medium telephoto


It was unseasonably warm last week, with temperatures in the upper 50’s and even 60’s. Tuesday morning was unusual, with moderately heavy fog all along Rte 27 running North towards Westminster. The mist changes the appearance of the familiar landscape, and the soft morning light makes for some excellent photographic opportunities.

As I drove along Rte 27, the mist slowly lightened until it was completely burnt off by the time I got to work. I stopped at several familiar spots along the way to take these pictures. I had the Sony A700, of course – with the Sigma 28-80mm still on it from last weekend’s hike along the Great Falls towpath.

The Sigma is an unusually light lens, and perfect for hiking. It’s no slouch when it comes to landscape and architectural photography either. On the Sony Alpha, the lens becomes a 42mm-120mm, which gives me enough flexibility for most landscape and architectural applications. Although I’d preferred top have a 35mm for street photography, 42mm is acceptable. Besides, a 42mm lens presents the world with a slightly better perspective than a 50mm, with no distortion at all.

The 2 close-up’s are included to show the macro capabilities of the Sigma 28-80mm.


Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning

Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 and Sigma 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 aspherical macro lens. Auto ISO, Cloudy white balance.



Creative Commons License
olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

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A couple of weeks ago, I had posted a series of photographs I made with a Sigma 24mm f/2.8 in a little park in Westminster, at the intersection of Bond Street and Green Street. The Sigma 24mm is an effective 36mm lens on the Sony Alpha 700. I wanted to try a 28mm lens (42mm on A700). I took along my lightweight Sigma 28-80mm (42mm-120mm in 35mm format) and shot from the same locations as with the 24mm, and a few others. It wasn’t as cold as the last time, and I could loiter a little while longer without freezing my poor hands.

When I left the park, I turned onto Green Street and photographed a couple of the historic homes. I ended up close to McDaniel College, so I grabbed a few shots of the school buildings, as well as the corner of Main and Union Street. Here are the pictures with the Sigma lens set up – these were taken on Wednesday morning with the same lens.

The Sigma is truly a versatile lens, and has a macro capability down to 1:2 as well in case you need it. It’s one of those lenses that you tend to ‘fit and forget’ since it seems to feel so natural.

Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Warfieldsburg Rd

Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – Green Street
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – Green Street
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – McDaniel College
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – McDaniel College
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – McDaniel College Gateway
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – Union St and Main St
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm Kridder’s Rd Church
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – Warfieldsburg Road
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – Rte 27 Ridge Road
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – Rte 27 Ridge Road
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – Rte 27 Ridge Road

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 and Sigma 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 aspherical macro lens. ISO 200, Cloudy white balance. 1/80 at 28mm and 1/160 at 80mm (The Sigma is 42-120mm in the 35mm format equivalent)



Creative Commons License
olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko. dhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.

I headed off to the Great Falls park last Saturday (02/02/08) to hike along the river and photograph the falls. It was beautiful out there… about 50 degrees – perfect hiking weather, although the trails and towpath were still muddy. I was carrying my Sony Alpha 700 and 2 lenses – a Sigma AF 28-80mm and the Tamron 70-300mm. The Tamron was for closeup views of the raging waters. The Sigma is a recent acquisition, and I was trying it out.

It’s still early in February, and we’ve already had a lot of rain in Montgomery county – the average rainfall for February is about 2.85 inches here, and by the 2nd, we already had about 3 inches… which means, every stream in the county is overflowing and that the Potomac is running full already. Normally, we’d have to wait until the Spring thaws.

Since my intent was to photograph the falls, I did not mind lugging along the heavy Tamron, but on my way over there, I was thinking about the most desirable characteristics for a hiking lens – good zoom range, rugged, light, cheap, close up capability etc. At the same time, the optical characteristics of the lens should be good enough that you don’t regret the quality of the pictures when you get back.

The more I thought about it, the Sigma I was carrying seemed to be the perfect fit. After all, it had a zoom range of 28-80mm, which is a 42-120mm on the Sony A700. Besides, it has a plastic body, which makes it lightweight. Great optical quality with multicoated aspherical lenses, very cheap so it would not matter if it was damaged or lost – and it has a 1:2 Macro capability, for those occasional very close-up shots of interesting grass or moss or little critters that I might come across.

I would have liked at least 35mm at the wide-angle, but I’ve found that in the open woodlands and hilly areas of Maryland , even a 50mm is sufficiently wide, since one can always step back a few paces to include more of the scene. The Sigma 28-80mm definitely qualified as a Cheap Awesome Lens. Some may complain about the “cheap” build quality – it’s plasticky – but one can’t fault it optically for the price.

The 1:2 macro capability is only at 80mm f/5.6 (120mm f/5.6 on the Sony Alpha 700) and is is a matter of moving a switch on the lens from Normal to Macro position to lock it. Now, f/5.8 is pretty slow, I was able to get decent images even at 100 ISO. I’m not complaining, since I can always increase the ISO to compensate. However, in Winter, with no overhead tree canopy and bright sunlight, it beats carrying an extra lens for the rare occasion one might want to take a real close up.
Here are some of the pictures at the Falls and along the Towpath. The river is very impressive this week.


The Tamron is a beast on the Sony Alpha 700 – it’s equivalent to 105mm-450mm and fairly fast for such a large focal length f/3.5 at the shorter end, and f/5.6 at the 450mm end. Fast enough to handhold at 100 ISO on a bright day. It’s a macro lens as well, and goes to 1:4 along the entire focal length range, which is pretty impressive. This is another Cheap Awesome Lens.Tamron 70-300mm– Potomac River and Towpath.


Potomac River

Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River

Potomac River 1/5 sec exposure
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River

Sigma 28-80mm – Potomac River

Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River 1/5 second
Potomac River 1/5 second
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River

Sigma 28-80mm Canal and Towpath

Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath – macro
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath

Sigma 28-80mm Great Falls Tavern

Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Gate at Widewater
Great Falls

Sigma 28-80mm – Great Falls Tavern

Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern

Sigma 28-80mm – Canal and Towpath

Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath

Sigma 28-80mm Macro Photos (approx 8-10 inches)

Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro

Tamron 70-300mm


Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls

Tamron – Wildlife

Wildlife
Wildlife
Wildlife

Tamron

Lichens on Rock
Lichens
Wildlife

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700, Sigma 28-80mm f/3.5-f/5.6 Aspherical Macro 1:2 and Tamron 70-300mm f/3.9-f5.6, ISO 100, Circular Polarizer.



Creative Commons License
olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

Early January isn’t the best time for macro-photography – the usual subjects, flowers, insects, ferns, lichens, mosses are mostly absent and there isn’t much greenery anywhere. There’s usually a lot of bright winter sunshine in Maryland around this time, even if there isn’t much snow. It’s cold, and that adds to the challenge. Bright colors are conspicuous by their absence… one has to be imaginative, and look for interesting patterns, textures etc that might be good macro subjects.

Indoor macro-photography is another matter altogether, there’s a wealth of interesting subject matter around the house to photograph – coins, food, grains, spices, toys, gadgets, fabrics, clothing details, you name it…. However, indoor macrophotography has another problem – that of lighting. It’s hard to get enough lighting for hand-held macro photographs, unless a Flash unit is utilized. For the most part, shooting near a sunny window takes care of the lighting issue. Here are some pictures that I took of everyday objects – shoe brush bristles, fruit, a crossword puzzle, brooms etc.


Shoe brush bristles
Crossword Puzzle
Orange
Orange
Broom
Broom

A note about camera care – Using any camera outdoors when it is cold requires a bit of care, but digital cameras need some extra precautions… handling the little buttons is a little more difficult since numb fingers lose their dexterity. Make sure you have the camera strap securely around the neck to ensure against dropping the camera. If that’s not convenient, wrap the strap around the wrist a couple of times.

Keep the camera dry, and warm as possible. Keep it close to the body, covered with a jacket when you’re not shooting. Batteries don’t like cold conditions, and who knows what the cold does to the electronic innards? Most cameras have an “operating” temperature range specified, but I always take that with a grain of salt. Better to exercise extra care than to be sorry. Moreover, when going back inside from very cold conditions, make sure you put the camera and lens inside a large zip-lock bag so that moisture does not condense on the camera. Keep it in the bag until it reaches room temperature – at least ½ hour, if not more.

The Sony Alpha 700 has environmental sealing, but it’s not weather-proof. The seals can only prevent accidental entry of dust, sand and moisture, but I don’t think ANY camera is designed for prolonged use in adverse conditions (maybe they make special cameras to MIL specifications for the armed forces, but I haven’t come across any yet).

Enough digression – Anyway, here I was, out in the backyard, looking for interesting things to photograph… it was late afternoon, and the winter sun was already low in the sky – the light was yellowish-white and the shadows were getting longer by the minute. Here are some of the objects I found around the yard… leaves, bark, mulch, some green shoots on potted plants etc.


Tender leaves
Jasmine tendril
Blue Atlas Pine
Cedar Pine
Decayed mulch
Lichen on Dogwood
Electric Meter
Electric Meter
Leaf at Sunset
Leaf, in shade

I used the Sigma 50mm f/2.8 macro lens… it’s one of my favorites, I love it as much as I love my Panagor 90mm f/2.8 (that’s another superb 1:1 macro lens by Kino Precision. I can mount it on the Sony Alpha 700 with the Bower Minolta AF-Olympus OM adapter).

The Sigma 50mm is a true macro lens, and it goes up to a 1:1 magnification. The Sony A700’s crop factor of 1.5x gives the Sigma an apparent 75mm focal length, allowing it to be used from further away. This additional stand-off distance can be an advantage when it’s not possible to get too close to the subject for whatever reason… especially if they are skittish bugs…

Which brings us to this little fellow – this tree shield (stink) bug somehow made its way into the house and was wandering around. My daughter Sunayana found it and convinced her cousin Vasudev to capture it for her. We took a few pictures of the critter before letting it loose outside in the late afternoon when it was a little warmer.

I looked him up on the ‘What’s that Bug?’ site and on the Bug Guide. It’s a Stink Bug, belonging to the order Hemiptera, family Pentatomidae, and genus Euschistus. Pretty complicated name for a little bug. It’s common to see stink bugs during the summer months when there is plenty of greenery around to feed on, but what was it doing running around in mid-winter? I used the Sigma 50mm for this as well. Here are the pictures of him on the kitchen counter, and later on the deck railing. I took the last picture as he was scuttling away to find a corner.


Shield Bug
Shield Bug
Shield Bug
Shield Bug
Shield Bug
Shield Bug

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 dSLR and a Sigma 50mm f/2.8 Macro lens.



Creative Commons License
olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

Christmas day was a balmy 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the the DC area…with lots of sunshine. A far cry from the bitter cold of the mid-west, I must say. We miss the snow on the ground, but a body (especially me) could get used to this milder winter weather. I believe we’re in Zone 6B-7A here, which makes for milder winters than the Great Plains states.

Sunayana and I headed out to Germantown park so she could work off the excess energy, and I took the Alpha 700 along with my Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 prime lens. On the Sony Alpha 700, the 50mm is equivalent to a mild telephoto 75mm (the 1.5x crop factor), and makes an excellent portrait lens. Even better, it is an excellent lens for natural light photography, even at very low light levels.

The light was failing by the time we got to Germantown park, and over the course of the time we were there, it got quite dark. The Minolta 50mm lens handled the failing light very well. I left the Alpha in ISO auto select (ISO 800) and opened up the lens to f/2. The almost dark condition was no sweat at all at those settings, and if I wasn’t there, I would swear that the pictures were taken much earlier in the evening.

By the way, if some of the pictures seem slightly blurry, it’s because she moves at lightning speed. NO camera’s AF can possibly keep up with a 5 year old with pent up energy!

Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700

Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 on A700

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 and Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 Lens. Camera was set to AUTO mode and ISO 800.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all product names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. Thank you for visiting Olympuszuiko. Have a great day!

Creative Commons License
This work by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.