The camera and lens that sucked me right back into the Nikon system this time...

This bust lives at the Blanton Museum in Austin.
I like to photograph the statues when I'm playing around 
with new photographic equipment.  They don't move around and blink.
I shot this with a Nikon D610 using a Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art Lens. 

I shot the image at f2.0. 
1/400th of a second. 

The quality of the resulting image led me to understand 
that the combination had characteristics I liked. 
From that point onward I've been buying lenses 
I like for the system along with several new bodies. 

I certainly love this focal length. 
And, at nearly wide open the Art lens 
is pretty compelling. 

I think I'll keep it.

Kirk's Books on Amazon

I"ve made at least two really good lens purchases this year. This is the one I find most intriguing.

It's a Nikon lens made a long time ago. It's the 25-50mm f4.0. I saw it sitting on the used shelf over at Precision Camera and I haggled on the price until it didn't make sense any more to leave it on the shelf. On a full frame camera it's ---- a 25-50mm equivalent (snicker).

Last night I found an interesting article about this lens and quite a few other Nikon lenses at a site I have never visited before. You might enjoy the articles there; especially if you are inclined to appreciate and enjoy some of the classic, older, Nikon manual focus lenses. The articles I found are on a Nikon website, tucked into a part of the site called, "Nikkor."

Here's the article I read about the 25-50mm lens: http://www.nikkor.com/story/0046/ The discussion of the design parameters and the process of creating the lens are very interesting. Even more interesting is just how good this lens is and how well it stands the tests of time.

I'd love to link to some retail website so you can order one and I can get a commission but, as you can see in the article, they stopped making this one (and a few other favorites of mine) a long time ago (1981).

We'll just have to enjoy the reading and keep our eyes peeled for mint examples, out in the wild...

There are articles at the site on several of my other favorite Nikon lenses; including: the 105mm f2.5 ai and the 135mm f2.0 ai. If you are a dyed in the wool Canon shooter you can ignore this.

Kirk's Books on Amazonhttp://amzn.to/1IYPzXc

Just clowning around. Austin Lyric Opera.

Sony a99 + Sony 70-200mm f2.8.

OT: looking forward to a special swim practice on Monday the 21st.

Here's the pool I swim in. It's beautiful. It's heated in the winter to 80 degrees. It's chilled in the Summer to 82 degrees. The only times we don't have masters swim practices are on (most) Mondays, big holidays and when there's ice all over the deck (safety issue).

Today I went to the noon practice and swam with a guy named, Tom. Our coach wrote a fun workout on the board and we dragged ourselves up and down the pool, bracketed by faster swimmers in the lane on one side and slower swimmers in the lane on the other side. We knocked out about 3,000 yards from noon until 1 pm and that was that.

After swim practice I pulled on some running shoes, and a pair of running shorts, and did a leisurely run down at the lake. There are three loops most people run. There's a 2.9 mile loop, one that's about 4.5 miles and a third that's around 7 miles. If you are really ambitious you can run from Mopac to the damn on the east side of downtown, and then back around on the other side of the lake for a bit more than 12 miles. I'd already swum so the shortest loop felt like a good option to me.

That's all pretty routine, but I was excited to hear about one cool, upcoming workout that should be a lot of fun for obsessive swimmers; it's this coming Monday morning and it's 10,000 yards. We start at 8:30 am and we do 100 x 100 yards on a one minute and forty second interval. For non swimmers this means you have one minute and forty seconds to swim 100 years and, if possible get a few seconds rest. You leave on a new 100 yard swim (four laps of the 25 yard pool, per) every minute and forty seconds.  Until you've done this one hundred times in a row.

Everyone is going on the same interval. No faster lanes and no slower lanes. If we stay on pace and do the whole set we'll have swum 10,000 yards in about 2.5 hours. That's about 6.2 miles and 300 flip turns. I think I'll be ready for a big lunch right after this....

This has absolutely nothing to do with new cameras or photography of any kind. I write about it because I think it's important for photographers (and everyone else) to think about getting exercise and staying in good physical condition. I believe that when you are in good physical shape your brain is sharper, your attention is more acute. The discipline of exercising regularly also translates into habitual discipline in other areas; like photography. You can carry more, go further, stay in the field longer and be present to take advantage of chance interactions with nature or whatever it is you shoot.

Here's a link to the U.S. Masters Swimming: http://www.usms.org

Real skin versus retouched skin. Lenses, lighting and signatures.

There is a technique I sometimes use to repress detail on problem skin. I make a duplicate layer of a portrait, introduce a gaussian blur at 28.5 pixels, hit the quick mask icon at the bottom of the layer menu box and then use a paintbrush, set to 20% opacity to brush in a softness to the image. The benefit of this very simple method is that I can use the opacity slider in the layers panel to pull back on the effect. I try to be judicious when I use this method because I think most people's eyes are very good at seeing this "deception."

I try not to use any blurring techniques for most portraits. It really all depends on the skin quality and the way a portrait is lit. Contrasty lighting can make even the nicest skin look worse. Clients with big pores or rough skin texture love the softening effect and, when the images are for their use, I am not disinclined to please them. When I photograph for myself though I am too keenly aware that the introduction of the softening technique diminishes the value I find for myself in prints and images. I can only conjecture the same is true for my intended audience for these sorts of portraits = VSL readers and others who appreciate photographs.

The image above uses no post processing blur technique but takes advantage of a close, large diffuser to moderate the transitions between highlights, midtones and shadow areas. In this regard shooting with 14 bit raw files is helpful to prevent even slight banding in shadow areas and transition areas by dint of throwing more information into the mapping mix. That my model is young, has great skin, and has used make up well, is a big benefit to the final image as I pre-visualized it. (Actually, I can only pre-visualize in giant swaths, like putting up a big fence. Everything creative happens unconsciously in smaller sections of the big fence, mental ranch).

One uses retouching on images when there are details that take attention away from the main goal, a subjective but positive rendering of the subject in it's holistic form. At times one must "kill" the details so the whole construct can serve its purpose.

The right lens can also help. I am doing more and more research into why various lenses were designed to function the way that they are. I started getting interested when I discovered that the lenses that made the best black and white images for me were one with under corrected spherical aberrations. Those would include the 135mm f2.0 I recently picked up, as well as the raft of 105mm f2.5 Nikons I've been collecting.

There is a similarity between them which is a signature of sorts. Stopped down they rival anything out there for sharpness  but at the wider apertures they create out of focus backgrounds that have a very pleasing aesthetic look. I know that the current mania, at least in the U.S., is to value a lens based on its ultimate sharpness. As I get more experience under my belt, and shoot more portraits, I'm beginning to think there are other considerations in lens design (and performance) that are equally, if not more, important.

My friends wonder sometimes why I seem to have a preference for older optics. It's not that I want the burden of manually focusing these lenses, it's that they render photographs of things in a way that seems both more pleasing and more real to me.....regardless of which camera I use them on.

Besides, if everyone photographs with the same little trio of zoom lenses then visual life gets boring.

reflect and direct.