make a wish

zeiss 135mm f2 apo sonnar lens ef mount

Yes, this is a photograph. And no, there has been no photoshopping. This image was taken with a 30-second exposure at 3am using a Zeiss 135mm f2 lens mounted on a Canon 1DX. The camera remained stationary for the first 20 seconds of the exposure, and then panned right very slowly and steadily for the remaining 10 seconds to “draw” the tail of the moon. The moon was an enormous, beautiful crescent this night, and it was completely by chance that I couldn’t sleep and happened to notice it out the window. Incredibly rare opportunity, and this image has a prized place in my collection from now on. Make a wish upon the moon for the New Year!

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champagne

zeiss 100mm f2 makro planar manual focus lens for Canon

It’s strange how random things catch your eye sometimes. I saw this champagne cork leftover from a New Years party sitting by itself on a black marble countertop and boom, inspiration. It turned out to be a really fun image that would actually look great as a piece of background art at a bar or restaurant, or even in a den or library at home. Floating canvas would be the way to go since the image sort of floats in space on it’s own.

Taken with a Carl Zeiss 100mm Makro Planar lens, f/6.3, shot at the minimum focus distance. Super soft transition between the sharp subject and the soft out of focus background.

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I took a black and white version as well (because I couldn’t resist)…

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renew

zeiss 35mm f1.4 manual focus lens for canon ef mount

It’s officially 2014, and it’s time for a fresh start. This is the first sunrise of the new year and I wanted to see it in a new way. I wanted to see only the energy of the light, not the details of the scene. I didn’t follow any of the normal techniques or standards to take this shot. The aperture was nearly wide open because I wanted the light to blast through the lens with a soft feel… a no-no with the lens facing directly into the sun, especially without a filter. The shutter speed was set at 1/5000 to compensate for the wide open aperture. And the entire image is out of focus on purpose so that it’s the energy you see, and nothing else. Photography has given me the gift of seeing the world in a new way, and in 2014 I want to continue to push the limits of how things in this world can be seen through the eye of a lens.

Perfect for a large floating canvas print. Taken with a 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Distagon lens, f/1.8, 1/5000, EV -2.

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take that

Zeiss 135mm apo sonnar manual focus lens

This was one of the most enjoyable photos I’ve ever taken. This was in the early evening when the sun was already starting to set, so the light was minimal. I opened up the aperture all the way to f/2 and allowed the ISO to climb to 12,800, and with that combination I never expected to get such a nice photo. It’s not a great technical image, but it has a wonderful nostalgic quality to it. I almost cropped out the blurry window pane on the right side that got accidentally included in the shot because I was rushing to get the camera into position, but I decided to leave it since it translates perfectly from how I was actually seeing this fun little scene out of my own window.

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celebrate

carl zeiss 100mm makro planar ef mount lens for canon

It’s time to ring in the New York of 2014, so let’s celebrate! After today, this image would make a wonderful artistic piece in any kitchen or dining area with a simple single mat black gallery frame that showcases the crisp focus and detail of the glass, and the soft out of focus background of the wine bottles.

Taken with a Carl Zeiss 100mm Makro Planar lens, which produces the most beautiful bokeh of any lens I’ve ever used… backgrounds are incredibly soft with a very smooth transition between in-focus and out-of-focus areas.

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crystal clear

Zeiss 100mm f2 Makro manual focus lens for Canon

Since Christmas is my favorite holiday, I naturally found myself taking a million pictures of ornaments and trees, and I found something special on this shot. I was trying to capture the iridescence of the bulb itself, not necessarily the ornament, and as I was adjusting my focus throughout the viewfinder, I noticed that I could actually see myself in the glass. It reminded me of those crystal balls with the winter scenes inside of them that you shake when you’re a kid, except this one was crystal clear.

Taken with a Zeiss 100mm f2 Makro Planar manual focus EF-mount lens.

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holidays

carl zeiss 100mm f2 makro planar lens ef mount canon

This is one of my favorite photos taken over the holidays. It translates incredibly well with the ultra crisp focus, the sparkling edges of the ornaments and lights, and the glowing background reflections on the picture frames. Overall, the image is a little dark, but it makes me remember those times when I got up in the middle of the night to peak at the Christmas tree as a little kid. This would look fantastic in a medium size print with a very simple  white mat, black gallery frame.

Taken with a Carl Zeiss 100mm Makro Planar EF-mount lens at f/5.6.

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warm

Zeiss 100mm f2 Makro Planar manual focus lens EF mount for canon

The title speaks for itself with this close up image of a candle flame taken on Christmas day. I love the shape of the flame itself as it’s frozen in time, and the detail of the wax around the edges. This would look great in a small frame or as a very large floating canvas statement piece.

Taken with a Carl Zeiss 100mm f2 Makro Planar lens f/2.8 mounted on a Canon 5D Mark III camera.

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three wisemen

ziess 100mm f2 EF mount lens for Canon

This photo was taken from a high vantage point looking out over downtown Asheville, NC in the early evening with the sun on it’s way to setting.

I love the dark shadows cast by the setting sun onto the roof of the church, and three beautiful trees standing next to it. The backdrop of the Smoky Mountains makes this one of my favorite photos of all time, and gives it a very spiritual quality that is hard to find nowadays. This would be fantastic with a simple black gallery frame in a medium size like 16×20 or 20×30.

Taken with a Carl Zeiss 100mm Makro Planar ZE mount lens.

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blue ridge

Zeiss 100mm f2 makro planar lens EF mount for Canon

I made my second trip to Asheville, NC last week, and I will most definitely be going back! Great culture, great food, great people, and beautiful scenery like the Blue Ridge Mountains pictured here.

The first time I was in Asheville I didn’t notice just how blue the Blue Ridge Mountains were, and I also didn’t quite understand why they are sometimes called the Smoky Mountains. This photo changed all that. The mountains are a stunning shade of blue in the evening light, and after a storm like the one I drove through on the way into town, they are also mysteriously smoky. Mystery solved. I would love to see this on a 30×45 floating canvas.

This image was taken with a Zeiss 100mm f2 lens set to f/8 handheld around 4pm right after a rainstorm blew through downtown and out over the mountains.

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see the blue ridge collection

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wild night

photo layering with a Zeiss 50mm f1.4 lens

The title of this photo doesn’t need much in the way of explanation… just drink the one in the middle!

This is a very trippy rendition of what it feels like to have that kind of night. As you all know by now, I love photos that convey feelings and this one does it better than just about any other photo in my collection. ‘wild night’ would look amazing as a large floating canvas print. I used a technique called photo layering for this, but I did it all in-camera which worked out really great. I still have an awful lot to learn about layering, but I’ll have more on that later in the ‘experiences‘ section for those of you who are interested.

The image is a combination of three individual exposures taken at the same time while I physically move the camera over my subject. I used a Canon 1DX and the very painterly Zeiss 50mm f1.4, which is the perfect artistic lens for shots like this. You can’t accomplish this kind of effect with a lens known for it’s sharpness and clarity like the Zeiss 50mm f2 Makro. You need lenses that render their images more like paint brushes, and the Zeiss 50mm/1.4 and the Zeiss 28mm/2 are two of my favorites when it comes to artistic rendering. Both of these lenses take some severe beatings in online review forums for their lack of sharpness, but that’s just not what they’re made for. Every artist needs to know the tools in his toolkit.

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absolute

canon 1dx. Zeiss 135mm apo sonnar

Absolute quiet. Absolute stillness. This is a rarity in the city that never sleeps.

This was taken in the middle of the night from a high vantage point looking east out over the East River towards Queens with a long 25 second exposure. I used a Zeiss 135mm manual focus lens mounted on a Canon 1DX and a tripod with a remote trigger. My focus point was on the solitary street lamp in the center of the image which produced a beautiful sun star effect. Sometimes this image looks like there’s a secret meeting going on down there within that little group of trees, and other times it just looks calm, still, quiet, and cold.

I love the clarity and detail that this lens captures invariably… this may end up being one that I frame for my personal collection.

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snowmage

Since we’re having a very white holiday season this year, I decided to try my hand at cold-weather photography and see what I could come up with. The hardest part of shooting in the winter is the lighting, especially while it’s snowing. Everything is so monochromatic that it’s almost impossible to get an interesting shot with color photos. The sky is grey, the clouds are grey, the ground is grey, and even the light has a grey tone to it. To get around that problem, I decided to play with contrast instead of color, with out-of-focus areas instead of in-focus, and with an old-school nostalgic look instead of a sharp modernistic one. Before I started thinking out-of-the-box with this project, my photos were totally uninteresting. Turning to the idea of using the camera like a brush instead of like an instrument got me a nice winter collection… a snowmage if you will…

“leaves”

zeiss 50/2 makro planar

If you didn’t look closely, you may have believed the title of this photo and found it to be quite uninteresting. I came across this scene of tiny birds having breakfast in ray of sunshine peeking through a barren tree in the late Fall in Central Park. It’s ironic that this image seems like nothing more than a boring photo of dead leaves on first glance, but if you look closely the amount of detail captured by this lens is incredible, and the way the light rendered is stunning. Taken with a Carl Zeiss 50/2 Makro lens.

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energy

Zeiss 135mm f2 apo sonnar lens

Streams of traffic that look like cords of electrical energy moving through a New York City street on the Upper East Side at nighttime. Very long 30 second exposure through a Zeiss 135mm APO Sonnar lens mounted on a Canon 1DX camera.

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unfiltered three

Zeiss 50mm f1.4 planar lens

In unfiltered one and unfiltered two I told you how I’m not fond of using filters to create unrealistic colors and drama in photography, and unfiltered three is one more example of how amazing nature can be if you pay attention to it. This is straight out of the camera with no filters or processing of any kind. Taken with a Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Planar lens, f/5.6, -1EV, 1/40, handheld.

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gentle

Zeiss 135 f2 apo sonnar lens

There is something so gentle about falling snow, It makes things quiet. It makes things softer. I feel that in this photo. Quiet, soft, gentle.

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being little

Zeiss 135mm f2 apo sonnar lens sample photos

“This reminds of me of being little” is the first thing I heard when I showed this photo, which is ironic because that’s exactly the nostalgic feeling I was going for.

Taken with a Carl Zeiss 135mm APO Sonnar lens mounted on a Canon 5DIII, f/2, 1/125.

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guardian

Zeiss 50mm f2 Makro Planar lens

This photo was taken from underneath the canopy of a particularly large and beautiful tree in Madison Square Park on a very sunny and hot day in August. The tree offered cooling shade to a number of people taking a break from the heat, and I noticed a dominant limb in the tree that took on an almost human appearance through my lens. It looked as though it was guarding all of us from the intense sun behind it with it’s expansive canopy, and we all appreciated it immensely.

The shot was particularly hard to get because of the intense backlighting of the sun blasting the canopy from the opposite side. Anyone who takes photos regularly has experienced this problem where all the detail gets obscured in deep shadows when the subject is strongly backlit, especially when it’s the sun doing the backlighting. I’m fairly happy with the level of detail that came through on the guardian tree limb, but I had to use a technique called Exposure Locking to get anything other than a completely black silhouette. Exposure Lock is a little tricky conceptually, but sometimes it’s the only way to get a useful shot in tough lighting situations like this.

Most DSLR cameras have a * button on the back near the top right corner, and this is usually set to Exposure Lock (AE Lock) by default (in some cameras you can change the function of this button). Normally, your camera will set it’s exposure at the same time you focus your lens with a half-press of the shutter button which is the best way to go for the majority of your photos. In extreme lighting situations like this however, it’s necessary to disconnect the exposure from the focus point in order to capture the details in the darkest parts of the image. My focus point was on the end of the largest branch, which had tons of extremely bright highlights where the sun was peaking through. When I allowed the camera to expose the shot with my focus point, the camera saw the very bright highlights and assumed that the entire image was too bright. If the camera thinks the image is too bright, it brings the exposure way down and everything in the shadows becomes pure black. If you point your central metering circle in the viewfinder into an area of the image that is fairly dark, lock the exposure with the * button, and then recompose and take your shot, you effectively fool the camera into thinking that the image is too dark so it doesn’t black out everything in the shadows and allows you to keep the shadow detail you want. This comes at the expense of the brightest parts of the image getting blown out, so you have to decide which is worse… a few blown out highlights, or losing all your shadow detail.

It took me a while to figure out the AE Lock technique, but it’s a handy trick in situations like this where strong backlighting can overwhelm your photo with pure black shadows. All the pro’s  are probably saying “That’s way too complicated. Why not just use a flash?”. There’s nothing wrong with that strategy, and I agree that that would be much easier. I just don’t like flash photography… it’s purely a personal preference. Flash photography always looks like a flash was used, and for me it ruins the natural, pure feeling of the scene. Just a personal preference, not right or wrong.

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winter sky

Zeiss 28mm f2 Lens

In a way, this is a sister image to burning. It was taken with the same lens, the Zeiss 28mm f2, and the same camera, the Canon 1DX. However, what I love about this image is the opposite of what I love about burning… with burning I love the intense red orange in the low horizon, but with ‘winter sky’ I love the incredible shades of blue, purple, and grey in the sky that only exist for a few seconds while the sun is setting, and only in the late fall / early winter. It’s a one-of-a-kind photo in my collection that would take an incredible stroke of luck to duplicate since nature is the one who really owns this, not me.

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