Thursday, January 31, 2013

Knitwear Photography Pt. 2: Lenses

Last week I talked about what equipment I currently have. This week I wanted to go over why I chose certain lenses over others. I'll start by focusing on my current favorite: the 50mm f1.4.

Among 50mm Canon lenses, you currently have a choice between the f1.8, f.14, and f1.2. I will be passing over the f1.2. It costs over $1000 more than the f1.4. What you are paying for is the extra stop, but the quality is very similar. In my opinion, there is a bigger difference between the f1.8 and f1.4. Cost wise, there is currently a $200 difference. But what you gain with the extra $200 is a hardier lens, an extra stop, and the number of blade in the aperture. It was the blade number that pushed me into getting the f1.4. The f1.8 has five blades, which make the aperture pentagonal. The f1.4 has eight blades, making the aperture octagonal. Why does this matter?

The shape of the aperture affects the bokeh. Bokeh is the out of focus light. With a pentagonal aperture, the bokeh is much less circular. In the picture below, you can see that the bokeh has an octagonal look to it at f4.0. When the camera is set to f1.4, it is hardly noticeable. If I was using a lens with 5 blades, the bokeh would be much more angular. But because an octagon is much closer to a circle than a pentagon, it looks more natural. Certain f stops will make the shape of your aperture more obvious than others.

The other lenses in my arsenal are a wide angle and a telephoto. There is a distinct difference in the kinds of photos you can and where you'll have to stand in order to take said photos. A wide angle does indeed capture a wider angle. It also elongates the background from the foreground. A telephoto lens does the opposite. It compresses the background with the foreground. I've put in an arrow pointing out the same leaf in the first two pictures. Notice how the leaf looks much further away in the image taken with the wide angle lens. In the photo taken with the telephoto lens, the leaf looks like it practically on top of the yarn. 
I've also added an image take with the 50mm to see how it compares to the other two lenses. All images were taken 1/100, f5.6. I used the extreme ends of my wide angle and telephoto so you could see their full capabilities.

Here is an image showing where I was standing for the above three images. The arrow is pointing at the yarn. The first "X" shows where I was standing when taking pictures with the wide angle zoomed completely out at 16mm. When taking pictures with the wide angle lens, I practically was touching the yarn with the lens. The second "X" indicates where I was standing when using the 50mm lens. The third "X" is where I was standing when I was using the telephoto lens zoomed completely in at 135mm.

When zooming in and out with a camera, keep in mind that you are not simply magnifying the image. You are changing the focal length of the lens. The focal length refers to how far light is having to travel to hit the camera sensor.  With a shorter focal length such as 18mm, you have a wide angle of view, but a lower magnification of the image. And as we saw in the images above, the lower magnification of the wide angle lens made the background look further away from the foreground. The longer focal length of the telephoto lens shows a narrower view, but it also increases the magnification of the image. This is why the leaf looked closer to the yarn in the above image. To take full advantage of your lenses, sometimes you'll need to walk closer or further away from what you are photographing rather than zooming in or out. 
Certain lenses such as the 50mm have fixed focal lengths. This means that it will always be 50mm, so you have to move yourself around to get the image you want rather than standing still while zooming in or out. Of all the focal lengths, the 50mm is the closest to what our eye sees. So images taken at this focal length will look the most natural. Other focal lengths seem distorted to the eye. 

I feel that a 50mm is a good all around lens to use for knitwear photography. But if you are buying a lens to use for other things like landscapes or wildlife photography, you may need to look into something different. To finish off this post, here are a few things I look into when buying a new lens.

1. Maximum aperture: I like to work in low light, so I look for lenses that allow me to do so. Right now I'm not looking at lenses that don't go down to at least f2.8
2. Number of blades that create the aperture: I want my bokeh to look as circular as possible. 6-8 blades are a must.
3. Hardiness: I want a lens that can take a beating. A cheaply made lens won't cut it for me.
4. Purpose: What kind of pictures am I going to be able to get. What will my restrictions be. ie. A wide angle lens is great for capturing images in a tight area such as a room. But it is less useful if you want to take pictures of wildlife.
5. Weight: If the camera is too heavy, I'm less likely to carry it around.
6. Zoom Mechanism: Does the lens visibly move when you zoom in or out. The outside case of some lenses covers the movement, so the lens always appears to be the same length. Others, like the lens in the above image, visibly moves in or out. The advantage to having a lens who's housing covers the zoom mechanism is that dirt can't stick in it.

Next time I plan on talking about lighting and working with a reflector. Also, if there are any particular lighting points you guys are interested in, do leave a comment. I want to make this series as useful as possible.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Knitwear Photography Pt.1: Equipment

This will be the first in a series of knitwear photography posts. I thought I'd do a few posts on equipment before moving on to composition, lighting, and post production. The goal is to have a photography-related post up every 1-2 weeks.
While there are many styles of taking knitwear photos, I will be focusing on my style: natural lighting which is primarily outdoors. Today I'll show you an overview of the equipment I use. (Disclaimer: I'm not getting paid for my views. Too bad, right?)

I use a Canon 60D with a f1.4 50mm lens. There are many things to consider when investing in a camera. But I would say it is much more important to invest in a good lens over a good body. I have a few lenses, but the 50mm is the most versatile lens I own. In a future post, I'll talk more specifically why I chose a f1.4 vs the f1.8 or f1.2. Additionally, I do have a B+W 58 UV-Haze filter over my lens to protect it.
As for the camera body, I did research for nearly 6 months before buying the 60D. My equipment typically takes a beating, so I liked how hefty this body was. But the deciding factor ended up being the flip screen. Having a flip screen on my camera was non negotiable for me. It allows me to take low pictures without putting my face in the dirt and high pictures without needing a ladder. There are many other bodies that will serve you just as well. But that will come down to budget and personal preference.
Bonus points to anyone who can figure out how I took this picture.

The other lenses I have are a 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens and a 16-35mm f2.8 wide angle. I originally got the 18-135mm with the camera and it helped me to get to know the camera better. But if there are budget constraints, I'd get a camera body separate from the lens and buy a 50mm. I bought the 16-35mm when I started having other photos I wanted to take, but I couldn't get them with the lenses I owned. Although I've used it for knitwear photography, it is by no means necessary. I have a B+W 82 polarized filter for the 16-35mm to help cut down on water glare. I plan on investing on a UV filter in the near future to help protect the glass.

Bonus photography equipment: Pictured is a tripod, reflector, and remote control. I rarely use the tripod. It is more important if you are shooting in low light and need to keep the camera still. I usually only use it along with the remote control when I need to model something for myself and I don't want to run back and forth with the self timer. The tripod is a Solidex Video VT-86HQ, which I found at my grandparent's house. The remote is a Hahnel Pro Wireless (Hahanel HW43380), which was a birthday gift from my Dad. The thing I should have bought much earlier than I did was the reflector. It is a Fotodiox 5-in-1, 42in/107cm. So many poor lighting situations can be improved with it. But I'll go into more detail later on.

So that is an overview of what I use. In the next post I plan to talk about how to choose a lens and what I look for when I'm buying one. I'll also go over some situations where one lens is more appropriate than another.
If all this equipment makes me look independently wealthy, rest assured that this is not true. Instead of investing in practical things, such as underpants, I buy photography equipment or yarn. If I could knit shoes to replace my hole-filled ones, I would.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Look! Yarn!

Hey everyone. Today was the first day in a week that I've had an opportunity to sit down and blog. In this past week I made a big life change, took a quick trip up north to get some of The Book stuff done, and had a serious look at my yarn stash. I also have gone through everyone's future blog post suggestions and compiled a large list. I hope to get going on it when the big life change feels less overwhelming. So in the meantime, let's have a look at the skein of yarn I treated myself to yesterday. It's Malabrigo Sock in the Pocion colorway.

Edit: I wasn't really sure when or how to share this, but I might as well go ahead and say what the big life change is. It still feels weird, but I've given notice at my job so I can finish The Book and work on the companion shawl to Celestarium. I liked my job quite a bit, so it was a difficult decision. But it became very clear in the last week that I needed to make a choice between finishing The Book or continuing at work. There wasn't enough time to do both anymore. My last day of work will be on my birthday. I like my work enough that there isn't anywhere I'd rather be on my birthday.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Double The Sweater, Double The Fun

Right now I'm knitting two sweater. It has occurred to me that this is going to make for rather dull updates since one sweater is a secret.

And the other one, my relaxing knit, is in fingering weight. I'm almost to the pure stockinette section, which means it won't make for an interesting blog story until I'm done or something goes wrong.

Anyways, I've been wracking my brain for future blog posts since I will probably be working on the sweaters for another solid month or so and there won't be much to show. I was wondering if anyone has any questions or things they would like to hear on the blog. Perhaps a post on my photography equipment? A post on composing interesting yarn shots? (I love yarn, but it's hard to make it look interesting.)
My current day job is at a yarn shop, so I could also do a series on knitting questions I answer regularly like, what to do when you run out of yarn when making a sweater (or any project) and there is no way you can get matching yarn. Or, how to make a sweater you blocked smaller because it grew to mammoth proportions the minute it hit the water.
What do you guys think?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Stash Logic

Surely I am not the only person in the world who believes it isn't crazy to buy two more skeins of yarn in order to use up a skein that is in the stash. Because I might have done that. 

I decided that the only yarn that I could possibly use for the Grace cardigan, found in Jane Richmond's ISLAND book, was String Theory Hand Dyed Yarns in the colorway Solas. I had bought a skein from someone's stash on ravelry a while ago. There are no dye lots, but I knew it was from a Cookie A club, so I managed to find two other people who each had a skein from the club. I bought them and.... they don't match. But I have devised a way to blend all three skeins where the difference shouldn't be too troubling. It looks ok so far.

In other news, I had declared today an "Audry Day." I haven't had a free day in weeks now, so today was a day where I would do whatever I wanted. But after beating a computer game in an hour and a half, I got bored. So I knit more of the final The Book knit. Again, this is the back side. Wait 'til you see the front. It is better than I could have hoped for.

Since this is going to be a large piece, I went ahead and blocked this bit to make sure my swatch was accurate. It was. Thank goodness. And as an added bonus, it is still wet. So I now have an excuse to keep knitting on my Grace cardigan.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Frozen Feet

The other day I posted my 2013 goal list. Usually I post that sort of thing on January 1st, but this year I was a little busy. My whole family (sans Scooter) spent New Years Day helping me with a photoshoot for The Book. We drove an hour to go to a cold, windy beach where there were a surprisingly large amount of people. Turns out that if you haul a really large chest across a beach, people don't even try to pretend they aren't staring.

I stepped in mud that I later realized smelled a bit too similar to poo. You can see it in the photo below. And everyone's feet went numb in 15 minutes or less. My brother and I started having "I can't feel my feet from this point" (insert pointing to numb part of the foot) contests. I think I "won." But in this kind of contest, no one really is a winner. 

I'm pretty lucky to have a family that is willing to help me out. (And if they aren't willing, Mum has no problem "motivating" the unwilling party.)

Afterwards we cranked up the heater in the car to help thaw our feet. There is nothing like misery to promote family bonding.

Overall it was a really great way to spend New Years Day. And I'm just that much closer to being done with The Book.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Annual Goal List: 2012-2013 Edition

2012 was a year of learning and letting go. This year I learned that in order to let new things be a part of my life, I'd have to give up commitments and traditions. So I have decided that this was going to be the last year of being the head of crafts at a summer camp, I stopped making wine, and a quit my daily comic. But enough of what I'm not doing anymore. Let's have a look at this year's highlights.

I knit up lots of stash. I bought more yarn to take its place.

My LYS started and still is carrying Giraffe Hat kits. I even lead a KAL (Knit Along) for it in November.

I was the recipient of the coolest gift ever: yarn specially dyed to match the water around Big Sur. I'm still working out what kind of pattern would show off the yarn the best.

Lots of other neat things happened this past year, but I'm going to go ahead and move on to the annual goal list.

Here is a recap of this past year's goals.
Goals for 2012:
1. Finish designing and knitting the rest of the knits for my book. Figure out the next step in putting everything together.
Status: Pretty darn close. I'm on the last knit and have begun working on how I want to layout the book. I've also been doing photoshoots for the completed knits. So it's getting there.
2. Road trip somewhere. I'd like it if it was the southwest road trip I've been wanting to do, but anything would be fine.
Status: Semi-complete. I did go on short day trips in my area. I had wanted to do a large roadtrip. But a bunch of small ones were good too.
3. Be able to bike up Highway 9 to Santa Cruz. I've seen serious bikers in lycra clothes and carbon fiber bikes going up there. I want to take my t-shirt wearing, commuter-bike riding butt up that way.
Status: Incomplete. It's a big ride and I never was in good enough shape to do it this year. I'm ok with that. I might do the ride one day, but it isn't a goal anymore.
4. Knit a pair of sock with my own hand spun yarn.
Status: Complete. I made a pair of Denature socks from my handspun. I learned that although I like spinning and I like knitting, I don't really like knitting with my handspun. That feeling could change depending on what I'm knitting.
5. Finally put up my daily comic site.
Status: Cancelled. I quit doing my daily comics in October. Or rather, I officially quit in October. I had stopped drawing them a couple months before. Once I put the notebooks deep in my closet, I noticed that the amount of guilt I felt nearly vanished. I no longer had a project that was telling me I had failed every day.
6. And one rollover from last year's list: Make that music video. Seriously.
Status: Complete. I made the video and had a good time doing it. I also learned to use Final Cut Pro X, which is a nifty program.

Goals for 2013:
I've only have one main goal this year. But it is such a big goal that it has sub-goals to it. And that big goal is to finish The Book. If possible, I want to have a hard copy in my hand by August. So under this huge goal are the subgoals, which are:
1. Finish knitting the last knit.
2. Finish the last 5 photo shoots.
3. Hire a tech editor. Edit The Book.
4. Layout The Book.
5. Get test knitters lined up. Test the knits.
And I have one goal unrelated to The Book.
6. Knit a sister shawl to Celestarium. This one will have the constellations of the southern hemisphere.

Well, that's it for me. What are everyone else's goals for this year?
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