Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Waist Gunner At A Wedding

I'm a little nervous about a new product that has appeared on the shop shelf behind me. It appears to be a box with a picture of a camera support rig on it- and they have illustrated it with a DSLR and video viewer on one face and a full-fledged video camera on another.

It has two handles either side pointing down and a third arm that swings out and rests on the shoulder. Presumably it can support a massive camera and lens combination at head height. The handles allow the gunner to track the bride smoothly as she moves past and the shoulder rest means the level will not change. I do not know how much lead you need to give her, but if if she is attending the wedding in a Messerschmidt 109 I should say about 50 yards.

I am not nervous about this - weddings are simple things and as there are only three professional participants at the average affair - the celebrant, the organist, and me - and as I have heretofore restricted myself to still photography only, finding it hard to take an adequate video on a 4 x 5 plate camera, the use of the rig is not a concern. Those who do shoot videos or Focke Wulfs will love it.

I am worried about the packaging. It has a large grey CE on it, and as we have recently re-badged the shop with large grey CE logos, I cannot be sure whether this is a commercial product or whether Ernest has been busy in the workshop after hours. Someone suggested that the CE refers to the European Community, but from what I read in the paper the last time they had a community was when they were flying the Messerschmidts.

Never mind - if you are a videographer come in and try it out. Brandon knows all about this sort of thing and he can show you how it works. PS - beware of brides who hunt in squadrons - they'll come at you from the 12:00 o 'clock high position firing rockets.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Stack of Three

As promised, the results of an afternoon experiment in the studio - actually a two-fold one, which makes no scientific sense but it is my studio after all...

The trial lens is one of the new Tokina 35mm f:2.8 Macro in Nikon fitting - they are also in stock for Canon. Extremely well finished and smooth operation, but did it do the job? Well, the job was trying to record three planes of focus for a table-top model photography shot. The table was 900mm wide so there was more depth than the average lens could cope with. To top that, the main subject had to be right down the front and loom out toward the viewer.

The macro aspect of this lens was the key to the foreground shot - it focusses closer for that focal length than anything in my lens collection. Everything else with a 35mm point was restricted to at least50cm away from the film plane - the Tokina went right up to the subject with the front ring of the lens - practically touched it.

Of course, even with this close focussing, DOF is critical, and the trick here is to choose an aperture of at least f:16 and focus 1/3 along the length of the car model. Of course everything is on a sturdy tripod and there is a cable release to eliminate camera movement.

At this point in previous photos I would have been trying for f:25 and accepting that the second and third plane of focus on the set were going to be out of focus. This time I deliberately left the setup as is for a second and third shot but in each one I subtracted one more of the photo elements - so I had three files - one of the front car in focus, one of the second car in focus, and one of the background buildings in focus.

In my computer I open the files in Photoshop Elements 6 - it is old and crude but then so am I...and in the foreground file I selected around the car ad erased the backdrop. Then with the second one I erased the background but left other items untouched. The final file -  the backdrop one - needed no erasures as it was destined to be the bottom of the pile when I assembled the picture. Some people do not realise that the PE6 program will stack files in register if you are careful when you drag them up from the project bin. Then you can locate them on the top right corner, command the computer to make them 250.2% size, and they fall into place.

Result? Three planes manually stacked to allow for three points of interest and all in focus. Now all I need to do is add some rain and a couple of wet hot rodders and my picture is complete.

Oh, and just to let you see what it will do with more light but no stacking.

Tokina? great lens.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Up Close And Personal

I am often asked in the shop what the difference is between macro, micro, and close-up. The answer is a complex mathematical formula that means you get to peer into flowers and annoy the bugs who are going about their legal business in there. Shame on you.

Okay, there is the business of reproduction ratios, flat-field focussing, and special colour correction, but in the end it all adds up to whatever you are trying to take a picture of is in danger of being out of focus and badly lit. The whole science of macromicrocloseupology is designed to defeat this.

At Camera Electronic, we are dedicated to overcoming your problems - as well as overcoming your sales resistance. Sometimes the two aims coincide. In the case of the small world of macro we have two new products that may help.

Saul has secured some new Tokina 35mm f:2.8 macro lenses for Canon and Nikon mounts. This may seem a strange choice of focal length as it leaves little room between the lens and the subject for light to drop in - but it may well be a brilliant solution for those who need a 35mm focal length that goes just a little closer than the average 30 cm. It may be a blessing for those people who want to do small model photography.

For other workers, a new supply of JJC macro focussing rails has arrived. These work in two planes - side to side as well as fore to aft so that you can position your macro rig with the sort of precision that is just not yielded by the average tripod. JJC products are in at a very good price point too, so any macro worker can afford them.

The same goes for the JJC LED ring light. We've mentioned this one before, but at $ 149 it should be in the field pack of any  bug or flower photographer.

Final note - I am trying a new stacking procedure with tabletop closeups in my own studio. Success or failure, I'll tell you, but it might be a clever way to solve some of the DOF problem. Don't let that stop you from coming into the shop and spending money, though.

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Now Is The Time To Join!

If you were ever wondering when would be a good time to join a camera club, well now is the time. Saul has just reminded me that the WAPF is preparing one of the most spectacular and rewarding  digital exhibition competitions for a long time - and you need to be a photographic club member to enter.

This will be a competiton exhibited at La Premiere cinema in  Hoyts Carousel, at Central Park CBD, and judged by a number of Australia's most successful judges. Eastway. Hewitt. James. And 40 VIP guests. Peter Holland will host the big-screen presentation.

What to do! What to do! First, if you are not a member of your local WAPF camera cub, go along and join. Look at the things that they take pictures of. See how they manage files. Share in the knowledge and fellowship that they offer. Show your stuff and brag.

Then go out and look at the West Australian landscape - or try your hand with a portrait - or pursue the art of monochrome photography of architecture - or even look deep into the world of macro photography. Make up a good portfolio of your work and enter it. Being digital, the entry is easy. But the rewards are big.

Okay, you get the award of recognition and pride when your images are seen by top-flight photographers...but there is more. Camera Electronic, Fitzgerald Photo Imaging, C.R. Kennedy, Nik Software, PPIB Insurance, Epson, and Better Photography Magazine are all contributing to the prize pool. And Canon Australia and North Star Cruises have both pledged prizes that are worth over $ 4000 each. Wow!

It's a prize pool of over $16,000. Wow x 16,000 !

The competiton is called Click West and it will be shown on June 27th 2012. Get your skates on right now and talk to a WAPF club about joining in the fun.

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Captain Hook Buys A DLSR

Arrrr, me hearties.

I spent the last hour of a wedding shoot on Saturday practising the arts of juggling and bad language. The reason was I had pinched a nerve in my left wrist with the weight of the camera and flash. I was getting shooting pains and tingly fingers as I tried to zoom the lens.

It's better now, thanks for asking, but it gave me to think about the problem for the future. The camera and flash are not particularly heavy - a Nikon D300, 18-200 lens, and SB700 flash. Oh, and the new Lightsphere diffuser - thank you Gary Fong for a great product. And eleven hours balancing it on one wrist while stabbing bridesmaids is a longish sort of stint - not like you do it every day.

But what if I could only use one hand - the right one for preference? What if I needed to do the biz with one flipper? I have spent the morning experimenting and I think the best answer would be the dear little Nikon D3100. It is light - 800 grams with a zoom lens - it is precise - it is ergonomically suited to do it all with one hand. You can switch modes, speeds, ISO's, and apertures with just fingers and you can even cradle it well enough in the hand to get a finger forward to zoom the lens. Landscape or portrait orientation are no trouble.

What if I could only use the left hand? Well, it took a little more study and ingenuity, but you can zoom it and trigger it in either orientation as well - not so fast, but definitely do-able. I didn't try the SB700 or the Lightsphere as these would have been more weight, but remember the camera has an on-board flash that would help out with close distances.

If you are dealing with arthritis or anything else that would limit your picture taking, I would strongly recommend you look at the D3100. It is a chance for DSLR quality work. And if you sling it round your neck with the strap, it leave your hand free to draw your cutlass.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Just Arrived on Platform One

As promised a few weeks ago - the first shipment of the new Pocket Wizard III transceivers has arrived at the station. These are smaller, lighter, more configurable, and more convenient that previous flash triggers. 4 groups  that you can control and 32 channels of transmission - you never need clash with other professionals on a shoot. Still the same AA power supply and brass tripod socket on the side, too.

This is bound to become the new standard for radio-frequency speed light control. It is adaptable to all flashes- little pocket types up to full studio units - and the weight on the hot shoe of your camera is negligible. Not an unimportant factor in along day's shooting - ask any wedding pro how heavy their gear is about 9:30 in the evening and you would be surprised at the language.

Come in quick - we've got 5 of the transceivers in today - that's 2 and a half complete outfits - and they will fly out the door. $ 179.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Movement on the Eastern Front

We are just about to dispatch a contingent from Camera Electronic for service during the upcoming Digital Show on the Eastern Front. We shall be waving them off with bunches of flowers and sausages as they board the troop trains. A band will be playing " Heil Kaiser Dir". It will be a short campaign - we expect to see them home for Christmas.

Oops, sorry about that. I was just reading Erich Maria Remarque and my mind wandered. Actually they will be flying to Melbourne to set up the Camera Electronic stand at the show. It's going to be No.63 at the Melbourne Exhibition Center on the south bank of the Yarra. The first day, Friday the 25th, will be reserved for working professional photographers and allied professionals in the trade. The general public and the enthusiasts will be welcomed on Saturday, the 26th and Sunday, the 27th. Opening hours for the show are 10:00 to 5:00.

We dispatched box after box of samples and stand materials so the crew will be able to show you Hoodman, Cullmann, Stroboframe, ALM, and Lifeproof products in profusion. A veritable barrage of goodies.

Apparently it will be pretty easy to spot the Camera Electronic stand as it will feature the Hoodman Dome. A spectacular structure indeed. It will be made doubly interesting by the presence of one of the founders of Hoodman - Bob. Let him show you what this amazing range of accessories can improve your photography.

Now, back to the trenches. Umm, we may have to revise that Christmas prediction....

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

An Eye Opener in A4

My birthday rolled around and my friends wanted to get me a present. Passing up the hints I sent them - the advertising flyers for the Nikon D4, the Maserati, and the weekly special at Dan Murphy's - they chose a gift voucher for an online photo book publisher. It has turned out to be the best present yet, and a real learning tool.

Prior to this, like many analog photographers, I had tried my hand at calendars, posters, and self-printed photo books, and like many had found a basket of problems. Difficult to incorporate text or tables, difficult to position images, difficult to get consistent results. The cost of printing paper and chemistry made it comical rather than economical.

All changed. This latest experience was easy, seamless, and far more successful than ever before. I elected to make a book of my "Hot Rod Honeys" in 300mm x 300mm form, and downloaded the free software from the publisher to do it. Fortunately the firm that does it realizes that most people are duffers when it comes to this so they also set up a couple of instructional videos. I looked and learned.

First problem was the format that they advocated was square, not rectangular. I had to revise the cropping on some images though fortunately I tend to leave enough air around my main subject when I compose. In future I will probably opt for a different format so that I can do the landscape stuff - it is do-able but you have to do your own positioning.

Second problem - if you want a full bleed you have to get your margins out a decent way past the on-screen guide lines. No trying to squeeze that last millimeter into the square - you'll end up with a white flash at the edge of the page. See, I am learning.

Third problem: Printing is good but the paper seems thin - particularly compared to the double-sided matte or lustre paper we get for our inkjet printers. We'll have to see how well it holds up with time.

But here is where the good part starts. You choose your pictures in jpeg or tiff form, position and crop them as you will - then put on drop shadows or other frippery, and start to review your work. Look very carefully, as you get tired and miss things on the first run. I proof-read, if that is the word for a non-verbal book, at least 4 times before I picked up my obvious mistakes.

Uploading it to the firm is easy - the 60 page book with 260 Mb of info tootled off in 15 minutes and 10 days later a well-wrapped parcel dropped at the door.

I am thrilled - the pictures from my Nikon D300 that I have really only seen on screen or through my Epson printer are far more detailed than I imagined when spread out on a printed page. Even better is the realization that the screen image and the commercially printed image are the same - that time spent calibrating the screen with the little Spyder Express is well spent. The choice of colour space - Abobe RGB 1998 is also fortuitous.

Next experiment will be to search out files and images for further photo books - perhaps exotic dancers or railway locomotives - and try out two different on-line publishers. The birthday gift was a credit with a firm that operates in Melbourne so it will be interesting to see how their product compares to printing from the USA or China.

Conclusion: I thoroughly recommend that you try some of your own images in book form. You will be thrilled and you can bore the socks off your friends and family without needing to carry a laptop!

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Friday, May 11, 2012

A Coupla Dollars For Your FIlm

Have you heard that one lately? I haven't - I suppose the gradual change to digital capture has changed the terminology. I wonder if acquaintances who want to avoid paying correct professional price for their event photography will be be offering a coupla dollars for my digits?

I hope they do. It will make the maths so much simpler. A dollar a digit. You can have one or two - you choose.

Of course when your relatives engage you all thought of monetary reward should be shelved. You will do the engagement party, 3 year-old's birthday party, wedding, or 50th anniversary celebration for free - your only reward will be the chance to escape at the end of the evening and the possibility of your card corrupting. Accept your fate gracefully - Batch edit the 500 pictures and burn a handful of disks and tell everyone that they are welcome to the copyright. Pray fervently they don't remember that you have a large-format printer, lest you be condemned to a month of printing...

But what to do when someone tells you that the event they want illustrated is for "charity" and they would either pay a desultory amount or nothing at all? What can you say - it is for "charity".

What you can ask is who will be exercising the act of charity and upon what premise. If your work directly feeds the hungry and clothes the naked, then you are being charitable and will be blessed for it. If your work is a tool for someone else to garner that blessing then you are merely in the business of being a tool supplier, and like Sidchrome or Snap-on, you are entitled to a correct financial reward. And in today's market, that is more than a coupla dollars for your film.

Uncle Dick

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Up A Bit, Down A Bit, Repeat, Repeat

When you see the award-winning portrait photographs in the magazines and books, do you look at the eyes? I do, and as well as looking for the expression, I am also checking for the sharpness. Most of them - indeed all of them - are superbly sharp. Modern lenses can do that.

So why do my modern lenses sometimes fail?  Is it me? Is it the camera? Is it the lens?

Our Senior Technician, Ernest, explained it this way; every component of the camera and lens chain has certain manufacturing tolerances - most of the components fall within their own specifications. But sometimes the lens that is at one end of its spec is coupled to a camera that is at the other end of its own measurements. Both good, but the combo means that auto focus is not really going to be dead on.

Some camera manufacturers recognize this and provide an electronic adjustment inside the AF section that can be set to compensate for these different tolerances - in effect to fine-tune the camera and lens combination so that it will deliver focus on the spot that the camera specifies..

My Nikon D300 is one such camera. There is a section of the AF that allows me to nominate a lens, then move the electronic response to it forward or back by small increments. I discover how far by taking a series of photos and looking at the LCD screen to see when I am spot-on. What do I see?

I see a Datacolor LensCal target. We have them in stock now and they are perfect for this sort of calibration. I screw the target onto a light stand or tripod, level it, and set up my test camera looking directly at the center of the target. One shot of the sliding scale tells me if I am front or back focussing, and I can then move that electronic command to correct it. The Nikon D300 will let me do this for 12 lenses and then remember what is needed for each lens when I mount it.

Result is a much better rate of AF success. I can recalibrate the lens/camera interface if things change and check periodically to see that I am still on target - it is quick and simple. Come into the shop now and we can show you the LensCal. It might make all the difference for your precise portraits.


Nikon Workshop Cold Washup

Sunday would seem to be a good day to visit the Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle - if the buffet and cocktail bar are anything to go by. If they are, don't go by them -  sit down and stay.

All the above applied particularly last weekend when Camera Electronic and Nikon Australia held the 2012 Nikon Workshop. In addition to the plain old CE staff we had Christian Blanchard, Julie Kimpton, Sarah Warwick, and a professional photographic model - Courtney - to entertain and instruct the participants.

Christian is a very successful fashion photographer in both still and video. He explained his lighting systems, both fixed studio and portable flash, detailed his workflow, and let us into some of his vision for depicting models and the products they are selling. I have often wondered if this is a more complex thing than first appears - Christian seems to have a good handle on it and makes good use of professional retouching to emphasize and simplify.

He certainly seems to be resourceful - coping with on-site lighting surprises - like blown power boards - or costumes that fall to bits while the shoot is going on. He also seems to have the wisdom to approach the job with a clear vision of what it is about the face, figure, or garments that will prove most attractive. That clear vision means he actually achieves what he sets out to do. Would that we all might do so....

Julie and Sarah always bring good stuff for the participants to play with - this year there were the new D4, D800, and D800e bodies to play with plus a number of new lenses. People were able to see what happens when the new wireless transmitters are connected to the cameras and computers - very convenient. Of course, having the new SB 910 speed light to play with helped as well - if you can't get ProFoto lights for your studio, get good speed lights!

Of course, if you do have enough space in your studio for the big Profoto reflectors, you move into a whole new world of soft lighting. It is hard to describe the way that light from these wraps around the contours of a face without dominating any one plane. The ease of control and level of precision of the Profoto floor packs and heads also makes these sort of sessions a lot easier on all concerned. When you are doing a number of shots in sequence, Profoto makes sure that each pulse has the same balance and intensity - you can truly compare the results on a light table presentation and know which you want.

Did I mention the lunch? Full Esplanade buffet table. Oh My Goodness, the desserts. I'm surprised that I stayed awake in the afternoon.

The participants had a number of opportunities to try out the Nikon equipment and some of the ideas that Christian had mentioned - they worked with three studio setups  - models were Courtney, Sarah, and our own Chris Doudakis. I can recommend the first two....and then we had a wander to the markets and the Ferris wheel in the park. Pity the rain came down, but that is what rain does, and we could all dive back into the Esplanade for afternoon tea.

End of the day saw a final explanation of the retouching and restructuring side of the business by Christian and Saul and Howard's famous prize giveaway half hour. I think everyone left with a feeling that the day had been very well spent.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

It's Raining, It's Pouring...

It has finally arrived - rain. Time to consider what to do with your photography for the next three months:

1.   Stay inside and drink.
2.   Go outside and take pictures.
3.   Bring your waterlogged equipment in to the repair department and hope it can be rescued.

Assuming that you won't be permitted to do the first, and you would like to avoid the third, give a thought to some of the products that we stock designed to cope with wet weather.

If you are going to be outdoors in intermittent showers or mist, good camera and lens protection can be had with flexible hoods and pouches made by Op/Tech, Aquatech,Think Tank,or Kata. They range in price, durability, and complexity from simple plastic bag sleeves to fitted raincoats that cover arms, flashes, and long tele lenses. The really cheap ones are really cheap and are a good insurance policy for landscape shooters. The expensive ones are intended for working sports pros or wildlife photographers who might be standing in a drizzle for hours. Of course those of us who have elected to stay inside and drink may burst into laughter at this point, but let's move on.

If it is going to be splashy as well as drizzly, consider one of the Dicapac DSLR or compact housings for your camera. You won't be able to use a long tele, but you can go to a moderate zoom and the thing will happily exclude water to 5 metres. That's money well spent with an expensive camera.

If you don't want to haul out a big DSLR but still want to stand in the rain, Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Panasonic, Olympus, and Fuji all make dedicated little waterproof compact cameras that can dive right in to depths of 3 to 10 metres. Some are even shockproof so when you slip over during the football riot no harm will be done. They give compact results, but these can be very good.

Finally, if you must, you can get specially-made cases for even the largest or oddest DSLR and film cameras. These are the pro jobs that are made of fibreglass, perspex, aluminium, and crystallized money. Expect to be quoted a price that would feed a third world village for a month.

Now, I have to go. There is a Mr. Toddy waiting for me ....inside.

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There's Still Time For Nikon

Two more days before the big event. Esplanade hotel in Fremantle - 10:00 to 5:00 on Sunday the 6th. Christian Blanchard for fashion and portraiture. Lots of Nikon lenses to try - bring your Nikon camera body and a card. Lots of Profoto and Nikon information- see how he does it and how you can do it. Lunch. Love lunch. Then follow the model for the after noon and....do it.

Full strength - $ 149. Students - $ 100.

Ring us here at the shop - 9328 4405 - and book a place fast.

Must go - loading lenses into the van.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Per Canon Ad Astra

Nothing has surprised me more about the change to digital capture than the results that are delivered when digital cameras are turned up to the heavens. Images are regularly displayed by professional and amateur workers that, at first glance, have seemed to be impossible. I have been tempted to think that some of them are illustrations done with airbrush - until further examinations shows them to be complete detailed photos.

Apparently the best of these are done with cameras that have been especially prepared and attached to telescopes and long lenses. Those interested in the field know more about this - the tracking mechanisms, the multiple shots for dynamic range, the search into false colours to indicate different things in the stars. I just know they look wonderful.

Canon have brought out a new version of one of their very popular digital DSLR bodies designed to provide the "specially prepared" camera straight out of the box. The 60Da is in-store right now in our rental department for keen astronomers. Those with EOS fittings for their telescopes can go straight out on a dark night and reach out to the stars.

Apparently that last statement contains the crux of the matter - the dark night is harder to find these days as light pollution creeps over our state. They go further and further afield to find an undisturbed view. When they get it they need the 60Da with the special hydrogen-alpha filter over the sensor to gather the faintest traces of astral light without being unduly affected by terrestrial pollution. This is factory-fitted - no further alteration needed.

This blog can only be in the nature of a " here'tis " notification because I do not have the expertise to further explain the process. Our service coordinator can tell you more as he does do some astral photography. The Canon website may also prove helpful. I am afraid my own efforts at capturing Polaris on my camera from my back yard were a failure - a piece of dirt got in the way and obscured it. But then I wasn't using the new Canon 60Da.


Fuji In The Merrie Monthe Of Maye

Good news for travellers who plan to go and dance upon the green in the northern hemisphere to celebrate May - and equally good news if you plan to stay home and dance on the brown. Camera Electronic has a special on the new Fuji X-Pro1 camera kits so you can capture the action in the best possible style.

The Fuji X-Pro1 is one of the most elegant and capable digital cameras on the market right now. Its size is reminiscent of the 35mm camera of twenty years ago but the styling and functionality are absolutely up to date - I suspect they will set the pace for a long time to come. When you use it the controls you need really do fall right to the place you need them, and the result is there is no barrier between you and the picture you see.

Look though that big bright viewfinder on the northwest corner - no squashing your nose on the LCD screen - and no matter which of the Fuji lenses you have on - 18mm, 35mm, or 60mm - there is a clean clear frame line and view. Take the shot and the finder throws back an electronic repeat of what you just captured - a quick check without chimping the camera down to your waist. Brilliant operational concept - you move and shoot without interruption.

Sharp lenses? Oh, my dear goodness, yes. As sharp as their main competitor and I suspect sharper than many of the DSLR lenses in current general use. Certainly sharper than the lenses I use - but I run mine into the diffraction-limited f stops anyway so I have decided to just sniff and shrug my shoulders and be jealous.

But. For the month of May, things might be different. Camera Electronic is lowering the price of the Fuji X-Pro1 kit to $ 2250. That means the camera, the 35mm Fujinon lens, the lens hood and lens caps - and even a hood cap. All cables, charger, battery, and software are in there  -the whole thing ready to go. Add an SD card and stir - the soul.

For anyone contemplating street photography, discrete wedding shots, portraiture, field macro, or travel, this has to be one of the most attractive camera systems on the market. Sleek, black, fast, quiet, superb results and build quality. Intuitive operation and near-instant switch from automatic modes to manual control.

$ 2250. Month of May. From now to Memorial Day. In store right now.


WAPF Winner

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner!

The recent WAPF convention at Wanneroo saw a special prize offered by Camera Electronic - a Pentax Q camera outfit. The prize was to be given to someone who had purchased a product at the CE stand during the weekend - random raffle draw. Our barrel girl, Janna, drew it this morning.

Come on down Margaret Rutherford, and claim your prize. You'll be intrigued and delighted with the little Pentax Q. It is the smallest interchangeable lens digital I have seen and one of the sweetest when it comes to good results right out of the box. The lens is super sharp and the metering system seems to be completely accurate - when they first hit the market I popped an SD card into one and stepped outside the front door here at the shop to test it out. Four consecutive snaps in automatic jpeg mode - as simple as that - and then straight onto the computer and printer for A4-sized prints. No post processing and they are perfect. When you come in to pick up your new camera we can show you the prints.

A little note for other photographers who went to the WAPF convention. We were impressed with your work in the exhibition and delighted to speak with you at the stand and the dinner. It is great for the staff here to see what you are doing because we sometimes think that we might get to read the start of the story but never find out the finish. We like to sell photographic equipment  - 'cause this is a shop - but we get really curious to see what use it is put to. From your pictures, it looks like good use...

And a final note for the photographers who went to the outdoor shoot on the Saturday - your models are anxious to see what they look like ( The Grey Company are all hams anyway...). Do send them a disc or a print - they'll love you forever.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Steady, Boys, Steady...

After braving my wingeing about the old Tiltall tripod that regularly barks my shins and knuckles, faithful readers are entitled to demand what exactly it is that I do recommend for their own ventures into the wild. In a word - Cullmann.

Make no mistake - we sell Cullmann so this is advertisement as much as avuncular advice. But the goods are good - the tripods in their range feature magnesium metal for the their frames and spreaders and either aluminium or carbon fiber tubing for the legs. The locks are generally lever-type with adjustable travel to make up for future wear. The designers have been sensible enough to round off the corners of the castings so you will not peel bits off your hide as you work with it.

Choose whatever size of leg suits your projected working height - tall if you can stand it, short if you need to pack it into a suitcase. Likewise choose between one of their three-way or ball heads and let one of the staff here show you the correct way to secure it to the legs. It is very simple and you can make sure it does not unscrew as you try to pan or tilt.

You can look upon the Cullmann as a good investment - they are a direct import and the price has been kept at a low level because of this - and the Cullmann company are prepared to give a 10-year warranty on their products.

Finally - a shooting tip that is not commercial. When you take your tripod to the beach for sunset shots the legs will sink down into the sand and make it impossible to get a steady camera. Beat the sand by taking three carpet squares or pieces of plywood with you. Pop them onto the sand and they'll support the tripod feet perfectly.

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A Meal On The Road

Are you still hungry for landscape photography? Well remember that Greg Hocking will be conducting a course on Low Light Landscapes with the Shoot Workshops on the 6th of May - so you still have time to ring Shoot or go to their website and book yourself in. Greg is the business - he has won numerous awards and contracts for his landscape work and you could not do better than be instructed by him.

That said - here's my second installment of landscape photography advice, chiefly orientated to equipment choice rather than technique.

If I want bigger pictures or more detailed pictures than those available from my Fuji X-10 I need to grab a different outfit from the ready-use locker. I know that I will be wanting to see wide views, but there may be some small portions of the scene that reward me with mini-scapes or telling details - so I know I'll need a variety of focal lengths to cater for whatever presents itself.

I grab my Nikon D300, an 18-200 Nikon lens, and an 8-16 Sigma lens. In the pack there is also a Nikon SB700, a memory card wallet, a spare battery, and a cable release. Should I be fool enough to take the large equipment case there is room for some Honl flash filters, a mini torch, and a flask of gin.

Into the boot of the car goes the case, followed by my faithful old Tiltall tripod. The Tiltall has a three-way head as a permanent feature, as well as  a great deal of weight and many sharp corners. The photos are steady but it is a dangerous machine.

My landscapes are reached by two means - Suzuki car and Shanks pony. As I get older I tend to favour the former over the latter, but it can be at the cost of missing out on the wilder or more scenic views. It does have the advantage of letting me carry the heavier gear in comfort. Should your journeys also involve Boeings or Beechcrafts you might have to consider paring equipment weight or bulk - or paying heavy freight costs.

What do I get for my effort? I get 13.5 megapixels spread over an APSC sensor. I get viewing angles ( in the old 35mm speak ) from 12mm to 300mm. I get a controllable fill flash in case the foreground will not cooperate. I get live view for dark scenes and an illuminated control panel for dead of night. I get matrix or spot metering built-in. My tripod allows me to correct the horizon before I tilt the camera up or down and if I want to do a panorama I can spin it on its vertical axis accurately.

My files come back all RAW, as do generally my knees and knuckles - remember that Tiltall - and I can cheerfully recover or imagine any sort of tone or exposure I want. I am happy to commit the finished files to either A2-sized prints or the waste bin, depending on whether I was really inspired out there at the seaside.

Can you do the same with your Nikon D3200, D5100, or D7000? Can you do it with your Canon 550D, 600D, or 7D? You certainly can. The same level of performance is available on a number of camera platforms, and if you know your landscapes you can even opt for single-focal length lenses for better low light performance. You might even be able to lighten the carrying load. At the end of the day it is better to be able to feel your legs.

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