Repetition is the mother of all studies, but simply starting to take pictures is much more fun


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During some photo tours I try to focus on only a small, limited number of motifs – e.g. only cats or dogs – in order to achieve better results through repetition. As the ancient Romans already knew: the mother of all studies is repetition. This rather useful learning method can, however, sometimes lead to boredom rather quickly, especially if, just like during the last few days, the sun is shining and the right index finger is itching like mad. :)

In such a case, the best idea would be to simply start taking pictures and not think about the quality and the aesthetics of these photos. At home, at the computer, one can still separate the wheat from the chaff. One can also, like a photographer friend of mine, go back to sorting through the pictures every couple of days. The growing emotional distance leads to a more objective assessment of one’s own photos. For impatient people like me, this, however, is not an option. ;)
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Big Birthday: 25 years of Hubble Space Telescope


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The idea to send a telescope into space to get around the quality loss in images due to the Earth’s atmosphere is not new. It was first described by Hermann Oberth in his book “By Rocket Into Planetary Space“ in 1924. However, as with most ideas that are ahead of their times, it took a very long time for this one to be made a reality, too. It only started gathering pace in the 1970ties, after the moon landing, when everything seemed possible.

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Image source: hubblesite.org

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The following illustration shows how photos are affected by different apertures values, ISO numbers and shutter speeds


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Who has not come across this situation: a friend who only knows the fully automatic mode has realized, from one day to the other, that photography is great fun and that, in order to take his pictures “like a professional”, they now want to use the PASM modes exclusively. Since it does not make any sense to explain the camera settings first, one starts with the basics: the “exposure triangle”. Against expectations, everything seems to be going well at the beginning. The friend is eagerly taking in all the new knowledge and slowly starts comprehending how the three parameters influence each other. However, as soon as one delves deeper into the subject matter and starts explaining how the parameters for exposure influence the picture – especially depth of field, image quality, camera shake and noise – the friend’s confusion visibly grows with each sentence.

Now, it would be arrogant to assume that the technical side of photography is so immensely complex that few can fully grasp it – after all, we all started on a shoestring. Much more likely, it is probably the steep learning curve that most beginners do not expect. In order to make the beginning easier, connections have to be presented in an easily comprehensible manner, like in the following illustration:
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Image source: newmobilelife.com

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Art against garbage: Alejandro Duran’s “Washed up” installations


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Located at the Mexican coast of the Caribbean, there is the national park Sian Ka’an (in English “where the sky is born”) – an old settlement area of the Maya with diverse wildlife and plant life, which was added to the world heritage list of the UNESCO as a biosphere reserve in 1987. With its varied flora and fauna and numerous Mayan sites, the area would be paradise on Earth, if there were not the tons of garbage washed ashore by the Caribbean sea every day. The Mexican artist Alejandro Duran has taken on the problem in an artistic and PR-effective way. He raises awareness of marine pollution by collecting the garbage on the shore and using it for his installations – which he calls, rather fittingly, „Washed up“.

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Taking photos of flowers is everything but easy


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One should think that, due to their beauty, flowers would be the perfect motif. However, it is precisely because of their beauty, so easily visible even to the untrained eye, that I have always considered taking pictures of them to be rather difficult. The main challenge is not taking a picture and showing them how everybody sees them, but in a way that makes the photo unforgettable. It is the same problem one encounters when taking pictures of cats, puppies or babies. One has a cute motif in front of one’s camera and thinks about how best to take the photo, in a way that makes the motive look even cuter in the picture. Luckily, with those kind of motifs one can usually rely on them doing something interesting that will then provide a great photo op. There is no such thing with flowers or plants. They cannot laugh or make faces, nor can they tilt their heads and lightly cock their ears. The photographer is on their own and cannot count on the motif to create the picture for them (in the sense of the “Decisive Moment”).

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Perpetuum mobile: a camera that does not need electricity


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I still remember very well how our physics teacher always told us that a perpetuum mobile was physically impossible. Nothing could put out work if no energy is put in from the outside first. Depending on how “outside” is defined, an appliance can be a perpetuum mobile for all intents and purposes, even if it, strictly speaking, is not. Scientists at the Columbia University in New York are currently working on exactly that kind of appliance – a camera that can keep taking pictures and videos for an indefinite amount of time, as long as there is enough light (300 Lux).

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Image source: Computer Vision Laboratory, Columbia Engineering

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Seth Casteel, a master of underwater portrait photography


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Ever since his photo-series Underwater Dogs went viral at the beginning of 2012, the US-American photographer Seth Casteel belongs to the most well-known representatives of the underwater photography, and there specifically pets. Two years later, he returned to his proven formula for success for the project “Underwater Puppies” – except that this time around, he is not taking pictures of grown dogs jumping into the pool, but of puppies.

Because of the unusual way in which the portraits are done and because of the partly funny, partly cute faces the dogs make at the moment they plunge into the water, the two photo series were also extremely popular as books. In the last week of December in 2012, “Underwater Dogs” was number 17 on the NY Times Bestseller Charts – an astonishingly high placing for a photo book. Making second place in the category ‘animals’ in November 2014, “Underwater Puppies” was equally successful.

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© Seth Casteel

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Sigma News and Rumours: 400m f2.8 OS Patent, 24mm f1.4 Art DxOMark’d and other news


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Do you still remember when in the summer of 2013 there were rumours about a series of super-telephoto lenses by Sigma? At that time, the grapevine had it that the team in Aizu was quietly working away at a total of four image-stabilised prime lenses between 300mm and 600mm. The two shorter ones, the 300mm and the 400mm one, were being estimated to be as fast as f/2.8 each, while the longer ones, the 500mm and the 600mm, were supposed to be slower by a stop. Since then, the two 150-600mm models, Sports and Contemporary, have been introduced and the famous prime lenses never mentioned again. However, this rumour appears to be based on facts – the patent specification published on the Japanese blog Egami proves that Sigma filed a patent for the optical formula of a 400mm f/2.8 OS Sports as early as September 2013. Below you can see the optical construction – unfortunately, the image is much too small to actually see the number of lenses and groups.

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The Development of the Camera Market between 1933 and 2013


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The market for photography equipment has been shrinking continually and across all areas for the last years. The decline in sales in low-priced compact cameras is easy to explain: for many, smart phones afford a sufficiently good image quality, are more readily available for snapshots, and, most importantly, people actually carry them with them constantly as communication and networking devices. And it is a truth universally acknowledged that the best camera is the one that you always have with you. ;)

Compact cameras might come with zoom-lenses, stronger flashes, and, in most cases – thanks to actual buttons – a better/ more intuitive controls, but this does not necessarily tip the scales in their favour. The target group does not seem to consider these advantages to be as important as the “always there” factor and the great potential for snapshots afforded by smart phones. It is therefore not surprising that “Super zoom compacts” and “premium compacts” were the only product categories still selling well on the German photo market in 2014.

In contrast, the ailing of the system camera segment remains a mystery for most. Neither analysts nor photographers can explain the phenomenon – after all, DSLRs and EVILs speak to a different, more “ambitious” target group than smart phones; however, I believe that they should not be competitors at all. Maybe, as the following graph by Mayflower shows, the market might be simply sufficiently saturated?

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Sigma 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 OS HSM Contemporary Link Collection: Reviews, Sample Images, Videos


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Since the birding season has already begun and the first samples of the 150-600mm 5.0-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary are slowly but surely arriving in the shops, many photographers are no doubt scouring the internet for info regarding Sigma’s newest super-telephoto zoom lens. To spare them the painstaking googling, I’ve included the links to the most interesting info down below. As soon as additional reviews, samples and videos appear, I will add them to this link collection. :)

A piece of information for all those, who are interested in the Sports version, but have found this post accidentally: I’ve updated the 150-600 Sports link collection today, which you can find here. Since there are loads of reviews, samples and videos to check out, taking an entire afternoon off is a must. ;)
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