Friday, January 25, 2013

Elections are over and more about focusing

Finally, the Israeli Elections are over. The party that I was covering, Meretz, doubled it's power which I hope will double my salary on the next elections.
Most photos that I took were okay, some prettier than average, but I did get the chance to sneak in some artistic ones.
Zehava Galon, Party Leader (Zehava means Golden in Hebrew)
I also got some better than expected results when shooting a behind the scenes green screen shoot.

The latitude and the superb color of the A99 are showing here in the way the green looks really good and both the LCD display and the stage are presented nicely in the same shot even though the lighting situation on them on them is totally different.

As for the focusing issues, I am still mostly using manual focus, sometimes pressing the focus button to auto focus. I've also programmed the front button to choose between focus modes, just in case I do want a continuous focus mode which is way better than switching through the menu system which is a seriously silly design. Nobody wants to fumble through myriad menu option on a critical feature such as focus.
The Sony menu system should be re-worked. There are things that photographers do more often such as formatting a card should be in a quick menu or easier to find on a page titled something like "operation".

Waiting for the A99 firmware update, but not holding my breath for anything other than better lens support.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Flash photography at high shutter speeds

I first encountered this when I was shooting this wedding. I set the shutter to faster than 1/200 and suddenly I  get black bars on the frame. Setting the camera temporarily to P mode solve the issue, but of course, I'd rather work in manual mode.
Shutter speed: 1/320 

My good Facebook pal Jon Levi helped me figure that out. It seems that the Sony HVL-F58AM explicitly says that shorter exposure times than 1/200 will create this effect, since the shutter on DSLRs is NOT digital but still works with "curtains" as shown in this explanation:

As you can see in the photo above the "black bar" is actually the frame without the flash hitting anything and the rest in this case is a bit overexposed bit where the flash hit. You can use that for artistic purposes, but probably not a lot of uses for that.

To work around this issue, my flash has an HSS mode. However, though this mode was on when I was shooting, it didn't work for two reasons. One, it doesn't work in flash manual mode, only in TTL which I don't use. Two, I was using my radio flash controller, and HSS requires that the flash be on the camera itself. This strengthens my case for a new and improved flash setup for Sony. Sony wants to be this innovator to win some high end camera market share against Canon and Nikon? This is definitely one ares that could do with a complete overhaul. Sony should totally rethink how people use flash photography and make cheaper ones that are a generation ahead of the competition, perhaps borrow a page out of the Steve Jobs Apple playbook.

Sony, if you are listening I have tons of ideas that could put you well ahead of the competition. Also, I wouldn't mind living in Japan for a while (hint hint).

Update: It seems that some of the issues might be specifically with that A99 model as seen here:

Thankfully I don't need a lot of higher than 1/200 flash photos and I can use low ISO settings to keep the iris open instead of fast shutter.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Political Photographer

I've been contracted by the Meretz Party to cover their pre-election activities. So I will be posting a lot of green photos in the near future.
The first event I covered for them was the new year's party. I took my bicycle to this event, unpacked my gear only to find out that I forgot the Minolta-to-ISO flash adapter. This was my first job for them and already without showing a single photo I was looking really unprofessional. The reason I took it of was that I was using the LCD in reverse mode to shoot some video for another project in the studio. I needed 40 cm more to get the right frame so I placed the camera next to the wall and flipped the LCD. Unfortunately you have to take the adapter off for this to work, and of course I forgot to put it back on.
Luckily, my artsy photographer friend Merav was there and we figured out a plan to use the cellphone flashlight as key light. This worked well with 1600 to 3200 ISO.

Shani looking good with my Samsung Galaxy S3 lighting her from below
and room florescent doing the rest of the work. 

At a certain point, the Meretz art director came in and asked me to take funkier photos like he has seen some other photographer do where the object is in focus and the rest is blurred across the shot. This actually worked well with me not having wireless or any control over the flash. I had Merav hold the flash, opened the shutter for a second or two during which I shouted "Now!" for Merav to activate the flash manually. Low ISO and medium Iris was used so that the camera registered mostly the image lighted by the flash. Once the flash went off I swiped the camera towards building lights in the background and other lights to create the requested effect.

In camera trick photography effects at work

Note to self - should probably get a backup adapter and put in my bag, just in case.