Winter


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.

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.

This old farmhouse and barn sits just outside of Westminster, a couple of miles north of the town. I usually drive that route when I want to take a more scenic way into the town, instead of taking MD Rte 97 south from work. This is a very accessible site, just off the road, with easy parking… there aren’t many vehicles around that road (except on Mondays, when a nearby auction house is holding their occasional outdoor and barn auction). I’ve photographed this barn many times over the past year. The pond, well and barn always stop me dead in my tracks., and I pull over for a couple of minutes just savoring the view.

OM-2, Vivitar 24mm 1/500 at f/16, Fuji 400
OM-2, Vivitar 24mm, 1/500 at f/16, Fuji 400
OM-2, Sigma 35-105mm f/1.8, 35mm 1/500 at f/16, Fuji 400
OM-2, Zuiko 50mm, 1/500 at f/16, Fuji 400
OM-1, 50mm f/1.8, Fuji 200
Ricoh 500G, 1/250 at f/16 Fuji 200
Ricoh 500G, 1/250 at f/16, Fuji 200

Photographed with an OM-2, (Vivitar 24mm, Sigma 35-105mm, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8) OM-1 (50mm f/1.8) and Ricoh 500G


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 drive by Krider’s Church Road every day on my way to work. I usually take Md Rte 97 North (Pennsylvania Avenue) after I cross downtown Westminster. Its a very insignificant road just past the intersection of MD Rte 140. No one would notice the little road leading west if it weren’t for the tall steeple of Krider’s Church which is visible for miles around.

I took these pictures during a a lunch break late in the winter, a couple of days after a snowstorm. There was lots of snow/ice on the ground, sunny with a lightly overcast sky. I used the OM-2n with a 50mm lens. It was very bright, so I stopped the lens down as far as it would go, and set the shutter speed at 1/250 second.

The paved road ends just past the Church and there is a narrow gravel road that links the few farms and homes to another paved road about a mile due west. This farm appears to be abandoned, so I got out of the car and walked over to where I could frame the shot with the trees. The huge roll of cable just begged to be photographed, bright orange against the white snow and blue-white sky. Ditto for the school buses.

Krider’s Church
Old Barn
Cable Roll
School Bus Depot

Photographed with an OM-2n, 50mm f/1.4, Fuji Xtra 200 film, 1/250 sec at f/16, Hoya 81A filter


I’ve photographed Krider’s Church before in summer, but in Black & White, with my OM-1. The Church is surrounded by a parking lot and a lush green lawn, both of which don’t reflect much light upwards to illuminate the brickwork. The overcast sky and snow and the ground acted like a giant softbox in the winter photograph above.

Krider’s Church – BW

Photographed with an OM-1, 50mm f/1.8, Ilford XP2 400 film, 1/250 sec at f/11; Tiffen Red 25 filter


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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A couple of weeks ago, Jayaram and I took off intending to explore the white trail at Sugarloaf mountain. The white trail is one of several hiking trails, and its about 3 miles around the middle of the mountain, and takes one around the eastern slope where you can see some of the largest Tulip trees and oaks, and also some of the areas that have been hit with Gypsy moth induced oak decline. This has been a persistent problem in Eastern forests, and I sincerely hope researchers come up with a viable solution to stop further losses.

Anyway, we picked a nice afternoon for the hike, when the temperature was in the mid-fifties, and hardly any wind. Perfect weather. The trail at the upper levels still had lots of snow and ice, and there was plenty of slush and wet mud to navigate in some places. The trail is poorly marked in some spots, and we had to guess at a couple of places, but we eventually made it all round in about 2 hours. I’d rate this as a moderate trail, and a walking stick is a great help in some places, although it would be easier in summer.

I was traveling light, so I had just carried the Ricoh 500G rangefinder. Here are some of the pictures. I don’t trust the meter on the Ricoh, so I used the Sunny f16 rule on all the shots.


White Trail #1
White Trail #2 – Jayaram
White Trail #3 – AJ
White Trail #4

White Trail #5
White Trail #6
White Trail #7 – Oak Decline
White Trail #8
White Trail #9
White Trail #10 – Strong Offices
White Trail #11 – Duckpond
White Trail #12- Duckpond
White Trail #13 – Autostitched

Photographed with a Ricoh 500G rangefinder (40mm f/2.8, 1/250 second at f/11) on Fujicolor Super HQ 200 ASA.


More from the White Trail – these pictures were taken on another hike at Sugarloaf mountain that Sunayana and I had taken a couple of weeks earlier. This time the camera was an Olympus Trip 35. It was late in the afternoon, and the sun was low, which accounts for the yellowish light.

White Trail – Olympus Trip 35
White Trail – Olympus Trip 35
White Trail – Olympus Trip 35
White Trail – Olympus Trip 35
White Trail – Olympus Trip 35
White Trail – Olympus Trip 35

Photographed with an Olympus Trip 35 (40mm f/2.8, Zone focusing) Fujicolor Super HQ 200 ASA. Zone setting 3 meters and at landscape.


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 Ricoh 500G is one of my “accidental” cameras – I bought it on a whim from the Germantown Goodwill store on Rte 355. It took me a while to get around to replacing the light trap seals — I took one look inside, and lost heart – it was really that bad. Everything in there was gooey gunk and the seals were extensive and needed some precision cutting. Certainly not as easy to replace as the light seals on an Olympus Trip 35.
However, I finally got it done, and it’s a wonderful little camera to carry around. Very quiet, and very discreet. The 40mm f/2.8 Rikenon is a fantastic lens, and ideal for street photography or just for slipping into a jacket pocket, just in case. The Automatic setting and meter needs a 1.35v mercury battery, impossible to get, and the replacement 1.5V equivalents are flaky at best, and underexpose terribly. I use the Ricoh in its manual mode, and it works pretty well. All the pictures below were taken with the Sunny f/16 rule settings.

Ricoh 500G #1; 1/250 sec at f/16
Ricoh 500G #2; 1/250 sec at f/16
Ricoh 500G #3; 1/250 sec at f/16
Ricoh 500G #4; 1/250 sec at f/16

It’s great for people photography too. The Rikenon 40mm f/2.8 fixed lens works magnificently even in low light.

Ricoh 500G #5; 1/250 sec at f/5.6
Ricoh 500G #6; 1/250 sec at f/5.6

Photographed with a 1972 Ricoh 500 G rangefinder (40mm f/2.8) that I recently restored, on Fuji Super HQ 200 film. Exposure as described on captions


Also, compare these 2 photos taken from the same vantage point — with the Ricoh 500G and the other with the OM-2n with a Zuiko 50mm f/1.4 lens. Both images had exposures of 1/250 sec at f/16, on Fuji 200 film

Ricoh 500G -fixed 40mm f/2.8; 1/250 sec at f/16
Olympus OM-2n, 50mm f/1.4; 1/250 sec at f/16

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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