Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Window Of Opportunity

Most of our best chances come quickly - and never more so than on vacation. I am currently trying to pursue a computer will 'o the wisp using a small iPad that will disappear from my grasp tomorrow...and am not at all sure that I will manage to catch it. Wish me luck.

I did have some luck, however, on a train returning from a Sydney suburb. The city circle line passes through Circular Quay station and as luck would have it, the design of the station allows you to see the wharf where the cruise ships tie up. This afternoon there was a big one in there. The sight of it is so unusual that it would have been criminal to miss it.

The train is only in the station for less than a minute...Sydney people live their lives at a setting of '9' on the dial. So I dived into the Crumpler bag and grabbed the Fuji X camera. The Fuji has a compensation dial that is right near the right thumb...a quick whiz round to give the meter a chance to cope with the bright outside and dark surround, and three clicks of the shutter. This is the best framing of them all, and really does capture the fleeting moment.

I do not think you could do this with the iPad, or a big DSLR buried inside a travelers backpack. You need the spontaneous shot, and the mirror less and compact cameras are really your best bet. Either that or sit on the train for another circuit of the city line and try again.

Note: we sell leather ever-ready cases for some Fuji cameras and some of the other brands that might have done it. Retro they might be but in some cases they really do work. The half-case is also a good idea. Admittedly you do show off the camera a bit more but it is out in battery as fast as anything. Consider the strap that you will use - some of them seem to be more suited to a Betty Page postcard than a working photographer, and some of them would be suitable for a BAR in the jungle. I opted for a light cotton strap with leather re-enforcements on the ends and it has not garrotted me yet.

And a final note from the CE spy on holiday: say thank you to the shops that put a uniform on their staff members. Some of the places I have been snooping in don't - and it can be quite an awkward thing to figure out if you are speaking to someone who works there or another visiting enthusiast. Of course if they try to sell you a memory card and a filter it is generally a pretty good clue, particularly if all you asked for is the rest room. If I drink a lot of coffee this is a valid question.

Now all I have to do is figure out what to do with 148 UV filters...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Long And Low At The Hot Rod Show

I sometimes forget just what North America was like - the tennis fans in the hotel at breakfast have reminded me of certain accents that I had as lief forgot. This morning's visit to the hot rod show in Melbourne showed me what I never saw -the amazing lengths to which the North American car designers went to make luxury cars.

Observe the Lincoln Continental. Not the longest one there for that matter but certainly the lowest Lincoln in the land. Those wheels and tires look as if they were taken off a tram, but that is a fashion in the modern kustom world. I should like to see it go over the railway lines...

 Another observation for the day was the number of can't-see-um cameras in use by the rest of the punters. Full glare and peering into an LCD screen. Folks, buy a Fuji X Series or a Canon G 16 or a Leica M! You get a free optical or electronic viewfinder in every box...You can actually see what it is you are photographing before you get it home.

I counted photographers there and compared how many were using fill flash or booster flash in the hall-roughly 2% of people with cameras that were fitted with flashes. I was pleased that they did, and I suspect they will be too.  Victoria was experiencing sunshine and they would have benefitted from the reduction in contrast obtainable by this method. One brave individual had an Olympus Trip 35 in operation and he was busy doing what they rest of us were doing but he wasn't chimping after each shot. Neither was I, I hasten to add - I have enough confidence in my Fuji X camera to know that if I am hitting below the waterline at the start the good shooting will continue. The end review confirmed this. I can say that hot rods and kustoms do help with the photos as they are either colourful or spectacular. If you can outwait the cow-like meanderings of the crowd and get a clear shot at the car you want it can be very rewarding. I found myself resorting to sending negative waves to shift them. At one point I found myself whistling " Scotland The Brave " off-key to drive one pest away. If I was writing a novel I couldn't make this stuff up...

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Chloe - Or The Power Of Advertising

I have just visited Young & Jackson's pub in the center of the center of the Australian Open tennis contest. It is amazing to see what the customers wear, though I must say nothing beats the appearance of the North American tourists here in the hotel where I am staying. If you are not quite awake when you go into the dining room, you will be when you leave, and it won't be the hotel coffee. I suppose it is just a sign of my advancing age, but I find the sight of feed caps worn backwards indoors unsettling. It might be quite alright in a shule in Nebraska, but....

Moving right along on the camera salesman's holiday, we come to visits to other shops and purchases with a credit or debit card. I do not buy things that cost pennies with mine, but I do employ it to purchase books and toy cars...and they cost considerably more than pennies. The variety of Eftpos machines is amazing, and I do not feel quite so bad about the cranky ones we use now that I have seen others in non-action. Nor am I inclined to be quite so apologetic about the Hansa computer system we labour I under, having watched other data bases explode into virtual flames and crash into the sea in front of me. Only 30% of the shops that I normally deal with have a continuity of data from one year to the next...and we do far better than that. Adam is to be complimented after all.

Another thing that stands out in the shops is the fact that the most successful ones have the most enthusiast staff. Note I did not say enthusiastic I mean that the ones where the salesperson is a geek for the goods means that the goods are better. They might not be better presented but they are better sold - someone cares about them and knows about them.

And for the curious, Chloe is naked. And has been drawing viewers into the Y&J bar for over a hundred years on that basis. I am going to present this fact at the first staff meeting when I get back. Black shirts and sensible trousers are all very well but there is an untapped market out there that very few camera stores have capitalised upon. Think of the ironing it would save...

Uncle Dick

PS: You think Perth is a small town? The shopkeeper in the toy car shop knows one of our customers!  Hey, John!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Modern life is wonderful -and nothing more wonderful about it than the ability to communicate over long distances. Your blogger is currently on holiday, leaving the rest of the staff to do the dishes and find out where the bag of prawn heads has been stashed.

It is all fun and games until someone loses an iPad. Until then I will be able to give a daily report of things photographic. Right up until the management panic and pull the plug...

As any good photographic salesman does, I visit camera shops  wherever I go. In some I find they do things differently than we do, and in others I can see exactly the same behaviour on both sides of the counter. It is a little different being the customer -and I don't think it is fair to go in just to pester them - I also like to do a little spying. They don't let me see the balance sheet or the stock order book but I can find out quite a lot just by looking at the stacks of gear in the shops. If you cannot see the back wall for Kodak camera boxes it is a sign that the business is a bit slow. If the staff cling to your legs and blubber their thanks when you buy an 8 Gig card you can confirm that.

Today I visited three incognito and found out that we are doing three things right. At least righter than they are. And I found out one thing that we can do better.

Tomorrow I will assess the toy car shops and Young and Jackson's, which apparently sells liquid refreshments of some sort. And refreshment is important.

Uncle Dick

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Just Because You Can...

Don't mean that you should.

I was put in mind of this when  looked at an advertisement on a Facebook link ( in itself a source of nervousness...) that had a man offering to instruct us in studio lighting. I did not open the link - I never do  - but I looked at the advertising image closely.

It appears that the chap has strung four speedlights out on a metal bar and bolted this to the top of a light stand, then pointed it at a paper backdrop. He has another speedlight on a light stand and one on the camera. I can't see what sort of speedlights they are but they might be Canon or Nikon. They might even be a mixed bag.

I am wondering if he intends to use the bank of four speedlights as a flood...and the others as main and fill. Or sort of a general explosion of uncontrolled light. Or he just owns shares in Duracell and wants to sell batteries...

I hasten to add that I am a firm fan of the strobist approach to field lighting - the impromptu studio that you can drag out of the boot of a hatchback - the studio that doesn't need AC mains to run. I do it all the time - but I don't do it with four speedlights perched on the top of a telephone pole. One main, one firing into a softbox, and one if I am feeling fancy for a hair light. 12 lithium batteries - 600 shots for $ 60.

I have a feeling that the chap in the video is sitting on $ 120 of little AA's and $ 3000 of speedlights as well as three light stands.. He could have put less money into an Elinchrom D-lite monolight kit and  a Jinbei portable battery and simplified matters greatly.

Perhaps he has a secret recipe of 11 different herbs and spices  that need the speedlights...and good on him if he needs to buy more speedlights. We SELL speedlights. But remember there are other ways to do the job.

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Doing The Stock Order - Strap Me Up

We're doing the order today for Op/Tec, which makes me happy. The firm makes straps, pouches, containers, and all sorts of little storage ideas for cameras and lenses. They are prolific and imaginative, and the products are excellent.

I can say that because several of my cameras hang off or nestle in their products, and I will probably equip all my stuff with Op/Tec eventually. I am starting to value lightness in carriage more as I get older and Op/Tec lets me protect the gear but pare down the weight.

I can particularly recommend several things:

1. Straps with loop connectors.

 Most of the cameras that we carried in the 60's and 70's had D or triangle rings hanging from metal posts at the sides of the bodies - many of today's cameras follow suit. These in turn captured heavy leather or nylon straps with belt loos and buckles to allow for adjustment. In some cases we had the equivalent of a rifle sling on either end of the camera...which regularly scratched either the camera body or our hands and faces as we used the camera. The cameras brassed and we bled.

Op/Tec make some of their straps and connectors with loop ends - see the image - and these can suspend heavy bodies while getting out of the way of our hands and faces during fast shooting. They are ever so much more comfortable than the bulky rigs.

2. Hood Hats.

Neoprene cups that pop over your lens or lens hood. I keep them on Nikon 35mm and 50mm lenses because they have round lens hoods. They protect the lens as it scootches around inside the camera bag - they also protect it as I stroll around in a crowd. Much better than a lens cap.

The order goes off this week and we'll keep you in touch with when the goods arrive.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

We Reveal The Latest Rumourflex CAmera

Our sister site, DP Wazoo, has just shown a pre-advertising artist's concept sketch of the new Rumourflex shutterless camera. The now R 43.8P MkIII is still shrouded in mystery but we were shown the outside of the box. There was very little light reflected from the surfaces of the cardboard packaging but what little there was leads us to positively confirm that the camera will have a full-frame sensor and an onboard processor that is capable of resolving 24 simultaneous RAW images, or not, as the case may be. This is accomplished by doing it in parallel instead of series. - the most practical consequence is that the images will be fed into 24 separate SD cards. The electrical power for this is derived from 6 Li ion batteries housed in the shoulder stock and fore-end grip of the camera as well as in the shooter's pockets. Different cable lengths are available for short and tall photographers.

The business of rumour photography is one of the growth sectors of the industry. Not only can the manufacturers use it to engage buyers and prevent them spending their camera money on other brands, they can frequently prevent them from spending it on food or shelter. We have often sold new equipment to shivering half-starved enthusiasts and in some cases we have felt bad about it. Not so bad that we have didn't take the money, but.

I think that the manufacturers are missing a bet - the motor car makers like to send their next lemon out to the race track swathed in fake body panels and canvas and NEVER tell the motor photo journalists that they are going to do it, nudge, nudge, wink, wink know what I mean...The camera people could do the same, and we could have packs of howling snaparazzi chasing the test shooter down Hay Street Mall. You can't pay for publicity like that.

I am prepared to do my part. I seen it. It wuz great. If you get it you will be the coolest person you know. Pre order it and you will be 50% cooler than that. And remember that you can set an alarm app on your mobile phone to go off like a destroyer siren the moment the Rumourflex company publishes out their next press statement - or stays late at the office and sends out for pizza. Don't be left out!

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Take The Wide View, Comrade

Whether your photographic dreams lie on the steppes of the Ukraine or the steps of Odessa, you will welcome this chance to own a part of Soviet photographic history. The FT-2 is one of the most ingenious things to come out of Russia that doesn't explode.

It is a metal-bodied 35mm panoramic camera that operates on strict socialist principles. ie. it works, but only after you study the propaganda for an hour and even then you are never sure if someone is looking over your shoulder. Occasionally users will disappear and none of the neighbours can say where they have gone. It has a red spirit level, and if that isn't Soviet, I don't know what is. I presume that is water in there - if it was actual spirits they would have drained it by now...

Okay, seriously, this takes 35mm film into its own especial cassettes - of which there is one on board - so you will need ebay up another one before you attempt to load it in a darkroom. Once it is fueled*, you close the front latches and start to wind on with the knob - watching the counter at the right side as it revolves. Quite what the mathematics of this are I do not know so practice with a dud film will be needed.

The two semaphore levers on the top control the three shutter speeds. It is a revolving lens with a fixed f:5 aperture so you calculate your exposure by looking at the light and following Party instructions. The level is fantastic - big and red. I am surprised it is not star-shaped. I would have done it that way...

Does it work? Presumably so - with the sort of reliability of a sickle or a hammer. Nothing much to go wrong with it.

Call in and embrace the New Era of Panoramas.

* Fuelling Soviet machinery can be exciting. Google up Nedelin and see what I mean...

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Don't You Never let A Chance Go By

Was that John Williams and the Newcastle Song? Or Arlo Guthrie? Whatever, it is a good motto for the active photographer. Whether it is a chance to cover the landing of the Hindenburg at Mandurah ( " Oh, the Boganity...") or invent a totally new image genre that will make you millions*, you need to seize upon everything. This also includes seizing on all the extra things that come in the package, whatever the equipment.

Once you have the hoard you need somewhere to store it - quite apart from the linen press that is full of photographic equipment boxes that you are keeping until you trade the cameras and lenses back in. Yes, I know. Keep the sheets and pillow cases in the shed.

Here is our answer to the little bits that we use to solve the stranger problems of the trade - the ubiquitous* plastic box. Howard's World or Bunnings or Woolworth's are the deal - IKEA probably has them but when you go there you end up coming back with wooden toys and hot dogs as well.

All joking aside - if you have a spare bit from your camera outfit or some weird casting that Novoflex made in 1961, keep it. You can never tell when it can be combined with something else to do what you need. Store it in the tray and sit down and think whenever some problem occurs. If nothing else, you can at least make a new problem out of the old bits...

*Until you find out that it was done in 1923 and it was Reichsmarks...

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Rude, Crude, and Successful

Thinking outside the square is generally lauded as progressive and intellectual. Standing outside the square gets you ridden down by French cavalry. Trust me on this*.

But thinking cheap is the best thing of all, particularly if you have to spend a great deal of money here at the shop to arrive at the most economical idea. I did and I have.

To get to the best cheap solution for a problem you have to consult the Oracle of Google. You sit in a darkened room and try to think of enough key words to send you to a website that will have done your thinking for you - in reality it just dumps you onto YouTube and you watch cats fall into bathtubs.

I adopted the policy of buying whatever looked cool as soon as it came in the shop, which accounts for the 54 camera bags that currently live in the shed. This shop is not the only culprit - the Crumpler man down in Wesley Arcade has much to answer for. In the end I have found out the best 4 bags for my several purposes and as long as I do not pass the bag shelves again when I have low blood sugar I should be okay.

This weekend's experiment involved a $ 14.95 Promaster plastic bubble level that slides into a hot shoe and a sticky label from a roll that I bought at Officeworks. This, combined with the Manfrotto carbon-fibre monopod that I got from our shop and my little Fuji camera let me take panoramas in Mandurah.

Why Mandurah? Why indeed...nevertheless, the setup makes use of the fact that Photoshop Elements has a wonderful little panorama maker. You supply it with files that are taken flat and level with a reasonable overlap, and it will stitch up a great scene. I'[ve decided that I only want landscape orientation and two panels so the trick is to get flat and level. The monopod supplies the axle upon which the camera turns and  the bubble level keeps it vertical. The only other problem is the overlap.

I used the back screen and the grid overlay to position a central object either 1/4 from the left or 1/4 from the right side. I drew in pencil on the paper label on top of the camera toward that central object in each case. Thus all I need to do is sight along the pencil lines left or right and take two snaps - perfect files for the computer.

Okay. This ain't Lawrence Livermore stuff, but it means I can get pano shots in the field with no tripod and an absolute minimum of preparation. I will have to set the distance and exposure manually for the shots - if you let the camera make its own decision it can make a different one for each view and the computer will be unhappy. But this means I can capture ALL of the Lincoln Continental at the car show instead of just the front half.

*Poking the Frenchman's horse in the nose with a bayonet solves that problem. Trust me on this.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Get An If

Ifs are awesome. You can do anything with an if. You can persuade people to buy cameras, give you their lunch, stay away from your borders, or clean the inside of the car.

You can also use them to prevent other people from eating their lunch, to gain commercial advantage, and to hide the fact that you don't have enough money.

On the technical side, ifs allow the macro photographer to link together aperture, focal length, and distance to the subject to arrive at not enough depth of field. And the wonderful thing is that it really doesn't matter what values you set for any of the criteria, you still arrive at not enough depth of field. It is like doing roundabouts in Manchester - no matter where you go, they always go the same place.

Ifs are also useful in the artistic side of photography. If you make it dark and moody you can win club competitions and if you make it bright and over-saturated you can sell it to the junk mail catalogue printers and if you cannot focus you can bokeh.

Commercially, if you set your photography prices high they will come, but grumble about paying, and if you set them higher they will come in smaller numbers and grumble louder - but if you set your prices at the absolutely astronomical unbelievable level they will come and tell you how great your product is. They won't pay, but you'll feel good.

You see it all depends on where you put your ifs. Start your speech with the if and people will not hear it - they will only hear what they want to, but they will be pleased to think of it. If you drop the if in the middle of the business you disappoint their hopes and they resent it. The concept that you are trying to get to them may be exactly the same but their perception of it is different.

And you can always resort to sad puppy eyes and the phrase "If Only..."

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A Big Thank You From....

Saul and Howard would like to thank some people for their advice, assistance, endeavour, and artistry in the recent refurbishment of the front of the shop. They would also like to thank the staff for not mutinying and running amok*.

The front of the shop has changed in recent times - Leica has added a very elegant black and red boutique shop with a large wall cabinet and two rather sophisticated island display tables. Their products have never looked better in our shop, and we anticipate increased interest amongst Leica enthusiasts. The sport optics even have their own dedicated cabinet

Nikon Australia has taken the spot that used to hold some of our pre-owned equipment and have transformed it to a bright yellow and black display that showcases their FX and DX cameras and lenses. Not to be outdone, they too have provided a free-standing table cabinet with an electronic display to help us keep track of the different equipment specifications. We can now have space for their 1 system camera and their binoculars, so it is all good.

What about a bit of red or black and silver in the shop? Are Canon and Fuji to do anything special? Patience, will be wonderful.

And there is also a big thank you to the clients who have visited throughout the year and who have been so patient with the change in computer system. It has been a big task, and unfortunately will need more fine tuning, but will provide better service in the future.

That's what we want - we love photography, and we want this to really be the best photography store in Australia. Thank you for letting us go forward to this.

* Early days...amok is still an option.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

You Push The Little Bit Down - With Fuji

The image goes round and round.
Whoa - ohoh - ohoh,
And it comes out here...

Almost seems like that when you look at the retro styling of the new Fuji Instax Mini 90 - it is the camera that they call the Neo Classic.

Okay, It has got a secret - it is an instant print film camera much in the vein of the Polaroid  small cameras. Fuji make a film that is remaniscent of the small card-size Polaroid but since it uses Fuji chemistry the colours are a lot more vibrant and attractive. This is not ink printing or thermal dodgery - this is real instant miracle chemical processing. The stuff Edwin land did but with wasabi and a little pickled radish*.

The camera is black and silver with a finish that makes earlier offerings look like plastic toys. There is a powerful electronic flash fitted above the side of the lens. As the camera uses an electric motor to squeeze the film for development, this means that it needs a real battery inside. There is a Fuji NP45A lithium ion battery supplied and a mains charger to keep it topped up - how's about that for blended technology.

The film is Instax Mini - 10 shots per pack in a credit card size. As I mentioned the colour is good - in the film days a lot of us used the Fuji Fp 100C colour packs in our Hasselblads for proofing before shoots and we found it was far more accurate than the Polaroid equivalent.

This would make a great gift for a teenager - coolest kid on the block.

* Betcha can't take picture.

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Birds Do it - Bees Do It. Leica Fans In The Trees Do It...

 Let's do it. Let's go into the toilet and take a selfie and send it to Leica and they will put it into a book. A book of other selves...

Okay, that was surreal*.

Leica have made a rather charming picture book of selfies taken by their customers - so while the people's faces and situations change, there is always a Leica camera in the picture. And all the red dots read "acieL".

The funny part is so many people are so very serious in these pictures. There are some charming smiles, a naked boob, and a bloody nose. An Indian chief  and a grim Swiss. Finns. I suspect there are Finns in there.

We have two copies of the book for sale - $ 39.95 each. It would make a good addition for any Leica enthusiast. Or, for that matter a professional reference library. Right next to the Kraft -Ebbing...

* "I'm ready for my close-up now, Mr. De Mille."


Fustest With The Leastest

General Bedford Forrest was nearly right - he used to give his formula for success on a battlefield as " Git thar the fustest with the mostest .". He frequently did, though the logistics eventually defeated him.

In the case of a the wise traveller, it is still good to get thar fustest, but if you try to take the mostest you find that your back and legs give out. The images we take may be as insubstantial as thistledown, but the damn cameras, bags, lenses, tripods, and accessories are not. The fully equipped enthusiast who lurches from the hotel on Day One at 9:00 loaded down like one of Sullivan's mules will eventually be brought back at 4:00 by either a taxi or ambulance attendants. Day Two of the venture will be harder still, and Day Three will see them sitting in the hotel bar developing a case of the regrets.

Look at the Cullmann Freestyler in the picture. An extendable pole with a small ball and socket head at the end, and attachemnt for either a flash or a camera. It makes a good handle to put the camera or flash up above the crowd. Or round a convenient corner. It makes a tabletop monopod. Depending on how you orientate the stick you can take selfies in either landscape or portrait mode. It has a 1/4 threaded socket on the bottom of the stick and you can attach it to the top of a tripod to make a light stand. It may be possible to use it at a Girl Guide campfire to toast marshmallows...

Remember every 10 grammes of weight that you save as you leave the hotel becomes a kilo when you return. And 5 Kg the next day....

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Ah, So...

Someone has left us a puzzle camera - see the heading image and the follow-ups. It is a Yashica  film camera that looks like a video but isn't. I takes film that is still made - 35mm cassette

Aside: Owners of  APS, 828, 126, 110, disc, 220, 116, and 616 cameras may wish to apply to this office for the address of the film format team at Kodak. We are heating the kettle of tar and can sell them sacks of feathers. Party time...

This Yashica is pretty advanced for the time. Auto focusing. Two-button zoom control. Inbuilt flash. Date and time imprinting on film. Side handle to suspend it from. The only thing missing is somewhere to put the batteries.

Try as we might, none of us could make anything open anywhere to take batteries. As there is no film advance lever, the whole thing is, is, is....frustrating.

Thank goodness for Google. Mystery solved - you take the dead camera to your photo dealer and his technician removes the side plate with  tiny Phillips-head screwdriver and inserts a new flat button lithium battery. It is not left for you to do, because you might do it wrong...

Yashica Samurai - the legendary camera of the feudal warrior. Who doesn't own a screwdriver.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Stop The Clothesline

We've had a couple of blog posts in the past touting Tether Tools computer trays and cords for studio and field work. They have recently sent us pre-packed essentials kits for this purpose. What starts out as an aesthetic choice ends up being a Occupational Health and Safety matter.

The kit contains a gloriously orange USB cord that goes between your camera and your computer. There is a jerkstopper clip on either end to make sure that neither you nor any part of the connected gear part company unexpectedly in the dark.

To help you find the keys on the laptop keyboard in the dark, there is also a small LED lamp on a metal gooseneck that plugs in to a USB port. It works - I just plugged it into this laptop and I can see the keys as clear as day. Actually, it IS day, but let's not get fussy.

The real life saver is that orange cord. Studios are dark in the back and light in the front and strung with hazards. One day I will be found crushed under a light stand after pulling it over on myself with the black power cord that I could not see. It will be a fitting end - Elinchrom fitting, actually.

But if I have yellow power cords and this orange USB cable strung out in the dark I may be able to avoid the fate. You might wish to join me and live...I'll be back...

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Two Panel Or Three Panel?

Planning ahead for my holidays, I have decided to review the capabilities of my imaging system* to deliver panoramic pictures. That sounds very grand, but it really means I am going to see if I can't do the most with the least - least weight, least cost, least fuss.

I plan to reserve my serious cultural and intellectual efforts for toy stores, book stores, and pubs. If the Jack Stanbridge's put in a used book section, a couch, and a keg I would never leave the town...

Be that as it may I experimented this morning with the Fuji X camera perched on top of a monopod. The places I go to have other tourists swirling about and a tripod would be a distinct hazard - and the extra weight and volume of one would cut down on the capacity of my luggage to bring back toy cars and books. The monopod is a carbon fibre one, fits into my folded photo bag, and with a Novoflex panorama plate on top makes a handy war hammer for late night explorations.

The panorama plate is normally seen on a tripod - you get the bubble level centered and then spin the camera around the vertical axis and get good horizons on your image. I figured that I could HOLD it vertical and then spin it for 2 or three shots. Out on the lawn this morning to experiment...

Yes. it works. I let the camera set its own exposure, though on other occasions I would use manual - there are some scenes that change light value widely and you really need to set a good compromise and then run all the panels with it. The Fuji puts out a good image on the rear screen and writes its RAF files fast enough to let me do three panels.

The files go into the Photoshop Elements program in the computer - it has a very easy-to-use panorama maker that allows a number of different perspectives on the scene. You can get a flat horizon with essentially flat images or they can curve up at the ends in several ways. I have been experimenting with it but have not decided which I prefer.

One good setting in there removes most of the vignetting that might occur around the edges of the panels - in a single photograph it might be quite attractive, but in multiple panels it is disturbing. Of course it adds a little time to the assembly of the images, but it is automatic and you can drink coffee while it works.

Purists will squawk at the imprecision of the monopod vs the tripod - at the simplicity of the PSE10 program - and at the modest nature of the result. But if I see a good panorama I can capture it in a minute and I won't have to haul 10Kg of gear to do it. I can leave my nodal points and virtual reality at home in the cupboard and leave space in the camera bag for a chocolate bar. And a hot rod magazine.

Ya gotta get yer priorities right...

* I used to own a camera and photo album. Now it is an imaging system.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Rare Edition Visits Australia

We are accustomed to seeing items offered from major manufacturers with the " Limited Edition" label, but we rarely get them quite as limited or quite as attractive as this one. It is a Limited Edition Ricoh GR camera outfit.

How limited? Only five thousand made and sent out worldwide. How many to Australia? Twelve. How many on offer from Camera Electronic here in Perth? Three.

It is a kit of the Ricoh GR digital camera and the accessories to make it work with elegance:

1. Dedicated lens barrel protector and lens hood GH-3 in black crackle finish.
2. Soft leather case GC - 5 in exclusive colour.
3. Soft leather strap GS - 3 in matching colour.
4. Ricoh GR camera in blue mist hammertone finish with marble finish grip panel.
5. All the cables, battery and charger you need to operate it on a PC.

The finish is reminiscent of fine jewellery - a sort of blue-green hammertone surface treatment that matches well with the grey marbled hand grip. Buttons are in silver - a most attractive combination.

The hood seems to loom out in the photo - I assure you that this is the effect of me using a short focal length setting to take the picture - it is actually well-balanced. The effect of using it will be to make sure that no glare washes out your pictures. It also provides a haven of protection for the lens of the camera when it is in the open position.

The cameras are stylish - no doubt about that - and rare. Only three available from us here in Perth out of the twelve sent to Australia. The price reflects the rarity:

Complete Limited Edition GR Kit............$ 1199

If you would like to get one of the regular black Ricoh GR cakmeras to go along with your new Limited Edition, we can sell you one at $649 - that's a bargain as the RRP of the regular black Ricoh GR is $ 849.

One thing is certain - all your photographic friends will envy you the camera performance and all your fashionable friends will envy you the styling!

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How Do You Go Bust Baking Bread ?

I watched the rise of the franchise boutique bakery here in Perth - the Brumby's and Baker's Delight and such - and applauded it all the way. At least I applauded with the hand that wasn't holding the jam doughnut. They have achieved a success that is richly deserved - because they make a good product that everybody likes and uses. No-one ever complains about jam doughnuts. Jam doughnuts are a standard of the industry.

I would have thought that the Ilford company was in much the same position as the bakeries - and I am speaking about the division of their firm that manufactures paper for inkjet printing. Dance how you wish, their Galerie Smooth Pearl and Smooth Gloss have been the standard of the industry for as long as I have been inkjetting. One thought of them as classic cash cows, wandering through the paper paddocks and yielding profit for the company whenever they were milked...

Such would appear not to be the case. the paper division of Ilford has gone bust. They are casting about in Switzerland looking for a buyer or some other solution to the financial crisis. Out here in the boonies we are gathering all the supplies of the classic papers that we can to ensure that our clients can continue to print. We also hope for a buyer solution, but of course we will also be looking at other brands.

I wonder if they have the same accountant as Eastman Kodak? Or the South Sea Bubble...

Uncle Dick

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The Low Priced Spread - Surprisingly Nutritious

Every so often something pops up here in the shop that surprises me. That's why we keep a big can of Mortein handy...boom boom...

No, really - we get products that do not attract the attention they deserve. One of which is this unassuming little travel tripod from Weifeng  - the WF 6615. The numbering tells me that it s probably made by the same people who make Fancier and we have had some good tripods from them in the past.

The older ones were extremely good value for money, but heavy. This latest offering goes the other way - it is a travel tripod that tries to give the most stability for smallest size and weight. I think it succeeds admirably.

Cynics and smart-alecs will look at a lot of products and mumble the names of their competitors and try to suggest that they are a knock-off. Perhaps, but when you consider the price, they are not rip-offs. This little tripod walks out of the door ( on three legs...) for a measly $ 149.

The quick release plate on the top is Arca-size so you can interchange it onto a lot of other gear . Gone, I fervently pray, are the days of Optex and Vanguard and Uncle Fred's Tripod and Bait Shoppe brand tripods that had their own mutually incompatible plates. We regularly see sad hopefuls trolling the streets for old unmatchable plates and it means trouble. Weifeng at least decided to copy the one of the main players.

There is a securing post on the underside of the quick release holder as well as a green bubble level that are a touch that might well be copied by other manufacturers - they are actually useful. The whole thing even comes in a bag for that price.

Jason says Weifeng is a first name, so maybe that's who makes them...Uncle Weifeng.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Just Shoot Me Now

I want to make a book. I shall start it out by saying it was the best of times, and the worst of times...

No. seriously - I want to make a book of my studio photographs. I have some dynamite ones there and I want to make sure that everyone else thinks so too - but I'm not a photojournalist. I'm not a graphic designer. I'm not a publisher. I need help.

Help is at hand - the Shoot Photography Workshops are going to have Mr. Morsi - a real photo journalist - conduct a photo book workshop on February 6th. That's a Thursday from 10:00 in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon.

Not a great amount of time to commit to, but I think it will be worthwhile. Professional design can make all the difference to the success of image books. The pictures can be wonderful but the size, shape, and setting can make all the difference when the viewer opens the book - some books stay open for a long time and some are closed up very quickly!

Please go to the Shoot Photography Workshops website at:

Or give Jonathon Cousins a buzz on  (08) 9228 8232 and ask about booking in for the workshop. He's got more on the list as well - all well worth consideration.

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Shake It Up, Baby

A client last week asked a question about the use-by dates on the inkjet inks cartridges - how come they were there and how much notice should he take of them. As I use Epson printers myself, I could give him an off-the cuff answer. I was wearing a short sleeve shirt at the time.

The inks do age and might make for less-than-perfect printing if they are well beyond the date. Whether it would be particulation or evaporation I cannot say - I just would not use one well past the date.

Remember to shake it up, Baby, when you put a fresh cartridge into the machine.

I would also make sure that some little amount of printing was done each week - even just an A4 sheet of a multicoloured test shot would exercise the machinery and ensure that the ink flow though the heads was normal. Each Epson machine has provision on-board to do ink flow analysis and head cleaning and some of the bigger ones can do a very vigorous cleaning indeed. But it uses up ink and the maintenance tank capacity if you are doing it a lot - better to just print each week and keep the problem at bay.

If you are in the habit of stocking up big be sure to look at the dates on the boxes at home and use up the oldest first.

Oh, and paper. Far as I can see paper doesn't expire but if you store it badly you can get some odd results later on. Keep the flat sheets flat and they will stay...flat.

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Barn Doors

The iconic picture that says Hollywood - Marilyn Monroe standing on an air vent...No, no, no - enough of that. Expunge that thought*. I mean the iconic picture of a Klieg light on a stand with barn doors open on the front of it.

Those elephant-ear flaps at the side of the light are duplicated in nearly every lighting manufacturer's catalog, whether it is studio flash like Elinchrom or Profoto or strobist  gear from the little Chinese shops. The method of attachment is different in every case but the basic form is the same - four plates that fold into themselves set round about the light. They are different sizes and materials but they all have one thing in common - they are too small.

Shock. Horror. Manufacturer's representatives reel back aghast. Someone has discovered the truth. Dive for the foxholes...

I use Elinchrom lights in my studio and have a set of barn doors for the 21 cm reflectors. They are well-built and double as gel holders, but they do not restrict the light enough to make themselves useful. The flash tube ring is big enough that it always looks past the door flaps as soon as they are opened even a peep.

Don't accuse Elinchrom - the other people's offerings are no better. There is always some place that the light leaks out on all the barn doors.

You see, what we didn't really see when we looked at the classic Hollywood doors is the fact that they are sitting on big - focussed - lights and the doors are really massive. And the film crews supplement them with flag flats and drapes and all sorts of other light restrictions. In the end I decided to follow them.

I went to a firm that makes display banners. They sold big sheets of Foam-Core board in flat black, about 3.5 feet by 5.5 feet. I used gaffer tape to join three of these together on the long edges and the whole flat can then stand by its own effort like a dressing screen.

When I need to restrict light, once the barn doors are in place, I prop the flag flat up around the light stand and I can direct a blast of light very accurately. Actually, I have two of these flag flats and they are essential to dramatic lighting. Like most of the best studio gear, they are home-made.

And there is no sense locking the barn doors when the light has flown...

* Haven't expunged it, have you...?

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Cutting Red And Green Tape - A Modest Proposal

This is apparently going to be the new buzz-phrase for the year, and I welcome it. The old buzz phrase* was far too complicated to implement and you had to fill out a form to even get it. This was ultimately counter-productive as a lot of people rebelled and used precise, intelligent english instead of the buzz-phrase. It played hell with 5-second sound bytes on the evening news...

Here in the photo trade ( trade as in " I'll trade you this old D40 for a new D4s and you give me $ 100 back and a free six-pack of Stella..." ) we have any number of red and green ribbons strung across our lives. Quite apart from a computer accountancy system that was invented by the Marquis De Sade when he had a toothache, the various registrations and websites and downloads and passwords that are necessary to access some of the special offers are an absolute pain.

This can also apply to the registration of new equipment and software - the instructions on my copy of an add-on computer program were so ambiguously worded that in the end I took it off my computer and binned it - I was afraid that if I did all steps they required I would have ended up launching something from a missile field in Nebraska.

Even better are the websites where the manufacturer wants to tell you something but has gone all coy and shy and puts it under an electronic rock in the garden. Poke the right bit of the page and something pops up, but miss it by a millimetre and you'll never know.

To assist this new resolve on the part of the government to streamline things we are going to institute a policy of compelling our customers to empty their pockets into a tray at the door. Their wallets will be X-rayed and tested for suspicious substances. Like money. You'll know when we have some when you hear the floor manager call out " Woo Hoo!".

Uncle Dick

* " Implement the resolution of the Third Party Congress in concentrating the interest of the photographic masses to the new technology of wireless agitation and propaganda."

Friday, January 10, 2014

X Spots The Mark - Leica Treasure Trove

Anyone who has an X-series Leica camera - that is the X-1, the X-2, or the X-Vario - has an opportunity during this and next month to participate in a unique contest. And there are some unique prizes.

The Leica people are celebrating a 100-year anniversary and a great deal of their operation is moving back to their traditional location -Wetzlar in Germany. To celebrate this they will be having a big opening of  the industrial complex called Leitz Park in that city in May 2014.

The exciting part for Leica X-camera users is that Leica have a contest going right now for images taken by these fine cameras. It is conducted through the LFI website - that stands for Leica Fotographie International - and it is open through the web to all users. There are a number of divisions and they are awarding prizes to runners-up as well as overall winners.

The BIG prizes will be for the best two - airfares and accommodation and an invitation to be present at the opening of Leitz Park in May. Runners-up will get X Accessories and LFI subscriptions, so however you look at it there is a good incentive to enter.

Please google and go to the LFI website to see all the rules - note that you do need to use a Leica X-series camera and they will need to see the Exif data to prove it - so it is no good posting them tintypes in a frame and hoping for the best...

The last date for entry into the contest is February 28th 2014 so get cracking now if you need to make pictures - or go through your best ones to see what gems you already have. It's going to be a big year for Leica and you can be part of it.

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Gettin' Yer Mojo Back

I assume by now you have all seen Mike Myers as Austin Powers and know the mojo jokes. Note - that is Mike Myers, not Michael Moore. Moore has an entirely different brand of mojo and I do not recommend it.

Photographic mojo is the power that drives you. The thing that inspires you and which you then take to new heights. Your medicine. You can get it, you can misplace it, you can lose it forever. You can borrow or steal it from someone else. You cannot buy it, but you can rent it. 

If you lose your mojo in business - ie. you run out of patience and patients at the same time, say - you can sell up and go get a job in the photo trade. And as soon as you find that you
can take successful pictures and sell cameras and write advertisements, your mojo comes back. Indeed the sight of an unoccupied computer keyboard acts as a powerful drug...

If you run out of ideas for photographs you can buy magazines or books. This is either wonderful or horrible because you run the danger of being drawn to merely repeat what you have seen. HDR pictures of gnarled Chinese babies smoking  on a beach with misty water under a ghost gum next to a cattle skull is the classic example. Granted, you may be able to take off successive prizes in camera club competitions with this but eventually the ninja hired by the Council Of Good Taste will find you and then it is all over.

If you cannot bring yourself to face people start taking pictures behind their backs.

If you cannot sell your pictures, give them away to homeless people. If the homeless people refuse to take them, send them in to Better Digital Picture magazine. If the homeless people give you THEIR pictures, take them and sell them. Mojo.

If your equipment seems outmoded and difficult to use, come in and see us at Camera Electronic. We can sell you brand new equipment that is difficult to use. Your pictures will not improve but your mates at the noodle restaurant will be impressed. Should you finally figure out how to make it work, come back to us and show us how.  We're not proud - we'll accept help from anyone.

A final note about lost mojo: lift up all the old newspapers round the house - frequently people put their mojo down and then put something on top of it and go frantic trying to find it. It might be dried out and smelly when you find it but you can use it until you can afford to buy new supplies.

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