25 April, 2018

Sigma Art Lenses for the FE Mount

"Open 7 Days" - Winton, Queensland - Sigma 24-105mm Art

Sigma's announcement of adding the FE (full-frame Sony) mount to many of their Art Series lenses has an added element: Sigma Mount Conversion.

If you've been reading my posts, I'm a Sigma Art user via Sigma's MC-11 Mount Converter. Native glass would have been my first choice, but Sigma Arts with the converter have been a reasonable balance between cost, needs and quality. I've been happy with that, as the Sigma lenses are on an optical par with Sony glass – not as fast-focusing, but at half the Sony prices here in Australia.

I've read some complaints about adapting DSLR lenses to Mirrorless. Sigma seems to be planning some short flange lenses for Sony (and probably the upcoming Canon and Nikon mirrorless bodies). And, this is likely to save size and weight. But I think that it will take a while and I've found my Sigma primes (24, 35, 85 and 135mm) to be outstanding. Big and heavy, but outstanding.

I've been advised by Australia's Sigma distributor that mount conversion kits will follow on from the availability of each particular FE Art lens.

It crossed my mind to wait and see what Canon will be providing in a mirrorless, full-frame body. But, alas, waiting on Canon seems like a fools errand. I can't even be sure the new Canon body will be in the EF mount.

So, when the kits are available I'll be converting my Sigma Art primes to the FE Mount. Interestingly, the 24-105mm zoom doesn't appear on Sigma's conversion list.

08 March, 2018

International Women's Day 2018

AIATSIS International Women's Day Poster 2018

Happy International Women's Day. But also, I really like the portrait of the young woman, above.

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) describes this wonderful portrait this way:
The woman featured in this image remains unknown, but AIATSIS exists to help keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture strong. The woman is not forgotten and on this International Women’s Day we wanted to pay our respects to women like her. Her image is now spread around the country in a statement about the power of women – Because of Her, we can!

03 March, 2018

Speed Bump

School bell at the Winton State School in the Queensland Outback
Sigma 24-105mm, f/4.0 with MC-11 Mount Converter.

My Bride grew up in the outback and did the Radio School of the Air
for her early years, but then attended the Winton State School
while boarding at the Country Women's Association Hostel.

I didn't post in February. My apologies. I have a medical speed bump that will put me on the sidelines for about three months.

I'll try for an occasional post during the time, but I can't make any promises.

See you soon.

26 January, 2018

Model Releases and "Easy Release"

Leis in the Mt Coot-tha Forest - Sigma 85mm, f/1.4 Art 

A few words about "Easy Release," a smartphone app for both Androids and iPhones by ApplicationGap. It automates the process by letting you use the provided Getty release, or using a release of your own devising. (Getty has approved the app for submissions to the Getty stock site.)

Just the highlights: It lets you fill in the data, embeds a documenting photo of the model, take signatures on the screen, allows addenda, and then emails PDFs to both the photographer and the model. 

I admit, I worry. So I do take paper releases with me just in case; but I haven't had to use a paper release yet.

I do use releases of my own devising, so I have a tactic for getting them into "Easy Release." I write my text as a document in Google Drive on my desktop machine. Then, I open that doc from Drive on my phone, copy the text, and paste it into "Easy Release."

In my opinion, "Easy Release" is a must have. (I noticed that a comment of mine is shown on the "Easy Release" page on Google's PlayStore. I have no relationship with "Easy Release.")

09 January, 2018

Bags: Mix-and-match

Airlie Beach, Queensland - Stitched panorama - Zeiss 50mm, f/2 Loxia

I haven't changed bags so much as changed the way that I use them.

I have a Lowepro roller for bodies and lenses. I usually put that in the car and then, at the location, I move the lenses I expect to use in the short term into a Domke F2. Usually that's not more than 2 or 3 lenses. The Domke has plenty of room for 2 or 3 lenses, a blower and for switching lens caps and hoods on the go.

By keeping the weight down, it's an easy carry; so there's no temptation to leave the bag where it might attract unwelcome attention. Of course, if it's indoors and the roller won't be in the way, I just bring the whole kit.

I keep 2 strobes, a trigger, batteries, and 3 LEDs in a Domke F-5XB. That also usually stays in the car where lights are attached to stands and soft boxes as necessary.

The mix-and-match varies depending on the situation and the distances.

02 January, 2018

Lighting as remedy

Singapore Night Festival - Sigma 24-105mm, f/4 Art

In a studio you can "build" the light. You can start from black and bring in your elements until the light is exactly what you want. I don't have a studio.

I start with the ambient. I try to adjust the elements of the location (the location of the subject relative to the light and other elements) trying to avoid problems while retaining the essential elements, and only then adding what I think is needed for a well-lit shot.

It's said that lighting is everything — no light, no shot. And that's true; but like so many principles in isolation, it ignores something obvious — no subject, no use for good lighting.

In environmental portraits, it seems to me that lighting is largely remedy — I  want to start with the subject in an appropriate location, and then make the shot more than it would have been with the ambient light alone.

The modern version of the Hippocratic Oath has the injunction, "First, do no harm." Great advice for lighting. So what I can't improve, I leave alone.

At the low end of lighting is adding catchlights for the eyes. At the other (strong) end is changing the lighting significantly. For me this usually means LED lighting for minor adjustments and strobes for major.

My simplistic equation about LEDs vs Strobes, however, will probably have to change, as the strength of LEDs have increased significantly. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to try the new, higher-power, strobing LEDs. Something for 2018, I suppose.

31 December, 2017

Happy New Year

Raffles, Singapore - Sigma 24-105mm, f/4 Art

First of all, my thanks to my wife and family for their support over this year; and particularly for sharing the trip to Winton in Northwest Queensland.

And, thanks to all those who posed for me in 2017. It was a privilege to work with you. And, many thanks to my assistant, Keeley McPherson, who braved distance and weather to make many shoots either possible or easier. 

This isn't a resolution, but I will try to do more posts in 2018.

20 December, 2017

Out of gamut colours

Keeley in Brisbane's West End - Sigma 85mm, f/1.4 Art and MC-11 Mount Converter

In printing I don't find serious gamut problems often. But when I do....

The model above is the wonderful Keeley, and her red hair is much brighter than is shown here. Most colour monitors and most colour printers can't reproduce the actual colour of her red hair. It's said, then, that the colour of her red hair falls outside of the gamut of the monitor or printer.

The gamut (colour space) problem usually manifests itself in two different places in the processing of images:

  1. With the usually mundane task of fitting the colours of the image I'm working on in Lightroom or Photoshop (ProPhoto RGB colour space), into the smaller sRGB colour space (that all the web uses); and/or
  2. squeezing the colours of the image into the smaller colour space of a target printing paper and ink set.

Keeley's hair proved an intractable problem. It was partly a question of moving between the colour spaces, as the Lightroom colour space (ProPhoto RGB) addresses more reds than my monitors or printers.

But also, my widest gamut printing paper, Canson Baryta Photographique, provided no appreciable benefit over my usual Canson Platine Fibre Rag. That original red was was well outside either papers' ability to resolve it.

And, printer rendering intents (perceptual or relative — a discussion for another day) showed no difference between final prints.

In the end, my only "solution" for getting to acceptable sRGB images and colour prints, was to significantly reduce the saturation of the red, and decrease the luminance to keep the hair an acceptably dark colour. 

This meant that Keeley is shown with attractive, dark, red hair, but without the brightness of the her real hair. It's not a perfect world.

13 December, 2017

Printing to cut-sheet size in Lightroom

Brolgas, Northwest Queensland - Sigma 24-105mm 

For most images, the aspect ratio and the resulting crop are dictated by the elements in the image. But there are times when it's useful to print to a particular sheet and the aspect ratio for that sheet; for example, when an image needs to fit into a particular frame, or for editorial work when the size and ratio may be set by an editor.

Let's take an example. I want the image to fit onto an A4 cut-sheet. An A4 sheet is 210mm x 297mm. But, in this example, because I want a 25mm border all around, the image area will be 160mm x 247mm – 50mm off the height (25mm off the top and bottom) and 50mm of the width (25mm off the left and right).

So here's the brilliant part (Lightroom's, not mine): In Lightroom's crop tool, next to the picture of a small lock is the aspect ratio setting for the image. If you click on that ratio you can select "Enter Custom..." When you do, a pop-up box will appear and you can enter the image ratio – in this example 160 x 247 (that Lightroom will adjust to 1.60 x 2.47). 

When you finally bring that image to Lightroom's print module and set to print on an A4 cut-sheet with a 25mm border all around, your image will fit perfectly (well, within a fraction of a mil).

22 November, 2017


Sigma 135mm, f/1.8 - Anastasia, Fish Lane in Brisbane

I'd like to think that there's a Sony A7Riii in my future, but they're going to be seriously expensive here, and the A7Rii is doing a fine job. I'm sure the prices will come down once there's an A9S or A7Siii to lure away the video buyers.

Only time will tell what will happen when the initial rush of buyers subsides. Also, I wouldn't mind seeing some reviews on using the Sigma MC-11 Mount Converter on the new Sony.

The blue background in the image above comes from using a Colour Temperature Orange (CTO) gel on a speed light in a softbox and then normalising the colour temperature in Lightroom.

15 November, 2017

A confessed Sigma "Art" shooter

Susanne at the Shornecliffe Pier - Sigma 85mm, f/1.4

I think it's fair to say that for portraits, I'm a Sigma "Art" shooter. To begin with, I'm a pushover for fast primes. And the Sigma Art series has some of the best, fast primes in the world — in my opinion equal to or better than the best Canon, Nikon, or Zeiss lenses.  The last time I looked, the highest rated lens in the DXO lens database was the Sigma 85mm, f/1.4 Art.

A while ago, I was shooting in a market and I had to carry the lenses that I expected to need over an hour or so. I picked the 135, 85 and 24mm Sigmas.  This meant that I could keep the MC-11 on my Sony body and switch between these Canon-Mount Sigmas. And, as icing on the cake, Sony's 5-axis stabilisation gave the Sigmas better hand-held performance than possible with either Canon or Nikon bodies. 

Would I prefer Sony glass? Sure, but only if Sony had the primes I want with prices I could afford.

Sony doesn't have an FE mount 135mm, f/1.8, or a 24mm, f/1.4 — yet. The 85 G-Master is great, but the Sigma 85mm has equivalent or better optical qualities.

As I've mentioned before, it seems to me that Sony gouges it's Australian customers. For example, in the US (using B&H prices), the Sony 85mm G-Master costs 50% more than the Sigma 85mm. Here in Australia (using CameraPro prices), the Sony is 99% more expensive than the Sigma.

The Sigmas aren't perfect on Sony bodies: I have to use the MC-11 mount converter, so the already big and heavy Sigmas are even bigger and heavier, the weather sealing isn't there, and the Sigmas aren't as fast focusing as the Sonys. 

If I really need to brave the weather or need faster focusing, however, I have some Sony natives that are wickedly sharp, sealed, and fast focusing (albeit with slower apertures).

If the day comes when I can afford the A7Riii, I expect it will speed the autofocus and eye-focus on the Sigmas, as it does for the Sony lenses.

And, you never know, perhaps the rumoured Canon mirrorless DSLR may do a better job with the Sigmas than Sony does now. Only time will tell.

31 October, 2017

Silver Efex Pro – saved by DXO

Vex in Brisbane's West End - Sigma 85mm, f/1.4

It appears that Silver Efex Pro and the rest of the Nik Collection of programs have dodged the bullet. DXO has taken over the collection and says they will, "continue to develop the Collection for the benefit of the photographer community." Thanks, DXO.

It was a cliff hanger — I, certainly, predicted the Nik Collection's doom.

While I like several of the other programs in the suite, it's Silver Efex Pro that I was really going to miss.

For many users the killer features were control points, presets and film emulations. I rarely used presets or emulations, and I think that the latest colour and luminance range masking features in Lightroom provide useful alternatives to (the still great) control points. For me, the structure and fine structure implementations were standouts.

We're just going to have to wait and see where DXO takes it.