Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Cross-Eyed Shuffle And The Body Slide

No, it is not the horrors of the dance floor. You can do what you wish at the disco without my let or hindrance.

I refers to weekend experiments with stereo shots using the Fujifilm X-E2 camera. They are on-going , so you'll need to follow them on the wordpress site:

The preliminary trial involved seeing whether a Cullmann Concept One tripod quick release plate - the medium ones - could be used as a stereo slide. It did work when sliding in a Cullmann Concept One head but not quite enough for normal interpupilary distance of 66 mm. You could get a bare 50mm for the medium plate. This, of course, was more than enough for macro stereo.

The answer will be the 200mm Cullman Concept One OCX388 plate - this will leave more than enough slide for regular work and can be extended for hyper stereo trials.

You need still subjects for two-shot stereo - the garden plants were cooperative. It was easy to shoot left then right with a slide between them and the exposures on the Fujifilm X-E2 are the same every time.

Opening the files in Adobe Photoshop Elements is easy, but it took an hour of experimentation to find out the optimum size for the images themselves when they were butted against themselves and presented on a computer screen. The heading image shows a sort ofd fake stereo card effect but when opened in PE, I can do a free-view and get a clear stereo window in the middle.

It is tiring to do free-viewing for a long time so the next experiments will be on how to adapt modern commercially-made items like the Hoodman Hoodloupe 3.2 to viewing a computer or iPad screen. Even the big mobile phones may be a vehicle for displaying the stereo shots if this idea works.

One thing missing - I wish I had access to Edmund Scientific Supplies - they were the treasure trove for experimenters in my youth. I coveted a set of vernier rockets from them but could never afford them...

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How To Hold Your iPad WHen Your Hands Are Busy

We've been looking at an intriguing new item from Manfrotto for the digitally delighted - those photographers who are so connected that they have App dreams instead of nightmares.

It's a cradle for an iPad that allows all the things that the camera you are using at the time to appear on the pad - but without making it hard to do. Tethering, if you will, for dummies. It is going to need one of the later generation of DSLR or mirror-less cameras to work but the facility it will give for the shooter is magic.

Shooting a composition that someone else has to okay before you press the button? Let them see the iPad image as you compose and focus. It won't make art directors any better but it might make them quieter.

Need to see the framing for your own shot? For a video you are recording? Attach the Digital Director to a bracket on your tripod and swivel it around until you are taking a high-quality selfie. No duck faces, now...

Just sick of squinting down a viewfinder or trying to see an LCD screen in dappled light? Use the Digital Director and shield the iPad at a convenient angle.

More on the device when we get to play with it.

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" How Did You Spend Your Weekend? "

" Recreating the St. Valentine's Day Massacre."

"...Well I just asked a sensible question! There's no need to give that sort of answer! "

" No, no, really. Come back. Don't go away mad. I'm telling the absolute truth..."

I had done a publicity shoot for a group of dancers a couple of weeks ago in a rather bare dance studio. Simple stuff, with a pretty bare backdrop and basic umbrella lighting. Really only record shots of their costuming - it was a practice session for a big show that saw them dressed as 1920's flappers. At the end of the evening I had them line up against the white wall and pretend to be terrified.

Note: dancers are good value as far as subjects go. They know how to pose and by the time they get to the stage-ready stage they have lost a lot of inhibitions. You can get theatre out of them with a cup of coffee and a strong light...

Into the studio - a flat bare tabletop with a dirty green cloth on it. Strong even light on a paper backdrop bouncing back into the camera. Two 1:18 car models - a Model A Ford and a Model B Ford. Posed them on either side of the frame in semi-silhouette and shot off a series of images.

Back in the dimroom, extracted the sillhouettes and layered them up. Extracted the dancers from the best image and layered that up - that was the longest part of the job. Photoshop Elements made it reasonably easy as I used about 4 different tools in various areas of the image.

I needed a dirty brick wall behind the girls and fortunately I had a disc of just such on file. The tiling and copying facility of Photoshop Elements was used to extend the wall wide enough to cover the entire frame. In retrospect I should have added some bullet holes but as the whole image is still in a psd form I can revise it later.

Making the splash of light from the car headlamps was simple - one bright layer of brick under one dark layer of brick and then erase part of the top with a fuzzy round eraser.

Making the reflected shadow from the dancers was also simple. Duplicated their layer, selected them, blacked them out, flipped that image vertically, spread it at their feet with perspective distortion, applied some gaussian blur, and reduced the opacity of the layer to match the shadows that the toy model cars were casting. If it sounds tough it wasn't

Blending all the layers was the trick - and the trick I used was to go round the edges of each image on a layer with the small blur tool set to 10 px and 50%. Just smoothed them enough.

Final touch was a suitable text underneath. Photoshop has a lot of fonts but there are far more out there in graphic design books. I got a one in Melbourne in January called " Retro Fonts" that has a CD in the back containing a vast number of authentic styles from all modern eras. You just select one, open it in the HD and assign it to Photoshop Elements and away you go. I picked Empire Deco as being exactly right for the period.

Fun? Darned right it was fun. And it made a good title image for the entire job. Two shots and a morning of computer work. Murder in Chicago was never this easy...or maybe it was...

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The Power Of The Fad - Visual Conformity Or Enlightened Art?

Anyone who has a large collection of photo books and magazines can look at the images reproduced in them and trace the rise and fall of fads in the art. We are assuming that the work we see has been fairly submitted and presented and that we are not seeing the effects of a conspiracy or dogma or commercial ramp. We credit the bulk of the publications with presenting a genuine body of work.

Maybe we shouldn't. Let's face it - SIGNAL magazine had their own standards, agenda, and look - but who wants to base a quality judgement on them...?

Well, anyway, fads come and fads go. The fact that they come is not the defining thing about them - the fact that they go is. We can read the books and trace the rise of the Serious Man Portrait, The New Woman Glamour Portrait, The 1937 Ford Truck Rusting In A Paddock Photo and ever so may others from the 20's, 30's, 40's, and 50's. Many photographers copying a style - indeed copying an idea - based upon the equipment available and the publicity given to it.

Open today's photo book. The Pebbly Yorkshire Beach In HDR, the Skateboarder In Front Of The Graffiti, and the Big Stopper Waterfall should all be there, with the occasional retro image like The Aged Chinese Person Smoking. I must not forget the Timelapse Starscape.

What we really need to do if we are going to make money or club awards in the future is predict the next fad. One person has said it will be The 360º Virtual Room and another has said it will be The Drone Shot. Time will tell, presumably, and if someone throws a new spanner into the works - like a new sensor or a new lens - there will be a fertile period of copying going on. It is even possible that someone will make a new picture with old gear and it will fire the public desire for emulation. I have long admired the kindly and gentle portrait that Arnold Newman did of Alfried Krupp and have tried to emulate it for bridal portraits. One day I will succeed.

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Lady Of Spain

It's an old photographic joke - the collapsible bottles look like concertinas. No end of darkroom workers have squeezed them while dancing around in the dark whistling Lady Of Spain.  Their wives and children wince but there is nothing that can be done about it.

We discovered a mother lode of them in the back shelves of the storage area recently. Buy a set to put your darkroom chemistry in - If you've mixed up a big batch of developer and want to use it in small increments you can squeeze the bottle down to reduce the amount of trapped air and thus retard oxidation of the mix.

They're only $ 7.50 so there must be a lot more things you can think to do with them. Hornpipes....

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" I'm Going To Europe, So..."

" So - I want to get a good camera in Singapore. Which one should I get? "

" As they say on Radio Yerevan...basically, no..."

If you hope to capture glorious scenes of the high life of Paris and fabulous trips down the Rhein and the majesty that is England...with something that you are going to haggle for in Popup Market Stall No. 34...we wish you the best of luck and will be looking out for your name in lights at the photography exhibitions.

You are in no different position than those who have preceded you - the generations of English migrants who bought cameras and projectors in Aden on the way here - and their Australian neighbours who went up to Singers and did the same all through the 60's and 70's. The building that houses Market Stall No. 34 is new but the philosophy of 34 is old.

You won't be sorry. Much. Even if the contents of whatever box N0.34 presses on you works, it is unlikely that you will be able to learn enough of the operations to let you make good pictures. You may wish to study the paper instruction booklet in the camera box, but if they only include the manual on CD...all you can really do in the airplane cabin is play frisbee. But you won't be sorry. Much.

When you get to Europe you may well discover that the plugs on the chargers do not fit the local wall socket. If you are going to the UK you will find that nothing ever fits any electric socket there. If you go to Greece the electricity authority will suck voltage out of your battery to help feed the local grid. It is possible that the camera that No.34 sold you has a battery that was last made in 2001 - which explains the high fives that store staff were giving each other as you left. But you won't be sorry. Long.

Take heart - at least you are not going to be in the same position as the English tourists who bought 12V DC slide projectors in Aden and then plugged them into Western Australian 240V AC sockets. I've seen one of those and it must have been as good as Vesuvius for a very short period of time. I wonder if they were sorry...

Let's face it. If you are going to Europe to have a good time and need complex electrical, mechanical, or optical equipment to function well - and if you need to train yourself on that gear - you are far better off shopping locally and giving yourself adequate time to get up to speed. You need to deal with someone who has genuine warranties. If you buy within a couple of months of your trip you'll still get 10% back at the TRS desk, so you needn't feed Stall 34.

You won't be sorry.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Shoulder Mounts - For Cameras Or Parrots?

Arrrrr. Pieces Of Eight. Polly want a focus puller...

The advent of the DSLR that took good video led to a real flowering of the arts - the arts of the industrial designers, the computer-controlled milling machine operators and the professional gear salesmen.

The designers looked at the types of support that had developed in the motion picture industry ( when cameras were pushed about on wheels by unionised labour...) and tried to make the small products look and work like the big ones. In some cases they adopted amazing configurations - like the camera support that plugged into a socket at the front of your pants. Others were reminiscent of something that the army would use to fire anti-tank missiles. One looked like a broken steering wheel and several looked like they were made up of Meccano parts.

The machinists did their part magnificently - turning dense aluminium castings or plates into real works of art. This was a business that may have owed more to the ability to program a computer than to turn the wheels of a lathe, but the beauty of the results could not be denied. Sometimes it became so complex - large and heavy - as to defy sense or to fulfil the basic function.

As far as the sales pitch went - well, the thing was simple. Show pictures of fit young people wearing sleeveless padded outdoor vests and feed caps set backwards on their heads. Make sure they were lean and stubbly - even the girls. Pose them with these improbable camera racks in the midst of a DEA raid or on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Suggest hard-hitting, razor edge iconic up-and-coming superstars set to burst onto the world like a comet...courtesy of the aluminium castings and tubes - and take the money.

But take the money fast because the next edition of " Stubbly Dude With A Camera Magazine " is due out on the stand in two weeks and the next fashionable accessory will likely be different...

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The Copy Camera

Copy cameras used to be a very special thing. The term referred to a camera that was used to...well...copy things. It was intended for use in libraries and other institutions that needed to record flat plane images and store them on film. There were special models that looked like photographic enlargers in reverse that could reproduce whatever was on the enlarger baseboard onto Polaroid pack film. You can draw your own conclusions as to whether the reproduction was colour accurate, but at least it was quick.

Nowadays there is nothing quicker than digital, with the exception of a cat escaping a get to see what you captured as soon as you can see the LCD screen. For those people who still wish to use a camera to capture flat copy we have some advice:

1. Use a copy stand. Promaster make good ones that are derived from enlarger stands with additional lights on arms either side of the stand. They don't cost a fortune. and they make it efficient - trying to make a stand out of a tripod and two stacks of old text books is a royal pain.

2. Use a digital camera that lets you put a macro lens on. Really. Even if you are not going to use it at close-up distances, the flat plane it renders will be a pleasure.

3. Use one that has a flip-up or flip-out LCD screen. You can position it so that you see the preview image right in front of your eyes - very comfortable working.

4. Match your capture to your intended storage volume and final usage. No need to have a 50 megapixel camera if you are photographing matchbook covers for small jpeg images.

5. Light the material with two tungsten, fluorescent curly, or halogen lamps. Get two bulbs the exact same and if you blow one get two more new ones and replace L and R at the same time. Assess your WB with a Datacolor SpyderChecker 24 and micro adjust your white balance to suit. Saves hours later.

6. Get the subject material as flat as possible. You can cover a wrinkled surface with a clear acrylic or glass sheet if you are careful with reflections. You can put a half-sticky piece of heavy card down and press a recalcitrant piece of paper onto it. If you are ambitious you can make a vacuum box and suck paper flat. Books are a problem.

7. Use a yellow or red filter if you are copying old smudged grotty paper as it will disguise the blotches and improve the contrast.

8. Be careful of reflections and stray light sources on the subject plane and on the camera lens. Use a lens hood. Wear a black tee shirt if you stand near the front of the copy stand.

9. Use a cable release.

10. Make sure the camera is squarely mounted on the stand and looks directly down - no skewed angles.

If you want to see an ingenious solution to the business of keeping a book flat for copying without breaking its spine, google up Linhof book copying holder. They don't make it any more and you can't afford it anyway but it was very clever.

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Being Left Out By The Designers

I must preface this column with the statement that I am right-handed when writing and using power tools. I am also right-eyed while shooting a rifle or shotgun. Shooting a revolver involves closing both eyes and waving it about until the noise stops. This is really only effective if if am inside a barn and the doors are shut - I can then hit the barn at least once out of six shots.

I wear my wristwatch on the right arm because no-one ever told me not to. It does not seem to affect the passage of time. Round here at 4:30 it drags slower and slower...

But I am aware that there are many people who are left-handed and who are disadvantaged when it comes to operating things designed for the right-handers. The dear old Exakta film cameras are long gone - at least they gave Lefty a button to push to fire the thing, even though they still made him wind on with the right thumb. No-one since has been kind to them at all.

There are particular perils for the left hander who has a weak right eye - if the camera has a viewfinder window on the left of the body his whole face will be across the camera and if it has a central viewfinder window his nose will be so far over that his thumb will be in it. No wonder that people who try to do photography under these conditions might well consider moving back to the older SLR or TLR that has a waist-level finder and a hood to shade it.

If you wish to introduce the question of large stomachs or chests at this point I will withdraw to the back of the monorail 4 x 5 camera and look at the ground glass screen. You may join me under the black cloth. If you are claustrophobic I suggest you give up landscape photography and purchase postcards. I can do no more.

Uncle Dick

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Don't Apologise...

Folks, don't apologise when you visit us. We understand.

If you're not a professional - don't apologise. We like to help amateurs and enthusiasts as much as professionals. And as a non-professional you'll probably be better dressed...

Lost your charger? Don't apologise. Join the club. We've ALL lost chargers. That's what we stock the Hahnel range of universal chargers for. Chargers in hotel rooms are like socks in the drier.

Don't know how to set our camera? Don't apologise. No problem - we know how to set cameras. " Automatic " is a good setting for cameras and Maxims, and for many of the same reasons. Just tell us what you want to do with it and we'll turn the dials and push the buttons.

( Secret Squirrel Club...many of the cameras you can get have a 'reset' button that returns it to factory default settings. Lots of times this is what you want.)

Can't remember what you bought before? Don't apologise. We can - the computer remembers back to a week before The Flood. We can tell the insurance company what you paid for it.

Want to take some sample pictures? Don't apologise - we do this all the time. No end of customers have sold themselves on a lens after seeing the results in 100% on their home computer. We hope that the portraits they take of the staff with the test lenses will become treasured works of art. Some of the staff are works of art...

In a hurry? Don't apologise - just don't load us up with two dozen technical questions while we try to operate the till at lunch time. Come earlier or later and you'll get more speed.

Want to know when the latest piece of goods will be released? Don't apologise - we want to know too. If you find out before we do come and tell us.

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Tripod Bags - Are They Just For Appearance?

We sell tripods. And we sell tripod accessories; plates for the top, ballheads for the middle, and spiked feet for the bottom. Occasionally we sell a tripod bag, but sometimes I wonder why - and other times I wonder why we do not sell one with each tripod.

The bag has two main functions : One; it lets you carry a tripod that is bigger than necessary a longer distance than you need to - and without dislocating your shoulder. Two; it disguises your tripod on the tarmac as you look out of the airplane window and the fuel tanker runs over it.

This is the same with golf bags, but with them you can at least wear funny jumpers and spend the late afternoon drinking - with landscape photography you need to be alert for the magic minutes of dying sunlight over the seashore or silos. Tripod bags are altogether soberer items.

Manfrotto make them with a startling ends for the three-way heads that go on their large tripods. As these three-way heads are most useful for landscapers this is the choice of their choice.

Cullmann make a whole series of them for their tripods, ranging from the Concept 622 to the 632. Some are compact and some are big padded affairs - they are also very useful for going inside suitcases ( if you really can't bear to see the ground crew crush it ) and can be hauled on the top of backpacks or slung under bicycle cross-bars.

If you can find another from someone else and it fits...well it can at least hold the tripod - but we can't say that it would provide the same protection. You could knit one, and we know people who do, but there again it is style over security - still, an ugly brown tripod bag to match your ugly brown jumper means you won't be bothered by thieves.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Only A Few Of Them Get It...

Looking around at the tripod heads in the shop it occurred to me that only two of the manufacturers really get it - they are aiming themselves at the big end of the market - by the smallest means.

Consider - when we put an image up on the computer screen in, say, Photoshop, we get the option to select something and move it in infinitesimal increments by using up down and sideways keys. We can't achieve the same degree of precision with trackpads, tablets, or mice and the computer people know it - so we get the electronic equivalent of a fine-tune control.

We also can't achieve the fine control of cameras that we need on conventonal tripod heads - if we are working with a ball head it falls all over the place as soon as we loosen it - even the three-way heads are crude pivots when we need fine movement.

Arca-Swiss and Manfrotto addressed this in their separate ways by putting mechanical creepers on their cube head and the 405 three-way head. In each case there is a crude se-up adjustment comparable to mousing over something and then you can use geared knobs to fine tune the position.

They are intended for use with big studio cameras but wise small-camera users will also see the usefulness. Big fingers need help with small controls.

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The Lifetime Warranty Vs The Ironclad Guarantee Vs Roll Dem Bones And Take Yo' Chances

I'll bet you could have a lot of fun in a group of lawyers at cocktail hour if you asked them the difference between warranties, guarantees, sureties, indemnities, and Mr. T. I pity de fool...

Here in the shop we see a number of these words and have occasion to bandy them about frequently. We are assisted in this by the firms representing photographic equipment manufacturers that we purchase the gear from. By and large when something goes pear-shaped and it is not the fault of the customer, the wholesalers and the firms the represent do a good job of backing things up.

Sometimes the backup takes longer than others, and like articulated lorries, they emit a series of beeping noises, but eventually all comes good. For the most part they are sports about it all and in some cases stretch the statutory warranty period to double the time period - the gear is that good these days.

Several suppliers maintain a lifetime no-quibble replacement policy for stuff that fails - this can be related to volume of supply in some cases, but again they are betting, and finding, that there is enough reliability in simple devices to back this up. The consumer can approach their products with confidence.

Likewise, if the client is the sort of person who goes through life's minefields wearing heavy shoes, there are warranty extension cards available from reputable independent firms that add extra time - and for a fee also add replacement for accidental damage that the shooter might do. It costs, but some people attract costs...

For those who prefer to shoot craps with their camera purchases...and are prepared to encounter snake eyes...there is the internet overseas bucket shop eBay PayPal Western Union approach to it all. Fortunately the worst that can happen in these cases is nothing works and you never get your money back - but that is what shooting dice is all about. It helps if you rattle the computer mouse in your hand, blow on it, and shut out " C'mon Baby! Daddy needs a new DSLR! "

If you need to see how to do it we recommend " Guys And Dolls " on Netflix.

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Rise. Tilt To Your Audience. Shift Sideways. Click Your Shutter.

If you are new to photography, you may never have done the dance. The RiseTiltShift Waltz. You have no idea what a delight you are missing.

Those of you old enough to have wrinkles that won't go away may have had a chance to use a view camera or a tilt/shift lens in the past. You know the dance, and when to dance it.

For the newbies - you do the dance when you want undistorted verticals in an architecture shot - or when you want easy stitching for a panorama - or want infinite depth of field for a product or landscape shoot at wide aperture. The Scheimpflug Principle takes care of the last named and the rising front of the camera - or falling back, for that matter - takes care of the first. The shift lets the budding panoramacist add more width to what they do and the stitching programs love the result.

While you can get massive movements on a 4 x 5 or 8 x 10 sheet-film monorail camera, you are a little more restricted with the dedicated tilt/shift lenses that the major DSLR makers provide. Nevertheless there are movements there and you can still dance.

Unfortunately right now there are very little options for we dedicated mirror-less system camera users - only a few limited sorts of adapters that produce a little movement, and no dedicated lenses from the actual makers. We can only hope that the lens designers for our respective brand choices will think to add something of this nature for the lens road maps.

Until then there are a number of us experimenting with tilt/shift movements on our old 4 x 5 cameras by attaching mirror-less bodies to the rear standard and as wide an angle lens as we can find for the front. It's a situation that really wants bag bellows and even then there are compromises in what we see on the LCD screen. One thing - a least most 4 x 5 wide angle lenses have a massive coverage foot print and on a APS-C sensor you don't run out of image as you move.

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Need A Spare Battery?

You sure do!

Even if your digital cameras usage is sporadic and just around home, there is nothing worse than being caught out with a depleted battery when the good shots just start coming. Birthday parties do not slow down for you.

Even worse - going away for a memorable vacation and running your battery down half-way through the first day. The rest of the tour bus passengers will not wait near a mains outlet while you try to recharge your one and only battery...

Also consider - if you are travelling there may be periods when even you cannot get to a mains outlet for electricity. The wilds of Africa and Canberra are notorious for this. If you have a spare battery you can coast past this electricity-free day and still get photos.

Better still - two spare batteries - extra capacity never goes amiss, and you can leave a depleted one on the charger in your hotel room while you shoot through the day.

They can be had from the original camera manufacturer or from after-market sources. Not a great expense set against the cost of travel and the safety of having a camera that works when you see that perfect shot.

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Burke Flynn Stacks It Here At Camera Electronic

Relax - the car's all right.

Yesterday, Burke gave a great 3-hour display of the new Olympus OM-D E-M10 MkII camera to an appreciative audience. As with many new cameras, the Olympus has a number of features that involve bracketing. One of them is apparently focus bracketing. I was puzzled and asked Burke what it was.

Burke was puzzled.

After the demo we did some experiments here on the editorial desk and found out the answer - and it is a ripper.

Do you do focus stacking with your camera? You know - where you shoot a number of images of a fixed object with a slight change of focus between each shot. Then you put the images into a computer program like Photoshop and it blends them into a single presentation with greatly increased depth of field. It's a sophisticated technique that lets the macro worker overcome some of the optical limitations of shallow depth of field when you are in close.

Well - that what it does...but it does it in-camera and automatically. Wow. You can specify number of shots in the stack...think of it as the number of slices of an apple...and the sort of distance you want between each slice. Then press go and it goes. We tested it on a plastic ruler and found that we could ask for slices 1mm to 10mm wide - and we can ask for 999 of them if needed.

That's a lot more than most programs would handle, or most people would need, but the possibilities it sets up for tabletop or close-up workers is mind boggling.

You still need to use it for completely still objects so exercise your ingenuity ( and Cullmann clamps ) to do this.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Here 'Tis - Right Now - Run Down If You Want To See

This is the new Olympus OM-D E-M10 mk II in the hands of the old Carlos.

Burke Flynn from Olympus has just set up a trade table to talk about this new camera and he'll be here until 2:00.

He's got a crowd already, and the camera is a cute as a button.

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SNAP SALE! Staff Decision - Get 'Em While We Can Get Away With It

We've come to momentous decision down here to put up a SNAP SALE for Vanguard camera bags and cases. The pricing guns are chattering away like Maxims and the bags are piling up like...umm....oh let's just say we're having a sale.

25% off all new Vanguard. And Vanguard are good bags. They are an imaginative accessory company who have devised camera and lens carriers in all sorts of sizes and shapes.

Some are dull and professional and some are bright and fun. Backpacks, slingers, messenger bags, video boxes, belt and pocket bags. Black, blue, red, green, orange...Hey, take your pick and take 25% off while you do.


PLUS.....25% off selected Think Tank Bags. Not everything - selected. But come down a browse and se if your desire is in our selection - and score again.

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The Stage Lights Are Calling - Or What's A Fella To Do?

Well, it's the old bump and grind this weekend. Three hours of colour, movement, and loud music. And I'm going to be out the front with a camera.

No, not the burlesque. That's not my beat - though I have seen some dynamite shows here in Perth and some very good publicity, event, and art shots taken by the photographers who specialise in this. I'll be at a hafla - a belly dancing show held at a suburban school.

The school isn't just your regular local primary - the Saturday venue is a pretty swish one that takes in private-school money. And spends it on their theatre facilities, I might add. The main performance space and seating is very professional - more so than many public venues. They have good lighting, good lighting control, and good sound - and a large enough stage to make a real production.

I'll set a fixed camera with radio wireless control to capture full-stage shots from the mezzanine ( They have a mezzanine! ) and roam the aisles and floor with a large-aperture Fujifilm lens on my X-Pr01. The high ISO capability and the big aperture should allow enough shutter speed to stop much of the motion.


But the lighting plan can sometimes be highjacked by a temptation to use too much colour - if there are gels on a lot of the floods and spots they sometimes run a whole number under pools of red, yellow, and orange. Then blue in the background and green as a follow spot. Add to this the fact that the costuming can be very colourful to start with and it gets a little out of hand.

Don't get me wrong - Bollywood can never be too bright. Or too bouncy. Bollywood makes you feel happy no matter what. But some of the other dances need mood and it can be hard to make someone look sexy if she is lit up in Tiger Moth Training Yellow - complete with roundels...

I am hoping that they tone down the gels and concentrate on more of the white lighting. It's no good trying to get a custom WB when the business can change so fast between one minute to another - I might as well put it on Auto and go from there.

Shoot RAW or jpeg? Well, what the hell. Fujifilm jpegs are all I could ever want and the exposure will be right if I use spot metering on the individual figures - then the black stage does not influence the equation. The X-pro1 writing jpeg and RAW would be slower than the dance requires. It'll be jpegs. Lotsa jpegs.

After the first three big production numbers I go deaf anyway so why not.

Uncle Dick

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Good Colour Bad Colour Ugly Colour

The days of putting our films in to the chemist and hoping for some decent prints in a fortnight are long past. We now put our memory cards into the card reader and hope for some decent images in 5 seconds. The time occupied by gnawing anticipation is reduced greatly but we have also lost the consolation of being able to buy a bag of barley sugar sweets even if everything is blurry.

Same with colour. We once got what we were given and liked it. Sometimes we got what we deserved. The cost of colour slide film or colour printing in the film era was considerable - and we did not waste our shots. But what came back was tied to the temperature and purity of the baths in the processor and that could be a mixed bag - and sometimes the technicians loading the machines got it horribly wrong. Ask me about the wedding that vanished...

Nowadays we can get our colour RAW and cook it for ourselves. We can take precautions to prevent all but the direst disaster. Most of our weddings and some of our brides survive. Of course we may be wrong with the colour - that is still a subjective matter for most shoots. We are aided by the mechanisms in modern cameras and can make use of Datacolor colour charts of various types. We can calibrate our monitors and printers and viewing lights and everything. We can desaturate everything and talk up the art of it...fancy footwork can save a bad situation. Try to show the prints in a dark restaurant after a few drinks...

In the end, we need to remember that we are not making real objects - we are making flat images of real objects. We can get 66% of the way to realism but that third dimension kills it. If we are not making a stab at realistic representation we can even throw the 66% away - as long as we can please the viewer.

 Remember that sometimes we can't  - Vincent van Gogh made a dynamite starry, starry night but nobody wanted to buy it then.

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The Box Saga Continues - We Delve Inside

Those of you who have delicate constitutions and elegant ears may want to leave - we are going to open the box containing the photographic equipment and there may be language.

Not every packaging designer wants you to get into the package. Some are jealous of the contents or the aesthetics or the zen or some damned thing and devise ways of excluding you. You don't just walk into Mordor...

If you get past the finger grip that is flush with the box side - I tend to favour a small knife blade to winkle this out - the first layer may be a portion of the box folded back upon itself to make a tray - containing the software CD and the instruction manual. Fair enough.

Fold this back and there are generally several wells holding goods wrapped within in clear plastic or bubble wrap. The bubble wrap is nice for protection but hell to repack anything into. The complex cardboard stamping that folds together to make the wells is evidence of the computer design skills of the Japanese designers as well as their peculiar facility with spatiality.

But they can go too far...some of the compact cameras have been packed into such complex structures as to defy first the unpacking - and you are not encouraged here to use a jemmy bar - and then any repacking. And some of the packaging is made by the firm that also makes razor wire. You can lose skin on the cardboard edges...

Okay, You have unpacked the camera or lens, seen it, hefted it, asked how much you get back from the TRS on it, tried it on with the sales assistant, and we are ready to repack it. Good luck. some of the goods fall back into the interior with ease and some have expanded so far beyond the original space as to defy us forever. I honestly think that they vacuum pack some cameras and as the air hits them they swell.

Do your best. If you have bought the goods you may just want to wrap it in your shirt or a handful of excelsior shavings. If you were just filling a lunch hour with idle enquiry and the sales assistant has to try to recover the situation they will...just beware of their eye next time you arrive with a sandwich and a cup of coffee and want to finger the lenses...

Uncle Dick

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Fine Art Paper - Pulp Friction Brought To Life

I realise that using the phrase fine art photography is a dangerous thing - it seems to be two adjectives chasing a noun. And in many cases unsuccessfully...But at least we can try.

If you hope to present digital images that will be hung you must make sure they deserve to be*. This means a great deal of careful work before the printer whirrs - photographing, editing, critiquing. The printer that you choose and the inks that it will use are prime factors as well...but the chief thing that has to be right is the paper.

It has to last. People who pay money for pictures want those pictures to stay flat, stay clean, and stay the way they were when the money changed hands. Thus you need to search out archival-quality paper. "Archival Quality" is also a fraught phrase but at least there are some scientific standards for it - laboratories have established criteria for the longevity of paper and ink and published them. Various manufacturers tell us that their products meet these standards.

Of course, performance over a passage of time is only tested by the passage of that time. There might be a sales warranty issue on the Great Pyramid of Cheops over the stone facing that has fallen away...but the builders are nowhere to be found.

But back to your prints. Your surface needs to be appropriate to the image presented. Some people want canvas - some paper. Some want aluminium - they can all be accommodated these days. The papers can be smooth matt, smooth gloss, smooth semi-gloss, or can have texture imparted in the manufacture. Some are extremely rough, but if the image can be of blocky form this may be just perfect.

On a technical point - the heavy papers can be very heavy and you'll need to see if your printer can deal with the increased thickness. They may also have considerable warp and droop and you'll need to make provision to eliminate or cope with this as well. Crude as it sounds, you might find yourself doing a bit of judicious paper bending with your fingers before you press the start button.

You'll be confronted with some real choices in the base colour of the paper. Various words are bantered about; wheat, buff, cream, ivory, etc. but the end result is off-white. See if your image is one that will be complemented by this sort of thing or whether you'll need a clear white. these are available too.

Come in an browse amongst the Ilford, Hahnemuhle, and Permajet products. Some can be got in sheet form and some in roll. Sample packs are here so that you can experiment before lashing out for a full box.

* Either they hang or you do...

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

First of October Is Coming - Make Sure You Are Ready

The first of October is just over a week away - Thursday morning will dawn before you know it and you need to be prepared for it now. Here's a Camera Electronic checklist to ensure that you will be ready in time:

1. Do you have that second camera body? If your first one fails on the evening of the 30th of September, will you have a second one ready to take over? Better call into the shop and purchase another one now and get the battery charged up in time for Thursday. A couple of spare lenses would be a good idea too.

2. Is your camera set properly? If you have just been fooling around recently or experimenting with different settings you may lose valuable time on Thursday morning re-configuring it. best do it now and then attach a tag to the camera strap lugs with a ready-to-go code. Flouro colours work best for this.

3. Have you remembered the grounding stake and connecting cable?

4. No-one likes a card snatcher - when you suddenly need more memory it is really bad manners to take the SD cards out of other people's cameras and reformat them for your own. Get a couple of spare cards and format them in readiness.

5. Are all your lenses protected with a filter - and one of the pressure-resistant ones at that? Hoya HD are really the safest bet for the 1st of October as the resist most scratches and damage. You might like to get a pair of welder's gloves if you are going to be really close to Thursday, the 1st.

6. Will you be using a tripod? Most people will. there is still time to call in and get one.

7. By the 14th it should all have settled down and you can begin processing your images - if you haven't signed yourself up yet to use any of the Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, or other fine products remember that we have a stand here with authorisation cards that you can purchase. There are a variety of plans.

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The Angle Of View

For the last 7 1/2 years I have been coping with the business of multiplication factors for the focal lengths of lenses in the digital world. Right from the start, we have had equivalents to various things - occasioned by the size of the electronic sensors that were possible in the cameras at the time. Initially quite small, they progressed in size as the silicon chip makers learned to grow ever-larger surfaces.

There were a number of stages that received what are now difficult names - difficult in that every one of them needs some sort of explanation and qualification when a customer enquires about it. We can liken the quandary to an alphabet - we all pretty well agree what a "B" looks like and unless you are Russian and spell it backwards or something, we don't have to refer to it as a full-frame B or an APS-C B or a 3/4" B.

Every manufacturer would have their product better than the rest, if only in the advertising pamphlets. Thus was born the diagonal measurement of sensor size - based upon 1940's cathode-ray tube descriptions - that requires a long winded spiel to tell people that the 1" sensor isn't really that unless you pretend it is...and inches are not used in most camera-making countries.

The whole effect, as we said at the start, is to muck up the measurements and expectations that people have when they look at a camera lens on a particular body. Woe again when the manufacturers make lenses that only suit small-frame APS-C bodies but can still bayonet onto a large-frame body - leaving people to cope with that optical incongruity.

Well, we're stuck with it now, but anyone out there who has a flux capacitor and can go back in time and alter things for themselves would be thanked by the trade if they could just fix the designation of the lens as the angle of view. Every lens has one, or if it is a zoom - several. How much of it you use on your sensor is your own affair, but at least in this case your mind could draw a mental picture before you shot.

In a way, we also needed someone to have a numbering system for the sensors akin to the international paper size rules. Too late now, but then they said that about micro breweries and didn't that turn out well?

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The Boxer Rebellion - Or 55 Days And No Peeking

Well, you wanted to know what the manufacturers were doing with the packaging...well so do we...

It's not that bad. Nearly all the products that hit the shop are well-boxed. With the exception of some of the cruder cast-iron and bamboo studio lights and computer-controlled milling machines, nearly everything has been put into attractive boxes. The manufacturers all realise that the visual appeal of the box is part of their sales pitch,

Thus we have seen the use of recognisable colouring for Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Olympus. Gold-and-black, red-and-white, orange, and blue-and-white. You can see 'em on the warehouse shelf and know what you are seeing. You still need to read the endplate carefully to see what is in the box , but several of the makers have added a photo or graphic of the contest to aid you. And they are honest enough not to put parsley and garnishes on the lenses - there is no "serving suggestion" note under the image.

Fujifilm uses black boxes but thankfully marks each one with big grey letters and numbers to identify the contents. Sigma and Zeiss use white boxes and have to be more specific with the end plates to let us know what's inside. All good as long as the lettering is big enough. To their credit, the new Sigma boxes are easier to read than the old ones.

Olympus stepped sideways a little with the packaging of some of their mirror-less OM-D system cameras and lenses - they opted for black as well. We have to be careful shelving that they do not get confused with other black boxes. Elegant enough, but you need good lighting to see what you've got.

Big stuff - printers and monitors and backdrop rolls are always in brown cardboard cartons. Kudos to the design teams who clearly label the things on more than one face - stacking boxes sometimes means that you need to see what is in without having to remove and revolve - any time you do this there is muscle and trouble involved.

One final note for the box designers: We applaud you putting the clear markings on the outside of boxes - telling us what is inside and listing the contents is a very good idea - some clients are desperate to have a box that has never been opened and sealing it with vital information inside is fatal.

Put the serial number on the outside.

Tell us the filter size for the lens, the proper lens hood for the lens -if you do not provide one inside the box, and the proper battery for the camera in case the client wants to purchase a spare one.

Now, in the next packaging column, we look inside - to see who are good people and who are bad people. And you will be surprised...

Uncle Dick

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Boxing Day - The Hollywood Blockbuster

There's this movie in production about boxing. Not two Irishmen pummelling each other - boxing. Packaging  cameras. I can hardly wait for the release.

Now, this is going to be different from all the Yo' Tube videos of sad people taking their new camera out of the packaging while the rest of the world burns around them. This is going to be the inside story of the intrigues and murders in the Japanese packaging industry. If you don't believe they have them, consider these facts:

1. Japan has a culture of wrapping and packaging. There is a Japanese cultural channel on Foxtel that has video reports from Japan and broadcasts whole shows on wrapping -foreigners watch Japanese retail sellers package different products for sale and ten comment on how it is done in their own country. The Japanese always do it better, and with more style.

2. Japanese companies are quite competitive. Just like the feudal families used to be, They may not go round each other's head offices and shower the opposing office workers with arrows at lunchtime but the temptation is always present...

3. Japanese people like miniaturisation and cute small things. And they do it very, very well.

4. Every cubic millimetre of space saved in packaging a product means several Yen saved - costs of storage space, transportation, etc. There is an economic virtue in packing things as small as possible.

5. BUT...but they know that transportation means damage. the further the product goes out of their careful hands, the further it goes into careless hands. Until the money for the product hits the bank in Tokyo, this is a danger.

6. SO...there is a careful set of equations of size, cost, protection, and attractiveness of product that need to be drawn out - and solved. Different companies have adopted different ideas. None of them are perfect yet, but we in the retail trade watch the evolution of the science with interest. More on the conclusions we have drawn in the next column.

Uncle Dick

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The Yellow Bag Of Courage

Those of you who are dog owners and walk your animals in the city streets and parks will recognise the yellow bags in the image. You carry them with you wherever you go and do your civic duty after Fido has done his biological duty...and we admire you for your courage and cleanly behaviour.

But don't you long for a more discrete way to carry them to the pooing grounds? We have the answer.

These discrete little Glanz accessory pouches are perfect for the task. As we are also civic minded, we have decided to offer them to you for:

A gold coin donation to Telethon. One pouch per coin.

Come see us and do a good deed in a dark world.

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A House Is Not A Home

Polly Adler was right for many reasons...not the least of which concerns the business of real estate photography. Her houses may have attracted more police interest than the average set of units in City Beach, but the local market for digital images is absolutely huge.

Huge. To some extent it seems even to dwarf the catalogue and flyer trade that pushes pictures of lamb chops and potato crisps into our post boxes every week. Real estate pictures are everywhere - even in a lot of places that do not have real estate. They seem to be necessary for any offer of sale and can amount to works of art in their own right.

It is not an easy game, apparently. Even though the subjects that will be photographed do not move - except in New Zealand  - the light that falls on them does. Making the property look good is the general purpose and this sometimes requires shooting at ungodly hours. External light may not play nice when internal views are needed so separate hours are required. Also lots of additional light sources, gels, wide angle lenses, tripods, and bad language.

The additional complication of occupants in the buildings means that the real estate shooter must be a personal negotiator. Someone has to clean the place up the right way at the right time and keep it clean until the pictures are taken. The real estate shooter needs to have the eye of a hawk to spot potential troubles in the image - it costs time and money to remove these sorts of things in post-production.

I'm continually impressed by the real estate shooters who come into the shop - they are the most inventive people in the world. And they are not afraid to try new things - when they need to do eye-catching shots they go up on giant ladders or put cameras up on extendable poles - or equally belly flop on the ground. They own and use flying drones. And they have an eye for design and interior decoration that sometimes has eluded their clients.

But one question it they who take those terrible portraits of the real estate agents that appear on bus shelters and public rubbish bins? If so, is it art or revenge...?

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What's In A Name? Here's Your Guide To The New Zeiss Lens Names For Sony Cameras

This column has remarked in the past upon the way that manufacturers name things - and decried the tendency to give similar pieces of equipment long model number and letter combinations that are easily confused. You have no idea what a mess a phone conversation can be when someone messes up the the model number - and frequently it is me that messes it up...

All praise to the Zeiss people for the naming of the lenses that they make. We don't mean the technical numbers that describe them - the f:stops and focal lengths and such; these are pretty standard with most optic makers. Even if some other people fudge them and put on strange markings, you can generally get the truth eventually.

No, we mean the names that actually separate the lenses in our mind - and Zeiss have always been good with this. They used the names Planar, Sonnar, Distagon, Flektagon, etc,  and we knew pretty well what we were looking at as far as where the lens fit into the optical spectrum. The name also told us something of the design of the lens and the number of glass elements that were inside.

Well, here's some new names that apply to lenses that Zeiss makes for people who are going to use the Sony cameras:

1. Zeiss/ Sony Vario Tessar 24-70mm f;4

2. Zeiss Touit lenses for APS-C sized sensors

    a. Touit 12mm f:2.8
    b. Touit 32mm f:1.8
    c. Touit 50mm f:2.8

These lenses autofocus and also focus manually by wire.

3. Zeiss Loxia

    a. Loxia 35mm Biogon f:2
    b. Loxia 50mm Planar f:2

These lenses focus manually.

4. Zeiss Batis lenses for full-frame sensors.

    a. Batis 25mm f:2
    b. Batis 85mm f:1.8

These lenses autofocus and also manually by wire.

A good site to visit for a complete listing of these options - and a consideration of the implications of the various apertures and and focusing methods - is found here:

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Picking Up Small Change

We see many famous and successful professional photographers here in our shop. Award-winners, superstars, iconic ambassadors, and mentors. They are a wonderful experience and do us a great deal of good - not least in the matter of figuring out how much to charge for taking pictures. We don't have an exact number but their general advice is..." a lot ".

That's sensible. They are famous and want to have money as well as fame, so they wish to receive it from their clients. As long as they all agree on this the whole thing goes splendidly.

For those of us further down the pixel chain, the big prices are not really possible. We must take our pay in smaller amounts, though we would still like a largish share of the fame and affection. So we charge less and hope for the best.

Every so often we get an enquiry from other small photographers about what can be done to attract some of the cash. Here is a modest selection:

a. Have you seen how awful Facebook and other social site profile pictures are? This is a result of people having nothing but duck-face selfies available when they come to post time. Why not set out amongst the people you know to take your DSLR or mirror-less camera and provide them with a set of good looking FB pictures. You don't need to make vast files or charge swingeing prices - just make them look good and they'll alert others to your service. You might have all you need right now and no more to outlay...

b. Collectors of anything need to catalogue their collections and like to brag to others of what they have without opening their premises to unwanted intrusion. Stamps, coins, dolls, artillery shells...they can all be taken in studio or in situ in a small portable light tent. Your smallest DSLR or mirror-less is fine for this sort of activity and your output can be a disc or thumb drive costing practically nothing. And the best thing is - collectors always collect more. Do a good job for a fair price and they'll be back time and time again.

c. Take a picture of every object and surface in a person's home before the burglars intrude. The image just has to be clear illustration - the sort of flat light that is easily done with any small camera. Every room has 6 surfaces, and details add more images. Charge modestly but add it all up and offer to keep a copy of the images on a CD or hard drive on your premises in case they have a fire. Costs you nothing and gives them peace of mind.

d. Lots of people have websites these days selling lots of little goods - Heaven knows where they get the dreck from, or who buys it, but that does not concern you. Beetle over to their non-photographic premises with your camera, a couple of lights, and a light tent. Shoot all the little products and deliver small jpegs. Don't be proud - if they can sell junk ear-rings you can take pictures of junk ear-rings and get paid.

If you are worried about not making a fortune every time you click a shutter, remember the story of the Hollywood extra who had such a general-purpose nondescript face that he could be used in any B-grade movie. Year after year he was in the bar scene or the crowd scene or the backdrop. He collected his pay every week from the studio and at the end of it had appeared in more productions than any of the stars. Not fame, but solid meat and potatoes work.

And I like meat and potatoes.

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I Remember Those!

And well I do. Large. Heavy. Complex. Precise. The do-all camera for advertising studio work and art copying in the film era.

We're talking about a Mamiya RB67 here - a big single lens reflex set up with a close-up bellows, synchronised lenses, instant film back and roll-film holders - as well as sheet film holders with dark slides. All in pristine condition - legacy of a quasi-government agency that quasi-didn't use it. So all the juicy goodness is still fresh inside.

Mamiya's have good lenses and are not too hard to use. Not as intuitive as a Hasselblad, but still do-able. And the internal bellows extension makes it - makes it the camera system for close-ups. As long as you do not see yourself scaling Bluff Knoll with it slung over your  sagging shoulders, you should be fine.

Come see it and think up a good use for it.

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Friday, September 18, 2015

The Future Of Darkroom Work

Seven years ago when I came to work in Camera Electronic I did not think I would be able to write that header now. The front of the shop still had a few film cameras and there was a rime of old enlargers around the top of the cabinets, but I could see that little was new nor was it likely to stay. I dedicated myself to learning the new digital age.

I miscalculated. As I type this blog post ( admittedly on a digital computer...) I can see shelves with darkroom chemicals, darkroom printing paper, developing tanks and kits, negative files, and a refrigerator full of fresh film. And every day people come in the front door, take away some of these goods, and pay us for them.

Darkroom work would appear to be going on.

We have supplied some new enlargers to schools that are admittedly basic overseas things that need a fair bit of adaptation for use in Australia - but all the rest of the stuff is perfectly usable. Australian dark is as good as US or UK dark - all you do is block up the windows and door and grope around.

Do the new users of old technology get what they expect from the experience? I hope they do - though I am not sure if they think they are going to find a Holy Grail in the wash water. They may, or may not - I do know that if they do not use enough of it they will eventually lose all their images to fading - I have found out my sins of omission with old negatives.

I cannot say whether the colour darkroom will come back - I suspect not. The technology that made it work was getting better and easier in the 80's and 90's and I lucked onto the last of the easy amateur gear and chemistry. Even than it was poisonous, irritating, and messy. Of course this also describes Christmas lunch with the rellies, but we will gloss over that. Colour printing - good printing - has advanced beyond belief with the advent of the digital inkjet printer and I do not think we gain anything by going back and sticking our fingers in the blix.

So - here's to the continuation of tradition in supply and usage. You cannot poison yourself dead or spend yourself broke on black and white darkroom work and an occasionally you will produce a masterpiece. 

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Not To Be Missed - And I Missed It...

That Saturday morning was one of those occasions for which the word " Drat!" was coined. I missed out on something that was worth seeing.

Alex Cearns, who operates Houndstooth Studio in North Perth came to the Shoot Photography premises and gave a free two-hour talk about her work.

She's the lady who does animal  personality portraiture. If that phrase seems strange, then look more closely at your cat, dog, goanna, or right whale and observe them - they do have personalities. Note as well that they will be observing you and drawing their own conclusions. If it is unfavourable, you may get bit.

But moving along from that, the report I received is that the room was packed, there were a great many images shown of all sorts of animals, Alex gave photo hints and tips, and  everyone had a good time.

I believe that the representatives of the Tamron agents also made specials available for their lenses and some of the other products they handle - Lowepro bags for instance. Tamron lenses have been a part of the Australian photographic scene for as far back as I can remember and they are excellent performers as well as good value for money. Some of them are unique in their focal length combinations.

This will give you a good look at Tamron lenses.

And you can see some of what Houndstooth Studio does here.

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Stack It! And in A Good Way! Olympus!

News just to hand. ( I love that phrase. If we had presses I would hold them. Hold them and squeeze them and love them and call them George...but I digress.) News just to hand.

Part of the v4.0 firmware update for the Olympus E-M1 camera that will be coming in November has to to with close focusing - with the macro capability, if you will.

Macro is mightily popular with enthusiasts - every camera club has regular competitions for images shot in the macro range. It is essential for scientific work and for a number of commercial applications. People need to get close and sharp.The problem with getting close is the optical fact of life: the depth of field gets perilously shallow as you get closer. Many subjects are very difficult to portray as there is never enough DOF to render them in their entirety - something is always fuzzy.

The solution up until now has been to employ a stack of separate images that can be blended in a computer program to feature the sharp plane fore and aft -it gives what is false but what seems real. In any case the sharpness is the reality we wish for so that is what the program makes.

Only works with static subjects and the static really does have to be just that - the object and the camera cannot move about. The focus can be adjusted with the lens in some case and in others complex computer-driven racks have been employed to track the camera and lens in and out on the subject. However it is done, the idea is to present the computer with a variety of images to combine.

Well, it looks like Olympus is going to make it easier. The press release states:

" Two powerful focus stacking and focus bracketing modes assist to improve depth of field for close-up imaging."

That's pretty slim, but encouraging nevertheless. If Olympus have arranged for the camera to do the stack shooting automatically in conjunction with their AF macro lens the way is clear to a lot more better macro shots.

Note the heading mage is also a stack, but a simple three-level one to make the model cars and the background blend together. Not macro but operating on the same principle.

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Make A Date With Update - Olympus In November

Don't be nervous. Update is not an online agency to that promotes infidelity. You will not have your name hacked.

Update is what you can do in November to improve the performance of your Olympus E-M1 camera and your Olympus E-M5 MkII camera. Now the performance of these cameras is superb right now, but the restless souls at Olympus have devised additional improvements:

1. The E-M1 update will be v4.0. The short press release states that it will significantly transform the camera's video-recording, macro, and stealth shooting capabilities.

2. The E- M5 MkII update will be v2.0 and will introduce video-specific enhancements for professional use.

The press release promises these updates for November but does not specify a particular date in the month.

In general, all of us that have mirror-less or DSLR systems benefit when the back room boys in our chosen maker carry on with the electronic developments to cameras we already own. This can happen quickly if some form of problem has appeared or at a later date if they are just adding extra features.

I sometimes suspect that the designers and technicians are as surprised as we are occasionally - they cut the red wire instead of the blue one and something good happens. As long as we benefit, everyone is happy.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hello Kitty Is Not A Major Camera Manufacturer

Not that you could tell that to the Japanese. Or my daughter.

She currently uses a Fujifilm X-series compact camera and makes brilliant pictures with it...but would replace it in a minute if Fujifilm were to bring out their next model in pink and white with the cat in question painted on the front*. I know Fujifilm are dedicated to their clients and they monitor all the Fuji Rumors postings but I'm not certain how their design department would take to the idea.

Now the business of attaching a popular figure to cameras is not new - we all remember Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cameras in the film era - frequently given away or advertised in comic books as promotions for Walt Disney Studios as much as for the camera maker. They were fun, colourful, did not work well, and have become collectible - in some cases for large money*. There have been any number of super heroes and movie spies that have also appeared on cameras as well as on camera.

I'm surprised that Leica did not bring out a James Bond M3 collectible - research the connection...

Is there any harm in the cartoon connection? None at all. If the kids light up on seeing their favourite cartoon or manga figure associated with a real camera and then take to photography because of that we all win. Of course if the hipsters latch onto the KittyFlex D and start making art with it we will all suffer, but they will probably want something that goes with three-day stubble and tight jeans anyway.

I am going to go with the cheap option - a self-printed label from Office Works on a holder attached to the grip of my camera. Mine is going to have a cartoon image of Paul von Hindenburg.

* We have a Hello Kitty toaster that makes Hello Kitty faces on the toast. Try eating breakfast with a hangover when the toast stares back at you...

Uncle Dick

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Does This Lens Feel Funny To You?

Well, no. Or yes, if that would be better...I'm not quite sure how funny lenses ever are...

You bought it online from Lenses R Us in Fortitude Valley but apparently they don't appear on the web browser anymore? Sort of a stealth camera shop, I presume...Well, the humour of the lens is starting to appear, now that you come to think of it...

Don't be too concerned if the lens makes a noise as it works. A lot of lenses do that - they have electronic motors inside to do the autofocusing and these can be audible. Indeed, some manufacturers have realised that the noise can interfere with the use of the camera for video work and have made re-designs that incorporate silent motors. The still photographer may not notice this but the videographer can breath a ( silent ) sigh of relief.

And some lenses have mechanisms inside to reduce the effects of vibration - you'll see they have the words VR, OS, IS, or  VC in the name somewhere - not at the same time, as these are different makers. Well, some of those mechanisms can have a rattle to them when they are not being used - indeed some of them make a little clack noise as they work,

Some lenses have a degree of what one could only describe as looseness in their zooming elements and can seem to slop around when not under direct control. One manufacturer realises that people want to have different feels and has a friction collar that snubs the zoom ring - this is a very good idea. Other manufacturers just rely on tight tolerances at the start of the lens' life and loose ones later...

But if you have one of the Special Lenses From The Internet ( and they need not be from Queensland - you can get them from Hong Kong and Oklahoma as well...) that has passed what we like to call Negative Quality Control, you may have Special Noises. Or Special Feelings. Sometimes you can look into them and see Special Things.

Our service department can investigate this for you - it might cost a bit to do this as it takes time, tools, and occasionally a bucket of bleach. Keep trying to get Fortitude Valley on the phone and remember to keep your sense of humour.

PS: If the paper you got from Fortitude Valley says Warrenty it means your lens will be fixed by Warren...

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Beat The Winter Photography Blues - Buy More Cameras and Lenses

We all have slow periods in out photography - times when there seems to be no new thing to do or to photograph - times when the Latest New Look has been recycled from 1987. Our monthly visits to the camera club begin to pall and even a good argument late at night on a camera-fan forum seems to be unrewarding...

These are the times when Retail Therapy can step into give meaning to our lives. We all know that a couple of hours spent in garden City or Carousel or Karrinyup walking around disrupting the sales displays followed by a cappuchino and a doughnut can make all the difference. Well camera stores are no different - though you won't get baked goods or designer coffee.

Every photographer has at least some small space left in their camera bag for something else - even if it is just a bubble level or microfibre cloth. Larger spots can be filled with lenses - and even if we never actually use them, they can be taken out of the case and clipped on the camera just in case the perfect picture appears in front of us. And they can become optical members of the family - possessions to be treasured and puled out when visitors come over and defended stoutly on the internet.

Well now is the time for you to come on down to Camera Electronic and gladden your heart with something in glass and aluminium. Or something that needs to have the battery charged before using. Or another damned battery charger to replace the ones you have already left in hotel rooms across Europe...

You may even be struck by The Beam Of Light - that nearly mythical purchase that sends a flash of inspiration into your soul and opens up the floodgates of creativity. Jackson Pollock had one of those one day when he went to his local Bunnings and found the paint tin without the lid. And didn't that work out well.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Wooden Walls Of England

Those of you with a historical bent will know what title means. The rest will think we are discussing building detail. Which leads into the topic of the post - architectural photography.

Never mind what you thought architecture was. It might have been that way but it isn't any more. Universities and Institutes of Technology turn out hundreds of architects each year and from the looks of some of the designs they produce a few of them have even less sense of responsibility than photography students...when business is good you get to see this adventurous spirit in concrete and aluminium - actually you get to see some of it in papier maché and dried orange peel.

Whatever - someone has to document the design, if only for the Coroner. This is where the architectural photographer steps in. And you should see some of the stuff they step in. They are required to go to building sites where every square metre of ground is covered in mud and discarded packaging and every view of the structure is impeded by site fences and porta-loos. And they are still required to make the pile look good.

They need nerves of steel and boots of rubber - and lenses of tilt-shift and cameras of extreme resolution. Canon, Nikon, Hasselblad, Pentax, and Linhof make these, but only the first four are accessible to the general public. Linhof photographers are a breed apart, and need special handling when being moved via public transport - in case they go off.

One of the funny things about architectural photography is the fact that the structures themselves may contain nary a straight line  - think of the Guggenheim Gallery - and may resemble something out of the gorier illustrations in Grey's Anatomy textbook, but the designer and builder will insist upon the photograph being free of any optical distortion. Thus the tilt/shift lens, the rise/fall movement, the photo platform halfway up a skyscraper, and the 4:00 AM photo shoot to get just the right light. Architectural shooters are a hardy lot, and have a surprising vocabulary.

Is it a paying game? Well, if you can do it well, it is. Big buildings are big money and big reputations for the makers. They are big prestige for the occupiers. make them look good and you can charge. Charge big.

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Search Parties Have Been Organised

And party hats and balloons have been ordered. There will be ice-cream cake.

Finding things is dead easy. All you have to do is go where they are and...there they are. This is the principle of finding lost socks and references to obscure camera equipment. Just go to the website with the name of the thing you need and there you'll find it.

Or not, as the case may be. " I saw it on a website..." is frequently heard - twinned with " I found El Dorado and have a garage full of gold nuggets...". We are at liberty to believe this as much as we like. As it is a statement frequently given to lower the price of consumer goods, a certain amount of skepticism is inevitable.

Those of us who regularly receive fyshing emails and scam notifications on our email pages  wait a little before we go along with this sort of thing. If a website promising discounts or nuggets is out there, it is reasonable to think that it is there to be seen by all - if no approach to it yields any result despite all the clues and keywords we type into the browser, we are again at liberty to adjust our level of belief...

As the REB of the BGA I find I can also imagine a number of scenaria that might see fake sites made up to force price-matching or discounting amongst panicky retailers. I have made far too many parody magazine covers myself - for amusement rather than profit. Anything is possible.

So - what should you do if you have found that offer that is too good to refuse on the net - and want to bring it to a local retailer to force them to match it? How do you react? Be very careful to check the bona fides of the site - the address and the characteristics of the page. If it does not say where it is from, it is from nowhere, and deserves to be returned promptly. If it is from nl or pl or ng or hk exercise extreme caution in pursuing it...

Will the shop respond to every other shop? Not if the other shop is not a shop. Or not a shop that can legitimately deal in with a particular brand name. Some manufacturers maintain a list of genuine dealers and these can be matched. Otherwise it is smoke and mirrors and flashy promises. Good for David Copperfield but poor for business.

Remember - no-one can legitimately fix prices any more. The marketplace rules - but shopkeepers are not obliged to accept a swift kick in the leg as an alternative to a fair price.

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