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SNAP SHOTS   by Harry Flashman

 

Update July 25, 2015

Autography – the way of the future?

When digital photography first became affordable for the average photographer, I was not convinced that it would be the success that it has become.
I am not a technophobe, but I take some time to evaluate new technologies.
When I think of technology and its effects upon us, I will let you into another secret skeleton in the family cupboard – I only bought my first fax machine because I was embarrassed by people asking me for my fax number. I could see no way I could use it! Wrong again. Mind you, I’m not as bad as David Ogilvy (Ogilvy and Mather Advertising Agency) who turned down the Xerox contract as he couldn’t see that the company had any future by just copying things!
A couple of years ago I mentioned the Autographer, another development of technology, and another which I thought had a very limited usefulness. What brought this idea back to me was when I saw someone wearing one at the weekend.
As opposed to cameras you hold, this photographic “device” can be worn around your neck, like the medallions or pendants, clipped to clothing or placed in a particular vantage point, is the first consumer device from British company OMG (Oxford Metrics Group and not Oh My God), whose stop-motion technology is used in fields ranging from computer game development to surveying roads.
OMG said it originally developed a version of the Autographer as a memory aid for people with dementia, but said it decided to launch it to the broader market after finding users and their families were also using the devices to record and remember special occasions.
OMG chief executive Nick Bolton said the camera occupied a space between stills photography and video. “It can capture really meaningful single images, but there’s actually something about watching the day back in sequence,” Bolton said. “It tells a story about the day you’ve just experienced.”
This camera knows when to take shots with its preprogrammed sensors, including a light sensor, temperature sensor, compass, IR-based motion detector and accelerometer. The software in the camera takes these inputs and uses them to decide when to capture an image. In addition you must set the Autographer to Low, Medium or High shooting speed, which capture around 50, 100 or 200 images per hour respectively.
Now that’s a lot of photos whichever way you look at it. At the Medium setting you could be producing 1,600 images a day, which is more than most people would care to trawl through. Of course you’re unlikely to use it while sitting at your desk, or working in most jobs. Wear it on an evening out, or to a sports event and keep it on Low and you’ll get around 200 images to flick through when you get home. That is still more than I would like to review.
The sensor itself is not so large in these days of 20 plus megapixels, being only five megapixels but the lens has a field of vision of 136 degrees. “We’ve spent a lot of time developing our wide-angle eye-view lens which is at the heart of the Autographer’s story-telling ability. It gives a unique first-person perspective that allows the wearer to tell their story uninhibited as they see it,” or so says the manufacturer.
The blurb claims “Autographer doesn’t just effortlessly capture images, it captures stories. This offers limitless possibilities for ‘creatives’ and professionals too. As the device is hands-free and wearable, it’s more versatile than a traditional camera in many circumstances; it’s only limited by the imagination of the wearer.”
However, here comes the technology of today - it can connect to smartphones via Bluetooth or computer via USB cable, OLED display, 8GB of on-board storage and there is also a shutter button on the side of the Autographer to allow you to manually over-ride and decide when you want the shot to be taken.
That means the company thinks it should appeal to anyone interested in recording an event without having to operate a camera, or as an additional tool for documentary photographers.
It is already on sale from the company’s website for 399.
You can read more: http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/cameras/smile-please-clickfree-camera-takes-photos- for-you-20120925-26i2y. html#ixzz27XB0t45N


Update July 18, 2015

The sky’s the limit

Pic 1 - red sky and palm fronds.

For some reason I woke early last week. The time was 5.45 and I staggered to the bedroom window and looked out, in time to be greeted by a brilliant red sky. I stumbled to my camera bag, trying to remember how to open it, took out the camera, switched it on, pointed it at the sky and went ‘click’. The phenomenon lasted about two minutes and I managed two usable shots, which I have printed here. It would have been better if I was more awake and stopped down the camera more, but as it was, I still managed to get something usable.

Pic 2 - red sky.

The sky is one subject that we tend to overlook, or even forget about entirely. This is a mistake, as the sky is the main light source for all outdoors photography. Think about it - it is the sky that lights the landscape, not the sun! Yet we take the exposure readings from the ground, rather than the light source.
This fact alone gives the photographer more control over the end shot. Look at landscapes you have taken before and note just how the sky was “blown out” compared to the landscape. There is a big difference between the sky (the light source) and the landscape (the reflected light source). This is why it is difficult to match to two, but you can get over this problem.
One way to give your sky and clouds more definition is by using a polarizing filter. These polarizing filters reduce glare in the atmosphere. This will give your clouds a more defined outline. At first, you will notice that your entire image is much darker. That is because polarizing filters reduce the amount of light that enters your camera. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what you are photographing. When water makes up most of the scene, polarizers are perfect. When there isn’t much water present, you may need to reconsider.
However, although you get more detail in the shadows, there is still the problem of too much brightness from the sky, compared to the amount of reflected light from the landscape. Polarizers help, but they are not the complete answer.
That said, if you are only taking pictures of clouds, try to use a polarizer most of the time. And because the exposure will be too low for the rest of the foreground, you will get a silhouette as per the first picture here this week, with the palm trees in silhouette. Unfortunately this page is in black and white so you will just have to imagine the red sky!
A photo of red clouds on their own is not so dramatic as ones with silhouetted foregrounds as you can see with the second photo this week.
Now, all this began because of an amazing red sunrise, but you don’t have to set your alarm for 5.30 and then sit there and hope. Clouds of all types make very interesting subjects, but if you want to incorporate a defined foreground with some cloud formations, it will be necessary to get yourself a filter that can help you with this. It is a graduated filter with a darker half and a clear half. This cuts down the amount of light from the sky to balance the foreground. These are made by many companies and come with a mount that the filter slips into. I use the Cokin system. Well worthwhile if you are serious about getting cloud shots.
You will have to try and experiment with a grad filter, but generally place the division between the darker half (at the top) and the clear half, along the horizon line. Try different shutter speeds and select the best options.


Update July 11, 2015

Just a touch of dampness

If you haven’t noticed, we have had some particularly inclement weather recently. However, rather than sitting down in front of the goggle box, it is actually time to rush out in the rain and make the most of the different conditions.
So what has that got to do with taking snapshots? Quite a lot actually. Look at the photograph with the column this week. A wonderful atmospheric shot taken in the rain, giving it the atmosphere. But to get shots like this you have to be prepared.
“Be Prepared” has always been the motto of the Boy Scouts Association, and a concept that they have zealously guarded. In fact, popular rumor has it that the Association took the American satirist Tom Lehrer to court after he sang a ditty with the title Be Prepared. For those of you who missed it, the final verse included:
“If you’re looking for adventure of a new and different kind,
And you come across a Girl Scout who is similarly inclined,
Don’t be nervous, don’t be flustered, don’t be scared.
Be prepared!”
Now in the wet weather, being prepared means that not only do you have fresh batteries, a memory card with room for more shots, but also ensuring that your camera stays dry. This is not all that easy, unless you have an assistant with a large umbrella at your disposal.
Being prepared then means having your camera ‘waterproof’. To do this 100 percent you can buy a Nikonos underwater camera at the cost of many thousands of baht. These are a wonderful underwater camera but for this instance - totally impractical, unless you want to stand at the side of the road in a full wet-suit!
The second way is to purchase a fancy plastic underwater housing for your own camera. Now these can range in price, depending on complexity. Built like a perspex box to house your camera, you can operate all the adjustments from the outside. These are not cheap either, and the cheapest in the range is literally a plastic bag with a waterproof opening and a clear plastic section for the lens. You open it up and literally drop your camera inside it and seal the bag. These can be purchased from major photographic outlets and I did spot one in a photo-shop for B. 750.
A third way is a waterproof disposable camera (yes, they do make them). Good for about three meters, so perfectly suitable for rainstorms. If you can’t get one of those, then even the ordinary cheap disposables are a better option than getting your good camera gear doused. I must admit to having dropped one of these overboard one day and the boatman jumped and retrieved it and the final photos were fine - but that was in the days of film, and not fancy electronics.
But you are left with an even simpler way of making your camera waterproof. And cheaper. It consists of a couple of plastic bags, such as you get with every item in 7-Eleven, and a handful of rubber bands.
Do the camera body first, inserting it into the plastic bag, but leaving a circular hole in the front so you can screw the lens on afterwards. Some rubber bands and the body is protected.
Now pop the lens into the other plastic bag, making circular holes at both ends and fixing it in place with a couple of rubber bands. Use large bags, so there is slack to move the focusing ring/aperture settings.
Your waterproof camera for less than one baht. Go out and get wet and shoot! But it is a simple case of being prepared and just jumping in to get some great shots, don’t stage manage, and lots of luck! Look out for photo opportunities, even when it is raining.
When it is raining, it really does mean another photographic opportunity to get different shots. Since we get bright sun for nine months a year, make the most of the rain!
It is a simple case of being prepared and then just jumping in to get the shots. And when you are back indoors dry the camera carefully as there is always some condensation.


Update July 4, 2015

Lighting is everything

With the sophistication in cameras these days, the casual photographer can be excused for thinking that there is nothing to getting good shots. Set the camera’s mode to G for Great pix and the electronic ‘smarts’ does the rest. Pity upon chaps like Ansel Adams who used to set up his camera and then wait hours if necessary to get the magnificent photos he has left us.
In actual fact, it is pity upon us with our new cameras which do everything for us - but they can’t change the position of the sun! And much of photography is to do with harnessing the rays given to us by the great lighting technician in the sky.
Take, for example, photographing the waves rolling into the shore. The white caps on the top of the waves look great, but to get that shot you need to have the sun coming from behind you, at an angle that is almost parallel to the beach. This way the water remains dark, but the white caps catch the sun’s rays and show very brightly.
So how do you get this shot? Well, you have to find a beach where the early morning sun’s rays go out to the sea. If you can’t find one, sometimes the late afternoon sun will then be coming from the direction you want. This is something that your fancy e-camera cannot replicate.
And those two times - early morning and late afternoon have always been the best times to get good shots. “Cold” ambience in the early mornings and “warm” ambience in the afternoons. You can use an 81A or 81B “warming” filter, but the end result is not as good as that coming from the ethereal light technician.
I have just mentioned color “temperature” which is a term that is borrowed from physics. However, the photographic color temperature is not exactly the same as the color temperature defined in physics, as photographic color temperature is measured only on the relative intensity of blue to red. However, we borrow the basic measurement scale from physics and we measure the photographic color temperature in degrees called Kelvin (K).
Here is a table to show the color differences in light sources.
1000 K Candles; oil lamps
2000 K Low effect tungsten lamps
2500 K Household light bulbs
3000 K Studio lights, photo floods
4000 K Clear flashbulbs
5000 K Typical daylight; electronic flash
5500 K The sun at noon
6000 K Bright sunshine with clear sky
7000 K Slightly overcast sky
8000 K Hazy sky
9000 K Open shade on clear day
The next confusing aspect is that the photographic color rendition and the human eye do not see the colors with the same intensity. The usual camera colors are ‘balanced’ to around 5,000 K, so light sources lower in color temperature will look orange, even though it does not look orange to the naked eye. This is why tungsten light sources produce the orange hue. However, when you balance the color, the light is balanced against tungsten light by exposing it to a blue tinge, so this time the light bulb will look white. Slightly confusing.
You also do not have to know the degrees Kelvin table off by heart to get some different photographs when you turn the flash off. The main thing to remember is that the color you perceive via the naked eye is not necessarily the color you will get in your photograph, but if you know your Photoshop, you can correct post production.
Let’s get some spectacular low-light photographs. Firstly, inactivate the flash, but turn on the automatic mode for your camera. If you have a tripod, dust it off, but even if you haven’t, continue. We are about to explore the 1000 K to 2000 K end of the scale.
Go to your local markets and take some photographs using just the stall-holder’s naked bulb for illumination. Be prepared to lean against a telephone pole to stop camera shake. But give it a go.
Now try photographing some of the hotels at night. Most are quite brightly lit and once again, you may end up very surprised. Even try some portraits lit by candles only. Use your imagination, and not the flash!


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Autography – the way of the future?

The sky’s the limit

Just a touch of dampness

Lighting is everything