Buy a used lens, or not?

Jim asks:

Hi Michael just wondering about your advice on a used camera lense….. I am looking at on Facebook market place …. it’s a canon wide angle zoom 10-22 for my canon 70D …. I am a little leery about buying a used lense and also buying and having it shipped sight unseen …

I understand the hesitation. The world is full of cheats and thieves.

But there are also at least as many honest people. Here’s my thoughts on buying a used lens.

  • Lenses tend to work practically forever, so I am generally in favour. You get a great lens for less than the new cost: why not? DO not expect a really really big discount though: lenses keep their value for decades.
  • Always ask the seller to promise that the lens is undamaged and in fully working order. Communicate via email or some other way that keeps a record.
  • Make sure you agree some course of action if that should not be the case.I am not talking about a full warranty, but what if after three hours the lens dies?
  • Ask for history: why are you selling, what did you use it for, do you have the box, etc. A good reason to sell would be “I am upgrading to full frame and this is a crop sensor lens”, for example.
  • Always ask for full contact details. I check them, and if it’s an expensive lens I have been known to take a copy of the seller’s driver’s license. After all, the lens could be stolen: it’s no more than a sensible precaution.
  • I am weary of Kijiji, so this caution doubly applies there.
  • As does this caution: “meet in a public place”.
  • eBay has warranties, so that is a little safer.
  • I like Facebook marketplace too: much fewer ‘flakes’ than on Kijiji. Check how long the Facebook user has had an account. If that’s “one week”, then you know there are alarm bells ringing.
  • When looking at a lens, take some photos at the extremes: fully zoomed in and out; lowest and highest f-number.
  • Check the prices on eBay – only look for “sold listings”!

Of course always keep in mind the old adage that “if it seems to be too good to be true then it probably is too good to be true”. But there are many good lenses to be had. So if the above all checks out, you should be fine. And there’s nothing like a new lens – fun!

Leading lines

A short note today about leading lines. We use those to lead the viewer into a photo and call attention to the subject. You can use a wide-angle lens, and you can look for lines naturally occurring in the environment. Like the perspective lines here, in the parking lot at Place d’Orléans mall, that seem to point to Rose:

Rose at the mall

As soon as I saw r=those “Alhambra-like” columns, I knew we had a photo. It’s all about opening your eyes.

This, incidentally, is one of those images that can also work very well in Black and White – here, with the super-cool grainy Tri-X film look – and you really need to see it full size to judge:

In this particular case I am not sure which one I prefer – I love both. What do you think? Let me know!

For a flow, go slow.

I have a useful mnemonic for you: “For a flow, go slow”.

Meaning if you are picturing something that happens as a continuous flow, you should use a slow shutter speed, to capture it as that flow.  Like this, a few years ago:

To do this I did the following:

  1. Defy death by climbing down an unofficial trail.
  2. Use a tripod.
  3. Use a wide angle zoom lens (16-35mm, on a full frame camera).
  4. Put a variable neutral density (ND) filter on the lens, set to its maximum darkness.
  5. Camera on manual. Use 100 ISO and a high f/number; in this case, f/20
  6. Now see what shutter speed I need (20 seconds).

And that’s it!

Notes:

  • You do not always need a slow shutter. For the waterfall, 1 second would have been fine too. But the river looks better at that slow speed.
  • At small apertures you will see sensor dust if there is a blank surface, like a sky, in the shot.
  • Use the 2s self timer, or you will shake the camera by pressing the shutter button.
  • Do not damage your equipment; it’s easy enough!

And you will get great pictures.

___

This is a repeat post – because it’s still true.

Creative flash

I am teaching a six evening “Creative Flash 301” course, using Zoom, to the Ajax Camera Club. Fun, and finally an excuse to get a little creative again.

For example. One flash above subject, with small softbox; plus a little fill from front right:

Next: One flash. How is it done, can you work it out?

And another one, showing that one or two off camera flashes is enough to create some cool shots. In this case, just one, again:

Only your creativity is the limit, really. So if you don’t yet know how to get creative with flash, learn (I can help), and have some fun.

New Tools

When we fix images, as we do daily in the store (www.michaelwillemsphoto.com) sometimes it is easy – and sometimes we need a lot more effort. Like in this before/after example:

White balance isn’t enough – not even close. For these colours I needed to use Lightroom’s white balance, extensive HSL, and especially the new excellent “Color Grading” tool. If you haven’t needed it yet – you will. And then a coloured local adjustment brush to add some skin colour, quite often – this is an art as much as it is a craft and a science.

But then there’s also Photoshop to remove the small imperfections, and an AI-based de-noise tool to lower noise. (“AI” stands for “Artificial Intelligence” – it’s not the name “AL”…)

In the end, it is always worth it. Memories preserved. Because when the photos fade, the memory itself fades.

Gels for correction (Repeat from 2015)

You can use some gels (colour filters) for correction, Here, from 2015, is a post with an example.

Take this: I am lit pretty much OK by my flash, and with the camera set to FLASH white balance,, but the background is a tungsten light, so it looks red. I happen to like that, but what if I want that background to look normal, white, the way it looks to me?

Well…  can I not just set the white balance to Tungsten?

No, because then, while the background would look good, the parts lit by the flash would look all blue, like this:

Part 1 of the solution: make the light on me come from a tungsten light source too, so we both look red. We do this by adding a CTO (colour Temperature Orange) to the flash.

Part 2 of the solution: Now you can set the white balance on your camera to “Tungsten”, and both I and the background will look neutral:

Done. Now we both look normal.

So, in summary:  when you are dealing with a colour-cast ambient light, gel your flash to that same colour cast, and then adjust your white balance setting to that colour cast.

Travel Photo Trick!

Today, a repeat of a 2015 post that is particularly useful for travel photographers.

With the camera on a tripod and exposure set to manual, I can take pictures like these, one by one:

…and on on. As said, I am using a tripod, so the only thing that varies is me (I used a self timer).

And then I can use Photoshop or the GIMP (the latter is a free equivalent) to do things like this very easily:

Or even this:

OK.. so a cool trick. You do this with layers and masks. Hellishly complicated user interface, but once you know the silly UI, the process itself is very simple. It’s the only thing I have the GIMP for.

So. Why would I think this is useful, other than for fun?

Well…. think. You can also use it the other way. Instead of replacing the wall by me, replace me by the wall. And now you can perhaps see a benefit looming.

No? Think on. You are at the Eiffel Tower. Or the Grand Canyon lookout point. Or whatever tourist attraction you can think of. What do you see? Tourists. Right. It attracts them: that’s why it is a tourist attraction.

But not in the same spot all the time. So all you need to do is the same I did here: take a bunch of pictures. Say 10-20 of them. So that you have each spot of attraction at least once without a covering tourist. Then you put them into layers—one each—in PS. And then you manually remove tourists. One by one, poof.. they disappear.

Or you go one further: depending on your version, you can use function File > Scripts > Statistics.  Now choose “median” and select the photos. And you end up automatically with an Eiffel tower without tourists, a Grand Canyone without other onlookers, and so on.

Cool? Yes, very.

So there.

Kai Tak

A few photos I took at Kai Tak airport, Hong Kong, around 1985. These were slides, and they are well preserved. Still, of course after scanning I had to so some touchups and restoration.

The famous checker board:

Pretty steep tun at very low altitude. An adventure, landing at Kai Tak.

And the large aircraft were amazing. I was at the Hong Kong aviation club, at the foot of Rwy 13. I was learning to fly Cessnas at the time. And afterward we’d drink in the bar and see htis:

Anyone who has been there will recognize this – and feel the humidity, small the smells, and feel like they’re there again. That is the power of photography.

Click to see larger. Ektachrome; touched up with Lightroom and de-noised with Avast De-noise AI.