October 29, 2009

Bring the Noise (the G11 vs. the G10)

I got the long awaited call from Martin at Helix that a shiny new G11 was sitting on his desk with my name on it. These are such cool cameras; I’ve carried one with me almost every day for the last couple of years.
There are so many decent reviews floating around I don’t want to reinvent the wheel here but I will tell you the some people didn’t like the inclusion of the swing out screen, I LOVE IT! If you don’t like it, leave it in and stop your griping.
What I do want to share is the reason I upgraded from the G10, the promise of less noise….and it delivered!
800 is the new 400 and 400 is the new 200 hands down. While some feel 1600 is usable I found it too noisy if you weren’t already in a coal mine or steel mill.
My first reaction and what surprised me the most after reviewing files shot with both cameras was what I mistakenly thought was a color shift between the two cameras. The 800 and 1600 iso G10 files were actually suffering from color noise affecting the overall color of the image.
So I desaturated the files for a closer look, with the color shift and all the color gone, you can view the files and the grain/pixel structure on a closer level. The smaller G11 RAW files seem tighter and a good deal ‘smoother’, which isn’t really something measureable, kinda like an audiophile and his turntable vs. a CD. Ok well, maybe that’s a bit much, so how about an MP3 to a (much) less compressed digital counterpart.
So if the CCD sensors are the same size in the both cameras, you know something had to give in exchange for file size. Reducing the file size from fourteen to ten megapixels, which is plenty for camera like this, has a positive effect on the files it produces and the camera as a whole.
Sure a sensor as small as the G11’s has limitations, but simply being aware of them, working within its limitations, this camera is truly fantastic!
These images were shot yesterday in a cornfield coming home from a location scout with my class, as we will be shooting a windfarm at dusk in a couple weeks. I tried to find a neutral subject with a wide dynamic range but on a flat gray day in the middle of Illinois this was about as good as I could muster. Plus the G10 was about to meet its fate, in the inside of a Priority Mail box headed to its new owner!
Double click to see the image in a larger window or drop me a line and I’ll email the RAW camera files if you would like to see the entire test.


October 22, 2009


If you are all in need of inspiration in any capacity click here and enjoy.

The short story is this: Vivian Maier was an amateur street photographer from the 50's to the 70's. All of these fantastic images have been discovered in a locker that was sold off due to late payments.

Her images are nothing short of fantastic! Perfect in so many ways, I also enjoy that they were made with a normal lens on a Rollie, less is truly more!

I visit this site often and to enjoy her vision and fuel mine, it’s well worth a look!


October 21, 2009

Digital Video...

Unless you have been living under a rock (a big one with moss on it) you have watched the wall between filmmaking and still photography become blurrier since the introduction of the 5DmkII. Now all the major DSLR manufacturers offer HD video in some capacity. Yesterday Canon jacked the bar WAY up (again) with the introduction of the 1Dmk4.

It’s lowlight capability coupled with variable frame rates, really make this another quantum leap forward. Not many people really know where this is all going to pan out but Vincent LaForet stated it perfectly in his blog yesterday “The next few years will see photography and filmmaking redefined by technology.

Canon has requested the film come down, it should be up in the next couple days, keep checking for it, its well worth a look.

his blog shares some details about the production and more and is also worth a click:


Also on his blog you can sign up for detailed information about his entire HD workflow, which will be released in the weeks to come.

Even if we don’t quite know what to do with it yet, everybody should be on the waiting list.

Don’t forget if you are shooting video with a DSLR check out my finder, which lets you operate the camera more as a tradition film or video camera:


October 20, 2009

Painting with Flash

This July, I took a group of students to picturesque Brookfield Illinois to experiment with and discover the true potential of small shoe mount flash units. The goal was to split up and emulate techniques of O. Winston Link in a modern fashion.

While everyone did a great job two groups in particular really rose to the challenge.

The first group ‘painted with flash’ to create their images. During a long exposure they popped the flash multiple times to build up the exposure, using the number of pops to control the exposure. At the end of the day students had surrounded the art deco Brookfield Water Pumping Station, each popping a specific number of times to get the exposure where they wanted.

The same group ‘painted with light’ the newly installed footbridge in the same fashion for this image.

The second group did something especially unique. April 9th 1981 the historic Grossdale train station was moved from its post at the tracks to its new home a half block down the street, where it is now the Brookfield Historical Society.

A rather boring cinder block train station replaced it. The group chose to shoot the historic Grossdale station where it stands and composite it back to where it originally stood. Using several historic images the location was determined and exposures were made at each site.

To photograph the Grossdale station the group used a combination of existing, or practical fixtures and several well-placed strobes to define the front of the building after it was removed from the background. The roof was a dusk exposure that was adjusted in Photoshop to match the exposure.

The final result was a 30x40 print that was fantastic!