Thursday, November 21, 2013

Last weeks of fresh flowers

One of my routines on weekends is picking roses from our front yard for Buddha stage. As a kid, I was taught that offering flowers will bring you beauty, so I'm always a firm believer in donating flowers. :-) hehe.  Belief aside, it just makes me happy to see beautiful flowers on Buddha stage. 

I am lucky to have fresh roses from our rose trees once a week during spring, summer and fall. During some weeks I get two bases full of roses, so I can put one in living room.  As we go toward winter, I'll start to lose that privilege and have to go through a few winter months without any free fresh flowers on Buddha stage. 

And they are entertainment for my cat's boredom.  He sits next to the vase and keeps shredding them whenever he's bored or hungry.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My Canvas on Demand prints

I got two Groupon coupons for CanvasOnDemand 16x20" gallery wrapped canvases (thanks to Jeff). Each costs $27 including shipping. Good deal!

Now some of my pics made it to a canvas. yayy! (This is all part of my resolution this year to make more photos into prints.) But all four canvases of two separate orders at two different times came out  kind of unsaturated, a bit washed out and dull-looking than I had intended when I submitted it on my computer.  I don't know whether it's my monitor calibration or I should oversaturate a bit more for future CanvasOnDemand orders.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rokinon 8mm Fisheye lens review

The itch for fisheye lens is over. I got a chance to try Rokinon 8mm Fisheye lens on Canon 5d mark ii for about half an hour walk around. It wasn't my cup of tea.

I was worried that it might not work well on full frame. It doesn't fill the frame on full frame sensor (as seen in the pictures here). But it fills enough to be cropped, so it's not too bad. I didn't crop the pictures here to show how they are straight out of camera. They look like I added a black border.

Since it's very wide, the lens hood petal is visible in the frame. But later Rokinon fisheye lenses have removable hood so the petal won't be in the picture.

After Cropped

The hardest part about fisheye lens is the composition.  I just can't pre-visualize how I'll frame it or what I'll get out without putting it up to my eyes.  Even that, depending on the angle I tilt, the curvature of the whole scene changes.  I can't simply move left and right to get a better composition. Something else will get distorted. (See the first picture of watering jar. I tried many ways to de-center it, but it just doesn't work well to move it to off-center while maintaining the shape I want of the jar). It's definitely non-linear optics. LOL

Manual focus, manual aperture, both very easily adjustable. I put camera on aperture priority and it does the rest to work with manual aperture set on the ring.

It works best with lines since you can see how warped they get with fisheye.
I can't tell fisheye effect in straight merging lines. It looks just like a normal wide lens. 
Same scene with the bridge I'm leaning on included.  
Same position, same scene, different tilt.
Same position, same scene, different tilt

I can't think details with fisheye lens. My normal photography style looks for details, such as leaves, flowers etc. But with fisheye they don't turn out what I saw in my mind. So it's not for details. After all, it's super-duper wide angle lens, right? What was I thinking?


Couldn't be happier to get back to my 50mm lens right afterwards.
50mm view for comparison
I'm glad I got a chance to try it (thanks to a fellow Googler). Otherwise, I might keep coveting fisheye lenses. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Colorful arrangement

I don't cook much, so grocery shopping is not my favorite thing to do. 
But these organized arrangement of colorful vegetables are just beautiful at my local fresh produce market. I can never resist wanting to take a picture whenever I see a row of fresh produce session. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The itch for new equipment

Just like other photographers, every now and then, I got this itch of wanting a new equipment.

And my excuse this time?  I'm bored of my travel photos, just shooting skyscrapers or city scenes. With our Hong Kong trip coming up in a few weeks, I need a new set of city photos for this very urban travel. Lesson learned from Australia trip, from which I came back with nothing spectacular enough.

So, I'm eyeing Fisheye lenses this time for a significant change. I have never been a fan of wide-angle lenses or distortion because I get dizzy just by looking at them.  My vestibular system is very sensitive to any sort of distortion. But I'm unsatisfied enough of my latest urban travel photos that I'm thinking about super-wide lenses for a totally new perspective. So here are my options of fisheye lenses.

Sigma 8mm f/3.5 (circular fish eye) $800 
Sigma 15mm f/2.8 (diagonal fish eye) suitable for the full frame photography.  ~$609
"A circular fish eye condenses the whole image into a circle on the image sensor it has a 180 degree field of view. A diagonal fish eye still distorts the image to a circular form, but it fills the whole image sensor."
Sigma 12-24 super wide angle. Not fisheye ~$650
Canon EF 15mm f/2.8.  $700
Rokinon 8mm fisheye $250
The Sigma 8mm is the only circular fisheye on offer. 

With Fisheye lenses I can't pre-visualize what I'll get without trying it out, especially some fisheye lenses has hood petals appearing in full frame sensor. So I'm really not sure if I'll jump. 

With this new window, lensbaby also comes into my equation now. But I don't think the results of lens baby are my taste. Again, it's hard to say without trying it out. Speaking of trying, I am not so keen to renting lenses. I used to rent a few lenses from But the rental adds up quickly and I didn't get enough use to made a conclusion during rental period.  I once rented a ultra wide lens that got returned without taking any picture at all. 

So I started buying and selling them back a year or two later when I no longer need them. Thanks to the lens keeping their value, I didn't lose much, or none at all compared to the rental costs I would have paid. Of course, I buy with the intention of keeping. Otherwise, it still requires some work to sell anything back. 

I start to realize the trend that I always buy new equipment before my travels. Somehow my travel dates always serve as the final push to get the equipment right before I take off.

I bought a Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 lens before our Europe trip, justifying that I need a wide enough single versatile lens so that I don't have to carry around many lenses. (I ended up selling it after I upgraded to FF.)

I finally pulled the trigger for my exisitng FF camera before our India trip, telling myself that I can't live with poor low light performance during travels and don't want to carry the strobe around on the move.

Now I'm on a hunt for new drama.
I know I know. Full of excuses. :-)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Calculating the difficulty of twins (Portraits 42/52)

I photographed two pairs of twin babies few weeks ago.  When I got a booking for twins, I can't help but geeked out and tried to calculate the difficulty of photographing twins numerically, compared to single babies. So here it goes:

In my terms, difficulty depends on how likely the baby goes to sleep.

Probability of a baby goes to sleep = p, where  (p<1 br=""> Difficulty of photographing a single baby = x/p, where x is some multiplier for dependency. x includes all things as feeding, diaper changes and all unhappiness of the babies.

Probability of two babies go to sleep at the same time = P{baby A goes to sleep} * P{baby B goes to sleep} = p*p = p^2 ,
1) assuming P{baby A..} = P{baby B ...} = p  (of course this is too generic to say all babies are likely to sleep with same probability, but for simplicity) and
2) assuming two babies are indepedent variables in order to simplify conditional probabilities, meaning one sleeping doesn't make the other one more/less likely to sleep.

Then twins' difficulty = x/p^2, assuming multiplier x is the same for both singles and twins.  (using another y would be more appropriate)
Therefore twins are more difficult than singles by (x/p^2) / (x/p)  = 1/p.

e.g: if p = 1/2
P{two babies go to sleep at the same time} = 1/4
Twins are more  difficult than singles by 2 times.

With triplets, they are harder than singles by 1/p^2 = 4 times

Of course, this super-simplified analysis considers sleep as the only difference between twins and singles. Otherwise, I need to introduce a lot more variables. With this difference alone, twins are twice harder than singles.

Professor Sahai at Berekley would be either proud of me that I'm applying myself or so ashamed of me that I didn't do this right (more likely) or ashamed that I'm making this easy problem into a huge calculation (the most likely). Or like my dad always says: "those of you born in calculator age can't do quick math in your heads". So, for those of us (me) born in statistical modeling age can't do probability math in my head. 

Please please please correct me if I am wrong anywhere here.

Now to the correlation part:  Are the twins twice harder than singles after my two photoshoots of twins?  I can't tell.  It's hard to quantify in reality since all babies are not as simple as my math.

Twins are definitely cute. Cuteness of photographs also multiples when two cute babies are simply right next to each other. 

Yes, my two cats count together as twins. Photographing them together is at the same level of difficulty as baby twins, same issues, same strategies needed and same post-processing required. Trying to photograph my twin cats with myself in the photo is equivalent to a never-ending effort with infinite difficulty.