Monday, September 29, 2008

CamerA AbsurdA refurbished

CamerA AbsurdA, my online portfolio, is now completely refurbished. I've changed the site from plain and simple to even plainer and simpler. No big stories, just the pics and the facts. It's an online portfolio, not a place for silly talks. I can use this blog for that if I want to. Although none of the pics are actually new, many of them are new to the site. You may have seen some of them on this blog or in some of the many other places where my pics hang out. Just take a look and enjoy!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Photography tips: Join a community

This week's photography tip is very non-technical, yet useful for photographers of all levels: join a community. Communities help you develop your skills, as other members comment on your pics and tell you how they made theirs. These are great places to gather new ideas, learn new techniques and sharpen your skills by engaging in photo contests. And you can have fun while you're at it. For any community, the golden rule is that you recieve more when you give more. Just dumping your pics without ever commenting on the pics of others will not earn you respect. Communities can only thrive if members participate.

In the pre-internet era, the local photography club was the only option. Today, that option is still open, and many many are added. The world wide web is full of communities, many of which are dedicated to photography. In fact, the web is so full of these communities, that you'll have a hard time picking one. I'll mention a couple of the options, by no means suggesting that the others are not worth a try.

Contests (or challenges) are the backbone of this community. You can either become a registered user (free) or a member ($ 25/year, check out the differences here). Apart from challenges, DPChallenge has a forum with some very experienced and helpful members.
The site is famous for its extensive user reviews of photo gear, but it also has a nice forum with mostly very friendly and helpful members. The forum features a weekly and a monthly assignment with an oddly flexible deadline. Membership is free, but you can buy extra features as well as post processing software and gear.

Trekearth is all about travel photography. You can put your travel photo's online and hope for comments that either praise your photo or help you increase your skills. Sometimes, a member takes the trouble of re-processing your pic if he or she thinks it can be improved in post processing. Membership is free.

Flickr is a well known place to put your pictures online. Flickr is simply too large to be a community. Instead, it houses thousands of so-called groups. Some groups are very closed or hardly active, but others are thriving communities, often highly specialized in a specific type or aspect of photography. Some just collect pictures by theme, others have discussions and contests to go with the pics.

Local communities
The web may be world wide, but you can use it to join a local community as well. Why would you? Well, beacuse the members are near, that's why. In a local community, get-togethers are easy to organize, so you can go on field trips with other photographers and learn (and have fun)even more. Local members also know a lot about local things, such as dealers, photo locations, studios, models, make up artists and so on. And they are a nice place to trade second hand gear.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Heart or mind?

Hi. It's me again. The silly-named philosopher cat. Okay, I'll stop complaining about my name by now. In fact, the silly name helped me come up with a new philosophical issue. It made me think about the battle between heart and mind.

Before we go to the heart and mind matter, let me tell you the difference between wishing and wanting. I can wish about anything, but wanting it means I´m prepaired to acept the consequences. These could be anything, like going through effort, taking chances or loosing something else. The heart is in charge of the wishing department, but the mind keeps repating these bloody consequences. If mind and heart agree, wishing becomes wanting and you should go for it right away! But what if they don´t?

There are no compromises in the conflict between heart and mind. One of them has to win. You will have to choose whom to listen to. As long as you haven´t chosen, you´ll be torn apart. I can´t tell you which one to choose. I can give you a guide though.

The basic choice is the choice between regretting your actions and regretting not having acted. Your mind knows damn well what you'll loose if you do and your heart keeps telling you what you won't gain if you don't. No easy cost benefit analysis here, as both heart and mind exagerate the losses and fear is a bad advisor. Complicated? Well, that's why I'm a philosopher and you are not.

I'll simplify it for you: it is the choice between gaining what you wish (heart) and keeping what you have (mind). The latter is clear: You know what you got. You might not be entirely satisfied with it, but it works okay. That's safe and comforting. You don't know the thing you wish for though. Could be as great as your heart tells you, but you can´t be sure untill you tried. It's got RISK and EXCITEMENT written all over it. So if you´re the adventurous type, listen to your heart. If you´re just plain boring, listen to the mind.

It's just a matter of logic.

More resources:
by Roxette
by Saga
by Tröckener Kecks (in Dutch)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Photography tips: The (non)sense of high fps numbers

The number of frames per second (fps) seems to be one of the main selling points Single Lens Reflex camera's (SLRs). I have to admit that I was happy with the increase from 2.5 to 5 fps when I switched from my old 300D to the 20D. Why? I'll try to explain below.

Increase your chances
The main reason to want to increase your fps is that it increases the chance of shooting the lucky shot. The more shots you can fire, the greater is the chance of an accidental hit. Does this sound silly? It might, and most of the time it is. Luck can never beat timing and insight. If you are shooting at 7 fps (which is considered fast), using a shuttertime of 1/100s, You are not capturing the moment for 93% percent of the time. Careful timing will always yield better results. But sometimes you'll need careful timing and luck. Consider shooting sports for instance. You can see the decisive moment coming, but shooting at the exact moment requires some luck. In those cases increasing your chances helps, although you'll have to realize that fps alone won't get you anywhere.

The sound factor
And then there's sound. Firing a range of shots from an SLR sounds pretty professional. It has no inluence on the quality of your pictures whatsoever, but to some it may increase their pleasure in photography. It's pretty similar to a biker enjoying the sound of a V-twin.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Alpha male (?)

The camabs guy confuses me, you know. At first sight, it's pretty clear, he's a typical alpha male. His body language spells pride and sovereignty like no other. His strong and decisive voice points in the same direction. So, like I said before, I knew right away when I entered the house.

But then I started to wonder. I never see him biting females. He allows other males in his territory without even the slightest groan or roar. What kind of an alpha male is that? He even allows other males to pet me. C'mon!

But then I realized, he has to be a real alpha male. How do I know? Simply, by looking at his youngest cub. The little fella knows no fear. He takes on kids twice his age. Did I say little? I meant young. No little about that kid. Typical son-of-an-alpha-male. Noisy and nosy and extremely cheeky too. And he gets away with it. Only alpha cubs can do that. And if the kid's an alpha cub, dad's got to be an alpha male.

It's just a matter of logic.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

modeling tips: Have you got what it takes?

Have you ever wondered whether you've got what it takes to become a good model? Sure, anyone can stand in front of a camera and have a picture taken. Technically, that makes you a model. But you know damn well that there's more to it than that. I am talking a modeling career here.

Many models never think about their abilities. They just dream. Getting famous, getting rich, having your picture in a magazine. Nothing wrong with dreaming, but wouldn't you like to know about the reality level of your dreams? Here's a simple test. Five statements. All you have to do is judging whether they are true or false.

1. I only work hard if absolutely necessary
2. The only thing a model needs is a pretty face and a nice body
3. Running a business is not my piece of cake
4. I do business with people because I like them
5. I can’t stand extreme circumstances (heat, cold, fear etc)

Did you state 'true' to either of these statements? Start worrying, you may have an unrealistic view of the world of modeling or you might not have the skills. Not all is lost though. Perceptions can be changed and skills can be learned. But be aware there is extra work involved.

If you entered 'false' at all statements, you're on the right track. No guarantees for a splendid career though, but at least you're up to it. Now all you need to do is put your mind to it, start working (hard, real hard) and pray for luck. Go get 'em!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Modeling tips: hold on to your props

Some photographers like to use props. They might use them for a specific theme, to create a natural looking image or just because it increases posing possibilities. Props can really add something to a picture, if used properly. On the other hand, it’s pretty embarrassing to be pictured holding a guitar in a way you simply can not play it.

Today’s modeling tip is a very simple one: practice. If you’re planning a themed shoot, ask the photographer what props will be used and practice holding them. Use a mirror to check how you look. If you are not sure how to (hold a guitar, for instance), go look for images in magazines and on the web. Better still, ask someone who does know how to hold the specific prop.

For non-themed shoots, make sure that you know how to hold props in general. Below is a top ten (in no particular order) of items you might want to practice on. You might not have all of the items available at home, but that’s not the issue. You can practice your poses on anything of similar size. In fact, if your guitar-act is convincing on a broom, it will surely be convincing on a guitar

Stool or chair
food (fruit or candy)
a glass (wine, champagne, cocktail)
studio equipment
sports equipment

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Photography tips: night photography

Night photography can be very rewarding, especially for romantic subjects and for nicely lit architecture. Famous landmarks may often get an extra dimension on night photos, as do fountains. This article discusses some issues that might be helpful in improving your night pictures.

The obvious thing about night photography is that it comes at low light levels. This can be overcome by higher ISO, larger apertures or longer shutter times. After dusk, you will probably have to rely on all three of them. The most common thing to do with longer shutter times is to use a tripod, but you do not always have to. I shot the picture to the left handheld, while leaning against a sturdy fence. Of course, using a fast (and lightweight) prime makes quite a difference. The links below the article provide some useful alternatives to tripods, that may be very useful when traveling.

I have one tip that may sound silly because it’s so simple. But I know I forgot a couple of times and at those times I can really curse myself for being such a dumbass. So do keep in mind to clean you lens surface. If it is only a bit greasy, all the lights in the picture will become nice glamorous star shapes. However great this effect may be when you are looking for it, it might not be what you want in a night picture.

The moon
And then we have the moon. Be careful with the moon. It depends on the weather and the availability of other light sources whether you want the moon in your picture. If it is only slightly hazy, the moon will become blurry. If the moon is the only noteworthy light source around, it will burn your highlights. In both cases, don’t shoot directly at the moon. In other cases, you can, provided that you manage to strike a balance between the light sources. You may also use the moon as a source of backlight for a well-lit building, or play around with the differences in color temperature between moonlight and artificial light.

Post processing
In post processing, do not adjust your white balance, or at least not too much. The warm colors of artificial light and the cool color of moonlight provide the typical night atmosphere you may be looking for. You might want to darken the blacks in post processing though. The darker parts in your picture may pick up some noise because of the high ISO and/or long shutter time. You can easily reduce this by squeezing the left (dark) end of your histogram a little, while keeping the middle constant. This increase contrast and darkens out most of the noise.

More resources:
String stabilizer (video tutorial)

Other alternatives for tripods

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The perfect way to loose weight

Look who's here again. The kitty with the silly name, remember? And have I got some news for you! I noted how people always try to loose weight. Torturing themselves in the gym, starving themselves with way too small diets, ordering expensive pills that promise weight loss without trouble. Yeah, right. Why the torture? Why the pain? Sure, even I can see people feel better not having to carry all that weight. But hey, there's an easy way, you know? And it's free too. Better still, it's fun.

Now I got your attention, right? Loosing weight, easy, free and fun, who wouldn't like that? Well, here's how. Fall in love. When people are in love, they loose their appetite, reducing the food-intake substantially without ever feeling hungry. At the same time, their hart starts racing like mad. That'll have to burn some fat, won't it? And people in love are also much more energetic, increasing the fat burn even further. On top of all that, being in love is just plain fun. Not to mention the extra excercise (and fun) you get if the loved one loves you back. Oops, being a naughty kitty there.

See, life's easy, as long as you think logically. No need to thank me though, all my pleasure.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Modeling tips: Photographer types (7)

Photographers, you need them for the pictures. Most of them are nice people, but they also have some peculiarities. If you know how to cope with these peculiarities, you’ll get the optimal results from your photo shoots. To help you with this, this blog publishes a series of articles devoted to photographer types. Every single photographer is a unique person. Nevertheless, knowing the type could be useful for models. None of the observations in this article imply that a certain type of photographer delivers higher quality. Each category contains both good and bad photographers. The mere fact that a photographer is shy, arrogant or flamboyant tells us nothing about the quality of his or her work. It does tell us something about the way they work though.

Some models may think that there is no need to adjust to the photographer. ‘Let them adjust to me.’ If that’s you, let me ask you whether you care about the result of a photo shoot. If you don’t, stop reading (and you might as well stop modeling too). If you do, why not take all the factors into account that you can influence?

The intuitive type
The intuitive photographer is more or less the opposite of the technical type. He knows nothing about sweet points, composition rules or lighting ratios. He just takes pictures. And somehow, these pictures turn out just fine. The intuitive photographer's mind is a black box. Not only to outsiders, but to himself as well. He'll look through the viewfinder to get the picture he wants, adjusting the camera's settings as if he knew exactly what he's doing. In fact, he hasn't got a clue, but he does get the picture he's looking for.

I admit, these guys (I know a couple of lady photographers of this type too) drive me crazy with jealousy. I study and experiment my ass off to get a decent picture, while they just click away and perform at least as good, and often better.

Dos and don’ts
To make things worse (for my jealousy, that is) intuitive photographers are easy to handle for models. Since they don't have to think about what they are doing, the can devote all their attention to the model. Not to posing, they don't have to think about that either. They simply chat and interact as if a photoshoot is a piece of cake. For you, as a model, it makes life a lot easier, as long as you keep in mind that modeling does require some effort.

You have to keep in mind though that the intuitive photographer is not extremely flexible. If you want something specific, just ask. It might fit within his intuition and he'll perform effortlessly. If it lies outside his intuition, you might as well give up right away. There is no way he can reason how to get to the result you're looking for. Don't try to push him at this point, it will only lead to mutual frustration.

Other types

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Photography tips: macro photography and lighting

Everyone who has ever tried shooting macro shots knows that close-focussing distance comes with a huge loss of depth of field. Even at fairly small apertures like f/8 or f/11 it is hard to get an entire bug in focus. Yet if we look at 'professional' macro-shots, we see crisp and clear images. How on earth do they do that?

The answer is simple: use a flash and narrow your aperture even further. Macro lenses often go up to f/32, so that's not the problem. The problem is the direction of light. On-board flashes come from the wrong direction. Your lens gets in the way and casts a shadow over your subject. So, don't use an onboard flash, use a separate one.

Ring flashes
Flash manufacters make so-called ring flashes. They are to be mounted on your lens, and provide light from the exact same angle as your lens. This implies a total lack of shadow. It also implies that light is pretty flat, which may be desirable for some types of portraits, but not for macro photography. The very expensive types have the option of balancing (even aiming) left and right lights to solve this problem, but they come at a price. Apart from that, a ringflash might simply get in the way while trying to shoot bugs.

Off-camera flashes
The other option is to use an off-camera flash. You can either hand-hold it (very flexible), hand-hold it on a monopod (for more reach and stability), put it on an extension arm mounted to the camera (follows the camera wherever you point it) or put it on a tripod (stable, and you have both hands available for the camera). I use either of these options, depending on the situation. The main disadvantage of using an off-camera flash is the shadows it casts. This is not always a problem, but if it is, it may be softened by using a fill flash or a reflector. I have a nice small ring reflector that fits on my lense. It fills just like a ringflash would, and since it is not my main light source, I do not have the problem of flat lighting.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Hi, it's me again. The kitty with the silly name. Told you the Camabs guy is lazy, didn't I? Last week, he went abroad for a conference, using it as an excuse to write not one single blog-entry for an entire week. I am pretty sure they have internet in the UK. Pure laziness I tell you. So, allow me to kickstart the entire thing again, see if the Camabs guy is gonna pick it up.

Did you know I'm a great philosopher? It's quite convenient for a philosopher to be a cat. You get to sit and lay down all day, looking out the window. Gives you time to think you know? The main problem is, I keep falling asleep, and when I wake, I've forgotten al my brilliant thoughts. I franticly search my brean for the ideas, and once I refound them, I'm so tired, my eyes get heavy....

Need to get a grip at that issue, it's getting in the way of my philosophic development.

Here's one I remember. It answers one of the most important philosophical questions of all times and has not been solved yet. Untill now, that is. I have found out why people wear shoes. Shoes are in fact silly things. You're born without them and everyone can walk without them. Once you wear them, you'll loose direct contact with planet earth and you will not feel where you're walking. This implies you will have to devote other senses to the process of walking (e.g. look where you are walking), and that's just plain silly. The other senses have better things to do. Finding prey, duh. But people are different. They have allready halved their contact with planet Earth by walking on two feet, and now they´re reducing it even further. Why?

Here's why. Cats are why. We like to play at night, whereas humans want to sleep (silly guys, why don't they use daytime for that?). That's not a very good fit, now is it? We can still play of course, but I want the Camabs guy near me to increase the fun. That's where his shoes come in. They're great toys, and they have this great smell, giving a clear remembrance to the human that had them on. The smell can of course only be had if the human wears these shoes all day. So that's why. Problem solved. Next!