My old work isn’t that bad, but what about my new work

I have a fever of 103 f and am supposed to be resting – that may or may not relate to this post.

Read this:

Makes me think because often recently I find that nothing I have been shooting has really come out very interesting, whereas I actually had more worthwhile pieces years ago.

Maybe part of that is just being busy this past year, with the new baby and work there isn’t much time for anything else.

Yet it is worrying when I think I should be “improving” to find that I go through the whole 2009 catalog and find maybe 4 shots I like. I am sure I did “better” in earlier years.

So why is that. It could be that my taste has changed and I’m getting more selective, which could be seen as a good thing. Or it could be that because I’m shooting less I’m really doing less good work. Or, and this is the worry, maybe I’m thinking about it too much – certainly I’m thinking (and reading) more than I’m shooting and that is cramping me somehow. Putting an (unnecessary) level of selectivity on top of my choices of what to shoot.

Now that connects to another thought:

Which basically boils down to “don’t put out pictures which are not your best”, and I would extend that to “which you are proud of”.

It connects for me because I rarely post or show to anybody my photographs because typically nobody likes them (I don’t have that problem of getting uncritical praise from friends and family, basically *nobody* likes my work), yet recently I saw some people around me on facebook post some snaps of a recent dramatic sunset.

Now I had noticed that sky also and taken a few snaps so I thought hey I’ll post one too, just as a community thing, not thinking about it as “a photograph”. Yet of course I take them into Bridge, select the best two, go into ACR and tweak them. A little shift of the WB brings out the dramatic colours nicely and so I go and post that.

“Wonderful picture” people say, you’re such a great photographer I hear. I should be pleased right? But I’m not, it’s a sunset pic of all things with some cheap trickery to make it look like a postcard. Not at all the sort of photography I want to develop, or be known for.

So I’ve shot myself in the foot a little, not bad but it’s annoying.

But but… two years ago I would have selected that image for my portfolio whereas today I wouldn’t touch it.

So my friends like my photographs that I don’t like. What do you do, change your photographs or change your friends?

How many shutter actuations can your dslr survive?

Not normally an important question this becomes relevant when you start doing time lapse, which means very large numbers of pictures taken.

Consider a 1 hour time lapse at one shot per 5 seconds, that’s 720 frames for the one hour.

Particularly I’m concerned about camera models which do not have time lapse built in, so the manufacturer had a different expectation of what the total number would be that you achieve.

The camera makers have their own estimates of the total shutter life of each camera, however a more interesting exercise is actually collecting data on this and that has been done here

For my two cameras that is:

I encourage you to look up your own model, then see how many you are up to now, then do some simple calculations to know how much of your camera life you are using up by doing time lapse before getting started.

Although shutters can be replaced the general consensus is that it doesn’t make sense from a cost perspective.

You can use ExifTool by Phil Harvey to check your shutter count (instructions here), or upload an unedited jpg to flickr and look at the extended properties of the image.

If a one hour time lapse is 720 frames that is about 0.7% of the life of my D40 shutter.

DIY White Seamless Background Howto Part 1 of 5

This is the first part in a little series, which I expect to run to 5 parts, about my experience with doing a “white seamless background” look, with mostly DIY parts; and weaving in the use of tethering software.

  • Part one will discuss why I’m writing this, why you should read it, and why you might want to do it anyway.
  • Part two will be how I set up the physical environment with totally inadequate space and inappropriate materials; a too small room, off-white crumpled fabric, not quite white wooden boards and at least one bamboo lightstand.
  • Part three will be how I set up my lights and determine the correct power level for the flashes using a combination of a grey card, spot metering, tethering, Adobe Camera Raw, some logic and a healthy dose of guesswork and trial and error.
  • Part four will be actually shooting in this environment, mainly using tethering in order to do self portraits and also to check results as I go.
  • Part five will then be post processing, particularly how I compensate for limitations in my studio, my equipment and my skills!

It may take me a while to get to all these parts, but hey, a guy has to have goals in life, right? 🙂

So first, why I’m writing this, why you should read it, and why you might want to do it anyway

My main reason for myself is that I was pleasantly surprised with the results I managed to obtain when I did this for myself. I had read various tutorials and guides and knew that I was missing some essential ingredients to do this “properly”, most importantly the sufficiently large space and the seamless paper.

As my stubborn insistence on trying anyway has lead to some usable results I wanted to capture what I’d done in writing, and by writing about it and therefore forcing myself to go through the whole process again methodically, perhaps to improve what I have done.

Why then should you read what I am writing here given that I’m clearly an absolute-beginner who has done this about 3 times and probably doesn’t know what he is doing. Well firstly I suppose you could be an even less experienced person who has done it zero times. But in that case shouldn’t you be reading advice from someone who has done it a thousand times? Of course you should read that, but I believe that as a beginner who has only just had his “ah ha” moment I’m closer to it and perhaps can describe things in way that will interest another beginner.

Of course another reason you might want to read this is so you can laugh heartily at my many mistakes and downright errors! If so, please feel free to keep your comments to yourself. 🙂

More charitably (on my or your part) perhaps you’d want to give me some pointers to improve what I’ve done? Criticism, constructive or otherwise, does not sit easily with me I will admit, but advice is always welcome.

Lastly, why would anybody want to shoot on a white seamless background – and a DIY one at that.  For me it was initally just “because”, it seemed an interesting thing to do and a bit of a challenge.  Combined with that is seeing those posters of models in clothing stores (where I live it is Uright and Bossini) blown up to about twice life size that always look so cool.

Once I had done it though I realized it presents a few additional advantages:

  • You don’t have to worry about composing the background, there is no background. For me that was a big one as I’m still struggling a lot with backgrounds; I have not yet trained my eye properly to see everything in the frame through the viewfinder.  And so find most of my shots tend to have unwanted things behind or intersecting with the object I am trying to capture.  While I will continue to work to train my eye meanwhile I’d like some nice shots of my wife and kids which are not ruined by junk in the background.
  • Compositing suddenly becomes a lot easier.  You want to duplicate yourself 3 times in the same shot?  Now you don’t have to worry about difficult cutting out and not matching edges.  Every edge is white, it becomes easy.
  • Your background suddenly becomes expendable; you want it to appear that you are on a larger set?  Just expand the canvas.
  • And of course there is room for type if you’re doing a Christmas card!

As for why DIY — well because it is cheap and because I can get it here and now with materials at hand.  Where I live getting a 9 foot roll of paper delivered is not really and option.

So there you go.  Why I’m writing this, why you might want to read it, and why do white background shots anyway.  That’s all I have for part one and now that I’ve started I’ll have to finish this one day!

Well another day wasted..

Seems the spammer has finished his holiday and resumed spamming. And the clean up I did last time wasn’t good enough (I’m on the current version of WP).

So another day wasted doing clean up — and this time I’ve done a lot more WP hardening. Hopefully that’ll fix it and I can get back to some more productive things!

Well it would have been a release day…

If it were not for the spammer. I’ve got a new rev of Camera Control nearly ready to release but have spent all my “free” time today cleaning up.

Wrote this VBA code which helped a bit to clean up the posts table:

' Manipulating a text file with VBA
' Loops through text file and creates revised one
' This code requires a reference (Tools > References) to Microsoft Scripting Runtime
' based on a sample here:

Dim FSO As FileSystemObject
Dim FSOFile As TextStream, FSOFileRevised As TextStream
Dim FilePath As String, FilePathRevised As String
Dim l As String
Dim i, j As Long
Dim tagName As String
Dim spamStart As Long
Dim spamLength As Long
Dim spamtext As String
Dim linecounter As Integer

FilePath = "C:\wp_posts.sql" ' create a test.txt file or change this

' adds "_Revised" to your file name
FilePathRevised = Left(FilePath, Len(FilePath) - 4) & "_Revised" & Right(FilePath, 4)
linecounter = 0
Set FSO = New FileSystemObject
If FSO.FileExists(FilePath) Then
' opens the file for reading
Set FSOFile = FSO.OpenTextFile(FilePath, 1, False)
' opens "revised" file in write mode
Set FSOFileRevised = FSO.OpenTextFile(FilePathRevised, 2, True)
Do While Not FSOFile.AtEndOfStream

l = FSOFile.ReadLine
linecounter = linecounter + 1
' write maniplulation code here
' code to remove the spam links with style display:none from a wordpress
' wpaa3a_posts table.

' normalize space or no space in the style
l = Replace(l, "display: none", "display:none")

' keep working until they are all gone
Do While (InStr(l, """display:none") > 0)

i = InStr(l, """display:none")
j = i
' scan left to work out what the tag is
Do While (Mid(l, i, 1) <> "<") And (i > 1)
i = i - 1
If i = 1 Then
Debug.Print "Error, can't complete"
End If
tagName = ""
spamStart = i
i = i + 1

Do While Mid(l, i, 1) <> " "
tagName = tagName + Mid(l, i, 1)
i = i + 1

'ok got the tag so find the close
spamLength = InStr(Mid(l, spamStart, 9999999), "/" + tagName) + Len(tagName) + 1

spamtext = Mid(l, spamStart, spamLength)

l = Replace(l, spamtext, "")
'Debug.Print spamtext
'Debug.Print linecounter


FSOFileRevised.WriteLine (l)

MsgBox (FilePath & " does not exist")
End If

But the spammer was not entirely consistent or correct in his html coding, so I still had to remove a lot by hand. If you see any left over spam links in old posts please do drop me a comment. Thanks.

I’m going to bed now as it is really late (yet again) but here are a list of the changes so far in my 4.2 development version:

' 4.2 changes
' save raw/jpg value between session
' fix raw/jpg bug where wrong type is used if not explicitly selected
' improved Time Lapse time gap calculation
' correctly save/load registry settings first time when they don't already exist
' make preview size saved
' more preview size options such as 50%/100%
' simple viewer to let you preview previous shots
' save the tethering status
' fix which should allow negative expo comp in vista
' made bracketing work in manual mode by using changes in shutter speed
' primitive mark/unmark selected images using file renames (marked will be first when shorted by filename)

Any ideas on how to DIY an equivalent to an SB-800?

No?   Me neither.

I wish I did though as this past weekend I lost my SB-800!  I’ve been going around since then cursing my carelessness!  Arggg!!!

Lets just say that when leaping hurriedly into and out of a taxi in the dark while holding a toddler in one hand and a camera bag in the other hand it is wise to make sure that the bag is fully

 and securely


The little carrying case I had the flash in was also stuffed with little DIY items which I’ll have to remake such as the folding grid spot and the sticky IR filter as well as all the gels I’ll have to re-cut.

I’ve got some other lights but I was quite attached to the SB-800 which is a great light despite the expense.  I guess I’ll have to start saving pennies again if I want to replace it, let alone consider the SB-900!

How low can you go?

What is the lowest spec PC/Laptop that Camera Control will work on? I don’t know — I have a Thinkpad X31 running XP SP2 and it is ok though you can see a little sloweness at times.

Would it work on lower end, either old machine or one of the new light netbooks? Let me know!

Made any time lapse videos?

If you have made any time lapse vids using my script and they are publicly available (youtube, etc) I’d love it if you’d post a link!  I’ve still not done anything interesting with it — I have a few ideas but never the right time to sit there with camera and computer for several hours.  Sadly nothing worth seeing from where I live or work and even the sky has been cloudless for days so I can’t do the “clouds streaming across the sky” thing.

Anyway if you have had better luck, or better ideas, than me lets have a look!