Friday, June 12, 2009

A helpful chart...

Wanting to buy new CF cards to feed your hungry Canon 5D mkII, but don't know which card works best? Look here:

Not all CF cards are alike, and write speed is important when you are trying to stuff those big files onto a card in a timely manner. I just got some new Sandisk Extreme III 8 gig cards, and they seem to be working OK in the camera. I'm going to read over the list and see where they land...


I just discovered this forum...  

Video is not my strong point, so I'm still learning.  Actually, I have an absolute TON to learn.  I've got a basic process down with my camcorder and Final Cut Pro, but I'm not really all that efficient yet.  And now that I have awesome video capability on the Canon 5D mkII, I have even more to learn.  

Most of the stuff being talked about on the forum goes over my head, but I'm still excited to know that I have a place to discuss 5D mkII video tips, FCP importing and editing suggestions, and other misc video questions.  


The beauty of Canon...

So, get this...  I got my 5D camera body back from Canon.  I sent it off last Friday with a broken shutter (look for my previous post about how I destroyed it).  I sent it two day Fedex, so they would've received it on Tuesday of this week.  Well, I just got it back today - Friday, one week after I sent it - and that includes my slow shipping!  

Talk about fast service!!!  But, that's not all.  There's more tale to tell...  

So, I'm a member of Canon's CPS.  It stands for Canon Pro Services.    You have to actually apply and show proof that you are a pro shooter, with minimum gear purchases and tear sheets proving you shoot for real and aren't just some weekend warrior or soccer mom.  I've been a CPS member for years now.  

A while back, I got a certificate for $100 off any CPS service.  However, I let it expire a good six months ago and never used it.  Well, I put it in with my broken camera and crossed my fingers, hoping they would ignore the expiration date.  They went ahead and took my certificate, even though they didn't HAVE to.  How nice/cool/awesome is that?!?  

It was pretty important that I got the extra $100 off, because it turned out that only the parts were $300.  There was still $300 in labor to deal with.  I was originally assuming a $300 total bill, after the 20% discount that CPS members get.  The total wound up being (with misc shipping, tax, etc) about $650, minus the $120 for my CPS 20% discount, minus the $100 from my certificate.

That extra $100 certificate made the cost a little easier to bear.  $430 vs $530 (or $650 if I weren't a CPS member), I'll always take the $430 charge!  Of course, I'd prefer a zero dollar charge, but that just wasn't possible here.

Canon is so cool.  fast service, really great customer care, and great products to begin with.  I needed a company to love, and Canon came to the rescue!!!  


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's official: my computer is old...

I tried to work on some test video from the new Canon 5D mkII today.  It shoots some outrageous HD video!  Only one problem... my computer just can't keep up with rendering all that video.  In Final Cut Pro, a regular chunk of video would take about ten seconds to render.  The same chunk in HD was ten minutes!!!  

I'm gonna switch the camera to non-HD for now.  If I take normal, non-HD video, the computer can digest it.  And all my video stuff appears tiny on the web, so HD isn't a priority yet.  Not to mention that a 4 gig card got filled up in 13 minutes of shooting HD video.  I don't even know where I'd store all the files after a few video shoots.  I'd be trying to store about twelve gigs of video per shoot, which adds up to a lot of hard drive space QUICK!!!!!  

I'll get this all figured out soon enough and report back.  But I will say this... The initial video I just shot has me thinking the 5D mkII will be a pretty cool piece of equipment in the war on documentary video!


Rhett and I are getting some press...

So, it's no big shocker that Rhett Miller's new album is getting critical acclaim.  It is great, so why wouldn't it?  Rolling Stone gave it four stars!  Can you believe that?!?  They are pretty frugal with those stars, so anything above three with them is like gold.  

Bu they aren't the only ones talking about it.  Every important local and national publication has had a glowing review of the album so far.  The cool thing is that I'm actually getting some press off of this, too!  It's rare for people to interview the photographer of an album, so it's nice to get some love.  Look here:  

Also, I've been name dropped a couple times.  Once in this CD review:  

And finally, Rhett name dropped me this morning, during his on air interview Tuesday, June 9, 2009, on The Ticket.  It's Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket, but they talk about a lot more than just sports.  They have podcasts up on iTunes, but they run a few days behind the live content.  Realistically, this one should be available to download on Friday, I think...  

I just think it's cool that I'm getting some love for my effort on this project.  Rhett did such a great job, and I was glad to be a part of it!  Now, go out and buy a copy!  Or, don't go out when you can order it online, like here:  


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Canon 5D mkII and Me: A Love Story...

OK, so I have had the new Canon 5D mkII for half a day so far.  I think I am in love!!!  I haven't put it through its paces yet, but I'll have plenty of time to do that in the near future with my upcoming magazine shoots and my next major label album cover shoot later this month...  

This is by no means a very scientific test.  It is me taking some images around the house with the new Canon 5D mkII and nothing more.  If you want one of those "technical" reviews, there are plenty of them available on other websites.  Hopefully, this will give you a good idea of what the 5D mkII can do on an average day of shooting.  

The big thing I wanted to test out was its high ISO image quality.  I tried to find several scenarios where a higher ISO was needed to see if the images held up or not.  On my old 5D (the original, or mkI, I suppose), I could get useable images at 1600 ISO, but mainly you'd want to stay at or below 800 ISO if possible.  1000, 1250, and 1600 ISO were just a bit too noisy for best quality.  With the mkII's ability to shoot at up to 25600 ISO (wow!!!), I needed to see how it REALLY looked at high ISO values...

Of course the first thing I'm going to shoot with my new camera is going to be my boys!  The room was kind of dark, so I cranked up the camera to XX ISO and shot a couple frames.  Looking at the image at 100% in Photoshop, it holds up well.  The mkII's 6400 ISO looks like the grain from a roll of good quality 800 ISO film.  It has a very pleasing digital grain/noise to it in the mids and highlight areas.  I'll have to test it more in the shadows to see how it REALLY holds up.  That's where digital grain/noise can look bad.  

I decided to go out to the garden and test the camera out more.  I wanted to see how it would do with colors and details... really, I just wanted to shoot anything and everything I could find!  This camera is addictive.

I loved the way the water was dripping off this tiny tomato.  The garden was shaded at the time, and the macro extension tube means more light loss, so the Canon 5D mkII came in handy.  This image was shot at 1000 ISO, but looks more like 400 ISO.  The mkII allows you to bump the camera up to 1600 ISO and still shoot beautiful images.  Its 1600 ISO looks like the original 5D's 640 ISO... it's that good!

This is a section of the above picture at 100% and 10"x10" at 72 ppi, so you can view the detail.  

I loved the color of tiny little cherry tomatoes.  Image details were 1/320 sec, 9.0f, 3200 ISO.

This is a section of the above picture at 100% and 10"x10" at 72 ppi, so you can really see the detail available.  Can you believe this was shot at 3200 ISO?!?  Not too bad...  

I saw these ants walking across a flower, so I thought I'd see just what the Canon 5D mkII, an 85mm 1.8f lens, and an extension tube could do.  This is still cropped in from the original image quite a bit, but the huge file size of the mkII makes that less of an issue.  There was still enough of a file left to make a good print.  Besides being cropped, this image received a bit of sharpening in Photoshop to help bring out some of the details.  

Playing around, I decided to take a picture of a cactus.  I cropped this image to square in Photoshop, but no sharpening or other manipulation was done.

This image was taken at 1/100 sec, 3.2f, 6400 ISO in a somewhat dark area of the house.  I'll have to say that the 5D mkII seems to be holding its own so far!!!

The image below was taken at 12,800 ISO in a dark living room.  I could've NEVER taken this image with my old 5D camera...  The 5D mkII can do so much more with so much less light.  It is amazing!  yeah, it is a bit grainy, but what do you expect for 12,800 ISO?!?  It looks at good as other camera's 1600 ISO.

I have never been able to get this cat to sit still in a brightly lit location.  Finally, I was able to get a decent image in a softly-lit corner of a room.  Enough window light was coming in that the mkII worked fine.  This image, when blown up to 100%, looks like 1600 ISO on the original 5D.  It has some digital grain, but it's not the end of the world.  Of course, this wasn't shot at 1600 ISO... nope, it was shot at 6400 ISO on the mkII.  Yup, the Canon mkII's XX ISO looks as good as the 5D's 1600 ISO!  I cropped the image to square and added a bit of sharpening in Photoshop to bring out the fur and whiskers.

The image below was taken at the highest ISO setting possible on the camera.  If you go into custom functions, you can turn on high 1 & 2, which goes up to an insane 25,600 ISO!!!  Sure, it is super-nasty as far as grain is concerned, but it's better than getting no image at all.  The lack of light in the room when this was taken was nuts!  It was too dark to focus.  It was movie theater dark.  It was just plain dark.  But I got something which could be printed... perfect for spot/breaking news stories where an image might be taken in less-than-perfect visual conditions (like the sewer system story I recently did).  Details: 1/40 sec, 1.4f, 25,600 ISO. Canon 5D mkII and Canon 50mm 1.4f lens.


Monday, June 8, 2009

What is it with PDF's, anyway?!?

I slacked off a bunch over the last couple years, because I had so much good work coming in.  I didn't really have to show my portfolio, because I was already getting enough people calling me!  Well, I'm sure you've noticed that things aren't the same as they used to be, thanks to the economy.  

I don't have the luxury of sitting around and waiting for the phone to ring.  I have to send out promos and portfolios.  I have to knock on doors and actually market myself again.  It's not that bad, I guess.  It's just part of the business.  

I will say this about today's marketing:  Things have changed over the last couple of years.  Everyone I ask about seeing my book says, "Do you have it on PDF?"  Everyone I call about sending over a portfolio says, "Can you send me a PDF?"  Everyone that says they would love to see something from me, follows up by saying, "Send me a PDF."  

When/why did things change so fast?  Is it the ability to view work from laptops, PDA's, and cellphones?  Is it the ability to ignore the bad/boring books without a face to face meeting or a follow-up call to pick up a physical book?  Is it the ability to glance through several submissions faster than flipping through real pages could ever do?  

Whatever the case, I've sent out several PDF's lately.  I guess it saves me money of printing costs, but it just seems less personal.  Touching a page, thumbing through images, stopping and looking at a beautiful image as light hits the paper...  

I say all this as I listen to a vinyl record and wrap up my business day to take my boys outside to actually play and run around.  I'll send those virtual pictures, but I will mourn the death of the printed portfolio.  

By he way, I started sending this basic promo as a PDF, but I guess I'll need to build a full portfolio to email out.  Hopefully, this gives potential clients enough of a taste...  maybe enough that they'll actually request an old school printed portfolio?