Cee’s B&W Photo Challenge -Camera or Photographer

Cee’s B&W Challenge this week is Cameras or Photographers, so here we go….firstly my photographer and friend Suzanne; taking her photo, while taking mine

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A shot of the studio, complete with my camera, ready for a shoot

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And me……….a photographer, taken by my friend Suzanne, OK so maybe not my best angle, but if you want to point a camera in my face, be prepared for it to possibly look like this 🙂 lol 16121897_10211805327154161_1741228909_o

I hope you have a brilliantly amazing weekend, I know I am planning on it!

~ Julz

Tech Review – Camfi, Update

OK so a month or so again I wrote a review on the Camfi wi-fi adaptor my kids bought me for Christmas. Now in general I rated it pretty well, but I did note a few Cons against it….

  • A bit glitchy with my old Samsung Note 1.0 tablet…….possibly due to the older software on the tablet?
  • Occasionally freezes on Sony Smartphone as well, especially if trying to arrange a bracketed shot.
  • When freezes sometimes locks the whole camera up.
  • I found that sometimes my Home Wi-Fi kicked me off the Camfi…….but that could just be my system and not the camfi?

As it turns out this may not be the Camfi product in itself but a dud that I got. You see mine stopped working altogether a few weeks ago (only used it for a month) and it just died, would not connect via WI-FI to ANY device. I contacted the distributors who asked me try a few things (reset etc) and then to send it back……so it has been duly returned, replaced with another unit and posted back to me. I turned it all on and hooked it up, so far so good. Hopefully this one lasts a little more than one month and is glitch free from now on.

I’ll keep you updated…

~ Julz

 

Vanguard Alta Pro Tripod – Review

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Another item on my christmas list was a new tripod my old Velbon was having issues, we still have the Manfrotto, but it is also having wonky leg issues and it is way too heavy. So a friend showed me a link for the new Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB Tripod with SBH100 Ballhead (V230269) [this is not where I bought it from, but it does have pics and specs] I got mine from Amazon for US$150.00…….but I can no longer find the link 😦

OVERVIEW

  • Lightweight (5.38 lbs/2.44 kg)
  • Maximum Height of 5.67′ (1.73 m)
  • Load Capacity of 15.4 Lbs (7 kg)
  • Folded Length is 28.125″ (71.5 cm)
  • Magnesium Alloy Ballhead Included
  • Ballhead Includes 2 Bubble Levels
  • 25- 50- and 80-Degree Leg Angles
  • Central Column Moves From 0-180 Degrees

It was a little tricky to figure out the central column, but once done it is brilliant.

PROS

  • Levels are wonderful – straight photos (well mostly)
  • Perfect for flat lays and awkward positions
  • nice and light, easy to carry
  • Quick set up and take down
  • leg clips easy to use with cold stiff fingers 🙂
  • Quick and easy mount for tripod
  • lovely fluid motion with ball head.
  • All screws and clips are easy to turn, twist or click; I have limited mobility in my hands at times (apart from the screw for the head mount)

CONS

  • Carry bag does not have pocket for bits and pieces
  • I’m afraid to hang too much weight off the central column, it just does not feel sturdy enough, when fully extended
  • It’s possibly just me and it being new but the ball head feels a little clunky at times.
  • The head mount is a pain to screw into the camera and needs the key (which is still attached to my tripod) or a coin. The Velbon and Manfrotto has a lever to twist.

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Overall I love it, lightweight and easy to use, I took it with me on a trip to the sand dunes and nice and light, quick set up etc. the ball head and levels are fabulous.

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Our trek through the dunes…….I’m still carrying the tripod lol

In conclusion I do love it…………nothing is perfect, but for right now it comes pretty damn close 🙂

~ Julz

Nikkor 16-85mm Lens Review

Another early Christmas present was another new lens………..now I know what you are thinking, really? another new bit of glass? But it was required. Moth got one for his Birthday/Christmas and we were so impressed I kept stealing it for my camera instead of my horrible 18-200mm lens which allows every bit of dust onto the sensor. I hate it with a passion. So after a few weeks of us fighting over it, I bit the bullet and ordered one for myself for Christmas.

AF-S DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR

Now this is not a new lens, it is an older model and took a bit to find it on Nikon’s website, but it did make it dirt cheap from DWI! Don’t get me wrong it is a fabulous bit of kit and my new go to lens. It is fantastic for low light even if the aperture only goes up to F/3.5 (down to F/22); beautiful for still life, portraits, landscapes, just about anything. I have used it for macro, light painting, sunsets, newborns and concept shoots. It is tack sharp every time!It has a lovely range on it……….ok it isn’t perfect; at the Zoo I wanted something more than 85mm for the zoom.

It is small, compact and lightweight (well when compared to the 18-200mm), it gives such a lovely clear, crisp image. It is 67mm diameter so it is a standard size for filters.

This lens really is my new workhorse, it is reliable (as most Nikon Lenses are) and so versatile. Apparently it also has a better performing VR and less distortion on the wide angle as opposed to the 18-200mm as well – Ken Rockwell

Oh and did I tell you I love this lens? seriously it really has become my favourite lens. If you are looking for a very versatile all rounder, and you can still find one, you just might be able to grab a bargain!

And remember old stock isn’t bad stock…….as long as it still comes with a warranty you are all good.

~ Julz

 

Tech Review – CamFi

I asked for some very specific gifts for Christmas, and I was lucky enough to get most of them 🙂

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The first cab off the rank is Camfi, it is essentially a Wi-Fi adaptor for your camera, but is is so much more. I first saw it on a Studio session with Kim Klassen and it allows you to take complete control over your camera, remotely. You can adjust the EV, aperture, shutter speed, bracketing, focus point, ISO……..etc, etc, etc. It is quick and easy to set up and use.

PROS

  • It small and light weight, not much bigger than a smartphone (but it is a little thicker)
  • Quick to connect and set up
  • not much more in cost than a traditional wi-fi adapter for say Nikon D7100 (AUD$135.00)
  • works with lots of different brands and models
  • connects via you tether cable (the one to connect to PC to grab photos)
  • you can see live view on larger screen
  • focus is far superior (especially for macro) as you can zoom right in and focus and see better on larger screen
  • once set up there is no need to touch your camera, therefore NO Camera shake
  • allows you to put your camera in really awkward spaces and not yourself
  • Works with great App IOS and Android…….nice interface and easy to use
  • Look, share and work on images directly from the camera

CONS

  • due to being lightweight and small, occasionally blows around and the hot shoe does not fit the D7100, so I hang it from my tripod; it comes with a lanyard.
  • EV took a bit to figure out, you still need to eyeball it
  • A bit glitchy with my old Samsung Note 1.0 tablet…….possibly due to the older software on the tablet?
  • Occasionally freezes on Sony Smartphone as well, especially if trying to arrange a bracketed shot.
  • When freezes sometimes locks the whole camera up.
  • I found that sometimes my Home Wi-Fi kicked me off the Camfi…….but that could just be my system and not the camfi
  • User manual pretty useless
  • Not much technical help available if required
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Camfi dangling from tripod, interface on tablet to the right, me sitting BTS taking it easy 🙂

It is possible that the glitches are App based and may be fixed in time, but in general they are a small annoyance outweighed by the sheer freedom this device allows you, not just in the studio. I can’t wait to really get out and about with it. This below Sunset shot was taken with Camfi as well. No more aching back for me 🙂

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CONCLUSION

So is it worth the AUD$135.00? I say yes. I have used other apps, like the Nikon but it was clunking and glitched ALL the time and didn’t do half the stuff the Camfi can do. Sure it can be a little annoying, but in general it is a valuable tool, for someone with mobility problems, like me. I cannot sit or lay on the ground, but I can put the camera on the ground and use either my tablet or smartphone for my live view, and change all the settings without using my camera.

You can view photos on your tablet etc too and send, share and receive as well, all via the App.

Cheers, til next time happy snapping…

~ Julz

Bowens Gemini 400RX Strobe Kit – Review

I wrote a few weeks back about how I finally made the move to a more professional quality lighting system in the studio. In some cases long overdue, but such an added expense. Seriously I spend more money than I actually make out in the studio, but I AM having LOTS of FUN! I ended up buying the Bowens Gemini 400 Strobe Kit

This was a little bit of a learning curve moving from continuous lights to strobe lights (more like flashes than normal lights) and only work once triggered by the camera. Bearing that in mind they have what is called a modelling light, which is actually more powerful than my continuous lights!

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With both the modelling light and the strobe light these can be dialled up or down to create a huge amount of light or next to nothing. I fell in love with my lights on day one, even though they were decidedly frustrating to set up.

The manual is next to useless, shows where everything is, but not what it does or how it works. Next the guy at the store was not overly knowledgeable (as I found out later) as he seemed to be. The sync cable that came with this kit does NOT fit my Nikon D7100, even though he said it would. No much of a problem I can get an adaptor from eBay that allows me to do this, but I don’t really need it.

Next he said that the TTL & Commander modes on my camera would not fire the strobes, like my speedlight………….WRONG! So he gave me a trigger (for free) that would…..clumsy little system that was not fabulous. My next problem was this trigger system only plugged into one strobe, how do I set of the 2nd one? Google had no answers on this one, either!!!!! Apparently us folk in Australia who do not use the word cell phone, don’t get the link with the idea of a cell being used as a word for networking or syncing things. It took a few phone calls, but finally someone who actually KNEW the  products explained the whole set up to me. As I said the manual is useless. There is a little button named CELL on the back of the lights, that the whole trick.

BOTH lights will work if the Cell button is switched on and I use the Commander mode for Flash on my camera or the TTL mode on the old D5300. I can adjust the strobes up or down independently, use one or both at the same time and trigger from my camera. WARNING – it does seem to use a lot of power from the camera battery.

My kit came with the two strobe lights, two very sturdy stands, one sync cable, one light cover/hood and a modelling light (for each light), each light came with umbrella, with silver and white diffuser……both came pre-fitted on the same stand and took quite a awhile to figure out HOW to pull them apart. Apparently the next model up comes with soft boxes and no modelling light…….I’ll keep the modelling light thanks; so useful already.

So just how brilliantly do they work? Well I am still playing with them, like the speed light they take a bit of trial and error, with continuous lights, what you see is exactly what you get, with strobes you don’t know until you take the picture. I know more higher end models allow you to set the aperture on the actual light to match your camera and such……mine are a little more basic and so take a bit more work. I have not as yet done a full portrait set up, but will do. I have also ordered a soft box and a snoot as well, so it will be interesting once I get them to play with as well. I would also love a strip light and beauty dish………but alas more money. Need more jobs to make more money to buy new toys, but isn’t that always the way with 1st world problems? But so far, the shots that I have are truly amazing, especially on Dark and Moody and great for soft even light for macro & close up.

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~ Julz

 

Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8 – Lens Review

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A few weeks back I got a new Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8 lens for my Birthday, there are several reasons why I bought it, even though I did put it off for quite a while trying to decide if it was a good buy and ‘right’ for me.

I already have a 50mm Prime lens that I adore, so do I really need a 35mm? The answer in short is Yes. I predominantly use my 50mm for still life & portraits, or I would use more often for portraits, but on a cropped sensor frame I just can’t get back far enough in the studio to get full body shots with the 50mm, or even much more than a head shot. So I invariably have to switch to another lens, mainly my 18-55mm. Now 18mm is too wide, but I have noticed that 95% of my shots in the studio sit at around 35mm. I adore the sharp focus of my 50mm and the F/1.8 aperture, so logic dictates I would love the 35mm……….and I do.

So why this lens? I could get the Upmarket Nikon 35mm F/1.4 or the Sigma Art 35mm lens, which I have actually tried and thought was quite good too, but they are both over AUD$2,000.00. I cannot justify that kind or money. If the specs of my 50mm AF-S lens are fabulous for me, again logic dictates the 35mm would be good too…..and it is.

Now fixed or prime lenses are not for everyone, I can truly understand the lure of a zoom, and a dedicated wide angle, I have a 18-200mm and a 10-24mm I use when travelling, but they are big, bulky and heavy. They are not the same as using a Prime lens, I knew that from the first time I used one…….but it does take a bit of getting used to, as you need to move yourself and not just the lens. You can be limited but at the same time it is strangely liberating. I truly ‘feel’ more creative with a prime.

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Nikon 35mm Prime

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Nikon 35mm Prime

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Brilliant for Expansions shots as well – this is approx 9 shot expansion – 35mm

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Shot with Sigma 35mm Art Lens

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Nikon 50mm prime

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Nikon 35mm Prime

So how do I rate a relatively cheap (AUD$200.00) lens? I love it, great for portraits, head shots and full body shots.

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Nikon 35mm Prime

Would I prefer the (F/1.4)  AUD$2,000.00 possibly, but what I saved on that lens also bought my new strobe light kit…………but more on that another time!

~ Julz

Mumma’s been a bad, bad girl…

In fact I have been very bad………..but in a good way, well Myself and the Studio think so, possibly not my credit card or Husband 😛 ! Mind you it’s all his fault anyway……but let me explain.

One Saturday morning he suggested we go on a bit of a shopping expedition, he had found a new shop he thought I would enjoy for some props and things; Schots Emporium, oh my…….WHAT A FIND! Glorious, old stuff, new stuff, weird and wonderful stuff and reproduction vintage stuff. I was in heaven 3 floors of STUFF. Lighting fixtures galore, bathroom fixtures galore, nik naks and bric-a-brac. I grabbed a reproduction coal scuttle (yes I have one but it is much larger and painted), 1 x large and 2 x small cotton reels (been wanting them for ages) and a cute little timber box. PLUS……..there was a 10% sale, bonus.

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Next Hubby took me to a place and to meet a guy who is a musician and makes office furniture, you see I have a bad back and sometimes in the studio bending over and leaning down etc, really is quite difficult, I have a stool, but I need to pick it up and move it, where as my thoughtful hubby discussed an adjustable stool with wheels would to the trick, as a drummer (with a back issue also) the other guy agreed and made me a special order stool, we picked it up on Saturday…….oh I’m in heaven.

 

Then as my light stands are not brilliant my Hubby suggested as we were in the city anyway we should have a look at a Photography store we have been told about but had never been. They were actually a lot smaller than my usual shop, and also a bit more expensive, however they did have a sale on so I got two new sturdy tripod stands for the studio. Hubby also wanted a boom arm (which said store had but very expensive), so he suggested that we visit our usual photographic supplier, as we were sort of nearby anyway. Well we found the boom arm, quite reasonably priced too. I was discussing some Strobe lighting Kits with both stores actually and they agreed that the cheaper Kit I had been looking to purchase would do the job, but perhaps only for maybe 5 years and could not be serviced locally, I was in agony over the decision about spending so much on a big professional system, but my hubby, ever patient, understanding and loveable M.O.T.H. convinced me, that both myself and my art are worth it……….so I did, I purchased the new Strobe Kit and the New Boom arm. Bowens Gemini 400rx.

It is BIG, it is HEAVY, and probably will never leave the studio, but it is GORGEOUS, the light….oh be still my beating heart.Well once I figured out HOW to use it, honestly the manual is useless, tells you where everything is, but not what it does. Also the sync cable will not plug into my camera……..need yet another adaptor. But I was given a trigger to use instead, so all good.

Even the modelling light that comes with it is more powerful than my old continuous lighting, which will still be used from time to time……..my Still Life and Product Shoot workshops if nothing else, as my new babies I wont be sharing any time soon!

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I can dial in the required light; harsh, soft, one two, modelling light, flash etc. Oh the soft, dreamy, moody and dramatic shots I got with just a few hours of playtime. It only came with 2 x umbrella, I really want to get some softboxes, as my old ones don’t find (and are falling apart), and of course a strip box and maybe a beauty dish and another snoot………..oops I need another job, or the lottery! Sure, I don’t NEED any of this stuff, but; oh my it DOES make a difference if you have it. Can’t wait to do another model shoot! I can play with rear sync motion flash and other cool stuff now too.

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Sorry, I am rambling again aren’t I? Sorry just so excited by my new toys, add this to the new racking system Hubby just installed and my huge 6m long backdrops (black and white) My Studio looks more professional than ever.

~ Julz

Home Made Snoot

I recently did a post, where I featured a few images taken using a snoot on my light source, thinking back on it, I thought perhaps some of you do not know what a snoot is……….I only heard of it about six months ago (it might have been longer, but I didn’t know WHAT it was lol), and I had used one a few times for rim lighting and even back lighting, but never for such directional lighting.

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A Snoot was used here for highlights or Rim lighting, for her hair and feathers

So what is a Snoot?

In photography, a snoot is a tube or similar object that fits over a studio light or portable flash and allows the photographer to control the direction and radius of the light beam. These may be conical, cylindrical, or rectangular in shape. Snoots can isolate a subject when using a flash. They help by stopping “light spill”, or when lighting falls in a larger footprint than intended.

-Wikipedia

Some have been making Snoots out of Pringles can over a Speedlight; great idea, as it also has a reflective inside and I might jump up to one of those next time too.But My Snoot used in the above shots, is just a cylinder of cardboard, placed over a continuous light….

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Basic Continuous Light

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Cardboard Snoot

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shot without the snoot

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shot with the snoot

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Final edited shot

I have to admit I love the directional effect and it gives a fabulous mood. I find I am using it more and more.

~ Julz

P.S. I have just purchased some studio equipment and was given a free snoot…….make sure it actually fits your model speedlight or standard light properly……..I didn’t double check I assumed if it fits the 900 model speedlight it would fit my 910 speedlight………..guess what it does not! Colour me stupid for not double checking.

P.P.S. Sorry some of the images are a little blurry, I took them in a rush to write the post and didn’t take my mind in set up etc as I normally do, apologies

Vintage Camera Shoot

After a recent Product/ Still Life Workshop I managed to score some extra play time with these old cameras, thanks to a friend through my photography group. Now I must confess that I do not really know much about these old cameras, I really only got into photography seriously after digital inception, but I am assured, that these are very cool cameras.

I decided that they needed an aged analog feel to them and used Nik Analog effects. This is all of them from the Product Shoot.

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Til next time happy snapping…

~ Julz