Wednesday 30 June 2010

Transforming my Canon 5dmkII - Why some CF cards are more equal than others

How does one go about 'transforming' a DSLR in terms of shooting speed?

I LOVE my Canon 5DmkII but one of the criticisms I had of it was at times it could feel a little Slow......

You know, hitting the buffer after a mere 12 frames of shooting rapid fire in RAW

Followed by the annoyance of waiting, and watching, and the red 'writing' LED flickering on the back of the camera as the data was written to card

Now I thought that the bottleneck was the camera, not the card, after all I was using the very latest spec cards from some of the biggest names in Compact Flash Manufacture  with the oft mentioned, in camera and card spec, UDMA designation (Ultra Direct Memory Access in case you were wondering) there is an explanation of how it works on Wikipedia

Yesterday I was shooting in a very demanding shoot on set for a BBC television production

I started shooting on a card by 'Big brand A' and sure enough I found the camera was reduced to feeling like someone had poured treacle into it.......buffer.....buffer....buffer....buffer

Soon the card was filled and in its place I put in a Hoodman RAW shooter UDMA 6, 675X CF card and my camera was transformed

It felt like dropping a Silky smooth V6 motor after struggling with an old asthmatic tired 4 cylinder engine

The difference was THAT pronounced

I made some enquiries about buying some in the UK, but I drew a blank

You can buy them direct though, cool if you are in the USA but the shipping and tax could make them a little prohibitive in the UK

What to do?

After a little asking around I found my friends at the Flash Centre were selling the latest and greatest Compact Flash cards from Delkin Devices

My only criticism of this card has nothing to do with its performance but its daft name

Combat Flash (Why.....oh why?)

Complete with camouflage markings

I would much rather it had flowers and butterflies on it, really!

I ran my own unscientific tests back to back between these speed kings and found the Hoodman to be marginally faster in terms of write performance in camera and read performance too, but it was a close run thing.

The other factor one has to bear in mind is that Hoodman claim never to have had a card fail, but they are pricier

You pays your money and you takes your choice...

Either way if you put one of these cards in your camera and you are currently using an older slower card you will get a real speed boost

Highly recommended

Tuesday 22 June 2010

A free lunch courtesy of Manfrotto

As the saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch, well there are exceptions to that rule and this is one of them!

Manfrotto has just launched its 'Manfrotto School of Excellence' which is a new online tutorial platform which allows users to log on and access the experience and know-how of some of the biggest names in the business such as Bill Frakes, Roberto Bigano, Joe McNally, Ami Elsius, Marc de Tollenaere, Kristoff Ramon, David Duchemin, Jim Oltersdorf and Cliff Guy

As well being a quality resource covering all aspects of photography and videography   the school of excellence will offer a series of FREE, yes, FREE! on line training sessions of varying difficulty to help photographers take their photography to the next level

I will be hosting one of these web seminars focusing on m HD DSLR work titled 'Stills in Motion' it will last for around 30 to 40 mins and you will be able to interact with me online as I chat about my latest moving image projects.

I have no idea how it works numbers wise or if it will be limited but it would be great to have you along for the ride on my first foray into this field (it is FREE too remember!)

Regular followers of this blog will have noticed that my rate of posting has somewhat gone up this month, I have lots to say and some really new exciting projects in the pipeline, so stay tuned

'Words' by Neil Young has just started to play on Radio fitting

Saturday 19 June 2010

The Making of 'The Rainbow Chiefs' short Movie - On the Canon CPN Website

If you are interested in knowing a little more about the South African Township football movie 'The Rainbow Chiefs'  Katherine Holley and I are interviewed on the Canon CPN website

Hopefully it will give you an insight into what went into the filming and editing this roller coaster of a project

Still getting a kick out of seeing my work in print

Just popped out to the shops and there was one of my latest sets of photographs  on the cover of the Daily Mail 'Weekend Magazine'

I shot it last week assisted by the brilliant Marie Absolom who has won the coveted AOP assistants Award

The brief was to shoot the cover and then a series of photos which would give the idea of the evolution of fatherhood, after all it is Fathers day in the UK this Sunday

It was a full on day to say the very least as we were lighting the two shots completely differently

The cover shot was lit with Elinchrom 600RX in a beauty dish from the left and a Elinchrom 600RX  backlight with a grid as they wanted a harder more dramatic look, shooting all the subject separately
(Doesn't 50's man look a bit like Harrison Ford? Soldier guy has shades of Jude Law I think too...)

The evolution composite was lit very simply with an Elinchrom head in a large Octa soft box, from the right.

When you are shooting composites this is a very good solution which gives very soft but directional lighting

And the challenge? Well apart from working with a very sweet but not always happy baby, the camera was in EXACTLY the SAME position FOR BOTH SHOTS!

Followers of this blog will know the importance of keeping the camera locked down on a tripod for composite shots so the angle and perspective remains consistent.

So how did I do it?

Well this shoot was the last ever on my Phase One P45+, with a Hasselblad H1, but I will talk about that another day, and explain my reasoning for switching camera's...

All I did to maintain a consistent camera position was to use a standard HC80mm lens for the full length 'Octa' shot, then get the model to step forward to a pre marked spot and switch to a HC120mm switch to the harder lighting set up (beauty dish and back light)

So full length on the 80mm.......

And the tighter 120mm shot

Check out the 'gun' which is a Manfrotto light stand. We had no gun on set and there fore had to work out something which would leave the models hands in the right position and the rifile could then be added in post (not by me or my team I hasten to add!)
The camera had to be adjusted by 3 degrees between shots on a carefully marked Manfrotto 405 geared head

This tripod head has to be experienced to be believed an if you are shooting any type of composite work it is quite frankly indispensable

A long but good day

Friday 18 June 2010

Something for the Weekend -London Docklands Timelapse

As the last time lapse was such a hit I decided to shoot another one last night while visiting one of my friends....

I set my Canon 5d Mk 2 with an 'L' series 24/105 F4 zoom lens, though 'only' F4 this lens truly is the 'get out of jail free' card of lenses

This versatile zoom is unfarly ranked as a 'kit' lens but it is VERY sharp and it is one of the 3 standard lenses which I go out the door with along with the 'L'  series 35mm F1.4 and, you guessed it, the 'L' series 85mm F1.2

London Docklands Timelapse from drew gardner on Vimeo.

Triggered with a Canon TC-80N3, shooting a shot every 5 seconds

Left the whole rig running on my amazing Gitzo 5561SGT tripod, with its Manfrotto 405 Head.

This tripod is indespensible if you are working on a ladder or need maximum stability, even though you will see a couple of 'bumps' in the sequence, it was soooooooooooo windy, perhaps I should have sand bagged it?

I put the whole thing together in Final Cut Pro, though my friend Alex Ray of 'The Flash Centre' tells me that good easy way of doing it is in Quicktime 7, I will be trying this out next week and will let you know how I get on
Anyway off to watch the England match.....

BTW I can't quite work why the 10 'dead' seconds are on the time lapse at the start. It is only 50 seconds long but when uploaded it mysteriously becomes 60 seconds, any suggestions?

Tuesday 15 June 2010

To banish banding, just add noise....

Luckily I have never really encountered banding on a Tiff image which was output from Raw.

Until a few weeks ago when I shot this portrait on my Canon 5d MkII with a 'L' Series 35mm F1.4 Lens, which followers of this site will know I am a BIG fan of.

The ambient light was flooding in through a small one meter square window onto the sitter and the background.

With my photojournalist head on I knew if I shot at F1.4 it would give me a beautiful effect without using flash, I did after all cycle to the assignment, so I decided to go without any flash gear at all (shock horror!) when I'm in the mood it something I love to do

I was very pleased with the outcome and then I output the image using the superb Capture One 5, still the best RAW processing software out there in my opinion (in fact they are having a 50 percent off Summer sale on until the 18th June)

Then I downloaded the card, and there it was on my favourite shot

Banding, pretty uncommon for the most part but when it strikes it can be a real issue

I know of ad campaigns which have had very expensive reconstructive surgery in post production just to fix this issue

Banding is caused by the sensor failing to cope with a gradation in tones

Meaning it cannot record a sufficient range of tonality, so where it cannot record the shade of grey you get banding,

Now a Phase One camera shoots in 16 bit colour which is capable of recording a stunning 65,536 shades of grey but I shot the assignment on a Canon 5DMkII which shoots in 14 bit colour which is capable of recording 'only' 16,384 shades of grey but still so much better than the previous generation of DSLR's which shot in 8 bit colour which is only capable of recording a mere 256 shades of grey.

So what to do?

Here is the Images without my red scrawl all over it, complete with banding along with the default Capture One 5 settings

And here is the corrected image

And this is how I overcame the issue, by adding some fine grain noise to the image then 'softening' it using the Negative Clarity 

Perhaps if I shot the image at a higher ISO I would not have encountered the issue but I wanted to shoot at 100 ISO to give a creamy smooth look

Sunday 13 June 2010

World Cup Timelapse

So more from the World Cup in South Africa, well I was out there for the best part of a month, thanks to that volcano ash cloud......

I shot this time-lapse of the Green point World Cup stadium at quite a distance, from Lagoon Beach while enjoying a rather excellent meal at the Wang Thai restaurant

Shooting time lapse is one of the easiest and most satisfying routes into moving images as viewers of my latest DVD 'Stills in Motion' will know

Time lapse Cape Town World Cup Stadium from drew gardner on Vimeo.

This sequence was shot on my Canon 550d (or as it is known in the USA, the Digital Rebel T2i) with a Canon 'L' series 300mm F4 lens (so much smaller and lighter if you are travelling than than the F2.8 version) the beauty of using this camera over the Canon 5d MkII is that as well as not wearing my shutter unit out quite so fast on the more expensive camera it has the advantage of a 1.6 x crop factor sensor which means my 300mm becomes the equivalent of a 460mm lens, making an exposure every 5 seconds using the Canon intervalometer TC80N3. There are other cheaper alternatives out there but the slightly more expensive model from Canon really is worth the price differencial as the user interface is SO much easier to use than anything else I have encountered.

I mounted the set up to my Gitzo tripod using the tripod mount on the lens, not the camera baseplate, remembering to turn OFF the IS (image stabilisation)
If you keep it on while mounted to a tripod it can actually blur the images as the internal gyroscope fights to control movement which just is not there.

The finished result is short and sweet, do watch for the blurred seagulls and the passing ships.

A beautiful evening to savour, happy memories indeed

Monday 7 June 2010

The Soccer World Cup - Cape Town

Follower of this blog will be aware of the the Township photographic academy which I worked on with the NGO 'True North'

While we were there Katherine Holley and I made a short movie about the impact of the soccer world Cup coming to South Africa

The debate regarding the wisdom of spending millions of dollars on the Stadia and infrastructure in a country where too many people have very little, will carry on for many years to come.

But the fact remains that the World Cup coming to the African continent for the first time, where passion for the 'beautiful game' burns like no other, is important recognition for the whole of Africa as part of the world community and not as just a 'basket case' continent (Jonathan Dimbelby of the BBC is making a similar case now in his excellent new series 'An African journey with Jonathan Dimbelby')

The World Cup brings something else too


The hope to aspire, live and celebrate life itself no matter what ones background

Even in the poorest of South African township

But don't take my word for it

Listen to the of the 'Rainbow Chiefs' township childrens football team and their amazing coach Monray

The Rainbow Chiefs from drew gardner on Vimeo.

I could bang on about prime lenses, Canon 5D Mk2's, Canon 550D's and all the other stuff involved with this project and if there is enough interest I will, but I would rather just leave you with the voice's of some rather excited kids on the eve of the start of the World Cup.

And I don't even like soccer........