50mm and focus issues

During the summer I bought a Sigma 50mm/1.4. While initially I reported that it didn’t have any focusing issues I was slightly mistaken.

It’s true that the 50mm at 1.4 has an extremely shallow DOF and thus most focusing errors will be user errors but there some cases in which the fact that the camera was front focusing became very clear. So I finally took some time earlier this week to set up a tripod and the focus test chart from Jeffrey Friedl (I used the 15% version) and took some test shots while changing the micro adjustment. And writing down which steps I took.

The setup shot

First, let’s look at the result with no adjustment. The images link to full-size pictures for pixel peeping. And warning, they linked images are about 10MB each…

100% crop before micro adjustment

Here you can clearly see that it front focuses a bit. Not too badly, but just a bit. After five different shots with varying micro adjustments I finally settled on +13 which to me is quite good.

100% crop of test after micro adjustment

Of course, I immediately tested the changed setting by shooting a couple of snaps of our dogs that were hanging around. Focusing on Topi’s eye, the image was dead on as you can see:

Evergrey @ Reggie’s Rock Club, Chicago 26.9.2011

Ok, I admit that I’m an Evergrey fanboy. After all, this was the third time we saw them this year (Lutakko, Nosturi). This time though, we were a bit far from home :)

We were on a trip to the US and naturally we decided to catch Evergrey playing live in Chicago since we were there at the same time. They were on a longer tour of the US supported by four other bands (The Absence, Blackguard, Powerglove, and fellow Swedes Sabaton). Unfortunately we missed The Absence, but we did catch the rest of the supporting acts. While none of them held any real interest for us, I did take some pictures.

I’d love to say that Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago is a photographer’s dream venue, but it seems to be very much the opposite. Or at least it was when Evergrey hit the stage. Based on the pictures I’ve seen taken during the US tour from other photographers, they prefer green lighting for the set. In this case a flat green wash was practically the only light for almost the first half of the set after which some other colors and more light started to hit the stage.

But, challenging light only meant that I needed to up the ISO and concentrate on getting good pictures with isolation from the background. And in post, converting most pictures to black and white since a green wash is less than flattering ;)

All in all, I managed to make some of the best concert photographs I’ve made so far. So I can’t exactly complain. In fact, the challenging lighting made me concentrate harder on my photography and didn’t let me get complacent.

Since Reggie’s doesn’t have a pit and we were parked in front of Johan, I did mean to go around the crowd – which was much smaller than I expected – over to Marcus’ side but I never made it that far. I simply got too carried away enjoying the show.

As always, more pictures in our gallery.

P.S. I did consider leaving the venue without any link love, but all in all the experience was positive. In fact, in the concert venue the staff was great, but on the bar side not so much.

Esa Holopainen

Amorphis @ Sotkamon Syke 2011

As the final installment of the Sotkamon Syke 2011 photographs we get the final artist of the evening – Amorphis (previously The Man-Eating Tree, Tarot). Initially I was hoping we’d be getting some pyros during the show, but unfortunately none were set up and I found out from the crew that the stage was too small for them to use pyros. I was also fairly certain that the gig would be challenging lighting wise – as Amorphis practically always is. Especially during the first three songs.

Early on into the set it became apparent that during the first three, Tomi wouldn’t be getting any significant amount of light in his face so I concentrated on getting good silhouettes of him and trying to get good shots of the rest of the band. Continuing from the audience after the first three with a longer lens then let me get some good shots of Tomi that were lit a bit better.

And I also got the chance to get some shots that showed the rain that had been plaguing us all evening.

Since we’ve seen the play quite a few times and I have a good amount of solid and typical concert photography shots of the band I really decided to explore the possibilities that the strong backlight and raindrops on the lens would give me. This is one of my favorites:

The Amorphis set was as solid as they usually are and contained most of the typical songs they play in a festival setting. Majestic Beast was a great exception to the typical set.

As always, more pictures in our gallery.

Marco Hietala

Tarot @ Sotkamon Syke 2011

So, just when I though I’d get my pictures from Sotkamon Syke edited and published quickly, we start planning a trip to the US in late September throwing all of my internal scheduling ideas out of the window. And we did also spend several days cutting down trees in a forest. Firewood…

Anyway, on to the topic at hand, Tarot who were on the bill immediately after The Man-Eating Tree. This definitely isn’t the first time I’ve photographed Tarot and doing it this time didn’t offer any surprises.

As always, they performed a solid set and while the performance isn’t filled with huge special effects and dancing around the stage, they have good chemistry with each other and the audience.

Since they were on when daylight (even despite the rain/drizzle) was still strong enough, the light show didn’t really stand out in any of the images – except during the Pecu’s drum solo.

As always, more pictures are available in our gallery.