March 10th, 2010 by Jeff 1 comment »

I bought a Canon 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens back in October. With school projects and a paper breathing down my neck I haven’t had that much time to play with it. The few pictures I took initially didn’t come out very well because I was trying to shoot at wide open apertures. This doesn’t work close up, because the depth of field at f/2.8 is tiny: at 1:1 magnification your margin of error is about 400 micrometers in each direction before getting unacceptably fuzzy. Even shooting stopped down to the neighborhood of f/5.6 only doubles that margin to almost a millimeter. But if you have really steady hands (or a tripod), a stationary subject, and a lot of patience, you can capture a very unique perspective.

When I first bought the lens I tried taking photos of my girlfriend’s mechanical watch. The front face is clear so you can see the inner workings. Unfortunately I didn’t really know what I was doing and the results were less than stellar:

It wasn’t until last week that I was able to read up on what I was doing wrong and why nothing seemed to be in focus. A hint to aspiring macro photographers: stop down the aperture very small (f/6 is about as open as you want to go, but closer to f/11 would be better), and jack up the sensitivity of your camera. Get the focus in the neighborhood and then leave the ring alone and focus by physically moving the camera forward and backward.

Around that same time I started looking at small objects again, trying to find subjects. Luckily my landlord is a bit of a collector of random items. He’d found a rock around Winkelman and kept it because it had an interesting texture. The rock fell off a shelf outside and split in half on the ground, and he put the pieces back without really looking at it closely. A closer inspection revealed that this was no ordinary rock.

Warning: the blown up image below is large (3.5MB). Most browsers will load the entire image, then zoom to fit it on the screen; clicking somewhere within the image will usually make it full size. Then use the scroll bars to view it. For scale, the feature shown in the crop is approximately 5mm long.

These are fossils of a type of sea-dwelling animal called a Crinoid that was quite common in the Paleozoic Era, approximately 250 million years ago. (At least, that’s what I think the fossils are.) At the time, most of North America was a large inland sea next to a supercontinent. A majority of the limestone found in the United States is composed of the compressed skeletons and shells of the invertebrates that lived in that sea, accumulated in silt floods over millions of years.

I’d gotten out early from school the day I took this photo, and I wandered around the front yard looking for more small things to photograph. Several honeybees seemed to be very interested in a neighbor’s flowers, so I tried to find one at eye level that was staying still. They didn’t cooperate. In one shot which was unfortunately out of focus, I actually caught the bee as it took flight. Still, you can see the hairs on this one’s leg:

Perhaps the coolest thing about a macro lens is how it forces you to look for really small details. I wanted to take a picture of the tiny green fruits on this tree, which were about half the width of my index finger in diameter, and I saw a little speck on one. So I zoomed in and took a look:

Yep, those are aphids. On a tree branch that was wiggling back and forth in the wind like a windshield wiper. I just set the camera to continuous drive and held down the shutter. Only about 3 of the 30 I took were even remotely in focus, and this one is a crop of an otherwise out of frame shot. I still like it.

early morning: coffee shop, and glass through glass

October 27th, 2009 by Jeff No comments »

This is the last of the photos from that morning. The first two are from the coffee shop, and the last one was a large piece of glass from a sculpture in front of one of the university buildings. Sorry about the larger image size; I was trying to show a friend of mine how clear the 85mm f/1.8 is.

Because some of you keep asking, the woman in the first shot is a barista who works at the shop.

early morning: flowers

October 25th, 2009 by Jeff No comments »

Here are some flowers from that other morning. Enjoy.

local fixtures

October 25th, 2009 by Jeff No comments »

This is a continuation of the last post. All these photos were taken during the sleepless Friday morning.

I didn’t just take photos of dogs. Not like I could have even planned that. I took pictures of whatever caught my eye. Rooftops, cracks in the sidewalk, plants, cyclists.

I should mention something about the third image, which is a response to the arrest of a graduate student protester who drew chalk outlines on university sidewalks in protest of the casualties of the recent budget cuts. Apparently someone in the admin building didn’t like what he was doing, and he was booked for criminal damage, to the tune of $3000 in cleanup costs. Anyone sane will tell you that chalk washes off with a hose or the next rainfall, and it raised such a stink that the university president ordered the charges to be dropped. Even though this happened over a month ago you can still see this slogan written on walls and sidewalks in public places.

The image compression doesn’t do the lens justice. The pictures from this 85mm really are sharp as a razor.

The words are written on a brick wall: chalk is speech

puppies of the neighborhood

October 24th, 2009 by Jeff No comments »

Early this morning I was bitten by a mosquito at 6:30am and woke with a sharp smack. Unlike Dexter, I’m not really a morning person. But I was wide awake, the sun was rising, and I had a camera with a full battery. So I took a walk, first down the block, then to the end of the road, and then through campus and to my favorite coffee shop. The next couple posts have photos from that little excursion.

Along the way, I encountered no less than eight dogs. Morning seems to be a popular time for pooches. Dogs often make great photo subjects, when their owners aren’t hauling them away at a brisk pace. (Most canines are happy to stop and sniff, but if the owner keeps moving, then that’s that.)

I’ll let these photos speak for themselves, in a slightly different format than usual. Click on the crops for the full image.

Catching up

October 24th, 2009 by Jeff 2 comments »

I need to post here about all the stuff that’s happened in the last… long while. Okay, where do I start…

There was the fantastic trip to the San Francisco area to visit Joey and Monica. We went to this distillery called Hangar One for a tasting. By far my favorite was their spiced pear vodka, but they also have raspberry liqueurs and weird citrus or kaffir lime hard liquor. Monica drove Joey and me up to Sonoma where we sampled the local wines and chocolates. We even got a chance to hit up a concert, and I got to see Monica’s laboratory with the subterranean-industrial-evil-genius plasma whatsit. Very chic, I’ll have to put one of those in my underground lair someday.

I got a girlfriend. She was having lunch with a friend in this kinda hippie cafe place where I was reading a book and having some coffee. She got up, I started talking to her friend, and then wound up spending the afternoon with them at the local street fair. It turns out she went to my high school, and her older sister and I were in the band together for all 4 years. Since then I was invited to the older sister’s wedding. Fun, interesting, and yet very bizarre.

The end of the semester brought quite a bit of chaos as everyone threw parties for everyone else, and because my undirected graph of friends is well-connected, there were n squared parties in the span of a week. This in concert with the unexpected 40 hours per week expected time in for my summer research job had worn my sanity rather thin. Meanwhile my girlfriend had been wondering why I’m so goddamn busy. So we decided to just eschew work for a bit and go camping. That was its own adventure.

Meanwhile I’ve written a paper with lots of help from my professor and submitted it to a conference. If it gets accepted, I might have a chance to go to Europe and present it.

That’s all I can remember for now. I’m going to drag my camera a couple places and hope to get inspired. My lenses and equipment are fine, I just need to take them out of the bag and take some photos with them.

meet yourself

October 23rd, 2009 by Jeff 3 comments »

Went to the local food festival two weeks ago. Most of the photos I took didn’t come out as sharp as I wanted because of insufficient light. For others I had the lens jacked open so far that I couldn’t get everything in focus. Very artsy, but not very attractive if you can’t tell what’s being photographed. Anyway, I figured it’s been awhile since I posted any photos, so here you go.

It’s hard to explain, but these toy lightsabers kept changing colors. I have three photographs taken less than a second apart, and the colors are different in each one.

A local Norwegian group, dressed to the nines, does a circle dance.
These Norwegian dancers strutted their stuff for awhile before I had to leave. Yes, their outfits were THAT red.

This work by Jeff Hiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.