Monday, December 27, 2010

A Life in Shadow

A self portrait by Vivian Maier
The Chicago families who hired Vivian Maier as a nanny knew her as a kind but eccentric woman who always guarded her privacy. Maier was a loner it seems, all of her life. Few knew of her incredible talent as a street photographer who documented the world around her with her Rolleiflex in the mid 20th century.

A chance discovery after her death by a young Chicago real estate agent named John Maloof has changed all of that. Maloof went on a mission to spotlight Maier's secret talent as a photographer which has led to a growing appreciation of her vast work.

All photos by Vivian Maier from the collection of John Maloof

Click here to see more of Vivian Maier's amazing photos and a blog Maloof has posted on his project.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tis the Season…for Awkward Photos

Holidays bring good times, friends and family together, so it's only natural to pull out the camera  to document the occasion. What isn't natural however are some of the resulting portraits.

Happy Holidays & Enjoy!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Leica S2 and Nikon D7000 Firmware Upgrades Released

A new firmware version for the Leica S2 is available free of charge for all registered S owners.

From Stephan Schulz, product manager for the Leica S-System : "Our close cooperation with professional photographers provides us with an opportunity to constantly develop and improve the Leica S-System. Our latest update contains many of the suggestions and wishes heard in discussions with professional users. The result is a whole range of improvements for applications, features and functions, and the handling of the S2, all specifically tailored to meet the particular needs of professional photographers"

Nikon also released Firmware v1.01 for the D7000 which fixes the occasional occurrence of bright spots while recording videos or in the live view mode.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Step by Step : Shooting Video with the DSLR

Can You Hear Me Now?

One of a series of posts aimed to help still photographers produce better videos with their DSLRs.

Audio in a film is as important or some will say more important than the visuals. The eye can forgive, but not the ears.

Recording good audio with DSLRs however can be a challenge. All video capable DSLRs have very poor quality mics which also pick up all the camera handling noises. Most also have an automatic gain control (AGC) with no way of turning it off. And without a headphone jack or visible audio meters, you have no idea what the camera is recording.

But we have a solution.

The best way around all of these issues is to record to a separate device with high quality mics. The Zoom H4N and the Tascam DR-100 are two popular compact recorders that take xlr mics, show levels and have headphone jacks. The only disadvantage to recording to a separate device is that it requires extra time in post (editing), syncing the video to the audio.

Another solution, for even better audio is to use a high quality preamp along with an external mic, recording that into your camera or recorder or both. JuicedLink and Beachtek make nice somewhat compact amps which can eliminate the AGC in the DSLRs and provides good clean audio.

My workflow involves using good xlr mics that are fed into my JuicedLink CX231 preamp. I can turn the gain (volume) up all the way on this device and still get good clean audio. I feed this into my H4n recorder with the amps turned down to a line out to my camera. On that line out to the camera is a splitter so that I can hear what is being fed into my camera. This way, I am recording dual sound - in my H4n and in my camera - giving me a back up audio track should I need it. If my camera does not have manual audio control, then I'll sync the audio in post. If it does have manual audio control then I'll most likely use the audio attached to the video to save time in post. In either case it's good to have a backup audio track.

Getting good, clean audio can be somewhat confusing, especially for a photographer - but if you're serious about your DSLR filming, then you need to go beyond the poor in-camera mics and use the tools that will produce the sound worthy of your film.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Firmware Update for the Canon EOS 60D

Canon has just released the latest firmware update - Version 1.0.8 - for the EOS 60D.

Firmware Version 1.0.8 fixes a phenomenon in which captured images may become overexposed when using the camera's built-in flash, or an external Speedlite, in combination with the following lenses :

  • EF300mm f/4L IS USM
  • EF28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM
  • EF75-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM
  • EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An Evening with Ray Olson

Thank you to everyone who joined us for our monthly lighting seminar with Ray Olson of the MAC Group this evening.  Ray showed off the Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 and Flex TT5 and shared with us some tips on shooting wirelessly with flash. 

Ryan strikes a pose as Ray demonstrates shooting with off camera strobes.
Ray shows an X-Rite ColorChecker, used to evaluate and calibrate color reproduction systems.
Please feel free to give us some feedback as we continue to tailor these presentations to your needs.  We hope you'll join us next month on the 19th for another lighting presentation!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

New Update for Apple's Aperture

Apple has released an updated version of Aperture, their raw-conversion and photo management software. Version 3.1.1 addresses a number of bugs, fixes compatibility issues with the company's recently released i'Life '11 suite and improves overall stability of the software. The update is available for  download on Apple's website.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Cool Remote Trigger for your Nikon

XEquals, a new Canadian company has just launched blueSLR, a combination of bluetooth module and companion app for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad that enables Nikon DSLRs to be wirelessly triggered from the app. Not only that, it also geotags your photos, writing its GPS location to the EXIF data of your images.

The small module will attach to the following Nikons : D3100, D5000, D90, D7000, D2Xs, D3, D3s, D3x, D200, D300, D300S, and D700. It has a claimed range of up to 300 feet and since it is bluetooth, it does not have to be line of sight. Cost of the module is $149. The app is a free download from iTunes.

It’s currently only compatible with Nikon DSLRs, although they’re working on releasing a Canon version as well.

Getting Rid of Dead Pixels on your Canon DSLR

Dead pixels. Those tiny, usually red dots appearing in the same place on all your images can be frustrating. Considering there are tens of millions of pixels that make up your image, it's not surprising that a few of them can be broken. Happens even to brand new fresh out of the box cameras.

What to do? If your camera is under warranty, and you can stand being without it for a few weeks then by all means send it back for repair. However, if you're out of your warranty window or you just don't want to part with your new camera, here's a trick to try with your Canon DSLR.

  • Make sure you have a fully charged battery
  • Detach lens but be sure to put the camera bodycap on
  • Go into your menus and find Sensor cleaning
  • Select Clean manually
  • Let it run for 60 seconds, then power the camera off

It’s that easy! You should find that you have gotten rid of the dead pixel. If not, you'll need to send your camera to Canon for remapping.

Monday, December 6, 2010

New Updates From Adobe

Adobe has just released new updates for Adobe Photoshop CS5 (12.0.2), Camera Raw (6.3) and Lightroom (3.3).

The updates bring RAW file support to 15 new camera models including Nikon D7000 and Canon Powershot S95, as well as lens profiles for over 60 new Nikon, Canon, Pentax and Sigma lenses.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Step by Step : Shooting Video with the DSLR

Keeping it Smooth

One of a series of posts aimed to help still photographers produce better videos with their DSLRs.

The biggest mistake still photographers make when shooting video for the first time is not keeping the camera steady. Nothing shouts amateur like a shaky video and if you don't use some type of camera support, you'll be very disappointed in the results and maybe even give your viewers motion sickness. Since you are no longer capturing a slice of time in a photograph, camera shake becomes very noticeable. And to make matters worse, the form factor of the DSLR is much more suited for stills than video. Some kind of camera support is necessary.


A standard photo tripod can help, but try to move the camera in a smooth pan, and you'll see it's limitations in your footage. You need very sturdy legs and what is called a fluid head.

Fluid heads are just what the name implies, a tripod head with a thick fluid in it to dampen any movement, to create a smooth resistance. Because of this, they are more expensive than most standard photo tripod heads. Fluid heads can run from anywhere around $100. up to thousands of dollars. Consider the good ones an investment because they will give you years and years of great service.

Shoulder Rigs

When shooting off the tripod, to be more mobile, it really helps to have some type of camera support to keep your video footage looking smooth. In-camera/lens image stabilization can only do so much. Many thrifty do-it-yourselfers have created interesting rigs out of pvc pipe, wood and even old bicycle parts. But many innovative companies have sprung up to support the growing needs of video DSLR shooters so there is plenty to choose from. These rigs can cost you anywhere from $30. on up to believe it or not, a Vocas costing $2100. for a simple shoulder rig.

When buying a shoulder rig, if you can, bring all of your gear to make sure it all fits and feels comfortable. Most rigs are based on dual 15mm rods that allow customization of the ergonomics and a base for all of the attachments you need (follow focus, external recorder, monitor, matte box, etc). Buy one that fits your budget of course but also your shooting style. Keep it as simple as possible as you need to carry it all on your shoulder. It will also help to have a quick release on your shoulder rig matching your tripod fluid head for quick on and off the sticks.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Canon Offers Locking Mode Dial Upgrade for the EOS 5D Mark II and 7D

Canon has just announced a service upgrade for the EOS 5D Mark II and EOS 7D that replaces the camera's mode dial with a redesigned locking version, similar in design to the EOS 60D. The new dial has a center button that locks the dial setting to prevent it from accidentally moving to another function.

The service will be offered starting on December 6th and will cost around $100.

The non-locking mode dial will continue to be installed at the factory for both the 5D Mark II and 7D. The locking version will be available only as a service modification, says Chuck Westfall, Technical Advisor at Canon USA.

The locking dial will be similar to the one on the 60D

Friday, November 26, 2010

New Lens Mount Adapters for the Leica S-2

Great news from Leica regarding the S-2.

No longer will S-2 owners be limited to just four pieces of glass : the Leica Summarit-S 35mm f/2.5, Summarit-S 70mm f/2.5, APO Macro Summarit-S 120mm f/2.5, and APO Elmar-S 180mm f/3.5 lenses.

Leica plans to roll out new lens mount adapters for the S2 which will make the camera compatible with Pentax 67 lenses, Hasselblad V-series lenses, and Mamiya 645 lenses.

"It has a double benefit for us," Chrisitan Erhardt, Leica's Vice President of Marketing told PDNonline. "We have four lenses now and there are more in development but there are some unique lenses out there that we don't currently have. This will increase the options for our customers who want to use a wider variety of lenses. And for the ones we have on the market, photographers will realize they can achieve a much higher resolution if they use a Leica lens."

Leica has not announced pricing for the adapters but is hoping to make them available by the end of the first quarter of 2011.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

New Canon 7D and T2i Firmware Updates

EOS 7D Firmware Update Version 1.2.3

Firmware version 1.2.3 incorporates the following fixes.
  • Fixes a phenomenon in which the settings of the Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2 revert to the default settings when both the camera and the ST-E2 are set to auto power off.
  • Fixes a phenomenon in which the Macro Ring Lite (MR-14EX, MT24-EX) and slave flashes do not sync while shooting wirelessly.
Firmware version 1.2.3 is for cameras with firmware up to Version 1.2.2. If the camera's firmware is already Version 1.2.3, it is not necessary to update the firmware.

Download it here : EOS 7D v.1.2.3

EOS Rebel T2i Firmware Update Version 1.0.9

Firmware version 1.0.9 incorporates the following fixes.
  • Fixes a phenomenon in which tone jumps become noticeable in some images, depending on the shooting scene, when shooting with the Auto Lighting Optimizer settings (Low / Standard / Strong).
Firmware version 1.0.9 is for cameras with firmware up to Version 1.0.8. If the camera's firmware is already Version 1.0.9, it is not necessary to update the firmware.

Download it here : EOS Rebel T2i v.1.0.9

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Step by Step : Shooting Video with the DSLR

Composing and Focusing 

One of a series of posts aimed to help still photographers produce better videos with their DSLRs.

One of the many limitations or frustrations if you will of shooting video with today's DSLR is the lack of a proper built in focusing aid. Since in most cameras the mirror flops up and blocks the viewfinder, so you need to use the LCD for focusing. There are no electronic viewfinders built into these cameras as there are on "real" video cameras.

Composing and focusing your image with the LCD will work however only if it is at eye level. (The Canon 60D, Nikon D5000 and Olympus E5 are the notable exceptions with swivel LCD screens) And trying to focus on a tiny 3 inch reflective screen in the bright sun is nearly impossible. Even indoors, follow focusing can be difficult due to the small screen.

So what do we do? Right now, there are two options, a loupe that fits over the LCD, shading it from the sun and providing magnification and an external monitor. Each have their advantages and disadvantages. Early next year, we will see a third option - an electronic viewfinder that attaches to our DSLRs via the HDMI out. Zacuto and Redrock are both working on these.

LCD Loupe Advantages
  • Compact
  • Blocks sunlight from hitting the LCD
  • Magnifies the image up to 3X
  • Offers another contact point for stability when holding the camera
  • No easy way to attach to the LCD
  • Can't be used for composing or focusing when on the ground or in another hard to reach position 
  • Can burn the LCD if the eyepiece is aimed up to the sun
  • Can be expensive
External Monitor Advantages
  • Large screen to compose and focus 
  • Extra features such as peaking, pixel to pixel magnification, aspect ratio marks, and false color 
  • Can position camera anywhere and view monitor from another position via an HDMI cable
  • Bulky
  • Needs batteries
  • Needs a sunscreen
  • Very expensive

This loupe from Zacuto attaches over the LCD screen to a frame that is glued to the back of the camera. It snaps right on and off and gives you a 2.5 - 3X magnification of the LCD screen. 

Composing a ground level image can be difficult without an external monitor. This monitor by Marshall Electronics is their new portable 5" monitor than runs on 4 AA batteries. Light and compact and with a long HDMI cable, can be placed far from the camera if need be.

What to buy? Tough one to answer. As you can see by the list above, they each offer their own strengths and weaknesses. I use both depending on the shoot. When I'm mobile, shooting run & gun style, the loupe is the way to go due to it's compact form factor. However, with the external monitor, there are many features that make composing and focusing your shot so much easier. If I'm shooting mostly on a tripod, I almost always use the external monitor.

Friday, November 19, 2010

An Evening with Ray Olson

Thanks to all who attended our monthly lighting seminar with Ray Olson of the MAC Group this past Wednesday.  We had a great time.  Please feel free to give us some feedback as we continue to tailor these presentations to your needs.  We hope to see you next month on the 15th for a wireless speed light presentation!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Step by Step : Shooting Video with the DSLR

Controlling Exposure

One of a series of posts aimed to help still photographers produce better videos with their DSLRs.

So, now that we have the camera all set up and the neutral picture style dialed in, let's go out and shoot.

Remember, with video, it's best to have everything on manual so select your frame rate (24, 30 or 60p) and your white balance setting. Choose your iso, aperture and a shutter speed, keeping in mind that for the smoothest, natural look, you should keep the shutter speed at twice your frame rate in what is referred to as the 180 degree shutter rule. You also need to keep the aperture constant in a video sequence. For example, you are panning a scene…you don't want the aperture to change during your pan. The viewer will notice the depth of field changing as you pan - not good. Also if there are extreme shutter speed changes, even these will be noticed, especially with movement. So, auto exposure is not recommended.

With video, you need to change the exposure manually and the best way to do this is with a variable neutral density filter. What a variable ND filter does is allow you to rotate it's filter ring (similar to a polarizer) and dial down or up the amount of light hitting the sensor. It becomes like your aperture in that it controls the light, but unlike the aperture, your depth of field remains constant. With this, you can control your exposure, keeping the same aperture and shutter speed, despite the changes in the ambient light and you can do it smoothly while shooting if need be.

A variable neutral density filter can be somewhat expensive, costing anywhere from around $125. to nearly $400. depending on the manufacturer, but to me, they are worth every penny. They usually give you up to 8 stops reduction in light which will allow you to shoot wide open apertures in full sun for that coveted shallow depth of field that seems to be all the rage these days. When purchasing a filter, buy the filter that will fit your largest diameter lens and use a step up ring for the smaller lenses.

Of course you could skip the expense of a variable ND and go with a few less expensive standard ND filters. They work perfectly fine, in fact, they are usually optically better than a variable ND. Only drawback with these is that as the light changes, you need to stop shooting and switch filters or change your aperture.

For more info about the 180 Degree Shutter Rule, check out Tyler Ginter's excellent post. He can explain it much better than I can.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Step by Step : Shooting Video with the DSLR

Picture Profiles

This is the 2nd in a series of posts aimed to help still photographers produce better videos with their DSLRs.

The H.264 video files coming out of our DSLRs are very similar in many ways to the old Kodachrome 25 transparency film. The crisp, well saturated images look incredibly beautiful if your exposure was spot on. If not, it showed. You had to nail the exposure. The DSLR video files are similar.

Since there is no RAW shooting capability with DSLR video, we are stuck with a compressed image that needs a little help. That's where picture profiles come into play. You need to set up your camera to record as much dynamic range as possible, giving you a low-contrast, low saturation "digital negative" that gives you flexibility for grading in your favorite editing application.

Here's how you do it. Again, the following steps are for the Canon DSLRs, but look for similar controls in other cameras.

Go into you picture profiles menu and create a neutral profile. You want to turn the sharpness and contrast all the way down, the saturation dialed two notches down and leave the color tone in it's default middle position.

Your settings should look like this (from a Canon 5D Mark II) :

What this does is give you more shadow detail and helps prevent blocked highlights. You now get 2 stops more latitude to play with. It's closer to a raw image with a linear tone curve. And by dialing the sharpness all the way down, you eliminate that sometimes too sharp "video" look and, it helps reduce moire, one of the dreaded effects of DSLR video.

Now that you've done these adjustments to your video clips, you're not finished. In post production, you will bring the contrast, saturation and sharpness back, but with much more control.

Just to show you what the adjusted picture profile will look like, here are 2 screen grabs of video shot with the standard (default) picture profile on top and the adjusted profile on the bottom. Click on the image for a better look. As you can see, the contrast, saturation and sharpness is down and it looks pretty horrible however with this adjustment, you now have the dynamic range to produce a beautiful image. Do not however use this profile for still photos. Instead, set your camera to raw.

BTW, I thought I'd share this funny somewhat related post by Philip Bloom, a very talented filmmaker, prolific blogger and all around nice guy. Philip is one of the pioneers of DSLR video and has been blogging about them ever since.

As an April Fools Day joke to the readers of his popular blog, Philip wrote about a new firmware update Canon just released offering raw video for the 5D. This was huge news if it were only true and many of Philip's readers fell for the joke, thinking the firmware update was for real. I know I did until I read : "Also it appears if you install the firmware on any of the Nikon DSLRs it runs a Canon emulation mode." Anyway, for a great laugh, read it here, and check out his readers comments.

And while you're at it, check out Philip's tutorials and short films. You'll learn and be amazed!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

M9Info Version 0.50 for Leica M9

Forum Member Wolfram Söns provides the M9Info software tool which gives you quick access to various information from the Leica M9 DNG files. It's available as freeware for Mac as well as for Windows

  • Easy: just the original DNG or NEF is needed
  • Displays the preview picture. Preview can saved as BMP
  • Displays serial number, applied firmware and shutter releases of the camera
  • Display picture related data including used lens
  • Displays the tonal value (RGB-Histogram)
  • Launch up to three different programs with the opened file

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Step by Step : Shooting Video with a DSLR

Setting Up

This is the 1st in a series of posts aimed to help still photographers produce better videos with their DSLRs.

Coming from a still photography background into the more complex world of video can be intimidating, especially with the DSLR. I hope to change that with a series of short tutorials. We'll start with the very basics of setting up your camera and then in future posts, delve into more detail and go into some of the accessories that make it easier to produce a video you can be proud of. You may want to do a search for some previous posts I've done on DSLR video. Just use the search button on this page and type in Michael Maloney. You'll see a few posts that may be of help for background.

This series of tutorials will be based on the cameras I use, the Canon 5D Mark II and the 7D, as I'm most familiar with them. However, you can apply most if not all the tips I give to what ever system you use.

So let's set the camera up!

First of all you need to go into your menus and set the video system to NTSC. NTSC is the video standard for the US and most other countries. If you are shooting in Europe, you need to be on PAL.

Next set your movie recording size and frame rate. Depending on your camera, you'll see options similar to these : 1920X1080 24, 1920X1080 30, 1280X720 60, 640X480 30. The first two numbers refer to the frame dimensions, the other refers to the frame rate. Most film makers prefer the aesthetic look of 24p (24 progressive frames per second). Some will shoot at 30p, but slow it down to 24p in post for a very slight slow motion effect. And speaking of slow motion, using 60p and slowing that down to 24p gives you beautiful slowmo. The higher frame rate of 60p gives a nice smooth look. Of course with 60p on DSLRs, you are limited to the smaller 1280X720 frame size.

With video, it's always best to set the exposure mode to manual. You don't want the shutter speed to vary or the aperture as both of these will be noticed in your video and look very strange. You will notice that when in video mode, you cannot set the shutter speed below the frame rate. If you choose to shoot at 24p, you need to use a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second or faster, however to get the smoothest look, it is recommended that you always select a shutter speed that is twice the frame rate. With 24p,  you want to set your shutter at 1/50th as that is closest to 48 (2 X 24). If you don't see 1/50 as an option, you need to go into your custom functions and set the exposure level increments to 1/3 stop. In other tutorials, I'll go into how shutter speed affects the look of your video.

Now you are probably asking yourself how you can shoot video outdoors in the bright sun if you are not supposed to have the shutter speed higher than twice the frame rate. Even stopping the lens all the way down to f16 or 22 will still produce overexposure. What do you do? And how do you get those sweet out of focus backgrounds you see in some films? Neutral density filters are the answer. Since you are locked in with a set shutter speed, if you want to shoot wide open in the direct sunlight, you need a strong ND filter. We'll go into your options with filters in another post.

You've probably noticed that with most DSLRs, when you use the video mode of your camera, you can no longer use the viewfinder.  Instead, you are seeing your image through the lcd. This is normal. The reason you can't see through the viewfinder anymore, is because the mirror is now flipped up, blocking it. You'll probably also notice that you no longer have auto focus - at least while you are recording. It's back to the fine art of follow focusing which if you are like me, you are probably not very good at since we've all been spoiled by the great auto focusing of these cameras. In future tutorials, I'll get into the various magnifying loupes that you can use to help you focus with the lcd. We'll also look into another great option : a portable field monitor.

So, hopefully with this basic info, you can go out and play with video. I apologize to those of you who find this info way too basic but I wanted to start from the ground up for those shooters who are picking up their cameras and attempting video for the very first time.

With our next tutorial, we will go into picture profiles - allowing you to set up your camera to get that "film" look. Also, a great trick to squeeze two more stops of exposure latitude.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Shooting the Series

With the SF bay area in the middle of an incredible World Series, I thought I'd give you a little behind the scenes look at what it takes for news organizations to produce all of those great photos you see in the papers and online.

I've been fortunate enough in my career at the SF Chronicle to shoot a few, most notably the 1989 "Earthquake Series" between the Oakland A's and the SF Giants. I was at the first base shooting position when the shaking started…but that's a subject for another post.

Most baseball stadiums have permanent shooting positions for photographers. The prime positions are along the 1st base line and 3rd base line. From these positions, with a wide assortment of lenses, you get a great view of the player's dugouts, the infield, the outfield, and the fans in the stands. There are also sometimes positions behind the backstop which gives the readers a great look at the pitcher. Two other common positions are upper deck boxes, allowing for an overhead view of the action and finally, a centerfield position, where a long lens of 600mm or 800mm is necessary to catch the infield action. For the World Series, Major League Baseball tries to accommodate the news organizations and more shooting positions are generally offered.

Not every bay area newspaper gets credentialed for the series however. Depends on their circulation. Bigger newspapers get more credentials. The smaller papers sometimes get 1 or most often, none, having to rely on wire photos for their publications.

During regular season games, the Chronicle and most large bay area newspapers will staff the home games with just 1 shooter. Generally when I was shooting these, I'd choose the 1st base or 3rd base positions with a 400mm 2.8 and a 70-200mm 2.8 as that allowed me to not miss anything. And if I did, each game was staffed by an Associated Press photographer so their photos were available to the Chronicle. For an event as big as the World Series, nearly the entire photo staff of the Chronicle is involved.

Not only did we generally staff the 5 shooting positions I outlined above, we had a shooter roaming the stadium, looking for interesting feature photos. Also involved was a photo editor who was holed up in the press room, where he/she would watch the game on tv, getting play by play stats from game statisticians and editing the thousands of images that are delivered by a runner who gathers the cf cards from all the shooters after every inning. After the images are culled, cropped and captioned, they are transmitted to the Chron's ftp site where yet another picture editor looks through them all and determines which ones make publication. Only the very best ever see print in the newspaper or online. As a shooter you always hope yours make it!

For the away games, the Chronicle cannot afford to send half a dozen shooters, especially during these economic times, so generally two go, along with an editor. The two shooters position themselves at 1st and 3rd base as those are the best overall positions. Again, if they miss anything, the Chron has access to AP, Reuters and Getty photos. You hate it when you miss a shot and have to pick up the paper the next morning to be reminded of what you missed. Makes you try harder the next game!

As a shooter, it's an exciting time. Big sporting events bring out the best sports shooters in the business and it's fun to compete shoulder to shoulder with them all. SI, Sporting News, USA Today, and of course the local shooters. After the game, you look online to see how you did. To see if you got beat with a great image one of your peers found or even better, if you shot something unique that everyone else missed, even SI. And of course, if there was a play of the game, you wanted to have it, peak moment, clean and tack sharp - and have it better than your peers. It's a friendly competition and brings out the best in us all.

It's fun to watch these games from the comfort of my living room couch. No worries - no pressure. Would I rather be shooting the World Series again? You bet!  I miss the fun and excitement.

Go Giants!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Adobe Raw and Lightroom 3 updates.

Updates from Adobe, including increased RAW support for newer digital camera models and updates to Lightroom 3.

 Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3.3 Release Candidate:

Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw 6.3:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

5D mkII firmware update

 5D MKII firmware update.

Available here:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Reshaping Reality in Movies

Drastically gaining or losing body weight for a coveted film role has been the ultimate challenge for method actors.

Robert De Niro piled on the pounds for his Oscar-winning role in Raging Bull, and Christian Bale starved himself to the point of emaciation for The Machinist.
But such extreme bodily transformations may now be a thing of the past.

A new kind of image manipulation software is under development that promises to allow filmmakers to alter the appearance of their actors without resorting to time-consuming frame-by-frame digital touch-ups.

What has until now taken either the most dedicated of actors, or a painstakingly slow process of computer editing, can be done in a relatively short period of time. The new software, called MovieReShape, has been developed by Christian Theobalt and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbrücken, Germany.

The researchers generated 3D scans of 120 men and women of varying shapes and sizes all in various poses. They then fed these scans into a computer, merging them together to create a single model that can be morphed into any desired pose. Programmers can then use existing software to track an actor's silhouette throughout a sequence of frames, and then map the silhouette onto the 3-D model. The software can be manipulated to simultaneously adjust an actor's height, weight and muscle tone - even bust size, without having to resort to the painfully slow process of digital touch-ups, one frame at a time.

Can it transform Rosie O'Donnell into Christina Hendricks on film? Not quite but I'm sure there will soon be an app for even that.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Digital Development

Digital Development, originally uploaded by Camera West.

Camera West presents a seminar by Jason Bradley on Digital Work Flow.

A Natural Flow of Work

A Natural Flow of Work, originally uploaded by Camera West.

Camera West presents a seminar by Jason Bradley on Digital Work Flow.

Monday, October 4, 2010

How well do you see color?

Do you have difficulty when color correcting an image? Well, you're not alone. Apparently, 1 out of 255 women and 1 out of 12 men have some sort of color vision deficiency.

Try this fun little exercise and see how you score.

I apparently need new glasses...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Are you a true adventurer?

Are you a true adventurer? 
Do you have an urge to take hundred of pictures when you’re on the road? And do you enjoy writing travel blogs? Then you now have the unique chance to travel with Leica in the footsteps of the great explorers. All over the world. Start travelling from mid-January 2011.

A Leica jury will select the 10 winners from all entries at the end of November 2010. And from mid January to late February 2011, they will then follow in the footsteps of great explorers - for at least two weeks. Packed with €2,000 to spend, the new Leica V-Lux 2 camera and equipment from The North Face! As a winner and a Leica ambassador, all you have to do is report back every day with your experiences and write about them in a travel blog on this website. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Viewing HDSLR Videos on Your Computer

For those of you who are brand new to DSLR video and are having difficulty viewing your work on your computer, I thought I'd offer you hopefully, a solution.

For some of you, it's quite easy. Just offload the files from your camera or media card to your desktop, double click the .MOV or .AVI  file and hit play. Instant movies on your screen in HD! However, many are discovering that it's not quite that simple. You may double click the file and nothing comes up, or you may get the dreaded 'File Type Not Supported', or most likely, your video may come up, but it's playback is not smooth at all or there is no audio.

So what's going on here? Why does it have to be so difficult? Those of you on the latest top-of-the-line computers are probably looking pretty smug right now, and that's  the issue…your computer. If it's old with a slow processor, you'll have problems. Also, if you do not have the correct media player installed on your machine, that will prevent you from viewing your work. It has to be the right kind of player to run the native files coming out of your DSLR. They have to be compatible. And also to some extent, it could be a graphics card issue. You may need to upgrade your graphics card, although not likely.

The files that come out of your camera are high-resolution, highly compressed files - and while the compression does a good job of keeping file size down, it also means you need a sizable computer to decode them. If the files play more smoothly on your camera’s LCD than they do on your desktop, try downloading the latest version of VLC Media Player.

VLC is free and an open source cross-platform (PC and Mac) multimedia player that plays most multimedias files as well as DVD, Audio CD, VCD, and various streaming protocols. It is easy to use, yet very powerful.

One trick however : you have to change one setting in preferences:

Go to Tools > Preferences
In the lower left of the box click the checkbox “Show settings – All”
Then go to Input/Codecs > Video Codecs > FFmpeg and look for the option called “Skip the loop filter for H.264 decoding”
Change it from “none” to “all”
Save and restart VLC

Another must have player for your computer is Quicktime which is also free, comes from Apple, but works on both Windows and Macs.

Now grab some popcorn, your favorite beverage and sit back and relax and enjoy your videos.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Photokina Leica News

The super-zoom compact for travel and nature photography : the Leica V-Lux 2 is the perfect camera for adventurers, globetrotters and nature-lovers who want to discover more of the world.  

The D-Lux 5 is a true Leica, not only in terms of its elegant design but also in its superior optical performance: The result are images of excellent quality.

Leica M9 Titanium:
The M9 'Titanium' is a unique camera with a new interpretation of the characteristic features of Leica rangefinder cameras, which lends precision engineering, unique style and solid titanium to extraordinary formal design. As a result, the LEICA M9 ‘Titanium' is an especially desirable object for both Leica connoisseurs and aficionados of outstanding design. This special edition is strictly limited to just 500 cameras worldwide and is offered as a set together with a LEICA SUMMILUX-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH. lens, whose exterior metal components are also manufactured from solid titanium.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Back Up Your Precious Work

Whether you’re a seasoned pro, an aspiring amateur, or just starting out in photography or need to watch this video!

Photographer/Director Jarvis Chase shares his excellent workflow and backup for every image he shoots, stills and video alike. His in-depth look includes all the steps from capture to archive to ensure that you’ll never lose a single image. Although you probably don't need two Apple Xserves and 64 terabytes to manage your daily data needs, the concepts of constant backup, and geographically separate locations for your backup drives, are relevant regardless of scale. And most importantly...remember that hard drives are like light bulbs every single one will eventually fail.

More details from Jarvis here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Camera West Tuscany Expedition, 2010

The journey has begun for Hal and Tom as they flew out of SFO for Florence on Sunday, in preparation for the Camera West Tuscany Photographic Expedition. Please stay tuned as we will be uploading images regularly from the trip as it happens, including images from the Leica S2. We wish all the best to all attendees and to Hal and Tom for all their efforts. Watch this space.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Nikon come out strong....

September 2010.

Nikon have released their latest venture into the DSLR market with the D7000, featuring a high res DX CMOS 16.2 MP sensor, 6 frames per second, 39 cross type AF points and finally they have included 1080p HD video housed in this magnesium alloy body.

Fresh from Nikon is also the SB-700, a revised SB-800, which sits comfortably between the flagship SB-900 and simple effective Sb-600. Featuring a clear bright LCD, three illumination modes, auto detect FX or DX formats, and 100% compatible with the Nikon CLS system.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Leica M9 Workshop, San Francisco 10/19/10

Leica M9 Workshop - San Francisco - 10/19/2010
LEICA M9 Workshop
An Exclusive Invitation To Excellence
For Leica M Camera Enthusiasts

Here’s your chance to experience the acclaimed Leica M9, the world’s smallest full-frame, interchangeable lens digital camera. Utilizing a full frame 18 megapixel sensor and the full range of Leica M lens, the Leica M9 delivers a spectacular performance in any light.

Staffed by Leica Product Specialists, the M9 workshop will include an introduction to the M9, an over view of the entire range of Leica M lenses, and 2-hour on-location field trial, and techniques for getting the most out of your M9 image files.

Who should attend the M9 Workshop?

Any photographer looking for a fun filled hands-on experience with the Leica M9 will have a great time and learn an incredible amount in a short time. Professional photographers will present their work and Leica representatives will be on hand to provide you with a memorable test-drive.

Cost is only $149 and includes a $149 voucher that can be used toward the purchase of a Leica Serial numbered M products.

More info:

Prime Time TV Show Shot Entirely on a DSLR

Sorry for the late notice, but I just found out about this docu-drama shot entirely on a Canon EOS Mark IV and 5D Mark II by filmmaker Khalid Mohtaseb.  It airs tonight, Tuesday, September 14 on ABC at 10pm Pacific Time. Check out some behind the scenes photos and screen grabs here :

At just 25 years old, Khalid Mohtaseb is a young, extremely talented filmmaker as you'll see in the clip below that he shot of the Haiti earthquake aftermath with a 5D.

“A week after the devastating earthquake hit Haiti, I was hired to shoot ENG footage for two international networks. This is a montage of personal footage I shot of the aftermath during my spare time, in and around Port au Prince.” 

“Almost all the images and videos coming out of Haiti had become all too familiar and I knew that was not how I wanted to capture a story of this significance. The idea that life goes on even in the most horrific state of despair was fascinating to me and getting that concept across was my main goal in shooting this montage. I wanted to focus on the Haitian people and the lives that had been affected by this devastating earthquake as well as showcase how modern technology can revolutionize journalism and the way news coverage is shot.”

Haiti Earthquake Aftermath Montage from Khalid Mohtaseb on Vimeo.

If you missed the airing of Final Witness, you can view it here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book 'em Danno

What began as a serene night dive off the coast of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii last month, quickly turned into a mugging.

Cameraman Travis Matteson was capturing footage with his Canon EOS 5D Mark II of manta rays for the scuba diving travel television show "Into the Drink" when suddenly, one of them hooked it's giant wings with the light system, and darted off with over $5000 worth of photo gear. With the camera still running, the manta ray made a 8 minute run, and finally dropped the gear off completely undamaged just yards from the dive boat. 

Even manta rays like shooting video with the new DSLRs.

Underwater videographer Johnny Reidt caught the entire theft on camera making it an easy case for Hawaii Five-0.

Friday, September 10, 2010

HDR...Now in Video!

A San Francisco production company has come up with a unique way to shoot video using 2 Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLRs.

Soviet Montage Productions is using the High Dynamic Range (HDR) process with the 2 cameras, capturing video of the same subject with a beam splitter. The cameras are configured to record two different exposure values, one over exposed, the other under exposed. After the footage has been recorded, they combine the two clips into one, resulting in an unique and interesting video. 

HDR imaging is an effect achieved by taking variable exposures of a single subject and combining them to create an image with a higher exposure range. It is an increasingly popular technique for still photography, so much so that it is now a native application on Apple’s iPhone. Until now, however, the technique was too intensive and complex for motion. Soviet Montage Productions believes they have solved the issue with a method that produces stunning and affordable HDR for film and video.

“I believe HDR will give filmmakers greater flexibility not only in the effects they can create but also in the environments they can shoot in” said Alaric Cole, one of the members of the production team, “undoubtedly, it will become a commonplace technique in the near future. ”

Check out their video and see for yourself.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sending Photos Before the Internet

Last week's post about using the iPad to work up and send photos prompted me to dig out a few old photos and share with you how it was done in the early 1980s at the SF Chronicle when we were on out of town assignments. Remember this was before digital cameras and even before Photoshop. 

Sometimes getting the pictures back to the office was more of a challenge than the shooting, especially if the assignment was a daily one. 

If there was a friendly non competing newspaper office nearby then the job was an easy one. Just swing by and use their darkroom and photo transmitter. Easy! Most of the time however, this wasn't possible. So, we had to lug around with us a portable darkroom and photo transmitter. This also meant that we had to find a suitable room that we could make lightproof. Not as easy as it sounds! Usually the motel bathroom was the best choice. Most were windowless or just had a small window to tape over and water was convenient for the chemicals. We carried with us plenty of duct tape and the lightproof paper that came wrapped around the photo paper. Worked perfect for making a room light tight. The portable enlarger was usually set up on the toilet seat and the developing trays set in the bathtub. This usually worked out pretty well.

Here's a photo of Art Frisch and me in a motel bathroom working on some photos. This was in 1981 and we were covering a series of protests down at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant near Avila Beach, CA. Note for this setup, we used a makeshift shelf for the enlarger and I sat on the toilet! Since we were covering a 2 week long series of protests, we brought a Kodak Ektamatic printer which produced dry prints in just minutes rather than taking the time to use trays.

For transmitting photos back then, we used a rotary drum scanner that scanned the 8x10 inch photo and sent it over a phone line. Took 8 minutes for a black and white photo if all went well. Unfortunately it didn't always go well and we would have to resend the photo if there were any hits to the image caused by a poor phone connection. This would cause a line through the image which in pre Photoshop days was impossible to correct.

We also used another clever method to get the images back to the paper. If a convenient airport was nearby, we'd find the next flight to SF and beg a passenger to carry our bag of unprocessed film with them, asking them to leave it at a predetermined airline counter where we would have a runner pick up the film and bring it into the office. I actually did this a few times although it could never work these days especially after 9-11.

And this was way before my time at the Chronicle but certainly a very clever solution. The ever-resourceful photo staff at times used carrier pigeons to take film back to the paper. I think this method was used during the historic Beatles concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1966.

Anyway, that's how it was done in the "old" days. Much prefer these digital days when all that's needed is a laptop (or iPad) and a camera. Photos in my editor's hands in minutes anywhere there is a cell signal. No lugging around a darkroom kit (or a messy bird cage) or begging airline passengers!   

Chronicle photographer Lacy Atkins and I work up our photos on our laptops at an Oakland Raiders game recently. Thanks to technology, between the two of us, we were able to edit, process and send over 50 photos in less than 2 hours. Gotta love technology!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sling-O-Matic™ Series from Think Tank

SANTA ROSA, CALIF – Think Tank Photo introduces the Sling-O-Matic, the photo industry’s first sling bag that can be easily switched back and forth to either shoulder. The Sling-O-Matic’s adjustable, fully padded shoulder strap “automatically” slides along a set of rails to change which
shoulder the bag can be worn on.

This innovation is the solution to the problem inherent with sling bags: they are designed to be to worn over one shoulder only. With one smooth motion, the Sling-O-Matic can be quickly switched to the opposite shoulder without losing the characteristics that have made sling bags popular among photographers.

Check out the new bag range at

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New Firmware Update for the GoPro HD Hero

GoPro, the Half Moon Bay, CA company that produces the tiny, GoPro Hero 1080p HD video camera just announced a firmware update with some great new features. My favorite among them is the One Button Mode. Now when you turn the camera on, it will start recording right away. No chance of messing up any of the settings with an inadvertent push of a button.

The other feature I'm excited about is Live Feed Out. To keep the size of the GoPro at a minimum. the designers left out a viewfinder or LCD screen so there was no way to accurately set up your shot. Now, you can attach an external monitor to the GoPro. This of course means that you'll probably want to buy their HD Skeleton Housing since the current mounting case does not have cutouts for the cables. Haven't had a chance to try this out yet as I'm waiting for the HD Skeleton Housing which is not available yet. But when it is, I'll attach it all to my Marshall field monitor and let you know how it works out on location. 

Another nice feature is the Live Feed Out Display which will show you you battery life and recording status when your GoPro is hooked up to a live feed field monitor.

The other two features of this firmware are the Upside Down Mode which will help if you need to mount your GoPro upside down,  eliminating having to rotate the files later.

And finally, new PAL 25/50p support. Helpful if you are recording for broadcast in most countries outside the US.

Come by Camera West and check out this fun camera.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3.2

The Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 3.2 update includes these enhancements:

• Additional camera support for several new camera models including the Panasonic DMC-LX5, Sony NEX-5 and Pentax 645D
• Numerous corrections for issues introduced in Lightroom 3.0
• Direct publishing to Facebook and over 120 new lens profiles

See the Lightroom 3.2 ReadMe file for additional details.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The iPad and Your Camera

I'm a recent convert to Apple's iPad. Bought one a few weeks ago and absolutely love it.

With Apple's camera connector kit and a great photo app, I can now, no matter where I'm at, take images off my camera, crop, color correct and caption the photos and send them to friends or to a client's ftp site - all from the small, 1.6 lb tablet. No more lugging around my 6 pound MacBook Pro!

After nearly 40 years as a photojournalist, I feel naked without a camera with me at all times and without a quick way of transmitting photos. Didn't matter if I was working or not, I always needed to be able to shoot and transmit photos, no matter where I was or what I was doing. So, I lugged around a laptop with me everywhere. No need anymore. Not with the iPad, the camera connector kit and an app called Filterstorm.

Since the iPad cannot support the processor intensive photo apps like Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, etc., third party developers have come up with some great solutions. My favorite among them is Filterstorm which is one of only a few photo apps I've found that attaches IPTC tags to your photo - an absolute must if you are sending the photo to most clients and any news publication.

Apple's camera connector kit consists of just 2 small connectors - one has a sd card slot and the other a usb connector. They plug into the bottom of the iPad. With the usb connector, you can either attach a card reader to it or skip the reader and just run the cable from the camera to the usb connector.

Filterstorm Features :

Adjust brush size, softness, and opacity
Email images
Post images via FTP
Save edits as automations to apply to other images
Export images up to 3072x2048px
Color balance
White Point Picker
Text tool
Black and white fine-tuning
10-step Visual History
Cropping, with the ability to specify aspect ratio
Rotation and Image Straightening
Tone map (Simulated HDR)
Noise Reduction
Clone Tool
IPTC tags available for E-mail and FTP (does not work with saving to photos)
Title (byline)
Supplemental Category
Job Title
Job ID

All this for $3.99!

Another option that works well comes from Adobe, the makers of Photoshop. They offer iPad users a free Photoshop Express app.  Not nearly as robust in features as Filterstorm but if you want basic controls and don't need to caption your photo, then this may work for you.

Note : iPad processor speeds currently preclude the possibility of running a RAW workflow.

Anyway, there are many, many more photo apps to choose from - most either free or very inexpensive. Have not looked into the video editing apps but I'm sure to find some. If I find any that look interesting I'll let you know.

Friday, August 27, 2010

GoPro in Near Space

Check out this amazing video shot earlier this summer with 2 GoPro Hero video cameras tethered to a balloon.

Near Space Balloon Flight, shot with HD HERO cameras from GoPro from Kevin Macko on Vimeo.

"We are a group of engineers/designers from San Francisco. This was our second balloon launch on 6/5/2010. Shot with 2 HD Hero cameras from GoPro. Launched from the California coast near Davenport, landed in Crows Landing 70 miles away. Peak altitude 80,000 feet. Acquired GPS, pressure, accelerometer, and temperature data with a Shadowbox ( The payload was tracked with a SPOT satellite personal tracker."

A few excerpts from Kevin Macko, one of the engineers, answering viewers questions:

Technically for payloads under 4 lbs there are no FAA restrictions, but we made sure to stay out of SFO and SJC airspace. We also put the radar reflecting material on the capsule and called the FAA to let them know what we were doing

Yes, we did notify the FAA and made sure to stay out of the takeoff/approach airspace of the surrounding airports.

The peak speed on the way down was about 50 miles per hour. This was high up where the atmosphere was thin and the parachute was not as effective. At the bottom it slowed to about 30 miles per hour.

The brunt of the impact was absorbed by the styrofoam container. We actually didn't even see any cracks in the styrofoam, so the parachute must have slowed it down a good bit. It's hard to say how the camera would hold up if it impacted water - probably depends on how fast you're going when you hit.

We did check the wind patterns ahead of time and it landed within ~10 miles of where we predicted. We definitely didn't want it landing in water or the mountains, and we got lucky that it landed so close to a road on a farm without a fence!

We drove to where we predicted it would land. Ordinarily we would have had real time tracking, but unfortunately we got interference from the other electronics on board and didn't get a tracking signal until 6 hours after launch. We were very excited to finally hear from it!

Yes, we can definitely go higher by using a bigger balloon and inflating it with less helium. The GPS tracker may not work above a certain altitude, but we could certainly track it again once the balloon pops and it descends to a working altitude. I think a goal for our future flights is to get above 100,000 feet.

Btw, Camera West now carries the GoPro. Come check it out.