Thursday, June 30, 2016

Photo Live Expo 2016 - Less Than A Month To Go

You will probably have seen one of the Photo Live 2016 Announcements on your Facebook feed - or perhaps you are one of the subscribers to In The Loupe or our shop emails. You may even be someone who reads this weblog column...

Well, you'll have noticed that there is slightly under a month to go until the Photo Live 2016 is staged - it'll be Sunday, the 24th of July at the Perth Novotel Langley form 10:00 to 5:00. The advertisements encourage you to wander down and wander in and wander around.

 The cost for wandering is very reasonable - a gold coin donation to Telethon - but you might want to consider a little more focused activity. There are to be a number of speakers on a wide variety of photographic subject and the cost for attending their talks is VERY reasonable. Like a pinta beer in a pub price you can get the latest ideas about specialised subjects from world-class speakers who are recognised experts in their field. Interested in....?

Drones & Aerial
Pet Photography
Surf, Beach and Lifestyle
Wedding and Couples

Well, never mind finding an App for that - we've got real live experts for that and for the price of a talk ticket, you get to hear what you really need to know. I'm not going to use the phrase "horse's mouth" here because some of these are attractive people, but if you want to find out what is right - RIGHT NOW - then go to their lectures.

If you're going to be in the workshop mood on the day, there are three longer session. They deal with

Adobe software
Studio Lighting
Food Photography

Now the catch to all these pleasures is that you'll need to book a place for them. And It would be a good idea to do so now, because last year saw some of the sessions booked out. Sure, you might be lucky and nip into a session if it is not packed, but you'll pay more on the day than with a pre-booking.

So go over to the Photo Live Expo website and start clicking. It'll be the most fun on a Sunday that you can have in town.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"Just Bring Your Camera"

"And I'll give you something for your film".

These two statements were frequently heard in the analog era when someone wanted you to do a professional job of sports, event, or wedding coverage but did not want to pay a professional price for the result. You were foolish if you thought that it was going to excuse you from doing a professional job - that was still the standard. But you were not going to get paid. You were a relative. Or a mate. Or the relative of a mate.

It always went the same way. The cost of the film and processing was never fully paid - they gave you something but that something was based upon their recollection of the price of a roll of Kodak Gold  or Sakura film seen at the checkout of the local supermarket. If you presented them with the actual cost of the pro neg film and the processing at the pro lab they recoiled in horror and accused you of being a gouger.

Once the pictures were delivered they asked for the negs, and then they took them off and used the pictures without any credits or thank-yous. But they would pass you onto their mates at a party to do the same thing for the same rates. It was like being a football - the boots that kicked you changed but the sensation was still the same.

Well, now everything has changed. Now with the digital era the mates of mates realise that there are no more films to be bought and no more lab fees to be they no longer have to offer anything in compensation. They are entitled under their rules of the game to demand all the RAW files, all the jpeg files, and frequently the memory card as well.  You'll sometimes be offered a drink - and that is rare - and sometimes be offered "exposure".

Exposure is the method the ancient Greeks used to dispose of unwanted infants on hillsides and it is equally effective on modern photographers. The only difference is the modern mates of mates will then tell the mates of their mates that you'll do their weddings/sports carnivals/car shoots/parties for free, and you can die on that hillside repeatedly.

"Just bring your camera".

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Three Days Warning - Pentax K1

There is an End-Of-Financial-Year sale email going out right now from Camera Electronic - you may be on the list that receives it. Normally I do not interfere with that section of the business or comment on the offers, but today another staff member pointed out that there is an exceptional good deal in there. So I grabbed an example of the camera, photographed it, and am adding the blog imprimature to it.

This blog post is chiefly aimed at someone who up until now has been shooting crop-frame cameras, but has not advanced to the full-frame models yet. If you are the possessor of purely-crop frame lenses you can read on - if you have a mixed bag of crop and full frame lenses you must proceed with caution.

Here's what I mean - if you have some crop or full frame lenses for the Canon or Nikon system, you will probably think of investigating the full-frame cameras from those makers. By all means - and you may find one of them in the same EOFY ad. Pass further down the car...

If you have ONLY crop-frame lenses and are contemplating the switch to full-frame...well you might as well consider shifting to a different camera system, as you'll be buying new full-frame lenses anyway. And you can do yourself some good by shifting to the Pentax K-1.

The specs are all in their own websites, or you can dial back to earlier issues of this blog that were posted just after the K-1 launch. Massive mega-pixelage, massively capable AF, weather sealing, high ISO...all the newer attributes of top of the line cameras. Plus the ability to achieve pixel shift recording in studio situations to add even more resolution to still life shots. The convenience of one of the best LCD touch screens in the business and all the electronic connectivity bells and whistles that people expect these days.

Days is the operative term - you've got 3 more days to secure an in-store or on-line bargain of the age with the offer on this camera. $2699 for a camera that rivals medium format performance.

You'll need a full-frame lens for it. I've included one in the illustration as a suggestion, and you can choose others if you wish. It is superb, but obviously you'll have to pay for it as a separate thing.

Personally, I would be utterly tempted if I wanted to make large landscapes, or if my studio work involved large prints. This blog just needs little images, but if you are more ambitious or better connected with commercial clients, but if you are more ambitious, or artistic, or better connected to commercial clients, you want the K-1.

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Tickled Blue and Yellow With Hasselblad

I normally do not admit to feeling happy, in case someone wants me to share it with them...but I think I will have to confess to the emotion right now - Hasselblad have come out with a new camera.

Not that I will ever own one - the price, though lower than the H-series medium format DSLR cameras, will still be above my pocket. But the fact that Hasselblad have broken new ground with a mirrorless product in this larger sensor size shows some real imagination. And good new imagination in photography is as refreshing as a tonic.

Oh, we get some imagination all the time, of course...but frequently it settles itself out into a new app for a mobile phone or another oddly-shaped handle for a video rig. It is rare that it takes quite such a leap from what has gone before. And it is rare that it is as clean in design.

Right now the experience I have is the same as the readers of this column - I've looked at two days of "leaked" low-res pictures and today's proper announcement from Hasselblad themselves. I've seen the regular-res advertising pictures that you have seen and noted the body size as compared to three other standard sorts of camera bodies.

An aside. Can older readers remember when the agencies were a lot more coy about showing products other than those of the advertising client themselves? I remember the 1950's and early 60's when car manufacturers wanted to attack other maker's cars to make their own models look good, but were afraid of the opposing firm's lawyers. They would commission very detailed illustrations that almost parodied the other cars - they didn't look good, but you couldn't really identify them as a specific brand. Some incorporated styling features from four other makes.

Well, HB have shown the three other cameras openly and the new Hasselblad looks to be a very nifty size in comparison. As the design also incorporates a right-handed grip, it should handle very well in the field. You can't deny that the lenses will be hefty, though, as you will always have to have weight with large pieces of optical glass - and I can't see HB passing up the chance to add f:2 lenses if they can. Longer lenses will also be weighty by virtue of the barrels.

The short ones, however will be light enough - I see they are putting out a 45mm and a 90mm to start with, and promising an adapter for H series lenses. Flash shooters will be content with the shutters within the lenses and the consequent freedom to synch at fast speeds.

You know what they first pictures of the rig remind me of? Victor Hasselblad's original brief for an oblique aerial camera for the Swedish Air Force come at last to digital fruition. You can envisage someone leaning over the edge of a Saab biplane taking photos with this new camera - and no 70mm roll film magazines to change.

I do hope they are going to have a launch party. I vote for aquavit, meatballs in gravy, and shapely blondes. You can't get more Swedish than that!

See the Hasselblad X1D-50c on the Camera Electronic website here

Uncle Dick

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Spotty Herbert

Shooting an impromptu product coverage in the shop one morning meant making an improvised scoop out of a roll of Ilford printing paper. It's good paper, and gives a spotless finish.

To get a neutral white balance in the mixed shop lighting I used the Custom White Balance provision on my Fujifilm X-T10 camera  to reset it in one go. Lots of cameras have this same feature - you point the lens at a plain white surface that is illuminated like your subject and the camera measures the colour temperature with one shot. If you say OK to the result you have a steady basis to shoot from, colour-wise.

Only trouble is when I shot I had a real spot - obviously my sensor had picked up a lugie the size of a Volkswagen  and when I stopped down to f:14 it showed up something terrible. Well, I opened the lens a little, put on flash, and resigned myself to cloning it out in the finished products - I didn't have time to wait for a sensor clean.

That's the three choices you have; clean, clone or claggy pictures.

After I got home I decided to see if I could clean the sensor myself with a puff of air - I wouldn't touch the filter in front of a sensor with anything else - I leave that to the staff at Camera Electronic when it gets really bad - but figured a puff from a blower would be fairly safe. As the spot was in the upper left of the picture the offending dirt must have been in the lower right area - I puffed carefully all round the place and then took another diagnostic picture of a clear blue sky and small aperture.

No good. Still spotty. Puff again. Still spotty. Then I happened to glance at the rear element of the lens.

The spot. Sitting there. One puff and it was gone, and with the last photo....voila:

This is the wide angle/short focal length trap that has got me before. When you use this sort of gear and then stop down to f:11-22 you run a risk of picking up dark spots from gunk on the rear elements of your lenses or light spots from the front elements of filters in front of the lenses. It can be deadly if you are firing a flash at a subject against a dark backdrop.

The answer, as Ernest our technician says, is to take as much care with the element surfaces as you are urged to do with the sensor - and to make sure that you are not re-contaminating everything
each time you heave a lens on and off. Clean out the camera bag, make sure your clothing is not shedding itself into the camera.

And when you are next in the shop, whack out some cash for a Camera Electronic lens cloth or some packets of Hoodman Lens Cleanse wet wipes. The money is little enough and the time you take clearing the optical pathway will be repaid 100 x over in not having to clone stamp every darn file you make.

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New class of camera

June has seen the announcement of a new class of camera - the medium-format mirrorless model. Fittingly, Hasselblad have been the first in the field with it. It will have a new range of lenses and a new set of tasks to do. The owners may find themselves taking it further away from the environment that the other Hasselblad digital cameras normally occupy.

Mind you, sometimes the current Hasselblad digital cameras are flying through the air or swimming under the water, so that must count as venturesome. And then there were the Hasselblad film cameras that NASA used to take moon pictures...close up... and that was a fair ways outside the studio...

But how about back inside the studio? The slim line of the bodywork on the new camera is more than just a convenient shape - it is suggestive of the sort of thing that may come. And I am thinking specifically of the size and shape of a dedicated studio camera with view camera movements.

Hasselblad may not have this on their minds at all. But it is not to say others don't - readers with an interest in the studio camera will remember that Fujifilm made a series of 6 x 8 studio cameras in the last of the film era that incorporated bellows and rise, fall, and tilt movements. All this while making room for a reflex mirror. I can attest to them being a very well-built device - I was tempted in the old Melbourne Camera Exchange days to invest in a kit, and I do regret not trying one out in the studio.

Ah. well, that was film and this is digital....and by the looks of the bodywork on the new Hasselblad it is slim enough to contemplate being part of a back standard in a view system. With an integral sensor and LCD on either side of the body, and provision for movement of a lesson the front standard, we have a digital version of that 6 x 8.

I wonder if this can have exercised the design minds at Fujifilm? Rumour has it that they will also make a medium format mirror-less digital in the future. Would they see the professional illustration market as a viable niche to enter? I can only hope.

See the Hasselblad X1D on the Camera Electronic site here

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

When You Get That Sinking Feeling.. Leica X-U

Make sure your battery is charged and you have a fresh card in your Leica X-U camera. Down to 15 metres you will be the king of your environment for an hour.

Or you may elect to document harvest time in the wheatbelt from the top of a header in a dust storm. You'll still get great pictures and the camera will be in better shape than you are at the end of the day.

The lens stays on - you don't change it. It's 23mm so the APS-C  CMOS sensor sees a moderate wide angle view. f: 1.7 - f:16 aperture and infinity to 20cm close focus. Just look for a sight and shoot it.

If the lighting on the scene is too dim to be captured  - even by the 12500 ISO setting - there is a dedicated flash at the front edge of he lens that is never blocked off from the subject. (Bravo Leica. This is something camera designers needed to do for years and you have had the courage.)

Note: for the underwater work, there is a apparently a separate portion on the control pad at the back that adapts the white balance and distortion correction to the blue-green light and the diffraction of the water. Too much science for me but it means you will not be attempting it on the computer later.

DNG and jpeg so whatever computer and image editing program you use will not be fighting back later.

And Woo Hoo, a fitted sealed TPE armour coat for the camera that protects it in the situations where you fail to protect yourself. As well, the door to the inside is double locked and rubber sealed as well. Even the darn strap attachments on the ends are sunk in like deck tiedown points so they will not dig into you.

Given the fact that this camera also records full 1080 HD video I think it is a perfectly viable alternative to the little action cam for tough filming. Certainly you'll get better resolution in a hand-held camera.

See the Camera Electronic Leica online store here

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sofa Time

Down the back of the sofa.

In the car ashtray.

All the pockets of your trousers in the wardrobe.

The suitcase you brought back from Bali.

Biscuit tin.

Old glass jar in the shed.

Wherever there might be some spare change - start looking for it. You're gonna need about $ 16,000 if my calculations are correct.

If you can't manage this in the next three months, wait about 6 months and you might make do with  about $ 10,000.

Okay - go. Get started.

PS: do the children need to eat every day? I mean, really?

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Influencers

Watch as Elliot Mess and his elite force of "Influencers" clean up crime and corruption on the streets of jazz-age Chicago...*

A recent posting in DP Review seems to suggest that the role of the "Influencer" in social media marketing is going to decline. Apparently it is going to get more difficult to rock up to a major manufacturer and shout out "Stand and deliver!".

I'm not surprised - with the various natural disasters and manufacturing mishaps that the photo trade is susceptible to, it is getting hard to get them to deliver anyway. That may seem cynical, but that's one of the good things about cynicism - it never disappoints.

I was drawn to the article because I currently occupy the position of "Influencer" for the shop. In winter months it becomes " Influenzer" and the sales of Codral and tissues climbs but that is another story. When I go viral, I go viral big time.

But I'm afraid I am a little sceptical about the status of "Influencer" if there is little evidence apart from barking coughs that I really do make people do things. The readers of this weblog column use computers, phones, and tablets, and are smart enough to operate them far more efficiently than I. That means they are smart enough to make up their own minds about what photo gear to use and what programs to follow. They also know what they like, and can generally achieve it without me telling them what to do.

I have my own likes and dislikes. I have used this column to bruit the things I prefer but it is not because someone has left me a Gladstone bag of money - it is because I genuinely like using certain items and programs. As for the dislikes, well, I am sensible enough to write without making too many enemies. Besides, there is always the chance that the manufacturer of the Dudoflex D will have a better idea next time and the new camera will be wonderful.

There is also the distinct possibility that I can be wrong about things.

My hands are not pretty enough to allow me to act as a product poser for goods and the pictures that appear in this column are taken by me anyway. You try to make your hands look good if you are trying to hold the camera in one of them and the product in the other. It rarely works.

So  -  the end result is that this column is reasonably impartial in its reportage. Only reasonably - I have my limits. If the Sun Star Model Car company of China wants me to plug their products and are prepared to send me a sea container of the 1:18 stuff, I am prepared to abandon all pretence to morality.

Uncle Dick

* Frank Nitti was just misunderstood...

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Monday, June 20, 2016

The Amateur Triumphant - Part Three

Well, you've finally done it - closed the doors of the professional practice and sent a farewell notice to the ATO. You've tossed the letterhead, invoice forms, and business cards into the fire and told the accountant that you will be doing your own lying in the future. You are set to be a real amateur.

No turning back. No doing jobs for money. From now on the only compensation you will be receiving will be "exposure", "a drink", and "recognition". And the occasional bucket of lemons from Mr. Valducci's tree. There will be more lemons than drinks.

The demands on you will change - while no-one can compel you to deliver the goods on time, they will expect you to hand over every raw file that you have taken so that they can have them printed at Officeworks. This might have seemed unreasonable when you were a working professional but that was when you were a person with a camera in hand - now you are a camera with a person attached. The camera has remained sharp but you have become fuzzy.

Do not despair. While you no longer will have money, you can still have fun. By all means turn over the raw files to the person who demands them. Just copy them all into 1993BFG.3.0PiX format on a 5" floppy disc and hand it over. And a pleasant smile when you do so doesn't hurt.

Your own photography will improve greatly in the future. You will no longer be asked to make tins of cabbage ends or anorexic teenagers look appetising. No one will ask you to take 3.2 metric tonnes of lighting equipment up the top of Bluff Knoll in relays to capture the magic of toilet paper. You can go to a wedding and drink.

Better still, you can go to a wedding and watch the wedding photographers at work and let them watch you watching them. If you know how to let out good strangled shriek or do a very slow face palm you can have fun all afternoon. A slow wink also does the trick.

Are you worried about the piles of gear that are still stacked in the locked cabinet? Well, if you haven't finished paying for them you need not worry too much longer. The leasing and finance companies will be sorting that/you out in short order. If it is yours freehold, you can either use it to take immensely detailed photo essays of spit or you can take it to the camera markets that they hold every three months. You can then bring it home again.

There is an opportunity for the new amateur to join the art scene. This can be effected on-line or in person by attending at local art groups. Sociability, kindness, and the ability to see good in everyone is an asset in this sort of affair. It is rewarding if you are prepared to learn the language of Artspeak and are not afraid to try a few halting phrases. " Awful Dreck " and " Ghastly Daub " are useful...

Finally, have you thought of finally settling down and writing the Great Australian Novel? Or the Definitive Outback Photoshoot? Or setting fire to paddocks? They are all equally attractive propositions, and as you are a free agent you can turn them over in your mind...

Onward. Excelsior!

Uncle Dick

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Friday, June 17, 2016

The Flirty Thirty: the Sigma 30 mm f:1.4 DC Art lens

Well what the heck. We have talked about 50mm focal length lenses as "The Nifty Fifty" for years. Why not push the linguistic boat out, eh?

Why not indeed. And there are good mathematical reasons why you should consider this focal length. As mathematics are the food of the photographer let us begin the feast.

The standard focal length of a lens for a 35mm camera used to be stated as 50mm. It also used to be stated that the standard focal length was the diagonal length of the gate in the film plane. Here's where the two statements differed: the diagonal of the 35mm frame is about 43.4 mm. Thus if you were shooting with a 50 mm, 52 mm, or 55 mm said to be standard you were really shooting with a very mild telephoto...

That's enough to disturb some people so we'll pause while they breathe into a paper bag or lie down briefly.

There were some manufacturers - like Voigtländer - who put out good fast lenses close to this focal length - you could still get them a few years ago for the Nikon mounting and they were cracker sharp affairs. And just that bit wider than the 50 mm jobs. In many cases that were considered just perfect for universal use.

Roll on the digital time and the APS-C camera sensor...and the 18 mm x 24 mm sensor size approximating the half-frame of the  film era, but not hoiked vertically. ( Separate blog post will be coming on the naming conventions and sales mystique of sensors in the near future. Prepare to be infuriated...). If we apply the mathematics to this sensor that we did to the film gate we get a standard measurement of 30 mm...and we arrive at the subject of this post:

the Sigma 30 mm f:1.4 DC Art lens

It's only for the small frame cameras - the DC defines that - but there are no restrictions after that. It is MEANT to be the standard lens for a small DSLR and to do that job superbly.

Sigma have immensely improved their lenses in the last few years, in both optical design and barrel construction. They offer a full two-year warranty. They can compete with in-house branded lenses from the major body makers and users can confidently use them as their complete kit.

My investigations with this lens were via a mirrorless camera and adapter - this has been explained before. Thus I cannot comment on autofocus performance - but they were completely successful as far as resolution and freedom from the various forms of colour and shape distortion. So extrapolating my experience for those who have Sony, Nikon, Canon, or Pentax bodies, you can go for it with full confidence - you're not restricted to your own optical paddock.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bending Over Sideways To Please The Client - Tilt/Shift Part One

This is not a column about business relationships. It is about optics. If you want the other sort you'll have to go to Dale Carnegie or The Better Business Bureau.

Three manufacturers that I know of currently make tilt/shift lenses that can be used on digital cameras; Nikon, Canon and Samyang/Rokinon. There have been others in the past but my researches don't turn them up readily now. The one in use in the studio today is the Samyang 24mm f:3.5 version with the Nikon mount. Of course you can get it with a Canon mont as well...

Cynics may be forgiven for looking at the design and screwing up their faces, but I'm not here to judge whether or not Samyang unbolted another maker's design and reverse engineered it. Nor any I going to make the obvious comment about the use of high-grade plastics to replicate someone else's metal part. Take it from someone who used it that it is well-built and works as it should.

You don't get AF with these lenses, nor do you want it. You get MF and ADJF...Adjustable Focus.

 And you get to adjust it in ways that are at once artistic and practical.

The subjects that people cover in the studio can sometimes be challenging in that they are longer than the depth of field of a lens will cover. Stop down as much as you like, you still can't get everything in focus -and clients demand everything in focus. If you need to use a wider aperture for artistic effect, you are in even a worse fix.

Here is where the tilt mechanism of these lenses comes in. They are the way to produce the Scheimpflug effect - the phenomenon that occurs when you rotate the lens and the sensor to intersect the plane of the subject. Sounds complex, turns out to be surprisingly visible in the viewfinder, and nails the focus along the length of the subject - in this case a 1:24 Chevrolet Fleetline. Even at a modest aperture, it's in focus.

All in focus from headlight to rear bumper.

Away from the plane that you select, it goes out of focus if you want to create a fuzzy effect that is where you do it. Again useful in the studio to diffuse the backdrop and smooth it out. The clients want to see the products, not the brick wall behind them.

Note that the focusing you do with this lens is with the broad front ring. It's well damped, and does not creep. The lens is a pleasure to use.

As always, available now in-store or on-line.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

New Nikon - Handy New Bit

Just in on the shelves - the battery grip for the new Nikon D500 camera - the APS-C flagship DSLR for Nikon Australia. It is designated MB-D17.

Why buy?

1. You get to put another battery in the system - the camera shoots more shots and cycles faster with the extra power available.

2. You get a grip on the camera when it is being held in the portrait ( vertical ) mode that does not involve canting your right wrist up and over the body as you shoot. The benefit when you are doing this over a long session - for instance with dancers or portraits - is considerable. The joint strain after a couple of hours without this grip would erase all the fun of the photography.

3. You can control the position of the camera in the Portrait mode much better as this gives the same body feel as the normal side grip. Rubber pads and all.

4. There is a repeat of the major function buttons and wheels on the grip - you can operate as per normal without having two revert to the side controls. Just keep shooting.

5. You look like a cool pro while using it. I know this would never influence the sensible readers of this column, but I assure you it influenced me when I cared about what I looked like.  The downside was people would ask me for advice on their cameras and I had to invent things to say...

6. The grip has a little special cast compartment in the top surface that stores the rubber cover on the bottom of the D500 base. You can save it for later if you take the grip off.

7.  It's genuine Nikon, with the full Nikon Australia warranty.

Call in and try, or phone in and buy or come on line to our online store

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Achieving Amateur Status - Part Two

Once the decision is taken and the die cast, the bridge crossed, and the Gordian Knot cut, it is time to decide how to become an amateur. Here are some first steps:

a. Get a photo vest. If you are an urban type, get a black one with lots of pockets. If you'll be out in the country choose a grey or khaki one with lots of pockets. If you are going to haunt the motorcycle and drag races get a blue denim one with lots of pockets.*

b. If you cannot afford a vest just get lots of pockets. You can wear them like a Mexican bandit's ammunition belt. Be prepared for Pancho Villa jokes.

c. Get a baseball cap. It does not matter whether you wear it forward, backwards, or sideways but you must wear it at all times. If they attempt to take it off you in church, change religions.

d. You no longer will worry about taking extra camera bodies, lenses, and batteries to an assignment. You'll no longer have to trail three roller cases full of lighting heads and extension cords. And you'll no longer have a poorly-paid assistant to set up, clean up. and throw up for you. Celebrate by paring your outfit down to one pre-1970 SLR with a standard lens and a smudged UV filter. Encase it in a brown leather ever-ready case with extra pockets down the strap for rolls of film and cleaning tissues.

e. Stock up on Ilford FP4 and Kodak Gold film.  Keep it on the back parcel shelf of your car.

f. Join 15 internet forum groups that deal with different camera brands. Play one off against the other by researching the minute details of each new product and making spread-sheet charts of the reasons why each one of them is worse than the other.

g. Go to random weddings and obstruct the professional photographer. You know precisely where they need to be to get the best coverage for the event and you are now in a position to prevent it.

h.  Practise your computer skills by making composited HDR shots of babies with harsh cross lighting and graffiti in the background - preferably against a pebble beach with lowering clouds. Print these with 100% sharpening and push the finished results under the doors of the local portrait studios. Eventually you will get a scream.

i. Haunt the shops. No, really, put on a white bedsheet and come in through the front door making a "Woooooo" sound. The staff get little enough amusement as it is and they will look kindly on you.

j. Tell people how you did it in your day. If your day was just before last weekend they may listen to you. If your day was just before last century they may throw chairs at you. You can sell the chairs for a decent price.

k. Make up one of those inkjet-printed plain paper advertisements offering cut-rate photography "for exposure" with a little fringe of tear-off phone numbers at the bottom. Tape one to the wall in the waiting area of every portrait studio in the town when the receptionist isn't looking.

l. Offer to lead a workshop photo tour expedition seminar event to a town in the bush that has no store, petrol station, pub, or supply of running water.

m. Write articles on photography and submit them to Dolly Magazine, The Watchtower, and Hansard.

* The pink lace vest is a dangerous choice...

Uncle Dick

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Turning Amateur - Part One

Every working or professional photographer I have talked to - from the lowly international Magnum superstars to the most famous of the Santa Photos shooters in Boise, Idaho - secretly nurtures one supreme aspiration. They have a dream to become a full-time amateur.

All through their working lives you can see them shooting envious glances out the sides of the viewfinder at the chaps in the photo vests who are fiddling with the brown leather ever-ready cases festooned with lens hood holders. It is sad to say that if it weren't for the pressures of money and responsibility they would chuck their day job and reach for their goal.

I guess it is like a lot of things in life - they are set early onto the treadmill and there are few opportunities to get off. They get trained in photography somehow - university, technical school, or trade - and find a job and start to take pictures for money and then before they know it they are hooked. They want to eat every day and own more than one shirt and sleep in a bed. The sad slow decline into financial comfort and professional success starts and they never really see themselves slipping further and further into affluence. One day they wake up and have it all, and no where to put it, and another carton of it arriving Monday...

Then they long for the wonderful world of the amateur. No deadlines. No live lines. No lines at all.

No need to justify their camera purchases to the accountant or the ATO. No need to own the best and fastest before a competitor owns it. No need to go round and slander the other professionals in hopes of getting a client away from them. No need to sit there in a bare studio looking at a bare appointment book and whistling to keep up the spirits. Heck, when you are an amateur you can go to Dan Murphy's and buy spirits at 10:00 in the morning and no-one cares...

Oh, the siren call of the hot photographic news story...and how sweet it is when the siren goes on by their house and they don't have to get out of bed to follow it.

And the charm of attending a rustic wedding in a paddock in the wheatbelt. Amongst the grasshoppers and dust and hayseeds...and they won't have to change lenses because they're a guest instead of a worker. And they don't have to make small talk with the hayseeds unless they want to.

That wonderful dawn at 3:00 AM in summer. Not a breath of wind. Clouds glorious. The roseate fingers of light making for perfect balance between outside light and a desperate real estate agent. No need to haul three light stands and a Skylite reflector up to a third storey. No need to climb on a ladder to get verticals right. No need to spend the rest of the day spotting out the cat wee from the walls. Architecture photography as it was meant to be someone else.

Well, now that I have set the glowing picture ( and it isn't all just halation ) read on in one of our next weblog columns for how to achieve this. Remember: Life was meant to be more than just getting the gravy spots off a sensor.

Uncle Dick

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Friday, June 10, 2016

E & OE - The Escape Hatch On The Roof Of The Retail Bus

You've probably seen the letters " E & OE " at the bottom of a lot of the Camera Electronic advertisements and wondered what they mean. I asked one time and was assured that they stand for " Errors And Omissions Excepted ".

It is a sort of a quasi-legal phrase that seeks to stop arguments when the situation goes pear-shaped. We are all human...well, humanoid in my case...and troubles do creep in. Mistaken prices, goods that have run out, weird descriptions caused by can imagine the sorts of things.

Mean people might seize upon these errors and omissions to bedevil the staff - or try to compel them to supply things at incorrect prices. You can imagine the sort of trouble that a Cadillac agency would experience if a clumsy key stroke in advertising copy shifted the decimal point of a new car price a space to the left and everyone wanted to get the car for a 10th of the price. Of course the same sort of trouble would apply if the decimal shifted one space to the right...except no-one would be breaking the showroom door down to get in.

Unversed as I am in retail law, I cannot say where real decision rests in this sort of thing. Good sense would suggest that where a genuine error has been made...and one that could be seen to be a typo or transposition or mistake imposed by a publisher...everyone would stand back and agree to cool down. Bad sense would suggest other things. The E & OE puts a small barrier out to stop this.

From the cash-register-drawer side it must also be said that there can frequently be errors and omissions on the other side of the counter too. People sometimes have a different idea in their mind than that which they express. Indeed, sometimes our common language of photography leads us all to confusion. A case in point once developed; I realised that it was very wise to ask for clarification whenever someone asked for a soft box, lightbox, light cube, or soft cube.

They are all similar words, but can be used to define four entirely separate products; a studio flash light modifier, an illuminated table upon which to examine transparencies, an LED light source, and a cloth diffusing device for tabletop photography. There were some pretty fraught conversations on the phone when the customer meant one thing, said another, and I heard a third thing. In some cases it was a retail version of an Abbot and Costello routine and we never did find out who was on second.

In any event if there is controversy, be patient. The staff will endeavour to do so as well. Most things can be resolved gently. Harsh words spoken over a phone or typed on a computer screen are hardly ever necessary. You can always resort to ##,@, and %!

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The $49 Photographic Insurance Policy

It costs $49 and it has three legs and you need one in your car right now. And you can't get it at Marlowes.

This is not a column about studio shooting with tripods. The one you see in the pictures would be awful in a studio. If that is what you are looking for, go look through the Cullmann, Gitzo, and Manfrotto tripod range and look for the big, heavy ones - the heavier the better.

This is about a small, boxed $ 49 aluminium tripod that is light enough and cheap enough to live in the box in the boot of your car. Cause one day you gonna get caught...

You'll be out with your camera doing some completely different thing and the light will start to fade. Dusk will roll in and as you come around a bend on the street or road you'll see the most glorious sunset, beach scene, cityscape, or set of clouds over a darkening mountain that life will ever present to you. There will be a parking spot right in front of the best vantage point. No-one will be crowding in front of you. Even the ice-cream wrappers and Red Bull cans will all be cleaned away into the bin.

The scene will be perfect.

And you will need to shoot it at a very small aperture with a low ISO and a long shutter speed. Longer even than the marvellous anti-shake system you paid for in the new camera will accommodate. You will need a tripod and you will need it fast.

Open the boot, take out the $49 Vectra Delux and take the best 30-second photograph of your life....

Okay, that's the end of the drama. The Vectra is one of those tripods that has plastic fittings for the head and legs, though the basic struts are aluminium. You don't want to put a heavy DSLR on there, but you can put a medium one or one of the mirror-less cameras on it. You can put a small video camera on it and use the head to pan and tilt, if you need to. There is even the convenience of a quick-release plate - again in plastic. If you do not put too much weight on it, you'll be fine.

And the important thing is you'll actually have the right tool for the job instead of trying to prop your camera on the bonnet of the car with two jumpers and a Red Bull can out of the rubbish bin.  Make like the Boy Scouts - Be prepared.

* Note. It also doubles as a really light stand for of camera flash if you use the little accessory foot that you get with speed lights.

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Just When You Thought It Was Safe...

Welcome to Ernest's World - the repair workshop at Camera Electronic. You will be amazed. You will be astounded. Try not to touch anything...

In particular, try not to touch the "Sony" charger that he has opened for repair on the workbench. We say "Sony" because that is what the white label on the top says, but there is no way in the world that this has ever been a Sony product.

Oh, it looks like it from the outside - there are the guide rails and the pins that accept a standard Sony lithium-ion battery, but when Ernest opened the casing the circuit board told a different story.

Look at the components - 1970's style resistors and capacitors. Look at the assembly of the parts on the board. They fit where they touch and they touch in very few places.

Look at the screw that holds the device together. If you think it looks like something that would normally secure an MDF cabinet, you could very well be right...

Ernest is not a man given to harsh judgements, but his verdict on this was "fire hazard".

Did this come from a reputable Sony dealer? I am betting it did not. It has the look and feel of eBay or a discount electrical shop. Someone was intrigued by the low price for it and either decided to sell it or buy it - when what they should have done is run out the door to avoid it.

Well, not for Camera Electronic. Our Sony IS Sony, and Sony are good. They stand by their equipment and by if you are tempted to get that free shipping bargain from somewhere that need not be named, remember that you could well be getting the electrical surprise of your life.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Beware Of The Photo Booth Man!

One of the greatest ideas I never had was the photo booth. They have proved to be profitable business for photographers as their own venture or in combination with other coverage - weddings and parties are a prime target for this sort of activity.

To make it work the photographer has to have a camera system that will operate repeatedly without failure and make sharp and colourful files for the clients. Whether these files are to be printed out or collected and transferred to disc or drive media is up to the organisers but it's generally true to say that the output shots do not need to be fine art - though some of them may end up as that.

If you're going to print things out on the occasion and supply them to the subjects straight away, there are especial printers and computer programs that can put a fast set of images together and run them out in seconds. It's not really the job for the average inkjet printer, either in terms of time or costs - there can be little profit in it if ink and paper eat up the charges.

That's commerce, and people who do it commercially do it with good business sense. When I do it the output is fun, not money. And a small booth set-up can deliver that for the cost of nothing more than some battery power. Battery power and a radio trigger.

I chose the Hahnel product called Captur for my camera system. The blessing of Captur is that it runs on plain old AA batteries. This is a good point when the apparatus might be set up and shooting for 3 hours or more. You don't want to be using up premium batteries.

The other blessing is the fact that you can get versions that connect into a vast number of cameras. I use the Fujifilm system but you can get the Captur radio triggers that will fire Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus and lots of other stuff. You just need to see that your camera has a few extra batteries as well and you are good to go.

I set my Fujifilm X-E2 up with an 18mm Fujinon lens and clamp it to the side of a light stand. Further up the pole is a Fujifilm EF42 flash firing into an umbrella - it is pure strobist stuff with the umbrella providing big soft light out to the subjects. If I wanted to I could even eschew the umbrella mount and use the flash directly on the hot shoe to break up the light with a Gary Fong diffuser. The main thing is to disable the camera's "Auto-off " setting in the menu so that it can stay on for long periods.

Well, the subjects pose like maniacs, press the transmitter button, the camera focuses on them, and the flash fires - it's just that simple. The TTL mechanism in modern flashes means you get a consistent exposure of the subject even if they are at slightly different distances and there is more than enough memory in a 16 Gb card to deal with any party.

If you can rig up a mirror to let people see what they look like they'll get even sillier, but expect a few naff poses once the drink sets in. You can edit them out or save them for blackmail later. Try not to put anything in writing...

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Left Or Right To See The Sights - Tilt/Shift part Two

In the first column that looked at the Samyang 24mm f:3.5 tilt/shift lens we turned the little plastic knob that shot the lens structure off the central optical axis in an arc. If we waggled it left or fight we could induce the Scheimpflug effect ( I'll wait here while you Google it. Come back after you're done...) and we got sharp focus along a lot longer area of a studio subject.

Today we take the lens out and leave it looking straight ahead... but we make it shift from side to side like a nervous kid to see what it does.

Here is our street shot in the afternoon*. Camera on a tripod, artificial level indicator turned on in the LCD, horizon about mid way.

Here is the shot with the lens racked to the left.

Here is the shot with the lens racked to the right. The camera position remains exactly the same.

And here is the result of the two images emerged in Photomerge - the Photoshop feature inside their editing programs. Not a glorious scenic prospect, but an easy way to get about a 2.8:1 panorama picture. You've got to help the program by giving it clean stuff to work with and you still have to remember your horizon and your light levels, but once you get the two good shots the computer can assemble them with minimal distortion.

I'm afraid our suburb is deficient in sky scrapers, thank goodness, and I could not do the classic architectural shot of the Empire State Building to show you how this sort of lens renders tall buildings with correct perpendiculars - but take it from me that it does. You would still benefit from being halfway or so up the side of a building opposite the one you are targeting and back far enough to give the lens full play in upper extension, but the effect is both magical and professional.

* Fujifilm X-Pro1 with the film simulation set to Provia mode.

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