Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mall on Fire

Sometimes days just go like that. My wife calls me up and asks where my afternoon meeting is supposed to be. When I ask why she's asking she tells me the Mall is on fire! So I grab my camera and head out . . .

Driving up to the Town Centre Mall in Tsawwassen British Columbia you could see smoke from a fair distance away. I could hear sirens and I even spotted a helicopter in the sky. Arriving at the mall I quickly parked and headed to the action.

Smoke was already everywhere and firefighters were already hard at work.

Check out the glass like ripples just above the flames.

Heading back into the action.

With the British Columbia Provincial Elections coming around, even our local Liberal Candidate past Attorney General Wally Oppal was on hand campaigning.

By this point smoke was everywhere and I was inhaling some of it.

The police were on hand to help with crowd control.

This last photo I took on the way out as I had to go to a meeting I had scheduled. While shooting I did have a run in with a Fire Chief. He didn't want me taking photos. He even threatened to call the police over. I invited him to call them and told him I would be at the front by the police and that they could just wait for me there.

This Fire Chief showed up 15 or 20 minutes later but by then there were two other photographers with me and when I pointed him out to the photographers, he was a little more polite.

I will dedicate a whole blog on this incident and photographers rights in Canada in the future. For now I hope you enjoyed the images.

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - April 2009)

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Large Format (Part 2)

So you read my last blog and you think that perhaps 'Large Format' may be for you. The intrigue of these cameras and of days gone by are very appealing. Add the allure of the great craftsmanship found in these old wooden cameras like the Zone VI that are no longer available and it can be a techies or collectors dream world.

But, is this right for you? First off, large format photography is very different than modern day digital photography. You don't just head out to do some shooting with your view camera. You find your shoot locations, you plan ahead for what type of weather you want and decide at what hour of the day to shoot. Essentially, you pre-plan your whole shoot and wait for the perfect day.

When that perfect day arrives you pack up all your gear, load your sheet film holders with film which may only be a total of 10 exposures lest you buy many more film holders and you head out. Upon arrival you will probably need to lug all this heavy and bulky equipment out to the specific location you had pre-selected. Oh and did I say this equipment is big and heavy?

AnselAdams
Ansel Adams 16x20" Print - Mt. McKinley and Wonder Lake
www.anseladams.com

While winding your way up the trail to get to that perfect shoot location you will be cursing inside but the peace and tranquility of your surroundings will keep your mind calm. Once you reach your destination it begins . . . the lengthy process of setting up a view camera.

Haul out the tripod, extend the legs and anchor it down properly. Attach the camera to the tripod and unfold it into shape. Depending on the camera you may now need to attach the lens. You'll need to attach your shade hood and your shutter release cable. Now the fun begins, setting up the camera itself.

Setting up a view camera properly is an art form in itself. Its a lot of work doing it properly so that you can create a perfect image. You can take a full weekend course or even buy several books on the subject. Here is where you optimize your Tilts & Shifts on both your film plane and lens plane. 10 to 20 minutes later you may just about be ready to take your first shot. But wait, you still need to focus.

The framing and focusing process is a little wonky. First, everything is upside down and so framing takes a little getting used to. Once framed properly you then need to focus. Without a view finder or an LCD display you need to stick your head under a shade so that you can clearly see the ground glass focusing plate. To get that perfect focus, you will probably use your trustworthy loupe.

But now you remember that you only have 10 exposures of film with you. You probably want to wait until the lighting is perfect or the clouds are moved to a better position. Its now time to bring out a good book or perhaps your digital camera and wait for that opportune moment.

You'll waste away an entire morning taking just ten shots. Perhaps all from the same location or perhaps from a few different vantage points. All the efforts will seem to be worth it at this point. You had a great location with a great view, the lighting was perfect and the weather cooperated. You now anticipate seeing the results in print.

Once back at home you need to have the film developed at a cost. Then once you decide you have the shot you need through contact prints or small homemade scans, you can get a high quality wet mount drum scan done at a cost of $100 to $200 per negative. Yes, sounds very expensive, but if you have done everything right, these will result in Ansel Adams like quality prints at extremely large print sizes. 'That', is the goal of this whole exercise.

Now there is another option here. You may want to get the camera as an incredible and beautiful piece of art and just display it in your office or living room and never take a photo with it at all. Either way, you will enjoy it. And even though you captured that great shot, remember that Ansel Adams lugged a 16" x 20" view camera around before all our roads were in place!!

You may have one final question, "Why would I buy and obsolete camera?" This I will answer in 2 blogs from now in Large Format (Part 3).

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.10 - April 2009)

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

Large Format

When I was in high school learning Photography I had the chance to use a 4x5 View Camera. I loved it but it wasn't available to me as much as I would have liked. I love the idea of a view camera with the nostalgia and yes even the 'film'.

What would a 4x5 Camera offer nowadays. Well, apart from the nostalgia, view cameras still have a lot to offer. There is of course the Tilt & Shift features these cameras are noted for that make them specially suited to Landscape and more notably Architectural Photography. But, the big reason is still the whole issue of quality, view cameras have always offered better quality based simply on the shear size of the negative. But how does this compare to modern day digital cameras.

A new Canon 5D Mk II offers 21 mega pixels. What would a 4x5 camera offer. Simple basic Drum Scans of 4x5 negatives can be done at 2,000 or 4,000 dpi. High end scans of between 8,000 and 11,000 dpi are available. These levels of resolution are not available on typical "Flatbed" scanners but they usually go to 4,800 dpi optical resolution.

At 4,800 dpi a 4x5 inch negative would yield a 460,800,000 pixel image or rather a 460 megapixel image. At a full 11,000 dpi drum scan we would have a 2,420 mega pixel image, or rather a 2.4 terapixel image. Wow!

Recent advancements in mid sized digital camera sensors have already brought us a 50 megapixel camera in the way of the Hasselblad H3DII-50 camera and 56 megapixels in the Leaf AFi-II-10 camera. Both companies have already announced higher resolution cameras up to 90 megapixels that should be available by the Fall of this year and RED has announced a 100+ megapixel camera that should be out in late 2010. Hasselblad's 60 megapixel should be out any day now.

Now arguments can be made that the 'digital' images are cleaner than the scanned negatives and such but all in all they still do not compare. Another area they do not compare in the the cost. The 50 MP Hasselblad sells for about $27,000 U.S. street price without a lens. The Leaf sells for more and the RED camera system with 100 MP back should run about $50,000 U.S.

On the other hand I just purchased a magnificent looking Zone VI 4x5 View camera in natural Black Walnut wood. OK, it is a used camera as it is no longer manufactured but still a mint condition camera without a lens for about $650 U.S. If you are not so picky about the looks of your view camera you can pick up a nice used Toyo or Horseman for about $250 U.S.

_SOL4423
Zone VI Black Walnut 4x4 View Camera

I just purchased a great lens also in mint condition for about $540 U.S. I splurged here and bought a very high quality lens in the 135mm f/5.6 Apo-Sironar-S with a Copal #O Shutter. Some nice lenses are available for about $350 U.S.

I also bought a few lens mounting boards and 4x5 Sheet film trays for another $110 U.S. and recently purchased a great used Wood Zone VI Tripod for $40 Canadian which is a spectacular deal as they sell on eBay for about $250 U.S.

All in all I have set myself up with a nice large format camera for a total of approximately $1340 U.S. A nice used system could go for about $600 or $700 U.S. with everything you need.

Now before you go out and buy yourself a view camera, make sure you read my warnings in my next blog!

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.21 - April 2009)

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Photography Classes

Well, aside from having the busiest February/March and most of April ever with my business I did manage to teach a five part course entitled 'Introduction to Digital Photography'. The course was offered through a local college every Tuesday evening in March. The classes were two hours each.

Classes were filled to capacity and turnout was great. Aside from the required two hours work on Tuesday evenings the most work was writing and organizing the curriculum for the course. The course covered a quick History of Photography, Photography Basics, Composition and then Hands On with the Cameras. We did not cover any Transferring, Manipulation, or Printing of Images as that was being covered in another class in April by another instructor.

Wow, what a lot of work that was! Most people that know me know I like to do a good job at whatever I do and trying my best to do a good job of teaching 18 Students all about Photography in a short 10 Hour class was extremely difficult. A lot of time was spent sorting and arranging all the material and making sure it covered all the basics and necessary information took even more time.

Finally compiling all the material into Presentations took many hours. All in all I learned a lot myself during the process but mostly learned to appreciate the work that goes into teaching in such a formal structured manner. My hats off to teachers everywhere.

At the end of the day I had a good time and enjoyed teaching the class. I had taught one hour, four hour and full day classes before but mostly in informal sessions. This challenged me greatly and I already have started planning for 'next time'.

The students were all appreciative of the class and my efforts and were all very complimentary. I hope the students enjoyed the classes as much as I did.

Tomorrow evening I will be giving a presentation on "The Photographer on the Web" for the North Shore Photographic Society at the Silk Purse in North Vancouver. This presentation is based on some of the material I have posted on this site:

The Photographer on the Web - Introduction

The Silk Purse site is: SilkPurse.ca

As with the other class, I am looking forward to showing this presentation. For those of you that have ever though about helping out in this way, I highly recommend you try it.

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - April 2009)

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

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Virus Issues (Previous Post Update)

Fauzan commented on the post and asked if I knew that there were fake Antivirus programs out there.

Yes, there are many Fake Anti Virus and Anti Spyware programs out there that are themselves Viruses or Spyware. Some are worse and will Hi-jack and steal all your documents and then ask you for money to get them back. There are a few others that will not let you run your computer properly without paying them first.

If you get such Hi-Jacking type software, get professional help. DO NOT pay the $79.99 or $40.00 even if you are rich or think that paying $40.00 is an easy solution to your problems. It's not the $79.99 they want, they want your VISA or MASTER CARD number!!

A Recent update is that the newest updates of Kaspersky pics up all the problems. Kaspersky is free for 30 days and works great. Also, If you run the Kaspersky you will not need to run STOPzilla. Give it a try.

Antivirus - Kaspersky Anti Virus 2009 - http://www.kaspersky.com/

© 2008 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - April 2009)

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

Friday, April 3, 2009

Virus Issues

Recent Problems and Virus Information

Most of you know I work in the Technology Industry and that I pride myself on my knowledge of Security, Virus, Spyware and other Malware issues. This blog is not intended as a technology blog nor do I want to write about technology except for the Camera and Photography World. I do this to get away from the computer world as a means to relax.

As someone that Consults on these technologies I need to be aware of what is going on at all times and to keep up on news and on recent Security Threats which include new Viruses and Spyware concerns. Sometimes this news comes from special reports that are sent to me, sometimes from my searching out information on the Internet and sometimes first hand because I get called upon to help out other companies that have IT departments with specially nasty problems that they cannot resolve on their own.

This first hand knowledge is why I am posting this blog.

It is generally accepted in the IT Industry that Symantec Anti Virus Corporate Edition is the best corporate solution available. This is NOT to be confused with Symantec's Norton Anti Virus Program or Internet Security Suite.

In the Spyware World the two corporate big boys are Webroot Spy Sweeper and PCTools Spyware Doctor. I have promoted these products and written about these products and they are even recommended in another blog on this site now.

In the last three months I have encountered three separate computers at three separate companies that have been infected with particularly nasty Viruses/Spyware that have infected the systems via a Trojan. This infection seems to use a Rootkit technology of some kind to hide itself. In ALL three cases the systems had Symantec Anti Virus Corporate Edition and two had Web Root Spy Sweeper and the other had PCTools Spyware Doctor. In all cases Anti Malware programs were properly installed and all programs were fully updated using the most current versions and updates.

When I am given these systems I go through an assortment of Anti Virus and Anti Spyware programs to see how good they are and which ones will find the culprits. I keep notes and records of my findings and provide them to industry watchdogs.

The first of the three systems's I am speaking about could not be cleaned via any of the programs I tried and the list is fairly extensive.

Anti Virus Programs Tested
Avast Antivirus
ESET NOD32 Antivirus
F-Prot Anti Virus
Grisoft AVG
Kaspersky Anti-Virus Security*
McAfee Internet Security
Panda Anti Virus Pro
Symantec Anti Virus Corporate Edition
Trend Micro PC-Cillin

*Note: Kaspersky found something but could not do anything about it.

Anti Spyware Programs Tested
EMSI a-Squared
PCTools Spyware Doctor
Webroot Spy Sweeper
Lavasoft Ad-Aware
SpyBot Search & Destroy
Trend Micro RUBotted
SuperAntiSpyware
MalwareBytes

Anti Rootkit Software Tested
Sophos Anti Rootkit
Panda Anti-Rootkit

**Rootkit Technologies have been built into some of the above Antivirus and Anti Spyware products.

Note than none of the programs found the culprit program. Several found traces of the program and removed the traces but upon reboot it was all back. Kaspersky did find something in a specific file but it could not do anything about it. It did turn out to be the problematic file. It was a System File that needed to be replaced with a good copy from another system and I had to clean this manually.

With the next two similar infections on the other two computers I first looked at the same file. In both cases the file was then a different one. In both cases Kaspersky could identify the infected system file but could not do anything about it.

Upon inspecting the second system I added STOPzilla Anti-Spyware and F-Secure Antivirus to the list of programs I tested. Both of these programs found the problems and removed them!

The third and final system was tested this week again with all of the above listed utilities and again ONLY F-Secure and STOPzilla found and removed the problems!

Several points here.

1. I have been in the industry for many many years now and it appears that the new kids on the block and sometime the under dogs seem t spend a ton of time and energy on making sure they can find and fix the most problems possible. The top dogs very often get lazy and spend more time marketing with the hype they are number one and more time creating new updated software that looks better with new packaging but tend to forget about the malware issues. Over the years I have seen many companies rise to the top and then quickly fall. When they are down they seem to put their efforts into finding malware again and then they rise to top levels again.

2. Even if you have the best rated and updated Antivirus and Anti Spyware programs you can still be infected. Running an occasional scan with another well rated free utility is a good idea.

3. Many of the problems come from FAKE Anti Spyware or FAKE Antivirus programs. You need to be very carefull and never ever click on a pop-up that you do not know about. There are sites that will cause pop-ups to appear on your computer that look like Windows Dialog Boxes and others that look like common antivirus programs telling you your system is infected and they ask if you would like to "Clean" or "dissinfect" your computer. You must NEVER answer YES or NO on these pop-ups. In order to infect your computer they need you to click on any button within the pop-up. You should only click on the X at the top right hand side of the pop-up and if there is none you should close all your apps and then just shut down your computer. Even if you X out you should re-boot your system and then you should update your Antivirus and Anti Spyware programs and then run a full scan with both to make sure your system is clean.

4. If you are not properly protected you may get infected by simply looking at the site without even getting a pop-up!

5. Always back up your systems before installing other programs as they may cause problems and may even kill your system. Also note that trying anything is done at your own risk. You do have a backup right?

6. See Note 5!! I would recommend that you download STOPzilla which is free to run but will require payment to resolve problems and it is a good deal at only $9.99 for a year. This should run fine with your existing Antivirus and Anti Spyware Programs. You can un-install it after you are done.

7. See Note 5!! If you think you have problems you can try F-Secure Anti Virus which is free for 30 days and will clean your system without any payment. F-Secure is a great product and it includes their famous Blacklight Rootkit Technology. Note however that you should never have two Antivirus programs on your system at one time and that you should un-install any existing anti virus program first. If F-Secure finds an Antivirus program it may un-install it for you but not always very well so you should do it your self. Make sure you have your original Antivirus software and any registration keys or Serial Numbers so that you can re-install it after you are done with F-Secure. Or, you can always buy F-Secure!

8. A WARNING. Many of these companies rely on other sites to help with distribution of software and bandwidth issues. The other sites in many cases have big ads for other products that you do NOT want. These ads have big "Download Now" buttons that make you think you are downloading the program you want only to find out you downloaded something else. Make sure you do not click on the ads or buttons within these ads.

9. If in doubt, get help! Again, always make sure you have a backup of your system or at least your important data as the process of removing nasty Viruses or Spyware can trash your system. Re-building your system (installing the Operating System and all the software can be costly). If you are not sure what you are doing, get professional help.

Current Recommended Products as of 09-04-02

Anti Spyware - STOPzilla Anti-Spyware - http://www.stopzilla.com/products/stopzilla/home.do - (Click on the big green button and the download will start.)

Antivirus - F-Secure Anti Virus 2009 - http://www.f-secure.com/en_EMEA/downloads/trial-versions/home-office/ - (Download only the Free Anti-Virus 2009 Trial Version, you will need to register with a real E-mail address and then you will get the link to do the download)

Note that these recommendations are for "Personal" use only. F-Secure does make a corporate version but I do not have any knowledge of STOPzilla in a corporate environment.

If you have any questions about any of the content in the post please ask. Note that I will not be helping out if you do have problems, please refer to your Computer Professional for specific help.

Disclaimer: Always make sure you backup your DATA before attempting to install any new programs or running any utilities, specially if you suspect you have a Virus or Spyware!! If you have any doubts or require any help, please call your computer specialist. Attempt any suggestions or recommendations in this blog at your own risk.

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.02 - April 2009)

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