24-70: The arrival of Spring

A few shots today taken from various locations around Rotherham, all using the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD. One thing’s apparent using this lens: the aperture range of F/2.8 – F/22 and the combination of focal lengths makes for a versatile package indeed. The close focus distance of this lens can yield some very pleasing results for small subjects, as long as you can get close enough to your subject, and it’s possible to get some very different results by changing the viewing angle by just a couple of feet with different settings (see the last three shots in particular).

I’m always happy at this time of year. Just another couple of weeks, and the woods should burst into colour as the bluebells start to appear. It’s the highlight of an English spring.

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24-70: Waterloo Kiln

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Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD; 35mm @ 16.8m; F/3.2; ISO 100; 1/400s.

I went out to one of the local historical sites at Wath-Upon-Dearne the other morning. This is a site that I’ve photographed before, but not for any of the lens in the past. The last time I used a 24mm prime, so it was interesting to see the differences when compared to a modern zoom lens at the same focal length.

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Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD; 24mm @ 11.9m; F/3.2; ISO 100; 1/400s.

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Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 AIS; F/8; ISO 200; 1/10s.

Both lenses were rated at F/2.8. However, the prime is a 1984 model Nikkor AIS lens, which means it’s manual focus. First and foremost, this means that it has much smaller physical dimensions than the  Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD. This meant that I was unable to perfectly replicate one of the shots I took the last time (shown above), as the Tamron lens was too wide to fit between the bars of the gate (although there was a gap which allowed for similar results around the back of the kiln). However, there is much more blue lens flare in the shot from the older lens. VC in the Tamron lens helps to maintain a steady shot, even at an awkward angle, and the auto focus also meant that it was a little easier to get the shot I wanted.

This got me thinking about one of my earlier observations about the lens, namely the size of the auto focus ring. It’s quite a skinny little thing, and when I first saw I wasn’t too convinced. However, with the resolution of my new camera (the 36.3MP D800), I’m finding that my ability to focus manually can’t always be relied on without the use of live view. Thankfully the autofocus is very precise. It would have taken me an age to get the manual focus right on the shot below, because of the low light levels.

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Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD; 24mm @ 11.9m; F/4.5; ISO 100; 0.8s.

In short, it’s not the issue I thought it was, because I’m using the motors more than ever to ensure critical focus. If you’re a manual focus fan, then you may not like the size of the focus ring on the Tamron 24-70, but if you are using a high resolution sensor, or one without an anti-aliasing filter, then you may find that it’s right that the zoom ring takes priority on this model.

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Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD; 24mm; F/3.2; ISO 100; 1/200s.

The other thing to note is that there is no longer a great gap in image quality between zoom lenses and their equivalent primes. Ive found that the Tamron zoom has a better ability to cope with high contrast than the older lens (largely to do with modern coatings). The only real benefit with the AIS lens here was the difference in weight, but if you have to carry two or even three lenses where one zoom lens will do, then this becomes incidental.

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Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD; 35mm @ 1.4m; F/3.5; ISO 100; 1/100s.

70-200: ROAR Photo Crawl

I met up with Rotherham Open Arts Renaissance this morning for a photo walk around town. We started off in the Imperial Buildings, before heading towards the indoor markets. I’ve never really used a long lens for this sort of thing before, so it required a different mindset, generally involving looking for details, moments or use of colour when deciding what to shoot.

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It’s always worth spending time getting to know your gear, and adapting how you visualise a shot. For instance, I chose the right focal length and set up the lens using the barrel indicators before even lifting the camera for this shot.

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This meant that I was able to shoot candidly, even though the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 SP Di VC USD can appear quite intimidating for portrait work due to its large size. Interestingly several of our group were asked to stop taking photographs, but I was missed by security, despite having the largest camera and lens combination. I reckon this is only because I wasn’t walking around with the camera stuck to my face, preparing my shots mentally and being ready before the moment.

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After leaving the markets, we headed up towards Clifton Park. This is certainly more my comfort zone, and I came away with quite a selection of autumnal shots.  Thanks go to ROAR for hosting and enjoyable morning. Hopefully we’ll do something similar soon.

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70-200: Night moves

The other night I went out with a group of friends from Rotherham Photographic Society to plan a night shoot of the town. While we were out, I showed them my sensor dodging technique, which serves to deal with high dynamic range at the time of shooting by waving at the camera (it’s a bit more involved than that, but that’s the basic gist).  I normally do this when I’m using wide angle lenses (since careful composition can usually eliminate this problem with longer lenses), but since I was out with the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 SP Di VC USD, I thought I’d give it a go. It worked quite well since the front element is quite large. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the technique, it involves placing a dark physical obstacle (in my case, a mittened hand) between the lens and the subject, effectively blocking off the brighter areas of the photo. I set my exposure time manually based on how deep I want the shadows to look, and then cover up the brighter areas for decreasing lengths of time while the shutter is open. The camera is then able to build the contrast up naturally, giving a pleasing result that I’ve had creative involvement in at the shooting stage. You never get the same results twice, and it’s a fun way to shoot. 

Here’s a few of the shots that it yielded this week.

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And one of the technique in action, as demonstrated by my friend and eager student :)

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70-200: I’m a shallow kind of guy…

The thing I’ve always loved about long, fast lenses is the way that everything that isn’t focused just seems to blend into an Impressionistic infusion of color. This week, the area around my home has been bursting into colour. To really make the most of this with the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 SP Di VC USD, I’ve been working on some panoramic stitches this week.

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Using a long lens in this way leaves the viewer in little doubt as to the main subject choice. As mad as it seems, there can be such a thing as having too much detail in a shot, and it can be distracting to look at. A narrow focus keeps things simple, and makes things a little different. With even the most basic camera phones being capable of 360° panoramas with front-to-back sharpness, picking a lens that goes against the grain keeps you photos looking fresh and unusual.

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This is a technique I’ve been using for quite some time, but it’s only recently that I’ve heard someone put a name to it. It’s recently come to the forefront of photography again as “the Brenizer method”, after a wedding photographer who began applying it to portraits, with some really impressive results. In essence, it’s multi-row panoramic stitching. Some images use upwards of fifty frames.  Mine aren’t anything like that size, as my computer would go into meltdown, but using a longer lens compensates to a degree by accentuating the narrow depth of field.

gypsy marsh_DSC0167Of course, it’s not just these that I’ve been photographing this week. I’ve used my teleconverter again to get this shot of a Four-spot Chaser dragonfly. My experience of Tamron’s lenses is that they all excel when it comes to close-range work, and I think that this shot demonstrates that.

I’ll finish up by sharing some more owl shots, and a few of my  cats for the animal lovers out there.

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