Category Archives: accessories

Style Dilemma

You know you are in a photographer’s house when…
… their sitting room is plastered with photographs. Of all different kinds. Not even coordinated – all contrasty B/W architecture shots, or romantic misty morning landscapes, or edgy street photography – but a higgledypiggledy mishmash of colour and B/W images of different sizes in uncoordinated frames. Style? You would think it comes naturally to a pro in visuals! But no, all mixed together.
And then the whole egocentricity of it all, when you realize you are looking at the occupier’s own work. Ugh. The presumptiousness of it. The exaggerated self-confidence! It really makes you feel sick. Do they really think their work is so fantastic that they want to look at it all day long, every day? Do they have tours in their private gallery? Next thing they’re gonna charge you for looking at the cr*p, the inflated egomaniacs!

Well, let me explain why my sitting room wall looks like something that could never appear in an interior design magazine. It’s not that I am unaware of the unaesthetic onslaught. It’s not even that I am too poor to buy coordinating frames or that I couldn’t be arsed about making it look better or that I might seriously believe my work is so wonderful I want to have it around me at all times. The explanation is quite simple: there’s no better storing of your printed and framed work than hanging from a nail in the wall! With a number of exhibitions under my belt, I happen to have a bit of a depot of framed works. There’s my initial ‘Still Dublin’ stuff from my first exhibition three years ago, still in black frames and up on the wall for want of a better place. Then there are the wood-effect A4 size pictures of my large format project on the lighthouse in Wicklow. I don’t even like wood-effect frames! But I framed my positive prints in them as a nod to the LF cameras which historically were made of wood. And then there are the same pics, bigger and framed silver. Again, not tied into the colour scheme or style of my sitting room (although that could be described ‘eclectic-historical’ *ahem*) – but simply the result of a frame swap for the latest exhibition I was involved in. Framing is expensive – and as a starting photographer I have to watch my budget. And reuse my frames…
So next time you recoil in horror when you step into a photographer’s sitting room in view of the cacophony of frames and the apparent self-importance of the creator, remember my words. And toss the artist a couple of coins. He/She’s probably already saving up for the next framing job!

Of Sprats and Mackerels

Yes, I DO live in a coastal town and I AM just back from my home in North Sea vicinity, but I am not talking about the decline of the fishing industry. In fact I want to talk about something entirely different, but the maritime proverb is pretty fitting: “you need a sprat to catch a mackerel”. 
Can you spot the mackerel and her sprat?
 I love fish and when it comes to sprats, I am a total mackerel. That is to say, I react very strongly to anything that is remotely related to photography. If you want to sell me something, make it a must-have item for any photographer and I am ready to splash the dosh! For example, I seriously had to have that invaluable camera strap that is anatomically designed for women only and sports not only a discreet floral design but also has an equally discreet “bulge” where it sits on the female chest. (In fairness, though, that investment in a 70 Euro camera strap was well-worth it – makes shooting at events an absolute pleasure!) In a (for me) very uncharacteristically feminine way I also own several pieces of camera-related jewellery (*blushes*). But the latest thing I just read in a German photography mag has me gagging. Or raging?

A prestigious photography equipment manufacturer, mostly known for their high quality tripods – are advertising photography apparel for women. Apparently they have had a men’s collection for a while, but now their photo waistcoats are available for women, too. *grah* Honestly? Jaysis, they are trying to make money where they can, aren’t they? Now, however practical this waistcoat is going to be, I won’t be seen dead in that garment. Because I cannot think of anything more superfluous than that. But I am sure a lot of enthusiasts will be quite taken with the features of this piece of practical clothing. 
For instance, it sports these massive, detachable pockets that you can put your camera into. Or detach and then use as knee pads (in case you are on location for a macro of mushrooms in mud or some such assignment…)! Or the strategically placed epaulets which hold the shoulder strap of the camera in place. (Do you know what epaulets are? Those decorative shoulder “pads” that officers have on their uniform.) Or the two tabs at the fron of the waistcoat under which you can fasten the strap of your camera to your belly. 

Have you recovered? Gimmicks and gizmos – love them. But message to the photography industry: you are overdoing it, guys! As much as we need filters and straps and padded bags, and however much we laugh about those cute little camera USB sticks, lens shot glasses and shutter-leaf earrings – at 229 Euro for an *BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP*ing waistcoat you have lost me. In fact you are making me angry. Because I do not see photography as an opportunity to cash in on moronic gizmo freaks but as a democratic and inclusive art form that should not be watered down by producing unnecessary luxury items that the world has no need for!

*phew* Rant over. I think I need a walk. Talk soon, peeps 🙂

Murphy’s Law

It is the usual story. Until yesterday all was swell and easy. At exactly 11.02 pm I printed out the last two iTunes jewel case covers. Then today I was getting ready to do a couple of test prints for some majorly important (…) photographic projects. And what happens? Yes, you have guessed it, Murphy’s law struck again. It is precisely when you urgently need to print an airline ticket/a photograph/a college submission that you either a) run out of paper, b) run out of ink or c) receive this lovely little flashy message:
“The waste ink absorber is full. You need to replace it.”
Flash, flash, flash. As if to tease me. A search on the internet yields a plethora of frustrated messaging board conversations along the lines of “You can’t replace that yourself”, “Just clean the tubes that the ink runs through”, “Buy yourself a new one” and “Printers are only meant to last for two years. You need to replace them when the ink absorber is full.” Ahhh. So, similar to the Beemer that needs replacing as soon as the ashtrays are overflowing? I decide to give it a rest and return later.
Several hours later. I have suitably calmed down and am willing to give it another try. Better research the procedure of cleaning the ink absorber. I must have typed in a vaguely different search query, because this time Miss Google offers me a different array of useless recommendations. But, heck, when desperate, you will clutch at any straw. And so I decide to go for the most ridiculous looking recommendation. I might as well, before I f*ck the thing out! So I follow the instructions religiously:
1. Turn off printer
2. Hold down Resume button and press Power button.
3. Keep holding down Power button and let Resume button go.
4. Press Resume button 2 times then let BOTH buttons go.
5. Green lights will flash and then stop blinking.
6. When green lights are solid, press the Resume button 4 times.
7. Press the Power button and the printer should turn off, if not,
    press the Power button once more.
Probably not a coincidence that this recommendation has seven steps! Seven! 7! Magic number, you see. Just for good measure I put on a little bit more mascara for a slightly more witchy look, light the incense stick and get a few spider legs and toad warts for good measure. Shit, I haven’t got any suitable soundtrack. A little humming will have to do. You never know.
I do as has been spoken to me by the great God of technological wisdom. The green light has flashed a last time. With shaking fingers I place some waste paper in the appropriate paper tray. I softly hum a kind of generic *ommm*; whatever is there to decide if this is to be or not to be, might be swayed by the timbre of my Pagan trance voice.
Click – clock -swish – swish – swish.
It worked. The printer prints again. I am converted. Take me as your latest disciple, oh great omniscient God of all things printer-y. I will never swear at my IP2000 again or doubt your existence. Printer Mumbo Jumbo rocks!

Never stop

You never stop learning, that is. I had thought I was really clever, buying myself a variable ND filter. Rather than having a set of filters with a particular ND value, I have a filter wheel, i.e. two glass disks which you adjust by counter-rotating until you get the desired value. So, one filter will do it all. Except it doesn’t tell you on the rings which value you have adjusted it to and therefore you can’t really work out exposure time.
Well, you can, of course, by trial and error. And luckily it didn’t really take me that long to get a half decent shot out of it. I was only passing time, anyway, sitting outside Bremen airport – huge international hub that it is… – amusing myself with photography.
Yeah, nothing to get excited about, but at least I made use of it and tried it out. It will come into use a bit more soon for one of my projects. I need to go down and take some pictures of Dublin sights. And if I want to avoid getting all those superfluous passers-by and tourists into the shots, yet do not want to skulk around the North inner city at half past 6 in the morning, I need to get a long exposure going.
f18, 24″
This pic actually had a whole flock of crows flying around the tree and some ducks on a lake (which I have mercilessly cropped out of the image). Unnecessary and gone – as are the flags, almost. The white thing in the centre of the pic is a ghostly (ghastly???) fountain. I exposed this for 24 seconds to get enough light through the filter. Dying to try this on architecture shots now.

Review: gps4cam in action

Upon request (!) I am giving you a tech post today. Nah, no need to worry, despite being a self-confessed nerdette, I lack the abyssmally deep insight that would be needed for super-nerd-omity. I am, however, pretty good at faking it *heehee*. So let’s get down to it – my critique of geotagging app gps4cam.
How it works: At the start of your walk you launch the app and decide which tracking mode you want to use (more about that later). Then you activate gps4cam by hitting the “start a new trip” button. Back into the pocket with your smartphone and off you go on your shoot. At the end of your trip you open the app again and press the “Export” button. The app now generates a QR code which you need to take a picture of with your SLR. And that’s all for the moment. – Back at home you import your images whichever way you usually do. (I used Lightroom 3.) Then you launch the software which you have to download for free from the gps4cam website and “upload” your folder with the images. The images will now be geotagged automatically and receive the corresponding information in their EXIF data. And that’s it.
The whole thing is as easy as it reads. The user interface on the app is very intuitive and free of unnecessary crap – or in other words: There’s not many settings to fiddle with, which makes it perfect for impatient technophobes like yours truly. Essentially you only need to decide which tracking mode you want and then to hit start.
The tracking modes, however, should be explained a bit, because this is where the cookie crumbles. There are four different modes: Standard, precise, energy saving and manual. The standard mode will take a GPS reading every 1, 5 or 10 minutes. This, of course, requires a continuous running of the app i.e. connection with the satellite – which can take its toll on the battery, not to mention the app eating your mobile phone data allowance as it will be linked up via mobile internet. That would be even more so with the “precise” setting, which will capture your geographical position every 20 seconds. You can save energy (and costs) if you set the app to the “energy saving” modus. In that case the app will record your coordinates via GSM. That means it localizes you via the mobile phone antennas on the ground that are all over the place. Every time you change locality and your mobile switches to a different antenna, this will be recorded in the app – and your coordinates will be captured. Lastly, you can also manually record your position by simply giving your smartphone a cheerful little shake – every time you take a picture, for instance.
Now, to tell you the truth, so far I have only tried out the standard tracking mode because I was in Ireland and not worried about data usage. If I were abroad, I would probably switch to the energy saving mode – cost saving mode, more like, as mobile connections abroad are notoriously  expensive. I suppose, the manual tracking modus is an option, too – that is if you remember to move it and shake it, baby…
The first bit of using the app was so easy that I expected the sh*t to hit the fan with the second part:  “synchronising” the images with the app-recorded geotags. For that purpose I imported my images through Lightroom in a folder on my XHD. Then I opened up the gps4cam software. Again, no unnecessary fuss: All you see is a window with an address line for the input folder and another for the output folder. All that was left to do was to hit “go” – the software then matched the images with the GPS data from the app and added the localisation details to the EXIF data.
Suspicious as I am, I checked if the geotag was in the EXIF. And lo and behold – it is visible in the picture properties. However, when I uploaded a test image into Flickr, it showed neither as automatically tagged, nor did it have the coordinates in the EXIF data in the network. But when I sent it to be tagged on the little map in Flickr, it was magically placed on the map where it was taken. Actually, not quite – it was not 100% accurate, but well, could’ve been me.
Liffey View
So, this is the verdict of the German jury: 9 out of 10 for gps4cam. Supereasy handling, no-fuss interface, cheapo alternative to pricy extra gadgets from camera manufacturers, intuitive interfaces of app and software, very fast tagging process.
There is only 1 point I am deducting: usefulness. Do you *really* need to geotag photos? Probably not. But if you are a nerd like me, it’s not the practical result that counts, but the fact that you have the app.
Snap on, geeks!

Notice Anything?

Unspectacular. Someone was about to have a rather modest lunch. I know. But there are a couple of things that I hope you will notice if you look at the image a little longer.
Ok, you can only call yourself a photographer, if you have copped on to the fact that my salt and pepper cellars are film cannisters! (Made them today – if you want to know how, click on this link.) One way of putting those little containers to use after the film has been handed in and developed. 
In fact I still have about 20 rolls of b/w film sitting in my fridge. They had somehow blended into the background (on the egg shelf – fancy that!) and I had forgotten I still had so many films. Upshot: I need to go and shoot film. I don’t know what, though. Any suggestions from anyone? Anyone interested in doing something together? Not sure if the Friends of Analog are ready already – Project number 2 does not seem to have finished yet.
Leave me a comment with some suggestions – I am blocked!
Oh, and PS: Have you noticed anything else in the image? There’s something vaguely amusing hiding in the pic.

Must-Have Photo-Apps for *Proper* Photographers (totally subjective)

I’m o-hoff!!!!!!!!! Yep, I am gone. On holliers. Away from it all. But no letting up for you, dearies. I will churn out my posts even while I am on holiday. I was actually going to continue my sort-of-live posting via BlogPress, a handy app aggregator with which you can write blog posts on the iPhone. It even integrates photos and let’s you manage your postings remotely. Well, that’s if you have access to the internet while on holidays. And it turns out that my mobile provider does not have any cooperation with a French provider, hence it would have to be done via roaming and thus is effing expensive. *doh*.
So instead I am sitting here, days in advance, thinking up blog posts that will keep 2picsaweek running while I am away. I’d much rather like to spoil you (…) with up-to-date impressions of my aventure française, alas it shall not be. However, I am trying to make this kinda useful. I have decided to give you my low-down on the must-have photo apps to install on your smartphone. Mais non, I have not decided to leave marky Mark at home and to shoot only on iPhone *tuttuttut*. The camera is going to accompany me, naturéllement. But I have a few gizmos installed on the iPhone that I find quite useful when I am out and about with the 5d2. So much so that I would recommend you download them, too.
First up is FreeSpirit. This is a free iPhone app (as a rule, a miser like myself never pays for apps… except for the BlogPress app which I now can’t use *doubledoh*.) that does exactly what it says on the tin: It is a spirit level in your phone. Why do I find that useful? Maybe I am lopsided, maybe I have some kind of visual defect, but I never get my images to be straight. FreeSpirit has saved me an extra step in PS a few times, just because I aligned it with the camera (on tripod) and adjusted it to be perfectly straight. (For the Android users out there: There is a similar spirit level app available for you, too, called SpiritLevel Pro Free.)
Then there is Digital Grey Kard. I have recently been converted to using a grey card when shooting. Again, a time-saver for post-production. The app opens a 18 percent grey card on the screen of your smartphone. Incorporate that in your first image (of a series in constant lighting conditions) and use it later as a reference point for setting WB, colour and exposure. No need for a separate grey card – even though they come in handy little reflector-type shape nowadays – so cuuuute. (I did search for an Android-compatible version of this but it does not seem to exist, yet. Sorry, my poor little cousins…;-))
I won’t really suggest you get yourself a lightmeter app. Modern cameras all come with in-built TTLs, so need for that anymore. Unless you shoot with an old, analog manual, possibly. For that purpose, I recommend the free Pocket Light Meter app. (Android has several on offer, too, e.g. Light Meter. Free, of course.)
I am much more excited about the last app I am going to showcase here: gps4cam. Confession up-front: I have not put it to the test yet, but that is exactly what I am going to do on my holidays now. Anyhow, gps4cam helps you geo-tag your images. It basically localizes all the pictures you have taken with your digital camera through recording your coordinates on your GPS-enabled smartphone. You only set off the app once at the start of your photo excursion and then it records all the GPS data automatically. No synchronising with your camera needed. You merge the data afterwards with the help of a specifically generated QR code once you have downloaded your images onto your hard drive. gps4cam is currently not available for Android but apparently under construction. But ooops – it does come with a price. € 1.99 in iTunes.
Right, that concludes today’s journey into Gizmoland. A perfect combination of my love for photography and my day-job as a gadget tracker… ehm… online journalist. Salut!

Pi(e)ling up the Pounds

Disgusting, bitter tasting, long lingering, much too expensive. That’s humble pie for you. Actually, I get it for free quite often. I am having another slice of it. And you can watch me eat it and gloat: It’s from an ND pie, actually… Yeeeeeeees, I concede defeat. I was wrong. ND filters have a right to exist. And I was rash in pronouncing them unnecessary. I sooo could have done with one yesterday!

Boats in Dun Laoghaire Harbour

The table was truly set for me. I was wrong clueless on so many levels, I should really eat a whole photography humble pie. The weather being bright and sunny, I decided to go out to Dun Laoghaire pier and practice a bit. I packed the gear, even brought the 70-300mm lens, and grabbed the tripod on the way out. I lugged the latter all the way to the harbour and onto the pier, telling myself, I would play around with some long exposures of the waves on the rocks.

The first slice of pie: I should have known the weather conditions were far too bright for a play with long exposures! Photography is logical, and here is the theory behind it: It was bright and sunny. In order to get a long exposure, I needed to balance it out with the aperture set at the highest f-stop I could get. But that didn’t do the trick; with f22 I was still at 1/125 of a second, even at ISO 100.

The second slice (and the bitterest tasting, really): The only thing that could’ve given me darker conditions in which to set the shutter speed really slow (apart from some dark clouds), is a bloody ND filter. *arrrrrrgh* And that’s one of the things I ridiculed the other day when I was in ranting mode. So gimme the ND filter, I’ll even wear the anorak!

Slice 3 –  What’s the point of lugging a tripod around when you have no need to shoot at slow shutter speed (hence need a steady camera)? The sea was as calm as a millpond. No dramatic waves crashing picturesquely onto rocks. Should’ve checked the wind before I brought out the tripod. Yeah, I looked important, casually carrying my big tripod *haha*, but that was about the only benefit I could get. And only from those not in the know.

I really have to cut down on humble pie-eating. I’ll be non-controversial from now on. And I’ll wear that anorak to hide the humble pie slices, pi(e)ling up!

Put up or Shut up!

Right, I have got to get out of the habit to rant – as much as I enjoyed my “obstinacy week”, last week. But it seems as if I have alienated a portion of my readership at this stage, with my nasty comments about nerd potential and gizmo addiction.

Put up or shut up, Sonja! I went to a photography trade fair yesterday. (Yes, nerd city, and me a citizen of that, of course.) This being Ireland, it was not a fair on the scale of the Photokina. Unfortunately. There were a number of businesses represented which showed their latest products from areas like post-production software, camera equipment or general photography supplies. As usual, the men-women-ratio was rather unfairly divided with about 85% of the visitors carrying a Y-chromosome. Not that I mind that – I was not in search of a hen party, I was there for the photography. But I was slightly put out by what happened to me and my friend and fellow student J___.

Ok, picture these two women ambling through the fair. Me carrying my camera bag, but marky Mark not on show. My blasphemous “I am unimpressed with Nikon”-bag over the shoulder. We are walking around, when this man, wielding a big camera, more or less jumps into our path. “Ladies, would you like a free make-over?” “Ehm, do we need one???” “Please have a free make-over.” “No, isn’t that going to take too long?” “Ah, it’ll only take 20 minutes.” “Ah, we don’t know…” “Please, have a make-over!” And *bang* he pushed J___ behind the stall onto the stool into the make-up artist’s hands. – Doubtful result of the “make-over” aside: Maybe I am overly sensitive here, and/or maybe I am still that feminist shotgun dame of my radical youth, but I felt that we were being labelled as “photographers’ girlfriends – need some entertainment at boring trade fair that they are accompanying hubbies to”. *graaaaaaaaaah* How come your man didn’t ask a man to be made over?

Anyway, we attended a couple of seminars on product photography and portrait lighting that were quite interesting. A good few notes were taken and some things will have to be checked out. So the € 10 entrance fee was not altogether lost.

I am not back-pedalling on what I said last week, but I do have to eat a couple of slices of humble pie, too. I admit, that some gadgets I’ve seen I am actually quite interested in. No, not the ND 10 😛 – but I would actually like to experiment with an infrared filter. If I ever find the time…

The Anorak Potential

Interesting, interesting! My little rant from Monday – PMS-induced as I now know *ggg* – has received more attention (via social networking) than any other post before. Is that what people want? “Controversial” opinions, offensive views, opinionated rants? Ha, I can give you that, no problem. Let’s see if I can cause a controversy with this little gem of personal opinion: photography is for gadget nerds and tech anoraks!

That obviously and totally excludes me, of course. (I haven’t worn an anorak since 1983.) I am happy if I shoot a nice pic. Don’t give me your extra-gadgetry! ND filter for long exposures in daylight? Unnecessary! A normal long exposure will do the same trick, and even take less time. Fish-eye lens? Gimme a break! For the three times in a photographer’s life that you want that, you can just as well use Photoshop to create the effect. It’s cheaper, too. A white balance filter? *deepsigh* come OOOOON! There is a handy little button on your camera for setting the right white balance. Just get into the routine of setting it every time you shoot.

A nice long exposure, perfectly shot WITHOUT an ND filter!

Seriously, now – the anorak dimension of photography is frightening! I must point out, however, that the potential for intricate technical discussion usually comes from the anorak-wearing… eh… Y-chromosome-bearing part of the photography crowd. I do not recall ever discussing FEL settings, parallax errors, spherical aberrations and reciprocity laws with my female photographer friends. Don’t get me wrong – I know what all that means (test me!), but I don’t take much of an interest in that. Different ways of operating, eh?

Right, that concludes today’s rant.Waiting now with bated breath whether I have suitably excited some of my readers.

DISCLAIMER: The statements contained in this posting are entirely based on fictitious events. None have been elicited by actual events and/or experiences in the author’s own private life. *phew*