Friday, December 28, 2012

The Taming of the Shoe

The PC Sync connector
Also in this issue:
  • A99's Wireless Flash Delay
  • A Zeiss Full-Frame Alternative
  • Seminar Update

The Taming of the Shoe

Once upon a time there were cold shoes.  Nobody called them that, but that’s what they were -- small brackets mounted onto the camera body onto which you could mount your flashbulb holder.

The original Flash bracket holder,
retroactively labeled the "cold shoe".
Once mounted, you would connect the flashbulb holder electronically to the camera via a PC Sync cord into a PC Sync socket (whose design hasn't changed much over the last century).  Inside the camera there was a mechanical switch which briefly “shorted together” the 2 wires of the PC Sync cable when the shutter was actuated.  It was a very simple and very effective mechanism, which also worked well when the electronic flash was invented.

Adding the circuitry to trigger the flash
now made it a "hot shoe".
“Hey, let’s get rid of that annoying PC Sync cable!” one engineer must have said to himself in the 1960’s, as he

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The $1800 picture...

Also In This Issue:
Deals!  Deals!  Deals!
Brief Notes (Stuff I’m working on)
Parting Shot - Environmental Portrait of Robin Yukiko

The picture you see above cost $1800.  Actually, for a professional studio shoot that’s pretty cheap.  It was produced by writer and director Greg Bowyer for his new romantic comedy called “With This Ring”.  It’s about a female surgeon who loses her engagement ring inside a notorious malpractice attorney.  I’ve read the script, and it’s brilliant.  (And, being a guy, I’m not usually a fan of romantic comedies!)

I pulled off this shot (plus about 500 others) with only 4 wireless flashes.  More detail about that in a minute.

So what was the budget for what seems to be a very simple picture?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Most Distortion-Ridden Zeiss Lens Ever (and Why You Won’t Notice It)

Also in this issue:
  • London and Malaysia Trip Report
  • Cameracraft Magazine - Early Feedback
  • RX-100 and Spanish NEX-7 ebooks are out!
  • Data Storage that Lasts 1,000 Years

The Most Distortion-Ridden Zeiss Lens Ever (and Why You Won’t Notice It)

Carl Zeiss may be the Rolls Royce of optical brands, but when Sony worked with them to design the Cyber-Shot RX-100 they had to make a LOT of engineering tradeoffs just to make everything fit in such a small package.  (Hey, if designing such an amazing camera were easy, it would have been done before!)  And I have to say they employed some out-of-the-box thinking on this one, which I can appreciate as an engineer but many of you optical purists may have a hard time swallowing.

Case in point: Have a look at this RAW+JPG of a test shot from the RX-100.  Yowza!  Look at all that distortion on the unprocessed RAW file!  Has Uncle Carl thrown their traditional standards for optical perfection out the window??

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How These Hummingbird Shots Were Taken...

Also in this issue:
  • A New and Different Photo Magazine
  • London Seminar Update
  • Least Likely Place to License and Image
A New (and Different!) Photo Magazine

For as long as I can remember, the vast majority of the “Popular” photography magazines served as a vehicle for their advertisers.  And as I got older things seemed to get worse, as content took a back seat to both the latest gear AND the will of the graphic layout artist.

As an example, have a look at some of the sample pages of a photo magazine I actually used to write for.  Its layout is gorgeous.  It has the backing of the camera company whose products they herald.  But its content leads the crusade of mis-information the photo industry loves to impose on the masses: If only you had the latest gear, or if only you understood this obscure feature of the intimidating camera you can’t ever hope to understand, only THEN can you get the great shots you see in their pages.  (In one issue they had a FOUR PAGE spread on how to use the shutter release button!)  They would showcase a guest photographer and only talk about what gear he used, not the light or how he approached the shot in his mind (sending the message that if you bought gear like his, your shots would be as good).

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Where the Anti-jpg bias came from - Part 2

Also in this issue:
  • London!! (and maybe Malaysia!!)
  • The A37 / A57 Ebook is out
  • The Friedman Archives is hiring!  (Well, sort of...)
  • Least Likely Place to License an Image

I’m writing this from Durango, Colorado, where I’ve been asked by the local photo club to come and give a seminar and field workshop (which were quite successful, but I'll get to that later. :-) )

A few days before the event, the club’s president, Howard Rachlin, invited me to be guest speaker for the photo club.  “Why don’t you give a talk about your blog post, describing “Where the Anti-JPG bias came from”?  There are a lot of strong opinions about that in the club and I think with the way you explain things you might open a few eyes.”

So I did, but since I would be presenting in front of a live audience, I wanted to do something that would blow the audience away.  So I went into the studio and took a shot that would be the acid test of .jpg image quality: A high-frequency subject (lots of strong whites and blacks in close proximity) with a macro lens (which tend to be the sharpest lenses) with good side light (which makes everything look sharper).  The best of conditions.  My idea was to shoot RAW + JPG, have both made into poster-sized enlargements, and have people scrutinize them.  Could they tell which one was the .jpg?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Classic B&W Portraits without Photoshop

Also in this issue:
  • Guess who's on the cover?
  • Colorado and London, here we come!
  • MyPublisher Books
  • Least likely place to license an image

Classic B&W without Photoshop

Once upon a time, back in the 1940’s, there was a “classic” way to shoot black-and-white portraits.  The Caucasian face was almost a pure white, like these pictures of Gretta Garbo and Shirley MacLaine above.  To get this effect, the photographer would shoot B&W film and place a red filter over the lens, light the subject well, and overexpose a tad.  (And of course makeup helped complete the look.)

You can’t get that look just by shooting in color and “desaturating” the image in Photoshop – the face will come out grey and look much less impressive.  Instead you have to use a Photoshop function called the “channel mixer”, where you can choose which original colors get highlighted in the conversion to B&W.  Below are some examples of color portraits converted to B&W by desaturation, and then by the Channel Mixer method.  Which conversion do you like better?  (Click on any photo to make it bigger.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A busy month...

It's a busy month; not even enough time to write a proper blog.  Will have to use sentence fragments and bullet points instead. 

* Meet Kenni Palmer, the #2 CrossFit athlete in all of England.  Took shots using 2 flashes with 2 Lumodi beauty dishes.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Are Kit Lenses Worthless?

 Also in this issue:
  • The Next Seminars
  • Top Worst Minolta cameras
  • Other Tidbits

My New Favorite Travel Camera

When it comes to travel photography, there was always a soft spot in my heart for the Konica Minolta A1 and A2 bridge cameras.  These came out before the legendary KM 7D, and I used the A1 for half of my China blog.  By today's standards the image quality falls short for all but the lowest ISOs, but as far as form factor and function goes, these cameras had a certain gem quality to them.  The user interface was clearly designed by a photographer (as opposed to a marketing team); they had a real wide angle lens (most bridge cameras of the time didn't) and thankfully they had a manual zoom ring (as opposed to the motorized kind that only drained the batteries and offered no real benefit).  It shot movies, it had a built-in intervolometer, and it was my first exposure (no pun intended) to the promise of the electronic viewfinder.

Fast forward to about three weeks ago, when my NEX-7 and kit lens FINALLY arrived.  Imagine - all the quality of the A77 without the weight or volume! 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Top 10 Best (and Worst) Minolta Cameras Ever

Also in this issue:
  • How I shot the video
  • Copenhagen, Colorado, and California Seminars are happening!
  • A65 / A77 book is out, and timeline for the new NEX 7 book
The Top 10 Best (and Worst) Minolta Cameras Ever

I'm starting to expand into video.  This show-and-tell piece turned out to be so large that it's being split into two parts.  Watch Part I below:

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Family Portrait with Uncooperative Children

Also in this issue:
  • Flash Exposure Accuracy with the A77 and A65
  • A Pitch for a Cable Show
  • Seminars for 2012 
  • Other Stuff
A Family Portrait with Uncooperative Children

The above shot was probably the most difficult family portrait I've ever had to shoot.  Part of the problem is I'm in the shot, but the significantly bigger problem is that there are three grandchildren in the picture, two of whom don't know anything about sitting still or posing, and the third absolutely, positively refuses to pose or even smile for the camera.  And there was no photographer on hand to provide a distraction and shoot at the decisive moment when everyone's looking.  What to do?