Streetscape


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)



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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.

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I happened on this location by chance, as I returned to Gaithersburg from Baltimore . I took 295 (Greenbelt parkway) on my way back, and got off the exit that leads to the Robert Kennedy Stadium – going around it, I soon found myself on C street, and all these beautiful buildings. There was plenty of parking, near the intersection of C street and 11th, and I lingered there for a few minutes before driving down west towards 10th, where I stopped for a few more minutes.

Winter is a great time for streetscapes and architectural photography, since the buildings in the older localities aren’t obscured by trees, as they normally would be in the Summertime. I was carrying the Sony A700 with the Sony 18-200mm lens, nothing fancy. The Sony lens (SAL 18200) is a great all-around lens, especially if you make a modest investment in a 62mm Circular Polarizer.

Zooms give a great deal of flexibility, but at the same time, the perspective varies from shot to shot. You don’t really notice it while shooting, since we’re so focused on getting the proper framing and composition, but later, when organizing, we find a wide range of focal lengths. Interesting, of course, but not easy to catalogue.

I think street-photography is best with a zoom, but when recording specific architectural details, it may be better to use a fixed length 35mm or 50mm equivalent prime. I think I will go back again soon, and re-shoot some of the more interesting buildings with a 35mm equivalent prime as well (that would be a 24mm lens, which would give me 36mm on the A700).

Here are the photos from C street. The buildings are in perfect condition, and in the late afternoon sunlight, they look delicious.


C Street
C Street
C Street
C Street
C Street
C Street
C Street
C Street

C Street
C Street
C Street
C Street
C Street
C Street
C Street
C Street
C Street
C Street
C Street
C Street
C Street
C Street

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 and Sony 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 lens with a 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.

I finally had the last roll of film from the Baltimore Inner harbor shoot developed this week…. these were with the Minolta Dynax 800si and the Phoenix 28-105mm lens. This is one of my most used Minolta AF lenses, since it spans such a useful range of focal lengths – from wideangle to medium telephoto.

Although it is most useful as a portrait lens, the 105mm is just right for closing in on interesting architectural detail, and the 28, 35 and 50mm focal lengths are always available. I believe that this is the one lens to pack if one is traveling light. I usually carry a Tiffen 812 warming filter in case of overcast or open sky photography and a Tiffen circular polarizer when its bright and sunny out.


Inner Harbor, Baltimore
Inner Harbor, Baltimore
Inner Harbor, Baltimore
Inner Harbor, Baltimore
Inner Harbor, Baltimore
Inner Harbor, Baltimore

Inner Harbor, Baltimore
Inner Harbor, Baltimore
Inner Harbor, Baltimore
Inner Harbor, Baltimore
Inner Harbor, Baltimore
Inner Harbor, Baltimore

Photographed with a Minolta Dynax 800si AF camera and Phoenix 28-105mm f/2.8-3.6 lens on Fujis Superia 200 film. I used a Tiffen circular polarizer


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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On the last day of my conference at Baltimore, I lugged along my autofocus Minolta Dynax 800si with the Phoenix 28-105mm lens. This road is leads to Harbor East, which is the former warehouse district. Most of the grungy old buildings have been torn down, and it’s being developed into a vibrant business and commercial area.

Two blocks further down, you can still see some of the remaining warehouses, they are really decrepit, and the neighborhood is generally rundown and boarded up. No trees, just concrete sidewalks, uncared for streets and no place you’d care to stop. I walked through that area one afternoon looking for a decent place to eat, and ended up walking 3 blocks back to the edge of Little Italy. I can recommend Petalos Restaurant for their fine salad.

To anyone who believes all development of older city areas is bad, I’d recommend that they walk along Pratt Street in Baltimore, and go past the ritzy hotels to the older, undeveloped areas, and tell me if they still feel the same. What I am against though is the tearing down of older housing to make for multiple residential complexes, and shopping places filled with the same old coffeeshops.

I wish cities would encourage more diversity in the commercial areas, and make it possible for the smaller artisan shops to afford a location in the newly developed areas. Would be like adding a bit of spice to otherwise bland fare.


Harbor East
Harbor East
Harbor East
Harbor East

Additional pictures of the Inner Harbor area

Inner Harbor
Inner Harbor

Inner Harbor
Inner Harbor
Inner Harbor
Inner Harbor
Inner Harbor

Photographed with an autofocus Minolta Dynax 800si, Phoenix 28-105mm f/2.8-3.6 zoom lens, Fuji Superia 200. I used a Tiffen 812 filter in the shade and a Tiffen Polarizer in the sun.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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I attended a conference in Baltimore in early October, and since I was there for almost a week, from early in the morning to late evening in the waterfront area, I took the opportunity to capture the inner harbor at different times in the day. The meetings were held the Waterfront Marriott which has an awesome view of the harbor from the 5th floor balcony.

The historic buildings all around the inner harbor area are well preserved, and the old shipping warehouses in the Harbor east area are being torn down one by one to make room for fancy new hotels and condominiums.. I suppose that in a few more years, the entire harbor area will be a vibrant commercial and tourist area. I always feel a twinge of regret when historic parts of a city are transformed so radically, but in this case, it will rejuvenate the city, and I am happy for Baltimore residents. Baltimore is a city of great charm, if you know where to look for it. It reminds me very much of Chicago, with all its neighborhoods.

Most of the neighborhoods are human scaled, as the buildings in residential areas are mostly one and two storys tall. Like Chicago, the large concrete, steel and glass towers are concentrated near the waterfront, with the rest of the city still zoned for normal sized buildings. I carried my trusty old Ricoh 500G manual rangefinder loaded with Fuji Superia 200 film.

I will be posting the Baltimore water front pictures in a series of posts in the next few days.


The Waterfront Marriott
Waterfront promenade seating
Waterfront Promenade
Waterfront Promenade

Scarlett Place
Pumphouse and Museum
Waterfront Hotels
Waterfront
Concert venue
Waterfront
Old Steam Roller

Photographed with a Ricoh 500G Rangefinder (fixed 40mm f/2.8 Rikenon) and Fuji Superia 200 film. I used the Sunny 16 rule – f/16 at 1/250.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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Hyperfocal distance focusing (also known as Universal Focus) is that distance setting which maximizes the depth of field for a selected aperture. To understand what this means, we should define some terminology first – critical focus and circles of confusion. Bear with me here… although we can jump to setting and really using the hyperfocal distance setting, it would be good to understand the basic principles.

When a normal helicoid design lens is focused, there are no abrupt steps – rather, it is a continuum where the subject image being focused starts off blurred, and as the focus ring is rotated, the image slowly becomes clearer and clearer until it reaches the point of maximum clarity, and then, if the photographer continues to rotate the focus ring, the clarity begins diminishing slowly until the it becomes blurry and unfocused again.

In this continuum, the point of maximum clarity is the point of “critical focus”. On either side of this point of critical focus there is a region of “acceptable clarity” where the image appears reasonably sharp to the eye. This portion of the focus continuum where the image is acceptably sharp is the “Depth of Focus” for that lens.

If we imagine the continuum as a series of circles that reduce in size, at the point of critical focus, the circle is smallest and the image is sharp and clearly defined, as we move away from the critical focus, the circles slowly become larger, until the subject becomes blurry and then totally undefined. At that point, the circle is the largest. The correct name for these circles is “circles of confusion”. Years ago, manufacturers provided the minimum circle of confusion data for their lenses – for example 0.03mm etc.

Normally when we focus, we point the camera lens at a subject and rotate the lens focusing ring until the object is in critical focus. We are now guaranteed that the subject is now clearly defined, but what of the surroundings? Depending on the aperture setting, have differing depths of field. When we wish to focus at an object at a distance, we rotate the lens to the ∞ setting. Again, our depth of field is determined by the aperture setting.

If we choose a small aperture – f/16 or f/22, we are assured that we have a large depth of field, but a lot of the depth of field may be used inefficiently. We need to remember that the DOF is distributed unequally. 1/3 of the DOF is in FRONT of the subject, and 2/3 of the DOF is BEHIND the subject. If we are focusing on a subject at infinity – only 1/3 of the depth of field is really utilized, since everything behind the subject is already in focus by virtue of the ∞ setting.

What we can do to optimize depth of field is to set the critical focus at a point in FRONT of the subject, such that the subject is close to the far end of the depth of field. In short, we position the subject such that the maximum depth of field occurs in front of the subject, and a small portion occurs behind the subject. If we ensure that the infinity setting occurs just behind the subject, then every thing beyond that will ALSO be in focus.

If all this isn’t enough to digest, we also have to remember that distance to infinity (∞) for each lens varies – for a wide angle lens, ∞ setting could be just beyond 6 feet, and for a long focus lens, infinity settings could occur hundreds of feet away.

So much for theory. So how is this useful? Where can we use this?

As an example, let us assume that for a particular lens, the ∞ setting is around 30 feet, and we are focusing at a subject at just 30 feet away. If the lens is rotated to the infinity setting, the subject is clearly in focus, and we go ahead and take the shot without a second thought. Let us also assume that the possible DOF for this lens is 24 feet. From the previous discussion, we know that 1/3 of the DOF (8 feet) is in front of the subject. The 2/3 remaining DOF (16 feet) is unused, since everything beyond 30 feet is in focus anyway.

In the above shot, everything from 22 feet onwards will be in focus, but everything else between the photographer and 22 feet will be blurred. If we had set the lens at it’s hyperfocal distance instead of at ∞, the depth of field would have been fully utilized, with everything from 6 feet in front of the photographer to infinity being clearly in focus. What a difference!

In the above example, suppose we had been photographing a street scene. Or perhaps we were out trying to photograph a bunch of kids playing a pick-up neighborhood basketball game. Trying to critically focus on a particular subject would end up wasting a lot of time, and lots of blurry photographs. Street photography has to be quick, and opportunistic, and thus is a perfect application of hyperfocal distance setting.

Combine this with the Sunny f/16 rule, and we could just concentrate on the action, without worrying about metering, lighting, foregrounds, backgrounds, or what’s in focus and what isn’t. Every shot will be clear and in focus.

Despite all the mind-numbing theory we just covered, in actual practice, using hyperfocal distance couldn’t be easier. We just have to remember a couple of things — It’s best when used with a moderate wide-angle or normal lens (28mm, 35mm, 50mm etc). 24mm lenses have a very short ∞ setting anyway. Be sure to pick a lens that has a depth of field scale marked on it. Most of the older lenses have them. Modern AF lenses don’t generally have DOF markings, but there are calculation tables available. They’re cumbersome and not intuitive, but hey, it’s better than nothing. Here is a link.

The following steps assume that we are using a manual focus SLR like an Olympus OM-1, a Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 lens and 200 ASA film. It’s a sunny day, and we are out photographing a noisy and colorful summer street festival. Since it’s bright and sunny, let’s go one step further and use the Sunny f/16 rule as well.

Step #1 — Since it’s a sunny day, and we are using 200 ASA film, we will set the aperture on the Zuiko at f/16 and the shutter speed at 1/250 (sunny f/16 rule for a bright day with clearly defined shadows).
Step #2 — Once we have selected the aperture, everything falls into place. The same steps will be followed if we were selecting f/22 or f/11 or whatever.
Step #3 — Rotate the focus ring until the infinity ∞ mark is at the f/16 mark on the DOF scale. The distance indicated at the red index mark (5 meters about 15 feet) is the hyperfocal distance at this aperture.
Step #4 — Look at the distance indicated at the f/16 mark on the other side of the DOF scale – this is half the hyperfocal distance ( 2.5 meters or about 8 feet). At this setting, everything between the distances indicated between the f/16 index marks on the DOF scale will be in focus ie, between 8 feet and ∞.

The photographs will clarify the above….

Lens focused at ∞
Lens focused at 3m
Lens at hyperfocal distance 5m (DOF ranges from 2.5m
to ∞ and thus encompasses both 3m and ∞ in
previous examples)

Thus we can be assured that everything on the street from 8 feet onwards (about ½ a parking space length) will be in focus, and we can be free to enjoy the action without fiddling around with the focus ring. Remember that filters will require additional aperture compensation when using the Sunny f/16 rule. If we are using a polarizer, the setting should be f/8 or set the shutter speed to 1/125 sec.

As far as lenses go, I have written this with the Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 prime lens as an example, but the best part is, any decently built normal or moderate wide angle will work as well as a hyperfocal distance lens – Zuiko, Vivitar, Kiron, Quantaray, Panagor, Sigma, Soligor, Albinar, whatever… just as long as it has a depth of field scale and can be stopped down to at least f/16. A short zoom can be used as well, if it has a depth of field scale. You’ll find it’s far easier with a prime lens.

If we choose not to use the Sunny f/16 rule, it’s even easier, since the camera’s TTL meter will compensate for the filters and indicate the correct shutter speed. Just set the aperture at f/16, and then follow steps #3 and #4. We simply adjust the shutter speed to what the meter advises, stand back to ½ the indicated hyperfocal distance point (8 feet) and shoot.

The same thing applies if we are using an OM-2. OM-PC or other camera that has an Auto setting. Set the aperture at f/16 or f/11. Rotate the focus ring as described in step #3 and let the camera set the correct shutter speed, stand back, and shoot. The hyperfocal distance will change for the larger apertures (f/11 and f/8) so we may not have as great a depth of field as at f/16. If you have to use filters, then shift to a 35mm or 28mm lens, for the greatest depth of field at the wider apertures needed.

Let the Summer street festivals begin!


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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The original Olympus Trip 35 was one of the most popular cameras ever made, and it is a beautiful piece of engineering. It is a fixed focus automatic camera that permits the use of film of only up to 400 ASA, and has a maximum shutter speed of 1/500 second. Manual aperture settings are possible, but only when using a Flash.

As one gets more familiar with the Olympus Trip, the few limitations it has seem trivial. In fact, it seems to possess all the qualities that make for an ideal street camera, especially since it was designed as a ‘visual notebook’ that could be carried anywhere, it is particularly suited for street photography.

Against the few limitations, consider these great features:

# It has a superb, professional quality Zuiko 40mm f/2.8 lens.
# It’s a moderate wide angle – so it can focus close, and has a great depth of field. The 40mm is a good compromise between 35mm and 50mm, and has no distortion.
# It is Automatic in function for daylight photography
# It does not need batteries, so no need to worry about the camera dying in the middle of the action
# It has a rugged all metal body, and can withstand rough use, like being tossed in a backpack
# It has a thumbwheel instead of the traditional cocking lever – its easy to operate with one hand, since the thumb can cock the shutter after every shot, even when carrying something in the other hand.
# thumb wheel allows the Shutter to be re-cocked without moving the camera from the eye. This allows the photographer to focus on the action instead on the mechanics of the camera film transport mechanism.
# It’s size and weight make it easy to hold, and it feels solid and steady.
# It is nearly silent, except for a soft click when the shutter is released, and a soft whirring when the thumbwheel is operated while cocking the shutter for the next shot.
# The camera back is cut away at the bottom so that the film cassette can be just dropped in instead of having to angle it in. This makes for quick and unobtrusive loading.
# It has a threaded lens ring, so it can take a screw on 43.5mm filter, since the CdS cells are located around the lens, any filter is compensated for. (I like using a yellow filter – ideal for Black & White photography)
# It can be mounted on a tripod, but a lightweight monopod is even better – its small, so the monopod is easy to hold, and it does not take up additional space. The monopod also makes a fine walking stick.
# Best of all, it is unobtrusive – no big glass lenses to stick into peoples faces. The camera can be easily concealed until needed against the body or in a jacket pocket.

And that’s not all — there is one other aspect of the Olympus Trip 35 that convinced me that it was DESIGNED for street photography.

I am referring to the Trip’s focusing mechanism. The Olympus Trip 35 belongs to the class of cameras that used a paradigm called Zone Focusing (or “guess focusing”) as their primary focus setting mechanism. The Trip 35 is automatic, so the shutter speed is set by the camera depending on the light conditions sensed by the bubble glass light meter surrounding the lens and the film speed. If the light is insufficient, a red flag will show up in the viewfinder, and the shutter button will not fire. (see photo below)

Zone focusing is a pretty simple concept – for daylight photography, the photographer sets the camera shutter ring to A (auto), and rotate the zone focusing ring to the desired distance setting. The Trip 35 has 4 zones – these are identified by little icons that represent subject distances. The icons are a head & shoulders, person and child, group, and mountains, which indicate 1m, 1.5m, 3m and ∞. The numeric equivalents for the icons are etched on the opposite side of the zone focusing ring.

Zone Focusing – Note the red icon (3m)
Distance scale (opposite side of focus ring)

The photographer simply guesses the approximate distance of the subject using the representative icons, and sets the particular zone icon desired. The Zone system is pretty forgiving, and it doesn’t matter if the guess isn’t very accurate. If a Flash unit is used, the Zones are set as usual, but the Aperture ring is moved off of A to the desired aperture setting depending on the Flash Unit used and the Subject distance.

Flash Aperture settings on Trip 35
Red Flag (insufficient light alert)

Here’s the kicker. The 3 meter icon (Group) is actually marked in RED. I did not understand why for a long time, but one day it hit me. For the 40mm Zuiko lens, 3 meters represents the distance at which a group of people can be photographed full-length, with their surroundings – as in street photography!

I’ve been asking around, and apparently other Zone Focusing cameras had the same type of marking. It seems apparent to me now that for street photography, all one needs to do is load up with some 200 or 400 ASA film. rotate the Zone focus ring to the Red icon, and shoot. The depth of field afforded by the wide angle lens will ensure that everything from 3 meters (approx 10 feet) to infinity will be in focus… so it’s “set and shoot”. Literally.

Note: I am suggesting faster film speed since this will prevent the insufficient light flag from preventing a shot in shadowed areas..

Check out another 40mm f/2.8 camera with similar features, but full Manual capability – the Ricoh 500G Rangefinder
Here’s more information on the Olympus Trip 35


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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