Monday, January 9, 2017

New Year 2017

Us.Here is our short note for our latest New Year celebration. This year we met the new 2017 year with close family. And as always, traditionally at my parents. There was Alёna and I, mom and dad, Lina and Lenny and of course Anna and Arosha.

With grandparents.Arosha has agreed to take a day nap on the last day of the year — typically he doesn’t take naps — so he could finally stay up to actually meet the new year. Last year he fell asleep minutes before and we couldn’t wake him up. This year he stayed up way past the midnight. Anna went to sleep at her regular time, but woke up right after midnight — probably from all our cheering.

Laughter.It ended up being quite fortunate as they could open all their presents together. My dad always performs the role of Santa giving out the presents from under the tree. For Alёna and I we got a new 4th generation Apple TV — our 3rd one has bit the dust and that’s how we watch all of our TV and a manual juicer press. And we also got ourselves yet another Instagram calendar for this year that has also became a tradition.

Lina and Lenny.Kids — I don’t know where to begin. They got a ton of stuff. They got a huge set of play-doe, 2 different kinds of clay, some kinetic sand and paper edger scissor set for their crafts. They got a whole bunch of board-games and toys. Santa Clause even knew that Arosha really wanted a green lightsaber. Yup, he even got the color right. Not sure how he knew.

Kids.They also go a whole bunch of new clothing. Arosha couldn’t care less — I used to be same exact way — clothing was the least exciting present ever. Anna, however, is totally different. She starts awing and oowing all over her new stuff and starts trying it all out on herself. No wonder she learned how to put on shoes way before she turned 2. Women.

С мамой.We also got a new 128GB 9.7″ iPad Pro — the newest version — for my parents. Their iPad 2 is really antique by now and they tend to use it fairly consistently. And then there was a miscellany of different clothing for everyone.

I kind of started from the end though. Every New Year we start with family portraiture. I bring up my equipment, set up lights and we do numerous pictures of us in different configurations. This year I got lazy and used only one flash through an umbrella and it shows. The shadows on one side of some faces turned out to be really harsh. Note to self — do not be lazy.

Generations.We also forgot to take any pictures of our dinner table. We have a set of traditional New Year dishes that we do every year. We had french meet — meat with cheese melted on top — with potatoes, holodets — a kind of a frozen soup, shuba — translates as fur-coat, but is really a layered salad with layer of herring on the bottom, eggplant tomatoes — like some tapa which consists of a slice of fried eggplant with a slice of tomato on top with mayo and garlic, funcheza — my mom’s signature dish that is everyone’s favorite and multitude of other things. And of course no Russian New Year goes without Olivie salad.

And that’s pretty much it. It is 2017. Hard to believe how far into the 21st century we have gotten already.
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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Family Portrait

Family portrait 2016.For the past two years we’ve started taking now yearly family portrait. Even though we do something similar every New Year it’s becoming a nice tradition to do one of these a year somewhere in between. Taking advantage of this past long weekend we decided to continue this trend and enlisted my dad to help with the shoot.

Family portrait.This year it only took us 182 ) shots to end up with a couple of decent versions. Arosha was much better this year and was able to just sit there and smile into the camera. Anюta though is nowhere near ready yet. All those tries that we had to take were caused by her. Eventually we managed to bribe her into a tiny bit (not more) of cooperation with a candy.

Family portrait 2015.The last one is from last year which we never posted on the blog it seems. Either that or I can’t find it. Now we can’t make up our minds which one of the two new ones to print out and frame.
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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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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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