Diptych

More to Come?

Dryptich

Not much else to say other than if I can get a shot with a similar subject matter with the North Star in the center perhaps I will make a Triptych. Your thoughts on these? Should I try more?

Sigma 70-200 F2.8 review

Great at F11 iffy at F2.8

A cut and dry quick review of my own personal non scientific test of the Sigma 70-200 F2.8 EX APO HSM

sigma

A while back I wrote about me buying the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX  APO HSM. I finally have been able to shoot it enough to get a good idea of the performance of this lens. The first striking thing I noticed was the soft focus at f2.8 to f5.6, it is exceptionally noticeable on a full framed camera such as my 5D II. Starting at F8 it started getting sharp with F11 being the sharpest (which is quite surprising as most lenses are sharpest around f8 to f9 range). On the full framed camera F2.8 was almost useless with nothing in an image being sharp. At first I thought it was severe camera shake, but even on a tripod with a shutter release I was still getting the effect. After which I tried shooting it with the Canon Rebel T2i crop sensor camera I recently picked up as a back up, there it definitely performed significantly better at all apertures though still soft at F2.8.  On the crop sensor the F2.8 would perhaps be decent as a portrait lens making the soft focus great for skin though the eyes would not be as sharp as can be.

Below are some samples taken with my 5D MKII at F5.6 and F7. The bottom at F2.8 with a larger crop section of the sharpest area, notice how nothing seems to be tack sharp._MG_0455

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test

Below is with the 5D MkII at F11, definitely much better

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and below is with the Rebel T2i crop sensor at F9

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The other issue I have had is an attempt at getting a lens hood for this lens, the hood made specifically for this lens by Sigma did not fit and appeared to actually be misshapen, at this point I have not attempted to purchase another one and am not too sure if I will.

Not too sure what it is but this lens definitely is cleaner with a crop sensor camera. At some point I might try another lens to see if perhaps it is just the one I have, but as of this writing I am still sticking with the Canon L lens (even if it is just the F4) though I will be keeping the Sigma for my T2i. Personally I would invest in the more expensive canon L lens before the Sigma.

I would love to know who else has experience with this lens and how you feel about it. Does the Sigma have quality control issues? Or did I just have a run of bad luck.

Below is a shot from my Canon 70-200 F4L at F4, notice the greater clarity as well as sharpness._MG_9829

testl

Has It Been This Long

photos of speaking engagement

So how did I end up going almost 3 weeks without a post? Anyone have a time machine to send me back so I can catch up with the missed weeks?

 

Speaking of going back in time, a while back I mentioned about volunteering for the Senate Campaign of Lily Tang Williams. Many things did not go as planned, but I still was able to meet up with her and spend some time with her. To understand more of her positions you can go to her website at Lily4Liberty.com. Lily is the first Chinese Immigrant to run for the US Senate, and someone I am very excited about having and promoting. She received a unanimous nomination for the Libertarian Party of Colorado for the Senate race.

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Above: Lily waits for people to arrive before a speaking engagement in the western slope. If you ever have a chance to hear her speak do it. She is regularly speaking on the radio and events all over Colorado and places in other states as well

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She regularly speaks about her experiences growing up in China under the Maoist system and some parallels of modern US policy.

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Not only is she an amazing speaker but she is a great listener

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So check her out. If you like what you see, perhaps show her some support. I know many of us are looking for an alternative to the current line up.

Lily4libery.com

Lily4Libery Facebook Page

and while you are at it

My website

Facebook

Instagram

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Vega State Park

I recently went to Vega State Park for the first time ever. Eeeeeeeever, it is at the base of Grand Mesa south west of Grand Junction. I chose this because it was a location far removed from any light pollution and is relatively high enough in elevation without it still being in winter mode (oh like the top of Grand Mesa is). the combination of the two make for some extremely dark skies. The disadvantage was the half moon, I decided on staying to well after moonset which was close to 2 AM

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The sky itself was dark enough even with the half moon that once the moon got low enough in the sky the Milky Way was still quite visible as you can tell with the image below as the moon was still casting shadows on the pier.

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I also had recently purchased the Canon Rebel T2i (550D) as a small light weight backup top my 5D MKii and I REALLY wanted to see how well a consumer grade Dslr from Canon fared at night photography, I had not shot a camera like that since the xti days (now that is a long time)

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Golden-Ratio

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As you can tell, not too bad. The vertical one was shot with the 24-105 F4 lens at 6400 ISO. Perhaps a little too much for the camera to handle cleanly, but I was pleasantly surprised at the performance of a $200 consumer grade camera though I would not shoot it at 6400 ISO, even with heavy noise reduction with either Topaz Denoise or NIKs Dfine software was I able to cleaned up the noise enough for my tastes.

To be honest with that one test, once the moon had set and it was getting extremely dark. Dark enough for air glow to become quite apparent (see my previous blog post), I ended up putting the Rebel away and worked strictly with the much better low light performing 5D camera with the 14mm F2.8 Rokinon where I could comfortably shoot at 3200 ISOs and much higher and shoot up to 35 second exposures without much star trailing

I will leave with this last image taken with my 5D and compare it to the photo immediately above from my t2i and let you see the difference. Let me what you think of the low light performance of these consumer grade camera. Of course, all of which while using proper techniques

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I Have Been Doing It All Wrong

How dark are our night skies

So wrong have I been, what an eye opening experience it was for me the other night. My very own perception of things were wrong. What I saw the other night totally changed my perspective and processing techniques.

 

What am I talking about? This

nature photography with the Milky Way

and this

Buffalo-Milky-8bit-tiff

What is wrong with these?

Almost everything about the skies. They are totally black. Isn’t that what the night sky should look like? Yes and No. To our eyes looking up with no reference our eyes and brain translates a black sky, but using a reference against the sky, we see a whole new perspective of our night sky, it is literally glowing throughout the sky. Try this experiment, and this requires an extremely dark sky with no light pollution. Sorry everyone who lives in a city, you will have to travel a good long distance, and sorry to those living on the east coast of the US or most of Europe, you are going to have to travel for a couple days by car or hours by plane to get skies dark enough. To truly experience this effect you will need to travel to a location that has skies rated at a Bortle Class 2 at minimum. For  more information on the Bortle Classification of sky darkness go here http://www.bigskyastroclub.org/lp_bortle.html. For a link to a listing of the darkest skies go here http://darksitefinder.com/maps/world.html, this site allows you to zoom in really close. Notice how bad Europe and the East Coast of the US is? Now back to the easy provided you are in a dark location experiment, hold your hand up to the sky, notice a very dark void against a brightly glowing sky? That is air glow, the light of all those millions of stars filling the whole sky, your hand literally looks like a black hole against brilliant light (the glow of light pollution does not count, don’t try to be sneaky). Just that experience has changed my whole processing of the night sky, I always attempted to build a contrast resulting in a black sky. NO MORE from me, It is far more impressive to include as best as I can the amazing star glow I am witnessing every time I go out.

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The above shot is a simple silhouette of the foreground. The sky really does glow enough to create a clearly defined silhouette when viewed against it. If you notice to the right of the center of our Milky Way are the planets of Mars and Saturn as the two brightest “stars”.

The other night I was at Vega State Park which is at the foot of Grand Mesa far from the slightest light pollution, the air glow was able to illuminate the ground enough for me to walk without needing a light. The kicker is that we are so accustomed to artificial light, either through light pollution of the cities, house lights, electronic equipment or dash/headlights from our cars it takes a couple of hours for eyes to adjust to that level of darkness, it is best to be at these dark locations from evening and allow our eyes to gradually adjust to the darkening skies naturally to enjoy the benefit of seeing the night like we were intended. I am by no means recommending going on a hike at night or a stroll through the woods at night without the proper illumination, so don’t even think of doing such, but the next time you have an opportunity to spend a night in a truly dark location do it, put up your tent and pull out your camp chair and sit back watching the stars move across the sky, your eyes will clearly make out the dust lanes in our view of the Milky Way

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to view all of these photos at their uploaded size just right click on your mouse and click on “view image”. All above photos were taken about 15 miles north of the tiny town of DeBeque in western Colorado, you still get a slight glow of the city of Grand Junction in each of these images, but the overall sky is rated a Bortle Class 2. Vega State Park, images will be posted in an upcoming blog post, is about 40 miles south of that same tiny town of DeBeque. Again with each photo above Mars and Saturn are also visible to the right of the core of our Milky Way.

So how many of you live in a region that gives you an opportunity to see truly dark skies? How many of you are on the US east coast or Europe? Wanting to experience these amazing dark skies? I am considering doing photo tours and perhaps some workshops coming up in the future if anyone is interested.

Rifle Falls

return to Rifle Falls

Rifle Falls is a very popular waterfalls in western Colorado, a State Park about 14 miles north of the town of Rifle. It is comprised of 3 waterfalls each about 80 feet tall and is as close to a tropical feel as you can get in a largely semi arid Colorado. It was my first time at the falls for a shoot in several years, and is the first time I had used my Rokinon 14mm for something other than astrophotography. I timed my visit to the falls during a very rainy afternoon, in fact we had a strong thunderstorm that produced a gust of wind that toppled my camera with the 24-105 L lens over, luckily the camera and lens survived unscathed though my heart almost gave out when it happened.

 

This first one below was still taken with the required standard landscape lens. the Canon 24-105 F4L, all of these images are blended from two or 3 exposure, one for the foreground, one for the sky and if needed a 3rd with a really long shutterspeed to create the silky smooth water. The day was still bright enough that any accurate exposure at even F22 didn’t produce a long enough shutter speed, and though I do not have a ND filter, I learned how to produce the effect in layers in PS CC

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The following were taken with the Rokinon 14mm, I have up to this point exclusively used it for astrophotography. It has proven to be quite efficient as an ultra wide angle lens for landscape though a little soft on the edges even in apertures not in the extreme wide. It will still be used mainly for astrophotography, but I now know I can get away with some grand scenics with it.

 

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The falls has some really nice Lilac bushes to the right of them, but as of the shooting of these the leaves have barely started, seemingly a couple of weeks behind.

New Volunteer Work

Volunteering for campaign

I almost never involve politics with my photography. It’s something I feel you should not make a habit out of.  Despite that fact, I do have my beliefs I hold very close to me and am very uncompromising which is the idea of liberty. Which has lead me to become politically active on a side, this time around though I am involving my photography volunteering my time with a US Senate campaign.

I realize many people in the US are fed up with the two parties and the whole political process, but there are choices and new opportunities. That is why I have volunteered for my time as a photographer with the campaign of Lily Tang Williams. Libertarian candidate for US Senate. She was born and raised under the flag of Communism in China but fled to the US and has been living here for over 20 years. She has developed a huge appreciation and respect for her adopted country and it’s freedoms and liberties that so many of us American’s take for granted.

Currently she is traveling to various regions speaking and trying to get her message out. Starting the end of April and beginning of May she will be traveling to my region of western Colorado. She will be in Grand Junction on May 2nd at 5:00 PM at the Mesa County Library,  at 443 N. 6th St., Grand Junction, CO

The following morning she will be at the Parachute Library at 11 AM. This event I personally have a hand in organizing. The address is 244 Grand Valley Way, Parachute, CO. There will be more events coming up at Craig and Glenwood Springs but times and dates have not been set yet.

I will be at both events with my camera and tripod so try to attend either or perhaps both and meet Lily Williams and I

Her website is at lily4liberty

my website can be found at PaulsColoradoPhotography

If you have time visit both to see what we are about and to view my art

 

This is truly an exciting time for me and my country