Thursday, December 15, 2011

Adorama and Canadian Orders

 If you intend to order something on line with Adorama to be delivered to Canada, STOP! DON'T DO IT!!

Unless you don't mind paying extreme shipping charges. I recently ordered a DVD from them which cost $99 their cheapest shipping fee was via UPS for an additional $30 a little steep but since this item wasn't available elsewhere I had no other choice. Other shipping methods Adorama made available were through FEDex $50 or $60 depending on speed of delivery. I was naive to think that the $30 would cover some of the duty/tax etc..  I mean I can order a DVD via Amazon in the US and only pay $8 for shipping.
  So the item makes it to Canada and an attempt to deliver was made, and like most people I work thru the day and received a yellow missed delivery slip, which notified me I owned them an additional $25 for their brokerage fee. I expected some fee but 25%, so duty plus how much? I tried to arrange a 2nd delivery, and like most couriers they couldn't provide a set date/time. So I thought lets have it delivered to a UPS store right across from my office downtown, I'll be able to pick it up on the way home. UPS can't do that automatically, YOU the customer must to call the store directly to see if they will even accept the package. If you can convince them, you then call back UPS and advise them of the new UPS Store address What? The UPS store was kind enough to accept the package, but they were also kind enough to charge another $5 for accepting it, lovely.
 So I called the store back the next day (they had closed by the time I got off with UPS central) to instruct them that I'd gone ahead with the redirected delivery only to find out that they don't accept packages with brokerage fees, I'd have to pay in advance. I said fine I'll be right over to pay you, oh no you can't pay us directly you have to pay UPS directly. Are you not UPS? Yes but we are an independent agent we can't accept payments. I call back the REAL UPS and paid the outstanding overpriced brokerage fee over the phone and they were to contact the driver who at this time is already on the road to tell him that the COD charge has been paid. Later that day I get a call from both the independent UPS store and the driver telling me that they cant accept/deliver the package because of the outstanding COD. I tell them that I've paid it, but the driver hasn't heard from UPS central nor can he call to confirm he is just a driver. So that high tech scanner/clipboard thing they carry around must for angry birds because it's linked to absolutely nothing of use to the driver. The UPS store being independent and all can't check the UPS system cause they have no access to the UPS system, What? So I call UPS central, they tell me that the payment information should make it to the dispatch center tomorrow and the driver should be able to deliver the package to the UPS store, sorry independent UPS store. I now understand why they charge so much with drivers who do nothing but drive and have no contact to their dispatch center, and with stores that beyond having a pretty UPS sign in the window and a drop box have nothing to do with UPS they need to recover all of the costs for the extra gas used for truck rolls to actually deliver a package.
 So UPS is useless that much is confirmed, stay away from them, but Adorama is sticking it to us also in their own little way. Say you need a new SD card for your camera, and you're dumb enough to go to them because they have them on sale real cheap $8 for 8G pretty good... Oh but wait they'd never charge $30 to deliver to Canada on something so small would they... Oh yeah you bet they would... Stay away from Adorama unless you can't find it elsewhere... If you must go to the USA for camera stuff B&H or Midwest Photo Exchange have both provided great service for me in the past.

Comparison of a product picked at random that all three stores carry at the same price:

Nik Sharpen Pro 3.0 Plugin $139.99
Store Shipping Customs Total Method
Adorama $30.60 $35.00 $205.59 UPS
MidWest 21.25 18.20 179.44 USPS
B&H $8.62 $20.30 168.91 Purolator

Note: I didn't provide a direct URL for Adorama because I don't want to assist them in any way in taking you to the cleaners.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

FlashBus: The Movie

 For those of you that missed the FlashBus tour last spring, it's now available on DVD. The seminar covered everything off camera flash. The manual method of David Hobby and the TTL method of Joe McNally was covered by either slideshow or live demo. I was present for the Buffalo date and found it both informative and entertaining. However I found that David lost track of what we were there for late in his 1/2 of the show. He went into great detail on how he is changing his business model with his HOCO 360 project, sorry but I came here to learn about lighting. Unfortunately his second lighting dvd training set also suffered from the same off track marketing pitch. I was just interested in lighting, not how you intend to run your business in the future. Hobby's first lighting DVD set is more useful I found.

 I've Ordered the DVD and will update this post with a review...

Update (15-Dec-2011): Haven't received  it yet and regret the purchase already.. see next post "Adorama and Canadian Orders"

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Size Matters II - Moby C the Giant Polaroid Camera

 I recently watched a Kelby Training video "A Day with Joe McNally" where he discussed his time spent using the Giant Polaroid Camera aka "Moby C". There are plenty of the 'large' Polaroid 20"x24" format cameras out there, but there was only one 'Giant' a 40" x 106" format behemoth. The camera has since been decommissioned with Polaroid falling on hard times and the closure of film production facilities.

 Joe was first introduced to the camera while working on a story about the "Moby C" for the National Geographic magazine (the article was never published). He used a ballerina friend as a subject and had great success using the quirky camera. Then the 9/11 tragedy struck and  Joe thought what better use of the camera than to photograph some of the people impacted by this monumental disaster. Within days he received funding for the project, which was huge considering each image cost $300 and within two weeks of 9/11 he proceeded to capture approximately 300 images.

 Moby C is the size of a garage and requires three operators, two are actually encased in the camera itself. Your subject must be placed equidistant in front of the lens with the distance of the lens to the film holder. It's critical that the distance be equal since the lens even at f45 only provides a DOF of just 1/2 an inch. The camera has no focusing device so you move the subject back & forth until you have a focused image. Since the camera also has no shutter, your subject must remain in place as you kill the lights in the room as the camera operates as a camera obscura (a darkened chamber). The film is then loaded into the holder the lens cap is removed and you fire a huge amount of flash at your subject. Just like a typical Polaroid 90 seconds later you peel off the back and you have your image. The camera  is essentially a copier which can duplicate a life size image of almost anyone on the planet.

The images were shown all across the country in the "Faces of Ground Zero — Portraits of the Heroes of September 11th" show,  and again most recently in New York City as part of the 10th anniversary ceremonies. The show raised over 2 million dollars for the recovery fund. A Mamiya 6x7 camera was mounted just under Moby's lens and was used to trigger the flashes, the transparencies produced were used in two books which also helped raise funds for charity.

Moby C by the Numbers:
 75lbs - weight of the U2 spy plane lens used.
 F45 - fstop of the Lens
 30,000 - watt seconds of flash required to light the subject.
 1/2 inch - depth of field (DOF).
 40 in x 106 in - width and length of the images produced.
 300lbs - weigh of prints when framed.
 $300 - cost per image.
 $100,000 - cost of the "Faces of Ground Zero — Portraits of the Heroes of September 11th" project.

 An amazing story about how this huge camera was used to capture the heroes and survivors of  that tragic day. The rest of the video was spent showing what it takes to produce some very powerful and graphic images of two different styled dancers on location in a large warehouse. Insight into how locations are located, secured, insured etc.. was also provided by Joe's production assistant.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Size Matters - DSLR Size

 Upgrading or buying a new camera? Here is a web site that will allow you to compare the physical size of two cameras bodies. It displays different views front, back and both sides for most models and will also let you stack one camera in front of  the other to directly compare the size of the two bodies. The images of the cameras are very well done and can be used to compare button layout changes between models if you're planning an upgrade. Unfortunately the model selection seems to be limited to only a few older models (ex: Canon x0D  line only contains the 50D forward).

Camera Size

Friday, October 21, 2011

Kelby Photoshop Power User - Toronto

Kelby training is coming back to Toronto on November 16th putting on a PhotoShop CS5 Power User course. As usual NAPP members can save $20 on the $99 fee , but if you order before November 1st you can save an extra $10.

Update (18-Nov):  The training was great, Dave Cross is one of the best presenters I've seen live here in Toronto so far from Kelby. Great sense of humor that makes learning easier if entertaining at the same time. 

The Bang Bang Club

 Was a monicker given to a core group of four South African photojournalists who documented the fall of apartheid during the early 90's. The term "bang bang" refers to the violence that was taking place in the townships during the run up to the first open elections after Mandela was released from prison. The violence was mainly between the African National Congress (ANC) and the white sponsored  Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) of mainly zulu warriors brought in to stir up trouble.
 The core group was made up of Kevin Carter, Greg Marinovich, Ken Oosterbroek, and João Silva  other war correspondents like James Nachtwey were also present during the conflict. Their story was made into a movie which premiered during the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010 which closely followed the earlier released book (2000) under the same name "The Bang Bang Club". The movie although interesting didn't capture the internal conflict of what these guys were going through at the time. When someone is being murdered in front of you do you take the shot or try to intervene? Marinovich won a Pulitzer for an image of a burning man being attacked with a machete. When a fellow photographer is wounded as was the case with Marinovich and Oosterbroek (who died of his wounds) do you capture an image before providing first aid? Kevin Carter who captured a Pulitzer prize winning image of a vulture stalking a starving Sudanese girl was often questioned by the press "What did you do to help the girl after taking the shot" nothing.  He committed suicide shortly after losing his friend Ken and dealing with all of the violence he had seen during the conflict.
 If you haven't seen the movie I suggest renting it, but please go get a copy of the book it is a really good read, and provides a small taste of what these guys went through on a daily basis putting their life on the line to get the shot, chasing the Bang Bang.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Henry's Fall Camera / Video Show

Henry's Exposure: Camera Video show takes place this weekend at the Toronto International Center

Update (15-Oct): Went to the show today took in a couple of the seminars NIK software ( I was really impressed with some of their plugins) another was a bird photography introduction at the Nikon booth (less than impressed).
One thing Henry's needs to do is regulate the sound systems used in the booths and competing demonstration areas. There were companies blaring unnecessary musical introductions to there product videos that were drowning out presenters who were trying to communicate with attendees of training demos. I can understand that they are trying to attract customers but audio that fills the entire hall is annoying and just plain rude.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Toronto International Film Fest 2011 (TIFF)

 Well another busy year at TIFF, although not as bad as last year but still crazy. I managed to attend 18 red carpets and made it to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's (HFPA) "In Style" party which was so so, not nearly as good as last year. The overall schedule wasn't as good either, after Tuesday things dropped off pretty quick with some nights only having one gala worth attending often the late one forcing you to attend the early gala just to get a prime spot. The midnight madness program at Ryerson only had one premier worth attending this year which was a disappointment, although getting home early most nights was nice (I skipped it).

 TIFF continues to move events downtown away from Yorkville. They added another gala venue this year the Prince of Whales Theater (PAW) on King street getting rid of the Varisty Theater from their line up. PAW has limited fan space but at least there is a dedicated area unlike the Elgin which I tend to avoid and thankfully seemed to have fewer big name attendees this year which was good. Roy Thompson Hall (RTH) seem to be the place to be this year, I only made it to Ryerson one night and once to the new PAW venue for a matinee gala of Coppola's "Twixt". I found that regardless of the venue people are starting to show up earlier each year to grab some prime real estate on the rail. Also standing on a crate is a must even in the front row to get over the heads of the camera crews who insist on filming every possible second of autograph signing.  I mean how much footage is enough, it's not even being broadcasted on TV, used just for the local big screens around Toronto (get out of the way already!!).

The guest list (those that attended, not the list posted on the TIFF site which is often wrong) contained a lot of new faces for me along with a few repeats which allowed me to obtain better images from the old point & shoot days. Directors Coppolla and Schumacher returned this year, guys that I captured in the very first years of doing this craziness. Other repeats included Nic Cage who I saw back in 2002 but the images were such crap I never posted them. Others included Brad & Angie, Clooney, Butler, Cornish and Garner to name just a few. A stand out repeat was Viggo who laughed when I asked about his cherished HABS, he proudly flashed his fan provided Canadiens bracelet, great guy. The big names this year were Clooney, Pitt and Jolie who were all great with the fans, showing up early and spending a lot of time signing autographs etc...

One of the biggest names that was new for me and not on the TIFF list was Robert De Niro who I missed last year due to the Elgin location. Surprisingly he too was great  signing autographs which I thought would never happen. Another new face was Jason Statham who made an encore appearance at the rail to sign and spend time with the fans he may have missed first time around. More new faces than repeats this year I think. Glenn Close, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jonathan Pryce, Olivia Wilde , Philip Seymour Hoffman, Val Kilmer and Anna Kendrick were just some of the new faces of the many this year...

Oscar winners this year included: Angelina Jolie, George ClooneyGeoffrey Rush, Nicolas Cage and three time winner Francis Ford Coppola all repeats from previous years. Some new Oscar talent seen this year were: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei and two time winner Robert De Niro.

 It was a pretty good year overall, spent some time with the usual suspects (friends) that I've made over the years. Holding your space on the rail sure is easier when you know someone and can share looking after each others stuff when nature calls. Someone lost, or should I say had their camera stolen when they took their eyes off their Nikon DSLR for just a second.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

High Park Purple Martins

 The Purple Martins were back again in High Park this year. They were actively feeding their young in at least 3 of the 12 available nesting holes. All but a couple of the young had fledged by the weekend of the 23rd and most were soaring around the house and over the pond. Adults were still returning with food to the north side of the house, I suspect there were a few late bloomers on that side still waiting to earn their wings.
 They were feeding on dragon and damsel flies and what appeared to be a cicadas too... Where exactly they were getting those I'm not sure as I thought they only gathered insects in flight, I know cicadas have wings not sure how active they are? Also noticed that some returning birds were soaking wet, guess they either took a bath or got too low chasing a meal out over the pond. I've read that they abandon the nest soon after all of their young have fledged, so I suspect that they'll be gone until next year within a week or two.

Friday, July 22, 2011

BlackRapid Camera Straps

  To take pictures you must have your camera handy which usually means hanging it around your neck. With the weight of most DLSR these days that soon becomes tiresome and sometimes painful. The OEM camera straps are functional in that they will hold the camera's weight however they are cheap and are not built for comfort, often cutting into the back of your neck. There are plenty of aftermarket replacement straps and now holsters all claiming to provide a comfortable and secure support for your camera... I've tried a few different options of traditional straps and was never pleased with them,  the camera still felt heavy and it bounced around on your chest as you walked.

  The BlackRapid line of straps use an over the shoulder / across the chest method of supporting the weight of the camera. Your camera connects to the strap using a small eyelet which screws into the tripod mount of either your camera or lens collar. The strap then is attached to the eyelet using a screw locking carabiner which will slide up & down the length of the strap so your camera hangs at your hip much like a revolver waiting for you to draw and pull the trigger. With the camera hanging at your side the weight is off your neck and the camera isn't bouncing around on your chest which drove me nuts. The strap length can be adjusted and two quick release stoppers are also included so you can also adjust the range of camera movement along the length of the strap. All of the BlackRapid models are similar in design with main difference between them being on strap storage capabilities. Some models have additional accessories that can add storage or allow you to connect two straps together to comfortably carry two cameras at once.

 The RS Sport model (which I purchased) is a little different than their other models, it provides a secondary under the arm strap which stops the main strap from possibly working it's way down your back when you're sliding the camera up to your eye. The secondary strap resembles the old gun holsters from the detective movies of the 50's and provides even more stability for your camera while you move around. No on strap storage is provided with this model, but it can be added with accessories.

 One additional accessory that I bought was the "FastenR - T1" conversion screw that allows you to convert a standard Manfrotto RC2 quick release plate so it's compatible with the strap's carabiner. You can quickly switch between the strap and your tripod / monopod without having to remove/attach the BlackRapid eyelet and quick release plate every time. It was expensive and after buying it I wondered if it was really necessary. The only difference between it and the Manfrotto mounting screw was the Manfrotto tightening tag which could be used to connect the strap didn't swivel like the T1. This stiffness could stop the camera from hanging freely against your side, but beyond that the two screws were almost identical.

 I used this strap on a recent trip to Montreal and found it worked perfectly. I hardly knew I was carrying a camera, no more neck and back pain. One thing I noticed however was that you must be aware that the camera is hanging at your side and you must watch that it doesn't slam into narrow door openings etc.. This however was no worse than hanging the camera off one shoulder using a traditional strap which I often did, and always had to fight to keep the strap on my shoulder ( no longer a problem with the BlackRapid).  Great product highly recommend. They're starting to appear at local camera shops or can be purchased online from Naturescapes.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Concert Photography: Kim Churchill

I tried my hand at concert photography during the Montreal International Jazz Festival last week. Wow a whole different environment from what I'm use to. Even though the venue was outside in early evening (7pm) the concert was located in a beer tent which was both dark and crowded. I didn't want to use flash as it would have disturbed the artist and the audience. I tried a variety of lenses and camera settings to account for the lack of light and audience member's in front of me. Even though I was seated early and had a pretty good spot so I thought, seating arrangements became rather informal as we approached show time and I had a fair number of people between me and the stage once it started.

 The artist was a 20 year old Aussie named Kim Churchill who is talented beyond his years. This guy was magical with a guitar and after breaking a string mid song he continues to finish sounding better with five strings than most do with six. Oh and he also plays a drum kit and harmonica while also controlling electronics with bare feet to introduce reverb/echo to give some songs an ethereal sound. Everyone was blown away by this VERY talented song writer / one man band... Simply one of the best concerts I've seen in a very long time... 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Kelby Training: Light It. Shoot It. Retouch It. LIVE!

I attend this Kelby training seminar last week here in Toronto and it was worth every penny. Mr Kelby himself was both entertaining and informative as he walked us through six shooting sessions. Each session demonstrated a different lighting setup and the editing process Scott uses after the shoot using Lightroom and Photoshop. I'd recommend this to anyone who is interested in portrait type photography.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

New Canon Lens Release Dates

Canon has announced release dates for their new telephoto and wide angle lens line up. These dates have change twice before, not sure why? Let's hope they are correct this time.

Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens is scheduled to be available in late July 2011
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens is scheduled to be available in late August 2011
Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens is scheduled to be available in late August 2011
Canon EF 500mm F4L IS II USM lens is scheduled to be available in December 2011
Canon EF 600mm F4L IS II USM lens is also scheduled to be available in December 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Open Doors Toronto - Photographic Possibilities

Looking to photograph something different? Maybe you like architectural photography and are looking for new locations. Next weekend (May 28th & 29th) is full of possibilities as Toronto throws its doors open and allows you to tour some often closed areas of our city. Nearly 150 buildings of architectural, historic, cultural and/or social significance open their doors to the public. Admission is free. And this year the theme is Photography.

 Check out the link for a list of locations participating this year. I also suggest you drill down into the links for the  sites that interest you because some have limited access or times. The details for each site will also provide any photographic restrictions. Some sites may not allow flash, tripods or in the case of Old City Hall no photography of any kind is allowed.

Open Doors Toronto 

Remember to wear comfortable shoes, bring your tripod, a remote shutter cable and plenty of memory cards. There are some great opportunities to experiment with HDR too, some of the churches have beautiful stained glass.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Henrys Spring Digital Imaging Show

This weekend Henry's is holding it's Spring Digital Imaging show out at the International Center (6900 Airport rd. Hall 5). The show starts Friday May 13th and runs thru to Sunday May 15th (Show Hours: Fri & Sat: 10am-7pm  Sun: 11am-5pm). The list of exhibitors includes most of the main camera manufactures, accessory and software producers.
If you're in the market for a new Camera, Lens or maybe a bag most are set up in such a way that you can get a hands on feel for the item. Canon in the past has had all of their lenses available for you to try with your camera, including their long telephoto line which were set up on tripod heads.
Henry's also holds small seminars on everything from taking pictures to printing them afterwards and everything in between. These 45min long demos provide a small taste of what to expect if you attend one of their full day courses at their learning center. Unfortunately the 1st and last 5-10 minutes of each seminar is used to promote their learning center. After hearing the same commercial 2 or 3 times you get bored, and the minimal things you could learn are overshadowed by the promotional stuff so you tend to skip them altogether.
 Not a bad show if you're in the market for some new gear, there are some deals to be had. If you're thinking about taking a training seminar at Henry's you can sample it here before hand and often they have deals if you book your training at the show. There are free tickets floating around too, admission is $15 so it wont break the bank if you do need to pay etc....

Note: If you plan to attend and want to bring your camera, be prepared to register it as you enter and you will be searched as you exit to ensure that the camera you brought is the one you're taking home, unless of course you dropped some cash on an upgrade.

Update 13-May-2011:  Attended the show today and was pleasantly surprised that the seminars are no longer filled with advertizing for Henry's learning center. In fact the instructors today were non Henry's staff, they were exhibitors from the manufactures booths themselves. They too were advertizing their products, but at least they were different for each class and related to what you were learning etc...
 The hall seem to be larger and was setup better than the past. The Henry's sales booth was larger and allowed more room for customers to purchase items. There was a system to purchase items, customers obtained product sheets from the manufacture booths, much like a menu that they could check off what they wanted. They would hand it to the sales clerk at the Henry's booth and they would put their order together. Although I didn't buy anything, the system look very efficient.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Light It. Shoot It. Retouch It. - Toronto

Scott Kelby, awarding winning author of "The Digital Photography Book" and Editor of Photoshop User magazine, brings one of his all-time most popular Online classes to life in this amazing day where you learn it all; the lighting, the shooting, and the retouching, all live as it happens.
 The seminar will take place:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Metro Toronto Convention Centre

255 Front St West

NAPP members receive a $20 discount from the regular $99 price. I've been to two Kelby training sessions here in Toronto and both were well worth the investment of time and money. Check out the link:
Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It - Toronto

Optimize Photoshop CS5 Performance

  Regardless if you're an enthusiasts or professional ensuring that your Photoshop CS5 setup is optimized for your work environment and for the tasks you perform regularly is essential. All users will benefit from optimization, but those who work with video or large raw image files using multiple layers will see the greatest performance gains.
  The optimization process applies to both your system hardware and the software settings you have set. Adobe has created an Optimization white paper which will walk you through the process of determining which type of Photoshop user you are, and what you should do to take full advantage of their powerful product. Visit the link below:

Abobe Photoshop CS5 Optimization White Paper

Monday, April 11, 2011

Flash Bus Tour: Buffalo

  I shuffled off to Buffalo on Saturday to attend the "Flash Bus Tour 2011" and it was well worth it. These guys truly make lighting people look easy. The day started with Joe 'NumNuts' McNally and David 'Strobist' Hobby greeting people as they waited in line to be processed and receive their swag bag of goodies. The bags contained a Flash Bus CF card holder from Think Tank Bags, Strobist filter kit from Roscoe Filters, and a Cinch Strap from Lumiquest. Also included were various coupons towards the purchase of gear and software from the other sponsors of the tour. One freebie coupon that was highlighted in both sessions was for a Frio cold shoe mount that both raved about. I've order it hoping that they deliver to Canada. It looks like the better mouse trap, I'll review the free one and order others if it lives up to the praise.

 The day was split into two sessions with David showing his method of using manual flash settings via a well organized slide show. He walked us through a couple of different shooting scenarios looking at what he looks for in a location, how he evaluates the base light (ambient) and then adds layers of light using "AKFA".

A - Ambient.      K - Key.      F - Fill.      A - Accent.

 I really picked up on the importance of setting the "Ambient" light first. Eliminating it entirely or dialing it down to take advantage of it's color cast or undertones then adding your key and fill lights to taste as he uses his cooking analogy. He kinda strayed off topic I thought for a few minutes as he explained how the photography marketplace has changed, where he thinks it's going and where his upcoming project Hoco360 should leave him in a marketable position. It was interesting don't get me wrong, those that rely on photography for a living may have found it more interesting. But bottom line I'm paying to learn about lighting not how the bottom has dropped out of photography market.

 After the lunch break Joe took to the stage with some live demos of TTL lighting. He walked us through a single on camera flash scenario to multiple flashes including a finale using every Nikon flash in the audience. The session showed numerous lighting setups adding layers of diffusion, different lights for different faces from the audience all using the camera's TTL system to control flash output and making adjustments on what the camera sees. Here I learned how important it was to zero out your flashes as you add them in each setup, don't guess let the camera tell you what it thinks is correct first and adjust on that. Also how to feather the light by positioning the light source angled off subject slightly.

 Both David and Joe were very entertaining and made the day very informative and fun at the same time. Some good nature poking between the two about Manual versus TTL was rather funny to watch... all and all a great day and well worth the money.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Online Nature & Wild Life Reference Resources

Trying to identify a new bird, bug or wildflower that you photographed can be a challenge, here is a list of some online resources that should help out:

Birds of North America (BNA): Comprehensive reference covering the life histories of North America’s breeding birds.
Ontario Field Ornithologists: Ontario Canada Birding resource central. Contains information on recent sightings, Ontario species check lists which includes images useful for identification
 eBird Canada: A Canadian subset of the On-line checklist project where you can enter and store your bird observations in a central database, track your personal records, and share your observations with other birders and scientists.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology: A world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds.
Encyclopedia of Life: Database for every one of the almost 2 million species that are named and known on this planet.
eNature: Web site for information about the wild animals and plants of Canada and the United States.Ability to search or browse thru the field guides of more than 5,500 North American species.
Animal Diversity Web: Database of animal natural history, distribution, classification, and conservation biology at the University of Michigan. Online resource of the plants, insects and animals of Boreal Forest of Northwestern Ontario.
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center: Detailed information from the Patuxent Research Center and collaboration between the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
New York State Mammals: Housed inside the web site has information on animals and plants of upper NY, which shares much of the same climate and geographic makeup of southern Ontario.
Bug Guide: community of naturalists who enjoy learning about and sharing our observations of insects, spiders, and other related creatures.
Odonata Central:  Online resource for dragonflies and damselflies from around the world.
Ontario Wildflowers: all about wildflowers that grow in Ontario (Canada).
Ontario Trees and Shrubs: Same format as the Ontario wildflower site. 
Mushroom Expert: Everything mushroom and fungi.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Earthquake / Tsunami Impacts Camera Manufactures

The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan this past week has impacted production at all of the major camera and lens manufactures. Thankfully reports from these companies say that only a few employees suffered injuries. Although there was earthquake and water damage to some locations the bigger problem now could be with the nuclear power plant issues, there could be a shortage of electricity to resume production once the facilities have been repaired. This could impact availability and the launch of new products to market.

Canon: Has reported injuries to 15 employees, and “significant” damage at a number of sites located in Utsunomiya  – about mid-way between Tokyo and Sendai. Operations at the company’s Optical Products Plant and Optics R&D Center at Utsunomiya are suspended, Canon saying that there is likely to be a delay before any operational resumption.
Canon has also suspended operations indefinitely at its Optron subsidiary in Yuki where the company produces optical crystals used in stepper, camera and telescope applications. Canon added that if operations at any of these sites were likely to be affected for more than a month, it would be able to transfer some activities to alternate facilities.

Nikon: has suspended operations at a number of key locations. These include its Tochigi Nikon Precision Co., Ltd and Miyagi Nikon Precision Co., Ltd subsidiaries, which both produce high-quality lenses for applications in lithography steppers and scanners used in IC and LCD manufacture.
Also impacted are the company’s Sendai locations which manufacture the D3S, D3X, D700 and the F6 they've been forced to close due to damage to equipment and to the building themselves.

Sony: Operations at 10 Sony Corporation factories and 2 Sony R&D centers have been shut down by the Pacific Coast of Tohoku Earthquake and tsunami. Sony is monitoring the status of each of these sites on an on-going basis, while also considering the most effective recovery measures. Sony also has responded to reports of widespread power outages by voluntarily suspending operations at several sites. No significant injuries have been reported to employees working at any of these sites when the earthquake or tsunami occurred.

Epson: One factory had been hit by one meter high tsunami and two factories close to the nuclear plant have been closed down. Three other manufacturing facilities are being impacted by rolling blackouts. Main production facilities are located in China and elsewhere and supplies to customers should not be affected.

SanDisk: Who's operations were withing 500 miles of the epicenter have not been affected and production resumed Friday morning.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Copyright & Newspaper Photography Clubs

 A recent trend with news orientated web sites are "photography clubs" where a news paper for instance will share some tips from their staff photographers and members (readers) post images to their web site. News programs on television have been requesting viewers to send in still images and videos of events that they've witnessed for years. Leveraging the large audience of a news paper to promote your work can be good, however there is usually a hidden cost which comes with the free promotion, copyright ownership.

  All of these sites have a "Terms and Conditions" area that describes the responsibilities of you as the submitter of content and the site itself. They must ensure that you own the copyright of the images you're posting and they need your permission to display the content on their site or printed issue. It's essentially a "cover their ass" statement that dissolves them of any legal issues if an image is published or appears on their web site. It spells out in detail what they can and can not do with the content you have submitted. Some of the terms are very simple and limited to the site's ability to display your images. Others however are complicated and force you to hand over all rights to the images you're submitting and give them permission to edit, sell, license and reproduce your images any way they want.

Here is one paragraph from a local news paper's "Terms and Conditions" statement for their photography club:

You grant the Toronto Star, a division of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited (the “Toronto Star”) and its affiliates, an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive worldwide license to use, reproduce, distribute, print, alter, edit, syndicate, license, and otherwise exploit the materials you submit, or any portion of them, in any manner and in any media or forum, whether or not currently known, without making payment to you or any third party. You authorize the Toronto Star and its affiliates to use your name in connection with the photos. You also waive any moral rights that you may have in the photos.

Do you really want to submit content here? Is the free publicity to promote your work worth giving up these rights? For me any term or condition that uses the word "exploit" cant be a good thing. It's something you need to be aware of and you must read the fine print before submitting images to any web site.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Flashbus Tour (McNally & Hobby)

 Two different styles of lighting and two different ways of teaching combine as Joe McNally and David Hobby  join forces to explore and explain good light — good light done fast and well. One fully manual and the other via TTL. Spend the day studying light as you watch over the shoulders of two experienced professionals. Their paths may be different, but the end goal is the same -- to create interesting light that is appropriate to the subject and to do it in an intuitive way.
 I've watch all of the Joe McNally videos that are available via the Kelby training site. I've also bought David Hobby's first lighting DVD course and both were great, cant wait to see them live.

The tour bus heads out to Seattle on March 11th  and hits 29 cities in 6 weeks the cost of this light show is:

Event only: $99.95
Event + David Hobby's "Lighting in Layers" DVD (new for 2011): $239.95
Event + Joe McNally's "The Language of Light" DVD (new for 2011): $239.95
Event + David Hobby DVD + Joe McNally DVD: $349.95

Seats are selling out quickly so book today... Flash Bus Tour

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winter Photography - Operating your Camera

 One of the biggest challenges of an outdoor photographer in winter is staying warm. Sure you can wear extra layers, thermal boots, long johns and the all important toque but keeping your hands warm is always a challenge. Being able to control your camera and losing your fingers to frost bite is a fine balancing act that your fingers often lose.

 I've tried various glove and mitt combination's with limited success. Traditional mittens are warmer than gloves but are useless when trying to use a camera so gloves tend to be used by most photographers. Some gloves use rubberized tips to improve tactile feel, others use cut off finger tips with velcroed mitten flaps to cover exposed skin when not required. Most winter wear including these half glove/mitt hybrids do not provide a fabric free thumb option so you often need to remove them to review images or adjust exposure compensation (thumb wheel on Canon Cameras). Some manufactures are starting to catch on to the idea of fabric free thumbs due to the popularity of texting on smart phones.

 I recently came across a company called Freehands who's line of gloves provide both an exposed index finger and thumb with magnetically held tip coverings. Originally designed around the frustration of using an iPhone in winter and having to remove his glove to answer his phone Josh Rubin came up with this perfect solution which can be used for any gadget in cold weather. I purchased two different models the Recycled Fleece ($18) and the heavier Ski Mitts ($45). One thing I really like about these gloves are the magnets used to hold the fold back tips. Other manufactures tend to use velcro which you always seem to fight with, and I've scared subjects away (birds) with the noise of separating the two sides of the velcro.  I've found the lighter fleece gloves to be so warm that I haven't used the ski mitts yet. Normally my hands get cold in gloves, but the fleece gloves have performed very well even after 5-6 Hrs. in -6C temps.

Freehands' order shipping (US/Canada Post) was quick, less than a week to Toronto even during the busy week before Christmas. Their sizing chart was surprisingly accurate. I'd normally buy extra large gloves, but their chart recommend just a large size for me. I was leery ordering the smaller size but they fit like a glove (sorry). Their products have been reviewed by many media firms as genius and I'd have to agree. They're available at only a few Canadian locations, but ordering on line was hassle free so check them out.

Update (17-Jan-2010):  Out on the weekend in -12C (-23C with the windchill) and had to use the heavier Sky Mitts, and although they worked better than most other gloves I've tried my finger tips still got cold after a while. I had to break out the Grabber hand warmers.