Learning new gear

I’ve been studying star and Milky Way photography tutorials as I prepare for what I hope will be a great trip to central Oregon next week.  If the wildfire smoke cooperates I hope to come back with a few images that are totally new to me.  I’ve never been a fan of star trails but I do enjoy sharp star shots.  Since I don’t have any star shots I’m hopeful that the trip produces.

One of the considerations for star shots is lens selection.  I have a 16mm lens that is wonderful.  But… there’s always a “but”…. I want as much of the sky and Milky Way in the frame as possible.  I discovered a low priced lens that got good reviews for star photography.. the Rokinon 14 mm f/2.8.  It’s the f/2.8 part that is as important as the 14mm.  Some of the technical reviews are not very complimentary but for the price I thought it was worth a try.  Today was my first outing with the lens.

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This is Cedar Mill Falls which just happens to be about 5 minutes from my house.  I had never shot this falls before and thought it would be a nice place to start experimenting.  The first thing I learned is that the 14mm demands that you get way closer to the subject than I normally do.  Yikes… I felt like I was part of the falls.  The next thing I learned is that, since this is a manual focus lens, the framing and focusing of a shot requires a lot more work and inspection than I normally take.  That’s not a bad thing at all.   The above photo is full frame and totally unsharpened.  I was wary of the lens being soft in the corners but I don’t think it is terrible.   In fact it doesn’t seem apparant to me at all.

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Part of my plan to learn the lens was to go shoot some architecture to see how much distortion I’d have to fight.  Since I didn’t have any shots of the little Helvetia country church I headed west to the site.  What fun to stand on a country road and not be run over by heavy traffic.  A great luxury to stand at the edge of the road and know you can hear and see any vehicles for a long time before they get to you.  Again, I was amazed at how close I had to get.  I knew that tipping the camera up would exaggerate distortion so I did what I could to get the camera as high as possible and as level as possilbe while still getting the top of the steeple in the shot.  The lens does not have a profile for correcting distortion in Lightroom like many other lenses so I used the Nikon 14-24 profile to take some of the barrel distortion out.  Again, not a bad deal I think.  The clarity is remarkable after learning to focus using Live View which is a different task when using a manual focus lens that doesnt’ fully communicate with the camera.

My experimentation lead me to think that this is a useful lens but one which will be used for special situations.  It demands time to compose, expose and focus.  I look forward to some time with it next week.

 

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