In Focus, Bangkok Photography Blog October 10th, 2009

Interview, Rob Martin 1DS.com/Expose to the Right



Feature Photograph

Inducer

Every once in a while I'm approached to photograph something truly unique. You're asking yourself what this is? I know, but I'll ask you, for photographic purposes does it matter? I don't think it must, but at the highest level it should. Allow me to explain.

This is an inducer. It's about 1.5 meters from edge to edge. The backing is Plexiglas and the metal is a thick gauge copper about as big around as your small finger. Each piece is carefully measured, cut, and placed. This replicates a very old design. During use there are two of these. One on each side of your body, ideally a part of your body experiencing pain, circulation problems, nerve issues, or just about any issue. Each panel is then connected to a generator which then sends our magnetic waves at precise frequencies designed to help your particular issue.

The machine hums and vibrates, the lights flash, and you keep looking at those big coils thinking something must be happening with them. There is. You just can't feel it. Once during a power surge it really started humming and for a moment there I thought I was going to be transported somewhere. Nor after one treatment. You need a series of treatment before experiencing relief. The designer left it with me for six weeks and I used it for five weeks. No relief. To be fair, my body is really screwed up. This might have worked very well on lesser injuries.

How do you market such a device? These panels set on thick white PVC legs did not look like something most would want in their homes. I thought by treating the panel as a work of art we could induce people to take a second look. This is how my work of art looks. I like it. You can get dizzy looking into it too long. I never did learn if the images helped sell more. I'll ask next time I see the guy.

This image is significant because I took a relatively non-descript and boring item and from it, made a print which is both high-tech and interesting. I'm not sure I'd want it on the wall of my home, but I do think it has attractive qualities. What do you think?

1950's BMW Motorcycle

Heavy course detail. A 50ish BMW motorbike. I wanted to process this image to show the general lines of the engine and the course details of the design. What I didn't want was a smooth sharp image of an old beat out motorcycle. Does this processing make the image more interesting? Perhaps. You be the judge. Sometimes we just have to try and see how things turn out. Run it up the flag pole and see who waves. Turn it upside down to see if you like the perspective better. Often you can surprise yourself by liking something you didn't think you would. It's all part of challenging your skills, but more of all challenging your perspective.

Interview, Rob from www.1ds.com

Rob is a good friend and a very serious amateur photographer with the resources to travel and vacation in some really exotic places. He hails from New Zealand and has lived or traveled through much of Asia and wherever his extraordinary IT skills are required. Nary a day off from work is wasted as Rob and his wife Sao pack up camera equipment and hit the road looking for new and rewarding locations to photograph. He publishes www.1ds.com where you can always find lots of great photography and interesting blog entries. If there is a great place to photograph in Thailand you can bet Rob and Sao have already been there and documented it.

BKKSteve: Ready?

Rob: Yes

BKKSteve: okay.. formal mode

Rob: :)

BKKSteve: You're an IT consultant by trade?

Rob: Yes

BKKSteve: Feel free to elaborate

Rob: ah

BKKSteve: This is all about you. Spotlight and all.

Rob: Yes, I am in the IT Industry. I work as a Project Manager for large corporations with Large Problem projects to deliver.

BKKSteve: So you have a fairly heavy technical background?

Rob: In the early days of computing yes. As the technology has gotten more diverse and more intricate, I found that I was being pushed into specialty areas. With my ability to deliver diverse areas of the IT toolset, I naturally gravitated to Project Management. I am only marginally technical these days. I employ specialists for each area. Networks, Software development, infrastructure etc.

BKKSteve: Sorry.. had to jail the parrots

Rob: :)

BKKSteve: How long have you been into photography?

Rob: I have had two photographic periods in my life. One when I was 15, which lasted about three years into being married and having kids. Other things took over then. I got interested in the early digital cameras (which sucked) in the 90's and I waited until a manufacturer developed something good, and something affordable. This happened in 2000 with the D30 from Canon. It was my digital epiphany.

BKKSteve: I'm always curious how a person's background influences their photography.. You started out technical.. but are now more conceptual? Isn't this how photography works?

Rob: I think there's something in that. As a technical person, I got caught up in the technical perfection of the image. These days I am looking more than to record an image, I want to tell a story.

BKKSteve: The D30 was Canon's first CMOS sensor DSLR, a groundbreaker in its own right. But only 3mp's. Do feel today's DSLRs with 21mp+ offer that much more of an advantage?

Rob: MP is one dimension. There's the ISO capability, the AF speed, the advent of video being included and a score of other things. The cameras today are a quantum leap from 2000. It is slowing down however, as is evidenced by Canon, for example, going for less MP on the Canon G11. Very interesting move.

BKKSteve: I couldn't agree more. And I applaud Canon (and some other companies more recently) for recognizing it's more about image quality than megapixels and putting their money where their mouth is with the new G11. However, which feature of those you listed do you consider the most important?

Rob: ISO performance. The absolute reality now is that we're expecting more dynamic range for our buck. Look back to the D30, D60, 1D and 1Ds models when the third party market for noise reduction boomed. That's quieter now as the manufacturer fill the void. I see this trend continuing with HDR coming to the fore.

BKKSteve: Increasing ISO range allows us to use many more hours of the day for photography. We can now shoot in light we never before dreamed of. Do you find your photography habits/venues have changed to take advantage of this?

Rob: Yes, certainly. The flash rarely comes out of the bag these days. For static items a little bit of HDR bracketing works a treat and doesn't look fake.

BKKSteve: I personally find that I'm shooting at times of the day I never would before, and as you mention with HDR we can bracket for further advantage. Times are great. Can you tell me when you started taking photography seriously, by that I mean putting the time and effort into the hobby as much as you do today?

Rob: From the minute that I got my hands on the D30, I was hooked. Digital in itself opens up a plethora of opportunities to experiment with your photography that never existed before (unless you were fiscally endowed). I then started to hone my craft in ways I thought impossible, as I am not a patient person. Digital gives me that quick fix and instant response that suits me.

BKKSteve: Instant gratification. We are indeed a consumer society.. One of the things which impresses me the most about you, or perhaps just plain peaks my curiosity, is that you shoot with your wife. You guys seem to equally enjoy photography. Was this more an accident or by design?

Rob: It was by design. I knew that if I was going to be spending a lot of time shooting stuff, I'd have to include my better half. I handed her a camera and the rest is history. I have done a lot of trips where the spouses are handbags (male or female) or not even there. I think this is sad. I have even developed styles of photography that suit us as a couple.

This is the main reason I sold my medium format gear. Medium format is solo photography and is no fun for the people hanging around, so we must adapt to the circumstances that we want to exist. It means we all change in a way that makes for the best relationship, in my mind. Sao also told me that she wasn't going to hold on to reflectors or other gear, so I knew that this wasn't going to work. Funny thing is, she's now very competent and uses the same gear as I do and produces excellent images in her own right. Competition is good.

BKKSteve: I've noticed this. I've been shooting with both of you and I was very impressed not only by her handling of the camera, but because she kept shooting and showing interest long after we'd both lost interest and lapsed into conversation. Was it hard for her to pick up the necessary technical bits?

Rob: I have to smile at this question. The technical parts are irrelevant to her. This is why she is so creative. The camera is the tool, and when it doesn't produce what she wants, she asks advice. So she knows enough to get her to her next level of competence, if that makes sense. She's happy, and that's all that matters.

BKKSteve: You both seem very happy during these outings. Your vacations also seem to center around photography. Recently you've been generous enough to share your trip to Kruger Park in Africa. Is this something you both desire? Most women I know would rather be in some ritzy city shopping mall than on safari?

Rob: She does on occasion ask to go somewhere civilized. Our next big trip is Israel, Jordan (Petra) and the Pyramids. But we make the most of wherever we are. This weekend just gone, for example, we slept in our car and drove 3,500 km looking for things to photograph. And we got some good results.

BKKSteve: I hope you'll share some of those results to be posted with this interview. This is a touchy subject for some and I apologize in advance for being so forward, but your wife is Thai and if we're to believe the rants we often read about Thailand it seems impossible that a Thai woman would have the natural curiosity nor the intellect to be so heavily involved with photography. Knowing Sao she seems the complete antithesis of this stereotype.

Rob: Sure, we'll provide some examples. I am not one for stereotypes, which are hard to avoid when one steps out of ones own culture. Sao is Thai through and through, but is quick witted and savvy. She is not one to get overly trapped in her own cultural boundaries which means we have the sort of relationship you don't read about often. Getting people to bend and often break their cultural boundaries is the key. And it's a two way street. If the traffic is one way, someone will get jaded and the cycle of decay begins.

BKKSteve: You are indeed fortunate. We should all be so lucky. About your safaris in Africa. How many have you made and can you offer any recommendations for a first timer to get hooked up with a quality outfit without taking out a mortgage on their home?

Rob: We've done six Safaris. Kruger park three times, Botswana twice and Kenya/Tanzania on another trip. These are split between hosted tours and self drives. Gear wise the minimum you need is an entry level DSLR Nikon D40 or Canon 450D or the likes and a zoom lens that reaches out to around 400mm. Anything less and you'll be disappointed. I can only talk Canon, so a Canon entry level 500D and a 100-400 would be all anyone would need. If the 100-400 is too pricey, a Sigma or Tokina would be sufficient. The key is to get the shots. As you photography develops you push the equipment and need to upgrade it.

BKKSteve: Self drives.. What is the difference between this and a hosted tour?

Rob: A self drive is where you book and plan the trip yourself and head into the parks with a map, a car and a sense of adventure. A Tour is something organized by an operator who does everything for you including driving, cooking and camp preparation.

BKKSteve: Which would you recommend for a first timer? I love adventure, but I'd think there is all kinds of potential danger from weather, wildlife, and maybe even natives? Are there any outfits you'd recommend without reservation?

Rob: Both my hosted tours were with Andy Biggs Safaris. He is a professional photographer and these tours are catering for people wanting to take pictures. They are more expensive (one person per row per car rather than three) and include the benefit of good company (photographers) and coaching from Andy. Other tours are good too, but may not be ideal for a serious photographer wanting to sit for three hours at one water hole.

Self drives are good when you go with someone knowledgeable (like we did) and you learn the ropes. Next time we go, we'll let you know. Coming with us would be a great start for anyone. There are levels of self drive also. Kruger is a moderate to easy one. Botswana is more heavy duty as you have to take all food and water and fuel in with you. This trip is not for the faint hearted. No fences, no limits.

BKKSteve: I'd love to go on such a trip. Unfortunately finances can be an issue. What kind of total prices for such an adventure are we looking at? I'm a big adventure seeker.. though these days I'm more into having a bucket of crushed ice at my disposal at the end of the day..

Rob: Self drives and tours are not dissimilar in price actually. Surprising given the totally different experience. Bottom end would be around $5,000 each excluding air fares, as these vary so much from different destinations. For people in Thailand, be happy, airfares to anywhere are less than half those coming from the US of A!!!

BKKSteve: LOL! And a lot less seat hours as well! I've taken a lot of your time and it's very much appreciated as I think the readers will find your background and experiences very interesting.. but before you go would you share two things with us.

1. Your plans for future trips

2. Your plans for future equipment

3. And what advice would you give a new photographer really looking to get out in the world and photograph things?

Ok that's three.. but you are coming from an interesting perspective..

Rob:

1. Europe, Middle East and Back to Africa in late 2010 or early 2011. Possibly Mala Mala (Google it)

2. Reach. I am getting two more big guns. 800/5.6's, budget permitting. I hear there's a new 100-400/3.5 in the pipe. This will be a definite must for any serious Canon guy and will heavily counter the 200-400/4 Nikon big gun!!

3. For anyone wanting to get into some photography, forget the gear. That will come. Get a camera, any camera and learn to take photos. Composition is 90% of it. Once you're getting good photos, then push the boundaries.

BKKSteve: Your plans sound fantastic. I've always wanted to do the Afghanistan thing without a uniform.. but perhaps better to wait a few years. The 800/5.6.. that's a big one. Very curious how that performs for you and how you use it. And I couldn't agree more about letting the gear take care of itself. There are plenty of really fine DSLRs on eBay for next to nothing, the Nikon D2h's for $700 or so, Canon 1d's for the same, both quality sports/wildlife DSLRs with the AF systems and speed to match. Thanks for your time. Please don't' forget to send us some pics to go with the column

Rob: You have the links to everything.

BKKSteve: I do, and thank you. I want to thank you for your time. I think many readers will find your thoughts interesting, and especially that you do so much of this with your wife. The best bonus of all. I'll check back with you in a few months and take you up on that offer for a second interview.. there is so much more about you we didn't cover. Take care.

Expose to The Right

A digital sensor is very much like slide film. Those who have shot slide film in the past can tell you that if you overexpose part of the frame then you get a 'hole' in the frame with no information in it. With slide film you end up with a clear spot on your slide.. nothing is there. This is the same with a digital sensor. It "whites out" a spot on the sensor and no information will be there. A print would reveal a 'hole' with no ink and nothing more than a piece of the print paper showing through. So, we don't want to overexpose a scene from a digital camera.

If you shoot raw with a new DSLR there is actually some 'headroom' to recover overexposed areas. Usually about half a stop, sometimes as much as a full stop. The amount depends heavily on the camera, the raw processing software, and the scene you captured.

A very cool feature of almost every modern digital camera is the inclusion of a histogram. A histogram shows us a graphic representation of the light as it's captured on the sensor. A histogram is nothing more than a mosaic. Pretend you divided a sensor both vertically and horizontally. You're left with a bunch of little tiny squares, each representing part of the sensor. A histogram is divided into 256 vertical segments placed next to each other horizontally. Each segment represents a certain exposure level of the frame from 0-255. The vertical height of each segment represents how many of each tiny square areas there are on the sensor of that exact level of exposure. Easy, eh?

Also, keep in mind that horizontally the 0-255 segments represent approximately 5 stops. From left to right '0' represents the darkest part of the image, and '255' represents the brightest part. See how the histogram has a "hump?" This is a representation of how many tiny squares on the sensor are at each vertical segments exposure level, with the segments stacked side by side.

Ideally you'd want your exposure to be so that the right side touches but never goes past the 255 (right side of histogram). For many practical purposes this isn't feasible, so we say "expose to the right" and what we really mean is to expose as far to the right as possible, while still leaving just a tiny bit of room before the right. This way we ensure we're not overexposing and subsequently losing any of those tiny squares which are ultimately data.

This histogram shows underexposure. See how all the vertical segments are grouped together to the left? The height of each segment shows how many 'tiny squares' of the sensor are at this exposure level.

This histogram shows overexposure. the vertical segments are grouped together all way to and exceeding the right. Everything touching and exceeding the right is lost image/data. We can never get this back unless it falls in the very narrow margin of 'headroom' some DSLRs and raw processing software provide. Never count on headroom for your exposure unless you know your camera and software on a very intimate basis.

This histogram shows an ideal exposure. Nothing is touching the left, and nothing is touching the right. The segments grouped in the middle are showing most of the tiny squares (data) are in the ideal exposure range.

Expose to the Right. This is perhaps the most valuable exposure rule for a digital camera. Everyone should learn this and apply this rule every time they shoot.

Photography News of Interest

For those of you interested in spending in excess of 28,000 Euros for the latest 60mp medium format digital back you can check out Hasselblad's latest offeringshere.

This is a jewel! It's a well known fact that the Canon wide angle lens line-up is sorely lacking. In fact, the only two non-Canon lenses I personally use or recommend are wide angle lenses, the Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6, and the 20mm F1.8. Canon's 24mm F1.4L and 35mm F1.4L are fine lenses, but not wide enough and their wide angle zooms the 16-35mm F2.8L and 17-40mm F4L while adequate are not as stellar as their pricing suggests. Because of this there has been a niche market for the older Zeiss Distagon lenses of old mounted on Canon bodies with the aid of an Zeiss to EF lens adapter. This is cumbersome and requires you to manually stop down the lens, but the results from these older lenses are very good. Unfortunately it has become difficult to find the better Zeiss lenses at reasonable prices. At auction they often go above $4000 USDs! And that's for a very old used lens. Now, Zeiss is offering their 21mm F2.8 Distagon with a Canon (and Nikon) EF mount. You can read about ithere.

I've previously mentioned the Panasonic Lumix GF1 as something I wanted to take a closer look at? It's a small Micro 4/3's sensor (mucho larger sensor than any point and shoot) interchangeable lens camera which fits in a large pocket. This really appeals to me, more so with the 20mm (40mm equiv) F1.7 included kit lens. This field report mirrors many of my own thoughts on the camera and it's worth reading if a small large pocket size camera with good image quality appeals to you. You can read it here.

The Canon 7D is a APS-C sensor size DSLR and Canon's latest offering. With 18mp, 19 cross-type AF points to go with their new AF system, weather sealing, 8fps frame rate, full HD (1080p) video, Live View with a 3" 920,000 LCD (this is great), and a 100% viewfinder this DSLR breaks new ground for Canon and competes directly against the Nikon D300s. With it's many new systems and features I'm thinking of getting one just to learn the new systems because I'm sure it's going to be hugely popular and many of my clients/students will be getting one. You can read a field report on the 7D here.

Readers' Submissions

Steve,

OK, here are some of the pics taken on the Koh Chang. Again, nothing special but the subjects or content caught my eye. Here they are.



Koh Chang Gateway Welcoming sign on the hill at port entry location.

One of the ferries that transport people, cars and trucks to and from the island.

And another ferry going in the opposite direction.

Koh Chang Dock and Ferry back wash as Ferry departs Koh Chang.

Interesting passenger on the ferry.

And another angle of the interesting passenger.

Thai navy patrol boat as it patrols the waters near the Cambodian boarder.

Fishing boat.

Another fishing boat.

Cars and Trucks on the Ferry.

On the Island from a ridge.

The Resort.

Butterfly in with the flowers and greenery.

Kayaks for rent.

Fog/clouds on the mountain.

More Fog/clouds on the mountains.

Sunsets.

MTS International

MTS –

Thanks for the submissions! It's great that you're getting out and using your new DSLR and you can tell you're experimenting. This is good. It also appears you're trying to duplicate popular looks and this is good too. It's always fun to share the new excitement someone feels when they discover a DSLR.

Thanks!

Steve

I suspect the readers submissions will be a highly anticipated section of this column and I encourage anyone with photographs and travel accounts they'd like to share to please send them to me at: [email protected]

Readers' Questions

BKKSteve ;

I am an old fart from down under. Mate I started with film in my mamy's Brownie and I still have some of those negatives and I think they are great. I am too old and too set in my ways to even consider one of those computer cameras. Can I shoot film and is film still as good as it was 40 years ago? Thank you boy. Crikey I hope the answer is yes.

Bixbi

Bixbi

You sound like you've seen it all. If you are happy with the film you used to shoot through your mama's Brownie then you'll be thrilled with it today. Why? Because in the last 10 years film emulsions have improved greatly. You're going to love the results. I would recommend you have the old Brownie serviced to ensure all is well with the shutter and light seals. Please post a sample from your first batch of film.

Take Care Bixbi

Steve

Steve

I've just noticed your photography area on Stickman, and been reading carefully your tips.

As a novice photographer who has just bought some expensive toys, I need to learn some basics, but the articles about ISO and Apertures are not discoverable… I've read your focal length, DOF, Focal Distance and Shutter Speed lessons, but can't find the other two!

Any chance you could point me in the right direction?

John

Hi John –

I'm really happy you're finding my column useful. I'd be happy to link you to the requested areas. Let me know if you have any questions.

John, I just noticed there is an issue with the index page and some of the columns aren't listed as they should be. I've put in a request to have this fixed and will email you the remaining links once the index page is properly repaired. Hopefully very soon. Thanks for understanding.

Steve

ISO

Aperture

http://www.stickmanweekly.com/Photo/4October/BKKSWPhoto10.htm

http://www.stickmanweekly.com/Photo/11October/BKKSWPhoto11.htm

http://www.stickmanweekly.com/Photo/18October/BKKSWPhoto12.htm

And this week's column will have some good Aperture DOF stuff this Saturday.

John –

I can't get index page repaired until Friday. It seems the web guy is out of town. I looked around in my email bin and found these direct links for the two areas you requested. You can link directly to them.

Steve

Aperture

http://www.stickmanweekly.com/Photo/30August/BKKSWPhoto5.htm

ISO Explained:

http://www.stickmanweekly.com/Photo/16August/BKKSWPhoto3.htm

Hi Steve!

Many thanx for that!!!! Above and beyond the call…

A quick question also please…can you suggest a fisheye type lens for the Canon EOS 5D Mk2?

Thank you again!

Best wishes

John

John –

I'm glad I could be of service. The Canon 8mm is the best all around fisheye for the full frame body of your 5d Mark II. If you're looking to specialize in panoramics and the like check out the Sunex 5.6mm Fisheye Ken Rockwell tests the Sunex and talks about ithere.

Read about both the Canon and the Sunex and come back to me with any questions you still have.

Take care

Steve

Please submit your questions to [email protected] All questions will be answered and most will show up in the weekly column.

A Snapshot of Bangkok Images Week in Review

Another slow week so I chose to get some projects going. One I'll be printing out and matting approximately 40 prints to be framed in teak for my apartment. I'm choosing a heavy matte art weave. I'll print on this and it will have wonderful texture. Then I'll spray it for longevity and so it can stand up to dusting. No glass is required. This combination will allow direct viewing which is my goal. With a newly renovated apartment each wall is bare. My plan is to turn each empty wall space into a theme. Cambodia theme, Chiang Mai Theme, Angkor Vat theme, street shooting theme, and so on. I'd like a bit of the feel of an art gallery but without the fruits. I'll keep you posted.

Infocus Blog

The Plod wanted 1500 baht

Last week I was out in the SUV with a client. Not only was I with a client, but the client's family which included a small child, a mother in law, the mother, and another couple. We were cramped but safe. I made a mistake and turned where I shouldn't have turned. I turned around and drove up to the police knowing I would get a fine or at least a stern lecture.

The plod approached my window and in a brief introduction determined that my Thai was about as good as his English. Not very good. I asked what I had done wrong and he couldn't explain it to me. I nodded my head yes like I understood, but I didn't. Usually this expedites things. Meanwhile I'd placed 200 baht up near the window sill where he could see and take it, and his fellow plods could not. He laughed at the 200 baht and said he'd be needing 1500 baht. Wow, that's three times the price of the real fine. Still, I said I would be glad to pay if he'd provide a receipt. He asked me to leave my car in the middle of this dangerous intersection with my clients and their family inside so I set my flashers and followed him to the sort of cement police shack you commonly see under any bridge or overpass.

Inside the cement shack he motions to take a seat on a hard cement bench and says "We are men, let us talk as men?" I was fine with talking like men. "I want 1500 baht!" "Sir, I will happily pay you any fine you deem necessary, but I will require a receipt with your name and badge number in return." He balked and became angry. I pulled out my small pocket cam, my Fuji Finepix F200 EXR and took his picture, another of him and a close by co-worker, and then a few out the window of my car in the middle of the intersection. Both of the cops really didn't like me taking pictures.

"We want 1500 baht" they repeated. This time the other plod joined in with a nice chorus as they sung me their fee. And I repeated myself but added one thing. "I'll be happy to pay any fine. But I will require a receipt with your names and badge numbers (now letting them know I'd be recording both their information) in exchange for the 1500 baht because my embassy will reimburse me and they like to keep track of problem intersections and problem police officers." Both plods looked at each other, whispered to each other, and then asked "do you have an embassy ID card?" I replied "Yes, it's in my car, shall I get it for you?" That was the second everything changed.

The waied me deep. They walked me back to my car to make sure I got there safe, checked the car for damage, and told me I could go. "Please go, Please go" they said. They weren't at all interested in seeing the ID. They were no longer interested in their 1500 baht.

I know I did something wrong at that intersection. I'm not sure exactly what and they couldn't tell me. As such I was more than willing to pay the standard 400 baht fine at the police station, or the lesser 200 baht expedite fine to the police officers personal fine collection account. However, I was not willing to be fleeced because this plod felt he had a car full of well off farangs. His demand for 1500 baht was way out of line. Him making me leave my car and its passengers in the middle of the intersection was further out of line. He was a crook and I called him on it.

I was with my client the day before when I got pulled over and had to pay a 200 baht graft. AT the time I mentioned to him that I've been stopped over 100 times in the last 2-3 years. 91 of those times has been in a 1 square kilometer area.. the magic kilometer as it surrounds Soi 3/4 off Sukhumvit. It's very obvious the plods in this area regularly line their rather deep pockets as frequently as possible with graft. In three years I've been stopped 7-8 other times on the highways by the highway police. Each time I earned it. Each time I was handled professionally, fined 200 baht, and let go with a warning. The only time I ever have issues in Bangkok, on the Bangkok streets, is in that one square kilometer from Soi 3/4 on Sukhumvit outwards.

Until next time..