Sunday, October 31, 2010

Blogger error

Ok, really Blogger?

I use the "compose" mode in Blogger 98% of the time. There is an "Edit HTML" mode, but I generally let the servers take care of coding my blog posts.

The weird part is: When I don't do any of my own coding, how is it that I am getting META tag errors?


That's just dumb.

Dear Google,

Teach your Blogger servers how to code without throwing errors.

Love,
Matt

Get in my way: Football 2

The last football came we shot, only one person really got in my way.

This week, all the action photographers were great! It was during the halftime awards presentation to our alumni that this guy decided that HIS pictures were way more important than the six other photographers trying to get the same picture.

The Offender
Shame on you sir.

Let me break it down for you.

There was a whole line of alumni out getting awards for being awesome or something. A bunch of photographers, students and professionals alike, are out on the field trying to get the shots we need.

This guy is shooting a seriously wide zoom lens. Rather than stand back and zoom in like the rest of us, he goes wide and stands 3 feet from the presenters. Great. Now I've got his ass in my shot instead of the plaque and the handshake.

To his credit, he realized he was presenting his own ass as a fair sized target to the rest of the photographers and he would move after he got his shots... Until the next presentation, at which point he was right up in their face and in our shots.

I got fed up and yelled something to the effect of: "Stand back! The rest of us are taking pictures too."
I'm not sure if he heard me, but the other photographers did. You know, the ones exhibiting basic courtesy. 


Several of the photogs out on the field now know that I make blog posts out of offenders like this. One of them looked at me while photographing The Offender's rear end and asked, "he gonna be on the blog?"
I said "Damn right he is."

Let me repeat the lesson from our last GIMY post:

Enough of my bitching. The moral of the story: be courteous to your fellow photographers. If you don't, you might end up the subject of a long-winded blog post about how rude it is to get in other people's shots.

 Thanks for reading!

and have a Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Einstein: Fixes from Paul

Serious bummer for Paul C Buff and company.

It turns out the issue I had with my Einstein not holding the softbox is not isolated. In fact, enough users have had problems that the company has ordered all new Cam Assembly parts made. They will then replace the parts on all the strobes that are currently in use.

I assume that this means I will have to ship my flash back to TN, wait two weeks, and then get my unit back. We'll see how this works out.

the PDF that the company sent out in an email to all users

In the meantime - they offer a ghetto solution: rubber bands from the cam to the umbrella screw. They are even shipping 6 rubber bands to every Einstein owner.

They've also had issues with the Frosted Dome cover coming lose during transit. The instructions above also show how to fix that.

Overall, I'm impressed that the company is doing their part to ensure a great user experience. This is the kind of stuff that allows them to retain customers for continued repeat business.

Yes, I'm disappointed that they released the product before serious testing. But, the way they are handling everything is great. Kudos Paul.

Shoes: Five Finger

I did my first shoot with my Einstein yesterday. Not very complicated, but nice to get used to the setup and everything.

I photographed my Vibram Five Finger KSO shoes.

As usual, click to enlarge.


Black shoes on a black background. They are entirely backlit. Lucky for me, I had two BIG natural reflectors where I was shooting. I also added one up front.

The idea for the shoot was to have water pouring from all ten toes... but no matter how soaked they were, I couldn't get it to work. I put a bucket of water below them. My assistant would dunk them and then hold them up while I fired off three or four frames. Rinse and repeat.

Hopefully I'm going to get some portraits done in the next few days. I'm also shooting volleyball, soccer and football this weekend... busy busy busy.

Have a great Thursday!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Einstein: First thoughts

My plan to buy an Einstein 640 flash by Paul C Buff hatched as soon as I learned about it.

I finally made the purchase (due to backorders, etc) last week. Last night, my setup arrived.

1x Einstein 640 flash
1x 5' softbox
1x "Heavy Duty" 13' stand

All told: $655

Unfortunately, when I picked up the box with the strobe in it, I could hear something rattling. Something broken. I opened up the box, assuming I would have to ship back the whole unit. I found this.




The "Frosted Glass Dome" that covers the modeling light and flashtube broke somewhere in transit. The box says fragile on it - apparently someone wasn't paying attention. I've emailed the above two photos to Paul C Buff and I expect they will ship me a replacement dome.

I set everything up and did some tests. I am seriously impressed. At its lowest power setting, the Einstein keeps up with my camera at 8 frames per second. The lighting is even in terms of output, but the color goes a bit wonky at that speed.

At full power, the recycle is about 3 seconds. It is insanely bright. When in "color" mode, the light quality is consistent and even.

The einstein has a modified system for attaching light modifiers. The old AB400-AB1600 series has two thingies that you pinch together. They live on the top of the strobe. The Einstein units have a single thingy that lives on the side. Makes things a little easier when attaching large modifiers (like a 5' softbox).

Speaking of the softbox. Wow. It is big. It is also heavy. Maneuvering the strobe with the softbox attached is impossible. I'm going to insert a sturdy metal pole into the umbrella slot and see if I can use that to keep things stable while adjusting it. I'm sure I'll post a video when I get that done.


I will say this much for Profoto - their light modifier system is far superior. The Alienbee system is... lacking in that department. With heavy modifiers, I always feel like it's going to fall off and break my flashtube. Likely because the first time I attached my softbox last night, it did fall off. Nothing broke though. Not yet.

The piece I really like about this whole setup: the wireless remotes.

Check it out.


That's the CyberSync transmitter next to some small stuff for size reference. I feel like I'm going to lose the damn thing because its so small. The piece that goes with the Einstein flash is even smaller. Screw PocketWizards. As long as this system works, I'm good to go. The wireless units keep up at 8fps as well.

The Einstein doesn't come with a carrying case or anything to keep it safe from the world around it. I hit up Wal Mart last night and purchased their foam padded pistol case. $10. It's sturdy and barely closes around the flash. The foam keeps it protected, and I know it's in there good and tight. 




Here's a photo I've been waiting to do. I needed a big even light source to make it work.


This clock slipped out of a dumpster next to my house. I brought it to the shooting range and put a few 9mm holes in it. It is now hanging in the gallery of shot-up art in our entryway.

That's my first impression. As I make modifications and as I start to use it more, I'll post further comments and probably a quick video or two about it.

If you have any questions about it - let me know! I'm happy to address them.

Monday, October 25, 2010

SLAM 2

Photographing last week's poetry slam was a real challenge.
There was one lightbulb in the entire room. One. It was above and behind where the poets performed.
My original goal for the night was to get some shots from the front, since most of my stuff from SLAM 1 was from the side. I figured I'd use my 70-200 to get it done. A little VR, I figured, goes a long way.

Whew.
6,400 ISO, F/2.8 at 1/20 sec handheld.
Tough stuff.








As usual, no noise reduction. I'm surprisingly pleased with how well ISO 6,400 turned out. Especially considering I was shooting a ridiculously low shutter speed.

The poets seems to enjoy the attention. I think they'll be really pleased when I put the whole thing together into a movie/multimedia presentation. That's at least a couple weeks off though. This week I'm bringing my 50mm F/1.8 and my wide angle. Hopefully I can persuade a couple poets to perform for video. Getting a couple poems on video would really ramp up the quality of this thing.

In other news, my Einstein setup is scheduled to arrive today. I'm more than a little excited, but I'm going to go to class anyway, since I skipped two days last week.

Have a great Monday!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ignore the Brand

David duChemin put up a discussion today on his move from Canon to Nikon.

Joey L created a hugely sucksessful video about Nikon Girl

Pixel peepers all over the world debate Nikkor vs Canon vs Sigma.

Of course, then we get into Apple vs Windows. Don't even get me started on that one.

This stuff starts comment and forum wars that rage with impressive fury. Already, David duChemin's post has 84 comments. It's been maybe three hours. That's more comments than this blog gets in a year.

I have a solution to all of the consumers out there. Yes, that's you.

Ignore the brand.

Yeah. I said it.

I don't care if you got it from Wal Mart, Target, or frigging Louis Vitton. I don't care if you shoot Sony, Pentax, Nikon or Canon. It doesn't matter if use Windows or Macintosh.

What matters is: Does it work for you?

The product can be $1 tissues or a $5,000 camera. It doesn't matter what brand it is, as long as it gets the job done for you.

I happen to prefer Apple's operating system over Windows. Would I switch if Windows came out with an operating system that I like? Hell yeah I would.

Would I switch to Canon if I thought they were better than Nikon in every way? You betcha.

Ultimately, blind brand loyalty is the downfall of the average consumer. By ignoring windows products as an apple fan, or by writing off all apple products because they don't "get stuff done," you're screwing yourself.

Don't worry though. Since I'm sure you don't want to spend the rest of your life screwing yourself, I have a solution for you.

Look at the features. Look at the price. Ignore the brand.

Focus on getting the most bang for your buck. In doing that, you'll soon realize that blind brand loyalty will screw you out of options. A lot of them.

For instance. I had a couple bad experiences with Western Digital hard drives. As such, I've been looking at hard drives from their competitors, whilst stubbornly ignoring anything with the WD logo.

Turns out that all hard drive manufacturers have bad runs. It also turns out that WD has some of the cheapest portable 500gb hard drives right now. If I were to buy new drives right now, I would have to consider all my options to avoid screwing myself out of the best deal.

I feel like this post needs some images... but I got nothin'. Hopefully more to come next week when I get my Alienbee EINSTEIN setup!

PS. I make the same mistakes as everyone else. Here are some brands I am (a little too) loyal to:
 APPLE, NIKON, NIKKOR, AMAZON (instead of iTunes), LOWEPRO, LEXAR, ADOBE, SEAGATE, and GLOCK.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Creepy

Goodness. It's been a bit dull around here in terms of new photography. I believe I had already posted to the blog each of the 20 images that I (supposedly) had printed. Plus, despite the great feedback I've been getting about my proposed logo, that stuff isn't tragically interesting either.

This is the final image of the 20 that I had printed (that still havent been printed). I think it is the only one that hasn't had its own post so far. Allow me to fix that.


Inspired by The Dark Knight, I shot this in NAU's studio with a single bare Profoto D1 monolight.

Not much to it, really. Fairly quick and simple. I asked Seth to hold the mask, we propped it open with a borrowed pencil. I think I fired ten frames or so and we were done. I used the "color monochrome" in Aperture to give it a little different feel than just black and white.

I really wish Seth was wearing better shoes. The slipper/moccasin look doesn't really do it for me... but he was willing to stand there and hold the mask, so I let him.

Working on some new material today in class - then of course a new poetry slam tonight! Long day ahead...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Logo font choices

List of font choices for my new logo.

the original


gothic

charlamagne

hercanulum

lucida handwriting


Which do you like best and WHY?

Ultimately it will depend on what I choose as my target market - something I still haven't decided. I'm just curious to hear which one(s) you like.

Of course, if you hate all of them you're welcome to tell me that too!

logo-agogo

Being sick isn't all bad - because I'm staying home to avoid infecting the healthy (such a noble cause), I am forced to play around in photoshop.

Yesterday I spent my time working on a new logo concept for Vault Photography. It has absolutely nothing to do with a vault, so I'm not sure if it's worth keeping.



I've never come across a photo logo that used the concept of a viewfinder, so I'm curious about what you, my faithful readers, think about it.

I did the same thing without the focus points. It's simple - i think a little too simple.


I'm thinking about doing a different slideshow on the home page as well, something that incorporates the viewfinder concept and then ends on the new logo.

video



Like that, except less sloppy and with more photos. And the logo would stay up at the end instead of fading to black.

This would replace the current slideshow on the www.vaultphotos.com homepage.

Thoughts? Worth keeping? Any changes? I'm open to suggestions here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Photo Printing

Throughout all of last year, Sams Club did the best photo printing in Flagstaff. They were using a gorgeous Fuji machine, they had knowledgeable lab techs, and the experience was great overall.

This year, however, is a different story.

First, online printing was down, so users had to drag their memory cards into the store and print using the Kodak Kiosks From Hell. When online printing came back online, they had moved from the Fuji printer to the Kodak Printer From Hell. Either it is never calibrated, or they have the settings all F*&CKED up because many of the photos I've seen out of that printer suck. These are all coming from people who calibrate their monitors and post-process their images for output.

Now, it turns out that ordering prints larger than 8x10 means that they have to use a non-kodak printer. I think it might even be Fuji. So, yesterday I ordered 20 prints at 11x14 for my midterm portfolio. I ordered them at approximately 12:42pm. The confirmation email told me they would be ready around 1:50pm. I waited until 6:00 or so before heading down. It turns out that *gasp* my order didn't get processed. Not only had it not been printed, but the servers in Flagstaff didn't even know that I'd placed an order.

Puh-Lease!

Looking at my order status on the Sams Club website, I see that "Your order has been received and we are currently working on it." Great.

I swear, if these prints are anything less than absolutely gorgeous, I'm going to have to start printing somewhere else. Maybe I'll use MPIX and have them shipped out here. That would be such a pain, but at least I know my prints would be gorgeous!

Anyway. Here's all 20 of the portraits I've got so far. My goal for the end of the semester is 50. We're halfway through, so I'm a little behind. No problemo.




















Monday, October 18, 2010

The peaks

I come from Boulder, where mountains pretty much define the town and everybody in it.

Out here in Flagstaff, we don't really have a mountain range so much as a mountain. It's not quite the Rocky Mountains, but it gets the job done.


I shot this yesterday during a soccer match. NAU won (as usual).
Apparently Flagstaff is in for some rain this week - all week. I've managed to catch a bit of a cold, so I'm probably going to lay low this week, at least until I'm feeling a little better.

College would be so much better without all the classes...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

500

This is my 500th blog post.

Wow.

I started blogging on April 18, 2008. For the first few months I hosted my blog on my own website.
I really liked doing it. Sure, there was a lot of HTML coding - but I had total control over my posts and their formatting and everything. Eventually, I came to realize that if I had to keep doing my own coding, I wasn't going to be blogging as much. Plus, I had no idea how to integrate an RSS feed into my existing site.

So, I started here on Blogger. 499 posts ago.

Since I can't think of anything profound to expound on - I'm going to continue a regular series.

Get in my way: Football


Football games are long. Like, excruciatingly long. The play clock is a total of one hour, yet I've never photographed a game in less than four hours.

Anyway, while NAU was destroying Montana State yesterday, there were a bunch of photographers in the Skydome. Usually there are four of us. Yesterday there were probably ten. I know. Ten is nothing compared to NFL etc. Understand that NAU is not a very good team and we're in the middle of nowhere, AZ. Nobody comes up here.

Generally we all get along fairly well and most of us are fairly courteous. Down in front, stay behind the media lines, etc.

There was one photographer yesterday who just didn't quite get it.


One offense, or even two is OK - people make mistakes. I understand that. I'm sure I get in somebody's way once or twice in a game. This guy was out in front, blocking other people's shots at least five times. 

If he was getting great photos for Sports Illustrated, I could understand. But he was using a friggin' speedlight for crying out loud! I guarantee you his shots all look like crap in color! Guarantee, because there is absolutely no way to balance between the sodium vapor lights on the ceiling and his (non-gelled) speedlight.

I asked him how it was working out  - he said he was getting pretty good stuff. He showed me one. If he pushed his photos black and white, they'll probably look good. If he keeps them in color, I doubt it.

I never got his name, but I had never seen him before and I don't expect to see him again.

Another great example - I'm in a line of four photogs, standing well behind the team. We're all staying out of one-another's shots and everything is great.

Until this dude shows up and wanders (with his POP-UP firing madly) into all of our shots. COME ON!

Don't just take my word for it - see for yourself.






I love being able to shoot video :-)

Anyway. Enough of my bitching. The moral of the story: be courteous to your fellow photographers. If you don't, you might end up the subject of a long-winded blog post about how rude it is to get in other people's shots.

I'm off to photograph soccer today. Hopefully we'll get some rain!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

SLAM 1

Update: I messed up the final photo in the original post - now it's how I want it.

I've started a new project - hopefully one that I'll actually stick with for a while.

Slam Poetry.

I'm going for an artsy grainy sort of feel for the whole series, mainly because that's how slam poetry is. It's raw, uncensored, grainy, alive.

Here are a few of my picks from the slam on Thursday night at Tacos Locos in Flagstaff.








I'll be attending slams every Thursday night for the the next few weeks. Hopefully I can get a decent series together.
This weekend is full of sports for me. Woohoo!