Tag Archives: nifty fifty

My $150 investment in figuring out I’m not a landscape photographer.

So I took the Ferrari out for a spin — the fancy lens that I rented for our Las Vegas trip — and made an important discovery:  I’m really much happier with my Honda, photographically speaking.

That is, I really prefer macro-like or at least small-scale photography to landscape photography, at least for my own shooting.  I guess I should have figured this out, since my preferred photographic genre is Random Shit.  But I thought I’d see what I could do with a giant lens that could open up to f2.0 through the entire zoom range of 35-100MM.  (Photo nerds – did I say that right?)  A lens that was described in reviews as having “buttery soft bokeh, with a good nose, hoppy notes, and a peaty finish.”  Or something like that.

Of course, I can’t blame the incredible lens for my lack of skill and preparation.  I actually did a lot of theoretical preparation — checked the time of sunrise on The Photographers’ Ephemeris and set an early wake-up call — to make sure I was at Red Rock Canyon for the beautiful early morning light.  But it turned out that I’d miscalculated sunrise, and I then found myself — this was both hilarious and devastating to my carefully-planned timing — unable to make the stove work in our hotel kitchenette,* requiring additional time to grab some breakfast on the way.

By the time I got there, it was long past sunrise, but I still got some pretty cool shots:





When I got bored with taking landscape photos, I took a couple of exposure-bracketed shots and had fun with HDR,** which at this point requires no talent whatsoever.  I toss three bracketed photos into Photomatrix Essentials, and voila!  HDR!


But not just default HDR, “painterly” HDR:


“surreal” HDR:


and “black & white artistic” HDR:

AR104056_7_8_B&W artistic-1

I’m a regular Ansel Adams!

HDR collage

Stop her before she noodles again!

At this point in the morning, I switched to my Nifty Fifty*** and took the sort of photos I enjoy both shooting and looking at later.  For example, I like the landscape on top of a cactus


more than the landscapes above.

Here are some more sorta kinda**** macro — or at least small & random — photos.






More fun with HDR:


And some fun with Lightroom:


I had hiked the first couple of miles of the 13-mile circuit through Red Rock Canyon, then hiked back to the car — that’s serious distance for this desk potato! — and drove the rest of the way around the Scenic Drive.

Red Rock Canyon

I stopped at the High Point Overlook for lunch and more amazing scenery.


Met a couple of cyclists and convinced one to take a photo of me and my cool rental car.  One of them explained that he was going to do “18 or 19 miles today.”  I said, “wow – 19 miles!” He said — you saw this coming, right? — “No. 90 miles. 9-0.”

High Point Overlook

Oddly, I completely failed to convince Tim that I encountered carnivorous wildlife on my hike with either this photo


or this one.


As you can see from the previous two photos, the final stop on my Red Rock Canyon Adventure was the Visitor Center, where I strolled past a lot of the sort of informative displays that I’ve been studiously ignoring since elementary school field trips, but did get to meet Maxine the tortoise:


All in all, a gorgeous and satisfying photographic outing!


Extra bonus photo of Shibuya, the excellent sushi restaurant where Tim took me to dinner.  I love the food and the decor.  It feels like you’re dining in your own private tree house!



*In my defense, neither could Tim or our assistant, Dustin, who can make *anything* work.  Nor did housekeeping have a clue — they had the hotel engineer come by later in the day and write out instructions.

** From time to time, I remember what this stands for.  Not just now, though.  But it means superimposing three differently-exposed shots to take advantage of the good exposure in each.

*** OK OK, Nifty Forty-Nine.

**** I don’t think the Nifty Forty-Nine counts as a macro lens, strictly speaking.

Photography practice: streetlights, bugs, and an orange dog

Playing with the tripod and some longer exposures in the back yard.  I didn’t notice Saguaro in the first one, but it looks sort of cool.

Also having fun with the nifty fifty and bug photography.

Coming in for a landing!

And finally: practicing developing in Lightroom with an orange dog.  (If that modifier is misplaced, please know that *nothing* in this house happens without the participation of the orange dog.)

Nerd gear: dogs and photography

I’ve been trying to figure out how to combine photography practice with dog walks.  Before today, it has consisted of:



Seriously.. come.  Here.  No, over here.



Good dogs!

[Put leashes on ground.]



No!  Sit.  Staaaaaaay.

Good dogs!

[Compose.  Focus.]


[Pick up leashes.]

Let’s go!

Rinse. Repeat.

Until now!  I solved the problem with some gen-u-ine nerd gear:  a web belt and a large clip.

Now that is some seriously crappy photographic composition.  But you can see my nerd-gear dog-walking photo-practice hack.  And my ca. 1972 tennis racket.   Both the belt and the clip were available on amazon.com, with the interesting side effect that ordering the belt — which has oddly knife-shaped pouches that will be perfect for dog treats — put me in interesting company.

Guess the pouches weren’t specifically designed for dog treats.  Anyway, all in the service of my continuing efforts to learn how to use my Nifty Fifty.


Nifty fifty!

While this could easily be a reference to my brother, who will soon be joining me on the other side of the half-century mark, it is in fact a reference to the lens that our photo teacher recommended as a great all-around lens:  the 50 mm with a wide aperture for interesting shallow depth of field photos.  He confidently asserted that it would not be expensive and would be a good addition to our camera bags.

Not sure what his definition of “not expensive” is but this did not gibe with mine:

At the same time I was pondering this advice, I was puttering around in our basement looking for the lenses from my ca. 1984* film camera  — which, like my dslr camera, is an Olympus — and found that I was already the proud owner of a 50 mm (ok, ok 49 mm) f/1.8 lens.

I started trying to figure out how to use it with my current dslr camera.  It didn’t fit directly, and the first two calls I made to photography stores that will remain anonymous resulted in the advice that (1) this was impossible and (2) that it would cost me $150 for an adapter.  Seriously:  just that contradictory.  But I went on ebay, ordered the adapter in the (blurry; damn!) foreground of the photo above — for $14 — and voila!  I have a nifty fifty!

Clearly I need to learn more about how to use it, but damn it’s going to be fun!

BTW, I actually grew this pepper.  But that is for yet another blog post.


* Faithful readers who are paying close attention and/or are related to me will say, “ca. 1984?  but didn’t you say you got your 35 mm camera for high school graduation?  And you graduated high school in 1978, so what gives?”  The full answer to that will have to await another post that I’ve been meaning to write about having my backpack stolen in Singapore with my camera, money, and passport from the lobby of the Sheraton, putting my frantic mother** on a plane back to the States, contacting the law firm I was working for in Taiwan,*** being put in touch with a Chinese pop star who happened to be a friend of one of the partners, who loaned me money and took me out to dinner****, which allowed me to scramble around Singapore in a taxi getting a new passport, visa and plane ticket.  I was cameraless until that summer when, back in the States and visiting friends in New York, I bought a new one almost identical to the graduation gift, and carried on with my untutored but enjoyable photographic career.

** You think I could have afforded the Sheraton on my own at that point??[UPDATE: ******]

*** And that is one of the other reasons for this post.  Just the other day, I found myself trying to explain what a telex was.  It was sort of 1984’s email in a way.  You typed into a teletype machine in (say) the Sheraton in Singapore and it would print out momentarily at (say) a law firm in Taipei.

**** If you think the style disparity between me and Miss South Africa was vast, I only wish I had a photo of my dinner with Theresa Teng.*****  But, alas, the thief had my camera.

***** Only when I googled her for this post did I learn that she passed in 1995 at a very young age.  RIP, Theresa.  You did a very good deed for a very lost and scruffy Waigwo student at the height of your stardom.  Above and beyond.

UPDATE:  ****** For the record — see Comment #1 — this was not my mother’s fault.  I violated Travel Rule #1:  Always Keep Your Backpack With You At All Times.  I’ve also violated Travel Rule #2:  Don’t Stay In A Hotel With A Preying Mantis on the Bed.  And #3:  Always Wear Sunscreen when Lying on A Beach Below the Tropic of Cancer, even in February.  And many more, I’m sure.  Live & learn!