Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Photographer On The Web - PART 3 – Blogging Sites and Blogs

Blogs

A Blog, the shortened version of Web Log, is a site that someone runs as their Daily Diary or Log of events or whatever they want to write about. Most Blogs are subject specific and entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. So the newest ‘Blogs’ are at the top.

Blogs are fun to write but can be a lot of work if you want to be successful at it. In order to get a regular following of readers you must Blog either daily or at least a minimum of 3 or 4 times per week. A very well written once-a-week Blog can be successful if expertly done.

The idea here is that you are not part of a community. Rather, you write and tell your story to an audience, often an invisible audience. The hard part is getting an audience. There are millions of un-read blogs on the Internet. So, why do it?
If you have something valuable to say or something to share, someone will find it and get something from it. Bloggers are usually people that want to share something or are just the type of people that like to rant. Sometimes a bit of both.

By properly ‘promoting’ your blog over a longer period of time, it can become very successful and can gather a large group of regular readers.

Pros: Free, Easy to Setup, Not Social, Free to Share Photos, Free to Say What You Want, Full Control, No Hassles

Cons: Not Social, Very Little Interaction

Sites:

Blogger/Blogspot (
http://blogger.com )
Wordpress (
http://wordpress.com )
Livejournal (
http://livejournal.com )
Vox (
http://vox.com )
FotoLog (
http://www.fotolog.com/)
Blog Articles
Photo Blog – Wikipedia Encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photoblog)

© 2008 Francois Cleroux
(Version 1.00 - November 2008)
Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Photographer On The Web - PART 2 – Stock Photography Sites

Microstock Sites

Microstock photography, also known as micropayment photography, is an offshoot of traditional stock photography. What defines a company as a microstock photography company is that they source their images almost exclusively via the Internet, they do so from a wider range of photographers than the traditional stock agencies that include images from "amateurs" and hobbyists, sell their images at a very low rates, anywhere from 10 cents to 10 dollars for a royalty-free images, and generally have no or very low quality standards.

Photographers can upload the same pictures on multiple sites or, with some agencies, become an exclusive supplier and receive an increased commission and additional benefits.

There are no fees to post photos on microstock sites. Some microstock companies do not accept everyone or all photographs and will judge images for technical quality, as well as artistic and commercial merit before submission is allowed.

The mindset of microstock supporters is that quality will prevail and photographers will end up making as much from many small sales as they would from a few large sales on a traditional stock photography site. But some professional photographers believe microstock devalues the practice of photography, since most pictures on microstock sites have been taken by non-professional photographers. Professional photographers see the growth of microstock sites as reducing their own incomes.

Microstock sites are a great place to post your ‘seconds’ or non-subject related images to the type of photography you normally do.

Microstock sites are usually praying on the dreams of photographers wanting to sell their images at any cost. Clients of Microstock sites are usually cheap or Web Based businesses. But, this is not to say that you can’t get great images from Stock Photography Sites.

Usually you can provide lower resolution images.

Pros: Free, Easy to Setup, Some Sales

Cons: Very Little Money to be Made, Can be Lots of Work Uploading and Indexing Images and can be a Duplication of your Web Site, Usually Royalty Free, May Loose the Rights to Your Images

Sites:

FotoSearch (
http://www.fotosearch.com)
SnapVillage (http://snapvillage.com)
BigStockPhoto (
http://www.bigstockphoto.com)
Fotolia (
http://www.fotolia.com)
Shutterstock (
http://www.shutterstock.com)
iStockPhoto (
http://istockphoto.com)
DreamsTime (
http://www.dreamstime.com)

Stock Agencies

Agencies are different that fly-by-night Microstock Web Sites. Many have been around for many decades and they now have a presence on the Internet. These are highly regarded companies that have a large clientele of excellent Art Designers and Directors that purchase images on behalf of their own clients. Their clients usually have much more money and much larger budgets than people buying art on Microstock sites.

Images are filed at an agency that negotiates licensing fees on the photographer's behalf in exchange for a percentage. Pricing is determined by size of audience or readership, how long the image is to be used, country or region where the images will be used and whether royalties are due to the image creator or owner. Often, an image can be licensed for less than $200 or up to several thousand for larger commercial campaigns.

With Rights Managed stock photography an individual licensing agreement is negotiated for each use. Royalty-free stock photography offers a photo buyer the ability to use an image in an unlimited number of ways for a single license fee. The client may, however, request "exclusive" rights, preventing other customers from using the same image for a specified length of time or in the same industry. Such sales can command many thousands of dollars, both because they tend to be high-exposure and because the agency is gambling that the image would not have made more money had it remained in circulation. However, with royalty free licensing there is no option for getting exclusive usage rights. This keeps many high level designers and ad agencies away from Microstock sites.

Stock Photography sites are a great place to post your ‘best’ photos and your non-subject related images to the type of photography you normally do. Usually you will need to provide higher resolution images.

Pros: Free, Good Sales if You Have Great Images, Usually Rights-Managed

Cons: Can be Lots of Work Uploading and Indexing Images and can be a Duplication of your Web Site, Photographers Approval Process, Image Approval Process

Sites:

GettyImages (
http://www.gettyimages.com)
Alamy (
http://www.alamy.com)
PaiNet (
http://www.painetworks.com)

Art Stock Sites

There are some great sites that sell Stock Art that includes Photography. However some also sell products. RedBubble.com for example sells shirts, posters, prints, calendars and so on. This can increase sales and very often the profits can be much better.

Internet users can check out the sites, all the images including your own images and then they can order a T-Shirt or Mouse Pad. The company will produce, guarantee and ship the product to the end user. They will then send you payment.

Pros: Fun, Free, Easy to Setup, Better Profits than Microstock Sites

Cons: Lots of competition, No Quality Control.

Sites:

Red Bubble (
http://www.redbubble.com)
DeviantArt (
http://www.deviantart.com)

Warning about Stock Sites

Read ALL the rules. Read ALL the user Agreements. Read ALL the EULA’s (End User License Agreements). Read ALL the site Policies. Read ALL the Fine Print. Know your Rights. Know the LAW.

Your Images – Are your Images sold to the site so that they own it forever? If you leave the site, do you give them the right to continue to sell your images without paying you any fees or royalties? (Some sites keep the rights to your images when you leave.) Are you giving them the right to use your images for ‘their own’ purposes?

Image Licensing – Are your images sold ‘Royalty Free’, with Limited Rights or with Managed Rights?

Royalty Free images are sold for a simple onetime fee. The purchaser is then allowed to use that image as often as they want for the company that purchased that image. Are they allowed to re-sell the image?? They could use it in a Calendar that they sell thousands of every year for the next twenty years. Or perhaps they could use it for a bunch of different magazine ads or book covers.

Limited Rights images are sold with some rules attached. These rules can be hard to manage and harder to enforce but they can give you a lot of protection. Perhaps they are sold for ‘Internet Use’ only. If you ever saw a book with you photo on the cover you may have the right to sue the company.

Managed-Rights images are usually sold for a ‘One Time’ use or a ‘Limited Time’ campaign like a Spring Time Advertising Campaign. Or, they could be used for a Single Book Cover for one writer and any promotional material for that book. This is usually handled by the Stock Agency.

Your Rights – What are your rights? Will you ever lose them? What if you leave? What about image rights that have already been sold? You need to know what your rights are.

Payments – How will you be paid? Will you ever be paid? Are there minimums before payments are made? Do payments expire after a certain period if you do not reach your minimum payment amount?

I have not done your homework here and it is possible that some sites I have listed here may be rip-off sites, so please check them out carefully before using them.

Keep your best, post the rest.

Stock Photography Articles

How To Make Money From Stock Photography - DIYPhotography.net (http://www.diyphotography.net/how-to-make-money-from-micro-stock-photography)

Make Money With Micro Stock Photography – USAToday.com (http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/kimkomando/2007-06-21-microstock-photography_N.htm)

© 2008 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - November 2008)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Photographer On The Web - PART 1 – Social Networking Sites

Social sites are groups or communities of people that join for the social aspects. They are ‘gathering’ sites for families or friends. People will meet to chat or share information or even music, videos and photos.

These sites are generally not Moderated. Moderated sites are those whose rules and guidelines are enforced by a Moderator. Rules like language can be moderated but even off topic chat can be disallowed.

Pros: Free, Easy to Set Up, Very Social, Can Share Photos

Cons: Very Social, Too many bad photos, Basic or No Moderation, No Rules

Sites:

Facebook (
http://www.Facebook.com)
MySpace (
http://www.MySpace.com)
Friendster (
http://www.friendster.com)
Bebo (
http://www.bebo.com)

Basic Photography Communities

These are generally nothing more than Social Sites that have a ‘Photography’ theme. By gathering a large group of people that share a common interest, it can make the social aspects easier for some by providing a starting point or a common ground from which to start discussions and chat.

These communities attract members from all over the world. This can be a great experience but can also have drawbacks. These communities are more suited for the average photographer but the social users and ‘photo snappers’ tend to get in the way if your real interests are photography.

This is where many ‘Photo Artists’ and ‘Casual Snappers’ Gather. These sites are usually about the subject matter of a photo, art and feelings rather than about quality. These people will critique your image and usually the general consensus will be that your images are all great. Your very blurry, out of focus, poorly composed photo of your new kittens will be critiqued as excellent and oh so cute!

Pros: Free, Easy to Setup, Very Social, Some Learning, Free to Share Photos, A Few Great Photos, Some Moderation, Some Rules

Cons: Very Social, Very Soft Critiques, Some “Wrong” Learning, Too much Junk (Personal and Bad Photos), Artists, Some Sites are not Moderated, Lots of Bickering

Sites:

Flickr (
http://www.flickr.com)
Photobucket (
http://photobucket.com)
PhotoCamel (
http://photocamel.com)

Advanced or Pro Photography Communities

These sites are dedicated to photographers, Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced Photographers alike that share a common goal of learning and becoming better photographers or what I would call the “Art of Photography”.

These sites are usually concerned about the quality of an image first, and then about the subject matter and artistic qualities. These sites usually have more subject specific discussions groups and more photography specific forums. The quality of the discussions and forums are usually much better as these sites are usually Moderated and do have rules and guidelines.

Pros: Free (sometimes pay), Easy to Setup (Or can me more complex if you want it to look very good), Social, Great Place to Learn, Free to Share Photos, Many Great Photos, Great Articles and Reviews, Tons of Professional Help, Moderated, Rules

Cons: Not So Social, Critiques can be brutally honest, Pay to Share More Photos (can also be a good thing), More Ego and Attitudes

Sites:

Photo.net (
http://www.photo.net)
EyeFetch (
http://www.eyefetch.com)
PBase (http://pbase.com)
PhotoSig (
http://www.photosig.com)

Problems with Networking or Photo Community Sites in General

These sites tend to be very generic and draw very large crowds from all over the world and from all walks of life. Very Poor photographers from third world countries, money is no object professionals from big towns, artist with attitudes and grandmothers wanting to share photos of their grandchildren are only but a small part of the mix.

Add to this the different racial and ethnic groups along with the incompatible language skills and problems will arise. Someone will take something the wrong way or someone will send an insult. Egos, attitudes and Snobbery play a big part and also lead to trouble.

Simply speaking up about broken rules or lending a helping hand can get you into trouble or on someone’s wrong side.

On MyShutterSpace.com I used to try to warn people when they broke the profanity or no posting nude photos rules so that these individuals would not get kicked off the site by the owners if they were caught. I would usually end up getting yelled at and told to mind my own business. Then I started a “Report The Offenders Policy”. Yes, I was a fink!

The breaking of the rules on Web Sites leads to their demise. What made MyShutterSpace.com a great site slowly eroded over time because ALL the rules were broken by many members. Once most members finally caught on, it was too late to do anything about it. The offenders outnumbered the non offenders and the members with the laisser faire attitudes. The laisser faire attitude members also supported having non photography enthusiasts.

In the last three months many of the best photographers, teachers and active members have left MyShutterSpace.com or are no longer active and have moved on to other sites. It is vital and important that rules be in place and that they be adhered to in order to keep the integrity of a web site.

© 2008 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - November 2008)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Photographer on the Web - Introduction

This is the first of an 8 Part Article that I will post over the next few day. It is actually a lecture that I am giving at ArtShots as a Power Point Presentation.

As a photographer you may have many reasons for wanting to get on the Web or the ‘Internet’. You may want to socialize and share images with friends, family or other photographers. You may want to go somewhere to learn or perhaps even may just want to help others out. You may be interested in selling Stock Images, Gallery Art Images or your images privately or you may simply want to have a presence on the Internet, your business card and portfolio as it were. Or, perhaps, you may simply want to Blog for personal or business reasons.

Whichever the case, there are thousands of sites already designed for all these purposes. What types of sites are they, what are they for and how do they differ? There are social sites, photography sites for various levels of photography and sites for very specific aspects of photography. Many are fun and great places to learn and others are less social but more professional and higher standards of quality are promoted. There are even rip-off sites and sites designed just to infect you computer!

Stock Photography sites and commerce sites abound for the photographer; can you actually make money from such sites?

If you blog, will people read it? Or, will they even see it?

Which site or sites are right for you? Should you be on just one site or many sites? Are you just wanting to have fun, wanting to have a general presence or wanting to establish a Commercial or Gallery Site? I’ll try to answer some of these questions and I will share some personal experiences along the way.

When I list some sites, note that there are many others. I list some that are popular, but I may or may not have used them.

First a Warning!

Viruses – Surfing the Internet in this day and age can be a dangerous and expensive thing. By merely going onto a site you can get a Virus, Malware or a Trojan. They now come in all shapes and variations and a Trojan may even hijack your system or worse may hold you hostage by stealing your data and demanding money to get the information back. Make sure you have current updated non expired Anti Virus Software. Also make sure you have current updated Anti Spyware Software.

For those of you here that think you are secure because you have a MAC, think again. In the past 18 months, there have been more security issues that have affected MACs than PCs. Because of the growing popularity of MACs in business and because MAC users are generally NOT protected at all, MAC users have become the fastest growing target of Hackers! If you want to question me on these statements, please come and see me after the talk, but just so you know, Corporate Computer Security and Viruses is what I do for a living.

Privacy and Security – I was on a site where a young adult woman was stalked and harassed. Please think twice about giving your full name or real last name. Give a state or nearby town as opposed to a full address. Keep this in mind at all times for you or your children.

Sarah Palin’s private Yahoo Mail Account was hacked weeks before the election because of personal and private information that she had posted on the web. School information and other personal information allowed hackers to gather easy to find information and then to use that information to answer Security questions that allowed them to retrieve her password. Her password “popcorn” was retrieved by simply answering her security question “Where did you meet your spouse?” A simple Google search retrieved the answer.

A tip on passwords – Never use the same password, perhaps change it based on the sites name. Use a completely different and more secure password for any and all commerce sites.

Simple Passwords – JamesBondM or JamesBondF

More Secure Passwords – S3cur3B@nk~08 or C@nucks4Ever2oo8

A tip on Security Questions – Always use the same “Secret Password” for any question or at least never use a real answer! What is your first Pets name? Answer – JamesBond007. What is your favorite movie? Answer – JamesBond007. What is your social Insurance Number? Answer - JamesBond007.

I pass this information on not to scare you, but rather to make you aware of the dangers.

© 2008 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - November 2008)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Field Trip 'Zoo'

When you were a little kid a field trip to the zoo was always special. A chance to get close and personal with wild creatures was always welcomed as a child.

Giraffe3835

As we get older, sometimes we just don't get to the zoo. We may even have reasons not to go, 'I'm busy' or perhaps, 'Oh, I've been there a hundred times'.
If you haven't been to the zoo I would suggest you check it out again. Not only are the animals wonderful and fun to see as an adult with a different view on life and creatures than the eyes of a child, they are great to see through photographer's eyes.

Gazelle3760

On my recent trip to Hawaii, I had a chance to spend a morning at the Honolulu Zoo. I had a great time there seeing all the animals and birds and I even had a better time capturing them all in photographs.

When I shoot photos of animals I always work hard to try to capture their essence, their 'wild' in wild animal. The best way to do that is to not capture any human elements. By removing these elements you can make the photo appear to have been taken in the wild.

Zebra3937

One way to accomplish this is by getting close to the animal, either physically or with a zoom lens. This does two things, one it will on its own remove human elements to the photo but the best part of these 'close' images is that it will show the viewer the great details that only by getting close and personal with the animals will you be able to see. This was the reason for going to the zoo in the first place.

In the series of photos I have posted here, you cannot see any human elements. I have printed them in Black & White to bring out details.
 
Rhino3794

The image of the Black Rhinoceros recently won an honourable mention at a recent competition. The judge loved the image, loved the B&W and the details. Printed at 12 x 16 inches, the details in the skin and other areas are incredible. He also commented on how good it looked so close 'not' showing the usual entire horn. By backing away to show the entire horn, the details of being so close would have been lost.

The zoo was quite wonderful and well designed. Most animal had fairly large areas in which to roam, all but the elephants whom were chained in a small pen. Although this saddened me greatly, I was very happy to see that they had a very large new area that they were soon going to be moved to that would allow them to roam freely.

Elephant3544

The image of the Elephant, even a chained one, could be that of a wild animal. Again, no human touch. The image shows the elephant spraying himself (herself?) with dirt. This image is a quick B&W that I have not had time to manipulate properly and so a bit of detail is lost in the highlights. Another project for another day when I'm not at the zoo.

Hope you enjoyed these images and hope they inspire you to get out to the zoo.

© 2008 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - November 2008)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Little Mice That Could

When you are using your computer and more specifically when using your computer for editing photos, you need a mouse. The mouse is one of those highly overlooked items at our desks.

Often, we have very old mice that are still being used, perhaps some old ball mouse that you got when you purchased your computer. Or, perhaps you went out and purchased a new mouse but did so without doing your 'photo editing' with a mouse' research.

I have three, well ok, four mice that I love and use. My main mouse is the Logitech MX Revolution. This is a wireless mouse that is high precision with great programmable features. The two things I love about this mouse is the free spin scroll wheel and the comfort of the overly large but very ergonomic mouse. This mouse comes with the standard small plug-in wireless dongle for your computer.

LogitechMXRevo

The MX Revolution also comes in a Bluetooth version which I love to bring along with a laptop when I know I'll need to do a lot of photo editing. The Bluetooth version is great for la[tops as the do not require a dongle on any Bluetooth enabled laptops.

Booth the MX Revolutions will work as portable mice even though they are booth a little large for travel. A proper travel mouse will have an On and Off switch so that the batteries will not drain from the mouse being activated with every small bump of your laptop bag. Both these mice are good for short hauls only however as the built in batteries will not last more than a few days with heavy use.

For those wanting a great true travel mouse, Logitech offers the exceptional VX Nano. This is a true travel mouse in that it has an On and Off switch, is small and compact yet easy to use even with larger hands and is battery operated with 2 AAA batteries that last a long time. Use good Lithium batteries and they should last a four week trip. This mouse comes with the best USB radio dongle around for your laptop. It is a very small tiny dongle that only sticks out of the USB port by about 1.5 mm and can usually just be left in the laptop. As it does not stick out, your laptop can be easily inserted and removed from its case without fear of breaking or loosing the dongle. This great mouse also comes wit a small storage zippered pouch.


On my recent trip to Hawaii I tried to keep electronics to a minimum because of all the camera gear I was bringing along. I brought my new HP Mini PC that is very small and compact yet has a full sized keyboard. I did not need to do any photo editing but did want the laptop for Internet access for mail and posting blogs as well as for Media Storage Backup. I wrote about this new Mini PC in a previous post and will shortly post a proper review. However, in keeping with the whole minimalist approach I purchased a new mouse just before my trip.

My laptop as does many new laptops uses a 5/4 card slot as opposed to the standard PCMCIA expansion slots. This new new mouse is the MoGo Presenter X54 Bluetooth mouse. This mouse is very thing and fits right into the 5/4 expansion slot. It has a built in rechargeable battery that charges when the mouse is inserted into your expansion slot.

Even though this mouse is thin, there is a click out base that holds the mouse at an angle (as pictured) and the mouse becomes easy and comfortable to use. The mouse also has a scroll slider in between the two normal buttons that also doubles as a wireless multi media remote for presentations.

I used this mouse extensively for my whole trip as did my wife and we both loved it. The only downside I found with this mouse is the limited size rechargeable battery only last a few hours if heavily used.

© 2008 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - November 2008)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

What Did I Do?

Whenever I look at new toys, electronic gadgets, I usually do a lot of homework before I buy them. I check them out thoroughly, I check them out on-line and if I can find a magazine or two with a review or write up, I'll do that also. I also always check out competing products so that I can make an informed decision.

Last year at this time I went to Australia. A few days before my trip I purchased, spur of the moment, a new small portable tripod the Slik Sprint Pro GM. I remember quickly checking it out. The head wasn't very good but I had already purchased an excellent small Giottos MH-1001 Pro Medium Ball Head with Independent Panning Lock and Built-in MH652 Quick Release (Supports 17.6 lbs). The tripod appeared to have what I was looking for.

It was small at 18.9 inches with thin 4 section aluminium legs that extended to about 64 inches. The legs spread at varying angles using a funny leg lock mechanism (see photo) and can get very low to the ground. The tripod is light at just under 2 pounds with its original head and just over with the Giottos head. Its centre column can be adjusted and even inverted so you can mount the camera upside down. The centre column tightens up with a column tightening ring and also has a quick lock mechanism that uses a 'wing nut'. It seemed perfect.

LockIn
In Locked Position

Travelling with it to Australia and this past week to Hawaii was no problem. It easily fits into any standard travel luggage. Its small size also allows it to fit snuggly against my Lowepro Rolling CompuTrekker Plus AW Camera Bag.

Problem is, it has several problems. Ok, I do know this tripod was not designed for a DSLR camera but the legs appear to be much more flexible than some other smaller tripods I have since checked out since I purchased this one. With the camera mounted and a standard type zoom lens (Canon EF L 24 - 105mm) the tripod wobbles a lot. Manually pressing the shutter mechanism will cause the camera to start to wobble and it will continue to do so for more than 2 seconds.

This is with all legs fully extended but the centre column not extended. Everything is locked down tight. To compensate for this problem I use the 10 second timer on the camera. The 2 second timer just doesn't do it.

On my Australia trip, I had a funny thing that happened and thought it was just me, something I had done. I had one of the funny leg lock mechanisms not locked into place and the camera almost went flying as the leg started heading out. At the time I thought that this was something I had done, or perhaps not checked on.

I value all my equipment and at the time this event bothered me. I since always checked these locking mechs and several times now this week found that they wobble their way loose. Simply by spreading the legs out and back in several times, these locking mechs pull themselves out until they no longer lock the leg in place at the setting you want. This could be a disaster waiting to happen.

I have since played with the locking mechanisms and checked them out. Yes, they will work their way loose on their own. I tried all three legs and found that two of the three leg locks have problems. One of the locks is very much a problem and only after spreading the legs a few times, in and out, that the locking mech works its way out. One leg I played with for a long time before it worked its way out. The other leg I could not get the lock to go loose. Obviously a design flaw.

LockOut
Un-locked Position (Un-locked all the way for demonstration)

And finally today, I thought the centre column wing-nut worked its way loose or perhaps I hadn't tightened it properly as the camera crashed down (only and inch) as the column dropped as far as it could go to the end. Turns out that the wing-nut is stripped and cannot be tightened!!

Today I checked out this tripod on-line and looked at the reviews on Amazon.com. The reviews are good with all 5 stars. But, reading the reviews showed that they were mostly posted within a week or so of members getting their tripods and some people just suggesting that it looks good with no real world tests performed.

Well, real world tests are always the best. In this case I would suggest that this tripod is not good for use with a DSLR or ANY other camera even a point and shoot as the locks work their way loose on their own simply by just using the tripod with or without any camera attached to it. I would not risk my gear with this tripod and I will no longer use it after this trip. I will be very cautious with it in the mean time. I do not recommend the Slik Sprint Pro GM tripod.

The lesson here may be to properly check out equipment before you buy it. Although in this case it may not have helped as easy to find reviews on the unit are fairly good. Digging deeper on the net revealed others with similar problems. Perhaps not being in a rush I would of found this information out before purchase and could have found better choices. In the future I may purchase a new travel tripod, or I may just bring my bigger trusted Gitzo GT2530 LVL Series 2 6X Carbon Fiber 3-Section Leveling Tripod with G-Lock and Giottos MH-1000-500 Large Ball Head with Independent Panning Lock and Built-in MH652 Quick Release which Supports 22 lbs. It has never failed me and it is rock solid.

© 2008 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - November 2008)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Is My Lens Bokeh?

I recently replied to a question on a photography community site about "What lens do you like for good Bokeh?" My reply prompted a ton of discussion about what Bokeh is.

Many photographers had posted sample photos of their lenses that apparently showed Bokeh. Some photos showed nothing more than a subject in the foreground and a blurry background with the slightest of variation. A few even had completely solid single color backgrounds that were blurred out where you could not even see what I call Bokeh.

I argued that these photos did not show Bokeh well and thus the lenses could not properly be judged. The solid lines with high contrast that will display Bokeh properly were not there. How could you judge a solid blurry green background as having a lens that softly and evenly blurs. Even the worst of lenses on a solid background would give you nice soft even tones.

Other photos showed what I thought were good examples such as this great photo from Robert Gulotta "Wine Glasses" (Posted with permission).

Robert_Gulotta_Wine_Glasses
Robert Gulotta "Wine Glasses" - www.momentsphotographers.com

The bright circular spots or sparkles that have sharp contrasting edges can display Bokeh much better. Here if you look at the lower left hand side, the dark black area shows a nice soft transition as you move up and to the right without any distortion. This shows a lens with great Bokeh.

In this next photo by Matthew Brennan "Purple Iris" (Posted with permission), the Bokeh is still rather good but the spots are not as soft and the shapes are irregular. This odd shape is caused by a non round lens iris. Usually these shapes are caused by irises that use very few straight blades. Some irises will use more blades to keep the opening round and others will curve the shape of the iris blades to help create a round opening.

Matthew_Brennan_Purple_Iris
Matthew Brennan "Purple Iris"

The spots themselves are cause by a light source that is smaller than the lens opening itself. All sorts of small light sources from pin point reflections, small light bulbs and even a thin line high contrast hard edge of a blade of grass will cause Bokeh. The larger the opening or aperture, the larger and softer the spots will be. So typically, a very fast lens with an aperture of f/2.0 or f/2.8 will have a larger opening and better Bokeh than an f/3.5 or f/4.0 lens.

Some guidelines for what will create Bokeh keeping in mind that all lenses will create it.

- Larger Apertures
- Larger Front Lens Elements
- Aspherical Lenses more than Spherical Lenses
- Diffractive Optics Lenses more than Aspherical Lenses
- Shorter Lens to Subject Distances
- Greater Subject to Background Distances
- Smaller or Sharper Background Light Sources from Lights, Reflections or High Contrast Subjects

All lenses will create this Bokeh effect, some more than others. And although it may look good and interesting at first glance, generally it only becomes distracting and undesirable. There are a few exceptions, wine glasses at a wedding are a good example.

The discussions on the sites turned into a "What is Bokeh?" discussion. Some professionals agreed with what I had to say and yet other professionals suggested it was only the blur. Which is it?

Now that I have shown you what I think Bokeh is, I will share with you the 'literal' Japanese translation, the 'literal' definition of the word Bokeh, and the 'intended' use of the word Bokeh.

The word Bokeh, pronounced bo k-eh, as in BO and Ke in Kenneth, comes from the Japanese word 'boke' (ぼけ) meaning "blur". But, then that is a very literal definitions as the Japanese word can also mean 'dull', 'not sharp', 'faded' and even 'dim witted'. This is the translation to the word boke, not Bokeh.

So now that we know the word means 'blur' should we assume that Bokeh refers only to the blurry parts of a photo? The answer is NO. We can say this for two reasons. One is that the word 'Boke" means 'blur', which is the root of the word Bokeh. Bokeh was a word that was developed specifically for photography to describe; 'the aesthetic quality of blur in photography' or 'the way a lens renders the out-of-focus or blurry objects'. These are two of many similar descriptions found in many photography magazines, books and well respected web sites.

Note the second part here, how it renders out-of-focus areas, and not 'is the out of focus areas'. So, the soft blurring of out focus areas are just that, blur, or out of focus. The Bokeh, is how the blur renders objects. As per my discussion above, this is best shown with light sources or smaller high contrast objects.

So there you have it, you can now decide what you think Bokeh is. Different lenses will have different Bokeh based on three factors, the aperture, the quality of the lens including the iris, and the actual lens design or rather optics of the lens. For example, Diffractive Optics Lenses tend to give much better magnification with smaller and lighter lenses. But, the optics design of these lenses usually cause bad Bokeh and even exaggerated Bokeh that will show up where other lenses would not show Bokeh.

For a little more on this, you can check out this .PDF file of Bokeh ratings on various lenses. It is somewhat subjective but a good read.

Lens Bokeh Ratings by Mike Johnston

© 2008 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - November 2008)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hello Waikiki


In an earlier post I wrote about travelling with photography equipment. Using my LowePro SlingShot AW 300 bag (love it) was going to be too small for all the gear I wanted to bring. Using my trusty Tamrac Expedition 7 Bag was kind of bulky with large straps and waist belts t carry on. I also didn't want to carry all that gear on my shoulders while at the airport.

Clouds
(All photos taken from my hotel room balcony)

I did a lot of searching for a 'travel' bag that would meet the following criteria; Large enough to carry the gear I wanted to bring including my Laptop, Shoulder straps and waist belt for lugging around hillsides or volcanoes if required, wheels and an extension handle for 'rolling' around, and a bag that would meet the airline carry-on bag requirements. After a lot of on-line studying at various sites I decided on the Lowepro Rolling CompuTrekker Plus AW Camera.

_MG_1732

After spending some time with the CompuTrekker Bag at home and playing with a ton of accessories and making decisions on what to bring, I was able to bring everything I wanted to bring. I also had no problems at the YVR International Airport and the rolling bag was great to pull around the airport. Despite all my gear, spare batteries, cables, and a laptop, going through security was a breeze.

I attribute this partly to luck with the security but the bag was great to work with and to wheel around the airport. On the plane the bag easily rolled down the isles and easily fit in the overhead compartment.

_MG_1696

I haven't had a chance to test the bag out as a pack yet and will report on that soon. But for now, I'll just say this is a great travel bag with lots of room and yet small enough to use as carry-on.

Here is a list of the gear I brought along:

Camera
-
Canon EOS 50D 15.1MP Digital SLR Camera w/ Canon BG-E2N Battery Grip
Lenses
- Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Wide Angle with Hood
- Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Standard Zoom with Hood
- Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM Compact Telephoto Zoom with Hood
- Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM with Hood
- Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II USM Portrait with Hood
- Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Super Telephoto (Hood built-in)
- Canon EF 1.4X II Extender

Lighting
- Speedlite 580EX II Flash
- Flash X-Tender (Better Beamer) FX-3 Flash Output Booster
- SunPak Diffuser Kit Pro DFU-01
- Canon Off-Camera Cord
- 12 AA Rechargeable Batteries and Charger

Filters
- 58mm Expodisc White Balance Filter
- 58mm & 77mm Rodenstock HR Digital UV Filter
- 58mm & 77mm Rodenstock HR Digital Polarizing Filter
- 72mm Hoya SUPER HMC PRO1 Haze UV(0) Filter
- 77mm Hoya 4X (0.6) Neutral Density Glass Filter
- 77mm Hoya 9x Neutral Density ND-400 X, 9 Stop Multi-Coated Glass Filter
- Adorama Filter Case

Media- 4 SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition Compact Flash 8 Gig Memory Cards
- 2 SanDisk Ultra IV Compact Flash 8 Gig Memory Card

Accessories- Canon Leather Wrist Strap
- Phottix Wireless Remote Trigger
- LensPens cleaning kit
- Three Way Bubble Level
- Giottos Large Blower
-
Microdear Microfiber Deluxe Cleaning Cloth
Computer
- HP Mini PC Laptop with extended battery
- Power cord
- Mogo 5/4 BlueTooth Cordless Mouse
- 5/4 Compact Flash Card Reader


I also brought my small tripod and Giottos head but had put that in my large check-in bag. There is a tripod attachment to attach a tripod to the bag but I did not want to try bringing it on to the plane for security reasons. All that gear all fit with room for a few more accessories!

© 2008 Francois Cleroux

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Monday, November 3, 2008

On Perfect Exposure

I wrote a short article to just explain what exposure is, how it works and how it relates to ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed, "Apertures, Shutter Speeds, ISO and Exposures Oh My!" and in the following article "A Quality Affair" I went on describing how exposure is vital to creating a high quality image.

Perhaps I didn't explain well, or perhaps it is one of those 'understood' things that I didn't mention, but someone made the statements "I always found the exposure as a very subjective aspect in photography. Theoretically I don't believe in the concept of a good exposure. We can talk about a correct exposure from a technical point of view but since the exposure is so subjective, what you might think is correct for a particular subject could be entirely different for someone else". This led me to review and think about what I stated in those articles.

Here I will make a statement; "Perfect Exposure is NOT subjective." It can be precisely measured with scientific methods. The reader is probably referring to two possible options here when he refers to "exposure being subjective".

The first being that the tone that the final images takes is subjective. Tone, here referring to how light or how dark the image is supposed to look. A good example is a twilight shot where perhaps the final image should mostly look dark. A perfectly exposed version of this would not come out 18% gray. Properly exposed for that specific scene the image would come out looking dark as it did in real life. This is not subjective.

The second option is that he may be referring to "Artistic" judgement. Perhaps an artist may want to take on an artistic trait that always has their images slightly over exposed. The key here is that it is over exposed. The image may even look better over exposed. But, if he is showing the image as is was shot, then it is 'properly exposed'.

How can I say that? Lets go back to our night scene where perhaps we have a lone smoker waiting for a bus under a street light at night. We want to capture the scene that includes the dark street with a few light stands and want to capture the fine details of the cigarette smoke. What exposure are we to use? Using the cameras built in average meter will not do it for us. Perhaps we decide that the smokers face should be exposed so that it is clear and well defined. Using a spot meter we get a base exposure and then we take five shots as follows; -2EV, -1EV, 0EV, +1EV and +2EV.

We now have five images that are all perfectly exposed! But again, wait before stating "How can you say that". Each image is exposed perfectly to show what the camera has captured. When viewing the five images the photographer can choose the image that best captures what the scene looked like. Conversely, the hidden 'artist' in the photographer may decide that the slightly darker image best shows the mood of the image he captured. The -1EV image is perfectly exposed for the image he selected.

Here the photographer had a choice between two perfectly exposed images, one darker than the other lighter one, but both were perfectly exposed.

So what am I talking about then? A non-perfectly exposed image would have been the 0EV image that was darkened digitally so that it looked like the -1EV image. That process of manipulating the image and changing it will cause exposure and color clipping that will cause you to loose valuable details and will introduce more noise.

Now, artistically and photographically an image can just look badly over or underexposed as for what the human brain thinks it shouls be seeing. Getting that right is partly artistically based but mostly it is an aquired and learned skill.

So, when I speak about correct or perfect exposure, it is based on the photographer capturing an image perfectly as the photographer or artist wants it. If we took the -1EV image and the 0EV image that was manipulated to look like the -1EV image and had them both analyzed, the properly exposed -1EV image would be sharper with better tonal range and less noise than the manipulated 0EV image. This would not be subjective.

© 2008 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.11 - October 2008)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Seeing Red, er rather

. . . Seeing Red

Everyday life can sometimes be a little gray. In all honesty its usually 18% gray. We see wonderful scenes and spectacular views through photography. Many times though, these images are are a little dull. Not the image itself, but the color, the overall scope of colors with little or no highlights or shadows or any complimentary colors.

These images can be a variety of scenes. Gray street scenes or perhaps great green landscapes. Although the image itself looks great, there often seems to be something missing, lacking or perhaps just not right.

As photographers and artists we will run to colors to brighten up dull images. We can add bright colorful elements to the images by way of objects or subjects. We can re-compose the image to include other items or landmarks. We can even get into the digital lab and dress it up with new colors.

When color is needed we often turn to the color red. Red is a photographers best friend. There are even jokes about red, "When in doubt, add a red canoe".

Recently someone asked me to critique some of their photos and they had a spectacular rock climbing photo with a climber nearing the crest of a great cliff face. The image was taken from above but also from behind as if there was another cliff twenty or thirty feet away and the photographer was above and looking towards the cliff face the climber was scaling. The image taken with a wide angle lens showed the climber atop the photo. The rope was visible all the way down and and at the bottom you could see a spotter helping out with the rope management. Everything was well exposed and focused. The colors were good, that is the gray rock face was prominent, there were some bright green trees and shrubs down below. Both the spotter and climber were wearing bright yellow.

In asking for critique the photographer stated that the imaged just didn't look right. He was trying to get his image published and this shot was just not perfect for him. The climbing spot was local and he could go re-shoot if he had to.

I looked at the image for some time. Looked at all the elements in the photo. Checked out the composition. Everything looked great. But he was right, it just didn't seem as spectacular as it should be considering it appeared perfect.

'Click', the light went on. A thought occurred to me and so I launched Photoshop. Using the trusty 'Replace Color' tool I changed all the bright yellow of the climbers clothing to 'Red'. Voila! The image immediately looked better as my original thought suggested it might.

But why? Why was the red better than the yellow? I checked out the image and noticed that the yellow clashed a little with the green of the trees. The yellow was also a little dull compared to all the gray cliff face that dominated the image.

I then decided to check through some old magazines and books and found samples of images and realized that in many cases when the overall image or scene is rather dull, the best stand out color appears to be red. Although yellow is a rather bright color, it is not a sharp contrast to dull grays and clashes with greens. Blues and other colors also just don't seem to be as good as red. Why?

A groundbreaking study by two University of Rochester psychologists published online Oct. 28 by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology adds color, literally, to the age-old question of what attracts men to women. Many women of all shapes and sizes and ethnic backgrounds. Many were even well known faces such as movies stars. The interesting thing that was done is that most of the women appeared several times within the study sessions but in each case the women wore a different colored dress. You can guess where I am going here, It was scientifically proven that men preferred the color red more than any other color.

I guess, there is something about that 'Lady in Red'. It would be interesting to do similar studies with women showing how they react to color on the opposite sex. It would also be interesting to see how people, men and women reacted with different subjects, perhaps red, yellow, green and blue canoes.

© 2008 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.01 - November 2008)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.