Friday, May 29, 2009

A distant waterfall

Portugal is a mild country. The climate, the people and even the landscape are mild. There are no extreme natural features like deep canyons, huge mountains or immense deserts.

One of the few places where the landscape assumes a somehow dramatic appearance is at Alvão Natural Park, where river Ôlo falls down several hundred meters in a succession of waterfalls. From the most popular viewpoint one can only see a very small portion of the downfall, but it is still an impressive sight (at least to us, used to mild things).

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Distagon 25/2.8

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Night castle

Digital noise from the K10D is evident above ISO 400, sometimes inducing noticeable loss of sharpness. However, under certain conditions (which I have not thoroughly investigated), the high-ISO images can be quite acceptable. Take the following two photos of Sabugal Castle, shot at ISO 1100 and 1/20 sec.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 50/1.4

In the mean time, the new Pentax K-7 is said to have improved high ISO performance. We'll see...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lemon balm

When I looked at the kitchen counter and saw that abandoned branch of lemon balm, I knew what I had to do: get the camera and try a few different perspectives. This was the one I liked the most:

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 85/1.4

It was a perfect moment: the soft sunlight coming from behind, the leaves spreading over the tip of the counter, even the dirt on the surface looked good! And the lens attached to my camera was the Planar 85/1.4... By the way, did I say already that this is the best lens ever made?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The best lens ever made!

Many photographers have a lens that they love more than any other. They will defend that it produces the highest quality images you've ever seen and will despise any negative criticism, finding it biased and incompetent. When we are in love, emotions get in the way of reason...
I also have my own special lens: the Zeiss Planar 85mm f/1.4. I bought it used, some 16 years ago, as soon as I got my Contax film SLR. It was already a well known classic in those days. Actually, Zeiss is still producing it, in a redesigned (and high priced) version, for Canon, Nikon and Pentax mounts (see link here). That's a heavy and bulky lens, but I loved the images it produced and it quickly became the lens I used the most. I liked the 85mm focal length and the image quality was exceptional, at least to my eyes (yes, I was in love).

Last year, when I discovered that some Zeiss-Contax lenses could be converted to Pentax K mount, I was disappointed to learn that the Planar 85/1.4 was not on the list, due to some detail in the bayonet geometry. So the lens stayed in the drawer and I bought a used Zeiss Sonnar 85/2.8 for my K10D. The Sonnar is a good lens - read my related post here - but not as "mythic" as the Planar.

But now, thanks to the excellent work of Leitax, my dream came true: my Planar 85 has been converted to M42 screw bayonet, which can be used on the K mount via an adapter. I couldn't be happier. Actually, I could... On an APS-C sensor the 85mm focal length becomes 128mm, which is a tad too long for my taste. For this reason, I have for the first time regretted that Pentax does not have a camera with a (gasp) full frame sensor!

OK, let's forget I wrote that last sentence and move on. It is my great pleasure to present, for the first time on this blog, the exceptional (drum roll please) Carl Zeiss Planar T* 85mm f/1.4:

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 85/1.4

OK, OK, probably you're wondering "So, what's the big deal?..."
And I'll say: "Look at the sharpness, the bokeh, the colors!!!"
Oh well, I'll surelly be posting more photos from this lens and, hopefully, some of you will understand why I love it so...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Between Heaven and Earth

Sometimes, after looking at a photo for too long, I loose the ability to judge its quality objectively. All I can do is check if the basic rules of composition and exposure are verified.

This happened with the photo below. I like the horizontal separation line drawn by the crane and the gradient of gray clouds towards the sky. But I'm afraid the photo is overly dark and the crane, which should be the main focus of attention, does not standout enough. I have a liking for dark photos, though.
Even though my guiding principle for this blog is "when in doubt, don't post it," in this case I'm making an exception.  Here it goes:
Pentax K10D + Zeiss Sonnar 85/2.8

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A classic shot

The white Calla Lily has been depicted in many photographic works, some of them quite famous. It is easy to understand why, looking at the fluid and smooth shape of this flower. The photo below was taken in natural light, taking advantage of the way the sun rays were filtered through the vegetation behind the flowers. I was careful checking the histogram, so as not to blow the highlights. The result is a bit too "classic", but I quite like it.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Sonnar 85/2.8

Monday, May 11, 2009

The 3 ingredients of landscape photography

I haven't posted many landscape photos so far. Simply because I haven't that many landscape photos worth posting...

In order to make good landscape photos, one has to:
1) Get out of the house and go to a place with a nice landscape!
2) Choose the best perspective, focal length, aperture and composition.
3) Wait for the right timing: when the light, the clouds and whatever other changing elements are perfectly combined.

The first item I can manage every once in a while, mostly taking advantage of family outings and of my wife's patience in looking over the kids for some time. The second I'm trying to learn and hopefully making some progress. But there is no way I can afford the third!

The photos below were taken at Alvão Natural Park. It was not the perfect moment, just the moment when we got there. Gladly, the soft light at the end of the afternoon allowed for a pleasant balance between light and shadows.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Distagon 25/2.8

Friday, May 8, 2009

A "site" over the Atlantic

 Pentax K10D + Zeiss Distagon 25/2.8
In the Western Portuguese coast, next to the town of Nazaré, there is a huge cliff formation simply called Sítio ("Site" in English). From there one can enjoy an almost aerial view of the unspoiled beach Praia Norte. I could spend hours just watching the waves break.
  Pentax K10D + Zeiss Sonnar 135/2.8

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Written on sand

Beauty is in the details. And a sand beach is full of details. All one needs is some time for a stroll and keep looking down.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Sonnar 85/2.8