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Hi all

I'm not a blogger, I'm a photographer. There are enough people out there cluttering up the web everyday with what they've just had to eat, where they've been in the last hour, what color underwear they have on, etc. So don't expect to see something new here from me every day or every week ;) When there's something important for me to say, I'll put it up here and feed it out via my social feeds.

As Zack Arias says.."more signal, less noise"


 

A letter to G-Technology

April 12, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
I wrote an email to G-Technology a few weeks back, and haven't received a reply or acknowledgement yet. Now that might quite possible be my own fault, as I sent it to a person who I met a few years back, and I have no clue whether that person is still working there.
If anyone knows someone at G-Technology that you can forward the the link of this blog to, or if you can use your social media influence to get some response going, I (and I'm sure a lot of other people in town here) would be most grateful. Please........!!!!

So here's the mail I sent through to G-Technology. I've deleted the names of people and some brands mentioned.

Hi XXXX
 
I'm not sure if you're the correct person to be receiving this mail, but you're the only person I knew on the contact page, so please feel free to forward this mail on to the correct person.
 
I'm quite sure you won't remember me, but I had the privilege of meeting you, XXXX and XXXX (I think he's moved on) at the PPE in NYC a few years back (I was the South African with the weird accent). I had just bought a lot of XXXX drives, and after meeting with you three, and fortunately succumbing to the sales pitch (I had never heard of G-Technology before), went back to the retailer I had bought the XXXX drives from, and switched them out for G-Tech drives. And I've seriously never been happier since I made that choice. The G-Tech product, after-sales service and customer support is second to none. I've since thrown all my other brands of drives away and am now only using G-technology products.
 
However, every time I buy a new G-Tech product, I have to import it from somewhere else. Apart from a very small number of people I've spoken to, no-one in Dubai and in this region is aware of the G-Technology brand or the G-Tech products. If you walk into stores here in Dubai looking for a storage device, you can find every other brand available except for G-Technology. (If you already have distributors or resellers here, they're not doing a very good job)
 
As a freelance photographer who knows about, and uses G-Technology storage, I would be ecstatic to see G-Technology make a move into the region. I know what quality products you sell, and I think that this region is sorely in need of your brand and products.
Every year in Dubai, GulfPhotoPlus hosts a week of photography classes, seminars and the like with renowned international and sometimes regional photographers as the instructors. Think of something like the Maine Media workshops on steroids. You can see the line-up of instructors and events here. It would be the perfect opportunity ;)
This year, Capture Integration/Phase One, Tether Tools and Cambo made their debut in Dubai and were introduced at GPP. Yes, companies that have had a worldwide presence for years now have only just been introduced to the market in Dubai - that's how new (or behind the curve, depending on how you see it) the market is here, and it's ripe for the picking.
 
I would love to see your product and brand represented here in Dubai. Whether you've looked into the market here already for distributors/resellers, or how you would go about it if you were interested, I have no idea. That's way above my pay grade...but please, if you have the opportunity, make a go of it. We desperately need the G-Technology brand and products here!!
 
Regards
 

Iain


Tethering Troubleshooting

February 24, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

I've just written a post on Headshotcrew, where I am a Mentor and Associate photographer, about tethered shooting troubleshooting and products that I use when shooting tethered, as there were quite a few posts about problems some members were experiencing when shooting tethered.
I do not profess to be any sort of expert when it comes to tethered shooting, I know there are far more clever and proficient people than me out there, but this post is about the products I've used to overcome my problems I encountered when shooting tethered. If this information helps just one person out there, then I've succeeded. Here's the post I wrote:

"Hi all

I see lately there have been a few posts regarding tethered shooting, problems whilst shooting tethered, signal loss, etc.
I'm pretty sure most of you will have worked this out for yourselves and know the equipment that I'm going to mention, but for those of you who are new to this, here are a few points I'm going to put forward, and this is from my own experience.
I'm going to absolutely tout a certain company here - but just so that all of you know, I am NOT sponsored by them, have no business dealings with them except when they take my money (and I happily part with it), but when a company offers such good products, then I'll happily shout it out.

http://www.tethertools.com/

Firstly - the cable. Your cable is going to make or break your tethered session. If you're not using a super-speed cable, you'll most likely suffer from signal degradation (data loss), and your camera and computer will stop data communication. You know that cheap cable you bought from the corner store? Uh-uh. Toss it.

Here's a link to the product finder:
http://www.tethertools.com/plugging-in/usb-compatibilty/

Secondly - extending the cable. If you're using a USB2 or USB 3 port to tether to, and you need to extend your tether cable's reach, then make sure you get an active extension cable
http://www.shop.tethertools.com/TetherPro-USB-30-SuperSpeed-Active-Exten...
http://www.shop.tethertools.com/TetherPro-USB-20-Active-Extension-Cable-...

You plug your brand new superspeed cable into a normal extension cable, and it'll be goodbye tethered session. The quicker you can get the data transferred, and with the least signal degradation, the happier you and your client will be.

I found that out the hard way - shooting tethered into LR (way back when, before I knew about Capture One), and my files would not transfer from my D700 into LR. Was using the cable supplied by Nikon, into a standard extension cable. Not pretty, red-faced to say the least. Imagine the data loss when I upgraded to a D800.....I got some TetherTools cables pretty quickly!

For those of you who tether via FireWire, there are cables available for you:
http://www.shop.tethertools.com/TetherPro-FireWire-800-9-Pin-to-9-Pin-15...
http://www.shop.tethertools.com/TetherPro-FireWire-800-400-9-Pin-to-6-Pi...

You get the drift, there are more pin configurations available. Your FireWire should supply enough power on it's own, however....you'll probably lose the connection if you're shooting into a laptop. The problem is the power supply. Shoot into a desktop with its main source, and you'll be fine.

Thirdly - Powered repeaters. I currently shoot a D800 into an iMac, and I found myself dropping files and losing the connection during shoots. Problem wasn't my cables or my computer, but a mismatch of the USB firmware. Apple uses USB3.0, Nikon is using 3.1. If you've been having the same problem, well, your answer is a powered USB3 hub. You can pick them up at B+H or Amazon, here's a link to the one I got from B+H
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1027605-REG/xcellon_usb_7phv2_7_po...

If you're not wanting or can't  use a hub, but need that power boost that is consistent enough to maintain a stable and reliable connection, well then, there's a product just for you as well!! It works on any operating system, is powered by the camera or can be hooked up to a power bank/ external power.
http://www.shop.tethertools.com/TetherBoost-Core-Controller-TBUSB30.htm
http://www.shop.tethertools.com/Rock-Solid-External-Power-Bank-5000mAh-R...

No more drama. No more dropped data.

If you're shooting FireWire into a laptop, then you'll probably need one of these from Capture Integration
https://captureintegration.com/product/fw800-firewire-powered-hub/
$100. No-brainer

So - if you're dropping data, hanging up during a session, it'll probably be the power (if you have the correct cables of course!). Get a powered repeater.

Fourthly - Cable movement. Your data is going to be exceptionally susceptible to any form of cable movement at the connection points. A slight jiggle or jerk and you'll be restarting your tethered session. Trust me.......and you need not ask how ;)

You cannot shoot tethered without this following product IMO
http://www.shop.tethertools.com/JerkStopper-Tethering-Kit-JS09.htm

Have a look at their other cable management products, find what you need, but this kit (or the individual items if you don't want the kit) are essential.

Don't forget trusty Gaffer tape as well! Tape up your connection points between your extended cables. Make sure there's no room for any wiggle movement

Hope this helps if you've been having issues. As I said before, this information comes from my own experiences and what I've used to sort my tethering issues out."

EDIT - Memory Cards: This comes to me via Andy Foster on Headshot Crew, and although I've never had a problem with having cards on my camera whilst tethering, he suggests another step you can take to minimize a data transfer error is to remove your CF/SD cards from your camera whilst tethering. The computer would apparently try and read them like an external drive, and that would create a bottleneck as well, and the images would take up to 30sec to transfer if he was using large capacity cards.
Try it if you're having that issue, it sounds extremely plausible, and it's something I'll be doing on my next shoot.

 


Double exposure, Repeating flash and a ballerina

November 28, 2014  •  Leave a Comment


Stop MotionStop Motion. Double exposure, single strobe and Repeating flash
I recently completed a couple of shoots for the National Ballet Studio, who are based here in Dubai. When I was offered the shoots, I jumped at it, as it was a chance to get really artistic and creative again, and it was something totally different to the headshots and corporate portrait work I do normally.
I had a few ideas I wanted to shoot which involved movement, and put forth my ideas to the Directors, Helen Ainsworth and Elizabeth Johnson, during our pre-shoot meetings earlier in June this year. They bit.

One of the shots which I had envisaged would incorporate a double exposure, Repeating mode flash, together with single strobe, in order to portray a static and dynamic element within the same image. Great idea, but something I had never attempted before (I did not let on to this at the time however...). Cue the deep end, and the manufacturers manuals (Yes, I keep mine...somewhere)

Now to shoot Repeating mode (stroboscopic) flash, you need to do it in total or as near to total darkness as possible. You DON'T want ambient light.......
Helen and Elizabeth had originally booked a proper theater for this shoot, which guaranteed the required lack of ambient, but as luck would have it, they were dumped due to a double booking. Plan B -The media hall at a local golf club. The only problem was that it was a light and airy hall. Definitely not great for a shot which required almost total darkness....... however, Helen's husband was included in plan B. He works for a company who manufactures black drapes and hanging systems for theater productions, and it wasn't long before he had put up a 8 meter length/width by 3 meter high black fabric box for me, with black fabric for flooring (it wasn't perfect, as there was still a LOT of ambient light coming in, but it was what we had to work with). We all get thrown curveballs, we just have to learn to deal with them.

The equipment I needed to create the image was the following - for the Repeating mode element I would have to use my Nikon SB910's, triggered by a Nikon SU800 commander. For the static element I would use my Profoto 7B pack, one head with a Profoto 3x4 softbox, triggered by Pocketwizard Plus 2's.
The SU800 is a great trigger for the SB910's, as it has a Repeating mode Commander function - dial in all the settings from the camera position, whilst the PW's were the best for triggering the 7B pack - nice, simple, extremely reliable.
I didn't want to sit in Photoshop for hours editing and blending separate images, I try as much as I can to do it all in camera, so I knew the way to get the shot was to do a double exposure in-camera. Thankfully my Nikon D800 has a double exposure setting....and it was back to the manual I went. And doing a double exposure explains the why I needed to use two different lighting setups with two different triggers - I needed two different lighting setups whose triggering systems wouldn't interfere with each other whilst making the double exposure. Yes, I would need to swop triggers mid-exposure, but the one wouldn't set the other off.
I had fashioned a rail, about 6 meters long, elevated on Avenger C-stands, on which I clamped 4 SB910s's about a meter or so apart from each other. They all had their diffusion domes attached, and the rear-facing portions of the domes were gaffered with black tape. I wanted all the light going forward, and as little as possible coming back towards the camera. The rail was raised so the heads of the speedlights were positioned about three feet or so from the top of Jenna's head (our ballerina in these images), and she had to basically remain just under and parallel to the speedlights at all times.The sensor eyes were all pointing back towards the camera (the SU800 uses IR to trigger. Have those windows out of line-of-sight of the trigger and the only thing you'll capture is a look of surprise on your face).

Technically, there were quite a few things to consider:
ISO - I had to keep it as low as possible to help minimize the ambient, yet balance that with the need for the power setting and hence recycling time of the speedlights. The higher you put the ISO on the camera, the less power you need from the speedlights, and recycling times are quicker. Quite important when using Repeating mode. Also, I didn't have external battery packs for the speedlights, so the drain on the batteries in the speedlights would be quite significant.
Aperture - I settled on f/8, as I was anticipating some movement from the Jenna, not just parallel with the rail, but also some front to back movement as she completed her routine, and f/8 would give me some leeway as far as DOF went. f/5.6 would possibly have been too shallow with all the movement, and f/11 would have forced me to up the power on the speedlights - more power drain, greater recycle times.
Shutter speed - The static strobe portion was easy - 1/1250th, and that killed any ambient. The other part, the Repeating mode flash, was a little more involved. I eventually settled on 3 seconds, and here's why:

The main factor was the dance routine timing. Jenna had to do a routine that would cover the portion of the rail below where the speedlights were mounted. I wouldn't trigger immediately as she started her routine, but only as she was in range of the first light. She then had to continue parallel to the rail, and complete her routine to end below the last speedlight, on a spot that I had marked out where the metered Profoto 7B with softbox would be waiting for her. That was close to 3 seconds as you can get. And then she had to remain perfectly still while I changed triggering systems to trigger the 7B pack. Not a lot to ask of poor Jenna, who was already closed to finished from all the previous shooting.
So knowing what time I needed for my shutter speed, I took a test shot at 3 seconds with my aperture set at f/8, and was not surprised at all to see that ISO400, which I had hoped would be OK, was not even close to being OK. Way too much ambient light in the exposure.
So I dialed the ISO down, test, dialed down, test, and eventually settled on ISO125. I didn't kill the ambient totally with the aperture and shutter speed combination, but it was as close as I was going to get considering the power setting and recycle times of the speedlights. I had originally set them to 1/64 power, but with the drop in ISO, I had to increase their output by a stop to 1/32 power. I knew I would be about a 1/3 stop under in exposure off the speedlights due to the ISO setting, but I was not willing to increase their output again to the detriment of recycle times. I was shooting in RAW, so I had that flexibility to push a bit in post-production if I had to.

lighting-diagram-1417161472lighting-diagram-1417161472

When it comes to Repeating Flash mode, there is a formula to use to determine your shutter speed:
Number of times the flash fires in total before it switches off / Hz (number of times the flash fires per second) = Shutter speed
I had the shutter speed determined already, and I figured that I wanted each flash to fire 12 times (plain thumbsuck), so the Hz worked out to 4. Each flash would fire 4 times per second for a total of 12 times over 3 seconds. But I decided to push it a bit and dialed in 5Hz/12times/3 seconds. And believe it or not, the SU800 let me do it, and it worked!! When I tried 6Hz, the Commander unit just blinked at me. It'll only let you push your luck to a certain point....
I did try experimenting with the settings a bit regarding the Hz/times, but eventually decided that the weird combination was just where I needed to be.

Here are a few test shots we did trying to get the balance right, everything the same except for the Times/Hz combination

2Hz/6 times test2Hz/6 times test
This was image was taken at 2Hz/6times, Repeating mode, single frame only

3 Hz/9 times3 Hz/9 times This image was taken at 3 Hz/9 times, Repeating mode, single frame only. You can see the marked difference in upping the Hz/time combination.
I hit the shutter button a bit early, thus Jenna didn't make it through the frame totally. But you can see how much closer her body is spaced in the image as compared to the one above, even though the routine was slightly different.
5 HZ/12 times. Why do it by the book? And here is the combination that I originally decided on. 5 Hz/ 12 times for 3 seconds. Technically, according to the book, it should be 4Hz/12 Times.....

So then it was down to the final shot, double exposure at 3 seconds, and then at 1/250sec. We had the start and end points marked out with tape on the floor, and just after Jenna started her routine, I triggered the Repeating mode using the SU800. Jenna ended up a little off the end point, but now had to remain perfectly still in her end pose while I switched to the Pocketwizard, changed the shutter speed to 1/250 and took the second part of the exposure firing off the 7B pack.
You can see in the final image at the top of the post that there was perhaps a slight timing issue, as her tutu on the left side of the Repeating flash portion is not as correctly exposed as I would have liked it to be, but I love the how the double exposure integrates the two "frames" together. Overall, I am extremely happy with the image, and my client even happier. And that makes for a good day.


BTW: I always shoot tethered (Capture One, Tether Tools) into my laptop when I'm on location. Here's an interesting fact - the D800 will not let you use the double exposure function when tethered. I tried to select it, and it was greyed out. Some head-scratching ensued, I disconnected the tethering cable, and there it was, ready to go. I'm not sure what it didn't like, perhaps it'll work with wireless tethering....but if you ever encounter the same scenario, there's your solution.









 


Illuminating the Face Peter Hurley and Fstoppers

May 01, 2014  •  1 Comment


So I've just finished watching Peter Hurley's and Fstoppers newly released video "Illuminating the Face". It went live for purchase and download on the  Fstoppers store today, however, I had the distinct pleasure of purchasing it a few days ago before the official release, and have been watching it over the course of these last few days.
I was actually first indirectly introduced to Peter by the Fstoppers guys a couple of years ago. I was on my FB page (I think) when an ad popped up from Fstoppers advertising a video for purchase called "The Art behind the Headshot." I viewed the trailer, considered it interesting enough to invest some money into, and as they say, the rest is history. I joined Peter's PH2 Headshot coaching network, and a few years on, I am proud to be a PH2 Associate photographer and Mentor. Peter has since become good friend of mine, I've assisted for him here in Dubai at last year's GPP where he presented a couple of Headshot Intensive's and Environmental Portraiture workshops, we've shared meals and beers, and let me tell you, it's always good to see him in action as on this new video.
I have also had the absolute pleasure of meeting Lee Morris and Patrick Hall of Fstoppers fame. What these guys and their crew have done, and are doing for photography is phenomenal. If you're not following them or their work, well, you're missing out. The Fstoppers blog is something you have to read every day if you want your nuggets of photographic gold.

So what do I think about this new video that Peter and the Fstopper's have put out? I'm not sure if anyone actually asked what I thought, but since I don't care if they did or not....
The video is available as downloadable content from the Fstoppers store as mentioned above. After completing your purchase ($300), you are given download links to the video which comprises of four chapters. The total size of the video (all 4 chapters) is 7.3GB, so you'd better have a good internet connection when you download.....my wait was luckily only 45 minutes.
Total viewing time is about 4 hours and 50 minutes, so you're getting something that at least has enough running time to have a lot of information packed into it. And it does......
So in the first three chapters, Peter discusses the Inverse Square Law, which us photographers should have a very firm grip on. He discusses Hard vs. Soft light- small sources of light vs. large sources of light, how the utilization of the Inverse Square Law affects falloff, etc. Basically a 101 on lighting. Then.....he gets into demonstrating different modifiers -

Bare bulb Monolights
Reflectors
Umbrellas
Softboxes
Octaboxes
Snoots
Grids
Beauty Dishes
Octaboxes
KinoFLo Lights
V-flats

and how they work, what type of light they produce (silver vs. white), how the light to subject distance affects the final outcome, how changing the positions and angles of the lights affects the outcome, feathering, etc.

He explains key lights, fill lights, kicker and hair lights, Gobos, Cucoloris (cookies) and Flags. Now where this tutorial really shines in these chapters is that Peter has two models, one a dark-skinned male and the other a light-skinned female, and he demonstrates each and every modifier on these models using the same setups and the effect that they have on these individuals, and how some modifiers will work for both of them and some only look good on the male model and not the female model or visa versa, and how to tweak the setups to suit.

Chapter 4 is where he puts all of what he has demonstrated in the first three chapters into practice, setting up beauty shots, fashion shots, catalogue, etc using all the techniques and modifiers to light and sculpt the images. Real craftsmanship and a pleasure to watch.

So - is this an advanced lighting video tutorial for the Heisler's and Liebowitz's out there? No. Are there other good video tutorials out there at the moment that are cheaper? Yes -  (check out Zack Arias's "One Light 2.0" for $75). But they deal with different things. Both are good, each will attract their own market.

But you ARE going to get your money's worth in the long run from this video if you fit into the market the video targets.
So if you're wanting to learn studio lighting, wanting to know what modifiers do, what light they produce, or if you're a professional wanting to brush up your lighting techniques and have a handy source of very good reference, then this is definitely for you.  If you've been wondering how a specific modifier works or compares to another modifier and what types of light they will produce, then this is for you.
I only have access to some of the modifiers demonstrated in the video - there are others that I could only wonder how they performed and modified light, so seeing these ones in action has been gold for me. After watching the video, I really don't need (I didn't say want) a Mola anymore, my Octabox will do just fine. Pay some to save some.

My opinion - it's another great tutorial. Definitely one to add to the library!