Category Archives: Photography

Japan Music Festival at the Roller Den, Sydney

I tagged along to the JMF on a whim, partially as a fan of JRock/JPop – and partially as a photographer looking for somewhere to practice my camera-craft during my off-season.

It was a great show.  Ended up buying Jill’s and kaimokujisho’s albums.  Should have picked up Sparky’s album too, but I was suffering pretty badly from the volume levels and was trying to make it out without spending all of my cash.

Unfortunately for me, I made the amateur’s mistake of not taking earplugs with me – my ears finally stopped ringing 3 days later.

It was a great first outing for my new second-hand 70-200 2.8 VR, which performed admirably in the conditions.  I had also completely forgotten some of the crazy with the D3 and the space remaining counter, so I thought I was running out of space by the end of kaimokujisho’s set – many poor (but potentially salvageable) bursts got deleted, and I thought I had significantly less space during 101A’s set than I actually did, so shot hyper conservatively…  then I discovered about 3 minutes into Jill’s set I had a whole memory card free.  I’ll try to remember about the damned counter next time.

Animania Sydney 2011 Photos and Wrap-up

Well, Animania has come and gone.  I’ve posted my photos up to Flickr as usual.  Spent plenty of time chatting with Kris from and a few other of the regular anime convention photography crowd whom I’ve been interacting since I got back into things.

Very low shutter count again this time – I think only 100 for the entire weekend over both cameras, and even that may be higher than reality.  After SMASH! I’m finding I’m a lot more selective over how I take shots, and I’m shooting a lot more with Flash Exposure Bracketing turned off, so I’m losing a few more “would have been good” shots than I used to, but have a lot less to cull overall, and the average quality is a lot higher.

The bulk of Saturday’s photos were taken single strobe – the later ones done with strobe off camera.  Mostly used the 5D, but took a few notables with the 50D + 50mm/1.8 combo mostly so I would have some material to defend my “you can do this with cheap, mainstream gear” claims. 🙂

The majority of Sunday’s photos were taken dual strobe – main off camera, on-camera unit for fill.  Having two 580s is handy that way.  Only took the 5D, but switched between the 70-200 and the 17-40 a fair bit.  Really need to pick up a 24-70 at some point.

SMASH 2011 Photos and Wrap-up

SMASH! has come and gone. It was an excellent effort given it was it’s first time at the Sydney Convention Centre.

Unfortunately, I was quite sick this past week and have only just gotten over that – so I cut my kit down heavily (I only brought one camera, 2 lenses and my speedlights), kept my activity down to a pretty low level and literally only took a few (about 40 total) photos.

To contrast, at both this year and last year’s Supanovas, my shot counts were up around 2000 photos for the whole weekend, of which I have to cull pretty heavily to get down to the 100-200 photos that get posted. Also, because I’ve taken so many photos of so many people, I feel compelled to at least publish some of the poorer photos if they’re still ‘viable’ because it features a cosplayer who has gone to great efforts to make their costume, etc, and I simply don’t have a better photo of them.

This time, because it was so short and sweet, the culling and selection was extremely easy, and the quality of the results compared to some of the other events speaks for itself.

The gallery of photos can be found on Flickr.

Technical Details

(Because for once, my workflow stripped the EXIF – I’ll work out why later…)

All photos were taken with an EOS 5D Mk1 with EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS. (I had my EF 17-40mm f/4L in my bag, but didn’t use it at all).

The first 6 (predominantly outdoor) photos had fill-flash from a single on-camera Speedlite 580EX II with Rouge Flexible Flash Bounce Card. After I shot the first few photos, I also connected the Speedlite to a CP-E3 battery pack to improve it’s cycle time

The last 6 (indoor) photos were lit using an off-camera Speedlite 580EX II with Rogue Flexible Flash Bounce Card. Triggering was done via a standard Canon ST-E2 trigger. Flash held by captive flash bunny (thanks Retro!) – the camera weighs about 3kg in this configuration and I can’t balance the 70-200mm for conventional shooting one handed without introducing a LOT of shake to the camera.

All flash metering was Automatic. No Auto Exposure Bracketing or Flash Exposure Bracketing (FEB) was in use.

All post-production was done in Aperture from Camera RAWs. All edits are crop, exposure, dynamic range, and vignetting only. For once, I needed to do almost no cropping.

November Wrap-up

So, November is practically over and I haven’t really updated all month.

I posted some photos I took whilst at Watson’s Bay on flickr.  This was all standard slow exposure + tripod stuff – nothing fancy, but the results are plesant.  My 17-40mm f/4L USM is showing it’s worth nicely in some of these.

I do quite like night photography when waterfronts are involved – you get such nice, and sometimes hard to predict, results with the light reflected off the water.

I also went to 3 Japanese Film Festival sessions (planned for 4, but missed one due to an emergency call) in the last few days.

Anime Matsuri 1 (Time of Eve movie + Precious PV) was mixed.

Precious was interestingly animated, but felt like it missed the mark slightly being shown in the JFF.

Time of Eve followed, and was interestingly recut from it’s original 5 episode format – with some nice material added to help flesh out the circumstances surrounding the stories.  I won’t bother saying much more about Time of Eve’s plot or execution – plenty of others have posted about this series and can preach it’s virtues better than I can.  I will state, however, that it’s worth a watch in either format.

Unfortunately, the subtitles used in the JFF screening were amateurish with all sorts of errors, missed line and repeated/mistimed lines all over the place.  Even when I was involved in a little 3 man fan-subbing effort quite some time ago, we were churning out subtitles with fewer timing and repeat errors, with practically no external QC.

Oh, and the guy from SMASH! waffled on too much leading up to the session’s start.

Next up I saw Castle Under Fiery Skies, which was a compelling movie about the building of Azuchi Castle in the late 1500s.  The cinematography was excellent and the story development was great… up until the last 5 minutes.

My issue with the finale was the movie encouraged you to empathise with Mataemon (the peasant carpenter) with the feudal lord’s unreasonable requests and the hardships he endures as he pushes on to make the castle a success.  The movie culminates with a major challenge that threatens the completion of the castle, and once the threat is resolved, we suddenly lose focus on our master carpenter and are left with a closing statement – a very abrupt way to part ways with the characters we’d been following so closely.

None the less, it was a beautifully executed movie despite this flaw, and I would happily recommend it.

The last movie I made it to was Sword of Desperation.  Whilst I mostly enjoyed the plot and story of this movie, the presentation lacked coherency – the movie jumped around between flashbacks and ‘present’ time, frequently with little prompting to this fact, leaving you to work out which events were in the present or the past.

For the most part, I found myself using the presence of those who were deceased in the ‘present’ to identify the flashbacks from the ‘present’ flow of the story – mostly as this was the only way I could find to do so.

Movie presentation issues aside, the plot was engrossing as you followed Sanzaemon and looked into the justifications for a sudden and cold murder, and the events that culminate afterwards that lead to the movie’s finale.

I can’t help but think this movie could have been significantly better had a bit more effort been made to make the flow of events easier to track.

Lessons Learnt from Shooting at Supanova

So, I survived spending 2 days on my feet taking photos of everyone (or at least, trying to) at Supanova.  I learnt a few valuable lessons from it all:

  • Always carry spare batteries.  Nothing’s worse than reaching the last hour or two of the day and realising that your flash batteries are dead, and then having your camera battery fail on you only moments later.
  • Flash Exposure Bracketing is almost compulsory for low-interference shoots, it lets you take the photo(s) and move on without holding up people for very long, and gives you a range of flash exposures to choose from in the event that your flash autoexposure system is doing stupid stuff.  (I found the 50D couldn’t always get the exposure level right under Supanova main hall conditions, and the 400D was hopeless).  It also results in the worse blinking photos however – warn the subjects first.
  • Always confirm camera and flash settings when returning to the floor.  Trying to shoot and discovering that you’ve left 2s self-timer on from the ultra-slow exposures you were doing moments before is a little embarrassing.
  • Fast lenses are good.  Convention lighting generally sucks.
  • Carry one flash per body.  Don’t try to share – you’ll just spend all your time fidgeting to move it between bodies.
  • Don’t try to manually focus without a manual focus optimised focusing screen when physically exhausted.  It might look right to you, but it probably isn’t.
  • 50mm is too long on an APS-C body for the tight quarters shooting at Supanova, but should be about right on full-frame.
  • People seem to assume that the grip fitted camera and large flash means you’re a professional…

Kit upgrades…

Geez – I’ve been throwing too much money at photographic kit again. 🙂

I’ve picked up an EOS400 body as a backup/secondary body with it’s kit EF-S 18-55 f/3.5-5.6, a cheap EF 80-200 f/4.5-5.6 USM (cheap, slow – in both senses of the word – zoom, but functional), a battery grip for the 50D, Speedlite 580EX II and a 250GB memorykick unit.  I’ve worked out that I can probably shoot about 9000-12000 RAWs before I run out of storage now.  Yes, the flash will most likely melt down first.

Adapting to ETTL shooting has been a little interesting – given that my last experience with flashes was all manual 10 years ago, being able to let the flash handle power adjustment and set up the shot as I want it is pretty damned uncanny.  No more guide-tables to manually calculate aperture given a distance and film-speed.

I’ve also given up on neck-straps for now and ripped them off of my bodies – whilst I like the safety net of having it wrapped around my wrist when I shoot, I dont’ like having the damn thing dangling down in face half the time.  Will probably revert this on the 400D so I can sling it, but I’m not missing it on the 50D, that’s for certain.

Still waiting to hear back if I’ve got a volunteer shooting gig this weekend.  If I do get it, expect lots of shiny in my flickr come next week.  There will easily be a few thousand photos shot, so I’m sure I’ll be able to find something to post.

Next  stop for my kit purchasing:  lighting stands, umbrellas, a second 580, wireless transmitter…  and probably a WiFi grip.

Back behind the viewfinder

It’s been 15 years since I last used a film camera.  Well, it was before Saturday night.  It’s also been that long since I did any photography myself for fun, rather than to try to capture an event, to prompt my memory, or to show something to somebody else I couldn’t otherwise move.

I’ve started up a flickr account to upload photos into, but it’s become apparent I need some decent digital kit.

I’m still using an 8MP Fuji “FinePix S5800” which my father got about a year before he passed away.  Whilst it’s an adequate day-time point & shoot camera, it’s low-light performance during Earth Hour was so noisy as to be highly disappointing.

I also shot 3 rolls of 24 exposure 400ISO film during the same event, at least 30 shots of which are fireworks.  Camera used was a used Canon EOS300 with 25-90mm kit lens I picked up for $50.  Shooting the EOS was much nicer than fighting with the point and shoot – I’ve yet to see if any of my photos are exposed properly however – I failed to account for my lack of experience with auto-exposure systems and shot most of the shots in aperture priority rather than switching down to full manual and trying to use the AE metering as a guide until the fireworks hit.

I’l upload scans when they become available anyway.