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Archive for August 2012

Portraits of Paris 1898-1922

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Went to a preview of this exhibition at Sydney Art Gallery.  The first comprehensive exhibition in Australia of the work of Eugène Atget (1857–1927) will showcase over 200 photographs primarily from the more than 4000-strong collection of Musée Carnavalet, Paris, with the important inclusion of Atget’s work, as compiled by Man Ray, from the collection of George Eastman House, Rochester, USA.

The photographs offer a portrait of the city of Paris and its outskirts and clearly reveal the evolution of Atget’s work. Atget did not train as a photographer and only turned to it to try to earn a living, having been unsuccessful in other fields. He started out in the provinces but soon arrived in Paris, where he lived for the rest of his life. Atget was considered a commercial photographer who sold what he called ‘documents for artists’, ie, photographs of landscapes, close-up shots, genre scenes and other details that painters could use as reference. As soon as Atget turned his attention to photographing the streets of Paris, his work attracted the attention of leading institutions such as Musée Carnavalet and the Bibliothèque Nationale, which became his principal clients.

The Art Gallery of NSW is the only Australian venue. The exhibition is jointly organised by Fundación Mapfre, Nederlands Fotomuseum, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Musée Carnavalet-Histoire de Paris, and Paris Musées.  Although very interesting due to the subject matter, I do not feel the prints were that outstanding, from a photographic point of view.  John Pond   

On view  Admission $10.00, $8.00 concession  24 Aug – 4 Nov 2012  Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney

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23/08/2012 at 6:41 am

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Making a Video Production

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Since starting this CAMERA BLOG SITE, I am amazed at the reaction.  I have had more responses from all around the World on my Camera Blog than all my other Blogs combined.  From Paris to Mexico City, from New York to Buddapest I have heard from those following me on the internet.  This shows that there are a great deal of you out there who love photography as I do.  Please feel free to post your comments and suggest topics you may wish me to write about.

In future posts I will cover some basics on how to improve your video productions.  With so many digital cameras including video recording options, it is within everyone’s ability to shoot some “home movies”.   I used to shoot a lot of videos, but being a bit of a purist, I nearly always used a tripod, with a fluid head enabling very smooth pan and tilts. As the years are catching up, It’s hard work lugging around a tripod as I travel the globe.

Today’s younger generation, used to shaky images on music videos, don’t seem to care about smooth pan and tilts and transitions.  Again, being old school I believe that one should learn the correct way to do things and only then forget about the rules and go hand held with lots of quick cuts.  Again, when I was a professional film maker in the 60′s we learnt that a scene should never be less than 5 second, today quick cuts of less than a second are not unusual.  I still believe in cuts of around 3 second as the shortest if you don’t want to send the oldies mad.

Video cameras have come down in price so much, for under a thousand dollars they do just about everything.  But don’t be seduced with to many bells and whistles.  Films are perfected with good editing in your computer and not in the camera.

I am a Mac fan and their editing programmes are fantastic from iMovie to the professional Final Cut Pro which is, I believe too high end for the average video maker, but is the most widely used editing programme for professionals.  In future articles, I will cover more about video production.  From zoom lenses to planing your story, from special effects to creating mood.  Tropfest film festival, has done a great deal to encourage young film (or should I say video) makers. If you really want to give your video career a boost, consider entering this competition.  http://tropfest.com/au/

John Pond

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22/08/2012 at 10:40 pm

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Stayin’ Alive for over 55’s

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This video clip is for the over 55’s that should recognise all of the characters and the cinematography  of the Hollywood 40’s and 50’s.

For the younger of you out there, we over 55’s feel sorry for you.  You missed out on so much.  Look back and learn, when movie stars were movie stars and the music could be understood, even up until the 70’s.

This great clip includes Rita Hayworth, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Phil Silvers and others dancing to the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive, who I had the pleasure of knowing in the 60’s.  We actually met at a camera shop in Sydney.   John Pond

THANK YOU PAUL.
CLICK FLASH PLAYER LINK BELOW

http://www.computerwhizguru.com/El_Gran_Salseron/Rita/Rita.html

Flash FLV Player

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19/08/2012 at 5:23 am

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A Good Lens Makes the Difference

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Wide setting, available light. I use wide setting the most.

When choosing to buy a new point and shoot camera or even an SLR (single lens reflex) or any of the models in between, one of the most important factors to look for is the quality, focal length and aperture of the lens.

With the megapixel count of most cameras over 10 megapixels, which is more than enough for any amateur photographer, capable of giving sharp A3 enlargements, what you should really look at is the lens.

Frame your subject using zoom, crop images for better effect

The two most important factors are focal length and aperture.  The aperture is expressed in the lens’ maximum opening, in other words, how much light will it let in to the sensor (or in the old days, to the film).  What one should look for is the biggest F Stop possible, for example an F2 lens lets in more light than an F3.5 lens.  The lower the number, the more light is let in.  This is important when taking action photos when a higher shutter speed is required, or taking available light photos without a flash, giving more natural and realistic photographs.

Lenses with low apertures on SLRs can go down to 1.8 or even .09.  These lenses can cost thousands of dollars each and are used only by professionals needing to shoot at very low light levels.  Thanks to the magic of digital imaging and high megapixel count, amateurs are able to use their settings to make their camera sensors pick up images, even in extremely low light situations.  In my career as a travel photojournalist, I often have the need to shoot inside buildings and food in restaurants.  I use my sensor’s high sensitivity settings to get very acceptable images suitable for magazine publication.

One of the big problems is that probably 95% of amateurs never take their camera off the automatic setting.  This is fine for most photography, but if you want to get those really outstanding photographs, learn how to set your camera to a higher sensitivity setting, usually under the P (Program) thus enabling your camera to stay set at the higher ISO rating.  I usually use around the 4000 sensitivity setting which gives me outstanding images with little or no noticeable noise.  Noise is image degradation similar to grain in those that can remember shooting on film.

Back to the lens.  Most people are attracted to a long zoom and seem to be impressed when the sales person zooms the lens out to its longest point.  A long zoom is fine if you are shooting a lot of sports and want to zoom in to your children playing.  On the other hand I prefer a camera to have a wider lens as I shoot more scenery and hotel interiors.  Having a long zoom is of no interest on my main camera.  If you have a camera with inter-changeable lenses that are becoming widely available in the point and shoot range, you can just change lenses and put on a telephoto lens that will bring up distant images.  Remember, go for a camera with built in anti-shake capabilities as when shooting on long lenses, hand shakes can cause blurring unless shot with very high shutter speeds. John Pond

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16/08/2012 at 11:11 pm

How to Take Better Pictures

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Shooting at twilight with neon signs ads a new perspective

Before a recent overseas trip to the USA, I decided to lash out and buy the new Olympus OMD, which has been advertised heavily on local TV.  This is not a camera for novices and unless you know a little about photography you are wasting your money.  Conversely, if you have some photographic knowledge and are prepared to spend a couple of hours reading the instruction book and learning how to use this great camera, then you are making a good investment.  At around $1400 with a 22-50mm lens, it’s not cheap, a little heavy, but I was very impressed with the results.

Shoot available light when possible, flash destroys overall look. Photo by Sandra.

I find most amateur photographers are frugal with the number of photos they take, shooting their spouse in front of a landmark, the average photographer may take just one photo.  A professional, with greater photo knowledge will take several.  I recommend at least 3 to 6.  With the price of memory cards so low, it costs zero to lash out and take several photos.  That’s why some amateur photographers have most of their photos with their subject’s eyes closed or squinting.  Take your photos faster, why do amateurs take so long to set up a shot?  Photos taken faster are more natural and life like.  Talk to your subject, let them know when you are taking their picture.  I usually say “on 3” then I count 1 – 2 – and take the photo on 2.

Avoid photographing people against bright backgrounds, such as the sky, unless the sun is behind your back, subjects faces will usually turn out very dark unless you know how to compensate with exposure control, which very few amateurs know how to do.

When travelling, I take at least 1,000 photos a week, often a lot more.  I always ask my friends how many photos do they take on their vacation, often the answer is in the dozens and of course they are usually terrible, guess they don’t read my photo tips.

The moral of the story is USE YOUR CAMERA, read the instruction manual, although I must admit they are often hard to decipher and take lots of photos from different angles.

Don’t cut off legs, move in closer to your subject, photograph food, the shots bring back memories of where you had that great, or not so great meal.  Photograph the locals for a bit of background colour.  Photograph street signs and car number plates to identify where you took the photos.  Remember your camera can’t take great photos if hidden away in a pocket or purse.  Wear your camera around your neck and always be ready for those great unexpected photos.  Most award winning photos were taken on the run – so to speak.  They say, “A picture is worth a thousand words” so start talking. John Pond

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Written by John Pond, J.P.

16/08/2012 at 10:44 pm

File Sizes Make Difference

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In my conversations about photography with fellow travelers, I have ascertained most know or understand nothing about file sizes. When they buy their point and shoot cameras, they are told to shoot on Auto and that is all they need to do. Even the most basic digital cameras are capable of so much more, so let me try to explain about file sizes.

Usually listed as Low Medium and High plus Raw (Raw is used mainly by professionals), they control the quality of your overall picture, along with other factors.

A camera salesperson may set the quality to low or medium, which greatly increases the number of photos you may take, thus impressing the customer. For example, depending on the size of your memory card (I use 8 megapixels as standard) they cost around $30.  At high resolution I get about 600 exposures on a SD memory card.

Set on medium, the number usually doubles and at Low it triples.  Most non professionals are impressed that they are getting 2000 or so photos.  By the way, let me say this is OK for small prints and to share by email with your friends. BUT … if you want high quality and the ability to make huge poster prints, use the HIGH quality setting.  You have to study your instruction manual to make these adjustments.  For most amateur photographers, I would recommend MEDIUM as the best option.

Pixel Count also enters into the equation.  Today there are so many cameras with a high pixel count that this is hardly a problem.  Anything over 10 megapixels is fine – anything over 12 megapixels is overkill for the average beginning photographer.

Sensor size is also very important.  Most small point and shoot cameras have the smallest sensors.  Professional digital single lens reflexes have larger sensors: up to full frame 35mm size – again overkill for amateurs.  The new four thirds are a great comprimise for advanced amateurs wanting great quality in a smaller package (camera size is less than average SLR size). So you can see it’s a bit of a minefield.  Shop at a reputable camera store and get advice, but tell the salesperson what type of photos you want to take.

For beginners, this can be very confusing, but if you want to take your photographs to a higher level, there is a great deal of satisfaction to be had in taking some control over your camera.  The most expensive, top of the line cameras will not make you a better photographer, it’s the person behind the camera that makes the photos great, not the camera.

In my conversations about photography with fellow travelers, I have ascertained most know or understand nothing about file sizes. When they buy their point and shoot cameras, they are told to shoot on Auto and that is all they need to do. Even the most basic digital cameras are capable of so much more, so let me try to explain about file sizes. Usually listed as Low Medium and High plus Raw (Raw is used mainly by professionals), they control the quality of your overall picture, along with other factors.

Usually a camera salesperson may set the quality to low or medium, which greatly increases the number of photos you may take, thus impressing the customer. For example, depending on the size of your memory card (I use 8 megapixels as standard) they cost around $30.  At high resolution I get about 600 exposures on a SD memory card. Set on medium, the number usually doubles and at Low it triples.  Most non professionals are impressed that they are getting 2000 or so photos.  By the way, let me say this is OK for small prints and to share by email with your friends. BUT … if you want high quality and the ability to make huge poster prints, use the HIGH quality setting.  You have to study your instruction manual to make these adjustments.  For most amateur photographers, I would recommend MEDIUM as the best option.

Pixel Count also enters into the equation.  Today there are so many cameras with a high pixel count that this is hardly a problem.  Anything over 10 megapixels is fine – anything over 12 megapixels is overkill for the average beginning photographer. Sensor size is also very important.  Most small point and shoot cameras have the smallest sensors.  Professional digital single lens reflexes have larger sensors: up to full frame 35mm size – again overkill for amateurs.  The new four thirds are a great comprimise for advanced amateurs wanting great quality in a smaller package (camera size is less than average SLR size).

So you can see it’s a bit of a minefield.  Shop at a reputable camera store and get advice, but tell the salesperson what type of photos you want to take.

For beginners, this can be very confusing, but if you want to take your photographs to a higher level, there is a great deal of satisfaction to be had in taking some control over your camera.  The most expensive, top of the line cameras will not make you a better photographer, it’s the person behind the camera that makes the photos great, not the camera.

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Written by John Pond, J.P.

16/08/2012 at 6:09 am

MY DAYS AT PLAYBOY, CHICAGO

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Photo I took on Nikon F2 using Ektachrome at Playboy Casino, Bahamas in 70’s

MY DAYS AT PLAYBOY, CHICAGO.  One of the more interesting jobs I wound up with was working as a Vice President at Playboy International at their head office based in Chicago.

As a teenager, Playboy Magazine was banned in Australia and if you knew a Qantas steward or hostess, as they were called in those days of non political correctness, you asked them to bring you a copy from the US.  The photography in Playboy was outstanding.  The centerfolds were taken with 8” x 10” view cameras on Ektachrome.  Apart from all the jokes about only reading Playboy for the articles, which were outstanding, written usually by award winning authors, it was perhaps every young man’s dream to be on a Playboy photoshoot.

Well, for me, that dream came true when I was offered the position of head of world wide public relations and marketing for their clubs, resorts and casinos.  Back in the 1970’s, Playboy owned several hotels and dozens of Playboy Clubs, as well as casinos throughout the US, Bahamas, England and Japan.

Naturally, one of my first stops when investigating the Playboy building was the Photo Department, where most of the Playboy centerfolds were photographed.  I quickly struck up some firm friendships there with the photographers and assistants.  I was amazed to find they had a full Ektachrome processing lab to develop all their images and often I was consulted for my photographic technical expertise.

I used the lab to develop photos that I took for PR purposes.  Although I was supposed to use outside photographers, I balked at their $1000 half day charges and did most of the photography myself.  Many of these images were published in Playboy and I must admit I had a great deal of satisfaction at seeing my name in the photo credits of this prestigious publication. Just a little technical information.  In those days (the 1970’s) all centerfolds were shot on 8” x 10” cameras with other images mainly being shot on Hassleblads’ 120 format and Nikons’ 35mm format.  Today digital formats are mainly used.

Playboy was renowned for their outstanding nude photography, especially when most of the models were amateurs and considered to be “the girl next door”.  One of Playboy’s trade secrets was that the girls, after being chosen for the centerfold, were invited to get to know the photographer socially.  The chosen girl, who was to receive a large fee, was invited into the photographer’s home to dine with his family and generally get to know each other so that they could be relaxed during the shooting session, which sometimes lasted several days.  This certainly paid dividends as most of the finished centerfolds were considered works of art.

Believe it or not and contrary to public opinion, there was virtually no manipulation of images.  Bear in mind this was before the days of Photoshop, where image manipulation was done with a fine camel hair brush.  Potential Playboy photo subjects were told to get rid of any tan lines so that photos could be “as natural as possible”. John Pond

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16/08/2012 at 12:28 am

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Night Photography – Use Tripod

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Night PHOTOS: Dust off your tripod or go and buy one, then head for the city this evening to take some outstanding photos of Sydney’s brilliant light show. Using a tripod for night photography is one way of assuring very sharp pictures. Most aspiring photographers cannot hold a camera steady using shutter speeds of less than 1/100th of a second. I manage to keep pictures sharp at a 1/40th of a second, but it took a long time to master the technique.

Of course one can hand hold, but for optimum results a tripod is best. With a tripod one can be in their own photos with flash fill. Don’t stand too far away from your camera and don’t be afraid to bracket exposures. Use your cameras self timer to stop camera shake. One of my friends, Tony, borrowed a tripod from me and braved the cold this week to go out into the streets of Sydney to photograph some of the brilliantly lit buildings that are part of the annual Sydney Vivid Festival. Many of Sydney’s iconic buildings, including the Opera House, are lit with both conventional and laser lights.

I must admit that I was very impressed with some of Tony’s photos. The Opera House picture is a little unsharp, but more than satisfactory. I would suggest a slightly higher shutter speed and increase the ISO rating. AIso would have used a slower ISO and bracketed exposures. A shutter speed of say 5 seconds with a smaller aperture would have made the walking pedestrians disappear. John Pond.

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09/08/2012 at 1:58 am

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TEN TIPS ON MAINTAINING YOUR CAMERA

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1. Always protect your camera from the elements rain/snow/sand and dust.  If it is indicated that it is waterproof, which I don’t fully believe, moisture will build up inside it which will eventually destroy your camera’s internal components.

2. If using a rechargeable battery for your camera, it slowly looses its recharging capacity , a typical Lithium Ion batteries last up to 500 cycles after which we will see a decline in its performance. I always purchase a second battery, that way I can fully use battery no.1 until exhaustion (the battery, not me) replacing it with battery No.2.

3. My cardinal rule: always keep your lens spotless, I have seen so many cameras with such grubby lenses that the pictures must look as though they have been shot through a snowstorm. This is especially the case if you have a digital SLR as its lens is more complex and need better maintenance.  If you have a quality camera, buy a UV or Skylight filter.

4. This is for DUMMIES: avoid dropping your camera, people who drop cameras probably drop babies too.  I always put my arm inside the camera strap and when I hand my cameras to others make them do the same.

5. Protect your camera gear when near Salt water which will corrode your camera. If exposed to salt water you should gently wipe its surface with a cloth dipped in fresh water to rinse off remnants of salt water on your camera.

6. Never force hinges, buttons or dials if they seem stuck. Call for technical support an expert can walk you through possible fixes, or advise if the camera is in need of repair.

7. Always turn off the camera before removing or disconnecting the power source or a cable, or removing the battery or memory card. Usually nothing will happen, but why take the risk.

8. Camera storage is important:  if your not going to be using your camera for a long time. Keep it in a cool, dry place and ideally remove the batteries. Don’t place it in direct sunlight for prolonged times or in a car when it is hot. Pointing the camera lens towards strong sunlight for a prolonged time can ruin the sensor.

9. If lens needs cleaning I use very clean cotton sheet or photographic chamois with a little hot breath. If you blow dust off a lens, always blow away from you lens first, then blow on your lens.

10. Replace the cap on your camera’s lens when not in use, this will stop dust settling.

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09/08/2012 at 1:28 am

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Keeping a Digital Photo Travel Diary

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When travelling around the world on business and pleasure as a travel photojournalist, I find it harder and harder to keep track of all my expenses and to remember many of the new and exciting things I have encountered. So I have come up with an easy solution that not only acts as a diary by documenting all my out of pocket expenses, but provides a superb visual record of my journeys.

The answer, thanks to modern technology, is the very pocketable digital camera, so small that it fits in the palm of your hand, your shirt pocket or takes up no space in a handbag.  This new generation of high quality camera can be purchased for around $300 plus and they offer great picture quality.  The small memory chips, not much larger than a thumbnail, can hold up to 8GB+ of information but I find anything over 8GB is overkill. Using your camera’s highest resolution, these chips should provide 500 to 1000 images, or used at a lower resolution, we are talking 2000+ images, more than enough for any vacation.

In the old days BDC (Before Digital Cameras) many of us kept travel diaries which were usually not up to date.  We kept dockets and invoices in various coat pockets and at the end of our journey, when we were tyring to put together an expense sheet for taxation purposes, we could not find half of them.

My solution is, at the beginning of a journey I photograph every stage. Arriving at the airport I will photograph the taxi’s meter, then the check in counter at the airport as well as any other interesting airport shots (for my own personal use).  I photograph meals on the plane and on arrival, signs at the airport to indicate my location, this might seem like overkill but looking back weeks or months later it gives a thorough record.

Thanks to the wonderful macro capacity of these new cameras, you can photograph close ups down to the size of a postage stamp with automatic focus, so just hold any invoices or bills in your hand and photograph them.  Also everything is in sequence, there is no problem about what was spent where, this record should keep the tax man happy.  Shoot a local newspaper’s date occasionally to reinforce the timeframe.

On returning home it is easy to download the information (pictures) from the chip to your home or office computer.  I download all the pictures into a file – example “Holland Trip with date”, then I make a copy onto a CD or DVD for a cost of under $1 and file that away as a backup.

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Written by John Pond, J.P.

09/08/2012 at 1:11 am

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