Gear Happy?

So… did your favourite holiday icon deliver any photographic gifts to you this last week?

For your sake, I hope he/she/it did. And if so, my advice is: learn how to use it properly. From a new camera to a new flash to modifiers to accessories, they are all much more effective if you learn how to use them properly. And the good news: it is easier than you think. Often much easier. And more often than not, adding additional extras will extend your creative options.

So is photography about the equipment? No, it is not. But without that equipment, there is no photography. So let me take you through some of the main equipment I use, to give you an idea of what you might like to look at if you wanted a full “pro” kit. Of course you do not need all this, but it is worth knowing what the full range would be. And this is pretty much a full range. Click on the links I provided for your convenience to read details (and to order: Amazon has amazing deals – especially on the perfectly good older models, i.e. the Mk1 instead of Mk2 lenses).

Cameras:

Why one crop body? To make my longer lens (200mm) appear even longer (320mm) when I need it!

Prime (fixed) Lenses:

Why so many fixed lenses? Well—their quality is great, they are typically smaller, and they provide wonderful consistency in your work. And.. they are usually faster (lower minimum “f-numbers”). Finally, some lenses (macro, tilt-shift) are only available as primes.

Zoom lenses:

Flashes:

Flash modifiers:

  • Honl Photo range of flash modifiers (highly recommended). Like the softbox, the invaluable grid, the gels, and the speed snoot. I could not live without these.

A few of my add-ons, etc:

There’s a lot more, but these are the main items. In future posts I’ll mention some more for you. Have fun—and remember, always carry your camera.

 

 

Macro fun

Canada’s silver dollar used to carry the “Voyageur” design on the obverse side. This year, a special 150 year anniversary edition, with the same design in the centre:

The original looked like this:

Those are simple iPhone shots. But proper shots of coins are taken with a macro (or as Nikon calls it, a Micro)  lens, i.e. a close up lens.

And once I do that, I see something amusing. Look at the native person in the front of the canoe.

In the original, he is traveling nude:

In the re-issued coin, he is wearing a loincloth!

I can just imagine the meetings that must have happened on this subject at the Royal Mint of Canada. Though I do wonder about the political correctness aspect: why is nudity so bad?

In any case: it is only the macro lens, in my case the 100mm f/2.8, that allowed us to see this design change. Who knew?

 

 

 

Coins and Uncle Bob

Photographing coins is notoriously tough. They are shiny and matte; the shiny bits can be dark or light depending on how you shoot them; they need to show coin detail without showing dust detail; and above all they are three-dimensional, not flat: to do it properly takes a lot of equipment and skill.

But you can do a lot with a little: an 80-20 rule says you can get 80% of perfect with 20% of the effort.

Let’s take a look. A macro lens and a ring flash gives me the following, for a 2015 proof quality coin.

First, the ring flash is held not quite right:

A better positioning gives me consistent results like this, for the obverse (front) side:

And here’s the reverse (“back”) side:

Not bad for five minutes work, no?

Remember that 80-20 rule. Often, you can do with “good enough”. Like when selling on eBay: perfection makes people suspect that you have simply copied a commercial picture, and hence the item pictured is not your item. So this is a good compromise: pretty good, little effort.

I used:

  1. Macro lens
  2. Ring flash (or in this case, Orbis ring flash adapter)
  3. Flash set to manual, 1/4 power
  4. White balance set to flash
  5. Camera set to 200 ISO, 1/125 sec, f/11

And Bob’s your uncle!

 

Thanks, Adobe.

My distaste of Adobe’s “CC” system continues unabated.

I now understand the confusion between me and some of my students.

  • What was “Lightroom CC” is now called “Lightroom Classic CC”.
  • “Lightroom CC” is now the name for the new dumbed down version with many essential missing functions (like HSL editing), a ‘simplified’ user interface, and an emphasis on cloud storage—intended for less sophisticated users who do not understand file storage.

So yes, if you ask “Are you sure you have Lightroom CC” the answer is pretty much meaningless, since a “yes” could mean you have the previous version of the full app, or the current version of the dummy app. Same name.

Thanks, Adobe. You have proven again why the CC system is dumb. The sooner we see Lightroom competitors, the better, and that is the good news: there will surely be serious competition soon.

Oh, one more thing: when you “upgrade” from stand-alone to Classic CC, you need to upgrade your catalog file. Which in my case looks like it’s going to take a number of hours. Yet another reason to dislike the whole CC thing.

Need another? Yes, recently Adobe sent out an update that ‘accidentally’ wiped out the old version of the app for perpetual license holders (I expect this has to do with re-using the name “Lightroom CC”, see above). Ouch.

Does Adobe realize this is business critical for many photographers? My feeling is that yes, alas, they do, which is why they can engage in this behaviour; behaviour that borders on the abusive.