An old tradition, but recently a bit forgotten. Two years ago it started with the top 13 of 2013, now it is time to start compiling the top 15 of 2015. This kind of list is always a problem, as the photographs that I take can be on my shortlist for quite a number of reasons, ranging from ‘I really like this photograph’ to ‘my new nephew smiles so cute in this photograph’. I think, however, that this photograph can be on the list!
Although I have owned the Fujinon XF 18-135 mm f/3.5-5.6 ‘superzoom’ for almost a year now, in my mind it never really found its place in my camerabag. While I have used it frequently for my watersports photography, I usually left it at home when I went out for fun or for other – non water related – assignments.
Recently however, it has begun to grow on me a bit. In the past I have stated often that I would rather take my three small primes on holiday than the one big heavy (relatively speaking, that is) superzoom. And the three small primes (18, 35 and 60 mm) were a perfect combination during our trip to Sicily last year. This year, however, our annual holiday was to Curacao, a much more humid climate than Italy. As a result, I somewhat dreaded changing lenses and the 18-135 mm stayed on my XT-1 for most of the time to protect the sensor that is otherwise exposed during lens changes. In addition, the weather sealing of the 18-135 was extra protection.
How did this turn out? Well, to be honest, quite well! While the images of this lens are not as sharp or clean as those obtained from my primes, for most subjects (non-moving, landscapes, portraits, etc.) the image quality was quite acceptable. Having gotten used to the large apertures of the primes (the 60 mm is ‘slow’ at f/2.4), where the 18-135 has to make do with f/3.5-5.6, I had to get used to cranking up the ISO to get the shutter speeds that I desired. On the other hand, the more than excellent image stabilization made sure much longer shutter speeds could be used than would be the case with the primes.
In the evening, when light faded, I still had to grab my primes to get some decent shots, but on the whole, almost 80% of my shots were done with the 18-135 mm. Using this lens reduced the amount of camera gear I had to carry during the day (after two day’s I didn’t even take my primes with me out in the field any more), reducing the weight of, and space in, my camera bag. It also meant less time wasted changing lenses, which certainly came in handy during our exhaustive climb to the top of the Christoffelmountain.
Two other things to mention that I noticed are the excellent macro capabilities and the sometimes rather ugly bokeh of the lens. During our trips on Curacao we often stumbled upon dozens of lizards (and sometimes larger specimens like the Iguana). These sometimes posed for us and we could get quite close. At 135 mm the closest focus distance was less than a meter, which I would consider quite good for general photography. On the other hand, the bokeh obtained (greatest at 135 mm f/5.6) was (not unexpectedly) much less pleasing than I was used to with the primes. It is not a reason not to use this lens, but something to consider when using it.
Will it be on my camera more than before?
Maybe. While the image quality may be good enough for holiday ‘snapshots’, for more serious photography that doesn’t require the weather sealing I’d still use the primes. It’s also quite a heavy beast, and much larger than for instance the 23 mm f/1.4 that is usually attached to my XT-1. It is a bit of a workhorse compared to the refined primes. For another holiday like this one, I might take only the 18-135 and the 23 mm f/1.4 and leave the rest at home (but then again, I might lug it all with me again).
Some photographs from last week:
7:00 AM. The temptation to stay in bed was almost great enough to do just that and forget about my photography intentions of last night. The weatherman had predicted thick fog for the morning, but from the window it was difficult to see what state the world was in. A quick peek through the windows to the backyard confirmed the weatherman’s prediction of fog, and since I was already out of bed at this point, I decided to give it a go.
My target for this morning was a windmill not far from the house, but outside the city. Likely, the fog would be denser out in the fields than in the street, but I still hoped to get a nice shot of the mill and the sunrise. My backpack and tripod were already prepared the evening before and I had used the TPE app to determine the location for my shot, so all was set.
However, while biking to my chosen location, the first cracks in my plan were becoming apparent. The weatherman’s prediction of ‘thick fog’ turned out to be an understatement and the visibility was down to 50 yards at some points. I didn’t find the mill until I was nearly on top of the thing, and doubts were beginning to creep in whether the sun would be able to pierce this thick shite soup.
After setting up my camera and tripod at the right spot, my doubts were confirmed. According to google maps, the spot I had picked for this morning’s exercise was approximately a hundred yards from the target, but the mill was not even visible. At this point my “Sunrise and the Mill” seemed a bit pointless, so I decided to try something else instead. Fortunately, I have a habit of taking as much of my photography gear with me as I can carry, and when my eye caught some beautiful spider webs filled with water droplets, my 60 mm semi-macro lens was fished out of the backpack.
While I love macro photography, the lack of a true 1:1 macro lens and patience to fumble with a tripod in the bush usually prevent me from trying extensive projects in this area of photography. This time, however, the tripod was already set up, so I tried some shots. The first shots at f/2.4 were a bit hazy, but changing the aperture to f/4.0 did wonders for the sharpness and I was quite happy with some of the results.
As I was busy playing with my macro equipment, my sneakers (I had unfortunately neglected to fish my waterproof shoes from the closet last night) were getting more and more soaked and I was happy to change location when after a while the sun did manage to make an appearance. For the landscape shots I changed lenses and grabbed my ‘superzoom’ 18-135 mm lens. While I am not always entirely happy with the results this lens produces, when stopped down it is acceptable most of the times. After a few shots of the still barely visible mill and a few sheep that were very patient models, I decided to return home and defreeze my feet. It was at this moment that I realized that the sun would be a beautiful background for the droplet-spotted spider webs, so the tripod was unfurled again and I took one last shot.
On the way home it was clear that nearer to the city the fog had lifted considerably. On my way to the mill the opposite side of the river could not be seen, but now it was the perfect spot for a few more photographs of fog-shrouded trees reflected in the water. I nearly decided to cross the river and see if the view from the opposite side was as magnificent as it was from this one, but my feet convinced me otherwise so I went home for an appointment with a hot shower!
Hope you enjoy the results.
Ter gelegenheid van de trouwdag van mijn ouders bevond ik mij laatst op een regenachtige avond op de Euromast in Rotterdam. De Euromast – los van fotografie een erg mooie locatie om een keer te bezoeken – is rond het observatiedak zo’n 100 meter hoog en geeft dus een prachtig uitzicht over Rotterdam.
De avond ik kwestie was, zoals normaal tijdens een Nederlandse winter – vrij nat. Vanaf het observatiedak kun je nog eens 85 meter hoger met de ‘Euroscope’. Het uitzicht werd echter niet beter, aangezien je daarmee in de wolken verdween. Na – hopend dat de camera een beetje droog bleef – gehaast wat shots gemaakt te hebben van de Erasmusbrug, en daarna eigenlijk de hoop opgegeven te hebben op wat helderder weer, bleek na het voorgerecht dat het toch nog opklaarde.
Mijn doel was om te kijken of ik wat opnamen kon maken op lagere ISO waarden. Dit betekende automatisch langere sluitertijden, en dus de noodzaak om de camera goed stil te houden. Dit bleek zonder statief nog een flinke opgave, daar er op 100 meter hoogte een stijve bries woei. Na een aantal pogingen is het toch aardig gelukt door zo veel mogelijk uit de wind te staan, de camera (en lens) op de (natte) balustrade te drukken en te hopen dat mijn eigen bewegingen niet de camera te veel bewogen. Bij afwezigheid van een draadontspanner heb ik 2 seconden self-timer gebruikt, zodat de beweging van het indrukken van de ontspanknop niet op de foto te zien zou zijn.
Een poging om op f/11 nog een foto te maken mislukte helaas door een combinatie van koude vingers, harde wind en een daardoor verschuivende camera. In ieder geval een locatie om nog een keer terug te komen!