Tuesday, December 13, 2022

How to shoot Milky Way Nighttime Landscapes

In this Issue

  • How to Shoot Milky Way Nighttime Landscapes
  • New Product Announcements (Fujifilm X-H2, Best of Blog 4)
  • In the Pipeline (Fujfilm X-T5, Sony A7R V)
  • Noteworthy Factoids about the A7R V
  • Three fascinating Cameracraft articles
    • The photographer who Ansel Adams referred to as "The anti-Christ"
    • AI Image Generators - what they may mean for society
    • A portrait of Michael Colin Campbell - Kodak color chemistry pioneer


How to Shoot Milky Way Nighttime Landscapes

The Friedman Archives welcomes guest blogger Erik Quimby to explain how he gets these incredible Milky Way images.  (Spoiler alert: you can get results like this too!)

Taking amazing Milky Way photos is not very difficult if the right preparations have been made. Location, time of the year, day of the month, and gear selection call all make or break a great Milky Way shot.  (Click on any image to make it larger and sharper.)

There are several websites, darkskymap.com and cleardarksky.com, and apps, PhotoPills and DarkSky for IOS [Editor's note: DarkSky for iOS will no longer be available after 12/31/22]  that will give you dark sky / light pollution information for a specific location. After choosing a good dark sky location with a clear view of the Southern sky (for Northern hemisphere), now it’s time to plan when to go. The 2 to 3 days before, during, and after the new moon are the best times of the month. March to October (again for Northern hemisphere) are the best months to plan the shot.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

The Shrinking Market for Photographers...

These AI-generated images were created by feeding a textural description into a program called Midjourney v4.  They were posted to Facebook's AI Art Universe page by Giuliano Golfieri.

In this issue:

  • The Shrinking Market for Photographers
  • In the Pipeline
  • Tethering to your Laptop via your phone's Wi-Fi hot spot
  • RV Life / Our New Home

The Shrinking Market for Photographers...

When you're a work-for-hire photographer and you move to a new city, you have to establish your client base all over again.  But things are different now - in the age of smartphones, everyone's a photographer.  In fact, photographers are slowly suffering the same kind of career fate as audiologists (the ones that outfit you for expensive hearing aids, which are becoming more affordable thanks to the self-testing possible with bluetooth-enabled smartphones) or a Knocker-Upper.  (And don't get me started about the new wave of AI-generated photo-realistic images which are amazing but will no doubt put a lot of photo illustrators out of work.)

So where is the market for the skills the traditional photographer brings to the table?  Let me rank what the most common options used to be.  Many of these insights come from personal experience and also many interviews of photographers for Cameracraft magazine over the years:

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

A Trick for Better B&W Photography

 


In this issue:

  • A Trick for Better B&W Photography
  • It’s Cameracraft Magazine’s 10-year Anniversary!
  • OM-1 Ebook - All Formats Now Available
  •  Living in a Van Down by the River
  • My Next Zoom Lecture


A Trick for Better B&W Photography 

Want to get impressive B&W images?  Want to train your photographic eye to explore texture, light, and composition?  Black-and-White photography has historically been the training ground of all the great photographers.  But unlike them, you don’t have to learn things like film selection, development variables, the zone system, darkroom techniques, choosing a contrast grade paper for printing, or coating your lungs with chemical vapors.  Rightly or wrongly, the general population tends to label black-and-white images as being more “artistic”, so here’s your chance to jump-start your reputation.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Geeking with Gary


[Editor's Note: This has (almost) nothing to do with photography.  I do this from time to time.] 

In this issue:
  • A STEM Program on Steroids
  • Sony's new Image Authentication System
  • Grandpa's Inventions


A STEM Program on Steroids


For the past year I’ve been volunteering at an organization called Beaver Works Summer Institute, a nonprofit subsidiary of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  It’s an extraordinary program which challenges high school students to tackle subjects you wouldn’t expect high school students to tackle: Learning to program a quantum computer.  Building an AI-based personal assistant.  Building an autonomous vehicle.  Learning to hack into Internet Of Things devices (so when they grow up and become programmers they can know how to defend against these common techniques).  Things like that.  The program makes use of gifted expert volunteers from MIT Lincoln Laboratory to create and teach courses that high school students can clearly understand. 

The challenge I participated in had them building a prototype CubeSat.  And it was a remarkably thorough course; it included learning to program in Python, and introduced the students to orbital dynamics, the space environment, communications, power engineering, propulsion, thermal management, control systems, systems engineering, CAD software, and satellite development tools.  At a HIGH SCHOOL level!!  (As I said, gifted educators!)

Then the teams were then given about $400 in computer hardware and were told “Take this and build a prototype CubeSat and demonstrate its effectiveness to detect plastics in the ocean”.


You can imagine the skills that developed while accepting that challenge: the students had to design their own mission, create a software architecture, calculate a power and link budget, break up the design into subsystems (and program them all) and test each module independently before integrating them into one functional demonstration.  Along the way they developed the kinds of communication and problem solving skills that usually come with project-based learning.  At the end of the course there was a final event where teams presented their projects, from design to video demonstrations showing their effectiveness.  (I actually hosted that event.  I was quite impressed at their designs and software architectures!  It's a little long but you can watch it here.  (I appear 5 times in the credits! :-)) 


I’ve seen first-hand what programs like this can do.  When my younger brother was in high school he attended a similar summer program at Caltech centered on problem solving; that course changed the way his brain worked and he excelled in college, ending up with a Ph.D. in biology, and he spent 20+ years working at Vanderbilt University. 

As you might be able to tell, I am a fan of this program. J  Shortly after the final event, I approached the staff saying, “How else can I contribute to your program?  The world needs more engineers.  I can create course content for you, I can do high school outreach, I can even do boring administrative work to allow more students to participate in this incredible program.”  15 minutes into that meeting it became clear that their greatest need was not for more volunteer engineers, but rather for corporate grants to allow them to scale the program by paying their volunteers and establishing a solid infrastructure to allow further outreach and growth.  

Without making any promises, I committed to working with them to seek additional grant funding so they can grow the program.  I've never done grant writing or fundraising before, but I can learn.  This is a worthwhile project that deserves my support.

(Any of you have any connections to a foundation that would like to support a STEM program on steroids? :-) )

Sony's new "Anti-Forgery" Image Authentication System

A couple of weeks ago Sony announced the ability for one of their cameras (currently the A7 IV) to "prove" that an image taken with that camera had not been manipulated by computer.  No price or availability was given, but this interested me greatly because it appears to work exactly like my image authentication patent that was granted back in the 1990's.  

Saturday, July 30, 2022

How to be the Best-Looking Square in your next Zoom Call


In this issue:

  • How to be the Best-Looking Square in your next Zoom Call
  • New Ebook on the OM System OM-1!
  • Next Time in Cameracraft
  • Black Background with No Backdrop
  • We're moving again...

How to be the Best Looking Square in your next Zoom Call

Have a look at the screen grab from a zoom call above.  Notice how few of them are well lit, and almost all are looking up at the user using unflattering wide angle lenses.  (Click on any image in this blog to see it larger.)

Now look at the top center square circled in red.  That's me and my wife.  We're well lit and it looks like we were shot with a professional portrait lens. :-)  Every time I give a Zoom lecture to a photography club I've had someone compliment me on how I look, and asked how I did it.  Well, it's actually not hard, and chances are you already have everything you need!  Three things are required:

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Focus Stacking on Sony, Olympus, and Fujifilm cameras

Left image - f/32.  Right image: Focus Stacking.


Also in this issue:

  • Focus Stacking
  • The ethical question of photographing Amazon tribes
  • In the Pipeline

Focus stacking for Olympus, Fujifilm, and Sony cameras

If you're shooting macro images for catalogs (jewelry photography, for example), you can't just use a small f/stop and hope to get everything in focus.  Most of the time the depth-of-field won't be great enough, plus at the smallest f/stops something called diffraction kicks in, where the image actually gets a little bit fuzzier.  (That's why so many lens experts recommend shooting at the lens' "sweet spot" which is usually in the middle of it's f/stop range for sharpest results (but not the greatest depth-of-field).

Have a look at the close-up images of the top jewelry shot below: both were shot with a Minolta 100mm macro lens with the same lighting setup.  The left image was shot at f/32 (the smallest that lens can go), and the right image used a common technique called Focus Stacking.  Notice how the left image isn't all that sharp even in the area toward the front (the lens was focused 1/3rd of the way between the closest part and the furthest part, which is considered best practice for depth-of-field), whereas the right image  is sharp from the front to the back.  (Click on the image to see it larger; better yet download the original to compare them for yourself.)  

Left image - f/32.  Right image: Focus Stacking.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Using a Grey Card to Nail Exposure and White Balance

In this issue:

  • Grey card techniques
  • Computational Photography Talk for the Royal Photographic Society
  • Real Letters from Real Readers - Back Button Focusing (BBF)
  • In the Pipeline
  • Next time in Cameracraft Magazine
  • Parting Shots

Using a Grey Card to Nail Exposure and White Balance

A long time ago, photographers used film and were literally “shooting blind” – they weren’t sure if their built-in reflective light meters were metering for non-average subjects properly (like brides with white dresses, or grooms with black tuxes).  Nor were they ever sure if the color balance was “correct” when it came time to make prints from negatives in the darkroom.  In both of these cases, serious photographers would use a grey card to nail the exposure and the white balance – and it would be perfect every time.

Meter off the grey card to nail the exposure in photos that have non-average subjects.  You can also use the grey card as a neutral surface from which to set your white balance accurately.

Today we have digital cameras with Live View, which makes things easier but in extreme circumstances (like really bad or non-white light, or really non-average subjects like brides in white dresses or grooms in black tuxes) the grey card will still nail it.  Here’s how to use this ancient technique:

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Remembrance Photography

Also in this issue:

  • Remembrance Photography
  • Sony A7 IV book is out!
  • Lecture for the Royal Photographic Society
  • Geeking with Gary: Google Bricks their own Product


Remembrance Photography

If you've been following my blog in the past year, you'll know I've been searching for more meaning in photography beyond mere pretty pictures.  What's worth doing?  Why take pictures?  In the upcoming issue of Cameracraft magazine, I profile organizations that offer bereavement portraits at no cost to families who have lost or are losing a baby.  Losing a child at any stage, whether this be through miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal or infant death or of any age is one of the most traumatic experiences any one can go through.  And they have a large network of volunteers in both the U.S. and U.K.  It’s rare that a portrait photographer has an opportunity to make such a lasting and profound impact in a family’s life.  And I can tell you that these portraits become the families' most treasured asset.

In the article I interview program participants, and what the training is like, and what it's like to do this kind of work.  But even if you don't subscribe, I encourage you to email me a for a copy of the article, and also check out the two organizations mentioned in the article:

Sunday, January 9, 2022

The New Studio

Probably the most important thing you need in a studio is not lights nor equipment - it's empty space.  With empty space, the most dramatic images can be had with only one light.  (As always, click on each image to view larger and much sharper.)

One light - overhead
One light in my hand.

One light.

One light.

Surely you get the point by now.

And I never really had a lot of empty space in the old studio.  (An informal tour appeared here.)  My old studio in California was a tiny room and I often felt a little cramped.  And every time I wanted to switch from shooting videos (with continuous lights) to shooting stills (with powerful flashes and a completely incompatible set of light modifiers), it took a day to put the old equipment away and reconfigure everything.