Friday, 28 December 2012

Movies from stills

Last year I was asked by a friend to take some pictures showing her house that she wanted to sell. After taking the pictures I used the rather wonderful Windows "Photo Story" programme to produce a slide-show like movie.

The great thing about this programme is that is it free and if it isn't on your PC, you can download it from the Microsoft website.

Using it, is simplicity itself. Simply drag the images that you want to use into the programme, select the effects that you want to use, apply any transitions (fades, dissolves etc.), add some music and decide how you want to save it and the programme does everything for you.

Here's the one I made to sell the house. I uploaded it to Youtube and my friend simply supplied the URL to any potential client. (One minute 56 seconds)

I've also found it useful to show a selection of images that I've made on location in Switzerland. This video is also on my website for any potential client to watch (three and a half minutes long).

Another idea that I'm working on at the moment is to make photo stories of different subject matter that I photograph and using them also to show clients on a tablet computer.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Extasia 2012 - Switzerland shows its naughty side

It's that time of year again. The annual Extasia erotic fair (Erotikmesse) was held in Basel at the end of November.

The event is held inside the ice 
hockey arena in Basel

This time I was taking pictures for a website that must (at the moment) remain nameless. 

I photographed the same event last year

The only difference between this year and last year, apart from some of the acts of course was the fact that I was able to "field test" my new 24 - 105 lens.

I attended on the Friday opening night which, in my opinion is best for photography as it's less well attended meaning more space to move around and photograph.

On my EOS 5d MKII I mounted the flash and the 17 - 40. This lens is ideal for close up action and when you can't move amongst a throng of photographers*. On my 7d I mounted a Speedlite and the 24 - 105 which, due to the crop factor gave the equivalent of a 38 - 168.

I was really impressed with the autofocus speed of this lens. It focussed quick and silently. The image stabilisation also worked like a charm for the few occasions when I wanted to shoot without flash.

Here are a few impressions of the acts from the evening. I've kept them sfw (safe for work).

Get knotted. Japanese rope tying

This is German pornstar Lena Nitro who later 
produced a flag from seemingly nowhere.

 Marcello Bravo and his real life
 partner Hally Thomas

 The Annex fashion show team

 Hally Thomas with her solo act

For these images showing  two of the pole dancers from the FKK club in Basel, I switched the Speedlites off. The image on the left was taken with ISO 400 at an exposure of 1/400sec @f9 on my EOS 5d MKII. The image on the right is a happy accident. I used 1/2 sec @f4 on the 7d. I  personally like the blurring.

I saw this table on the way out full of flyers. Anyone want to buy a swingerclub?

Thanks for reading.

* what exactly is the collective noun for a group of photographers? Answers in the comments please.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Christmas lights

My friend , lighting designer Renato De Toffol was awarded the contract to design and set up the Christmas lights for the city of Olten near where I live.

The lights are beautifully designed and consist of "curtains" of fairy lights and large translucent balls which project stars onto nearby surfaces.

It was bitterly cold when I was photographing the lights and once or twice my 5D MkII wouldn't respond. This was solved by removing the battery from the camera and keeping it in my jacket for a while to warm up.

My son Thomas accompanied me and I learnt that he has a great eye for potential pictures. He would go off and scout a new location while I photographed the current one.

This is a photo that Thomas took of me standing on a dumpster after he suggested that the image would be better if I had a higher viewpoint.

This is the image that resulted. he was right  :)

Overnight after shooting the images it snowed quite heavily and I thought that it would be a good idea to retake some of the better viewpoints with snow in them.

Unfortunately most of the snow had gone and some of it had turned to slush by the time darkness came, so I was only able to retake a few images using the wet streets for reflections.

One of my favourite images from the night is of a water fountain. I decided to play around with it in photoshop. I took two images with all the same settings. One image was sharp and the other deliberately out of focus.

Both images 2.5 sec @ f11

In Photoshop, I overlaid the blurred image on top of the sharp one. Then I used the standard ersaer tool to "wipe away" the unsharpness on the figure of the lady. I quite like the effect.

The result 

You can see a few more from this shoot over on Renato's website here.

What do you think?

As ever. Thanks for reading and please leave a comment.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

New addition to the (camera gear) family

I picked up a lens last week that I've been thinking about for a very long time. 

I wasn't one hundred percent happy with the 28 - 135 that I've been using for the last six years or so. As I mentioned in the previous post, I rarely take pictures beyond the 70 mm setting.

My "new" lens is the formidable Canon EF 24 - 105 f4 IS L lens.  It will complement my 70 - 200 nicely (although as I also mentioned previously, I last used that particular optic last year).

The lens itself is in almost mint condition and was well cared for by its previous owner.

I've now semi retired the 28 - 135 and the new lens has taken it's place as my "carry around" lens for when I need a bit more than the 50mm f1.4 can give me.

Here's my current line-up minus cables, battery packs and other assorted paraphernalia.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

DIY telephoto

Supertelephoto on your smart-phone

I was recently thinking about upgrading some of my lenses. This made me think about what I photograph the most. 

Looking through the images that I've been making for the last year or two led me to one conclusion: I don't really need anything long. My most used lens seems to be the excellent 17 - 40 F4L zoom from Canon. After that, it's the 28 - 135 IS zoom which rarely gets used beyond about 70mm.

My last lens acquisition was the Canon EF 50mm f1.4. I absolutely love this piece of glass. It's small, fast and very sharp. It's now my de facto "carry around" lens. Ideal for everything from portraits* to copy work.

In my cupboard I have a 300 mm f4L and the 70 - 200mm f4L. I cannot remember the last time I used the 300mm. The 70 - 200 last came into service at the Streetparade in Zürich in 2011*

Also on my "least used" list is my 24mm f2.8 and my Russian Zenitar 16mm Fisheye which last saw service in 2010*.

I think that the reason I don't use these last two lenses is that A: I only rarely need a fisheye effect and B: The 24 mm focal length is covered by my 17 - 40.

There have been the (very) rare occasions when I've been out and wanted to photograph something in the distance. When this situation occurs I normally have either my Canon G9 or my Samsung Galaxy phone nearby. The Canon is OK as long as I don't use the digital zoom (which I've permanently disabled)

So what can you do if you are out and about with only a pair of binoculars and your (camera enabled) smart-phone and you need to take a telephoto image?

I was looking at the accessories on sale for mobile phones last week and noticed a telephoto attachment available. I wondered what would happen if I tried to shoot through binoculars?

I dug out of my closet, an old pair of 10 x 25 binoculars and made my way to the kitchen. The view from said kitchen is ideal for testing lenses as there is lots to point your optics at.

Using just the standard setting on my Samsung Galaxy III I pointed it at a farmhouse where I knew that there was a Ronald MacDonald statue.

Hardly visible on this shot 
but the  clown is more or less 
in the centre of the image

Then I used the digital zoom to take another picture.

He's just coming into view 

I then reverted back to standard mode for the lens and held the lens against the eye piece of the binoculars and got this shot.

As you can see there is a lot of vignetting but this was due solely to the fact that it's damn near impossible to hold a camera together with a pair of heavy binoculars and press the shutter at the same time. I'd recommend a tripod or some sort of stabilising device.

The handymen amongst you may be able to come up with some sort of bracket that aligns perfectly.

Here's another example of the binocular effect that I took in Basel.

Normal field of view

Shot through binoculars

Of course if money is no object and you really need a telephoto, I can recommend this little beauty.

Canon 800mm f5.6 Fr 17.600

Not expensive / powerful enough? Well how about this? It is a 5200mm f14 lens in Canon fit. It has a lenscap the size of a dustbin lid and was sold on Ebay for $55000. It weighs in at 220lbs (99kg)

You can read more about it here

* As seen here

Thanks for reading

Monday, 5 November 2012

Unplanned photo class

I went out for a walk on Sunday to try and catch some Autumn colours but things didn't go quite as planned.

Accompanying me and my wife and son were a friend and her twin daughters. 

I was travelling light and only had an EOS 5d MKII coupled with a 28 - 135 lens.

I took a few pics and was reviewing them on the monitor when one of that twins (I think it was Lera) asked if she could take a picture. "Sure" I replied and handed the camera over. Bringing the camera up to eye level she snapped three images in quick succession of her sister, Jeniya. One thing that I noticed was that she didn't hold the camera at arms length to look for an image on the rear monitor.

 Lera takes aim at Jeniya

 The resulting image

Lera then handed the camera over to her sister, who before I could say a word proceeded to take some pictures of her sister. This continued with the girls snapping away at each other and striking various poses.

 Now it's Jeniya's turn

Jeniya's portrait of Lera

They stopped after a few minutes and reviewed the images. The questions came thick and fast:

Reviewing the images

"Why is she not sharp?", "How can I make the background look soft?", "How can I delete that one?" "Why is it too dark / too light?".

I tried to answer as best I could in a non technical way and was surprised at how readily the twins absorbed the information. After each clarification, one of them would start taking a few pictures and eventually they would master that little bit of technique. The most difficult proved to be the focus lock, although that only took about five minutes (and maybe ten attempts) for them to master. After about forty five minutes, I had given up on taking pictures for myself and let the girls have free rein. With the basic techniques mastered, they snapped happily away for the next hour or so.

I didn't want to come away empty handed so I decided to snap a pic of the two girls jumping. They both readily agreed, threw off their coats and began jumping at my command!

My pic safely onboard, I handed the camera back and let them get on with it.

Here are some of the girls' images.

Jeniya by Lera:

 Lera shoots Jeniya

Two hundred and twenty six images later I was sat back on my PC for the download process. The girls had done well. Of 

the 226 images, 27 were rejected due to being unsharp. These were mainly from early in the day when the girls were getting to grips with the (admittedly heavy) camera.

I learnt three things that day: 

  1. Switch off the continuous shooting mode. The girls don't need two or three nearly identical images.
  2. Shoot RAW and JPG. Editing a couple of hundred images from RAW is time consuming and many of the images didn't need anything else done to them.
  3. Take a spare camera for myself next time!

Luckily I had my Samsung with
me to record the day!

I think that photography now has two new converts!

Thanks for reading.