Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Welcome To The Milk Club

Photography enthusiasts who would like a good night out every month or so might like a talk with Saul. He hosts an evening meeting  - like a camera club but devoted to one brand only. They get to learn about the new products from the parent firm in Germany and see presentations done by local enthusiasts. In some cases they have guest speakers like a famous photo-journalist.

No one goes hungry because they have sandwiches and bottles of milk - see the accompanying photos. Sometimes they have a lot of bottles of milk. Like a milk festival.

You also might like a chance to get special bargains on the cameras and lenses - they really are like a special brand as they are considered to be the best in the business.

I can't quite remember which brand. The name was like a...oh it will come to me later...

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The Fred Astaire Of Filters

The French.

It's always the French. Every time.

I bought a Renault R 10 motor car in 1966. 4-wheel disc brakes. 4-wheel independent suspension. Most wonderful seats in any car short of a Rolls Royce. And a 998cc engine and no radio...A set of design decisions on the dashboard that left you indecisive...for the six years that I drove it I was never entirely certain what several of the lights meant. I just put oil in the tiny crankcase and hoped for the best...

That said, I contemplated the new line of Cokin filters on the wall. These are round screw-in types - not the square plastic ones that the brand is famous for. They come in a retailer's nightmare of a box - 20% bigger than any other box on the wall and consequently nothing stacks next to it. The French.

Inside the improbably big but undoubtedly stylish packaging is the thinnest UV filter in the universe. See heading picture. These screw onto 77mm and 82mm fittings and then, quite frankly, seem to disappear into the lens itself. Certainly no chance of vignetting on even the widest lenses.

The really good thing for the user is that after purchasing this fine product, screwing it onto the lens, and cleaning it with a Hoodman Lens can throw the box away. Or use it to store Renault R10 motor cars.

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A Darned Good Chance For The Nikon Shooter

Folks, T2 Time has returned. Anyone out there who has been tempted recently to get themselves a fresh Nikon digital camera body should pop into Camera Electronic over the next few weeks.

The yellow cabinet in the center of the shop has a plentiful supply of Nikon D800 and D600 bodies, as well as some D7000 and D3200. I note a few interesting lenses as well - including a 135mm DC for the portraitists who can't wait for a Russian Petzval...

T2 stock has been used in trade shows, or sales demonstration - sometimes it has boxes with scuffed corners and sometimes something like a strap or body cap or one of the cables might be missing - sometimes they are complete but refurbished. In any case they are warranted by Nikon Australia for 6 months and we warrant them for a further 6 months after that - so you get your full year's security.

The great part is they are at a significantly lower price than the regular stream stock - if you couldn't afford a D800 before you sure can now! No more humming and hawing about when you might go FX. Now is the time.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Photography And the Sense of Smell

Of all the seven senses - sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch, cinnamon buns, and road rage, the one that least suggests itself as connected to photography must be that of smell. Yet it has played a crucial part in many a photographer's career and needs to be nurtured if any future success is contemplated.

The smell of ether is distinctive and once formed a large part of the universe of the professional photographer. Gun cotton was dissolved in it to produce collodion - a sticky glue that was poured over glass plates and then soaked in silver nitrate to produce wet plates for large-format photography. How many early workers anaesthetised themselves preparing the collodion - or blew themselves up seeing where that funny smell came from with a candle in the darkroom...?

Then again when the flexible film camera came into being -and later the motion picture film - the first films had an acetate base. Fine in the initial stage but prone to breaking down chemically later to form flammable and explosive compounds. A distinctive smell coming from an old 35mm reel of motion picture film should serve as a warning.

Sniff some more. Is there a musty odour associated with your camera or the lenses in your old camera bag? Is the bag itself redolent of old socks? Or cheese? You may well be growing a fine crop of mould in your equipment. You'll need some fresh air, bright sunlight, and professional cleaning to return it from the grave - and no fair trying to trade it in to us, either. We've got noses too and we prefer our fungus sliced and fried over a steak.

The odour of a Soviet camera is also one that will never be forgotten - the Fed, Zorki, Kiev, Krasnoyarsk, Quarz, and many other products of the old empire were issued in real leather cases - presumably from pigskin in many cases - and in many instances pretty fresh from the tanning vat, if the smell was anything to go by. They were lubricated with fish oil. If you used a new one you didn't need Vitamin D tablets for a year - you just breathed deeply.

Is there a distinctive digital smell? Not really - most of the lubricants are artificial and while you might get a new camera smell, it is generally very subdued. It might be worth while for the manufacturers to enclose a scent sachet in the boxes - freshly-brewed coffee or garlic prawns or something to make you feel you have something to look forward to besides reading another manual and getting a firmware upgrade.

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Wired or Weird or Wobbly

Now that the new legislation has gone through and photographers in Australia are legally able to take star trail pictures, waterfalls, and other long exposure subjects - with the appropriate license of course - more people will be heading out with their tripods and cameras.

The problem of triggering the thing off without shaking it will still exist, however. The day of the old cable release has largely died - only the Fuji and the Leica enthusiasts will need the old mechanical type - but some form of electrical release is still needed by everyone else.

You can do it with a simple switch - Hahnel make perfectly good wired releases, as do Nikon and Canon. The advantage of these is certainty of action and freedom from battery power. The downside is that some people tug on them or forget where they are in the dark...and pull the whole camera crashing to the ground in a pile of fragments. This is rarely a good thing.

Wireless remotes that run on IR impulses are sweet little things, about the size of cockroaches. You point them at the appropriate spot on an IR-equipped camera and press the button. You can't expect them to work at too great a distance, however, and you need to remember that you will lose them due to their small size. If you can't find it in the camera bag, look down the couch cushions...

Radio remotes are the go - Hahnel and Promaster make quite a range of these. They say they'll work out to 10o metres, but the transmitter is really tiny so maybe a little less range would be safe. In any case, you escape the wire trap, they work around corners and in bright sunlight, and they don't cost the earth. if you want to do timed exposures or interval work, there are even fancier versions with this sort of thing in-built.

Highly recommended for anyone working with long exposures.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

GPS, EXIF, Data, And The Agency

A few years ago we were presented with the most wonderful accessory for 35mm cameras - a small electrically-powered back that would imprint the date that the shutter was triggered onto the negative with a small LED display. You could mar your best shots accurately and regret it for ever after. No longer was it necessary to search for a hairstyle or skirt length to accurately date the negative or slide - even landscapes could be fixed in time. " Hey, when exactly did they move the Matterhorn a foot to the left? Let me look at the bottom of the negative for the glowing orange numbers..."

Time passed and the digital camera revolution occurred and, like all revolutions, left the streets awash in  dead bodies. In this case it brought numerous benefits - you could now photoshop unicorns and dragons into faerie pictures, you could do 400 shots of your lunch for less than the cost of the lunch, and the streets were still awash in dead bodies.

It also brought the ability to record far more about each image at the time it was taken. Every time you press the shutter button there is a burst of data that is tucked into the file you create - shutter speed, aperture, flash status, focal length, compensations, and conditions all go into the EXIF data. You can see  a little of it on the back screen of the camera and if you use a program like Lightroom or Aperture you can see a lot more on the computer.

It will also tell you what the date and time were when you pressed the button, and if your camera is equipped with a GPS locator you can find out where in the where you were at the time. We are looking forward to the next generation of information recording - digital cameras of the future are rumoured to contain circuits that will add WTF information at the time of image capture. Computers will be equipped with WGAF programs to deal with this.

It should clear up a lot of confusion in the field and subsequently save a lot of storage space on our hard drives. If there is insufficient initial WTF available, the WGAF circuit cuts in and the file is automatically deleted. Some computers will emit a rude noise when this occurs.

Please note that users of the newest cameras can already get a monthly report emailed to them from Langley, Virginia, about their photography. All the information in the image is coded and transmitted by the GPS to waiting drones and thence to geo-stationary satellites and back to the agency. It is compared to a data base of other views of similar places and faces and a complete story of the user's activities generated. There is no need to turn the camera on as it is permanently recording everything in the vicinity to add to the data stream - the only real action required by the user is to come into the local office of the agency and explain their motives for whatever they have been doing. The monthly email will mention whether it will be necessary to bring a toothbrush and change of clothing in case of an overnight...or longer...interview. These new cameras come in bright colours, too, so everyone can be happy.

Or else.

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Hero Of The Empire

Empires are funny things. We all know there was a Roman Empire and a British Empire and a Russian Empire...but no-one I know outside of the asylum uses an Italian, English, or Russian DSLR. I'm sure this must be something to do with philosophy or politics. The Japanese, Chinese, and German Empires also vanished and we shoot with Canons, Nikons, and Fujis. And Panasonics, Leicas, and Olympii.

How'd that happen? I mean Harris, Eaker, and LeMay cleaned out a lot of the old manufacturing structures as well as a lot of the old workers...but then so did Joe Stalin and Mao in their own factories and look at the difference between the fate of Lomo and Nikon...

Well, whatever, it looks as though the Russians are going to reenter the dining room with a world-beating state of the art iconic award-winning 1840 lens. According to a report in DP Review today they  are casting about for venture capitalists - or adventurous photographers - to give them start-up money to produce brass-mounted versions of the Petzval portrait lenses of the 19th century tat will fit onto Nikon and Canon full-frame DSLR cameras.

Skootch on over to DP Review today and press the video button to see their presentation. I was impressed with it but then remember that this is a group in Krasnogorsk that wants you to send them money in case something will be produced...

I hope they succeed - if it becomes a marketable product and they are prepared to send it out over the Lomo distribution network, I will buy one for Steampunk photography. It is as quirky a product as you will ever see in this business.

No. I'll amend that. Once it is produced there will be an oriental copy of it with Hello Kitty on the outside. THAT will be quirky.

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Paddington Bear's Camera Bag


Those of you with children - or who were children - will remember Paddington Bear, particularly when he dressed in his yellow mackintosh and sou'wester hat. That is the image that came to mind when I saw the new Dryzone bags and it will take some time to eradicate it.

In any case this is the second offering in the new Dryzone series. smaller than the backpack, but the same form of roll-over watertight seal. It has a unique plastic hook latch that straps over the top of the case when closed to evenly distribute weight - it would be a good bag for heavy bodies and lenses.

We joked about the wet places where you could need this - but we neglected to mention that wet needn't necessarily be dank. There are plenty of snowy landscapes that need cameras and you need water protection there too. If you are going to break your leg in Thredbo this year, consider doing it with this Lowepro case. Also thoroughly recommended for Alaska and Churchill, Manitoba.

Just don't expect to sneak up on your subject while carrying it - unless it is through a field of buttercups...

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Beauty Is As Beauty Does

I thought I was committing the height of folly a decade ago when I bought a 44 cm Softlight Beauty dish for my Elinchrom studio flash heads. After all, I had three lights with 18 cm reflectors and umbrellas and a soft box and a snoot. I mean how many more looks could there possibly be in the studio...?

So when was I going to use this thing?

Luck would have it that I had a job at a costume society dinner that week. I was given a small stage area to put up a backdrop ( faithful old three-part framework and mottled muslin...the muslin gets more mottled every year. At the end of the decade I am going to boil it for soup...) and one power point. As I was to be within a metre and a half of the subjects i decided on one 250 w/s head and the beauty dish. Best decision I ever made.

The curve of the dish that close to the subjects allowed for a slightly specular light that dropped down from the crown of the head but still curved into the eye socket and under the nose. It was almost like having a main and fill in one piece. With only a very small amount of light shifting I was able to light all the different people in their different costumes and it was one of the most successful sessions for that club.

Last night I decided to put into operation a lighting scheme that Matt Koskowski recommends in one of his Photoshop books; two medium strip lights at the 10:00 and 2:00 position in relation to the subject  and a beauty dish at 6:00. He shows in his book that it will facilitate easy selection of the subject for subsequent compositing. It seemed to be contrary to what I had done before but what the heck...

The heck. It works. The heading image is one of he first off the screen, and as it was done on a double martini and late at night, it could stand a bit more care, but it is a lot easier than any thing else. Of course it helps when the subject has definite curves and a glorious costume and is heavily armed, but then doesn't that describe a lot of dates...

SALES POINT. Beauty dishes work - they make people look like cover girls - even when they are little wizened gnomes or large hairy madmen. I mention these because I shall be showing some of the other images from the shoot in future posts. In the meantime consider one for your Elinchrom or Profoto lights as the ideal solution for a one-light setup.

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A Dry Camera Is A Happy Camera

For years the Lowepro people have been making a line of their bags with the model name " Dryzone ". These are intended for use in areas that have running water - running over the photographer, that is. Tasmania, New Guinea, The East Indies, tropical Queensland...rain forests, waterfalls, and leaky roofs.

The previous design in this series relied upon some pretty fierce zippers with rubber seals to exclude water - the things were difficult to operate due to the force required to separate the rubber section. The new design uses the lunch parcel concept - you roll and fold the top of the sealed plastic bag to keep it dry. It seems complex, but it is really a lot easier to work.

Do they work? Yes. One of our clients upended his canoe with one of the Dryzone bags aboard and then used it as a float to get to shore. The camera gear was fine. Those of you who remember Tom Hanks in " Joe And The Volcano " will recognise the similarity.

Lowepro - don't leave shore without it...

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Now Hear This....Think Tank

With the advent of audio and video recording on modern digital cameras ( as opposed to the old cylnder gramophones we used to use with the dageurreotypes ) a whole new species of gear needs to be taken along; microphones, windshields,cables, mixers, headphones, etc. When the etc. starts to overwhelm you, please remember that Think Tank make a whole dedicated series of cases and bags for these new bits.

We've placed the audio-orientated products at the end of out Think Tank rack but don't think that you are restricted to just these - as you brows the TT rack you'll see that they have a case or pouch for nearly any piece of professional gear - if you work in the rain there are dedicated covers for cameras, lenses, and flashes. If you run round mountains with heavy lenses there are belt packs to evenly distribute the crushing weight that you will regret as soon as you are half-way up the slope... There are dedicated pouches for sandwiches and water bottles filled with brandy for the trip down.

Should you wish to carry your laptop through the airport there are dedicated pouches that will protect it in the overhead locker - your bigger gear can go into a rolling case with walls thick enough to stand the attention of the baggage handlers. If your arguing skills are up to it, there are deceptively small camera cases that might let you get your apparatus into the overhead locker without raising suspicion. Smile sweetly and try not to sweat.

Do I use Think Tank? Yes I do - a 17" laptop case and it is just excellent for travel.

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Plea For Mercy - Come Buy A Billingham Bag

It would appear that the English summer has yielded a bumper crop of Billingham bags. This has resulted in the delivery of 3.5 metric tonnes of them to the shop. Please see the heading image.

This will be gladsome news for the users of the Leica, Fuji, and Olympus system cameras - Billingham bags are ideally suited for the traveller or professional who has decided to do it with the slimmer cameras but still needs the best of housing for them.

Billingham bags are grown on the south slopes of Heath in the West Midlands. Each bag is lovingly nurtured on the stalk and picked only when ripe. This results in the full flavour of the canvas, leather, and brass coming though in the finished product. These are bags with a proud history - remember that English bag makers were equipping the British Army during the Napoleonic wars with much the same care - if it was good enough for the Duke of Wellington, it should be good enough for you...

Apart from the history, the bags are a practical answer to an elegant camera carriage - if you have ever struggled through an airport with the average camera bag banging and pulling at you as you struggle with the cardboard suitcase and crate of chickens, you'll know how bad it can be. Remember as well, that every bit of weight is charged for these days when you fly, and a lighter bag means a heavier purse.

Oh enough of the flannel. We're dying here under the weight of stock so please come down here and rescue us. You'll be doing a humanitarian deed as well as getting a top-quality product.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

How To Be The World's Greatest Photographer - In Digital

Today's project, children, will be to make you into The World's Greatest Photographer - using a common digital camera and a few props that you will have around the house.

You will need the following:

DSLR or rangefinder camera with APS-C sized sensor.
30 or 35mm lens.
Electronic flash.
TTL cable for your flash and camera - a short one will be fine.
A flash bracket for your camera.
A tan gabardine trenchcoat.
A battered fedora.
A car with a police radio in the boot.
A cigar.

The combination of an APS-C camera and a 30 to 35mm lens will most closely approximate the camera  used by Arthur Fellig but on a small scale. He used Speed and Crown Graphics with 135mm lenses. You'll need to set your camera to monochrome to approximate the film but remember that when you come to process the files you should crop them to a 4 x 5 ratio. Arthur used plates and films of this size.

Okay - look at the Speed and Crown Graphics in Arthur's hands and you'll see that he has a flash gun on the right hand side with an 8 inch reflector. You can see a clear Press 25 bulb in there. This generally gave him a guide number of 200 to 220 with Super XX film. f:22 at 10 feet - f:32 at 6 feet.

The 6 feet is for portraits of people being restrained by the police and the 10 feet is for corpses and crashed cars.

You'll need to rig up a flash bracket on the RHS of your DSLR that slightly elevates the flash to simulate the Press 25 position. Connect it to the hot shoe of your camera with the TTL cord and start out using the TTL setting until you get the feel for estimating distance and power. Then fly on manual. f:32 gives you great depth of field anyway.

There may be some little debate about whether the police radio is strictly legal. Likewise the business of barging into domestic violence,  car crashes, and gangland shootings. By all means pussy-foot around obeying the law if you want to, but don't blame me if you miss the shots. Of course, you can always go back later with the car crashes after the ambulance leaves, but you can't generate a fresh corpse and pool of blood these days without a great deal of explaining.

The demise of traditional photo-journalism in favour of mobile-phone pictures should not affect you - you will essentially be your own agency and as long as you have the files to submit, editors will look at them. Timeliness is always important, and the papers do appreciate you getting the images to them before the subject starts to clot up.

To this end, you might consider installing a computer and transmitter system in the boot of your car to instantly send the pictures to the papers of your choice. These are available in many forms these days and are quite reliable. The boot on modern cars is smaller than that of the sedans of the 40's but there should still be space in there for a fifth of rye and a humidor of cigars.

Cartier-Bresson? Who he?

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Moment Of Force In Photography

The term " moment of force "used to bother me in high school physics. Actually, sitting down in the classroom and opening a Physics text used to bother me, and everything thereafter was just the icing on the urinal cake. But one day it changed.

I was in shop class and trying to free a rusted nut with a crescent wrench. I applied great force on a short hold - to control the application of the force - and got nowhere. Then I lengthened the hold on the wrench and applied mild force - still no movement. Then I applied a great deal of force to the outer end of the wrench handle and was rewarded with the thing turning rapidly and delivering my knuckles to the nearest sharp surface. A lesson writ in blood...

So, having understood moment of force by the most practical means, I was able to diagnose an equipment failure last Saturday night and remedy it in time to save the job.

My rig was the trusty Nikon D300s with the Stroboframe Press-T bracket attached and an SB 700 flash on top of this. My standard flash rig for the last few years when I need to move around at a bellydance show. I can flip the flash from landscape to portrait mode and still have it positioned over the lens axis.

This time I decided to gild the lily and add the Gary Fong Lightsphere II to the mix to soften the light blast. It was to be indoors so the top of the Lightsphere was also needed.

All worked well for a while as I played paparazzi at the party, but halfway through the flash started playing up. Nikon flashes don't play up - they are mega-reliable - so when the thing missed firing intermittently I looked to see if there was another explanation. Sure enough, I had over-egged the pudding with the Lightsphere. Out there on the front of the flash, it was perfectly balanced when in the landscape mode, but once it was headed sideways in the portrait mode on the Press-T, the extra weight of it pulled the contacts for the flash away from the corresponding spots on the hot flash.

The moment of force was too great for the flash and shoe contacts.

Moral of this is that it is either one or the other - the Press-T and a bare flash for chasing stage events or the SB 700 mounted directly on the camera with the Lightsphere for interiors and people event shots. I quickly demounted the bracket, shifted the flash to the camera shoe, did the Fong Shuffle, and carried right on. My thanks to the decorator of the country club who decided upon white walls and ceiling.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Tuesday Night Fever - With Nikon and Kristian Dowling

For those Perth professional and advanced amateur photographers who missed the Nikon Night 2013 with Kristian Dowling and are curious as to what went on, here is the report:

1. It rained persistently.
2. We met at the Subiaco Arts Center at 6:30.
3. We ate, and drank. Yes. Good bar, good kitchen.
4. Kristian Dowling took pictures of the guests arriving in Hollywood style - then we printed them out on Epson paper with two Epson printers.
5. Julie and Sarah from Nikon introduced Kristian and he told us of his work in Hollywood.
6. Then he showed us how to get his distinctive style of photo using LED, Profoto studio flash, and Nikon speed lights. Sarah was the model.
7. Saul and Howard entertained the crowd with sales talk and giveaways.
8. We packed up and came home.
9. It rained persistently.

Now it appeared to me that Kristian knows what he is about, and was able to explain it pretty well in a small space of time. I think he is a man well able to think on his feet - as the job of a Hollywood shooter would require. I enjoyed his lighting talk greatly. I am biased towards the use of the Nikon system because I use the Nikon system so it is good to see how well it can operate in pro hands.

It was a fun evening. Roll on the next Nikon day - or evening. Thanks to Julie and Sarah and Kristian. And Saul and Howard. And the staff who served us the food and drink.

To give you a visual idea of the evening....

"Stayin' alive..."

"We must be there..."

" Grip and grin! "

" Mama Mia atsa spicy meatball..."

" Beauty and...and...and..."

" Behind you! Look behind you! "

" I just had to wait until he did..."

" Him, Officer. That's the one..."

" Hello My Baby, Hello My Honey.."


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Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Level Playing Field - New Federal Statutes To Govern Camera Clubs

Wait for it - it is only a matter of time before someone in Canberra takes a long lunch and comes back with this idea: All entries into camera club competitions must be the same size and shape to allow for even judgement. In addition, each entry must be matted the same way and hung at the same height and in light of the same colour temperature and intensity. Projected images must also be displayed with equal light upon a standardised surface. Inspectors with badges and warrant will be dispatched to the clubs for surprise inspections and infractions of the rules will incur on-the-spot fines.

Federal police spokesmen will be using the term " crackdown " frequently when interviewed in the press.

There will also be provisions in the act to compel competitors to take their photographs under similar conditions - no longer will the richer members of camera clubs who can afford to travel overseas be able to overbear the poorer members who must stay at home and take local subjects. Of course people will still be able to travel - this is in accordance with the federal laws that provide a level landing field for airlines - except in certain Asian countries - and a level bar surface for tourism operators. The new law will require anyone using an image taken overseas to re-imburse the club with the cost of the travel so that it can be re-distributed to the other members. This may affect those who wish to travel business class...

Of course the use of different classes or levels of equipment has always meant the disadvantaging of certain photographers - the new act will address this by requiring all club photos submitted to be taken with the same gear. The new standard club camera will be the Flapoflex K30 IIIA ( A for Australia ) with a standardised 35mm lens. Low light workers will be pleased to hear that the lens has a fixed aperture of f:1.8. The price of the new standardised camera will not be fixed, because that would be against the ACCC...

There has been some debate amongst the international award-winning iconic mentors as to whether these new laws will stifle the artistic spirit of Australia. We in the Guild take the opposite view - if the photographers of Australia have been willing to accept the Rule of Thirds and the Sheimpflug Rules for the last five decades, there is no reason not to impose more upon them.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Here Come De Judge - With Epson And Eizo

Did goe to the Fremantle Camera Club last night and was greately entertained.

It is always gratifying to be asked to a club to judge competition photographs as it is a sterling opportunity to crush the spirits of the hopeful while selling them more equipment. Plus you get coffee and a biscuit at half-time.

I have expressed reservations about judging in " Here All Week" but we have to remember that even the barest reservations sometimes cover vast oil fields and for the better sort of coffee and biscuit I can be as oily as required. And in truth, I learned three things of value last night.

The competition pictures for projection were sent to me on a CD and I looked at them on my home monitor, making notes as I went. In many cases I was pleased with the overall image but thought them too dark, and made recommendations based on this. Then when the images were shot up n a good screen with a good Epson projector I saw how wrong I was. I had my monitor at home set too dark. Lesson one. Perhaps it is time to go and get an Eizo monitor.

Lesson two was watching the display of the printed images in a separate room. The venue had inadequate down lighting but the clever club people went and got Bunnings halogen work lights, directed them onto the white ceiling, and got an even and flattering overall illumination. As prints are made or ruined by their illumination, this was a very good idea.

Lesson three was the home-made illumination box used to present the prints one at a time for the audience to see during the commentary. I was the commentator so the speech was nonsense, of course, but the images looked wonderful. If you cannot make a dedicated illumination frame, get a Grafilight and do your best.

In the end, the standard of the piccies was very high, and I hope I was able to assess them correctly. The winners shook my hand heartily and the losers chased me down the lane with torches and pitchforks so I think the evening was a huge success.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pure Advertisement Today

Nothing but the sell today, Folks.

We have just received a shipment of the Fuji X-10 cameras in black, together with the matching Fuji fitted leather cases. This is a wild opportunity to purchase a compact travel camera that is built like a...and looks a bit like one too.

It is perfect for travel - replacing big DSLR units when you are hiking or mooching about the city. Great macro capability, metal body, and jpegs that are so good that you don't even need to wind it up to RAW - but you can if you want to.

The leather case harks back to the great days of the 60's and 70's - travel in style.

The whole package is only $ 449 - while stocks last.

We sell - you buy. You have fun.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Close Encounters of The Fun Kind - Stroboframe

I frequently buy items from our shop upon speculation - I do not know exactly how I will use them but I add them to the armamentarium on the off-chance that they will be just what I need. Here is a tale of one such device.

Stroboframe make brackets and flash holders for film and digital cameras - have done for years. Wedding photographers who used flash in the film era used them to drop the shadow from the flash down behind the subject. The simple geometry of the thing meant that faces looked clean and attractive and even quite small spaces could be utilised for set shots.

In a studio setting, the various flip mechanisms that Stroboframe make let people turn their cameras from landscape to portrait orientation without losing framing. A lot less shifting of tripods.

I had occasion yesterday to discover just how useful one of the larger Stroboframe brackets could be when I covered a model car exhibition. Think of these model cars in terms of close-up rather than macro subjects but stretch your imagination further to encompass your own work - and see if the brackets might be just as useful.

The bracket mounts my Nikon D300 with an 18-200 lens. The wide range of the lens is very useful when dealing with subjects that might be as small as your thumb up to full interiors or landscapes. In the case of the model car show I chiefly wanted clear illustration for my blog - "Here All Week" at Thus meant accurate colours and adequate depth of field on the small cars - I needed f:22 if I could get it.

No problem with the Nikon flash system - the SB 700 flash has more than enough power for this task. The fact that I could mount it on the cross-bar of the Stroboframe in a TTL extension cord meant that there was absolutely no calculation or adjustment needed for the 170+ illustrations - I just selected a low ISO, a high f stop, and 1/160 of a second. Point, frame, and shoot...

The first wonderful thing about the Stroboframe is that if you need to do a vertical shot you just release the small red lever at the bottom and rotate the camera 90º. The weight of the camera steadies it in the new position and the flash angle does not change.

The second wonderful thing is the top flash bar also swivels down so that it will drop the light - and the troublesome shadow - even if the subject is tiny and close up.

The third wonderful thing is this same rotation can continue upwards for bounce flash and it is a damn sight easier than pushing the rubber button and swivelling the head. See the effect of a light bounce up on the Bonneville Salt Flat model shots.

The forth wonderful thing about this particular bracket is the peculiar rubber-covered handle on the front - it is very convenient as a carrying and support point for the whole rig - it is well balanced.

BEST NEWS - We've been having a Stroboframe sale these past weeks and we will continue it for a little while longer. 50% off is not to be sneezed at, particularly if you are a regular Camera Electronic bargain hunter.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

The Dawn Of Beauty

Landscape photographers are romantics. They must be - they go a thousand kilometres to camp overnight in freezing bush so that they can get up at 3:30AM and hike through bush to a beachfront. Then they haul 500 Kg of equipments over wet rocks and stand there shivering while they are waiting for he sun to rise. They have $ 8200 sitting on a tripod in front of them on the slippery rocks and are waiting only an incautious moment to tip it into the sea.

Then they drive a thousand kilometres back home and spend week of nights in a dark room trying the HDR the result. This seems clear evidence of either romance or madness.

One of the symptoms of this madn... I mean one of the useful and perfectly normal items that every landscape photographer needs is the circular polariser filter. See the opening image for a typical polariser in operation.

The polariser makes blue skies bluer, green seas greener, and white bride's dresses whiter. Foliage loses the blue cast that Western Australian skies put into it and the colours seem much richer. They can also be used to see through water surfaces and glass shop windows to reveal the goods within. It makes everything look like it is straight from the pages of ARIZONA HIGHWAYS.

Good? Yes. Bad? Yes. WHAT?

Well, consider - if you want to see bluer skies and greener seas and fluffier clouds, all very well - you can produce this effect and good luck to you. It is charming but fraudulent. If you wish to represent what your eye actually sees in a scene, consider that your eye is seeing the light scatter anyway - remove it and you are interpreting rather than representing.

Morals aside, if you want to get the full effect of the polariser remember that it works most effectively at 90º from the sun. If you try to put one onto a lens that has too wide an angle of view it will work in one portion of the scene differently from another portion. You may be better in these cases to seek your colour enhancement by computer means further down the track.

Please note that the polariser filter and polarising sheets may be a real boon in art copy and scientific work - letting us see what the light scatter spoils. We are seeking science, not art. And generally don't have to stand on wet rocks to get it.

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All Time Favourite = Escaping The Ghost

Internet bloggers love to make lists of things - it is one of the techniques that we are told will increase the hits on our site. The more outrageous the premise - or common the theme - the better. Everyone gets to relate to the list and then decide that the author is full of it.

I am more interested in seeing into the mind of the reader - in particular the visual mind. I want to know what has made the photographer take the photographs.

Sometimes this is obvious - the photographer has been given a dollar and told to go out and take a certain picture. Or the photographer has speculated that if they take a certain picture they can sell it later for a dollar. It is commerce.

Sometimes it is need - emotional need. The first picture of a long-desired baby...followed by 32,000 more of them. Or the last picture of Grandma just before she went over the top at Ypres. These are the basic photographic lining of our memory box, and we can all understand it.

But what about the...shhhh, don't speak loud...Art picture. The one taken to show, and shown until the pixels are ragged, but never paid for. And not a relation. Why? Or more to the point, what image was there in the mind of the photographer that influenced them? You can generally find out if you can get an honest answer to this core question:  What is your all-time favourite photograph?

You can answer that one for yourselves. Find the one that you have always loved and look to see if it is re-appearing time and time again in your images. Don't be ashamed of this - after all something has made you the way you are in every field of endeavour - even if it is just the memory of being knocked about.

Should you break free of it? CAN you break free of it? Can you do it better and make it the springboard of success - after all it is sitting there in your psyche whirring way anyway - might as well use the power.

Okay - now you know why there is an August Sander picture of the Konditormeister at the top of this blog. That's my prime image. I don't know why, but it has always made me feel good to see it. I don't really know if any of my own pictures exhibit all of the features but I can see some of it somewhere in my successful ones. I just wish that he had had the opportunity to work in colour.

Uncle Dick

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Suspending Your Disbelief With A New Strap

I used to laugh at all the people who made a collection of camera bags - until I counted how many I own. And all of them necessary, you understand. I went silent.

Then I took to laughing at the people who bought new straps for their cameras - replacing perfectly good manufacturer's straps. Then I looked in the various bags and counted the aftermarket straps...

So why? Why did I spend perfectly good drinking money on camera straps - and don't say it was just because I work in a camera shop. I can be as tight with my money as any of you. I did it because they all do something different.

Let me start with the manufacturer's contributions. Good for the most part, but comprised chiefly of nylon webbing with a hard edge and an advertising logo on the back. I can stand the advertisement but the hard edge of the webbing digs into my elegant swan-like neck something chronic. The camera end of one of them has a series of protective covers to prevent something - I find it chiefly prevents me getting the damn camera to my eye.

So I have an Op/Tec Classic padded strap to spare my neck. It suspends the heavy Nikon DSLR well enough to let me do 8 hours of bride-hunting. If I need to do an equal time with heavier artillery-  a long lens to capture the sword fighting - I use a Balck Rapid RS-4 and sling the thing off my left shoulder like a dragoon carbine.

All this is very well when utility is the go, but what do I do when there is a need for prestige and elegance - at the opening of the yacht club or the investiture at the palace? Why I just fasten the Artist and Artisan pure eco-friendly cotton strap grown on the south slope of the Cote des Straps and hand crafted by people with hands. I try to forget how much it costs, unless someone else seems to have a better one, then I tell them. It is a VERY good strap.

But I may have to change my tune. Think Tank have a new strap that is made up of cotton webbing and leather ends that feed into steel O-rings. It looks like it could be used as a lifting strap for panels on a tilt-up building site. And the webbing has a wavy pattern of soft plastic designed to grip on a slippery jacket and prevent the strap sliding free. I don't really need it, but....

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Hush Hush, Sweet Charlotte

I often look at photographs of Japan and China and contemplate visiting these countries - but I always chicken out. It is the signs in the streets, you see - they are big and bold and totally incomprehensible. I am a person so used to reading and comprehending that the leap of understanding required for travel defeats me. It is not quite the same in Europe - I can understand some French and some German and wing the rest of it. Of course I struggle in the English Midlands, but then don't we all...

This is a preamble to the point of the post - the importance of written messages in our experience. If we are used to seeing them and to interpreting them, they let us function in any setting - but they also colour our perception of the visuals. It happens in the street and it happens in the photographic club exhibition.

At this point please do not think that I am caning the clubs exclusively - it also happens in major exhibitions but to a minor the time images get to a museum wall they have been seen and corrected by a dozen busy bodies and are generally helpful, rather than the reverse.

Not so at the club level. The aspiring artist enters the July Open Monochrome Portrait With Half-Gainer And A Twist Of Lemon Section of the Projected Print  Division of the 3rd Mounted Pixellators...and gives the image a very poignant and telling title. The title expresses the basic angst of a society guilt-ridden with the Jungian/gestalt parameters. Anyone who sees it starts searching their soul.

The judge starts searching his pockets for the car keys...or a knife.

Anything you say in a title modifies the impact of the image, and unfortunately it frequently detracts from it. It steers the viewer away from the message of the image, and it may actually mislead badly. the title may refer to some cultural idea that the viewer is not familiar with - it may actually seem irrelevant or even insulting. What might have been pleasant becomes the opposite.

Likewise, anything you say about an image that you are explaining to viewers is subject more to your tongue than to your eyes. Recently I saw a very good image that was spoiled - and my opinion of the speaker reduced - by a careless coupling of a political message with the visual. Of course one always risks prodding a raw spot when sex, politics, or religion enters polite conversation and it is no different if the conversation is in a drawing-room or a lecture hall.

So...what to do. Show your picture. Present it as well as circumstance permits. If it is a place, name the place. If it is a person, or a ship or a breed of dog, state the name as such. If the image needs a time definition to be understandable - and few do - then state this.

Then stop. If you feel any need to further add to the image that you have put up on the screen stand in front of the projector and make shadow rabbits. I can do a very good flying dove to go with this.

Uncle Dick

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