Thursday, December 31, 2009

How tough is your lens?

Boredom is dangerous, because a bored photographer decided to try smashing his (already non-functioning) Canon lens to see how fragile the lens is. Amazingly, the lens is one tough cookie! Kids, do not try this at home…

Friday, December 18, 2009

The video DSLR race is on!

Dan Chung ( spent a night shooting at the Singapore Turf club using a pre-production Canon Eos1D Mk 4. The footage was all shot at 720p/60 and then slowed to 23.98 fps in post, with colours left ungraded and editing done in Final Cut Pro. Pretty impressive stuff with the 60fps and clean footage!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Will I buy your camera after watching your TVC?

If you buy a Porsche 911 Turbo, you wouldn't use it only to buy groceries from the supermarket, would you? It is a fantastic machine to drive around in, so you'd probably enjoy the handling experience or the sheer acceleration (under safe conditions) or on the track!

If that was so easy to understand, why is it that many top honchos in multi-national companies fail to realize that television commercials are the best way to stir your emotions, or to set the fire in your loins burning? Why do some companies make TV commercials which do little more than communicate their product advantages? The combination of sound and vision is a lethal weapon in creating emotions that would bring consumers to your product, no matter how rational they are or how resistant they want to be. Leave your specifications to the print advertisement! I want to be stirred by your television commercial... entertain me!

Leica just did.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC MACRO OS HSM


If you are dissatisfied with your kit lens and desire something better without spending too much money, Sigma's new 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC MACRO OS HSM can be an interesting proposition for you. This new lens cover a useful range for general purpose photography, and the maximum aperture is larger than the typical kit lenses, making this a nice upgrade lens. In addition, Sigma has fitted some nice tech goodies such as Optical Stabilizer and Aspherical glass elements to ensure sharp images (in theory). The Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) should see the Sigma delivering silent, high-speed autofocus.

With a filter size of 72mm however, buying new filters will not be a cheap affair. In the past, photographers sometimes found their third-party lenses incompatible with their new SLRs because of electronics issues. There's no assurance that the Sigma will be fully compatible with future Canon, Nikon, Sony or Pentax DSLR bodies, but there're programs currently by third-party manufacturers to re-chip the lenses to work with the latest cameras.

How to achieve HDR images – easily and for free!


Free and easy HDR photography? It's possible!

If you’ve always wondered how to achieve those wonderful HDR (High Dynamic Range) images, we have the answer for you! HDR images are easy to make with the right tools. You’d just have to capture the range of tones with (at least) three images – one properly exposed, one over-exposed and one under-exposed. Needless to say, you’d need all images to be in perfect registration, so a steady tripod is a must! You can then use a HDR software to merge and combine all the photos into one image that extracts the maximum details from the highlights and shadows.

The tricky part is the HDR software – most of the good ones are not free. Despair not! We found the QTPFSGUI (we kid you not… that’s the name of the software!) pretty decent and powerful, and best of all – it’s free of charge! If you like it enough, you can be nice and donate some money to the developers who worked hard at bringing you something so nice for free.

Without further ado, here’s the link to the tutorial for using QTPFSGUI…

And you can download QTPFSGUI here!

HDR photos credit of John Nyberg (Denmark)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

In pictures: 25th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster

During the early hours of December 3 1984, a gas leak at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India killed more than 4,000 people in the first few hours. The poisonous gas swept through the town, and death tolls crept up to more than 15,000 dead within the next few years. 25 years later, the Bhopal disaster is still the world’s worst industrial accident ever, and thousands of people are still suffering from the sickness and deficiency caused by the contamination.

Time magazine interview with Annie Leibovitz

As one of the most famous and prolific photographers today, Annie Leibovitz is no stranger to controversies and criticisms. Her recent financial crisis and troubles with lawsuits made Leibovitz an easy target for even more flak, but there is no taking away her genius in making iconic photos of her subjects. With a huge and successful body of work, Annie Leibovitz had always put tremendous pressure on herself to excel and push the envelope even further. Here's a short interview by Time magazine with Annie Leibovitz...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

30 great gift ideas for photographers


With the festive season around the corner, there’s no need to tear your hair out just because you can’t find the right gift for your photo-fanatic friends! I’ve assembled a list of photography-related gifts for you to choose from, ranging from under US$50 to US$200. So if your loved ones are having problems choosing your gift, just point them to this blog thread!

Great gifts up to US$50

Gary Fong Lightsphere Universal Inverted Dome (US$50)
Fits onto most flash heads via a universal mount, the Gary Fong Lightsphere delivers a dose of well-balanced bounce easily. There’re many bounce systems for on-camera flashes, but the Gary Fong system is supposedly one of the best around.

Joby Gorillapod Flexible Mini-Tripod (US$22)
If you have a compact camera and you want a flexible mini-tripod, this is one of the best choices. It’s not cheap, but it’s one of the most robust and flexible mini tripods. Also works great if you want to mount your flash and trigger it wirelessly off the camera for directional lighting. You can wrap the bendy legs on branches or railings.

Sanyo Eneloop Rechargeable NiMH Batteries with Charger (US$30)
Go green! Stop throwing expendable batteries into the landfills! The Sanyo Eneloop Rechargeable NiMH batteries present cost-savings advantage while delivering a unique advantage – they maintain their stored energy for a long time unlike other rechargeables, so your Eneloop batteries are always ready for action!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Making of Fantastic Mr Fox with fantastic DSLRs

The new animation movie Fantastic Mr Fox was made in the classic stop-motion manner by capturing stills and combining all the 621,450 still-images to achieve the animated effect! The crew used a variety of DSLRs to capture the frames, and painstakingly moved each character bit by bit to create the movements. A similar technique was used in the creation of Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. Check out the video below by Wired to see how it was done!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Car photography made easy


If you are a proud car owner and you'd like to take some nice photos of your car, here're some tips on the basics of good car photography. These are really simple tips to follow, but they're guaranteed to make your photos much better. Check it out!

The charm of Leica rangefinder cameras

I love digital photography for the convenience and "cleaniness" of the photos. The images are always clean and sharp, which makes it easy for digital manipulation. And because I do not have to pay for the film, processing and printing, I do not feel the pinch of every time I shoot (after I forget the price of the DSLR).

But like the LP lovers who find a place for vinyl in the world of CDs, I find myself turning back to film ever once in a while. Film is therapeutic for some of us, when we load in a cartridge and pull the glossy brown film leader across the film gate. I still get anxious over the results, and I still get a thrill when I open the envelope of photos at the lab counter. Film is glorious in its own way.

Given that film photography is a return to the nostelgic world for me, my choice of camera must match the mood and manner as well. Which is why I love the Leica film-based rangefinder cameras. These are extremely sturdy and well-built cameras of Teutonic designs, which you will feel immediately in your hands. The heft of well-sculpted metal that sits right in your palm, with buttery smooth operations and clear bright rangefinder that opens up a window to the world. The feeling of winding to the next frame on a Leica M camera is heavenly.

Part of the charm of a Leica M film camera lies in the fact that every camera is handmade by craftsmen, who manually assemble and fine-tune each camera, just like a fine mechanical watch like a Lange or Patek. Vorsprung durch technique is definitely not the philosophy of this German company, since the technology in today's Leica film cameras is probably only equal to Japanese cameras of the 70s or 80s. But the built quality of Leica film cameras is unmatched, and here's a behind-the-scene look at how each Leica camera is built:

I leave you with a funny quote I read about digital photography:

"Digital is like shaved legs on a man - very smooth and clean but there is something acutely disconcerting about it."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Amazing wildlife photos and experience

National Geographic has always been synonymous with great travel and wildlife photography, and this short video about the adventures of a wildlife photographer with National Geographic encompasses everything romantic about the life of the contributing photographers!

"Adventures, excitement. A Jedi craves not these things." said Yoda. Obviously the National Geographic photographers are low in the Force quotient!

Retro chic with old rangefinder cameras

People are funny… we try so hard to out-do ourselves and make things better. And with technological progress and the digital edge, everything seems so nice and perfect. And we start to bemoan “the loss of spirit” with digital audio CDs and digital cameras. Suddenly everything analogue becomes in vogue and cool again… vinyl records and film are “in” once more!

Of course, if you wanna be with the in-crowd, make sure you’re fashionable all the way. Having some old film camera from your dad’s drawer isn’t gonna cut it (seriously it only makes you look old-fashioned!). For true retro coolness, you gotta reach into your grandpa’s drawer for his ancient Leica rangefinder. But most probably you’d find something like this…

Friday, November 27, 2009

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM Macro review


Canon already has a nice 100mm macro lens in the EF 100mm f/2.8 macro, so it came as a bit of surprise when Canon launched a new macro lens with the same focal length and aperture. The new Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS Macro is expected to sell alongside with the original macro lens, albeit with a significantly higher price tag. What’s with this new lens that justifies a price premium over the existing lens?

Canon is positioning this lens as a premium professional quality lens with the L designation, so one should expect superior performance over the already excellent non-L macro lens. In addition, the crowning glory is the integration of a new Hybrid Image Stabilization technology into the new lens, which Canon claims will improve the percentage of sharp images when hand-held. Unlike conventional IS in other lenses, the Hybrid IS compensates for angular and linear shifts when one is shooting in macro, so it is supposedly more effective than the usual IS technology when shooting close-ups.

So is it really worth the extra money? Read on!

Welcome back to Photography Happenings!!


Welcome back. That’s the message for both you and me.

To those who remember, Photography Happenings was started by me back in 2000 when the internet was not what it is today. Electronic bulletin boards were popular, as well HTML websites with blinking text (it gives me a headache just thinking about them!) and forums were not as popular as they are today. We were using modems with dial-up speeds of 28.8 kbps, and photography information were more readily available in printed magazine than on the web.

A new dawn? Perhaps!

The Internet has come a long way since then. Fancy flash animation, rapid propagation of discussion forums, RSS feed and blogging have completely changed the online landscape. Now in Web 2.0 where interactivity and social connectivity rule, everyone has instant access to information unlike 9 years ago. When I ran the Photography Happenings site, I had e-newsletters to about a thousand subscribers in a monthly digest format. With so much new releases every other day, a monthly format is no longer enough today. And people today are so well-connected digitally, virtually any news is old news in a couple of days.

Now that I’ve managed to squeeze out some time from my day job (yes, I’ve one), I’m restarting Photography Happenings as a blog. Sure you might have heard some of the news announced already in some other sites, but I’ll add my opinions and comments in addition to the announcements, which hopefully will make them more useful to you.

Welcome back to the new Photography Happenings!!