Wednesday, December 4, 2019

How I shot my 2nd Favorite Soviet Souvenir

I don't usually bring home souvenirs from my travels... in my mind my photos are the memory jog of the times we had.  (Besides, after awhile your house gets just too cluttered.)  But I made a small exception with my trip to the Soviet Union back in 1988, to document a cultural exchange between Soviet and American High Schools Students.  (You can see my work on that project here.)

This Russian Pepsi bottle is symbolic of that era - back then, the Soviet Union's Ruble was a closed currency; it couldn't be traded in the open market and therefore large Western companies couldn't sell their goods to this large market.  The mangers at Pepsi had a work-around for that - they would barter Pepsi Cola for Russian Vodka, and then sell it abroad.  Brilliant business practice.  I've kept that bottle all these years, and decided to memorialize it with a proper photo for the archives.

But photographing clear objects is hard.  You can't just take a picture of it with a flash and have it come out looking impressive.  You need to have the glass refract some light in order for the shape of the bottle to be visible, yet otherwise perfectly clear.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Top Secret Features Nobody's Talking About

In this edition of the Friedman Archives Blog:
  • Things I discovered about the A7R IV and RX100 VII
  • How to post to Instagram from your Computer
  • More!  (Including new eBooks!)

Things I discovered about the A7R IV and RX100 VII 

Normally I try to shy away from camera-specific blog posts, so humor me a bit since you're unlikely to find this information anywhere else.  Let's start with the amazing 61 megapixel A7R IV, the ebook of which should be out within a couple of weeks.  I was going through each menu (as I always do) to see what's changed, and I came across a new item in the "Send to Smartphone Function" menu (below).  "What in the world is THAT?"

Monday, October 7, 2019

Un-Distorting Fringe People

Also in this issue:
  • Doggies and Rainbows
  • Copenhagen Trip Report
  • In the Pipeline
  • And more...
Un-Distorting Fringe People

Group shots and wide angle lenses usually go together.  Which can be a bad thing for people standing near the edges, for that's where distortion is the greatest.  The problem becomes noticeable with large groups in tight spaces, for it means the camera is necessarily close to the group.

Here's an example group shot, taken in 2011 during my first seminar in Copenhagen.  The group looks great, but look at the people at the edges (yellow rectangles) (click on any image to view larger and sharper):

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Shooting BTS on a Hollywood Movie Set

Also in this issue
  • More Banding Examples
  • The Youtube Video I'm Sorry I Made
  • In the Pipeline
  • Interesting Things I Discovered about the Sony RX100 VII

BTS on a Hollywood Movie Set

Recently I did some Behind The Scenes stills for a Hollywood movie called "The Treasure of Pirate's Cove".  It's a kid's film that borrows heavily from every action film genre in the last 50 years including Indiana Jones, National Treasure, and [generic pirate time travel movie plot here].  Actor Malcolm McDowell played the ship's captain, and I have to tell you it's a joy to watch competent people in their element.

Thinking "This is a Hollywood Movie, so they'll be using lots of light" I left my f/2.8 and faster lenses at home.  Turns out that was a mistake - even the daylight scenes were lit with no more than 3 diffused lights.  And they were old LED light banks, which provided its own set of problems when you're shooting silently (as one must do for this kind of assignment).

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Ways to Stabilize a Video (aka, "Gary Friedman has Too Many Cameras")

Image stabilization for video is different than image stabilization for stills.  That’s because the nature of the shake to be corrected is different.  For video, the correction has to last longer and the shakiness may very well be more intense (like when you’re walking and shooting video at the same time, for example.)

That’s why most modern digital cameras have a different, more aggressive system for correcting video shake.  In addition to whatever optical stabilization the camera offers, the more aggressive way takes advantage of the fact that the number of pixels in a video (even a 4K video) is far smaller than the number of pixels the sensor has.  So the camera might shoot a little wider than what you see in the viewfinder, and the camera compares adjacent video frames, aligns them (much like it does in HDR mode), and crops off the rest before merging it into the video stream.  All in real time.  The more you oversample (capture pixels outside of the intended frame), the more leeway you have for fixing a shaky hand.

I was reminded of this when I shot a very informal video giving a tour of my studio.  Here it is, shot using an RX100 V and a small tripod-socket-based handle (mechanically similar to the VCT-SGR1  recently announced by Sony with their RX100 III vlogging bundle,)  For this, the more intense "Intelligent Active" SteadyShot feature for movies was enabled:

As you can see, the shakiness of my hand often exceeded what the camera’s made-for-movies steadyshot could do.  It bugged me a lot, but when I posted it to my youtube channel, only one person complained.  (On the other hand, this is Youtube, where even the worst production values raises the average.)

Is there anything I can do in post-processing to smooth this out?

Monday, July 1, 2019

A Premature End...

"Your Mother has stopped accepting food and water.  Hospice has been called.  You'd better get back here."

That shocking news came when we were 4 weeks into a 5-week trip.  And it had been quite a whirlwind before I left early to fly home.  Let me tell you what it was like.  This will necessarily be a short blog post.

The trip began with a stop in Pennsylvania for my niece's college graduation.  (Click on any image to view larger) (and sharper).

Monday, May 20, 2019

Greatest Subject Tracking (except...)

So here I was photographing a track meet at a local college.  And I brought the new Sony A6400 which is said to track subjects as well as the A9 with Firmware v5 (yet costs thousands less!).

I wrote up my findings and submitted a whole string of sample sequences for the latest issue of Cameracraft magazine.  One of the sequences had the camera successfully track a pole vaulter even though the athlete was partially obscured for a few shots (some samples from that sequence appear above).  This prompted David Kilpatrick, the magazine's editor, to proclaim, "[T]he sequence is very impressive as I’m not sure any camera I use now (A6500, A7RIII, Olympus) would hold focus on the subject in these circumstances."

But, I found a problem.  Which I'll relate to you in a bit.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Lighting for Street Portraits

Also in this issue:
  • Vegas Seminar
  • A9 v5 update
  • A6400 ebook
  • Other updates...
Lighting for Street Portraits

This is the famous Acorn Street in Boston, where I recently took some family portraits.  It's a very popular street for this purpose; I had to fight other people and other photographers just to get a few minutes of ideal shooting time.

This lighting technique is pretty routine for me now but it did raise the curiosity level of at least one area photographer.  "How was the lighting done?"  I'll explain it, but not before I point out that you can tell where the light was by examining the direction of the shadows.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

NASA Computing from the 1980's

Also in This Issue:
  • Cameracraft Lens Surprises
  • Geeking with Gary
  • Vegas Seminar!
  • And more...

JPL Computing Section Added to the Friedman Archives Website

I recently added a "NASA Computing in the '80's" category to the website. Check it out!  (Last category.)  Many of these computers were put into place in the 1970's and earlier (when the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft were being built) and were kept in place simply because they still worked.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Photographing Classic Cars

Also in this edition:
  • An Invitation to Las Vegas!
  • Banding Effects with Electronic Shutters (video)

Photographing Classic Cars

If you've ever wanted a legitimate excuse to go to Las Vegas, I'm here to give you two.  And I'll tell you about them both in just a minute.  

First, I'd like you to have this free mini-E-booklet I put together for the Las Vegas Cadillac Club on the secrets of photographing classic cars.  It's called "How to 'Wow!' for Classic Cars" and you can download the .pdf file here

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Faces of Vietnam (Part 1)

I've just returned from Vietnam, on assignment with the organization Photographers Without Borders.  On this trip I was to document the work of "Hearts for Hue", a humanitarian NGO looking to help rebuilt one of the hardest-hit cities of the Vietnam war - a war that, apparently, is still going on between the North and the South.  My assignment was to tell the story of the positive difference the organization was making, via both stills and video.  There are a lot of stories to tell, and of course many of you are interested in the technical side (including why I rarely kept the camera on straight "Auto").  So I'm splitting this story into two blog posts - in this one I'll share with you my pictures and stories.  In the next post I'll talk about what the experience was like, the equipment I used, and what it's like working for Photographers Without Borders.  You can do this kind of work for them too!

The Faces of Vietnam (part 2)

In my last post, I showed you the highlights of last month's trip to Vietnam, documenting the humanitarian work of NGO "Hearts for Hue".  In this post I'll talk about the behind-the-scenes stuff, including equipment, technique, and what it's like to work with Photographers Without Borders.

In order to be considered for an assignment with them you have to first become a member; I was one for two years before I approached them about shooting for one of their advertised projects.  Several interviews ensued, and six weeks later I learned I had been chosen.  There's a fee to participate; plus travel expenses.  I was responsible for all of that.  Fortunately I've been able to offset some of those costs thanks to the generous donations from people like you, my dear readers. :-)

"Use your highest-quality, full-frame camera!" they said, and so I brought my Sony A7R III and a variety of lenses, plus a backup for everything because I know how things go.  Here's a picture of what I brought: