Welcome to (The Occasional) Photo Tip of the Day! Please also visit my main site jeffwignall.com. Text and photographs Copyright 2014 Jeff Wignall.

"Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better."


Albert Einstein

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Olympus SP810: Incredible 36x Zoom Lens


I've always had a kind of lustful affection for what they call "zoom" or "superzoom" cameras. After so many years of carrying around a shoulder bag that weighed as much as a medium-sized dog, the idea of having a good-sized zoom lens in a relatively full-featured camera that was small enough to carry in the pocket of a denim jacket has really appealed to me. The first digital zoom camera that I ever had was a Nikon Coolpix 5700 about five or six years ago and I loved that camera, but because it was on loan from Nikon I eventually had to give it back. That was a great camera and it took wonderful photos, but it only had an 8x zoom and while that seemed huge at the time, by today's standards it's kind of tiny--today 12x and even 24x zooms are pretty common.

And then, of course, there is the amazing Olympus SP810-UZ. The "UZ" in the name stands for "ultra zoom" and at 36x, it is all that and more! In 35mm terms, the lens has a zoom range of 24-864mm--and that's a pure optical zoom, this is most certainly not a digital zoom trick! Yes, from super wide to a whopping nearly 900mm lens. A 900mm lens is more lens than most professional sports or wildlife photographers carry. The longest 35mm lens that I own is 400mm and even with a 1.4x tele-extender, that's only 560mm--add on a 1.5x cropping factor for my D90 and you're STILL NOT at 900mm!)

I'll write more about the other features of the camera in future postings, but I've only had the camera a few weeks and I'm still just in awe of that incredible zoom range. The two photos here were taken from the exact same position and both were handheld. The first photo shows an old New England clock tower near my home and if you click on it and blow it up, you'll see the arrow pointing to a small area of the weather vane. The second photo was shot at slightly less than full zoom and while not razor sharp, it's stunningly sharp (and keep in mind, at 900mm there's not a lot of depth of field). And again, both shots were made handheld. The idea that I can handhold a 900mm lens and get sharp photos just blows my mind. In fact, I've been driving all around town photographing the tallest weather vanes I can find and I'm having a blast. I've been sharing the photos on Facebook (friend me!) with hometown friends and we're having a lot of fun taking close-up looks at these tall, tall weather vanes (I'll post a few more later this week).

Yes, there are a few things about the camera that I'm not thrilled with (I'm not a fan of electronic viewfinders) and I wish the camera had a RAW mode. But for a camera that sells about $300 and has a 900mm lens? I'm sold. If you've ever sat in the stands at your kids' football games and wished you could get close-up shots of them--this is the camera to consider.

Read more about the full line of Olympus cameras here

Book Note: If you're looking for a comprehensive book on exposure, my book Exposure Photo Workshop has just been released. It's fully updated and revised (with hundreds of new photos) and Shutterbug magazine called it "...the best book ever written on the subject." 


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One of My Favorite Poems

I shot this photo a few days ago to demonstrate backlighting in one of my new books and it reminded me of one of my favorite cummings' poems. It's easy to get so caught up in the frustrations and disappointments of life that we forget how beautiful the world around us is. cummings' poem makes a wonderful Thanksgiving prayer--so think about reading it at the table next week:

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

by e.e. cummings

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Hidden Beauty of Pollination

This is a nature video you won't soon forget. There is an introduction by Louie Schwartzberg (the filmmaker) followed by some of the most beautiful close-up and time-lapse nature photography you've ever seen. The entire video is just under eight minutes long and you won't be wasting your time--it will change the way you look at the world.

Monday, November 7, 2011

2011 National Geographic Photo Contest

Think you've got the goods to go eye-to-eye with the big guns? Here's your chance to find out!

It's been a while since I've talked about a photo contest here, but the annual National Geographic contest is too big and too cool to ignore. This is one of the most prestigious annual photo contests in the world and the top prize is $10,000 (plus a trip to Nat'l Geo headquarters and participation in a photo workshop in Washington, DC). One of the three judges for the contest this year is the great photographer Peter Essick who I had the fun of profiling for Outdoor Photographer magazine a few years back. Peter is an extraordinary shooter who has covered the entire planet on ecology stories and just having him lay eyeballs on your photos would be quite a thrill.  The other two judges are Tim Laman, Amy Toensing--both incredible Nat'l Geo shooters.

By the way, I wrote a book on how to win photo contests called Winning Digital Photo Contests and you can find it on Amazon and perhaps at your local library. (By the way, since I'm fairly sure the publisher has been screwing me out of royalties on that book, I'd prefer you got it at the library or bought it used so that the publisher gets nothing. There are used copies on Amazon for under $7.) It's a good book to read before entering any contest and, coincidentally, one of the people I interview in the book is a Nat'l Geo photographer who has judged many contests for them. There is an interview with me about the book here.

There is an entry fee of $15 per photo, but let's face it, that's one fast food meal these days. And the fun of participating in a contest will stay with you a lot longer. Yes? Here is a FAQ page.

You never know about photo contests and it's worth the effort to put your work out in the world. If you don't make the effort to show your work to the world, they won't come looking for you. And even if you don't win a prize, millions of people may will your work on the Nat'l Geo site because they put a page up for every photo entered! And how cool is that? Just for entering your photo ends up on the National Geographic website.

(Photo Copyright Craig Wolfrom, all rights reserved.)