Bursting Balloons !

Bursting Balloons !
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The luge battle

Last week coming through Rotorua I visited a friend and used my Goprp helemt cam to get a video of us battling against each other on the "luge"

Friday, June 25, 2010

Photography tips

I'm going to start this off with what I can remember so far - which isn't much at the moment but I'll update it as time progresses .Please feel free to add to this list of tips regarding photography - most of which I have heard on the forums . Either contact me or post it in the comments section below .

1.) "Just because you have the tools doesn't mean you have to use them "
Someone told me this after I bought a new flash and started trying to use it on every occasion to 'enhance' images . I had used it with someone standing next to a large window with really good natural light coming from the side..... and totally destroyed the natural atmosphere of the image .
If you have some gear that you enjoy using , or are trying to learn to use don't lose sight of the fact that an image may actually look better without it .

2.) "First find the light , then find the background "
Don't go looking for a nice background then try to get the light right - first find decent lighting , then find the best background for it .

3.) "Fill the frame " 
know what to include in the image and what to exclude - simplify the image . Also keep in mind though , that depending on how you will print the image it is good to have some extra space around your 'frame' to allow for cropping or the possibility of the sides of the image being cut off at different printing ratios .
This is particularly important with group shots of people , if they are touching the sides of the frame they may all fit in if the picture is the same aspect ratio of your camera but doing a "8X10" of the image might chop of a person on either side while an "8X12" would get them all in [ with a 3:2 aspect ratio ] " Always scan the edges of the frame before taking the picture " [ if time allows of course :) ]
Get as close to your subject as possible (of course, within reason). I shoot a lot of sportscars (and other stuff) and I always notice photographers shooting from halfway up the seating area. Maybe they are using a zoom lens with 200 mm or 300 mm at the long end but why not move down the hill and get right up against the fence*, then frame and shoot.

I feel the less distance between the shooter and the subject the more clarity in the image. And using a slight shorter focal length may increase your maximum aperture, which could be a good thing. [ "Peter" planetnikon.com ]

4.) " The camera doesn't 'see' the same way your brain does " .
Learn to look at things the way your camera does .
Have a look at "how the brain sees" .

5.) "If you see something you think is interesting or like - take a picture of it. If you walk away and decide to come back, it may not be there."
Example: I drove by a beautiful huge sycamore tree for years. It must have been over 100 years old. Perfectly formed and stood by itself. I saw it in every season, in every light and always though what a beautiful seasonal picture series it would make. They cut it down. No images, except those in my mind. 
["midocr" - nikoncafe ]

6.) "Don't be satisfied with your first shot." 
Take pictures of the same scene/object/person/etc. in landscape and portrait modes, and from different angles, locations heights etc.
Bracket exposures, focus, dof, and try different lenses. 

["Palouse" Nikoncafe ]

7.) "F8 and be there ! " 
 I think this is old saying comes from newspaper reporters . Essentially it is about the idea of choosing settings that will get all the detail you need and actually being there to capture it as opposed to stressing about ideal settings for a situation with the chance of missing the action .
If you have time then by all means choose the ideal settings but if something important is happening [ eg: at a wedding ] then the most important task at hand is to capture the moment which won't happen again  ..... you could be fiddling with settings and stressing about image quality and miss the shot because time did not allow for it . 

8.) "Check your settings when you pull the camera out of the bag. Or always reset your settings to some base level after you're done."
If I had a dime for every time I pulled my camera out of the bag and shot 30 photos at ISO 800 because that's what it was last night, I'd be shooting with a D3x by now.[ "free range otter" nikoncafe ] 
Before shooting, always remember to check for "W.I.M.P." It stands for "White Balance, ISO, Metering, Priority." This is your pre-shoot checklist [ JGI nikoncafe ]. 

9.) "Don't let the gear get in the way of taking good photos " ["twistedlogic" Nikoncafe]
Otherwise know as " A bad workman blames his tools " . Since today's entry level cameras are better than the first professional digital cameras in regard to image quality it is hard to see how people can still think that really good images are due to the camera gear being used . Although there are some images that require expensive lenses there are still many good images that can be achieved with the right knowledge , and just about any camera .

10. ) " Get it right in-camera "
Never say "oh I'll just fix it in Photoshop" - compose the shot the way it looks in your minds eye and then expose it

11.) "Never try anything new at an important shoot "
Photography is like hiking in the mountains - you make sure that your equipment works before you attempt a hike . Wearing new boots on a long hike can only guarantee blisters . A new flash or lens could still be faulty right from the factory .
You could slip in that brand new memory card only to find it is not compatible with your camera - or your Nikon D1 doesn't recognize 32 Gig cards . 

12 .) "Beware of 'bulls-eye shooting' " 
It is a common and easy mistake to make - lining the subject up in the centre focus point and firing away , this often leads to pictures with a large gap above the person's head  , or 'uncomfortable space' around the object you may be photographing . Keep the 'rule of thirds' in mind , perhaps placing your subject to the side of the frame rather . With full-body shots of  people though it is often better to have twice as much space above their heads as below their feet - but you still don't centralize their head in the middle of the picture that way .
These are just guidelines as opposed to 'laws' but usually work better than the subject right in the centre of the frame all the time . Sometimes central composition will work better - for example maybe you are taking a picture of a 'bulls-eye' :) and that is the effect you want to show .

13.) " People 'read' photographs " .
This is a strange one . If people read from left to right that's the way the look at a photograph . often a picture will look more 'normal' if it is framed on the right . For example " A bride walking up to the groom leaning up against a tree " - if the tree is on the right then the picture seems to make more sense but if it is on the left it is " A tree , with the groom leaning up against it and the bride walking towards him " ..... which doesn't quite sound normal .
If you were to show people the same image flipped over and ask which one they think has been flipped most of them will pick the one that is framed on the left because to them that one will not feel 'normal' - depending on whether you read from left to right or from right to left .
Depending on what country you are in when you enter a photography competition it would pay to know which way the judges read before deciding on what composition to use because what looks normal to you may look backwards to them . 

14.) "Fishing lures are designed to catch fishermen "
Ok , I made that one up but essentially what I am trying to say is that all those fancy attachments for your flash that keep being invented are primarily designed to make money for the person selling them rather than improve your photography . You can do a lot with one flash either off camera or used on-camera as bounce flash .
Many of those accessories will end up collecting dust once you realize how useless they actually are or how insignificant the difference in the results is .

15.) " Digital costs nothing extra to take more photos " 
We have two lines of thought on this one .....
a.) Don't be shy to experiment , go out and take pictures , try different settings - it's no costing you any more to take twice as many pictures ..... BUT
b.) When it matters , shoot as if you are using expensive film - that way you will think harder about each shot rather than resorting to "Spray and pray" - taking hundreds of pictures in the hopes that a few will accidentally be good . 

16.) " Don't just 'take' good photos , 'make' good photos " .
The light won't always be good but you may still need to take a photo . Bring out the flash , the reflector/s ... whatever you can use to actually make it better . You can't always expect things to work out just right - sometimes you have to do more work for decent images . 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The " amateur wine connoisseurs " and photography .

There are many of them out there , they are the people that give a picture first place in a competition and nobody knows why . Everyone who looks at the picture thinks " I would have deleted that picture if I had taken it !?" . Meanwhile the person judging those pictures is usually trying to show that they understand the ''deeper meaning'' of the image regardless of whether it is actually appealing or not .

Why "Amateur wine connoisseurs " ? 
Because it reminds me of a story about this guy who always used to annoy everyone with his "knowledge" of decent wines . One day we swapped the contents of two bottles , we put cheap wine in a bottle with a fancy , 'expensive' label . We presented him with the bottle and after reading the label he held it up to the light and pointed out how he could now recognize the excellent colour of an expensive wine ..... we looked at each other sideways . Then he proceeded to pour a little into a glass and swirl it around before sniffing it and telling us how much better the aroma of a good quality wine is before sipping it and saying " You don't get taste like this from a cheap wine !" ..... we never had it in us to tell him what we had done though - you kind of feel sorry for people like that :( .

Now in the world of photography [ basically in any occupation ] you get "Amateur wine connoisseurs" .
People who have learned something that they feel is a little more than what the 'average' person knows and they are quite proud of themselves for understanding it to the point where they feel slightly superior to those who don't have this knowledge .

The "Amateur wine connoisseurs "[ " AWC's "] have often studied many famous photographers  to learn how to get "unique" images , rather ironically. Often the "AWC" who worships his hero photographers will go out of his way to justify anything that doesn't look right to the average person in one of their images while trying to show their superiority in understanding this 'hidden meaning' by explaining exactly why the image is good and why the artist 'broke the rules' and how they personally understand that 'deeper meaning' that couldn't possibly be wrong ..... because of the "label on the bottle" [ the artists name ] .

Those same people would probably give a beginner photographer who produced the same image a list of reasons why the same image is wrong but because they find out that an image was taken by one of their hero's they will fiercely defend it from any criticism and ridicule anyone who doesn't like the image .

Seriously , a picture is supposed to say a thousand words so if someone has to actually explain each aspect of a picture then that picture has failed in what it was supposed to convey .....
Get real , think for yourselves , those hero's you worship may be talented people who have made a name for themselves but they are still only human - they make mistakes as well and perhaps as they progress they may look back at some of their images from the 'early days' and wish they had done them differently ..... while the AWC will continue to believe for all eternity that that is how a 'unique' image should look ... because of the 'fancy label on the bottle '.

In summary I'll mention that there are artists I admire for their work, many of them produce good work consistently , but I never judge an image by the name of the artist , I don't have any "hero's" , I only see them as 'stepping stones' to glean what you can from them before moving on - how do you make progress if you are limited to judgments made by other imperfect people ? You would only be limiting your potential to the percentage of what you can remember about others .
So learn to think for yourself , have an open mind , and beware of falling into the trap of becoming an "AWC" who judges by the label on the bottle  rather than by what " looks , smells and tastes right " !

25 / 06 / 2010 - this was contributed by "JGI" of nikoncafe :
In another forum I used to frequent, there's this know-it-all guy who swears up and down that he can hear the "audio signature" of a McIntosh tube amplifier. So they arranged a meet for him to "judge" another member's McIntosh setup. When they played some scores with high dynamic ranges, he praised the "warm fuzzy sound" that's emanating from the exotic components, and how the highs were so defined that he thought there were actual cymbals in the room. When the audition was over, they showed him what amp was actually being used... a cheap Aiwa receiver bought from Wal-Mart! The poor guy never posted again in that forum.

While discussing this article on the forums I also thought about the possibility that we could go totally in the opposite direction to great benefit . If we can make sure we don't become an "AWC" who pretends they recognize a "good" wine due to the label on the bottle perhaps we could become skillful enough to recognize a potentially good wine in a bottle with a cheap label ?  

We may be quick to point out the mistakes in a beginners photo but do we ever recognize the potential in the image that exists if their mistakes could be corrected as they learn more ? 
I suppose we could compare this to being able to recognize a wine that will be good once it 'matures' .

Quoted from Ed Sharpio of photocamel

"What is worse than a simple AWC is a IHW (Intransigent Hero Worshiper). This is a photographer who latches on to a a popular photographer/teacher and becomes not only a student but a disciple. This teacher becomes a god and anything that is done that contradicts or innocently strays from the ways of his or her Deity is bad, evil, sacrilege and unadulterated crap! Every judgment or critique that comes out of this person's head is based on his cultism or tribalism. These folks want to be clones of their teacher, however, they will never rise to the level of their teacher because they tend to follow him or her mechanically and don't realize the nuances where the real genius lies."

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tokina 11-16mm F2.8

I've had this lens for a week and after the first day it was already my favourite lens .
The fact that it is a constant F2.8 lens really adds to its 'likability' . The build quality is good and it feels well made - but time will tell , though Tokina does have a good reputation .I've owned the Sigma 10-20 mm lens and though I enjoyed using it I didn't like the softness and the strange distortion near the edges - straight lines don't have that normal constant curvature on them , they suddenly drop off near the ends .
Not so with the Tokina - for those of you who really worry about distortion I took two images of a wall at 11mm and 16mm .
The distortion is much more natural than with the Sigma 10-20mm .

There isn't much distortion at 16mm though with a lens like this most of the time you are at 11mm , and shooting things like landscapes where the distortion on the edges isn't such an issue anyway .

Here are a few images I've shot with this lens in the last week :
A shop in Raglan , New Zealand .

Bridal Veil falls near Raglan .

The Lookout near Raglan .

An old couch next to Lake Rotorua .

Statues at the lookout near Raglan

And an edited version ...

The good thing about a lens like this is that people don't even think it's possible that they may be in the picture when they see you pointing the lens to the side of where they are sitting .

As I mentioned this is my favourite lens and it may be a long time before it leaves my D90 :) .

Friday, June 4, 2010

New Tokina 11-16 F2.8 wide angle lens

I'm really enjoying this new lens , I'm not one to do sharpness tests and that type of thing but here are two samples .