Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Drizzle Kicks - Low Light Photography on a Rainy Night in London: MelenCourses

This is a good summary of the Low Light course in London on the 13th September.  I'm not superstitious but it didn't rain on the 12th or the 14th but very much did so on Friday the 13th.

With the rain that was forecast for last Friday evening you would have to have been mad to consider a photography trip into the soggy London evening to do some low-light and night-time photography. Fortunately or unfortunately Phil Richardson of Melen Studios, who had planned a course on that very subject for that very night, was mad enough to be unperturbed by the grim forecast and had managed to assemble seven who were brave or foolhardy enough to go along with the idea. I had agreed to assist and with assurances from Phil that we would be under cover most of the time (or something) I was among those seven.........


Phil Richardson, Alistair Peck 
Ellie Tomassi, Alistair Peck
Man Running, Alistair Peck
Millenium Bridge, St Paul's, Alistair Peck

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Calumet Rental Page Updated

Calumet have now updated their rental page from that cumbersome PDF to an easy to use page.


Lytro Camera; many points of focus

The Lytro is an interesting camera on many planes.  Unlike conventional cameras the Lytro doesn't have a single point of focus but many.  It captures the ‘entire light field’.  As a photographer i find new inventions and ways of looking at objects interesting but i am struggling to see a purpose for this camera other than a fun gimmick.

Lytro Camera
As with most new gadgets and games it is fun to play with them, pressing all the buttons to make it perform for us.  After this initial frivolity has occurred the object becomes tiresome.  I found this with in two pictures on the Lytro website.  The focus point could be changed, then I was able to alter the view point slightly with the background seeming able to dance behind the main subject.  Great.  Now what?

When a photographer takes a photograph they are usually capable of selecting their own focus point.  This forms part of the images composition and inform the viewer where to focus their attention.  If they are able to alter the focus point then i have little control of how the image is portrayed.  With newer lenses and cameras being the developed, rumours of Pelican and Nokia’s 16 array lens is again interesting and may have some practical uses.  Are we not add more gadgets to a craft that is already become deskilled.  Do we really need and want cameras that compose, focus, expose and tell us at which point to take the photograph, or chose some from the 100 it has taken for you?  The fun in photography is learning to achieve this yourself.  The pleasure you receive from being able to expose correctly, then focus accurately is amazing, then to able to produce decent compositions is just superb. Other people start liking you pictures then. You made that image happen, no one else, they were your decisions.

Inside Lytro Camera
Looking at some of the reviews and this camera does have it’s downsides, DPReview mention the lack of controls, the small screen and awkward shape.  The image is not the best quality either.  With new designs and product alterations the first incarnations are often lacking.  If this camera does take off and new companies design their own models the quality and functionality will improve. This happened when phones started to include low resolution cameras and the internet!
Right now it doesn’t seem to have an application, we need to find a problem for it to solve.  What these cameras need are lots of people to play with them and find a use.  Until the advent of social media, 3G, mobile Wifi the camera and internet were useless on phones, now it is all people really use them for.  Multi array lens camera need someone to develop a platform for them. One aspect is teaching, especially demonstrations were it would be handy to look at different aspects of an image without changing slides or making videos.  
Teaching students surgery for example, or even crash investigations.  Who knows?

James Wilson - V&A, talks about looking at your business and leadership from many points of view using the Lytro camera and the Posters as an metaphor. The film is made for the VLRC at Ashridge.

Many View Points; Lytro Camera
James Wilson - V&A

Songbird Photography: Model Mayhem at Melen Studios

Songbird Photography: Model Mayhem at Melen Studios: Today was another great Melen day. Thanks to Phil for organising some fabulous models (all via Model Mayhem), and to the models themselves ...

Saturday, 7 September 2013

50mm ƒ1.4 lens; is it worth buying a nifty-fifty¿

These little lenses are lauded by photographers, camera club members, your friends, magazines, even blogs and online groups suggest you purchase one.  The 50mm ƒ1.8 lens is especially popular as it can be bought new for as little as £75.  The ƒ1.4 is around £280 and the ƒ1.2 is an impressive £1180, but are these more costly lenses really worth the extra expense over an ƒ1.8 just for an extra stop of light?  Why do you need to buy a 50mm anyway when a you have this focal length on your 18-55mm kit lens?  For photographers who are considering buying a nifty-fifty the decision should be about creativity and experimentation.
Canon 50mm ƒ1.4

Using these lens at their widest aperture can be a little soft, produce chromatic aberration and vignetting.  Sometimes the vignetting is nice and saves you have to add a very obvious one in Lightroom.  On a full frame camera fast lenses produce a very small depth of field and this can make focusing a little tricky.  So is there really any point in spending hundreds of pounds on apertures that you can't really use?   Personally i would say yes there is.  The ƒ1.4 is a much better build that the ƒ1.8, it is sharper, and four times the cost could most people really tell the difference or even care? Most probably not, certainly not clients which is important.  Could you earn four times more money using the ƒ1.4, i doubt it, let alone thinking about the comparison with the ƒ1.2.

Canon 50mm ƒ5.6
So why choose a fixed 50mm lens with a fast aperture?  This is not about pretentious artistry but more about creativity, giving yourself more photographic opportunities.  The stand kit lens gives you an aperture of ƒ5.6 at 50mm, even if you used a fixed 50mm at ƒ2.8 two more stops are achieved.  
This could be the difference between photographing at 1/15th of second to taking a picture 1/60th and no unintentional blur in your image.  You will have a shallow depth of field in your image, rendering the background out of focus and your subject sharp.

Fix lenses also offer you another dimension, the chance to improve your compositional skills.  With zooms it is all to easy to stand in one position and alter your focal length snapping at anything you see.  With a fixed focal length you have to move.  An excellent photographer and friend of mine Jay McLaughlin said of fix lenses "to zoom you just have to use the old fashioned method of walking forwards or backwards from your subject."  This is the point, by moving around and looking with your eyes you can select your composition better, without the restrictive confines of a viewfinder and zoom lens.

Canon 50mm ƒ22
By changing your position, noticing your surrounds, you start to look for shapes, interactions, narratives and interesting compositions.  You get used to view through a 50mm, or even 35mm and frame your scene before putting the camera to your eye.

The main advantage and the reason most photographers buy the fast fixed focal length lenses is that low ƒ number.  Even on cropped sensors, APS or four thirds ƒ2 and ƒ2.8 give you defocused backgrounds which can be superb. 

When I first used my 50mm at ƒ1.4 i was very disappointed the images were out of focus and soft.  Pointless buy i thought, could of saved two hundred quid.  May be i should save up and buy an ƒ1.2 when i have a few more pennies.  Then i remembered most lenses are not very good wide open, so i took some pictures at ƒ2.0 and ƒ2.2 and they were pretty good.  Sharp, focused and justified my purchased.

In conclusion i would recommend buying a 50mm for full frame, a 35mm for cropped sensors and a 20 or 25mm for four thirds.  They are creative, fun and enable you to take pictures that you can't with your kit lens.

Below are test images from ƒ1.4 to ƒ22.  The ƒ1.4 is just about about sharp but suffers from chromatic aberration and it is much better at ƒ2 which is where i use it from and it is very sharp at ƒ5.6.  The camera was a Canon 650D on Standard profile at 100 ISO.

Below are closer crops of the text to show the differences at the wider apertures.  The ƒ1.4 is softer and with green chromatic aberration  the ƒ5.6 is very sharp and this softens at ƒ22.