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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Careful, munchies: Food Cinemagraphs on “Buttery Planet”


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As you may know, I became a fan of Cinemagraphs ever since I saw them for the first time, half a year ago. Despite GIF being an old acquaintance, for the longest time I was unaware of the enormous potential of the in IQ terms severely limited data format. Until I saw Julien Douvier‘s animated photos on the internet, I believed that, due to too low color depth, it was only useable for animated emoticons and ads. The next aha moment followed not even a month later, in the form of Romain Laurent’s funny “Loop Portraits”, which have managed to convince me entirely of the creative potential inherent to GIF data format.

As I’ve found out today, the two Frenchmen are not the only photographers who are successfully experimenting with GIFs. The Russian duo – photographer Daria Khoroshavina and cook/model Olga Kolesnikova – has devoted an entire Tumblr page to animated photos. The focus of Buttery Planet are mouth-watering dishes and drinks, as well as various cooking steps. In order to give you a foretaste of what awaits you on the page, I’ve embedded a few of the cineamagraphs down below.

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Was SPP always so fast in Monochrome Mode?


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Satisfied with the photos taken during the last photo walk, I’ve decided to convert most of the photos taken this time around to black-and-white as well. Although I’ve developed black-and-white and color photos side-by-side many a time in the past and always felt that the monochrome mode was faster, I’ve never observed such an extreme speed difference between the two modes in Sigma Photo Pro, like during today’s post processing session. This time around the RAW converter appeared downright fast in the monochrome mode, which perplexed me quite a bit, because the application isn’t known for its speed. The difference was especially large while exporting X3Fs as 16 bit TIFFs. SPP 6.2 was able to save BW TIFFs over 60% faster than color TIFFs. We are talking about a difference between 8 and 21 seconds on my notebook with a dual-core i5 4200U CPU, 8 GB RAM and a slow notebook hard drive. I, however, didn’t run a test on my desktop PC with a quad-core CPU and a SSD.

Now I’m wondering whether SPP was always that much faster in monochrome mode – actually since version 5.5, which is when that mode was introduced – or whether it has gotten that fast with one of the 6.x.x versions?
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How high is the light gathering power of a fast lens? High enough to light a cigarette!


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You’ve probably heard that objects made of glass can cause wildfires, which is why you should not throw them away or leave them behind in the outdoors. However, according to Wikipedia not all glass objects are equally dangerous. Supposedly glass bottles and pieces of broken glass are relatively harmless in this regard, because unlike magnifiers, eyeglasses and camera lenses, they do not possess the light gathering power high enough to ignite dry grass and foliage. What this means for us photographers, is that we shouldn’t put our equipment somewhere, where it would be exposed to intense sunlight for lengthy periods of time. As you can see in the video I’ve embedded below, in the best case scenario someone could use it to light a cigarette. In the worst case scenario it could lead to severe fire damage, in which case one could count oneself lucky, if only the shutter curtain or the sensor – should the camera only have an electronic shutter – bites the dust. ;)


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The Beauty and the Beast: Sigma DP3M vs 50mm f1.4 Art + SD1M (part 1)


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Just a few minutes ago I finished developing the test photos and uploading them to Flickr, and now I am extremely happy that I am not working as an editor at DPReview or another review site. ;) If I had to do these tests every day, I am sure the work would make me lose my mind in no time. Unless you’ve actually tried it yourself, you cannot even begin to imagine how much patience is needed to compare the sharpness of two fast lenses at a short distance to the subject (~1,8m). I spent at least half an hour arranging the SD1M / 50mm f/1.4 Art combo on the back rest of the sofa, which, in the end, I didn’t manage to do perfectly anyway. Because of the very shallow depth of field due to the short distance, the right side is slightly more out of focus than the left one. In addition, the back of the sofa is not a 100% level, which is easily visible if one looks at the upper corners of the 100% view. And to round things off, a small error snuck in as well: it appears that, after having taken the f/1.4 photo with the SD1M/ 50mm f/1.4 combination, I must have accidently moved the tripod a tiny bit, because the rest of the photos of the aperture series shows a slightly shifted framing.

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