with the 50mm/1.4. Shadows (brightened) and highlights (darkened) further adjusted in Photoshop Elements.

Canon IV-S2 Camera Ad (1953)

gear marketing

Mon Apr 05 15:27:55 2010

Thumbing through the February 1953 issue of Modern Photography (which cost 35 cents (40 cents in Canada)) I came across an ad for the Canon IV-S2 35mm camera on page 109; the magazine belonged to a co-worker's father, who recently passed away.

The Canon was advertised at USD$295.00 with an 50mm f/1.8 lens and $250.50 with an 50mm f/3.5 lens. Note that it has both a Flash Bracket on the right side and an Accessory Clip on the top. The camera also came with a 5 year warranty.

To compare, the Leica IIIf (released in 1953) with a Summacrit Ctd. f/1.5 lens (lowest aperture shown in the ad) cost USD$435.20 at Dowling's camera store on Fifth Ave., located in the Flatiron Building at 23rd. Street.

Assuming approximately 10x cost due to inflation (the magazine might reasonably cost $4.50 today) then the the latest Canon would cost $3,000 and the latest Leica would cost over $4,000.

Update Thu Apr 08 18:21:34 2010: David responds:

10x is a pretty good estimate. The Bank of Canada has an online calculator if you want exact figures.

The Leica IIIf didn't use the M mount, which wasn't introduced until 1954 with the M3, and which is still used today. The EF mount was introduced in 1987, and so Canon's "old" lenses aren't much use either.

The average income in 1953 was 3-4 thousand dollars in the US.

Olympus PEN Ad (2010)

gear marketing

Mon Apr 05 17:46:17 2010

A stop-motion video ad for the Olympus PEN camera. According to Monoscope, the design team shot 60,000 photos, developed 9,600 prints and re-shot over 1,800 to complete the ad.

Friday Foto: Love is in the Air


Fri Apr 09 00:14:48 2010

As promised, the week before last, this photo represents why I hate the 50mm/1.4 lens— occasionally, it decides to mis-focus (despite using the center AF point).

I focused on the dog, yet the lens focused past the dog and even at f/7.1 (I was testing the aperture just moments earlier and I didn't bother changing for fear of missing the shot, which I inevitably did) the subjects are out of focus. I am definitely looking forward to the rumoured replacement.

Next week, why I love the 50mm/1.4 lens.

Fri Apr 09 15:44:45 2010: David responds:

Seems that Canon has a general tendency to suck at focusing.

A Moment in Time


Fri Apr 09 16:51:30 2010

The NY Times is organizing a global photography project, called A Moment in Time, whereby everyone photographs what they were doing at 11:00AM EDT on Sunday, May 2nd and uploads their photograph to the NY Times website.

2010 Pulitzer Prizes for Photography

photos photographers

Mon Apr 12 18:07:25 2010

Mary Chind (Des Moines Register) won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography and Craig F. Walker (Denver Post) won for feature photography.

I cannot guess what camera Chind uses (it's neither a Nikon or Canon DSLR; the colours look unfamiliar), but my guess is that Walker uses a Nikon.

Update: David responds

Seems that he does use a Nikon (at least for an unrelated assignment):
And every day he carried his Nikon D3 camera.

Walker used four lenses—20mm, 24mm, 35mm and 85mm—although he never brought more than two at a time.
If the 24mm is f/1.4, that's some some heavy-duty glass (there's also a 2.8).

Friday Foto: Balconies and Windows


Thu Apr 15 19:04:18 2010

From Friday Foto: Downtown

Cropped and contrast adjusted. Same camera settings as last week's mis-focused photograph for comparison.

Note the small white stripe painted on the corner edge, every five floors.

LIFE: The Day Einstein Died


Fri Apr 16 07:55:37 2010

I was the only photographer there, and it was sort of a given that if there was one photographer on the scene, he had to be from LIFE.
—Ralph Morse

Unpublished photographs documenting Albert Einstein's death and cremation, taken by Ralph Morse.

It's very rare to see photographs of funerals of ordinary people (celebrity funerals are an exception). People prefer to document birthdays and other happy events more than funerals.

Postal Station A


Fri Apr 16 22:03:40 2010

From Friday Foto: Downtown

Postal station A, at the east end of Union Station, with golden light reflected from the Royal Bank tower across the street. The names appearing on the frieze are those of significant men in Canada's railway history. The building is currently occupied by Scotiabank and will become a public entrance once the revitalization of Union Station is completed in 2015.

This is a two-image panorama photographed with the 50mm; the seam is visible as the diagonal line separating a dark upper part and a lighter lower part on the left side of the building.

HCB Retrospective at MoMA


Sat Apr 17 09:02:14 2010

The hallmark of Cartier-Bresson’s genius is less in what he photographed than in where he placed himself to photograph it, incorporating peculiarly eloquent backgrounds and surroundings.
—Peter Schjeldahl

The Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan is having a retrospective of Henri Cartier-Bresson's photographs. The retrospective was also featured on the Charlie Rose show, including an interview with HCB.

Ordered EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM


Tue Apr 20 14:24:05 2010

I ordered the EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM from Vistek this afternoon.

Update Wed Apr 21 21:47:01 2010: While I wait for the lens to arrive, I thought I would enumerate the reasons why I chose the 24mm:

  1. This (terribly exposed) photograph I took a few days ago with the 24-105/4L (even though I had them stand under the light, it could have been better exposed; I think the overhead light bouncing off the white award threw-off the metering).
  2. The finicky focus of the 50/1.4.
  3. I know what 24mm "looks like" in the view finder and I am confortable shooting landscapes at that focal length while the 50D's 15.1M pixels gives adequate cropping headroom.
  4. All the Canon wide angle non-L lenses, (24mm, 28mm, etc.) are '80s and '90s designs (see Bob Atkin's catalog)— lacking USM, full-time manual focusing, poor focus aquisition in low-light and the myriad other cons.
  5. I like the shallow focus look of the 50mm/1.4 which makes me prefer primes over zooms (though I haven't decided between 24/50/100mm school and the 35/85/135mm school, I think having the 24 and the 50 makes it obvious that I have chosen (for my crop camera, anyway); I was thinking of getting the 35mm, but again, it's an "old" lens).
  6. Craig F. Walker
  7. I feel confident enough in my skills that I can justify buying a lens that cost more than my camera.
  8. It's an investment; lenses tend to keep their resale value for the duration of their life and the 24mm II is a 2008 lens design.

Update: It was delivered Thursday evening.

Update Sun Apr 25 17:39:18 2010: I took some photographs on Friday and when I pixel-peeped, I noticed they were soft. Today, I adjusted the focus; the lens required an -8 focus micro-adjustment. I didn't bother with the moire pattern test this time, I just took some photographs out my window and eyeballed it.

Stare at the Sun

photos astronomy

Wed Apr 21 22:31:04 2010

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory came online recently and sent back spectacular photographs of the sun.

Friday Foto: Door to the Sultan's Tent (Detail)

Fri Apr 23 00:12:47 2010

From Friday Foto: Downtown

This is a closeup showing the detail of a panel on the door of The Sultan's Tent, a Moroccan restaurant on Front Street. Taken at f/1.4 with the 50mm lens.

The door is two panels wide and 6 (or 8, I forget) panels high and is quite beautiful to look at. Reading the online reviews, patrons dine while sitting in a tent (indoors) and the entertainment includes belly-dancers. While the restaurant rates highly in ambience, it rates poorly for food and service; typical for a tourist attraction, I suppose.

Look closely at the photograph and you will notice that one of the petals is not like the others.

Toronto Street Scenes: Waiting to Cross Church


Sat Apr 24 23:53:47 2010

From Waiting...

The first in my "Waiting..." series.

The yellow umbrella, in a typical sea of black umbrellas, provides the visual focus to this photograph. It could have been framed better, though.

Toronto Street Scenes: Waiting to Cross Bay Street

Sun Apr 25 08:52:28 2010

From Waiting...

Comparing this photograph to the yellow umbrella one, again, there is a single point of colour, the green bag, that changes the tone of the photograph. Shadows add depth— the headlights of a passing car illuminate the bottom part of the photograph from the side and the headlights of the cars behind the pedestrians throw their shadows on the road.

I photographed this intersection every evening I had my camera with me and all the photographs, except this one, were uninteresting. I was very fortunate.

Lightning in the Volcano


Sun Apr 25 12:26:15 2010

Reuters photographer, Lucas Jackson, describes how he got the photograph of the Icelandic volcano with lightning bolts in the plume.

Automatic Lens Correction in Lightroom/Photoshop

Tue Apr 27 15:57:28 2010

A demo of some nice features (available as a free plugin) to the upcoming Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5 that corrects for lens distortion. The software includes lens profiles for popular lenses and if you're using a lens without a profile, you can create your own profile.

I correct my images manually using the Image > Transform command in Photoshop Elements. Doing it manually adds to the post-processing time, so these features would be very handy for a professional photographer who needs fast turnaround time.

My Best Shot


Tue Apr 27 18:28:37 2010

"My Best Shot" is a series by the Guardian in which a photographer describes how they got their best photograph.

There are a also a few videos in the series showing the interview with the photographer.

"One Ride with Yankee Papa 13"


Wed Apr 28 15:21:00 2010

Larry Burrow's seminal Vietnam war photo-essay for LIFE magazine.

Friday Foto: Solid Gold Glass


Thu Apr 29 17:28:39 2010

From Friday Foto: Downtown

Solid gold covered glass façade of the Royal Bank building on Front and Bay seen from the Union Station moat. There is a total of $1M worth of gold in the glass coating but due to the fabrication method, it cannot be extracted. I left the tree-tops in the botton right to give th photograph scale, otherwise it would have become too abstract.

Open House 2010 Photos


Fri Apr 30 18:37:33 2010

I shot the Open House photographs with the 24/1.4L II lens. Compare with last year's photos shot with the 24-105/4L.

I exposed most of the photos with Center Weighted Average metering. A few were shot at a very shallow focus and the subjects were standing at different depths which made the look blurry; I'm not used to shooting portraits, shooting buildings and streets is a lot easier.

There were a couple of badly exposed ones (which is regretful). It is very frustating to shoot this event because each group is in a different lighting condition and I have to adjust camera settings about every minute. Sometimes, I forget to adjust the settings and the photograph is exposed badly. It is also very tiring as I have to walk the length of a city block several times to photograph everyone.

From some early test, the lens definitely needs a focus micro-adjustment to shoot at f/1.4, but I decided to shoot it un-corrected to get a baseline to compare. A couple of the photographs were completely out of focus (despite the camera registering focus aquisition) so Canon's AF suckage strikes again.

In hindsight, I should have practiced shooting more with this lens before using it "for real".

Update Sat May 01 11:05:50 2010: One thing I did notice in a couple of the photos (refer to the pair of photos with the three students in the atrium, where one of the trio is wearing an electric blue shirt) I took at f/5.6 is that they are SHARP— for the first time ever, I couldn't imagine performing an unsharp mask pass on the final image.

luis fernandes / / Apr 2010 Canon 50D Journal