Sherman sells for $2.88 million, not record breaking

I just read that the Akron Art Museum, where I saw so much great photography growing up, sold a Cindy Sherman from its collection. The print as I recall is four or five feet wide–I saw the original show way back in 1984. Believe it or not the Akron Art Museum was one of the first institutions to exhibit her work.

There was some expectation that the sale would beat the Gursky Rhine II record, set a few months ago. Another copy of Sherman’s image, from the same edition of ten, sold recently for almost four million dollars. But for whatever reason this one sold for “only” $2.88 million.

 

Video: Vignetting with the D800E and Zeiss 21mm

A few posts ago I put up a gallery of images intended to demonstrate the vignetting of the Zeiss 21mm lens on a full frame Nikon D800E. My hope was that the viewer could easily tip back and forth between the f/2.8 and f/8 images and the differences would jump out at them. However, the plug-in I used didn’t work out so well. It did a quick fade to white between images which made the comparison less clear.

For a second effort I thought I’d simply make a video, flipping back and forth between the images myself. I hope you find it useful.

D800E tests: Zeiss 25 f/2.8

This is the second of my “lens walks” with the Nikon D800E. The goal is to familiarize myself with how my lenses perform on this new camera. Not only is it much higher resolution than my previous Nikon but it is a “full frame” body–it has a physically wider and taller sensor chip and thus shows more of the image that the lens is projecting into the camera body. Every lens looks wider than before, much wider.

Less obvious, a lens’s vignetting and reduction in edge and corner sharpness become more obvious now that you are seeing further into the corners. In addition, depth-of-field at any given aperture seems to change. With the same lens, to get that bigger chip to a 16×20 print requires less magnification than that smaller chip required and less magnification means that depth-of-field–the area in front of and behind the plane of focus that is perceived to also be in focus–gets thicker. (This sort of thing is endless fodder for internet discussion boards because it is rife with unacknowledged variables. Are you moving your position–and focus distance–to keep the subject framed the same in a small vs large chip comparison? Are you including printing both prints to the same size?)

So the lenses all behave in new and sometimes unexpected ways. And though it sounds oh so technical the real way most photographers use lenses–or at least the way I do and thus I assume everyone else does it the same way–is to get a sort of feel for each lens. This takes time. Lots of time.

When I grew up I had 35mm cameras–the film was equal in size to the modern full-frame digitals, such as the D800E. So I learned the lenses in that framework. After a time you could easily just look at a scene and know which lens to use. You could sort of see the depth-of-field in your head. Then came the digital camera with the smaller chips. Each lens was now magnified about 1.5x. It was weird. At first it was just difficult to adjust. I kept forgetting about the “crop factor” as it is called and would reach for a 50mm and find the view too tight. A 35mm on a small sensor camera is about equal to a 50mm on a large sensor camera but it was always uncomfortable for me to use. Nothing ever seemed right.

The conversion was slow at first (“Oh, thirty-five times one point five is about fifty) and then got faster (thirty-five is fifty) but the conversion never went away. I was just starting to pick the right lens without that slight pause–this after years of shooting with the smaller sensor–and now I’m back to the lens’s original behavior. I was worried at first that I would do a roundabout, silly conversion (“thirty-five times one point five is fifty–oh, wait, it’s just a thirty-five) and for the first few days I did do just that. But the conversion step is fading away, the lenses are behaving as they always have, and I don’t have to think about the details so much.

That’s the real reason I’m doing these “tests.” To get to know the lenses again.

Here is the link to my previous lens “test” of the Zeiss 21 on the D800E. Same camera, same walk, different lens. NEFs (Nikon RAW files) are linked under each image for your viewing pleasure. Feel free to repost the link to this article but please don’t post direct links to the NEF files.

 

 Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

 Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

 Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

 Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

 Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

The bitch that is always smiling

That’s desert landscape photography. No matter how harsh she is, no matter how cruel and unforgiving, the pictures you see of her are always of her beautiful sunrise smile, the lovely color of her hair, her endearing little quirks. The real desert can be oven hot, desolate and faded. But by the pictures you’d think she was a cute sandy playground, with flowers bursting out all over and those eye-popping, photoshop-saturated colors drenching the land. The bitch looks to be inviting enough, alright.

Real world vignetting with the Zeiss 21mm

One lens characteristic that jumps out at you when comparing the same scene at different f-stops  is the degree to which a lens vignettes. In my sample images of the D800E with the Zeiss 21mm I made a version at f/2.8, f/8 and at f/16. Flipping back and forth between the f/2.8 version and the f/8 versions on real images offers a more striking display of the extent of vignetting than any more technical test or single image display.

To use the slideshow feature to compare f/2.8 vs f/8 images click on the first image and then use the “Prev” and “Next” buttons to flip back and forth.

You’ll see a pronounced degree of vignetting with this lens at f/2.8, so much so that it may at first glance appear that I’ve adjusted the contrast of the image (I haven’t). The light falloff, of course, will darken the image around the periphery and, I presume, the camera’s light meter will compensate a bit by increasing the exposure.

In the sample images the effect shows up as greater overall image contrast, with edge shadows sometimes falling below the sensor’s range more than would be expected and in center areas high values falling higher than the sensor’s range (again, the camera was on Aperture Priority and would have no doubt increased exposure to compensate for the darkened edges). While vignette and de-vingette tools are available in software they won’t do any good if the highlights are blown and the shadow values are lost.

On the other hand I’d bet that non-technical viewers would generally prefer the look of the f/2.8 images. The have more zing to them and in some cases have a sort of 3-D look.  Vignetting is, of course, part of the nature of lenses and is just one characteristic of images, inherently neither good nor bad.

I’m curious how well the Nikon D800E’s color matrix metering will do with this lens. Will the center highlights be preserved?

[portfolio_slideshow speed=0]

D800E test: Zeiss 21mm

My Nikon D800E arrived yesterday and I thought “what better way to start to get to know this camera than to take it for a walk?” So I did, along with my two kids. We headed out of the house and up the old San Pedro Mountain Road choosing test subjects as we walked.

My basic plan is to repeat this walk, each time with a different lens. On this walk I had the Zeiss 21mm ZF. I shot three versions of each image: one at f/2.8, one at f8, and one at f/16 f/22. I let the camera do all the metering on Aperture Priority at its default settings. In the few minutes of playing with the camera before the walk I did discover the nifty–and long overdue–feature where you can delay the shutter release for a few seconds. The mirror raises as soon as you press the button but then the camera pauses to let any vibrations from the finger-press die down. Then the shutter fires. This will greatly reduce the need to carry–and attach–a cable release.

Below I’ve posted the middle image from each trio–the one shot f/8. If you wish to download the original NEF file to look at in detail please feel free to do so with the link below each image. You are also welcome to repost a link to this article but please don’t post links directly to the image files themselves.

The exposures aren’t optimum (as I said above, I left the camera on Aperture Priority to see how it would do) and I made no changes in Photoshop. What you are seeing is the raw material, straight out of the camera. (Update: I just entered in my “non-CPU lens data” to the camera–the upshot is that for these images the camera used a more primitive metering method but for future shots it will use its advanced color matrix metering. We’ll see what sort of difference, if any, that makes.)

Coming up I’ll share images made with a variety of Zeiss lenses (the 25 f/2.8, the 35 f/2, both 50s, and the magical 100mm) as well as an older Nikkor 180 and a Nikkor 45 PCE.

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW file) of the above image.

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW file) of the above image.

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW file) of the above image.

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW file) of the above image.

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW file) of the above image.

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW file) of the above image.

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW file) of the above image.

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW file) of the above image.

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW file) of the above image.

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW file) of the above image.

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW file) of the above image.

Two more prints

You can blame my cats. Yesterday was set aside to print but the night before our two cats–we picked them out at the Humane Society about a month ago–woke me up again and again all night long.

I find that I have a hard time printing if I’m not fully rested and alert. All those nit-picky details start to fall by the wayside. I tried to print on and off all day but the feeling just wasn’t there.

Here are two from the day before. I am thrilled with how well these are coming out.

 

Day three, Moon images

I didn’t expect to print yesterday but last night I thought I’d have a quick look at the last image I printed and then maybe the next image waiting to be printed and the next thing you know I’m in full swing. Four prints in four hours, in bed by two.

Day two: Three good prints

Yesterday–second day of printing the Moon images. Started off well and had the first one finished by ten. The next two were difficult, more for philosophical reasons than technical ones. After eight hours on those I ended up just deleting them both. Two more after that brought the day to a close.

Today was much easier—I ran out of ink! A delivery is due Friday.