Bokeh Balls (not broken balls)

So yesterday my wonderful spouse convinced me to leave the office and go out for some holiday spirit with her.  I did.  What did we come back with?  She came back with some great memories, and some gifts for the grandkids;  me?  Oh, exactly 1,698 raw files.

The place we went to is KNOWN for it’s holiday light displays.  This is a wonderful place to visit anytime of the year, but during the holidays, it’s magical. I had been here once before, in December 2012 with my lil Panasonic LX7.

Knowing what to expect I packed my X-T2, the 16 1.4, the 35 1.4, and the 60mm Macro 2.4;  and just for kicks, and because I Loooove the zoom effect on lights of any kind, I threw in my 18-55 lens.

I also threw in my small canvas carry-all bag a load of ND filters –  which didn’t get used at all, my electronic shutter release, which absolutely sucks,  and my travel tripod.  All this fit inside my small, lightweight canvas bag with a Jill-E insert.  In the outside pockets I threw in a water bottle, some ibuprofen tabs for my back (from carrying medium format film, and Nikon digital for years) and that was pretty much it.

I did not use the tripod at all.  ALL my images were taken between iso 400 and 1600, handheld mostly wide-open at 1.4 whenever possible.  I’ve posted below how many images per lens.  Of course, I have yet to cull these for the keepers  — I also have to cull through 11,911 other images that I’ve taken for travel/stock and personal use since July.  I have whittled it down from 16,000 so I’m slowly making progress.  I certainly won’t be at a loss as to what I’ll be doing on long winter nights!  As a matter of fact I met a guy up in Maine that was out shooting with his 4 x 5 film camera.  We got to talking and he told me that he would shoot all spring, summer and fall, then “relive” his memories as he developed his film in his darkroom over the cold Maine winter nights.  He actually inspired me “not to worry” about getting caught up and up-to-date unless I was on deadline.  And boy was he right!  I am stress free with over 11,000 images to review, then edit and distribute around to the agencies.

Here are some details as promised  as to the lenses I used at the village for the images:

16mm 1.4:  923 images,  35mm 1.4: 626 images,  18-55zoom (for special effects): 120 images, and the incredible 60mm 2.4 Macro:  29 images and only because it was just too dark to handhold the 2.4.

All ISO’s were from a minimum of 400, to a max of 1600.  I selected the ISO instead of letting the camera do it.  I just love these images, and the bokeh my lenses produced!

And to be perfectly clear:  Not one lens gave me any trouble locking on to the lights.  I don’t know what ju-ju Fuji has introduced but the 16, 35 and 60 locked on instantly — the 18-55 hunted a bit – especially at the 55mm F4 end but overall I could not be happier with the selection I took with me.  I kinda wish I had taken the 23 1.4 so maybe if I go back next year I’ll be sure to pack that one as well, and leave the mini-tripod at home to balance out the weight.

All these images were shot as UNCOMPRESSED raw, 50.6mb each.  I used a 128 Lexar fast card in slot 1, and a 32G Lexar in slot 2 for JPEG’s.  I didn’t touch the JPEG’s.  And, yes I shoot only uncompressed as no matter what anyone says I still don’t believe that no data is lost between compressed and uncompressed.

For your viewing pleasure, here are some fine Bokeh Balls!  Look at how clean and crisp they are! I hope you enjoy looking at these as much as I enjoyed making them.

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Revolutionary War Leftover Ruins at Sunset  16mm F7.1, 1/25th
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Bokeh from the 35mm 1.4, ISO 800
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35mm F1.4 @ 1.4, Focused on red bulbs, ISO 800
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16mm 1.4 @ f1.6, 1/90th, ISO 800  I probably could have taken the ISO down to 400 but the noise is relatively non-existent so I left it alone.
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ONE OF MY FAVORITES of the night:  16mm F1.4 @ 1.4, ISO 400! 1/20th handheld burst
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35mm 1.4 @ 1.4, 1/35th second, ISO 400
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Fuji 18-55, F4, 1/2 second, ISO 800 zoomed out from 55mm (that’s a small pond in the foreground)
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Shark Hunting, Key West

We had a Catamaran for a half day out of Key West.  There were eight of us on the boat;  we headed out in search of sharks and, well we found them!  or, I should say they found us!  We were in about six feet of water, and about 4-5 miles out.  And yes, only six feet of crystal, clear water.  Just gorgeous views with glassy seas.  Here are some images…

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Feeding Frenzy – 4 sharks, shallow water. 55-200
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Glassy Smooth Seas. 18-55 @ 18mm

Back from my Roadtrips

Hello everyone!

I’m back from several road trips to shoot stock and travel.  I’ve been to Maryland, Ohio, The Florida Keys,  New York, Maine, and Prince Edward island/Canada.

This was an amazing trip. Many, many wonderful people, and even more memories and images.

I thought I would share some stats with regards to the cameras, and lenses I used.

Here wo go:

First of all, my iPhone 7 Plus! I broke down and bought  the 7+, in Red, with 256G of memory.  The camera is amazing with the twin lenses; and I downloaded some apps including Camera+.  I shoot in raw (DNG) format and the quality is totally amazing!  I took a total of 1,771 iPhone images which is unbelievable for me as in all honesty I despised iPhone images.

On to the camera:  Of course I took the X-T2 with me.  That go’s without saying.  This is a recap from the metadata found in LightRoom.

 

Tout 12mm/2.8      690

Fuji 16mm 1.4     1336

Fuji 18-55 2.8-4   1671

Fuji 23mm 1.4       732

Fuji 35mm 1.4     1134

Fuji 55-200           2234

Fuji 60mm 2.4     2523

So, 10,320 images with the Fuji series, and 1,771 with the iPhone 7+

Now, I have the job of culling, then editing the images.  This’ll be fun!

As I go through Images I’ll post some here… I had a few up, but decided to take them down as I didn’t feel they did these various road trips any justice.

More To Come…

 

The Amazing 18-55 Fuji Lens

I have written about the Fuji 18-55 in the past.  However, on New Years Day i was shooting up in Old Orchard Beach in Maine using this wonderful little lens.  It’s lightweight, solidly built, and oh so darn sharp!

As proof how sharp this this little puppy is, check out this screenshot of my lightroom image of Old Orchard Beach at 200%  — Yes.  200% !! This is the raw file, Sharpened with 100% details, 41 pts of sharpening.  Then below it is the full screen!  Now, look at that sharpness and clarity!!  I can read the Shipyard Beer sign out on the pier and that isn’t even dead center; more like top center!

Would the 16-55 2.8 be sharper?  Meh.  Maybe.  But this is pretty darn freakin’ sharp for me, and the weight/size savings alone are, to me, worth the tiny loss of sharpness. I’d rather be more light and mobile.  Your mileage may vary.

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X-T2 in the Rain

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X-T2 with the non-weather resistant 18-55
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X-T2, 18-55, ACROS and Red Filter
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A Perfect curl
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25 second exposure, X-T2 + 18-55
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X-T2, 18-55, in rain and wind.  In the 100% view, you can see the rain whizzing past the lens

 

Today was a very windy and rainy day thanks to the outer bands of Hurricane Matthew.  Since my spouse had work to do, and I didn’t want to be in the way I decided to head out to the shore and see if I can capture some of the action.

I took my X-T2 with the 18-55 mounted as I did not want to be swapping lenses in the rain on a beach, in a storm.  So I worked with what I had, even though I had all my lenses in my backpack.

The X-T2 performed flawlessly.  No complaints whatsoever.  I will mention here the X-T1, which has served me so well since early 2014 would have worked in the same, perfect way.

What I found out to be the biggest asset today was the flip-out LCD when the camera was in the vertical orientation on the tripod!  That was fantastic!  Just great.  The second amazing item was the battery life; I shot a total of 370 images, all tripod, most between 6 to 29 seconds, with long-exposure noise reduction on, AND, every single image using the rear LCD, plus, at least for me, an inordinate amount of chimping as I wanted to make sure the image was sharp due to the heavy winds.  I just checked and I still have TWO bars left!  Much, much better than my X-T1 would have done under the same circumstances.

All-in-all the X-T2 came through with flying colors, as did the 18-55 even though it spent several hours in rain from a slight drizzle, and a downpour towards the end of my day.  I was soaked, and tired, the camera could have kept going.

 

A Funny Thing Happened on the way to a Lens Firmware Update

Well, maybe not funny, but interesting from my perspective.  I downloaded into separate folders on my desktop Fuji’s latest firmware updates for my lenses so I’d be ready to run the updates on Saturday morning.  So, here I sit, early morning, coffee in hand, ready to go.

Without giving it much thought how did I decide to install the updates?  Least used lens FIRST; So, here’s my order from least favorite to favorite:  23 1.4,  35 1.4 (though i LOVE this lens),  then the 16mm 1.4, and finally my all-time favorite, don’t leave home without it lens:  the 18-55.

Not a hugely massive post, but I found it interesting how I picked them without even thinking about it!

Last Nights Amazing Sunset

I’m sitting at home glancing out the windows and notice the sky has cleared up.  I’m also noticing some amazing wispy clouds floating by.  So it’s like 7pm, sunset is at 7:40p and I grab my gear and shoot out the door.   As I’m flying downtime two-lane road I’m thinking I’m going to miss the best part of the sunset as I see the sky lighting up around me.  Well, I arrived at the Marshall Point Lighthouse with about 10 minutes to spare and quickly grab my gear;  unfortunately, my tripod was in my other car which my wife was driving.

From my backpack, as I didn’t have time to swap my gear into one of my shoulder bags I grabbed my X-T1,with the 18-55, and the 16mm 1.4.  That’s all I used during this amazing display of light and shadow.  The image stabilizer on the 18-55 lens truly helped nail a few images as some of my handheld exposures were in the 1/7th to 1/15th of a second.

As it got darker and darker I swapped to the faster 16mm 1.4 and used that — even though I had to push the ISO up to the 800 level.  I am so far very happy with my results from last night.  More images to come from St. George Island soon!

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Weekend Stock Trip to New York City

Last weekend I did a quick trip up to New York City for a couple of days. My plan was just to get a way with my better half and enjoy the weekend walking around the Big Apple. And that is exactly what we did! Since I wanted to relax more than shoot I kept the gear light so here is what I took with me:

Fuji X-T1
Zeiss 12mm F2.8 (Just in case I needed it) I could have left this at home…
Fuji 16mm 1.4 (I knew I would use this plenty at Top of The Rock)
Fuji 18-55 ( A Fantastic take anywhere Lens! I Don’t leave home without it)
Fuji 55-200 ( For rooftop images, Central Park, etc.) I wound up leaving it at the hotel before leaving for the TOTR though as it would have been too long of a focal length for the low light encountered. That was a right call on my part.
2 ea, 77mm Polarizers
77mm step-up rings for each lens
7 ea batteries ( only used 3 full and 1 partially in 2 days of shooting) but better safe than sorry
4 32gb SD cards (only used 1 full, and 1 partially)
1 small Sirui tripod and ballhead that fit in my small bag just in case (never used at all the entire weekend)

NOTE: With the above kit over my shoulder messenger style, I walked for HOURS, everywhere, and I swear I didn’t even realize I was carrying a camera bag at all!

Left at home:
35 1.4
23 1.4
All of the lens shades, hoods, ND filters, macros, other step-up rings, balance of the SD cards, Flashes, triggers, bigger tripods, base plates, hand grips for the X-T1, Remote release, etc. etc. etc. You get the picture.

The weather on Saturday was just perfect for walking around; sunny, high sixty’s, blue sky, pretty and puffy clouds. On Sunday it was rainy, but even that was ok as we were headed home anyway but even that didn’t stop us from having some last minute fun – but I’m jumping ahead of myself.
Saturday morning we had a delicious breakfast at Astro restaurant on Avenue of the Americas and 55th. I had been there many times before as I had worked on various projects in NYC and had stayed at the very same Hilton as I was staying now. The Astro Diner is about a block away and given the opportunity to eat there is not one I would pass up. Anyway we had brunch there, then continued walking north into Central Park. Being it was a Saturday morning, and a gorgeous one at that, to say the park was crowded is an understatement but it was nevertheless a fun day. We spent several fun filled hours walking the lake. We had a run-in with a raccoon which tried to rob us of our bottle of drinking water when I stopped and put it down to snap a photo; and we had to literally side-step a horde of rats, yes, rats that were gathering scraps of food and stuff oblivious to the mass of humanity walking around them on the wide, paved footpath right in the middle of central park. After spending a couple of hours walking around and not even making a small dent in the amount of acreage of this huge, diverse park we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and take a break as that evening I had 6:30pm tickets to the “Top Of The Rock” at 30 Rockefeller Center! Up there, on the 69th floor there are some amazing views in every direction of Manhattan, the surrounding boroughs, and then some!

We arrived at 30 Rock at our scheduled time, and we shot up the elevator and were at the top by 7pm after passing the various security check points, as well as the kitschy photo ops where they try to get you to by prints of course. We did not. As you can see in the image, the views are spectacular. You can stay as long as you want which is fantastic. We stayed until dark. It was almost 9:45pm when we headed down the fast elevators and hit the street to walk back to our hotel. Along the way I snapped some more images of the street vendors, and other touristy photos just, well, because I could and I was having so much fun!

IMG_4741 2 IMG_4749 IMG_4766On a side note I have to mention the photographers and cameras I saw at the TOTR. Remember: I was up there for almost four hours waiting for the light, relaxing with my wife and having fun but always keeping an eye out for the unusual. I did see the usual gaggle of Canikons. Oh so many! I did catch a woman with a Pentax film camera and a 50mm Lens. After seeing what amounted to hundreds of cameras and iPhones I saw only one other mirrorless camera besides mine – an Asian gentleman with a Sony A6000. That was it! Where were all the mirrorless fans?! Represent!!!

If you’ve ever been to TOTR, or anywhere similar you know they have 2-3” thick plexiglass for you to see through, with spacing between each pane. Well, the spacing was just wide enough for my 18-55 with my 77mm step up ring to fit through at most of the panels, but I did have to remove the step up ring from the front of the 18-55 in order to shoot through some as the space between some of the panes were just to tight. The folks using dSLR lenses were out of luck – there was no way they were fitting a 24-70 or 16-35 through there; maybe a 24, 35, or a 50? . Heck, my Zeiss 12mm, and the Fuji 16mm were a tight fit at some of the open slots between the plexiglass panes. So if you are planning on going up there, plan for that! Bring along some fixed, smaller diameter lenses unless you enjoy photographing through scratched plexiglass. I also want to throw out there to all to not use your pop-up flash for the following reasons as the light wanes:

– The flash bounces off the plexiglass and messes your metering overexposing your image.
– The image, if anything is visible, will not show you anything in the background like the empire state building as it’s too far away!

If you want a photo of your wife who is posing oh so stiffly in front of the empire state building as you fiddle with your camera for ten minutes (yes. I’m speaking to you Mr. rude Asian man with the Canon and the 16-35, who was pushing small children out of the way to pose your wife, the one in combat boots) please, jack up your ISO, and open up your aperture, or drop your shutter speed, but whatever you do, don’t fire your pop-up like you did. Maybe she’ll give you some lovin’ later.

On Sunday morning we enjoyed a delicious, relaxing, and complimentary, full buffet style breakfast at the hotel restaurant before checking out. Even though it was raining and misty I wanted to do a little bit of scouting for my next trip as we were already in the city. The next trip will be in NYC but this time I’ll be working the southern tip of Manhattan – and the Battery area. I want to explore and photograph there. We drove around in the rain for a while until I found what I wanted and noted the address in my GPS for future reference. Since I was already there I took some photos while my wife drove around, or parked somewhere and read a book for a short while.

Overall it was a very successful trip photo wise. I have yet to review, cull or edit ANY of the Central Park, or the Top Of The Rock ones, but the few images I did manage to pop off in the rain while in lower Manhattan on Sunday morning before heading home are already available for sale! I can’t wait to find some time to edit the others I took at TOTR and in Central Park! I strongly suggest if you are going to be anywhere on the east coast, to make NYC a stop along your route – you won’t regret it.

As I walked to my car this morning…

I parked in my reserved spot, picked up my bag, slung it over my shoulder and headed to the office. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks!  The X-T1 and several lenses are so light I hardly feel it!

In the mornings when I leave home I usually have over my shoulder a Fossil leather bag –  In it I keep my Macbook Air, my yogurt for lunch, and some basic file folders.  In itself the Fossil bag is rather lightweight.  I’ve had it since 2007 and it is still an amazing piece of luggage that I proudly use in my daily life.  Every now and then I’ll stick a Jill-E insert in the bag and carry my X-T1 with me.

Today, I packed a small $30.00 bag I found on Amazon.  It’s called the Lowepro Exchange Messenger for dSLR kit and essentials.  Here’s the link.  I bought this wonderful bag in July of 2013 when a very good friend of mine and I took a three day tour around coastal Maine; he carried his two Leica’s and assorted lenses in this bag.  After seeing how light it was, and the fact I was able to store it flat pretty much anywhere I decided to purchase one right there and then and so I did.

Today I’ll be away from home for a couple of days but had to go into the office first; Instead of my Fossil leather bag I instead packed my LowePro.  In the bag I loaded up my X-T1, the 18-55 lens, the 16mm F1.4 lens, the 23mm 1.4 lens, the Fuji EF-42 Flash with four batteries, and an extra two Fuji batteries for the camera, and my lunch.  The bag has very deep pockets, one has a zipper for additional security; normally, that would be where I store my SD wallet but since the X-T1 is packing a 32G card that allows for over 700 jpeg+raws I didn’t bother bringing any more along.

When I arrived at the office and picked up the bag out of my car with the always present Macbook Air I had to do a double-check to make sure I packed what I needed!  It was that light.  I remember the days pre-Fuji when I carried my Nikon D800 or D700, plus Nikon glass — or better (or worse) yet when I carried my Mamiya 645AFD medium format!  Heck, going back a bit further my old RB67.  Now that was a beast.  I actually smiled as I walked down the Philadelphia streets to my office.  It absolutely does makes a huge difference carrying a smaller mirrorless camera.  I don’t care if it is a Fuji, Sony, Olympus — whatever floats your boat, just try one!  I do not miss my dSLR’s or MF at all! Since I haven’t printed larger thant 24″x 20″ I haven’t needed more megapixels.  If I did, I can always work some photoshop magic though I try very hard to stay out of PS. CORRECTED – SEE LAST TWO PARAGRAPHS ADDED AFTER THIS WAS PUBLISHED!

With that being said I am awaiting the arrival of the X-T2.  As I am a travel, and stock photographer the 24mp sensor keeps me ahead of the curve and my images relevant when a clients wants a bit extra oomph.  Usually we can show them that 16.3mp is more than enough but at times, they are rather adamant about larger files.  If it were not for that I wouldn’t be upgrading at all!  With regards to the rumors here of a potential Fuji medium format camera my first questions are not resolution or megapixels but how big is it going to be?  What is the weight of the system?  How about lens weight? I am now totally spoiled by the compactness, and the image quality coming from my Fuji system and I would not go back, ever, to a Nikon or any other brand.

So, when I leave my office later this afternoon and head south for a couple of days I’ll still be grinning like a Cheshire cat!

I was going to end this post here then FedEx came in.  I sent out an image to be printed a while back and I just received it!  It’s a 30 x 20″ print of an image that was processed from a RAF file into a 95mb TIFF in Lightroom.  I thought about processing it in Iridient which I own but decided i would process it in the same app that I use for 99% of all my editing work.

Here, I’ve laid it across our conference room table in order to flatten it somewhat.  But I have to say it looks amazing!  I can COUNT the grains of sand, and you can as well just from these two iPhone images!  This is 30″ x 20″ and I think I can go up to 40″ plus so that will be the next round of tests.  I performed this print test to see how far I can push 16.3 megapixels.  I have to say, these results are truly amazing.  I’ve taken my glasses off and pressed my nose and eyes very close and it’s well, trust me:  amazing!FullSizeRender 2

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in this image, taken with the X-T1 and the Unbelievable 16mm 1.4 you can count the grains of sand flowing as the water ebbs, under the shell, and throughout the image. It’s that clear here even though I used an iPhone for these two

Enjoy the rest of your day.

 

 

Roanoke Marsh Lighthouse at Dusk

I took an impromptu 3-day trip down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for some R & R.  This trip was NOT to photograph, but to just get some rest and get away from the daily grind.  On my desktop I left over 6,300 images I’ve yet to review, process, and get out to my various stock agencies.  I did not even bother to take my laptop or externals with me.  What did I take with me to “not” take photos?  I took my X-T1, the 18-55, 55-200, and my 16mm 1.4.  I packed a couple of filters, two SD cards and only used one, plus my extra batteries.  As far as tripods, I keep one in each vehicle so that was a given they would travel with me.

I’ve been in this area on many occasions to photograph the  incredible lighthouses and landscapes in the area.  This particular lighthouse had always eluded my attempts at getting a decent image. Either the weather, the tides, the lighting something always conspired against me.  Not this time!  Using my app Photographers Ephemeris, checking the sundown times, and tide tables I decided to drive out to the area and check it out.  I spent two hours photographing the light from the golden hour when the sun was lighting it up orange, until dark.  This is only one of my favorites of the evening.  While there, a group of photographers who were taking a class lead by an instructor showed up.  The instructor asked me about the mirrorless X-T1, and as we started chatting, each and every photographer in the group had to oooh and aaah at the quality of the camera, the viewfinder,  and the images I was shooting!  It was great to talk about and promote the X-T1 and the incredible array of Fuji lenses ieven though I was only shooting with the 18-55 at the time.  I know I missed some images as the light was changing quickly having to give impromptu guidance and lessons on the values of mirrorless-especially the Fuji!  All the photogs were hauling bags full of gear with Canon or Nikon gear;  one guy had a Sony and he stayed away from me all night!  What I found very interesting is that NONE of the photographers carried a tripod!  Are you kidding me?!  I suspect it was because they were hauling around their dSLR’s and heavy lenses.  As the light started to change, and they had already seen a few of my images on the (gorgeous LCD) and handled the camera, many of them tore out back to the parking lot to get their tripods.  But, they left their gear sitting on the dock!  Hilarious. A bunch of nice guys though — except for the Sony jerk who wouldn’t even acknowledge my presence.

Overall a very productive evening considering I wasn’t even going to photograph much on this three-day, impromptu trip.  But, who can give this up?  Especially when as I mentioned this particular lighthouse had eluded my attempts to capture it for quite a few years.  Now, I GOTCHA!

Anyway here is one of the many images.  Enjoy.

Fuji X-T1, Using the horrible (just kidding, as many people complain about this lens) the Fuji 18-55 @ 55mm, 10 seconds, F14, ISO 200, Tripod, 2-sec Self timer, Velvia, Singh-Ray 77mm Warming Polarizer, Daylight WB My copy of the 18-55 is so darn sharp that at 100% in LR I can read the sign posted on the white fence towards the left side of the lighthouse.
Fuji X-T1, Using the horrible (just kidding, as many people complain about this lens) the Fuji 18-55 @ 55mm, 10 seconds, F14, ISO 200, Tripod, 2-sec Self timer, Velvia, Singh-Ray 77mm Warming Polarizer, Daylight WB
My copy of the 18-55 is so darn sharp that at 100% in LR I can read the sign posted on the white fence towards the left side of the lighthouse.

You can see more of my stuff at:  drama king images, or at my Flickr Feed.