Should You Purchase a Lens Right Away

By John Frelich

Think of the times you look at a lens and think of a trip you’re ready to take. If only you had a 100-400mm lens to get some good zoom images.  Then you go to the various Photographic stores and see the price somewhere around $2200 for a camera manufacturer’s product. The prices can range higher or you consider a secondary manufacturer but still look at prices around $1500. Then you explore the grey market but fear something going wrong with the lens and no one will repair it. Finally, you look at refurbished or used lenses but are still apprehensive.

Well why not consider renting a lens for a weekend or longer trip? I just did a weekend workshop and rented a lens from Tempe Camera. Picking it up on a Thursday afternoon and bringing it back on a Monday afternoon cost me $93. The  price for a similar used lens is around $1700 so was it worth it? I tested it out on around 2,000 images and found that the quality of the images was “Good to Very Good.”

Notice I didn’t say “Great.”

When I evaluated the number of times I could rent the lens before I would equal the current value it was greater than 15 times. How many times will I be shooting images requiring this lens? If I hit 15 it will take several years. By that time will Nikon make a 100-400mm lens that will give me what I want? This zoom lens has been made for several years now so the technology that was used is waning.

Also secondary manufacturers like Tamron and Sigma are advancing their products at a fast pace. So if you’re not using a good lens on a regular basis, rental is a great way to get limited uses at a comfortable price. BUT, not all rentals are the same. A good camera store keeps their products in excellent condition. When online you must also consider the shipping and insurance costs both ways. That can be greater than the rental cost of the lens.

The key to success is if you live in a metro area like Phoenix and can find a local store that in essence let’s you try a product (rental) it gives you the best way to limit expenditures.

P.S. I have the first model of this lens and it serves as a paperweight because of its slow focusing and “soft” results. If you’re rich please ignore this advice. You won’t need it.

John Frelich is a Volunteer with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Traveling and Photographing in Japan

By Meng Tay

Photographers are always looking for new subjects or scenes.  If you are tired of the same old, same old, why not consider traveling to Japan?  First, let me give you the reasons why you want to travel to Japan.  Next, I will give you some ideas on what to photograph.

  1. It’s very safe – guns are illegal here and the crime rate is very low.  Never once was I threatened or scolded in any way, even when I accidentally bump someone.  Such a contrast to the US when anything can cause a confrontation.  As a matter of fact, most Asian countries are very safe, contrary to what most Americans think.
  2. It’s very clean – the Japanese are fastidious about their cleanliness.  Every restroom I went to was clean (and free).  This includes public restrooms in busy tourist areas, shopping centers, etc.  The streets, parks, buildings are all clean.  I even had a hard time finding trash cans.
  3. Japanese are helpful and polite – I’ve heard stories of Japanese actually walking a tourist to his or her destination instead of just pointing and giving directions on how to get to a place.  Most of the signs have an English version but Japan’s twisty streets are sometimes hard to navigate.  Unless you ask someone local, sometimes it’s almost impossible to find it on your own, but ask.
  4. At today’s exchange rate (US$1 = ¥112) it’s a bargain to travel in Japan.  Yes, hotels and certain things are still expensive but it’s less expensive than some of the European countries like Norway, Iceland or Switzerland.
  5. Public transportation is very convenient and easily accessible.  Ironically, one of the biggest car manufacturing countries also has one of the best train networks.  Learn how the train system works and you will love riding the shinkansens (bullet trains).  If you have a big group, perhaps 4 or more, maybe it’s better for you to rent a car but trains can get you almost anywhere in Japan.
  6. Japan has a long history.  If you want to understand how it went from a sheltered country to an international economic powerhouse, an Oriental culture to an International culture, this is the place to learn.  The blending of east and west is everywhere.
  7. Food – you will love the food.  Be open-minded about sushi.  The Japanese eat a lot of things raw.  They have been doing this for centuries.  It’s healthy and after you’ve acquired a taste for it, you will love it.  You will never want to eat sushi or sashimi anywhere else.

What would discourage you from traveling to Japan?  Language may be the biggest challenge.  Very few Japanese speak English.  But this is no different than some European countries.  With today’s travel aids like Phrase Books, Google Translate, etc, this should not be a big hurdle.  I find that most Japanese studied English in school but because they are shy, they don’t get to practice it a lot.  Speak slowly and with a little bit of gesture, you should have no trouble getting around.

If you don’t feel comfortable traveling on your own, why not join a tour?  Tours will get you to many places where you have excellent photo opportunities but may not offer you the freedom of going where you want to go and for longer than you want.

What are some subjects that you may want to photograph in Japan?

Temples:  Because of its long history with Buddhism, temples are everywhere.  You find them in villages or big cities.  They are intriguing because their architecture is so different from churches or cathedrals in Europe.  The predominantly red color of Japanese temples make them stand out.  Here are some examples:

Food:  Food is the essence of a culture.  If you look at what they eat and how they eat, you can tell a lot about a culture.  That’s why I love going to markets when I am in a foreign country.  Japanese food is a contrast to American food.  That’s why it’s always an interesting subject matter for photography.

Landscape:  There is more to Japan than Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto or other big cities.  What is not known to most tourists is that Japan has a beautiful countryside.  Hokkaido is arguably, most beautiful of all rural areas..  Go there in the fall, when the leaves are changing color.  If you are lucky enough to go during the cherry blossom season (sakura in Japanese), they will be everywhere.  They start in late March to the middle of April, depending on which part of Japan you go to.

Other topics of interest may be people, traditional buildings, castles, etc.  Japanese ladies in kimonos is a good topic.  If you happen on a geisha (very rare nowadays), that’d be the ultimate photo shoot.  Towering castles that were built during the shogun days are also good subjects.

If you want to read more about my travels in Japan, here is my blog:

http://mengineurope.blogspot.com

It’s in reverse chronological order.  Click on the year 2017 on the right.  It will drop down a menu of months.  Click on March, April or May.  You will see my posts on different places in Japan that I traveled to.

You can find out more about travel in Japan at the following sites:

https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/

http://www.japanvisitor.com

Meng Tay is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

THE NEW LIGHTROOM “ECO-SYSTEM”

By Suzanne Mathia

LIGHTROOM CLASSIC – LIGHTROOM CC

Lots of changes announced this week and confusion, worry and misinformation are rampant.  This happens with any new changes.  We all get very comfy with the familiar and resist change vehemently.

At the same time we have also been complaining loudly about the speed of importing, culling and developing inside the current model.  Adobe listened, and have drastically improved the speed of the interface while giving us some great new tools.  They also added an entirely new platform to the Lightroom “Eco-System” By separating the two products, they are allowing Lightroom Classic to focus on the strengths of a file/folder based workflow, while Lightroom CC addresses the cloud/mobile-oriented workflow.” The new names are: LIGHTROOM CLASSIC and LIGHTROOM CC

I have been working with the upgrade and I am ecstatic with the improvements.

“Lightroom Classic CC is designed for desktop-based (file/folder) digital photography workflows. It’s a well-established workflow solution that is distinct and separate from the new cloud-native service.  For professional photographers who want all the Lightroom Classic capabilities to support their own very specific workflows as they are now.Your Lightroom is now called Lightroom Classic.

HUGE IMPROVEMENTS!!

Speed – reviewing and culling with the speed and efficiency of programs like  Photomechanic or On One browse because Lightroom now uses use the imbedded jpg for fast loading. When you select the Embedded & Sidecar previews option, you can scroll through a large set of images quickly in the Library module and also perform 1:1 zoom quicker. The rendering of Embedded previews is prioritized based on the folder you are viewing. For example, if you import and add images to multiple folders, you can immediately begin scrolling through the images as they get added.

TIP: on import select Embedded and Sidecar for best performance

Performance and stability enhancements

  Enhanced in this release of Lightroom Classic CC 

  •     Application loading time
  •     Catalog upgrade and compression upon import and export
  •     Faster import with Minimal, Standard, 1:1 Previews
  •     Faster image selection upon import with Embedded Previews.
  •     Smart Preview generation
  •     Switching from Library to Develop module
  •     Rendering of images in Library and Develop modules
  •     Scrolling through images in Library and Develop modules
  •     Improved brushing and slider movements
  •     Deleting Collections
  •     Loading of faces in the People view

Bigger standard previews – wide of monitor default – was 2000 pixels now 3840

Export metadata without camera settings option – You can export All except camera raw info if desired.

  • Fine control over selections with Color and Luminance Range Masking tools.
  • Auto-masking with better noise reduction by updating to Process Version 4 (Current) under Camera Calibration
  • Filter Criteria in Smart Collections: Title – Is Empty or Not Empty and Lens Profile – Applied or Not applied
  • Metadata preset for the export dialog – All Except Camera Raw Info. This helps you to conceal the settings or changes you had made from being exported.
  • Filter Criteria in the Import dialog – File Type. This helps you to quickly remove certain file types if needed.
  • Better handling of multiple batches of merge operations (HDR/ Pano) improving GUI response
  • Preview generation of recently edited images (in last 2 days) during idle system state. This is applicable for Batch Editing use case, using Sync Edit functionality.

Color Range Mask

After making an initial selection mask on your photo with Adjustment Brushes or Radial Filter/Graduated Filters, use Color Range Masking to refine the selection mask based on the colors sampled within the mask area.

Luminance Range Mask

After making an initial selection mask on your photo with Adjustment Brushes or Radial Filter/Graduated Filters, use Luminance Range Masking to refine the mask area based on the luminance range of the selection.

Smoothness = feathering                                     Click and drag eye dropper for color range

So far I am absolutely loving the import interface speed and the new masking features are a real game changer!

For most users and those happy with the current system – no need to adopt the cloud based version at this time.

STOP HERE…..Update and be happy

For those interested in the Cloud Based system

No folders – date based that you don’t control

Sensei keywords – content search

Image analysis capabilities will continue to improve

Manage across any device at any location

Version 1.0 now

No pano or hdr

No curves

Get to know new LRcc first – Take for a test drive using duplicate copies

DOWNLOAD A PDF COMPARISON Comparison chart and additional info from Victoria Brampton – The Lightroom Queen
https://www.lightroomqueen.com/lightroom-cc-vs-classic-features/

Eventually, I may end up using a hybrid of both systems but primarily I am a desktop user and for now I’m just using the new and greatly improved CLASSIC!

If you have any questions or constructive comments, please let me know.

Suzanne Mathia is an Instructor with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Wildlife photography–Increasing your chances of capturing an image!

By Amy Novotny

Recently, a friend commented that he had moved away from wildlife photography to landscape photography because it was hard to find wildlife and then even harder to capture an image of a moving animal. He mentioned that he would go out searching and might get a shot or two but then get frustrated so he switched to landscape scenes.  Although I love landscape photography, I have begun photographing more wildlife during the hot summer and I mentioned a couple suggestions to him that have helped me in the past couple months.

First of all, speaking to biologists or searching the website of the Arizona Game and Fish Department are great ways to gain some knowledge of where animals will be and when they will be most visible to humans. This past May, Bruce Taubert, wildlife biologist and photographer took a small group of us to the desert to photograph western Screech owls and elf owls. His knowledge of the owls’ territory and their activity level at this time of year led to a great night of shooting.  He knew that the birds would respond to calls and the approximate height of where they would perch in the trees, making it easier for us to photograph in the night sky.

Images: Elf owl, Western Screech owl, Elf owl. Taken in the desert in Cave Creek, Arizona.

Learning animal behavior can also be a huge asset in saving time finding animals and even capturing an image of a moving animal.  Recently, I was out photographing bighorn sheep in the canyon surrounding Canyon Lake, Arizona.  The Arizona Game and Fish Department had set up a boat tour at the beginning of July to search for the sheep. Even though it is typically the hottest time of the year for Arizona, this is the time when the mating season is underway and sheep can be seen going down the walls of the canyon to drink from the lake. Sure enough, within minutes of being on the boat, we came across a herd of sheep halfway up the canyon. The boat driver recommended waiting to watch the sheep, as he suspected that they would climb down to the water. To our delight, his knowledge of animal behavior was accurate and helped us get the opportunity for some close up shots of the sheep at the water’s edge.

                       
Image: Bighorn sheep climbing back up the canyon walls surrounding Canyon Lake, Arizona

Knowledge of animal behavior is also critical for capturing moving animals. This is especially useful in bird photography when trying to capture a bird in flight. When trying to photograph a roadrunner in flight, I studied his behavior for a bit and learned how he turned his head and changed his body position just prior to takeoff. Although it was still difficult trying to capture the little guy in motion, having some knowledge of his tendencies increased my opportunity of getting a shot.

      

Images: A Greater Roadrunner begins to dive and then dives off the branch to the ground at the Pond at Elephant Head Ranch in Amado, Arizona.

Workshops, such as those offered through Arizona Highways Photo Workshops, are great ways to highly increase your chance of capturing images of wildlife because the professional photographers have done all the research for you and gained special access to areas.  However, when workshops are not an option, other sources exist, such as Bruce Taubert’s book, “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildlife” that describes when and where to find certain wildlife throughout Arizona. The Arizona Game and Fish Department website also has email newsletters of wildlife viewings throughout the year.

Amy Novotny is a Volunteer with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Sunny 16 Rule

By Pam Henrichsen

Time to brush up on one of the simplest photo applications. This is very old school and most digital photographers may not even use this concept. However, it is simple and it does work.  The Sunny 16 Rule is a way to meter during the daylight without using your camera meter.

The rule is… if you have a bright sunny day set your aperture to f/16, next set your ISO and shutter speed to the same value – for example if your ISO is 100 your shutter speed will be 1/100; if the ISO is 200 your shutter speed will be 1/200 and so on.

Sunny 16 is a very useful tool for numerous reasons. It is a good way to check and see if your camera has accurate exposure. Try using this method to determine if your camera tends to over expose or under expose your images. Most cameras have a tendency to slightly under expose.

Additionally, unlike the camera metering system, Sunny 16 is based on incident light not reflective light. What does this mean? It means that it is based on the brightness of the light only, not how the light is being reflected off the subject and into the camera. So the Sunny 16 Rule can help you check your camera’s metering to make sure it is not being thrown off.

That’s all there is to it. Pretty simple. It’s a great tool to have in your bag of photographic tricks. Give it a try…or try it again.

Pam Henrichsen is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

“WHO AM I TO JUDGE?”

By Suzanne Mathia

I was recently asked to judge another photography competition.  Whether it is at a camera, club, an online competition of a fair I always enjoy seeing submitted images from different areas of the country – I am always blown away with the creativity and talent.  I get to see a different range of photography, things I don’t ordinarily see,

images that are totally unexpected, locations that are unusual and perspectives that are unique.

I love to see where people are taking photography, especially the youngsters. (That didn’t make me sound old!) It’s really refreshing and inspiring to see their vision and passion for the craft!

Fran Yates – Best in Show Northern Gila County Fair

Being asked to judge someone else’s art is not an easy task and one I don’t take lightly.  I may take a slightly different approach to this process but I wanted to share some thoughts and observations.

For me the most important part of a photographic image is IMPACT.  That cant be judged purely by the technical aspects.  Some guidelines for the judging process require each image to be awarded points or gold stars based on a long list of technical criteria. Some don’t.

Deborah Burd _First Place Winner

When I look initially at a group or collection of images I am looking for the ones that stand out for me for whatever reason.  Compelling images always stand out from the crowd, rise to the top upon viewing for the first time. That process of doing a visual scan helps me to find some of the best pictures and eliminate others — pictures that are simply “me too” , “same ol same old” or pictures that just fade into the background.

After that initial visual scan, I go in closer and look for WHY.  Why did this image stand out above the rest? That can be subject matter, creativity as well as composition and technique, post processing and presentation, overall excellence. A photograph must convey attention or intent.  I look for an image that is about something not just of something.

Deborah Bird – First Place Winner

One can give points for following all the rules, but often the most memorable images are those that flaunt the normal conventions…with purpose .  I look for creativity, simplicity, emotion, composition and impact. After that I look for exposure, focus and sharpness, tonal separation, framing, leading lines, light and shadow. Are the horizons straight, no intruders along the borders, chromatic aberration, banding, flare, noise and over processing, those are the things that can distract from an otherwise compelling photograph.

Some of the biggest mistakes I see are multiple versions of the same image.  A different crop or a slightly different treatment. It dilutes the originality of one of the images and indicates the photographer was undecided about their vision.

Overuse of HDR and filters, presets and plug ins.  If the category is creative, manipulation or composite this can be fine and a creative use of the available software programs. However, it can be over done and may ruin an otherwise pleasing image.

Over Sharpening- image sharpening is a powerful and necessary tool for emphasizing texture and drawing viewer focus. It’s also required of any digital photo at some point. However, over sharpening can cause that “crunchy” look.

Happily and thankfully, over time, I have seen less and less of these obvious mistakes.

Fran Yates – Best in Class

It is painful to reject a photo. I know I try to find the best in every image. Behind that entry is a photographer who loved making this image, was so proud and so hopeful as well as brave and confident enough to put there work out there. I am very conscious of some of potential biases and preferences and try not to let them cloud or influence my decisions.

I know that not everyone will agree with my choices and some will definitely have differing opinions.  I am OK with that….who am I to judge!? Judges of photo contests have a unique perspective because we see so very many photos. Sometimes the difference between being a finalist in a contest and being rejected comes down to minute differences, personal preferences, innate biases and opinions.

Get your work out there.  Enter contests, submit to publications, have an online presence, participate in art shows , fairs and exhibits. Work hard at your craft and never give up. You may not have won a fist place ribbon this time but keep showing your work and most importantly, love what you do.

Suzanne Mathia is an Instructor with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Lens Rental

By Esther Shavon Thomas

Thinking of buying a new lens?  Need a Particular Lens for a special occasion, outing, or event?  Try Renting a Lens

I rent lots of camera equipment and am often asked 2 questions:

What’s the benefits of renting a lens?

How do you go about renting lenses or any camera equipment?

Potential Benefits:

One of the obvious benefits is cost. Renting allows you to obtain often expensive equipment for a fraction of the cost. Especially if you only need a particular lens for a specific event or time period.

The second benefit of renting is it’s a great way to “try before you buy.” If you are considering purchasing a lens, renting prior to purchase gives you a chance to explore your potential purchase and really get some hands on feel to how it handles.  There is nothing like taking a lens out and shooting with it in the field to determine if it is right for you as a photographer.

The photos included in this article were taken on an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop “Shoot the Zoo.” I shoot mostly macro so I needed a decent telephoto for the workshop.  Also, given how quickly animals may move or change a particular action or behavior, I wanted a lens that could cover most of my shots. I I rented a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Lens and found it a versatile option to cover the variety of animal habitats and environments within the zoo.

Best way to go about renting lens/equipment?

The two most common ways to rent a lens are either online or through your local camera shop. Your neighborhood camera store is convenient and allows for immediate possession. It also allows you to view your item before you rent it. Often your local camera shop may have offers to apply your rental fee to equipment purchase.

Online is the other option for renting equipment. There are several reputable companies that rent camera equipment. You can do a simple internet search for “online camera rentals.” Online is a great option for those who do not have a local camera store near, or for increased availability of particular items. I would suggest reviewing each website and their product offerings and fees.

If you are interested in renting a lens, sign up for their respective email newsletters. Newsletters often alert members to attractive deals and coupon codes!  Below are a few online lens rental companies I have used in no particular order.

www.atsrentals.com
www.lensrentals.com
www.lensbowwers.com

Happy Shooting!

Esther Shavon Thomas is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops