Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Pixel RW-221 wireless Remote Review

Going Wireless on a budget!

As a photographer there are times when you do not want to touch the camera as you take a shot, touching the camera to activate the shutter adds a risk of shaking the camera, whilst not an issue in situations when you’re using a fast shutter speed, if you’re doing a long exposure then you want to reduce the risks by as much as possible.

One of the best ways to reduce the risk of camera shake is use a remote. I have owned the Nikon MC-30 remote for years, and it is great, you obviously pay a little extra to have Nikon stamped onto it, but I know it will do the job as advertised and should last the distance, the only challenge with the Nikon MC-30 it is wired… being attached to the camera has it’s good points and it’s bad points… I wanted something that I could activate wirelessly.

After some research and looking at the options, there are some high end units, that unless you’re working as a professional is difficult to justify the cost. I wanted something cheap that would do the job… one word came to mind… eBay!

I looked through the listings on eBay and decided on one main thing… I didn’t want it to have a telescopic antenna. There were a lot on eBay with these antennas and I am sure it wouldn’t take long for them to break. The Pixell RW-221 looked the goods! It was 2.4ghz and had no antenna protruding from it.

The Pixel remote will take a single shot, do continuous shooting, bulb and 4 second delay, so you can change how your camera shoots from the remote. If you have more than one camera (and receiver) you can set it up to activate more than one camera at a time, I only have the one Pixel remote so I haven’t tested this. The unit itself has 16 different channels, I haven’t changed it from the factory default. The transmitter and receiver, although made from plastic, feels quite well built for the price, powered by 4 x AAA batteries I am lead to believe that this will give you about 400 hours standby time.

Since getting the remote I have used it for about 400 shots, and it works flawlessly, It is great if you as the photographer want to be included in the pic… something new for you!

I recently set up my own ‘funny photo booth’ at my daughters 12th birthday party, I set up the camera on a tripod and set the focus manually, then used double sided tape to attach the remote to the wall, they had to press the button and then they had 4 seconds to get ready, it was a lot of fun for them and I got some great shots…

So no matter what you’re wanting a remote for, the Pixel RW-221 is a great solution, it gets my vote!

the daily pic – the little church

I enjoy riding my motorbike, I get to see things and places I wouldn’t go in my car… I stumbled across this little church on a ride last Friday, after a couple of hours I just have to get off the bike and stretch the legs and have a drink of water. The architecture in a church is nothing like anything else, the angles, the detail it all makes them have their own personality… this one had cool sculptures scattered in the garden… enjoy!

(Click on the photo to order yourself a print or to download (please see licensing for the rules!)

Categories: Australian Locations, Equipment Review, Lithgow | Leave a comment

How to use your ISO

Modern day cameras make it easy to shoot in low light

In the day of film, you would load your film, and once loaded you had to work with whatever ISO it was until it was done… these days you can increase your ISO at the touch of a button. So how does it work… basically, each time you increase your ISO you are increasing the sensitivity of your sensor, for example, if your at ISO200 and you increase it to ISO400, you have doubled the sensitivity of your sensor. Most modern DSLR camera can still produce good images up to ISO 3200, if you started at ISO200, this makes your sensor 4 times more sensitive allowing you to use your camera in lower light.

The only downside of increasing your ISO is that you will introduce ‘noise’ into your shot, I would rather noise than not get the shot at all…  So next time your out shooting in low light, increase your ISO!

the daily pic – By invitation only

This is one of ‘those’ places where you can only get in my guided tour, and photography is not allowed… even to get any shots from the outside I was quizzed by security… this is the front entrance to Government House in Sydney. The detail in the door is really cool, I really wanted to go in and take some photo’s but they wouldn’t let me… It must be hard for them to enforce as everyone has a phone camera these days…

(Click on the photo to order yourself a print or to download (please see licensing for the rules!)

Categories: Australian Locations, Sydney | Leave a comment

The on3legs Sydney Photowalk

Put Saturday 1st of September in your diary

it’s official… I have organised a photowalk for Saturday the 1st of September in Sydney. We will be kicking off at Blues Point Reserve at 3pm for a meet and greet, of course it is a good vantage point to grab a shot or two of Iconic Sydney Harbour, we will then wander to McMahons Point Wharf where we will board the ferry over to Circular Quay, from here we will slowly make our way around to Mrs Macquaries Chair to watch the sun set over Sydney… anyone, with any camera is welcome! you can register your interest HERE or just turn up on the day.

the daily pic – Framed Ruins

Here’s another one from the Blast Furnace Ruins at Lithgow. I think it is great that they have kept this open. A lot of councils would close an area like this off, as it is dangerous. There were all sorts of shafts and hazards all over the site… it was great to be able to wander around it and take photos.

(Click on the photo to order yourself a print or to download (please see licensing for the rules!)

 

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Really Right Stuff TVC-33 review

updated my gear page

I get a lot of questions about what gear I use and I have been slowly writing about it. Today I wrote about my new Really Right Stuff TVC-33 carbon fibre tripod. you can read about it HERE.

the daily pic – Bricked

There were so many great angles and perspectives, and I have many out of the series that I like… the most demanding part was keeping the rain off the lens… this shot suffers from one drop of rain… I wonder if you can see it? I would wipe off the lens and then by the time I hit the shutter button another rain drop would appear on the lens…

(Click on the photo to order yourself a print or to download (please see licensing for the rules!)

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What camera mode should I be in?

So many buttons and dials…

Hopefully you enjoyed my multi part series on understanding exposure, if you missed it you can read it HERE

The most common question I get from you is what camera should I buy… the second most common is usually after this, and you have brought your new piece of time capturing technology home and realise it has a stack of buttons, dials and modes… the instruction manual is thick, your patience is thin, and you just want to take great pics, you decide it can’t be that hard and you throw the manual to one side, turn that bad boy on and start shooting like a mad man in a gun fight!

To your surprise, everything looks pretty good in the preview screen… so you keep shooting away and fill up your memory card, it’s not until you download your 2867 new images to your PC you start to realise that maybe you should have studied that manual for a little longer!

It’s about now that you will ask me “Ben, what mode should I be using for….”

If you have read my Bermuda Triangle of Photography multi part series you will have learnt about Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. If you haven’t read it, go back and do it NOW… it will help you!

Here are my top 7 tips for getting the most out of your DSLR…

1. Turn OFF auto and learn how to use your camera, if you’re using auto you have wasted your money!

2. Turn off auto ISO, in fact the only thing ‘auto’ you should have switched on is auto-focus(AF) and auto-white balance (WB), set your ISO to 100 or 200 (whatever is the lowest your camera will go to) for outdoor and flash and crank it up to 400 for outdoor sports and try 800 or 1600 inside with natural light (ie. no flash), you can also set your WB for the conditions if you’re comfortable with this, but make sure you change it when the conditions change.

3. Use either Aperture Priority (AV) or Shutter Priority (TV), in Aperture priority your camera will decide the best shutter speed and in Shutter Priority it will decide the best Aperture. Use Aperture Priority for portraits, and use a lower f number, this will give you a faster shutter speed and blur the background (amount of blur depends on lots of factors, so play around). Use shutter priority for anything that is moving so you can control how you freeze or blur motion.

4. Check your histogram after each shot and get used to using it as your exposure guide, if your image isn’t exposed properly adjust your metering mode and use exposure compensation as required.

5. Stick with a single point AF mode, there are a lot of fancy AF systems out there, I think mine has 51 point 3d tracking super whizz bang auto focus… and I still use the single AF mode, why?, it gives me complete control over the exact focus point.

6. Think about each shot as you take it, look through the viewfinder and make sure you’re happy with the composition before you hit the button, sure, it’s free to shoot as many pics as you want when shooting digital but you still need to sift through them to find the ones you want, a little care and you can half the sifting job. For example, make sure there are no poles or trees growing out of peoples heads, make sure that there are no unwanted rubbish or clutter in your shot, don’t be afraid to move things/people around to suit your shot!

7. Have FUN!

the daily pic – Treemaze

I am not sure what they’re growing on this farm, but it is definitely a crop of something, I snuck onto their land to take this, and although they probably wouldn’t care, I am always on edge when I am sneaking around somewhere like this, I get these thoughts that maybe some old farmer will come chasing me with his shotgun… ha ha, stupid I know… I am just glad not to be there at night, imagine trying to find your way out at night…

(Click on the photo to order yourself a print or to download (please see licensing for the rules!)

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Light Metering Explained

Understanding Exposure Part 6

phew… we are getting close to the end of this multi-part series on understanding exposures, if you missed the first 5 parts then head back and read part 1 to part 5 first… of course, if you have a solid understanding of how to use Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO and read Histograms and all you want to know about is light metering… you can stick around! Oh, and by the way, if you find any spelling or grammatical errors, great work… I put them in to give people like you something extra to do!

In part 5 we discussed using the histogram to know whether or not we had a perfect exposure. In theory, this is a good way to tell if your image is exposed properly, what a histogram cannot do, is know what exactly you wanted to give priority, that is, what is the most important part of your image to have exposed correctly.

Inside your camera, you have a metering system, that whilst not perfect, is pretty good at working out how much light is available for you. Rarely will it get it wrong. The light metering system gathers information based on what metering mode you have set. Your camera will probably have 3 available settings for light metering. Matrix Metering (evaluative on some cameras), this metering mode is great for things like landscapes, it takes an average of the entire image area , Centre Weighted will take an average of the Centre of the image and is good for things where the most important part of your image is towards the centre, good for things like taking a pic of a building or car, and Spot Metering will take a reading of a single spot, great for portraits as you can use the subjects face for your light metering.

It is possible to have a histogram that is not perfect, that is, will be bunched to the left or right of the graph, and still have your subject exposed correctly, often you will have this happen if you’re taking a landscape shot and the sky is bright, you may have to meter off the ground and let the sky overexpose, looking at your histogram it will look like it isn’t exposed correctly, but if you exposed for the sky the ground would be underexposed, you need to decide what you want to give priority to. This is why in landscape photography you may use a graduated ND Filter on your lens to darken the sky area.

The good news is you don’t need to buy a separate light meter, your camera has one built in and usually you will have a digital meter/graph inside your viewfinder and sometimes on your LCD that tells you if you’re likely to over or under expose an image with the available light. If you have selected Aperture Priority (AV) your camera will decide on the appropriate shutter speed for you, or if you have selected Shutter Priority (TV) the camera will choose the best aperture for you, and it makes these decisions based on how much light is available.

The best way to learn is to get our and shoot some pics… grab your camera and play with your buttons… oh, and have FUN!

the daily pic – Blasted Ruins

I went for a drive out to Lithgow Blast Furnace Ruins. The forecast was for scattered showers so I thought it was a good time to head out, clouds are great for adding some drama to the shot… about 20mins out of lithgow, it was clear it was overcast, foggy and pouring! I suggested to my wife we should just turn back, and she said… “you may as well keep going… you’ve come this far” I am glad I listened to her… the fog and rain, whilst challenging to shoot in, gave me the perfect atmosphere for this series… enjoy!

(Click on the photo to order yourself a print or to download (please see licensing for the rules!)

Categories: Australian Locations, Lithgow | Leave a comment

Noisy or Blurry….

Understanding Exposure part 5

It goes without saying that if you’re here at part 5 and you haven’t started at part 1… you are not getting the full picture (pardon the pun).

I get so many questions on how to use your camera on MANUAL or at least not on AUTO I decided I had better create a small guide. I call it the Bermuda Triangle of photography, because it is where EVERYONE gets lost… you know, we start talking about f-stops, shutter speeds and ISO and the likes, and maybe even throw in something about histograms and that big numbers are small apertures and small numbers are wide open and 1 stop down halves our light etc, etc, etc… are you scratching your head yet…? if all of this is mumbo jumbo to you then you definitely need to read parts 1 to 4 first! Got it!

Here are the links to the previous 4 parts

Part 1 – the overview

Part 2 – buckets and other stuff

Part 3 – auto no more

Part 4 – what the f-stop

By now I would expect you to have a fairly basic but good solid understanding of exposure. So far you have learnt that your sensor needs a certain amount of light to get a correct exposure, and if you slow down your shutter speed you need to let less light in or you will overexpose, and if you speed up your shutter speed you need more light…

Today we’re going to look at using your histogram and ISO. All of the info in the last 4 parts assumes you have a correct exposure, to ensure you actually have a properly exposed image you need to understand how to use your histogram. In some cases you can just look at your LCD preview screen on the back of your camera and it is obviously too dark or too bright. Unfortunately, these screens are not fool proof and don’t tell you accurately enough whether or not your pic is properly exposed.  Looking at your histogram will give you more accurate information.

If your image is under exposed, the histogram will be all bunched up on the left edge…

Under Exposed Image

If you’re image is over exposed, it will be bunched up on the right edge…

Over Exposed Image

A correctly exposed will have none of the histogram on either edge…

Correctly Exposed Image

If you’re not sure where to find your histogram you will need to get your instruction book out… every camera is different but most make the histogram easy to find from the photo preview screen.

Now you understand how to make sure you have a correctly exposed image, you can control your shutter speed and aperture and make creative decisions for yourself!

It is time for us to have a quick chat about ISO… let’s say you’re in a rock concert, and you want to take a photo of the lead singer as he is jumping around the stage, the stage lighting is dim and you know you need a relatively fast shutter speed otherwise the lead singer will just become one big blur… you put your camera on aperture priority and you open up your aperture to the maximum you can, say f3.5 on your lens, and you take a shot, using your histogram you can see that you have the perfect exposure… but… it is all blurry! You can’t even make out who or what it is in the picture…

Your new best friend is ISO… ISO controls the sensitivity of your cameras sensor, the higher the ISO the more sensitive to light your sensor is… the downside of a higher ISO is it creates what is called ‘noise’, noise is a visible grain in your photo, and the higher your ISO the more you will see it. I ask you this one question…. would you like a blurry or noisy photo?

Increase your ISO from 200 to 400, you have doubled your sensors sensitivity so you can now increase your shutter speed by double too… go from 400 to 800 ISO and you can double everything again… my camera will go up to ISO6400 before the noise gets totally unacceptable… Every camera is different in how well it handles noise, and there is plenty of software that will help you remove noise form your pictures once you have them downloaded to your PC.

Now go out and shoot some pics… the best way to learn is to practice!

the daily pic – Tall Timbers

I have driven past this spot several times and every time I did I wanted to stop and get a photo. I am going to get one from each season, so this is the leafless winter shot…. I will be back in spring, summer and then the spectacular autumn colours to round off the series!

(Click on the photo to order yourself a print or to download (please see licensing for the rules!)

Categories: Australian Locations, Sydney | Leave a comment

What the f stop…

Understanding Exposure part 4

In yesterdays blog post I explained why you may want to be able to make adjustments to shutter speed… you can read it HERE if you missed it. If you have just tuned in you may want to start at part 1, the Bermuda Triangle of Photography otherwise things might get confusing.

In today’s blog post, we’re going to look at aperture, or ‘f-stop’ if you want to sound like a real pro! Aperture relates to the amount of light you’re letting in through your lens, just like the pupil of your eye. You can open or close your aperture depending on how much light you want to let in. Remembering, you need a specific amount of light to get the correct exposure, so if you open the aperture up to let more light in, then you would need to use a faster shutter speed to make sure you didn’t over expose your image.

Aperture is represented by an ‘f’ number. The confusing thing about ‘f’ numbers is that the smaller the number, the bigger the opening and the more light you are letting into your lens. You may of heard of the term ‘stopping down’, all this is referring to is closing the aperture and letting less light in, and to make it confusing, stopping down would mean you were using a higher f number. Every lens is different, and some will go as low as f1.4, typically you will use from f2.8 up to f22. A kit lens will probably start around f3.5 whilst a more expensive lens will go as low as f2.8, we will look at lenses and f numbers of lenses in a later blog post.

If you read yesterdays blog post you should be able to see the relationship between aperture and shutter speed. At this stage, all you need to remember is the bucket theory I used in part 2, if you let more light in, you will need to make the shutter speed faster, let less light in and you will need a longer shutter speed. The same works in reverse, if you decide you want to show motion blur and decide to slow down your shutter speed, you will also need to let less light in or you will over expose your image.

Adjusting your aperture has a couple of other side effects. In particular you need to understand how it affects the ‘depth of field’ of your image. That is, how much of your image is in focus. Have you ever seen a portrait where the background is a nice soft out of focus? This is known as bokeh and is a side effect of using a large aperture (small number). If you use a small aperture (large number) then your depth of field will increase, making more of your image in focus.

Tomorrow we will look at what ISO does and how to use it to your advantage. We will also look at how to use the histogram to know whether or not we have got the perfect exposure.

the daily pic – Creamy Bokeh

This is a photo of one of my dogs, his name is Rocky! Tough hey! Anyway, in this image I have used a small f number to blur the background, this is known as a shallow depth of field as it has very little depth in focus, when taking portraits I like to blur things that aren’t important to the image, and that otherwise would detract from the main subject. Using a low f number and blurring the background has made Rocky stand out.

A small f number (large aperture) gives me a nice bokeh

Categories: Australian Locations, Sydney | 1 Comment

Auto no more…

Understanding Exposure part 3

Yesterday in part 2 I used buckets, water and hoses to explain exposure to you, hopefully you had a chance to read it, if not, I suggest you do so you’re up to speed before jumping into part 3! You will find part 2 HERE

Now that you understand a little more about exposure, it’s time to look at why you would want to be able to make changes to shutter speed, aperture or ISO.

Today we will be looking at what adjusting the shutter speed does…

Basically, you leave the shutter open long enough to allow enough light in for a correct exposure, just like in the example of the bucket, you left the lid off until it was full of water. What you need to know is  a faster shutter speed will ‘freeze’ motion whilst a slower shutter speed will ‘blur’ motion. Using a slower shutter speed is how to get silky smooth waterfalls, show motion blur in propellers and wheels and more… sometimes creatively it is important to be able to depict movement, and slowing your shutter speed will help you achieve it. However, if you’re taking a photo of something that isn’t moving, the last thing you want is for it to be blurry, if you want an image that is not blurry it is known as being ‘sharp’, to achieve a sharp image you have two choices, one option is to use a tripod to keep your camera from moving as the exposure is taken, the second option is to speed up the shutter speed so it is so quick, that any movement is ‘frozen’. Just remember if your subject is moving, even a tripod won’t help…

Unfortunately, if the available light is low you cannot just use a faster shutter speed, this is why flash is used in some low light situations. If you don’t have a flash, or don’t want to use a flash, it is possible that you will underexpose your image if you don’t let enough light in, and if you leave your shutter open long enough to let the light in, you may end up with an unwanted blurry image! In the next couple of days I am going to show you how to best overcome this issue using aperture and ISO.

the daily pic – Silky Smooth Water

This photo shows you what is possible with a longer shutter speed. I had to use a special filter called a ND (Neutral Density) filter that blocked some of the light from entering my lens, it allowed me to keep the shutter open for 20 seconds. To do this I also had to mount the camera on my tripod and used a remote to activate the shutter otherwise other parts of my image would be blurred. I wanted to make the water blurry, this is how to achieve the silky smooth look…

(Click on the photo to order yourself a print or to download (please see licensing for the rules!)

Categories: Australian Locations, Blue Mountains | 1 Comment

Buckets and other Stuff!

Understanding Exposure Part 2

Yesterday I gave you an overview of what I call the ‘Bermuda Triangle of Photography’. This is the relationship between ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed. I am going to help you forget about ‘auto mode’ and make creative decisions for yourself… today I am going to get you to forget about photography mumbo jumbo and we’re going to talk about buckets, bucket lids, water and hoses… stick with me, it will all make sense to you soon! If you haven’t read part 1, I suggest you do before moving on… you can find part 1 HERE

Imagine you have a bucket that will hold 10 litres of water, you place the lid on the bucket and set it aside. You grab your general 25mm garden hose to fill the bucket with water. You turn on the hose and aim it at the lid of the bucket, you then remove the lid from the bucket, you will need to aim the hose at the bucket for a while before it fills with 10 litres of water, when it fills to the brim place the lid back on to prevent any more water from entering… you now have exactly 10 litres of water in your bucket!

Let do the same thing, but this time use a hose with double the diameter, so instead of 25mm it will be 50mm, for the purpose of this example we will assume this doubles the flow of water. Will it take a longer time or a shorter time to fill the 10 litre bucket?…. If you said shorter time you are correct, theoretically, you will need to hold the lid off the bucket for half the time to fill the bucket. What if we doubled the diameter of the hose again, so now it is 100mm, assuming this doubles our water flow again, this would halve the time it took you to fill the bucket with the 50mm hose.

Each time we increase the diameter of the hose, we need to take the lid off the bucket for a shorter time to achieve the same result. Hopefully I haven’t lost you yet!

How does this relate to photography? The water represents ‘light’, the hose is your ‘aperture’ and the bucket lid is your ‘shutter’.

Imagine you left the lid off the bucket for too long, what will happen? That’s right, it will overflow… and if you put the lid back on too early, not enough water would be in the bucket. Overflowing is the same as overexposing an image, putting the lid back on too early will lead to an under-filled bucket, in photography we would refer to it as an under-exposed image.

To get a perfectly exposed image we have to be able to get exactly 10 litres in the bucket every time, if we have a high flow of water we need to shorten the time the lid is off, if it is a slow flow of water we have to increase the time we leave the lid off to allow the bucket to fill. The same is true for photography, the sensor in your camera needs the same amount of light each time to correctly expose an image, if it is really bright then the shutter needs to be open for a short time, if it is dark the the shutter needs to be open longer to capture the same amount of light. We also control how much of the light we let in by adjusting the aperture. So even if it is bright we can reduce the diameter of the lens opening to restrict the amount of light getting in allowing us a longer amount of time to leave the shutter open.

Now I am sure you’re wondering why, if you always need the same amount of light why do you need to be able to make adjustments to shutter speed and aperture? I will explain this later…

In addition to these two adjustments you also have the option of changing the ‘size’ of your bucket, imagine we used a 5 litre bucket instead of the 10 litre bucket, it would fill in half the time. In photography this is known as ISO, the sensitivity of your sensor. the downside of increasing your ISO (using a smaller bucket) is that it creates unwanted side effects to your images… we will explore this later too!

For now, I hope this has given you a better understanding of exposure control… in part 3 we will start to look at how you can change the aperture, shutter speed and ISO to take creative control and use your camera in more difficult lighting scenarios.

the daily pic – Beach Stroll

I enjoy walking along the beach watching the sun rise… I took this at Palm beach, I used an ND filter to help me create a long exposure, this is how I have made the water look so dreamy… I kept the shutter open for 20 seconds, to do that I had to restrict the light entering the lens by using a ND filter, it is basically a dark tinted cover that screws onto the lens… enjoy

(Click on the photo to order yourself a print or to download (please see licensing for the rules!)

Categories: Australian Locations, Sydney | 1 Comment

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