Choosing your first Prime Lens

February 10, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! Hows your week going? Mine Great! Thanks for asking. Today I want to talk about your first prime lens. There are so many which one to get? Why a prime? What is a prime? All good questions and we will answer them. When your new into photography you get a entry level camera which is awesome and the company, no matter what brand you get, will put an inexpensive lens on so you can shoot right away. Its usually a zoom lens that give you many focal lengths to play with. These Zoom lenses are called Kit lenses and can be great lenses but more than not they are cheaply built and have smaller aperture ranges. But for someone just starting they are great! So after you've shot with them a while you start thinking about your next lens purchase. Really this will be your first lens purchase. You do some research and see what all the popular pros are shooting and those lenses are expensive and seem to be made out of un-obtainium. I think your first lens purchase should be a prime lens. It only has one focal length. Instead of being a 16-55mm its AMT2016-sony-a6300-review-0423-2AMT2016-sony-a6300-review-0423-2Photographer: Anthony Thurston a 35mm or a 50mm. Instead of having a variable maximum f-stop rating of f3.5-5.6 it may have a rating of f1.8 or f2.8. These lenses are cheaper have wider apertures and are sharper than the kit lenses. So there is the why to get a prime and the what is a prime. But which one? Well let me tell you about my story. When I started in photography long, long time ago zooms were made out of un-obtainium and weren't that good or sharp. So when you bought a camera it usually came with a 50mm prime lens usually at f1.8 or 2.8. That is what you learned on and your feet were you're zoom. Now how does that help you? It doesn't I just wanted to talk about the old days. LOL Lets talk about some of the different focal lengths.

24mm is a very popular focal length now a days for VLOGing and for video most phones shoot at the widest in the 20's and the photo's that are on instagram and face book shot with phones are starting to be the normal for some folks. I think of 24 being a specialty wide angle lens and would not get this lens for my first prime. Unless your a VLOGer.

35mm is another popular lens.  It's not as wide as the 24 but wide enough for environmental portraits and Art MuseumArt Museum street photography to capture the whole scene. This lens is very popular with street photographers being able to get into tight corners of the city and still be wide enough to get the shot. This is a good choice for a first prime lens if you shoot in the city a lot or love to shoot environmental portraits.

50mm is the bread and butter lens. It is said to be the closest to how we see the world threw our own eyes. This is a good street although not as wide as the 35 but also great for portraits with the least amount of  Max Stansell Photography distortion.  Good for head shots and full length as well. They are sometimes called the nifty 50.  They can be had for just a couple of hundred or even cheaper used. This is a great value lens and I think every photographer should have one in their lens lineup. But the first one?

85mm is a portrait beast for head shots. Maybe a little too tight for everyday DavidDavid street but I would have one on me if I shot a lot of street for the longer shots that can compress a little. One of my favorite lenses to shoot portraits with. I just love how one can really blur out the background. If you take a lot of Portraits its a must have in your lens lineup. But the first one?

135mm this is another great portrait lens and the first focal length that I bought as a teenager. This lens is long enough that you can do some telephoto work with it and shoot scenes that compress (bring the background in closer) .  I actually still have that lens that is so old that it is a screw mount lens as it screws into the body of the camera instead of a bayonet type that all modern camera's have now. 

SarahSarah So which one to use? Well it depends on what type of photographer you are. If you notice in all of the descriptions above I never mentioned Landscape. I don't think that a prime lens would be my choice for landscape although you could certainly use  one It would not be my choice. The easy and simple way to check is if your using Lightroom look and see which focal length you use more often by sorting your photos by focal length. The one with the most photo's wins. That would be the focal length that I would get. But take into consideration on what your going to use the lens for .  If you take portraits then the 50 or the 85 would be great choices. If you like environmental shots then the 35 would be great. If your a VLOGer then the 24 would be great. I really don't think the 135 should be the first. I think its too specialized in what it can do and the others are more versatile. My opinion.  So there you have it which prime to get first. So until next week . Get out and Shoot!

Macro Photography "how to"

February 03, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everybody! Hope you're having a great week.  This week is a continuation on Macro Photography.  I've got a pot of Chili cooking and its raining outside so what a better time to talk about Macro Photography.  The small world of macro photography can be found anywhere you are. You don't have to go to a special place you can use your back yard or inside on a rainy day to take Macro shots from another world. Making the ordinary look extraordinary !  What I'm about to give you is my way of doing Macro Photography I'm sure there are many ways and you can focus stack images to make the whole photo look sharp I'm not going to get into that much detail.  First off let's pick the subject.

Picking a subject. Well this is subjective! LOL Well it is .  You can choose anything you like because when its photographed so close up its hard to recognize as the object that you started with and becomes something more abstract. For my exercise today I'm going to use a coin. And like any photograph make sure the background is good. For this first exercise I'm going to use a 28-60 kit lens and an a 10mm extension tube. I'm using a on camera flash shooting through a small diffuser which is really making my background turn black. You don't need a flash you could use LED lights or bright sunlight from a window or your back yard.  I'm shooting all manual. I can use the auto focus to get me close to sharpness then I switch to manual focus for fine tuning. When I'm in Manual focus I use the focus peaking found on most modern camera's to tell me what is in focus and what is not. Remember when shooting in macro really close up you have a very small depth of field. To get the whole object (the coin) I would either have to shoot from above so the whole coin is in the same focal plane in focus or if I shoot from the side I would have to take multiple photo's with focus in different spots and blend in photoshop to get all in focus. That process is another discussion. I kind of like the blurry parts of a photo sometimes. As you can see with the first photo the middle is in focus but the bottom and top of the coin are out of focus and its more a close up shot than a macro. After I took the photo with the 10mm I took it with a 16mm and it looks closer but still not macro for me . But it does a good job. Now I could have combined the two extension tubes and got a 26mm which would have gotten me closer. But I decided not to and decided to go to a dedicated Macro lens. You can see that the 16mm on the right is a closer shot and that only the bottom of the coin is in focus. The next shots I took was with a 50mm dedicated macro lens that I bought second hand from MPB. I used all the same settings But I had to switch to a more sturdy tripod because this lens is much heaver than the kit lens that I was using. This photo on the left shows that with my first attempt I didn't get as close as I could have but did get much closer than the kit lens and the larger extension tube. I focused in manual using the peak focusing option in my camera or you can use the digital zoom in feature that most of modern camera's have. This lets you zoom in and fine tune your focus before you take the shot. As you can see the zoom in feature on the right photo of the photo on the left I could zoom in and really see the detail of the year date on the coin. The other method that I like to use is to get the subject the way you want it and with peak focusing option on my camera I can slowly go closer or further away and watch my focus come in. With peak focusing a color is used to highlight what is in focus on this photo on the left you can see how the focus is along the bottom of the coin and extends to the background as well. Hopefully you can see the highlights I took a photo of the back of my camera with my eye phone. But the bottom of the coin there is a small section that highlights the 1921 and extends to the background showing what is in focus. Those are really all of the techniques that I use. Nothing special. Macro photography can be fun and exciting but it also can be tedious work and small fractions of a inch matter. There is a whole world out there that no one else sees or notices .  So until next week get out and shoot!


Macro Photography for Beginners "Gear"

January 26, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone!  Hope you had a great week! This week I wanted to talk or share my thoughts on Macro Photography. Now I'm no expert and have recently acquired another Macro lens. I've had several over the years. But I've got one to add to my Landscape Photography Kit. So if I'm out and about and the light has gone bad I still can do some Macro Photography. Some really close up shots. So this blog will be mainly about gear. So lets start with the first question.

What is Macro Photography? Macro Photography is when the object size is the same size on the sensor or 1:1 Ratio or better.  So if your have a one centimeter object that your taking a photo of it will take up 1 centimeter on your sensor. What does all that mean? Not much to you and me except that you can focus real close. You can take photos of bugs and spiders and they take up the whole screen on your viewfinder without cropping the photograph to make it large.  When your shooting Macro you are shooting a whole new world that you can't usually see with your eyes or that you ignore altogether. Very Cool. 

What lens do I use to do Macro Photography. If you don't have a dedicated Macro Lens I would start with extension tubes.  Extension Tubes are put between your lens and a camera and let you focus closer.  They are inexpensive and don't have any glass in them so they won't effect the quality of your image. You can get a good set of three for under 50 bucks. You can use all three or stack them to get the effect you want. Macro Lenses come in a variety of focal lengths and price points. And as with everything in Photography you get what you pay for. But you can get some good gear on the cheap to start out.There are some third party lenses that are very inexpensive but they are manual focus only. Dedicated Macro lenses are versatile remember these lenses can be used for other stuff too. A 105mm Macro is an excellent focal length for portraits and is used by many in the portrait industry for head shots. The focal length as it pertains to Macro Photography will determine your working distance to your subject. The longer focal length you will have more distance between you and your subject the smaller the less working distance. Make sure you put into consideration on the type of camera your are using. A crop sensor will have to multiply the focal length by 1.5 to get the working focal length. A 50mm will act like a 75mm on a crop sensor camera. 100mm seems to be the sweet spot for premium Macro lenses but they come in all focal lengths. But remember to be a true macro it must magnify at a 1:1 ratio no mater what the lens says on the side of it. Some cheaper lenses say they are macro but aren't they may get close to the macro ratio but not quite. I have owned a 105mm macro when I shot Nikon and it was a excellent lens I sold that one and eventually got an older 60mm nikon lens that was also a good lens  but when I got rid of all of my Nikon gear that was the last lens that I held onto and used an adapter to fit it to my Sony cameras and used it quite a bit. I then sold it and was without for a while until I just purchased a used Sony 50mm f2.8 lens which I like very much. I have just started to play with it again that's why this blog was started.  These lenses can be expensive and I hear there are good third party lenses from companies like Tamron that make good ones. 

Accessories for Macro.  When shooting Macro photography the closer you get to a subject the more light you need. One of those Physics things. So to add light you can use artificial light like an LED light or a Flash. They make LED and Flashes that attach to the front of your lens and then go to your hot shoe of your camera. You can also just use a regular flash. Almost any will do you don't have to spend a lot of money on these because you will be using it in manual and not TTL. So you can use a basic flash that you can get for 60 bucks or so. A diffuser will also be handy to make that small flash look huge to the little object that you will be take a photo of. Now if you're going to be using your flash off camera you will need some sort of trigger  or cord to get the flash off camera. These can be inexpensive also.

Thats about all that you will need to shoot Macro and you probably have most of these things already in your photography arsenal. So get them out and dusted off and start using . My next blog on Macro will be about the how to do the macro shots not on gear. So until next week get out and start shooting.

Hiking and Walking to improve your Photography

January 20, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! Hope you had a great week. This weeks title might having you think that I'm a little crazy. And I am! LOL I think that the more Physically fit you are the better that you'll do everything. You think better and you don't get as tired on a long day. Now when we are in our 20's and 30's we really don't have to think about it but as we get older we do. Now I am no physical specimen I'm like every one else to big and out of shape. But I have been working on it and by the time this blog comes out I will have lost over 35 lbs and can hike or walk many miles without getting tired.  This is all due to me getting off of my butt and going for a hike. This morning me and Forrest the Wonder Dog went for about a 4-1/2 to 5 mile hike , the temp was perfect in the low 40's perfect hiking weather. While I was hiking I was thinking about this blog and what I wanted to talk about. If you know me I have just retired and your probably saying that you don't have time to hike or walk 3 or so miles a day. I am here to tell you that you can and I have done it with a full time job and commuting 3 hours a day. It can be done. I use to commute to work and worked pretty much in a cubicle but at lunch time instead of going Into the woodsInto the woodsIn the woods again. I used to hike. I used to hike a lot. About 4 or 5 years ago I was hiking a lot of miles, I could go up to 14 with a pack on my back in the mountains. Thats going up and down over rough terrain. Over a year ago I hurt my knee. As knee injuries go this wasn’t the worst that could happen to me but it was bad enough to keep me from hiking. They really can’t repair the problem unless it gets worse and have to replace the knee. And I’m no where near that yet thank goodness but I will have to deal with this knee problem. I have been taking short hikes with my hiking partner Forrest at the Cliffs of the Neuse. Little mile or two at a time and the terrain isn’t too awful bad at cliffs of the Neuse. Yesterday Me and Forrest went into the woods at Raven Rock State park and completed a 5 Mile hike. This was the first real test of my knee in a long time . The terrain is very rocky and uneven except for this level spot where we took this photo of us. Forrest was a great partner when he heard me huffing and puffing he slowed down and when I was doing ok he sped up. I had his leash clipped to my belt loop and was hands free of his leash (except for a couple of Squirrels) LOL This particular trail was the first time I hiked over 5 miles and after a couple of years I came back and didn’t know what all the fuss was about. It was not a piece of cake for me yesterday I had my camera gear with me (and extra weight My Belly) that I carried with me but we made it OK. I look forward to getting into the woods again. #MaxStansellPhotography #funwithphotography #getoutandshoot #awesomestuffisee #northcarolinaphotographer #northcarolinaliving #sonya6300 #alphashooter some where to eat I put on some walking shoes and started walking. Before long I had a three mile trek that I would do every day to get my steps in.  Just that little act along with eating properly and the pounds will come off. So what's the secret? Here's mine.

Walking or hiking and I prefer hiking because you use more muscles because of the uneven ground you have to keep your balance which uses more muscles. Its not about how far you go but how long you do it at a time. Walking an hour a day 4 or 5 times a week is great. The average hiker goes about 3 miles per hour but depending on the terrain I go anywhere between 2 and 2-1/2 miles an hour. On flat ground just walking I can get to 3 mph. So find you a track that is about 2 to 3 mile long and take a walk. Walking is therapeutic and slows your mind down from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  During this hike you will burn about 350 to 400 calories .  If you eat healthy Low Carb and High Protein diet and Keep the Calorie intake down.  AMT2016-sony-a6300-review-0423-2AMT2016-sony-a6300-review-0423-2Photographer: Anthony Thurston Count those Calories! The weight will come off. For me personally I have kept my calorie intake between 1500 and 2000 per day. I record everything I eat and suggest that you do to and after a while you'll know what you can eat and not eat. At first you will be hungry but your body will adjust and you won't be hungry. Stay the course!  If you burn more than you eat your body will use the fat that you have accumulated to keep your body engine running and the pounds will come off. I would suggest taking a multi vitamin once a day just incase your missing out on something  because of your diet. It might take a couple of weeks before things start to happen but they will and the pound will slowly come off .  I'm averaging 1 pound per week. I weigh myself every morning at the same time. Sticking to your new routine is the key and it will work. Thats the secret.

Here are some tips to Hiking and Walking. If your walking wear comfortable shoes. I wear Skechers. They are fairly inexpensive and are soft on my feet. If your walking on a sidewalk or street they will cushion your feet from the hard surface. If your hiking I would wear a more aggressive souled shoe for traction so you don't slip. I wear a pair of trail runners that I use for backpacking. While hiking I also use a hiking stick ,(trekking pole) to help with balance. They have more than once saved my bacon from falling. Dress in comfortable clothes. In colder weather layer up.  A hikers moto is " if its cold outside be bold and dress cold" they say that because after your body starts working you will warm up and if you dressed too warm you will have to take some off. Like a big coat.  I carry a small backpack with water maybe a energy bar. I also take my everyday cary camera my Canon G7XMII a point and shoot incase I see something interesting. I have a collapsable bowl that I bring for Forrest to drink out of .  I listen to music or a podcast while I'm hiking so a pair of ear buds are great. Lately I've been listening to smooth Jazz radio on Pandora. I really don't have milage goals but I have step goals. If you have some sort of pedometer that can count your steps that is great. My watch counts mine. I set a goal of 10000 steps a day. I usually hike or walk 3 or 4 days then take a rest day to let my muscles relax. Keep and eye out on the weather and if its going to be rainy take a rest day but if you like the rain have at it.

Being in good shape will help your photography and keep you more energetic. Last year Me and Robert went to Zion National Park to hike Angles landing. Its 2 miles up to Scouts landing then another 1/2 mile straight up to the top of Angles landing.  I was very heavy and carrying camera equipment. I struggled to get to Scouts Landing and was very wobbly there and did not do the Angles Landing. I didn't do it because I was not fit enough to do it. Robert made it to the top and got some great photo's but more important he got a great memory because he was more fit. Don't miss out because you're out of shape. So until next week get out and hike and shoot!

Kit Lenses with Primes

January 13, 2023  •  1 Comment

Hey Everyone! How's it going this week? Hope you're having a good one. This week will be a bit controversial for serious photographers and I might get some flack but I think what I think. This week I want to talk about kit lenses and how I use them in my photography. So what is a kit lens? A Kit lens is a less expensive zoom lens that manufactures put with cameras so they can sell them as a kit. Usually not great lenses and are usually the first lenses put out to pasture after someone really gets into photography. They want the professional lenses that all of the YouTube and inter web people say is the best lens to get. And make no doubt these professional lenses are better lenses but are they worth the money? To me it depends. Let me give you my situation. I have a crop sensor lens camera that I use for landscape and have very high quality zoom lenses that I use with it . (I think Zooms are a must for Landscape) Then I have a full frame camera that I use mostly Prime lenses with and I love the way a prime lens looks on a full frame sensor.  When you take a portrait with an 85mm f1.8 lens the background just melts.  Now my full frame I use for everything except Landscape/Wildlife.  So portraits, Street, product every thing in between.  I recently purchased a kit lens for my full frame a 28-60mm lens that works great for just kicking around and taking photos around town or street photography.  Its small and compact. Now its not as bright as my Primes but does great for daylight and well lit shots. So why didn't I get the professional lens for my Full Frame? Cost vs Quality ratio.

Cost of Kit lenses.  The price of a kit lens can be as much as 1/4 the price of its professional lens equivalent.  I got my 28-60mm for less than 300 used and if I had gotten the professional one say a 24-70mm f2.8 it would be well over 1000 dollars used. Thats a big cost savings. I don't think the photo quality between the kit and the professional lens is a big enough difference for me to get the professional one. Plus the professional one is twice the length and probably 3 times the weight.  Again I don't need the weight I like to be as nimble as I can be. So for me it was a no brainer to get the kit lens for casual shooting. If I want to get serious I can pull out my primes.

Solved a problem.  Getting this kit lens solved the problem I had when doing street photography and that's changing lenses every 5 seconds going from a 35mm to a 55mm or a 85mm this 28mm-60mm kind of put me in a good sweet spot but not being large and protruding like say a 24-105 would be.

Now I would not use this lens for my main Landscape or Portrait lens especially if I were selling stuff. But if you're just starting out a kit lens is the lens you have with you so shoot it.  Every camera Manufacturer has their kit lenses and some are really good.  I've heard good things from the Fuji line of lenses and I'm sure Canon and Nikon have great kit lenses also. The one I've been talking about is from Sony and was made for the A7C model camera that came out a couple of years ago. I purchased my copy used from MPB for around 250 dollars and it was like new. I always suggest buying used to save a little dough. I know a lot of professional and high end photographers trash these little lenses but I do think they serve a purpose and can be quite handy little lenses. So until next week get your kit lens out and keep shooting!