Monday, January 30, 2012

Spinning Wool & Raining Fire

Indianapolis, Indiana photographer Steven Shubert has an interesting series of photographs on his blog that involve spinning wool. No, not what you most likely are thinking. He literally takes wool - steel wool that's been ignited by a battery - and spins it on a steel cable at night in front of or on top of interesting Indianapolis landmarks as his assistant takes a timed exposure.

Check out more of his images on his blog :

Friday, January 27, 2012

Adobe Lightroom 4 Beta

Have you tried out the new Lightroom 4 Beta? It's free and will run until the end of March. I've been playing around with it for a few weeks now and I'm impressed with some of the features they've added, especially the color temperature adjustment brush. This change alone has convinced me to buy the new version as soon as it is released. (anytime after March most likely)

Adobe has provided some answers to questions Lightroom 4 Beta users have on this site :

Life on the Edge

Photo by Dennis Maitland
Detroit photographer Dennis Maitland has come up with an interesting self project he calls 'Life on the Edge'. A series of self portraits... actually self portraits of his feet, hanging over the edges of Detroit's taller buildings. A project best left for those not afraid of heights!

Check out his images here :

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Canon Files Patent for Raw Video Recording

Canon today filed a US Patent Application for raw video recording. Exciting news for video shooters who have been waiting for raw video image capture like the Red Epic produces. Now it's just a matter of when we see it and in what cameras...maybe in the Canon 5D Mark V?

Clueless in Seattle

Click ad for larger image

A Seattle bride-to-be looking for a wedding photographer earlier this month wrote the above Craig's List post complaining about outrageous fees from local wedding shooters. Seems she felt $3,000. was too much. 

"So you're going to take someones WHOLE MONTH paycheck for one flippen day of photos? Just because you CAN!!??????", she wrote. "All your doing is hanging out at a wedding taking tons of photos and editing them.. and thats worth 3 GRAND!!! You're making so much money its crazy."

Read below a blog post by Erie, PA wedding photographer Nikki Wagner who responds to Clueless in Seattle and puts it all into perspective.

Sneak Peek at the New Camera Raw

Take a look at what the developers at Adobe are working on with the latest Camera Raw and a brief look at the new Photoshop interface.

No more fill and recover tools, instead they are replaced by highlights and shadows. Just a name change? Most likely not judging by the same move Adobe made in the new Lightroom 4 public beta. Have had some time using these new tools and they are a significant improvement over fill and recover. The coolest feature however is the expanded adjustment brush menu. You can now paint in temperature changes within your image!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nikon D800 Coming Soon?

Nikon's D700 is now officially listed as discontinued on the Nikon website. (Website is in Japanese)

However...why has the D300s been added to the same discontinued list? Is there something in the works to replace it???

A View of Our Planet from 512 Miles

Check out this amazing image captured on January 4, 2012 that NASA released today. It is the highest resolution image ever taken of earth and assembled from multiple frames by a research satellite orbiting earth from 512 miles out in space.

Looks like we live on a blue marble!

Click the link below for a full rez 64-megapixel image :

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hell and Back Again with a Canon 5D Mark II

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty
Photojournalist Danfung Dennis' film on the war in Afganistan, 'Hell and Back Again' has been nominated for Best Documentary Feature for this year's Academy Awards. Last year he was the winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Quite an accomplishment for a independent film maker, let alone one who used a DSLR for his film.

“I was frustrated with photojournalism, and I was frustrated with society back in the U.S. being indifferent to the war,” said Dennis, who had covered Afghanistan as a still photographer in 2006. “I moved into video and new media to try to shake people up — to show the war’s brutal reality in an honest way.”

Take a look at the trailer for his film here :

And here's a profile on Danfung Dennis and the equipment he used to shoot the documentary :

You can order a Blu-ray or dvd of the film on Amazon.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Have a Nikon and want to know how to get the most from it? Join the Nikonians Academy this week as they teach some of their most popular workshops.

Thursday, 1/26 : Master the Nikon D300/D300s In Depth
Friday, 1/27 : The Passionate Photographer

Saturday, 1/28 : Master the Nikon D7000 D90 and D80

Sunday, 1/29 : Master the Nikon D700/D3/D3x/D3s In Depth

Venue : 
The DoubleTree Hotel in Burlingame, CA

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sports Photography Workshops

(Click on the image for a larger view)

Michael Maloney from the Camera West Walnut Creek staff will be leading a series of sports related workshops this year. Give him a call or email him if you are interested.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kodak Files for Bankruptcy

After months of speculation, Eastman Kodak Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today. In its filing, the company reported that it has $6.8 billion in debt and $5.1 billion in assets. Kodak has struggled for years as photography moved from film to digital photography.

If its filing is approved by a bankruptcy judge, the company would continue operating while it re-negotiates its debt with its creditors.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Camera West SF at Night Workshop

Good food, new friends, perfect weather and the beautiful lights of the city summed up the fun evening of photography we had last night. I tagged along as Camera West's Hal Kam and Leica's Tom Brichta led a small group of us to some top shooting locations in and around the city.

First stop was Treasure Island, and for those of us lucky enough to arrive early, we were treated to a beautiful sunset, allowing some color to the sky. Five minutes later, it was gone. With photography, timing is all important.

Next stop was Union Square where we had more light and a variety of subjects to shoot. Above, workshop participant John Krzesinski found a heart to shoot.
Workshop participant James Forslind (left) checks out Hal's Leica X1 images.
Dianne Tanaka gets a little light from Bo Mathisen to adjust the settings on her Leica S2.
Dennis Sasaki photographs the world famous cable cars on Powell Street in Union Square
Leica's Tom Brichta shoots the most photographed bridge in the world.
To see some of the images our group took, go to our Flickr page :

Stay tuned to this blog and our monthly Camera West newsletter for our next workshop.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hasselblad Moonrise

Click photo for larger view

Conditions last Sunday lined up perfect for a moonrise image so I decided to try out the Hasselblad H4D-40 Ferrari Limited Edition we have here at Camera West.

The H4D-40 Ferrari is very unique. A collaboration between the two world renown companies with passions for quality, design and of course performance. Only 499 of these limited edition cameras were produced. The unique color (Ferrari calls it "Rosso Fuoco") is an attention getter and I was busy most of my shooting day answering questions from curious on-lookers.

A medium format camera is a bit foreign to my 35mm single lens reflex upbringing but that said, the H4D was quite easy and intuitive to operate. It even shoots in a point and shoot mode should you care to photograph that way. Needless to say, I love the 40 megapixel image it produces and the fact that it pretty much operates like a 35mm DSLR, making me feel quite comfortable with it. The H4D also has an autofocus feature they call True Focus with Absolute Position Lock, which uses motion sensors to detect by how much you've rotated the camera to recompose your image. It's pretty cool innovative technology and works well. It has another great feature that really came in handy for my moonrise photo of the Oakland - SF Bay Bridge. Since I was shooting at a slow shutter speed and did not have a cable release, I set the camera to a 5 second timer mode so that in the process of pushing the shutter button, I did not move the tripod mounted camera. Here's the cool part : the H4D will lock the mirror up first, then count down 5 seconds before exposing the sensor. No more worries about the camera's huge mirror flopping up and down vibrating the camera. Nice touch Hasselblad!

The moonrise photo you see above was actually two images shot with the HC Macro 120mm f4 and stitched together in Photoshop CS5 using Photomerge.  I used ISO 100, choosing an aperture of f16 for maximum depth of field and a shutter speed of .8 second. 

It's difficult to really convey the clarity this camera and system of lenses produces on the small photos you see here, but stop by Camera West in Walnut Creek and we'll show you this moonrise image on our 27 inch iMac. You'll be impressed. You can also check out the beautiful H4D…you'll be doubly impressed!

Below is a cropped image from the photo above just to show you the detail the H4D produces. The shipping cranes you see in the background are at the Port of Oakland, 3.5 miles away from my shooting position at the foot of Market Street in San Francisco!

Whenever the moonrise time is similar to the sunset time, you have perfect shooting conditions because, since the moon is lit by the sun, it's exposure is similar to daylight. What this means is that your landscape exposure will be close to your moon's exposure giving you detail in both. You may notice some moon photos where there is no detail in the moon. It's just a white dot. That's because you've over-exposed the moon's exposure, trying to pick up some detail in your dark landscape. Vice/versa, you can have detail in your moon, however your landscape is black. So, anytime the moonrise/sunset or moonset/sunrise times are similar, you'll find perfect conditions to make some memorable images.

Here is an example of shooting a moonrise well after sunset when there's a large difference between the exposure of the moon and the exposure of the landscape. This photo was taken a half hour or so after the image at the top of this post. I chose to expose for the landscape which makes the moon way over exposed. I placed my position so that the moon was behind the bridge tower to minimize the overexposed moon. This photo, taken with my Canon 5D Mark II (2 second exposure at f2.8, ISO 100) has an entirely different feel to it and that's the beauty of ever changing light and photography!

Finally, another plug for my favorite photography app, The Photographer's Ephemeris (TPE). Using a program like TPE will help you find those rare days where the moon, sun and earth line up for your perfect shot. With it, you can determine exactly where the sun or moon will be from your shooting position on any day at any time. This free desktop app (donations to the developer Stephen Trainor are encouraged) is an absolute must for any landscape photographer.

Now go out there and plan your next shoot. Hint...February 7 is looking pretty sweet!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Portable Darkroom for Sale

Need a portable military grade darkroom? Today’s your lucky day! There’s a used US Army one for sale on eBay with the starting price of $4,500. The 4,500 pound shelter contains 3 rooms with 614 cubic feet of space, and comes with all the darkroom equipment you need, including an escape door! Also comes with a temperature water control system and heating and air conditioning.

More photos here :

Saturday, January 7, 2012

New! Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G Announced

The AF-S 85mm f/1.8G, features a nine-element optical design, seven-blade aperture diaphragm, and Silent Wave autofocus with a focus mode switch (M/A and M) on the lens barrel. The new lens has a close focus distance of 31.5in, and like the AF 85mm f/1.8D it replaces, does not incorporate Nikon's Vibration Reduction technology.

Available in March for $499.95

CF, SD and Now XQD

Sony has become the first company to offer a range memory cards in the XQD format. XQD was recently announced by the Compact Flash Association, allowing write speeds of 125MB/sec and faster. When used in the new Nikon D4, (currently the only camera supporting the format), the cards can record up to around 100 frames in RAW format in continuous shooting mode without any buffer issues.

The new Sony products are planned to be available in February and are estimated to sell at the following retail prices:
QD-H16 card, 16 GB, $129.99
QD-H32 card, 32 GB, $229.99
   Card Reader, MRW-E80, $44.99
 ExpressCard Adapter, QDA-EX1, $44.99

For information, visit

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Nikon D4 Announced

It's now official. The long anticipated Nikon D4 has been announced and will be available in late February, 2012 at a suggested retail price of $5,999.

Some of the key specs :
  • 16.2 effective megapixel, full-frame sensor (16.6MP total)
  • 10 fps shooting with AF and AE, 11fps with focus and exposure locked, 24fps 2.5MP grabs
  • 91,000 pixel sensor for metering, white balance, flash exposure, face detection and active d-lighting
  • ISO Range 100-12,800 (extendable from 50 – 204,800)
  • MultiCAM 3500FX Autofocus sensor works in lower light and with smaller apertures
  • Two sub-selector joystick/buttons for shooting orientation
  • 1080p30 HD video at up to 24Mbps with uncompressed video output
  • New EN-EL18 battery (21.6Wh capacity, CIPA-rated at 2600 shots)
  • Twin card slots (Compact Flash and the new XQD)

Nikon Press Release :

Elephant Seal Photography Workshop

Only 1 spot left for this workshop by Jason Bradley!
Contact us at Camera West for more info.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

One Very Fast Lens

We get a lot of interesting used equipment here at Camera West, so when a AF-S Nikkor 200mm f2.0 G lens came in, I just knew I had to try it out.

Last night I had the opportunity to shoot with this unique lens. I photographed a night soccer game, under the dim lights of De La Salle High School in Concord. De La Salle was hosting San Ramon High.

The challenge for most night time sporting events is the lighting…or lack of it. Either indoors or out, you are generally pushing the ISO to 1600 or beyond. When I was shooting the SF 49ers at Candlestick or the SF Giants at AT&T Park, I was shooting at ISO 1600 with a shutter speed of 1/1,000 at f2.8 for the night games. Pretty much the same for indoor events. I think I was shooting the Golden State Warriors at the same ISO and shutter/aperture combo.

The lights at De La Salle however gave me exposure of 1/500 at f2.0 at ISO 2000 - not nearly as much as at pro sporting venues where network television has a minimum lighting requirement. For this shoot, I was glad I had a f2.0 lens!

At $3995, this is not the lens for everybody but if you like to shoot when the lighting is low, this lens can be a image saver. Shooting sports usually requires a fast shutter speed so having the additional f-stop of 2.0 gives you the ability to use a faster shutter speed and/or lower ISO. And, just because you have plenty of light doesn't mean you need to put this lens away. The f2.0 aperture produces it's own unique creamy bokeh. Also, if I owned this lens, I'd invest in a 1.4 or 1.7 converter for even more versatility.

All in all, I'm pleased with my images from the evening. It's been over 3 years since I've shot any kind of night sporting events so I was a bit rusty. My timing especially was off and with fast moving sports, timing is all important. 

Although my timing let me down, this lens did not. 

The photos below were taken with a Nikon D3 at ISO 2,000 and a shutter speed of 1/500 at f2.0. 

Stop by Camera West in Walnut Creek to check out this lens or go to the Camera West website to check out our entire inventory of fine used equipment.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Want Canon Lenses? There's an App for That

CanonSGLens is a free Canon Singapore App for the iPhone or iPad that features detailed lens specifications of all Canon EF and EF-S lenses sold in Singapore. The application also contains a unique interactive simulator that allows you to compare the field of view of two camera-lens combinations.

Features :

* Detailed lens specifications of all Canon EF and EF-S lenses sold in Singapore.
* Compare lens specifications side by side, with differences indicated.
* Compare high resolution MTF charts.
* Compare high resolution lens construction diagrams.
* Field of View simulator featuring multiple photos taken of the same scene in Singapore using different camera-lens combinations.
* Depth of Field simulator.
* Depth of Field calculator.
* In-depth topic with interactive simulators explaining how aperture and shutter speed affect exposure, depth of field, and motion blur in the various exposure modes.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Leica V-Lux 3 Review

Last day of 2011 and I went out shooting armed with just one camera with an assortment of focal lengths. No, I didn't haul out my DSLR and heavy bag of lenses. I was on my motorcycle so for this outing it made more sense to keep it light and simple. A perfect opportunity to try out the latest offering from Leica, the V-Lux 3 which we now have in stock at Camera West.

Back in 2006, Leica introduced the V-Lux 1. It was what we refer to as a bridge camera. Smaller than a DSLR, but larger than a typical point and shoot. It's main feature, a 12X zoom. The perfect camera for photographers who wanted the ability to shoot with a long telephoto, but didn't want to haul around a DSLR and a heavy bag of lenses. In one small camera, you had the ability to zoom from 35mm to 420mm. The camera was a hit and in 2010, Leica introduced the V-Lux 2, adding a longer zoom range, a larger LCD, a CMOS sensor and more megapixels (from 10 to 14.1 MP). Just last month, Leica released the latest in the V-Lux series, the V-Lux 3.

Based on my experience today, it's going to be a very popular camera.

What impresses me most about the V-Lux 3 are two things - the incredible super zoom and the very fast frame rate. A wide zoom range from 25mm to 600mm (35mm equivalent) is packed into a small, light body. Even when zoomed to 600mm, the lens only protrudes another 2 inches. Combine that with a 12 frames per second, full rez frame rate and this camera will satisfy most shooters who are like me and spoiled by DSLRs.

For my outing, I got up early to catch the last sunrise of 2011 and it was a beautiful one. Well worth the 6 am start. For this image, I wanted to zoom in enough to get rid of some power transmission towers off to the right and see just the hilltops and unique clouds. This was shot at 210 mm and an aperture preferred meter setting. (I shot aperture preferred and auto white balance for all the photos for this review, just to see how the camera reacted to the various conditions. - it did well with no issues)

Next I went up into the Altamont Pass area near Livermore, known for it's large collection of windmills. Found this blackbird perched on an old windmill and waited for it to take off. Here, I had the V-Lux 3 zoomed in to only 400 mm as I wanted to make sure I caught the bird and the windmill in the frame. This is where the fast frame rate really helps. It was set to 12 frames per second, so I'd have plenty of frames to choose from when the bird finally took flight. Nice to have those choices. Also, since my subject was stationary, I was able to lock focus so there was no delay when the bird took off. The auto focus on this camera is improved from earlier models, but it is important to remember that this is not a sports shooter's camera. The focus will not keep up when you are in a fast frame rate.

Up at the top of Patterson Pass, looking east towards the San Joaquin Valley, the early morning clouds were still impressive, now showing just a hint of pink. No wind however which was disappointing as it would have been cool to have just a bit of movement in the windmill blades.  It was nice to have such a varied zoom to play around with my composition. 25 to 600 mm - so many choices however I narrowed it down to 140 mm for this view.

Next up, a ride up Mt Diablo where I shot this view as the early morning light was painting the ridge tops along the foothills of the 3,864 foot mountain. 220 mm

Mt Diablo is covered with blue oaks. I find them fascinating with their shapes and colors and love shooting them, especially in backlight.  260 mm

Moss and new growth on an oak. 600 mm at f 5.2 (wide open)  produced a nice bokeh.

Just to show you the incredible zoom range of the Leica V-Lux 3, here are the two extremes - 25 mm and 600 mm. Shot on the summit of Mt Diablo looking east towards the transmission towers on North Peak and the delta beyond.

This camera is the perfect camera for light traveling,  Will it replace my DSLRs? Of course not. It still has a smaller sensor and a slight delay in focus and subject tracking. But, the Leica V-Lux 3 is a camera you can take with you at all times and feel confident in almost any shooting situation you find yourself in.

A Few Specs
  • Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 4.5 - 108 mm f/2.8 - 5.2 ASPH lens.
  • A newly developed 12.1-megapixel CMOS image sensor (down from the V-Lux 2 14.1 mp).
  • Full-HD video in AVCHD format with 1920 × 1080 pixels and 60 full frames per second.
  • An integrated stereo microphone with an electronic wind noise filter.
  • Burst rate of 12 frames per second at full resolution, or 60 frames per second at a resolution of 3.5 MP.
  • 3" articulating LCD display with 460,000 pixel resolution.

The Good and the Bad
  • The design of the V-Lux 3 is nicely thought out with the most often needed functions readily available without having to jump into the menu. If you do need to enter the menu, it is very intuitive to navigate. My only difficulty with the button layout is that I would often inadvertently hit the ISO button by mistake with the base of my thumb. Wish there was a way to lock the buttons to prevent this.
  • The video mode has one very impressive feature. It records 1080P video at 60 frames per second. Most cameras, even video cameras only output 60 fps at the smaller 720p. At this rate however, It records in AVCHD format - great for viewing, not so great for editing although possible with the included Premiere Elements software. (Just a note for those of you who don't know why 60 fps is important. If you enjoy slow motion footage, shooting at a higher frame rate makes for smoother slow motion.)
  • When shooting at one of the high frame rates, focus, exposure and white balance are locked to the first exposure.
  • At 25 mm, you get a fast f2.8 maximum aperture. At 600 mm it is f5.2 - still fast for a 600.
  • ISO range from 100 to 3200. Images shot at 800 to my eye looked good.
  • In macro mode, at the 25 mm setting, you can get as close as 3/8" from the lens.
  • The camera comes with a nice bayonet style lens hood, protecting the front element from unwanted glare or finger prints.
  • The lcd is articulating, allowing you to compose your image easier at times.
  • You can compose with the lcd or switch to the electronic viewfinder.
  • A free copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements is packaged with the camera.

Lost or Stolen Camera Woes?

Have you lost a camera or had one stolen? You just may be able to recover it with the help of 2 web based services. and will search the web for images with the serial number of the cameras that shot them, helping to re-unite owners with their lost and stolen cameras. Both work by looking for the serial numbers embedded in images uploaded to services such as Flickr and 500px. CameraT race, which costs $10 per camera, now includes a monitoring service that updates you if new images are posted. Stolen Camera Finder, meanwhile, requires only that you drag-and-drop a file from your camera for it to read the EXIF and start searching for public photos with their metadata intact.