Thursday, March 27, 2008

On Second Thoughts...

Difficult Choice
Originally uploaded by Cajie.
Last week, I decided to upgrade my 50 mm f1.8 to the more professional grade 50 mm f1.4. I even placed the order on Amazon. One week passed, and Amazon still had problems fulfilling the order. This got me thinking...

Why exactly am I paying $300 for a lens that gives me merely a 1/3 wider aperture compared to the lens that I already own?. I am not exactly a professional, and even though I have done a couple of assignments, this is not my full time job. The f1.8 is a fine lens and I felt that the $300 would be better spent in purchasing a lens that I don't own.

Since I have started doing macro work, I felt that spending money on a dedicated macro lens would be more appropriate - and the 105 mm AF-S VR Micro Nikkor seemed like just the ticket. Of course, it's costs a whole lot more than $300; but this lens is legendary, so I had no qualms cancelling my order for the 50mm, and placing the order for the macro lens.

I did check with the local dealer what price they could sell it, but as usual, they are darn expensive. By purchasing from Amazon, I reckon I will save around 65 KD; which is not exactly chump change. I do wish the local dealers realize that internet has made everything global, and such ridiculous markups are no longer acceptable.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Making a DIY lightbox.

Happy Easter
Originally uploaded by Cajie.
I've been meaning to make a cheap light-box, using this tutorial. But everytime I think of starting the project, I stop; because I can't figure out where I will store the darn thing. I don't have the luxury of having many spare rooms in the house.

Couple of months back, I had purchased a small foldable lightbox. This picture of an easter egg is taken using this lightbox; but it's too small for anything other than tiny objects. I need more working space. I have to make one more trip to that photography shop in the city to see if they can offer me something more compact that a big ugly looking box.

Lightboxes are a great way of taking pictures of still objects. Because the light box is completely white, it distributes the light equally so that you don't get the harsh shadows. For example, in this picture, I just placed the lightbox near the window which had some morning light streaming in. No fancy lighting. And the pictures turn out great!.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Upgrading to 50mm f1.4

Nikkor 50mm f1.8 Front View
Originally uploaded by Cajie.
I've had this 50mm f1.8 prime lens for about 2 years. It's is well-built and one of the best bargain lens from Nikon. Depending on where you buy it from, the price is around $120.

I have never figured out why this lens is sold at such a low price. In the pre-digital era (yes, when people used to shoot with film), this lens was usually bundled as the "kit" lens for most of the Nikon pro-bodies. It may be that over the years, Nikon (and Canon) have figured out how to streamline the manufacturing process of this lens - hence the affordability.

It is a fanstastic portrait lens. On Nikon dSLR bodies (except the newer full-frame D3), the focal length of this lens translates into 75mm (1.5 crop sensor means 50mm x 1.5 = 75mm). This is a good range for taking head shots without any perspective distortion.

It is also an amazing lens for low-light work. The f1.8 means you can work in low-light interiors without a flash and still get useful results.

However, my eye has been on it's more faster cousin. The 50mm f1.4 AFD. For just 1/3rd stop faster focal length, it costs 3 times as much. When I saw Amazon selling it for a $20 discount, I did one of those "impulse" buys and hit the order button.

Once I get hold of the new lens, I will most likely (and grudingly) get rid of this fine piece of Nikon engineering.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Stock Photography

Communion Girl
Originally uploaded by Cajie.
I decided to enroll into, one of the most popular stock photography site. The idea of stock photography is very simple. You upload your pictures to the site, and then people purchase the pictures at a very low price. The photographer is paid in cents rather than dollars; but because so many people download these pictures, the cents add up. is now owned by Getty Images, which is one of the top stock agencies. Getting into iStockphoto was not as easy as I thought!

Even before you are allowed to upload images, you have to go through an online tutorial, and then answer an exam to ensure you understand their rules of uploading images to the site.

Once you successfully pass the test, you have to load 3 sample images (highest resolution possible) for the istockphoto admins to determine if your photos meet their standards.

This is where I got stuck. At first, I loaded 3 very good images but all got rejected because they did not demonstrate enough variety (they were all pictures of architechture). Next time, the picture was slightly over-exposed, or the focus was not "dead-on", or the picture was over-corrected in photoshop.

The whole process was a very valuable learning experience. Of course, I did manage to give them the 3 "high quality, perfectly exposed, perfectly in focus, diverse" images they were looking for :).

This image of my niece Milica was the last image that was approved by the istockphoto admins and I became an authorized contributor of istockphoto.

Now comes the hard part of actually shooting and uploading "stock-type" images; and hopefully making a few bucks in the process.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Event Photography.

Family Portrait
Originally uploaded by Cajie.
Up to now, I have stayed away from event photography. I am not really a "people" person (or at least that's how I used to look at myself).

I recently had an opportunity to do 2 events that made me change that attitude.

The first was the communion ceremony of my lovely niece, Milica. I decided to fly to Goa for a quick trip with my D200. To keep my travel kit light, I just packed the 17-55 lens and the SB-800 flash. This lens is really the absolute number one choice for event photography. It provides all the required ranges to capture group photos or an occasional portrait shot. The wide aperture of f2.8 ensures that it handles very well in low-light situation.

I found myself enjoying the whole experience. With the formidable D200 around my neck, everyone simply assumed I am some official photographer, and I could engage anyone for a photo, by simply giving a smile and pointing to my camera to get their acceptance to take the picture.

The second opportunity I had was a birthday party for a close friend's daughter. This was purely an indoor affair; which means the 17-55 + the SB-800 is all that I needed to take great indoor shots.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A period of introspection.

KPC In Light
Originally uploaded by Cajie.
Ever since we returned back to Kuwait (after our trip to Toronto in January), I've been having a tough time to get back into photography. The first few weeks were immersed in work and a long business trip to Saudi Arabia. But even after returning back to a normal schedule, I just can't seem to get the inspiration to go out and do some shooting.

This picture of the KPC building was the only picture I have taken during the past 2 months!!

The weather is really great these days (well, most of the time), and it's spring time with lots of flowers springing up everywhere. I need something to make me get out of the house. Perhaps a cool beer, which I miss from my Canada trip?

I did manage to do 2 events. The first was the communion of my niece in India. I flew there just for the occasion, and managed to get some great pictures of the whole ceremony. I am currently doing a project to get these pictures printed through I will post about this experience very soon.

The second event was a birthday party that I did last week for the daughter of a very close friend. The D200 paired with the 17-55 f2.8 and the SB-800 speed-light was a fantastic combination. I wish I could post some of the pictures, but I would feel uncomfortable posting pictures of friends without their consent.