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VAPS Conference Bendigo May 2015

The conference is over and I’m back home. The conference was a roaring success, due the the Herculean efforts of Ron Speed and Peter Kewley supported by the most enthusiastic band of volunteers I’ve ever encountered. The organisation was perfection. Crises were averted. Speakers who over spoke (me) were given polite hints to wind up, thus keeping the conference on track and everyone awake. The weekend was action packed. Anyone who went and participated, could easily qualify for the Olympics. After a VAPS conference, they’d be like a walk in in the park, albeit with cameras. It was full on. It wasn’t all intense pressure. Photographers know how to let their hair down. (Those that still had hair).

   
   I’ve never met a lovelier or more diverse group, all united by a love of photography. The ages ranged from (I’m guessing) 10 to 85. There were lots of laughs, intense interest and endless questions. I learned so much. Particularly about people’s backgrounds and the diverse reasons they were led to photography. There was a common trait, some had been photographing for for more than five decades, but everyone was enthusiastic, eager to share and learn. 

The sessions were cleverly crafted to showcase a combination of emotion, philosophy, approach and to enhance technical skills. There were many, many ‘lightbulb moments’ accompanied by gasps of ‘oh that’s how that works.’

It was my pleasure and privilege to listen to and meet Julieanne Kost, Photoshop and Lightroom Evangelist from Adobe. She travels the world, spreading the word about her joy of photography and capably demonstrating the products she represents. I don’t know how she does it, 80% of her life is travelling, but I’m so grateful she does. Her talk was humorous, her pictures breathtaking and her sense of humour wicked. I’m sure Adobe’s market domination is due in no small part to her enthusiasm and demonstration of the products. Many times I’ve been stuck on an issue and watched a Julieanne video online. Charmingly, she claimed she occasionally has to watch her own videos to remember a skill she’s forgotten she had.

For my talks and workshops I had the support of Steve Mills from Ted’s Cameras. He got manufacturers and his own organisation, to supply a representative range of small cameras. I was loaned a treasure trove of small gems from Nikon, Panasonic, Leica, Canon, Olympus and Fuji. I also requested some Sony cameras, but unfortunately they didn’t consider the event worthwhile, so sadly, no Sony. After my talk and demonstration, the attendees  flocked to the table asked questions, tested and made purchasing decisions. Several crestfallen people pulled Sony RX100s from pocket and/or purse and asked in whispered tones “I have one of these, is it OK.” I assured them they were great cameras, but for some reason Sony had not wished to be represented.

Derek Mobbs from Epson had an enthusiastic reception, not only because he had an Epson 600 A3+ printer to raffle, but because he had a great presentation on workflow and black and white printing. Epson have embraced the camera clubs and with an ambassador like Derek and the quality of print they produce, they have a long prosperous future ahead. 

Unfortunately, I missed Shireen Hammond’s presentation, but from the comments and intense discussion, it generated a lot of emotion and admiration. So much, that it formed the basis of Dawne Fahey’s workshop which followed. Dawne divided the room into groups and elected spokespeople who then had to analyse the essence of Shireen’s message. That unleashed some interesting responses and lots of emotion as each draftee had to present and represent their groups opinion.

I drove home from Bendigo, tired, but elated, extremely grateful and privileged to have been included in this event. I refuelled the car and myself with the worst burger ever, from McDonalds new DIY menu. I waited ages for the ‘chef’ to destroy a piece of meat, some bacon, sauce, plastic cheese, salad and place it on a base constructed of some indeterminate substance moulded to represent a bun. This melange was placed in two halves in a box, so you could see your folly through a cellophane window in the top. This concoction was carelessly shoved into a gigantic bag, which caused the ingredients to slide off, exposing the greasy cut surface of the ‘bun.’ On reflection, after eating part of the burger, the bag and box would certainly have been tastier and possibly more nutritous. Macca’s are very clever. I designed it, they Just made if for me, so I only have myself to blame. Their message? We’re the experts and we’ve spent millions putting in self serve units to prove our original burger recipes are better than yours, supplied more quickly and cheaply as well. Clever strategy huh? After unburdening myself of that little lowlight, that experience can’t diminish the absolute joy and warmth I experienced at the VAPS Conference. The future of photography is in great hands.

Take Your Tablet So You Won’t Be Sorry in the Morning.

This has been sitting around for a while, so I completed it today.

allan kleiman photography

There’s nothing worse than regret. You’ve spent a fortune buying a ticket to an exotic photo location. You’ve bought the latest lenses, they’re all cleaned & calibrated, spare bodies, batteries & cards, housed in a brand new case. You’ve researched the destination, booked travel, looked at the possibilities and you’re ready to go. STOP! You need to take precautions against supreme disappointment.

Take a tablet!

It doesn’t matter whether your tablet is an iPad, Samsung, HP, Sony, Toshiba or any one of the others that are flooding the market. The important thing is to take one with you that can connect physically, or wirelessly to your camera. My reasoning is simple. You need to check that your shot of a lifetime is sharp, properly exposed and can ultimately produce the result you want. I’ll address my comments to the iPad, because it’s what I use and know. You must…

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Victorian Association of Photographic Societies Conference Bendigo 22nd May- 25th May 2015

AK DDP card_07

Contact Details

I’m both privileged and looking forward to be giving a talk on the joys of small cameras and iPhones at the upcoming VAPS conference. I’ll also be running a couple of workshops involving small cameras and post processing using Nik Software. There will be a large audience of enthusiastic photographers and I hope to solve some mysteries and generate lots of animated discussion.

Over the last few years, there’s been a lot of interest in small cameras and smart phone cameras. These days, everyone seems to have a smartphone and they’re used for numerous tasks. Everything from getting opinions on potential purchases, to movies and even professional wedding photography. Social media has had a large influence on the growth of this phenomenon. Perhaps finally fulfilling Andy Warhol’s prophecy that in future, everyone will enjoy 15 minutes of fame

Autumn Tree iPhone

Autumn Tree, iPhone 6 Plus edited with Nik Silver Effex Pro 2

Autumn Tree Colour (1 of 1)

Original processed in iPhone.

Smart phones are easy to use, but axiomatically, they’re also easy to use badly. They have secret functions hidden in menus and require a processing with a variety of apps to get the most out of them. Small cameras also require more care in capturing the initial image. This is simply the limitation of small sensors and design that is used for other applications. That said, it’s still possible to get large, stunning prints when you know how.

Quick Process

Original photo and the same shot after processing. Taken by my sister with an iPhone 4s

My talk and workshops will be based around ways to get great images from small cameras and overcoming their limitations. I’ll be showcasing various types of small cameras, smartphones, plus apps for processing, manipulating and sharing photographs. Serious photographers sometimes express reluctance to use a small camera because they see them as too limited, or really amateurish. Nothing could be further from the truth. They offer the advantages of ready availability, stealth, convenience and quality. I look forward to meeting everybody who’s enrolled and having enjoyable disussions.

In conclusion, anyone who needs convincing about the quality achievable by a talented photographer with a small camera, need only look at this travel portfolio, taken in Italy by my good friend Garry Smith. Garry is a full time professional photographer, but he wanted to travel and take a rest from work. He still wanted to take pictures, but liberated from the weight and complexity of his normal Nikon D800E, tripod and lenses. I recommended a Lumix LX5 to him and after a few hours helping him familiarise himself with the menus, he set off for Italy. These are some of his shots.

GS1

Church Interior

Altar LX5

Altar LX5

GS3

Sacred Interior LX5

GS4

Italian Countryside

GS7

Fishing Nets LX5

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Quiet Village LX5

GS5

Mediterranean Beach LX5

Garry returned after a great holiday, refreshed and with some memorable images. Need I say any more?

I’m Back, with an iPhone 6 Plus

After a long sabbatical, enforced by family pressures and health issues, I’ve returned to my blog. A lot has happened during my absence. I retired my D5100 and upgraded to a D7100. The iPhone 5 went in favour of an iPhone 6 Plus. Lenses and assorted accessories have also found their way into my bag. I’ve had opportunities to work with clients using Nikon D800E and D810s, as well as the latest offerings from Lumix, so there’s a lot of catching up to be done.

Abandoned and Ignored

Features and Impressions of the iPhone 6 Plus

Firstly, the camera in the iPhone 6 Plus is astonishingly good. I decided on the 6 Plus after reading lots of reviews and visits to the Apple Store.
I acquired it mainly for the bigger screen. I need reading glasses and I use my phone more as a portable web browser and camera, rather than as a phone. If you have good eyesight, small hands and are on the phone for a long time, the iPhone 6 may be a better choice. The screen is clear, sharp and bright. The colours are accurate and text size is flexible. The beat up after dire warnings from those four obese gents, who bent their iPhones when they sat on them, are easily avoided and were ignored. It’s a thousand dollar piece of complex electronic equipment. If you feel the best treatment it deserves is to stick it under your bum, sit on it and bend it, you have more money than brains and should buy something less delicate, like a brick.

I do have one word of caution. The screen scratches easily. After having converted to iPhones since their first release, I’ve been impressed by their robust, but not bullet-proof build quality. I’ve never scratched one, so I treated my 6 Plus with the same care as the previous models. Sadly, I found a scratch on the glass after the first week. Mortified, I immediately bought a very expensive glass cover which, due to an unhelpful vendor, I was forced to install myself. Never again. Dust spots, bubbles and lifted corners. After a few days, I went to a phone specialist, paid less for a better cover and watched it skillfully applied. Get a cover as soon as you buy the phone, but don’t try to install it at home. You’ve been warned.

Beacon iPhone 6

Phone Specs from Apple, with Comments from Me

For the technically inclined, here are Apple’s specs, which I’ll attempt to decipher and show how they will benefit your photography.

The iPhone features an 8-megapixel iSight camera with 1.5µ pixels. In the race for more megapixels and the mistaken idea that more means better, 8 mp is enough. With proper lighting, careful photography and processing, you can can easily produce A3+ prints, or larger. There is also a front camera, not as good as the back one, but great for selfies and conversations on FaceTime or Skype.

Tap Autofocus with Focus Pixels & ƒ/2.2 aperture. The benefit? Autofocus is much improved; faster and more precise. A yellow square appears on the screen, you touch the object you want in sharp focus and take the shot. It works and works well. The ƒ2.2 aperture is excellent in good light, pretty good for interior light and adequate, but a bit noisy in low light. It’s still surprisingly good when compared to some larger point and shoot cameras, but don’t expect miracles.

iPhone 6 Plus Optical Image Stabilisation. This seems to work well. I have photography apps that show shutter speeds. They indicate that the camera avoids shake at speeds a lot lower than I’d expect without it. My feeling on stabilisation is based on the fact that because our eyes are very forgiving, we aren’t good at judging how low a light level actually is. If you rely totally on your judgement of low light, depend on stabilisation and not a tripod, or solid rest for good, sharp results you’re going to be very disappointed.

Plane Tree Toorak

True Tone flash. Nice idea, but pinpoint flashes on camera phones never give good results, unless you really dislike someone and want them to look bad. It’s not flattering for portraits. Stick to natural light. It’s also OK for copying documents, but not much else. It does however, make a very convenient torch.

Five-element lens, Hybrid IR filter, Sapphire Crystal Lens Cover. It’s a good sharp, versatile lens which works well for its intended purpose. It is covered by a sapphire crystal which I hope, is harder than the front glass of the phone, but I don’t intend to test it.

Auto image Stabilisation. This is very evident shooting movies and is in addition to the Optical Stabilisation feature in the iPhone 6 Plus. It gives sharp, shake free pictures at shutter speeds, a lot lower than one without stabilisation.

Auto HDR for Photos. HDR or High Dynamic Range is a way of increasing the overall tonal range of a picture. When there’s strong light and deep shadow in a scene, the camera sensor struggles to get a good exposure. You get an image either too dark, or too light. HDR takes a light and dark image simultaneously then combines them, to give a picture with a tonal range impossible to capture any other way.

Improved Face Detection. The camera automatically selects faces, in preference to other parts of the scene and gives them priority focus. This feature is much beloved by those addicted to selfies.

Exposure Control. Probably the most exciting and useful feature to be incorporated into the system since the first iPhone camera. Incorrect exposure, due to strong side or back light sources, ruins more pictures than anything else, other than camera shake. To operate it, you touch the screen when the yellow focus square appears, you tap it and a line appears beside the focus square with a little sun. Slide your finger up and the picture brightens, slide down and it darkens. Everyone I’ve shown how to use it, thinks it’s a miracle. I do too! You do need to take care, not to go too far. Shadows darken quickly and highlights burn out easily.

Panorama (up to 43 megapixels). This feature still blows me away. Slide the picture type selector at the bottom of the camera screen to Pano. An arrow with slider appears. You choose the direction you want your panorama to start, press the button and move the camera horizontally keeping the arrow level and move at an even speed. If the arrow dips, you see it and can correct, if you move too fast, you get a warning to slow down. Press the shutter button to stop, wait a moment and there you have it, a brilliant panorama. These panoramas can give you wonderful, large prints. Good panoramas are difficult to master. Because you cover such a wide area, light levels can cause problems, as can people moving. It takes practice, but there’s no better way to show a big group at a party, or an awe inspiring landscape. You don’t need to use the full range either, you can make smaller panoramas to give the effect of a wide angle lens.

Burst Mode. This is an excellent way to take a large number of small, bad photos, quickly and effortlessly, instead of a single good one that results when you take a bit more time. Use movie mode instead. No prizes for guessing I’m not a fan.

Photo Geotagging. Always forgetting where you took the shot? Then this feature’s for you. It records the latitude and longitude in metadata and if you import the photo into Lightroom, it shows you on a map, where you took the shot. If you want to keep your locations secret, make sure you remove it before posting to online picture galleries, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Picture Processing My real joy with the iPhone 6 Plus is that powerful processing is now included in the software. It’s slightly hidden by menus, but worth finding. For those allergic to reading long instructions, here’s the precis version. When you check your images in the photo gallery, there’s blue type that says ‘Edit.’ Touch it and the the edit suite opens up which allows you to crop, brighten, colour correct and change the look of your picture quite radically. There are sub menus that feature exposure, white points, shadow adjustment and a range of semi-professional controls. My favourite photo editing app is Photogene. It’s been constantly improved since launch and works a treat. Essentially Photogene is a miniature Lightroom, which is now also available on the phone. The Apple one is free, simple and works well, although I’m disappointed there’s no sharpening offered – yet!

Summary I’m impressed with the iPhone 6 Plus. As I’ve come to use it more, I’m finding it’s very competent. I’m continually surprised by the quality of the camera. I’m going to run comparisons using it and the Nikon, to see how far it can be stretched. It’s easy to browse the web, send messages, navigate and I discovered, to my great joy, play music and watch movies. You can even use it to make phone calls. What more could you ask?

IMG_0032

iPhone & Smartphone Photography Workshop

The photography workshop is locked in for Sunday 17th November at Manningham Arts in the MC2 building.
It should be an interesting day where you will learn how to get the absolute best best from your Smart Phone.

It will be hands on with lots of time for demonstrations on still and video photography plus processing and questions.

iPhone Photo processed with Photogene

iPhone Photo processed with Photogene

I have included a coupe of comparison shots. One taken with an iPhone 5 and processed using Photogene, the other shot with a Nikon D7100, macro lens and processed in Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CS6.
They were both photographed at similar times, using flash with the Nikon and modelling lights for the iPhone. There is very little difference except the iPhone is 8 megapixels and the Nikon 24 megapixels.

Lily photographed with Nikon D7100 and processed with Lightroom and Photoshop

Lily photographed with Nikon D7100 and processed with Lightroom and Photoshop

Lily photographed with iPhone 5 & processed with Photogene

Lily photographed with iPhone 5 & processed with Photogene

If you would like to learn more about how to maximise your iPhone camera’s potential, here is the brochure and links to the workshop. Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday 17th November.

Here's the brochure with some details

Here’s the brochure with some details

Just click the link below to make a booking:

http://www.manningham.vic.gov.au/action/EVENTSDESC?s=1604824559,svEventsID=90721,pc=EVENTSLIST

iPhone Photo Workshop Manningham Arts

 

Learning to get Better Photographs from your Smartphone

It seems that these days, thanks to the Smartphone, everyone’s a photographer. Smartphone cameras are becoming more prolific than conventional point and shoot cameras and their quality is improving all the time. The latest versions offer 41 megapixel sensors, unheard of even 2 years ago. Smartphone pictures are used to keep in touch with family and friends both locally and overseas. In business, they can show potential purchases such as houses,cars or products and pass visual ideas on to customers. Nightly news bulletins often feature reports shot on Smartphones and reporters use them to transmit recordings and videos. They are truly pocket miracles.

PansiesTheir availability is undisputed. I maintain the best camera is the one you have with you when a photo opportunity appears. Most people have their phones with them when they’re out and about. It is stating the obvious, but the Smartphone’s attraction relies on a few more factors. I’ve mentioned ready availability, but equally important is compact size, portability, simplicity, speed and ease of use. Most important is connectivity; the ability to share instantly. Provided you have a 3G, 4G or wireless connection, your images are available to send worldwide instantly. This can be done via email, instant messaging or via a photo sharing site such as Instagram, Flickr, SmugMug, Dropbox etc. For multiple sharing, pictures can be uploaded via social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Linkedin to name just a few.Eyes Have iIt

As a teacher, the simplicity of a Smartphone can also be its major weakness. You are dealing with a fixed focal length, wide-angle lens with a single aperture, a small sensor and an LED that serves as a flash. The Smartphone is today’s equivalent of a Box Brownie camera. If these features were only offered in a camera, even a simple, inexpensive one, it wouldn’t sell, but because it is integrated into a versatile package with many other functions, they sell like hotcakes, in the billions.Hosier Lane

Let’s look at how you can overcome many of the Smartphone’s limitations.

Fixed Focal Length Lens The way you get good photos from any single focal length wide-angle lens is to use the ‘two foot zoom.’ Take two steps forward to fill the frame. I can’t stress it often enough. Regardless of the camera, but particularly with Smartphones, you must fill the frame. You are dealing with a limited number of tiny pixels, so crop in the camera while shooting, not afterwards.Converted Jeans

Wide-angle Lens By definition, a wide-angle lens gives you more picture area than a normal or telephoto lens when you’re standing at the same distance from the subject. In Smartphones they distort, but give a wide field of view and are more resistant to motion blur than a telephoto lens.Station Pier

Single Aperture Conventional digital cameras use a variable aperture to cope with changing light. It can be opened or closed manually or automatically. A big aperture for low light and a small one for brighter light. Aperture is a relative measurement which takes into account focal length and sensor size. Without getting too technical, there is a secondary effect of aperture; depth of field. This is defined as the amount of sharpness in front of and behind the focus area. The smaller the aperture, the greater the depth of field i.e. with smaller apertures, there is greater front to back sharpness.

However because small apertures let in less light, the shutter has to remain open longer to get sufficient exposure i.e. slow shutter speed. This slow shutter speed can give rise to blur either from camera shake or subject movement.

Smartphone designers have to design the single aperture to work in bright sunlight as well as indoors with low light. Their decisions are always a compromise. They compensate for low light by making the cameras sensor, more light-sensitive. This in turn generates digital noise, seen as loss of detail and grain in photos.

Most Smartphone apertures are around ƒ2.4 which although wide in camera terms, in combination with the small sensor, effectively gives a smaller aperture, thus allowing good depth of field and reasonable indoor low light performance. However, once light levels drop below a certain level, there is always a digital flash which can help brighten the picture.Trouble in Mind

Small Sensor As I previously mentioned, the sensor which Smartphones use to record the image, is quite small. Sensors use photosensitive pixels. These are packed tightly together in the millions, hence the sensor measurement; megapixel. Smartphone manufacturers use high megapixel values to sell phones, but when they’re clustered too tightly, you get sharpness in good light but at the cost of more noise in lower light. The current sensors are extremely good, but to get the best out of them, you need to work within their limitations.

LED Flash Current Smartphones feature white LEDs to serve as flashes to help counteract low light levels. They are adequate, but only if you really need the shot and have no option. It is far better to seek brighter light if possible. The latest iPhone 5S features two LEDs one a different colour to compensate for the yellow effects of indoor lighting.

Tech Talk is Boring. How do I get better shots?
All this technical explanation serves to do is try to explain how great a job the Smartphone designers and manufacturers do when they produce their products. As with computers, you don’t have to know how they are designed, or work to use one. However with Smartphones, you need to understand their limitations to get the results you want.Dandelion (1 of 1)-pola

This involves a lot of testing, but not when the shot of a lifetime presents itself, only when the results don’t matter.

  1. Being aware of low light. You can test your Smartphone camera by simply taking shots at varying light levels and examining the results. You will see that in low light the images can be blurry, noisy or both. The amount you can accept is the low light limitation.
  2. Fill the Frame. Here it comes again. Move closer! You are using a small sensor with limited detail. If you want a close-up of a flower or a portrait, don’t stand back hoping to be able to crop the photo later. People’s expectations have been built up unrealistically to believe ‘Photoshop will fix it.’ Even professionals take bad shots and need to use Photoshop, but if you avoid problems in the first place, your results will be far better and instantly available.
  3. Hold Steady. The Smartphone shutter is generally triggered via the touchscreen. If you jab at it, the camera moves and your pictures will be blurry. You can use one of the volume buttons as the shutter release, but few people do. Practice.
  4. Process your Pictures Processing involves adding a tiny bit of finesse to your shots. I am old enough to have been forced to sit through interminable slide shows of relatives holidays. Endless numbers of boring overexposed, out of focus shots with a droning commentary from the offending relative. Statements such as “See Auntie Jean behind that tree in the background?” “That was such a lovely sunset, the shot’s blue, but you should have been there.” Fortunately processing was expensive, film had 36 exposures and that served to limit the torture.
    No longer! After the initial investment, you can shoot as much rubbish as you want and display it on a big screen TV accompanied by music. You can show hours of endless and boring photos. The point I am making is CULL YOUR IMAGES. Shoot lots, but edit them and only save the best. I like to process mine which at the minimum, involves exposure and colour correction, sharpening and cropping. It makes a dramatic difference and helps maintains your friendships.

Training
People aren’t naturally good at photography. The Smartphone camera is easy to use badly. There is no substitute for training. You can buy numerous books and magazines on digital photography. Many can be downloaded into your phone or tablet for convenient reference. A Smartphone is really only a communication device with an integrated camera so the rules of composition and lighting all apply equally.

You can also do various workshops sponsored by adult education or local councils. I am running a day workshop in conjunction with Manningham Arts in Melbourne on November 17th. It will be an hands-on, interactive class and we will be covering all aspects of Smartphone photography. It will be suitable for beginners, or more experienced photographers and should be a fun day. There will be plenty of time for questions and plenty of demonstrations on how to tackle various subjects plus processing using apps and sharing images.Smartphone-Photography-WShop

Smartphone Photography WShop Sml

The Digital Show – Wandering & Musing

Had a pleasant wander around the Digital Show yesterday. Here are a few of my impressions, in no order of importance. It was relatively quiet, so products were very accessible, as were people to explain them. Sigma showed some great new lenses, as did Zeiss and Nikon. There were wall to wall cameras, accessories and printers. Lots of merchants keen to sell must-have gadgets and generally prices were good.

Sigma. In line with range improvements, the Sigma 18-35 ƒ1.8 DX was a quality lens with the new firmware adjustment connector available for tweaking parameters to match your camera. The Art Series 35mm ƒ1.4 was impressive, as was the 70-200mm optically stabilised Zoom which has had a complete makeover.

Fujifilm. The Fujifilm stand was a massive display of working cameras with unobtrusive helpers to show the virtues of any products that may have been of interest. Very heavily into quality Micro 4/3s cameras with quality lenses. The range has obvious DNA running through it and it is hard to distinguish between the top line and entry level offerings. A good move as you can start modestly, acquire lenses and move up without massive reinvestment.

Kayell. A very impressive stand with a massive number of quality products. Well staffed, but with the staff more interested in swapping yarns with each other than serving the needs of customers. Fortunately, I knew what I wanted, but It took me four attempts to buy it. I would not even have attempted to have something explained. It proves that the power of good products can be destroyed by poor customer service. Perhaps Kayell should arrange a staff catchup several days before the show so the staff can concentrate on their customers.

Conversely, the Drobo man from Singapore, on the Kayell stand was a delight to deal with and he had a great new product. The Drobo Personal Cloud. A mysterious looking device that is in effect, a personal Dropbox. He spent time explaining its virtues and when it’s approved, I want one or two.

Nikon. The Nikon stand is impressive. Well branded, well staffed and with heaps of products and people to promote them. I always have a laugh at a group of men, similarly dressed, that queue up on the elevated platform to peep through the ultra long tele lenses. These expensive giants are the exclusive realm of nature and sport photographers. There is neither at the show, but I’m sure there are sufficient short skirts and enough cleavage to warrant the interest.I understood the new Coolpix 7800 was to be shown, but after a few puzzled looks I was told it would be available in October. Surely one or two samples would have been available, but then how would they sell the excess stock of Coolpix 7700s?

Pentax Ricoh. A wall of miniature, brightly coloured Pentax cameras. Pick the most garish combination and they claim they will make it. Hello Kitty meets digital imaging. It was a lovely size with a couple of lenses and I suspect they’ll sell more basic black than variants. The Hello Kitty girls use phones. In fact they were photographing the stand with them. Amidst the bling, I was given a worthwhile demonstration of the polar opposite, the Ricoh GR. A stealth tool with an APS-C sensor and a 28mm focal length fast lens. Stealthy candids, street photography, architecture and low light is its sole purpose. It is capable, minimalist and anonymous. A great camera.

Michael’s Cameras. They were there to sell product and they were, lots of it. Gadgets galore and well priced.

Leica. A nicely designed and restrained stand with the latest digital offerings from Panasonic, elegantly dressed in Leica livery, at inflated prices. They do it well and if you are into badge engineering they are the way to go. THe products that Leica built its reputation on are there as well and are beautifully engineered, purposeful and minimalist. The lenses, as always are superb. Leica do brand heritage with the same philosophy as Porsche, and they do it brilliantly.

Epson. Epson had a large presence at the show. Their printers are the choice of professionals and with good reason. They do a great job.

Canon. Canon had a stand a bit smaller than Nikon, but obviously their main competition. I’m Nikon biased so I didn’t spend any time there.

Olympus. The Olympus stand was impressive and well stocked, but like Kayell, it was staffed by people more interested in social chit chat than promoting products. I hope Olympus have put their financial woes behind them and have a range of products that will sell themselves, because I wouldn’t rely on their staff. The products interested me, but being the subject of an impromptu staff competition to see who would be the unlucky recipient of a customer enquiry didn’t and forced me to move on.

Lytro. I have been fascinated with this product since it was launched last year. They had a modest, but well designed stand with mainly dummy products and salespeople to match. I was interested in talking to them, they were interested in talking to each other, so again, I moved on.

In Summary. I enjoyed the show, but didn’t see as much as I would have liked to. I was disappointed that neither Panasonic nor Sony were there, as they each have some great camera offerings. For those that were there, I suggest to manufacturers and sellers alike that after spending a fortune on display space, stands, transport, product and staff, spend a bit more time and money on staff selection and training. Slack jawed yokels chatting socially with each other while customers wait is why Australian retail has been decimated. Myer & David Jones are cases in point. They sell necessities as well as luxuries and aren’t making it.

Cameras and electronics are definite luxuries and depend on the faithful. The products are complex and require commitment and knowledge. As a teacher, I know how much confusion there is about cameras and their use, even the simplest ones. Recording memories is a strong motivator for aquisition, but the young use phones, not cameras to record their memories, so your customer base is shrinking rapidly. Don’t piss off the hard core customer base that remains, or your staff will have plenty of time to chat amongst themselves in empty stands, or the dole queue.

Spectacular Orchids at the Orchid Spectacular

Orchids-0254Yesterday, I had a most enjoyable wander around the Melbourne Orchid Spectacular. It is an annual event and features displays of numerous varieties of orchids from all over Australia. I am always fascinated by orchids. I love the vast variety of colours and shapes.

Orchids-0266Orchids are amazing in their diversity, ranging from tiny almost invisible flowers, to the large, showy almost surreal oversaturated colours of the Cattleyas. The show features a wide range of Cymbidiums, as these seem to be the most popular variety, relatively hardy and fuss free to grow. Serious orchid growers will disagree as they hybridise and crossbreed for colour and flower shape. The weekend grower however can stick them under a tree, give them the occasional watering and they seem to survive and bloom.

Orchids-0247From a photographic point of view, orchids stretch the limits of the colour rendering of many sensors and definitely the depth of field of many lenses. For best results you need a close focusing macro lens. One gentleman was equipped with a telephoto zoom and was struggling. There were a number of people using iPhones and from what I could see, were getting reasonable results.

Orchids-0255I decided to use a Nikon D600 full frame DSLR with Nikon 60mm ƒ2.8 macro and 85mm ƒ1.8 lens for my interpretation of the flowers. I wanted to use available light and no flash. Although it seemed to be OK with the organisers, I chose not to walk around with a tripod.

Orchids-0244Orchids-I simply wanted snapshots. Just some quick, fuss free photos of the flowers I so much admire. Once you start with a tripod, which I usually always advocate, you’re starting to move from the realm of the snapshot and into serious photography. Not what I wanted to do on a pleasant, casual Sunday surrounded by flowers.

The flowers at the are quite accessible at the show, although many are crowded together on stands. Most are propped up by stakes and the backgrounds, as is the lighting, is a bit challenging.

Orchids-0285As I was only interested in taking snapshots, I set the camera on aperture priority and auto white balance.

The new Nikon algorithms for auto ISO are very clever and I opted to use those as well. In the auto ISO menu, I set a minimum shutter speed of 1/100th of a second and a maximum ISO of 6,400. The shutter speed was chosen because you need to get close with both lenses and I didn’t want to get any shake. On a good day, free of coffee, I can hand hold down to 1/30th with either lens, but to get good results, I need to concentrate.
For the D600, I was comfortable setting ISO 6400. It is full frame camera and relatively noise free at that ISO setting.

Orchids-0244Technically prepared, camera set to advanced amateur mode, I was free to wander around and take some snaps. It was a joy. I didn’t fuss. I pointed the camera at whatever orchid took my fancy and simply enjoyed the others while I meandered around.

I downloaded the results to Lightroom 4 and did a bit of minor exposure adjustment and sharpening. I am quite happy with the results. They’re a fuss free, colourful reminder of an enjoyable day out. The pictures are sharp and colourful, surroundings soft and blurry. Exactly the results I wanted.

Orchids-0251On checking some of the meta data, I was interested to see what the Nikon did with no interference from me. I had set a nominal ISO of 200, but the Auto ISO varied from 2,000 right up to the 6,400 maximum I’d preset. In most instances, the shutter speed was 1/100th of a second, but occasionally, the shutter speed had dropped to 1/60th and in one case 1/30th of a second.

Orchids-Those pictures were OK, but not as sharp as the 1/100th of a second ones. The main point is that the Nikon program works extremely well without interference, provided your parameters are set properly to begin with. My Nikon D7100 gets noisy at ISO 2400, so that is the top limit I use for auto ISO with that camera.

Orchids-0247Even as an experienced professional photographer it can be a pleasant experience to abandon a lot of the technical aspects of your craft and take snaps, just for fun. You can’t unlearn everything, because that is ingrained and part of the way you see and function, but you can take yourself back a few steps and have fun with even the most complex of cameras.Orchids-0250 Orchids-0248 Orchids-0246 Orchids-0256 Orchids-0263

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Winter Wandering; A 12 Minute Photo Exercise.

Winter Garden (6 of 13)Finding myself at a loose end on a cold Winter’s day, I decided to set myself a quick photographic exercise. Take a dozen shots in a twelve minute walk around the garden. One shot per minute. Quick compositions without too much thought. It was a mind cleansing exercise that is the antithesis of the work I normally do in a studio, which involves careful lighting, a tripod, hours of photography plus lots of editing.

This exercise involved a camera and one lens. A Nikon 85mm ƒ1.8 and my sadly neglected Winter backyard garden.

They are not once-in-a-lifetime world beaters. That’s not the point. They are the result of walking around and taking s shot per minute in a familiar confined space, while still trying to get the most diverse range of interesting shots.

Why don’t you try the same exercise, you might enjoy it. I certainly did.

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The neighbour’s cat art directed, well kept one eye on the proceeding, from the comfort of an abandoned chair.

Take Your Tablet So You Won’t Be Sorry in the Morning.

There’s nothing worse than regret. You’ve spent a fortune buying a ticket to an exotic photo location. You’ve bought the latest lenses, they’re all cleaned & calibrated, spare bodies, batteries & cards, housed in a brand new case. You’ve researched the destination, booked travel, looked at the possibilities and you’re ready to go. STOP! You need to take precautions against supreme disappointment.

 

Take a tablet!

It doesn’t matter whether your tablet is an iPad, Samsung, HP, Sony, Toshiba or any one of the others that are flooding the market. The important thing is to take one with you that can connect physically, or wirelessly to your camera. My reasoning is simple. You need to check that your shot of a lifetime is sharp, properly exposed and can ultimately produce the result you want. I’ll address my comments to the iPad, because it’s what I use and know. You must get the photo into the iPad to evaluate it. It sounds simple, but many times I’ve forgotten a vital cord or dongle. There are iPad download and sharing apps, plus connectors and cords. Of course, Android and other devices offer them as well.

Rose Coloured Glasses

Rose coloured glasses are excellent for looking at a partner, but useless for accurately evaluating a photograph. To start, calibrate your screen. Datacolor Spyders offer free software called SpyderGallery to registered users of their software. This allows calibration of the iPad screen and other tablets as well. You download the software, synch your iPad with your desk or laptop then use the Spyder to calibrate the screen. Brightness needs to be turned down and auto brightness shut off.

 Why calibrate? 

I’m a calibration evangelist. It’s the only way to know that your files are accurate for colour and exposure. You can use the camera’s histogram and turn on the highlight warning, (which I do) but nothing beats closely examining your image on a 9″ high definition, calibrated screen. Particularly when you’re at a place you’ve paid a fortune to get to and trying to take the shot of a lifetime. As stated, screen brightness can’t be set to auto, otherwise, the calibration is meaningless. The tablet’s big screen allows you to check your image at 1:1 and know definitively that it’s sharp or unsharp in the places you want it to be. I’m mainly talking here about landscapes in the field, where you have the time to compose, not quick street shots. I also suggest loading one of the excellent depth of field apps and using it to confirm the theoretical depth of field for the lens and focus point you’re using.

Download and Backup

I don’t suggest downloading all of your pictures to the iPad. It will fill up too quickly. Just the set up and test shots. If you have time, you can do a test process in the field with one of the brilliant new apps now available. Portable versions of Lightroom, Photoshop and Photogene. There’s also Enlight, VSCO Cam, Filterstorm Neue and PhotoWizard HD, to name but a tiny few.

 Shooting Hands Off; but the miracles don’t end.

The tablet miracles don’t end with checking focus, sharpness and exposure. With the addition of suitable hardware and software, you can use it to trigger your camera. If your camera is WiFi enabled, you don’t even need extra hardware. If your camera doesn’t feature GPS, you can take a shot at the location to geotag your images. You can record your camera and tripod setup, or take a selfie to  complete the record of your trip. For safety, you can also upload some choice pictures to Dropbox, other public or personal cloud storage.

Opportunity on the road

You pass a scene that has potential while your main camera is safely locked in its case, dust free and out of reach. Is it worth unpacking and setting up? Perhaps. Take a shot with the iPad, process it and decide. The iPad shot may be even better that the set up one. Certainly it’s quicker and easier to capture.

Avoid Loss

I’m not talking about losing the shot of a lifetime. What if all your equipment disappeared? Thieves or carelessness, the result is the same. Use the iPad or iPhone to photograph all of your equipment and for that matter your travel documents and wallet contents. It helps your memory for insurance claims or replacements in the field.

As you can see, an iPad makes a worthwhile addition to a photographic trip. Everything from memory joggers, backup, test shots to a record of fellow travellers and that you were actually there.

Take a tablet, you’ll thank me.

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