May 31 2010

June desktop wallpaper

This month’s wallpaper/calendar is also from Italy, specifically Camogli. I was trying out a few landscape vistas when this couple starting walking into my shot. Rather than get upset about it, I decided to wait and see what would happen. After spending a little, ahem… quality time behind the lighthouse, they came walking back holding hands… and there it was.

June Desktop

I think of June as the month of love, partly because so many folks get married this month. (I did.) And, of course, Italy is the place for lovers, no?

June 2010 desktop wallpaper – large (2560 x 1600) June 2010 desktop wallpaper – small (1280 x 800) June 2010 desktop wallpaper – iPad (768 x 1024) June 2010 desktop wallpaper – iPhone (320 x 480)


May 15 2010

Together… and alone

It’s interesting how people learn differently. Some say they’re visual learners; they want to be shown what to do through images, video, etc. Others say they learn better through words, both written and spoken. Some people learn better in groups; others, by themselves. Personally,  I think that we all learn a little bit by all of these methods. I can watch someone do something and learn how to do it, as well as read a manual to perform the same task. I learn when I’m by myself, and I learn with a group of others seeking similar knowledge.

Together and alone

My experience in Italy Within the Frame with David duChemin and Jeffrey Chapman bears this out, at least for me. A typical day for us started with some breakfast conversation about what we shot the day before and what we were going to shoot today. We would then go out for the first part of the day’s shooting, sometimes as a group and sometimes on our own. We’d meet up again for lunch and talk of the morning’s images, then head out again for a few more hours. There were late afternoon image critiques in which we all participated—either giving or taking criticism—and more shooting before dinner, again either together or alone. On occasion, a few of us would hang out after dinner, reviewing the images of the day on our laptops and talking about some of our favorites. Most of the days followed this pattern, mixing up the amount of interaction or solitude as we wanted.

Personally, I thrive in this kind of situation. I enjoy learning together—talking about a specific shot I was after, picking David’s and Jeffrey’s brains about an angle or a look, and generally working together to share our knowledge and gain more. However, I also need time to absorb the new information and thinking from these discussions and to figure out how to apply the lessons to my own photography. As a result, I would sometimes head out by myself to play with the stuff I’d learned and see what worked for me. Being alone, I could concentrate on practicing my craft, sifting through all I’d seen and heard previously to find those nuggets that would make me a better photographer.

It certainly helped that David and Jeffrey purposely kept the workshop group small; eight participants in all. This intimacy helped us not only to get good chunks of their time, but kept it easy for us to interact as a group. Too many more people and we would have probably fragmented into smaller groups. In addition, David’s and Jeffrey’s teaching styles allowed us to explore things on our own, but they were nearly always available to us when we had questions, or if we just wanted to talk about something—photography, wine, pasta, life in general. This type of organic teaching style can be a little daunting if you’re not used to seeking out your instructor(s) and asking pointed questions. I did come back with a few unanswered questions, but only because I didn’t ask them.

Italy Within the Frame was such a good learning experience for me—both personally and photographically— that I’m making plans to spend more time with David and Jeffrey.

Yep… I think I’m going to Kathmandu.


May 8 2010

Showdown

If you remember during my one camera/one lens/one month experiment, I was smitten with my Panasonic GF1 and thought that I might leave my Nikon D700 behind for the trip to Italy. Well, I didn’t leave the D700 behind, but I did spend a little time exclusively with the GF1 while I was there. So, how did that work out?

You tell me.

Divine

Divine

This was taken with the GF1 and the 20mm f/1.7 lens at the church in Monterossa al Mare. The statue of Mary was at the top of the steps leading to the church, which was fully in shadow with the sun above but behind it. I knelt down on the steps to shoot looking up at her and as I did, a small cloud obscured the sun ever so briefly, causing the crepuscular ray you see beaming down on the statue. It was a moment not to be repeated; it was gone as quickly as it arrived. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time… with my camera. (The only post-processing I did here, other than convert the image into black & white, was to darken the shadows of the church in order to increase the contrast of the light falling on the statue. The crepuscular ray is as exactly as it was shot.)

If memory serves, I spent two other shooting sessions using the GF1 and not the D700. I’ll be posting more images on Flickr, so you’ll be able to see which images were taken with which camera, but I guarantee that you’ll only be able to tell from the EXIF data, not from the images themselves.

There are a few things that struck me about using the GF1 vs. the D700:

Of course, carrying my GF1 with a couple of lenses in a small bag makes a big difference in weight vs. the D700 and all the trappings. I was a little more limited in lens selection, both from a focal length standpoint (I don’t have a really wide micro 4/3s lens) and from a lens speed standpoint (many of my Nikon lenses are f/2.8 and a couple are faster). Most of the time, however, I was able to compensate for these drawbacks by changing my POV or bumping up the ISO setting. If I really wanted a particular shot that the GF1 couldn’t get, I was able in most cases to go back later with the D700 and get it. I missed a few shots, but I was willing to take that chance. (I do plan on purchasing a wide angle lens for the GF1, though.)

Because the D700 is a full frame sensor, I had much better control over depth of field than with the GF1. While my Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 has very nice DOF and bokeh, there were situations where I wanted to use the D700 and my 85mm f/1.8 to really isolate the subject. The other situation where the D700 really shines is in low-light photography. I have several images of Vernazza shot from the mountain above it during twilight that have nearly no noise in them at all. I was shooting at ISO 100 (!) at f/22 (!!) with 20-30 second exposures. The D700 performed brilliantly.

Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to do any side-by-side comparisons of the same shot with both cameras. I had one or the other with me all the time, but never both, and I never thought to go back and take the same shot again with the other one. Perhaps I’ll try that here at home when I think about it.

I am still very impressed with the GF1 as a daily shooter and I still carry it with me most of the time these days. The image quality and the portability of the micro 4/3s cameras are a potent combination, and would serve well in many situations. But there are still times when nothing but the big gun will do—and that’s when I’m glad I have the Nikon.