Tilt-Shift lenses from the Ukraine

Some years back I acquired a couple of tilt-shift lenses from the Ukraine. At the time they cost $300 apiece, give or take a little, whereas a single Nikon lens which would have set me back over $1k. -These days a Nikon tilt will cost a couple of grand, so unless you’re serious about tilt-shift, or independently wealthy, I’d recommend investing in one of these until you’re sure how often you’ll use it.


tilt-shift lens
I tilted and shifted this as far as it can go so you can get an idea of the range of movement you get with one of these lenses.

One is a 30mm, f2.8, and the other is an 80mm also f2.8. Both are fully manual. No chips, no autofocus, just set your aperture, focus, and fire.
UIkrainian tilt-shift 30mm
tilt-shift 80mm

For whatever reason, I never really got the hang of the 30mm, but the 80mm I used quite a bit. So, all in all, it was an interesting experiment. Unfortunately, as so often happens with my brilliant ideas, after the first month or so I put them away and I haven’t taken them out in years. But, what the heck? it was worth a try.

Besides, as lenses go, these were cheap. Otherwise, I never would have had a chance to try a tilt-shift, because, somehow, I just can’t picture myself shelling out two G’s just because I thought some lens might be a fun to play with.

On the plus side, they’re surprisingly good lenses. The operation is smooth and the glass isn’t half bad. On the downside, that whole “it looks like a diorama” thing got old fast.

To top it off, I’m shooting Canon these days, so they’ve been relegated to that increasingly large pile of stuff that’s destined for eBay.

Sigmonster – Sigma 300-800mm

This is a re-post of something I wrote back in 2013, about my Sigmonster.

My Sigma 300-800mm weighs in at about 12lbs and is a mere 2ft long.

While the lens is capable of taking great photographs, getting a decent shot at 800mm requires an exacting technique because the slightest movement of the camera translates into a huge movement out at the far end. This means you may need to use a remote release, lock the mirror up, drape your arm over the top of the lens without leaning on it, hang a weight from a hook on the tripod, or any number of similar means of dampening any possible vibrations. It also requires a very sturdy tripod and a good stable head.

I used the Gitzo GT5543LS as my basic tripod, with either my Manfrotto Proball 469, or a gimbal mount.

The real trouble with this beast of a lens is that by the time you get the camera, lens, head, and tripod assembled, you’re humping something over 20lbs. Which means that a two-mile hike across level ground feels like a twenty-mile uphill trek by the time you decide to pack it in. –Especially during summer months here in Las Vegas when the 85 deg temperature at 6 am becomes 100 degrees by 10 and 115 by noon. 🙁

Blue Heron
This Blue heron was shot off a monopod -750mm /f8 at 75 meters.

I highly recommend this lens, but only if you really need it. I bought it used for around $4000 back in 2011 and I can buy it used today for only a few hundred dollars more, so it’s still a good deal for a lens of that length and quality.

The problem I had was it was a royal pain to carry around. It was too long, too heavy, and was rarely necessary for the sort of shots I was taking. The end result was that I used it like crazy the first few months, then a bit less the next few months, then it lived in my closet for most of the rest of the time I owned it.

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.


Promote yourself on social media 101

This is a fast and dirty post on where to promote yourself online. Read it only if you want a larger audience. But, if you’re like me and really don’t give a shit, you need to know a bit about this stuff because people are obsessed with the “internet.” So read it anyway, because knowing this shit will make you sound smarter and more involved than you really are.

Here’s the list complete with descriptions by way of Wikipedia.

  • Twitter is an online news and social networking service where users post and interact with messages, “tweets”, restricted to 140 characters. –Ask Trump how well it works for self-promotion.
  • Facebook is the world’s largest online social media and social networking site. It’s so vast a network it’s easy to get lost in the crowd, but once you get established you can develop a huge following.
  • Instagram is a mobile, desktop, and Internet-based photo-sharing application and service that has 48649302 likes on Facebook.
  • Pinterest is a web and mobile application startup that operates a software system designed to discover information on the World Wide Web, mainly utilizing images.. CEO Ben Silbermann summarized the company as a “catalog of ideas.”
  • Linkedin is a business- and employment-oriented social networking service
  • YouTube is an American video-sharing website
  • Google+ (Google Plus) is Google’s attempt at social networking.
  • Medium is an example of social journalism, having a hybrid collection of amateur and professional people and publications.
  • Tumblr is a microblogging and social networking website.

If you’re going to use these for promoting your latest book, website, or wax eloquent about your latest epiphany, you need a profile picture, because people are more comfortable is they think they know the person they’re talking to.
(If you’re going to take a picture off the web, don’t use anyone famous. That means Fabio, Elvira, and that smokin’ hot chick you saw on Facebook, are right out.)

These are the basic sizes.

  • Twitter profile picture size: 400px x 400px
  • Facebook profile picture size: 170px X 170px
  • Instagram profile picture size: 110px x 110px
  • Pinterest profile picture size: 150px X 150px
  • LinkedIn profile picture size: 400px x 400px
  • YouTube profile picture size: 800px x 800px
  • Google+ profile picture size: 250px x 250px
  • Medium profile picture size: 400px x 400px
  • Tumblr profile picture size: 128px x 128px

Here are two sites that are excellent sources for learning the basics of promoting your site.
Google Garage
Godaddy Garage

None of this is hard. Hell, even I’ve got Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter accounts. And I’m probably the least social individual on social media.
All you’ve got to do is do it. –Remembering not to post anything you wouldn’t want your mother to see; because the internet is forever.

One last note: If you’re going to have forms or logins on your site invest in an SSL or Google will ding you big time.