New Camera!

Just a quicky as I have been rushed off my feet with my final few weeks of uni.

Sadly my beloved Canon 50D stopped working recently so I had the opportunity to upgrade and decided to go for the 7D and wow I’m in love! I haven’t had much time to get out and shoot apart from filming some live music gigs but I am very impressed!

But to my surprise my 50D switched on and now works perfectly! I still have no idea what caused it to break down but now i can sell it and recoup some of the money spent on the 7D.

Here’s a picture of my new baby rocking a Rokkor and a test shot taken with a 500mm mirror lens.

Canon 7D

Moon

 

 

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Music Photography

As an avid music fan I love attending live shows and take my camera whenever I can.

Many of these shows are small and have no dedicated ‘press pit’ where professionals take photos, meaning I can get right up close to where the action is and reduce the chance of people obscuring my images.

Some of these shows however do have press pits filled with security guards, pros and sadly, sometimes, bad amateur photographers.

 

Etiquette

 

I have no problem with amateur photographers, I am one myself, but on many occasions these ‘photographers’ have no idea what they are doing and break many of the unwritten rules of live music photography. As a fellow photographer this grates on me and is something I want to help reduce (hence this How To).

This ‘breaking of the unwritten rules’ was very much in evidence at a show I attended a few years ago at the Mo’ Club Southampton. Sadly I did not have a press pass but did manage to get to the front. This show featured three bands including the very talented Devin Townsend.

As the show began the pros came in to do their thing, taking quick, unobtrusive shots of the band. To my surprise I spotted a person I know in the press pit clutching a low end DSLR camera. I was rather shocked and jealous at the access she had and was intrigued to see what she would do. I was surprised to see she was using the basic lens that came with the camera (I will discuss appropriate kit later in this post), but I thought I’d give her the benefit of the doubt. And then those doubts where thrown away, as she was thrown out of the press pit. She had approached the lead singer with her camera in automatic mode and began focusing, not manually or by using the cameras focusing beam but by using burst flash. Not only is this distracting for the audience but for the band itself and she was removed by security after an ignored reprimand.

Unfortunately this is not an isolated event, I have been at many shows where people who class themselves as ‘pro’ or ‘semi-pro’ annoy both the artist and their fans by continually flashing.

 

Venue Lighting Vs Flash

 

One of my cardinal rules of music photography is never use a flash apart from in special circumstances. Not only does it annoy people but it will, in most cases ruin great shots.

Take for instance the image below.

Titanic Ink 001

This shot was taken using the venue lights alone and has far more atmosphere then an image that’s bleached out by a flash, but this sort of image is only attainable with a very fast lens which I will cover in the next section.

 

Equipment

 

I have two kits that I use when shooting live music and this depends on the venue and whether I have a press pass or not.

My first kit consists of a compact semi-pro camera the Canon G10, pictured below.

Canon G10

This is the camera I use for small shows or festivals where I can’t take larger equipment. This camera is perfect for gigs due to the metal body, image stabilized zoom and fully manual controls. Even with this camera I do not use the flash and instead control the camera manually, setting a high ISO such as 800 which enables me to use a faster shutter speed freezing movements.

Below are a few sample images taken with this camera with no flash.

Devin Townsend

Fear Factory

The Darkness 001

The Darkness 002

Black Label Society

Hammerfall

As you can see some of these images are slightly grainy due to the high ISO, this can be edited later in Photoshop or reduced dramatically by using more professional equipment like a DSLR.

Canon 50D

My other kit consists of a Canon 50D digital SLR and either a 50mm f/1.8 or a f/1.4 lens.

 

These lenses are probably the most important part of my kit and what I would recommend for anyone wanting to get into live photography.

 

Due to the size of the optics and very wide aperture this lens lets in far more light than the standard kit lenses meaning you can shoot quicker and really freeze your subjects. It also means you don’t have to use that pesky flash!

Canon 50mm Lenses

This is Canon’s current line of 50mm lenses, the f/1.8, f/1.4 & f/1.2 L Series.

These lenses retail for £89, £299 & £1259 respectively however the cheaper two can be found for under £70 & £200 if you know where to look and even cheaper if you buy second hand. I have found the f/1.8 for around £50 and the f/1.4 for £170.

Below are some images I have taken with a 50mm lens.

The Answer 007

The Answer 006

The Answer 005

The Answer 004

The Answer 003

The Answer 002

The Answer 001

Titanic Ink 003

Titanic Ink 002

 

Another benefit of not using a flash is that the background is usually obscured in darkness which can really help when the venues backdrop is messy or distracting.

These images were taken at the front of the stage but at The Answer show there was no press pit meaning I had to shoot from the crowd, this doesn’t bother me but is does raise another point about etiquette.

When you are shooting in the crowd, no matter what kit you are using you have to be respectful of others who are there to enjoy the music and don’t want a photographer getting in the way and blocking their view.

The best thing to do is be polite and quick when taking pictures, don’t barge through or stand directly in front of people, sometimes crouching can produce the best images.

 

There will always be Ragamuffins

 

No matter how courteous you are you will always get someone who is aggravated by you presence. When shooting from the balcony at ‘the Answer’s gig I had one gentleman push and shove me out of the way shouting. I had lent on the balcony to take a few images and was trying my hardest not to block anyone’s view. I turned to tell the gentleman that I was press and would only be a few moments, and to my surprise when I turned I was confronted by a respectable looking man in his mid-fifties. You never know who is going to give you grief at a show and no matter what you should be polite and respectful.

 

Other Kit

 

Some people opt to use zoom lenses for live photography which when done right can be very effective, if I was to recommend such a lens it would be the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L Series lens. Even though this lens is rather expensive (retailing at an eye watering £1739) it will yield great results due to the wide aperture of f/2.8.

Tamron make an equivalent lens that can be found for around £400 second hand and would be a far better choice for amateurs (it’s definitely on my shopping list!).

To recap here are the main points I would recommend for any budding music photographer.

  • Never use the built in flash, if you must flash try to use an external flash an bounce away from the performers
  • Be courteous to the bands and others around you
  • If you have a DSLR buy a fast 50mm prime lens or zoom lens and don’t use the kit lens that comes with the camera
  • Always shoot on manual and use a high ISO such as 800
  • Think about interesting composition and try and catch action shots.
  • Always take spare batteries and memory cards
  • Always shot on a high speed mode if you use a DSLR, this means you take hundreds (or even thousands) of shots but you have the reassurance that some will be ok, it’s always better to take too many images than not enough.
  • One rule of professional music photography is that you only shoot for the first few minutes of a few songs and then again at the end of the set, I don’t really do this but it can be handy for long sets

 

And most importantly have fun! Music photography is a great way to meet new people including some of your favourite bands.

 

In my next post I will be discuss film cameras and why they are far better than today’s digital equivalents.

 

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Less is More: Megapixels

This is a re-post of my original from 2012.

The first question I ask when talking to a customer about what camera they should buy is “What are you looking for in a new camera?” The most common answer is “I want the highest megapixels”. Seeming to think that the more megapixels a camera has the better quality image it will produce.

An idea perpetrated by modern manufacturers who cram as many megapixels into a camera as possible; I’m not going to bore you with lots of techno jargon as all I want to do is prove that megapixels aren’t the most important factor when buying a camera.

One of my favourite cameras is to this day the 3 megapixel Minolta Dimage Z1. This camera had a wonderful f/2.8 lens with macro focusing as close as 1.5 inches, and as you can see from the image below (taken in my parent’s garden) only having 3 megapixels definitely didn’t create a sub-par image.

Minolta 3.0 MP Frog

Now sadly I no longer have the original image, this one was cropped, level corrected and enlarged and I think for a 3.0 MP camera looks amazing!

Below are a few more shots from the Z1 again they have been edited but they are still all below 1 Mb in size.

 

 

Minolta 3.0 MP Frog 2

Minolta 3.0 MP Madinat

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMinolta 3.0 MP Burj Al Arab 2

My first digital camera – Olympus C-220

Now this bad boy cost over £200 and had a stonking 2 megapixels! At the time this was state of the art and a real honour to own. So much so that I took it to a family wedding and ended up taking the shot of the day with it. The couple still have this image on their mantelpiece and the hired ‘pro’ didn’t get the shot!

Olympus 2.0 MP Wedding Photo

This image shows a really interesting anomaly where the bokeh appears in small rings, an effect common when using a mirror lens.

Olympus 2.0 MP Crab

The main drawback with low megapixel cameras is that the image cannot be enlarged to any bigger that A3, but how many general users actually do that? I have had these image enlarged to 8×10 and they still look great with no hint of pixelisation.

 

So remember less can be more in regards to megapixels but, bigger is always better when it comes to lenses!

In my next post i will discuss music photography, from equipment to etiquette and how to get the best images.

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Infrared Photography

This is a re-post of my original from 2012.

So I have decided to take the plunge into infrared photography! I have always been interested in the beautiful dark skies and snowy foliage but put off by the complicated and sometimes expensive modifications needed to achieve true infrared photography.

There are loads of tutorials online on how to achieve an infrared effect using a normal image but they are never as effective as the real thing and to me it feels like cheating. I want real IR!

My first experience with infrared was rather disappointing to me as it worked first time! I like a bit of a challenge when trying new photographic methods and after hearing how difficult it was to achieve I was hoping to get my hands dirty with some camera modding, but my first shoot was pretty close to what I wanted to achieve.

The first camera I tried was a Canon G10 with an Ilford SFX filter; I experimented with the settings and focusing until I got the balance of ISO, shutter speed and aperture right. Below is how the shots look straight from the camera.

 

 

To get the colours many people recognize from IR photography you must use the Channel Mixer in Photoshop. This is very straight forward as all you need to do is:

  • In the red output channel change RED to 0% and BLUE to 100%
  • In the blue output channel change RED to 100% and BLUE to 0%

After this you will get an image like below:

 

 

You will then need to tweak the Levels to your liking, but I cheat slightly and use Auto Levels and then fade it, this produces the final image below:

 

Image

 

The G10 isn’t perfect as it creates what is known as a ‘hot spot’ in the center of the image. This is caused by internal reflections of light between lens elements, and also the coating on some lenses. The hot spots can be reduced by changing the aperture settings.

After using my G10 I thought I’d step it up a gear and try my 50D but this was really disappointing. As the 50D is a pro DSLR camera it is far less sensitive to IR light and this means the pictures were pants!

The next image shows what the images look like from the Canon 50D, I used the same settings (including white balance) but the results were very different.

 

 

They did however make very nice black and white images.

 

 

My next plans are to find a suitably cheap camera to modify, preferably an old Minolta like the Dimage Z1, it may only be 3 mega-pixels but the image quality is fantastic!

But more on that next time when I will be discussing why mega-pixels aren’t the be all and end all of digital photography.

 

 

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My new URL!

Hey guys!

So I have finally sorted out my blog (and it only took nearly two years!) this is a new version of my old blog: http://photobollocks.wordpress.com/, thought I should use a more professional URL 😀

I will re-post my previous entries and endeavor to post at least once every two weeks.

Enjoy!

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