Friday, September 15, 2017

iPhone X Keynote

Straight out of camera photo taken with iPhone 7 Plus by Maruk.A couple of thoughts with regards to Apple’s latest event where iPhone X was announced among other things. A little bit on each topic of any interest to me.

Apple TV


Apple TV is getting upgraded to support 4K video. And even though we ended up with a 4K TV a while ago we already have a 4th generation Apple TV — previous one — and it already runs tvOS. So we have no plans to upgrade. The quality is plenty good for us.

The good news is that Apple said that all the HD content that you have purchased through iTunes will be upgraded to 4K for free. And we do have quite a bit of movies purchased. That’s nice to have for the time when we do upgrade to 4K. Haven’t touched our blu-ray or DVD content in ages — all that feels so dated.

Apple Watch


Apple has announced a 3rd generation of Apple Watch which has an option for an LTE chip. I currently wear 2nd generation and it serves my needs just fine. On-board LTE also cost an additional $10 per month from our carrier — AT&T. Really have no need to pay anything extra to AT&T. No upgrade.

The Phones


This is the most interesting category. I will preface this by saying that I take an enormous amount of photographs with my phone. My current Instagram library contains 2,245 pictures and that is curated content only. Camera is one of the most important features of my phone. Continue Reading

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Zenitar 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens

Zenitar 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens.Recently I had a chance to acquire a lens that is made by an old Soviet factory (KMZ — Zenit) near Moscow from an old friend who was selling off his Nikon gear for a good price. I wanted to experiment with a fisheye lens for quite some time, but buying a new one made by Nikon or even Zenit didn’t make sense for such a specialty lens.

Autoportrait through a fisheye.The lens is a manual focus lens and even though it doesn’t feel as good as my f/1.2 Nikkor it is decent enough to achieve decent focus. In camera digital focus confirmation works most of the time. Also the lens achieves infinity focus at about 1.2 meters. It also is the first lens in my collection that make SLR self portraits possible. Not that it’s what I’m going to keep using it for.

Fisheye view from the window.The next thing that I want to try with it is taking landscape shots and seeing what kind of interesting or peculiar results I can achieve. I was told that it is decently sharp at f/8 which seems to be the case, but I haven’t tried shooting at a wider aperture myself yet. Overall it is proving to be a fun toy.

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Family Photoshoot

Happy birthday, little sister!Yesterday we decided that it would be a good day to try to take some family photographs.

All of us.The weather was summer-like and our Anna has turned 1 year old. I often can’t think of good location for such a thing, but yesterday I suddenly had an epiphany. Brooklyn Heights with all the brownstone houses and their old stairs would be perfect.

Arosha being Arosha.So we set out to go there and take some photographs. At about that moment Alex called me and said that he was in Brooklyn and wanted to hang out.

Kids and I.We thought that we could do two things at once — spend time with a friend who we don’t see too often these days and he could help us take pictures of all four of us.

Анютка.All in all we spent about two hours walking around and taking pictures. Arosha didn’t go by a single staircase without climbing all the way up and asking for a photograph.

Yet another staircase.Anюta would walk around and try to climb stairs as well. So far she does it on all fours, but nevertheless she is quite proficient at that too.

Little walker.We ended up with a good number of really nice portraits. Brooklyn Heights is a perfect location for such occasions.

Our new header photo. Shows up at random.
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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Photo Prints

Decorated office.Today I finally remembered to bring in a real (non-iPhone) camera into the office and take some photographs of photographs. Yes. The end results of all my prints hanging on the walls.

Canvas prints.There are 20×30 canvas prints that I’ve done a while ago (at Costco). I keep thinking of adding one more cityscape to this collection. At this point my main candidate is Seattle Skyline.

Standouts.There are 8×12 standout prints (along with non mounted 8×12 prints on the desk) that add some nice color and were very easy to line up and hang because of their precise mounting holes on the back.

Black & white framed prints.And there are 16×20 black & white framed prints (the print itself is 8×12). These were a real pain to line up correctly because the hanging cord on the back is attached by hand which results in different, uneven lengths. But once done correctly the also do look great.
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Friday, March 28, 2014

Black & White Prints

A set of three black & white prints.I’ve ordered1 and received another set of prints. This time it’s a black & white set of three photographs. Each print has a two inch white mat and a two inch simple black frame, adding four inches to the final size2 of the print on each side. The prints are under glass.

Print closeup.I’ve put them up on the wall in my office and it looks good. It was much harder to line them up though than it was with standouts. Next week I’ll try to take several photographs of the end results for these black & white and standout sets and post them.

  1. Each framed print comes out to $40. Mpix had a 25% off offer going. []
  2. The print size is 8×12 inches. The final size is 16×20 inches. []
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Monday, March 24, 2014

Licensed Photograph

Enscover home page.Recently I’ve signed an agreement with Enscover to license one of my photographs on their site. Today that photograph has appeared on their home page. The design of the site is responsive, so the elements will rearrange themselves depending on the size of the screen. Looks nice. Note the credit link in the corner.
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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Standouts

Standout set.After months and months of deliberation I finally broke down and got a set of standouts printed. I wanted to get three of them done to put on a column inside my office. I had them printed at Mpix. for $30 a pop.

Standout.All three of them are 8×12 inches. The depth of each standout is 1.5″. For a theme I picked out an “abstractish” nature topic. All of the photographs are from my older set and are done with my manual Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S lens. I’ll post a short update with another picture when I actually put them up on the wall.
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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Family Photograph

Family photograph. Our favorite shot.Today we took up a monumental task of getting a nice family photographs of ourselves to print out for Alёna’s mom and for ourselves as a bonus. We all got dressed, I setup the lights and demonstrated to Alёna’s mom how to operate the camera.

Second favorite.The hardest part by far is to get the kids to do the right thing. When one is looking into the camera another one is yawning. When another one is looking into the camera the other one is talking or making faces. Alёna and I did our best not to screw up the photo because it was hard enough, but we still do blink.

Third. I'm seriously considering trimming my beard.All in all we took over 250 raw photos. No exaggeration. Multiple sets, multiple tries, changes of positions, light setup adjustments, candy bribes. But after several hours we did manage to produce a couple of worthy print candidates. Three best ones are above.

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Bayswater Point State Park

Plane taking off.In our quest to visit new places during weekends we found Bayswater Point State Park on a map. The park is only a 20 minutes ride from us, but what makes it unusual is the fact that it is located right across the water from JFK International Airport.

Alёna and her mom.Our first visit there was on December 22, 2013 — just a bit over a month ago. This Saturday we went back again. First time around I brought my 70-200mm lens with me and this time around I attached my 2x teleconverter to it to increase its reach to 400mm for some nice airplane shots.

Building a tower.JFK being JFK there are planes coming up and down non-stop. The plane that I like the most is Boeing 747, but I didn’t get any taking off on our 2nd trip. But I did get a couple of nice shots anyhow.

Us.Meanwhile Arosha loves playing with pebbles and shells. Last time he was running around and throwing all that stuff into the water. This time the water was frozen solid, so he decided to build a tower instead. And Anюta just sleeps well outside.

Using this as a wallpaper on my phone.All in all an usual place to visit. The only thing is that I keep underestimating how cold it is going to be near the water and end up freezing. Alёna keeps telling me to wear a certain thing and I think I know better. I really don’t. Should listen to my wife.

Alёna.P.S. I’m keep thinking of upgrading my Sigma 70-200mm to Nikon’s version one day. Although I don’t use it often it can create some unique shots because of its reach. However contrast and sharpness leaves a lot to be desired.

Boeing 747 landing.
Boeing 747 taking off. Taken during our first visit.
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Friday, September 13, 2013

Polaroid Project

Polaroid Sun 600 camera.For the longest time I had an urge to try taking pictures with a real Polaroid camera — another, now vintage, type of photography that I have never experienced. The project was hard for two reasons — I didn’t have a Polaroid camera and what’s even worse was the fact that Polaroid stopped producing the film back in 2008.

Barber shop. Impossible film.Some time ago I asked my dad to keep an eye open for an old Polaroid camera when he visits garage sales and flea markets. It took him quite a while, but one day he found one of 600 type cameras and was able to obtain it for all of $5. The camera had an old spent cartridge in it and was showing faint signs of life. Cartridge is the thing that powers the camera — batteries are inside of it.

Vika and Ignat. Polaroid film.I figured it was worth a try and ordered a pack of film by Impossible Project. They are an indy shop that tries to keep Polaroid hobby going for a lot of people with some mixed success. The pack ran me $24 for 8 shots — not cheap by any standards. I was happy to find out that my camera came to live as soon as I plugged a new cartridge in. I was not happy to find out that there is nothing “instant” about Impossible Project film — it takes 30-40 minutes for a photo to appear.

Some Polaroid photographs.After using up all of this cartridge we ended up with only a pair of decent shots. A lot of them just came out very blurry or overexposed no matter the time of day I tried to take the shots. I figured that to fully experience this camera I needed to find myself a pack of real Polaroid film. Of course that involved a gamble, since by now all the film that can be bought on eBay is expired film. And even though film could be OK, the batteries could be bad.

Impossible Project and Polaroid film packs.Either way I started following some auctions and ended up winning one. The auction was for a pair of 10 shot cartridges that expired at the end of 2009. I paid $40 with shipping included for both of them and eagerly awaited their arrival. And what do you know — they ended up being in working order and original Polaroid film is indeed instant. Half the fun is actually watching a picture appear right in front of your eyes.

Random Polaroid shots.All in all I’m quite happy with the whole experience. I still have an unopened cartridge with 10 more shots left, but out of the pictures that I already did take I like some of them a lot. Too bad Polaroid wasn’t able to keep this business profitable enough to keep it going.

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Weekend

Throgs Neck Bridge.We’re trying to use our last pre-baby weekends to their full potential. Yesterday Alena and I spent our full day alone without Aroshka. Aroshka was with his grandparents while we did our now weekly OBGYN visit, did some errands that we won’t be able to do when the baby comes and finished the day off with a nice dinner at our favorite Thai place in Park Slope.

38 weeks and 2 days.Today I had an urge to explore a new place — the park under and around Throgs Neck Bridge. I drive by this place every day when I go to work and somehow never stopped there before. So we got into our car and drove there along with my dad. I spent some time taking long exposure shots, while Arosha spent all this time throwing stones into the water.

Throgs Neck.We also installed a new infant car seat base into our car and a car seat that we use for travel into my dad’s car. He’s going to be taking Aroshka to gymnastics every Tuesday now — first class is in two days. Meanwhile Alena is into her 39th week which means that we can have a new arrival any day now.

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Company Outing

John's house.Several weeks ago John has invited our whole Connecticut office over to his house for a company outing. Instead of taking my usual digital camera with me I decided to continue my film experiments and grabbed my dad’s old soviet made Zenit camera loaded with color film obtained at a local pharmacy.

View from the porch.I had the film processed at this point and I picked out a couple of decent shots out of the batch of 48 to post. I used The Darkroom for film development again. So the camera and film combination gave me nice soft focus, good looking bokeh and pleasant film grain.

Lake.I still had to pull out some color curves in post to get a more retro feel to the whole shoot. I don’t think I’ll be trying more color film at this point. If I ever have an urge to do more film photography I’ll stick to Black & White.

Kate and John.
Geoff.
Jen & Christina.
Erin, Deanna and Tom.
Guan & Andrew.
Game of cornhole.
Ingrid and Kate.
Terry.
John on the lake.
Ingrid.
Grilling.
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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G Lens

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G lens.I’m happy to report that I’ve become an owner of a portrait lens that I coveted for several years now — Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G. Over the years I’ve read multiple reviews and saw a lot of images taken with this lens. But the price is quite steep, so we waited, pretty much since its release in August of 2010.

Alena. On the fly shot taken at f/1.8.Portraiture is what this lens was made for. The focal length of 85mm is great for rendering faces in a flattering way and the maximum aperture of f/1.4 is perfect for separating the subject from the background and washing out said background into a milky smooth blur. This is my first 85mm prime lens and my first f/1.4 lens. I think it will solve a number of issues for me in certain situations.

Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G vs Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S.I have a great manual 50mm that I love, but it’s not always ideal. First of all manual focus limits the number of quality shots I can take of Arosha — he is too quick. Also it makes me uncomfortable asking to take somebody else’s photo knowing that I’ll have to fiddle with focus for too long. Another issue is that it measures the exposure only at the center, making explaining to other people how to properly take a shot is close to impossible and is also a time constraint on when I’m using it.

Daniel. Taken at f/1.4 with +9 AF tune. Check out that bokeh.All in all, I got the lens from B&H fairly quickly and had to exercise a great deal of patience before getting my hands on it — it was my New Year gift from Alena and my parents. The lens itself is quite a lot bigger than my 50mm is. It also is quite heavy as it turns out. I saw the technical specifications on the lens beforehand, but it’s hard to know how it will feel until you actually touch it. It does pair up quite well with my trusty Nikon D700.

Cyclist. Taken at f/16. The blur on the cyclist is my hands shaking. Has nothing to do with the lens.However nothing comes easy. Soon after I had a bit of a disappointment. When looking through some experimental shots I took I noticed that the lens exhibits an obvious front focusing issue. In simple terms when you try to focus on the eye you end with focus plain falling on the nose and eyes are not sharp. The issue becomes quite a bit less noticeable by stopping down to f/1.8, but if I wanted to shoot at f/1.8 I would’ve gotten a lens that costs 1/3 of the price of this one.

LensAlign test target.Luckily D700 allows one to performing auto-focus fine tuning. And while it’s something that becomes quite complicated for a zoom lens a prime is much easier and more practical. I did some quite unscientific testing and arrived to +9 adjustment on the scale of -20 to +20 with 0 being default. But to make a final decision of whether to keep it or try to exchange it I placed an order for LensAlign kit — something that I wanted to get for some time now anyhow. I also bought of copy of their FocusTune software. FocusTune1 in itself is a great tool allowing one to tune the lens not by eye and not from a single sample, but from a bulk of shots.

One of FocusTune chart.I took a large number of test sets — each set consisting of 100+ shots and actually ended up with fairly consistent test results2. The recommended value that I arrived at on multiple instances is +6. I also read that pretty much everyone of these lenses will need to be tuned due to variations between the bodies and lenses — which in reality are extremely small, so exchanging the lens is as much of a gamble as anything. On most lenses it will just not be noticeable, but when you deal with a long and bright lens — you want it to be very precise.

Family. Taken at f/1.4 and +9 AF tune. Great bokeh again.Either way — our testing at +9 produced some nice shots and we won’t know how well +6 does until we go out on the upcoming weekend and do some testing in the wild. But if practice agrees with theory — and I don’t see why it wouldn’t — the lens is a keeper.

Arosha's BMW. Taken at f/1.4 with +6 AF tune and focus point on the plate.

  1. FocusTune actually doesn’t need LensAlign target to work. It can be used with a number of targets that can be printed out by the end-user himself. []
  2. I will not go into detail of properly setting up for a good end results as the author of the system provides great info on his site. []
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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

First Snowfall

First snow out of our window.It is suddenly snowing outside. And quite heavily at that. Today is marks the first snowfall of this incoming winter. The snow itself is not sticking to the ground yet, but tree branches, cars and house roofs are turning white. The view out of our window is quite picturesque.

Trees through the snow.
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Monday, October 22, 2012

Seven Lakes

Autumn on Lake Kanawauke.Yesterday was yet another nice warm autumn day. Alena, Arosha, my dad and I decided to use it wisely and ended up spending it in the area of Seven Lakes which is located not far north from New York. Even though it is only 60 miles away getting there is not easy as it is on the most opposite corner of New York City from us and we have to drive through it all. And driving through New York is never quick.

By Lake Welch.However it was worth it. The colorful autumn is in its peak. The drive along Palisades Parkway is beautiful. The road is tightly hugged by forest on the both sides and on a sunny day it’s all painted in bright reds, yellows, orange and everything in between. Seven Lakes area itself was beautiful as well — colorful trees reflecting in the water.

Alena and Arosha.Arosha had a great time running through the dried autumn leaves on the ground, but the best part was the discovery of recently used char coals in somebody’s fire pit. He would throw the leaves into it and the fire would pick up and Arosha would look at it, smile, add more leaves and so on. I think he spent at least 30 minutes doing that and was totally fascinated by the whole process.

Lake Welch.I took the chance to capture some of the colors on “film”. I tried taking a number of long exposure shots, but ended up disliking all of them in the end — too much detail gone. I’m attaching my favorite non-long-exposure shots of the bunch to this post. All of these were taken on my wide-angle lens at 16mm.
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Friday, August 24, 2012

Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G Lens

I’m a lucky new owner of a brand-new Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR lens. I want to share a couple of thoughts on how that came about, choice, acquisition and planned use.

Wide-Angle Decision


Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR lens.I mentioned earlier that there exists a possibility of us taking a trip to Grand Canyon in the near future. As I was looking through my old shots of the canyon taken with my old D70 camera — a lot of them were taken at 18mm (the widest I had — 27mm equivalent on full frame) and a lot of them feel kind of crammed — like there just wasn’t any more room left in the frame. Landscapes are the primary reason why I would want to own a good wide-angle lens.

There is always an alternative to using wide-angle lenses that could work in a lot of cases for landscapes. Just take several shots with a normal lens and then stitch them together in a panorama. However there are certain problems with that approach — taking an HDR shot for example would be much more complex. Using a long exposure filter such as Big Stopper would be it impossible.

And then there is a number of other types of photography that can be done with a wide-angle lens forcing a photographer to get much closer to the subject, thus changing the perspective — an interaction of the subject with the background.

Budget


Wide-angle Shublik.I had my eye set on a prime Nikon lens for portraiture — 85mm f/1.4G — for a long time now. The problem of course is the fact that this particular lens costs $1,700, however all the reviews confirm that the lens is worth it. Or at least that was the case until Nikon released a new 85mm f/1.8G lens.

I read a number of reviews on the new lens and a lot of them show that it performs as well as its big brother in a lot of cases. It doesn’t have nano-coating which reduces the flares and it loses 2/3 of a stop as far as aperture goes. But the kicker is that it costs $499. Now that’s is a huge difference. For a professional photographer that 2/3 of a stop might be worth it, but I as an amateur just cannot justify paying an extra $1,200 for something that would be simply a nice-to-have at my level. I just can’t.

By settling with a f/1.8 lens I was able to free up a large chunk of change from the budget that was allocated for 85mm purchase towards the New Year.

Wide-Angle Lens Options


Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G vs Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G.Choosing an actual lens from the available options was surprisingly easy. I was not considering any 3rd party choices as I am extremely happy with all my Nikkors. Out of available Nikon option there were really only two lenses that were in the final “competition” — 16-35mm f/4G and 14-24mm f/2.8G lenses. The older 17-35mm f/2.8D lens has been bested and at this point doesn’t make much sense.

To break it up I ended up picking out 16-35mm lens over 14-25mm lens for the following reasons:
  • It has filter thread, while the other one does not. Even thought 14-24mm can be outfitted with filter it becomes a huge expense on its own with the need of a special and expensive mounting bracket and much larger filters.
  • Cost — $1,139 vs $1,996.
  • Better flare control — the other one has a very spherical front element.
  • Not as wide, but bigger range — really nice thing to have for walking around, without constantly swapping lenses out.
  • Weight — 680g vs 969g for 14-24mm and 900g for 24-70mm.
  • VR II — Nikon’s lens stabilization system that promises 4 extra stops. Not really a factor for me, but I guess it’s nice to have.

Arosha playing on iPad.The lens doesn’t let in as much light at f/4 as the other one does at f/2.8, but as far as landscape photography goes this is a non-issue at all, since most of landscape shots will be taken at least at f/8 and on a tripod. Even though 14-24mm is a superb lens and 16-35mm has a lot of distortion at 16mm (easily fixed in post), 16-35mm was clearly the best choice for me that offers great sharp results with a lot of versatility.

Buying The Lens


These days it seems that after doing all the research and making a decision, actually buying a Nikon lens is the hardest task of it all. There was no stock at B&H, Adorama, Amazon or any other vendors that I’m familiar with. The price at Adroma was at $1,159, at B&H it went up to $1,179 and there was still no stock and Amazon kept getting them 1 item at a time (returns?) and was pricing them at $1,259.

Difference in perspective. Flash heads at 16mm.I saw a mention on one of the forums that Samy’s Camera has them in stock, but since I was unfamiliar with that store I decided not to risk it. Meanwhile I kept checking all the verified sources and ended up stumbling on a seller offering these up for sale through Amazon for $1,139. And what do you know? It was Samy’s Camera. They had 4.8 out of 5 stars rating with more than 2,800 votes in the past year.

Considering that it was the best price that I’ve seen and having the safety of ordering through Amazon I placed an order. The lens was shipped to me the same day and I received it soon after. I’ve done some minor testing within the confines of our apartment and I like how it handles and performs so far very much. Here is another good vote for Samy’s from this happy customer.

Difference in perspective. Flash heads at 70mm.Now I just need to get outside an do more shooting and start learning to work with a wide-angle lens — I didn’t have one in a long time and for some reason I never used the one I did have for my DX camera. We’ll see how I do with this one.
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