A quick post for today:

1. A prime lens is one that has a fixed focal length; when you look through your viewfinder, what you see is what you get. If you need to recompose your shot, you have to move. No adjusting the lens to suit the scene, you have to change your position to change the scene.

2. A prime lens has fewer moving parts, so its lighter than most lenses, nice on a long walk.

3. A prime lens can have a larger aperture, which means more photos in low light without a flash, and better background blur, or "bokeh", excellent for portrait work.

4. Fewer glass elements inside the lens = less light distortion = sharper images, richer color detail.

Pros: Low light use, razor-sharp images, huge base aperture which allows for buttery-smooth background bokeh, light weight for all-day use.

Cons: Fixed focal length means, if you need to recompose your shot, you have to move. Sometimes, there's nowhere to move to and you can't compose the shot.

Overall: Specific uses (portraits, fast-action, low light). Incredible results, but not for every situation, and definitely not an "all-rounder" walkabout lens. And this lens is not crazy expensive. The Canon 50 mm prime starts at about $120 USD on B&H Video's website. That one's a bit on the cheap, plasticky-feel side, but the lens glass is just fine and takes great pictures. You can therefore experiment with a great focal length (50 mm) at a low price with that one. These shots were all taken with a Canon 85 mm prime, about $400.00

Oh, and one other thing. To get the nice outdoor shots, I find it has to be dusk or dawn. I'm not saying that these are good or bad pictures, but for what it's worth, they were taken at 07:00 in the morning, about an hour after sunrise.

Take care,

Chris
 
 
I visited my parents' place to say Happy Mother's Day to my mom.She asked me to bring my camera so as to take some shots of the wild flower garden my dad has been cultivating for years. 

I brought two lenses, my Canon 18-200 mm for overall shots, and my Canon 60 mm prime macro. A prime lens is one that has only one focal length, in this case, 60 mm. This means that when you look through the viewfinder, you see only one scene; you cannot zoom in or out to change the scene. If you want a different composition, you have to move yourself to make the change. 

The benefit of a prime lens, is that it has fewer glass elements, and as such, tends to be faster (wider base aperture, which means being able to shoot in lower light) and deliver tack-sharp images which are rich in color owing to the reduction in glass elements, or lenses, within the lens body. The less glass that the light arriving at your sensor travels through, the less distortion, diffraction and overall reduction in quality of light and color. So, a prime lens tends to produce images of unmatched clarity and color saturation. Prime lenses are also lighter in weight, as there is less glass inside the lens. 

Additionally, the prime lens can have a larger base aperture than a comparative zoom lens, so with the wider base aperture, you can shoot in low light without flash or tripod. Also, the wider base aperture makes for a flatter depth of field (area of acceptable sharp focus), so if you want the subject in sharp focus, and the background in a nice, soft out-of-focus blur (known by the cognoscenti as "bokeh"), a prime lens fits the bill.

This prime lens is also a macro lens, which makes it capable of taking some pretty close-view shots, or "close-ups". While it can be used as an acceptable portrait lens, its purpose is for close-view work.

So, I shot some flowers using ambient light, handheld, setting the aperture wide open for maximum background bokeh. The downside to a wide open aperture is that your area of acceptable sharp focus is shallow, so in some cases, part of a flower bloom will be in focus, and part will not. To correct this, I just stop down the lens, making the aperture smaller until the depth of field is where I wanted it.

However, with shots like these, the blooms, the late afternoon sun filtering through leaves and trees makes for a dreamy feel, so I kept the aperture wide open to create a slightly out-of-focus theme that creates a nice, soft, dreamy Monet-like quality to the colors and shadows.

Finally, I used the 18-200 mm zoom to capture the chickadee going to and from her nesting box, feeding her brood which has recently hatched. These shots were backlit, which was unavoidable given the time of day and the location of the nesting box.

Overall, my mother seemed to like her Dendrobium orchid we brought her, and my camera seemed to like said orchid, as well as the other blooms that were there.

All shots taken with a Canon 7D. The flower pictures were taken with a Canon 60 mm macro prime lens, with a Singh-Ray warming circular polarizing filter. I love, love love Singh-Ray filters, and generally don't shoot without them. This filter has a very subtle polarizing effect, softly dampening the strong late-afternoon light rays without changing color or overall light sensitivity too much.

So, a beautiful day here in Canada's Capital. Warm, sunny, perfect for photography. Thanks to all the mothers out there, here's hoping you got to spend time with your family.

Best,

Chris Kiez
 
 
 
    So, it was the beginning of the 2012 Ottawa Tulip Festival this weekend past. I made plans with a friend to go to two venues, both Major's Hill Park and Dow's Lake (Commissioner Park) to take some shots of the tulips in bloom. Adding to the weekend was Super Moon 2012, the one day of the year that the moon is closer to the earth than it will be for the rest of the year.

    I took some exposures of Super Moon on Saturday evening, but unless you see it in the context of other objects, the standard moon shot doesn't really show how it appears to look larger. The next morning, we had a really early start, and driving into Ottawa from the west end area, I noticed in my rear view mirror that the setting moon was immense, and seemed to be taking up the whole of the hill top of the Queensway highway in Kanata. Pulling over, I got out and noted that the moon was setting so rapidly that it was visibly moving below the horizon. Had I been 90 seconds earlier on these shots, it would have shown the moon as it appeared to sit dead centre on the westbound lanes. As it was, I missed that and the result is less than spectacular, but you can still see the effect of how large it appeared on the horizon.

    Next, we hit Major's Hill Park around 05:50 A.M., and began taking shots of the tulips and area. In addition to some nice macro shots of the blooms, I broke out my Infra Red (IR) filter to take some exposures. I love the effect of IR filter work. Its often referred to as "Stygian", meaning it relates to the River Styx in Greek mythology, the river which the dead would have to cross in their journey into the afterlife. I don't feel that IR shots are therefore morbid or have the taint of death about them but rather, they seem pleasingly surreal to me. Since IR filters are so opaque, it takes about 2-3 minutes, even in broad daylight, to take one exposure. So, if the clouds are moving, they are blurred in the shot since the shutter is open for such a long time. The blurring adds to the surreal feel, and these shots of Major's Hill Park and the National Gallery show that.

    We then took some shots around Parliament Hill before heading out to Dow's Lake (Commissioner Park), where by 10:00 A.M., the crowds had grown quite large. Using my fish eye lens, wide angle lens and telephoto zoom, I was able to get some decent results. I was also using my preferred set up of Singh-Ray warming polarizing filter with Singh-Ray slit neutral density filters to tame the brightening sky.

    Overall, it was a good day, finished off with a very pleasant lunch courtesy of my camera buddy. The Tulip Festival runs for 2 weeks I believe, so if you can, get out and enjoy the May weather and bring your camera along.

    Very best,

    Chris Kiez