Sigma AF 15-30mm f/3.5-4.5 EX DG Review With PHOTOS!

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There is a time in every ones Photographic career that they need to get a wider wide angle lens. That simple 18-55mm kit lens that came with there camera did its job but now you have out grown it and needing to get a lens that fits your needs. I was in the same spot but if you are like me, money is a issue and spending $1,000 on a used wide angle that will fit a full frame camera or a $600 for a Crop sensor lens either is still kinda high. I was able to find a deal on Ebay for $200.00. After look around a bit more its right around $200-$300 price for a used lens.

       This was Sigma's first ultra-wide zoom with the EX (EX stands for PRO level). It is a Full frame lens that can be used on a APS-C (crop body) camera so the reviews on this can be mixed seeing how there is fall off(less sharp on the edges) on the full frame camera that you dont get on the APS-C camera. Here are some specs so we can get them out of the way.

-17 elements
-13 groups
-8 aperture blades
-2 aspherical elements.
-Large lens at 87mm(3.5 inchs) x 132mm(5.2 inchs)
-Weight of 620g(1.36lbs).... the D7000 is 780g(1.7lbs)
-Minimal focus distance is 0.30m (1 foot)

Now since we have all that out of the way, now lets get down to the meat and potatoes of this lens. There is a few things on this lens i love and i hate. First off is that its build like a tank. its large, made of durable items and gives a feeling of power. its not like the little kit lens that i came from and it has some weight to it that adds to the feeling of "well built". The lens is sharp and i mean SHARP! when you team this up with a tripod and some post editing software the results are just amazing. The Low light shooting for the stars and milky way is not that bad either but a fast lens is always better for that but there is a sample showing that it can be done as well with the F3.5. The sharpest this lens i have found is right in the F7.1-F13 range. I normally shoot at F8 so this is just fine for me. Here is a sample of it below.
          


Now for the bad stuff. The lens has a conventional micro motor which means its kinda of loud. Its speed is not that bad but not as sharp as a prime lens however since its a wide angle it does not really mater if its blazing fast. The next thing is size and the fact that its almost as big as some camera bodies. With that size comes the front lens size. At 82mm the front element will be hard press to find any kind of glass to cover it but the upside to this is that it has a built in lens hood so a extra item to loose is now built in to the lens. The last item that i think was the killer of this lens but is really something that i say is not that bad is the lens flare. you do have to watch out for it cause it will show up and say hi when you don't see it. even at night time you might get some lens flare on a image even if the light source was to the side of you or even the moon on a moonlit night. However if you have any skill at Lightroom or Photoshop you can easily remove it in post.
           The bottom line is that if you are looking for a Wide angle lens that you can use on your APS-C camera body and then use on a Full Frame camera when you make that move. this is the lens for you if you are not wanting to spend a ton of money. It delivers everything that the high priced, High end lens do but at a fraction of the price. 
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How to Changing your Point of View at any event!

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Earlier this month i was in Reno enjoying the weather and doing some shopping with the wife when we went down to the river front to have some dinner when we noticed that there was some sort of concert that was about to start at Wingfield Park. Needless to say it was the Pops on the River concert with Laura Jackson and Reno Philharmonic. It was a Huge event with over 500+ people. So the wife and i had our dinner and went over to watch the concert after and when we got to the front gate we where told that it was $20 to enter and it was half way over. so we decided to just sit back and enjoy the music. i still had my camera with me and a mono pod. it was the first time i have ever taken a mono pod with me so i wanted to just see what i could do with it besides the normal uses for using a mono pod.  so I went to the gate where i was able to see the concert but it was at eye level and all i was seeing was the top of heads and a very little part of the stage.
Taken on with a Mono pod and 18mm.
 So it put on the 18-55 lens. Lowest F stop and ISO of 1600. I had the camera on the mono pod and had it at full length. I set the focus on the conductor then set the timer for 10 secs. Then i took the mono pod and head it above my head and tried to keep it very steady. It changes the "Point of View" from what every one else was getting and it was kinda fun also.

Same spot at the Photo above. zoomed in at 55mm.
As you can see that this is a look that only people that are on video towers or some crazy guy climbing in a tree can get.  After a few songs of doing this we went to a different spot. you always have to remember to never just stick in one spot. move around, change things up, try something new. it will seem weird but you might find something that you really do enjoy!
this was taken with same set up as before.
This is a shot i can say for sure that no one at this concert has. But this was a shot that was a lot of trial and error.  The concrete column was really hard to try and put in the right spot due to a 10ft tall wall that i was shooting over. the shot below is only 20 ft to the right of the shot above.
always move and try a different spots
The one thing that you will have to learn is how to pre-focus and image the shot out come. then try and try and try again. This is something that if you had a Nikon D5200 or some sort of D5XX camera it would be a lot easier cause you have the flip down screen and then you can use a remote(ML-L3 Remote) or some sort of trigger like  the Yongnuo RF-603 Wireless triggers. You can pick them up Here. So you ask your self, "What does this look like" well here is a photo of my self doing this.

Well i really hope this will help you out and change the way you look at your tool and use them for other things that will not only make you re-think how you take photos.

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Why clouds makes the best Sunset in Nevada!

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Thunderstorm off in the distance. The clouds bring in the Blues, Yellows, Pinks, and everything between!
Lack of clouds make a sunset very "blah". nothing to look at and makes it not an eye catching image.
So I have been living here in the middle a high desert for about 2 years and it has been a huge learning curve for trying to find things to photograph.  It's not like the mountains or the beach or any thing that you have ever seen before. It's flat, hot, cloudless skies, and has not a tree in sight for miles. So with that all being said the sunsets are hit and miss at best. With the lack of clouds in the sky and nothing really interesting in the fore ground, it's just a blue sky with a sun in it...... YA for nothing interesting! (insert sarcasm here)  So when ever a storm comes into the area I am the first one that grabs my bag of gear, run out the door, jump in the car and head to some place that would make a great sunset shot. 
More Clouds bring in more things to look at. Wispy clouds are rare here.
    
What I look for in a sunset is some sort of clouds. if the shot has some sort of object that is in the blue sky, it makes the image more eye catching. Also, it makes the colors pop out more. With cloudless sky, normally you will get a nice blue sky with a yellowish color where the sky and the ground meet(photo above for example). When you have clouds in that same sky, it brings out more color and makes the sky just more interesting compared to a blank sky(Image below). The sunset with some sort of Clouds are more pleasing to the eye than a cloudless sunset. Yes, the cloudless sunset is very different, but its boring if you have nothing in the foreground to bring life to the image. Interesting clouds like "wispy clouds" are a rare find here in Nevada. So if you ever get a chance to photograph them.... DO IT! However, when you get a chance to photograph a storm, well that is when everything comes out and just makes the sky come to life. Brings a fiery red and orange to the blue sky and just makes things look amazing! (First Image on the page for Example) It has so many colors and so much character in the image. It's like a 90 year old man. A man that has seen, done, explored, and experienced so much. 
A sunset shot that over looks a Grass field.
        What I look for in a Nevada sunset is clouds. Without clouds you will get a  boring sunset that lacks that "X" factor. Clouds will either make or break an image.  What makes the Best sunsets for me is a storm! Any type of storm in Nevada is just something to watch. It can be either a Thunder storm, wind storm, Dust storm, lighting or anything really because the weather here never comes in gently. It comes in hard and fast and provides a show that is always worth watching. Well, I hope you can go out and take this info and adapt it to your neck of the woods. A boring sky with nothing going on is rare but when it happens all the time it's just another cookie in the cookie jar. So be different and look for that "X" factor. be different, and get out there and shoot away!
A thunder storm rolling in and as you can see am shooting away from the sun but it brings out all the color of the sky
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Why you should shot RAW. Save a Image that other wise would have been done with JPG.

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Why is shooting in RAW format so important? Cause it gives you the chance to save the image that you were able to capture but might have not had the right settings, or missed exposed cause you were in Aperture mode like i was. RAW will let you have some leeway with editing and save an image that would normally be a ruined one if it was taken in JPG format. Let me explain how I got from one image to the other.
The edited photo. taken into light room 5
The original photo
   So I was out at the Brews & Blues Festival this year in Reno, NV.  I was out taking some Photos with my D7000 and my 35mm 1.8(My street Photography set up) the same set up I used in South Korea street photography(click here to see that post) I was walking around and partaking in some adult beverages while I was trying not to run into people left and right. Also, I was trying to snap some photos when I could get a seen that captures "the moment".   I was in line waiting to get a refill and I looked up and saw Clouds. Yes, I said clouds. Living in Nevada, you will learn real fast that in the summer you will have only about 6 days out of a 5 month time frame that clouds are in the sky. Most of the time is a great blue sky with maybe 1-2 clouds.  So I pointed my Camera up and snapped a photo of this nice part of the silver legacy building with the clouds and sky in the back ground and then I went on my way. When I got a chance to take a look at the camera, I realized that my framing was right on what I wanted but I was about 3 stops under exposed. I mean I really screwed this one up. Either way, the clouds are gone and me going back and waiting in line was not going to happen again. I just had to hope that I could fix it when I get home.

I imported the photo into Light Room when I got home and played with it till you can see the final image. As you can see that Light Room does a really good job of bring back all of the details that you lost in the photo, it's a tool that every "photographer" should have in their bag to tricks. Check out the video to see my work flow on an image like this.  Here are some other images of what I took that day.

Converted to Black & White, Sharpen, and cropped to fix.

Same as Above, 35mm was to short so had to crop a lot more. however you cant tell with all the editing done.

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Photographing Yosemite on a budget with $300 and 48 hours, Plus the MUST Photograph spots of the park!

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Our Goal. Travel to Yosemite national park, stay within a reasonable driving distance and photograph the sights of the park under a $300 budget that includes Gas, lodging, food, and park entrance fee for 2 people. Will and can this be done? that is what my wife and i set out to do this last weekend. To travel and see one of the last untouched places of the North America without taking out a small loan to do so. So lets break it down for you and show how we did it and where are the must see places!
we used this book to help us out!
List of places
  1. Tioga pass
  2. Tenaya lake
  3. Tuolumne grove of Giant Sequoias
  4. Bridal veil falls
  5. Yosemite Falls
  6. El Capitan
  7. Cathedral rock
  8. Mirror Lake
  9. Tunnel Point
  10. Glacier Point
  11. Half dome

How we spent the money
  • Gas $90
  • Yosemite entry fee $20
  • Hotel $166
  • Walmart $24

DAY1: Getting to the park!
Getting to Yosemite can be a challenge depending on where you are coming from. Lucky for my wife and I that we are coming from Reno NV area. It is a simple 4 hour drive down to the Valley floor. we went through the Tioga pass (Hwy 120) that is right outside of Lee Vining that is on Hwy 395. If you are wanting to see every thing, this is one of the must see! And this is the first spot where you need to spend money. It's $20 for a 7-Day pass to Yosemite. (take a note this pass is closed in the winter, Click here to see the open and close dates) This is home to some of the must amazing sights of the park besides the valley floor. We got to see Tuolumne meadows, Tioga lake, and Tenaya lake. All of which are in a 30 min drive of each other. We stopped at each one but enjoyed the Tenaya lake the most. One of the down sides at this lake is that bug spray is a MUST! Well... another thing is that the Hwy is a 35 MPH zone.
Tenaya lake, looking north while standing on the south shore.
 After a short stay, we got back on the road and headed down the Hwy to come along our next stop, Tuolumne grove of Giant Sequoias. If you have seen one tree, you have seen them all, right? Well, no you have not. A Giant Sequoia tree can be thousand of years old and hundreds of feet tall. When you get to the parking lot, make sure you use the restroom and grab some water. it's a mile long hike down hill on a paved road to the path of the Giants. Key word there.... DOWN HILL! so you will be hiking your butt back up the hill when it's all done. When you get there you will see some small trees here and there (+100 feet) and then you will find a Giant tree. If you don't have a wide angle lens like a 11-16 tokina, good luck then, cause you will not get it all in the photo.

Am standing as far away as i can and i still can't get it all in view.
This tree was over 20 feet tall at the base and over 300 feet long.
 After a nice long walk back up the hill, it was time to get in the car and head to our hotel room down in the city of Merced.  So the prices for staying inside the park can range from camping spots that will run you $20 a night, all the way up to $300 plus for the Yosemite lodge. If you want to stay in the park, well get ready to bust out the check book and you better have that place booked a year in advance. Am not joking either. Any place out side of the park like  El potal, Midpines, Mariposa you are still looking at $160 a night or more. So we took the extra 30 min drive down to Merced CA. Granted its a 1 1/2 hour drive from the park but we save $200 a night and you probably will not find a room with a week notice. We got a room at the Holiday inn express for under $73 +tax a night with a coupon. So right now am down a tank of gas $52, park pass fee $20, and now 2 nights at the Holiday Inn for $166.  

52+20+166= $234  $66 left for food and gas.

one of the reason we stayed at the Holiday inn was the free breakfast in the morning. Not just a bagel and milk but eggs, sausage, pancakes, breads, and much more. After all of this hiking and traveling we relaxed in the hot tub and the swimming pool that night before heading to bed.

DAY 2: The Adventure!
We woke up at 7:00am to  get some breakfast and be on the road before 8am to we can get to the park before 10am.  We arrived at 10:15am to start off the day. First spot was...

-Its a easy hike to get to. Only 1,000 feet of paved road to walk on that leads up to a spot that is only a few hundred feet from the base of the falls. This is must do for every one.

off to the next spot

Yosemite falls
-Yosemite falls are made up of 3 different falls. The lower one that everyone can get to is a very short hike on a paved road to the viewing point. Beware that you will be there with about 3 billion other people. If you want to get to a different spot to see the falls, try the upper falls. The upper falls Trail head is located at Camp 4. Park in the parking lot there and head up the hill. It should take you about 1 hour to get to a spot to see the falls. If you want to get to the top its a 3 hour long hike to the top. we did not do that but we felt like we got what we wanted.
Left side is Lower Yosemite falls, Right side is Upper Yosemite Falls.
This was shot along to Trail to the upper Yosemite falls. You can see the Upper falls and Half dome in the distance.
El Capitan and Cathedral rock
-This is a spot that will make you feel small, VERY SMALL in fact. You can park along the side of the road and get out and wonder in the field. It's just simple amazing how large everything is and how small you are. On one side you have El Capitan rock face that soars up thousands of feet and on the other side you have Cathedral Rock that does the same. If you can manage to get to this point near sun set, you can have the sun touching the tops and sides of the rocks to give it a golden look. this might be one of my favorite spots in the whole park!
In the grass field between both the rocks.
Cathedral rock.

LUNCH TIME
This time we took a break to get some late lunch. Since we are on a budget we packed a lunch that we got at the local store before heading up to the park. However, if you don't want to do this, you can get some food at the park but it will run you from $10-$15 a plate. Now after the money we spent for water and food at Walmart, we are down to $40 left.

Mirror Lake
-Drive down to Curry campground and park down on the side of the road. From there you will follow the road north as the signs keep you on the right path. It's 1 mile to mirror lake and it's all paved. As you get closer, you will see the water start to back up and make some sort of a lake. Since the park has stop dredging the sand out of the lake, the lake now looks like a little pond. it is also a seasonal lake so it might be almost nothing if you go in the late part of the summer.


-This spot is heading out of the valley right before you enter wawona tunnel. You can't miss this spot cause like the Lower Yosemite falls EVERY ONE is here. This is the spot that everyone wants to see and take a photo at. You can see El Capitan and Cathedral rock and Bridal veil falls on the left hand side with Half dome in the distance with the valley floor leading up to it. Sunset is the best time but you can't go wrong with any time. Don't miss out cause this is a "get out of the car and snap away" spot. Less than a 50 foot walk to a killer view!


-If there is a spot that you can not miss, then this is the one. It's a 16 miles drive out side of the valley floor but since the driving speed it 35 MPH, it takes almost 40 mins to get to it. so plan ahead! If you don't do this at sunset, you are missing out on something. Yes, you can do this any time but sunset is just amazing! There is sometimes a park ranger up there giving some sort of talk about the park and some of the other things that happened in the past. Prepare your self! This is a spot that everyone and there uncle is trying to see it at sunset also. From this spot you can see Yosemite falls on the far left, then the valley floor, Half dome on the right side, then Nevada Falls on the far right side. It's a view that just amazing!
End of Day 2.
-So in the 48 hours in since we left our house, we have seen 11 spots in total. All with-in walking distance and only two of them are more than a 10 min walk. (upper Yosemite falls/mirror lake) We have only spent all of our money except for $40 which will fill the rest of our tank that will put us right at or near $300. we have a free breakfast in the morning and a 5 hour drive home. We did this on a Friday thru Sunday, spending a full day on Saturday at the park. So get out and explore!



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