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2009/09/30

Light: Ambient and flash mixed

I often struggle to explain the relationship between flash, shutter speed, aperture and ambient light. Especially with 14-year old students who know nothing of cameras except what is inside their cell phone. SO this evening I was browsing the web for a few minutes before getting back to work on my studies for grad school and I came across a blog that shows it very plainly.

The blog and web site are very nicely done - but be aware that some of the galleries include nudity - and he has a good mastery of light. The photographer is Ciaran Whyte. I recommend checking out the following pages:


and an even more comprehensive explanation of light and exposure is here.

He is also a Strobist Fan, so when you are done looking at his stuff, head on over to visit David Hobby's site for even more tips on lighting photos for cheap.

2009/09/26

Not wanting business?

After months of waiting, the grant money for computers and other equipment has finally come in and orders are going out. The laptops and software (Photoshop CS4 and Photoshop Elements 8 -yes, version 8 is out already) have been easy to order. But what is not as easy is ordering cameras.
I have been trying to contact vendors that would work with a public school purchase orders - and I can now see why the economy is so bad and businesses are failing. I have money to spend and yet the vendors won't bother to return telephone calls or respond to Emails.

The one person - Jeff Snyder at Adorama cameras in New York, has refused to do business with me on several occasions. He was with a different camera company for several years - and I tried to place orders with that company when he was the newspaper sales contact, and he would not respond to calls, and when I did contact him he would promise to get back to me and not follow through. Now that he has moved to Adorama and is one of the sponsors for Sportsshooter.com I was also wanting to order from him to give back. When Tokina came out with a new ultra-wide angle lens I wanted to pre-order one and he told me he would contact me when they were in stock. I never heard from him.

No big deal - it was probably just an oversight - even though he did say he would contact me. But this week I called to order 9 cameras, some accompanying memory cards, batteries, flash units and more... and not a peep either by telephone or Email.

So, Friday afternoon (I Snyder's called his office Tuesday morning) I placed a call to his competitors across town - B&H Photo. The public school sales rep that handles New Mexico was very helpful, explained a few things, apologized that he would not have the completed quote until Tuesday (it was near closing time and because of the Jewish holidays this weekend they will not be open until Tuesday) and left me feeling comfortable about doing business with B&H (again - I have used them for many of my personal purchases in the past.)

Now, before you leave thinking this rant is entirely against Mr. Snyder, it is not. Other vendors I tried to contact also did not respond. It is simply that this has been a recurring thing with this one. So, Sportsshooter.com sponsor or not, my business dollars - and those of my school district - are going to a different supplier.

Zuma and DoubleTruck-check 'em out

When I was working at The Gallup Independent we somehow managed to get onto a mailing list for DoubleTruck magazine (I never contacted them to subscribe). Each issue would come filled with amazing two-page images filling page after page. (Thus the magazine's name). They are affiliated with Zuma Press, which boasts a collection of some of the best photojournalists in the industry on their staff and represented by them. The subscription rate might seem high - four issues for $33, but bear in mind that they are basically publishing soft-cover books with giant photos for every page. I just sent out a check for a subscription to have in my classroom for my journalism and yearbook students.

Zuma Press has a "Pictures of the Day" feature on their web site and it is definitely worth taking a look at. You can also follow Zuma Press on Facebook.

2009/09/04

Soccer is brutal

(**NOTE: First of all, the two images here are NOT related. One happened on the sidelines, the other during the game. The first did not cause the second.)

So, for the first time in quite a while I dug out the "big guns" and went to shoot a sports event. Lack of practice, lack of sleep (I have been averaging only 5-6 hours a night at best) or just plain lack of thinking - whatever - led to some damaged equipment. I was swapping my camera body and putting my Nikon D2h onto my 300mm lens, and I had just connected my 1.4x teleconverter to the lens when the soccer ball came out of bounds, right to me. The lens was resting partly on my camera bag and partly on the lens hood. I took my hand off the lens to deflect the ball away from me and the camera body. The result is that somehow the lens tipped off the camera bag and the mount smashed against the ground. Now, it is bad, but at least the damage is to the teleconverter and not to the lens. I have a second teleconverter, and even if I didn't at least I still had the lens, intact, to shoot with.

Photo #2 - is a quick grab shot after two players both used their heads to try to win the ball. One of the Miyamura players ended up head-butting the Grants Pirate and opened a nasty gash over his eye that ended up needing stitches.

I was greatly disappointed that the student from the yearbook class who asked to use a camera to photograph the games this evening never showed up. The STUDENTS are supposed to be creating the yearbook, but I guess there is a lot of attention to what I will get the final product to look like. It does not ease the pressure much to learn that my school's principal and one of hte vice principals were on the radio recently and talking about how great things are that I am at the school to help create the yearbook and newspaper...

2009/09/02

Blank looks and lots of tech

I stood in front of my students today and talked about composition and diagonal lines; the effect of color and when it is okay to ignore the "rule of thirds". I showed photos and talked about them. During the day I went over the same topics and only a small number of students seemed to have any interest.

Next came the technical stuff. The last portion of my class focused on file formats and image resolution. I talked about JPG files, the limitations of only having 8 bits per color channel, the loss of data for each time the photo is re-saved... I talked about the RAW file format, how it gives the full range of data from the camera but the raw files are not universal and they take up a lot of space. I explained TIF files and ended with the PSD file formats.

Then I asked, "any questions?"

The only sound was the roar of the three box fans in my room trying to keep the temperature from broiling the students.

Not a single question. I know they didn't all get it. I know that they were confused. I also had no idea where to start expanding the explanation without them asking some kind of question. I have been working with digital photography files and Photoshop since the mid-1990s. So much of what I know about this stuff has been gained in little bits and pieces as I have wanted to get more understanding. We are three weeks into the semester and still do not have computers or cameras(with exceptions) for the students, so that means that not only is the material all complicated and new, it is also very abstract. They need to DO, not just have me explain and show them.

The biggest thing is they need to get over their unwritten "code of coolness" that says they are not supposed to ask questions or engage in conversations with the teacher. If they are not going to ask, and I don't know what the point is they have lost me, then I might as well sit and play solitaire. The results will be the same.