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Shooting Haunted Houses and Kids (for Halloween)

We like to turn any event, celebration, gathering, holiday and weekend into a reason to take photos. And with Halloween coming up and the potential for lots of ghouly and gruesome night shots, we thought some hints and tips would be useful.

Capturing special effects and lighting

When photographing houses to capture special effects and lighting, long exposure photography is a great option. You will be able to capture the decorations and special Halloween lighting on houses.
In terms of equipment, use a sturdy tripod to keep your camera steady and your photos sharp - some exposures can be as long as 30 seconds which is impossible to hand hold.  
To get the best results, shoot with a moderately low ISO in the range of 100-400, to keep sensor noise to a minimum.  This will give a much cleaner result to your shot.  
Shoot in RAW to give yourself the ability to recover detail in bright and dark areas in your post processing flow.  When taking the photo use a cable release, either a wired or wireless one; this will prevent camera shake if you accidentally move the camera when pressing the shutter button at the start of your exposure.  
Experiment with your exposure to get the best result, overexpose by a couple of stops to see what the results looks like. No need to follow the rules, just have fun!

Capturing the creepy kids!

It’s not just decorations and lighting you will want to capture. Taking photos of your kids in costume can be great fun.  Using some off-camera flash with gels can add awesome light to your image.  A good trick is to fire the flash from behind your child-zombie who is facing toward the camera. This will give a backlit silhouette effect that looks great.  Try with any colour gel (a green or orange one looks great).  

Placing the flash in different places around your kids to change the effect and using a slower shutter (approximately 1/8 of a second) will also capture any lights or decorations in the background.  This is great for ambience and to help set the scene.  For this type of shoot you will need a DSLR, an off-camera flash, flash trigger and some gels.  If you hand hold the camera, be sure to increase your ISO to capture the background lights.  
This should be a fun shoot. Experiment with anything you can think of - there are no limits to what you can try!

Timelapse Photography

Shooting a time lapse is getting more and more popular.  It is a lot easier for the general public to produce time shifting videos and much cheaper than it was ten years ago. Time lapses combine all the challenges of still and moving photography in one and the results can be spectacular.  So what are you waiting for?  

What do you need for a time lapse shoot?

As a basic set up you should have a DSLR camera and lens, a sturdy tripod, a remote shutter release (preferably with an interval timer), a watch and a note pad.

The first decision is, of course, what to shoot.  A cloudy sky is great, as you can really get a sense of enhanced speed and movement and see what this method is capable of with an easily accessible subject (we all have a sky nearby). 

Set up your camera so you have primarily sky in the frame but make sure to include a static area as well like a mountain or some buildings as it can look a bit odd to see just moving clouds with nothing to let your eyes "rest" on within the finished video.

Take a few test shots just to get the exposure correct.  Remember to turn off the autofocus on your lens and also set your camera to manual mode so you don't get any variations in exposure as the clouds move across the frame.  Moving clouds can cause the exposure to change when set to auto.  This is very distracting in the final video, showing up as bright or dark frames. 

Next step is to work out how long you want the video to run for.  This is the maths part. Keep in mind that to ensure your video looks smooth you will need to have at the very least 16 images per second when you make your final movie. This is because the human eye cannot pick up that many pictures one after the other at 16 frames per second so it looks like a movie instead of several photos. Aim for 25 frames per second (fps) to get the smoothest result. This means that to get one second of video you need to shoot 25 photos. So if you want a 20 second clip you need to shoot 25 frames per second. This is a total of 500 images as 20 seconds X 25 frames per second (fps) = 500 images. You can work out how many frames you need by simply substituting the first number (how many seconds you want your movie to run for).  If maths isn't your strength then there are a few good free Apps that automatically calculate this while also allowing you change all the other parameters.

Now you need to work out your interval and shutter speed. Your interval is dependent s on the speed at which your scene is changing and also how much you want to speed up the scene. If a storm is rolling in and the clouds are moving quickly you will need to shoot at every second or quicker so that the end result doesn't look too "jumpy" i.e. there shouldn't be an obvious jump from one frame to the next.  If the clouds are moving slowly then reduce your interval to about 2 seconds or longer.

When choosing your shutter speed, the golden rule is that your shutter speed should be the same length as your interval time.  So if your interval is one photo per second, your shutter should be open for 1 second every time as well (this is often referred to as a 180 degree shutter).   Longer shutter speeds are also better because there is less chance of a darker or lighter frame due to slight variations in the shutter speed from one frame to the next with a quicker shutter speed.  

Make sure your memory card is empty, as nothing is more frustrating than getting halfway through your shoot and having to change cards as it equates to a dropped frame rate in the final video due to the frames missed while you changed cards.

Should you shoot RAW or JPEG?  

It depends on the amount of post processing you might need to do. I reduce the size of RAW files on my 5D to about 3 megapixels. Remember that HD video is about 2 megapixels. They take up less space on the memory card so there is less chance of running out of space halfway through the shoot. 

Now is when you need an interval timer.  I use the HahnelGiga T Pro wireless timer remote. I pick the interval required and set it on continuous release so that it will keep shooting at the chosen interval until I manually stop it. 

Your final checklist before you head out should include additional charged batteries, empty memory cards and the equipment listed at the start of this article.  Also take along anything you would normally use when shooting landscapes because essentially that’s what you’re doing with the only difference being that this capture moves.

Below is a video made according to the instructions provided here.  It was shot for 25 minutes as the sun set using a Giga T Pro interval timer.  The video is playing back at 25 frames per second, so for every second of video there are 25 still photos used.  The photographs were taken every 4 seconds with an exposure time of 2 seconds per frame.



Sony A7 and A7R Full-Frame Mirrorless Cameras

Sony have just announced their brand new range of Mirrorless cameras with a catch - they're FULL FRAME! The exciting release of the A7 and A7R will be a sweet aroma to Sony fans and photographers seeking DSLR quality images in a much smaller and lighter form. It will also act as a call-to-action challenge for the rest of the industry to play catch up as Sony paves the way by introducing the first full-frame of its kind in the photographic market.

Key Features -
A7 -
  • 24.3MP Full Frame
  • Dust & Moisture proof
  • 50P AVCHD Video
  • 5fps Shooting
  • 2.4MP Viewfinder
  • WiFi & NFC
  • Camera Apps
A7R -
  • 36.4MP Full Frame
  • Dust & Moisture proof
  • 50P AVCHD Video
  • 4fps Shooting
  • 2.4MP Viewfinder
  • WiFi & NFC
  • No Low-pass Filter
Alongside this release, several new full-frame Zeiss E-Mount Lenses will also be released including a 35mm f/2.8 (available late 2013), 55mm f/1.8 and 24-70mm (available early 2014). Just like the recent Olympus OM-D E-M1 announcement, the Sony A7 and A7R models will be much sought after this Christmas so register your interest today to receive the latest news update for pre-ordering this compact masterpiece.

Compact Cameras

Compact cameras are increasingly getting better with each new generation.  Even with improvements across-the-board there are some that still have an additional level of quality coupled with a better feature set. 

The high end compact is home to several models that approach the quality and usability of DSLR cameras without the added weight. They aren't cheap but the trade-off is its superior build and photographic quality.  
There are a number of compacts aimed at the advanced amateur or professional photographer seeking high image quality and performance in a compact sized body.

The Sony RX1R is a full frame, 24.3MP camera equipped with a 35mm Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* f2 lens and has no optical low pass filter for improved detail in the final photograph. It has a high quality magnesium alloy body and a manual aperture ring which can be adjusted in 1/3 stops to obtain the optimal setting. A +/-3 stop compensation dial located on the top for quick access to exposure compensation while in auto mode. While the ISO range extends to 25600 for extreme low light shooting. This camera also features Sony’s excellent WhiteMagic LCD screen and is currently the smallest compact digital camera with a full frame sensor available in the market.

The Canon G1X has a 28mm (35mm equivalent) 4x optical zoom with an aperture range of f2.8 - 5.8.  The camera packs a 14.3MP CMOS Sensor which is about 20% smaller than an APS-C Sensor.  The G1X has full manual control with an exposure compensation dial on the top with a +/- 3 stop range.  It also features a HDR mode for photographs with a high dynamic range. It will shoot 14 bit RAW images for smooth colour gradation and even shoots in different aspect ratios if you prefer 1:1 or 3:4.  This camera is also compatible with a range of Canon Speedlite Flash Units.
The Fujifilm X100s is a classically styled compact camera that is the successor to the ever popular, if a little flawed, X100.  It features Fujifilm’s new 16MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor which also has no optical low pass filter to unleash extra sharpness and detail. The camera’s updated processor speed is now doubled and substantially increases the autofocus speed over its predecessor (this was a widely discussed issue with the original X100).  The fixed lens sports a 35mm focal length and a fast f/2 maximum aperture for brilliant low-light photography or beautifully blurred backgrounds for those up-close portraits.  The lens also has a very high level of optical sharpness, making it an ideal street photography tool.  The leaf-type shutter is near silent and the menus are very easy to navigate.  It also features filters that recreate classic Fuji films such as the ‘Velvia’ which was highly favoured by landscape and wedding photographers seeking vibrantly saturated properties.
The Nikon Coolpix A has a 28mm (35mm equivalent) f /2.8 lens and a DX sized (same size as their crop frame DSLR cameras) 16.2MP Sensor.  Similar to the other cameras mentioned above, the Coolpix A also has no optical low pass filter for ultimate image quality. It is the smallest camera in this round up and is very easy to carry around in your pocket for quick access, making it great for street and spontaneous photographic moments.  The Coolpix A may also be paired with an iOS or Android device with the optional mobile adapter for convenient image sharing with your family, friends and favourite social media site. Additionally, manual focus is available by using the manual focus adjustment ring around the lens.
This is not an exhaustive list of high-end compacts and there are a few more that are definitely considering if you’re in search of one.  Come in to one of our stores, give us a call on 1300 365 220 or check out our website if you want further info. on these camera types.  As always, we are happy to talk about all things photography!

Nikon D610 Full Frame DSLR Now Available for Pre-order!

Nikon’s newly announced D610 is a full-frame masterpiece that bridges the gap for photographers seeking the advanced imaging capabilities of an FX-format without compromising on its compact and lightweight form.  Packed with features including a 24.3 Megapixel FX-format CMOS sensor, EXPEED 3 image processing engine and a generous ISO range of 100 to 6400 (expandable from 50 to 25600), the D610 is engineered for superior performance that will surely answer the needs of enthusiasts and professionals alike.

Available from mid to late October, the Nikon D610 is ready for pre-order right here! As always, our products are 100% Australian Stock with full local Manufacturer’s Warranty so you can be assured that your investment is genuine and covered.  

Key Features

·         24.3 Megapixel FX-format CMOS Sensor

·         3.2” 921k-dot LCD Monitor

·         EXPEED 3 Image Processor

·         Full-frame Coverage

·         Full HD 1920x1080 Video Recording

·         6 FPS Continuous Shooting

·         Dual SD/SDHC/SDXC Card Slots

·         Microphone and Headphone Inputs

·         ISO 100-6400 (Expandable to 50-25600)

·         Built-in Pop-Up Flash

·         Instant Photo Sharing via the WU-1b Wireless Mobile Adapter (Sold Separately)

Macro Photography – A Good Setup and Patience is all you need

Have you ever wanted to attempt macro photography but weren’t sure where to begin?
If so, read on for some useful tips.

Macro photography is any type of close up photography that magnifies a subject to life size or greater.  This is called the magnification ratio and is seen on lenses like this: 1:1. A proper macro lens will reproduce at this ratio and some, like the Canon MP-E 65  will actually magnify up to 5 times larger than life size.  This would magnify a grain of rice to fill the frame of a full size DSLR sensor!

Successful macro photography can be a challenge and will certainly take practice and a lot of trial and error but when you get that perfect shot it will all be worth it.

Firstly, obtain a proper (1:1) macro lens or extension tube.  A dedicated macro lens  is important as a normal lens will not focus close enough to get any sort of detail in very small subjects.  Keep in mind that a macro lens can be used for general photography as well.  A cheaper alternative are the use of extension tubes (not to be confused with extenders) which increase the distance between the lens and the image sensor to allow you to focus at closer distances.  Either of these will ensure a good start in macro photography.

Manual focus is the name of the game.  A static object like a flower (assuming there is no wind around) or a shell is easier to focus on, simply because the only movement variable is you.  If you are using a good tripod, preferably with a macro slider, then it simply requires a little patience to obtain a sharp image.  Additionally, the use of a relatively small aperture such as f11 or f16 will provide more depth of field in the image.  Keep an eye on your shutter speed and use a remote release or the camera’s built in self timer mode to eliminate camera shake.  If your camera has a mirror lock up mode then this function would also be good to utilize.

Pre-focus is another great option. If you are trying to photograph insects a good tip is to set yourself up in an area where your target is likely to land or pass through and pre-focus on that spot.  A wireless remote release is a very helpful here as it will allow you to step away from the camera and begin firing as soon as your subject lands in the target zone. You may get a lot of unusable shots, but on the flip side you may also capture that perfect shot.

When thinking about lighting, the closer something is to the front of the lens generally means the difficulty to light it sufficiently increases.  In some cases your lens may actually cast an unwanted shadow on your subject.  Macro flash attachments (ring flashes) are very useful as they sit at the end of your lens to illuminate the subject.  You can also get constant light LED attachments that are not as powerful as a ring flash but are cheaper.  If outside, the sun can provide enough lighting for some subjects and you can use a diffuser to soften the light or to bounce light into the shadows.  

Every scenario is different so initially there may be an element of trial and error but hey, that's the fun of it!