Friday, September 28, 2012

Nikon D600 Here Now

The Nikon D600 camera is here in the shop right now.

We have stocks of the camera to sell.

Come and have a look at the display model and see the new features.

Get out your wallet and we can sell you a brand-new one today. Morning or afternoon.

Saul was a little concerned that the previous posts were not clear about this - rest assured that we have fresh stock of this new Nikon camera right now.

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Spring In The Hills

Now is the time to spring. Spring to your camera bag, spring to your car, spring up to Kalamunda, and spring into your computer room. You are searching for the ideal picture of Kalamunda - or indeed the ideal picture of anywhere else - to enter into the " Spring In The Hills" competition.

The event will comprise the photographic competition, a photographic exhibition, sale of works, and photography workshops near the end of the period. It goes from September 29th to October 7th.

The event is sponsored by a great many people - Fitzgerald Photo Imaging and Camera Electronic appear on the sponsor list, as does The Framing Factory and the Bendigo bank. Pay particular notice to the Bendigo - they are providing a good stiff cash prize and intend to acquire the image that wins it for display at their branch. They have money - smile at them.

There are a lot of other people worth smiling at - the Shire of Kalamunda also wants to acquire the photo that wins their cash prize and the rules seem to be pretty fair - photographers get credit and retain copyright for their images. Gem Camera Club will also treat the entrants fairly.

The best way to enter this is to go to the website of the Gem Camera Club - that will fetch it first up on Google - and download their entry form. They do stipulate that the prints must be of a suitable size and they give dimensions on the form, and they ask for a jpeg image as well to deal with promotions and publication. It is all straightforward.

Last year I was privileged to go up to the Zig Zag Cultural Center and see the exhibition of the prints - Camera Electronic gave a prize last year as well - and I was immensely impressed with the standard of the pictures and the way that the Center and the Gem people presented them. This is a good show and is accessible to all.


Note: I mentioned the Photography Workshops near the end of the exhibition period - these will be held at the seminar rooms adjacent to the Zig Zag Gallery. They will be on Saturday, October 6th and Sunday October 7th.

The presenters are pretty experienced - I see that Mark Stothard, Paul Dowe, Neal Prichard, Richard Woldendorp, and Dylan Fox will be talking about their shoot management and workflow. These are very successful landscape photographers. And I must not forget that Tony ( Old Hickory) Hewitt will also be speaking - he is a master photographer.

These workshops will cost a bit - $ 190 for both days or $ 110 for a single day. Bookings are essential - go over to the Gem site now and see what they have to offer.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hot Damn - Poke That Button

In the spirit of discovery that leads to advancement in science, I sat myself down with the new Nikon D600 and D800 tried to break them. Actually, I tried to make 'em do what I think I need to do - and in the process discovered some of the differences between them and my current camera.

I use a D300, studio and field. I have learned the control layout and can alter it as needed when the jobs change. I still make mistakes but they are small ones and the use of the RAW file system and the good RAW processing engines available these days has recovered most of my dignity. I have learned never to admit anything while out on the job - just break into a cold sweat  and surreptitiously change the settings.

One of the really useful buttons on my D300 is the function button down below the preview button- just next to the lens mount. Nikon have given you a number of options that you can ask of this Fn button - exposure and focus things mainly - and I opted to set it so that it switches the exposure meter from a matrix meter to a spot meter. Occasionally my subjects will move in front of a window or a bright stage light and if I were to depend on the matrix all I would get is a muddy silhouette. If I press the Fn button the pattern snaps into a center 8 mm spot and I can at least see some detail in the subject.

Tried to do that with the D600 - all okay. Tried the D800 and no go. I can get a fast RAW file with it ( no bad thing if the camera is set in jpeg mode...) or get a virtual horizon to help with landscape pictures, but no spot meter. As the camera can still do the 8 mm spot, how?

Poke, poke, poke.

Nothing. Pros need this, and it must be here somewhere, but no good using the old intuition.

Second thing I've needed for a long time on the D300 is some way to keep from altering the shutter speed with the heel of the hand or the thumb when in the studio - if you are using 1/250th second with studio flash synch and inadvertently turn the dial to 1/350th you lose a third of your frame. Up till now only the big D3 and D3s cameras have put a positive lock into the shutter command to prevent this. The worker's compromise is a big old bit of gaffer tape.

With these Fx cameras you can indeed mount DX lenses, but the construction of the latter and the restricted circle of coverage mean you get big vignetting. The solution for Nikon has been to incorporate an auto-crop function in the cameras that uses just the center of their respective sensors to deliver a DX result. The viewfinder of the D800 can be set to automatically grey-out the outer border and the D600 puts a rectangular line in the finder to do the same. I knew that but what I didn't know is that you can also ask the cameras to do an intermediate step - a 1.2x factor crop and indication.

This means more pixels used than in pure DX mode and a slightly better resolution. You can't tell exactly how a DX lens will perform with this option until you click it onto this mount. I spent an instructive afternoon running through my stable of lenses and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Tokina 35mm f:2.8 macro will fill the 1.2x frame quite well with no vignetting. It makes it into the equivalent of a 42mm focal length. One more point of view for the studio.

One final point noted - look at the underside of the D600 and the D800. They are similar in that they have EN-EL15 batteries and dedicated data slots for the attachment of their respective battery grips. But they are different in that the D600 plate does not have the rubber pad surrounding the tripod screw. Good. This means that a D600 can be screwed onto a Cullmann ball or three-way tripod head and there will be no tendency for it to droop in the portrait position.

This is something that users of Nikon bodies have to watch for - the rubber of the Cullmann plates and the rubber of the Nikon cameras can slip on each other. Our technician Ernest cures this problem by replacing the Cullmann rubber with a cork pad and all is sweet - but with the D600 he won't have to worry.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

You Say Potayto - I Say Potahto...

Speaking with the members of the Bussleton Camera Club this weekend alerted me to the interesting fact that a lot of people have a lot of programs on a lot of computers ...that they do not use. Oh, they know that the programs are there, and they paid money to put them there, but they don't go there.

Of course this is perfectly legal - you don't have to use every steak knife in the drawer every meal - but sometimes I wonder if some of the digital photographers are trying to eat a wonderfully elegant electronic meal with the equivalent of a hatchet and a coffee stirrer.

I was like this at the first - my old government-surplus PC ran a Windows program that was so old that the registration code was in Roman numerals and the word processing program in it still used Liquid Paper to correct errors. I installed a free copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements 3 and commenced my digital adolescence. It was remarkably like real adolescence - I broke out in pimples and girls wouldn't talk to me.

Times have changed. I run two Apple products - an iMac and a MacBook pro - and there are a bevy of high-powered programs in there churning the electrons to good effect. I have selected the Apple Aperture program and the Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 as my image handling tools and am awaiting some plug-ins from Alien Skin to fiddle with the black and white conversion and art effects.

So apparently do a number of the club people - they run a mixture of Photoshop CS products of all numbers, some Elements, a few Apertures and a number of versions of Lightroom. But they sadly confess that while these competent programs sit dormant on their computers, they still just wipe the backsides of their jpegs and slap them onto discs - they are afraid to use the capabilities that exist in the electronics.

People, take heart. Get in there and poke those buttons. You will get some dreadful results, and some of your images will go to electronic heaven and never come back, and occasionally your screen will go blue - as will your language - but all you have to do is turn it off and on again and generally things come right. All that the image programs do is fiddle with red, blue, and green pixels and you can't kill the computer if you get the saturation wrong. The Aperture and Lightroom programs will adjust most of the pictures that you'll want to show off, and if you need to lie shamelessly you can bounce the file over to a PS product and it will abet you in your sin - then bounce it back to Aperture or Lightroom. The chiefest thing to remember is either to admit to everything - like Christian Fletcher and I do - or deny it absolutely.

Try it. You'll like it.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Future Called...

Every so often the Future calls.

When it is being polite, it arrives in the morning, takes off its hat, makes its way around the drawing room, and then leaves after twenty minutes. If I am not at home it leaves a card on a silver tray in the hallway. The visits are refined and pleasant.

When it is being vulgar, it heaves a rock through the front window with a note attached. Sometimes the note is flaming.

Today's visit was from the Fujifilm representatives - who very kindly brought samples of the new cameras that have just been released at Photokina. We were able to see and operate the XF1 and the X-E1 and compare them to the X-Pro1. In addition we got news about firmware updates for the current series of Fujifilm cameras.

Well, I am impressed with the X-E1. Smaller body than the X-Pro1 and a totally electronic viewfinder as opposed to the hybrid electronic/optical type, but the same well-disposed controls and the same brilliant sensor. It shares the lens mount so all the current lenses will fit, as well as the new 14mm and 18-55mm zoom. Same big battery - 330 shots per charge. And same precise build quality.

New to the camera is an improvement to the speed of the autofocus and the processing. This is also on the table for users of the X-Pro1 as there is a new firmware update that will speed it up. If you're using the X-Pro1 go over to the Fuji website and see what you can find.

Okay - I'm a Fuji fan since I put out my own money for an X-10 earlier this year, and I have the pictures in hand to support my enthusiasm. So I'm biased. But this new X-E1 looks like it will be a very sweet competitor in the mirrorless market - in fact if it is priced as low as the Fuji man said, I may indulge in time for next year's hot rod show.

The XF1 was stylish, at the same time producing a superb compact image. If you need a pocket-size and want your camera to be better looking than just a black slab, this is the one to look at.

We'll keep you posted when supplies arrive. X-Pro1 and lenses are here now.

jpeg image straight out of Fuji X-10 - Melbourne 2012


Monday, September 24, 2012

Wet Enough For You?

The small hiatus in the blogstream this last weekend was caused by the whether - whether or not I could find the dongle - and by the weather. In the first case, no, and in the second case, a great deal of yes.

Went to Busselton. Saw the Busselton Camera Club at their weekend conference. It rained. It hailed. It blew. No volcanic eruption, but that was probably because the volcano got wet. I was largely indifferent to the downpour as I was inside and the camera club members were out walking through the bush and along the seashore, but fortunately I included a product in the trade table that sold very well.

The Op/Tec Rainsleeve protectors come two to a packet and feature a clear flexible PVC bag with a drawstring at the front to snuggle up to the rim of your lens and a small hole in the back to allow the eyepiece of your DSLR to poke out. Your hand fits in the bottom of the tube to let you control the camera. The rest of you may be soaked but your camera and right hand will be dry!

There are other rain protectors on the market made by other firms but this is one of those quick-use emergency products that is a real life saver for outdoors photographers. Keep one in your camera bag to stave off disaster.

Of course none of the above applies to the lady who exhibited her photos taken at the Busselton jetty. She can get as wet as she likes and so can her camera because she has them in underwater housings...that cost as much as the camera. But her colour photographs of nudibranchs were stunning.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Leica's Order Of Battle 2012

More phone calls from Germany. Here is a bare list of the new bits that Saul has seen on the Leica stand - he has not sent any price listings but has asked me to tell you to ring up the shop and order the new things and he will tell you the price later.

Leica has announced:

1. A photo adapter for their Digiscope.
2. The Leica D-Lux 6.
3. The Leica M camera.
4. The Leica M-E camera.
5. The Leica V-Lux 4 camera.
6. The Leica S Camera system.
7.The Super-Elmar-S lens 24mm f: 3.5 ASPH.
8. The TS-APO-Elmar-S 120mm f:5.6 ASPH
9. The Vario-Elmar-S 30-90mm f:3.5-5.6 ASPH
10. The Leica Ultravid binoculars with ostrich leather trim.
11. The Leica X2 Paul Smith Edition camera.

These all sound excellent, and will undoubtedly attract a great deal of attention. Those readers who wish to add more colour to their lives may wish to look at the Leica website for the customisable trim on the X2 camera. Many of the variants depicted are quite attractive.

Howard says "Hey".


Swedish Lunar Camera

Mr. Frank rang through to the shop this afternoon from Köln where he and Howard are attending Photokina. He asked me to tell you about the new Hasselblad cameras that will be coming.

The big workhorse of the HB stable is going to be the H-5D. It is a slightly reworked digital body that has larger controls, an sturdier construction, a new True-Focus II mechanism, improved waterproofing, and RAW and jpeg simultaneous recording. It will be available in 40 - 50 - and 60 megapixel versions, with prices to match. It will also be available as multi-shot.

The preliminary Photokina announcement re. delivery seems to set December in Europe for one version - I suspect it will be the first quarter of next year before we see it in Australia.

The other new Hasselblad is a camera that sees a cooperative venture with the Sony Corporation. It is a camera that has a great many features in common with the Sony NEX 7 but configured as a fashion designer item - larger, sleeker, more opulent. I see exotic hardwoods and leathers in the handgrip, a jewelled video button, and titanium construction. It is a mirrorless camera designed to exhibit luxury to the observers while exposing through a zoom lens onto an APSC-sized sensor.

Initial reports speculate that it will sell for the $ 6000+ mark in Europe and, no doubt, the Middle East and Asia. It has been dubbed the Lunar camera, possibly in memory of Hasselblad 500EL cameras that were used to photograph on the moon in the 1970's, though what this device has in common with the 6 x 6  medium format film camera is anyone's guess. Perhaps it is just nostalgic advertisement. Or a desire on the part of the makers to suggest that it has something to do with space.

No doubt we will know more when the travellers return. Saul says " Hey".


Teut Toot

I rarely do this - as I get older there are an increasing number of things that I rarely do - but I shall indulge myself today. Internet speculation. I shall write whereof I cannot speak, and risk the consequences.

Leica. Famed name and a fine supplier of fabulous cameras. Currently exhibiting their new products at Photokina, pictures of which appear on DP Review and stimulate the mind, if not the eye.

Case in point is the new Leica M-E. It is shown as an economically-priced M series camera body to allow basic picture taking with Leica lenses. Apart from the paint job on the top and bottom plate - a sort of field-grey or Home Fleet # 27 Humbrol colour - and the absence of the lever that previews finder masks, I cannot see much difference between this and the M9. Leica say it is stripped down to just the essentials for picture taking, but I notice that they still use leather for the camera grip. If they were really serious about cheapening it they would have wrapped it in a used sugar sack...

No, hold that - the sugar sack would be more useful to contain their designer X2. They are showing an X2 that has been redecorated by a British designer, possibly with a grudge, that features green, yellow, and orange on the body covering and paint job. It looks perfect for party pictures during Fasching provided you keep your eyes closed.

I think there may well be a good point to the M-E, particularly if you couple it to Summarit lenses. You will be able to be a Leicaperson at a lower price point and if the internal build quality is the usual Leica standard, you will be able to haul it through the toughest conditions. Whether the oeconomical philosophy will appeal to that section of the market that buys Leica cameras to impress their relatives is another matter. They will probably opt for the new Leica M with the option to view through the lens via an separate electronic viewfinder as well as the classic rangefinder view.

It will be fun to see how the different models are received - as far as the designer X2, I suspect it might go back into a cabinet in Solms. Whether it goes quietly or screams and flaps is another matter...


Sauve Qui Peut

It is a bit like that when new camera equipment is announced in the trade.

 It was not always thus - in the dear old days when we had Elvis and dinosaurs the Australian wholesale distributors would be told about new lenses or cameras by their  manufacturing suppliers in America, Germany, Britain, or Japan and would then bring literature and information about these new items to the retailers. They in turn would order the equipment, and when it arrived would unpack it, display it, and advertise it. It was a logical progression.

Now new equipment is designed by someone on the internet with a cartoon thumbnail and a fake name like "Fried Bread"or "Mr. Snxx". They advertise their ideas on forums that originate in Mom's basement and are read all over the world by other people with fake names. Eventually the manufacturers in China take notice and modify the next camera they were going to make anyway to conform to "Fried Bread's"opinion. They make a model that is coloured pink and features "Hello Kitty"recognition for the Japanese market and a plain black one for the rest of us.

Then they trumpet it to the world at large, before digging the foundations for the factory in the Chinese industrial estate that will produce it. Eventually - after the factory is ready for the machinery, the cells are ready for the workers, and the guard towers are manned - it is produced and shipping is started. The sequence of supply is New York, New York, Hong Kong, Frankfurt Airport, New York, Hong Kong, etc...Sydney rates at # 35 and then we get the shipment to Perth.

During this time - between Fried's announcement and the actual thing on our counter, we have a series of phone calls from people who have computers and a great deal of time on their hands. Not surprisingly, they are impatient. We answer as best we can, but not surprisingly, we are frustrated at not being able to exactly predict when the goods will be here. Few of the customers are willing to accept the time frame of "somewhere between now and death".

I suspect that this is the result of the information super-highway replicating real roads...the faster that things go, the less likely it is that they will behave logically or be under any actual control. And there is a world of difference when something goes THUMP if you are in the passenger seat or down on the road surface skittering for your life.

Note: This does not apply to the new Nikon D600. They told us about it before they told you, and we ordered a bunch of them and they arrived here and are ready for sale. How that one slipped by Fried bread is anyone's guess.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Great Golden Wall

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 It would appear that someone is trying to construct a big wall of gold bricks on our receiving desk.

No, on second glance it turns out to be gold Nikon camera boxes. They are marked D600.
It would appear that the new Nikon full-frame digital camera that was announced last week is here now ready to be sold to customers.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to come in and purchase one before anyone else that you know does so.

We shut at 5:30 - the banks are open till 5:00. Credit cards are open all the time...

Thank you for your attention.

Uncle Dick

PS: The rental department has taken one for those of you who do that sort of thing.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Don't be selfish - take a selfie...

Human nature is a funny thing. You can command people to do things and they will refuse outright. You can plead with them to do things and they will take great pleasure in ignoring you. But provide them with the means to make fools of themselves and they will claw through each other to do it.

I found this out when I set up a self-photo rig at a party earlier in the year. It was a simple thing - a camera on a tripod with the on-board flash raised up. A green screen backdrop. A radio-link trigger for the subject to hold and away they went. Later I stripped in a backdrop to replace the green screen and it was a lot of fun. None of my friends issued writs, so they must have been pleased.

Last Saturday saw the Mk II photo booth. Gone was the green screen - it tended to intrude too far into the outline of the subject and the computer program associated with it then left very ragged edges. Photoshop and Photoshop Elements did a far better job with the magic wand and a little manual selecting. This time the backdrop was a white muslin screen.

Gone was the on-board flash. This time it was a coiled TTL cord up to a Nikon SB700 on a Manfrotto light stand. The SB700 fired into an umbrella - simple stuff, classic even lighting. I clamped an SB600 with a little Honl snoot to the crossbar of the backdrop stand using a Manfrotto Nanoclamp and there was my hair light. SInce the SB700 acts as a perfect TTL commander to the SB600 slave, all I did was dial up the exposure ratio I wanted and let the machinery do the work.

Photo booth work is close stuff - any wide zoom is going to do it, or if you have it, a fixed 20mm. Since you're going to be firing at the same distance, you might as well focus manually and tape the barrel. Then stand back and watch the fun.

Some people put mirrors on the tripod legs to let the customers see what they look like as they pose. That tends to inhibit them - far better to let them gurn and grin as much as they like without the feedback. They will do far more weird stuff for the camera. If you ever want to gather blackmail photos of your friends and colleagues this this the way to do it - and the beauty of giving them the radio controller is that they will take the picture themselves. They can't even accuse you of malice because it is them with the face AND the shutter button.

This is also probably one of the few times that you as a photographer can take a good selfie - as long as you can figure out a way to hide the controller as you press the button. I concealed it behind a martini - I had to make sure it was a large martini with three olives to cover the controller. That's the key to success - thorough preparation.

Note - if you are Cindy Sherman the term "selfie" makes no sense. There is no other sort of photograph...

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Boom Tish Boom Tish Boom Tish Boom...

That's the sound of the Nikon Marching band swinging into the street ahead of the new D600 camera - it has just been announced on the net, and Nikon Australia is going to send us our first shipment at the end of next week!

Normally you have to wait for ages after a manufacturer lets out the news, but this time they've done it right - got the stock into Australia before striking up the band. Here's what the new camera is like:

1. FX - that's full frame sensor - 24 x 36 mm. All the mathematics on your Nikon lenses is simple. They are  what they are.

2. 24.3 megapixel sensor. It can also dial down to 10.8 megapixel if you want to use your DX lenses on it.

3. ISO runs from 50 to 25,600. In that range the native speeds are 100-6400.

4. Same Expeed processor as the D800.

5. 5.5 frames per second.

6. 39 point AF system.

7. Full 1080 HD video.

8. 2 SD card slots.

9. Audio monitor jack for the video recording.

10. USB 2.0 interface.

11. Magnesium top and rear castings and a polycarbonate front plate. Think of the construction of the D7000 and you'll be right on. The weight of the body is 760 grams ( As a comparison, the weight of the D800 body is 900 grams.

12. Internal and electric drive for all Nikon lenses.

The camera has two access settings on the mode dial that let you dive into user-customized menus sets - again think of the D7000 layout. Very convenient for people switching between jobs at short notice.

Now, the price. We are going to sell the camera body alone for $ 2595 - if you want to purchase it as a going concern with one of the new 24-85 lenses you can get the package for $ 3295. Saul asked me to point out that the basic camera body price breaks down to $ 2359 ex GST if you are one of the people who is going on holiday and wants to get money back at the airport.

Of course, as soon as we say one number there are folks who will rush to their computer and find someone somewhere on the planet who will say a lower number. They might forget that there can be a whole string of extra numbers attached to that - shipping costs, importation costs, insurance costs... and they might well miss out on one of the VERY imporrtant numbers:

If you purchase this camera from an authorized Australian Nikon dealer - like us - you get a two-year no quibble Nikon factory warranty. You get to deal with actual people over an actual counter, and we are hoping that after the end of next week those actual people are going to be us, right here.

Who is this camera for? For enthusiasts who finally want to get the definition and tonal richness of an FX sensor. People who want to shoot wide with their historic Nikon glass. Photographers who want to carry a lighter full-frame DSLR. Pros who use a Nikon D3, D3s, D700, D800, or D4 and need a back-up camera body nestled in their camera bag - this is the life-saver body. People who want a full-range do-it-all camera that won't date.

Good for me? Yep. Good for you? Come in after the end of next week and have a play and find out. Bring an SD card and shoot up a storm in the shop and look at the results on your computer.

Band! By the center, forward march! Boom Tish Boom Tish Boom Tish Boom....


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Doing The Maths

At the recent AIPP conference in the Hunter Valley, one of Australia's most famous wildlife photographers - Steve Parish - presented a two-hour talk with a lot of his iconic images. The most glorious underwater pictures you could want.

These days the old Carousel projector has long since been replaced with the laptop computer feeding into a video projector. Professional ones seem to be every bit as good as the old slide projectors, and the whole thing can be extremely slick with segues to video clips and music - you can be a real showman with the material.

But of course, some of the material may have started out in the film era and has had to be translated to a digital file. Steve's best work is in the digital domain now but he showed us a really disturbing thing - his core base of colour slide material was caught in the Brisbane floods last year and a substantial part of it was ruined. The flood waters that lapped around his storage warehouse came up into the lower drawers of his files and as the water was contaminated with fuels it just dissolved the images off the slides! The whole audience literally gasped and groaned when he showed the slide drawers - we all recognized the artistic loss that it represented. I bet a lot of us vowed to digitize our slides and negatives right then.

So how to do it? I own the Epson V700 scanner -wonderful machine - and I use it to throw 35mm, 120, and 4 x 5 negatives into the computer. It can do the finest detail scanning for flat art work and thing section objects. It has a plate that can take 12 mounted 35mm slides at a time. Surely this will be the best answer.

I"m not so sure, Shirley. When I translate the 120, 4 x 4 , and 8 x 10 material into the computer this will be my only option. I have the settings worked out for each of these situations so it will just be a case of grinding through it, minute by minute. The minutes add up, however, which led me to think of the title for this post.

When it comes to the 35mm mounted slides, the scanner will need at least 180 seconds per set of 12 slides to scan and drop them into the hard drive. I've got 6400 slides to do. 6400 divided by 12 times 3 minutes is
1600 minutes. 26 hours of solid scanning plus the time to get the slides out of the pages, put them back, and reset the scanner for the next batch. I'm just going into the darkroom, fellows. I may be some time...

Rather than doing a Captain Oates I think I might re-think. I have a Nikon D300 and can fit a Tokina 35mm macro lens. It can focus precisely on the 24mm x 36mm aperture of a slide mount and render it onto the sensor. I have an unused enlarger chassis that can suspend the camera vertically over a lightbox. Taking a custom white balance from the lightbox is a one-click affair and the only additional bit I need is a locating template for the top of the lightbox. Matt board, Stanley knife, and gaffer tape...

If I sit quietly in my old darkroom dropping the slides into the gate on the light box and triggering the cable release on the camera I should be able to do them at a rate of a slide every 10 seconds - that's dropped the mechanical time to 17 hours. I should have time for a sandwich.

Will it work with the 35mm negatives - of which I have far more than colour slides? Considering the handling of the negative strips is going to be more problematical than the slides, perhaps this is a job for the scanner. I will investigate the situation and let you know in a future blog.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Joe And The Volcano

Those of you who remember this movie with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan will recognize the new Pelican product in the shop. Think of the luggage.

I have not yet tried to float the new Pelican 350 case in the Swan River but I am sure that it would do just fine. It's the biggest Pelican I've ever seen, and someone somewhere needs it.

The inside dimensions on this are massive - 50.8 cm x 50.8 cm x 47 cm. I am not sure what that equates to in litres but there is room in there for even the largest of large format camera systems - or video rigs, pro outfits, complete lens collections, two slabs of beer, or lots of lighting gear. Of course it features the watertight Pelican rubber seal and multiple locking points to keep it secure, and there are security lock points as well.

If this is loaded, don't expect to tote it yourself - like a full Esky, you need a mate to help you lift it onto the ute. It is tough enough that you can stand on it to get a view over the crowd, and I shouldn't be surprised if you could not prop up a corner of the ute as well. The bottom panel is well re-enforced.

In short, folks, this is just one big black tough cube. If you need to carry something big in perfect safety, here is your answer.



Working photographers need working lenses - that's either inspired journalism or a tired advertising slogan. Let's see which.

Working photographers work - they make images for someone else, generally in the expectation of being paid. The images they make have to be of such a quality that the customer will let go of the cash willingly. Some customers demand a very high standard indeed in the images - resolution, contrast, depth of field, etc. - but other customers have more modest needs, and the images may reflect this.

If you are shooting for the $ 100,000 customer, shoot the finest glass that your body can sport - and if you are clever get the client to pay for that glass. The Nikon or Canon users can browse in their respective catalogs for wide-aperture primes and zooms and be assured of the best that can be had - they can also look at the Zeiss lenses if they are happy to focus manually. Whatever they get, they will be optically happy, and they can work in very low light levels if need be. These are the workhorses of the photographic stable.

If their client and job is on a more basic level and if there is more natural or artificial light available, then the smaller zooms and primes are a good idea. These can also pay a real benefit in lighter weight and image stabilization - ask a working photographer what it is like carrying a heavy lens versus a light one, but ask at the end of a 12-hour wedding shoot. Be prepared for language.

Here comes the title of this blog - some zooms and primes can be thought of as workponies - small, tough, and able to carry on all day. I know because I use an 18-200 as a standard lens for most field assignments. It let's me have the flexibility to jump instantly from an interior shot of the congregation in a church to the bride and groom at the altar - and instantly is a good thing. Them brides is fast... The school sports photographer or air-show enthusiast would also recognize the advantage. Life sometimes happens without warning.

You've got a good variety of these lenses - Canon and Nikon make excellent 18-200 lenses. Sigma and Tamron do too, and they add a little extra focal length on the long end - out to 250 or 270. Indeed, if you want that extra reach, Nikon do a great 18-300. None of these lenses are bank-breakers - you can pay for them yourself out of the profits...

The size advantage is also something that travelling photographers will appreciate. By all means struggle through the airport with two DSLR bodies, a 24-70 2.8, and a 70-200 2.8... and chargers and batteries and a laptop and a water bottle in a bag and try to stuff them inobtrusively into the overhead locker in the plane. I'll be the one behind you with the 18-200 on my camera in the little bag. At the critical time I will push past you in the airplane aisle. Be prepared for language.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ten O'Clock At Night

Ten o'clock at night. Remember that time. It is important for photographers - it was in the analog days and is even more so now that we use digital.

10:00 PM is the dividing point between success and failure - between reputation and disgrace. In some cases it is the determining factor in life or death. Let me explain.

If you are a wedding photographer or someone who covers social events like corporate balls, 10:00 PM is the point of time when you must either leave in a calm and professional manner, or stay and eventually help shovel the corpses into the truck. The booze will have been turned on at 6:00 and four hours is more than enough time to fuel the company. If you leave at 10:00 you avoid having to protect your gear from flying drunks and/or rescue your assistant from amorous embraces. You can drive home safely without going to sleep and ending upside-down in a ditch.

And of course you remember the primary rule of event photographers - do not download your cards or try to do any processing after 10:00. Never mind the phrase " deadline ". The only thing that will be dead is you if you inadvertently erase or damage the information on that card through inattention. The bride and groom and the ship's company are not going to disappear if you don't hand them an entire job completed next morning. They want the pictures and they will be back to get them.

Likewise, do not attempt to do professional colour work on files after 10:00 PM even if it is next day. Your eyes tire and your colour perception may well lead you astray after this time. I accept that if you have calibrated your camera, screen, and printer with the appropriate Datacolor or X-rite products - and I do - that you are starting with a level playing surface. I accept the fact that EIZO monitors are the best on the market. But after 10:00 YOU are tilting and are likely to make the wrong decision about what you see.

At this point users of  Lightroom, Aperture and a number of other editing programs point out that they can batch-process any number of images and if they got one looking good earlier in the evening, all they would have to do is press the button and their work would be done. Never - even with the assistance of this feature they still need to tweak here and there and as soon as they do it with tired eyes the whole job is a patchwork quilt again.

This was also the case in the analog days - I lost an entire costume ball through to trying to mix chemistry and process the film after returning to the darkroom late at night. Wrong recipe, flat black negatives...

Please note that it is also a bad idea to clean firearms, purchase real estate in Queensland, or contract marriage after 10:00 at night.

Good Night.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

A Handle On The Light

People photographers who are not afraid to use flash lighting - and it is not a black art, mind - are frequently keen to soften the effect of their portable flash guns when they are used for fill-in lighting. This is particularly so when this form of lighting is used outdoors to interact with natural daylight.

Up till now we have had various forms of small soft boxes and box diffusers that did some good, but were limited in the amount of softening that they could do by their size - the smaller the box, the harder the light. The bigger the box, the more awkward to manage.

Of course there was the option of firing the flash either into an reflecting umbrella or through a translucent one - but how to hold the flash as you did this? Lastolite and their copyists came up with plastic and metal brackets that balanced the speed lights inside the opened umbrella but in their turn had to be placed on light stands to be able to be directed on the subject. This was fine for studio use but blew away - literally - when the umbrella was used outdoors. The least puff of breeze launched the assembly out across the landscape.

Now Lastolite have conquered this. No, they haven't tempered the wind to the shorn photographer - they have made a small hand-held bracket for the speed light and umbrella that lets an assistant act as a flexible, intelligent, heavy light stand that can direct the light as required but not blow away.

The speed light slides onto a shoe on the top of the handle, the umbrella goes in to one of two channels, and you trigger the flash with either a flexible TTL cord, a radio link, or with the IR link that may exist in your DSLR. In a pinch the bracket can be fastened on a light stand.

If you have your camera connected via a coiled cord, you can operate with one hand and position the fill with your other. And if it rains you can tuck under the whole lighting assembly and run for it.


Learn Time

Good morning, and welcome to a new week. The sun is up, you are alive, and your computer has enough electricity to operate - life is good.

Time to consider something new - something to fire your enthusiasm and add to your skills - something to help you see more clearly. Time to learn. And here are two very good teachers.

1. The first is a man who Canon users will recognize immediately. Darren Jew visited us last year to show us his skill at underwater photography and to help Perth photographers have a wonderful open day at the Perth Zoo.

Darren will be visiting again and will conduct two unique events. He will be teaching a 1:1 Masterclass for underwater photography and in this case it will be in a very appropriate classroom - under water. You get to dive with Darren, shoot with Darren - including using some of his equipment - and come back to the surface. This may seem an odd thing to say, but go and look at some of the places underwater that Mr. Darren goes to and some of the creatures that he swims with, and you will appreciate the thought of getting home and drying out and looking at your pictures on the computer.

One to one courses with master photographers are rare enough - what about one to one at ten metres down? Wow. You'll be best contacting Darren on his website to get details but be aware that it will be a Saturday course and you will get wet.

Now Darren will also be conducting a dry-land class after this detailing his work with the Adobe Lightroom program. Even if your photographs are not full of sharks, rays, and whales, Darren can show you some of the most efficient and creative ways to use this program. Remember that Lightroom and its companion Photoshop are the two of the most compatible and slick photo-editing tools available for computer users on any platform.

2. Our second man is someone who may be new to you. Thorsten Overgaard is from Denmark - he conducts classes, tours and workshops all over the world and has launched out this year on a complete circuit of the globe. Saul learned about this and called him. They had a good long chat and as a result Saul convinced him to add Perth to the Australian part of the tour - this will be of great interest to our readers who live in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia - you see some of these places will also have seminars with Thorsten but they have SOLD OUT. Maybe it would be a good idea to grab a plane ticket and pop down to Perth for a bit of a holiday and bit of photo learning...

Thorsten works with Leica equipment - he is an expert with this gear and he likes to make sure that all his students get a chance to try it out and to really learn what their cameras can do. His website mentions that he tries to instill enthusiasm as well as raise the skill level,self confidence, and productivity of his students. That's no mean ambition in anyone - and when it is combined with the best of the German camera systems you can expect real improvements

He'll be doing two things - a one-day workshop on November 19th that runs from 9:00AM to 6:00PM for about $ 300 - and a more extensive photo seminar that runs over several days for $ 1500. This will be a busy time, with lectures, field assignment, guided workshop, and final computer work and presentation. But you will learn all about Leica work with people from a man who really knows how to make it happen.

Best thing to do is to pop over to Thorsten Overgaard on the computer and book directly with him. November is not that far away and this will be an ideal opportunity to develop real skill before the summer starts. Note: for North American and European readers, we have summer in December, January, and February - you may have been wondering were all the heat went during those months while you are shivering in front of the radiator. We have it, and we use it to go to the beach and sit out watching cricket. You can't have it back until we are done with it...

Where was I - Thorsten. Good man and Leica expert. Remember that if you need some Leica equipment - either to get started or to add to your collection - we have it here at Camera Electronic.

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Friday, September 7, 2012

I'm Baaaack

That may not create a thrill in your heart, but after 13 days of seeing nothing but strangers, I can certainly say that it pleases me. The shop here seems to have some new stock that you might want to know about:

1. The new Canon 24mm-70mm f:2.8 Mk II lens is in stock for sale and Bryn tells me that we also have one in the rental stock for people to try out.

2. Leica 35mm f:1.4 Summilux lenses are in stock for the photojournalists.

3. Pentax have produced a "nifty fifty" 50mm f:1.8 DA lens for their cameras. It is lightweight and very precise.

We also have a stack of AIPP membership application forms on the rental counter with our name as supporter. I'll write more on this in a future blog, having seen the AIPP in action this last fortnight.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Was You Ever On The Congo River...

With a monkey's heart and a donkey's liver,
Blow me bully boys, blow.

Well tonight I discovered that I will never join the ranks of James Nachtwey or Matthias Heng...or Henti Cartier-Bresson for that matter. The street will not be my studio, nor will I venture anywhere into the dark corners of the world.

I am not normally a nervous individual, having been married for 40 years. Loud noises do not frighten me. I can stand a fair bit of unsanitary. But when I stepped out of the train station in one of Sydney's western suburbs tonight, intent on attending a club meeting a kilometre away, I started to get the creeps.

No-one was unpleasant. No one attacked me with knives or bombs. No one shouted at me in any known language. I was undoubtedly still under the jurisdiction of NSW and Commonwealth law and would have enjoyed all the protection of the Queen's justice. But after a quick look around I decided that I would not wish to trouble Her Majesty. I think the final straw was watching someone actually melt into the shadows just ahead of me, and this done on a suburban road at 6:30 at night. The thought of the kilometre to go in the dark and then back again at 10:00...

I hope the club meeting was a success. The trip back to the center of the city on the next train was quick and the Italian restaurant I stopped at put on a fine dinner. Actually that is one of the best tips I can give to travellers - never mind all the rest, find an Italian restaurant - they may be noisy but you get fed good.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Spot The Professional

It has started to happen again. My previous profession got me into trouble with the wife when we went to the movies - I would find myself concentrating so hard on the actor's teeth that I would lose the plot of the movie and have to plead for a summary. Mostly all I got was an elbow in the ribs.

Tonight I realised that my current work dooms me to watch the lighting instead of the entertainment. I attended a production of " South Pacific " and pretty soon I was calculating angles for the spots, watching the dimming and the gel changes, wondering about colour temperatures, and silently applauding the chap who designed the scheme as it presented the hero in chiseled majesty while the heroine was a classic soft Rembrandt.

I cannot remember a better stage lighting and I suspect that Perth may wait some time before it sees something as good. Perhaps the new Perth Arena will benefit from modern equipment - we should be alright if we can get inside of it without seeing the outside of it....

Come to think of it, the last really good stage lighting I saw in Perth was at the Bakery when they did a burlesque night. Laugh if you must, and that is the general idea, but the lighting cage was set out pretty well for the style of the show. Rest of the place looked like a pit, but it was a burlesque show and you didn't go there for interior decoration.

Lesson for photographers? Go to the stage shows and look. It is all happening in real time. No layers and gradients and the stage hands can't press command-Z to start the thing over again if it breaks down. So they are really doing pretty well. I was intrigued to see that there were no light bulb failures as well - those things are powerful and I wondered what they would do if something fused mid-show.

The only awkward part was I thought when they said South Pacific it would be sort of the battle of Midway and stuff like that and I went prepared. I had four clips of 40mm Bofors shells fused and ready to go and it turns out that it was just a bunch of singing and dancing and I didn't get to shoot Japanese airplanes or anything. I left them under the seat when I came home as they won't let you on the buses with them but somebody should have told me beforehand.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Your Own Work

Today's foray was to book stores - specifically ones that have a good photography section. It has been a  day of mixed fortune and has led to a fairly pensive blog.

First, let us start with the premise that we wish to have images of something - real life, imaginary life, whatever. How are we to get these images - find them, buy them, or make them.

Upon what medium will these images be made - stone walls of a cave, stretched animal hide, plaster wall, canvas, heavy paper or wooden board....or photographic paper of various sorts, or a phosphor-dot screen.

Note that when you use the first group of surfaces you have to do a great deal of work, but are at least possessor of the image when you are finished. You can defend the cave, inhabit the villa, or take the painting or drawing with you. In the case of the photographic print you can also do this, but you may find that the identical image can be held by many other people. In the last case noted - the computer screen - the entire world may have access to your image and should your storage system fail, it might be denied to you.

The production of the earlier images was hard work and had spotty results. For every Rembrandt there were millions of non-Rembrandts - but there was only one Rembrandt. As time went on and plate and film photography developed the means of production became easier and more people were Matthew Brady than just Matt himself. And everyone could own a piece of Matt.

Now everyone has an easy form of basic imaging that can be run from box to screen by the simplest of means....and with the advent of storage of the electrical signal somewhere else, the ownership and control of the image has just...evaporated. Oh, I know you can have watermarks and secret passwords and limited access and such but does anyone here really think that means that your photos that are on some distant server are really only yours? Yours and the Department of Homeland Security and the North Korean State Security Service and Apple and every pimply hacker from here to Hong Kong...

We've traded simplicity for property. We can do more but after we have done it we don't own it. In most cases we pay someone money to own us.

I am pondering this as I see the number of images that have swamped the world on shared-sites such as Flicker, Facebook, MyStuff, and PraiseMe. All out there for comment, all out there for theft, all out there...Oh, how I long to have enough bushels to hide those lights.

Please note: The sentiments expressed in this blog are the property of the writer and may in no way be read, approved, copied, or distributed by any known means of communication. Shut your eyes and look away. You may like me on Facebook but don't expect a card at Christmas.

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Simply Perfect Or Perfectly SImple

Have you ever had someone ask you what you thought of their photographs and then had to think really fast about what your answer would be? You tossed up whether to be kind or honest and generally plumped for the former. Then you thought about it all day...

I visited the Art Gallery of NSW today to see the exhibition of photographs by Eugéne Atget. These are not reproductions - Atget's method of working was so direct that enlargement or reduction would be pointless - the images shown were framed originals. As such they declared the vision of the man as clearly as they showed his subject matter.

Atget worked in Paris - France, not Kentucky - between 1880 until the 1930's. He viewed the city as a series of themes - shopfronts, street corners, tradesman's displays, vehicles, etc. and made images based upon these divisions. They were made with a 7" x 9.5" glass plate camera with movements, mounted upon a tripod, and I should say from the ones I saw, exposed with natural light. The plates were tray-developed and the prints made on POP fixed and gold-toned. The prints are contact type and are in tones that range from dark sepia to brown.

The Gallery matted and framed them quite simply and then Tek-screwed them to the walls. All three billion of them.

Well, it seemed like that - I imagine there were only two hundred but after the first fifty it all became a blur. I was left wondering whether it was a blur to Eugéne too.

Perhaps not. The literature said that he made albums and sold commercial prints of his work during his career. He seems to have derived an income, if the evidence of a couple of pictures of his sitting room is to be believed - he looks to have been a reader as well as just a peripatetic viewer of shopfronts. As his work is organised into divisions, I am willing to think that he intended these divisions for some artistic or commercial purpose. And I salute his technique with the negative - one of his plates is shewn over a light box and I can recognise real talent in exposure, composition, and development.

But oh, that brown murk of POP paper. It seems to veil everything and draws some subjects to a flat level that, frankly, removes any charm from them. Eugéne saw the artistry and the French academics see the history, but I am left looking at a dull brown picture of a street corner...

Different when he incorporates a person, or a Maison Close, or a vehicle - I was delighted to see the old Renault and note that the business of a parking brake on a sloping street was easily done with a brick under the back tyre. Interiors too, had their charm - they seem to bear more clearly the stamp of their occupier than a shopfront or a courtyard.

Am I being presumptuous in criticising one of the published greats? Yes, and you can poke fun at me for it. But I cannot help but think that a number of the images are best preserved in the French Roads Board scrapbook or as reference for some academic rather than being presented as masterpieces.

Perhaps a little experiment is in order. When I get home I shall look out a book I own on Atget (!) and illegally transfer one of the images into my computer via my scanner. Then I shall immorally redo it by losing the dull sepia and giving it a crisp black and white rendition. And I shall see if there is beauty there or just utility. I should hesitate to do this to most of the images I admire but in this case I am curious to know what would have been had the materials changed.

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Retail Spy

Today's foray into other peoples shops was a mixed bag but I did include a visit to a main street photographic retailer here in Sydney. While I had no particular item that I wished to purchase, I wanted to get a feel for how the trade might be practised here.

The poor devils have a rather claustrophobic environment, but then I notice this in many places here in Sydney. The railway gauge might be wider but the space down retail aisles is smaller than WA. As the people are no skinnier than at home, this makes for some pretty squeezy shopping. I saw that the shop here is cursed with an upstairs and a downstairs but presumably the staff do not have to do the constant trips up and down them. I noted wryly that there was no more display space here than at home and things are stacked vertically just to get them in. This lead to some pretty odd conjunctions - the Lastolite  reflectors sharing space with audio gear and suchlike.

I was able to see myself in action - a staff member who I recognised as me in another life was taking a customer through the basics of depth of field and I could predict exactly what the next sentences were going to be. To his credit, he coped very well - I hope I do as well.

The pro area was lightly attended but the basic camera section had quite a lot of counter pressure. As the prices were near as dammit the same as we charge, I think this shows that even with the pressure in this town of the major bucket shops, photographers still want face-to-face contact and the reassurance of proper factory warranties when they purchase equipment and I think they need professional advice as well.

Did I buy anything? No, but I was polite and kept out of the way. That is the best policy when you are doing industrial espionage, though I do like shinnying down ropes in darkened premises after midnight to secretly photograph the business plans. That and the Aston Martin sports car with the machine guns. I like working for Camera Electronic because you get a lot of opportunities that normally don't show up in retail - next year I hope to have a string of unclad spy girls as well if any of them will answer my advertisement in the paper...

Oh, Hasselblad? No, but someone has left a Fujifilm TK something there in the s/h section that looks remarkably like the Hasselblad Expan cameras. It seems to be made of silver or titanium and has a wooden grip inset into the front of it. Most interesting in a sort of Margaret River achitecture sort of way.

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