Saturday, August 30, 2008

Moving Day

Moving out

Been working last night and most of the morning getting everything loaded out of the house and into the truck for our epic journey five miles down the road. We're moving out of our 900 square foot box and into a much bigger, and nicer place in Pleasanton. This is currently the view from the webcam on my iMac, which sits in the garage/office/studio. Hopefully I'll be back online at the new place in a few days.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008


Fun random and rather educational internet toy: Wordle

It reads any patch of text, blog, website, whatever, and gives you back a graphic with your most used words. Words that are most used show up largest, less used are smaller, etc. Here's what's been in my blog recently:

Wordle image of my blog


ISO is far and away my most used word (damn, I did it again!) followed closely by D700 and D200, along with "much". I don't say that much, do I? I see that light and shots make the b-list, and money is almost nonexistent. Hey, just like real life.... Gotta fix that. I'm gonna go wordle the strobist and see what we get.

Just as I expected. It's all about light.

Found in Ivan Makarov's excellent blog, IM Digital
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Vacation Pictures

New York Summer

How bad can it be to spend a week in a place that looks like this?

More pics after the jump.

Welcoming Commitee

The new portable traveling dog, Eddie. The full-size dog was traded in a few months ago.

Lake Seneca shoreline

Some flowers by the shore of Seneca Lake. Note the artsy vignetting. I didn't until it was too late. Need a thinner polarizer. Maybe I could crop it square and have a really expensive Holga.


My uncle, doing one of his favorite things in life, sitting at a campground surrounded by family.


Feet. I love feet. They say as much about a person as hands, sometimes.


My mom's new place. They're on the road full time, as of a few days ago!


Hi Mom! (Ya gotta look at me next time :-)


This one raised some questions. Like "Why the heck are you sticking your camera in the fire!?!?!"

...still better than working!

You know what they say about a bad day fishing...

Catch of the day

My little girl... this kid may look cute, but she's a fish killer!

Feet II

More feet. Well, same feet, later in the week. My girl hates this picture, but I don't think she reads the blog. You never can tell with seven year olds these days.


Tupperware Archaeology.


D700, 50/1.4, and a campfire. What more do you need?

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Wedding in the dark

Picked up another second shooter gig off of craigslist for Saturday afternoon. I was hired just to shoot the ceremony by "My Perfect Day Media" a husband and wife video/photo team based out of Los Angeles. The money wasn't much, but I'm still in need of some better portfolio pictures, so I took it on.

The church was huge, and they were very specific about what they needed: a long-range shooter from the balcony in the back, a couple of wide shots with natural light, and whatever else I could come up with in an hour ceremony. The wide shots were easy, at 24mm on the D700, f/5 1/25th and around ISO 1600 to 2000. I tried a couple of different combinations for the longer shots, turns out the D200 with the 85/1.4 and the D700 with the Sigma 150 give me about the same images. The 700 shoots cleaner at higher ISO's, which makes up for the difference between the 1.4 and the 2.8. Ended up shooting the D200 wide and the D700 long, mostly around 1/80th wide open at ISO 2000-2500. Weird, and not at all what I expected, but it worked.

After the ceremony, I was able to get some nice portraits of the bridesmaids and flower girls, which will probably be my best payoff for the two hours or so I spent there. I hung around for the bride and groom making their departure, but the main photographers were all over the car like paparazzi, so I did what I could.

Good fun, and good practice, and a couple of good shots for the website.

And somebody hit my car while it was in the parking garage. Grrrrr

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Sigma 150/2.8 Macro

In lieu of the ubiquitous 70-200, I decided to go a different route for my fast telephoto needs, and after much research came up with the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro. Shutterbug Magazine did a review of it a while back, and had only good things to say. I personally like the fact that it has macro capability (full 1:1 with no extra attachments needed!) and that it's about half the size and less than half the cost of the 70-200. I've found this lens balances very, very well on the D700, and I've been able to handhold it down to about 1/60th with excellent results.

Downsides (after a few weeks use) seems to be a slower autofocus, especially in poor light, and the focus ring turns the opposite direction than Nikon lenses do, which is a bit counterintuitive when trying to tweak focus a bit, or get it in the right vicinity so the AF can do it's thing. After Saturday's wedding, I also think mine may front-focus a bit at long ranges. That, however, can be adjusted if necessary.

Pictures after the break..

Wedding, from the upper balcony of the church. 1/80th f/5, ISO 2200

Flower girl, natural light portrait outside the church. 1/160th f/3.0 ISO 200

David, portrait by camping lantern and glowstick. 1/25th f/3.2 ISO 3200

Pretty much my only macro shot so far. For size reference, the background is the knitting on a pink t-shirt. The whole pin is maybe 3/4" across. 1/1000th f/8, ISO 200

And a candid shot at the poker tournament yesterday. Shot with the D200 (so actually 225mm equivalent) 1/200th at f/4, ISO 400 with flashes on lightstands bounced off the ceiling from the corners of the room.

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In Memory of Mark

Got to break out the lights at last, after a couple of "available dark" gigs over the last few days. The event was "In Memory of Mark", a charity poker tournament, arranged to raise money for Mark's two year old daughter's college fund.

The event was fun, fast moving, and a pleasure to shoot. Indoors, outdoors, sometimes everything just works out perfectly. I felt for the first time that I had my kit dialed in, and was able to seamlessly shoot with both cameras and not have to fumble around with lenses, flashes, and whatnot.

Shot the D200 with the Sigma 150 for long portraits, candids from three tables away, isolating subjects from the crowd, etc, and the D700 with 24-70 as my all-purpose machine. With the lighting as good as it was, no problems at all with the D200 noise, and the 700 of course worked flawlessly.

I also used the LiveView several times, getting shots with the camera held high above me and out over a table, etc. Definitely better than point and hope, which is how you usually have to do these shots. Outside was a bit tougher, but something about an open bar gives you the courage to shoot at ISO 3200 and use your flashes from inside the building as a key light on your subjects.

Whoever designed the ceiling in the reception hall at Congregation Beth Am in Palo Alto clearly had photographers in mind. Best bounce conditions I've ever had the pleasure of shooting under. White painted, and low at the walls angling up to about 20' in the center, the inside of the hall acted like a giant parabolic reflector for light. Covered something like 1500 square feet with two strobes, and then covered it very well when the other photographer showed up with a pair of Sunpaks and two more lightstands. We had f/4 at ISO 400 throughout pretty much the whole room, and 5.6 if we were shooting a table near any of the four lights.

It got really fun once the tournament boiled down to one table, and we moved in even closer...

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ninja Photography

Available Dark...

Answered a Craigslist ad early last week for a photographer to do a "shoot in low light, no flash condition, outdoors this Friday night" It looked interesting, and didn't pay a whole lot but I was intrigued by the idea. Turns out "low light" meant candle light and some white Christmas lights in nearby trees. Oh, and I had to remain absolutely unseen and unheard. The event? A marriage proposal on a wooded bluff above Baker's Beach in San Francisco.

I arrived about 7:30, and met the other guys setting this up. They were busy stringing the lights, and helped with a sound check...I was initially going to shoot wide, and fairly close, but the shutter was too loud, and the priority for the night was stealth, not quality of images. Obviously not my choice of compromises, but you take what you can get. The Sigma 150 was not going to help, because at that length there was no way I would be getting acceptable shutter speeds as the light fell.

Here's your light source, now get to work!

Talk about dark out there... I ended up with the 85/1.4 wide open, at ISO 6400, handholding the camera braced against the ground at about 1/5 to 1/10 of a second. Crazy dark. But the D700 did it's job admirably, coming up with some surprisingly acceptable images under these conditions.

Black hoodie, black pants, crawling around in the sand and bushes being a ninja... just another Friday night at Cycle 61 Photography :-)

Oh, and by the way, she said yes. And we were invited to come out of hiding and meet the happy couple. And I'm shooting their wedding. Like I said, just another boring Friday night...

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Saturday, August 9, 2008


It's been a great week, camping and fishing up here in the lakes of upstate New York. Back in gear next week, but it's been a very relaxing, and much needed break. More to come in a few days. Lots of big stuff going on.

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Seat without a view...

Chase Jarvis has his "Room without a view" series, I figured I could do the same. Sitting in Chicago International right now, after a quick and cloudy hop from San Francisco. We'll be on our way to Rochester NY in an hour or so, for a week of camping and hopefully some lifestyle and landscape shooting in upstate New York. In the meantime, enjoy the scenery!
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
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Time Machine

These images are under a Creative Commons License. Feel free to copy and distribute for non-commercial purposes.

Spent an afternoon in Oakland's DeFremery Park, somewhere back in 1969, as Angela Davis, a political activist on the FBI's most wanted list for her anti-war activities, gave her firey "Liberation of our People" speech to an eager crowd, gathered from all around.

Actually, this isn't Angela Davis, nor is it 1969. But for a few hours, it sure felt that way...

I generally avoid politics here, but when I saw an opportunity to get involved with Mark Tribe's Port Huron Project, I couldn't resist. It's a series of re-enactments of some of the most famous speeches from the late sixties by figures such as Angela Davis, Cesar Chavez, Coretta Scott King, and others.

The people involved in the project are amazingly dedicated to what they are doing, and their passion for this movement is clear. The problems our country faces today are frighteningly similar to those of forty years ago, and now, as then, there is a rising tide of discontent and voices that will not be silenced. Mark and his crew are using these bits of history to hold up a mirror to modern society, and to the people who would stand by and wonder when somebody's going to do something about it.

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

I love natural light

It just seems like there's never enough of it to do what we really want. I can certainly see why portrait photographers who use natural light want a "north window studio". This is essentially what I have in my living room, except the backyard is enclosed by trees and there's a huge awning extending 15 feet out, which combine to make my "studio" darker than the inside of a cow. The light is gorgeous, there's just hardly any of it there.

I'm now able to shoot in conditions that I wouldn't have even tried before...this definitely bears further practice! Next week is going to be interesting.
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Murphy's law, subsection 342

Good old Mr. Murphy, inventor of the law stating "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong" apparently had a background in photography. One of the deeply buried corrolaries to the law stated that four days after you buy something new, you will find an equal or better item for sale on Craigslist at a price you cannot refuse.

What am I talking about?

A D3, another 24-70, another 85/1.4, and accessories.

For about the price of a new D3.

So now the bag is a bit too full, one of each lens has to go, and I get to spend the next week in New York deciding whether I'm going to keep the D3 or the D700. When I get back, one of the cameras will be on it's way to a new owner.

I just have to decide which one. I swear, I didn't mean for this to happen, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity. Either way, it's going to be a sweet kit.

I have an interesting event coming up this weekend, a shoot for a historical/political group that does re-enactments of famous speeches, rallies, etc. It's a combination political rally and public, collaborative theater. The group is called the Port Huron Project , check them out, and if you're in Oakland this Saturday, come on down and watch the show!

I'll try to get some pictures up from the event Saturday night, as I'm flying out to New York to go camping for a week on Sunday morning. Enjoy!
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Monday, July 28, 2008


Kids at the beach. How much more fun does it get than that?

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

It's here...

Thanks to Nikon, Ritz Camera, FedEx, and a gentle squeeze of the bank account, my new D700 showed up today. This is the full-frame camera that I (along with so many others) have been waiting for Nikon to build, and they've done a great job. Quick first impressions, and a few more pictures, after the jump.

Found this sitting on the front porch when I got home today:

Brought it in, out of the box, and there's the big 700 I've been waiting for:

First off, the camera feels great in hand, very solid and comfortable. It exudes quality, and just begs to be used. The screen on the back is incredible, at 3.0" and more than twice the resolution of my D200, it's beautiful.

First lens to go on was the 24-70, which is now able to be the wide angle it was designed as. 24mm on the full frame is wider than 18mm on dx, so I get to shoot a little closer than before, which is gonna be nice. Yes, my kitchen's a mess, but here's the view at 24mm:

The high ISO abilities of this camera are every bit as incredible as I've heard. Take a look at this photo, shot under the one 100w bulb in my kitchen at ISO 25,600. Click through for full-size if you have a big screen and/or a minute for it to load.

I'm going to stop drooling over it now, and go take some pictures...

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