I’m not good at posting regularly

The title says it all. I’m terrible at it. I am at a crossroads in my internal motivation, trying to dedicate more energy to what I enjoy doing and it is a constant struggle to find a balance. That being said, I was able to get this post started, and it should lead to a finish.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 300mm f/4 HS APO G@ f/4.5, ISO 500, 1/320s

My last post was a good part of three months ago. I posted about the anniversary of my first dive into serious photography. It was right before a trip to Colorado in January 2011. My first return with equipment I want to have with me is going to be later this week.

Playing with an A7

Where to get started? I was in the Pacific Northwest for a few days earlier this month and I was fortunate enough to meet with Ron Martinsen and he let me borrow an A7 for a few days and I allowed him to borrow my 50mm f/1.4 SSM ZA lens to test out the LA-EA4 adapter for his blog. I was flabbergasted at the opportunity. Here is the guest post I made on his blog.  The weather was dumpy and my schedule was dumpier, I even resorted to some testing on random objects, like a marker on the hotel bed spread in low light.

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ILCE-7, 35mm f/2.8 ZE @ f/2.8, ISO 1600, 1/50s

The A7 is definitely a cool little camera. I’m still trying to figure out where the future of the A-mount is going and where I will fit into that equation. If I were to go to the E-mount, I’d have to go all-in and I just don’t see that happening any time soon.

Spring is Here!

It is well-documented, I am a Spring junkie. I have peach, pear, and apple trees, daffodils, tulips, azaleas, holly bushes, and a bunch of random other junk growing in my yard. I have a couple families of cardinals, a new family of blue jays, as well as a nest of owls and hawks close by. I planted some roses, primrose, and a few other things which should make for some good subjects. The first sign of Spring this year was these Columbine flowers which grow in a random spot in my front yard.

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SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8[T4.5] @ T4.5, ISO 400, 1/160s

The daffodils came out in full force a week later.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 Macro @ f/6.3, ISO 800, 1/60s

And I spent the bulk of a later weekend putting in roses. I can’t wait to see how those turn out.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4.5, ISO 125, 1/250s

Random Final Thought

I have plenty more to talk about, yet more work and reality to deal with, so I hope to find some more time. I will leave you with this thought. I’m usually the person taking the photographs and rarely am I in them. I revisited my collection of photos from Austria which included Christian’s photos and found a few taken of me, by Christian, which I particularly like. At time I was a bit weirded out by the thought of my photo being taken, but now I truly appreciate it, especially those I didn’t know he was taking.

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SLT-A57, Minolta 24mm f/2.8 @ f/7.1, ISO 100, 1/800s – Photo by Christian of optiphot.com

I still haven’t figured out how to express the Austria trip in words. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to do so.

Stars do align…

When I was in elementary school in Colorado Springs, Colorado I was a decent student. Above average. I was a little full of myself, but I was very competitive in class. I wasn’t the most popular kid in class, but for my part I was generally well-liked other than maybe a couple (or few) times I tried a little too hard to get people to like me. But who didn’t back then? There was a girl who was consistently my main competition for the highest scores in class ever since she arrived at our school in second grade. At least I saw it that way. She probably didn’t, nor did she care. She was also perceived as one of the prettiest girls in our class. Her name is Kaylah.

Kaylah and I were in elementary school back in the 80’s and early 90’s. Back then I was among many with the infamous Mullet hair cut. When we finally trimmed our mullets, we left a little bit long in the center called a Rat Tail. A lot of the boys in our class would jockey to sit in front of Kaylah because she would do a highly intricate braid of our rat tails. You were the coolest if Kaylah did her famous braid on your rat tail. Here is a photo of of photos of the 5th grade mullet which eventually became the rat tail (left) and a photo of the 2nd grade mullet I had when Kaylah joined the elementary school.

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I have no clue how to give photo credit here. These were taken in 1989 and 1986 respectively.

Kaylah and I went to different junior high schools, but we went to and graduated from the same high school. Here is a photo of Kaylah from our yearbook when we were freshmen.

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Palmer High School Retrospect 1994 – Volume 65, Page 113

Social networking makes it possible for people to keep in touch without leaving their city. Kaylah and I had been MySpace and later, Facebook friends. I was able to meet her in Washington DC for a beer or two during a business trip because of social networking in 2007 or 2008. I had so many trips to Washington DC at the time, I really don’t remember when it was, I just remember it being after the ten year high school reunion we both didn’t attend. We kept in touch loosely, I’d see her posts with her kids, including daughters who look exactly like I remember Kaylah looking in elementary school. Every once in a while, we’d “like” something the other had posted. And I was definitely happy to see her get married to a guy who looks like Clark Kent for her second marriage.

Fast forward to 2013. For my photography business, I put in a couple of bids for weddings and I hadn’t gotten traction on any of them. The feedback was consistent, I didn’t have any wedding experience. How do you get experience if someone doesn’t give you a shot? I had a cousin getting married, I offered to shoot his wedding and I didn’t get a response. What was I to do?

I did something absolutely crazy over Facebook. I offered to do a wedding for free, throw in a hundred or more dollars of prints in for free, and I paid $30 to boost the post. It reached 7000 people. Then the stars aligned…

Kaylah asked if I was free on November 2nd. Her little sister, Hannah was getting married outside of Durham, North Carolina. Being a couple hours’ drive away, it wasn’t a hassle at all. So I got on the phone with Hannah, and we agreed to have me photograph their wedding. It would be a “win-win” situation as I would get some valuable experience and add to my portfolio, and Hannah and her fiancé Josh would get a break on a photographer at the risk of my inexperience.

I remember Hannah as Kaylah’s little sister. She was two grades behind us, and I remember her having brown hair where Kaylah had light-brown to blonde hair. They were both very pretty girls, you could tell they were sisters but they also looked distinctly different. Here is Hannah’s yearbook photo from her sophomore year (Kaylah and my senior year).

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Palmer High School, Retrospect 1997 – Volume 68, Page 136

So my first wedding shoot was the little sister of a girl I went to elementary school with from second to sixth grade, and graduated high school with… in Colorado Springs. And we’d be outside of Durham, North Carolina. According to Bing Maps, it would be a 1623 mile drive taking approximately 23 hours and 33 minutes from Colorado Springs to the venue. And to add to the stars aligning, we’ve had a late fall in the Carolinas and the fall colors were near peak. Last year at this time, the leaves had all fallen. The venue was Het Landhuis in Pittsboro, NC.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA@ f/4.5, ISO 100, 1/800s

Nothing really prepares you for your first wedding shoot. I looked all over the internet, looked at magazines, I even looked through wedding albums. In preparation, I bought a Minolta Maxxum 5 35mm camera, new in box for very cheap and some rolls of film. I bought ten 35mm disposable box cameras to randomly pass around for wedding guests to shoot with. I upgraded my tripod and head. I bought filters for my lenses. I bought umbrellas and lights. I brought almost every piece of equipment I own. I didn’t bring my Sigma 600mm f/8 mirror or my cheap 2x teleconverter. That’s it. Everything else came with me.

I arrived about four hours early to scout the location. Here is a shot I took where my little girl was playing the part of the bride. I didn’t use this camera/lens combination the rest of the day.

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DSLR-A900, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @f/4, 1/500s, ISO 200

My first lesson was almost immediate. I brought too much equipment. I had to decide what to park and what to take with me. I parked my two biggest lenses, the Minolta 300mm f/4 HS APO G and 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G. No white lenses for this shoot. My daughter carried an A900 with a Minolta 50mm f/2.8 Macro as my backup shooter. I had my A99 and A77, a Maxxum 5, my 85mm f/1.4, 135 STF, 24mm f/2, a Minolta baby beercan (35-75 f/4), and a Lensbaby Composer with Edge 80 optic (80mm f/2.8); I also had my Minolta 3600 HS Flash, all of my backup batteries and a few rolls of film. I hid my new Vanguard carbon fiber tripod and BBH-200 ballhead under a bed in the preparation cabin or in a storage barn. The rest went to my truck. At the end of the day, around 60% of my shots were with my go-to combination, my A99 and 85mm. The combination with the next closest percentage was my A77 and 135 STF at around 20%. A vast majority of the shots were between f/2.8 and f/4.5. I think I would have benefitted from a 70-200 f/2.8.

I sent my daughter to roam around the estate and told her to take as many random photos as possible and I would park her in a certain spot during the ceremony. My first real shooting started out in the cabin where the bride was preparing. Of course, while Hannah is preparing, I would expect a visit from her big sister, Kaylah. What I didn’t expect was a visit by their older sister Susannah, who is a few years older than Kaylah and I, but you’d never know by seeing her. She doesn’t look a day older than her mid 20’s. I had never met Susannah. I got this shot of the three. (Left to right: Susannah, Hannah, Kaylah)

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/3.5, ISO 1600, 1/50s

Being an outside wedding on an estate with cabins and farm houses, I had some backlit situations, and I had to deal with some shadows as well. I couldn’t exactly interfere with the ceremony to say “Excuse me, can you guys move to under the shade?” so I had to work with what I worked with. I tried to get shots atypical of some wedding shots I have seen, some which tell a story.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4, ISO 100, 1/200s.

This was a second wedding for both Hannah and her fiancé, Josh. The role of the bridesmaids and groomsmen would be fulfilled by Hannah’s son and daughter, and Josh’s daughter. Hannah was walked down the “aisle” or path by her son, Caedon.

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SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8 [T/4.5] STF @ f/2.8/T4.5, ISO 100, 1/400s, +1EV

The actual ceremony was performed in some woods about 200 yards away from the cabin, nestled down below ground level. The ceremony area was completely surrounded by woods and their fallen leaves. Walking on the leaves was LOUD. When I realized how loud it was, I decided on two lenses, on two bodies and parked the rest of the equipment behind a tree. I had my A99 and A77 and my 85mm f/1.4 and my 135 STF.

In order to shoot one side of the ceremony and then move behind it, I had to go up a hill and around the edge of the trees, which was probably a 20 foot rise and 100-150 yards of a sprint while missing potential shots. While behind the ceremony I got this shot.

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SLT-A77V, 135mm f/2.8 [T/4.5] STF @ f/2.8/T4.5, ISO 400, 1/320s, +1EV

It was a very unique ceremony, done with some Native American tradition. It was very spiritual. The entrance and exit were done with a chanting drummer performing. The vows were done for the bride and groom to the rest of their family, not just to themselves. There were some symbolic gestures performed ritually in the ceremony. Most of the ceremony the bride and groom were covered by a woven blanket. I certainly wasn’t prepared for that!

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SLT-A77V, 135mm f/2.8 [T/4.5] STF @ f/2.8/T4.5, ISO 100, 1/250s, +1EV

The sun was in the girls’ faces, which was apparent in many of the shots I got. She covered her face with flowers in 90% of the shots I took. Fortunately, they didn’t look at the sun for this shot.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4, ISO 160, 1/100s, +1EV

Once the ceremony was performed, it was reception time. The sun gave way to rain clouds. I was fairly happy about it before it started raining. This shot was the out of body jpeg.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/320s

I got a couple from this position, rotated a few degrees to my left and shot some more, a little closer.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/160s, +0.7EV

And then we moved around toward a small pond. Beforehand, we stopped at this tree.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/3.5, ISO 1250, 1/100s

And we took a few with Hannah and Josh on the bridge over the pond.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4, ISO 1600, 1/80s

I thought the rain would miss us. I even said “I think the rain is going to miss us.” Boy, I messed that forecast up. Rain hit us hard and fast. We quickly moved to a barn. I was going to have to face my biggest weakness. The flash.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/3.2, ISO 400, 1/250s

Despite the darkness in the barn, I got a few of the “must-have” shots including the cutting of the cake, the first dance, and some family shots. Once the rain stopped we decided to take advantage of the lights outside. Josh told me he wanted this shot and it was just a matter of me not messing it up, and Josh staying still.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4.5, ISO 400, 2s

And if you thought one person staying still was hard. We attempted two.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4.5, ISO 400, 2.5s

Between my A99, A77, and A900 I had taken more than 1000 photos. I still haven’t gone through them all. These are the heavy hitters. I still have a few I would like to post-process more. My daughter took almost 300 shots. I took 2 rolls of 35mm film and received 9 of the 10 disposable cameras back. I’ll be interested in seeing how those turn out.

I’ve been pretty long-winded already. I could fill another post with wedding photos. I learned a few lessons. I need to bring less equipment. I need to probably invest in a good 24-70 or 70-200 lens and use one body, rather than moving around with a few primes. I need to not try to get cute with 35mm film. I need to use film to augment digital (I feel a 35mm film-centric post coming soon). I also learned I need to not only make a playbook, but to follow it. I made a playbook and since the ceremony wasn’t traditional, I had to improvise a bit. I totally should have gone back to it once the ceremony was over. I missed a few shots I should have gotten. Fortunately for Hannah and Josh, many of the wedding guests filled in some of those gaps with their phones and I imagine the disposable camera photos will help fill their album with the playbook shots. I spent a lot of time chasing down cell phone photos posted to Facebook for their album. Finally, I need to spend more time shooting with a flash. I had a hard time getting the flash photos right with the weird ceilings of the barn. The few that came out right were beautiful.

Hannah and Josh seem like people who live their life with little to no regrets. Hopefully the risk of having me learn on the job won’t be one of them.

One year later…

Today, WordPress let me know I have been doing this for a year. A year and a week, actually by my count. I hadn’t logged in for a while as I am absolutely slammed with work right now. Now I feel bad. I really want to be able to post a little more frequently than I do. I’m still two months behind on posting about my Austria trip. I’ve had 16,000 unique page views. Hopefully some of those people got some value from my posts.

In my first couple of posts I mentioned something about not being able to shoot my favorite subject, my wife. Now I get to photograph her more often. One problem solved.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/1.4, ISO 100, 1/640s

A year ago I was shooting with my A77, and though I still have it, use it, and love it; I now shoot mostly with my A99. I’ve learned some new techniques and figured a couple of things out.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/5.6, ISO 100, Various speeds (Processed in HDR Efex Pro 2 from 3 exposures)

I’ve made a couple of friends, and even hung out with one. Thousands of miles away from home, on a different continent.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 28-75 f/2.8@f/3.2 , ISO 50, 1/640s

Which I want to make sure and add as a side note, I have met people online from near my own town through this blog and not made it work to go shoot with them. I feel bad about that.

I’ve slowly started a business. And though it will be a while before I turn a profit (and I have to stop my little lens addiction), I have gotten to shoot some things I didn’t think I would get a chance to shoot before.

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SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8[T4.5] STF, ISO 800, 1/125s

This little blog has done a ton for me. I’ll try to return the favor if I can. Hopefully a little more often.

Until then, I’ll do the best I can to post what I have learned. Even though I am living the dream, I really owe it to my few readers to be a little more diligent.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/3.2, ISO 2500, 1/60s

(Talk about living the dream Smile  )

Catch Up Post (Series 2, Number 3): The 135 STF

Yeah, I am catching up at about the same rate I should be posting. I am busy. Work has me going all over the place and I am working on multiple projects. Meanwhile my kids are starting school again. Excuses are lame, I know.

A few months back I posted about wanting either the Minolta 200mm f/2.8 or the Sony or Minolta 135mm f/2.8 [T4.5] STF lens. I opted for the Minolta 200mm f/2.8 High Speed APO G lens with no regrets.

A couple weeks before I went to Austria, I found an open-box copy of the Sony 135 STF at a price I couldn’t pass up. Should I have spent the money I didn’t have? Frankly, I don’t care. This lens is amazing.

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SLT-A77V, 135mm f/2.8[T4.5] STF, ISO100, 1/250s
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SLT-A77V, 135mm f/2.8[T4.5] STF, ISO200, 1/500s
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SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8[T4.5] STF, ISO400, 1/160s
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SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8[T4.5] STF, ISO100, 1/200s EV+1
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SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8[T4.5] STF, ISO320, 1/200s EV+0.7

The results speak for themselves, don’t they?

Hello from Austria!

I haven’t posted in a long time. I have been busy. I have been working on the single most important project in my career at my main employer and the project is near-complete. Lame excuse, I know. I have a ton to talk about. And I may catch up sometime today or tomorrow as I have a lot of time on trains and planes coming to me. I have a neat little ride from Vienna to Munich and a flight from Munich to Charlotte via Philadelphia coming to me. Plenty of time to catch up if I am able. Chances are I won’t catch up but I will most certainly try.

Here is a list of topics I can post about:

1. Austria: I’ve been in Austria for a little more than a week now. Not only did I get to see the Alps, I got to see a man playing Mozart on violin accompanied by a pianist playing on a clear Plexiglas piano in an ice cave in the Alps. I also got to see a lot of Vienna and a charming little town outside of Vienna called Stockerau (pronounced something closer to Schtocker-oww). But there’s much more and I need to get this list finished first, so I will finish this point further down in the post (I promise).

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SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8[T/4.5] STF, 1/200s, ISO 100, +1EV

2. 135 STF. Remember when I said I wanted a 135 STF but I opted to get the 200mm f/2.8 APO lens instead?  I got a 135 STF. It is worth every penny I paid, even at the heavily discounted price I paid for it. More to come.

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SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8[T/4.5] STF, 1/160s, ISO 400

3. Pretty girls and horses. If you’ve read my posts, you know I did a shoot for Deanna and Stephen’s engagement. Deanna asked me to come back and shoot some more horse photos with her and one of her trainers, Laura. It was awesome. I can’t wait to write about it.

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SLT-A77V, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 Macro @ f/5, 1/640s, ISO 100

4. Nokia Lumia 1020. I got this little gem of a phone the other day. It has a 41 Megapixel sensor. I haven’t had it more than 10 days, but I do know this thing rocks. It is the real deal. It has exceeded expectations.

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Nokia Lumia 1020 @ f/2.2, 1/1779s, ISO 100

5. Other. Other stuff has happened. I can talk about it if I have time.

So right now I am in Austria and it is 2:50 in the morning. I have to get up early to catch a train but it is important to me to get this last point out. I will write about my week in Austria but it will probably not do it justice. I have had a wonderful time here. I have been hosted by Christian who I actually met through this blog and his wife Monika, and had the opportunity to meet their daughters Doris and Angela, and Angela’s boyfriend Bernd. Below is a portrait Christian and Monika graciously allowed me to take.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/5, 1/200s, ISO 100

I know the light is horrible for a portrait, but they are standing high atop Vienna and this was a better backdrop than the backlit view.

Christian has been a mentor for my photography for a little while now online, but I really got the opportunity to learn some tricks an technique I wouldn’t have learned without watching and listening to him in person. He has experience with the early A-mount and before. But more importantly, he and his family are some of the the kindest people I have ever met and they were a amazing hosts. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit Austria, but I was able to see sights outside the normal tourist stuff. And I got to see plenty of the tourist stuff as well. I don’t know how I’ll ever repay them for their kindness. Hopefully I will figure something out. I know I probably was an awkward guest at times; I understood very little German and I butchered most of the words I tried. I did try to learn words and how to say them. And I will keep trying after I leave.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/1.4, ISO 100, 1/100s

I saw sights I never thought I would see. I saw sights beyond what I imagined I would ever see. I shot photos I have never shot before. I learned how to shoot better wide-angle lens shots. I learned how to shoot better macros. I got to play with a half dozen old Minolta lenses, a few other adapted lenses, Macro tubes, and work with creative shading and reflection. I am excited to apply what I have learned. I can’t thank Christian, or his family enough.

More to come later…

Unboxing a Legend

I received my “new” lens on Saturday. I was looking at many lenses to replace the 70-300G Lens I sold a couple weeks ago. I liked the 70-300G in terms of IQ. It was solid wide open and at the extreme ends. It was really fast to acquire. And I didn’t use it enough to justify what I didn’t like. I didn’t like how it extended. I didn’t like the filter size (62mm) or the aperture range (f/4.5-5.6) and it just didn’t feel like it belonged in my bag. For the short time I had the lens it made magic, though and I have no regrets. The lens was no crook.

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SLT-A99V, 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 SSM G @ 300mm, f/7.1, ISO 200, 1/640s
original cropped to 1090×1635 (I cut out a bunch of the shot).

I’ve expressed before, I prefer primes. Before Saturday I had 2 main lenses. My bread and butter 85mm f/1.4 ZA and my newer, faster, wider 24mm f/2 ZA SSM I am still getting used to but have appreciated when I need it. I have one other lens I don’t break out often, especially since the sun is out less in the winter, a Sigma 600mm f/8 mirror lens. I use the mirror lens almost exclusively for shooting the moon. I plan on using the mirror lens more in 2013 as the days get longer.

While the two main Zeiss primes cover 85-90% of my applications, I did miss some of the length provided by the 70-300G. Of the 3191 Full Frame (A900/A99) shots I took with the 70-300G, 1158 were at 300mm. More than a third. The next three most utilized focal lengths were 210mm, 200mm and 180mm. Of the 1558 A77 APS-C shots, 438 were at 300mm, 247 were at 70mm and the next closest was 180mm with 99. So 450mm, 105mm, and 270mm at 35mm equivalent. Digging further, a vast majority of the 300mm length shots were at sporting or sport-like events (my son’s soccer, my daughter’s ballet, 2 NASCAR Races, 1 NFL game), the rest were poor-man’s macro, or close up shots of plants and animals in my yard or my Aunt’s yard in Arizona. The shot below is an example of poor-man’s macro.

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SLT-A77V, 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 SSM G @ 300mm f/5.6, ISO 400, 1/40s

While I was looking at a number of lenses, I had settled my mind on one of two. The Sony or Minolta 135mm f/2.8 [T4.5] STF manual focus lens or the Minolta 200mm f/2.8 High Speed APO G lens. Both have 72mm filter sizes matching my Zeiss primes. One is a specialty lens, unique to the A-mount; the 135 STF. One is a lens which has stood tall in the test of time, with the regular speed 200mm f/2.8 being introduced in 1986 and the high speed version being released in 1988.

I looked into the Lightroom files for 135mm and 200mm respectively and looked at what I was shooting at those lengths on with my 70-300G as well as taking other factors into consideration. 135mm would be very close to what my bread and butter used to be on the A77 with my 85mm lens. The 35mm equivalent of 127.5mm. So with fractionally longer length than a length I am used to, the 135mm made sense. And the high-ISO capability of the A99 would keep the higher T-number at bay while focus peaking would make the manual focus tolerable. Below is a shot taken at 135mm with the 70-300G. It needs a bit of post-processing but the length was good for candid portraits from about 15 feet.

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SLT-A99V, 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 SSM G @ 135mm, f/8, ISO 400, 1/320s

I try to imagine shots like the one above at f/2.8 but with T-shop at 6.7, basically nothing visible in the background. It sounds pretty cool to me.

200mm is quite a bit longer than 85mm but shorter than the max of 300mm. 200mm would be better for sporting events, OK for portraits, and the automatic focus would be a bonus as well. I had a good mix of portraits and sports at 200mm including the shot below.

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SLT-A99V, 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 SSM G @ 200mm, f/5.6, ISO 3200, 1/500s

I liked this shot as it shows the dancer’s athleticism without sacrificing his body lines. I try to imagine flexibility to go down to f/2.8, especially with the depth of field shallowing a bit, yet being wide enough at a distance to capture what I want to. And I imagine I could have dropped the ISO down to 1600 or even 800. Luckily the A99 does 3200 just fine!

The Verdict

I went with the Minolta 200mm f/2.8 High Speed APO G lens. I could not find a used 135 STF in the time I was looking, however I went after a good copy of the 200mm lens.

My first impression when receiving the lens was I was amazed at how small it was compared to the pictures online. You see a white lens and you’re thinking it is huge. The 200mm is not huge, its barrel is actually quite skinny. The first shot below has my 85mm f/1.4 on the left, fully extended and the 200mm f/2.8 on the right with the built-in hood collapsed. There is less than 2 inches difference between the two.

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Notice the barrel thickness is much smaller on the 200mm than the outer barrel of the 85mm, but about the same diameter as the inner barrel of the 85mm lens.

The next shot has the 85mm closed with the hood on next to the 200mm with the hood extended. Only about an inch and a half difference. Less if the rubber hood protector weren’t missing from the 85mm and if the 85mm were extended.

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The final telling part is this comparison, the giant hunks of glass on the front element. I would say they are nearly the same, with the 200mm lens having a slight edge. Regardless, they both have identical 72mm filter sizes, which makes me very happy.

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I am a victim of the weather, work and other circumstances preventing me from using the lens until this evening, however I think lens back-focuses just a hair, which I can fix.

Here are a couple of shots I took in troubleshooting.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/3.2, 1/30s, ISO 400

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/2.8, 1/100s, ISO 400

I like what I see so far, and I need to get used to the lens and figure out what it can and can’t do. The biggest thing that blows my mind, however, is the bottom of the bayonet says © Minolta 1989. The lens is 23 years old and it works like it was made yesterday!!

So far, I can tell it will focus sharp once I get the Micro Adjustment fixed as the shots I used focus peaking to frame were sharp, even wide open. It also seems to reproduce color well. The lens is about as loud as the 85mm lens, but seems to acquire faster. We’ll see as I will put it to the test tonight into tomorrow.

I plan on posting a review soon. Hopefully I can fulfill those plans.

The 70-300G Successor… and the Power of Photo!

I sold my 70-300 G last week and I was looking at a couple of options for the successor; specifically the Sony or Minolta 135mm f/2.8 [T4.5] STF lens or the Minolta 200mm f/2.8 APO lens, ideally the High Speed version.

The 135 STF came in to play once I realized with the A99 and focus peaking I could handle the fact it was manual focus. It screams to my shooting style and it would appease my need to constantly tinker.

The 200mm f/2.8 is a lens I have desired for a while as it would complement my 85mm lens well and it is famous for delivering wonderful color. It also would return a bit more of the length lost in selling the 70-300G.

I also considered the Sony 70-400G, 70-200 f/2.8 G, and Minolta 300 f/2.8 0r f/4 High Speed APO among others, yet the 135 STF and the 200 f/2.8 have been at the top of my list for a while. Both are found on the used market for anywhere between $900-1200 US and the Sony version of the 135 STF is in the $1300-$1400 range new. The Minolta 200 f/2.8 APO and High Speed APO is long discontinued, as the line was introduced in 1986 and the high speed versions added in 1989.

I have selected a successor and the purchase has been made, in part with proceeds from the 70-300G. The successor? I will post some of the first shots and you will find out in the future….

In other news, a few weeks ago I posted about my perceived process of turning pro, of turning my hobby into a side-business. I found something out regarding one of the photos I would use if I were building a portfolio.

This is the original copy as posted before:

SLT-A77V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA@ f/2.2, ISO 800, 1/80s

Here is an excerpt of an e-mail I received from a work teammate of mine after he sent a notice to our team regarding his impending relocation:

I would like to thank you for the amazing photography! You can truly capture a lot in a photo!

Sending out my relocation announcement made me think… the picture that you took of me at the first 2012 offsite: that was responsible for me meeting the love of my life. Long story short: she saw that picture that you took and that is what  led to us connecting through a remote study course. She tells me many times about how amazing the photo is and how it spoke volume. You really captured so much about me.

Now, I won’t deserve the credit for anything other than nailing my focus and stealing a candid shot, I will say it is one of my top 10-15 shots ever. I wouldn’t change a thing, other than the color balance… Looking back at it, I really framed the shot well and the aperture was open enough to get the right blur in the background but retain enough detail.

Incidentally, I had edited the shot since posting about it in late October, with the newly-found A77 color profiles.

Here is the result:

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I think the color profile, paired with a white balance adjustment, did well. However, I wouldn’t go back and time and post the shot differently as I don’t want to tempt fate! I will say, I met my wife under somewhat similar circumstances so I wonder if forces greater than those ever imagined to be contained in a photo are involved.