31 January 2009

Daylight video?

It seems that for quite a while now we've been seeing lots of movies shot with the EOS 5D Mark II in low light. Certainly the low light helps keep the depth of field shallow, but we were beginning to wonder if it had only been bought by vampires who couldn't take it out during the day. It seems our fears were, rather unsurprisingly, unfounded. 

I just came across this video on SugMug and had to share it. It is not only shot in daylight, but is also one of the best edited videos I've seen from the EOS 5D Mark II yet. Not only that, the music is great and it's very well filmed too. It was made by Bob Davis, a photojournalist in the USA. 

Hit the comments with your thoughts and also feel free to pass on any links to videos you've seen shot on the EOS 5D Mark II.

In other news on videos and the EOS 5D Mark II, check out this website: TheEOScars.com if that's not an inspired name for a website and a cunning play on words, then I don't know what is! It is essentially a location for all the better videos shot on the EOS 5D Mark II where viewers can rate them. If you're looking for decent videos to convince you to buy one of these cameras, this site will save you having to sit through pages of youtube clips where people have posted their '5D test of my dog eating dinner' or similar....


30 January 2009

We promise...we deliver

Well, we told you about it yesterday so you can't say we didn't warn you... it's time for (drum roll please) the first Blab Assignment. 

We're going to start it off easy and thematic. Don't get comfortable though 'coz it won't stay easy for long....

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to capture an image the illustrates or otherwise gives the impression of COLD. Why cold? The UK is supposed to experience another cold snap this weekend so we thought we'd give you an incentive (or excuse) to get out of the warm cosy armchair and take some pictures. 

Once done, drop the image in our Flickr group and we'll comment on them next week and choose our favourite. You've got until the end of Tuesday to get your images in.

I'd like to be dramatic and say this blog post will self-destruct in 5 seconds, but I have a feeling I'd be lying. Instead, I'll just say Good Luck and HAVE FUN! 


29 January 2009

Assignments commeth...

We need your help. We want Blab to be a site you come and visit and learn from. We also want you to be involved. Like a community of photographers who share ideas with each other and learn from each other. So, we're asking for your pictures. 

Each week we will put up an assignment task. A topic on what we want you to go and take pictures. We'll try and give some advice, or hints and then you go and give it a whirl. You then upload your images to our Flickr group and we'll then give you our feedback on them. Sometimes it'll be technical, sometimes it'll be aesthetic. We hope that all the time it'll be useful funny and informative. We also hope it will get yo involved. 

So the plan is this. We'll upload a topic on Friday. You then have until the following Tuesday to get your images in. By the Friday we'll have then looked through all the images uploaded, and picked out our favourites or those that we have the most to say about, to comment on. These comments will be posted with the next challenge title. We may also ask the poster of our favourite image that week to be a guest 'commenter' the following week. 

We'll kick off with a topic tomorrow, so get your thinking caps on! 


28 January 2009

Never before

There aren't many pictures that can claim to be a world first. Obviously every image is unique, and in metaphysical terms, completely unrepeatable. But when it comes to US presidential inaugurations then most of the photos are the same each time, only the president changes.

With these days of press positions and fenced off media enclosures there is not much option for a different picture of a familiar ceremony. Two photographers in the USA Chuck Kennedy from the McClatchy-Tribune Photo Service, and David Bergman produced images from the inauguration ceremony of President Obama that show lateral thinking and the diversity of what digital photography can bring to age old traditions.
Mega panoramic picture
First up David Bergman's incredible 1.5 gigapixel image taken with his PowerShot G10. Yes gigapixel...! Using a G10 and a Gigapan imager - a robotic camera mount - David shot 220 pictures to make a hugely detailed panoramic shot that is 59,783 x 24,658 pixels! David wrote that it took more than six and a half hours to make the composite image on his MacBook Pro and the resulting file is almost 2 gigabytes.
That'll be the image you don't open in Photoshop and press CTRL/OPTION J to dupe the background layer and double the file size!

Closest ever camera at an inauguration
Then using more "regular" technology Chuck Kennedy got his camera in a position on the podium where no camera had ever been before, right on the podium for the closest camera to an inauguration ever. He used a WiFi transmitter connected via ethernet to get the image from the EOS 5D Mark II camera and triggered the shutter with a hard wired release. Seems like President Obama is a good subject for the EOS 5D Mark II. You need to scroll down the NPPA page to see the camera in it's adapted peli case.


27 January 2009

Featured 'tog Tuesday - Oliver Godby

This week's featured photographer is Oliver Godby, Oliver contacted us through the comments in reply to our first featured 'tog James Corrin.

Oliver's Biog
I’ve been taking photographs for around twenty-five years, but I’ve only been taking the pursuit seriously since I was about sixteen. A good friend of mine at school was considering submitting some of his photographs for a GCSE and looking at his portfolio and talking to him about how and why he had taken them I started to realise that I too could see another level to photography, beyond that of capturing a moment or a memory. I realised that one might create something larger and more meaningful with a camera; I have been trying to do that ever since.

Almost all of my photography revolves around people and or life. That’s not to say that I don’t often try my hand at landscapes, architecture and other disciplines, but I tend to find that time and again I return to what I seem to be best at; people. Whether we are talking about club photography, event photography, weddings, candid portraiture, portraiture, fashion, nudes, erotic or anything else involving people then I am interested in shooting it. For me, the way that I see people and the way that I try to express the wonder, beauty, darkness and light of the human experience through my photography is a necessary part of my passage through life; when others see something that they like or moves them in what I create then I am even happier.

Some of my current work is of a particularly erotic nature and maybe not appropriate for readers of the BLAB Blog in an open office. It is not my only interest by any means, but if readers are interested in seeing that side of my work, then please contact me via the website at the end of the article.

As is usual for featured 'tog on a Tuesday, we ask tough questions to see what makes the 'tog tick.

BLAB: What colour would your Ferrari be?

Oliver: Red, of course. I realise that a different colour would trumpet my individuality or something, but the truth is that a Ferrari should be red, even if they were originally all yellow. I used to despair of people in the eighties who bought the Testarossa, which means ‘Red Head’, and then ordered them in a colour other than red, but that’s just me…

BLAB: What's your best bit of advice for a new photographer?

Oliver: Take a camera with you everywhere you go and take lots and lots of pictures. With digital being the financial godsend that it is you can make a lot more mistakes without it costing you a fortune, but there is no point taking lots of pictures and making those mistakes if you don’t learn from them, so be prepared to get some criticism and __really__ listen to it. I can’t recommend Flickr enough for positive and constructive peer review.

BLAB: Rucksack or shoulder bag and why?

Oliver: When I started out in the world of digital SLRs I was all about the sling or shoulder bag, and I had an awesome one (that is no longer produced) called “The December Quarter” by Crumpler. I could fit two bodies and three lenses, plus a half decent sized laptop and enough clean underwear, socks and t-shirts for a weekend away without having to check my luggage. Can you see the problem? Yep it was an unwieldy bastard. So I started to look for the perfect backpack, and I think that I’ve found it. It’s a camera and laptop backpack by Kata, an Israeli company that started out making equipment for media personnel in dangerous environments. They still make stuff for those kinds of applications, including kevlar helmets with cutaways for camera viewfinders and the like, but they now also make really well designed and rugged camera and kit bags for the pro market. They are a little bit more expensive than Lowe Pro and the like, but I have never been so happy with a bag. So in answer..? Rucksack, every time.

BLAB: Natural light or flash and why?

Oliver: I know that this question appears to be an “either or” kind of deal, but my feelings on this argument are very strong and somewhat contrary to the spirit of the question; there is no definitive answer. In terms of my own photography, I like to use natural light, and I like to construct the light that I want, and in the end this all comes back to what the shot needs in order for it to be right. Taking a purely strobist approach removes natural light from the toolbox, and saying ‘I only use natural or available light’ creates the same restriction in reverse. I suppose that the important thing is to look at any shot and understand what adding a flash, or several strobes can do for it, and also what they may take away. Some of my most treasured images have been taken based entirely on making use of available light in odd situations from windows in a run-down section of a practice studio to the outside light at the back of a pub, but at the same time I have created images based on camera mounted flash or even studio heads (when I have had access to them as I do not currently have my own set) that I am not only proud of but that achieved everything that I had wanted for them. While I understand that many who espouse the strobist ethic feel that one can only ‘paint with light’ if one is in control of it, I firmly believe that a photographer needs to see in both ways, to see the potential of the light around them and what effects and emphases it can offer, and also how to change those potentials with a well placed flash. Once you can do that you won’t ask the question ever again, you will simply do what is needed to make the shot that you want.

BLAB: How about pictures, we love pictures?

The first is a portrait that I took as part of my project that ran from 10/05/2007 to 09/05/2008 wherein I undertook to and succeeded in creating a portrait of a different person every day for a year. It is a portrait of my paternal grandmother taken under purely natural / available light in a snatched moment on one of my rare visits to the North West during that year.

365 Portraits - #170 ~ Dorothy "Nan" Godby

This second photograph is an entirely constructed picture, created in a kind of minimalist-strobist approach with a single, camera mounted flashgun, firing away from the subjects and to the right and bounced off a silver reflector held by an assistant. This gives the sharp, stark light you can see in the image, but it generalised the light so it is not as directed, giving compelling highlights and light in general to the surroundings as well as the models.

Scary Burlesque - Cathy and Bunny

This third is an example of some of my gig photography shot with only the available light in the venue, and just to own up to it in advance, I was using a VERY wide aperture in order to keep the ISO as low as possible, but I don’t consider that cheating - I got the lens in America when the dollar was almost 2 to the pound!

The Airborne Toxic Event, Live in Bristol - Mikel and Anna

I have also developed an interest in nature photography on a recent trip to South Africa, and am now beginning the mammoth task of trying to save for another trip and the glass that my experience has told me that I am going to need to create the images that I want to create in that arena. Still some of the images that I managed to create on that trip were worth showing off, and so I leave you with this, captured on a cloudy morning in Kruger, at a doubled 200mm, with a stabilised Canon lens that I would not be without for love nor money:


I’d like to thank the BLAB Blog for the invitation to be their Tuesday ‘Tog, and to offer any readers who are interested in seeing more of my work to visit my website here: http://www.techno-mage.co.uk/blog/photos/

If you want to be our featured 'tog on Tuesday in the coming weeks, then leave a comment on this post, it could be you here.


26 January 2009

The new world

While we may think that the western world is the centre of civilisation and the hub of photographic creativity, the sheer number of people in places like China and India means that as prices fall over time, it won't be long before these so-called 'emerging markets' become the most important markets for camera manufacturers. With so many people to sell to, as a volume sales location, they could make more money there than everywhere else put together.

With that in mind, from Canon's point of view, Canon India winning several accolades at Photofair '09 is a good thing. It seems that the photographic press over there lauded Canon for their cutting edge technology and continual product innovation. The senior vice-president of Canon India was even given the accolade of "Second most influential person in photography". That's quite a plaudit. First place went to "All India Photographers Traders Association".

In other areas, Canon picked up the awards for "Best all-in-one printer" and "Best digital compact camera of the year".

With the gradual mixing of cultures going on across the world, and the rise of Indian and Asian film (see the success of the current film "Slumdog Millionaire") industry, how long will it be before we in the western world start paying more attention to the undoubted level of undiscovered photographic talent just waiting for the chance to shine?


25 January 2009

No blog Sunday

No blog Sunday, time to go and take some photos. See you Monday.


24 January 2009

Reflecting on things

So there I was chatting to a photographic distributor friend of mine and he asked if I'd seen this reflector he had. It's called the Matin macro reflector and while I normally steer well clear of what at first glance would appear to be a gimmick, I was intrigued. I have used both the Canon MT-24EX and MR-14EX macro lites extensively in the past and they are both great, but not suitable for everything...or indeed affordable to everyone.
This reflector is clearly not a replacement for one of these units as they offer so much functionality, but for some situations this might be just what you need.
Take this rose picture for example. The light was coming in from behind the rose bunch and although a macro lite would have done the job, this little couple of quid reflector has done it quite nicely. Nothing else changed in the setup - not even the exposure - so you can see how much light it has put back into the subject.

The reflector has both a silver side and a silver/white side so you can vary the light coming off it and if you wanted to introduce some level of modelling with more light from one side than the other, it would not be difficult to tape some paper or material over half the reflector to cut down the reflection from that side.

It fits over the front of the lens so that it is inline with the subject and where the lens points. I found that it's a tight fit onto the lens hood of my EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens, but it does go. Without the lens hood it will fit back onto the body of the lens around the focus ring. On thinner lenses you might need to use the velcro straps to keep it in place.

The moral of the story? Sometimes simple works. Don't discount something just because it's cheap or looks gimmicky. sometimes it will be a a cheap gimmick, sometimes it might just provide an alternative solution.

Without a reflector

With a reflector


23 January 2009

Black dots....again

Well would you believe it. All you Nikon lovers best start your grovelling apologies because the shoe's on the other foot now.

Since the launch of the EOS 5D Mark II there have been those (let's call them Nikon users) who have been very vocal in their ridicule of the new camera because in some circumstances, it suffered from black spots at the edge of highlights in high ISO images. Firmware version 1.0.7 put a stop to it. Full stop. (Suggesting they were only ridiculing what they were jealous of would just be seen as sour grapes so we'll stop short of that...)

Now it seems Nikon are having their own travails with it too. In the latest firmware updates for BOTH the Nikon D3 and the Nikon D700 (2.01 and 1.01 respectively) they have apparently addressed a phenomenon of BLACK DOTS! Yes, you read that right. Black dots on a Nikon camera when shooting with long exposure noise reduction set to ON.

Anyway, not wishing to be the finger pointing kind, but I never like to pass up the opportunity to laugh at our bearded, sandal wearing brethren :-)

I thought all you Canon users might like some ammunition for when your Nikon-shooting "acquaintances" start getting a little mouthy.


22 January 2009

It's that time again

One of the biggest photographic competitions of the year has just opened the flood gates to entries for the 2009 round. That's right, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPOY) is waiting for you to enter your images now. 

If you have any interest in wildlife, natural history or landscapes, it's worth entering as you never know what can happen. Take a look at some of the placed and winning images over the last few years and you'll see it's clearly a lottery as to whether you win or not. Look back just a few years and you'll realise it doesn't even have to be a wildlife image! Yes, I am thinking of the Gorilla in a zoo picture. Equally, as much as we may espouse technical perfection in images, this really is not a criteria for the judges either. As long as it shows what they're looking for this year, you're in with a chance of winning. 

While you may think you need to go off someplace exotic to shoot, don't forget your own back-yard. If you look hard enough, you'll find something worth entering. 

If you do decide to enter, Good Luck! 

Press release from the Natural History Museum below:

The 2009 competition is open for entries
The Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition is beginning its annual search for the best and most astonishing images from around the world, whether they come from the wildest places on Earth or urban gardens. With the bar being raised each year, the 2009 competition promises to be bigger and more inspiring than ever before.

‘This is the greatest and most prestigious competition for wildlife photographers anywhere in the world. It raises the profile of wildlife photography and provokes a wider awareness of wildlife conservation. It is not just professionals who are successful – amateurs of all ages have won awards in the competition many times. In recent years the judges have been particularly impressed by the standard of images being produced by many young people.’ Mark Carwardine (Chairman of the judges)

The winning photographer will be presented with £10,000 at an awards ceremony at the Natural History Museum, London, in October. Each category winner receives £500 and every runner-up £250. Special Award winners receive £1,000.

How to enter
visit our website to enter online, for revised rules and category definitions and the Chairman’s foreword and insider tips.
images must be digitally captured or scans of transparencies
original transparencies, or the original capture as it was recorded by the camera will be requested, and must be supplied if an image reaches the final round of judging
translations of the rules are available online in Chinese, French, German, Italian and Spanish
online entry fee: £20
postal entry fee: £27 (CDs only)
closing date for online entries: Friday 27 March 2009
closing date for postal entries (CDs only): Friday 20 March 2009
Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year

If you are 17 years or younger, this is the competition for you. You can enter pictures of any wild animals, plants or landscapes. The judges will be looking for original, beautiful or striking shots rather than rare or exotic subjects. Creatures or places close to home that you know well or have easy access to may be your best subjects.

The three categories are: 10 years and under, 11–14 years, 15–17 years

The winning photographer will receive £500 and a day out with a well-known wildlife photographer. Category winners will receive £250 and runners up £100.

How to enter

visit our website to enter online, see the revised rules, and more tips from the Chairman of the judges.
entry to this competition is free
up to 10 images can be entered
images must be digitally captured, or scans of transparencies
translations of the rules are available online in Chinese, French, German, Italian and Spanish
closing date for online entries: Friday 27 March 2009
closing date for postal entries (CDs only): Friday 20 March 2009

Mark Carwardine (Chair) zoologist, writer and photographer
Jack Dykinga, landscape photographer
Laurent Geslin, photographer
Chris Gomersall, wildlife photographer
Orsolya Haarberg, nature photographer
Josef (Sepp) Hackhofer, nature photographer
Tim Harris, manager, nature and garden collections, Photoshot
Tony Heald, wildlife photographer
Rosamund Kidman Cox, editor and writer
Jan-Peter Lahall, photographer
Tor McIntosh, picture editor
Vincent Munier, nature photographer
Erik Sampers, photo director, Terre Sauvage
Brian Skerry, marine wildlife photojournalist
Sophie Stafford, editor, BBC Wildlife Magazine
A feature on the 2009 competition, along with tips on how to improve your Urban and Garden photography can be found in the February issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine, on sale 22 January, and online at www.bbcwildlifemagazine.com


21 January 2009

EOS 40D Firmware update

Well, what do you know. The camera that everyone thinks is discontinued has a firmware update! 

That's right folks, the EOS 40D has just had a new firmware released to adjust a few things. According to the Canon website, these are:
1. Fixes a malfunction that in rare occurrence causes a low battery indication to be displayed when using the EF 85mm F1.2L II USM lens. Depending on the battery check timing of the camera, the battery level displayed on the camera's LCD data panel may shows Battery will be exhausted soon or Battery must be recharged, even though the battery capacity is sufficient.
2. Fixes a malfunction that in rare occurrence causes an Err 06 Self Cleaning Sensor malfunction to appear on the camera's LCD monitor and LCD data panel, even when the Self Cleaning Sensor Unit is operating normally. This message may appear depending on the timing of when the camera is switch to the ON position.
3. Fixes a malfunction that prevents correct colors from being printed when direct printing. RAW images captured using the camera's custom Picture Styles (Emerald, etc.), which have been downloaded from Canon's Web site and registered under User Def. 2 or User Def. 3.
4. Modifies the level of subject brightness that causes the AF-assist beam to fire when using an external Speedlite.
5. Enables an external flash connected to the camera's synchro terminal to fire even when the camera's built-in flash is popped up.

Isn't it just the way? The most interesting one here is the last in the list. Why so interesting? Well, from our reading of this, you can use the built-in flash for AF assist and yet still trigger studio lights or others with a PC sync cord. 

20 January 2009

Featured 'tog Tuesday - Chris Shepherd

Chris's Biog
I first became seriously interested in photography when I was given a digital point & shoot in the summer of 2002. To me this was a complete revelation, the power of digital immediately allowed me to see my pictures and mistakes. No more waiting for pictures to be developed and forgetting what it was I had in mind when I pressed the shutter release.

Within a few months I was producing results I was happy with, but wasn’t able to control exposure as much as I would now wish. So I then upgraded to a Fuji S602 which gave me plenty of control and allowed me to capture the beauty I saw in the world everyday.

In a fit of optimism I then booked an exhibition space a year in advance and planned to document a year in the life of our local nature reserve. To be honest I didn’t have a clue how big a job I had made for myself. The reserve is not the most photogenic place I could have chosen, so I really had to teach myself how to create images rather than just snapping what was there. The exhibition went well and as a bonus, I also made some sales to the public. Since then it has been a case of more photos, more equipment, more exhibitions and more sales.

In 2006 I was invited to join The Painting with Light Society www.painterswithlight.com a group of leading Landscape photographers based in the South East of England. I am also a moderator and the locations editor for the online photography magazine ePhotozine.com

My main areas of interest are Landscapes/Cityscapes and Abstract work.

The British Landscape and its nature is my first love. In the early morning light, much of the British countryside has a magical quality that is sometimes difficult to capture; but very rewarding when you do. I always feel a sense of pride in my work when people who have travelled all over the world ask “is that Britain?” It’s great to be able to show people the magic that is on their doorstep.

Cityscapes are a relatively new area of work for me; I have an ongoing project "London Light/London Life" documenting what I see in the city. I live very close to London but it’s not one of my favourite places at all. I am much more at home in the countryside than a busy city. However, I find it extremely challenging to find and produce good images of the busy city streets and architecture.

BLAB: What's your best bit of advice for a new photographer?
Forget about the technical stuff, learn to see first. You can spend hours fiddling with the controls on your camera or massaging an image in Photoshop but if the scene you are trying to capture doesn't express what you want you are wasting your time.

Try to develop the process I call “Active seeing”. This involves not just passively looking at a scene, but constantly evaluating even the most mundane scene from all possible angles, to find a composition that works as a stand alone image. Whether it actually represents the place you took the shot is not as important as producing an image that works on its own.

Spend a lot of your time drawing frames around a scene in your mind, ask yourself "what would I include in this scene if I shot it". Photography is all about the stuff you leave out, so identify what shouldn't be in there. Do some reading on composition, then take a look at loads of professional images and ask yourself does it work? what makes it work? and how you would have shot the same scene.

Once you know what you are trying to achieve it's time to start understanding the technology that allows you to achieve it.

BLAB: If you had been paid ten thousand pounds for being our 'Tuesday tog', what photo equipment would you spend it on?
I'm not really much of a gear head - though that doesn't seem to stop me spending a lot of money on it!

I think that I would spend £5000 touring my very favourite locations: New Zealand, The Canadian Rockies and Iceland. The other £5000 would cover my bar bill in Iceland - I'm not a heavy drinker but Iceland can be very expensive.

BLAB: Rucksack or shoulder bag and why?
Oh, err, um. Can I have both?

For landscape work it's the Lowepro Rover AW2 with room in there for 5 lenses, heaven knows why, I'll only use 2 of them at most, but it's always best to have the option. The top contains Lee filters and a nice thermos of steaming coffee for those cold mornings.

In the city it would have to be a shoulder bag or smaller, in these days of a war on terror (or the war on photography as I like to call it). The more inconspicuous you can be the less hassle you get from security and police. I often only use a Powershot G9, in the city - you can still get the shot but you also have the fun of watch photographers with tripods being hassled at the same time.

And finally...
BLAB: What colour would your Ferrari be?

Oh, Lime Green I think maybe with orange wheels, whitewall tyres and a nodding dog in the back. It's important to make a statement

Chris has also selected three of his favourite images to show on Blab:

Blea Tarn
I visited the Lake District twice last year. The first week, in the summer consisted of me opening the door every morning to be greeted by a solid wall of rain. The second started the same way. But finally after 3 days of solid rain the skies cleared. The rain had washed all the dust from the atmosphere creating vibrant colours and mountains that looked over sharpened to my eye. Looking at the resulting shot I think it was worth the effort.

Snow & Gate
Last winter I was really hoping for snow. So I was real chuffed when a huge dump of snow was forecast. Getting up before the dawn allowed me to have the pristine snow of my local nature reserve to myself (well just me and the Long Horn cattle who live there).

This is one of my favourite trees, I love it's big broad shape and have photographed it on many occasions.

I spotted these vibrant painted stairs on London's South Bank one afternoon. I simply waited till some feet appeared in just the right spot.

BLAB: Thanks for your time and images Chris. The lesson to look around close to home and see what you can produce is a good one. If people are anything like me, they feel the need to head off to foreign climes and take travel pictures, but that completely ignores the beauty we have to hand. Not taking what we have on our doorsteps for granted is a lesson we should all learn.


19 January 2009

Hold still, it's an EOS 5D Mark II movie tip

There's been several movies on this site that have been shot with the fantastic EOS 5D Mark II. One of the key points many movie makers stress is the need to hold the camera still. In fact many of the movie makers have resorted to the old film makers trick - put the camera on a tripod.

What if you don't like tripods, or have no possibility to use one in your shoots? Picked up from the experts one alternative to getting steady shots and pans involves no more equipment than Canon put in the camera box.

Put the camera neck strap on the camera in the usual way then adjust it - usually shorten - so that with the camera held in your out stretched hands you pull the strap tight around the back of your neck. Now you have braced the camera against you and pretty much locked it's position. A bit of a twist of your whole body from the waist and you can even do reasonable pans too. 

This is a top tip dispensed by Canon Ambassador Jeff Ascough in a seminar at the SWPP show that's been in London this weekend. 


18 January 2009

No blog Sunday

No blog Sunday, time to go and take some photos. See you Monday


17 January 2009

EOS 5D Mark II - music video

It seems hardly a day goes by without another EOS 5D Mark II movie being uploaded. This one, a pop video is the creation of Birmingham, UK, based Paul Ward, who lists himself as photographer / artist / designer.

You may think that models playing pool in lingerie is the stuff of pop videos, and you may not like the song, but this video shows how classic movie making techniques with an absence of zooming during each clip looks so stylish. To get the best from the movie feature set of the EOS 5D Mark II takes rather more than just a good photographer. Video making is more like a team sport such as football, as opposed to the one man sports such as javelin throwing.

Paul used the somewhat ordinary EF 17-40mm f/4L and the 24-70mm f/2.8L zoom lenses to make this movie, proving that maybe you don't need the entire collection of Canon fast primes to make EOS 5D Mark II movies. Paul has shot other pop videos so the genre is not new to him, maybe he needs to add videographer to his description?


16 January 2009

New photography products from Canon

A quick bit of new products news from Canon, they've got a new entry level consumer camera, the PowerShot A480, a 10MP, 3.3x zoom model that comes in a range of four colours and has a 2.5" LCD. Seems like only yesterday people were asking how would they cope if cameras could reach 6MP, surely that would be enough for almost anyone!

The next product, and this one slipped by unnoticed at the beginning of this month, is the new low cost two thousand + VAT, XEED SX800 projector. We're a fan of XEED projectors in the main, they are just about the best way to show your photos off with a digital projector we know. Professional photographers and The Royal Photographic Society like them too, praise indeed. This new SX800 model is the lowest cost XEED projector with 1400 x 1050 pixels resolution you can get. From reading the specifications it looks like there's no digital connection to the projector, just the old analogue VGA ones. This means you can't plug a camera with a HDMI port straight in to the projector with a DVI to HDMI adapter. Also DVI connections are preferred for picture quality and the possible lengths of cable runs.

1400 x 1050 pixels is termed SXGA+ resolution, and is much higher than a lot of mainstream projectors that only offer 1024 x 768 pixels. The benefit of the higher resolution is your projected images look so much better; fine detail is only part of the story, the colour and smooth transitions of tone are simply amazing.

If you are a professional portrait photographer you might want to consider a XEED; we've all heard that showing clients images projected large encourages larger print sales, now you can show large and with higher detail. As an extraordinary number of visitors here seem to be using Apple MacBook Pro computers with 1440 x 900 pixel displays, it's important to point out that the XEED's resolution almost matches the computer exactly.

Considering the typical DSLR image with it's 3:2 aspect ratio and plenty of megapixels, projection needs high resolution to show images at their best. When projected on a typical 1024 x 768 resolution projector your countless megapixels become 1024 x 683 pixels projected, or about 0.7 megapixels. A higher resolution SXGA+ machine like the XEED SX800 would be 1400 x 933 pixels or almost twice as much resolution with 1.3 megapixels.
If you have vertically oriented images don't do the calculation for a 1024 x 768 pixel projector!

Here's the press release and product information pages on Canon's website
PowerShot A480 : Press release : Website
XEED SX800 : Press release : Website


15 January 2009

Speedlite external metering a new name for thyristor flash

580EXIIThis is a look at an often missed function of the Speedlite 580EX II flash, but first a bit of a history lesson.

Recalling the times before digital, the days when there was no electronic communication between lens, camera and flash. Back in those days photographers relied on each part of the camera system to perform optimally on it's own; frequently with manual input from the photographer to ensure needed info passes from one device to another. A flash I owned had a blue and orange scale on the back and a matching switch with blue and orange positions. The blue corresponded to f/8 and the orange was f/4. There was a range of distances that the flash could reach for each of the settings. All that was needed was to set the aperture on the camera lens to either f/4 or f/8 to match either blue or orange on the flash. The flash fired, measured the light coming back and quenched the output when it decided enough light had been output; often it was linked with the term thyristor after the semiconductor switch that was used in the circuitry. 

Some photographers in more recent times used big old hammerhead Metz flashes and they had a similar arrangement often with a big distance scale dial on the top of the flash head; mostly these guys were wedding photographers with a medium format film camera.

Enough of the history, many of those medium format camera wielding photographers now have a digital SLR and they complain that these modern flashes don't work as good as their old one.

That brings us to the Speedlite 580EX II, it's the first Canon EX model Speedlite that has the self-same thyristor function, Canon call it external metering sensor and hide it in the flash custom functions.

Flash Custom Function 5, flash metering mode has four options, the last two 2: External metering: Auto and 3: External metering: Manual are the new "thyristor" modes. The Speedlite 580EX II has a little circular window on the front lower left corner on the picture above, that's the sensor that measures the flash and tells the flash gun when to stop firing in these thyristor or external metering modes. Remember to point that window at the subject when you use these modes!

2: External metering: Auto
Wth this setting the flash will be sent the ISO speed setting and the aperture in use from the camera automatically. Using this the flash works out the range and will indicate it in meters or feet on the back of the flash display panel. Even flash exposure compensation can be set. When the picture is taken the flash will fire and the metering of the light reflected from the scene is measured by the Speedlite 580 EX II's sensor, not the cameras metering. Also this means you don't see a pre-flash it's not needed.

3: External metering: Manual
With this setting the flash performs like the "good ole" Metz models of yesteryear. You need to tell the flash the aperture you want to use, you need to tell the flash the ISO speed you are using and then it works out the distance and will show the range scale on the back. When the picture is taken the flash fires and the metering sensor quenches the light when the flash determines enough light. You also don't get a pre-flash. Even better for the low tech, you can put the PC socket on the side of the flash to use and fire the flash with a PC sync cable or even a pocket wizard.

To get the custom functions on the flash, press and hold the Cfn button on the flash and perform a great sequence of dial turns and button presses to set Cfn 5 to 2 or 3. Alternatively if you have one of the following EOS models EOS-1D Mark III, EOS-1Ds Mark III, EOS 5D Mark II, EOS 50D, EOS 40D, EOS 450D or EOS 1000D you can put the flash on the hotshoe and go in to the camera menu for flash control and set the flash custom function there.

One application of the External metering: manual setting is for light painting. If you think that you want to light up that big building at night and you only have one flash, then set the camera on a tripod, choose the aperture and ISO, select bulb mode, open the shutter with a remote release and then walk around the scene firing the flash using the test button on the back to light each part of the scene.


14 January 2009

The lens you take...

I was talking to a friend the other day about lenses and we had a difference of opinion - until I explained myself more clearly. We were talking specifically about the EF85mm f/1.2L II lens. An absolute beauty of a lens and one which I owned for a while until I sold it and replaced it with an EF85mm f/1.8 USM. He was, to be honest, incredulous. He has and loves his f/1.2 lens and while he conceded that he also loves the 85mm f/1.8, he just couldn't see the rationale behind the apparent 'downgrade'. 
So I explained.... I'd bought the 85mm f/1.2L II lens for a steal. It was a really great price, bought as part of a deal with another lens. I used it and loved it. But then came the day when I had to travel abroad. I started packing my bag. In went the camera body, in went the 35mm f/1.4L, in went the 135mm f/2L, I then picked up the 85mm f/1.2L, weighed it in my hand and put it back down again. While I loved the lens and it's results, I didn't love it enough to carry that weight around (for those that don't know the lens, it's a little over 1Kg). 
If I shot weddings or lots of studio stuff, then there'd be no question. I'd have kept the lens. The fact is I do shoot those subjects now and again, but not enough to justify it. What I do do though is walk a lot with lots of camera kit. For me, the 600g saving is quite a lot and the optical quality between the two is not sufficient to warrant it. That and the faster focusing of the 85mm f/1.8 lens were the deciding factors for me. 
Now my friend did make a couple of valid points - the f/1.2 lens gives you a look you just can't achieve with 1.8. It also has a different look even at f/1.8. It's not that it's better or worse, just different. And in low light, the extra stop can really save your bacon. 
Now, if money was no object, well, I'd have both and just pick and choose as I needed to! 

If you're wondering about the title of this post, it was our joint conclusion: The lens you take is better than the one you leave at home....

So, which would you choose and why? Tell us in the comments.....


13 January 2009

Featured 'tog Tuesday - Martin Dyer

This week's guest photographer is Martin Dyer. Martin describes himself as a wildlife photographer who has a particular passion for bird photography. You can start by reading his biography:

Martin's Biog:
I started to take photos from the age of about nine when I was bought my first camera. My late teens involved lots of trips to motorcycle races and airshows, so I have packs and packs of very poorly processed 6 x 4 prints taken from the same corner of different motorbikes or aircraft taking off and landing. Very rarely was there anything of any great photographic merit, although I do recall taking pictures of the 1996 F1 Champion, Damon Hill, some time back in the 80’s, on Kawasaki Z500 production bike in a clubman’s race at Brands Hatch, on the inside of the track at Druids Hill hairpin, when you could actually do such things as a member of the public.

Photography fell a bit by the wayside through the 90’s as I was disillusioned with a lack of control of the whole process, and I couldn’t afford or even want my own dark room.
In fact I was about to sell off my EOS500N and two kit zooms when Canon launched the 300D. Well that got me back in to it in a big way. I had been into my wildlife for a long time and so this now gave me the opportunity to combine my two interests. So I suppose you could say I was a wildlife watcher first before photographer, which in some ways gives me an advantage in terms of subject knowledge and behaviours. My philosophy is firmly that the welfare and well being of my subject comes first and is embedded in the Nature Photographers code published by the Nature Group of the Royal Photographic Society

I take regular trips to the Isle of Mull to watch the wildlife there, probably the best place in the UK to see Golden and White Tailed Sea Eagles. Very difficult to photograph, as everything is at extreme range, but you have to keep trying from public locations and hope they come near you. Last year a photographer ‘s actions resulted in the failure of a Sea Eagles nest and the subsequent loss of the chicks, which is totally unacceptable and I believe a prosecution resulted. No picture is worth that.

There are sites in Europe where you can pay plenty of money to photograph them in more controlled conditions if that is what you want to do. But to me, I get the greatest satisfaction as a result of fieldcraft and patience, which usually involves a lot of cold and uncomfortable sitting or laying about, often with nothing to show for it.

I do a bit of printing work, usually for Photographic exhibitions, using both the Canon Pixma Pro 9000 and 9500, depending on what type of work I am doing. Both are excellent printers in their own right. Since I acquired the 9500, it has opened up the monochrome world to me and can finally finish some of my landscape work.

If you would like to see more of my work, then I have a blog with another wildlife photographer friend of mine, David Courtenay at Wildlife Across the Water. and also my own personal website at Martindyerphotography.co.uk that I will be updating and overhauling very soon.

As with all of Tuesday 'togs, we ask them a list of questions and they get to choose which ones to answer. We also one question they all have to answer:

BLAB: What colour would your Ferrari be?
Well if it had to be a Ferrari, then there is only ONE colour and it must be Red.

But why would I want a car that crashes into walls in airport tunnels in Manchester? – No for me it would be a Porsche GT2 – in bright metallic blue with gold wheels, configured just like the one I have on the Nintendo - Wii Need for Speed Pro Street as my grip car 

BLAB: If you had been paid ten thousand pounds for being our 'Tuesday
tog', what photo equipment would you spend it on?

As a wildlife photographer, I would buy the EF800mm f5.6L IS USM as you never can have too much length, and also the EF400mm f2.8L IS USM as it is not something that I could ever see myself purchasing ordinarily, and the results I have seen from it are stunningly sharp

BLAB: Rucksack or shoulder bag and why?

I use both depending on what I shoot. For studio work and people shots that I get dragged into doing, I tend to use an old Jessops shoulder bag – does the job OK.

For my wildlife and landscapes I have three rucksacks. When I am using the 500f4, I use a custom designed and made bag that will take the 500f4, with the hood fitted the right way round, with a 1.4 converter attached to my 1Dmk3, ready to shoot straight out the bag. When I am shooting from the car, it sits in the passenger footwell good to go, and then out in the field pretty much the same. A frustration with most other bags is that you have to build your camera/lens combination, by which time that rare bird or mammal is a small speck in the distance. It is an exceptionally comfortable bag, made by a fishing equipment manufacturer, that I can carry for a long time on my back.

My other rucksacks are the Think Tank Airport Acceleration – perfect bag for travelling by air. I can get my 1D, 500f4, 300 f2.8, 70-200f2.8, 24-70f2.8 and 17-40, plus 100f2.8 macro in, plus numerous other bits and bobs – great and complies with the smaller of the aircraft carry on sizes that some airlines insist on. The other bag I use from time to time is my Lowepro PhotoTrekker, usually for landscapes as it made of materials that seem to cope with the usually disgusting conditions that I end up putting my bag in

BLAB: Natural light or flash and why?

Landscape and wildlife are my preferred genre so therefore natural light is everything for those subjects. All my best wildlife images are down to the light, well in my opinion anyway. My landscape work is usually done in the golden hours of sunrise and sunset, although I won’t waste overcast and cloudy conditions to ‘see’ and take monochrome images, particularly when it works well with the subject matter. So while I do use studio flash from time to time for portrait and figure photography, and have even been known to use flash for wildlife, usually with the Kirk Flash Extender, it is not my preference.

Martin has also selected three of his favourite images to show on blab:

Milkcap fungus. I enjoy the challenge of macro photography particularly for fungus, and here the technique is all about the lighting. Compared to other natural history macro photography, fungi are really easy as they are not going to get up and run away, so the results are entirely down to you. I took this a couple of seasons back with my beloved old 1Dmk2N plus my trusty Canon 100f2.8 macro lens at my local woods. It was a fabulous season two years ago and I have kept my fingers crossed every year since, but have been sadly disappointed. M mode, ISO400, f20 and 1/5 s exposure. Using aluminium kitchen foil to reflect light back under the head of the fruiting body. An additional bonus with this particular specimen is the lactating gills, hence the name.

This shot was just a practice pan and so goes in the lucky file. I was out in Switzerland last year with my good friend and wildlife photographer, David Courtenay at Lake Geneva, trying to photograph in flight, landing on the water Goosanders. Dave and I would take turns throwing in the bread to attract them while the other took the shots. Sadly for us, somebody else was also feeding the birds a bit across the lake from us, which was distracting our subjects. It was a late Feb afternoon and the sun was setting just behind us. I saw two Pochards coming round towards the feeding activity, and as I often do just practice my panning and focussing techniques, with a suitable subject. It look pretty reasonable in the viewfinder so just gave it a double tap to squeeze off two images, and really thought no more about it and when back to my Goosanders. Well it wasn’t until I looked at them on computer that I realised how good the image looked. Moral of the story – always use any opportunity to practice your skills. Taken with the 1Dmk3, which still wasn’t fixed at this time, although this doesn’t look too bad does it? and my Canon 500f4L. Av mode, ISO 400, f7.1, 1/2000

I saw these stunning birds for the first time last year courtesy of a friend of mine who took me to the site. We watched up to seven in this one field over a number of days. Another image blessed with late winter afternoon sun coming on from the left. I blagged my partner Sue’s Canon 40D for this image to give me some additional ‘reach’ with my 500 f4 plus the 1.4EFTC to give me the best chance for frame filling images. M mode metered off the grass, ISO400, f7.1 and 1/1250. I was pleased to get a ‘Highly Commended’ for this at the Smethwick International Exhibition this year in the Nature Digital Projected section.

BLAB: Thanks for your time and answers Martin, they're very interesting and will hopefully help some of the readers either learn a bit or get inspired to go out and shoot more themselves. 

If any readers have any feedback or thoughts about Martin's work, hit the comments! Equally, if anyone else fancies being our featured Tuesday 'tog, let us know! 


12 January 2009

Editing EOS 5D Mark II videos - the simple way

So, there's been lots of talk about the EOS 5D Mark II and the video capability. But no-one is really talking about editing what they shoot. So here's the simple take on it. We'll deal with some of the more complex methods in future posts.

Upfront - an apology as this is a Mac based 'tutorial'. (I'm not sure about calling this a tutorial as it's so simple and quick, it feels a bit of a cheat!)

Anyway, I digress.
Start by copying the images and movies from the memory card on to the computer. You can do this anyway you want, but I'd suggest a card reader. It's quicker (and that's enough for me) but it also doesn't use battery power and doesn't cause any driver issues.

With the files on the computer, import them to iPhoto. You can either put all the photos and videos in there or you can just put the videos in there. I create an album just for putting the videos in, but you may have other thoughts on this.

With the files imported into iPhoto, the wonders of Mac make them available in the media browser in all the other 'i' apps. In this case, you want iMovie.

Open iMovie, navigate to the media tab and look for photos in your iPhoto library. Find the album you put the movies in and viola, they're ready to be used in your new movie file.

Simply drag each clip you want to the timeline and arrange, trim, transition etc as needed. Getting clips into a computer and using them really is that simple!


11 January 2009

More EOS 5D Mark II videos

A Sunday post, whatever next?! This we thought we'd share with you early though, rather than waiting for a slot next week. 

We've blogged about Edmond Terakopian before. He has been using the EOS 5D Mark II to test it for the BJP magazine. It seems he has just put the finishing touches to his first short film with the camera. Called 'Muse' it's a totally different style to the films we've seen from the EOS 5D Mark II so far. It's more like an art-house or film-noir style piece following a segment in time of the life of a young woman. 

It's very worth checking out, which you can do in either 720p at Vimeo or in full 1080p on Smugmug.

Hit the comments with your thoughts on this and the EOS 5D Mark II video mode in general. Is it worth it? Is it a waste of time? What would you do with it? 


No blog Sunday

No blog Sunday, time to go and take some photos. See you Monday


10 January 2009

Responses to the EOS 5D Mark II firmware fix

If you read the forums, and we do, you'll have seen that some people are complaining about the new EOS 5D Mark II firmware fix.
They're saying that while it seems to have fixed the spots, the banding in sRAW issue fix has thrown up another problem - a magenta cast when looking at sRAW images in third party RAW software.

Well, surprise, surprise, Canon mentioned this in the announcement so what's the big deal? It seems some people just want something to complain about and the magenta cast is the new one. Well, here's a brief thought on it....

The firmware fix has obviously changed the encoding of the sRAW file to help combat the minor banding issues. Until the third party software apps like Aperture, Lightroom and the others catch up with a patch to decode the files properly, this will remain and really shouldn't be much of a surprise to anyone....well anyone who took the time to read the announcement rather than just apply the firmware!

Canon's software download site has the updates for Digital Photo Professional to version 3.5.2 for both PC and MAC on this page; http://software.canon-europe.com/products/0010678.asp. You will need the update to correctly process the RAW and sRAW images from an EOS 5D Mark II with firmware 1.0.7.

Has anyone here got the EOS 5D Mark II and applied the firmware? If so, tell us your thoughts below.....


9 January 2009

Twelve hours left for free registration to the SWPP show

If portraits and people pictures are your thing then you will most likely know about the annual Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers convention in London from 14-19 January. What you might not know is that free registration for the show closes today at 10pm London time.

Here's the link you need http://www.swpp.co.uk/convention/

If you've never been to SWPP before, it's a convention and trade show aimed at professional photographers. There's always lots of manufacturer stands as well as seminars to help you advance your knowledge. Looking at the SWPP site, it seems Canon will be using one of their "Ambassadors" to give some seminars about video with the EOS 5D Mark II and some WiFi things, so it should be worth turning up to. 


8 January 2009

EOS 5D Mark II spots and stripes - fixed

Back in December the lucky ones who got an EOS 5D Mark II suddenly started seeing spots, black ones, and in some cases stripes, I wrote about this here too.

Today Canon has a fix; firmware 1.0.7 for the EOS 5D Mark II is now available to download from Canon's website in Japan at this link:

Early reports from the pixel peepers in dpreview.com forums indicate that it appears to be a good fix.


Nano technology

Want even higher quality image files? Researchers led by a team at the University of Glasgow have been given a grant worth nearly half a million pounds to work on 'surface plasmon resonance'. Yep, you read that right.
Essentially they want to work at the particulate level of metals to try and make better use of the electron properties within the metals. By doing this, they hope to make the CMOS sensors more sensitive to light and colour and hence produce higher quality images.

Their research project is due to run until 2012, so I wouldn't hold your breath if you expect to see it in Canon's next dSLR!

More info on the story over on the BBC site.....


7 January 2009

50 years? Is it that long already?!

Back in 1987, Canon gave us the EOS system. It was a major departure from their lens mount to a new design - The Electro Optical System. That's 22 years ago now, and they've just reached another milestone - 50 years of SLR cameras.

They started in 1959 with the Canonflex SLR camera. Before that, it was range finders that were the mainstay of the Canon line, starting with the Kwanon (of which there is only one known surviving example) designed to compete with the German offerings by the likes of Leica. The Kwanon was in fact essentially a copy of the Leica II with square edges rather than rounded ones.

It's not just 50 years of SLR cameras though - as impressive as that is. In that time they've sold over 50million SLR cameras. In fact, it wasn't long ago they celebrated 40million lenses, and at the rate they're winging their way out of the factory, I wouldn't be surprised to see 50million lenses appear in the not too distant future.

So, congratulations on reaching this milestone Canon, here's to the next 50years.

As an aside to this, it's amazing to think that in 50years of making SLR cameras, they still broadly look the same as they've always done. In fact, SLRs don't look a huge amount different to rangefinders. So, will cameras still look broadly the same in 50years time? Hit the comments with your thoughts on how it will develop. And, in the style of this post from Joe McNally, feel free to tell us what you'd like to see in future Canon cameras!

Canon Official Press Release below:
United Kingdom / Republic of Ireland, 06 January, 2009: Canon today announces a milestone with the 50th anniversary of Canon SLR (single lens reflex) cameras. Canon has been building and selling SLR cameras since the launch of the Canon Flex in May 1959. Today, Canon SLR cameras have been accepted as the benchmark standard for amateur and professional photograph and, to date, over 50 million Canon SLRs have been sold worldwide.

The EOS series was born in 1987 with the EOS 650 and the EF-series (Electrofocus) lens system where the camera and lens communicate through electrical contacts rather than mechanically, as was previously the case. The EOS series and EF lenses have proved incredibly popular with more than 40million EF lenses sold worldwide. Incredibly, 10 million of these have been produced within the last 3 years, thanks to the most radical change in photography and the biggest boom – the move from film to digital.

It was the debut of the EOS 300D in September 2003 that really shook things up. The EOS 300D was the first affordable digital SLR aimed at general consumers and it took the world by storm while professional EOS-1 series cameras and EF lens are chosen by the majority of the world’s news and sports photographers.

And Canon continues to innovate to this day. The new EOS 5D Mark II is the first camera to record Full HD movies and opens a multitude of new possibilities for photojournalists and news photographers. Through ongoing investment in research and development and by listening to its users, Canon will continue to offer photographers the very best tools available and lead the image culture for the next 50 years.


6 January 2009

Guest tog Tuesday - James Corrin

Our first Guest tog on Tuesday is James Corrin who describes himself as a 31 year old fashion / alternative fashion / gothic photographer from Aylesbury UK. We asked James a few questions from a big list to kick things off.

BLAB: Natural light or flash and why?

JC: Almost without fail, flash. However, if you'd asked "available light or flash?" the answer would be "both".

There have been two things which really changed my photography. One of these was digital cameras, which makes the learning process so much easier (and removed film processing companies from the loop mercifully). The other was studio flash. Learning about flash really opened my eyes to light as a whole in photography, funny though it may sound - before that point I just took what light there was and consequently I have many mediocre landscape photos to show for it. Studio lights put me back in control and reinvigorated my interest in photography - but more than that, once you learn to control light you also learn how to see light. I think learning about flash is one of the greatest things any photographer can do, after studying composition. I think this is part of the success story of Strobist - it's not only that David Hobby is teaching people how to use flash, but he teaches them how to see and study light.

To get back to topic, I tend to approach any photographic problem as an exercise in using flash. I can't help myself, it's fun and I just like how flash looks in a picture, especially the ability to get soft-but-not-flat light sources. I do much of my photography in a studio, so I can craft my light from scratch. When faced with natural light I tend to work out how to minimise its impact so I can bring out the flashguns and shift the highlight of an image. Having said that, I am increasingly looking to blend available light, especially artificial light sources, with flash. And there are some occasions, such as at gigs, where available light is better than reconstructing the scene using flash.

So I guess the answer is rather unhelpfully, whatever is most appropriate to the picture.

... and flash.

BLAB: Which photographer's work do you most admire and why?

This is a very difficult question. There are so many photographers producing great work now and I find the ones I admire most change quite rapidly. Chiefly I look for photographers within my own field; landscapes are great too, but I photograph what I like to see. I make a point of looking at a lot of other photos, to get ideas, study technique and also plot a path to my own style. I'm trying to avoid copying other artists and, though I do praise Strobist, I want to avoid the "Strobist look" that has become quite common on the web.

That said, if pushed to name my influences, I'd have to cite two photographers, unfortunately you may find some of their images not safe for work, you have been warned:

Nadya Lev - her work was a strong inspiration for some time and even now I find it highly inspiring. Her work is fairly hard to place, but high-fashion with historical themes and fetish overtones might get close. My early experiments with gels and gothic fashion were largely brought on by seeing her work.

Lithium Picnic who also has a large body of work on deviantart.com - LP is in a similar line to Nadya Lev, with strong fashion and glamour pictures with varying levels of fetish fashion scattered around. Where Nadya Lev produces bright works with strong colours and simple constructs, LP produces darker and more complex pictures with more subtlty. I wouldn't say Lithium Picnic was necessarily better than Nadya Lev or vice versa, but I think I discovered his work at a time when I was looking to produce more complex images myself. LP is very much a target for my pictures, not so much in content but in look, feel and production values.

BLAB: Which of your images means the most to you and why?

Many of the photos that mean the most to me are little better than holiday snaps, but they represent people, places and things that were important in my life. As a photo, they aren't so valuable.

At risk of sounding a bit "arty", I think this is where the highly constructed images I make differ from, say, journalistic images. Because I am photographing constructed scenes, especially ones that may not exist beyond the duration of the flash, the image content has no direct meaning to me. I saw the studio that day and it wasn't anything special. Instead the photo is judged on its final quality - does it capture a mood or a look, is it stylish or attractive? And because I'm aiming to improve all the time, the image that means the most to me changes all the time, usually to the most recent image made.

I worry when my most recent images don't mean the most to me!

There is one big exception though. Two of my friends got married at the end of last year and asked me to be their wedding photographer. We did some lovely posed shots with flash inside the wedding venue. This was a wonderful chance to capture a memory and also dress it up in light. There's something very special about capturing a beautiful image of a beautiful memory.

BLAB: What would your dream photo opportunity be?

So many to choose from, but if Gothic Beauty magazine phoned up and asked me to do a cover, I wouldn't be complaining!

BLAB: What colour would your Ferrari be?

JC: Black, but with plenty of shadow detail. ;)

Anything else..?

These are very exciting times for photography since the rise of digital cameras and photo sites like Flickr and Deviant Art. There's an incredible amount of high quality photography out there. The best part is that not only is photography more accessible but learning about photography is more accessible. I wish Flickr, Strobist, Cambridge in Colour and so many other sites existed when I started in photography - maybe I'd have fewer boxes of mediocre landscape photos.

With all this photography around, there is a real issue about how you differentiate yourself. When I started in portraiture, I rapidly became bored as it all started to look the same. I started becoming interested in fashion photography and in particular gothic fashion, playing with different styles and variations from the alternative photography and fashion communities. There's an interesting trend now for mainstream fashion to borrow increasingly from these communities, but I like to think that it still gives my images original themes. I love working with the extended conventions of the alternative scene in any case so I can't see me stopping that any time soon.

I once attended a photography seminar where the organiser asked "Who takes photos because they can't draw?" Everyone put their hand up. I think flash photography really opens up the possibility to be massively more creative. Certainly the turning point for my photography was discovering studio photography. Prior to that I didn't find people very interesting subjects, but this introduction to a world where I could construct the entire picture, from selecting models to placing them in light that I controlled, added the important creative element that I was missing before.

There's a great comment I saw from Chase Jarvis originally and many other people since. He said, there's two kinds of photographer - image takers and image makers. I would definitely say I'm on the image maker side. Going digital has been a huge boon as now the image making can happen after the camera - I know some experienced photographers dislike doing their own post processing and consider edits to be cheating, but I consider digital workflow a huge advantage. Photoshop is a great tool and most of my portfolio images pass through Photoshop at some point. The trick is getting good quality images going into the workflow then being subtle in the changes. I've been through many dilemmas of Photoshop vs in-camera editing before realising that both sides have something to offer.

BLAB: Ok but what about photos, got any pictures you'd like to show us?

This image of Ethel Hallow is one of my favourites and she's always great to work with. This image also represents one of my biggest Photoshop edits to date. I couldn't find a good backdrop for her so took this picture on a white seamless studio backdrop. The original image was subtly lit and brought into Photoshop as a low-contrast image. I then took some segments of wall and floor from some holiday snaps and extended them across the picture, adding contrast and highlighting as I went. The advantage of shooting on white originally was that the shadows of Ethel on the floor effectively come for free through Photoshop blend modes. ... The skulls are real by the way, in as much as they are kickable objects in the scene with Ethel.


This photo amuses me because most people assume the red light was created in Photoshop. In fact, though the image has been edited slightly, the red light is created using glowsticks. The entire image was a 30 second exposure with willing model Skarlett Venom standing still in a dark room while I waved glowsticks in the air in front of her. Towards the end of the 30 seconds I jumped out of the way and fired three studio lights - one softbox from Skarlett's front, one hair light to the left and a blue gelled light on a black paper backdrop.

One of my early, big-team studio efforts and my first time with a makeup artist on set. No-one quite seems to get the concept I had in mind for this shot, but so far it's fairly well received. Thanks to the cooperation of Skarlett Venom and Indira Diabola, not much editing was required on this image. The only big change was the vase - I couldn't find an interesting vase before the shoot so had someone hold the flowers up and drew a vase in Photoshop over the hand after the event. I've learnt more about drawing through Photoshop than anywhere else.

This simple photo was taken outside on an overcast day. It's fairly true to the real view, but I did use a flashgun with brolly top-left to get a directional light on Amaranth's face. I've invested in a few Canon speedlites and find them invaluable for studio photography outside the studio. The wireless trigger isn't great in direct sunlight but a bit of cloud cover helps massively. A little Photoshop after the event brought out some more detail in the purple of the dress.


I don't often work in black and white, but this picture of Marvada and her replica machine gun cried out for it. It was photographed on a sunny day but in a dark room, so the speedlites came out again to swap the lighting from window-inwards to room-outwards. I love being able to re-engineer light on set like that. The muzzle flash is a Photoshop extra - just in case I'm not bullet proof.

James' photography and writings can be found in several other places on the web, most notably his website, www.capturedlight.eu.
Then there is his flickr account www.flickr.com/photos/captured_light/and techie and photo blog: jordax.livejournal.com/

Wow what a start, think you want to be here on Tuesday, drop a message to us or comment on this post.


5 January 2009


The EOS cameras that feature a multi-controller (that's the small joystick on the back of the camera) also feature a Custom Function to allow you to use the multi-controller to select an AF point. On the EOS-1D/1Ds Mark III it's available in the latest firmware version and can be accessed using CFn III-09 and then either option 3, 4 or 5. On the EOS 50D and 5D Mark II, it's found in CFn III-3 option 1.

This is a very useful Custom Function to play with as it allows you to quickly select a different focusing point without having to first press the focus point selection button. However, it has a drawback - most notably if you're shooting a lot of shot in portrait orientation. Unless you have abnormally long thumbs, reaching the multi-controller button from the vertical shooting grip is all but impossible and you need to resort to the 'normal' method of AF point selection with the AF point selection button and the main and quick command dial.

It's not a major issue, but is something to be aware of, and for that reason, it might be worth putting that custom function into the My Menu settings on the camera so you can quickly change it as you need to.


4 January 2009

No blog Sunday

No blog Sunday, time to go and take some photos. See you Monday


3 January 2009

EOS 5D Mark II first thoughts for travel photos

Professional travel photographer Julian Love from adventurephotographer.net has spent his money and now taken delivery of two new EOS 5D Mark II cameras. Julian has a few early thoughts on them as replacements for his pair of four year old EOS-1Ds Mark II's.

Julian "Loves" (sorry couldn't resist the pun)
  • Size
  • Screen
  • Auto ISO
  • Live View
  • Sensor cleaning
Unsurprisingly it's a bit of a balance and Julian has found that "handhold-ability" to be less than his EOS-1Ds Mark II, finding more shutter speed to be needed for sharp shots and has a gripe about the playback display. It would be interesting to catch up with Julian in a few assignments time for some more real experience of the EOS 5D Mark II.


2 January 2009

Curtains and fire

second curtain sync
So it's 2009. As we told you yesterday, the aim for blabpictures is a post a day. We'll be trying to be interesting, informative and funny. It will be mostly Canon related, but we'll also have some general photography coverage as well as posting stuff related to photography that we find interesting or worth telling you about. 

We'll be featuring 'togs, so you get to see some good pictures by other togs as well as hearing about their thoughts on photography. 

For today though, here's a little tip about second curtain sync flash and photographing sparklers.

To do shots like this, you ideally need an external flashgun. In this case, a Speedlite 580EX II. This was mounted on the camera, and the exposure was set manually to 3.2secs at f16, ISO 200. These were set manually and you do have some flexibility with the settings, you just want to aim to have enough time for your subject to complete their image, without overexposing the sparkler.

I was shooting handheld, but there is no blur because during the exposure, there was not enough light to create blur on the main subject, and the sparkler was moving anyway. The flash was set to fire as second curtain sync flash so the main exposure on the subject (the girl with the sparkler) was created by the flash at the very end of the exposure, just before the shutter closed. The flash froze her movement resulting in the sharp image of her overlaid by a treble clef (yep, that's what it's meant to be!), even with a 5 second handheld exposure.

Shot with the EF14mm f/2.8L USM lens on an EOS-1Ds Mark III. 


1 January 2009

2009 on blabpictures

2009 it's here, hope your celebrations were great and the after effects minimal / maximal!

Here on blabpictures the goal is a whole year of posts with at least one every day, though for sanity, some family time and a chance to take some pictures Sunday is bloggers day off. Though in the case of serious news this can be broken.

2009 marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo's invention of the astronomical telescope. So expect some stargazers to be celebrating all year. Galileo's telescope had a 20x magnification and allowed him to discover sunspots and the four moons of jupiter. Also using his telescope Galileo was the one to prove that the Earth and other planets orbit the sun. Paris on 15th and 16th January will be the opening ceremony of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 with the UK launch at the Greenwich Royal Observatory in London on 18th February. Sounds like a choice location for the Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM and discontinued EF 1200mm f/5.6L USM lenses owners club to plan a meeting.

Canon SLR camera 50th anniversary?
In 2009 Canon may be celebrating, since May 1959 was the introduction of the companies first SLR the Canon Flex according to the Canon camera museum website. Prior to this Canon had produced rangefinder cameras to compete with the Leica's of the time.
I'd like to suggest a 50% off promotion on all the Canon kit I desire in May in case anyone at Canon is reading!