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Gear

All about telephoto lenses

Filed in Lens, Tips by on September 15, 2017 0 Comments
All about telephoto lenses

When I was a new photographer, my dream lens was a 500 mm telephoto, like you always see sports photographers using on the sidelines of professional football games. To me, being able to get super close to fast action was the Holy Grail of photography. But back then I didn’t quite understand the subtle nuances of telephoto lenses that all photographers really need to know in order to get the most out of the lenses they have, and make the right decisions about the lenses they need. The truth is that telephoto lenses need not be overly long or overly expensive to be effective. It really depends on what kind of photography you are into, and the sorts of pictures that you plan to take.
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All about wide angle lenses

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All about wide angle lenses

If your primary camera is a point-and-shoot, you probably have a general idea of the what the phrase “focal length” means, but you may not really have a practical understanding of it. If you have a DSLR, your experience is going to be a little broader, but depending on how long you’ve been using your DSLR you may still not know exactly when to use that short or long focal length lens and under what circumstances. So regardless of which type of camera user you are, here’s a quick overview about focal length and, specifically, when and why you might want to forgo that longer lens in favor of a wide angle.
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What should I upgrade next? Lens/Body/Flash?

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What should I upgrade next? Lens/Body/Flash?

When you got your first DSLR, the chances are pretty good that it came with what we call a “kit lens.” A kit lens is a mid-range zoom, usually with somewhere between an 18mm to 70mm focal length. A typical kit lens doesn’t tend to be the best quality piece of glass, and usually has a fairly narrow maximum aperture. But, it’s a good, versatile beginner’s lens that lets you take good photos in most of the situations you’re likely to encounter. Your kit lens is a great tool for when you’re first starting out, and when you’re first learning your way around your DSLR. But at some point, you’re going to start to realize that your kit lens is holding you back a little bit, and it may be time to expand your gear. But where do you begin?
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What in the heck is that thing for? A photographer’s guide to using the black flag

What in the heck is that thing for? A photographer’s guide to using the black flag

If you own a set of photographer’s reflectors, you’ve probably got a pretty good handle on what most of the different versions are for. The white reflector can be used on a bright sunny day to bounce light back into the shadows, softening them up and eliminating the dreaded raccoon eyes look. The silver reflector can be used on an overcast day, when you need just a little extra boost to the highlights. Similarly, the golden side can be used to simulate the look of golden hour sunset or sunrise light. And the translucent side is actually a diffuser — to use it, you simply place it between the light source and your subject and it diffuses or softens the light, which eliminates the need to bounce light into the shadows. But there is another surface included with most reflector sets that you may find just a little bit perplexing. It’s the black side—and if it’s not at first obvious to you what it’s for, you are not alone. Many photographers simply archive that black side because they can’t really think of a use for it, and the rest of those reflectors seem to do everything that’s needed anyway. Aren’t you just a little curious, though? Read on to find the answer.

https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/dark-black-flag-waving-against-clean-476295595?src=U3Ap8FLTDb1YXv-CgjU4-Q-1-5

What if I told you that there is actually a good use for that black side, and that you shouldn’t simply squirrel it away in your camera bag, never to be seen or thought about? The black side of your reflector kit is called a black flag, and it’s use is referred to as “flagging.” Once you really understand how the black flag can help improve your photos, I think you’ll find a lot of different uses for it.

##What is a black flag?

A black flag, although it seems to be in a completely different category than those reflectors and diffusers, is actually a very similar tool. The black flag can be used to control light, just like a diffuser or reflector can. Diffusers soften the light, reflectors bounce the light, and flags actually remove or block light. If you don’t have a set of reflectors, you can use a black piece of foam core as a black flag, just as you can use a white piece of foam core as a pseudo-reflector.

Just as with any reflector, diffuser, or similar tool you either need to have someone to hold the flag for you or you will need to have some light stands and clamps that you can use to adjust and position the flag before you take the photograph.

[img src="black-flag-amazon"]Westcott 306 20-Inch 5-In-1 Reflector (Black)

##When to use the black flag

You can use a black flag to increase contrast in a scene. One example of when you might want to do this is if you are shooting on an overcast day, which tends to be very flat and almost two-dimensional looking because the light just doesn’t have that much dynamic range. Another example could be a studio image where you’re trying to achieve a high contrast look. It could be that you’re shooting a small object and you’d like to deemphasize the background—you can do this by placing your black flag in front of your light source and moving it until the shadows fall on the background. This is a way of reducing the light on the background without also having to underexpose the shot, which would have as much effect on the subject itself as it would have on the background. This can help separate subject and background and create a more dramatic and more three-dimensional look in your photograph. You may find that you need to combine reflectors with the black flag and that’s perfectly acceptable—let’s say you darken the background so much that part of the subject falls off a little bit at the edges. Use a reflector to create an outline on that side of the subject and bring it a little forward from the background.

Cake On a Dark Background

A black flag can also be used as a sort of stand in for a lens hood – if you have a light shining towards the camera in such a way that it may create flare, you can place a black flag between the light and your camera so that the light still hits your subject where you want it to but is directed away from your lens so it doesn’t create any unwanted glare.

##Using a black flag with your flash

You can also use a pseudo-black flag to modify the light from your onboard flash. A piece of soft black foam, wrapped around the bottom of your flash will stop your flash from hitting your subject directionally, and will also prevent the light from spilling out into the room in such a way that it creates a distraction for people who might be in the area. This can help improve your photographs, but it can also help make you, as a photographer with a flash, more tolerable to the people who are around you simply trying to enjoy the event. All you need for this technique is a soft, flexible piece of foam that you can buy at any craft store and one or two pieces of elastic, such as basic elastic hair ties, to hold the foam in place. Wrap it around the bottom of your flash and up the sides and it can be used to bounce light even though it is not white or silver. The bounced light you get from a flag will be much softer and less obtrusive than bounced light from a direct source such as a white ceiling or wall. Position the flash so that it is pointed over people’s heads, and you’ll get a soft light with beautiful highlights and shadows.

12/365

##Using a black flag on an overcast day

On a sunny day, you can use the black flag to block off a little bit of light at the same time you’re bouncing light back in with the white reflector. On an overcast day, you can place the black flag on the opposite side of your subject as the sun (or wherever the sun would be if it wasn’t behind those clouds). You want the black flag to be close enough to block light that is coming from that side—this will help put it back that third dimension that is so often missing from images shot on flat, overcast days. If you’re not sure about the effectiveness of these techniques, I always recommend taking two test shots, one with and one without the modifier so you can see exactly what’s happening to your subject’s face when you add the black flag.

##Conclusion

Think of your black flag as a portable shadow. You can use it any time you need to add a little bit of dimension to your scene, or when you need to block out the intensity of light from any sort of light source. You can use it to create compelling, three-dimensional-looking photographs by strategically positioning it in such a way that it darkens at the background or adds shadow in places where it would have otherwise been difficult to achieve. Remember when you’re traveling with your black flag to also travel with a reflector, because there may be situations where you want to add a little extra light at the same time as you’re removing it from other parts of the subject. But whatever you do, don’t just a stash that black flag in the back of your reflector kit and pretend it’s not there. You can really achieve great results with the use of a black flag, just so long as you understand how to use and position it.

##Summary:

1. When to use a black flag
– On an overcast day
– To create higher contrast
– To separate subject from background
– To block light or prevent lens flare
2. Using a black flag with flash
– Wrap black foam around your flash
– Use it to bounce light
3. Using a black flag when it’s overcast
– Place it opposite the light source

What you need to know about memory cards

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What you need to know about memory cards

Hey, do you remember when taking photos meant you actually had to know something about film? There was black-and-white film, there was color film. There was daylight-balanced film and there was incandescent film. There was high ISO film and there was low ISO film. To acquire all the knowledge you needed to have about all the different film types available, you practically had to have a degree in film.

Now thank goodness we no longer have to worry about film. Today you just pop in a memory card and you’re good to go. Because all memory cards are pretty much the same… except that they aren’t. Read on to find out why.
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What is mirror lock-up, and when should I use it?

What is mirror lock-up, and when should I use it?

You’ve come a long way since the first time you picked up a camera. Not so very long ago, you were still stuck in auto mode, and you really weren’t very happy with your photos. Your landscapes were boring and they weren’t very clear, with certain details sharp and others too blurry. Then you discovered landscape mode, and that was an improvement. But your photos didn’t really start to shine until you switched to aperture priority, and started using narrow apertures to capture those scenic images. Now you’ve got a tripod and a remote release, but you’ve noticed something—your images still aren’t always completely sharp, and you’re not sure why. Fortunately, the answer could be as simple as using a basic setting you may have not even heard of: mirror lock-up. Read on to find out what this setting is, and how it can improve your photos.
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What is a 35mm Equivalent Focal Length?

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What is a 35mm Equivalent Focal Length?

Your first DSLR is a big deal. In many ways, it’s a rite of passage from casual photography to serious photography, and it really does open up whole new worlds of creativity and learning. But it also adds some layers of complication to your hobby, and a big one for a lot of new DSLR owners has to do with those interchangeable lenses and their associated focal lengths. Just when you thought you understood what 14-42mm means, you probably noticed that thing in parenthesis: “35mm equivalent 28-84mm.” What the heck?
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What is a fast lens?

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What is a fast lens?

Even if you haven’t been taking pictures for very long, you’ve almost certainly heard the term “fast lens.” But what exactly is a fast lens? Is it a lens that focuses quickly? A lens that’s easy to switch out? What does that term mean? Read on to find out.

The answer is: none of the above. A fast lens is a lens that can take photos in low light. Huh? What does low light have to do with speed?

To answer that question, you first need to know a little bit about how aperture and shutter speed work in concert to create a photograph. When you use your camera’s auto mode (or a semi-automatic mode like aperture priority) to attempt to shoot a photo in low light, you may notice that your camera will lower the shutter speed in order to get a well exposed picture. This can even happen in lighting situations that you might not necessarily interpret with your own eyes as “low light,” such as indoors during the day, outdoors on a overcast day, or late in the evening, The reason your camera does this is because it needs to lengthen the shutter speed in order to allow enough light to reach your camera’s sensor. But the other reason why it does this is because many lenses (kit lenses in particular, which are the mid-range zooms that are typically sold as a part of a DSLR package) don’t have the large maximum apertures needed to allow for faster shutter speeds.

https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/donetsk-ukraine-december-2016-popular-canon-536621500?utm_medium=Affiliate&utm_campaign=Eezy%20Inc&utm_source=38919&irgwc=1

##What is aperture?

Aperture refers to the size of the diaphragm, or the opening between the lens and your camera’s image sensor. The bigger the opening is, the more light can get in, and the more light reaches your camera’s sensor. The smaller the opening is, on the other hand, the less light reaches your camera sensor. This is why we refer to a larger opening as a “large” or “wide” aperture, while a smaller opening is referred to as a “small” or “narrow” aperture.

When you’re shooting images in low light, you need to use larger apertures because the larger aperture lets more of the available light in, which will allow you to shoot the scene using a faster shutter speed. There are a couple of reasons why this matters—the first is so you can hold your camera in your hands when you’re taking pictures, rather than having to mount it on a tripod. You may not really notice this issue if you primarily shoot outdoors on sunny days, but as soon as the light starts to fall, your shutter speed does, too. When you use a slow shutter speed and you don’t have a tripod available, you can end up with an image that looks sort of wobbly or jagged. We call this “camera shake,” and unless you’re using it for artistic reasons it’s generally something to be avoided.

But slow shutter speeds can also be a problem when there’s movement in your subject: you’ll get a kind of streaky blur in living or otherwise moving things unless you can keep your shutter speed above a certain number. For example, most people and animals need to be shot at shutter speeds of around 1/125 unless they are consciously trying to keep still during a longer exposure. And when something is moving very fast—such as runners, bikers, or fast-moving vehicles—you need much faster shutter speeds of up to 1/500 or more. Sometimes, especially when the light is low, it’s just not possible to achieve these kinds of shutter speeds without also being able to use large apertures.

https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/iris-diaphram-old-camera-lens-24687313?src=Lgh6cUci0MLYJHUooUZOqA-1-36

That is where the term “fast lens” comes into play—when a lens has a very large maximum aperture, we call that a “fast lens” because it means that you can use faster shutter speeds.

the three of us

##How fast is fast?

Depending on your perspective, a fast lens can be anywhere from f/3.5 or so to as fast as f/1.2. Most fast lenses are prime, which means that they have a fixed focal length such as 50mm or 100mm, rather than a variable focal length zoom such as 35mm to 70mm.

While there are fast zoom lenses on the market, they’re harder to come by than fast prime lenses are, especially when they feature longer focal lengths. The reason why this is true is pretty complex, but it really boils down to size and cost. Zoom lenses have more glass, so they have to gather more light to achieve the same apertures as prime lenses with similar focal lengths. This means that the lens must be a lot bigger and a lot more expensive in order to achieve those wider apertures—and economically speaking it’s just not something that can be done with a kit lens or a typical consumer-priced zoom.

Sunset at WTC Memorial

Now depending on how much money you like to devote to your hobby a fast lens may not or may not be within your budget. I like to recommend 50mm prime lenses for beginning photographers because they do tend to be pretty inexpensive compared to other focal lengths—a typical 50mm prime lens, for example, has a maximum available aperture of f/1.8 and a price point of around $150 to $200. For about twice the money you can go even faster—both Canon and Nikon have lenses available that can go as wide as f/1.4. For a considerably higher base price you can even go as fast as f/1.2, but for that you’re going to be up in the $1,000 to $1,500 range. For most photographers, a 50mm prime lens that has a maximum aperture of f/1.8 is going to be perfectly adequate.

Now the thing that you do need to keep in mind with very fast lenses is that a large maximum aperture typically means a shallow depth of field, depending on a few other factors such as distance between subject and camera and distance between subject and background. So you may find, for example, that when you shoot head shots at those large apertures, you may end up with a subject who has a tack sharp eye, but a blurry nose. That may or may not be OK depending on your perspective, but it is something that you need to be aware of. If you’re not sure, take a test photo and check the depth of field on your camera’s screen—or, use aperture preview if your camera has that feature. And remember that you can also compensate by turning up your ISO (which will allow you to use a narrower aperture) if you don’t like the very shallow depth of field you get at those very large apertures. Higher ISOs can add noise, but you may prefer a little noise to that shallow depth of field that you get when you shoot at f/1.8. It’s really a creative decision, so you need to make sure you understand what those higher ISOs are and what that larger aperture will do so that you can make an informed decision about how you want your final image to look.

Also keep in mind that backing away from your subject can significantly increase depth of field, so if those head shots aren’t satisfying try shooting a head and shoulders shot instead, or a full torso portrait. You’ll likely still achieve a blurry background, but most of your subject’s facial features will be sharp even despite the larger aperture.

I love my fast lens because when I use it I almost never have to resort to pop-up flash—pop-up flash is really something you should avoid in all but the most extreme circumstances and if you’ve got a 50mm prime lens or another fast maximum aperture lens in your camera bag at all times, then it using your pop-up flash will most likely become something that you do only on occasion. Pop-up flash, you probably know, can add a lot of unwanted elements to your photos such as red eye, washed-out faces and black halo shadows behind your subjects. If you can swap those things for a small loss of depth of field, why wouldn’t you?

##Conclusion

A 50mm prime lens is something I frequently recommend that beginners obtain, maybe even as their first lens in addition to the kit lens it that your DSLR came with. It’s an extremely versatile lens—no, it doesn’t zoom, but there’s something to be said for zooming with your feet, isn’t there? A prime lens can really take your photography to new places, so if it’s in your budget it’s something I highly recommend. Fast lenses can help almost anybody get better pictures, especially when the sun starts to go down.

Out of Focus – Deliberately!

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Out of Focus – Deliberately!

When you first learned to take pictures, you were given a very useful piece of advice. You were told that blurry photos are bad, and sharp photos are good. And even today you probably look at those words and think to yourself, “Yes, that is a mighty good piece of advice”.

It does seem pretty fundamental, but on second thought – pretty much everything you’ve heard about photography thus far implies that there really aren’t any unbreakable rules. You can even bust through the rule of thirds when you have a good reason to. You can underexpose on purpose and you can overexpose on purpose, and you can do all of those things with excellent results. So that “keep your subject in focus” rule might not necessarily be unbreakable, either.
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Ask David: How do you Focus to Infinity?

Ask David: How do you Focus to Infinity?

I read an article on infinity focus. I understand the concept but I don’t quite know how to find it. My lens does not have the symbol for infinity, as it is a kit lens. Is it true that if I can focus on the moon, I would be set to infinity? I have an 18mm – 55mm lens and a 50mm – 200mm lens. I want to practice with my cable release using bulb mode but I’d like to better understand this concept. Thank you in advance.”
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Challenge: Photograph With Only a 50mm Lens

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Challenge: Photograph With Only a 50mm Lens

When you bought your first DSLR, it likely came with what we call a “kit lens.” This is usually a mid-range zoom that will let you shoot both reasonably wide-angle photos and some longer shots. With your kit lens, you have a lot of versatility in focal length and can probably get some pretty good wide-angle images of larger buildings and groups of people, and some decent zoomed-in shots of your kids running around on the beach or playing sports.

I also think it’s a pretty safe bet that over the weeks and months, you’ve come to depend on this versatility. After all, it lets you shoot all different sorts of events and activities without the need to change lenses. So it’s time, I’m afraid, to let go of that dependence and learn how to get the most out of a single, much more powerful lens—the 50mm prime.

But wait, I can hear you saying, how can a lens with a single focal length possibly be more powerful than my super-versatile kit lens? Read on to find out.
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How to Protect Your Camera From the Things That Want to To Kill It

How to Protect Your Camera From the Things That Want to To Kill It

Owning the camera is a little bit like being a parent. Once you make that very special purchase, the world suddenly seems like a more dangerous place. Your camera represents a big investment to you (both financially and emotionally) and that means you probably see all sorts of potential danger around you whenever you are out with your equipment. That’s OK, because the more you know, the better you’ll be at protecting your investment. But do you really know all the things that pose a risk to your equipment? Chances are you’re tuned into the obvious stuff, but more subtle dangers lurk everywhere. If you love your camera, you need to know what they are.
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How to Get the Best Out of Your Camera Phone

How to Get the Best Out of Your Camera Phone

Today, the vast majority of photographs taken by people all over the world are shot with smart phones. No, really. In fact if you check out Flickr’s Camera Finder page you’ll discover a shocking truth — there isn’t a single DSLR or even a point and shoot that ranks in the top five among cameras used by members of the Flickr community. In fact four of the top five are versions of Apple’s iPhone, and the lone outlier is the Galaxy S5, also a camera phone. Is this is because the camera is falling out of favor?
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Defeating Dust

Defeating Dust

OK, so I know that dust is not sentient, but sometimes it really does feel like it’s out to get me. It shows up all over my house, totally uninvited, regardless of whether or not I keep my windows closed. It makes me sneeze and it seems to have a magnetic attraction to my car, especially in those first moments after I’ve washed it. And no matter how careful I am, it always seems to work its way into my camera. Can anything stop the great dust menace? Continue Reading »

What Filters Work Best?

What Filters Work Best?

Buried deep within my closet is my collection of screw-on filters. I have warming and cooling filters for adjusting white balance, I have a red filter that can be used to increase the contrast in a black and white image, I have a yellow filter for darkening a black and white sky, I have special effects filters that soften images, add starbursts and do other cool things that were actually popular back in the 80s. I haven’t dragged that box out in years and haven’t really had a need to, either. Why not?
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