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