I just returned from a three day trip to Las Vegas, Nevada and stayed in the El Cortez hotel on Fremont Street. I was testing the Sigma DP3 Merrill and the Sigma DP2 Quattro which Sigma has out on loan to me. I will be writing up a review pretty soon on my experience with the DP2 Quattro. It’s a nice camera. This cityscape was shot with the DP3!
Okay… So I deleted all the old categories for this photoblog and will be adding new categories by camera and lens whenever I can. It’s not a perfect setup but it will allow visitors to se image examples from various lenses and cameras. This shot here is Havasu Falls in Grand Canyon, in Havasupai. It’s a ten mile hike into the canyon to get here! The guy up on the ledge in the photo is getting ready to jump.
The beauty of editing with an iPhone and Instagram is a marriage of technology which I’m trying to still figure out. The apps on the iPhone are phenomenal to the point of giving Adobe Photoshop a run for it’s money. Things are moving towards the cloud and having access to simplified apps and tools that are readily accessible to everyone. The conundrum I need to resolve is how to sync the workflow between my Mac and iPhone better?
SLRMagic 26mm F1.4 Toy Lens
Finding a great lens that’s not perfect but creates the emotional effects using natural blur is one of the most satisfying experiences a photographer can discover. Not only that, if you’ve never tried manual focusing a lens then you are missing out on the hidden power of having complete control over how your images develop. Often, auto-focusing limits the control you maintain and you wind up disappointed with the flawed images. Usually the focusing is off on the subject matter because the auto-focus wasn’t accurate and you didn’t notice the problem until viewing the images on a larger screen. Why let a machine determine how your images turn out? It doesn’t matter how advanced the technology is, cameras are still stupid and over-prone to error. As a creative artist you should take complete control over this step in your art.
Over the years as a photographer, I’ve come to realize that slowing down and maintaining manual control over the photographic process creates better end results that wind up more pleasing. There’s so much effort lost in trial and error; if you’re serious about your photography, a cheap manual lens is a good buy to learn the art of manual focusing and selective focusing. I love the SLRGear 26mm F1.4 manual focus “Toy Lens” for a reason. It’s cheap, inexpensive and yields outstanding results. I’ve been shooting with this lens for about four months now and want to include some thoughts on my experience with the toy lens.
The Sweetspot of This Lens
Before purchasing the lens for about a hundred dollars I read reviews that questioned the sharpness and quality of the lens. I can assure you that the “sweet spot” of sharpness that I discovered with this glass is nothing short of impressive. To me, the quality of the images were excellent. This is a specialty lens but is in no way a toy. I’ve been very satisfied with the quality. The sweetspot is great but a little unpredictable. With careful manual focusing on a Micro Four Thirds camera, you can expect to get awesome results. The blur is natural and doesn’t have to be photoshopped to create this haunting effect.
The lens feels very similar to a Lensbaby, but much more intuitive and cheaper! The sharpness is great. I’ve got the Panasonic 20mm F1.7 lens, and the sharpness is comparable to that lens but with it’s own sweet spot. The notable flaw in the toy lens is the chromatic abrasion and some purple fringing that is hard to avoid in bright light, along occasional lens flare. It’s a normal lens. The truth is I find myself shooting more with this lens than the Panasonic 20mm pancake lens because it is manual. What you do is focus your subject matter and the natural blur from the lens emphasizes the focal point.
It’s All About the Unique Blur
After looking at hundreds of shots online, the blur effect from this lens unique and unpredictable; it’s a very circular bokeh… Mix this with some crazy light falloff when the aperture stopped down, and it creates some hauntingly delicious images.
Shooting Wide Open is Essential
To get the most from the toy lens, shooting in broad daylight is not recommended mainly because of chromatic aberration, purple fringing, and a lot of light fall off when using a smaller aperture. Plus, to maximize the unique blur, you have to shoot the lens wide open in lower light. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend stopping down the aperture unless you have no other choice to avoid overexposure. There have been several instances where I was forced to close down the aperture in order to get the shots properly exposed. I tend to be a guy that likes to shoot in sunny daylight. It’s nice to utilize the entire day to capture as many images as possible. It’s preferable though toy lens wide open because the blur, color, and unpredictable effects are most striking wide open. Going through an abandoned house out in the middle of nowhere is a good example of this…
Why I Love the SLR Magic Toy Lens
To put things mildly, I’m madly in love with this lens and it’s effects. Forget about having to manipulate images in Photoshop to achieve similar effects. In fact, I frown on the use of Photoshop to achieve moody blur and other creative effects. It’s nice to have a lens that gives me this extra ability to experiment, goof around and have fun. The lens is cheap, affordable and doesn’t empty the bank account but it gives amazing results. The lens is a little small and awkward to use and makes your camera look funky but the images are overall pleasing and moody. This takes the perfection out of digital imaging and replaces it with intuition. There’s tons of extra creative applications that you cannot do with a traditional lens. This item should be in the camera bag of every photographer that uses a Micro Four Thirds camera.
My vision of photography reflects the moody environments that I explore. When venturing into the desert solo, I want to capture the memories of a time and place. These stories, these feelings are part of a beautiful land. As a tour guide, wilderness guide, and adventurer, I am constantly educating visitors (tourists) about my country and the history of the land. There’s no better way for me to communicate those feelings than with photography. This art has provided me a vessel to communicate deep thoughts and feelings. The SLR Magic 26mm F1.4 lens is a welcome addition to my equipment and it inspired me to write a review.
The SLR Magic 26mm F1.4 Toy Lens has won the position of being the first review for Talking Tree Photo. The main reason; It’s an intuitive lens. There’s nothing about it that makes it a toy. Consider this lens a serious tool with good potential. So I give full kudos to SLR Magic for making a greatly inexpensive product while keeping the quality high. If I get more funds coming in, I looking forward to trying out some more products offered by SLR Magic. They deserve some worthy recognition for their efforts.
This lens is essential for those who want the maximum flexibility and get bored easily using traditional equipment. The time spent with this lens makes traditional photography feel more like real art. With the unique blur and bokeh you achieve from an imperfect lens, it’s more like making photographs instead of shooting snapshots. The manual experience will force you to think harder and when photographing the world.
If you like low light, and wide aperture lenses, this investment is pennies on the dollar compared to most other wide-aperture lenses. You can’t go wrong for a hundred bucks. So I encourage you to support SLR Magic and give their 26mm lens a buy. They are available through eBay. Currently, the only store that they have is on eBay, so go here to find out more about them: SLR Magic eBay Store.
All Images by Nathan Cowlishaw.
During a lazy afternoon tracing around the vast and empty desert, I’m always keeping my eyes peeled towards the sky looking for some sort of shimmering-flickering object darting in and out of a cloud, or behind it; something that could be labeled a UFO? They are real. I’ve seen them and witnessed the phenomena. Non-believers can call us crazy but it doesn’t change the truth of the matter. There is buzz all over the world about aliens and extra-terrestrial creatures. I know they are here amongst us and all around us. We cannot know for sure why they are here but I do believe they play a pivotal to the future of humanity. Are they really ETs or are they just an extension of ourselves? I want to go to this! What is the UFO Congress!?
I’m building Talking Tree slowly, one day at a time. I’ve committed myself to updating four different blogs. This is my photography site dedicated to tips, insights, artist highlights, and talented Instagrammers that I stumble upon. Not only is Talking Tree dedicated to the art of photography, but it also embraces the speed at which the technologies in the imaging world are progressing. I don’t care whether old vanguard photographers declare that only professionals work with Silver Crystals (film) in a traditional dark room – I believe in any well-established “pro” who embraces the iPhone as their every day tool. What matters is the fact that mobile technology is bringing more people into the field. We should welcome new innovations because there is no stopping this tsunami of change. What an adventure to be alive during this transition from film to digital! For the last 15 years I went from shooting an old Russian Zenit SLR to digital Micro Four Thirds cameras.
My niche is very specific – Photography and new technology. I enjoy editing photos on an iPhone 5 about as much as I love shooting an interchangeable lens cameras. I’m digitally wired and love social networking and meeting new creatives (through Instagram) from all over the world. This is what I want to write about. Instagram has been a major tool for me ; you can find me: @Talking_Tree or Tumblr.
A little over a year ago my brother, Joseph Cowlishaw, inspired me to get a iPhone and which took a while for me to catch onto. My workflow now involves Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop CC and then the images get transferred to to my iPhone for any finishing changes, usually utilizing Instagram filters! There’s apps out there that give Adobe products a run for their money as well. Here are a few highly recommended apps: Mextures, Snapseed, Hipstamatic & Repix, just to name a few of my favorites.
*Please Note: I’m in the process of restoring this blog because it went offline in 2012. It’s coming back with some great content. Stay tuned!
I want to highlight a photographer that I stumbled across on Instagram, whose work I am very pleased with because it is so emotive and reminds me of the romantic victorian era but placed in the context of post-modern times.
Fred’s work is spectacular in the essence that it’s simple. You can follow his feed on Instagram via @PhotoAskew or by clicking This Link! According to Fred’s website (http://fredaskew.com) it states:
Fred Askew is a freelance News and Editorial photographer based in New York City. His work is published internationally in journals, newspapers and magazines.
His photographs have appeared in Time Magazine, The New York Times, Le Monde, El Pais, The Times of London, La Repubblica, New York Magazine, Artforum Magazine, The Village Voice, Stern and other publications.
On a final note, you can also see more works by the photographer by visiting his blog: (http://fredaskewphotography.blogspot.com/) – All photos in this post are by Fred Askew, from Brooklyn.