Wednesday, January 20, 2010
What about teleconverters? Are they effective and if so what should I consider when buying one?
The good news is that yes, teleconverters can be pretty darned effective. They can take our 200 mm telephoto lens and turn it into a 400 mm SUPER-telephoto.
However, the “rest of the story” (the bad news part 1) is that teleconverters are kind of expensive and are usually paired with fast (f/2.8 or better) lenses which are very expensive. The reason for this economic bad news is that teleconverters greatly reduce the amount of light getting into our cameras and it takes really expensive lenses to be fast enough (have a wide enough aperture) to deal with that.
Teleconverters cut down the light by 1-stop (-1 ev) for a 1.4X teleconverter and 2-stops for a 2X. So, this means that you have to be starting with a pretty fast lens BEFORE you attach the converter or you’re going to be literally working in the dark. The expensive, “pro,” f/2.8 lenses can handle this because they can operate at f/4 with a 1.4X or f/5.6 with a 2X - not too bad.
Unfortunately, less expensive lenses don't work so well. For example, consider that when you put that 2X teleconverter on a lens like an 18-200 mm, f/3.5 - f/5.6 zoom lens and zoom it to 200 mm (now the widest/fastest aperture is f/5.6) the best it could operate would be 2-stops slower or f/11. (e. g., aperture of f/5.6 + 1 stop = f/8; + 1 more stop = f/11). So, it's getting pretty dark in there with only 1/4 of the light.
Yes, you can boost the ISO to 1600 or something like that to compensate for the low light that’s reaching the image sensor but (here comes bad news part 2) the view finder may be very dark and autofocus will likely NOT get enough light to work.
The expensive solution would total out like this: the Nikon 2X teleconverter runs about $500; the 1.4X is about $400. These are paired with lenses like the 70-200mm f/2.8, VRII which sells for about $2300. (See what I mean about expensive!)
If you just can’t budget that kind of $$ (and not many people can) and are thinking about getting an after market teleconverter for your slower lenses, be sure to take your camera and lenses to the store and try it out on your gear to see if you like it and if your camera will work with it. Any reputable camera store will welcome your doing that.
What you want to check for is if autofocus will work. If not, is there enough light in the viewfinder to allow you to reliably focus manually? Try it inside the store and then walk outside and see how it works in full daylight. It might just do what you need. If it works OK then you are $$ ahead and can go out and enjoy the extra reach that the teleconverter provides.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
How many times do we say or hear those words, "Just a second?" It doesn't seem like a long time does it? However, some photos show us that a lot can happen in one second. Further, though, life so often shows us that those seconds can be hard to come by and more precious than we realize.
In this case a small carnival had set up about 2 miles from our house and I had passed by several times and thought that there might a photo op there. I had envisioned a shot much like this one where all of the lights would blend in a swirl and twirl of color. As I had driven past it earlier in the day and as I drove to the site that evening I had the shots all planned out in my head. This was the one I really wanted.
I knew it would be a snap (pardon the pun). It would a simple thing to park, set up, take the shot and head back to the house. In and out in just a few minutes. Nope. Not so simple.
I hadn't considered that the Ferris wheel and the tilt-a-whirl would not often be running/rotating at the same time. Further, I hadn't factored in the situation that the tilt-a-whirl was elevated only a few seconds of each ride. Then of course there are the people passing around the camera and through the scene to contend with. You see how the variables can stack up. Like the planets, they all have to be in alignment.
By the time I had FINALLY captured the shot I had envisioned, I had spent over an hour for that 1-second exposure.
Just a second? I don't think so. - - Worth the time? You have to decide.
(For a few more shots from this little carnival visit my flickr site by clicking on the image above.)
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Research at the Tippah County Historical Museum revealed that these were the graves of two Federal (Union) soldiers killed while retreating from the rout of the Federal Army by a much smaller Confederate force under the command of Nathan Bedford Forrest at the battle of Brice's Crossroads. These graves have been tended by the staunchly southern but respectful and honorable folks of this town for over 140 years.
While at the Tippah Co. (MS) Historical Museum researching the graves of two unknown Federal soldiers I was told about the grave of an unknown Confederate soldier killed during the same skirmish but about 5 miles from the site of the Federal graves. This grave is just slightly in the woods alongside a country road (near the intersection of Antioch Road and Tippah Co. Road # 420).
As I have mentioned in other blog entries, I am apt to get caught up in everything associated with taking the photo and capturing the image and lose sight of the “what” or the “why” of the situation or the place. A photo of the graves of two unknown Civil War soldiers is one thing but without digging into the background I might not have known for certain that these were Union soldiers whose graves had been so well tended in this Southern community. Nor would I have learned of the grave of the unknown Confederate soldier just a few miles away.
So, don’t just take a photo; don’t just make an image, no matter how striking. Learn something about the setting, about the history. Discern the story surrounding the place or the situation. It might take a bit of time and work. It might be worth it.
Just dig into it.
Because I was there to help with photo questions from the group, I didn't take my usual DSLR, extra lenses, tripod, etc. but rather just pocketed a point-and-shoot camera.
You know, it was a very liberating experience to not have to worry about finding a place to set up the tripod, attaching the shutter release cord, deciding upon which filter to use (or none), selecting the best combination of aperture, shutter speed and ISO, peering through the viewfinder for just the right angle and composition, ... you are familiar with the drill. This day it was just a little point-and-shoot camera making most of the decisions about the settings.
When I got home and viewed the photos on my computer I was a bit bemused that they turned out so well. It was like they were sending me a message that the stuff I typically take with me is not always necessary to make good images.
Once again I was reminded that photography is NOT about the equipment or the fussing about settings or the megapixels. It is about the light and the image and capturing a photo that allows you to share the feeling of the moment or the place.
Photography is also about stepping back, relaxing, enjoying the moment and sometimes not trying so hard.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Over the years I have found that many times when we are all set and focused on a particular image (or outcome dealing with "whatever") we often find ourselves not getting what we wanted, expected or sought. In those situations when I have decided that I will just make the best of it I often find that the outcome is better than what I was originally going after.
It's all in how you look at it.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I was browsing my images files and came across this shot I made this spring in the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. The Springtime morning light was falling perfectly and spectacularly on this blossom.
While this photo is nothing special it brightened this winter day for me and I thought I'd pass it along.
Spring is just 3 months away. Hang in there.