Friday, August 31, 2012

The Busman's Holiday

Being on holiday from the shop for a fortnight means I cannot report honestly on new goods received or upcoming events - I'm sure Saul, Howard, and Adam will make a set of notes from which I may draw inspiration from the 10th onwards, provided the place does not burn down in the meantime. For now I must report on other people's shops.

Today I visited two small retailers in Sydney who cater for my hobby - toy cars. One located in a central city street and one in a distant suburb. The city shop had a modest amount of stock and the suburban one had a vast embarrassment of riches. The interesting thing for me was to observe the degree to which they were attended.

Central chap has a basement. You find it by rumour and innuendo. There is a small sign out the front and a modest Google listing but no web page. The suburban dealer has a factory unit in a modern tilt-up and a solid website with lists of what is there.

The suburban one has shelves that reach to the ceiling full of stock - so much that he sometimes loses sight of what is there. He has people ringing up at all times asking for items. He has industry reps calling in the middle of serving. He has a secondhand dealer's licence and takes stock in for re-sale that way. He also has 10 people as customers - me included - to one in the city shop. It was almost like being at home, and when I saw him struggling with MYOB on the computer it WAS like being home. I felt like waiting until it crashed just for the nostalgia...

Lesson for me? Well, I envied him his shelving system and the fact that many of the items he sells come in similar-sized boxes - makes stacking easier. But he still struggled to get it all visible - most items were two-deep and you had to shift the front to see the selection. In his favour, he did not have to unpack the sales item and display it whilst storing the box elsewhere. I also envied him for having a product that does not need to have batteries charged.

Tomorrow I shall get closer to the retail bone - a visit to the camera stores here in Sydney. I'm aware that my profession might make me either a very good customer or a very bad one, but I shall try to be kind and gentle with the staff. At least I intend to comb my hair and wear shoes when I visit them, and I will not be strolling through their shops drinking a slurpee and yelling into a mobile phone. I shall reserve that behaviour for my visit to the Opera House....

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gala

I am on holiday and not wearing Camera Electronic uniform. I am outside of the shop and I get to say what think.

I think I had a marvellous time at the AIPP Nikon Event up in the Hunter Valley. You've read my daily reports but this one is the last of that series - the gala dinner.

It was not stewed parrot, as I had feared - entree, mains and dessert as per usual and plenty of red and white on the table for all the guests. You've all been there and done that - but you haven't been there to watch hardened dour professional photographers go nuts at a print auction.

The premise of the auction as well as the Nikon/Kayell/Epson photobooth was to raise money for breast cancer research. A number of the lecturers and participants donated large prints done on Epson machines to the auction and our own Western Australian - " Old Hickory " himself - Tony Hewitt was the auctioneer. If you ever want to sell your house at auction employ Tony. He has the fastest patter in the business and the sort of sense of humour that dragged the prices of the artwork up into the multi-thousands of dollars like an F-18 going straight up.

It made me wonder at the amount of money that professional photographers and trade leaders have at their disposal - it might be worthwhile following them down a dark street and knocking them over for their wallets. Don't knock over Alicia Sinclair, though, as she is so nice....

All joking aside, the professional photographers there were magnificent in their generosity and deserve our praise. Old Hickory won another battle!

And as for me - as I left to get to the Newcastle railway station I was treated to the spectacle of an FA -18 doing touch and go at Williamtown so I reckon my day has been perfect.


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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Thing Of Beauty And A Joy Forever





This is the last day of the AIPP Nikon Event here in the Hunter Valley of NSW and the last direct blog about it - we have had the keynote speakers, and two focussed lectures and all that remains is the gala dinner tonight. I am not quite sure what a gala dinner is - any dinner that is edible would seem to qualify for the term gala. It has been suggested that they might have misspelled it on the invitation and that I should expect cooked parrot but I think someone was being inventive...anyway...


The first speakers were Mr. and Mrs. Bebb from Vancouver, British Columbia. Vancouver is quite a large town, though not surprisingly the capitol of british Columbia - that honour is reserved for Victoria on Vancouver Island. Wags have suggested that the provincial government is located there as the fact that it is an island makes it harder for a lynch mob of taxpayers to get to the parliament across the straits.

In any event Vancouver is a large seaport with quite a trade in timber and mining products as well as container transfer for the rest of Canada. I believe both the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific  Railroads have large terminals and marshalling yards there. Vancouver's climate is a mild seacoast one though it can be wet and overcast for a great deal of the time.


The second speaker of the morning is possibly the most delightful digital artist I have seen. Alexia Sinclair does Fine Art prints as well as commercial work and she does them HER way. And her way is to incorporate the classical ideas of lighting and theme, of colour palette and texture into large works that illustrate or illuminate. Her prints are visual stories just as the best paintings and sculptures of history were stories - sometimes someone is paying her to bend her art to their needs and sometimes she practices it for the sheer beauty of it. And beautiful they are.

Of course the limited edition prints that she does are intended for sale, and the prices that they command mean that the sale will be to purchasers with substantial purses. I think that the buyers will get very good value for money, however much money that may be - the prints are the most amazing art that you could ever see - well go see. Go Google and look, and then come back.

See? The regal series and the royal series are absolutely wonderful. See those blown up on a big screen in the lecture with a good projector and you cannot look away.

And how does she do it? With an old secondhand camera and a few good big soft boxes and her fiance and dead bees and plants she has dug up in the garden and fabric from Spotlight. And a few trips to the circus and the Louvre to get her background images. Really. She said so and showed pictures of herself doing it.

Could any of us emulate her? Well, first we would have to have her depth of knowledge and her breadth of vision. Then we'd need a supply of dead bees and fiances. Probably better to do as she said - let our own imaginations supply the fire for our work and when others see it we will be rewarded with the respect and affection that she enjoys.

PS: her fiance is King Charles II. Really.


Third cab off the rank was Conor Ashleigh who has derived his inspiration from the social justice and volunteering movements of the last few decades. He shoots for NGO's and universities but I think there are a number of self-assignments that have taken him throughout Asia and Africa as well as his native NSW. I gathered from one of the images posted on the screen that one of his clients is the Big Issue magazine.

He's game, I'll give you that. Apparently smuggled into Gaza through secret tunnels - I assume to take pictures for someone - he later used the experience to gain access to his local mosque here in Newcastle for a photo series based on the worshippers during the Ramadan period. It was interesting to see some of the images - we would probably not get that degree of information from someone who was less skilled or open in his communication.

Likewise, he has been able to get some very good shots of South Sudanese people here and in Africa in what must be difficult times for some of them. An empathetic man, Conor. I hope we see more of his reportage - as he is young there should be a good many stories that he tells in the future.


Now this next part is difficult. I listen to people as they speak and sometimes I write down what they say. Then I draw cartoons to make fun of myself and of photography in general using those quotes as captions. This four days has been so prolific of this sort of material that I am in danger of making more enemies than I can run away from. This would not be good for business. Therefore I have resolved to only print the mildest and least offensive here on the blog...reserving the rest for secret exhibition on the top of the Brocken in a thunderstorm. I know my audience.




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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mild/Wild Life Photography

I suddenly realised that yesterday's AIPP Nikon Event 2012 blog had a number of tags that were never attached to the text and probably left you wondering why I mentioned them - let me do that before I continue.

The Nikon tag is obvious - they are major naming sponsors for this event and have made a massive effort to present products and items to help the attendees. They fed and watered the stock last night at a Hollywood-themed party and did so on a grand scale. I left early when the water cannons and riot police arrived but apparently there was a lot of celebration after that, if the hangover stories from the trade tent are any indication.

Nikon and Epson are also involved, as are the Kayell people in a rather fun little feature - a photo booth. They rigged up a cubicle with two softboxes and a camera - I think it is a D 800 - controlled by one of the little ioShutter devices and a mobile phone. The whole lot is tethered over to the Epson stand and one of the big roll printers - you write a funny slogan on a Nikon ' I AM" board, pop the self timer app and the thing captures a glorious picture of you looking silly. This is sent to the printer and comes out as a 9 x 11 promotional print on Epson paper. My image was very good - it nearly made me look as handsome as I am in the mirror...but the kicker was it was also gold coin donation for breast cancer research which is great.

Lowepro? They are offering AIPP members attending the stand a chance to win any of the bags on display if they correctly guess the content's of three photographer's bags. I am glad that they did not ask me to submit mine for scrutiny as I would have been hard pressed to explain the dagger or the flask of gin.


Well today's keynote speaker was a photographer whose work is somewhere in your house right now. If you have kids look for the wildlife books, if you eat biscuits look on the tin, if you use a calendar look on the front of it for the name Steve Parrish. Now that is market penetration.

It hasn't been a new thing - he started underwater photography some four decades ago as a navy clearance diver and continued for years gathering images on film that are of such a quality that they can stand up to publication right now. Then came dry land creatures, and botanic subjects, and rock textures, and landscapes, and all feeding into a very prolific and popular body of published and sold work. He's had numerous deals with numerous producers of books, cards, and calendars and has a very keen appreciation of the sort of thing that is needed. Australia's children and Australia's flora and fauna have a mutual friend in Steve and he has performed the office of a friend - he has introduced them to each other in the most charming of ways.

He has also had adversity - not the least of which has been the destruction of a proportion of his archival material in last year's Queensland floods. His photos of the aftermath of the flood on the slide collection is nothing short of harrowing, as is his candid recounting of the ravages of the failures of book selling firms and the merciless conduct of the taxation authorities. A real measure of his courage and character is the way he has determined to rebuild his library and continue to supply top-quality wildlife images to Australia and the world. And he has finally convinced me to start digitally archiving my slides and negatives against the unforeseen.


The second speaker of the day....I seemed to know the name when I signed up but I couldn't think why. When I walked into the lecture theater I got it - Peter Adams is the chap who produced two of the books that we sell in the shop! We have "Street Wise" and "Who Shot That" on our shelves and they are a cracker example of real artistic talent in both writing and photography. I am going to see if i can get a copy of "Ore What" - his book on Hill End people as they exist now, and despite his self deprecation, I want mine signed. I have a book of historic photos taken at Hill End in its heyday and I think this would make a great duo.

Peter is not just books - he is wood craft and writing and a whole raft of commercial and artistic photography. He has photographed greats of photography - see the book - and is candid about the goodness or badness perceived in them as they interacted with him. If you want a different view of the visual clan, look at the book.


I have a very bad memory - as evinced by the fact that I also forgot who the third speaker was until I stepped into the lecture theater. Vicky Bell gave a very moving talk to us in Perth at one of the Nikon workshops and here she was again with a new batch of her fine art photography and a very good story about how and why she creates it. And this time on a big triptych screen with a professional slide show and a good sound system.

I think Vicky gets paid good money for her images and from the looks of the thinking that has gone into them, it is money well invested. She brings frank influence from old master's technique as well into what otherwise could be a very technical and dry business. She has looked at and seen and noted some of the greatest works of art and this guides her in her planning. Of course the other real influence and strength of her work is emotion. She experiences it, recognises it, and knows what place it can have in her art. It is her secret ingredient that quite frankly she makes no secret of.

I was particularly impressed by her use of small scale frames from old cabinet prints to construct what almost looked like ikons. Very classy, and as one of her subjects is a gentleman who has been a client of our shop, the sort of image that calls forth an emotional response from us.

See, Vicky? It works. It really does.


So, what happens next? If you are a professional photographer who is a member of the AIPP or someone who would like to benefit from contact with an absolute beehive of creative professionals, consider the fact that next June they are going to hold another of these shivarees in Hobart. The venue is a very good hotel and conference center and they are already scouting out at least 50 possibles as speakers and presenters. Of course they wont get all of them but the ones that do make the final team are sure to be the best that you can hear. This is a conference that is worth while on a lot of levels, so put it in the back of your mind and save up a little cash for it now.











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Monday, August 27, 2012

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Right now, I'm not entirely sure.

The AIPP Nikon Event here in the Hunter Valley is certainly a well-organised thing. We swung with speakers yesterday that dealt with video-making, stock photography, and commercial portraiture. Good speakers, as yesterday's blog attested, but they didn't quite prepare me for today's keynote.

The speaker was James Nachtwey who has been a photojournalist covering wars for what must be the last four decades. Not just wars - the aftermath of them and of regime changes; the famines, the disease epidemics and much else. He has taken pictures of death and injury, suffered wounds himself, and seen the sorts of things that would turn a lesser person to jelly. The images he projected today had that effect on me - my normal flippant attitude had no place in the lecture theater and I put away my drawing pad and just watched.

James is soft spoken - and direct to the point with the narration. He did not propagandise in what he said, apart from an appeal to us for our humanity to see the humanity of the people in the pictures. I am amazed that he could stand that degree of suffering for that length of time and retain sanity and a desire to continue working in the field.

He has garnered a number of awards for this work, and as some of his images have had a positive effect in alerting governments and people to the situations depicted, I think he can be realistically said to have done a very great deal of good - out of a very great deal of bad.

If you can see any of his work or purchase books of his images, I recommend that you do - it is not pretty but it is very real, and the concern that he has shows in the skill with which the images are crafted.


Now, that's the sombre bit done.

The second lecture was by Delwyn Everard, who is a law practitioner for the Arts Law Center for Australia, on the subjects of copyright, moral rights, and contracts as they apply to photographers.

It was fascinating - I have always imagined the law to be a minefield but I did not realise that it was quite that well sign-posted. The revelations were at once comforting and disturbing:

1. Apparently my legal right to take photographs extends a great deal further than I thought it did, apart from defence department land, national parks, or any place where a local community wants to soak me for my wallet and has enough government-funded lawyers to help them do it. I can no longer be prevented from standing on my front lawn to take a picture down the street. I can move the lights in my studio around at will. I do not have to delete images taken at the staff bowling day.

2. I have full copyright to all the pictures I take unless it involves families or weddings and then I get to arm-wrestle bridal couples for this. The normal legal procedure is two falls out of three.

3. If I do not have a model release I cannot sell the picture. Unless I imprison the model. This seems a little harsh and is going to be difficult to implement as some of my models are big healthy people with muscles. I think it is time to start shooting still life pictures of flowers for greeting cards.

4. I must stop stealing actual images from other websites and claiming them as my own. Not only that, I am even enjoined not to copy other images. Come right down to it, three big corporations have put injunctions on the use of the colour blue, wooden fences, and soft-focus vignettes. The portrait trade is going to hell. If they lock up superimposed couples in brandy glasses then weddings are dead as well....

5. There are such things as moral rights and proper money - I know because Delwyn said so. Which naturally leads onto the speculation that somewhere there are immoral rights and improper money. I'm on holiday - that's where I want to be - it sounds like the'll have liquor and dancing girls...

6. You can sue the US Postal Service for millions and eventually win. It remains to be seen if they pay off in stamps...

Now the last lecturer was a lot of fun if your idea of fun is standing up on the roller coaster as it starts down. Laurel Papworth is her name and she is a cheery and intelligent lady from South Australia who cracks the whip in the three-ring social media circus.  I mean she knows what is happening and how to maximise your effect in the thing - how to put the links in to stream the network to find the social influencers to get the core income to adjust the frammis on the ratchet and squantificate the website.

Yep. That bad. Whatever you thought you were on the internet, and however you thought you might be able to make money from it, a lecture like that shows you that you have roughly the same influence on the big players as a shuttlecock has in a game of badminton. Your function is to change direction suddenly at the behest of someone with a big bat.

Still, she was cute and bubbly and as smart as a whip.

Note: As I toiled up the side of the hill to the villa to write this I realise that I have traded a workplace with 2 flights of stairs for a workplace with 8 flights of stairs. I may end up dead but I am going to have good looking legs...

Oh, what the hell, I'm feeling better. Here's a cartoon.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Man WHo Was Sunday




With apologies to G.K.Chesterton, of course.

I attended a marvellous lecture today by Vincent Laforet - look him up on Google under film makers and particularly under award-winning film makers - fresh ones. He's been doing it for a very short period of time and has been succeeding beyond his wildest expectations.

Or maybe his expectations have just been getting wilder - he started out shooting newspaper images in New York and after a long and terrifying career with film has advanced to a long an terrifying career with DSLR and DSLR video. The terrifying bit comes when you see how often he has been hanging outside of helicopters or up on the top of the top needle of the Empire State Building.

He apparently got to shoot video with the first of the Canon 5D Mk II cameras in the US and did so by pestering the agents until they gave in. He would make a good customer of Camera Electronic in this.

He is a very good film maker and an amusing lecturer - coping with jet lag and recalcitrant Powerpoint mechanisms to present a riveting keynote address. I love him to bits for articulating the most important thing that a director ( or photographer ) can possibly have for success; the knowledge of what he or she actually wants to do.

Oh, if only this was a requirement for all photographers, both out on the job and in the shop. Heaven knows I have been as guilty as the next person in earlier times for smooching out on the town or country without the faintest idea what it was that I wanted to achieve - and of course achieved nothing.
Mr Laforet seems to have early realised that he needed to control the process and the people associated with the videos. No wonder he has taken out top prizes for his advertising work.

Later in the day I was regaled by a man who has established a pre-eminence in stock photography from Australia of....bare open roads. Ocean roads, outback roads, empty city streets, tunnels, car parks...all with no cars and no signs. All gloriously lit and clean, and as eery as you could get. He sells these for fancy money to motor car firms who will put a computer-generated image of a new car or truck in them. The amount of extra work to artificially draw in lighting and shadows consistent with the road picture is phenomenal but apparently this is more effective than real cars on real roads.

Apparently there is also quite a business of stealing these images and others from stock agencies for re-use. I wonder if any of my pictures have been purloined - probably not as they are nowhere near as good as these.

Finally, We had the last lecture of the day from a delightful man who had shot many famous sports stars, celebrities, and politicians for newspapers and commercial work. He drew quite a laugh from the crowd when he forgot that he was being live streamed onto the net and indulged in a little humour at the expense of some of his subjects. That's a lesson worth remembering. Presumably no harm will come of it. I was particularly delighted to see that he can get such good lighting out of one beauty dish and one fill light and I think I might try some of his technique on my next portrait shoot.

Tomorrow I am going to make a more determined attack on the trade tent - while I hardly need the professional printing and mounting services that can be had in the eastern states, I did notice one firm that seems to be putting together an integrated website, sales, blog and advertising service that
might be a real mind-saver for those of us not skilled in electronic media.

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Working Down T' Pit




I have enclosed a photograph to show you the appalling conditions under which Camera Electronic staff are expected to work. Not since the days of the industrial revolution has there been such exploitation. It is nothing short of slavery.

The photograph shows the compound at the Cypress Lakes Resort where two members of the CE staff are currently being held. They were transported here in the darkness by a Qantas jet and in the morning by a Jetstar jet and in the afternoon by a rickety bus. It's like taking stray cats into the bush - far enough away and they won't find their way home.

The AIPP Event is being held here and we are going to attend and represent the shop. As there are other Western Australians here, there may be some survivors to carry news home to our families - the Hunter valley is apparently rife with wineries and one is liable to be attacked at any time.

There are also two weddings being held at this resort today - one seems to feature people from India and the sari dresses are nothing short of magnificent - they put the average pastels that we see at WA weddings to shame!

I've just had a good thought - I am going to suggest that as there are probably hundreds of professional photographers here from the AIPP this weekend, that we all gang up and descend on the bridal party en masse and photograph them until they call the police. It might be a little difficult for the architectural photographers but we can erect a scaffold opposite the bridal table or get them up on a HIAB cherry picker. Nothing stops a good shot.

Must go now - I've got trouble to cause...

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Uncle Dick's Feijoada




Well, it's that time of the week, folks. The icebox is full of leftovers and the only decent thing to do with them is put them all in the pot and heat it up.

1. Lens Bling - I kid you not. Thats the name of the product and you won't forget it as it will be staring you in the face every time you open your camera bag.

If you've got  bunch of lenses for your DSLR that sit face-down in the bag, all you see when you open it up is a line of similar back caps - you can be hard pressed to know which lens is which and you end up pulling each one out and staring at it before you find the right one. By then the HINDENBURG has settled to the ground and they are toasting marshmallows on the remains....

Lens Bling rear caps are indelibly lettered for whatever lens you have and are readily visible at a distance. Available in either Canon or Nikon fitting, they are a great dress-up idea as well as a practical step to organisation.

Come in and Bling.

2. Honl filter packs - these are not new but I just discovered a new use for them that solves a problem for pro shooters.

A lot of us use diffusers on the end of our speed lights - different ones depending upon the shoot circumstances. I have recently started to use the Gary Fong Collapsible Lightsphere and am very happy with it for weddings. Soft, even lighting and it helps to take into account the lighting in the backdrop as well.

Imagine my annoyance at being faced with a light environment markedly different from what i proposed to shoot out of my speed light - it was a dear old church with massive stained-glass windows that illuminated the participants well but did so with a wildly yellow tint. I cast about to find some way to meld the flash and the daylight. Fortunately I had a packet of the Honl light correction gels in the bag. In this case instead of velcro-ing them onto the front of the light, I put on the Fong and crammed ( technical term...) the gel in over the tube. A couple of test shots to see which strength was best and away we went.

The good thing is it is easy to cram or hoik ( another technical term) these gels in and out as you move outside or into other mixed lighting. For ghoul weddings you use strong green and for goth weddings a solid black does it...

3. Father's Day - I have been a father for 34 years and have the ties to prove it; some have even been worn. This year I have scored a Wacom Bamboo tablet for the laptop and a ticket to a musical show.

You might do as well, if you get cracking and start to guilt the kiddies and the wife right now about the coming day. Toss out the Big W flyers as they hit the door or you will be facing more socks and jocks. Likewise the adverts from places that sell tin bar signs and cheap pewter flasks. Go to our online shop and pick out what you REALLY want and let them know. It is wise to give them alternatives, so if you are hoping for a lens, list a couple of big ones, and a new DSLR body as well as the one you really expect to get - then it does not look like such a difficult task. For heaven's sake tell them clearly which camera system you use - write it clearly for them; on their little foreheads with a texta if necessary.

Try to act surprised when you get the box. If it is heavy and does not rattle you are into paydirt. If it is filled with plain dirt, you might consider how things are going at home.

4. Zacuto - just a heads-up. We've got a new batch of Zacuto Z-Pro finders in.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

No Strings Attached




We've just had the most amazing demonstration from the manufacturer's representative of the little SD memory cards that give you wireless connection from your camera to computer. I say amazing because the chap was able to make it work from the initial insertion through to all the permutation of control, and send the images he took right then to, well, everywhere.

I mean the things shot off to his laptop there on the counter, then to his iPad, then to his mobile phone. Apparently they are now stored on a virtual cloud for a week so he can look at them from any place on the planet, and if he elects to pay someone something they can be stored there forever.

It is dizzying. He could have asked the little card to send the pictures to Facebook, Flicker, Twitter, You Tube, or any number of other wireless networks.

Had he used the pro version of the card it would also have been capable of firing off RAW files and geotagging the image. If he had been nowhere near a Wifi hotspot but wanted to send the images off when he did approach one, it would have remembered to do this.

Sound like it would be good for you? Want to preserve your images quickly while you are shooting them? Like to shoot your images off to other people really easily? These cards will be of interest. Just be careful how you configure your orders to the card so that the images go where you want them to and do not become a general broadcast.

In store right now at prices ranging from $ 69 to $ 120.

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Welcome To Exhibition Please Show Wallet





I love having an email address here at work. I get to see a lot of things that never come to my home computer. I guess that is because we have spam filters in operation at home. I guess this is a case of things that are NSFH....

Some of the stuff is innocuous - the offers from Chinese manufacturers for PCB's and machine tools are  quite genuine. I guess our name attracts that. And of course the nature of our business attracts the inevitable emails from Malaya or the Dutch East Indies asking for supply of 500 cameras and do we take credit cards....?

We get the lawyer's letters informing us that we are the beneficiaries of vast fortunes and we are invited to participate in the smuggling of diamonds, gold, cash and jewels out of various African countries on a regular basis. As yet we have not been asked to buy Irish Sweepstakes tickets or North German Class Lottery tickets but I look for it any day.

Imagine my delight on being offered a place today in a photographic competition in, of all places, Belgrade. That is Belgrade in Serbia, not Montana. You'll remember Serbia - the country that sits in between Romania and Austria-Hungary - about 200 Km by 400 Km - same size as WA's southwest but with more tanks and fighter planes....

Well, anyway, they want photos to enter into a contest - you get four divisions. Everyday life with machine gun, Portrait with machine gun, Fine Art Nude with machine gun, and Open with machine gun. This may prove a little limiting here in WA due to the gun laws but perhaps they will relax the entry rules.

The entries will be judged by four people with acute accents at the ends of their names and more letters behind them than a soviet field marshal has medals. Actually they might BE soviet field marshals.

The prizes? Medals, apparently. See thoughts about soviet field marshal above. Maybe they've got a lot of them left over.

And what do you need to do to enter? Send them money. The basic fee is $ 30 or equivalent in euros, and they have a large section of banking details on their form that deals with wiring them the money.

Please do not think I am being cynical or hard on the Serbs. You can see this same sort of contest here in Australia - indeed I helped a model enter for one just last week that I suspect will prove just about as fair.  Heck, you can get worse conditions in some of the local city and shire contests. Just be aware of what is going on.

Gotta go now - I need to look out a couple of nude girls and a Lewis gun.

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Full Hand - Five Of A Kind




Here's a safe bet for aspiring photographers who will be in Perth between Thursday August the 30th and Sunday September the 2nd. You can put some money on and win big.

The game is photography and the player is Peter Coulsen. You'll remember his presentations and lectures when he wowed the town with his approach to fashion advertising. Remember the donnybrook over the red shoes picture? Same Peter.

He'll be in town for the Father's Day weekend and has scheduled five classes and workshops with great new material for Perth shooters.

1. Thursday 30th August from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM - Perth CBD - venue to be announced

       This master class is 4 hours of intensive hands - on location shooting in natural light. And Peter really means it - no flashes and no reflectors  - all the elements of great photographic illustration drawn from the shooting environment itself. This will be an eye-opener for any photographer as it will engage the services of three professional models.

        Cost is $230 and the course is limited to 15 people.

2. Thursday 30th August from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM - Perth CBD - venue to be announced
 
     This one is a Photoshop workshop to show his workflow and teach how to blend models flawlessly into backdrops without difficult masking. There'll be tips and hints for layers, colour management, blending and the entire method of exporting and printing. This means personal secrets for increased success with editing. Plus there will be pizza.

      Cost is $160 and the course is limited to 10 people.

3. Friday 31st August from 10:00AM to 2:00 PM - Perth CBD - venue to be announced

      This master class focusses on using the hotel room as studio - assessing the light available - metering - managing the colours and exposures - working with professional models in location situations. Two professional models will be assisting.

     Cost is $220 and the course is limited to 12 people

4. Saturday September 1st from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Perth CBD - venue to be announced

     This workshop will deal with studio techniques in a studio...with full equipment. Learn lighting from one light onwards and find out how to tame the colour that you'll see. You'll have two professional models to work with and find out how to communicate and pose them. There is lunch provided.

     Cost is $400 and this workshop is limited to 10 people

5. Sunday 2nd of September from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM - Perth CBD - venue to be announced

     Wanna do beauty and fashion? This is the one-day intensive that will show how to plan the shoot, get the hair done and the coat of paint on, how to dress 'em, how to communicate with the models, how to do high and low key lighting, how to do specific types of lighting for specific fashion and glamour tasks. Two professional models to work with and lunch provided. hard work but fun.

     Cost is $400 and the course is limited to 10 people.


Now for any and all of these events, book at:

     http://www.peter-coulsen.com.au/


ENJOY!










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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Delicate Matter

Ah, Ahem.

Umm, Errr...Ahem.

I'm afraid I need to raise a delicate matter with you. The time has come to discuss the facts of life. You're a grown-up now and we really should not keep these things from you any longer. How shall I begin...?

You see there are these birds and these bees, and they are outside in Nature. We are inside in a camera shop and we are buying and selling photographic equipment. Am I clear so far?

Well when we sell you photographic gear we need to do it for more money than we spend on it ourselves. We need to pay wages, rates, utilities, taxes and other expenses for the shop as well as pay our wholesalers for the actual equipment. You need to assist with this process by spending a fair price for the equipment you purchase, particularly as you may also require special services - repairs, advice, troubleshooting, etc. 

Sometimes if you are a very regular customer or a member of a group that spends a great deal of money, a small discount might apply for some sales. Note the words sometimes, small, and might - we are not talking about the Rights Of Man or statute law here. Remember that commercial requirement oversees all shop activity.

Consider yourself whether a discount expectation is reasonable - for instance, should you tell us that you are a poor struggling student and demand below cost pricing on a Leica M9-P? Don't snort - I've heard this myself, and been further amazed when the poor student pulled out a wad of cash...

Likewise, ask yourself if being angry is a sensible approach to trade. Granted, it s a lot of fun to dominate others, and a great relief from the stress of traffic and taxes, but will it get you the engagement and sympathy that you hope for? The staff are required by discipline and convention to maintain a respectful demeanour toward you, but wouldn't it be better if it was genuine respect?

There now, that wasn't so hard. I'll be back to tell you about the birds and the bees later. For now just remember that one sings and one stings.





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SIgns Of The Times




The sign writers have been busy round the front of our building recently and the last panel was put in place at the start of the week - please see small photo above.

The shop windows have always been a puzzle for us - we wanted daylight to filter into the shop but the westerly aspect of the front glass meant that we also got a deal of heat in summer. As well, it was difficult to know whether to present equipment for street inspection or let it look into the shop for visitors.

The clever signs on the front windows change all this - they are on a film of self-adhesive plastic or metal that has minute holes punched through it. The outside has enough continuity to provide a canvas for printed art while the inside shows light but stops heat - a win on three counts.

And the message of the signs? Look closely - they identify us as authorised, official dealers in very high quality photographic equipment. Note that the signs are attached to a very heavy building, right here in your home town. A place where you can come that is real - and not a fake website. A place that has firm connection with the manufacturers and their representatives and will not disappear when someone pulls a plug, packs up the laptop, and runs for it...

It is a place where people have names - Saul, Howard, Adam, Brent, Sam, Ernest, Daniel, Mike, Gavin, Chris, Dick, Ron, James, Karen - and not aliases.

And unlike Ken Rockwell, we actually speak to people face to face - real conversations - not just monologues.


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Road Trip!




Break out the Hawaiian shirts and the straw hats. Break out the tequila! The blog is going on a road trip!

Well, not exactly by road, except for the last little bit between Newcastle and the Hunter Valley, but it will be a photographic journey. In this case it is not so much to see scenery, but photographs and photographers - we're going to the AIPP Nikon Event for 2012.

I won't anticipate the speakers but we seem to have a full schedule of lectures, or presentations, or workshops booked between next Sunday and Wednesday week. Given the reputation of the Hunter Valley for producing red wine, I am personally hoping that professional speaking will degenerate into drunken slurring about 7:00 each night - then I can get the real answers to the real questions. Like "Where did I put my shoes?".

Thanks to the horrors of modern life/wonders of technology I will be able to send photographs on the net of the event. I am confident that many will be in focus and well-exposed but I cannot guarantee the position and angle of the horizon.

Who goes to this sort of thing? I'll find out. What do they really talk about? I'll listen. One thing is certain - at the prices they charge for attendance and accommodation, few of the participants will be using 620 Ensign cameras and putting the film in at the chemist.

Mind you, I could be wrong - have you seen what they charge for film processing at chemists these days...?

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Monday, August 20, 2012

It's Show Time!




Did goe to the Hot Rod show yesterday and was greatley entertained gazing at the horseless carriages.

And at the end of the day I think I learned something - you can paint the outside of a car metallic candy burgundy, upholster it in orange vinyl, and get away with it - indeed you can cause the hearts of little boys and old men to hammer with desire by doing so. Likewise you can send young women through the crowd dressed in short skirts and tight tops and 6-inch high heels and have much the same effect. They also sold hot dogs and beer in cups. Ask me if I enjoyed myself...

I was a bit on the perplexed side when I looked at the lighting scheme of the venue - the ceiling letting in daylight filtered through a translucent canvas - the edges of the Burswood arena flooded with some sort of harsh white halogen - and spot lights popping up from the floor level in various tints. Add on the LED accent lights of some cars and you have a real fejuada of lighting. There were half a dozen colour temperatures and some of them were in Roman numerals...

I was shooting with a Nikon D300 and SB 700 flash. I boosted the ISO to 650, told the camera to deal with the mess, and snapped away - confident that later in ACR or Aperture that I could even out the fluctuating colour balances. Thus it has been, with the added bonus of a car owner who painted his Ford a pure white, thus allowing a big reference patch seen in a number of pictures.

It's still a mish mosh in some respects, and if I had taken the time to do a custom WB for each group of shots I might have been better off - likewise if I had thought to haul along my HONL light-balancing gels I could have tailored each shot to take into account the dominant flood at the time. But you can only haul so much and if you are carrying a cup of beer and a hot dog and chasing the Shannon's girl it all becomes difficult. You'd be surprised how fast some of them can run in those 6-inch heels...

I also learned that it is no fun trying to change from the 18-200 lens to the 8-16 lens in a crowd. Methinks if one were to do this sort of thing a lot it would be worth investing in a second D300 body ( and they are cheap as chips now) and a Black Rapid double camera rig. Might feel like a bit of a pack mule to start with but at least the weight would be evenly distributed over both shoulders.

Finally, I got to look under the top cover of a DSLR camera to see what a processing engine really looks like...




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The Personalized Camera






In an era of special editions, exclusive designers, and bespoke possessions, it is still rare to see what we could truly regard as a personalized camera. This is surprising - I should have expected more purchasers of the Leica cameras to have taken up that company's offer to engrave the top plates of the Leica M-9 with owner's names and other loga, and to have special covers wrapped around the body surfaces - perhaps the rather high price for this service has deterred them.


Naw, what am I saying - these are Leica owners. Perhaps the reason we do not see them is that they hide them away in tissue paper and bank vaults after they are engraved.

Well, what about the new Pentax not-so-compact mirrorless style camera  that has been designed by a famous designer that you never heard of until they put out an advertisement for the camera...well, his name is engraved on the bottom of the camera. That's sort of personalized. If you're him.

Okay - well, I can claim to have seen two exclusive cameras yesterday at the hot rod show. One was a dear old Sony DSLR in the hands of one of Perth's foremost car photographers. You can tell it is the camera of a racing car enthusiast as the lens hood seems to have been mounted with knock-off hubs for fast changing in the pits. You can tell this is the case from the hammer marks on the lens barrel....This camera probably accelerates from zero to 500 shots in four seconds flat and from the looks of the outside casing rolls over on the first turn. But, it keeps going and the gentleman in question keeps on making wonderful car shots so I'll just shut up. One day the last pixel will fall off it and he'll need to get a new one, and I hope he remembers that we're still here....

The real star for me was another car man with his new Nikon D800 camera mounted on a sturdy tripod - he knows these shows and realises that you need to provide for long exposures when the organisers have been skimpy with the lighting. Of course, with a D 800 he can photograph under waaaaay dark conditions, but the tripod is still a good idea. Anyway, he, being a hot rod man, decided to present his new camera to one of the hot rod artists for a little customizing - and came way with the neatest little miniature pinstriping pattern in red and white on both sides of the prism housing. Just like a tiny hot rod.

Reel back in horror if you wish, but this personal touch is really perfect for this photographer - it is his camera and his subject matter and he's independent enough to do it. As of right now, he is THE coolest kid on the block.

Now if I could figure out how to do green and gold flames on the pop-up flash of my D-300...

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Reflect on this







If you think this may seem a little humble as a blog topic, you don't know me. I am ready to write essays on the plumbing if nothing else offers.


As it is, I have just racked up the latest shipment of Premier reflectors downstairs and this time there seem to be some interesting variants. Of course there are the round folding ones - translucent, white, silver, gold, etc. and there are the 5-in-one kits that give you further choices. These are now in small and large sizes. A good choice if you are going to do different looks in different colour teperatures.

The new bit is the rectangular reflectors. These are a sensible way to configure the surface as it gives you a couple of flat surfaces to set the reflector onto a floor or table - and not have it attempt to roll away. Again you can get these in medium and large sizes.

None of these items are expensive, and they can be a real shoot saver if you are dealing with Western Australian sunshine. An assistant to hold them and angle them properly is also a good idea. The one thing about reflectors is you do not have to worry about synchronization or battery charge. And if it rains on your shoot you can huddle under it.

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It's working!

The odd blog about the fridge and the shelves worked - the shelves went away yesterday. The fridge is still here so don't hesitate further - we need the space.

The really odd thing that turned up behind the shelves is a piece of ground glass that is 1.1metres by 2 metres and about 10mm thick. Either someone was going to make the biggest damned camera back you've ever seen....or a patio table.

Ring up Adam here at Camera Electronic and get a mate with the tray-top to help you get it home.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stos's Choice







Desperate for a blog topic this morning I contemplated a lot of things - some of them criminal. In the end Christos saved me by suggesting that you dial your computer over to the ABC site called iview. At least I think that is the name - it might be iView. Experiment.


Stos saw a documentary on it on the 14th of this month that dealt with a chap called Jeff Carter. He travelled Australia for decades taking some 50,000 images of various aspects of the country. The title of the piece is " Inland Heart ". Apparently he had an opportunity to re-visit sites of earlier photos and to document changes with time.

The documentary ran for some 26 minutes, and as it has the seal of approval of another photographer, you will probably quite enjoy it. I remember a few years ago they interviewed Matthew Brady about his war pictures and it was quite interesting as well.

And finally, I note from the international section of the internet that a new computer division of the Apple Corporation has been formed specifically to cater for the South American market. They are due to release a new desktop computer in Brazil known as the iiiiiiiiMac.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Clean Da House

Here's an odd blog. We've just got in a new film fridge and we'll be selling off the old one to a good home - it's a three-bay commercial cool room style with glass doors and metal shelves and we've just degassed it. Go look on Gumtree or rush down here with $ 300 and a bag of wrenches and disassemble it and take it away. Please.

Likewise we have three big old wooden bookshelf units - again heavyweight commercial grade. These are ready to go but you'll need a ute or tray top and a muscley mate. They are considerably cheaper. We've looked around back of them and there are no old Leica cameras stuck in the crevices, but then again there are no piles of bones so all is good.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Lux-ury of Lighting




Studio photographers have it sweet. They do not have to wait outside in the rain hoping for it to clear and a little watery sunshine to appear. They don't have to wait until dark to shoot at night, and if they shoot at night they don't have to shoot in the dark. They can escape the flies and mosquitos. There is generally a coffee pot and a biscuit barrel nearby.

Of course there is a downside. They have to provide their own mountains, sea, and brooding skies for indoor landscapes and most rodeos are better held outside, particularly if there is to be calf roping. Many brides prefer to be married in a church rather than a studio, and get very petulant about it. And unless you have a Victorian daguerrotype parlor with skylights, you'll have to provide hot lights or flash.

If, on balance, you would like to see what you need to do with studio lighting, then Shoot Photography Workshops has just the course for you.

The Introduction To Studio Lighting is presented by Anthony Wilson, who has been been doing it and doing it well for a long time. He'll be showing you what you need for studio flash, and will be able to explain exposure readings, contrast ratios,the effects of different light shapers, posing, backgrounds,props, and general shooting discipline. The information on use of shapers and modifiers is particularly valuable as very few textbooks actually help you to see the lighting as you do it. There is as much art in selecting the right look as in applying it.

The course runs for three weeks - Wednesdays all, the 5th, 12th, and 19th of September - and is held at the Shoot Photography Workshop here in Stirling Street. It is $ 325 so the cost is modest, and the confidence that it will give you to choose and use your studio components makes it doubly worthwhile.

Please go to the Shoot Photography Workshops website for more details and to book a place.

Note: Some things can be taught but some things can only be learned. You will find out where the electric cords running to the lights are in the half-light of the studio and you will gain an appreciation of how easily they may be pulled over. When this happens, your character will be evident in your language -the stokers who live next door to my studio complained about mine.

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Charge Of The Lost Brigade






" Hello? Is this Camera Electronic? Have you got a charger for a Flapoflex D 490 Special? I've lost mine Waaaaaaaaa! "


This used to be the cry of horror that echoed through our nightmares - trying to locate an obscure charger for a faithful old camera for a faithful old customer. Particularly when the pace of change accelerated and they started to discontinue and replace camera models on almost a weekly basis. It seemed that our customers had all retained cameras that had long since been retired elsewhere - would that they had retained the chargers as well...

Well, the Hahnel people to the rescue. We have their Unipal universal chargers in stock and at last there is a reliable method of getting electricity into orphan batteries.

The Hahnel is a little more precise and scientific than previous universals - the contact electrodes are adjusted fore and aft on a rack so that they can reach the battery connections and the adjustment is a rather nifty pair of screw wheels - you can set the thing for your battery and have it retain the setting between charges.

Like other battery chargers, it has a couple of LED lights to show when it is working and when it has finished. The polarity of your battery does not matter - it will sense which way the current is needed. You can drop AA and AAA batteries in there as well. The pickup point is also pretty universal - I can see input for USB, 12vDC, mains power, and car battery.

Best of all, it is only $ 69 and we have a lot of them so the anguished wail on the other end of the phone can be soothed.

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How Sweet It Is...





Those of you who remember Jackie Gleason will also recall his phrase that introduced acts on his variety show - considering his famous size, perhaps it is just a little ironic that I am re-using it to introduce one of the nicest little lenses that we have seen recently.

The Tokina 300mm f: 6.3 lens is built for the Micro 4/3 lens mounts - thus you might find it on the front of an Olympus camera - or a Samsung - or a Panasonic. You'll have to look closely as this is not going to stick out 300mm from the body. It is a catadioptic lens - a mirror lens. It is one aperture only but has been condensed and refined so that overall it is just 67mm from mount to front ring.

It is finished in a smooth silver anodised finish with a slightly darker grey on the focusing ring. It is manual focus but will cheerfully range from infinity to 80 cm. Do your maths for the Micro 4/3 systems and this means you have a 600mm equivalence in a tele lens that is smaller than a man's hand.

This will be the queen of birder lenses for those who plan to trek far into the bush with light packs, and the air show enthusiasts will also welcome it. Sport? Surf? Surveillance? All possible with a tiny little handful of equipment... and no more excuses for not having a long lens in your pack.

The test shots we took of the R&I tower were magnificent - of course with a lens having a focal length as long as this, your limiting factors are atmospherics and your ability to hold on target. Contrast looked good.

Bring in your Micro 4/3 and take some test shots. This is a sweetie.

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Art In The Murk




One of our customers came in and asked if there was some way to get a bit more light into the seascapes that she was fond of taking - she had recently thought to get up early in the morning and stay out late at night taking pictures.

I suggested a Wellington bomber fitted with a Leigh light but was greeted with a look of bafflement. Passing on from there I further suggested that she contact the Shoot Photography Workshops  next door on their website and ask about the course that Greg Hocking will be running on Sunday, the 19th of August. It will be dealing with Night Vision and the landscape. This'll probably be more practical, if a little less spectacular - Greg will lecture on the equipment and techniques for dusk and dawn shooting and then show how it is done. If you'd like to be taught by one of the best in the business, contact Shoot on 9228 8232.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Three Tiny Feet






Our recent Cullmann shipment yielded several interesting bits.


 The new Flexx kits are going to need careful study - and by that I mean I get to play with them - to sort out what exactly the components do for macro photography. Cullmann gear has always been like this - if you ever encountered their camera stability kits from the 1970's and 80's you know what I mean - you were confronted with a wealth of clamps, screws, and articulated arms with bright coded colours and you generally ended up using something out of the kit in a strange way. It did the job perfectly but you were never certain whether that was what the company designed it for. You suspected that the wholesale representative might reel back in horror with a muttered " Donnerwetter" should you ever show off your rig.

I have decided to start on the easy one - the Cullmann Copter. It is a tabletop tripod with style. The legs are 15cm long and are pressure-cast in a trough shape. This means that it is light and stiff. There is a substantial rubber foot at the end of each leg. The ball head at the top of the tripod is the CB2 with the reversible plate; you can unscrew it and pop it on upside down to reveal a standard flash shoe.

This means you can choose to mount a small to medium camera on the 1/4" screw or put a flash on for off-camera work. If you need to break it down further you can unscrew toe CB2. One final neat feature is the shape of the legs - the trough - means that when you collapse them together and put a rubber band or bit of gaffer tape round them, you can pop it onto a standard 1/2' spigot on a light stand.

Plus, being metal and all, it makes a rather stylish kongo. Whatever that might be.

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The Colour Of Truth







If that sounds like I have pinched the title of the next Terry Pratchett book, I apologize to Terry. If it turns out to BE the title of his next book, may I please have some of the profit?


The reason I chose it was a sequence of events yesterday that pointed out the need for me to buy something I sell. I wonder if I can bargain me down in the price...?

I shot a studio job for my social club, illustrating their new costumes for a theatrical event. I chose to do it on a white paper set with extremely bland four-softbox light to eliminate shadows and to get the detail of the embroidery and chased steel armour in all its detail. It was not art so much as illustration. Shoot was easy - fixed lighting, preset white balance in camera, exposures constant. Pull the chain and rotate the next damsel or armoured knight into position.

Back at the processing computer I opened in Camera Raw and made sure that I had a neutral white on the
backdrop paper, cropped and straightened the 140 images, and gathered them up for contact sheets. The printout for the contact sheets ground through the printer and....

Aw, poop. I must've done something wrong. The background is all beige muddy looking. Well, it is 11:00 PM and these are just contact sheets and I'll tell 'em to disregard the colour balance and I'll correct it when I print. Funny, it looked good on the screen and I've just done the Spyder the last couple of days. Ah, well, it is 11:00 and I'm going to bed...

This morning I put the contact sheets into the car, intending to deliver them after work. Just as I got out I glanced at them in the normal morning sunlight. The muddy backdrop is gone - it is clean white, like on my computer screen. I brought the folder of sheets into the shop and looked at them under the Grafilite we have in the window - and then under the Grafilite that sits by our printer. The backdrop is clean. The Grafilite is the same as clean daylight.

The lighting in my computer room led me astray - I need to remember this and to get my own Grafilite so that It does not do so again.

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Fly In - Learn Photography - Fly Out






If you are a FIFO worker with an interest in photography we have good news for you. You do not have to spend three years full time in a technical college to use your new DSLR effectively - Shoot Photography Workshops can get you up and running in just one day.


You need to be a genuine FIFO - proof of FIFO status is required; we don't just mean a fluorescent vest and a boot full of red dust - and it is going to cost you $ 330 for the day, but you are going to get good value for money.

You'll find out what the controls do, what the lenses do, how to wrangle white balance, the song of the histogram, exposure, composition, and how to lead a target so that you hit it first time. You'll get the truth about the post-production computer programs and the lecturer will make sure there is time devoted to answering your questions.

You will be a better photographer at the end of the day than when you started.

You can do this one-day course either on Friday the 14th of September or Friday the 23rd of November but get in touch with the booking crew at Shoot right now on 08 92288232 or go to their website at:

www.shootworkshops.com.au


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Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Teaser From Fuji







It is easy to get the latest rumour from the internet - just log on and click over to whatever site you favour. You'll be told the entire and complete truth straight from the enthusiast's mouth. And you can trust these rumours explicitly - or is that implicitly - whatever, as soon as you read something on the internet you are entitled to ring up a shop and ask when it is coming in and whether they price match on it. Doesn't matter if it is a new camera body or a used locomotive - as soon as the idea of it hits a keyboard somewhere in Malaya, it is assumed to be in stock, in several colours, discounted heavily with a free memory card and a tripod if possible...


Now, back to reality. We've got the superb Fuji X-Pro 1 camera in stock - one is sitting on the desk in front of me. It is black -  Henry Ford would approve - and it is fitted with the 35mm f:1.4 Fujinon. We also have stocks of the 18mm and the 60mm Fujinons as well as neat little flashes and cases for the cameras. They are superb instruments and much a better value for money than their nearest rangefinder competitor.

Just yesterday a sales pamphlet came in for these cameras and their lens system. By all means call into the shop and we'll be happy to give you a copy. It details the camera itself and the three lenses aforementioned, but also tempts us by telling us what the next step from Fuji will be - and remember this is an official booklet from Fuji themselves - not just teenage electrical noise on the net.

Looks like they are now to produce a 14mm f:2.8 R lens for the camera that will give the equivalent angle of view - 89 degrees - that a 21mm lens would do on an older 35mm camera. Perfect wide angle for tourism. In the catalog now.

Further in the pamphlet they show an 18-55mm f:2.8-4 zoom lens. That's the 27mm to 84mm general zoom taken care of. It is a well-balanced lens and not too big. I can see someone using this as their only lens and coping with just about everything - I would seriously look at it as a wedding worker combined with a suitable TTL flash. A real run and gun combo for this sort of business.

Remember that the Fuji people also make an M-mount adapter so that you could use modern and historical Leica, Voigtlander, and Zeiss lenses as well as Fuji lenses. A really versatile choice.

When we get the items physically in store, I'll blog them again.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Linked Rings







Those of you who own a television set might think that the title of this post refers to the current athletic contest in England - not entirely. There have been a number of linked rings connected to photography in the past - the Linked Ring group of impressionist photographers at the turn of the last century comes to mind, as well as the photographers of the Auto Union racing motor cars in the 1930's. Older readers can remember the linked rings around the barrels of  Contarex and Contaflex cameras as well as the linked rings still possible with Hasselblad C and CF lenses.


The reason these historic memories come up has been the extraordinary interest expressed over our shop counter regarding the photographic coverage of the London Olympics by photographers using cameras other than the expected Nikon, Canon, Pentax, or Sony. One chap seems to be doing it for pay using a micro-4/3 camera to the delight of the camera's manufacturers, and one chap seems to be doing it with an iPhone.

In the case of the former I suspect the manufacturers nudged him into it, and with the latter...well...a pub bet comes to mind. Perhaps he will achieve success, or art, with it - let us hope he does not use too many Instagram filters all at once. We still want to see who wins the race. Perhaps we should ring him on his camera and ask.

Of course we all remember the photographer who shot at the Atlanta Olympics with a Graflex. His photos are easy to find on the net and there have been travelling exhibitions. I admire the fellow, as large format is a demanding discipline and I trained on a Graflex, and thus have an affection for them. Had he used a Linhof Master Technika with a 400mm lens attached to it he could have been a serious threat to every Olympic weightlifting competitor ever after, as he would have developed arms like Popeye.

Those of you who may have seen Riefenstahl's coverage of the '36 Olympics in books may have seen a giant Sonnar of some description operated by a white-coated technician on what looks like a naval gun mounting. For all we know, it might have been just that...

I do not expect ever to be called upon to cover an Olympic event, but if they are ever held in Perth, or Northam, or Wongan Hills, I know exactly what to do. I shall leave the scrum and flurry of the big white and black lens coverage to iconic legends and award-winning masters and take along my old Etch a Sketch machine. It has operated flawlessly since 1954. If you are careful not to shake it too much you can show many of the pictures for hours afterwards and no-one has stolen the copyrights for any of my work.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Folding Wonder





Photographers are like cavalrymen - they are always trying to find new items of kit that are smaller, lighter, and more durable. They know that every ounce of weight saved means another mile that can be ridden - in the case of the photographer who backpacks, that extra weight or space saved can mean the difference between art and exhaustion.


This came to mind as I cruised the racks in the storeroom and discovered that we have a new line of folding light stands in stock. The brand is obscure - it appears to be marked as Uamanda - but the disign is brilliant.

It is an all-metal light stand for either studio monoblocks or strobist's speed lights that starts at 50 cm and rises to 216 cm with a broad spread of the tripod legs. The extraordinarily small compass when folded is accomplished by having the legs fold backwards along the central shaft. You could easily depend it upon a shoulder pack, or pop it into a suitcase or small car boot.

Best yet, at $ 85 and just under a kilo this is a snip - come in and get one before they float away on the breeze.

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Night Vision







No, we aren't talking about those big pairs of binoculars you use on the conning tower of a submarine - or those green electronic scopes that snipers use. We are referring to the new course at Shoot Photography Workshops that aims to make a low light lansdcape artist of you.


The presentation is to be done by a recognized expert in the field - Greg Hocking. Greg is an AIPP Australian Landscape Photographer of the Year, an International Hasselblad Master, and a winner of numerous WAPP Curators awards. Better yet, in view of the fact that he has been clambering over slippery rocks in half light lugging cumbersome photographic gear - for years and years and has not disappeared over the edge into the surf - he is careful and lucky. This is a very good thing to learn.

Come along to the Shoot Photography Workshops on Sunday, the 19th of August and find out how you can share this luck and expertise. He'll be detailing the sort of cameras and lenses that you will need, as well as the tripods and special accessories that make for success. He'll be showing you what to look for in the darkening landscape. And it is not just talk - you'll get a hands-on chance to try it yourself under Greg's supervision.

This accounts for the timing on the day - the course runs from 2:00 in the afternoon to 7:00 in the evening. You'll get an full spectrum of information provided by Greg and a full spectrum of light provided by Nature.

Cost is $ 295 - spaces are filling rapidly, and you can include yourself by booking on the website:

                                                      shootworkshops.com.au

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Tie Me Down






The business of tethered shooting is all the rage these days. People plug their cameras into their laptops, then turn on the special setting and start to shoot. The images flash onto the laptop and instead of getting confused looking at the little LCD screen on the back of the computer, the photographer gets confused looking at the big LCD screen on the computer.


At present the practice is generally confined to a studio or at worst an outdoor shoot with a a laptop huddling under a PC hood and a technician trying to manage files and swat flies at the same time. I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before someone puts the computer on a back pack and makes the photo assistant trot around tethered to the photographer by a leash. Come to think of it, you could balance the laptop on a schnauzer and get him to trot behind you. Just don't try to photograph cats.

Google on over to Tether Tools and see if you can't find something a little more sensible. We recently had one of their trays through the order department and I was impressed with the quality and workmanship. If tethered shooting intrigues you, Tether tools will help.

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A Modest Proposal - Written Swiftly







I watched a camera enthusiast recently prepare for an overseas trip to one of the world's notorious danger spots - Hartlepool on Bank Holiday I think he said. He wanted to take equipment that would return extremely high quality images of the natives and he needed absolute reliability. It was a pleasure to see him bring his large cardboard carton of DSLRs, lenses, chargers, laptop computers, power adapters, and screen shields into the shop and try to fit them into a backpack. The thought of him staggering up to the Qantas desk with something the size and weight of a domestic refrigerator dependent upon his shoulders and trying to get it through carry-on baggage kept me warm for hours.


Thank goodness he had not thought of taking a Hasselblad 500-series film camera with an 80mm Planar lens on his trip. I carefully avoided suggesting it, and concealed the fact that he could pick up Pro-packs of 120 film in London, take superb pictures, and have the negs processed before he leaves England. I hope no-one else lets him into the secret, because we want to sell him an even larger bag, and a book of coupons for the chiropractor when he gets back.

And don't you DARE explain how easy it is to scan  negs into a computer with an Epson V700 and file them away safely forever.

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Nice Fat Gecko




The increasing popularity of small cameras that record video onto memory cards through wide angle lenses - I mean the GoPro cameras in particular -  has lead to an increase in a number of related things; sprains, fractures, and burns coming readily to mind. This is not the fault of these fine little cameras - it is just a measure of the adventurous spirit of their users. Adventurous spirit, raw courage, and desire to go viral on You Tube - even if the video clip features them disappearing down a hole clawing and screaming.

It has also lead to a proliferation of accessories for this clawing and screaming. Fat Gecko make a series of camera mounts that can stick to just about any surface - surfboards, boat hulls, motorcycle helmets, emergency treatment room walls...They go under the various names of Stealth Mount, Double Camera Mount, and Mini Camera mount. The Double refers to a twin sucker system to give greater adhesion on flat surfaces. This camera mount is actually big enough to cope with mirrorless still cameras and small compacts as well as the micro videos.

They are well built, priced competitively, and technically complex enough to occupy even the geekiest customer. Of course there are also the Go Pro mounts as well, and the ever-popular skull screw for the real hard core adventurers. Bear Grills would approve. Come in now and stick one on.

Note: a customer has asked if these mounts can be used to stabilize cameras in areas where tripods are forbidden - such as St. Peter's at the Vatican. Regrettably, the answer is no - you are not allowed to attach suckers onto the frescoes and the Swiss Guards are too porous for good adhesion. Just hand hold and use a high ISO.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Join The Tamron Regiment And Claim Your Pay






Roll up, roll up, and join the Loyal Tamron Regiment. We have limited space right now for keen photographers who want to claim their $ 75 bounty. You must be fast - you will be happy.


Tamron are promoting their superzoom lens - the 18-270mm f:3.5-6.3 Di II VC* PZD - with an offer of a $ 75 rebate upon the price of the purchase if you trade in any old lens. And we do mean any old lens.

Doesn't have to be a zoom lens, doesn't have to be Tamron, doesn't have to be in working condition. You can bring in any old Leica Noctilux or Zeiss Planar and toss it gently on the counter and we'll credit you with $ 75 towards the new Tamron. And we've got the Tamrons in stock, so you don't have to wait.

The 18-270 is perfect for safari travellers - for sports shooters - for airshow enthusiasts. It would be great at a dance show, or out at a landscape shoot. It comes with a two-year warranty and as we said before - you get $ 75 towards the purchase if you turn in an old lens.

The Catch  - the catch is, you've got to be fast. Tamron are going to do this for only the first 2000 applicants. These lenses are sold all over Australia, so there may be lots of other recruits lining up out there to get the goodies. You need to ring us now and get one of these organized - bring in that old lens and away we go.

*And remember, they don't send the VC up with the rations...

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Box Of Mystery - D3200






It's here - the new Nikon D3200 twin kit. I'm looking at the box on the table in front of me and I'm dying of curiosity as to what it looks like inside. I shall continue to expire because the box is sealed and I'm not game to open it.


At least the Nikon people have been good enough to put a picture and some advertising copy on the outside. Apparently there is a camera body, charger, cables, and battery, and all sorts of software inside there. It sports two lenses - an 18-55 AFS DX f:3.5-5.6G VR and a 55-300 AFS DX f:4.5-5.6G ED VR. It would appear to be ready for nearly any sort of photographic capture.

The ISO is listed as 100-12800 and there is full 1080 HD video built in with continuous autofocus.It has  a 24.2 megapixel APSC-sized sensor and will fire at 4 FPS. There are 11 points for the autofocus.

Once things are takne there are versatile retouching menus and in-camera movie editing. There is even an easy -to-use guide mode to help me if I have not worked with a DSLR before.

There is a notice that the Nikon people will warrant the entire package for 2 years instead of 1 - a measure of their confidence in their product. And there is a big yellow sticker on thetop sealing the whole thing in, so I am still outside here puzzling.

Tell you what. Come on down here to the shop and buy one and open it up so I can see what it looks like inside there.

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Message From Missouri






In case that seems to be a little obscure, remember that Missouri is known as the " Show Me" state - populated by hog farmers and skeptics - and generally wants positive proof of anything before it parts with its money. An British equivalence might be found in Yorkshire but with a different accent and a yellow waistcoat.


Clothing and accents aside, I was very skeptical a few months ago when I read the DP Review article on the Lytro camera. This is the light-field camera that was said to be able to take in a scene without focussing, and to let the user choose later where they wanted the focus point to be when they viewed the image on a computer. There was a representation of this on the DP site that we played with, as well as a short report on the developer of the system and the company itself.

I have seen a number of wonders in photography in my time - Nimslo, Technicolor, Polaroid instant movie amongst others, and I wondered if this was to be an addition to this illustrious list. I determined to wait until they could show me.

They did. I saw two working Lytro's here in the shop a week ago and played with them. They were a simple small rectangular anodized casing with a big lens set into one end, two flush-mounted buttons along the side  and an LCD screen at the other end. One button was on-off, one button was shutter, and a secret section at the back of the casing let you zoom the lens by sliding your finger over it - like the business that you do when you slide your finger over the screen of a mobile phone. Damn elegant.

And Damn. They work. Look at the screen, point the camera, press the shutter spot. Click. Then look at the screen to see the shot you have taken and touch it wherever you want the focus to be sharp. It sharpens there. Apparently you are going to be able to load this onto your computer somehow with a cable and away you go.

We'll be getting them when they are to be got, and I'll be able to tell you a price when we know it. They are not high-megapixel devices, nor are they system cameras to replace professional gear. But they do work, and they do look like a lot of fun.


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A Pentax Possibility






I always like to see Pentax users purchase new lenses - and not only because the business is good for the shop and good for the wholesaler. It is good to see because Pentax photographers get out there and USE their lenses.


Oh, I know the people who have other major system cameras and lenses take lots of pictures and such, but it seems that Pentax people actually wring out all the juice from their cameras and lenses before they consider swapping them -they are not as driven to exchange for the next big thing before the next big thing....In short, they get value.

Well, they might consider a new offering from Pentax right now, and look forward to getting a wonderful performance from it. Pentax have produced a new classic 50mm f:1.8 lens for the digital era.

This is designated the 50mm SMC DA f:1.8 and it follows the new pattern of being free of an external aperture ring - depending upon camera command for aperture control. The actual aperture opening is with rounded blades so that the resultant out-of-focus circles are inobtrusive. The lens is only 1.5 inches long and weighs 4.3 ounces - and is very finely finished. There is the water-shedding SP coating to the outer lens surface.

The advertising for it recognises that at the crop factor of the APSC sensor camera, this is a short telephoto lens; perfect for portraits and products. What some people may not know is that Pentax 50mm lenses are some of the sharpest things on the planet, glass-wise.

I found this out by direct demonstration when a friend asked me to enlarge a negative taken on an old Pentax SP camera with a 50 mm. Takumar lens. I started out at 8" x 10" as ordered thinking it was a nice clear picture. I then progressively enlarged it on the baseboard while observing the film grain, and eventually reached the maximum size of my easel without running out of resolution. I finished up the evening washing a print in the bathtub as it was too big for my trays and deciding that the Takumar image was sharper than anything I had taken in 20 years with Leica, Nikon, or Hasselblad lenses. Humbling.

You could do a lot worse than using this lens as your standard optic. There's a lotta good eatin' on a Pentax lens...



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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Now Hear This






This is the news for today, Thursday the 2nd of August.


1. New Cullmann tripods and kits have arrived in stock. The new Magic Systempod and Magic Monopod are perfect for travellers as they will fit into your suitcase or backpack but still unfold when required for full-height camera support. The new Flexx kits in either small or large size are amied at tabletop and studio workers as well as those people who pursue macro work out in the filed - they hold cameras, lights, and in some cases subjects steady.

2. Peak camera clips are in store right now. These are adjustable belt clips that house a quick-release mechanism that holds a small Arca plate. You can fasten them onto a regular waist belt or onto the straps of a backpack and depend cameras, lenses, and flashes therefrom. You free up your neck and hands to do other things -  particularly valuable if you are a photojournalist who enjoys riots. You can throw a petrol bomb or half brick while keeping your valuable camera safe. Also recommended for kindergarten teachers.

3. Epson is offering you an opportunity to either confuse yourself immeasurable or make your life simple and grand - depending upon your own approach to the business.  I am referring to their free bonus reward for purchasers of Epson Stylus Photo R2000, R2880, and R3000 inkjet printers. Epson will slip you a Datacolor Spyder4 Pro colour calibrator upon a redemption claim during period from the 1st of August to the 31st of October.

The Spyder4 Pro is the latest in a long line of very effective tools for regulating your digital life. It lets you have your monitor exactly right once a month despite heat, age, and cosmic rays. You get to see what you are actually doing and if you then set up your new Epson printer to reflect this you can go from idea to screen to print with consistency. Note: if your eyes are wonky, you can set up your system to get an accurate and consistent wonk that reflects your own vision of the world. If you are Picasso you can become very rich selling this wonk.

Nevertheless, buy an Epson, calibrate your screen with the free Spyder, and enjoy your photography. I have, and I do.

4. Eizo make some of the best monitors there is. Are. Was. Well, anyway they are consistent, evenly lighted, long lived, matte screened, and generally look after themselves no matter what you display on them. They have a new range aimed at all segments of the business:

a. The CG series - these go on from the current ColorEdge lineup and are aimed at the press, pro, video editing world. They are self calibrating with a very wide colour space and even include presets for common broadcast standards. There is to be a 27-inch and a 24.1-inch.

b. The CX series. Mid-range target for pros and prosumers...dreadful word that...with an inbuilt self correction sensor that will maintain the calibration that you do with an external colourimeter. Apparently it covers most of the Adobe RGB colour space. You can get calibration software and a hood as optional extras. Again comes in 27-inch and 24.1-inch.

c. The CS series. Entry-level users who work in the sRGB colour space will like this one. It's got that self correction sensor of the CX series. 23-inch size for this one.

With the CG and CX, waiting time for stability of display is reduced from 30 minutes to 7 minutes and there is a new uniformity equalizer that keeps the colour temperature and brightness stable even if there is a change in the ambient temperature of the environment. This means you can go outside with them and still judge accurately what you are doing.

Note that the Eizo people warrant these things for 5 years or 30,000 hours. Plenty of time to get your holiday snaps done, even if you went away for two weeks instead of one...

Now, folks, that's the news for the day. Please write to us here at CE and tell us if you want this sort of blog coverage in future - abbreviated points rather than separate essays - and we will try to accommodate whatever you decide upon.

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