This blog is my attempt to keep track of some of the things I learn along the way, with my Canon 7D, G12 and accessories. All images copyright Brad Calkins, not to be used without permission (or purchase). I do not attempt to monetize my blog, other than to promote my stock photo portfolio on Dreamstime.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Perfect bokeh

A lot of talk goes on about the out of focus rendering on a lens. This is a shot I took recently with my new 85mm f/1.8 lens wide open. The OOF highlights are perfectly round - something you don't see in many lenses... I often wonder why not, since the blades themselves aren't even in the picture.

Abstract Christmas lights

Then, there is the new Panasonic GF1. While I admit I love the out of focus rendering, it doesn't come close to circular blur wide open except in the centre of the frame (taken with the 20mm pancake set to f/1.7):

Christmas tree lights

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New assignment image up

I went for a Christmas theme on the assignment this time around. Hopefully this turns into something again! One overlooked aspect of the assignments is the jump to 100 downloads. That gives you a real boost in getting your image noticed - perfect for something like a Christmas image that might not be needed for a few months... I don't think I'd upload this shot so far in advance of Christmas without the instant Level 5 rating. Feel free to head over to Dreamstime and vote for my image :)
Christmas Baby
© Photographer: Bradcalkins Agency:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Do we need a new Sunny 16 rule?

Many photographers who have been around for a while will be familiar with the 'Sunny 16' rule. On a sunny day you set the aperture to f/16, and the shutter speed to 1/(ISO). If you camera is set to ISO 100 you'd use 1/125, or 1/90 as the shutter speed. Rules are useful, as far as they go, and as cameras have had meters added it becomes less useful.

People do still like to shoot in manual, though, and it is still relevant to have a place to start for exposure - especially for white or black subjects which you'd have to compensate for if you used the meter. I'd like to suggest, however, that the rule needs an update - shooting at f/16 just isn't a good idea with today's digital sensors. Most sensors these days (APS-C or micro 4/3, anyways) start to hit the limits of diffraction by f/16. It is better to shoot at f/8, or even f/5.6. On a digital compact like the G10 you don't even have f/16 as an option! Note that I'm talking about using f/5.6 or f/8 as a starting point - there are good reason to use f/16, even with diffraction...

So here is my new 'Sunny 8' rule:

On a sunny day, set the aperture to f/8 and the shutter to twice the ISO speed.

Note that these days shutter speed are displayed as their reciprocal (at least on my 40D's top LCD and in the viewfinder), so why not lose the 'one over' part and just tell it like you set it!

Off to give it a try :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

GF1 and stock

Red wave background

The GF1 is proving to be a capable stock photography camera, as well as being perfect for my go anywhere camera. Unlike the G10, which I left at home too often, the GF1 gets grabbed whereever I'm going. The G10 wasn't a camera you could slip into your shirt pocket either, so I'm not really finding any cases where I wish I had the slightly smaller G10. As a result, I'm also getting more out of the GF1 in terms of stock photography - just becuase I have it with me. Here are couple of recent uploads that were accepted this week:

Abstract color

Gymnasium floor

Hardwood floors

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wow! DT corrects mistake...

DT Announces error in our favor...

On a lot of levels it isn't necessarily good news, but it certainly has a happy results. DT has found that they were shorting exclusive contributors. I've actually e-mailed support as ever since the last price update (going from $1 per credit to $1.67 or so) I seem to have less, not more per credit revenue. I used to routinely get $0.60 from a 1 credit sale (i.e. 60% commission on a $1 credit). Since the update I have only seen about 3 (out of thousands!) cases where I got more than $0.60. I've been getting $.35-$.50 per credit for most. This was bad news on a few levels - first it meant that despite a big jump in price I saw no more income per sale. Higher prices should discourage use a bit so you'd hope the jump in royalties would more than offset the prices (as they would if buyers were not really price concious at this level). I was worried that the jump in prices would mean more buyers were getting pushed to subscriptions. In effect, I was basically seeing NO NEW CREDIT PURCHASES - based only on per credit revenue. This was troublesome to say the least. I e-mailed support and they responded that sales must be coming through partners, hence the lower income. As recently as two days ago I was starting to go through the earnings reports to try and show my per credit revenue over time - which should be going up and wasn't.

We'll today they announced that they were shorting exclusive contributors and are adding the dollars back to accounts. They say it is a few cents per sale, but I've got over a thousand sales in the last few months so that adds up - over $300 already... Something to smile about - not so much for the $300 (which is nice, of course!) but more so for the expected rise in RPD. Going forward I'll be getting more per sale than I have. I did a quick calculation and this boost in earnings has raised my RPD for ALL SALES (not just recent credit sales) by 10 cents - that is significant!

My take on this is that DT messed up after the last drop in non-exclusive royalties a few months ago and applied that to exclusives as well. Pure speculation, of course, but that would agree with the approximate dollar value, and number of sales affected. Combined with the recent news about levels going up, this could mean quite a difference for the new year in terms of RPD.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dreamstime ups prices, lowers levels

Interestingly, Dreamstime has announced that the number of credit per sale will go up in January, and they have also lowered the levels required to hit higher credit values. Both good per sale for contributors, but will buyers go elsewhere?

Link to post

Micro 4/3s adatper with EOS mount lenses

Indeed, it works! Here is a shot from a lensbaby (illustrating that it works, not that I can get a great image with it!):

The Lensbaby mounted on the GF1 (for some reason I think it looks a little dorky, but looks don't matter much versus not using it at all):
Here is a wide closeup with the EF-S 10-22mm mounted on the GF1:

And shown on the body:

I'm really looking forward to taking the GF1 on trips, with the 10-22mm thrown in the carry on for some tight interior shots. This combo works nicely due to the large depth of field wide open. The manual focusing works great too - for static subject you just hit the Focus Point select button, then hit Menu/Set (or move the area around first to focus off center) and you are presented with a live 5x or 10x view. I wouldn't choose this combo over an SLR for fast action, but for macro or landscape work it 'works'... The lensbaby, on the other hand, is perfect given that it doesn't have focus or aperture control anyways.
I'm still shocked by my ability to get excited and describe something as 'perfect' when it doesn't do anything - but that is what this camera brings out in me :) Next thing you know I'll be buying the Zeiss ZE mount lenses and raving about their MF perfection on Alt-Lens boards!

m4/3 to EOS adapter

I'll be looking forward to posting some pics from my GF1/EOS combo - the adapter arrived today. It fits both EF and EF-S lenses, so I'll be trying it out with:

EF-S 60mm Macro (alot cheaper than the 45mm Panasonic Macro if it works!)
EF-S 10-22mm (pretty wide, and with the smaller sensor I get quite a bit of depth of field even wide open - 3.3ft to infinity)
EF 85mm 1.8 (I'm very interested to see how this performs)
Lensbaby 2.0 (especially given the upcoming contest! Seems cool, but needs to be on a tripod to hold steady)

I'm curious to see how the sharpness and corners look, since I have to either shoot these wide open or do the 'hold down the depth of field preview button' trick when I take it off my Canon body.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Power meter

Here is a shot of a power meter that I took with my new GF1. We had a new meter installed so it was sitting at very close to zero, and I thought I'd better get in there and grab a photo early on. The photos were pretty boring (see example above), so I spiced it up a bit with black and white and a zoom effect. The zoom helps to get rid of the logos, at the same time as it plays off the energy side of things. Happy to say it was approved for sale today - another stock shot with the GF1. DT isn't accepting Panasonic RAW files yet, so I've been converting to DNG - probably more useful to buyers anyways (they don't have to have the absolute latest to make use of the files).

Power meter

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tiny viewfinders?

I'm interested in the opinion of people who use point and shoot cameras... One of the criticisms levelled against the Panasonic GF1 and the like is that they lack an integrated viewfinder. While I agree that a viewfinder is better than not having one, all things being equal - the form factor of the GF1 versus my SLR is significant. If I need the stability of the larger camera held to my eye, I can pull it out - assuming I have it with me! Otherwise there are tripods...

The GF1 lends itself to all kinds of situations where I find I don't have my SLR with me. I'm curious how many people that use Point and Shoot sized cameras with viewfinders actually use them on a regular basis? I used to have a G10 that had a viewfinder on it, and aside from a couple of shots taken in bright light out a plane window, I almost never used it. So to me, losing the viewfinder wasn't a big deal. Anyone else agree?

Is it just that I live somewhere where there isn't as much direct sunlight? Sure I can go to the GH1 and get a viewfinder in almost the same size, but that adds a lot of cost to the package...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Flash for GF1

I told you I'd bring Canon's EOS system back into the fold! With much trepidation, I followed a large number of online poster's 'advice' and tried my 430EX on my new GF1. Happily, it fired the flash. While I don't get eTTL, manual for flash is pretty common anyways. I can balance my exposre for ambient with on camera controls and then use the manual adjustment on the 430 or 580EX to adjust the flash level. In theory, the fact that this triggers at all means I should have no trouble using my wireless trigger and off camera cords, etc. Very exciting!

Here is a center crop of a test picture. Note that this doesn't illustrate much (nothing does on the web!) other than that I can get an exposure right with bounced manual flash on the 2nd try, and that the GF1 does what I'd hoped - delivers the resolution of an SLR or Canon G10, but without the noisy, grainy look of the G10 in unfocused areas. There is something odd about the GF1 - until now I've been excited about things working together in fully compatible auto modes - but now I'm getting excited about being able to use a lens without manual focus or aperture control, or a flash in manual only :)

Friday, December 4, 2009

85mm f/1.8 Canon prime lens

After sort of moving to zoom lenses for most of my work, and only the 60mm macro as a prime, I rented the 85mm f/1.2 recently. While this lens is very much beyond any kind of reasonable price that I could ever justify, it got me interested in both primes, and the focal length again. I liked the ability to be a bit further away and get less in focus compared to my 60mm.

As well, when comparing the 135mm f/2 and the 85mm f/1.8 the depth of field difference was there, but not something I thought I would notice a lot if framed right. As well, when I rented the 135mm I found it nice, but a bit long for most use on a crop sensor camera. At the same time, I became convinced I would appreciate the 35mm f/1.4 L lens as well, but couldn't justify it, either. As mentioned previously, I ended up deciding on the GF1 instead of the prime lens - and I've been happy with that decision.

Then I found a refurbished 85mm f/1.8 and decided to give it a go. Since the alternative at 85mm in the Canon lineup is so outrageous, and even the 'cheap' 135mm is three times the price, I'm happy to have found a decent prime lens that should get some use. Here is a recent stock image taken with this lens. I like the out of focus background, and even her ears are showing some blurring at f/2...

Baby girl

One thing I haven't quite understood with primes is that they often seem to have poor results in tests wide open. One wonders why you would pay for such a lens over a zoom if you "can't" even shoot wide open with it. And there is the problem - the reviewers often ask the wrong question. They are asking how well does it perform taking shots of a black and white, high contrast target in bright light - what they get is a bunch of CA and fringing, and general lack of contrast. If you actually take such a lens and shoot in the kinds of conditions where you want a fast lens, you find that it performs admirably. Hence why there are so many reviews that primes aren't great, not sharp wide open, and then a whole bunch of people using it for professional use and swearing by it. You need to actually use it to rate it! How often will I shoot back lit leaves with this lens wide open? Never! How many wedding shots are blurry, slightly soft, but absolutely loved because they captured the emotion?

New images online

Had a group of images approved today, but for some reason the one below really appeals to me. I don't know if it is the old engine, the blues, or what - it just feels like it could as easily by 1970 as 2009...

Plane engine

The shots of the kids playing on the WII guitars are pretty cute, too:

Child playing guitar

Thursday, December 3, 2009

First GF1 shot approved

Well, 1 out of 1 isn't really a long term trend but I'm pleased to see the first shot I submitted to DT with my GF1 was accepted. I don't see another contributor using this camera yet - unless they've just left it off their profile details. Definitely some folks using the G1 or GH1 to submit. After processing a few photos from this camera, I can see it will have a significant reduction in workflow time compared to the Canon G10. The files it produces are just great!

I also find it is easier to use than my 40D on a tripod for manual focus work. Live view is its primary interface and it shows. Looking forward to getting my EOS adapter so I can put my macro lens on it :)