Tag Archives: equipment

Distoration and the Canon G11

When I read the reviews on the Canon G11, nobody and I mean NOBODY mentioned the horrible lens distortion that the 6mm setting puts into the image. Worse, nobody mentioned that even in mid setting, there is a pin cushion effect, subtle but there regardless. Why did I see all this and not anyone else? Do I have the all seeing eye? Not so much but I AM shooting exclusively RAW which was one of the prime reasons I bought the camera. It turns out that in JPEG mode or in Automatic, the camera applies filters and corrections to fix all this but in RAW, you are pretty much on your own.

What I found out recently is that Lightroom under Camera Profiles Lens Corrections, you can fix alot of this type of problem for many cameras. If I were Adobe, I would be shooting this from the mountain tops and not keep it hidden. In the case of the G11, I can pick Canon G10 (pretty much the same camera) and LR will fix virtually all the distortion cleanly and fast.

See the image below for a side by side of before and after.

lightroom camera profile before and after

Lightroom Camera Profile before and after

This is image is not retouched in any way other than the camera profile and whatever sharpening was applied in the conversion to JPEG from RAW in Lightroom.

lightroom camera profile lens corrections panel

lightroom camera profile lens corrections panel

But that is not all folks, you can have access to transforms from within Lightroom!! No more having to leave LR to go into Photoshop to use transforms. Check out this second panel in the Camera Profile panel.

lightroom camera profile lens corrections panel 2

lightroom camera profile lens corrections panel 2

And there is one more feature. Take a look at the next picture and you will see a grey background where I have transformed the image onto an angle which leaves a blank area. Instead of having to manually crop this, you have the option of clicking on the tick box to constrain the image as you go. This keeps the image cropped while you work. You can always go back and adjust to taste just like any other crop setting.

Camera Profile Lens Correction Auto Constrain Crop

Camera Profile Lens Correction Auto Constrain Crop

I hope this tip helps you as much as it did me. Even my good glass from Nikon benefited at times from the automatic corrections. Not nearly to the degree of the Canon but then the glass cost fours times as much as the Canon cost πŸ™‚ You expect better from something that costly.

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Real competition for Pocket Wizards?

I like PWs, they always work but at 170 USD each, they get expensive which is why I’m currently shooting with Cybersyncs. But I still would like to get a set of PWs or I did till I read a very interesting review on a new product called “Phottix Atlas Professional Wireless Flash Trigger“.

Charles Verghese wrote a really nice three part review on using the new Atlas triggers with a direct comparison between them and Pocket Wizards. In short, the Atlas triggers worked as well or in some cases, better than the old standby PWs.

You can see both side by side here.

wireless triggers side by side

Side by Side

Pocket Wizard and Atlas

Pocket Wizards and Atlas

As you can see, they look very close to each other. Charles makes the point that the build quality is very good unlike many of the ebay cheapo triggers.

These are interesting enough that I think for a 100 USD, I will spring for a pair to try out when they are released in the US in a few months. Right now, they are only CE certified for Europe. Maybe Pocket Wizard will finally lower their prices where I can afford the real deal πŸ˜€

Posted in commercial photography, equipment, Hardware, photography, strobist Also tagged , , , , |

How to wirelessly remotely trigger your camera on the cheap

I have an upcoming project where I want to shoot a moving (slowly) car with a slow shutter to get a blurred background/wheels etc but the car to be sharp. This is normally done by putting the DSLR on some kind of rig which holds the camera away from the car/truck while you drive/push the car around. Hence the name of a”rig shot” and the website of the same name giving some cool “how to” articles.

There are many ways to do this but there are fewer ways to do it safely for both you, your equipment and the vehicle’s sake. In my case, I plan to have the camera sitting on a boom extending out from the car. So I have picked up some suction cups, super clamps, round stock and now, a new remote trigger.

I want to review the trigger in particular since I was pleasantly surprised when I got it in the mail the other day and discovered how well it worked plus the over all build quality. The trigger is made nominally by Vivitar but that brand was bought by Sakar so it’s not the Vivitar that we know and love from years ago. With that said, the Wireless Remote Shutter Release For Nikon D300 and D700 SLR Digital Cameras works very well and is a decent build quality. Vivitar also produces a version for Canon Cameras.

The transmitter is a sealed unit with a 12V 23A battery good up to 3 years. The receiver has a replaceable 3V CR2 battery. The stated range is 100 feet unobstructed and that is pretty accurate in my testing. So far, the D300 has fired every time I hit the button out to about 80 feet so far. The interesting part is that it works at 315Mhz which excludes it from interference from wireless phones, wifi and other more common electronic toys. It is however, the band that TPMS (tire pressure monitoring systems) work on plus things like remote keyless entry, some garage doors, Automated meter reading and some alarm systems. But most of these devices are set to some security combination so that lessens the chances of misfires. So far I have not had any issues.

Vivitar Remote Trigger Kit

Vivitar Remote Trigger Kit

The receiver mounts to the hot shoe on the camera and my wish is that it had a pass-through for the flash sync cord but you can always use gaffers tape or a ball-bungie to tie it to the side of the camera. it’s just not as elegant as it could be. The connector to the camera itself is well made and the cable is long enough to have some flexibility on just where to put the unit. As I said, it does have a hot shoe mount which works well.

Vivitar Trigger Top D300 Nikon

Vivitar Trigger Top D300 Nikon


D300 Vivitar remote trigger connection

D300 Vivitar remote trigger connection

These images were taken with a Canon G11 using a piece of foam core under the camera and a white mattress that I had handy as the background πŸ™‚ White is white and when you blow it out, nobody knows any differently. There was some post work to bring up the shadows since I was shooting with ambient light and the built in flash on the G11. Not exactly a prime set up for product shoots but it got the job done.

Back to the conversation about remote triggers. Now with this trigger, I do not have to run a wire to the camera and be in the car or buy a very expensive set of pocket wizards just to trigger the camera. I could fake it with my Cybersyncs but it’s a hack and I can not push half way to set focus. Nikon does have a remote corded trigger but it cost 132.00 USD and it has a cord which is the deal breaker for this application.

There are cheaper clones but again, they are corded. There are several IR triggers but I find the IR trigger to be ineffective in daylight with very limited range.

When using this trigger, I can have it set to fire one frame, multiple frames or a 2 second delayed firing of the shutter. I can also hold the button half way and the camera will set it’s focus just like using the button on the camera. (or you can have it set to manual focus and tape it down, much better when shooting a moving car on a rig). I can also use it for “bulb” mode where the shutter opens and stays open till I hit the trigger again. Not at all bad for something under 50 USD. I would say that the manual sucks.. it’s short and terse but really tiny print so it’s hard to read. I would rather Vivitar forget the coated paper stock and give me a folded 8×11 plain laser printed page of large text.

So in closing, if you need to fire your camera remotely and wirelessly, I would recommend that you take a look at the Vivitar wireless trigger. It’s cheap, it works and what more needs to be said than that?

Posted in commercial photography, equipment, Hardware, photography, Ping.fm, technique Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Time Lapse or Interval Recording

The new cameras that are out now have so many features and options that many of us just work out how to take the basic picture and call it a day. But there are some cool things if you dig a bit into the menus. You need to be a bit curious and willing to put in a little bit of time.

For example, on my Nikon D300, I can set up the camera for “Interval Recording” or what we all know as “Time Lapse” photography. This is where the camera takes a picture every X amount of time and then the stills get strung together as a movie. It’s a bit like stop action movies. And if you think about, digital camcorders and HDDSLRs are doing this at 30 images a second or more so it looks very smooth. We want to go the other way though in time lapse, we want to compress a given amount of time into a much smaller amount of time. For example, in my test video below, I shot for three plus hours at a frame every five seconds. This gave me something like 2,000 images at the end of the three hours. I used Apple’s QuickTime to stitch it all together as a movie. Then I imported it into iMovie and crop it a bit and added a sound track plus the eye candy at the beginning and end of the movie. My total time was under an hour to make this two and a half minute clip. And this is just the first test to see how well it worked. There are all kinds of applications for this style of photography, I know a wedding photographer who records the entire wedding and shows off a two or three minute clip which contains the entire cermony and the clients love it.

My equipment was pretty basic.

Nikon D300
17-55 F2.8 lens
Flashp Point carbon fiber tripod
Flash Point ball head
Carton of steel BBs to hang under the tripod

Software was also basic stuff

Apple Quicktime Pro
Apple iMovie

The settings were pretty straight forward. I set the camera to manual mode and locked the shutter to 1/125 and the aperture to F8. I like the ISO be auto-adjusted so the camera could compensate as the afternoon started to go twilight. I had the rig on the hood of my truck away from bikes, skateboards and little hands.

The Nikon D300 only does 999 images and then you have to reset it and start it over. You can get around this by using an external timer but that cost money and up to now, I had not spent anything. Go to Instructables to see how to make a TI graphing calculator into an interval timer. You can also find interval calculators for the iPhone such as this one by ClamClam Video.

I set up the D300 to shoot the smallest JPEG (2144×1424 pixels) which still exceeds the HD standard of 1920×1080 at 24 FPS. This gives me just a touch of room for some minor cropping which I did in my sample below.

Here are some pics taken with my G11 when I was setting up and testing the D300 before I shot the actual afternoon event. The first one shows the settings in the Nikon LCD window.
Interval Configuration

This one shows the basic set up using the carbon fiber tripod, ball head and D300 with battery pack.
Nikon D300 Interval Test

When you open Quicktime, you want to choose “Open image sequence”. You go to the directory of the images and select the first one. You then select the frame rate you want to use. The selection of 24 frames per second is standard for film and digital recordings use as high as 30 frames per second. Alot of web sized video use 10 or 15 frames per second. In my case, I could go as low as 12 frames a second and still have a decent frame rate for the video. I saved the file as the default MOV file because I knew I was going to put it into iMovie for further editing and clean up. I wanted as much data as I could get and I exported it from iMovie for YouTube.

Overall, my test was a success and very easy to accomplish. I already have plans to use this trick again in a more production manner and I can see how one might make a reel from it using several shoots tied together.

In the end, the only reason I did this was because I was curious about it and I thought it might be fun. You should try it. You might like it πŸ™‚

You can see some very cool timelapse reels here at 599productions.com

Addendum-

Here is a way cool DIY to make a tiny circuit that will trigger your camera based on the difference from the first press of the shutter and the second one. it will run till the battery runs out.

How To Build The Smallest Intervalometer In The World

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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 , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Canon G11 Lousy Button Placement Ergonomics

After my bad mouthing the Canon G11 ergonomics, I was asked to show why I’m so bitter about such a lousy design. So here we go. A few close up shots of where my right hand thumb ends up while trying to shoot the G11.

The first picture below is a full back shot of the G11 showing the backside of the video screen and the right hand button controls.

Canon G11 Back

Here is a close up of the offending buttons. As it turns out, my thumb lays right across the control wheel plus the selector button. So I’m always changing settings without knowing it unless I’m very careful in placement and pressure.

Canon G11 controls on back upper right

Now you can see what happens when I hold the camera in my right hand ready to shoot. My thumb which is not excessively large, manages to hit most of the buttons just by virtue of being there holding the camera.

G11 Right Thumb Placement

Here is a side view of my thumb pressing into the buttons.

Sideways G11 Thumb Placement

So hopefully you can see why I’m constantly cursing the design of the camera controls. I dont think the Canon engineers ever had actually USE the camera for any length of time. And trying to hold the camera in the vertical position is even worse. Now you thumb really does have to press down to steady and hold the camera. Did the engineers not even TRY to use the controls?

These shots were NOT taken with a G11, I shot these with my Nikon D90 and a 1.4 50mm lens almost wide open.

The first shot was taken with the G11 siting on the hood of my Explorer and in the shade. I blew out the background and popped the internal flash but dialed down 1.5 stops. I used LR and CS4 for post. I dialed down the saturation to get nice blacks on the body and I touched up the reflection to darken it a bit more.

The lanyard is for the quick release of the LumaLabs camera strap. Works great on the G11, not so good on my D300 with a 70-200 F2.8 lens hanging on it.

Posted in equipment, Hardware, photography 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.

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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 , , , , , , , , , , |