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Update November 2015

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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern

SNAP SHOTS   by Harry Flashman


Update November 28, 2015

A 366 page manual

I received this letter from one of the regular readers:
Dear Harry,
I read, with interest, your article, “Buying a new camera”, published in the Pattaya Mail (October 16, 2015). Yes, I am still continuing to read your articles!
I first wrote to you a year ago for advice on this very subject and would like to let you know that after a year of reading various articles, reviews, and forums, I decided to go with your recommendation and have recently purchased the Lumix FZ 1000.
By the way, I also decided to keep my Lumix compact camera, that can easily slip into my pocket, both for backup and occasions where the FZ 1000 may prove just a little bit cumbersome.
Of course, after buying any new camera it is also important to, the manual in depth. The one for this camera is 366 pdf pages long, so no doubt I will be studying it for a while to come. The funny thing with me is that I was in such a hurry to “show off” and try out my new camera, before studying the manual, that I took it to a family birthday party the very next day. The camera (set in auto mode) told me, in several instances, to open the (pop-up) flash and, of course, I didn’t know how to. Not too disastrous, but I have now found that switch!
On another subject, and perhaps food for thought for a future article from you, is “aspect ratio”. I personally never really thought about this too much (until I got the new camera). I usually use 16:9 most of the time, as I shoot a lot of landscape stuff. Then I always forget to change the ratio for other shots, portraits, close ups and the like. Yes, they can be post cropped but, of course, with loss of quality. I also note that the “retro” square photographs seem to be coming back into fashion. Any thoughts on this?
Keep up the good work with the articles about this very interesting topic/hobby of photography.
After that kind note, I decided I would do a browse around one of the local camera shops (Big Camera Central Festival) and I was somewhat taken aback. It is quite some time since I actually bought a new camera, I was well out of date. Top end cameras from the Nikon stables were astronomical in price. A D series with a kit lens for B. 89,900. Even the lower end of the Nikon cameras were around B. 30,000. Canon were in the 20-40 K range and Olympus OM cameras were 45-72 K.
Even lenses were expensive, with after-market manufacturers like Tamron having lenses around 40K.
I could see why the retailers were having to offer six month terms at zero percent interest. And I could also see why camera phones are just so popular.
In this column I have concentrated on the techniques in photography, hoping to impart some of the knowledge I gained from working in my own professional studio. For me, the cameras had to earn their keep so I had the full Nikon system, Hasselblads and Cambo rail cameras. Some of these were expensive (then), but I had enough work for them to be able to afford the purchase. But I just wonder if that could be done today?
Pro shooters have to fight against the photo libraries. Art directors want to be able to pick an image without having to hire the photographers and model fees. They also expect their backsides to be licked! All that the photographer can do is try and have his work accepted by a library. (I was lucky and my work was accepted by one of the many photo libraries – but unfortunately it folded, my slides were returned and it was back to square one.)
Quite honestly, the majority of the top end cameras are really only for pro use. A savvy amateur can produce very acceptable images with the lower grade (around 30-40K) cameras. Working out exposure is a thing of the past and the subsequent images stand or fall with the technique of the photographer.
Start with the Rule of Thirds!

Update November 22, 2015

Catching the action in Still Life

Still life food - flash and daylight.

Still Life photography must be easy as you don’t have to direct models or supervise make-up. Everything is just sitting there, waiting for the photographer to push the button. Oh if it were only that easy!
One of the most amazingly creative and satisfying aspects of photography can be Still Life shooting. The ability to position and light a subject to produce a pleasing result can fill up an entire day. In fact, the pros can take a couple of days to get a still life shot just right. That’s right. A couple of days! You read correctly.
There are so many aspects to be covered in still life photography. Still life photography teaches you every important aspect of the artistic side of photography, as well as honing up your basic photographic skills.
The first good thing about still life shots is the subject doesn’t complain and tell you to hurry up asking “Is my mascara smudged?” You can also just pick up the subject and move it in any direction to suit the shot. You don’t have to ask for permission. Oh yes, there are many advantages in having a silent subject!
Let us begin with lighting. The secret to all still life shots is to have two light sources. This can be daylight plus flash, two flashes, electric lights, daylight and a mirror – but you need two. One to basically light the subject and the other to light the background.
Lighting the background isolates the subject from the background and makes your subject the “hero” in the shot.
The other secret in the lighting is to produce a diffused light source. With un-diffused light, you will get far too many distracting shadows, which with small table-top objects can ruin the overall effect. You can diffuse your lighting by shining it through some scrim cloth, transparent net curtain material or through some frosted plexi-glass - the sort of material they have over fluoro lights, for example.
The next important item in still life photography is your own eye. You will find there are even books on the subject, but what you have to do is to look at your table-top and arrange the items in a manner that is pleasing to your eye. Do you want them overlapping, or at some distance from each other? Generally there is one dominant item – bring it to the foreground and then arrange the supporting items after that. Some overlap generally works well.
Having got that far and you are now pleased with the composition, you then have to look through your camera. Help! It doesn’t look the same as it did with the naked eye! What’s gone wrong? It is because of the differences between the lens and your eye’s focal length. You now have to look through the camera and adjust the table-top items to produce the pleasing composition you saw with your own eye. Yes, this takes time, and now you can begin to see why the pros take so long!
After you have the composition to your satisfaction – you have to light it. This is where daylight or tungsten light becomes easier than flash – at least with the sun’s (filtered) rays or diffused tungsten you can see what you are going to get. (In the pro studio, the flash units have tungsten “modelling” lights so that you can get the idea of how the flash will illuminate the subject, before popping the shutter.)
Generally, I light the background first, then bring in the foreground (subject) lighting, carefully noting “spill” of one light source into the area of the other. Again, this can take hours! In fact, you can change the whole look of a table-top scene just with the balance of lighting used.
Remember too, that the exposure settings used in the camera depend upon the foreground lighting (not the background), and for most situations (but not all) the background can be brighter than the foreground, to “wash” it out a little. But again this is experimentation.
No, Still Life photography is not easy, even though it sounds straightforward. Perhaps it is easier to help the model fix her mascara after all!

Update November 14, 2015

WYSIWYG – learn that first!

Modern digital cameras, both SLR and point and shoot (and I put smartphones in that category) are all very clever with zoom lenses and modes to cover everything. But they don’t cover WYSIWIG.
So, exactly what is WYSIWYG (pronounced “wizziwig”)? It is the acronym for “What You See Is What You Get”! WYSIWYG works with photography. It just needs one thing – you have to train your eye to see critically what is really there, through the viewfinder.
We all tend to ‘imagine’ what is in front of us, rather than ‘seeing’ what is really there. Look at drawings of houses done by young children. Inevitably, there will be more than two walls. Children ‘know’ that houses have more than two walls, so draw houses accordingly. However, when you look at any house, from any angle, you can only see a maximum of two walls at one time. Small children do not use WYSIWYG.
Unfortunately, neither do many photographers. Hands up all readers who have reviewed their images from the memory card and been disappointed? All of you, if you are telling the truth – and that includes me!
What was wrong with those photos? Were there trees growing out of people’s heads, giving them strange reindeer ‘antlers’? Did some have such harsh shadows across the person’s face that you could not see the eyes, and in fact, the face looked grotesque? Did some have the person so small in the picture that you cannot tell who they are? Shall I continue, or since you have probably ticked the box for “all of the above”, let’s not prolong the agony, but get down to what we have to do to fix the problem.
The answer is very simply WYSIWYG, but you have to train yourself to ‘really’ see. We all know what we want to see in this once in a lifetime photo, but ignore the fact that what we are seeing in the viewfinder is not actually what we want. It’s the child and the house with three sides again.
You have to train yourself to look critically at what is in the viewfinder before going ‘click’. This is actually harder than it seems. You have to scan the small viewfinder to see if there are trees growing out of people’s heads. You have to squint at the faces and see if shadows are ugly. You have to be prepared to put the camera down and recompose the shot before clicking that shutter, remembering at all times that what the camera ‘sees’ is not necessarily the proportions you are seeing with the naked eye.
That may sound a little weird, but it isn’t really. What the camera sees depends upon the lens you are using. The “standard” (50-55 mm) lens gives a field of view coverage approximately the same as the human eye, but the “wide angle” lenses (24 mm and 28 mm, are the common ones) give a distorted viewpoint compared to that seen by you. Likewise, the “long” lenses give a very narrow viewpoint compared to what you see with your own eyes.
This is probably one of the best arguments for the use of SLR cameras, because when you look through the viewfinder, in most DSLR’s you are actually looking through the lens. The compact cameras where you are not looking through the camera’s lens have a compensation for this, but it is a poor substitute. Who remembers which set of lines you are supposed to use as the edge of the shot when you are taking it? Nobody.
99 percent of serious photographers use SLR’s, and the main reason is WYSIWYG. Which brings me to the next important item. The Preview Button. Do you use it? Do you actually know where it is and how to use it? This is ‘real’ WYSIWYG. Did you realize that when you look through the viewfinder, you are looking through the lens with the aperture wide open? But your shot may be recorded at f16. The preview button allows you to see at f16 exactly what will be on the final print. Use it! What you see is really going to be what you get!

Update November 7, 2015

The Future is L16?

There is a company called “Light” which might have the start of the new camera revolution. Called the L16, it is unlike any camera that has gone before. Looking like a thick smartphone it has 16 lenses with an optical zoom range of 35 mm to 150 mm and an end result of 52 MP images.
One feature we have seen before is the ability to alter the depth of field after the shot has been taken though there are other cameras that allow you to refocus after the fact, like the Lytro Illum, but the L16 will have actual video capabilities as well. The user can then change the image’s depth, focus and exposure and even share it on social media via built-in Wi-Fi. It also excels in low-light situations with its 16 sensors working together.
It takes advantage of what the company has described as a “silent revolution” in photography.
Simplifying the process, according to an in-depth report just released, the need to put better quality cameras in smartphones has miniaturized camera components and created high-quality plastic lenses. For the L16 five of the lenses are 35 mm, five 70 mm lenses with mirrors, and six 150 mm lenses. It uses these to take different details from a scene and then merges the data into a 52 megapixel picture.
The L16 includes 35-150 mm optical zooms and claims to have advanced low-light performance, low image noise and precise depth of field control. These are turned sideways, so the zoom function remains inside the camera itself.
Claims by the Light company include “The L16 is the first multi-aperture computational camera that packs DSLR quality and capability into a device that fits in your pocket,” says Light. It is also “smaller, lighter, less expensive, and provides better image quality than any camera in its price class.” (The last part of that claim my be open for discussion as the L16 costs $1,700, and is due to be released in late September 2016.
Out of the 16 individual camera units inside the L16, 10 of them fire simultaneously to capture the detail of an image at different fixed focal lengths.
The device runs on Android and has a 5 inch touchscreen on the back for editing and sharing photos using its built-in Wi-Fi. Light also say that Foxconn had licensed its technology to build a similar camera into future smartphones.
Much of the technical data has yet to be released by Light, but the specifications include
5" touchscreen
128GB of onboard storage
Minimum focus:10 cm at wide angle (35 mm); 1 m at telephoto (150 mm)
Dust/water resistant
Multi-aperture computational camera
Shoots video up to 4K with optical zoom from 35-150 mm equivalent focal length
Standard 1/4"-20 tripod socket
GPS and accelerometer
Outputs JPEG, TIFF, and raw DNG
Built-in dual-tone LED flash
That price isn’t for the faint of heart - or the amateur weekend photographer. And even though the technology the L16 utilizes is really exciting, I believe customers are going to need to know a little bit more before they feel comfortable queuing up to be the first on the block with one. Seeing as this camera is built with photographers in mind, filmmakers will no doubt need to know more about its video features before considering it an option for their projects as well.
“We have a team of 11 PhDs in computational optics,” Light says. “They know what they’re doing. And it’s an ongoing effort, it’ll go on for the next 20 years.”
“The great thing is the depth map we have great 3D information, and some developer could write the indoor mapping app that leverages that information. Another one is facial recognition, because we get such precise information, or a 3D-printing app.”
My feeling is that this particular electronic camera is just the start of the revolution, reminding me of the original XT PCs, which did most everything in its day, but the new computers do it just so much better and faster. It will be the same with electronic cameras.

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

A 366 page manual

Catching the action in Still Life

WYSIWYG – learn that first!

The Future is L16?



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