Sharp – the Photographer’s Goal

Note: this will be boring for them who ain’t passionate about their photography (and maybe even for them).

I opened the blinds, and looked out at a frosty landscape . . . I grab my camera, check the settings, open the sliding door, and snap a picture of one of the backyard maples (about 65 feet away).

Winter,

Beautiful! . . . wait, let me look at it at full resolution . . .

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!

That’s with my best lens, the VR on, at a shutter speed over twice the effective zoom of the lens (1/640s), set at constant focus, and with no wind to speak of.

I check the other photo I snapped . . .

Winter,

OK, not too bad . . . let me look at full resolution . . .

Winter,

OK . . . I’m perplexed . . . the lighting is good, the camera is capable, the lens is great . . . I must suck as a photographer.

Let me try my 400mm lens, really get close to the subject so I can make sure it’s in focus.

Winter,

Hmmm . . . that does not look any better . . .

Winter,

Closer, but no sharper . . . let me try a few more:

Winter,

Winter,

. . . !? . . .

Winter,

Winter,

A little better, but not what I am looking for. What the heck is going on?

Winter,

Winter,

OK, this last one could pass for a decent photo, but it’s still not as sharp as I would like. I move to the front yard, still with the 400mm loaded up; going to try some pseudo-macros using the long zoom.

Winter,

OK, that looks decent, but . . . let me look at it at full resolution.

Winter,

OK, I’m slightly more pleased, but this still looks rather soft. I try a few more (shown full frame first, and then cropped to 100%) . . .

Winter,

Winter,

Winter,

Winter,

Winter,

Winter,

They are OK, but lack “punch”, and I can’t sharpen them enough to make up for the softness.

How about a tuft of grass?

Winter,

Winter,

Not happy, not happy at all . . .

I return to the backyard, determined to get a decent maple tree shot.

Winter,

OK, that’s with me holding the camera firmly, controlling my breathing, sque-e-e-ezing the shutter, and making sure not to jerk. Better than before, but let me see the 100% crop.

CRAP!

CRAP!

One more, only I switch back to the 200mm f/2.8 (my go-to lens).

Winter,

Passable.

Passable.

Looks better, but that could also be because it’s a smaller zoom, and it’s not really what I would call “tack-sharp”. Still, a huge improvement from the first photograph, all by just being mindful of what I am doing.

Let me try it on a closer subject . . .

Winter,

Winter,

*sigh* . . . nothing left to do; breakfast will have to wait. I bring out the tripod.

I begin with the 400mm lens, remembering to switch off the Vibration Reduction since it’s on a tripod.

Winter,

Winter,

COME ON! It’s on a tripod, for FSM sake!

I decide to photograph Bald Mountain (about a half a mile away).

Winter,

Hmmm . . . I noticed something . . . I’m shooting with the timer, so that I eliminate my input possibly introducing any shake. But, the 400mm has a notoriously crappy mount. I noticed a slight shake when the mirror flips up . . . this next shot is the enlargement to the above shot.

Not good; not good at all.

Not good; not good at all.

OK. I switch the camera to remote mode, with the mirror-up option. That means when I press the remote, the mirror flips up without taking the photo. I then press the button again to capture the photograph. This way, there is no shake from the mirror when I release the shutter.

Here’s the crop with the mirror up . . .

Winter,

For this lens, at maximum zoom, this is not bad (compare to the one before it).

Let me try it back on the tree:

Winter,

Winter,

OK, no weird artifacts, double edges, motion blur . . . this is probably as good as this lens can do at full zoom (it’s better at lower zooms).

Let me see what the 200mm can do on the tripod, VR off, remote shooting with mirror up option.

Winter,

Winter,

MUCH better than the first few shots! Now, this is not really apple and oranges; the 200 mm will look sharper just because it’s less magnification, but I don’t mind the above. Here are a few more from the 200mm (full shots, each followed by 100% crops).

Winter,

Winter,

By now there is a slight breeze, so this is not bad at all.

Winter,

Winter,

OK . . . those are workable . . . . but, remember the pseudo-macros I shot with the 400mm zoom lens? 

Let me show you why you want to use a macro lens for macros photography. These next shots are all with the 105mm macro, tripod mounted, VR off, and mirror-up remote shooting.

Winter,

Winter,

That’s sharp, but I it gets better.

Winter,

Winter,

Winter,

Winter,

I thought about doing a SmugMug Gallery, of these shots, but why? Hardly anyone goes there, and it’s just extra work.

Winter,

Winter,

Did I mention I like this lens?

Winter,

Winter,

These are cropped at 100%, but are still shrunk below their full resolution when inserted here. I tell you what . . . go HERE to see the full resolution shots.

And there you have it . . . if you want sharp photos, take your time, control the camera, and if possible, use a tripod with a remote, and if your camera has the option, raise the mirror before releasing the shutter.

Even hand-held, there is a big difference between “snapping a picture” . .  .

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!

. . . and taking a photograph:

Passable.

Passable.

Hope you enjoyed this boring foray into photography. By the way, by the time I got “serious” about taking a photograph, the snow had melted from the tree, and that opportunity was gone.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ o o o o o o ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Onions in Love

Onions in Love

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About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
This entry was posted in Environment, How-To, Macro Photography, Photography Stuff, Snow, Writing Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Sharp – the Photographer’s Goal

  1. I appreciated all that. I never realised a tripod would make that much of a difference as long as you were above say a hundredth of a second. I only use my tripod for indoor shots. Live and learn.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      The guidelines for hand-held I saw have to do with the zoom you are using. The rule of thumb I read about is minimum speed should be the inverse of 1.5xZoom.

      So, for instance, my 400mm lens on a full frame camera would be 1.5×400 = 600, therefore no less than 1/640s shutter speed.

      Now, because I shoot DX, and the factor on my camera is 1.5, my 400mm lens is actually equivalent to a 600mm lens. Therefore, 1.5×600 = 900, or a shutter speed of 1/900s.

      Then it gets complicated . . . for action shots, it should be higher. But, if you have a lens that has VR (IS for Canon), then you can push that a bit. I try to have at least 2x for most of my shots. On my 200mm lens, I try for 1/600s or higher, but the minimum for hand-held would be (1.5×200)x1.5 = 450 ==>> 1/450s.

      One other thing . . . as annoying as it is to admit it, I can no longer keep my camera and lens rock-steady, so I try for as high a shutter speed as I can.

      Bottom line . . . shoot and see what range works for you and your camera/lens combination, but yeah . . . hard to beat a good tripod, remote release, mirror up.

      Like

      • Thanks a lot. One of my favourite speeds for my hand-held 100 mm Macro is 1/125 – it just seems to work O.K. to keep the ISO low. That means I am outside the really sharp limit. Also I don’t know if I have my mirror raised enabled as I have never “clicked on to” that option before. Now I understand. Thanks again. Amelia

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        • disperser says:

          As long as your hands are steady, and for most shots, it does not matter that much, especially if the lens has a vibration reduction mode.

          I can shoot that low (and lower), but I edge my bets by taking bursts of two or three photos. However, my ability to keep the camera steady is not what it used to be, so even then I waste a lot of shots.

          One final thought . . . technical perfection does not a great photo make. Sometime I use photos I know could have been better, but the subject and composition make up for it.

          Like

  2. Carissa says:

    Thanks for the lesson! I can do mirror-lock, so I’ll have to experiment with it!

    Like

  3. oneowner says:

    Rest assured there will be more snow and more opportunity for more photographs. I bought an extra remote release from Amazon for $8 and use it all the time. It’s a big help in macro work.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Yeah, the Nikon releases are pretty cheap. Probably cheaper to buy a news one than to replace the battery.

      . . . and yes . . . not my last chance at snow. But it might be my last chance of snow on autumn leaves.

      Like

  4. colonialist says:

    That was a set of most interesting sequences to see what would work and what wouldn’t.
    Have you ever noticed that the shading on some plants gives an illusion of blurring even when they are utterly crisp?

    Like

  5. Daniel says:

    I think the problem is that you are referencing the wrong god. The FSM is just a product of man’s imagination and need to believe in something greater than himself. In the future you should instead reference one of the many real gods.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      I claim as much legitimacy for (but no worship of) the FSM as other claim for their gods. Also, FSM can demonstrably be shown to not have condemned humans, have near zero requirements from them, and does not suffer from the idea humans are made in its image.

      . . . plus, it might be edible.

      Like

  6. Daniel says:

    So, do you know which cameras at the lower end of the cost scale support RAW and also allow one to raise the mirror before releasing the shutter? I assume that RAW format is still a desirable feature.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      I would definitively go with RAW . . . provided you are willing to use it (meaning “do your own processing”). You can read my article on RAW shooting for my take on it (http://bit.ly/1djW85m).

      If you are not going to be actively involved in processing the photos you take, I suggest comparing the various cameras for the kind of JPGs they take (warm or cool, saturated or not, etc.) understanding that you do have additional control in-camera to modify the default.

      This site, in my opinion is still one of the better ones for camera comparisons and finding out technical information (http://www.dpreview.com/products/compare/cameras).

      I still reference http://bythom.com/ for reviews, how-to, and general information, but it is a massive site with lots and lots of data.

      If you are just starting into photography, and want to jump into the mid-to-high range, with plans to make it a hobby (i.e. taking photographs as opposed to snapping pictures), I would look at the mirror-less cameras (smaller, lighter, newest technology, etc): http://www.sansmirror.com/

      If you are looking at DSLRs, than I would start at the Nikon 5100 (or its equivalent for Canon). That does not have the mirror-up feature, but it’s a very good camera. The Mirror-up feature comes in at the D7100 model, BUT . . .

      Don’t get hung up on that . . . for most situation, you don’t really need it. Just concentrate on good camera-handling techniques.

      If interested, my other posts on photography how-to:

      https://disperser.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/the-dalise-method-for-taking-passable-photos-part-i/

      https://disperser.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/the-dalise-method-for-taking-passable-photos-part-ii/

      Now, if all that makes you want to go forget about photography, then what you really need is a point-and-shoot.

      Cannon makes wonderful point and shoots, as does Lumix (panasonic). Read up on them, and yes, some do RAW.

      One last note. Some people love taking photos with their phones (I do to since I bought the Samsung Note), however, their usefulness is basically limited to a relatively short distance. Mostly, I shoot macros with mine.

      Like

      • Daniel says:

        Thank you. My free Straight Talk flip phone with the $30/month plan has no camera. But I suspect that phone cameras are the audio equivalent of Bose systems. Convenient and nothing else. And I have a Canon p&s. So, maybe the 5100 will be the next step.

        Like

        • disperser says:

          For a moment I thought you wuz a spammer . . .

          . . . did you see some of the shots from my Samsung phone? Used judiciously, any camera can do a good job. It’s only when pushed beyond its limitations that, like everything, they fail miserably.

          Know the camera is only part of the equation . . . and not even the most important. Lenses . . . them good ones will cost you, Bob. Them cheap one will limit your results (again, depending what you want to get out of photography, and how you use them).

          Like

        • Daniel says:

          I don’t get the Bob reference – Vila? Newhart? I still don’t own a TV. I did know that about lenses from my 35mm days. As I recall, the cheap lenses have pinhole-size apertures – among other problems.

          Like

        • disperser says:

          Start at the 15m 26s mark, and a few moments later the line “That’s gotta hurt, Bob” made an impression on me when I originally watched this show. (by the way, worth watching this whole show)

          At that time I did not know about this:
          http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ThatsGottaHurt

          Anyway, since that show, way back in the mid 90’s, that’s been a favorite phrase of mine, and a joke shared with Melisa, as in

          “That’s (insert whatever), Bob.”

          For example “That’s a lot of food, Bob.” (Melisa commenting on my food order at a restaurant)

          or

          “That’s gonna suck, Bob” (me commenting on most stuff I hear on the news)

          It was years later that I found out it was a meme or trope.

          Like

  7. AnnMarie says:

    Very interesting photographic journey, Bob, . . . I mean Emilio. Since I’m so used to the awesome sharpness of your photos, I was in sharpness suspense until you finally showed the ones shot with the macro lens. By the way, they look stunning in Original, especially the leaf with the drops on it. Overall a very informative post, comments included.

    Like

  8. Pingback: Photography Stuff | Disperser Tracks

  9. Pingback: The Yard – Part One | Disperser Tracks

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