Thursday, July 30, 2009

July 30 2009

If the weather clears up I will go shoot some today. Otherwise, I am editing old links so they should click for bigger in a different way. Not sure if it's better or not?

Edit : Well, the sun came out, so here are some photos. Not super happy with any of them.

July 29 2009

Just about done down here in Georgia. May not post much until next week. And then I don't have long before I am leaving for Budapest. Not sure if I will be able to post much until December. Mostly depends if I take a digital camera or stick to film, which I have not decided for sure.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

July 25 2009

Revisited a few ideas. Nothing too great today.

Oh, I made an a softer world-style strip.

If I made comics, it would probably be a cross between a softer world and garfield minus garfield, but not as clever as either.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

July 23 2009

Photographs two days in a row? My goodness.

I'd like to point out the photos from today and yesterday were all shot with the 85mm f/1.8 AF lens...Which is a manual focus lens on the D40. I have gotten a lot better at focusing it without the help of a split image or microprism like I have on the FM.

malignant, the black and white version.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July 22 2009

Sorry for being lax, again. Here's a bunch of photos in recompense.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

July 18 2009


I've been trying to get a photo of this guy for a few weeks. He is very skittish and hangs out by a stream in a ditch, and generally is hard to get close to. However, he was fairly predictable about his haunts. I ending up scaring him off of one his favorite places and then going right to this one, and he ended up landing in front of me after flying around for a minute. Finally. I'd still like to get closer though.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July 15 2009

Sorry for the break, now back to our regularly scheduled photos of dragonflies.

Take off!






Saturday, July 11, 2009

July 11 2009 (D40 review)

Sorry for the lack of photos yesterday (and today...). Trust me, I have some new ones to post, but I am running some programs for my summer research that are currently using basically all my processing power, so Adobe Bridge and Photoshop (well, Camera Raw) are out of the question at the moment.

I have shot over 20,000 shots with my Nikon D40 now, so I figured I'd write up my experiences with it. It's still going strong, doesn't seem any worse for wear except I should get the sensor cleaned. Mostly I blame my dusty house for that and changing lenses a lot before I settled on my current lens.

Overall, the camera is a fantastic value. They are available now for around $420 with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, although they probably will be discontinued in the next month or so.

The kit lens is very good, if cheaply made. It is all plastic, and difficult to focus manually since it requires throwing a switch and then twiddling with the very thin and loose front ring. Most people will never take it out of auto-focus, though. Over all, the optics seem very good; it's sharp, has a nice zoom range (roughly equivalent to 27-80 in 35mm), and just works. I was never bothered by the slight barrel distortion on the wide end and I never saw any vignetting worth worrying about in actual photos. It also focuses surprisingly close, to less than a foot, or 1:3 on the sensor, which makes it a decent macro lens as well. Overall, very versatile and a fantastic value.

I upgraded to Nikon's 60mm AF-S f/2.8G Micro lens because I usually shot the kit lens at 55mm and wanted to be able to focus closer, manually override focus without changing a switch, and also get a faster maximum aperture. I don't have anything bad to say about this lens. It's fantastically sharp (it's a little less contrasty wide open at longer distances) and well made and perfect for me.

As for the body itself, here are the main things I wish it could do that I would have to upgrade to a D90 or D300 to get :
-bracketing (this is a little annoying, because I know a firmware upgrade could add this feature. However, I don't need it much and it's easy enough to press the exposure compensation button and spin the dial.)
-metering with non-CPU lenses. I don't care if I don't get matrix metering; there is no reason why we can't get center weighted and/or spot metering with any f-mount lens. I say this because I have an old 50mm f/1.4 AIS lens which is awesome on my D40, but guessing the exposure can be difficult.
-auto-focus with AF (not AF-S) lenses. This I can understand cutting since removing the motor from the body saves weigh and battery life, but I'd like the camera to work with all Nikon glass.

Note that I didn't list the resolution or image quality. Although the D40 shoots "only" 6 megapixels it is honestly enough for pretty much anything I would like to do (I know I can make nice 11 x 14 prints with a good file), and the few photos I might want to blow up large enough for more pixels to really make a difference would not be worth storing twice as much data for every photograph. That said, I do shoot in raw, although it is really sort of a crutch. If you nail the shot there's no reason to bother with raw, but if you want to tweak the exposure or white balance doing it in camera raw is easy and non-destructive. As for image quality and dynamic range, I'd love to have a D700, but considering it costs 6 times as much the quality is not that much better. The D40 performs very well up to ISO 800, and ISO 1600 is quite usable for my purposes.

The D40 has fantastic battery life (I charge mine maybe twice a month, usually less, and I use it fairly heavily. I've never had the battery die). It's simple and easy to use, and it's designed to work well. It's such a breath of fresh air over point and shoots because you can easily control everything, as opposed to learning how to fool the camera to focus in the right place or get the right exposure etc. The best thing about the D40 over a point and shoot is if you are in a menu and suddenly want to take a picture, you can just half press the shutter and be ready to take a photo. You also have the instantaneous start up time and basically no shutter lag, fast focusing, nice built in flash (and the TTL exposure is excellent and the D40 has a surprising 1/500 sec flash sync!). If you do shoot with flash, I strongly recommend the SB-400, which is Nikon's inexpensive but great flash. It is more powerful and faster recharging than the built in flash, runs on 2 AAs, and it allows you to bounce the flash and get nice, natural looking flash photographs.

Some notes about how I set up my D40 :

The first things you should do with a new D40 is turn off the annoying focus confirmation beep and also make sure it remembers the current file number, otherwise it will start from 0 everytime you change cards, which makes finding and storing photos a pain.

You should also adjust the diopter for your eyes so everything is sharp. Especially important if you use manual focusing.

The D40 has a very useful menu customizer. I strongly suggest using it. First turn on everything and explore what you can change, and then hide what you don't need so you don't have to slog through unnecessary options.

Also very useful is the customizable function button. I have mine set to adjust ISO if I press it and rotate the command dial. (I have Auto ISO turned off)

I found the LCD to be too bright, and it was causing me to miss exposures. This isn't a problem during the day, but I shoot under low light a fair bit and it makes a big difference. I have it set to the minimum, -2.

I upgraded the strap to an Opitech USA strap that has nice cushioning and stretches a little, which makes the camera seem lighter. It also has quick releases, but this is probably more of a weakness than an advantage.

For pretty much all my shooting I use A (aperture priority mode) with manual ISO setting and center weighting metering. I do a lot of exposure compensation. The reason I do this instead of using matrix metering is that it is predictable, whereas sometimes the matrix metering will recognize that I am shooting something light or dark and adjust accordingly, but sometimes it won't.

Well, that's my opinion. If you are in the market for a DSLR, the D40 is a great way to get into it.