This is a cool idea, “AirTracks,” inflatable all-terrain camera slider

This is a neat idea, an all-terrain inflatable track that allows for perfectly-smooth video capture over a short distance under nearly any conditions.

If they could make one that would go, say, fifty feet, that would be really something.

AirTracks Kickstarter Page

Shutter Speed Assignment

I took a series of photos, some of my friend’s son, JW, out in Clarence, and three of some flowers in a stiff Blasdell breeze. The text descriptions in the photos contain the remainder of the information for this assignment.

ESC Assignment – Shutter Speed

Got new external flash unit, trying it out, but…

I got a new flash that arrived from Amazon yesterday, a “Yongnuo Speedlite YN560.”

But now I’m wishing I’d have read some more comprehensive reviews before buying it, like this one here.

Apparently this flash has had some real problems, and I’m hoping that having bought it from Amazon will give me some leeway if it immediately starts giving me trouble. I’m also hoping that, since the flash has been on the market for a couple of years, the manufacturer has taken steps to reduce the number of defective units that ship.

I like the fact that it has a slave mode function and includes, in the box, a stand to hold it upright for use as a stationary fill light. It also comes with a soft, drawstring pouch.

I need to dig into the instruction manual for my camera a bit and find out how to disable the built-in flash when using the large external one. It’s irritating to try to take a photo with the external attached only to have the built-in one attempt to pop up underneath it. Of course, the external can be held up or set down to act as a slave to the built-in one for fill-in purposes. I’m going to try that and I’ll post the results here.

Aside from the flash I got a nice new (but steeply discounted) Case Logic bag to hold everything, a Joby SLR Zoom GorillaPod, and a pair of UV filters for my lenses.

UV filters are essential, not the least reason being that they protect the delicate surfaces of the lenses themselves from dust and scratches.

The GorillaPod is my third such tripod, the first one being the tiny one for use with compact cameras, the second and much larger one being for SLRs with standard lenses, and now this third one is very stiff and sturdy, designed to hold an SLR with a heavy zoom lens attached. I’ve enjoyed the flexibility the GorillaPod affords, and back when I got my first one (and they were available only directly from the manufacturer) I frequently had strangers approach me to ask what kind of tripod it was I was using. Of course, now that they are readily available at places like Best Buy and Target, such questions have become rare.

Aperture assignment

I have completed the aperture assignment now that I have my new camera.

Rather than post my descriptions here, I’ve got descriptions posted on the individual photos themselves.

ESC Assignment 0923 – Aperture

Unboxing my new Nikon D3200 digital SLR

So, here I am unboxing my new digital SLR. FIrst, I grab a nice sharp letter-opener to get the Best Buy box open.
Inside is packing material, the invoice, some promo literature, and my “kit,” a box that includes the camera body and a lens.
There it is, brand new. Hot dog!
Lift that baby out of the shipping box…
And open it right up. Brand new factory warranty.
Putting the warranty and documentation aside, but keeping them handy. I’ll need to refer to them later.
Open up the camera first.
Here it is, candy-apple red! No lens attached yet, and the battery is still in the box.
The flash on my phone shows off the color a little better.
Here’s the 18-55mm zoom lens, nestled in its protective packing.
Not too big.
It comes with a white translucent cap to protect the back when not in use.
It attaches quickly and easily once you know how.
Uh-oh, that’s going to need a 52mm NC filter to protect it from dust and scratches. Filters can be easily and cheaply replaced, the lens, not so much.
Now here’s the little white box with the included accessories.
One cable is for data transfer to a computer, the other lets me play my videos and photos on a TV or projector.
There’s the battery and the strap.
There’s a second shipping box. Could this be my telephoto zoom lens?
Careful… careful…
It is! It is my telephoto zoom lens!
55-300, that ought to bring faraway subjects much closer, and allow me to isolate subjects from their backgrounds using the shallow depth-of-field available at wider aperture settings.
And it includes a soft drawstring pouch and snap-on lens hood! Hot dog!
Now here’s the lens itself, still swaddled in its packing.
A close-up of the markings on the lens. Once again, I’m going to need a filter, this time a 58mm one, as denoted by the last number on the right.
And probably my favorite part of unboxing anything with an electronic viewing screen, peeling off the protective film!

New camera arrives soon!

I’ve got my new camera, a Nikon D3200, arriving tomorrow! I’ll be doing a ceremonial unboxing right here on this blog.

Well, looks like my new camera is a couple weeks away

Well, it looks like a new camera is going to be a couple of weeks away for personal financial reasons. I’m looking hard at the Nikon D3200 now, along with a long zoom lens that comes as part of a nifty package.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep using what I’ve been using for a while, which is my little Canon Powershot A590 IS, a nice little point-and-shoot that has a few unexpected manual features.

One feature I think doesn’t get enough use on cameras is “scene” mode, where the flash will fire and then the shutter will stay open for a short while to allow a dark background to burn in. Of course, the camera has to be absolutely steady to make use of a mode like that. To that end I’ll employ my beloved “Gorillapod,” a small tripod with flexible legs capable of standing upright on nearly any surface or even grabbing onto railings and the like.

Below is a shot I took late in the evening last November 15th aboard the cruise ship Norwegian Gem, on its way to Bermuda. I wrapped the Gorillapod around a railing up on a balcony and set the self-timer to fire the camera after a few seconds. The camera was set to “scene” mode with the flash turned off. Many people, I think, would make the mistake of trying to get this shot by holding the camera in their hands and letting the flash fire, which would’ve looked horrible. Even on night-scene mode, the camera would simply try to illuminate the first ten to twelve feet of the scene and then camera shake would render the remainder of the scene blurry and indistinct. But given a stable  surface, even on a pitching cruise ship, a humble point-and-shoot can take a nice photo.

Deck 12 of The Norwegian Gem cruise ship taken from the deck 13 balcony

Deck 12 of The Norwegian Gem cruise ship taken from the deck 13 balcony on November 15th, 2011

Initial post for new Fall 2012 course, Digital Photography

This is an initial post for the coursework for Digital Photography.

At the moment I am still waiting for the textbook to arrive, and am near to buying a brand-new camera, probably a Nikon D3100 digital SLR, which seems to be the best value in features for the money.

I do own an SLR, an early-Reagan-era 35mm Canon AE-1 Program (blackbody) that I’d received used from my sister back in the early 90s. Of course, I haven’t used it in years. She’d originally bought it new at an Army “PX” when she was stationed in Germany. It was a good camera in its day, fairly versatile. It had an auto-exposure mode, which could be set to “full auto” or to “shutter priority.” The lack of an aperture-priority mode was kind of embarrassing considering how many more recent cameras had both, but I tended to set my exposure manually, anyway. The camera’s fairly slow flash-sync at 1/60 was also inconvenient at times, and made me envious of the newer cameras that could sync as high as 1/250. Indeed, even as far back as the mid-90s, some of the top-end flashes could sync as high as 1/500 or even 1/1000. I also envied those cameras with capabilities to do front-curtain and rear-curtain sync, as mine could only do front-curtain, limiting the kinds of flash effects I could do.

But, still, I had fun. Being employed, as I was, at Delaware Camera, and armed, therefore, with an employee discount, I loaded my bag with accessories, such as tripods, shutter-release cables, and so on.

And here I am, all these years later, never having owned a digital SLR, about to take the plunge. I’m about to become one of those guys, the ones I see wandering around vacation hotspots with large, heavy cameras hanging by thick straps around their necks. I can only hope to differentiate myself from that crowd by being one who actually understands principles of exposure, composition, and timing, but I’m also given to understand that today’s cameras are so sophisticated under the hood that they each essentially have a little computerized Ansel Adams inside making all the right decisions and helping even an utter novice take pictures like a pro. I guess I’ll find out for myself.

Links:

Canon AE-1 Program Wikipedia entry

Delaware Camera (a division of Jack’s Cameras)

Loopy App for the iPhone, here’s someone who knows how to really use it

I’ve got a little vocal demo I did in Loopy for the iPhone, but its a pathetic joke in comparison to what this cellist has done with it:

And, also, I’m trying to figure out how to get my demo from the iPhone into my computer. I think I have to actually sample it live into the computer somehow. Might have to bust out the old mixing board and the Griffin iMic.

Composing with MIDI podcast from Open University — Ep 8 of 8 — MIDI: The Challenge

In this episode, Whiteside is given the MIDI version of the course theme song with the tempo markings and harmonies removed, and asked to produce three versions, one using only General MIDI, one using synthesized sounds, and a third one using whatever he likes (the host expresses hope that he’ll add some live instruments into the mix).

Whiteside produces a lush, orchestral version of the song using General MIDI…

…a dance version using synthesized  sounds…

…and a jazz version using synthesized instruments along with an accompanying live track of himself playing a melodica, which he carefully records using a studio microphone while wearing headphones.

When asked which was the most technically challenging, he replies that the General MIDI version was the most time-consuming to produce because of all the separate tracks.

Composing with MIDI by Open University

Sources:

Open University website

Open University podcast, Composing with MIDI, (iPod/iPhone version)

Open University podcast, Composing with MIDI, (iPad/Mac/PC version)

Simon Whiteside’s IMDB page

The You Rock Guitar

Casio’s MIDI Saxophone

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