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Photo a Day Challenge: Day 16

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 16 - Pool Ripples on Ilford Delta 100 filmPool - Irvine, CA
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 at 2:43pm
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It was a hot summer day on Day 16 of my Photo a Day Challenge. I had to work the morning and evening so I took an extended lunch break in the middle of the day. With my Mamiya RZ67 and a roll of Ilford Delta 100 film in my backpack, I ventured to the pool to soak up some light. As I lounged by the poolside I observed the gentle ripples in the water.

I'd been recently reading a fascinating book titled Color and Light in Nature by David K. Lynch and William Livingston. This book was recommended reading by the great Galen Rowell because it explains in great detail some of the most interesting optical phenomena in nature, a topic that should be important to all outdoor photographers. From the science behind rainbows to the physics of alpenglow, this book is endlessly educational.

In this book, I'd just read about the science behind water ripples. And like almost anything else in life, once you learn more about it you tend to respect it more. So as I watched these undulations in the water I thought about how the light bouncing off the bottom of the pool was bent by refraction as it escaped the water's surface. I admired the illusion created by this effect as the tiles beneath the surface appeared to bend and kink and dance wildly. Then it became abundantly clear to me what I should photograph.

I pulled out my camera and light meter, attached my 110mm lens, and started testing out compositions. Diagonals tend to look good in most compositions so I positioned myself at an angle to the tile strips. I metered the scene at 1/400 at f/11 - I knew I'd need a fast shutter speed to catch the motion. Then I carefully dipped my foot into the water and started making ripples. I fired off 2 frames, this one having the most interesting pattern in the tiles.

It's interesting how such a simple thing can seem amazing once you know how it works.

Read the backstory on this Photo A Day Challenge here. See previous days here.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 15

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 15 - Bike Spokes on Ilford Delta 100 filmBike Spokes and Gears - Santiago Oaks Regional Park, CA
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 at 2:22pm
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Oh man. Day 15 of my Photo a Day Challenge was a frustrating one. I really struggled to find a shot and the temperatures were soaring on this summer day. Which if there's one thing that makes the frustration of failing to find a good composition even worse, it's trying to do it in the heat. Despite the torturous temperatures, I decided to get a little bit of mountain biking in to my schedule. The trail had virtually no shade and I went out at about 2:00pm. I must have been trying to torture myself... But hey, at least the trails are empty in these conditions.

I, of course, brought my camera with me on this journey to try and find some shots on the trail. Clear days like this at high noon look terrible on color film, but the high contrast actually works quite well on black and white film. And yet, I was struggling to see any good compositions. The light was just too harsh, the heat was getting to me, and I was feeling worn out from the ride. I eventually stopped on the trail and forced myself to find something to photograph. The scenic stuff wasn't working and the terrain was brown and ugly. So I did what I do whenever I can't find a good wide scenic shot: I turned my camera to the details. Because when all else fails, you can usually find a good close-up detail shot.

The textures of the dirty chain and gears on my bike jumped out at me. With a shallow depth of field, it could turn out quite nicely. My exposure came out to 1/250 of a second at f/5.6.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 15 - Oak Tree on Ilford Delta 100 filmOak Tree - Santiago Oaks Regional Park, CA
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 at 2:39pm
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As I rode my bike back to the trailhead, I came upon a beautiful, stately oak tree that I'd travelled past many times before. Unsure of whether or not the photo of my bike would turn out, I fired off a quick frame of this tree as a "safety" shot. I love the oak trees around here, so although this isn't a fantastic photo, the subject makes it worth sharing.

Read the backstory on this Photo A Day Challenge here. See previous days here.

Mad Respect for the New Nikon Df DSLR

The New Nikon Df DSLRThe New Nikon Df
Pre-Order Yours at B&H Today!

I normally don't give a damn about new camera releases. But today Nikon announced a new full-frame DSLR camera that finally got my attention: the Nikon Df DSLR.

Except for gear heads who are really only into photography for the sake of getting new toys, newly announced cameras aren't that exciting. For one, they are just too frequent, and two, they generally offer new features and specs that actually aren't that big of a deal. "Ooo, more megapixels that no one needs? Awesome! And higher ISO limits even though everyone still won't shut up about digital noise? Fantastic! AND there's an in-camera HDR feature so I can create god-awful image composites without the need for Photoshop? I'm in!" We have enough megapixels already, the ISO goes high enough as it is for 99% of shooters, and we don't really need 63 auto focus points - a dozen or so is fine.

But here's the thing that irritates me most about modern digital cameras: It seems every manufacturer is moving away from buttons and dials, towards touch-screens and menu-based navigation. In other words, "Let's make our cameras more like an iPhone and less like a camera." Cameras should have buttons and dials on them. Things you can actually touch and see without the need for a blaring LCD screen. I've talked before about the importance of tangibility. Tangible buttons make adjusting your settings way quicker and easier. I've gotten my hands on almost every DSLR on the market through my classes and private lessons and I can say for certain that the slowest cameras to control are the ones with fewer buttons and more menu-based navigation (I'm talking to you, Nikon D5200).

Enter the Nikon Df DSLR.

Nikon clearly took a cue from the film SLRs of old. This thing has tangibility written all over it. Big clearly marked dials for shutter speed, ISO, exposure compensation, shooting mode, and drive mode rise proudly from the top of the camera - all the most important functions easily accessible. And the LCD screen up top isn't big and obnoxious displaying every single function from shutter speed to your current blood pressure. It just has the shutter speed, aperture, battery life, and images remaining - the only things you really need on the external LCD screen. And all of this in what I would describe as the most beautifully designed DSLR camera body since the F100. This camera is gorgeous, no doubt about it. With styling very similar to the Nikon FE from way back when, this camera will turn heads whether you get it in sleek black or throwback silver.

Now, of course, this thing has awesome specs inside like a 16.2-megapixel full-frame sensor with a max ISO of 12,800 (which can be pushed all the way to ISO 204,800), 100% viewfinder coverage, 39 auto focus points, a rugged body...all of these things are worthy of praise. But this camera is really about the design with the functionality of external dials, buttons, and levers. And don't think this radical departure in design is just for looks. Listen to a guy who has worked extensively with SLR cameras from just about every generation since their inception: these tangible controls make shooting quicker, easier, more intuitive, and much more gratifying. This new camera is a big deal in the war against intangibility. For that, I give it mad respect.

The Nikon Df DSLR, I think, will be one of those cameras displayed proudly on people's shelves 50 years from now as an iconic example of when camera manufacturers got it right. I hope to get my hands on one soon.

Read the Nikon Df press release here and preorder yours at B&H in silver or black.