28 February 2010

White Tower

White Tower

White Tower @ Tower of London. Another experiment with Photomatix Pro.

27 February 2010

Online Colour Challenge

colour test
How well can you distinguish colours? Take this test and find out. You need a well calibrated monitor to have some chance in obtaining a good score.

26 February 2010

Canon EOS DSLR Shutter Count

Have you ever asked yourself how many times you have activated the shutter on your Canon DSLR? If you have a DIGIC III/IV DSLR (except the 1D* series) you can use the utility EOSInfo (Windows and Mac version available) to retrieve the shutter count. This utility does not work on a D*, 5D, 10D, 20D, 30D, 300D, 350D, or 400D body.

25 February 2010

Avro Fotowedstrijd: Jouw Stad als Kunst

Ter gelegenheid van 'De Maand van de Fotografie' organiseert de Avro een fotowedstrijd.  Maak een mooie foto van jouw stad en laat zien waarom jouw stad een kunstige plek is. Let daarbij op compositie, lichtval en originaliteit. Klik hier voor meer informatie.

Leak in Dubai Aquarium

I will be visiting Dubai and I am wondering what sights will be left to see. First the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) closes. See my blog post here. There is no indication when it will be reopened.

Now the aquarium in the Dubai Mall (largest mall in Dubai) has developed a leak. The video shows people walking in the mall in ankle deep water. The aquarium holds 10 million liters of water. I hope they fix it before the aquarium runs dry.

Lanthorn Tower

Lanthorn Tower

Lanthorn Tower @ Tower of London, England.
Experimenting with Photomatix Pro.
This photo was taken hand-held with a Canon 50D, Canon 17-55mm IS USM @ 17mm, 1/30 @ f/8, ISO 400, 0, –2 and +2 exposures, Photomatix Pro 3.2 ‘grunge’ setting.

24 February 2010

The Photographer's Eye - Michael Freeman

Here is a photography book which does not cover the technical details of photography, but the much more important topics of composition and design. I have read this book. Michael covers all aspects like frame dynamics, design basics, graphic & photographic elements, light and colour and many other topics. I especially like the Gestalt perception.

You can read a sample of the book at Amazon. Click on this link, and on the Amazon page click on ‘Click to LOOK INSIDE!’.
In the Netherlands you can buy the book at Computer Collectief and other fine book sellers.

Left Brain and Right Brain

When taking a photo very interesting things happen in your brain. Your left brain (or hemisphere) tries to operate the digital camera. You right hemisphere tries to make a pretty composition. The left hemisphere operates serially, linearly and methodically, is about past and future and thinks in language. The right hemisphere is a parallel processor, thinks about the present, the right here and know, and in pictures.

To get a better understanding of the differences between the left and the right hemisphere, please take a look at the video of dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. She is a neuroanatomist and suffered a stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. She studied what happened with her brain during her eight year recovery.

23 February 2010

Canon 50D Auto Exposure Bracketing


In the Canon 50D the auto exposure bracketing and exposure compensation have been combined. Instead of the usual –x, 0, +x exposures (where x is between 0 and 2) you can offset the exposures so it is possible to shoot different combinations like +4, +2 and 0.

When combined with high speed continuous shooting you can take a lot of different exposures in a short time which are handy for HDR photography. Jeff Lynch has written a blog post on how to use this creatively.

22 February 2010

Augmented Reality

Take a look at the latest on augmented reality filmed in February at the Ted 2010 conference. Taking stitching to the next level! First you stitch photos into a panorama. Then you stitch photos, videos and panoramas into an augmented reality. But of course it is much more than stitching…

21 February 2010

Alexander Rodchenko

My photo class visited the Alexander Rodchenko exposition at Foam. Rodchenko started as a painter and graphic designer. Because he was convinced that photography was the future, he started to take photographs.

I was impressed by his photo montages of his early days. Rodchenko cut out pieces of people or artifacts and put them together to form a new picture. Later, he used unusual perspectives to break free from the usual photos made from the waist level. In 1928 Rodchenko stopped painting and bought a Leica. This small camera enabled him to experiment with unusual viewpoints. Lines going diagonal through the frame play an important role in his photos.

20 February 2010

What Is In Your Bag? – Part 3

Paparazzi photographer Henry Flores shows how to move unseen through the street following celebrities. A unique piece of gear he uses is a pepper spray! He uses the Canon 17-55 f2.8 IS lens on a Canon 40D body.

19 February 2010

Trey Ratcliff about HDR at Google

Trey Ratcliff is well known for his web site StuckInCustoms.com where he explains about all aspects of HDR photography.  Trey shot the first HDR photo which was displayed at the Smithsonian Institute. He gave a talk at the Googleplex for the Authors@Google program. Read more about it here.

Maand van de Fotografie - Maart 2010

De maand maart staat bij AVRO Kunst in het teken van foto's, het is dan 'De Maand van de Fotografie'. In samenwerking met het FOAM_Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam en het Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam besteedt kunst.avro.nl volgende maand extra veel aandacht aan fotografie.
Er wordt ook een fotocursus en fotowedstrijd georganiseerd, Kijk op de AVRO Kunst Portal voor meer details.

20 Years of Photoshop

This month it was 20 years ago that Photoshop 1.0 was released by Thomas and John Knoll. Happy Birthday!

18 February 2010

What Is In Your Bag? – Part 2

Sports and lifestyle photographer Chase Jarvis explains what and how he packs his photography gear. I like his quote on the TSA rules which state what kind of carry on you can bring on board an airplane (6:38 minutes into the video).
From the TSA web site on http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/assistant/editorial_1248.shtm (as of 15 February 2010)

Photographic Equipment

You may carry one (1) bag of photographic equipment in addition to one (1) carry-on and one (1) personal item through the screening checkpoint.  The additional bag must conform to your air carrier's carry-on restrictions for size and weight.  Please confirm your air carrier's restrictions prior to arriving at the airport.
Air carriers may or may not allow the additional carry-on item on their aircraft. Please check with your air carrier prior to arriving at the airport.
Our screening equipment will not affect digital cameras and electronic image storage cards.

Cold Reading

I found a more recent Dutch television program about Char and her usage of 'cold reading'.  James Randi was even asked to comment ! The program is in Dutch, with parts in English with Dutch subtitles. Click on the link below to see it:
De trucs van Char, het medium - 23 maart 2008: ZEMBLA

Some English sections:
Interview with James Randi about mediums
Randi watches Char and explains what her tricks are

Exposing the Supernatural – James Randi

Videos of one of my heroes James Randi speaking on TED have been released on Youtube.
Part 1 is above, part 2 and 3 are at the end of this post.
James Randi is well known for debunking charlatans like Uri Geller and Peter Popoff. James has spent much of his life explaining to people not to believe everything you see or hear. But it seems that people like to be fooled because shows like Char and the New Uri Geller Show seem to be popular (at least in the Netherlands).
Please take a look at parts 2 and 3 where James explains why mediums are dangerous.

17 February 2010

Canon Flash Work


Canon has an entire web site named ‘Flash Work’  which explains the various possibilities of automatic and manual flash exposure. The most interesting functions are:

The Canon Flash Masterclass web site is more up to date and contains videos which explain the functions even better. See also my previous blog post ‘Flash Technique’.

16 February 2010

Flash - Second Curtain Sync

Photo technical details:
Canon 350D | 17-55mm | 3/10 sec @  f/5.6 | ISO 400
Canon 580 EXII straight on flash in E-TTL II mode.

One of the topics of the flash session in our photo course is the effect of synchronizing the flash on the first or second curtain of the camera shutter.  In this blog post I want to illustrate when and why to use second curtain sync.
The photo was shot on New Year’s Eve 2008-2009. I wanted to have the following result:
  • See the trail of the sparklers which were moved up and down.
  • See something of the background. 
    Avoid the ‘people against a black background’ look.
  • Have a ‘natural look’ of the sparkler movement.
In order to get a sparkler trail you need to have a slow shutter speed. With a slow shutter speed the light of the moving sparks is recorded. When you select a shutter speed which is too fast,  you will get no trail at all.
In addition I wanted a ‘natural look’. With that I mean the sparkler sticks should be at the end of the trail,  not the beginning. So I configured the flash to fire just before the shutter closes (second curtain sync or rear curtain sync). This has the following effect:
  • the shutter opens,
  • the movement of the sparkler is recorded,
  • the flash fires so the people  are registered,
  • and the shutter closes.
This way the sparkler is at the end of the movement.

The default setting or first curtain sync would have the following effect:
  • the shutter opens,
  • the flash fires so the people  are registered,
  • the movement of the sparkler is recorded,
  • and the shutter closes.
The sparkler stick would be on the beginning of the spark trail.

So the second curtain sync takes care of having the sparkler in the right position. Now we have to make sure we see something in the background.
I did the following in order to make sure you see the details of the background:
  • put the camera in M(anual) mode.
  • While aiming at the background, set the exposure to 1 stop below the recommended setting of the camera meter.
  • Make sure you have a slow enough shutter speed. In this example I selected 3/10th of a second with an aperture of f/5.6 at ISO 400. Or rather: I selected 3/10 sec. shutter speed and an aperture of f/5.6 and then I adjusted my ISO speed to arrive at the –1 stop exposure for the background.
  • Put the flash exposure on Auto (in this case Canon E-TTL II mode).
These settings have the following effect:
  • The –1 stop exposure ensures you see the street lights in the background of the photo, and that the background is not too bright.
  • The slow shutter speed makes sure you see the movement of the sparklers.
  • With an aperture of f/5.6 the foreground and the background of the photo will be sharp.
  • The automatic flash exposure mode causes the flash to give enough light to illuminate the foreground correctly. I do not have to set the flash output manually.
So that’s how you can do it! While explaining it takes quite a few words, in the real world  I configured my camera within 5 seconds or so. The tricky part is to know what shutter speed, aperture and ISO to choose. I can only say you have to practice a lot and experiment in order to select a good shutter speed. Also you have to learn how to handle your camera and set all the various settings in a dark environment where you do not see all the labels of your buttons!

Remark 1
You should hold your camera very still when shooting the photo because of the low shutter speed. The lens I used is equipped with IS = image stabilization. This means that the lens can compensate for camera shake (within an acceptable range).

Remark 2 
Second curtain sync is called differently by each manufacturer. Canon shooters should look under ‘2nd curtain sync’. Nikon shooters should look under ‘rear curtain sync’. It could be that second curtain sync is not possible with your internal flash. Please check your manual.

Remark 3
It is possible to shoot in Av (Canon) or A (Nikon) mode so you select the aperture of f/5.6 and the camera selects a shutter speed. I do not use this mode because I want to be in full control of the shutter speed as well. When I take the shot and the background looks not right, I only have to adjust the shutter speed to obtain the look I want. In Av or A mode I am at the mercy of the camera when I take my next shot.

Remark 4
The most important thing is to have an interesting subject in the photo. My family loves this photo because they know all the people in it. For you it might be a boring picture (Just admire the sparkler trails then :-)

What Is In Your Bag?

Wedding photographer David Ziser explains what is in his bag. A valuable tip from him is that everything must have its place in the bag.

15 February 2010

Clayton Bozard


Copyright © Clayton Bozard

Clayton Bozard was mentioned by our teacher on the photo course as someone who does special things with flash.

It turns out Clayton publishes his work in several ways. He has a blog, a web site, and he even has a Facebook page.

I am curious to see if I can obtain the same effect with small flashes, because Clayton uses some serious lighting to obtain a large and powerful light source:



About Creativity

A wonderful talk by Sir Ken Robinson about creativity and how Gillian Lynne found out what her talent was.

13 February 2010

Good Glass or Good Lens?

One of my readers asked me: What do you mean with ‘good glass’?
I am sorry for my photographer’s lingo. A lens which is sharp and has good colour rendition is called ‘good glass’. 
Lenses with bad sharpness or bad bokeh are called ‘lenses’ or just ‘bad lens’. See and hear what Scott kelby has to say on lens terminology in this video (topic starts 4:36 minutes into the video, ‘glass’ is at 5:45 minutes ).

Scott Kelby has made an informative series on lenses. Too bad he is Nikon oriented (-:.
The first part starts here. The other parts can be found here (go to season 1).

Under (Flash) Attack

Flash Session @ Artis Zoo Amsterdam
At the photo course we learned how to use the flash on our camera. Here you can see a photo I made just before I was blinded by my fellow students. Don’t know anymore what this exercise was about. The photo was taken with a Canon 50D, full Auto with a Canon 580EX II flash.

12 February 2010

Long and Good Glass

Penguins Artis Zoo Amsterdam, Holland

I rented the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM Lens for a day at the Artis Zoo, Amsterdam. It is really good glass. The wide aperture of f2.8 really challenges your focusing abilities.

Lions @ Artis Zoo, Amsterdam, Holland

It was rather cold that day so not too much animals could be seen. At least the snow owl didn't mind the weather.

Snow Owl at Artis Zoo, Amsterdam

Double Caps

optech double cap

I found this little handy gadget. When carrying multiple small lenses (for example Canon 85 mm f1.8 and Canon 50mm f1.8) you have two cylinders clanking around in your bag. Using a double cap you can create one long tube which might be easier to store in your bag.

Using a double cap on a single lens is also handy when changing lenses. Just remove the lens from the camera and apply it to the open end of the double cap.  When you screw on the double cap, the other lens will be released. Then use the other lens and put in on the camera.

These double caps are made by Op/Tech USA.

10 February 2010

Burj Khalifa Observation Deck

The Burj Khalifa Observation Deck on the highest building in the world closed unexpectedly. The reason is unclear. I hope it reopens before we visit Dubai. Until then I have to do with this video. Make sure you buy your tickets in advance, because they are more expensive when you purchase them at the tower.

Balancing Flash and Ambient Exposure – Where Do You Even Start?

Neil van Niekerk has written a very informative blog entry about balancing flash and ambient exposure. Make sure to read it!

I use the method of under exposing the background by one or two stops.  This is done in M(anual) mode. The foreground or subject is then lit with the flash in TTL mode. Adjustment of the flash exposure is done with flash compensation.

03 February 2010

Dubai in Five Days and Nights

Sky from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

We will be visiting Dubai soon. Photographer / film maker Philip Bloom made this time lapse of Dubai in about five days and nights. I hope to see some interesting sights!