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03-26-2010, 07:39 AM   #1
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lens choice to shoot landscape across water

I have been a photographer for about 15 hours now. For 7 of those hours I was asleep. After MUCH deliberation, I purchased a K-7 with the 18-55 lens. I do believe that it is good to learn music with good instruments so I make the assumption that photography is the same way.

I work on Treasure Island (in the middle of the San Francisco Bay). The view of the city in the early morning is off the chain!! The sky and the water are indigo in the morning, the sunrise splashes golds and pinks across the whole thing. So beautiful. One of my reasons for buying the camera is to work my way toward taking beautiful pix of the city at different times of day. The city is far away and too much of the foreground is water. I believe that I need a telephoto lens. I have NO idea what aperture I need.

I am going to purchase the 55-300 and experiment with that but, if I were going to purchase one special lens, it would be for these shots of SF. In the long run, what kind of lens do I want to shoot the city across 1/2 mile of water?

Whatcha think?

03-26-2010, 07:59 AM   #2
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I'm too new to have any good advice, but I will tell you that I can't wait to see those pictures once you get this figured out. Sounds breathtaking.
03-26-2010, 08:02 AM   #3
Ira
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I can't judge what a half-mile is, but for now, set the camera for the largest image size, if you're not ready to get into RAW yet.

Zoom to 55, and see if you still get everything in frame. If yes, crop your images as needed. You'll still have plenty of resolution left in there.

Now, 55 on the kit lens isn't the greatest--the 18 is great, BTW--but this will give you an idea of the focal length you'll need to get the right PRIME lens for these shots. If the 55 gets you too close, zoom out, look at the EXIF data of the image, and see what the focal length is.

Going for a prime will also open up a world of inexpensive, older Pentax lenses for you, real bargains, and I'm sure the SF area is loaded with them.
03-26-2010, 09:39 AM   #4
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In my opinion you need to go wider not longer. I'd be looking at a 12-24 lens. I've shot the City (my hometown) from the water and Alcatraz. The kit lens is ok but I think you need wider unless you are really after specific small details.

$0.02

03-26-2010, 09:43 AM   #5
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Wider is good if one wants even more water and even less city; sounds like he wants less water and more city. If putting your 18-55 all the way to 55 doesn't fdo what you want then you need longer. I'd guess a nice cheap 50-200 would do the job fine - although as said, you could always just crop what you get from 55 for now.
03-26-2010, 09:55 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by we love math Quote

I am going to purchase the 55-300 and experiment with that but, if I were going to purchase one special lens, it would be for these shots of SF. In the long run, what kind of lens do I want to shoot the city across 1/2 mile of water?

Whatcha think?
You've invested a lot of money in a very good camera.
The 55-300mm is a very good lens for its cost, you cannot go wrong with that one.
It will give you extra reach over the 50-200mm and better image quality.

You should try to make some close ups right after dawn if that is possible.
The light and water reflections are probably best then.

- Bert
03-26-2010, 10:28 AM   #7
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formerly a bike messenger in SF

The views are indeed great. Embedded in my memory is a moment from my wasted youth -- high up in the Berkeley Hills early in the morning, just before sunrise, a thin fog covering the Bay and lowlands like milky water, the full moon setting between the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge. No camera then, alas.

For long telephoto shots, cool days are best. As the air warms it churns and smears. Distant images become blurry. And shooting from sea level in warm air isn't great. You'll probably want to be as high as possible up Yerba Buena I.

Beware using wideangle glass to capture a wide cityscape from a distance; the distance just gets pushed away, the skyline shrinking into bumps. Better to take a series of longer shots and stitch them together into a panorama.

Your lens kit sounds good. Experiment and experiment, and show us your stuff. Have fun!
03-27-2010, 08:40 AM   #8
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I know the shots that you are referring to. I like landscapes, especially in the ambient light of the early morning and evening. Personally, I think you have most of the tools already. The K7 I think is the perfect camera here. The lenses you have are just fine. They cover everything you will need. You do not need faster lenses for what you are doing. Shooting at f5.6 to 8 is what you will want to do.

Here are some illustrations that you are talking about.....

You will probably wind up shooting stitched landscapes, so believe it or not, you will probably be looking for some mechanical support sometime in the future - a tripod and head. This will be very helpful in the early morning and late evening, in the low light (along with a pen light to help with the setup). Plus the head that you will want will be a panning head, so that you can setup the shot and pan across the scene, staying level. Also, you will need an external shutter release (you want to set the camera to a 2 second delay via the menus so that the camera vibration will dampen out before the shot is taken).

Stitched Panoramas
Shutter release -
Amazon.com: Remote Shutter Release for Canon Rebel XT, XTi, XSi, XS, T1i, EOS 1000D/450D/400D/350D/300D, Pentax Super/K100D/K110D/ *ist Ds2 / *ist D / *ist Ds / *ist / *ist DL, Samsung GX-20/GX-10/GX-1L GX-1S, + Many More!: Electronics
The panning ballhead is something of a specialty. You can take a regular ball head and mount it upside down, so that you can level with the ball head, but have the panning base ABOVE the ball head (just the exact opposite as a ball head is designed to be used). In this way, when you pan, you pan level. Here is an example (somewhat expensive, but it gets the idea across).
Acratech GP Ballhead*::*Ballheads*::*Acratech
Look down at the individual pictures and you will see what I mean. The first one is as they are intended to be used. The second one is with it flipped over, so that the rotating base part is above the ball head and is thus level for horizontal panning. Also, watch the video that they have and you will see how it can be applied, for your targeted use.

Tripods - there is lots of information here on tripods....
Field Accessories - PentaxForums.com
One other item - maybe and L bracket. What this does is to allow you to mount the camera on the ballhead/tripod vertically so that you get a "taller" image, so that when you stitch the images together, they are not pencil thin.
Kirk | BL-K7 L-Bracket Quick Release Plate f/ the Pentax | BL-K7
Some additional suggestions.

For the best quality - set the ISO to 100.

DA 55-300 lens
Pentax SMC DA 55-300mm f/4-5.8 ED - Review / Test Report - Analysis
For the best depth of field and resolution look at the above site. Scroll down to the MTF (resolution) section and take a look at the histogram charts. What this tells you is that to use f11 for the best resolution across the entire lens (center and edges), generally for all focal lengths.

DA 18-55 lens
Pentax SMC-DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL - Review / Test Report - Analysis
Generally f8 looks pretty good.

Overall, I know that your within the first 24 hours of getting the camera and this is way more information than what you ever wanted, but it should accelerate you about 12 to 24 months.
___________________________

Now back to your original question -

Water, experiment with the focal lengths of your 2 kit lenses. 18mm will put a lot of water in the foreground. 55mm less so, 100 to 200mm should pull you into the citylights. At noon to 5pm you will have a lot of heat radiating off the water, so at 300mm the city might be a bit less than sharp. Early morning and late evening, clear cool air, will give you great shots. Then there is the fog......

Do you really need a 12-24 lens?. I would say not right now - and it will depend on the type of shots you like. For the shots off of Treasure Island, probably never, in that it would push the city too far away. You need to experiment first with what you have. Use the two lenses that you have. They are REALLY good. The 55-300 you will not get better unless you spend some very serious money.
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/45425-kit-lens-club.html
Spend a year with the kit lenses at least before thinking about another lens. You have so much scenery out in front of you, you have everything you need camera and lens wise. The tripod, head and release are all you MAY be missing. I would visit used camera stores in the bay area looking for an old heavy tripod and possibly a ballhead that you can pan on a level horizontal plane.

I would go out and shoot handheld, to get a feel of the camera, and across both lenses with various focal lengths. I would just use initially the P or green setting. I would shoot some panorama views hand held to experiment, and try some of the free software. Do this before "investing" in a tripod, ball head and L bracket. See what you like to do and what appeals to you. In the evening after work if its pretty dark, set the camera on a foundation of some type and shoot the city lights that way, carefully rotating or panning the camera for the effect. There are lots of things to do with just what you currently have.

Here is a blog on shooting from Treasure Island.
How to photograph from Treasure Island California Photo Scout
____________________

I just re-read your post - and here is a thread that may help in terms of a second lens.
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/93243-da-50-20...-55-300mm.html
You can NOT go wrong with the 55-300. A great lens, I have it and its much better than the 50-200...

hope that helps - enjoy!!!


Last edited by interested_observer; 03-27-2010 at 10:54 AM.
03-27-2010, 10:55 AM   #9
Ira
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
Embedded in my memory is a moment from my wasted youth.
You wasted yours too, huh?

That explains it.
03-27-2010, 11:00 AM   #10
Ira
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QuoteOriginally posted by interested_observer Quote
I know the shots that you are referring to. I like landscapes, especially in the ambient light of the early morning and evening. Personally, I think you have most of the tools already. The K7 I think is the perfect camera here. The lenses you have are just fine. They cover everything you will need. You do not need faster lenses for what you are doing. Shooting at f5.6 to 8 is what you will want to do.

Here are some illustrations that you are talking about.....

You will probably wind up shooting stitched landscapes, so believe it or not, you will probably be looking for some mechanical support sometime in the future - a tripod and head. This will be very helpful in the early morning and late evening, in the low light (along with a pen light to help with the setup). Plus the head that you will want will be a panning head, so that you can setup the shot and pan across the scene, staying level. Also, you will need an external shutter release (you want to set the camera to a 2 second delay via the menus so that the camera vibration will dampen out before the shot is taken).

Stitched Panoramas
Shutter release -
Amazon.com: Remote Shutter Release for Canon Rebel XT, XTi, XSi, XS, T1i, EOS 1000D/450D/400D/350D/300D, Pentax Super/K100D/K110D/ *ist Ds2 / *ist D / *ist Ds / *ist / *ist DL, Samsung GX-20/GX-10/GX-1L GX-1S, + Many More!: Electronics
The panning ballhead is something of a specialty. You can take a regular ball head and mount it upside down, so that you can level with the ball head, but have the panning base ABOVE the ball head (just the exact opposite as a ball head is designed to be used). In this way, when you pan, you pan level. Here is an example (somewhat expensive, but it gets the idea across).
Acratech GP Ballhead*::*Ballheads*::*Acratech
Look down at the individual pictures and you will see what I mean. The first one is as they are intended to be used. The second one is with it flipped over, so that the rotating base part is above the ball head and is thus level for horizontal panning. Also, watch the video that they have and you will see how it can be applied, for your targeted use.

Tripods - there is lots of information here on tripods....
Field Accessories - PentaxForums.com
One other item - maybe and L bracket. What this does is to allow you to mount the camera on the ballhead/tripod vertically so that you get a "taller" image, so that when you stitch the images together, they are not pencil thin.
Kirk | BL-K7 L-Bracket Quick Release Plate f/ the Pentax | BL-K7
Some additional suggestions.

For the best quality - set the ISO to 100.

DA 55-300 lens
Pentax SMC DA 55-300mm f/4-5.8 ED - Review / Test Report - Analysis
For the best depth of field and resolution look at the above site. Scroll down to the MTF (resolution) section and take a look at the histogram charts. What this tells you is that to use f11 for the best resolution across the entire lens (center and edges), generally for all focal lengths.

DA 18-55 lens
Pentax SMC-DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL - Review / Test Report - Analysis
Generally f8 looks pretty good.

Overall, I know that your within the first 24 hours of getting the camera and this is way more information than what you ever wanted, but it should accelerate you about 12 to 24 months.
___________________________

Now back to your original question -

Water, experiment with the focal lengths of your 2 kit lenses. 18mm will put a lot of water in the foreground. 55mm less so, 100 to 200mm should pull you into the citylights. At noon to 5pm you will have a lot of heat radiating off the water, so at 300mm the city might be a bit less than sharp. Early morning and late evening, clear cool air, will give you great shots. Then there is the fog......

Do you really need a 12-24 lens?. I would say not right now - and it will depend on the type of shots you like. For the shots off of Treasure Island, probably never, in that it would push the city too far away. You need to experiment first with what you have. Use the two lenses that you have. They are REALLY good. The 55-300 you will not get better unless you spend some very serious money.
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/45425-kit-lens-club.html
Spend a year with the kit lenses at least before thinking about another lens. You have so much scenery out in front of you, you have everything you need camera and lens wise. The tripod, head and release are all you MAY be missing. I would visit used camera stores in the bay area looking for an old heavy tripod and possibly a ballhead that you can pan on a level horizontal plane.

I would go out and shoot handheld, to get a feel of the camera, and across both lenses with various focal lengths. I would just use initially the P or green setting. I would shoot some panorama views hand held to experiment, and try some of the free software. Do this before "investing" in a tripod, ball head and L bracket. See what you like to do and what appeals to you. In the evening after work if its pretty dark, set the camera on a foundation of some type and shoot the city lights that way, carefully rotating or panning the camera for the effect. There are lots of things to do with just what you currently have.

Here is a blog on shooting from Treasure Island.
How to photograph from Treasure Island California Photo Scout
____________________

I just re-read your post - and here is a thread that may help in terms of a second lens.
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/93243-da-50-20...-55-300mm.html
You can NOT go wrong with the 55-300. A great lens, I have it and its much better than the 50-200...

hope that helps - enjoy!!!
WOW!!!

I'm not even the one shooting this, but your post is such a masterpiece that I want to say thanks ANYWAY for the effort involved!!!

Does HDR come into play with this at all to bring it to the NEXT level?
03-27-2010, 12:29 PM   #11
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I am sitting here finishing up lunch so I can go pick up 200# of food for my wife's critters along with a couple bales of Timothy/Orchard Grass, before I start packing to leave on a business trip tomorrow....

Ira - Thanks for the complement!!!! I too wasted my youth... Life is wasted on the young....

HDR panoramas - I have been slowly collecting lenses (actually saving up funds and purchasing) for the last 5 years, and now have acquired the mechanical underpinnings. I also upgraded from a K100 to a K20 a year ago. The one thing that I am somewhat not pleased with in terms of Pentax is the dark frame subtraction, but I put up with it and not even thinking about changing - since I like most everything else and their glass is wonderful. This plays into HDR for me in terms of the time it takes to lets say a series of 10 images across a horizon like San Francisco from Treasure Island. Each one could be 10 seconds (with a cloud cover that reflects the light) to say 30 seconds long (for a clear sky). Doing a 3 frame bracketing would ordinary, triple the time. However with dark frame subtraction, you both double the time from each frame and then triple the number of frames. So for one stitched shot of 10 frames at 30 seconds (5 minutes total), you need to multiply by 6 or 30 minutes now. Playing around with this, I find the sky and lighting changes over that time period. Then you have 30 images to process. Not complaining since the some of the software utilities really does a great job here by sensing the bracketed images and doing both the HDR and stitching together in a single pass (to the user - no long manual processing steps). Then there is the 5 frame bracketing, so rather than 3 multiple everything by 5. However, the work is worth the effort, as I have seen some really stunning images.

However, its something that I want to pick up again. I probably need to acquire an extra battery. I have been playing around with multiple row stitching since late last year. Now I want to overlay HDR on top of that.

The other thing that does come to mind, that I forgot to say - I really like the water, and the bridges. The 12-24 would come in very handy for images of the bridges from below, especially with the city lights in the background. The ideas are endless. All you really have to do is to google San Francisco or Treasure Island or the bay bridge and click on images up in the left hand corner, to produce pages of ideas for images.... Just remember you can stitch vertically also... The original poster - loves math and all digital imagery is 1s and 0s....

03-27-2010, 01:20 PM   #12
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re: night HDR panos -

Depending on access to power when shooting: I don't know about other Pentax cams, but my K20D can be powered from a line-current adapter. If out in the wild, a voltage dropper (or inverter and adapter) hooked to a motorcycle or car battery should enable LONG sessions.

Since many normal- or narrow-FOV deep-bracketed dark-framed shots stitched together make a rather large file, I was going to suggest using a wider fast lens (24/2 or thereabouts) and/or 10mpx resolution rather than 14.6mpx. But that wouldn't be pushing the technology to its limits, eh? I guess a motorcycle battery is the answer -- and hope the clouds don't move too much.

Or one could just use a US$25 6x9cm folder, load with chrome, scan and stitch the transparencies, etc. But that's so retro... Wait, if you use the dSLR as a light meter, take test shots to determine the exposure, then you're back in the 21st century. Whew.
03-28-2010, 07:45 AM   #13
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Wow! The support on this forum is phenomenal. It is one of the many reasons that I went with Pentax. This camera is teaching me a lot already and I really appreciate the help. When my 55-300 gets here I believe that I'll be set up for quite awhile.

Now, to sit down and study "interested observer's" amamazing post.
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