Local Camera Store

Having a local camera store is very nice; not everyone does.  North of Boston, there are a few.  My preferred store is Hunts Photo & Video, in Melrose.  Calumet has a store in Cambridge.  There are a few more stores directly within the city of Boston.  I have a friend who lives in Newton and he likes Newtonville Camera (but I have never been there).

More than a decade ago, Hunts would hold an annual camera show at the World Trade Center in Boston.  That was a terrific event!  But since they have ceased to do that show, they hold a small event twice per year in the Melrose store … and I believe once per year in their other locations.  This weekend is one of those events. There are several educational presentations throughout today and tomorrow, but only one that I thought might be interesting to me.  Honestly, the autumn event is better than the spring event.

I spoke with a Canon representative regarding the EOS 5D mk III.  Special pricing was a mere $50 rebate (or discount, I’m not sure).  That’s trivial.  If they have the camera in stock (I expect that they did have a few, but did not ask), that is more significant than a tiny discount, less than 3% the camera pricetag.  I did not bite.  While I may someday buy a 5D mk III, my current battery grip E-6 (which fits the 5D2) will not fit the 5D3; the cost of a new BG-E11 adds 10% to the cost of a 5D3 body.  (For me, the grip is a must-have accessory.)

I spoke with an Epson rep regarding special pricing on the 3880 printer. He said the price is $1230, but as an Epson rep, he would take off $80 because he can.  With a $250 rebate, the final price is $900.  A good price, but is no better than what anyone can order from B&H any day of the week.

In the end, I purchased nothing today. (But I might yet return and trade in an old Gitzo ball head for a new fluid head.)

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New cameras for HD, 2K, and 4K video

In 2008, Vince Laforet shocked the film-making world with a short film called “Reverie” (http://vimeo.com/7151244).  He shot this in just two days using a borrowed Canon EOS 5D mk II (borrowed from Canon) before the camera was released.

Since then, the 5D mk II has become a serious tool for film-makers, particularly because it is much smaller than existing cameras (those specifically designed for cinematography) … and also because the cost is a small fraction of those cinematography cameras.
Recently, Canon announced a successor for 2012, the EOS 5D mk III.

The overwhelming success of the 5D mk II for video purposes was somewhat surprising to everyone, including Canon and Nikon.  Just a couple months prior to introduction of the 5Dm2, Nikon had introduced the first DSLR that supported 720 HD (not 1080).   By most accounts, Nikon trailed behind the success of the 5D2, but successfully “caught up” with cameras such as the D7000,  D4, and D800, all of which offer excellent 1080 HD video capture.  By some measures, the D800 trumps the Canon 5D mk III.

All these cameras are built around CMOS image sensors that are far larger than what you find inside video camcorders.  When combined with a system of interchangable lenses, film-makers can create effects and quality not possible with consumer or prosumer video camcorders.

Since the success of the 5D mk II, Canon has been on a mission to create new cameras specifically for cinematography (movies & television).  Enter … the new EOS C300, EOS C500, and EOS 1D C  (“c” is for cinema).  Both the C500 and EOS 1D C can capture at digital resolutions higher than 1080 HD.  While the EOS 1D C is an SLR that can shoot still images and video, the C300 and C500 are pure video machines that will capture 12-bit 4:4:4 color, compared to 8-bit 4:2.2 color in any DSLR.

While the EOS 1D C is the same size as the EOS 1D and 1Dx, it can capture 4K video at 24 fps or 1080 video at 60 fps.  That’s a data output somewhere around 500 Megabytes/sec. 
Canon recruited film-maker Shane Hurlbut to test out the new camera.  He created a short film, entitled “The Ticket“.

Canon’s new cinematography play is priced well for serious indie film-makers, but not for consumers.  So, another interesting camera for 2012, is the new Blackmagic Cinema Camera, which shoots 2.5K video and costs less than $3K.


720 HD  = 1280 x 720  (16:9)
1080 HD = 1920 x 1080 (16:9)  Panavision Genesis, Sony CineAlta, Canon C300
           and DSLRs: Canon 5D mk II, Canon 5D mk III, Canon 1Dx, 
                               Nikon D7000, Nikon D800, Nikon D4

2K   = 2048 x 1080 (17:9)   Ari Alexa, Silicon Imaging SI-2K, Canon C500
2.5K = 2432 x 1366 (16:9)   Blackmagic Cinema camera
4K   = 4096 × 2160 (17:9)   RED One, Red Scarlet, Canon C500, Canon 1D C


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Smoky Mountain Sunset

In Tennesee, anybody can enjoy Great Smoky Mountain National Park at no cost.  There are no entrance fees and no parking fees.  Apparrently this was part of the deal when the land was acquired (from native American Indians).  And you can simply drive to the top of Clingman’s Dome.

Any evening on Clingman’s Dome, there can be a bevy of photographers lined up to photograph sunset. (Probably sunrise too, but I have not witnessed that.)
But as most photographers point their cameras toward the sun, they may miss out on some of the best scenes … which do not directly include the sun.

This image was shot with a micro-four-thirds camera (Panasonic Lumix G3) and captured as RAW.  While JPEG images have already been processed (by the camera), RAW images receive no processing.  In my experience, RAW images tend to look flat and require some post-processing (by me).  While this scene appeared well to my human eyes, the camera capture was very low contrast.  So the significant post-processing was to increase the contrast.




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Great Smokey Mountains

At a campground inside the Smokey Mountain National Park, there is no wi-fi or internet of any sort, no cell-phone service, and no 120v electric to plug-in anything.  So, at some point, I had to leave the park in order charge batteries, check email … and clean up with a warm shower.  (Actually, I did find one valid 120v electric socket hidden near the vending machines.)

A couple photos attached here from this morning.  As shown here, this is how the Smokies got the name.

Each morning, the weather is unpredictable.  Rain during the night usually means clouds in the morning, but these can clear out rapidly.  This morning, the clouds did not clear out; but where the light is not putting on a show, the clouds sometimes do put on a show of their own.



(Click on an image for a larger view.) 



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Photography base camp on wheels

 A photographer has to travel.  Staying in hotels can be expensive.  So here is my alternative, a camper.

Famously, outdoor photographer John Shaw has said that a nature photographer’s idea of a six course meal is five granola bars and an apple.  That’s because a nature photographer has to be out in the field when most people are back at the lodge eating breakfast or eating dinner.  But this pace cannot be maintained every day.  Today I was post-processing images from yesterday and doing laundry.  So I had the luxury of cooking dinner.


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Cherry Blossoms in Washington D.C.

2012 is the 100th anniversary of a gift.  The Mayor of Tokyo Japan gave 3000 cherry trees to the people of Washingington DC. That’s a lot of trees. And as they bloom (all at the same time), that’s a riot of pink color that draws a pretty big crowd. But this year, if you did not come to this party early, you missed most of the show.

Normally, the magnificent flowers of these cherry trees begin to bloom around March 24 and peak during first week of April.  This year, the warm weather in March caused the trees to bloom far earlier.  And the show was over on March 25.

The first photo here is from March 23.  The second was shot this morning, March 27.  You can see what happened due to rain and wind over the weekend.

The crowd of people on Friday was crazy.  Almost like the Esplanade in Boston on the Fourth of July (almost). 

Not all is lost.   These cherry trees here are the famoush Yoshino cherry trees.  But there are a few other species that are still blooming nicely, for example the Kwanzan cherry trees are stunning (though there are not nearly as many).  The area around the Jefferson Memorial is quite nice.  And D.C. is looking quite green these days as deciduous trees are beginning to leaf out.

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PhotoshopWorld 2012 in D.C.

Photoshopworld opens with pre-conference workshops the day before the conference really starts. Yesterday, I participated in Real World Concert Photography.  That was serious fun!

Today, opening day, began with the keynote address.  At PSW, these things always involve a great deal of joking around … mixed with some serious stuff.  The joking comes from the good folks at Kelby Training (official sponsor of PSW); the serious stuff comes from Adobe.

Well, just taking a break here to share a photo (from my phone) of the expo floor.  I am missing out on some good info and inspiration, so I’m heading back in now.

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Deeper Into Custom Books

Typically, to create a print-on-demand custom photo-book, you download easy-to-use free software from the vendor/printer, layout your book pages, then upload the result for printing.  But, alternatively, some vendors allow you to use other page-layout software.  For my latest book, I used Adobe InDesign.

Having used the free software from three different vendors, I found them all quite similar and mostly intuitive to learn.  On the other hand, Adobe InDesign is just a bit more complicated to learn, but much more flexible.  If you can imagine it, you can do it.  For example, a frame can be virtually any shape at all (a frame is a container for text or images).  I used this flexibility several times throughout my book.

Adobe InDesign

There is one important difficulty to be aware of.  The printing equipment used to print your book is almost certainly based upon CMYK inks, not RGB.  All images must be converted to CMYK.  When you use free software (downloaded from your PoD vendor), this conversion is done automatically for you.  But when using other layout software, such as InDesign, you are responsible for doing conversion to CMYK.

Converting images from RGB to CMYK can be ugly.  The conversion will necessarily shift some colors.  And because CMYK is a smaller color space than RGB, some colors simply cannot be represented in CMYK. 

In the case of my recent book, Wildflowers of RiverPark, I converted each image to CMYK using Adobe Photoshop.  In general, rich green colors did not convert well to CMYK; no matter which conversion method I used, greens became horribly muted.  With practice, I learned how to compensate for this.  I was able to create a custom action to help this process, but it was still annoying and time consuming.  Furthermore, one image in particular features vivid purple-magenta (flower is Deptford Pink) that could not be represented in CMYK.

In doing the conversions myself, and using the soft-proof feature in Photoshop, I gained one important benefit.  The colors in the printed book are very accurate.  If you rely upon your PoD vendor to automatically convert your images, you may get some unexpected color shift in your final printed book.

Specifically using InDesign provides another small benefit: InDesign works well with Adobe Bridge and Photoshop.  From InDesign, create an emtpy frame, then hop over to Adobe Bridge, click on an image and choose: Place into InDesign.  The image is inserted into the frame you created.  After the image has been added to your book, making changes to the image is simple.  Right click on the image and choose: “Edit Original” to edit the image in Photoshop.  When you save your Photoshop changes, InDesign automatically picks up your changes and updates your InDesign document.

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On The Ball

Having acquired a stellar small tripod last fall (Mo’ Gitzo) I subsequently needed to outfit these legs with a small-ish ball head.  What is small-ish?  It should weigh no more than 1 lb and should support a camera (with lens) of 20 lbs.

Because I equip my cameras with a quick-release system that called “Arca-Swiss compatible”, I immediately eliminate any possible choices that will not support Arca-Swiss quick-release.   (So, for example, I rule-out some tripod heads by Manfrotto, Giotto, Benro, etc.)

Markins Q3T ball head is designed with a diameter that is perfect match for a Gitzo GT1541T tripod.   However, while the Q3T is ideally suited for the GT1541T, it offers no particular advantage when paired with the GT1542T, which I have.  (If you are taller than 5’7, the GT1542T is a better choice than the shorter GT1541T

Some other possible choices include Really Right Stuff BH-30, Fiesol BC-40D, and Induro BHL1.  But, in the end, I chose the PhotoClam PC-36NS.  The size is perfectly suited for the GT1542T and it only weighs just a bit more than 12 oz (350g).  The variable friction is extremely smooth and requires no break-in period.  Includes a built-in bubble level.   $209 from reallybigcameras.com.

Three terrific ball-heads

Shown in the photo above:   Linhof Profi III  (big, very expensive, smooth like butta) with a Kirk Enterprises clamp, Arca-Swiss Z1 (the standard in professional ball heads), PhotoClam PC-36NS.


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Wildflower Book Project

Last year, I shared the beginnings of a project with you,  a book documenting the wilflowers that grow at a local buisiness park.  Since I there is not much opportunity to create new wildflower images between November and March, I had planned to begin the book layout in December.  Now February, I am finally piecing together the book layout.

In the past, I have used book layout software provided by the book printer (Mpix, Blurb, PhotoBook America).  This time, I am using Adobe InDesign.  This being the first project of any significant size for which I have used InDesign, I have found that the learning curve was not particularly difficult.  I quite like InDesign.


Here are a couple images that I am including in the book.

The first is a relatively common weed, but I find it very interesting because it looks like small green peppers.  I really like this image because it shows two slightly different stages and because the background is very soft, not distracting from the foregound subject.

Common Verbena

Click on either image for a larger view.
The second image is Common Verbena (which is not particularly common in my experience).  The flowers begin at the bottom of the flower spike and progressively bloom toward the top of the flower spike.  I really like this image because of the somewhat unusual background, which I think is not readily obvious.  There is a pool of water, with trees reflecting in it, and a grassy embankment.
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