Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Seagulls are a bit of a photographic commonplace. However, it is difficult to resist the temptation to photograph these enduring birds. And sometimes one of the photos even ends up being interesting.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 50/1.4

I like the photo above. It is a very dynamic image, partly thanks to the slightly slanted horizon line. If this were perfectly horizontal, the photo would loose a lot of its visual appeal (I've tried it).

So was that slanted horizon intentional, you might ask? Nope, it just happened that way...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Boy and fish

Going to Lisbon's aquarium (Oceanário) with my kids is an entirely different experience from going only with adults. Their excitement makes me almost feel jealous of not being able to look at things with such wonderment.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Distagon 25/2.8

By the way: Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Two vases

Here's a very classic exercise with an external flash. I find the result quite nice, though.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 50/1.4 + external flash

I had a single flash on the left, placed on a tripod, and held a stretched sheet of cooking paper in front of it, to obtain a soft diffused light. On the right I had a sheet of aluminum paper - that had been previously crumpled and then stretched out - as a reflector. This gave just a hint of light to define the contour of the vase on the right.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Woof! Woof! Grrrr!

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 50/1.4

OK, that's great. Shell we try a close-up now?
Better not...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Window in ruined house

As traditional architecture and building materials vary, the way abandoned houses age and decay is unique to each geographic location. The local weather conditions and natural setting also play a role, affecting, for instance, the way plants or fungus invade the structure. This could be an interesting photographic project.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 50/1.4

Thursday, December 3, 2009


This photo was taken on the same location as the previous post. This time the choice between color and b&w was slightly easier. I prefer the grayscale transition from the stones to the reflected clouds:

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 50/1.4

Monday, November 30, 2009

Decisions, decisions...

I am usually able to make quick and definitive decisions on whether a particular photo should be in color or black and white. It is mostly an intuitive process, based on how subjectively appealing I find each version.

Every once in a while, however, I'm unable to make up my mind, finding both options equally interesting, even if for different reasons. This happened with the photo shown above. Here's the b&w version:

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 50/1.4

I like them both. A lot! Maybe I tend to like the b&w a little bit better, but then I look at the leaves and stones underwater in the color version and I'm undecided again...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The River of Forgetfulness

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Distagon 25/2.8

Legend has it that the Roman legions refused to cross the river Lima, in Northern Portugal, since they believed this was the mythical Lethe, whose waters the dead drank to forget their past lives. "If we cross it, we will lose all our memories" - the soldiers said. Exasperated by this, the Roman general stepped down from his horse and crossed the river. Once on the other side, he called his soldiers by their names, one by one. Thus convinced that this was not the river of forgetfulness, the legionnaires followed the general.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 50/1.4

Monday, November 23, 2009

Can you see them?

They are pinkish and are on the main stem.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 + extension tube

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Drink Coca-Cola

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 50/1.4

Friday, November 13, 2009

The submerged village

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Distagon 25/2.8

The village of Vilarinho das Furnas was located on the slope of a valley, overseeing the Homem river, in Northern Portugal. In 1971 a hydroelectric dam was built on the valley. The population was relocated and the village got almost entirely submerged.

Some say that in times of drought, if the reservoir level is sufficiently low, the church steeple can be seen rising above water.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Brush fire

Charred remains of a brush fire, found in a recent hike.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 50/1.4

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pink flowers

Dahlias are such obviously beautiful flowers that they will look good in pretty much any photo. No matter the lighting or composition, a dahlia will always show its beauty. It is a bit like a fireworks display: it always looks somehow nice, even when we are not in the best viewing spot or the weather is a bit foggy.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Sonnar 85/2.8 + extension tube + off-camera flash

Hibiscus, on the other hand, are not so spectacular. These are more discrete and sober flowers, demanding some care and subtlety in the way one captures the image.

I think these two situations also occur with human portraits...

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Sonnar 85/2.8 + extension tube + 2 off-camera flashes

Friday, October 30, 2009

Grayscale Autumn

It's Autumn and every photo-enthusiast is out there collecting images of amazingly colorful foliage. So, for a change, here are a few b&w fallen leaves under a soft morning light.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 85/1.4

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wooden boat

These photos were taken late in the afternoon. The wooden boat was in the shadow, while the background was still lit by direct sunlight. So I used an external flash, held in one hand, to lighten up the foreground and have a more balanced lighting, while still trying to obtain a natural looking image. I set the flash output manually; a couple of tries are usually enough for me to get an appropriate setting.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Distagon 25/2.8 + off-camera flash

Friday, October 23, 2009

The 2000 year road

This photo shows part of a Roman road, built in the first century A.C. to connect the cities of Braga (Portugal) and Astorga (Spain). It was originally about 320 km long and one of its purposes was to facilitate the fast displacement of the Roman armies. Most of the road is remarkably well preserved, at least in the Portuguese part. It crosses some beautiful natural scenery and is an excellent opportunity for relaxing hiking or biking trips.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Distagon 25/2.8

This Summer, part of the forest shown above was consumed by a forest fire. It saddens me to think of that. But the road is still there and the forest will grow back again. Just like it has along the last 20 centuries.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sebastião Salgado

I remember very well the first time I saw a photo by Sebastião Salgado, some 20 years ago. It was in a newspaper article about his work with the people at Serra Pelada gold mine, in Brazil. This was the photo:

photo by Sebastião Salgado

This image can only be truly appreciated when seen in larger size. If you can, take a look at Sebastião's book "An Uncertain Grace", where it was published. It is not one of his most famous photos, it is not even one of my favorites today. But at the time I found it impressive (and I still think it is!). For a few minutes I just  stared, not only overwhelmed by the image's content, but also amazed by the simple fact that someone could create such a tremendously powerful photo. I have three of Sebastião's books now and, when I browse through them, I still ask myself: "How?!..."

Ironically, I cannot really say that his work is actually inspiring to me. When I look at these images, I can't help but thinking I'll never come close to doing something like this. And then I go into a short depression...

Friday, October 16, 2009

The way to Goat's Foot

A recent hike to Pé de Cabril peak (loosely translatable as "Goat's Foot" - shown in the next photo) in Peneda-Gerês National Park. The calcined trees found in one of the valleys were unmissable photo subjects.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Distagon 25/2.8

Monday, October 12, 2009


Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 50/1.4

Some readers of this blog may have noticed that I identify my home location as "Porto, Portugal." Some may even have recognized Porto (the English call it "Oporto") as being the city where Port Wine is bottled, a place with some unique and picturesque locations. Those might have already asked themselves why I have never posted photos of Porto.

I have been living here since the mid 80s, first in the city and now in the suburbs. But, as often happens with places one knows well, my photos of this city usually seem to fall into the "postcard cliche" trap, at least to me. I'll try to avoid that here.

The shots below were taken recently at the Ribeira neighborhood, in the old town. The riverfront is a very touristic spot, but the inner streets haven't changed much along the decades. For centuries, this has been a poor area, a place where a stranger would have to tread lightly. In the XV century it was the home to sailors and longshoremen, whose descendants still live here, probably almost as poor as their ancestors. Tourists often wander its narrow streets, trying to find their way up to the cathedral. They must wonder why the houses are not better taken care of, why they are not inhabited by upbeat young artists, why there are no souvenir shops and typical restaurants every other door...

This place has never been intended as a tourist attraction. But it is slowly becoming one and maybe one day everything will look jolly and perfect. That's not a bad thing. But Ribeira will then be something different from what it has been along all these centuries...

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Distagon 25/2.8

Thursday, October 8, 2009

One year blogging!

Today I'm celebrating Exposing Pixels' first anniversary! I started this blog as a way to find motivation to take more photos and invest time on their selection and processing. I'm quite happy that I was able to keep a steady posting rhythm.

Of course, some of the photos I've shown and some of the texts I wrote were probably not worth posting. But hey, this was just my first year! Hopefully the second will better...

I'm also happy that the readership has been steadily increasing. Thanks all for your interest! This blog has also been a way to establish contact with some fellow photographers across the planet. They have taught me quite a lot already.

To mark this special day, I'm reposting two photos I quite like. On another day I would certainly choose another two. These are my favorite today:

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 50/1.4 + extension tube

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Sonnar 85/2.8

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rough land

The landscape in Serra d'Aires e Candeeiros Natural Park, in Central Portugal, is rough and barren. It was not an easy place to live in, just a few decades ago. The local population strived to survive raising cattle and growing cereal crops. Small rock fences can be found everywhere, some still being used to hold sheep or cows. The old windmills are abandoned, though, crowning the otherwise bare mountain tops.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 50/1.4

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 85/1.4

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Long (really long) exposure

This Summer a good friend visited us and brought his new "toy": a Pentax DA 12-24mm f4. It is a very nice lens, but such short focal lengths demand some getting used to.

We decided to try some long exposures with this lens and his K10D. One of our subjects was the XVIII century fortress shown below, shot at ISO 200, f4 and a 30 sec exposure (and a tripod, of course). During the exposure, we added three flash bursts along the left wall, in order to make it standout a bit. Framing the shot was quite tricky - this is a very dark location and we pretty much could not see a thing. The light that was gathered in this long exposure came from relatively distant streetlights. So we had to adjust the composition based on trial and error. In the end, we were quite happy with the result. The combination of the yellow and white lights coming from the street and the flash, respectively, worked out quit well.

Pentax K10D + Pentax DA 12-24/4 + off-camera flash

I also tried a few short exposure shots with my 25mm at f2.8 and ISO 800, using an off-camera flash to lit the side wall. A curious result, but definitely not as impressive as the previous one.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Distagon 25/2.8 + off-camera flash

Monday, September 28, 2009

Leica X1 - a (real) Leica for the masses?

Leica has recently announced a new compact digital camera, the Leica X1, which should be out later this year. There are a few reasons why some (me included) have been paying close attention to this model:
  • It has an APS-C sized 12.2 Mp sensor in a compact body. Only the Sigma DP2 presents such a large sensor on a small body. The Olympus EP-1, and now the Panasonic GF1, both have a smaller micro 4/3 sensor. Larger sensor area should imply higher signal to noise ratio and higher dynamic range (look here for a nice discussion on this issue).
  • It is equipped with a Leica Elmarit 24 mm f/2,8 aspherical lens (equivalent to a 35mm focal length in 35mm film). The "M" version of this lens is supposedely very good.
  • It is able to operate on fully manual mode, having individual speed and aperture dials on the top plate.
  • It has a beautiful, sober, Leica-ish design.
  • It is not a Panasonic compact clone, but a model entirely conceived by Leica and made in Germany (ok, the sensor is by Sony and the electronics must be made in Japan also, but everything else is Leica).
  • It "only" costs 1500 € ($2000). Hey, it's a Leica!...
There a few things that make me skeptical, though:
  • This is not a rangefinder (see M9), it's a compact. Will the performance (autofocus, writing times, etc) be typical of a compact?...
  • The lens is collapsible, which looks plain ugly on this classic looking camera. It is also a fixed lens. Since Panasonic and Olympus introduced compacts with interchangeable lens, the X1 seems to fall behind. But it's a 35mm equivalent, which I find is the most versatile focal length. And I want a camera that is easy to carry, not a new set of lens to take on a bag. Not to mention the cost of a set of Leica lenses!
  • It has no integrated view-finder. There is an external one (optional), with a field of view corresponding to the 24mm lens.
  • It costs 1500 € ($2000). Hey, it's a point and shoot!...
For a while that I long for a small, discrete, highly portable digital camera with high image quality. This would replace my dear Minox 35ML as a carry around camera. Both the Sigma DP2 and the Olly EP-1, mentioned above, have some performance issues that have kept me away.

Concerning cost, some are saying that the 1500 € price tag is not too high, considering that the X1 has a half frame sensor, a nice lens and a Leica logo... Could this actually be a "real" Leica with a reasonable cost/quality ratio? Well, for paying this kind of money for a compact one has to expect flawless performance and irreprehensible image quality. Unfortunately, I've already seen too many reviews on Leica digital cameras ending with the sentence: " this kind of performance worth the cost?"

For 1500 € I could by the new Pentax K-7 plus a grip and there would be some change left for a few SDHC cards. The K-7 has been getting excellent reviews. It is a very nice camera, packed with neat features, but I don't think that its image quality is significantly better than my K10D's. In addition, I can live without those trendy new features. As long as my camera goes on working, I don't think I need a new DSLR.

The X1 will be out only in a few months and there isn't much information out yet. The most complete hands-on preview I've seen so far can be found here (in Spanish)*. I'll wait for the reviews to come out. In the mean time, do you know which is the best "carry around" digital camera in the whole world? That's my Pentax K10D with a Zeiss Distagon 25mm f2.8.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Distagon 25/2.8

* A few days after this post, DPReview presented an interesting Leica X1 preview (see here).

Friday, September 25, 2009


My "Summer Garden" series would not be complete without photos of bees feeding on flowers, of course. These little furry balls with wings are quite patient models, but not quite as spectacular as the butterflies.

I also tried some "action shots": at 1/1000 sec and ISO 800, I focused on the insect, waited, and, as soon as it started flying, I pressed the shutter release, hoping that the trajectory would be parallel to the focus plane. A few shots came out quite nice, but the success rate was not very high. I'm sure I'll be trying again next Summer.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 + extension tube

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I found this strange bug literally digging sideways into the flower. A few minutes later it completely disappeared underneath the stamens.

Pentax K10D + Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 + extension tube