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All blog post images copyright by Edwardson Tan unless otherwise noted

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hunter's moon

Hunter's moon tonight. All images below were taken with a Canon EOS T3i and EF 75-300mm @300mm,  ISO 100. Adjustments for sharpening, contrast, exposure, etc. were synchronized for all the images, so hopefully the only variable is lens sharpness at the various f-stops.

1/160", f/9

1/125", f/10

1/100", f/11

1/80", f/13

Sunday, October 28, 2012

One day to full moon

Another clear night. Except for exposure, camera settings were the same as with yesterday's shoot. And as in yesterday I waited till Luna was directly overhead. This minimizes the atmosphere that I have to shoot through. Shot from the same spot with camera and lens shielded from city lights.

Took one shot each at the following aperture-shutter speed combinations:
f/8: 1/125" & 1/100"
f/9: 1/100" & 1/80"
f/10: 1/80'& 1/60"
f/11: 1/60" & 1/50"
f/13: 1/50" & 1/40"

All ten frames needed at least -1.0EV compensation in post. The image from the f/8 seemed a little less sharp than those at smaller apertures.

Canon EOS T3i, 1/60", f/11, ISO 100, EF 75-300 @300mm

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Raindrops on papaya leaves

Was browsing my photos folders and this grabbed my attention. Took this in early September. For some reason I really like it.  

Canon A480 CHDK enabled, RAW DNG, 1/35", f/5.9, 21.6mm, ISO 243

Almost a full moon again

Took almost three dozen shots of the moon varying both aperture (f/8 to f/14) and shutter speed (1/40" to 1/160") by a third of a stop. Except for the exposure, other settings on the camera were the same as in the previous shoot. I again used Live View real-time histogram to check exposure. After taking the first couple of shots, I checked the histograms of those shots and looked out for the "blinkies" on the image. Seeing that parts were blowing out, I dialed a faster shutter speed.

I initially autofocused through the viewfinder as well as in Live View but halfway through the shots getting down on my knees and looking through the viewfinder with the lens pointing practically straight up was simply too much of a pain in the neck--literally. So for the last half of the shoot I relied solely on Live Mode focusing and x10 magnification. I moved the focusing rectangle to the right portion of the moon so that part of it was covering the empty black sky. I figured (and I could be totally wrong) that because Live View focusing is contrast-based, this would help nail the focus.

As always minimizing camera shake was very high on my agenda. 10-second self-timer was enabled and I gingerly tripped the shutter while in Live View so the mirror was up by default.

Only the first couple of test shots I took had blown highlights. Nevertheless, in post, I had to cut back on the exposure (midtones to highlights) anywhere from a third to one stop, depending on the aperture-shutter speed combo that I had used. This was necessary to bring out the surface details of the moon. Shots that were closest to the correct exposure (those that needed just -0.3EV compensation) seemed to have the most noise. The image below had a -0.8EV compensation.

Canon EOS T3i, 1/50", f/11, ISO 100, EF 75-300 III @300mm

Monday, October 22, 2012

Half a Luna

Another relatively clear night. Did a whole series of shots from f/5.6 to f/16 (but for some damn reason failed to shoot one at f/8! Maybe, juuuust maybe, it was because I started shooting at f/9 and only after finishing the f/16 shot did I work back to f/5.6). Was in manual mode (of course) with ISO fixed at 100 for all shots. Autofocused in Live View using Live Mode at x10 magnified view. I had (ever since I got the camera) back button focus setting #1 (AE Lock / AF) enabled, so after pressing and holding the star (*) button and after the camera had locked focus, pressing the shutter button wouldn't change the focus. I did focus again several times whenever I switched to the various aperture settings adjusted the tripod head to re-aim the camera to center the ever-drifting subject. To my mind such movements could potentially jar the focus mechanisms.

Mirror lock-up was enabled, but since I was using Live View that was unnecessary. Self-timer was set to 10-second mode to allow any shake to die down after I press the shutter button. At 300mm the image would wobble with the slightest vibration so it was imperative that camera shake was down to the absolute minimum possible. Fortunately there was hardly a breeze. And I had positioned the camera beside a wall to shield it from both light spill from the street lamps and buildings as well as from any possible gust.

To get the exposure right, I relied on the Live View real-time histogram. I dialed the shutter speed until the highlights bumped up against the right of the histo without going over. But in post I discovered every single frame was overexposed by half a stop! Lesson learned. Need to keep in mind that Canon's histo isn't that reliable for mega high contrast astrophotos and so must compensate by dialing the shutter speed down by 0.33 to 0.66EV. Another revelation: Performing pixel peeping at 100% crop, anything below f/8 has horrible, grotesque, will-scare-the-shit-out-of-your-momma chromatic aberration that's difficult to remove even with Canon's lens correction profile. Besides, anything below f/8 is less sharp. So to hell with those aperture settings. For images with lots of detail at least--like the moon.

Canon T3i, 1/15", f/9, ISO 100, EF 75-300mm III @300mm

Orion and a cloud dashing across

Saw at least one Orionid meteor last night. The streak was just a fraction of a second long. Took several >60sec exposures using a wide angle but didn't catch any meteor on film (sorry I can't bring myself to write "sensor"). I resigned myself to not being in a right location (light polluted city) for long exposures nor the right lens--I don't have a f/1.4 or faster wide angle. And so I just took some shots of Orion, Alderbaran and Pleiades (tried to at least) instead. Clouds were really sprinting across the sky and I knew I'd be able to catch some nice motion blur whilst they crossed the frame. I didn't expect they'd turn out so bright--caused by their reflecting of the orange light from street lamps of the metro.

Constellation Orion is at the top left. Sirius is the very bright star near the bottom of the frame.

Canon T3i, 25", f/5.6, ISO 400, EF-S 18-55mm II @18mm

Focusing was so damn difficult with the lens at 18mm (or for that matter at 55). I could hardly see the stars through the viewfinder (and so framing was hard as well) and nothing turns up in Live View even with x10 focus zoom. So I relied on hyperfocal distance and focused on a lit building a couple of hundred meters away.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hail Luna!

Had pretty clear skies at late dusk. Took some 15 images of the crescent moon from f/11 to f/14 at various shutter speeds. To my ever-worsening eyes the sharpness was pretty much the same for the 3 aperture settings. The moon pics I got then are--hands down--the best I've taken thus far, thanks in part to the excellent weather condition. I auto-focused in Live View. Because I was switching Live View on and off I also had mirror lock enabled just in case. I usually use the 2-second self timer but this time around I switched over to 10 seconds given the 300mm focal length.

1/13",  f/11, ISO 100, EF 75-300mm III @300mm

Cirrusly smoked moon

Shot in landscape and rotated. This was a little before 4 in the afternoon.

1/250", f/8, ISO 100, EF 75-300 III @300mm

Fire and ice

1/40", f/8, ISO 100, EF-S 18-55mm II @18mm

1/125", f/16, ISO 800, 18mm

Time peels all

You probably would have never guessed it but the following are shots of a ceiling not a wall. Decades old. Weathered from exposure to the elements. Directional light from the sunset drew out the textures.

West side ceiling. Pareidolia time. What do those patches where the paint have fallen off look to you?

1/60", f/11, ISO 400, EF-S 18-55mm II @55mm

 North side
1/15", f/16, ISO 800, 55mm

Man vs nature

An invisible plane creating a cloud of its own. Both machine and its wake puny in comparison to the cumulus giants.

1/2000", f/6.3, ISO 100, EF-S 18-55mm II @55m

Just another day on Venus

Imagine being on the surface of Venus glimpsing the sun through the thick heavy atmosphere laden with sulfuric acid.

Just wanted to try out what a very small aperture and very fast shutter speed would produce. Apparently, combined with some over post-processing, something otherworldy. That is indeed the sun, not the moon, shrouded by clouds.

1/3200", f/32, ISO 100, EF 75-300mm III at 75mm

I have seen the light!

It was a bright sunny afternoon with blue sky and cumulus clouds rolling by. The sky was just awesome. Grabbed the T3i and shot for two and half hours till very late dusk. Used the EF-S 18-55mm II for the images below.

1/500", f/11, ISO 100, 18mm

1/1250", f/8, ISO 100, 18mm

1/500", f/8, ISO 100, 18mm

1/2000", f/8, ISO 100, 55mm

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Orion and the Pleiades

Last night was probably the clearest in many week. Be that as it may there was still a veil of perceptible haze, and soon after taking the shots I could actually see puffs of clouds beginning to roll in.

I set the Canon T3i to manual mode and dialed in ISO 800. EF-S 18-55mm was zoomed out to 18mm with aperture set to f/5.6. According to photozone at 18mm this lens is sharpest when stopped down to this value. Boo-boo: In those images where I zoomed in to 55mm I forgot to stop down to f/8 (it's sharpest at that setting), but given how I was already getting star trails at 10 sec, it's just as well that I had left the aperture wide open. Image stabilization was turned off and focus switch set to MF.

From experience I knew that a 30-second exposure would begin leaving a conspicuous star trail, so I started with a 20-second exposure. After a couple of shots I increased ISO to 1600 and decreased the shutter speed to 10 sec and later to 8.

Took less than a dozen images and I ended up choosing those shot at ISO 1600 rather than 800.

The omnipresent light pollution from streetlights et al. is annoying and detracts from the images. Fortunately, Orion was close to the zenith and the Pleiades was practically right above me. This reduced the influence of the city lights. To try and get rid of the light spill that was inevitably captured in the images I bumped up the contrast and pulled down the shadows to darken as much as I could without severely affecting the points of light. 

10", f/5.6, ISO 1600, 18mm

8", f/5.6, ISO 1600, 55mm

8", f/5.6, ISO 1600, 55mm

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dawn crescent moon

After snapping several shots of the moon and what looks like a planet (Venus perhaps?), I repositioned the EOS T3i and added the roof into the frame to add some interest. I placed the tripod so that the "arrow" would point up to the moon. Had to stop down the aperture to get the roof in focus. I know. I know. I should've done all that hyperfocal distance calculation thingamajig but I was pressed for time and didn't have my chart with me.

0.8", f/16, ISO 100, EF-S 18-55mm @55mm

I switched to the EF 75-300mm to get a close-up. Skies were not at all crystal clear.

1/8", f/13, ISO 100, 300mm

Still using the same lens but a 100% crop. Yes, the image quality sucks. Am blaming the clouds. Keep in mind too that this was taken close to sunrise so the sky was actually lit up. I adjusted contrast in post to darken it. The original had a really washed-out look.

1/13", f/13, ISO 100, 300mm

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Treasures from unkept gardens

Went out to a lot which used to have a house--now torn down. Had these colorful flowers growing on their own. There were also "red berries" (they look like very tiny ones anyway) and some yellow buds, but none of those shots came out sharp. Have to go back and reshoot, probably using the T3i.

All the images below were taken using a Canon Powershot A480 set to either macro or super macro mode. I enabled CHDK simply so I could get RAW files to fiddle with during post processing. I manually set the ISO and let the camera choose the shutter speed. Metering was evaluative.

Because the white flower and the (blown out) sky I dialed up exposure compensation so the flower wouldn't end up slightly underexposed.

1/200", f/3, ISO 80, +2/3 EV, 6.6mm (equiv 37mm)

The following isn't the same flower as the one above although it's from the same shrub. Shooting from the side I knew I wouldn't be able to get most of it in focus. In fact only the edges of the petals closest to the camera are sharp.

1/560", f/3, ISO 100, 6.6mm (equiv 37mm)

I believe this is practically a weed. But a macro shot of the mundane gives it oomph and the attention these tiny flowers deserves

1/180", f/3, ISO 80, 6.6mm (equiv 37mm)

I love the loooong curving stamens of these flowers. And the reds are overpowering. It's almost shouting to insects and birds: "Come over here!"

1/75", f/3, ISO 80, 6.6mm (equiv 37mm)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Monuments to death

Was stuck in traffic and as it was inching forward I noticed this barren and apparently dead tree on the median/island and behind it a decades-old condemned building. Was captivated by the juxtaposition. I waited until the car was right in front of the tree to catch this image. Took the pic right through the windshield, pressing the lens as close to it as possible to minimize reflections. 

Canon Poweshot A480, P mode, CHDK disabled, 1/640", f3.0, ISO 80, 6.6mm

Monday, October 8, 2012

Midnight moon rising

Luna looks pretty groggy, mostly because of the clouds and partly because this is a 15-sec exposure. Light pollution on the horizon from the city lights. The only good thing about it was that it backlit the trees and made their silhouettes visible.

Canon T3i, 15", f/8, ISO 400, EF-S 18-55mm @55mm
Shots taken just a couple of minutes later were unsatisfactory. The moon had become much brighter as it rose out of the clouds and it was blowing out while the trees were getting too dark as I compensated with much faster shutter speeds.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Friday, October 5, 2012

Bouquet: a bevy of colors

Someone brought home a bouquet from a wedding reception. Thought I'd test the Canon T3i (and my skills!) on it. All the shots were taken with the camera with EF-S 18-55mm mounted on a tripod. Placed the bouquet on a table with white sheet on it to reflect some of the light from the overcast sky.

1/30", f/22, ISO 800, 40mm

1/200", f/5.6, ISO 800, 55mm

1/20", f/16, ISO 800, 55mm

Harvest moon -- 2 days later

Clouds, damn clouds every night! So here's the no longer full moon during a break in the cloud cover. Canon T3i with an EF 75-300mm zoomed all the way to 300mm. I spot metered right on the moon and took the shot handheld! 1/640", f/11, ISO 800. This image is relatively sharper than the one I took at f/8.

What I'd do differently the next time around: Use a tripod and shoot at ISO 100 to reduce noise to a minimum. And perhaps try a couple of shots with smaller apertures to see how sharpness improves/suffers.

First dSLR

Canon Powershot A480, P mode, ISO 80, 1/60", f/4 (newspaper's a year old in case you're wondering)
Week-old Canon Rebel T3i (600D) with the 18-55mm kit lens. One of the first things I did when I got it was to enable back button focusing. Divorced from the shutter button, focusing is now performed by pressing the * (star) button. Pressing the shutter button halfway down now only locks the exposure setting. I also changed the default image format to RAW+JPEG.

This is my first dSLR (although I've had a couple of film SLRs decades ago), and it's very liberating after spending the last six years with low end Canon point and shoots that don't give the user any control over aperture and shutter speed. Moreover, focusing speed is an order of magnitude faster--I've disabled all the autofocus points except the center one. Combined with back button focus, it's easy to pick which part of the subject you want in sharp focus and then recompose to take the shot.

Love having an SLR back in my hands after all these years. One drawback though: I can no longer slip the camera in my pocket :)

First impressions with the T3i + kit lens: I'm not particularly satisfied with the sharpness--a pet peeve of mine even with previous digital cameras. I don't know if a better lens would remedy this. Well, even if could, it's beyond my reach at the moment. Second letdown: It doesn't have the low light performance I need. Last night at a restaurant for instance, even with ISO set to 3200 and 6400 and with aperture one stop down from maximum opening I was still left with a shutter speed of 1/20" to 1/80". Camera shake isn't a big issue given Image Stabilization on the lens, but IS won't (apparently) do anything to freeze subject movement. So I got a lot of slightly blurry people surrounded by furniture in relatively sharp focus. Not to mention noise galore!

Ah well. I'll just have to keep these points in mind and try to work around them.