Friday 27 April 2012

Farewell Terry Spinks - An Olympic Golden Great

When I turned the radio on to listen to 'Today' I heard the sad news that Terry Spinks, who won an Olympic Gold for Flyweight Boxing at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic games has died.

Terry featured in our 'Olympic Golden Greats' exhibition, Sponsored by Manfrotto, at John Lewis in the Stratford Centre.

In fact he made it to the private view, along with his Cousin Rosemary and her husband Terry, who have cared for him for many years.

I cannot claim to have known the family well but they are Lovely kind people, who's kindness and generosity are sadly no longer the norm in society.

In fact their deeds hark to days gone by.

Terry is said to have given most of his money and possessions away - while he was out on a cold night he gave away his fancy coat to a homeless person.

Think of that for a moment if you will.

Rosemary led a long campaign for him to receive an honour from the Queen, an MBE is normally the order of the day, but it took a hard fought campaign before he finally received one in 2002.

Lucinda and I shot him at the atmospheric West Ham Amateur boxing club, which has changed little since Terry trained there for the 1956 Olympic Games.

We wanted to shoot on the Phase One DF with P65+ with a very shallow depth of field, F2.8.

To light him, and the club.

We used 3 Elinchrom Quadra's.

Key light on Terry from camera left, with a Chimera small soft box

Back light on Terry from Camera left, with a Chimera extra small soft box and a grid.

One light in the far distance on camera left to light the background.

We used my BIG Gitzo 5560SGT and its remarkable height  to be half on and half off another boxing ring to get the right angle. This tripod has made the difference on so many occasions because you can put your camera in extreme positions in a very stable way.

Here is Lucinda with Terry and his cousin Rosemary.

It was a special day.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

The iPad 3's Achilles heel

I have been a big fan of the the iPad since it was introduced.

If one accepts its limitations it is a very effective device.

In fact I did not take a laptop with me on my tour of the Far East, it has filled the niche so well.

The iOS version of Keynote being particularly excellent for presentations on the fly.

I even tried a Time lapse with it and it was pretty good.

I bought the iPad 1 but skipped the iPad 2 as one can take the purchase of glittering Apple jewels a little too far.

From its feature set the iPad 3 was a candidate for an upgrade, and overall I'm happy with it.

But with one very big caveat.

It's power consumption.

That beautiful retina screen is a power hog.

With my iPad 1 I could manage to get by with sporadic and occasional charges, it would get by on a whiff of power and hang onto the charge quite nicely thank you very much.

If you play this game with the iPad 3 you will pay the consequences
and as a result I'm never far away from some way of topping up the power.

What is more not only does it seem to charge more slowly, but if you are running an screen heavy app while charging you may well experience a 'static' battery situation - where the battery power does not go down, but neither does it go up.

This has caught me out a couple of times, where I have been running an app while it has been charging overnight, and in the morning the battery has been in much the same state of charge as when I plugged it in.

So when I was about to make my presentation I was left wondering if I would make it through, a nerve wracking experience.

The problem further made worse by the fact that you cannot charge the iPad while it is plugged into a projector as the share the only external connection point the device has.

Yes, I should be more organised and together but this is real life and we all have quite enough going on without committing too much mental capacity for a charging strategy for ones mobile device.

Don't get me wrong, I do like my iPad 3 and I'm writing this blog on it as I travel to London.

All I'm saying is that by upgrading the screen Apple has changed the character of the device in my opinion.

Before you buy one try to assess which you value more, the retina display or battery life?

If you want a solution where the battery lasts through the day and beyond you might like to consider the iPad 2 and save some cash too.


Friday 20 April 2012

My GoPro v iOS for timelapse on the move

My travels around the Far East on the Phase One IQ tour were a great opportunity to shoot a few time lapse sequences from every stop on my trip.

I cannot say I planned this at all, but I had the idea while I was in Bangkok after shooting a time lapse in Hong Kong on my iPad 3.

Shooting time lapse on an iOS device is surprisingly easy with any one of a number of app's to do the job.

I tried iTimelapse, Timelapse and Motion pics, all which have their own strengths and weakness's.

The great benefit of this being you can render, export and share it straight away from the device.

The other benefit being no one pays much attention to you, particularly if you are using an iPhone for the task in hand.

The downside of this is that there is still no truly suitable and secure way of attaching your iPhone or iPad to a mount, and the few that are we're not available on my travels.

Even if there were, a bigger problem is that you can't use your device for anything else while shooting a time lapse.

Then there is the small matter of jeopardy - while traveling would you really be happy hanging your main means of communication out of the 23rd floor window of a hotel?

With all this in mind I scored myself a GoPro Hero 2.

Relatively cheap, verging on the indestructible, and not totally the end of the world if it gets stolen.

Try to bear in mind that though the GoPro 2 is a step forward over the first version, low light is still not it's strong suit.

Note in this cracking GoPro promo short there is no low light work at all.

Next the mounting solution.

It may come with a couple of single use sticky pads, a sucker cup, a head band or even a flotation device, and a waterproof housing, depending which version you buy.

But it does not come with a tripod mount.

It is listed as a spare part but I found no shop which stocked them on my travels.

I resorted to buying an unbranded clamp which had a tripod mount in the bottom.

This opened the gateway to a myriad of solutions, the cornerstone of which being the Manfrotto Super clamp which I used in conjunction with the Manfrotto 709B mini tripod, from which I use the tiny ball head to bolt to the clamp, and sometimes use the mini column too.

There are many, many things you can achieve with this set up.

My friends the Bui Brothers use something called the 'Nasty Clamp' which is lightweight, effective and takes up little space in your bag.

I then use the SD adaptor from the iPad camera connection kit to check the framing, the optional LCD screen that GoPro sell would be good but I'm holding out for the WiFi adaptor instead so I can see what shot I'm getting via my iPhone.

Then there is the small matter of powering the camera

The standard battery will power the camera for around two and a half hours.

But what happens if you want to shoot for more than that?

Once again GoPro sell clip on battery pack for additional power, once again no one sold these in the Far East and if they had anyway I'm not sure I would have bought one, because I had another solution.

When I last saw Lan Bui of the Bui Brothers he was travelling with a large external battery called an iSound.

Now it looked big and bulky so I took the mickey out of him for having it.

I mean, why on earth would you need one of these?

Fast forward a couple of months and I had to eat my words as I bought one.

This meaty looking device will charge your iPhone, iPad and yes, you can run a GoPro for hours and hours, though not while in its waterproof housing.

Here it is alongside a hotel flower.

The big downside with the GoPro set up was that while on my travels I had to resort to computer surfing to render my files using QuickTime Pro 7, as I could find no way of doing this on the iPad 3, it should be possible but there was always one factor or another which got in the way.

If anyone knows differently please do let me know.

One thing to bear in mind if you are shooting time lapses from indoors are reflections.

There may not seem to be any when you set the camera up but when the lights come on in the building you are in it can ruin your best efforts.

Here is what happened in Jakarta.

All clear at the beginning......

And then the lights came on, while I was away of course.....

I did get away with it (just) by trimming the worst reflection from the end of the clip and by using local adjustments and a vignette in Capture One Pro 6 to minimise the effect.

I run all my time lapses through Capture One Pro 6 to tweak them, and I found the 'Clarity' tool particularly useful to cut through haze on city scopes.

Here is the GoPro set up on the Manfrotto 709B in the Jakarta hotel.

If you have a busy schedule and you want to make sure the camera is OK, you can even recruit a friendly security guard and reward them appropriately.....

Here is my final timelapse from the roof of the spectacular Marina Sands Bay Hotel complex, which offers unrivalled views of Singapore.

Once again I bolted the camera to the safety railing and stood with the camera for more than three hours, unhindered by security personnel, imagine doing this in London? I suspect it would only be moments before they kicked you off.

I waited until my return home before dealing with the files.

I was bitterly disappointed to see the camera set up had been more adversely affected by people leaning on the railing and made the sequence sporadically 'jump' because of the movement of the camera.

This is one of my pet hates and characterises poor time lapse, in my books anyhow.

I was adding the audio track in Final Cut Pro X and thought I would try the stabilisation setting.

To my great surprise it worked a treat and banished the dreaded 'bounce' of the camera.

Many of us have it in our minds to shoot time lapse but getting round to it seems another matter entirely.

The truth is it has never been easier.

The rewards are great when you do though.

Why not try it this weekend?

Thursday 12 April 2012

Phase One IQ Far East tour-Kuala Lumpur

A super early run to the airport on mercifully deserted roads.

On the two-ish hour flight to Kuala Lumpur I thought I would have a crack at GoPro time lapse out of the window just for fun and it was really quite effective. I'm not quite sure how I pulled it off unhindered by cabin crew but they did not seem bothered.

GoPro=free timelapse fun.

The seminar was in a studio which was reminiscent of my old Docklands studio which I still miss, only quite a bit fancier.

It had a lovely open balcony which let me try out a 35 ISO, F2.8 flash shot, synchronised at 1/1600 sec, a combination which one cannot shoot with anything else but a Phase One IQ.

Here are some of the delegates I roped into assisting with the demo, putting lights over the edge of the balcony, with the key light over head.

During the live shoot demo I did a tighter shot and discovered that not only is the Phase One IQ180 capable of recording every bit of detail that the human eye can see but quite a bit that is not normally visible.

Like the printed pattern on contact lenses.

Truly remarkable.

Next top Singapore.......

Phase One IQ Far East tour-Jakarta.

Indonesia, my first time here.

To be honest, I had no real idea what to expect.

Chaotic traffic, way beyond Bangkok in terms of constant near misses from seemingly homicidal cab drivers and errant motorcycles made a pretty strong first impression.

My furrowed brow was met with laughter from our driver 'this' he said 'is nothing.....'

To give you a little flavour of the spicy traffic have a look at this time lapse I did from the hotel with the GoPro Hero 2.

Such a great way to document your travels in a fun way.

I will share my set up with you another time, but if you don't have one I heartily recommend you get one, I cannot easily think of anything else which gives a bigger bang for the buck.

I was surprised to see that Indonesia was the best attended seminar on the tour (so far).

The delegates asked a ton of pertinent questions and I was left with the impression that there was lots commercial shooting in Jakarta.

At the break I met Chris Bunjamin, who after training in Canada had returned home to try to break into his home market.

As you can see he has shot some really lovely work on his Phase One IQ180.

Top notch stuff.

I think his break will come soon enough.

The live shoot consisted of building up a mini set on stage with plants from around the hotel, which was fun.

But as I collected my GoPro camera up from its time lapse position I noticed these pleated white drapes which I thought had potential.

I decided to give it a go.

But where is the light?

When shooting on location concealing the light source is a priority.

So, I tried a new little trick, one that I will use again.

I hid the light in the elevator, jamming the doors open, a bit selfish but there were 3 others for guests to use.

The Golden rule of photography is that there are no rules.....

It's not every day I get to use the top of the range Phase One IQ180 so I'm making the most of it on this trip.

Next stop Kuala Lumpur.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Farewell Bangkok

In the shape of a timelapse from my hotel window.

Goodness the traffic there....

Next stop indonesia

Sunday 8 April 2012

Bangkok.......Lots of colour

In more ways than one.

The crowd at Phase One's Thailand agent Sunshai's studio was diverse.

What was remarkable was the number of hobbyist shooters present, and the level of their work.

The bar is getting higher by the day, with standards rising all the time.

A really fantastic Jewellery shooter and a 'fashion' portrait shooter really stood out, and I will be sharing their work at later date.

Telling tales of adventures in photography through an interpreter to the audience went much smoother than I anticipated.

It was soon time for the 'Live shoot'

This time with a Phase One IQ180, a full fat 80 megapixels.

I was shooting tethered, though with its amazing LCD you don't really need to, think of an iPhone on the back of your camera and you won't be so far out. A quantum leap from the P65+ I normally use.

I thought I would try something a little different and shoot with undiffused lights and 3 different coloured gels, red, green and blue, all heads set at different angles to ensure some freaky shadows.

The pic at the top of the post was the very first frame, in someways a shame that her foot was clipped by a light stand, we did many retakes but predictably none had the power and expression of that first joyful leap, so often the case, right?

Next stop Jakarta.

Thursday 5 April 2012

Murky dusk time lapse from my hotel window, farewell Hong Kong

Farewell Hong Kong.

A massive thank you to Gary Wong and the rest of the Phase One crew.

Met some new friends at the seminars too.

Next stop Bangkok.

Location:Hong Kong

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Vintage lenses for Phase One DF.....Quite a look.

Yesterday was a pretty action packed day, with two presentations for Phase One.

Enthusiastic and engaged audiences at both.

At the first I met someone who has got it into his head to do something very left field with his Phase One DF and IQ180 back.

Phase has some of the best optics available in the shape of the Schneider LS lenses which are VERY sharp indeed.

Yat Lee was brave and decided to do something which is very different and ultimately very rewarding

Of late, I have really embraced a shallow depth of field, in fact Lucinda and I shot the whole of the 'Olympic Golden greats' at F2.8 on the Schneider lenses.

F2.8 on a monster sensor gives a lovely shallow depth of field, but what if you wanted to take it further?

Yat has had a whole range of vintage cinema and projector lenses adapted to fit his Phase One DF.

His favourite is the F2 Cook 100mm cinema lens.

Check out this lovely shot in the video as Yat tells us a little more about the lenses he had modified.

Location:Hong Kong

Sunday 1 April 2012

The Lure of the East

A bagged packed and I'm waiting to board a plane to Hong Kong, first on a whistle stop tour of the Far East for Phase One, where shooters will be getting hands on time with the IQ backs and Phase One DF Camera's.

In addition to Hong Kong I will be travelling to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.

It will be interesting to see what is going on in the Pro market over there and I will be reporting back on what I find.

Needless to say, blogging may be a little interrupted but I will do my best on this fast and furious schedule.