Tag Archives: digital

Free Videos: AdoramaTV with Mark Wallace

It’s bigger.. it’s better.. and it’s a FREEBIE!! It’s the new AdoramaTV show starring Mark Wallace. OK, perhaps it’s a bit much but Adorama as funded ALOT of shows featuring photographer Mark Wallace who will present shorts on equipment, techniques and product reviews.

Some will say it’s selling out to the “man” but I say it’s good business for Mark. From what I have heard, Adorama is pretty much letting Mark do what he does best and not trying to steer him to certain products etc. The quality is not bad, not the best but certainly better than alot of what passes for video on Youtube. The audio is too hot much of the time and the lower thirds are kinda of cheesy but it’s not too bad considering. Mark is saying that there should be three videos a week at least and for fifty weeks!! That is a heckva alot of video production and he talks about it on a podcast produced by our friends over at studiolighting.net. Mark goes into alot of detail on the effort it takes to produce this number of videos plus still do his normal business to avoid losing clients. Anyone willing to do all that work just to give it away deserves some positive karma and some to Adorama for funding it for Mark. After all, one of the best things about photography is just how many people are perfectly willing to share techniques, tips, styles, blogs, actions and more for free.

iPad Photography Applications

After watching this one, I’m much more interested in getting an iPad to try out.

Here is another sample of the Adorama video series, this one is Color Management Tools.

Color Management Tools

Any time you can get someone of Mark’s caliber speaking for fifty videos and they cost you nothing, it’s one heck of a deal. Even more so since I’m customer of Adorama and have been overall happy with their service. There have been some hickups but nothing I would call a deal breaker by any stretch. Skype is free too but I hate them with a passion so Adorama has nothing to worry about from me πŸ™‚

Posted in commercial photography, equipment, photography, reviews, technique, video, youtube Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |

D300 firmware update now has copyright info

This is just a fast post to encourage you to upgrade the firmware of your D300. The overwhelming reason is that you can not enter copyright information to be embedded into the EXIF data of all your images. There are some other fixes like a bit faster focusing and higher shutter speeds in automatic mode. But the copyright info is a biggie to anyone who shoots for a living, or even if you dont, you should put in your info to show ownership on the chance that someone “borrows” your image.

You can download the new firmware from here at Nikon.

To set up the D300 for copyrihg information, follow these directions:

D300 -> Setup Menu -> Copyright Information

“Attach copyright information” setting checked

“Copyright information” setting to “ON.

The information can be entered in upper and lower case plus you can use symbols.

Here is all the details of the upgrade:

  • The Highlights playback option has been moved from Display Mode > Basic photo info > Highlights in the playback menu to Display mode > Detailed photo info > Highlights.
  • The size and color of β€œDemo” displayed in the monitor with playback when No memory card? in the Custom Settings has been set to Enable Release have been modified.
  • The range of settings available for ISO sensitivity settings > ISO sensitivity auto control > Minimum shutter speed in the shooting menu has been increased from 1/250 – 1s to 1/4000 – 1s.
  • When shooting in hand-held live view mode and the frame is magnified prior to autofocusing, operation has been modified so that display returns to the magnified display rather then the full frame display.
  • Images captured with Rotate tall, in the playback menu, set to On, are not automatically rotated for display immediately after capture (image review).
  • A Copyright information has been added to the setup menu. When Copyright information is enabled, the copyright symbol ( Β© ) is shown in the shooting info display.
  • Recent settings can now be displayed in the place of My Menu.
  • Custom Setting e3 Flash cntrl for built in flash ( e3 Optional flash when an optional Speedlight is mounted on the camera) can now be added to My Menu using the Add items > Custom setting menu > Bracketing/ flash.
  • The degree of the High ISO NR setting can now be confirmed in the shooting info display while the High ISO NR setting item, in the shooting menu, is being applied.
  • Ankara, Riyadh, Kuwait, and Manama have been added to the Time zone options for the World time item in the setup menu.
  • When a GPS device is used and no heading information is available, –.–° is now displayed for the Position / Heading option in the GPS item in the setup menu.
  • When shooting in live view mode using Camera Control Pro 2 (ver. 2.2.0 or later) with a PC-E lens, the aperture setting can now be adjusted from the computer.
  • Focus acquisition performance in dynamic-area AF mode has been improved.
  • Focus acquisition performance with contrast-detect AF has been improved.
  • Auto white balance performance has been improved.
  • The fourth digit in seconds display for GPS latitude and longitude information is now rounded off rather than omitted.
  • The current MB-D10 battery type setting can now be confirmed in the shooting menu display when R6/AA- size batteries are used with the Multi-Power Battery pack MB-D10.
  • An issue that caused an increase in noise when shooting in [M] exposure mode at a shutter speed setting of bulb with the shutter held open for less than 8 seconds and Long exp. NR enabled has been resolved.
  • An issue that prevented shutter release at the specified shutter speed when no operations were performed for 30 seconds in mirror up mode has been resolved.
  • An issue that caused abnormal image display when Image review was set to On and the playback zoom in button was pressed immediately after shooting at the following settings has been resolved.
  • Image quality: NEF (RAW) + JPEG
  • NEF (RAW) recording: Lossless compressed or Compressed
  • Image size: S or M
  • When the Speedlight SB-800 was mounted on the camera with flash mode set to distance-priority manual (GN) mode, and the camera recovered from standby mode triggered by the auto meter off function, the distance information in the SB-800 changed. This issue has been resolved.
Posted in copyright, editing software, equipment, firmware, Hardware, photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Come Sail Away

One thing that a photographer needs to learn (truthfully, most people need this) is how to make lemonade from life’s lemons tossed your way. I had the absolute misfortune of being taken off my flight at Heathrow airport due to the ash cloud shutdown of Europe’s airspace on April 15, 2010. We were loaded and ready to go when we were told “everybody off”. I was one of the lucky ones, I was able chase down my luggage and clear customs with relative speed, only about three hours. Some other had not gotten their luggage in three days after the event.

Two days after Heathrow shutdown

Two days after Heathrow shutdown

3rd day of ALL FLIGHTS CANCELLED

3rd day of ALL FLIGHTS CANCELLED

I had booked my flight with a very good travel agent, Linda Christen since I was going overseas and past experience has taught me to avoid the self service sites like Orbitz and Travelocity like the plague. She was able to dig up a room at a local hotel when all hotels were saying “we are full”. It was not a cheap room but definitely cheaper than many around it and the neighborhood sucked being right at the airport. However, it was clean and beat having to go to London proper which was twenty miles or so away then having to either cab it or take the underground back each I needed to be at the airport. During the week it took me to get out of Heathrow, I had over nine flight cancellations in six days. I had to extend my room four times. And even when they opened the airport, my airline still cancelled flights and would not take new reservations due to the existing flights already being booked up weeks in a advance. Some airlines were and still are offering specials to booked passengers who are willing to cancel their flights to free up seats. So it was looking something the first week of May before I could really consider getting out.

First Flight from Heathrow in 5 days

First Flight from Heathrow in 5 days

This brings up something very important to anyone traveling not just photographers, make damn sure you have a good line of credit. I brought my ATM card which is how I normally pay for things but I also had brought my business AmericanEx card plus one MasterCharge with a fairly good limit and nothing on it. As it turns out, since I had the MC card AND I had called them ahead of time to let them know I was going to be in the UK, I had zero issues with using the card, even to charge the cruise to it. All sorts of people around me were struggling with cards maxed out or not being accepted because they were overseas and so on. The good thing is by putting the cruise on a single empty card, I know exactly what part of this debacle is the cruise and which part is the hotel. Since my flight was booked on AmEx card, I might get some of it back via the built in insurance policy but we shall see.

Since I had been in Oxford on a holiday to see my eldest daughter, I had not planned on being out of country more than 6 days. So by week two, laundry was becoming an issue. I had been able to take advantage of the dorm laundry when I was visting so I had a buffer of a few days of clean clothes. However, it also that meant that in a few days I was in the shower washing shirts and underwear while getting myself clean. Since I never knew when I could leave, I could not risk the paid laundry since it took two days. My hotel did not have any kind of gift shop, so I had to shop at other and nicer hotels to buy razors and other supplies. This was a one mile hike to get the closest one and I found a minimart at a carwash that had some soap and sold cheap boxed sandwiches to avoid the twenty pound lunch at the hotel.

In the end, a very crazy idea that I had on saturday night paid off. I had sent an email to my travel agent to see about booking passage on the Queen Mary 2 which I had read on the internet was leaving in a few days out of Southhampton. And yes, she thought I was nuts but she humored me and she put my name on the wait list of two hundred people. This was before the ongoing flight cancellations all week. I had done it as a “last resort” type of thing and when I got a call on Weds saying there was a cabin available, the waitlist had over 1,500 people. I had a flight for thursday but American Airlines would not confirm the flight would even take place. As it turns out, it did not take place. So for about 2/3s of the price of staying in a hotel for yet another week plus bad food, I was able to get a cabin on the biggest and the only true Ocean Liner left in the world.

My ride home - Queen Mary 2

My ride home - Queen Mary 2

Oh yes, I am terribly underdressed for this event. In fact, as I write this entry, everyone around me is getting ready for Captian’s Night which I have zero chance of attending as it’s tux only. I dont even have slacks much less a tux, I have good working jeans that travel well πŸ™‚ But the food at the buffet is very good and my jeans are perfectly acceptable there.

Queen Mary 2 Grand Staircase

Queen Mary 2 Grand Staircase

Now, what does all this have to do with photography? Plenty, the photographic opportunities aboard the QM2 are amazing. I have seven days to shoot, shoot and shoot some more. There so much art and architecture on the ship to shoot that it’s a perfect place to practice and refine your craft without the pressure of time.

Queen Mary 2 Sunset on the first night

Queen Mary 2 Sunset on the first night

The QM2 has wireless in most cabins and in most public places. If you buy a block of eight hours, you will pay about thirty five cents a minute for internet. Not cheap but it’s enough to get email and upload small sized images to sites like Flickr or a blog. A side benifit of the wireless is that while the Queen has cell coverage, I can use Skype to call home. Why use Skype and not my cell? because even with international roaming, the voice charges are 1.40 USD per MINUTE and the data rates are 11.00 USD per megabyte. By contrast, I paid 167.00 USD for 8 hours of internet time which works out to be .35 cents per minute. Skype is free plus the .35 cents per minute so this is a no brainer.

This leads to yet another piece of advice for really anyone nowadays traveling. Bring a laptop or even a netbook that is fully loaded with the various applications like Skype, FTP, a couple of different browsers and emergency software like file recovery and/or flash card recovery software. In my own case, I had just gotten a new 13 inch Macbook Pro but I not had a chance to load all my favorite items on it and I decided pretty much at the last minute to take old reliable which is a 15 inch Macbook Pro from three years ago. A very good choice on my part since I have all my normal software loaded so I can edit and adjust images, post to my blog, phone home and more.

So with the travel tips finished, lets move on to shooting pictures on a cruise ship. On the ship, one problem is that they use a type of florescent light that is very yellow in color and will wreak havoc on your white balance. The best thing is to shoot RAW and correct in post. Lighting inside tends to be dim so ISO 800 is more the rule to get a decent shutter speed while shooting at F2.8 to F4.

The lens of choice so far after three days of shooting is my 11-24mm F4. So much of the ship is expansive and you really need the wide angle to bring it all in. I had my 17-55 F2.8 but so far I have not had a need for it. Another excellent item to have is a really good point and shoot. I brought my new G11 with me as a test and it has been getting quite the unintended workout in the past three weeks. The camera is perfect for most shooting on the ship but it has a very hard time with bright and dark in the same image. When the lights blow out, they blow big and fringe badly. So in some cases, I have taken my D300 and gone back to locations to get nicer shots that I had shot first with my G11.

Queen Mary 2 Quiet Time

Queen Mary 2 Quiet Time

The color issues can be adjusted in post so long as you are shooting RAW. With JPEGs, it will almost impossible to correct well. What is interesting is that while I see it as a pale yellow, the camera sees it as a vivid yellow, very intense. This ship also has halegon spots all over and when the two lights mix, it’s very tough to get a good white balance. I brought a set of gels with me so I will probably break out the SB800 and my gels to see if I can gel the lights. For that matter, I might just tape the gel to my G11 for a fast test. I brought a small roll of gaffers tape, dont you travel with some wrapped around a sharpy? You should!

Something else to consider when on the road, I have bought what I called “Extended Manuals” from Amazon via their Kindle service. I then use the iPhone version of the Kindle software to have these manuals for the D300 and G11 at the ready for reference. This is very important for times like now when I’m toting a new camera along for the first time.

Another invaluable accessory that I bought recently was the Luma camera strap. I also bought an extra lanyard for it. So I have one camera strap for two cameras. And when I have to clear security like getting on to the Queen Mary for example, it’s a simple matter of unclipping the lanyard and then reclipping it when I’m done. No more trying to lift a strap over my head, hat, jacket etc. To be honest while the Luma is awesome for the G11, I prefer my Rapid Strap for the D300, even more so with a long lens on it. The lanyard will twist and let the bounce around quite a bit on my hip whereas the BlackRapid strap tends to hold the camera against my hip and in the same position all the time.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted in Hardware, lenses, photography, technique, Travel Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Shooting with the Canon G11

The more I use the Canon G11, the more I see that the newest and higher end compact cameras are under rated. I have spent over a week now shooting the G11 in all conditions and I have to say that while the ergonomics are poor, the picture quality is very good. And the camera has a very “well built” feel to it, like the difference between a Honda and a Mercedes.

The G11 itself is built very well and feels sturdy in your hands. Even the swivel screen does not feel flimsy as you swing it in and out. The problems I have with the camera revolve around where the right hand has to grip the camera body. There is a small bump to wrap your fingers around it on the right but it’s too damn small to be of any use. The body really needs to be extended here and in fact, on the older G series, one of the most popular accessories is a grip extender. Without it, my thumb ends up resting on the buttons since there is not any space to put it anywhere else. The “menu” button ends up jammed into my palm and the thumb goes right over the function button. So often, I find my settings have changed. Holding the camera in the vertical mode is worse, to keep your finger on the shutter button keeps my fingers hitting the buttons all the time. Most common I find my F stop has changed without my knowing it. A button lock switch would have been a killer addition. Something like small slide switch on my iPhone where I can silence the phone in an instant.

But since I dont have it, I make do. Ergonomics aside, the picture quality is very important, I mean, no matter how good the buttons are, if the picture quality sucks, then why bother? This camera had the sensor size “degraded” from 12 to 10 megapixels in order to clean up some of the noise from putting too many pixels on a very small sensor.

Now the noise is not alot compared to other small cameras, it is still considerably more than my D90 or D300. Even at a relatively low ISO of 400 is still noisy. This means in post, there is an extra step of having to run Noiseware (or whatever your choice for noise reduction is). In Noiseware, the “Film Grain” setting seems to work very well at cleaning up the images without ruining the edge details. In this picture, I shot at ISO 800 with a shutter of 1/125 F3.5 and 15mm. The noise is clearly visable but not too objectionable and would easily clean up. At 3200, you would be to pretty desperate to use the image even after clean up. ISO 1600 is pretty much the limit of the G11 to make a decent image that will still clean up well.
The Chancel Vault

Here is a crop of ISO 800 without any retouching or noise clean up.
Crop showing ISO 1600 G11

Given the price tag of the G11, I am surprised at the stunning amount of distortion in the wide angle settings. At a retail price of 500 USD, I would expect much better optics than this. In this shot of my MBP screen at it’s widest, you can see the barrel distortion all around the image.
First Contact

To fix it, you need to remember to move the lens in just a touch and the level of distortion drops right off. This is overshadowed by how well the camera works in close up work and macro work. It can take stunning ly good close up shots in very difficult situation even holding it without any tripod. The IS that Canon added to it works incredibly well. In these shots, I was shooting through a case case in both shots.I was right up on the glass but not touching it and just using spread finger tips as a “tripod”. In both shots, the G11 was set to macro mode and in full manual. In the gears shot, I did use manual focus to get the focus exactly where I wanted it.
Gears Astrolab

I will say that I bought a spare battery for this and I find that I really dont need to use the spare even after shooting off over 300 images during the course of a day. Now, I did not use the flash very much and I tend to turn off the camera when I’m not shooting since it comes on very fast. But still, it’s a very good achievement in battery life

And lets talk about RAW vs JPEG. On my older Canon SD500, 550 and 800 cameras, the camera generated JPGs are pretty good. On the G11, they suck. Is that plain enough? The color balance and sharpness is not there. I find that shooting RAW is the ONLY way to really use this camera and then clean it all up in post. So in a major way, that defeats the whole reason for using a point and shoot which is connivence. Now, I dont mind since my workflow is already geared up for RAW but for someone like my wife, this camera is completely wasted on her and she is a pretty good snapshot artist. So if it were me, I would NOT recommend this camera to anyone other than a serious amateur or a working pro who really can use the manual settins and the close up/macro capability of this camera. Anyone else will be very frustrated by it. As it is, it frustrates me but I’ll live with it till someone designs a better semi-pro point and shoot.

Posted in equipment, Hardware, lenses, photography, workflow Also tagged , , , , , , |

Traveling Light

Don’t you just love being invited to see someone’s travel pictures? Does the groan escape your lips before you can stop yourself or do you just bite the bullet and suffer quietly? But here is the kicker question, how do YOUR travel pics look to everyone else? hmmmmm? Thought so.. so here are some tips on creating memorable travel shots that wont put your audience to sleep OR cost you and arm and a leg in glass.

Bones of a BE2c

My first tip is a bit odd and not so much a tip as something to think about. Travel is all about seeing the sights and experiencing new things, people and places. Unless you are getting PAID for the trip, it’s NOT about dragging two bodies, half dozen lenses and assorted equipment along. So my first piece of advice is to consider, strongly consider getting a really good point and shoot camera.

In my case, I got a Canon G11 because I truly believe that Nikon’s point and shoots are best left home. None of them equal the G11 in features or flexibility. I also feel that Nikon is making serious mistake with that line of marketing. But anyways, there is the G11, there is the slightly cheaper but in some ways, better S90, the Panasonic LX3 and there are the newer four thirds which are a a marginal point and shoot with swappable lenses. I tend not to include the four thirds in this talk because of their size. The Canon G11 is almost too big but still qualifies as a “point and shoot” due to it’s fixed lens and smallish size.

I suggest a good point and shoot because when traveling with one like the G11, you have virtually all the control that you have with the DLSR. You do NOT have swappable lenses but then the zooms on the P/S camera are pretty amazing at the ranging they can work. I just spent a week in the UK and never pulled my D300 out of my ThinkTank bag. I shot everything with the G11. This leads to another tip.

Leave 90% of the “must have” accessories at home. I did a week in the UK and never used my remotes, my SB800 flash, graphics tablet, D300, 17-55 F2.8 lens, 50mm 1.4 lens, spare batteries etc. I DID use my Epson P5000 to archive my images from the Sd card, I DID use my Macbook Pro for email and fast edits for posting to Flickr so friends and family could see a few shots as I went and I DID use my USB hard drive for my Time Machine backups while in the room. So when thinking about the trip and really think about what you plan to do, be ruthless! Most museums will NOT let you use the fancy flash and/or camera without hassling you about it. Nobody gave a damn about my G11. I lived in my Luma Loop strap and it was great at the checkpoints where I could just unsnap the camera, hand it to security and then snap it back on. No mess and no fuss trying to lift straps over my head and jacket. I like it much better on my G11 than I do on my D300. For my D300, I prefer the Rapid Strap but since we are talking about lightweight point and shoots, really take a look at the Luma.

I consolidated quite a few of my chargers down to three and one I didnt need. The AA charger was not needed since I never used the SB800 flash I brought. The old Razor charger works on my Crackberry and is lighter and smaller than the OEM for the Blackberry. I had the Canon charger and a USB cable for the iPhone since it can charge while connected to the laptop. I had two more USB cables, both the same type so I could plug in both my flash card reader and the external HD at the same time. I did bring a spare power pack for the iPhone for while I was on the airplane since it was 11 hours of flying time and time at the airport. I also have a small two piece plastic stand that holds the iPhone horizontal and at a 50 degree angle for watching movies or podcasts. I brought spare earbuds since I have them fail before.

So what can you do with a point and shoot you ask? Am I going to “give up” anything? Yeah, weight and size. A good point and shoot can perform almost as well as the DLSR. Note I said Almost.. not As well. There is some give and take but we are talking TRAVEL pictures people, not the cover of Vanity Fair or Country Life. You want nice shots that wont bore people to death when you show them. And that my friend is more of YOU than the camera. So learn how to use the point and shoot CORRECTLY. It’s not the same as your DSLR and it will require a different technique to some degree. And it will require more post processing to get the most out of the image. There is distortion in the wide angles, noise even at relatively low ISOs like 400 and on my G11, a distinctly narrower tonal range between shadow details and totalling blown highlights. The G11 also fringes blue like mad on blown or close to blown highlights. So experiment before you leave and make sure you understand the limits and how best work around them.

When I use my G11, 90% of the time I am shooting full manual mode. I tend to shoot ambient light and the G11’s smarts do not do so well with backlit scenes. There is a feature on the G11 that I absolutely love. I can be in full manual, focus on the subject and dial up or down F stop and/or shutter in real time and see the changes on the screen. No guessing, I just focus and dial in what I want it to look like or as close as I can get. This is such a cool thing is nasty lighting like a dim church or museum. I dont have to take the camera away from my eye and look at the screen to see the shot. I just hold it up, focus and watch the screen in real time. The G11 also has a rotating screen which I LOVE!! My old Nikon 950 has one and that is the one feature I miss the most on my D300/D90.

Another tip is to shoot RAW if you can. The JPEGs on the Canon just plain out and out suck. In RAW, I can recover alot of those “blown” highlights and pull back the fringing if I want. I also can run my normal workflow of Noiseware and a highpass filter which gives me clean and sharp images. Much better than the in-camera JPEG processing could ever hope to be.

Use the built in flash but use it wisely. In other words, dont turn it on and leave “on”.. learn to set it just like you do aperture or shutter speed. The built in flash works very well as fill for getting rid of those nasty shadows under someone’s eyes in bright light. It works very well to bring up the shadows in a dim museum assuming you are allowed to use the flash.

Amanda Oxford Portrait

Play with different techniques and post work flow. Dont be afraid of blur or Black and White. I learned a trick from Jack Davis (How to WOW) about using slow shutters while shooting out the window of a moving bus or car for an impressionistic look. With a bit of luck, it looks very cool. Also, take interesting shots of family, they are the models traveling with you and since they tend to ignore you anyways, play into that.

Rider
Blue Skies

Black and white is easily accomplished with today’s tools and remember, it’s BLACK and WHITE, not middle grey which is what you get with default settings of greyscale. It’s all about tones and texture in B/W, not color so strong subjects, close ups and something with a large tonal range can work very well in B/W.

WWII in B/W

Stairs of Light

Dont forgot to use interesting composition!! Dont take the same damn shot everyone else takes. Well, take it first and get it out of the way then start experimenting. You have digital film for pete’s sake, damn near unlimited assuming you either have a large flash card or you brought spares. You DID bring spares yet?

Hyde Park in London

Museum of Natural History Oxford

And FOOD!!! Remember, this is traveling and you are not eating at the same old places (you had better not be!) So sometimes, the food can be quite interesting to shoot and share with friends later.

Pizza

Every one of these pictures were taken with my point and shoot Canon G11 under a varity of conditions. All are not your typical crappy image out of a point and shoot. The equipment helps but in the end, the photographer working the camera makes the biggest difference. The point and shoot allows you to travel very light on equipment and in many ways, frees you to be more creative by doing more with less. Try it and I think you might yourself addicted to using the point and shoot alot more than you think you will.

Happy trails!!

Posted in editing, editing software, equipment, photography, ramblings, technique, Travel, workflow Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

London Calling

So I’m over in jolly old England for a bit wandering around the countryside with a new toy, a Canon G11. The choice of Canon over my normal Nikon is in large part to Nikon’s refusal to offer a real camera in a point and shot format like Canon does. It’s a bit bulky and the controls are hell to use when shooting vertical but it can do some amazing things. Like sync to my Nikon SB800s using my Cybersyncs and shoot at 1/2000 shutter. Up to now, the only camera I have that could do that is my old D70s. And to be honest, the quality of the two are very close.

Which leads to my biggest complaints about the Canon. The noise even at ISO 200 stinks. At ISO 800, I *MUST* use noise reduction software to get a clean image. And it’s soft, even manually focused and shooting JPEG, the image is noticeably soft. It cleans up with a high pass filter but that is just another step to do and for it to be very effective, I have to shoot RAW which in itself is not a big deal.

The wide angle has distortion to beat the band, it’s very bad compared to my D300 with a 12-24 F4 piece of glass. (go figure!) But the Macro ROCKS!! You can get the camera to where the lens is almost touching the object of interest and focus on it.

The manual settings are pretty easy to use but the selector button and wheel cause no end of grief when shooting vertical. My thumb goes right onto the stupid button and more than a few times I have changed my selection from ISO to F stop by mistake. Stupid design.

But, it’s a dream to carry around vs. the big camera since nobody views you as a “pro” with a point and shoot so very little hassles take place in areas like museums. The IS makes up for the lack of a tripod and does a pretty good job of it.

I’m not sure if I’m going to keep the camera, at 450 USD, I was expecting better performance in sharpness and noise but we will see.

Here are some samples from the camera. Yes, they have been processed but not really much more than any other image I shoot.
Amanda Oxford Portrait
This was a natural light portrait taken in an alley in Oxford.

Stairs of Light

This B/W was taken by shooting two images at slightly different times to paint out the vistors and then flipped to B/W and dressed up with curves and transforms.

Amanda at Oxford

This was taken with hard light from the late afternoon and the built in flash dialed down two stops.

Posted in Hardware, photography, technique Also tagged , , , , |

Shooting Dinner

I tried something different tonight. I spent some time cooking up a dinner from a Food Channel show and it looked so good, I ran to get my camera and took some shots of it. I was also trying to remember some advice I had been reading in a book called Digital Food Photography
. So I attempted a few things with the bare minimum of lighting and the onboard flash.

Before Post Retouching

I used my 17-55 2.8 first wide open but really did not like the results from that. Way too shallow depth of field with the 55mm racked out. So I ended up at F8 to F10. I started shooting at ISO 1000 but ended up at ISO 2000 to get the shutter speed at LEAST to the 1/10 I shot at and without a VR lens.. ouch! I comp’ed the exposure by +.7 and the onboard flash was dialed down -2 stops. I used the slow shutter to get a bit of the ambient light and I shot RAW to make damn sure I had all the info I could get.

I did get some black poster paper to put on the wooden table for the table top shot. The tones of the food and the table just blurred all together too much and the black gave the badly needed visual separation. For the plate, I used the cast iron burners of the stove and under exposed them so you get just a touch of visual kitchen reference.

I ended up with two out of about 15 images that were lit nicely and not blurred from the hand holding at such an absurd shutter speed. Both had BAM presets applied in Lightroom and both had color balance adjusted and the color luminosity adjusted after I was done with the coarse adjustments in CS4. In CS4, I used Noiseware to remove the noise of shooting ISO 2000 and then flattened the image and applied a high pass filter. I did a bit color burn in here in there to accent some of the colors. I also adjusted the black point to give a bit more contrast overall. All of this in about 10 minutes worth of work in post.

My final results are here and I think given the circumstances, they turned out pretty well. I am certainly going to learn how to shoot food better and the above book is highly recommended as a good guide it it.

Shepherds Pie Served Up

Shepherds Pie

Shooting food is fun and quite the challenge even for a “snapshot” type of picture. You need to light it well, keep the focus and keep appealing visually. Get the overall tone wrong and food just looks bad no matter how well technically you have done in shooting the image.

I found some good tips at Foodportfolio.com. The blog is too busy for my taste with ads but there is good stuff there if you are willing to dig around.

Posted in editing, photography, Shooting Food, technique Also tagged , , , , , , , |

Image Recovery or how to restart your heart

Card Error! – Two words that strike terror in the heart of a digital shooter. In the old days, it was opening the camera after supposedly rewinding the film and see film still there. But now days with the blessing of technology, we get a bit spoiled in thinking that since the widget is “digital”, it should be perfect every time. But it’s not perfect every time, sometimes the card has issues, the camera has issues or the person running it all has issues and the pictures are not readily accessible.

Unlike in the old days of film, I’ve only had ONE digital card (SD card) go bad enough to where I could not get the images off the card, even with the help of a specialized forensics lab trying also. I have had several times where I had to use special software to recover images and for the most part, the software works pretty well.

The recovery of images is not any different than recovery of files from a hard disk since the flash card appears to be a hard disk to the camera and computer. They are typically formatted in FAT32 though the older cameras use FAT16 and trying to mix n’match between these two formats leads to problems. FAT32 has been around a long time and is pretty reliable overall. The reliability is enhanced for our needs here by most camera manufacturers taking a short cut when we say “Format” the card by just erasing the root directory and not the entire card. So when you accidentally format a card with images, it’s a small matter for the software to go and scan each block of data looking for specific signatures that indicate JPEG files, RAW files, TIFFs and so on. You wont get the original name back, but you will get the image back. That is how it works in the simplest form.

Corrupted Image

Corrupted Image

This image was corrupted by using www.recyclism.com

What happens if the image is corrupted? Where a bit or two or three is not what it should be and now the image looks like it has grey blocks or streaks through it, or weird color bands through the image? or the image is unreadable for Lightroom, Photomechanic or your editor of choice? It becomes alot tougher to recovery anything usable. Alot depends on how you saved the images when you shot them. For example, for those of us that shoot RAW, there is a JPEG that is created and kept in the RAW file unbeknownst to many photographers. When I had a card go bad on me and corrupt 90% of the images on that card, I had shot RAW and so I used a tool called “File Juicer” for OSX to recover that JPEG out of the corrupted RAW file. It was not perfect but it was enough to let me recover about 95% of the shoot. I do not know of a similar tool for those on Windows. With FileJuicer, you just drop the RAW file onto the application and let it go. Like magic you will have some folders with the extracted text and JPEG. Here are some screen shots of File Juicer in action on a NEF (Nikon RAW) file.

File Juicer

File Juicer Application

file juicer results

File Juicer Results

juicer file list

Juicer File List from RAW file

It does not get much easier than this to recover a JPEG from a RAW file, even a corrupted one. There are numerous recovery applications for getting images off a formatted or dying flash card. My personal favorite is Sandisk’s own application called “Rescue Pro”. It has worked for me many times where others have not faired as well. You can find out more about it here. I got my copy with the purchase of some flash cards a while back.

sandisk

Sandisk File Recovery Utility

None of these tools will help you if you have overwritten the files by new files and you do not have any back up. All you can hope for is that you can recover some files from space not written to by the new files.

I will say this, flash cards are alot tougher than people give them credit for being. I personally have run two of them through a wash cycle (dont ask) and they were fine afterwards. I still use them in fact but not for paid shoots πŸ™‚ I just read a piece about a couple’s point and shoot getting dredged up from the ocean bottom by a fisherman and he was able to read the card, post the recovered images and reunite the couple with their up to then, lost images. Imagine, months in saltwater and still readable.. amazing but I hope not to have to test this one myself. There are some basic rules to avoid having to test any of this advice due to user error.

The best rule to remember is ALWAYS format the card in the camera it will be used in. Do not trust anything else’s formating tools or the factory formating.

The second best rule is to NEVER delete images from the camera, just keep shooting and delete them in your image workflow software.

A third guideline is to buy the fastest card your camera needs. Not that YOU need but the one that the camera can really use. Using a slow card in a fast writing camera is asking for trouble. Even more so when writing large files like RAW files. JPEGs are about 1/3 the size of a RAW or even smaller so there is more forgiveness there in writing to a slow card.

A trick if you are recovering a damaged card and you use a Mac. Make a image file from the card very first thing. This will let you work from a bit for bit copy of the data instead of a slowly failing card. You can use OSX’s disk utility tool to make this image file. File Juicer has this built into the tool as a menu option, yet another reason to buy File Juicer.

Posted in editing, editing software, osx, photography, Restoration, technique, workflow Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

iPhone Camera, toy or real?

One of my biggest complaints against the iPhone is the dinky fixed focus camera that Jobs had put onboard. With most other phones, five megapixals is pretty much the current standard but Apple for unknown reasons, went with a 2 megapixal camera and not even a high quality one at that.

Of course, this just adds to the challenge of taking a quality picture with it and in truth, once you work out a few things like how to trigger the shutter without moving the phone, it can take a decent enough picture. My old Nikon 950 was only 2 megapixels but it had really nice glass and not a chip of plastic as a lens.

Software can go a long ways to improving a picture and the iPhone is not any different. You can get a free version of Photoshop on the iPhone and it really can work wonders on these pictures. I have an unretouched image of my Thinktank International V2 bag sitting at Sacramento Airport and then one after I did some enhancements in the iPhone Photoshop app. It made a very noticeable difference.

Before iPhone Photoshop

Here is the retouched image

After iPhone Photoshop

I did all this just sitting in my chair with my iPhone and my finger. No special hardware, software or anything else. I just snapped it then loaded the mobile version and touched it up. Now I just need to find a noise reduction app for the iPhone. I dont know about anybody else’s iPhone, but mine makes very noisy pictures unless it is a brightly lit picture. This is one of the weaknesses of the iPhone camera, it’s junk in low light. No other way to put it but simply, it’s simply junk in low light. I have been able get a few nice shots at night or in a dark room but it’s more luck than anything else.

On the other hand, I have been surprised at times with what I can get with the iPhone. This image was taken out of the plane’s window while buzzing along at speed and in the low light of twilight.
Flying over Oregon

This is a pretty usable image all things considered. And given that it was taken with a phone and not a “real” camera, all the better. But that last comment is a bit unfair I guess. I have taken very nice images with the iPhone, remembering it’s limitations and working around them. This next image was taken in the dim light of the waiting area for Captain Eo at Disneyland. I did some touch up in iPhoto to color balance it and raise the saturation a bit, nothing more than I do for most of my images nowadays.
Captain Eo Redux

I think it is perfectly acceptable to send around to friends and family as a decent snapshot. And I had the added luxury of not lugging my DSLR around for the day πŸ™‚ So once you work out the constraints of the iPhone, it is a very usable tool. Not perfect and Apple could have certainly done better, much better without too much effort on their part but I get the feeling that Jobs is not a big fan of cameras in phones and so it was added very grudgingly. Thats a shame.. because a “Apple Quality” camera would have just about made the phone perfect.

What is very cool about the iPhone camera is the ability to shoot and send it right away via email or SMS. There have been times where I found something for sale, shot it, sent it with a question and gotten a response back in time to grab a deal. You can shoot barcodes and get the lowest price in the area for the widget, talk about leveling the playing field. I have used it to shoot impromptu location scouting trips where I see a place that I like and I rip off several images to keep on the phone. Some complain about the lack of a flash but then I have not really seen the need or even one that really works well so I dont worry about it too much. In the picture below, you can see how I’m documenting a photo shoot with my iPhone in part because I had a 70-200 F2.8 slung around my neck and I wanted a close but wide shot. This is what I call a “personal reference” shot, normally seen only by myself to provide some visual details on something. But here I’m sharing it and I’m sure you can see the value in using the iPhone for something like this. And it’s a pretty good image given how bright the backlighting was.

Flashing Fundy

So in one way, I happily bash the camera and Apple but then I use it in some key ways that I could not easily do with my Razor or Treo in spite of them both having cameras. The iPhone integration just makes something just so much easier than anyone else. I just wish it was better.. but then I always think that about most of my toys πŸ™‚

Posted in editing, equipment, photography, ramblings, reviews Also tagged , , , , , , , |

Peek a boo anyone?

It’s a fun phrase we say to our kids to make them laugh. It’s not nearly as funny when it is about your private pictures showing up on the internet for all to see while supposedly locked up on your photographer’s website. This is a very true story which gets to heart of security, poor implementation and the cost of being ignorant of how the business back end is really being run.

Virtually every photographer has an internet presence and many have “private” galleries available for the clients to view proofs and other pictures. Almost every photographer has a hosting service that they pay for and much of the time since the photographer is not really a geek per say, they get a template site and thats pretty much it. In my own case, I am a geek and have been one for the past 25 years so while I started with a template, the hosting service lets me do pretty much what I want to do regarding my site. For example, I installed and built this blog from scratch using WordPress, it was not a canned option that I clicked on. That means I know exactly how my blog was installed, my passwords for the database are my own and not a “default” from a well known script.

The galleries are much the same, you can buy a gallery built from a script or you can build it yourself if you know how or can pay someone to. Most just use what the hosting service provides them, I mean, they are paying for a service provided to them by “experts” right?

In today’s topic the experts were a company called “Bludomain” and they offer some pretty cool canned sites to the photographer. But what nobody knew till the other day was their sites had a serious flaw that allowed anyone with Google and a few key words to find, search and grab any image in the gallery even if it were “password protected”. This is pretty scary when you think about some boudoir shots that are intended to be very private or private modeling sessions etc. Even shots of the under 18 crowd gets to be a pretty serious problem in the wrong hands.

And they are not the only ones, they were on the bigger ones but definitely not the only ones.

With a simple search and a simple string of “wedgalleries“, you get alot of this:

Index of /v1site_images/Wedgalleries/gallery2041 – 2 visits – 10:27pm
Index of /v1site_images/Wedgalleries/gallery2041. Icon Name Last modified Size Description. [DIR] Parent Directory – [IMG] Annie1.jpg 28-Aug-2009 19:39 147K …
www.kaceyluvi.com/v1site_images/Wedgalleries/gallery2041/

When you click on the link, you get this:

Forbidden

You don’t have permission to access /v1site_images/Wedgalleries/gallery2041/ on this server.

Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.

Apache/2.0.63 (Unix) mod_ssl/2.0.63 OpenSSL/0.9.8e-fips-rhel5 mod_auth_passthrough/2.1 mod_bwlimited/1.4 FrontPage/5.0.2.2635 Server at www.kaceyluvi.com Port 80

Forbidden is good right? well sort of but since Google has cached the data, you get this and with this data

Index of /v1site_images/Wedgalleries/gallery2041

Name Last modified Size Description
Parent Directory –
Annie1.jpg 28-Aug-2009 19:39 147K
Annie2.jpg 28-Aug-2009 19:39 147K
Annie3.jpg 28-Aug-2009 19:39 151K
Annie4.jpg 28-Aug-2009 19:39 117K

Ah,.. thats bad, because you can click and go here:

http://www.kaceyluvi.com/v1site_images/Wedgalleries/gallery2041/Annie1.jpg

And we can see Annie’s picture whether she wanted it to be public or not. And that is precisely the point, the photographer is responsible in the end for the security of the client’s images. Not the hosting service or the moron that set up the file server, the photographer will be held accountable by the client. At best, the photographer will be yelled at, at worst, they will be sued. Of course, the photographer can sue the web hosting company at the same time but the damage is done to their own reputation by then and the hosting company wont matter one whit.

Now, Google provides a way to get your pages removed from their cache and while thats nice, not all search engines are so accommodating. And even then there are specialized search and archive engines like the “wayback machine” that will keep the data no matter what. So your scanty and suggestive boudoir pose might end up websites that you really would not want to be seen on.

This is a very Β good reason NOT to have your images put up on web galleries. For my own clients, I offer two ways of getting images, web galleries or my preferred method is to use “yousendit.com” where I send files via HTTPS to the client who just clicks and downloads the file.

You can also edit some files on your site IF you are a techie geek photographer or if you not, you can borrow one for a few minutes πŸ™‚ Β There is a file called “robots.txt” that tells search engines what they can look at and where they can go on your site. Most search engines will use an agent that follows the rules for this “protocol” set out in the text file.

To precent the agents from looking into directories it pretty simple. You need to use a plain text editor to make this or to edit this file. Apps like Word will screw it up so use notepad or Nano or whatever so long as it’s a plain editor.

To block agents, simply enter the following lines into the robots.txt file:

User-agent: NameOfAgent
Disallow: /

Make sure that you enter the name of the unwanted agent exactly as it appeared in your reports or log files, e.g. Teleport Pro/1.29 and that there is a separate entry for each agent. You need to skip a line between each entries. The “/” in the above example means disallow access to any directory. You can also disallow access by spiders and agents to certain directories by name like I show below:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /cgi-bin/

In this example, the asterisk (wildcard) indicates “all”. Don’t use the asterisk in the Disallow statement to indicate “all”, you need to use the forward slash instead.

You can get a list of agents here if you want to be more precise about who is being blocked. Once you have made this file, it needs to be in the root directory of your site.

This issue has been written about in a fair amount of detail on Digital Wedding Forum and the author there had the good grace to give warning to the photographers he was talking about. But what about the thousands of others? The ones that do not follow DWF or other sources of information like this?’

As a client, you need to research your photographer in more detail than just if the website or blog looks “cool”, you need to feel comfortable that the photographer understands your privacy and can keep it regarding your pictures. Ask how they host the galleries, ask about this issue and see what they say and ask what recourse you have if there is a problem of data “leakage” from the site.

Many of my peers are not really geeks and they should not be expected to be geeks but they are expected to hire an expert to make sure they and their client’s data is safe or as safe as prudence dictates. Blindly trusting the hosting company is really a bad idea for business and possibly for your pocketbook.

Posted in Business Aids, commercial photography, copyright, photography, wedding photography Also tagged , |