New Theme

I’m messing around with a new theme again. The whole two column thing was forcing me to use smaller pics than I use on the photoblog, which has been a PITA. Of course, as with any redesign, it looks like junk in IE. I’ll fix this when I get a chance. Until then, although I still have some work to do, at least it looks pretty good in Firefox.

Update: Funny, don’t know what I changed, but now it looks pretty much the same in IE and Firefox.

Comments appreciated.

Family Photos

I took my first family photo when I was 13. The occasion was my grandparents’ wedding anniversary, and the whole clan of aunts, uncles, cousins and such had assembled. Something like 30 people in all. I wrangled everyone into position, put the camera on the tripod, framed up, set the self timer and ran. The result was a blurry mess. I’d forgotten to focus.

After that auspicious start, I’ve gone on to botch a number of family photos in often entirely predictable ways. Heads cut off, lens not fully attached (a particular problem with one of my Hexar RF bodies), shutter above the flash sync, DSLR left at 1600. You name the newb mistake, I’ve made it. I only seem to do this with my family. I’ve done plenty of fine group photos of people not related to me. Establish a blood tie, and it’s all over.

Family candids I’ve got down pat. I’m the HCB of Alofs’ family candid photos. Realy, I am. See:

Cross Generational Love, Hexar RF, ZM Biogon 35, Delta 400
Can’t you see the cross generational love?

It’s just the posed ones that present a problem.

I’ve recently begun to suspect that this less to do with my skill as a photographer, and more to do with how I relate to my family. Sure, I could use more practice doing group photos, but this stuff isn’t rocket science. My family are lovely people, generous, kind, inteligent and witty, and they have always supported my photography. But I’m the baby of the family, and they’ve gotten used to me needing help with things, so they also try to help in the one place I’m probably OK. “Wouldn’t the light be better outside?” or “Shouldn’t I close the drapes?” or “Don’t you think you should take the lens cap off?” etc etc. Peppered with suggestions, I invariably crumble. Sometimes with catastrophic/hilarious results. Such as this:

Family Photo Gone Wrong, Nikon D80, Sigma 30mm F1.4

Never tell your older sister that her smile is too goofy . . . even if it is

I’m not sure Mom is going to want that one for her Christmas cards. For the sake of the family, I’m leaving my tripod behind when I go home for Christmas.

Too Sharp?

The Sigma 30 F1.4 is just too sharp for portraits particularly with the D80’s 10MP backing it up. That’s just not a complaint you hear very often, and it’s testament to just how far Sigma has come from it’s days as a low-budget, low-performance lens maker. Sometimes, too sharp really is too sharp. Casual portraits taken with the Sigma require a bit more work with the healing brush and clone stamp and a little lighter touch on the sharpening.

Portrait With Sigma 30 F1.4
Nikon D80, Sigma 30 F1.4

Portrait photographers have long known that too sharp can be a bad thing. Occasionaly they’ve gone too far; the softfocus wedding portrait is often a horrid, misty mess that goes well behind obscuring that little blemishes we all have. But there is a place for lenses that render just a bit less clinical detail. The 50 Hexanon is a good example of such a lens. Up close and wide open, fine details just melt away. Looking at a print, you wouldn’t say that it wasn’t sharp, but you also wouldn’t be counting individual eyelashes.

Portrait With 50 Hexanon
Hexar RF, 50 Hexanon

Undoubtedly, some of this softness is the result of some of the limitations inherent in film and it’s resulting workflow, which brings up the question, “Is digital too sharp for portraits?” Probably not, but it might require some changes in technique. A softar filter might be worth investing in, or learning the appropriate use of photoshop’s blur tools. Or it might be as simple as letting the focus go a little off or using a longer shutter speed to induce a little camerashake. Sacrilege, I know, but not every picture requires every detail to be render with such aching fidelity.