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.