Archive for February, 2009

Which Online Photo Editor Is the Best?

Posted in Software with tags , , on Friday, February 27, 2009 by Miserere

by Miserere


Not everyone can afford expensive photo processing software, and let’s face it, not everyone wants the hassle of having to install programs just to carry out minor edits. That said, online photo editors are becoming quite powerful, with some allowing you to use layers and work on very large files…and it’s all free! (Well, most of them are.)

Trying them all out was a daunting task, but the nice folk over at CNet saved me the trouble by doing it themselves. Remind me I owe them a beer. They went through the top 15 editors, listing their main characteristics and strengths, and then provided a verdict: The best online photo editor is…find out here—I’m not going to spoil it for you.

Thanks to Haje of Photocritic for the pointer.

Shooting Macros Section 3 – The Math

Posted in Lesson, Photography with tags , , on Thursday, February 26, 2009 by Peter Zack

by Peter Zack



Note: I hope some of the first two Macro sections has helped you understand equipment and shooting. As is the funny thing with a blog publishing setup, the articles are posted by date and you may be seeing the last part first. If so, go to Part 1 and Part 2 and then come back to this next section in the series, in which we will look at the math and magnification factors in a bit more detail. Also if you have a question or ideas for this or other articles, contact us here.

This stuff can sound a bit boring but for those that want to know how close they can get with a certain setup, we’ll have a look at the math here.

Macro fly

You can test it yourself: First you can approximate the magnification of any macro set-up with a little careful test and a ruler on the kitchen table. All you need to know is the width of the sensor of your camera. So a Pentax K20D has a sensor size of 23.4W x 15.6L (mm). Use a ruler with clear measurements in millimetres. Focus the camera/lens combination at full extension, sharply on the ruler with the sensor plane as parallel as you can (straight down). Take a picture of the ruler and open the shot on your computer. It’s a simple matter of counting the number of millimetres across the image. If you got 18mm then the magnification would be 1.3x (23.4 / 18). With a Canon EOS 40D, the sensor width is 22.2mm. Using the same result the magnification would be 1.23x (22.2 / 18). This is about the only way you could calculate the magnification of a reversed lens, a pair of lenses stacked and possibly some filter add on macro lenses to a standard lens.

Stacked lenses referred to here for example could be a 50mm lens mounted normally to the camera and then using a filter ring which couples another lens reversed on the first lens. Similar to reversing a lens directly to the camera but with even greater magnification.

Reversed lens with extension tubes: To calculate the magnification with a reversed lens and extension tubes, you first have to do the test above and get as accurate a measurement as possible of the reversed lens’s magnification.

The Pentax FA50mm f1.4 when reversed on a K20D (sensor size 23.4mm) is 35mm (using test above)
MR: (23.4 / 35) = 0.67x

Formula: Mm = MR + (Ex/FL)
Mm: magnification in macro
MR: magnification of the Lens reversed
FL: focal length of lens
Ex: length of extension tubes

If we used a 31mm Pentax K mount extension tube, mounted to the camera, mount the lens to that tube with a 49mm (filter) to K mount adapter, we have about 34mm of extension (tube + adapter). The Macro Magnification is 1.35x = 0.67 +(34/50)

Macro Dragonfly

Extension tubes or Bellows: To calculate the effect of a set of tubes you will first need the magnification specifications of the normal lens you will add to the tubes. (Not a macro lens)

Formula: Mm = ((ML x FL)+Ex) / FL
Mm: magnification in macro
ML: magnification of the Lens
FL: focal length of lens
Ex: length of extension tubes

So for the first example we’ll use the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM which has a maximum magnification of 0.15x alone. We will add 62mm of extension tubes to this lens.

1.39 = ((0.15 x 50) + 62) /50 in other words the lens can achieve 1.39x life sized. So you will get a little better than life sized with this setup.

Stacking lenses: All you need here is a filter adapter to reverse one lens and mount it to the filter end of a primary lens.

Formula: Mm = F1 / FR
Mm: magnification in macro
F1: Focal length of first lens
FR: Focal length of reversed lens

Example calculation could be a 200mm lens mounted to the camera body in the normal fashion and a 50mm lens reversed to the 200mm lens.

4 = 200/50

It would appear that I have ignored probably the most obvious; a macro lens and extension tube/bellows combination. I can’t determine or find a satisfactory formula that gives accurate results. The reason is that a dedicated macro lens might be 100mm in normal mode but when extended, the focal range changes because the lens has essentially a helical extension tube built in. So the macro focal length might be 72mm for that particular lens. But lens suppliers do not publish that focal length change. Without that data, formulas are inaccurate. You should be able to use the formula for Extension tubes and Bellows above but the calculation could be off by as much as 30%.

Tele-converters: A TC and a conventional lens. If the lens has a magnification of 0.25 at minimum focus then the TC will multiply that close up ability by the magnification it was designed for (1.4x, 2x, 3x, etc.). I.e.: 0.25 x 2 = 0.5 magnification or 1:2 (half life sized).

P&S and Pro-sumer cameras: Finally a note on Point & Shoot cameras that can offer a different option and advantage to some people who like close-up shooting. The P&S disadvantage is that most do not shoot in RAW and the sensors can be small, so there may be more noise in the shots and less ability to crop a shot afterwards. But many bridge cameras overcome these limits very well. Both these styles of cameras use very small sensors (commonly 1/1.8″ or 1/1.25″) and so when the camera is listed as an equivalent lens of  450mm (in 35mm terms) it is really about a 77mm or 95mm focal length lens. The longer lens equivalent will give greater working distances and the smaller sensor increases the apparent DOF. A good and inexpensive option for many shooters.

Dragonfly macro

So what can you get after some practice and reading the 3 sections of this article? Grzegorz Cywicki of Zabierzów, Poland has some amazing macros to share, just click on the photo above to see a sample of his work—all the photos illustrating part 3 of this series, were taken by him. He uses a fairly basic setup. A sub $500 camera with a few different setups. A dedicated macro lens (Tamron 90mm f2.8) and extension tubes from 60 to 130mm. A 21mm extension tube and a Tamron 75-300mm zoom. Also a Tamron 75-300mm with Raynox DCR-250 which we discussed in the first section of this series.  He uses natural light whenever possible and also diffused flash, off camera with some shots and reflectors with others.

All the subjects are alive and you will notice water drops on some shots. He carries a spray bottle of cold water with him to slow the insects down. Other times he will shoot early in the morning when it’s cool and they move slower.

When asked about the incredible Dragonfly shots, Grzegorz simply said: “A key to success is to know how the dragonfly behaves. They fly around their own territory and almost always they come back to the same place. Usually, before I decide to take [the] pictures, I’m trying to observe them. As I know where dragonflies most often come back, I take [the] pictures.”

If you would like to contact  Grzegorz by email, please go to the contact page and we’ll forward his email address to you.

If you have any additional information you would like to add to this topic or have a question, Please leave a comment below or send us an email from the contact page.

Cheers and good shooting –Peter Zack

All photos section 1&2: ©Peter Zack.

All photos section 3: ©Grzegorz Cywicki.

Shedding Light on Gordon Lewis

Posted in F-BoM, Interview, Shedding Light with tags , , , , , on Monday, February 23, 2009 by Miserere

by Miserere


Gordon Lewis - ShutterfingerGordon Lewis from Shutterfinger was February’s F-BoM. We caught up with him in “sunny” Pennsylvania to chat about Photography, vintage cars and being a Dad.

Gordon, thanks for letting us grill you! Let’s get the basics over with: How did you get started in photography?

My father was a graphic arts photolab technician. Although he wasn’t an avid photographer himself, the fact that he would often come home with prints he had made triggered my interest in photography. Other important influences were a teacher I had in middle school, who taught me how to use a 4×5 Speed Graphic press camera. In high school I had a teacher from England named Colin Sprang, who taught me how to develop and print. Once I got confident in the darkroom I was on my way.

Why did you stop being a pro photographer?

I was never a full time pro photographer. I did it more as a side-line. I’ve always earned the majority of my income as a writer. That said, when I moved from Los Angeles to Philadelphia I discovered that I’d have to start from scratch to build up a photography clientele. With a wife and three kids to help support, I put paid photography on the back burner and concentrated on writing.

I have to ask: How old are you exactly…?

As of today, I’m 56 years and 40 days old.

I really like your blog, Gordon, but I have a small problem: When I read it I hear a stern internal voice that sounds a lot like Stanley, from The Office (American edition). Could this be because of your bio photo? Man, I feel like you’re looking at me saying hey Mis, did you forget to put film in the camera again? Are you really that grumpy, or is it all in my mind?

It must be all in your mind, dude. I’m one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, and if anyone tells you different I’ll kick his ass. [Ed. note: Gordon sent me the photo at the beginning of this article as proof, and although I’ve looked for evidence of Photoshop retouching, I cannot find any. I think he is actually smiling!]

You have a very direct writing style on your blog: no frills, no shrills. In contrast, your photography is often very colourful. How do you explain this discrepancy?

My work may be colorful, but at its best it’s also stripped of non-essentials, just like my writing. I also have a substantial amount of work that’s in B&W, so in my opinion there’s not much discrepancy.

Gordon Lewis

Good point! Continuing with your photography style (and related to my previous question): you like shapes and shadows, abstract forms, elements that I would normally associate with B&W photography. While you do shoot B&W, you often take these photos in colour, which always shocks me as I would have converted them to monochrome. You’re like a colour B&W photographer 🙂 Any comments, sir?

That’s a pretty astute observation. I often do convert my color photos into B&W, but I’m not fanatical about it. Generally speaking, if it looks good in color I see no need to convert it to B&W, especially since my printer (an Epson SP R800) does such a poor job of monochrome printing.

Gordon Lewis

Do you do all your own printing? I’ve debated getting a printer, but given my low volume of prints I just use an online printing service. Would you advise me against this?

I do all my own color printing but I prefer to have a online lab do my black and white prints. An inkjet printer capable of printing B&W to my standard would cost at least $800 and I don’t have that kind of money right now. If you aren’t doing much printing then an online printing service is certainly more economical than buying and using an inkjet printer. Printer manufacturers make their money on the cartridges, not the printers, so high-volume printing can get quite expensive. On the other hand, having your own printer is undeniable faster and more convenient, assuming you know how to get the best out of it.

You’re married and have three very cute kids, although I’ll bet they’re a handful. How do you juggle the responsibilities of your job, fatherhood and being a husband with your passion for photography?

That’s easy: My family is my priority. Photography comes second, at best. That said, I take a lot of pictures of my kids, family vacations, relatives, etc.

I’ve often thought of having kids just so I could get some willing models. My wife is very camera-shy so I figure if I can get them young and teach them the camera is a good thing…but I digress! You recently became a victim of the failing global economy. How are you handling this unfortunate situation? Is it affecting your photography? I find that if I’m going through a difficult time I often forget about photography almost completely.

I’m still looking for full-time employment as an instructional designer but pursuing freelance assignments in the meantime. So far, I’m having a lot more luck with the freelance work. One of the contracts I’m working on is developing three Speedlite flash tutorials for Canon’s Digital Learning Center website. Also, as you know, I’m still doing my blog, so I’m still finding ways to keep photography in the mix.

That’s pretty cool, you’re writing for the Big C; I couldn’t imagine a better person for the job. But this brings me to the subject of gear, which you only touch on briefly in your blog. I know you bought an Olympus for a trip to London (and then you gave it up), but apart from that I have no idea what cameras you like most. So tell us what your favourite film and digital cameras are.

I don’t write much about gear because I don’t want to give it more attention than I think it deserves. Aside from specific advantages that apply only in specific situations, one camera is just as good as another in the hands of a skilled photographer. That said, I do my digital shooting with a Canon EOS 30D and my film shooting with a Canon EOS 1n or EOS Elan 7.

When I’m in an old school street-shooting mood I pull out one of my manual focus film bodies. Of these, my favorite is a Nikon FM3A, followed by an Olympus OM-1 and a Pentax ME. All three are small, lightweight, and inconspicuous. People seldom notice me shooting with them. Even if they do, once they discover that there’s no screen on the back they look at me with pity and continue on their way.

I like your choices—three classics. The OM-1 is reputed to have the best viewfinder of any 35mm camera ever. So how many rolls of film do you shoot a month? And which film do you prefer?

It depends. When the weather is good I might shoot 4-6 rolls per month for a few months in a row. When the weather sucks I often won’t shoot any film at all.

My favorite B&W films are Fuji Neopan 400 and Ilford Delta 100, depending on how much light is available. My favorite color neg film is Fuji Reala 100. I don’t shoot much transparency film any more, but when I did my favorite was Fujichrome Provia 100F.

Gordon Lewis

You mention Zen very often; are you a practitioner? If I may be so bold, I do find a certain Zen-like quality in some of your photos, in the sense that they reflect quietude and invite introspection.

I have studied Zen and still practice Zen meditation. I’m not affiliated with any of the local Zendos or Roshis, however, so I wouldn’t say that I’m a practitioner in the formal sense.

Gordon Lewis

Onto sunnier matters. Why do you like classic cars so much, and if you like them that much, why did you move from California to Pennsylvania?

Classic cars are fun to look at. They have a design aesthetic that speaks to a certain time and cultural values. Some have an ageless cool that transfers to the owner. As much as I hated to have to leave the land of cool rides, California’s public schools rank 47th in the nation. Pennsylvania’s public schools rank 10th. Since I couldn’t afford to send three kids to private school, and since I have relatives on the East Coast, the choice was clear.

Let’s talk formats. You still like shooting film, so give me three good reasons why you enjoy film, and another three why you enjoy digital.


  1. I grew up using film. I know how my favorite films will perform in any given situation.
  2. The film cameras I use have fewer bells and whistles than digital cameras. For me, this allows for a more direct and intuitive interface.
  3. I don’t have to worry about backing up my film photographs or buying more hard drive space. I just file it and I’m done.


  1. You have more control over how you can process the image—for better or for worse.
  2. You can immediately tell what a shot looks like and whether it was correctly exposed.
  3. It’s easier to upload photos to a blog or someone else.

FWIW, I tested one of the first consumer digital cameras ever introduced: the LogiTech FotoMan, introduced in 1990.

Wow… While we don’t have Gordon’s review, you can read this to get an idea of what the prehistory of digital photography was like. How things have changed…

To finish up our chat, tell me what photographers you admire and have been inspired by?

The photographers whose work most inspires me are Elliott Erwitt, Ralph Gibson, Art Kane, Mary Ellen Mark, Diane Arbus, Albert Watson, Robert Frank, and Anthony Barboza, just to name a few. You’re not too bad either.

Oh stop it, Gordon… Flattery will get you everywhere! 😉

It’s been a pleasure having you on EtL—I will see you on your blog, and I hope our readers will too. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours.

Thank you. Given today’s economy I can use all the help I can get.

Gordon Lewis

All photos: ©Gordon Lewis.

Transform – A Video by Zack Arias

Posted in General with tags , , , on Friday, February 20, 2009 by Miserere

by Miserere


There comes a time when every artist, however small or big, questions him or herself. We wonder what purpose there is to what we create, we look around and cannot possibly concieve how we might stand out amongst such giants. And yet, we struggle on, because there is something inside of us that won’t let us stop. There is a hunger.

Every artist deals with insecurities. What makes each one different is how these feelings are dealt with, how they are conquered. If they ever are.

It’s a continuing struggle.

Please sit quietly and watch this video by music photographer Zack Arias—then you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

Read more about it on Zack’s blog.

15 Lies about Photography

Posted in Editorial with tags , on Thursday, February 19, 2009 by Miserere

by Miserere


I thought I would follow up my previous article, 15 Truths about Photography, with one focusing on common lies, errors and misconceptions that get thrown around in forums and photography gatherings world wide. I’m sure you’ll recognise many of them. I’m preparing an article explaining why each assertion is not true, but feel free to question my choices in the comments section.

  1. You can fix it later in Photoshop.
  2. Long focal length lenses have a shallower depth of field.*
  3. Full-frame DSLRs are better than APS-C DSLRs.
  4. Film is better than digital.
  5. Digital is better than film.
  6. Film is dead.
  7. Digital is dead.
  8. I only take photos for myself.
  9. Real photographers shoot JPEG.
  10. The only way to make great photographs is by using the most expensive equipment. (Corollary: you can’t make good photographs with a P&S.)
  11. I take pretty landscape and flower pictures, and that qualifies me to shoot a wedding.
  12. Real photographers don’t have websites.
  13. The pop-up flash is useless.
  14. You need at least 12 megapixels if you plan to make 8×10 prints.
  15. Photography blogs suck.

*: This is actually true at medium to large distances from your subject (see the article linked below for clarification).

You might like to read Justifying 15 Lies about Photography after reading this list, to know what was going through my mind.

Don’t Post Your Photos on Facebook!

Posted in In the News with tags , , on Wednesday, February 18, 2009 by Miserere

by Miserere


logo_facebookAccording to their Terms & Conditions, any photos you post will be owned by them, forever. Read more here, here, here, here, here

Just spreading the word.

Nokia Releases Their First Camera…with a Phone Attached: The N86

Posted in Cameras, In the News with tags , , , , , , on Tuesday, February 17, 2009 by Miserere

by Miserere


Nokia N86

Image source: endgadget.

If I told you somebody had released a pocketable digital P&S camera with an 8MP sensor, Carl Zeiss Tessar lens, mechanical shutter, dual-LED flash and capable of 1/1000s shutter speeds, would you find it attractive? I know I would!

But if I then told you that ‘somebody’ was Nokia, would you raise your eyebrows and say huh? I know I did! Nokia officially announced their new N86 camera—I mean, mobile phone today, although rumours had abounded for quite some time. See the full specs here.

As luck would have it, just last week I bought a new phone for the first time in 3 years, and although it has a camera, it probably isn’t as good as the Nokia N86’s. From browsing around some tech forums it appears that many photo enthusiasts are thrilled to have this camera-phone available and if IQ is any good, Nokia could not only make a killing, but also revolutionise the P&S market. Why am I saying this? Well, most of us carry a mobile phone with us, and if you’re reading this blog chances are you enjoy photography; do you always carry a camera with you? I try to, but even my digital P&S is often too bulky. So imagine you could always have little camera with you, a camera that has GPS (which even most expensive DSLRs don’t) and bluetooth (to allow wireless downloading) and an internet connection so you can upload photos to Flickr wherever you are. What P&S in the market today can do that?

Of course, this all hinges on the images from the Nokia N86 being of high quality, at least comparable to a standalone P&S. The lens offers a fixed (35mm equivalent) 28mm focal length with a relatively fast f/2.4-4.8 aperture range, while the CCD is a little under 6mm in length (about a 1/2.5″ sized sensor) with a 4:3 aspect ratio, providing 3280×2464 pixel files. Not bad on paper. I believe that if Nokia haven’t got it quite right in this incarnation, they probably will in the next. Because here is what makes this camera-phone different: the fact that they’ve enlisted Carl Zeiss for the lens tells us they’re serious about making the camera a quality component of the whole device, and not just an afterthought.

While some people will still buy standalone P&S cameras for the zoom lenses, there are many who will be very happy with a quality prime if it means they don’t have to carry a separate camera. So this may not mean the downfall of digital P&Ss as we know them, but it might signal the emergence of a new paradigm for convenience cameras.

And it seems you can also make phone calls with these things.