Sunday, July 29, 2012

Manhattan Bridge Weekend

Manhattan Bridge.Lately, every weekend we’re trying to use the free time to full potential. We pick a new, or old for that matter, place and go there to explore, visit, walk and photograph. Last weekend was no exception.

Manhattan Bridge tower.We picked Manhattan Bridge as our target. We already walked over Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges before, but we never had a chance to walk on Manhattan Bridge until then, while it does have a pedestrian walkway as well. Alena, Arosha and I got into the car and drove over to downtown Brooklyn.

Arosha looking through the guardrail.We easily found parking right in front of the pedestrian ramp to the bridge and got on our way. Manhattan Bridge has subway trains running on it, so I was afraid that such loud noise would scare Arosha. But to my surprise once Arosha saw a train go by he started demanding for more trains! Even though he was covering his ears with his hands every time a train would go by he would stop, look at it and smile.

Brooklyn Bridge and construction of the Freedom Tower.As for my main objective — I wanted to see if I could find a good vantage point of view of Brooklyn Bridge for some cityscape shots. And as I suspected the views were spectacular. Even though there is a metal mesh covering the side of the bridge there is just enough space to squeeze a lens through guardrail. I only had my 50mm manual lens with me though, so I couldn’t get as wide of a shot as I wanted to. But it just is another reason to revisit.

One of the downtown streets.We didn’t get too far — we walked as far as the first tower of the bridge. By that time we had enough photographs, Arosha has seen enough trains, managed to pull on every handle in the maintenance covers on the bridge and drew a conclusion that it was not a good idea to jump into the water from here.

Clock Tower. Arosha loved it.On our way back I showed him a clock tower with a large clock on top of it and he liked it so much that he kept asking to see the tower for the next couple of days.

Manhattan Bridge pedestrian walkway.After we got off the bridge we decided to explore the park right on the water under the bridge that we noticed from the top. It was a long walk there, but there was a good playground with a fountain for Arosha and more great views for me. Brooklyn Bridge on the left and Manhattan Bridge on the right. But again my lens was not wide enough to get both bridges into the frame, but I’m pretty happy with some of the shots that I got.

Hole-in-the-wall gyro place — the best gyro in Brooklyn.And to finish our day we dropped by my favorite gyro place in the whole country. Certainly the best gyro in Brooklyn. I used to eat in this hole-in-the-wall place very very often during the time when I worked at my first full time job nearby at the end of the 90′s. We got a pair of gyro platters to go and the gyro was still as good as I remembered.

BQE. Brooklyn Queens Expressway.It was a good day.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Weekend

Staten Island Zoo. Some crazy bird is hollering in the background.This summer we keep spending our weekends very actively. Since Saturday and Sunday are really the only days we can go somewhere we try not to sit at home.

Yesterday we just got into a car and decided to go to New Jersey. We figured we’ll stop in the first state or county park we see on our way when there.

Arosha near Alena's delicious skirt.We ended up getting sidetracked and took an exit off the highway towards Staten Island Zoo. We’ve never been there, but figured it should be fun for Arosha.

It actually turned out to be the kind of zoo that you would only visit with kids too. They had goats, cows, pigs, donkeys and so on. The kind of animals that somehow were usual to us when we were growing up, but here kids only can see them at a zoo.

Doe. Sorry about the ass of an ass.Arosha kept going “Uuuuuu!” in certain cases, but he still is too little even for this. Alena however panicked a bit inside the goat section when 3 goats decided that her skirt should be pretty delicious. It was pretty funny. For me. Alena — not so much.

Alisa, Arosha and Vika at the local park.And today we decided that we haven’t seen Ignat’s family for a long time and we should meet up and hang out. We basically invited ourselves over and they were generous good hosts. At first we went to a local park, but Arosha was being very fussy, so we proceeded to move over to their apartment.

Alisa seemed to be quite excited with Arosha and Arosha likes company and new people. Alisa was very generous and decided to part with a couple of her toys — a cow and a piggy — and gave them to Arosha. Alisa and Arosha will probably be friends when Arosha grows up a little.
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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hempstead Picnic With Maruks

Skirt steak getting grilled.For today Maruk and his family has planned an outing and a cookout in Hempstead Lake State Park. They were kind enough to invite our family to join them and as a result we had a great day.

Arosha exploring the park by crawling.The park was beautiful — full of green trees that create shade all over the place, it had very few people, was clean and had nice benches and tables for us to use.

The cook. The host. Maruk.The company was great as well — Maruk and Alina really are great friends. They also do have a good family and even though we don’t see them too often it’s always nice to get together with them when it does happen. Maruk was a great cook and did all the work to keep everyone well feed and thus happy.

Emma and Arosha "reading" a book.Arosha got to explore a new place and play with Emma. Even though he still is too little to really socialize I think it’s nice for kids to be near other kids. I was always friends with kids of my parents’ friends. Arosha and Emma will probably and hopefully end up being good friends when they get older as well.
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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Manual 50mm Lens Observations

Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S lens mounted on Nikon D700.I’ve been thinking about putting more of my thoughts together on my new Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S manual focus lens for a couple of weeks already, but I wanted to provide a good number of sample shots along with it. I believe I have enough material now. A collection of photographs taken with this lens can be viewed in the posts tagged with 50mm f/1.2 tag.

The Feel


Looking through the lens at f/1.2.The first big surprise with this lens to me was its weight. My old Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D lens used to weight 156 grams. This one weights 360. When you take it out of the box you realize right away that you are holding something special.

The lens which was in production since 1981 is still made of all metal — black enamel over black anodized aluminum and stainless steel. All the markings on the lens are engraved and filled with paint. When you look through the lens at wide open you see a lot of glass and very thin lens walls. It’s an illusion caused by optics. It’s not really as thin as it appears.

Focusing ring is rubber covered metal. Each lens has a serial number engraved on the front of the focusing element. Numbers after 400,000 denote lenses produced after 2006. They are still made in Japan.

Manual Focus


Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S lens mounted on Nikon D700.This is the fastest lens that Nikon currently makes and the only available version is a manual focus one. There is no auto-focus. This makes it a specialty lens. Majority of people most probably are better of going with the latest 50mm f/1.4G lens or a very good and cheap 50mm f/1.8G or f/1.8D lenses.

I wasn’t sure how manual focus would work out for me as I never had a lens specifically made for focusing manually. I had very little luck focusing my old 50mm f/1.8D lens by hand. This lens’ focusing ring however can’t compare to any of the lenses made for AF. Even my $2,000 Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G lens’ focusing ring feels extremely cheap compared to this retro manual marvel.

The focusing ring movement is very smooth. The ring provides a very pleasant tactile feedback-resistance. When you rotate the ring fully you get a nice distinct ding sound and a dead stop of the ring — no play whatsoever. All this gives you an ability to be very precise and at f/1.2 it means everything.

Camera indicates that the lens is in focus with a green dot.However the best part for somebody as inexperienced with manual focusing as I am is the fact that D700 light meters and focus confirms through this lens just fine. What that means is that when I get the lens in focus it will show me a green dot on the LCD screen. If it’s not in focus it will show an arrow pointing left or right, telling me which direction to rotate the focusing ring in. And from experience it seems to be pretty accurate.

Lens is not in focus and the focusing ring should be turned left as indicated by left pointing arrow.Having said all that it is close to impossible to use on fast moving targets like kids and animals. Nor Aroshka nor Shublik are photographable with this lens in most situations. Although with a little bit of practice now I do manage to catch Arosha’s eye in focus in time on some occasions. Also one must keep in mind that at minimal focusing distance of 50cm at f/1.2 the depth of field is under 7mm. So even if you do get focus confirmation, but you or your subject moves you will lose focus.

Overall it came out to be much less “scary” than I thought it would be and the lens is very much usable and fairly easy at that. And it will only get better with practice.

Performance, Rendering & Bokeh


The quality of bokeh and general image rendering is a very subjective topic and you should make that determination yourself by looking at the sample photographs. As for myself — I am pleased with the results.

Taken at f/1.2.Alena was doubting my decision to buy a manual lens, but after looking at the results I can’t tell you how many times she has said that the photographs taken with it are top notch.

Taken at f/2.As for sharpness of the lens — I did not do any sciencific tests. Just by reaching f/2 lens seems to be alreading performing at its peak. Having said that I will say that I am very happy with the results starting right from f/1.2. A lot, if not majority, of my shots were taken wide open.

Taken at f/1.2.The only negative is the amount of purple fringing that the lens is producing wide open. It’s easy to fix in post-production, but some basic proficiency with Photoshop is required. Left uncorrected fringing will surely ruin the shot.

Conclusion


Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S lens. Too bad I forgot to take off the back cap before taking the photo.I’m very happy with my purchase. I’ve already taken several great photographs with it that I added to my portfolio. The fact that you have to manually focus the lens makes you think more about the composition which in turn makes you better with the craft of photography, instead of just pointing and shooting.

For most people one of the AF versions of 50mm will work better, but the artistic possibilities that this lens opens the door to are vast.

Article Illustrations


Most of the shots for this article were taken with my old (t)rusty Nikon D70. The LCD shots were taken directly through the viewfinder of D700, hence the “awesomeness” of the quality.
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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Williamsburg Bridge Photowalk

Here is a couple of photographs from our Williamsburg Bridge photowalk from this past weekend. All of these were taken with Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S manual focus lens.

Subway
FDR Drive
Williamsburg Bridge
Fence
Empire State
Factory
Bikepath
Bikepath
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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Summer Weekends

AlenaThe truth is, I really like pictures that Danya is taking while we’re out, so I’ve decided to write a few words about our weekend just so I can post them. )

The summer is here. Some days are horribly hot an humid, but some, like today, are really nice — the temperature is in San-Fransisco-like 70s, the fresh breeze makes you realize how young you are, and NY lets you appreciate its beauty without thoughts of being caged in concrete nightmare.

Arosha & AlenaWe try to spend our weekends as a family — together, and preferably doing something fun. Today we went for a hike on Williamsburg Bridge (neither Daniel, nor I have done it before). I enjoyed it. We actually were supposed to go to Arsen’s house to celebrate aunt Lilya’s birthday, but he had some health issues, so they had to cancel. I was looking forward to seeing them, but hopefully there will be another chance this summer.

Arosha & AlenaAnd yesterday we went for a hike in Marine Park. The large portion of the main trail is closed, but we managed to still find a nice one and enjoyed that I-can’t-believe-we’re-in-Brooklyn feeling of being close to nature. Before going there we send a parcel to my sister — she is expecting a baby boy in mid-July (YAY!), and we send her some of the clothes that Aroshka has outgrown along with some new stuff that Danya’s mom bought for the upcoming arrival. I am very happy and excited for my sister and her husband (I know that he REALLY wanted a son). Fingers crossed for a smooth delivery and a healthy baby!

Arosha climbing over Alena.Last weekend was also full of fun activities. On Saturday Alex invited us to his home in Jersey City for a barbeque. We didn’t get very lucky with the weather — it was hot — but I still glad that we made the trip. Alex was more comfortable in the kitchen that I’ve even seen him before — he made a tomatos and cucumbers salad, then he grilled asparagus, zucchini and peppers along with burgers and beef steaks. No help from any of us. To my excuse, I had my hands full with Arosha — there was pretty much no shade in Alex’s backyard, and he did not have AC installed in his apartment yet. So dealing with hot and sweaty baby took a lot of energy!

Arosha eating.And on Sunday we went to a small park in Staten Island. Daniel’s dad suggested that we can stop there — he knows SI pretty well since he used to work there — and I am glad that we did. The park was small, but very cozy and not too crowded. I put an enormous amount of sunblock on Aroshka (probably overdid it) not excluding his big blond head, and he looked pretty funny because of it.

Hiking over Williamsburg Bridge.I also wanted to say that I am very grateful for all the help that Daniel’s mom provides us with. Unless they have some arrangements (like going to a birthday party or to the theater), she stays home with Aroshka on Saturday night, so Danya and I can go out and have either a romantic dinner by ourselves or spend some good time with our friends. It’s just for a few hours (Aroshka goes to sleep at 8, and we try to be home no later than 11), but this really means a lot for my sanity.

Queens. Flushing Meadows Park.She also tries to cook a family dinner every Sunday — she is a great cook, and it’s always delicious. I don’t know how she does it — working full time, helping me every night to entertain and bathe Aroshka after she is done working, cooking family dinners… I am very lucky to have such a wonderful mother-in-law! I wish I was able to call her mom — it’s hard for me to say it for some reason, although in my mind I have no issues doing it.
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Friday, May 20, 2011

First Shoes

First shoes.Today Arosha has gotten his first pair of shoes. All this time to this point he was doing fine with his super warm winter socks, but as the time went one he turned from somebody whose only skill was laying still, eating and pooping into a small human who wants to explore everything.

Arosha in a local park.These are nothing special. Just a pair of summer shoes that we could pick out at a local Payless. With the rate he’s growing he’ll grow out of them in a short amount of time — 3-4 months maybe? It still is a memorable event. Maybe it will be fun for him to go back in time and see his first pair of shoes.

One shoe is already gone. Luckily we saw this maneuver this time.Next trick is to teach him that shoes are good. He seems to be pretty good at kicking them off along with his socks.

Testing out a local bench.I’m so glad I took a picture of his foot against my hand when he was only one week old. It’s much bigger now.
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Floyd Bennett Field Photowalk

Trail. Taken at f/2.It’s been raining for 5 days straight now. They are predicting it will keep raining for at least 3 more. But since I got my 50mm f/1.2 lens in the mail yesterday I’ve been itching to get out and shoot.

Brassicaceae. Taken at f/1.2.Today during the lunch break the sun peaked out from under the clouds. Alena, Arosha, my dad and I jumped into the car and drove to the nearby Floyd Bennett Field (5 minute drive) for a 40 minute walk. I took a good number of shots and pretty much all of them came out great. I’m very very happy with the purchase at this point.

Pebbles. Taken at f/1.2.As soon as we got home it started raining again. Our timing was perfect. Here are some of those shots. All of these were taken at either f/1.2 or f/2.

Footprints on the sand. Taken at f/1.2.
Shell in hay. Taken at f/1.2.
Hay. Taken at f/1.2.
Papa. Taken at f/1.2.
Wooden beach. Taken at f/2.
Beach grass. Taken at f/2.
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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S Lens

Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S manual focus lens.I can’t help but share my excitement over my newest photographic acquisition — Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S manual focus lens. I’ve been reading and looking at pictures of this lens for months now, drooling all over my keyboard.

Box from 50mm f/1.2 lens.On Friday, while looking at it yet again on B&H site, I impulse-bought it. It just couldn’t be helped any longer. It was delivered by UPS today to my office. And I’m holding it in my hands and still drooling. It is so nice.

Shot of a keyboard taken at f/1.2. RAW to JPEG conversion done in Photoshop. Straight out of the camera shot otherwise with no post-processing of any kind.Nikon has been making this lens in this exact form since 1981. It can still be bought brand new today. I’ll most probably end up making a more detailed post about it all in the coming days. Today I’m just posting 3 photographs. The last one is made with this lens at f/1.2. Look at that DOF.
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