by Harry Flashman
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
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
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
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
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:
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.
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.
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
“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.
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
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.
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