Blog Image

DAFOS Photo World

Why??

To catalogue my thoughts and experiences on things photographic and related topics, aiming to promote open-minded creativity and respect that hopefully contribute in some way to general peace and well-living.

My Kit

General Posted on Fri, July 23, 2021 00:41:44

(Someone providing feedback about the Viewfinders newsletter suggested members discussing their photography gear. Sounds like a good idea, so here we go.)

All My Kit (Smartphone photo)

My kit.

Before talking kit, let’s look at what I do, photographically. Next to being active in Viewfinders, I have a family that includes five grandchildren, so you can image there’s a lot of family photography in my life right now. Next to this, I have a day job in Communications, for which I do event shoots and some portraiture work, and this day job also allows me to continue (as a partial independent) a photography business I set up a long time ago as a means of supporting myself when I was suddenly laid off by my then employer. Mostly events photography, but some portratiture and increasingly, photos of artwork for catalogues etc… Because of the busy life (and covid), not a lot happens with that line right now, but when it does it is still important for me to be able to trust my kit. (As most working photographers know, you are only as good as your last gig so you gotta gettit right…).

That said, I am not really a kit geek. I have a set of reasonably good items that fit all but the most peculiar of tasks I need to do, be they for business or pleasure.

24-105mm f4 IS L

Bodies. As working camera, I have a Canon 5D Mk II. Already several years old, it is still proving to be as quick and as reliable as ever and (with 20 Mpx and some good optics) gives more than adequate quality for the type of work I do. It’s a very good all-round DSLR without many frills (which I wouldn’t use anyway), though is – like any DSLR – a little on the bulky side if you compare it with some recent mirrorless models. But as I said: most important is that it is fast and consistently reliable. I have a 7D kit as backup, too.

70-200mm f2.8 IS L

Optics. Most of the time (>95%), my kit is the 5D with Canon 24-105 mm f4 L IS (which works great on the 7D too). Beautifully sharp, and the slightly longer “reach” means I don’t need to change lenses so often. When I do, it’s most often for a Canon 70-20mm f2.8 L IS, though sometimes I do use a Tokina 19-35mm, or my recently acquired Canon 50mm f2.5 macro prime (I also have a 50mm f1.4 which is now redundant – any reasonable offer accepted). I often use a circular polariser, too (‘slim’ version for the wide angles, which fits all my main lenses).

50mm f2.5 macro

Lights. I have 2 Canon speedlights (plus one recently dead one – needs repair) and the special Canon ST-2 remote trigger, plus a very fun remote trigger/camera release kit from Hähnel (remember the squirrel?) One handy modifier I use quite a lot for portraits is a “beauty-dish”-like soft-box made by Roundflash, as well as some stands, umbrellas and backgrounds (inexpensive ones – these things have a tough life: my big background needs replacing). Oh, and two very cheap but remarkably good studio flash heads, which are small enough to be portable (useful for some of the jobs I do). I also have a tripod (Manfrotto), a remote release (cable and IR), and a monopod that I never use these days.

With this kit, I seldom find myself wanting for more. One item I would consider is a good, very wide-angle lens for full frame (like 10mm).

Tokina 19-35 mm

For processing I use Capture One Pro by Phase One. This is the real bee’s knees of raw image processors and the support for Canon is very good (I just can’t get on with Adobe software I’m afraid – it’s an engineer thing, don’t worry about it). I use X-Rite Color-checker Passport and Color-Munki for camera and monitor calibration/profiling.

Best accessory – Roundflash Dish: Worst buy: variable ND filter (it polarises, so shows strange dark areas, except on long lenses)

Et voilà – my kit, takes lovely photos and is good on the job too. Me happy…

Kit List

Cameras:

Canon 5D Mk-II, Canon 7D

Lenses:

Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS L, Canon 24-105 mm f4 IS L, Canon 50mm f2.5 macro, Canon 50mm f1.4 Tokina 19-35mm

Canon EF-S 55-85 kit lens and Sigma 10-20mm (EF-S mount, for 7D)

Accessories:

Circular Polariser, UV filter, Variable ND filter

Canon cable release + IR

X-rite Colorchecker Passport

Tripod (Manfrotto)

Lights:

Canon 430 EX + 580 EX-II speedlights

QS-DGS150 flash heads

Mini Manfrotto LED light

Canon ST-2 remote trigger, Hähnel “Captur Pro” remote flash/camera trigger kit

Light Accessories:

Foldable Backdrop

Roundflash “dish” speedlight diffuser

Reflector (5 colours including black)

Umbrellas (Several)

Flash stands (3 in total)

Various GOBOs / modifiers

Post Processing: Capture One Pro, with (BenQ)  monitor calibration using X-Rite Pantone Color-Munki and Color-Checker Passport



Colour management from front to back.

Things Digital Posted on Thu, July 22, 2021 23:54:24

Well, the front part today at least. Regarding the “digital” parts of photography, many articles have already covered the importance of checking that your computer output device (monitor, and eventually printer) are properly calibrated/profiled etc…, so that the colours represented “in the digital domain” (i.e. as numbers in your computer) come out looking like we’d expect them to. Up to now, not so much attention has been paid to what happens before we get into the “digital domain” in the first place – i.e. how the camera we use perceives colours, and also how the lighting we have may be affecting the way it “sees” the colours.

There are basically two things that can affect the way a camera will record the colours in a scene:

  • The light illuminating the scene. For most sources, its “colour temperature” – though other sources like LEDs and low-energy lights have special characteristics too. (These can be weird: they emit light with very irregular spectra, with some colours missing altogether so they could appear as black in your picture!) In general, your camera flash is the best bet where practical, but if you must use continuous lighting, lamps (including LEDs) have a “Colour Rendering Index” (CRI) which must be above 90, preferably 95, if you need to render colours correctly.
  • The camera sensor. Here, problems could be caused by a variety things, but the combined effect of these is that the cameras sensor is a good, but not perfect, converter of light to digits.

Both sources of colour variation can be addressed in one go, by using a colour calibration chart. By photographing this chart alongside the subject of your picture, a “profile” can be built that can be used to cancel out pretty well all of the affects mentioned above.

Looking into what is available, it became apparent that, while support for Adobe products seemed fairly prevalent, other platforms such a Capture One (my photo processor of choice) seemed less well served. X-Rite Pantone® seemed to be the only reputable source of the necessary tools (my ColorMunki Photo monitor calibrator comes from there too). On the basis of this I purchased an X-Rite “ColorChecker passport”, and downloaded its accompanying software.

The colour temperature of the light can, to a great extent, be compensated by selecting the appropriate “white balance” setting, either when you capture the image or in post processing. (If using JPEG, you really must do this when shooting). The camera’s default “profile” can also be used of course, but is this precise enough?

To be honest, for the vast majority of pictures, the answer is yes. But for the specific application I have (reproducing paintings etc…), it may not be ideal. Thankfully, companies the likes of X-Rite, Adobe and Phase One make it very easy to set up the necessary “camera profile” that provides compensation for all these non-ideal phenomena (at least when using raw format), by including the colourful patches in a test shot or two, using RAW format. Process the test shots, assuring that the default profile is turned off (in Capture One Pro, this is under “Base Characteristics” – see the screen grabs: they are similar in Lightroom) and setting the response curve to “linear”, we then need to isolate the colour checker by cropping to it, to make an image suitable for the X-Rite software to analyse.

  Select these for camera calibration

Having done that, we then need to export an image that the X-Rite programme can read. This must be 16-bit TIFF, and not be influenced by any output profile. (For Adobe users, a DNG file can be used instead of TIFF). So, we select “embed camera profile”, which through the above step is now set to be fully neutral.

  Output process

We can then simply “drag and drop” the resulting TIFF image into the X-Rite programme, tweak the automatically detected reference points and let it do its magic. Give the resulting profile a name to remember, selecting “ICC” for Capture One Pro or “DNG” for Adobe, and save it.

Back in Capture One (or Lr / Ps), select the camera ICC profile just created (and select “auto” Curve) in the “Base Characteristics”

and you’re ready to roll with a very nicely calibrated front end!



Serendipity rules

General Posted on Sun, May 02, 2021 15:45:34

An interesting concept popped out of a recent conversation with an artist friend.(Well, I thought it was interesting…). I was admiring the creativity of the underlying concepts in their work, explaining that – as a photographer – I regard myself as something of a ‘functionalist’ (at least, as far as my little business goes): I make photos that people need, mostly for purely practical reasons (and, increasingly these days, making pictures of others’ artistic creations). I set up my kit, adjust the lights, make some necessary steps to be able to calibrate the outcome later and click…

“Oh, that’s very technical” they said. Which made me think – well, isn’t the knowledge of how your paints and colours combine and flow, how they cast their shadows on the canvas; how the clay and plaster forebears of your bronze sculptures bend to your will, expressing that inner purpose and beauty in a way I could never imitate; is that also not “technical”?

I am starting to wonder now if there is indeed such a clear polarisation between the “technical” and “creative” aspects of any art. It is so that technical parts, once mastered, become second nature and we tend to no longer think about them: we concentrate on what we somehow feel in our mind’s eye when constructing the [insert name of artefact in question here: e.g. photograph] . We are in that sense “being creative”.

But if we never question the technical part, won’t the output of our endeavours somehow converge to being the same after a while? Is it not a good idea to try out different technical approaches to see the result?

Experimentation costs nothing, but it does challenge the imagination, and from this can come some new, really great art.

In the creatively technical land of technical creativity, serendipity rules …



Time marches on …

General Posted on Wed, March 03, 2021 20:20:17

It’s March already. Spring is upon us, and with it come many more opportunities than we have had of late, to wander out into the wilds of [insert town/city of residence here] to capture another new phase of the world around us. The weather has certainly been very spring-like lately, adding to the joy. But it’s all too easy, I find, to lose track of what we want to achieve with photography when randomly shooting while out and about. A project to focus on is a useful tool, but it’s not always easy to come up with something concrete.

Our Viewfinders projects can provide inspiration, and – I discovered – so can acquiring a new piece of kit. Buying new kit is something I rarely do, and I realised this when I recently purchased a second-hand lens. A macro lens – the first one I have owned (would you believe?), which is a step way beyond the makeshift (i.e. not very portable) solutions of self-made extension tubes or reversing rings I’d used in the past. And getting in close to a subject can reveal a veritable playground of possibilities. Highly recommended! (As are our Viewfinders projects, by the way… 😊 ).

Here’s a collection of pictures taken with that newly bought lens – a walk around sunny Brussels…

I’m – er – keeping the up-close pictures for a Viewfinders project… You’ll get to see them some other time 😉



Three-legged race

General Posted on Wed, October 28, 2020 23:02:01

Someone in the Viewfinders photo club asked an interesting question. What to look out for when buying a tripod?

Maybe not the most high-tech of questions, but interesting none the less!

I don’t know the particular brand of tripod they were looking at, but my experience covers things to look out for which are not really brand-specific. Here’s my list, in no particular order.

For the record, I use Manfrotto with quick-removable plate.

– Is it TALL enough? What is the maximum height you can get out of it with the legs still being reasonably stable? Sounds odd, but all my first tripods were too short – I had to stoop to use them, which gets tiresome after a while. One with a central pole that can raise up quite high is surprisingly useful. I also use the tripod as a flash stand for special effects, so it sometimes needs to be quite high.

– Rigidity/stiffness. THE most important. Mine is aluminium tubing and is really very rigid. I have seen some good quality carbon fibre ones of comparable stiffness, but also some cheaper ones which flex far too easily. Definitely a false economy.

– A model with some soft wrapping near the top, where you might want to hold onto it (mine doesn’t have this, and I miss it). This has no photographic function, but if you’re outside in the cold, without gloves (so you can feel what you’re doing), the tripod can be VERY cold to the touch, and these soft wraps make it more manageable.

– Flexibility to do alternative configurations. Standing straight up, they’re all OK, but ones where the legs can be independently splayed much wider, for example, and where the central column can be mounted “upside down” and/or placed fully horizontally are very useful. Use for macro shots close to the ground, document copying (horizontal), positioned on uneven surfaces or on stairs, … you name it, this is probably the most useful.

– Fast release plate, of course. And I find the butterfly screw tightening used on the legs of my (already quite old) model fiddly but they have one big advantage: they don’t go “CLICK!!!” in that quiet church when photographing weddings. (No Velcro on the camera bag for the same reason).

– Light weight is good, but if it compromises on any of the above, it would detract too much from its functionality for me. I borrow a cheaper portable one for more touristic applications.

– Some models have a hook at the bottom of the vertical column, on which you can hang a heavy bag. Good for stability in windy conditions.

– The head. Mine came with 3 locking levers, for “roll/pitch/yaw”. I actually left only the pitch in place, and pre-tightened the other screws to be able to move them by hand, yet still tight enough hold their position. I find this most useful in practice. (Heads designed for video applications don’t work too well I have found, but that’s maybe just me).

– Can you put the plate on backwards? I sometimes do this to allow me to point the camera to very high elevations (star photos).

– Can you use it as a monopod too? I have used mine with just one leg extended for extra stability in difficult lighting when doing events (where you need to be agile).

  • Oh, and a spare plate. One on the camera, of course, but also one on the tripod mounting plate of my pretty hefty 70-200 f2.8 zoom. Really useful, that!


Turn turn turn…

Things Digital Posted on Sun, August 23, 2020 15:50:02

Not about photography this time, but another web programming exercise. I wanted to make a “spinner” to keep people busy while the new photo carrousel I put in the into section of my website was loading.

As my site is already quite “clunky (*)” I thought to try something using only the built-in features of HTML and CSS (no javascript for this one).

It’s quite hypnotic, and I’m rather proud of it, actually!

(* I’m not a professional web programmer and learned my computer programming skills during my career as a product marketing engineer for microprocessors, and while building this site over the last 8 years or so. Some of the original code I wrote early on is not so easy to maintain, therefore. When I changed jobs a long time ago, I promised myself to not go and learn another programming language – I broke my promise… 🙂 )

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<title></title>
<head>

<style>
.container {
border: black solid 1px;
padding: 20px;
background-color: grey;
height: 500px;
}

.spincontainer {
padding: 10px;
text-align: center;
background-color: lightgrey;
}

.spinpaper {
display: inline-block;
position: relative;
box-sizing: border-box;
text-align: center;
width: 250px; height: 250px;
background-color: rgba(255,255,255,1);
border-radius: 100%;
}

.spintext::after {
width: 100%;
position: absolute;
top: 50%; left: 0;
margin-top: -11%;
text-align: center;
font-size: 2.2rem;
content: "\00231B";
}

.turning1, .turning2, .turning3
{
display: inline-block;
position: absolute;
box-sizing: border-box;
margin: auto;
width: inherit; max-width: 90%;
height: inherit; max-height: 90%;
top: 0; bottom: 0; left: 0; right: 0; /* Force centering by pulling on all four corners */
border-radius: 100%;
}

.turning1 {
border-top:    20px solid rgba(0,0,127,1);
border-right:  20px solid rgba(0,0,127,1);
border-bottom: 20px double rgba(0,0,127,0);
border-left:   20px double rgba(0,0,127,0.5);
animation: turner linear 3s infinite normal;
}
.turning2 {
border-top:    20px solid rgba(127,0,0,1);
border-right:  20px solid rgba(127,0,0,1);
border-bottom: 20px double rgba(127,0,0,0.5);
border-left:   20px double rgba(127,0,0,0);
animation: turner linear 1.8s infinite reverse;
}
.turning3 {
border-top:    20px solid rgba(0,127,0,1);
border-right:  20px solid rgba(0,127,0,1);
border-bottom: 20px double rgba(0,127,0,0);
border-left:   20px double rgba(0,127,0,0.5);
animation: turner linear 1.2s infinite normal;
}

@keyframes turner{
from {transform:rotate(0)}
to {transform:rotate(360deg)}
}
</style>
</head>

<body>
<div class="container" id="background" >
 <div class="spincontainer">
  <div class="spinpaper" id="spinner">
     <div class="spintext"></div>
     <div class="turning1"><div class="turning2"><div class="turning3" ></div></div></div>
  </div>
 </div> 
</div>
</body>

</html>



Trigger happy

General Posted on Sat, May 30, 2020 23:43:34

Some time ago I bought a multi-purpose camera/flash trigger (at the last Photo Days, actually) but had not yet used it “in anger”. Recently, a squirrel came to say hello while I was eating lunch outside. Cute guy, but rather shy. These two events sparked the idea that I should take a foray into the wilds of our tiny patch of Brussels, to see if I could grab some shots of frolicking fauna – of course setting up a camera, a trigger and some bait to lure my unwitting victims…

The trigger unit I have is the “Captur Module – Pro” by Hähnel, which comes with a source of infra-red (i.e. invisible) light to use with one of its triggering modes (if an object or animal breaks the beam, it triggers the camera). It can trigger a camera directly, like a cable release (using a cable to connect to the camera), or it can fire a wireless camera/flash trigger of the same brand, which has the added advantages of distance (gets the camera further away from the trigger than the length of the cable would otherwise allow) and – yes – it can trigger a flash/speedlight, too.

My “frolicking fauna” set-up had the trigger and the IR light source sat atop a wall, in the shade of some plant boxes, where I could also put some tasty morsels to lure whatever animate being that may fancy to trip the light (fantastic) and so take a selfie… Camera on tripod, manual focus (pre-focussed on the bait), Aperture Priority (Av) mode at f8 and leave it for a few hours…

The Captur unit can trigger the shutter or a flash using an interval timer (pictures at regular time delays), on ‘hearing’ a sound (burst balloons, anyone?), when a light flashes (slave to another flash, for example), or when the beam from a laser-pointer (not included) or the included IR light-source gets interrupted. Once triggered, it can be set up for various delays, repeats and maximum number of shots in a session. Very flexible and limited seemingly only by one’s imagination. The Captur module Pro is independent of the camera manufacturer/model, but you need to get the remote flash trigger specific for your camera brand (Canon in my case). See the Hähnel website (hahnel.ie, in English) for the various options.

The complete “Captur” kit I have

Working as a remote camera trigger is just that: set up the camera as you would if physically pressing the button and off you go. Using manual focus is probably best, and possibly manual exposure if the available light is fairly stable over the time you expect to take pictures. In my animal shoot case, the sun would occasionally go behind a cloud or my “trap” might get into the shadow of a tree as the sun moved around, so I opted to use Av exposure mode. Triggering a flash to capture some fast-moving event requires a dark environment with the camera set to “Bulb” (shutter constantly open), so that the flash itself sets the exposure time. Not so useful for my animal shoot, even at night – it’s never really dark in a city: that’ll be for another day.

The “trap” end of things
The camera end
The complete “shooting range”

And the result of this? Apart from some nice pictures of my own hand or other body parts, taken while I was testing the set-up, absolutely nothing. Zilch. “Rien de knots*”. It stood there all alone for 5 hours – no humans present to scare anything off – and not a single bird, let alone the squirrel, deigned to partake of the juicy treats I had so carefully selected to delight them. The only thing that triggered the camera was the interference of direct sunlight, as the sun moved around and shone into the Captur’s IR receiver … and filled the memory card (note to self – remember that for next time).

(* dialect from parts of Flemish Brabant, meaning nothing at all – literally).

The following day, while seated quietly on the same terrace (with the same camera to hand, luckily) enjoying the evening air and actually writing this article, the unbelievable happened. Friend Squirrel came back for another visit, so I managed to get a photo of him anyway! Hand-held, no high-tech traps. Just plain-ol’ focus, frame and push the button…

Hello !
Sciurus vulgaris

I’ll keep trying though. More pictures will follow, I promise.



Photophilic conjecture in times of coronal isolation…

General Posted on Fri, April 17, 2020 12:16:43

Our concept of what matters in life has been changed by a Great Event. Not brought about by a large-scale disaster or human creativity, but by a measly strand of RNA with some 30k bases stuck inside a ball of grease with spikey proteins sticking out of it, no more than 120nm big, that someone (I think in the 1960s) thought looked like a crown or the Solar corona.

What first was reportedly a mild kind of ‘flu with some occasional but fatal complications very quickly turned into a Very Big Deal, with a pandemic putting many hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of lives at risk and closing down our usually oh so busy and oh so important activities. It’s scary and it hurts. It’s bringing us back to basics. It’s teaching us who really matters in our lives, as individuals and as a society. And also who and what are maybe less important than they sometimes want us to believe.

But in all this sadness, danger and confusion there lies opportunity to change things for the better. What things in our lives will become more important than before? What can we do without, and how can we replace the practical benefits some of these unwanted things in fact offer?

Until we can be in a position to actually act on this change, all we can do is dream or imagine what good may come from it. Or try to photograph it. Social media is already flooded with photos of “life in the lock-down”, most of them (thankfully) with positive messages for how to get through it, leaving the mainstream media to report on the human drama that unfolds around us. But what about “after”? Can we photograph now our dreams and aspirations for a plausible and sustainable future?

I suddenly feel a photographic challenge coming on…



Next »