25 June 2008

Urban birds

Because of what Alunfoto does for a living, I sometimes find myself between meetings in the Docklands district of London, UK. With nothing better to do, I sometimes bring my cameras along for a stroll along the river banks, or wherever my feet points me to in the Docklands district. Sometimes on the Isle of Dogs, but mostly on the Southwark side.

One interesting place I've stumbled onto (but fortunately not into) is the Greenland Dock area. Bombed out by the Germans during WWII and redeveloped in the 1980s into a luxurious residential area, the dock itself has become an arena for recreational watersports.

Watersports in the Greenland Dock
Pentax K10D, DA*16-50/2.8
f/8, 1/750s, ISO 200

The waters seems to be very productive. Grebes, Cormorants and Terns all hunt for fish here, and on the vegetarian side you find plenty of coots and mallards. There's apparently a project going on to create suitable nesting spots for the birds, in the shape of rafts with vegetation on them, imitating the wetlands they would naturally inhabit.

Nesting platforms and other urban dwellings
Pentax K10D, DA*16-50/2.8
f/8, 1/500s, ISO 200

While waiting for the platforms to become naturally looking, the coots seem to be content with what they find lying around. I can't help but feeling a bit sorry for her, throning on a pile of trash. However she seems well off compared to her neighbor, a Great Crested Grebe trying to brood on the bare wooden platform. It's a bit late in the year too, I think, for the grebe to be still brooding after summer solstice. Perhaps it is her second attempt.

I'd prefer to build my own nest, thank you!
Pentax K20D, DA*300/4
f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 400

Great Crested Grebe rearranging her eggs
Pentax K20D, DA*300/4
f/11, 1/750, ISO 400

Back home in Norway, the Grebes are considered shy and reserved birds that don't easily tolerate human presence. How different the London Grebes are...

21 June 2008

Pentax Raw File Support

Since Pentax is a smallish player in the SLR market, some software vendors are correspondingly slow at implementing support for the raw files of new Pentax cameras. So I figured it could be worthwhile to keep abreast of the extent to which the PEFs are supported in various software.

I've published my gatherings as a Google-Doc here.

The list surely contains many omissions, but I'll do my best to keep it updated and include suggestions from readers. Updates to this document will be announced on the dpReview.com Pentax SLR forum, at the Pentax Discussion Mailing List, and at Foto.no.

Thanks to all who have already contributed, you know who you are... :-)

The PentaxForums website is omitted for no particular reason other than that I have never visited there yet.

15 June 2008

600mm early attempts

A 600mm f/4 lens is one heck of a monster, all six and a half kiloes of it. However, once onto the tripod and well-balanced on the Wimberley Sidekick, it's fairly easy to operate. The only times I'm reminded of its physical size are when taking the eye away from the viewfinder, and when the AF occasionally start hunting. It doesn't do that often, though.

Here's one result from yesterday afternoon:

Pentax K10D, FA* 600mm f/4, sturdy tripod with ballhead and Sidekick.
1/3000s, f/9.5, ISO 800.


09 June 2008

Shaking the dust off my...

...brain cells. :-)

A friend asked me the other day: "Why is it, that dust specs on the sensor become more visible when you stop down?"

Below is my explanation, but I'm not entirely sure about it. Please leave a comment to correct me if I'm wrong.

- The dust is not really on the sensor, but on a glass filter just in front of the sensor. What you see in the photo is a shadow cast by the dust spec onto the sensor.

The shape of a shadow depend on many things, but in this case there's only one thing that change; the diametre of the light source, which is the opening of the aperture in the lens.

When the light source is very large compared to the object, the object's shadow will have very fuzzy edges, or may not appear at all. As the light source shrinks, the shadow becomes less fuzzy, and darker in the middle. I've personally tried to draw this in photoshop, so please forgive the naivistic style... :-)

05 June 2008

Eating my own words

I've bought a lens.

Admitting this publically is a bit embarrasing since I've now joined the ranks of a certain type of nature photographer that I've been bashing twice before in this blog ("Furs & Feathers Galore" and "Pentax and TelePhoto"). The lens in question is a Pentax FA* 600mm f/4. The very largest of the old "dinosaurs", as I called them half a year ago.

Maybe my previous blog posts were just attempts to convince myself that such a lens wasn't worth buying. And maybe I was right. Time will tell. Right now, the feeling of "enablement" prevails. As if the purchase is a key to getting shots I've missed before.

The lens itself is huge. It weighs almost as much as the rest of my photo gear combined, and is certainly not anyone's choice for a casual walk-around lens. My trusty old FA* 400mm f/5.6 fits that bill much better, and has been with me for many a trip. The 600mm is the sort of tool to bring for a well-staged, well-planned event. For hunting rather than gathering. For situations where you're fairly sure the motif will come to you rather than the other way around.

That may imply staying inside hides for prolonged times. I still loathe that thought. I will have to consider my way of using this lens very carefully. It tickles my curiosity, but may not be the right kind of tool for my work.

And there's only one way to find out. I'll have to pray that my back does not come undone in the process... :-)