Canon 18-135mm lens

I recently bought a Canon 80D with an 18-135mm kit lens. –The lens is almost as good as the reviews say it is.

This doesn’t mean I’m not going to buy a better lens, only that this one is good enough that I can wait until I’ve saved enough, and I find a smokin’ deal.

Canon 18-135mm lens on Canon 80d

Canon 18-135mm fully extended
The lens starts out at 4″ in length and extends to something like 6″. This isn’t the same sort of problem that it is with my Tamron 150-600mm, but since I have a bad habit of putting the camera in the bag lens up, it could turn into a problem.

Lifting the camera by the lens is never a good idea, but when I put in in the bag, camera down, the lens is the first thing I grab. So I’ve forced myself to lock the lens, that way when I lift it out of the bag the lens doesn’t extend with a “thunk” if I happen to grab it wrong.

I’ve never damaged a lens that way, but I don’t want to take a chance. –Especially since the guts of most lenses are made of plastic.

View of Canon 18-135mm switches
If you look at the side of your lens there are three switches. Auto/manual focus, stabilizer, and lock.

The AF/MF (autofocus / manual focus) switch is necessary if you’re going to manually focus the camera on things like macro photography.

The stabilizer switch is primarily for use on tripods. Since the stabilizer is designed for handheld use, if you leave it in the on position while the camera is mounted or resting on a stable surface it can create problems.

And on a short lens like this one, the lock is mostly to protect the lens from being mishandled by a klutz like me.

Most lenses, come with a manual. My advice is at least look through it. Sometimes there’s even something useful in there.

And finally, the first thing to do when you buy a new camera is to Read The Fucking Manual.

That’s right boys and girls, it’s fucking manual, not fine manual.


Long lens photography

I’ve got a new long lens and I’m going back to birding. Not that I maintain a life book (a journal of birds seen over a lifetime) or anything, but it gets me out of the house.

I took this late this afternoon out my back door. It’s just a mockingbird shot with a Canon 80d and a Tamron 150-600mm at 450mm, f8, iso 400, exposure 1/640. It’s not too bad for handheld, with a camera/lens combination I’m none too familiar with. –It didn’t hurt that the light was near perfect for the shot.

mockingbird on a  wire

When I bought my 80d I also bought the cheapest long Tamron (about $900), then I wound up using my 18-135mm kit lens for almost everything.

Now I need to practice with this little beastie.

The 150-600mm (240-960mm on a crop sensor) lens is f5-f6.3 and weighs just over 4lb. It’s 10.5″ long at 150mm and you can add about 4″ for the hood. But fully extended, at 600mm including the hood it’s approximately 17″ long. This means that whenever you carry it, you should lock the lens at 150mm, or it will extend to full length anytime you point it downhill. –Maybe you’re more graceful than I am, but that extra 3″ means I’ll bump into all sorts of stuff.

Another thing about long lenses that bugs me is the bokeh. At a distance it’s great, but up close, especially with a busy background, it makes me crazy.

This Virginia Rail surprised me while I was out shooting cormorants at the wetlands. My Sigma 300-800mm was at 500mm f8, and I managed to get one decent shot of the critter at a distance of something like 10 yards.
Virginia Rail taken with Sigma 300-800mm
Notice the squiggly bushes and the gravel.

Still, it’s the best shot of a rail I’ve ever taken. Okay, so it’s the only shot of a Virginia Rail I’ve ever taken. At least I got one.

Food Styling by Delores Custer

I bought a copy of Food Styling by Delores Custer because I’m getting back into photography…. again. Maybe I won’t get bored so soon this time around.

At any rate, I doubt I’ll start photographing food, but it gave me an excuse to invest in a new book.

Food Styling by Delores Custer:
cover of food styling by Delores Custer

Ms. Custer doesn’t hold back when she gives you the step by step instructions on the tricks of her trade. –Which is why I bought the book in the first place.

Most of the books I’ve read on this subject tend to gloss over the physical necessities required to set up the shot. In fact a lot of the authors I’ve read seem to be too busy telling you how wonderful they are to teach you how they do it. –Self promotion has it’s place, but at the end of the day, those are the books I donate to the local library or Goodwill.

She takes the opposite approach. She goes in to great detail on which tools she uses and how she uses them.
picture of spatulas used by a food stylist

There are lots of things in the book on making food look like it’s delicious and not plastic.

She also shows you how to substitute or add ingredients so the product looks good long enough to get the shots.

For instance this is what’s involved in preparing a turkey for it’s close up.
photograph of the steps used in photographing a turkey
And this is the finished product:
photo of final turkey shot.

On a side note:
When I was helping with a food shoot, we did things like painting partially cooked chickens with strong coffee, so they look perfectly cooked. -Then I would drink what was left.
We also put marbles in the soup so it looked thick and creamy.

If you look closely at the TV ads you’ll notice that the soup bowls are brilliant white and very shallow. This gives the same effect as using marbles.

Nikon SMZ-10 Microscope

I bought a new microscope on eBay by accident. –I made an offer that I thought was way too low and they accepted it.

Talk about a mixed blessing. I got a new microscope that I’ve been jonesin’ for the last couple of years, but I had to spend money I don’t have.

At any rate it’s a Nikon smz-10 trinocular –which means it has a built in camera port– with beautiful optics and a selector that allows you to shoot photos through the right, left or both lenses.
smz10 selector

The microscope is also modular in design allowing someone to add this section, that for some -thus far unknown- reason, has a mirror that hangs off the side in a fixed position, facing straight down. –I suppose I could set my coffee cup on it, but somehow I doubt that that’s the original purpose.
Nikon smz10

On that same side, just under the mirror, is a focusable lens and a small silver piece that slides out to allow the light from the microscope to enter the lens.
smz10 lens and shutter

I haven’t been able to figure it out by myself, so I’ll probably drop a line to absolute clarity and calibration and hopefully he’ll know and take the time to respond. In the meantime I’ll do a little testing to see whether or not it adversely effects the quality of the image.