“Always Use A Filter,” They Said…

Over the years, I spent lots of money on lenses, and splurged to get the finest “protective” filters I could find. I felt “protected”—and smug in the knowledge that all that expensive glass would not fall victim to fingerprints , sticky pollen, scrapes, scratches and “the thousand natural shocks that … lenses are heir to” (apologies to Shakespeare). I got some pretty good images, but under certain bright and contrasty lighting conditions, I also had some inexplicable failures to control flare as well as the lenses were claimed to do.

I was at one of my favorite scenic locations by a large lake, and I was disappointed by the fuzzy results I was getting with a reputedly sharp zoom. I removed it and removed the filter while I cleaned the front and back elements. Looking through the lens in the direction of some waves reflecting the sun, I didn’t see any haze, dust or fungus, so I mounted the lens and proceeded to redo the lens calibration. When I was satisfied, I took some scenic shots and I was amazed at how much sharper they were.

I noticed I hadn’t put the filter back on, and so I cleaned it, front and back, and threaded it back onto the lens. I took another scenery shot, and … DISAPPOINTMENT filled the frame! Soft, mushy rendering, like it was out of focus, or worse.

I autofocused on infinity, then switched to Live View and magnified the image. It was bad. I manually adjusted the focus and was able to correct it for the most part, but now I could see what looked like flare… or was it ghosting?

After removing the filter I tried checking the autofocus against LV, and found them to be in complete agreement with each other! Bad filter? Not at the premium price I paid for a highly respected brand name, beautifully multi-coated slice of glass.

So, I read up on the subject, and the experts seem to more or less agree that filters are a mixed blessing, and that its a good practice to only use them when absolutely necessary. It’s not just a digital problem—it happened with film as well. In high quality lenses, every element is engineered to work well with all the others. When we add another element its refraction is added to the mix in random ways the lens designers could not anticipate.

In the days before autofocus, focus shift didn’t much matter, because you focused until you liked the results. But our modern cameras allow autofocus with an offset to correct for each lens’ propensity to back-focus or front-focus and apply the offset from where the sensor thinks the image is “in focus.”

Oh, for the simpler days of silver halide salts on acetate bases that were more or less in the focal plane by a dozen microns or so, and we all just shot at f:11 and hoped a lot. But I don’t want to give up today’s outstanding image quality, resolution, sharpness, color rendition, dynamic range, and so many more important characteristics that were not possible with film.


Here’s a sample shot to test the theory. Same lens, same exposure, same focus point. Only the filter was removed to protect the Image Quality!

As you can see, where the silver object has a bluish halo hovering above it, the second image (without the filter) has none. There is overall improved contrast, increased detail and the reduction of reflections/ghosts/”flare” allows the smc Pentax-FA lens to live up to its stellar reputation.

I tried an in-camera, 0/-1/+1 EV HDR composite, and also some monochrome effects that benefited from the extra contrast, and the reduction in unwanted artifacts. Don’t you just want to reach out and touch the towel? (Note to self: When using in-camera B&W emulation with contrast enhancement, kick the exposure up 1 EV, or the gamma up by 15-20.

And here’s the scenic lake shot that started it all…

How to Reset a DMR HT From Chinese To English

Turn the Radio on. (If it’s scanning, stop scanning)
…and tap the green button once
Tap the down-arrow button to select the
“wrench” icon (highlighted in blue)
…and tap the green button
Use the arrow buttons to select [ 1 ] (Radio Settings)
…and tap the green button
Use the arrows to select the line before “LED”
(on the RT84/MD-2017/DM-1701 it’s #8,
and on the MD-380/MD390, it’s #6)
…and tap the green button
Use the arrows to select “English”
(the one that doesn’t have the blue dot)
…and tap the green button.
Wait a few seconds and you’ll be returned back to the main screen:
(That wasn’t so bad, now was it?)

New Composition: On That Night The Angels Sang

This is my latest composition. It will be first performed in DuBois PA on December 21, 2019 at the Reitz Theater as part of the DuBois Vocal Arts Ensemble Christmas Program.

It is scored for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, French Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, Tuba, Tympani, and Strings, with SAB Choir and Piano, and centers around a polyphonic introduction and fugue punctuated by solo recitation of the theme of a new, traditional-style “Carol” of my own creation and design, both words and music. After a simple development section, it ends with the motifs from the fugue, the refrain and the polyphonic introduction overlaid upon a spirited rendering of the fully developed, strophic carol verses, ending abruptly with the culmination of the fugue motif.

Much attention to the mathematical structure and artful voicing were applied to produce depth of structure. Pains were taken to keep the ambitus well within the singers’ and instrumentalists’ tessitura while keeping the voice leading melodic and singable. This ensures no more than a moderate difficulty level while still being interesting and engaging, both for performers and listeners.

On That Night The Angels Sang
Words and Music by Joesph Shupienis, A.S.C.A.P.
Copyright © 2019 — All Rights Reserved


(Oo, oo...)

When on that night the Angel sang
  to shepherds of the birth,
Gloria in Excelsis!
Glad tidings of great joy to man:
  salvation for the Earth!

On that holy night, shepherds went down
  to Bethlehem to see the Babe.

Above them was a heav'nly light
  that glow'd bright from afar,
And from the Eastern lands came wise men
  following that star.

Along with them, they brought their gifts:
  gold, frankincense and myrrh;
And laid them out before the King,
  our infant Savior.

On that holy night, the Angels sang:
  Gloria in Excelsis!
Peace on Earth and good will to man.
  Gloria in Excelsis!

We raise our voices, join'd in song
  with Angel Host above;
A song of Peace, a song of Joy,
 of Mercy, Hope and Love!

We raise our voices, join'd in song
  with Angel Host above;
A song of Peace, a song of Joy,
 of Mercy, Hope and Love!

Sing We Noel – DVAE Christmas 2018 Live

Note: These recordings are presented here as recorded, after transcoding the 24-bit 96,000 sample per second, “Mid/Side Blumlein Matrix” recording, and converting each song to plain stereo, 320kb/s MP3 files.

As I have the time, edited and/or cleaned-up versions will replace each of these tracks. If there is interest, I can also produce a CD. Meanwhile, please feel free to listen to these tracks and enjoy them. You may also download the .MP3 files and share them as you wish.

Merry Christmas, and “May God Bless Us, Every One.”