Monday, December 31, 2007
It was freezing, with snow everywhere. Most of the animals were either hibernating or hiding in their warm homes. But there was still plenty to see and do.
The kids had a good time though the little one got tired with all the walking and the freezing cold; and I ended up carrying her most of the time.
The high point for me was this lion exhibit. It's designed in such a way that you get to see the lion face to face with only a wall separating the lion and a tasty snack. This particular lioness was looking the other way and I waited around 15 minutes near the exhibit hoping he will turn his face. Finally he did, and I managed to to get this shot.
Here are some more pictures that I took at the zoo.
I took them near the Toronto harbor area which has an outdoor skating rink. The temperature was zero degrees celsius, which for everyone (except for me and my wife) seemed to be nice and balmy.
I rented out some skates for both the kids - Shawn can do some basic skating (He learned at the Kuwait skating rink), but it was first time for Erika.
As the sun went down, I had a very hard time convincing Erika to get out of the rink.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
When the organizers saw my camera gear, they immediately requested that I do an "official" photograph of their creation. This meant that I needed a tripod, which I always keep in the car.
The funny thing is that everyone who wanted to take a picture with their camera phone or point & shoot gave me a wide and respectful berth; assuming I am some official photographer - which, in this case, I guess I was.
So I ended up doing this "official" photo of the 2007 christmas crib. I also ended up taking some pictures of the organizing committee.
Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year 2008.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
This picture of a local mall is taken wide open at 17mm at f4 and ISO 640 giving me sufficient hand-held shutter speed of 1/50th of a second.
What is more interesting for me is that at this ultra-wide angle, the distortion (though it exists) is minimal and well-controlled.
This is going to be the lens that stays on my camera body 95% of the time from now on.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
But what sets this lens apart from the 18-70mm lens is that this is a fixed focal lens - just like my 80-200 f2.8. It has a constant maximum aperture of f2.8, which means that regardless of what focal length I choose, the widest aperture is guaranteed to remain at f2.8. This is great for low light photography.
I was finally convinced to pick this thing when I saw Amazon offering it for $1200. Though not cheap, I decided to throw caution to the wind and closed my eyes and hit the order button.
The first impression I got when I held this lens in my hand is that I better hit the gym. The thing is built like a tank and carrying this thing around for a long time is definitely going to test my frail muscles.
I have not yet got a chance to test the image quality of this lens, but I am looking forward to doing so in the next few days.
Friday, December 07, 2007
The 18-70 served me well during the 2 year that I owned it - first on my D70, and then for the past few months, on the D200. It is fast, wide, light in weight and offers a good zoom range that is ideal while travelling, or general walkabouts.
As of now, more than 90% of the work posted on my flickr account is taken with this lens. I had come to learn it's quirks and how to work around them. For e.g., it distorts heavily at the wide angle. In this photo, the nearest lamp post looks like it is curved instead of appearing straight. Nothing much can be done about it because that the nature of lower-end glass.
The 17-55, on the other hand, is a professional grade lens, and hence distortion should be minimal. I say "should", because I have not yet tried this lens, nor held it in my hands. I have simply ordered it based on the recommendations of fellow photographers.
Some people asked me why I would give up the advantage of the wider zoom range (18-70), and pay 4 times the price for a lesser zoom range (17-55). Well, it's true that I will be crippled because I do not have anything from 55mm to 80mm (My 80-200 f2.8 does duties from 80 to 200mm).
However, it's not just about zoom range. For e.g., for half the price, I could have picked up the 18-200 VR wonder lens. But what sets the 17-55 apart from all these amateur lenses is the constant f2.8 aperture for the entire zoom range. That means, whether I set the lens at 17mm or 55mm, I can keep the aperture at 2.8, which in turn, means I can shoot great photos in very low-light conditions.
At least, that's the theory.
And my 1300 dollars are riding on that theory.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
1. My tripod was acting a little wobbly, so just before taking this shot, I visited the shop from where I purchased it, and the wizard there magically made it into a rock-solid tripod.
2. I had observed that it was a full moon the night before so I knew it would be almost full moon on this night - and the moon would rise at just the right time (around 7 p.m.).
3. The weather has been absolutely fantastic the previous night when I took this picture, and it appeared that the same would repeat again.
I was technically sick but I was not letting an opportunity like this pass me by. I packed my gear and headed towards the KPC building which provides one of the better viewpoints of Kuwait City. I arrived at the exact moment that the moon poked it's head over the buildings and I started clicking away - varying my shutter speed between 10 seconds to 30 seconds (maximum possible on my dSLR, without switching to bulb mode).
My only problem was the strong breeze that was whipping around. Even with the solid tripod, I was worried it would cause blur in the pictures. Luckily, most turned out pretty well.
Here are the 3 that seemed to be the better of the lot.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I jumped at the opportunity because, for some reason or another, I had never visited most of these places in my 15 years in Kuwait. I was provided a list of places to photograph. Some of them were the usual suspects like Kuwait Towers, Liberation Towers, Scientific Center etc., for which I already had some some good pictures. The second list was exclusively for museums, which I had never visited.
So during the weekend, I packed my photo gear and headed out with my son in tow (he loves to accompany me on my photo shoots). We first reached the Memorial museum (next to the KPC building in Shuwaikh). The place looked deserted and closed. After poking around the place a bit, we found one lady who assured us the museum was indeed open - and after paying the KD 1 entrance fee, opened the museum just for us!. The museum was very interesting with a sort of an automated guided tour describing the whole Iraq invasion / atrocities commited / liberation etc. through an audio commentary accompanied by mock setups.
This pretty much described the reception that we got in the other museums that we visited (Al Hashemi II marine museum, Tareq Rajab Museum, and the biggest of them all - the National Museum). In all the places, it looked like we were the only people who visited the museum that day, which is a shame really because there is some really fascinating stuff there.
I will visit all these museums once again - but this time, without the camera equipment so that I can appreciate them better.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Perspective distortion happens because the lens is not able to resolve straight lines as straight due to the angle at which the lens is positioned. For architechture photography, this type of distortion is not acceptable, and photographers use specialized lenses called perspective correction lenses.
Since a normal user will not use PC lenses, Here are some ideas to avoid perspective distortion in your pictures.
1. Instead of shooting from up close, try to find a location further from the subject and use a telephoto lens to take the picture.
2. Shoot with perspective distortion and then edit in Photoshop. PS has a feature that allows you to do perspective correction.
In this picture, you can clearly see the perspective distortion as the tower of the mosque seems to be falling down - even though the horizon line is straight. But in this case, it's okay. I actually like the effect.
Here are some more pictures I took from the same vantage point that exhibit perspective distortion.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Films are generally better at capturing dynamic range while the tiny sensors on digital point&shoot cameras or cell phones are the worst offendors. Digital camera manufacturers use different techniques to overcome the limitations of their imaging sensors. The current champ in dynamic range capture is the Fuji FinePix S5 Pro which uses 2 separate imagers (one for highlights & one for shadows), and then combines them during post-processing to give you an image with a much better dynamic range.
A software based alternative for maximizing dynamic range is to take multiple exposures of the same scene at different EV values and then combine them to generate a single image. Obviously, this will only work for static objects such as archtechture or landscape.
Last year, HDRsoft created a lot of buzz when they introduced a software called Photomatix that merged multiple images using an unique algorithm called "Tone-mapping". I got involved in the buzz and went ballistic with the software, creating some freaky tone mapped images.
But the problem with "tone-mapped" images is that they look too artificial. Photoshop CS2 has a more subtle technique for merging multiple exposures. In this example, I used the Photoshop menu option "Merge to HDR" to combine 7 different exposures taken at +/- 1EV apart. This essentially created a 32-bit HDR image. The image was then converted to 8-bit using the "Exposure & Gamma" option, which essentially tries to balance the contents of all the 7 images to give a well-balanced photo.
And the best part is that it does not look artificial like tonemapped HDR. A normal person looking at this example photo will merely thing it is a nicely exposed image.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
The Towers indeed looked eerie and a bit out of this world. Today, I learned that they were lighted up as a commemoration for the World Diabetes Day. I also learned that Kuwait Scientific Center also took part in the campaign, and kicked myself for missing that opportunity.
Here are few more pictures that I took of the blue towers.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
The biggest change for me though, has been the auto-focus module embedded in the camera. The Multi-Cam 1000 autofocus module allows for fast and accurate focusing in all kinds of situations. Just a generation ago, professionals sneered at the idea of auto-focusing lenses, relying on their hand-eye coordination and their gut instincts to get the perfect shot.
But technology evolves rapidly, and today, auto-focusing technology has matured to the point that it will be a rare sight to see professionals using manual focus lenses.
While an experienced professional can pull off a shot like this using manual focusing, the rest of us mere mortals need the technology provided by these professional cameras to get the desired result.
To read more about the Multi-Cam autofocus module, use this link http://www.nikonians.org/nikon/d200_multi-cam_af/
Friday, November 02, 2007
Kuwait had it's first Flugtag event on Nov 2 2007. I had marked this event in my calendar ever since it was announced about 6 months ago, as I knew it would provide some great photo opportunities.
Even though I was feeling a bit under the weather (due to my asthma acting up again), I decided to head off to the show and dragged my family along with me. I packed the Nikkor 80-200 f2.8 lens as I knew it would provide me with the necessary reach to shoot the event. When we reached the event area (Marina Waves), I was a little apprehensive that the lens may not be good enough - especially after I saw some photogs toting lenses that must have been around 400mm at the telephoto end. My apprehension was quickly put to rest once I selected a nice vantage point and tested the lens. The range of 80 to 200mm was more than sufficient for capturing action shots (though I would not have complained if I could somehow afford the Nikkor 200-400 f4).
I set the camera to group dynamic AF, so that the camera could quickly achieve focus on the moving subjects, and set my camera to continuos shooting mode.
The camera/lens combination performed superbly. Even though the lens does not have VR (vibration reduction), I never needed it for this particular event as it was bright enough for me to shoot in the 1/1000th second range at around f4 to f8, with the ISO set to it's base 100.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
The reason is simple. The pictures suck. When I say that the pictures suck - I don't mean that the results are lousy. I mean they are really really lousy.
But technology keeps improving, and I hope we reach a stage where I can give up my dSLR in exchange for a phone that allows me to talk, SMS, take pictures, listen to music and manage my contacts & calendar.
The K810i is a step in the right direction.
1. It can synchronize with Outlook to keep all my contacts & calendar in sync. This was the most important feature for me.
2. It doubles up as a very good MP3 player with the additonal 2GB card that I put in the phone (it came with only 128MB). I can now go jogging with just the phone, instead of a phone AND an iPod jangling in my pocket.
3. Amazing battery life means I don't have to worry about charging it every day.
4. It supports stereo bluetooth output, which goes nicely with my stereo bluetooth headset that I had originally picked up for the P990i, but never really used it as the connection with the P990 was a bit flaky. Actaully, everything with the P990 is flaky.
And now for the most important part. It's much acclaimed 3.2 megapixel camera with "auto-focus" and a real "xenon" flash.
But at least when an opportunity arises out of nowhere, and I don't have my dSLR camera with me, I can feel comfortable in the knowledge that I will be able to capture that moment with the K810i, in all of it's sucky, noisy 3.2 megapixel glory.
Friday, October 26, 2007
I thought I'll give it another shot hoping that it is high tide which would make the flamingos a little more accessible. Well, it was not high tide (need to check the tide calendar before trying it next time), but luckily for me, a bunch of flamingos were feeding very close to the shore.
I used the same lens as before, 80-200mm f2.8. This picture is a 100% crop of the 10 megapixel image. A 400mm would have been just the ticket to get a closer shot of these amazing birds.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
For those who love HDR photography, this is indeed a drool worthy feature. My earlier D70 could do only 3 shots in auto-bracketing mode. I still managed to get some decent HDR photos though. I can only imagine what those pictures would have looked like if shot with the D200.
Even if you don't like HDR, the ability for such a wide range of bracketing means that you can enable bracketing for most of your shots and then select the best exposed one. Nowadays, memory is very cheap so storage is definitely not a problem.
In this shot, I took 5 exposures at 1 stop interval and then merged all the 5 pictures in Photomatix software.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Apparently, they are found only in a specific area in Kuwait. There is a sort of a sanctuary near the Shuwaikh hospitals area, and the flamingos are found there.
I decided to check it out so I packed my camera gear and headed towards the Al-Sabah maternity hospital; as I remember seeing an access area to the beach there.
I was indeed surprised to find a whole flock of flamingos near the waterside. Unfortunately for me, it was low tide and it was not possible to get close enough to them to get a decent shot.
This was shot with my 80-200 f2.8 zoomed to it's maximum of 200mm. Not good enough!.
Now I need to visit the place again during high tide, hoping to get a little closer to the birds.
Friday, September 28, 2007
I have never been comfortable shooting above ISO 800 on the D70 as the images turn extremely noisy, so I had to limit myself to ISO 800 and open the lens wide to it's maximum aperture. Even after stretching both the camera body & the lens to it's maximum, I had difficulty getting sharp pictures. I remember thinking to myself that this particular setup demands a D200 body, and a lens that can open up to f1.4.
As it so happens, I managed to upgrade myself to a D200 body, and acquire the superlative Sigma 30mm f1.4 lens. I was eager to try this combination at the Scientific center but had to wait for a few months for the opportunity.
I finally got my chance last week. As I had expected, the D200 could handle the high ISO with aplomb. Coupled with the fast aperture of the Sigma, I managed to get some great pictures of the sea life on display at the aquarium.
Friday, June 08, 2007
Of course, you can do this with a small point & shoot camera, but due to the high noise inherent in such tiny sensors, the results are usually dissapointing. Here are some passable shots that I took with a Casio Exilim.
Earlier, I've used my D70 to take some great night time photos of Kuwait cityscape, and ever since upgrading to D200, I've been itching to go and try some night shots. I was unable to do so till now due to 2 factors:
- It's summer time in Kuwait which means it's always dusty (a definite no-no for dSLR cameras).
- I lost my tripod while travelling to India and was debating on which tripod to get as a replacement. I have the Manfrotto 055MF4 in my wish list, but have been unable to purchase it for various reasons. In the meantime, I decided to pick up a reasonably decent tripod from a local store. It's a chinese made, and for $100, it's quiet heavy and stable.
The resulting picture taken at
White balance and saturation adjusted in Photoshop.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
The last 2 pictures that I have posted to my Flickr account are not the type of pictures I would normally post to my photo-stream. Bad composition, too much noise etc.
What makes these 2 pictures different is that while chatting on my favourite forum, someone mentioned about a subject, and I realized that I had taken picture of the same subject. It went something like this:
Did you see the big smoke in Kuwait city today?
Earlier that day, I had gone for a function that was hosted on the 9th floor. As typical of me, I quickly opened the window and took a few rapid shots of the dusty panaroma. I realized that I must have captured the smoke in question and checked my camera and found that I had indeed captured something burning in the horizon.
Hey, it was me doing kite-surfing last week at Kuwait towers. Did you take any pictures?
Well, of course, I did!!.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Dust and digital SLR's don't go hand in hand - which means when there's dust in the air, my camera stays inside the house. This picture was taken with a Casio P&S, which is not susceptible to dust.
I am told that dust like this is good for the date fruit plantations; and I think that's the only thing it is good for. It's definitely not good for my asthma!.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
The tour started with a gathering of all the attendees, followed by a 20-minute presentation of the Mosque and then the actual tour.
I was aware that the lighting inside the mosque will be dim so I made sure I took my Sigma 30mm f1.4, as well as the ultra-wide angle 12-24mm. I debated taking a tripod and eventually decided not too as the D200 could handle high ISO, which meant that I could shoot hand-held. In retrospect though, I wish I had carried a tripod as it would have allowed me to take some great visuals of the inside of the mosque.
Oh well. Perhaps another time. Here are some more pictures that I took during the trip.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
It was not an easy decision to make. The D70 served me well, and there wasn't anything lacking in it as far as my needs are concerned. Shooting in RAW mode, I could extract every last bit of detail from the images that it brilliantly captured. Most importantly, the D200 is not cheap and represents a significant investment at $1340 + shipping.
But after getting comfortable with the D70, I felt I could use some of the pro features that the D200 brings to the table. Here are some of the reasons that I decided to upgrade. The values in bracket represent comparison with the D70.
- 10.2 megapixel sensor (6mp)
- Faster shooting at 5fps (3fps)
- Faster focusing with Multi-CAM 1000 (Multi-cam 900)
- Rugged Magnesium alloy body (plastic)
- Wider ISO range from 100-3200 (200-1600)
- Auto bracketing upto 9 shots (3)
- Ability to shoot RAW+JPEG fine (RAW+JPEG basic)
- Mirror lockup (Not available)
There are dozens of tiny improvements which makes the D200 a very superior piece of technology. And I wanted some of it!
It is probibitively expensive to buy it from the local dealer. He listed KD 570/- (after discount). That is just ridiculous as the on-line price from Amazon works out to KD 390/-. I decided to place my order with Amazon and the D200 is now on it's way.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Besides my trusty D70, these are the list of lenses, that I have collected over the period:
a) AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D. This has got to be my most favourite lens. It is so sharp and fast, that I hardly need to do any sharpening in post-processing. On a film camera, this would be a "normal" lens, but on my D70 (with it's 1.5 crop factor), this lens translates to a moderate telephoto of 75mm. Excellent for portrait work. This lens is currently the best buy from Nikon.
b) Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8 ED AF-D. At around $800, this lens is not cheap, and at 2.85lb, definitely not something you can hang around your neck (unless you have a very thick neck). But it is a fast lens (f2.8), that is great for low light photography, and sports.
c) Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM. The fastest lens in my arsenal at f1.4. Great for low-light photography. It is also what photographers call a "normal" lens, because when mounted on the D70, it translates to 45mm. Great for general photography.
d) Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 HSM. Super-wide angle lens that I love for outdoor photography.
e) Nikon AF 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G. This is a great general purpose lens that I use a lot. I had purchased this along with the D70, and I must have taken atleast 80% of my photos using this lens.
f) Speedlights. As you can see, I have 3 external flashes. The main one that I mount on the camera is the SB-800. I use the other 2 flashes whenever I am doing portrait work. Simply place them on each side of the subject and I have an instant studio!. They work using wireless signals, so I can place them anywhere in the room to create creative lighting.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
One of my photography friend Q8e, found my picture while reading the newspaper, and sent me a Flickr e-mail mentioning the page number where the picture was published. He also took an interesting photo of the infringement and posted it here.
I posted the news about the infringement on a very popular Kuwait forum, and the forum admin immediately posted it on his even more popular blog, www.248am.com.
Needless the say, the reaction has been very interesting. I even received an email from another magazine editor denouncing this blantant violation of intellectual property rights.
I have sent an e-mail to Al-Qabas, but have yet to receive any reply.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
I was truly impressed with the performance of this camera and ended up using it on many occasions instead of my D70. It's 12x optical zoom with image stabilization actually works and the shutter lag is hardly noticeable.
It's a great camera for general use. I would'nt use it for night time photography (too much noise) - but for daytime, it is truly amazing.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Here are some of the pictures I have posted to my Flickr account.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
This year, all the buildings are lit up with the colors of Kuwait flag and it looks like it's going to be one heck of a party. Too bad I am going to miss it, as I am travelling to India for a short break.
I did manage to shoot some late night long exposures
Sunday, February 18, 2007
One of the challenges of photographing sunsets is to get your metering right. To ensure this, you should point your camera straight at the sun so that the camera will get the right exposure. (WARNING: Be careful!!. If you are using an optical viewfinder, make sure the sun is not too bright as it could damage your eyes).
However, I don't like to keep the sun in the center as it creates an unappealing composition, and prefer to use the Rule of Thirds for my sunset shots.
To ensure that you get the correct exposure AND the right composition, follow these steps.
1. Point you camera straight at the sun.
2. Press the shutter release half-way to lock the focus and the exposure. (Professional cameras allow you to lock the focus separately from the exposure - but that's another story).
3. Recompose your image without letting go of the shutter release button.
4. Once you've got the right composition, press the shutter the rest of the way down to capture the final image.
Here are some of my Kuwait Sunset Pictures.
Friday, February 16, 2007
So last week, I was snoozing at home when I saw these brilliant cloud formations and not a speckle of dust or haze in sight. I jumped out of my bed and told my wife that I will be out for the evening and that she had to figure out how to spend the evening with the kids without me. Angel that she is, she agreed.
I quickly got in my car and drove to some of my favourite places. Every photo that I took was a keeper (and I must have shot over 100 pictures).
Here are some of the better ones that I posted to Flickr.