photography

Review: Night soccer with the Nikon 300mm f/2.8 VR II

There are a few events every year which I'm privileged to be asked to photograph, and one of them is the annual Souls and Goals soccer cup, a soccer match between priests and seminarians in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

This soccer match is held on a (usually very cold) night in November, at a stadium with less-than-stellar lighting. For last year's game, I rented a Nikon D500 (D500 review here, and used it with my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens (roughly 300mm equivalent on the D500 body). It was very nice, and the focus system on the D500 (borrowed from the penultimate sports DSLR, the D5) is second-to-none.

But I wasn't thrilled with the low-light performance on the D500. And I wanted to try something new this year. So I rented monster lens—the Nikon 300mm f/2.8 VR II:

Review: Wosports Trail Camera for Hunting and Wildlife

For the past few years, I've been tweaking a few different camera rigs for wildlife and outdoor photography. I have set up a few different time-lapse rigs using my Raspberry Pis with Pi Cameras, and I've set up my Nikon D750 in a few different ways with its built-in intervalometer, or with a wireless remote.

This is great, but I've always wanted to set up the Pi with an infrared Pi Camera, as well as a motion sensor, so I could capture wildlife at night. I know there are some animals that peruse the seeds in our yard around the bird feeders, but it's well nigh impossible to capture them with my other non-infrared cameras... and they tend to come out when I'm asleep.

Wosports contacted me and asked if I'd like a discount on their 'Trail Camera' to give it a test, and I thought it was a great opportunity to check out the basic/low-end of trail cameras, so I took them up on the offer.

Wosports Trail Camera

How to focus stack a set of images in Photoshop

I recently rented a Nikon 105mm VR Macro lens for a weekend, and wanted to experiment with different types of macro photography.

One of the things I was most interested in was focus stacking. See, there's a problem with macro photography in that you're dealing with a depth of field measured in millimeters when reproducing images at a 1:1 ratio, even stopped down to f/8 or f/11. And, wanting to avoid diffraction at higher apertures, there's no way to take a straight-out-of-camera picture of a 3D object that's sharp from front to back.

One frequent subject of my close-up photography is the Raspberry Pi single board computer. You can see the problem when taking just one photo:

Review: Sony 20mm f/2.8 E-mount pancake lens SEL20F28

I've been primarily a Nikon shooter for all my digital SLR life; I started on film with some compact cameras and a Minolta X-700, but switched to Nikon starting with a D40, working my way up through the years to a D750 today. I love Nikon glass, I love the ergonomics, and I am very used to SLR photography and all it entails.

But after witnessing the steady rise in mirrorless camera popularity, I decided to start testing the waters with a Sony a6000. And one of the major benefits (at least in my usage) is that if you choose an APS-C system like the Sony a6xxx series, you can (in theory) have a more compact camera system that performs as well as larger SLR brethren.

In practice, you get what you pay for in terms of weight. The physics of light dictate that fast, good lenses will be pretty much the same size on whatever mount you use, and there are always some 'sweet spots' for compactness vs. performance on any kind of camera lens mount.

Photos of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Parish

I was recently invited to take some pictures of the campus and interior of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Shrewsbury, MO (nestled in a neighborhood just outside of the City of St. Louis), and I just finished processing and uploading them to Flickr; see my St. Michael the Archangel photos.

St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Parish sanctuary

There are so many of these little Catholic churches in St. Louis and around the country, with so much hidden beauty. I always try to find a neat little parish near where I stay in any city I visit; usually these parishes showcase more artwork than even the diocesan cathedrals—though that's not the case in St. Louis!

Photographing the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

Last year, when I first learned that my house was in the path of totality for this year's eclipse, I immediately logged into BorrowLenses and rented a Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 VR lens (for photography—it's now on my wishlist) and then purchased a set of eclipse glasses for my family, and materials to build a solar filter for the lens.

I've learned from Reddit's DIY community that people like the end result first... then an explanation, so:

2017 Total Solar Eclipse composite by Jeff Geerling
See the full-size image of the Eclipse composite on Flickr.

Fixing the blurry focus on some Raspberry Pi Camera v2 models

The original Raspberry Pi Camera model v1.3 came from the factory set to ∞ (infinity) focus, so when you used it out of the box for something like a landscape timelapse rig, or for security or monitoring purposes (where the Pi is at least 5 meters away from the subjects it's recording), everything would look crisp and sharp.

For many fixed-focus cameras and lower-end camera sensors, it makes sense to set them to infinity focus; closer objects are still recognizable, but slightly blurry. Most of these cameras don't need to focus on a person a meter away for a portrait, and they're also rarely used for FaceTime-like video chat.

Raspberry Pi Zero W as a headless time-lapse camera

tl;dr: There are many ways to capture time-lapse videos. But this one is cheap, completely wireless, and mine. If you want to skip the post and go straight for the glory, grab a copy of my Time-lapse app for the Raspberry Pi.

Time-lapses transform subtle, slow processes into something beautiful, and often make us think about things in new ways. For example, have you ever thought about just how heavy a wet snow is? The trees in your yard might know a thing or two about that! Check out a time-lapse I recorded this morning some mighty oak tree branches, as they relaxed upward as if in relief from the wet snow falling off:

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