Window shopping for the Seoul

Seoul is a great place to stop over our visit on the way back from Japan. It has a great vibe, full of interesting nooks and crannies and shops for miles-many of which stay open late. Unfortunately, after only one night we had to get to the airport early which was when I came across a ton of sleeping camera shops just 10 minutes from Seoul train station. I can't imagine the price but the Pentax 600mm and the Canon 200mm 1.8 sure are tempting. Maybe next time!

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LED astray

I paid a visit to the Frankfurt Dippemesse on the 5th of May to get some photos of the fireworks and the fair at night. Generally I got some decent long exposures using a tripod and settings with low ISO and 2 to 4 second shutter. There are a lot of bright lights so f stop can be f8 to f11 and even f16 for more starry effects in the bright spots.

glittery white lights

glittery white lights

One thing that I noticed when looking at the photos is that most of the lights on them did not produce constant blur lines in the photo. Most of the lines of light are composed of dots when you look at them closely. I have noticed this phenomenon more over the years and finally realised the cause after blaming my technique, camera and other superstitious reasons.

dots are visible at fast speeds

dots are visible at fast speeds

In the olden days, lights were almost all incandescent bulbs or halogen. Nowadays, everything is LED. LEDs are cheap, efficient, don't produce heat like halogens and last longer, so they are now find everywhere in torches, home and automobile lighting and even fun fairs. The downside to LED lights is that they pulse (for cheap ones) at a much slower rate than incandescent lights or florescent tubes. As far as I can tell from reading on the internets an old style light bulb pulses at twice the frequency of the power supply current, while a cheap LED pulses at half of the frequency. This is measured in Hertz. Let's pretend the power supply is 50 Hertz, a florescent light would pulse at 100 Hertz, an LED at 25. Apparently, all lights on AC flicker but the effect is made more prominent with LEDs as photon are not emitted when they are flickering on and off. While a regular light bulb is in an off state it still produces heat and some light. If the LEDs are dimmable, this is achieved not by lowering the amount of voltage as in the case of a light bulb, but by increasing the time the LED is off per flicker cycle.

Digital dots of the break dancer ride

Digital dots of the break dancer ride

Does any of this matter?

Health-wise, lights that flicker at a slower cycle can cause seizures in some people.  For long exposures, lights with slower flickers on fast moving objects are easy to spot as a series of dots rather than a single line as in the examples here. Photographers have long been aware of the effect of florescent lighting and shutter speed causing issues at certain rates. The LED issue is a newer version of this but I also found recently that if a room is predominantly lit by LED, my Sekonic flash meter doesn't function properly as it thinks a flash has been fired when it is actually the room lighting flickering. It was unable to get a reading at all while the LEDs were on. This even occurred when a regular light was the dominant light source. The only solution was to turn off the offending lights while reading for flash exposures. Seeing as LEDs are not going away any time soon, I guess we will just have to get used to seeing lines of Morse code instead of smooth clean light trails during long exposures in future.

Good food

Japanese Kaiseki cuisine at its finest

Japanese Kaiseki cuisine at its finest

Last week I got to take photos at Nihon Ryori Ken in Sachsenhausen, Frankfurt. It's an intimate new restaurant hidden away in a quiet street and it's simple exterior bellies the fact that inside the restaurant, there's a Japanese essence to the place, people and food that is hard to find anywhere outside of Japan. If you know what shiso, yuzu and good raw tuna tastes like after being to Japan and feel like you have been disappointed by Japanese restaurants by owners who don't even speak the language, then you must try here. If you do go, a counter seat offers the possibility to view the chef close up and really appreciate the amount of care and attention that goes into each dish. The menu changes monthly too, so there's no fear of running out of flavour sensations.

 

Everything including the desserts are handmade

Everything including the desserts are handmade

Good shots

blood, sweat and tears

blood, sweat and tears

Good shots some times take a lot more effort than can be discerned just by looking at the picture itself. There are a lot of photos on Instagram now by photographers that also include behind the scenes pics or video to give you an idea of just what went into a shot.

I like this picture of Derrick I took recently and even though it's not my favourite from our photo session, it took the most work. I wanted a small rim light to highlight his hair that was in shadow from the main light and although it should've been just a case of turning it on and positioning it, 1) I'd left my spare light stand at home. 2) my flash trigger wouldn't recognise the new light.

Luckily, I had bought the user manual for my Godox speedlight with me as I had tried every possible button combination to no avail waiting a good 15 minutes...

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Once I got the flash working, we found a place Derrick could sit in range of the hair light. However, I had decided I wasn't happy with the main light in a softbox on a regular light stand just lighting him from in front. I wanted to light him from above.  This required extending the light stand to its maximum of about 3.5 metres and balancing it on my right shoulder so that it could reach over him. At the same time, to bring a little light into the shadows, I placed a reflector in front of me and angled it up using my left foot.

I took the photo using my Canon 1ds iii, which isn't exactly light, all while balancing the equipment and steadying the softbox with my spare(?) hand to stop it spinning round under its own weight.

I wish I had brought more equipment with me and/or an assistant to take cool looking behind the scenes photos that don't make me look like a chaotic one man band!

 

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Canon gear advice

A 50mm wide aperture lens is a kit essential. The Canon 1.8 is so cheap that it would be better as part of a set than the standard 17-50mm. It is most DSLR users' introduction to bokeh and can be addictive. For most photographers, the €1000+ 50mm 1.2 L lens is completely out of reach and while there are cheaper choices from other makers, every Canon photographer has to take the 50mm f1.4 which you can get around €200 used on eBay.

It is great in a lot of ways: wide open, relatively high number of aperture blades so the bokeh highlights are not like squished pentagons (like the 1.8), full time manual override, distance scale on the top, and it's light and did well on any camera.

 But all of this comes with a dark side: The one major construction defect this lens has is the front focus ring that extends when you focus something up close is so weak, just a little pressure in a bag is enough to push it out of shape. 

This happened to mine over 2 years ago. It got slightly crushed then refused to work. I thought I had destroyed it for good so invested in a Canon 85mm 1.8 instead. But I always missed the close focusing ability of the 50mm. I searched around on YouTube and found a few repair videos. I followed the instructions, took my lens apart, gently coaxed the metal back to shape and then reassembled the lens. When I put it back on my camera, the focus send to work but when taking a shot an error came up saying something about the lens connection. I figured I had probably broken one of the delicate data cables inside the lens so back in the cupboard it went for another year.

 I was considering selling some old equipment recently and found the lens in the cupboard looking dusty. I got a bit nostalgic and wondered if I had the skill to finally fix the lens (or pay somebody else to), so I watched the videos on YouTube again and opened up the lens. It didn't take me long to spot that one of the data cables want sitting completely in the socket! I reassembleded the lens and to my relief and surprise, it started working again!! So this year I'm going to get re-acquainted with my nifty fifty but a word to the wise:

 Always store this lens with the focus set to infinity. This reduces the chance of going through what me and many other Canon 50 1.4 owners have already been through!

  

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100 strangers

I came across the Tuna de Medicina do Porto on myself way through town this morning. At first I thought they must be Jewish or Romanian or something but they are actually Portuguese. Wikipedia says "A tuna is a group of university students in traditional university dress who play traditional instruments and sing serenades. The tradition originated in Spain and Portugal in the 13th century as a means of students to earn money or food. Nowadays students don't belong to a "tuna" for money nor food, but seeking to keep a tradition alive, for fun, to travel a lot and to meet new people from other universities."

I caught him playing Stairway to Heaven

I caught him playing Stairway to Heaven

It's impressive that these students were studying medicine but still had time to play musical instruments and learn to sing in harmony to a professional level. I guess if they ever give up the day job, they will be set!

patches cover a cloak but room to spare

patches cover a cloak but room to spare

They were not singing to anyone but could've been making money as buskers

They were not singing to anyone but could've been making money as buskers

I'm guessing the guys with more experience are judging the newer fish

I'm guessing the guys with more experience are judging the newer fish

I was impressed by the fact that they just arrived from Australia, were probably jetlagged but seemed to be singing and playing music just for the fun of it rather than hawking tourists. Even though they could've made a killing with their talent! I wish them well on their journey and next performance wherever it may be.

apparently these guys' hairdos are the result of a lost bet

apparently these guys' hairdos are the result of a lost bet

Different view point

Canon 6D with 85mm

Canon 6D with 85mm

selfie stick with smartphone

selfie stick with smartphone

I've been meaning to do a comparison of DSLR Vs selfie stick photos for some time. It seems that selfie sticks became the norm for couples and travelers but can photos taken by them be as good as a DSLR?  When I saw Christine taking a photo by the Main river in Frankfurt I thought it would be a good opportunity to find out.

A full frame camera and small tele lens is bound to have a bit better background separation and blurry bokeh even when stopped down on a bright sunny day. In both pictures the sky is blown as shooting towards the sun. In general the DSLR probably is sharper and looks better to my eyes but I wonder if I keep doing selfie comparisons, will any particular situation favour the selfie... To be continued!

Congratulations

 something old, something new, something borrowed, something full frame

 something old, something new, something borrowed, something full frame

I might have to work on my rhyming skills. I did some photography at a wedding last week and while it was a long day, it was sunny and enjoyable every minute. Weddings are a special time and this wedding was certainly that involving a ceremony, party at a cafe and a trip on the local Frankfurt apple wine tram!

On my part, before the wedding I researched the locations, hunted for good photo places online and in person, did lots of research, found an able assistant and made tons of prep notes which all went out the window as time and circumstance didn't work in my favour at all...

Even so, it was a great event that I was proud to be a part of, and hopefully have recorded some decent memories of! If anybody needs any advice for wedding shoots - definitely have a back up camera even if you just borrow; take more batteries than you think you will need and make sure they are all fully charged; take time to relax amongst the chaos and have fun! 

100 Strangers

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Nilu - like all dogs makes for a difficult model as dogs never keep still and it's really easy for their long noses to distract your camera's AF points and put the eyes out of focus. One or two shots focused on a dog's nostrils is ok but not when you want to nail it right on the eyes and capture their emotions.

I have my camera set to switch to one point AF on the central focus point and go for servo focus to get the focus where I want it and adjust to small movements. It might help to say "sausages" too but results are inconclusive.

 

100 Strangers

Slack Lining (despite how this picture looks, he was not falling but actually bouncing on the line)

Slack Lining (despite how this picture looks, he was not falling but actually bouncing on the line)

Slack lining is one of those modern sporty pastimes I have seen being performed in parks a lot recently. It's curious and obviously must be good for exercise, balance and body conditioning but I have never understood how you actually do it. Let alone, what happens if you fall off when the elastic rope is just tight enough to rob your of any offspring should you land the wrong way. Chatting to Nico was enlightening and watching him bouncing up and down, turning around and maintaining his balance was really impressive for somebody who has only been doing it as a hobby. I can't say I would feel comfortable giving it a go yet but at least I have a greater appreciation of the skill. Maybe I can get my son to try it out...