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10.14.2014

In late August a Hurricane off Mexico sent giant waves to California. The surf spots that are open to the south-southeast swell angle were extra large to extra extra large. The morning the swell hit I ended up shooting at the Wedge, a surf spot in southern Newport Beach in Southern California. This was a historic swell and will be talked about for years and years and never forgotten by those lucky enough to experience it in person. These are some of my favorite images from that session, I hope you enjoy them.

The Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S really worked perfectly at the Wedge at this size. I brought a 1.4x teleconverter and longer back up lenses but never had a need for anything else.

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© 2014 Robert O'Toole | Lens: Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S lens | Nikon D4 | Shutter speed: 1/4000 sec | Aperture: f/4 | ISO 200 | EV - .7, Manual mode, handheld.

© 2014 Robert O’Toole | Lens: Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S lens | Nikon D4 | Shutter speed: 1/4000 sec | Aperture: f/4 | ISO 200 | EV – .7, Manual mode, handheld.

Big drop on one of the bigger waves that day. If you look close you will see this guy’s back foot is not on the board but is about two feet in the air.

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© 2014 Robert O'Toole | Lens: Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S lens | Nikon D4 | Shutter speed 1/4000 sec | Aperture: f/4 | ISO 200 | EV - .7, Manual mode, handheld.

© 2014 Robert O’Toole | Lens: Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S lens | Nikon D4 | Shutter speed 1/4000 sec | Aperture: f/4 | ISO 200 | EV – .7, Manual mode, handheld.

This guy had absolutely no fear and was really charging more than anyone else out that morning and he also had the skill to recover the drop. He was really close to going over the front of his board.

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© 2014 Robert O'Toole | Lens: Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S lens |  Nikon D4 | Shutter speed: 1/4000 sec | Aperture f/4 | ISO 200, EV - .7, Manual mode, handheld.

© 2014 Robert O’Toole | Lens: Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S lens | Nikon D4 | Shutter speed: 1/4000 sec | Aperture f/4 | ISO 200, EV – .7, Manual mode, handheld.

After his recovery the surfer is now setting up or looking down the line to position himself to get barreled or to ride inside the tubing portion of the wave. This is one of the bigger better waves that came in this day!

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© 2014 Robert O'Toole | Lens: Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S | Nikon D4 | Shutter speed: 1/4000 sec | Aperture: f/4 | ISO 200 | EV - .7, Manual mode, handheld.

© 2014 Robert O’Toole | Lens: Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S | Nikon D4 | Shutter speed: 1/4000 sec | Aperture: f/4 | ISO 200 | EV – .7, Manual mode, handheld.

This is one of the better shaped left barrels of the day. Here the guy is coming out of one barrel and about to enter another before finally exiting and finishing his ride. Waves of this size and shape are really special for surfers since conditions like this only happen a few times a year in California.

© 2014 Robert O'Toole | Lens: 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S | Nikon D4 | Shutter speed: 1/1250 sec | Aperture:  f/2.8| Auto ISO 220, Manual mode, handheld.

© 2014 Robert O’Toole | Lens: 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S | Nikon D4 | Shutter speed: 1/1250 sec | Aperture: f/2.8| Auto ISO 220, Manual mode, handheld.

This is something you have probably never seen before. This surfer paddled into the wave with his shortboard on top of a longboard. Once he caught the wave he jumped up on his longboard with his shortboard under his arm. Then at the bottom he stepped off onto his shortboard and pulled into a barrel. The surfer is a world-famous professional surfer from Hawaii.

© 2014 Robert O'Toole | Lens: 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S | Nikon D4 | Shutter speed:  1/2000 sec | Aperture: f/4 | Auto ISO 280 | Manual mode, handheld.

© 2014 Robert O’Toole | Lens: 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S | Nikon D4 | Shutter speed: 1/2000 sec | Aperture: f/4 | Auto ISO 280 | Manual mode, handheld.

Not a good place to slip off a surfboard. He seemed to be okay after this wave but that had to hurt.

© 2014 Robert O'Toole | Lens: 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S | Nikon D4 | Shutter speed:  1/2000 sec | Aperture: f/2.8 | Auto ISO 250 | Manual mode, handheld.

© 2014 Robert O’Toole | Lens: 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S | Nikon D4 | Shutter speed: 1/2000 sec | Aperture: f/2.8 | Auto ISO 250 | Manual mode, handheld.

Nice drawn out bottom turn on a nice clean left.

© 2014 Robert O'Toole | Lens: 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S | Nikon D4 | Shutter speed:  1/2000 sec | Aperture: f/2.8 | Auto ISO 250 | Manual mode, handheld.

© 2014 Robert O’Toole | Lens: 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S | Nikon D4 | Shutter speed: 1/2000 sec | Aperture: f/2.8 | Auto ISO 250 | Manual mode, handheld.

This surfer is a moment away from getting blasted off his board. This is whats known as straightening out where the rider goes straight as a last ditch effort to avoid getting hit by a wave. This is usually not a recommended course of action at spots like the Wedge since as in this case, he didn’t make it.

© 2014 Robert O'Toole | Lens: 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S | Nikon D4 | Shutter speed:  1/2000 sec | Aperture: f/2.8 | Auto ISO 250 | Manual mode, handheld.

© 2014 Robert O’Toole | Lens: 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S | Nikon D4 | Shutter speed: 1/2000 sec | Aperture: f/2.8 | Auto ISO 250 | Manual mode, handheld.

This is a lifeguard’s worst nightmare, huge waves and hundreds of tourists not paying any attention. The shoreline would be absolutely the worst choice to shoot from during the highest tide of the day and the biggest swell of the year.

During this swell at the Wedge the currents were so bad there were dozens of surfers that had to be rescued some of the lifeguards had to be rescued themselves by other lifeguards!

If you have a chance to photograph giant waves at the Wedge or any other spot in the world be very careful. Ask a lifeguard or law enforcement before getting close to the water or climbing onto a jetty or structure. Each and every time giant swell hits the coast I see people get their equipment soaked because they were standing in an unsafe spot and not paying attention.

If you have any questions or comments be sure to share ‘em in the comments section below.

Robert O’Toole is a Sigma Pro and has been a professional photographer for more than 20 years. As an accomplished instructor, Robert leads photography workshop tours across the US and internationally. For more info visit Robert’s web site at robertotoolephotography.com

10.07.2014

What a difference a couple of years makes!

Two years ago, we were gearing up for PhotoPlus, just days after the announcement of the Sigma Global Vision at photokina 2012. We were preparing ourselves for discussions and briefings to explain the philosophy behind the three new lines being offered.

At that time, many photographers and technical editors were confused as to what Art, Sports, and Contemporary was meant to convey in a lens name. We spent a lot of time that fall explaining the way that Sigma is rethinking lenses and how this relates to the three new lens markings.

The Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sports lens is one of the newest lenses in the Sigma line, announced at photokina 2014. This lens is designed for exceptional outdoor performance.

The Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sports lens is one of the newest lenses in the Sigma line, announced at photokina 2014. This lens is designed for exceptional outdoor performance.

Shortly thereafter, though, the first of the new Sigma lenses, the 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art lens was released, and almost overnight, the conversations changed. Photographers and editors around the world were blown away by the build quality, and more importantly, the total image quality of this new Sigma, full-frame, fast-aperture wide prime. People realized that this new lens, the original Art lens, was something quite special. It defined the Art category and heralded a new era for Sigma under the guidance of new CEO Kazuto Yamaki. It was the perfect proof of the promise of the the Sigma Global Vision.

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10.07.2014
©2014 Roman Kurywczak | Lens: Sigma 12-24mm | Focal Length: 21mm | Aperture: f/20 | Shutter speed: 1.0 sec. | ISO 400 on tripod.  3 stop Singh Ray reverse GND filter and 3 stop GND filter stacked.

©2014 Roman Kurywczak | Lens: Sigma 12-24mm | Focal Length: 21mm | Aperture: f/20 | Shutter speed: 1.0 sec. | ISO 400 on tripod. 3 stop Singh Ray reverse GND filter and 3 stop GND filter stacked.

In part one we discussed the use of polarizers and solid neutral density filters.  So what other filter should you have in your bag? The answer is: the graduated split neutral density (ND) filter. What do they do?  They allow you to balance the light on the foreground with the tonality and brightness of the sky.  How?  The filter is split in half with the top being much darker and the bottom half clear.  The dark area is graduated down towards the middle, which allows you to darken the sky and better match it up with the tonality of the foreground. They generally come in 2 styles; one with a hard edge and the other is often referred to a soft edge.  The hard edge has a clearly defined line where the soft edge is more graduated.  This is the one I prefer and use most of the time. A variety I also have is called a reverse graduated neutral density filter (both made by Singh Ray) where the darkest area is towards the middle which makes it particularly useful as the sun comes up or is about to set.  It is best suited for situations where you have a pretty level horizon without many protrusions into the sky.  Below is an example of both and they typically come in increments from 1stop all the way up to 5 or more.  Most practical are the 2 and 3 stop versions from numerous manufacturers.  Notice that I am not recommending any screw in type as what you want to darken is seldom in the middle of the frame.

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10.06.2014
Lens: Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 DG HSM II | Canon 1D Mark 3 | Focal length: 19mm | Aperture: f/22 | Shutter speed: 0.8 seconds | ISO 400 | Circular Polarizer | all mounted on tripod, standing in the water

Lens: Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 DG HSM II | Canon 1D Mark 3 | Focal length: 19mm | Aperture: f/22 | Shutter speed: 0.8 seconds | ISO 400 | Circular Polarizer | all mounted on tripod, standing in the water

This simple answer is absolutely yes!!!  While they may not be as important as they were in the film days, there are still some filters that are absolutely necessary in today’s digital age.  I will break this blog up into two parts so I can cover this topic in depth.  Part 1 will cover circular polarizers (CP) and solid neutral density (ND) filters.  Part 2 will cover graduated neutral density filters as well as some additional specialty filters you may want to have in your bag. Let’s start with the circular polarizer.  Truth is I don’t use  a CP as much as I used to.  The dynamic range of modern digital cameras has greatly improved over slide film so I only use my CP when I am around water to reduce/eliminate glare. I went out to photograph waterfalls this spring in Pennsylvania. 

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10.06.2014

Of the three main variables relating to creative and artistic control on DSLR and compact interchangeable cameras–aperture, shutter speed and ISO–aperture control, is for many beginners, the most difficult to grasp. Have no fear, we’re here to help! Learning how and when to select a wide or narrow aperture unleashes the creative and expressive potential of your camera’s lenses, and puts the control firmly in your hands.

These two apples were photographed with the Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | A lens zoomed to 35mm with an F2.8 aperture for shallow depth of field. Notice how just a sliver of the leaf and near apple is on the focal plane. The front apple is about a foot from the lens, with the farther apple nine inches behind. The back wall with the very soft shadow is ten feet from the camera.  1/40 F2.8 ISO 400, continuous lighting.

These two apples were photographed with the Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | A lens zoomed to 35mm with an F2.8 aperture for shallow depth of field. Notice how just a sliver of the leaf and near apple is on the focal plane. The front apple is about a foot from the lens, with the farther apple nine inches behind. The back wall with the very soft shadow is ten feet from the camera. 1/40 F2.8 ISO 400, continuous lighting.

And here is the same image captured at F/16, a much smaller aperture. The area of the aperture circle is much smaller, so a longer exposure time of 8/10 second is necessary to give an equivalent exposure. Notice how much harder the edges are on both the far apple and the shadow on the wall with the smaller F/Stop.

And here is the same image captured at F/16, a much smaller aperture, with the focus again exactly on the leaf of the front apple. The area of the aperture circle is much smaller, so a longer exposure time of 8/10 second is necessary to give an equivalent exposure. Notice how much harder the edges are on both the far apple and the shadow on the wall with the smaller F/Stop.

Quite simply, the lens aperture (also known as the F/Stop) controls the size of the opening inside the lens that light will be passing through during image capture. At a given focal length and focal distance a wider aperture will have a shallower zone of sharp focus than a smaller aperture.

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10.04.2014

Sigma will be exhibiting at the PDN PhotoPlus International Conference + Expo.   It’s one of our favorite times of the year; the energy is through the roof! We invite you to visit us at the Javits Center in Manhattan, NY Thursday, October 30th through Saturday, November 1.  PPE, as we like to call it, is the largest photography and imaging show in North America and is attended by over 22,000 professional photographers and enthusiasts.

The Sigma booth is always buzzing at PhotoPlus Expo!

The Sigma booth is always buzzing at PhotoPlus Expo!

Sigma’s presence at PPE is vast this year providing you with opportunities to learn about new products, get acquainted with our current line of products, learn from the Sigma Pros and see Sigma products in a different light through our first-ever video theatre presentations.  Don’t miss this opportunity to engage with Sigma in the ways that best suit your needs; we’re sure we can help you accomplish your photographic goals.

This is the list of Sigma offerings of which to take advantage:

Sigma is a sponsor of The University, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 
12:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.
The University is a comprehensive, hands-on, and interactive series of classes, ideal for emerging photographers. Learn from working professional photographers how to strengthen your shooting and posing techniques and how to manage everything from speedlights to studio strobes and continuous lighting, and how to effectively use mixed/natural light. Choose to attend the sessions that best fit your needs and interests for a unique learning experience that you won’t find anywhere else. Click here to register for the University. (Use Code UNIVF for free admission!)

theuniversity_collage

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10.03.2014
©Judy Host 2014 | Lens: Sigma’s 50mm F1.4 DG HSM I A | Aperture: F1.8 | Shutter speed: 1/1600sec | ISO 100 | Manual Mode – Natural Light || Stylist – Judy Host

©Judy Host 2014 | Lens: Sigma’s 50mm F1.4 DG HSM I A | Aperture: F1.8 | Shutter speed: 1/1600sec | ISO 100 | Manual Mode – Natural Light || Stylist – Judy Host

Almost everything we do in life is a choice.  How we express ourselves, how we see objects, how we create art, all of these elements, although may be intuitive to our nature, are also choices we make.

In regards to photography, we may choose a certain kind of subject to photograph.  Some of us prefer to photograph landscapes or children or weddings.  Whatever the subject, it’s a choice we make, and in making those choices, we are creating a style and a look to our work.

There are several other style choices that I want to talk about in this article.  They include lighting, lenses, angles, locations, props and camera settings.

Lighting is a style choice.  How we see light and then use it in our imagery is a choice we make.  Some of us prefer a Low Key image with very dramatic lighting effects.  Some prefer High Key lighting like these images of Courtney and her family.

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09.30.2014

My annual trip to Alaska in late July to early August usually means big skies and great light, schools of salmon in the rivers and creeks and coastal brown bears, lots of cubs, and almost unlimited photo opportunities. This year we were treated to two full weeks of sun and clouds without a single rain shower. These are some of my favorite moments of the trip with some technical notes and stories behind the images.

© 2014 Robert O'Toole | Perfect late evening light, Hallo Bay, Katmai NP Alaska. Lens: Sigma 300-800mm F5.6 EX lens | Focal length: 800mm | Nikon D700 | Shutter speed: 1/1000 sec | Aperture: f/8 | ISO 800 | EV + 1 | Manual mode | Jobu MK3 gimbal head and Jobu Algonquin Carbon Tripod.

© 2014 Robert O’Toole | Perfect late evening light, Hallo Bay, Katmai NP Alaska. Lens: Sigma 300-800mm F5.6 EX lens | Focal length: 800mm | Nikon D700 | Shutter speed: 1/1000 sec | Aperture: f/8 | ISO 800 | EV + 1 | Manual mode | Jobu MK3 gimbal head and Jobu Algonquin Carbon Tripod.

This mother brought her tiny spring cub out in the evening to fish for salmon but the bear didn’t look much bigger than the fish they were after.

Using the 300-800mm lens for bears in good light you can just sit back and relax waiting for the right moment knowing that you have the right lens on your camera, not too long and not too short.

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09.30.2014

CreativeLive

Sigma Pros Jen Rozenbaum and Lindsay Adler both participated in CreativeLive’s recent Photo week, and explained which Sigma lenses are getting the most mileage in their photo shoots these days for fashion, boudoir, and portraiture work.

Jen Rozenbaum discusses the original 50mm F1.4 and the new 50mm F1.4 ART lens and explains why to choose each one.

 

And Lindsay talks about her 1-2 Punch combination of the 24-105mm F4 and the 70-200mm F2.8

 

Which Sigma lenses are you using the most these days?

09.23.2014
©Judy Host 2014 Sigma 24-105mm F4.0 DG (OS) HSM I A | Aperture: f 4.0 | Shutter speed: 1/400sec |  ISO 200 | Manual mode | Focal Length 31mm

©Judy Host 2014 Sigma 24-105mm F4.0 DG (OS) HSM I A | Aperture: f 4.0 | Shutter speed: 1/400sec | ISO 200 | Manual mode | Focal Length 31mm

For many natural light photographers, photographing in the “Sweet Light” is the highlight of what we do.  This light happens around an hour before sunset and an hour around sunrise.  It’s the most beautiful, sweet and natural light of all.  Timing it can sometimes be difficult, but if you allow yourself to set up your subject and get ready for the sun to start it’s decline, you will be rewarded with the prettiest of all light.  It only lasts for about 20 minutes and then turns into a different kind of light, twilight, which can also be beautiful to capture. In the following images, my beautiful subject Zoe is dancing in the sweet light in Ocean Beach, California.  This session was timed to capture this gorgeous light as she moved to the music in her head.  Photographing with Sigma’s 24-105mm F4.0 DG (OS) HSM | A lens, I was able to create these very sharp and beautiful images.  I choose to photograph wide open, at f 4.0 and use a fast shutter speed, s 1/400 to keep my images sharp, as Zoe was consistently moving.  My ISO was adjusted as the light changed.

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