Two Weeks with the Nifty Fifty; or, Temple Life in Taipei

I recently spent two weeks in Taipei, Taiwan. For this particular trip, I decided to leave my trusty 24-70 mm lens at home and just bring the tiny 50 mm f:1.8 fixed focal length lens. My reasons for doing this were twofold: I wanted to go lighter. The Canon 24-70 is a tank, both in terms of actual weight as well as visual weight, especially when combined with the 6D body. My shoulder is weary of carrying it all and the size of it makes me feel very conspicuous in public places. Secondly, I wanted to challenge myself with a single focal length lens. Part of the purpose for this challenge will be revealed in an upcoming post (I know you’re all holding your breath in anticipation).

Upon returning, someone asked if I had felt limited in having only the one focal length. Generally I would have to say no. Sure, there were occasional moments where I might have wished for something a bit longer or shorter, but us humans are really quite flexible creatures and we tend to adapt to whatever constraints we are given. Forced to use one lens, you adapt and soon begin to ‘see’ in that focal length. Although, aside from a 100 mm macro lens, my experience with fixed focal length lenses is limited, those-who-know-better-than-me often suggest that using fixed lenses can help you learn to see creatively because of those constraints. You can’t just stand it one spot and zoom until you get something interesting, you have to actually think within that fixed frame.

As far as the Canon 50 mm f:1.8 (often referred to at the Nifty Fifty) is concerned, well, it’s a cheap lens. On the plus side, it’s inexpensive, reasonably sharp, and light-weight. On the downside, it’s cheap, as in plastic construction, slow focusing, and, at least to my eye, seemed to struggle with high-contrast situations in which a higher quality lens might have handled with ease. That said, for the price you can’t beat this lens and every Canon shooter should have it in their bag. Or rather, on their camera.

The pictures below were all shot with the 50 mm on a 6D (full frame) body and are a series of images from various temples around the Taipei area. Taipei has numerous temples around, primarily of various Buddhist and Confucius varieties. I won’t pretend to know the differences between them and they all seemed to follow a similar layout, although the Confucius temple was more spare and much less ostentatious than the Buddhist temples.

Enjoy!

Lighting incense, Guandu Temple, Taipei

Lighting incense, Guandu Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/2.8, 1/100s, ISO 100

Lighting candles at Longshan Temple, Taipei

Lighting candles at Longshan Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/2.8, 1/40s, ISO 800

Longshan Temple, Taipei

Longshan Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/2.8, 1/40s, ISO 800

Longshan Temple, Taipei

Longshan Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/2.8, 1/40s, ISO 2000

Looking at something interesting at Longshan Temple, Taipei

Looking at something interesting at Longshan Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/2.8, 1/40s, ISO 800

Longshan Temple, Taipei

Longshan Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/2.8, 1/50s, ISO 320

Red wall at Hui Chi Temple, Taipei

Red wall at Hui Chi Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/5.6, 1/125s, ISO 100

Hui Chi Temple, Taipei

Hui Chi Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/2.8, 1/50s, ISO 400

Prayers at Hui-Chi Temple, Taipei

Prayers at Hui-Chi Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/2.8, 1/30s, ISO 400

Confucius Temple, Taipei

Confucius Temple, Taipei
Canon 6D, 50 mm, f/2.8, 1/60s, ISO 100

Posted in Camera Tech, Cultural, Taiwan, Travel Tagged , , , |

Pike Place Market, After the Crowds

Although I don’t really consider myself a street photographer, I do have an appreciation for the genre and will dabble in it occasionally. I also tend to think that a lot of my travel photography has a street aesthetic about it. I love trying to capture the sense and feel of a place through my images, the nitty gritty backstreets, and the places where people actually live and work and interact.

John Batdorff just published a blog post on 6 tips for improving your street photography. One of the suggestions he made was to understand that you are probably going to feel nervous and to accept and get used to this, that this nervousness comes with putting yourself out there. Maybe there’s little distinction but for me it’s not so much nervousness as discomfort. This is especially true in places where I already stand out as a foreigner. Walking around pointing a huge camera everywhere makes you even more conspicuous. Although it’s not easy, as John suggests I think the best thing to do is to embrace this nervousness or discomfort.

Another point John makes in his post is a common one made with respect to street photography, which is to get permission from your subject before snapping the shutter. Although I generally agree with this, I do think it often depends on the circumstances. There are situations where it’s definitely most appropriate to get your subject’s acknowledgement, particularly if it’s a portrait-type image. But what about those times when what you’re wanting to capture is people going about their daily lives, without awareness of the camera? Personally I think there’s many times when it’s perfectly acceptable to photograph people in public situations without asking their permission. The problem is that the line between the times when it’s appropriate to photograph someone without asking and the times when you should ask can be rather blurry. I can’t say that I always know where that line is. In the image below, I was standing in plain sight taking a picture. The gentleman smoking simply ignored me so I took that for implicit approval. I think the most important thing to remember here is something another photographer, I think it was Chase Jarvis, said (and I’m paraphrasing): Always respect your subject and never present them in a way that would be embarrassing or humiliating.

After the crowds are gone at Pike Place Market, Seattle, USA - Canon 6D, f/2.8, 1/40 s, ISO 2500

After the crowds are gone at Pike Place Market, Seattle, USA
Canon 6D, f/2.8, 1/40 s, ISO 2500

Posted in Black and White, Photography, Seattle, Street Tagged , , |

Day Of the Dead By Candlelight

Christmas and Thanksgiving are long gone, Valentine’s Day is history, and Easter is just around the corner. Even so, I still have one more set of images I’d like to show of the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico. These are all scenes from a number of the cemeteries that we visited around Oaxaca over several evenings. And no, the image of the band playing is not in here by mistake. Although the gatherings around the graves of loved-ones were somewhat solemn and personal family affairs, it was not a sad occasion and was, overall, more of a celebration of life and family. Hence, the band playing out over a crowded cemetery at 1 in the morning.

On the technical side, all of these images were taken hand-held. You’ll notice the high ISO in most of them, a testament to the low-light capabilities of the Canon 6D. There was noise, of course, which varied from image to image but this was easy to clean up in Lightroom or with Nik Define2. The final images lost a bit of sharpness due to the noise reduction and probably wouldn’t be appropriate for large printing but they are adequate for web and small prints.

Xoxocotlan, Mexico - Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 48mm, f/3.2, ISO 4000, 1/60s

Xoxocotlan, Mexico – Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 48mm, f/3.2, ISO 4000, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico - Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 5000, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico – Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 5000, 1/60s

Panteon General, Oaxaca, Mexico - Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 10000, 1/60s

Panteon General, Oaxaca, Mexico – Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 10000, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico - Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/3.2, ISO 1250, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico – Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/3.2, ISO 1250, 1/60s

Xoxocotlan, Mexico - Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 60mm, f/2.8, ISO 12800, 1/60s

Xoxocotlan, Mexico – Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 60mm, f/2.8, ISO 12800, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico - Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/3.2, ISO 6400, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico – Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/3.2, ISO 6400, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico - Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 54mm, f/3.2, ISO 12800, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico – Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 54mm, f/3.2, ISO 12800, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico - Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 8000, 1/60s

Santa María Atzompa, Mexico – Canon 6D, 24-70 mm f/2.8L @ 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 8000, 1/60s

Posted in Cultural, Mexico, Travel Tagged , , , |

Lightroom: Vibrance and Saturation

If you use Lightroom you’ve probably noticed an adjustment called Vibrance in the Develop module. You may have wondered what the purpose was of this adjustment. I know I wondered about it for quite some time before finally doing some research.

The Vibrance adjustment is a part of the Basic panel, located between the Clarity and Saturation sliders (see first image, below). If you happen to have played around with it you might have found that it boosts or decreases the vividness or intensity of color, similar to what the Saturation setting does. For a long time I would, and still often do, use Vibrance rather than Saturation because I like the more subtle color boost it gives compared to Saturation. But what exactly is it that Vibrance is doing differently than Saturation? Why would I want to use one over the other?

Vibrance and Saturation controls in Lightroom 5

Vibrance and Saturation controls in Lightroom 5

The primary difference is actually quite simple but an important one. Whereas Saturation tends to boost the color intensity or vividness across the color spectrum, Vibrance makes little or no change to already highly saturated colors or to the skin tone colors, the reds, yellows, and oranges. This is useful for portraits or photos of people where you might want to enhance the saturation of the image without turning everyone’s face into a Sunkist orange.

Below are some examples that illustrate the difference in these settings. The first example is the original, un-edited image. The second is with the Saturation adjustment set at +35. As you might expect, the colors throughout the image have been boosted and are significantly more vibrant. The third image is with the Vibrance set at +35 (with Saturation at 0). Notice that many of the colors are now a bit more vivid but not to the extent as Saturation at the same setting. Notice also that the skin tones have largely been unchanged. Now, this image may not have been the best example to use because in this case the skin tones really could use some warming, but it gives you the general idea. In most cases with images of people, I tend to avoid Saturation, or to only use it minimally, especially with darker skin tones.

Original Image - No Vibrance or Saturation adjustment

Original Image – No Vibrance or Saturation adjustment

Saturation set at +35

Saturation set at +35

Vibrance set at +35

Vibrance set at +35

Posted in Lighroom, Photography, Tutorial

Postcard From Sagada

Just a quick update here. I’ve spent the last few days rejuvenating myself in the small mountain town of Sagada, about 10 hours by bus north of Manila. Sagada is located in the mountainous Cordillera region, a rugged area with a somewhat incongruous mixture of pine trees and rice terraces. With its fresh mountain air, cooler temperatures – ok, cold – and the sent of pines with a hint of wood smoke, Sagada has been a wonderful respite from the madness of Manila.

Across the Cordillera

Across the Cordillera – Canon 6D, 43 mm, f/11, ISO 100

The Underground River

The Underground River – Canon 6D, 17 mm, f/11, ISO 100

Mountain Air

Mountain Air – Canon 6D, 40 mm, f/8.0, 1/60 sec, ISO 100

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Posted in Philippines, Photography, Travel Tagged , , |