Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Photo Trip: 8th Avenue Sculptures

Snake Sculpture @ 8th Ave
Originally uploaded by ultrahi.

If you're in New York and looking for something to take close up pictures of in low, crappy fluorescent light then check out Tom Otterness' sculptures at the 8th Avenue/14th Street subway stop. The cute little brass characters are integrated into various parts of the station all around, so you have the fun of hunting for them as well as the fun of taking their picture.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Ethereal Portraits

Check out Ryan Pfluger's online portfolio - he has some great portraits of New York hipster types and others.

Labels: ,

Saturday, May 19, 2007

24 Hours of Flickr

Hunting Comics
Originally uploaded by ultrahi.

A few weeks ago, well just before 5th May to be precise, Flickr started to prepare its members for their first '24 Hours of Flickr' event. This group had one simple goal - to take photos on 5th May, whatever you're doing, then to choose the best and add it to the group. Then the lovely folks over at Flickr make their picks and put them in a book commerating the day, which you can either buy or enjoy a free copy if your photo gets chosen.

Nice idea, although Fotolog already did something similar but with all the photos on their site. Personally I think I prefer Fotolog's approach, as I was having a 'bad photo day' on the 5th and wasn't particularly inspired with any of my pics.

Anyways, after much cogimatation I chose the photo above which pretty much represents the lazy, hanging out day that it was - plus it's a representative 'Matt Hobbs' photo. I'll let you know if it gets chosen. Fingers crossed..


Friday, May 04, 2007

Canon 20D: Lens Auto Focus Constantly Adjusting Solution

The last few days I'd been having a 'problem' with my Canon 20D in that in the customizable modes (such as P/Tv/A/M) my Sigma lens would not auto focus properly. Every time I'd try and take a photo, the lens would constantly keep adjusting itself, jittering around and making a lot of whirring noises. Many of my photos were coming out unfocussed, so I ended up going to manual focus as I prepared to visit a camera repair shop, worried that all the bouncing from the amazing Faithless gig had broken my beloved camera.

Well it turns out it was a feature rather than an issue. At some point, most likely during the gig, I'd accidentally turned on the AI Servo feature. This changes the auto focus mode from where you half press the shutter release to focus once, to it constantly adjusts focus as you keep the shutter release button half pressed. Doh. This explained why when I went to full automatic mode the lens behaved itself. The simple solution? Press the Drive/ISO button on the top of the camera then adjust the AI mode to 'One Shot' using the front selector dial. Easy.

Of course now I know what the AI Servo mode is for, I find myself wondering why the Sigma lens seemed to go so crazy all the time - constantly re-adjusting its focus (from in focus to out of focus) even though nothing in the frame was moving. Sounds like that is a problem, but one that doesn't generally affect my shooting as I never use that mode.

Labels: ,

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Faithless @ Webster Hall: Gig Photos

Faithless @ Webster Hall: Over There
Originally uploaded by ultrahi.

My photos from last night's amazing Faithless gig at Webster Hall are up here as usual. They played an amazing show that drove the crowd wild and brought smiles to everyone's faces as we bounced around like loons.

From a photography point of view though it wasn't as fun; the show is crazy backlit with lots of red light which played havoc with my Canon 20D. Plus the combination of regular smoke machine blasts, high contrast lighting and an ecstatic bouncing crowd meant that I was nowhere near as happy with the shots as I was with those from Jarvis' gig there on Sunday. Ah well. Guess I'll just have to become the official band photographer so I can get behind the stage fence next time.

Faithless play Coachella this weekend out West, so go check them out if you can - they are an amazing band to experience en masse.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Jarvis Cocker @ Webster

Jarvis @ Webster:
Originally uploaded by ultrahi.

Last night Jarvis rocked it at Webster - I took a few pics which you can see here. If you haven't already, check out his latest self-titled album - smashing stuff.

I took the photos with my Canon 20D and Signma 18-50 1:2.8 EX lens - a lens I chose for it's high aperture and hence reasonable low light performance. I found last night that although it is great in these conditions, giving good sharp images even though I was a ways back, what I really needed was a bit more zoom. A lot of the images iin the set are highly cropped which I generally hate doing. So next time I might try my 50mm f1.4 prime old Canon lens, which goes to 80mm with the 20D's 1.6x conversion factor - although the auto focus on that one can be a bit clunky.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Canon G7: To Buy Or Not To Buy?

The new 10 mega pixel Canon G7 has caught my eye of late, and recently my friend Jemma visited and brought one along with her so I got a chance to play with it. Many people believed that Canon would cull the G line of prosumer cameras to push people towards either their entry level SLR cameras, or their smaller snappy devices, but instead Canon announced this new entry. Previously the G line has never interested me, as the body form was pretty bulky, but the new body is much slimmer and incredibly light, albeit still quite chunky, so now I'm re-considering. Plus the other day a professional photographer recommended this camera over the Canon 20D, which is pretty surprising. So I've decided to put some thoughts into whether or not I should 'side-grade' to the Canon G7

For my purposes, I'm looking at the Canon G7 to replace my Canon S70 - the camera I always carry with me 'just in case' something catches my eye. To that end I have a fairly good set of criteria to apply:

  • Small enough to easily carry around, ideally in my jeans pocket. I want the camera to be there for me when I need it, not so bulky that I leave it at home and can be snuck into band gigs where they don't like cameras so much.
  • Full control of lens functions. The automatic features of cameras are getting better all the time, but often I know what I'm trying to do and just need to tell the camera to do it.
  • Excellent low light features. As my 'smaller' camera, the G7 would need to handle bar and gig photos well without needing to resort to flash. Or if flash was being used then it needs to be controllable.
  • Not too expensive. This is almost my 'disposable' camera, as I need to feel comfortable taking it to places that it may get damaged.
  • Feels good in the hand and is not too invasive. For more candid shots out and about it's good to have a camera that isn't too much like a professional camera as people react better towards it.

There are some other criteria that help, such as supporting compact flash (CF) since I have a lot of CF cards already, but these are not show stoppers. So how does the Canon G7 perform?

My first impression of the Canon G7 is that it feels pretty plasticky. The S70 is a solid, heavy-ish camera, but the G7 is surprisingly light. The body is purportedly made of metal but it doesn't feel like it is which makes me a bit nervous given how much abuse I give my cameras. Also, some weight in the camera helps you brace it for low-light shots. Overall the form of the camera is pretty boxy - the corners are smoothed off which is good, but something about the camera reminds me of an old school, pre-product designer mentality. This might not be a bad thing, but it's always important to me for a camera to feel good in your hands. In terms of size, the camera is a pretty tight fit for a jeans pocket assuming it gets in there at all. On the plus side the lens is covered by an automatic shutter, but that could be a bit flimsy if you're not careful. From a lens perspective, the camera fires up and auto-focusses quickly - allowing you to grab those unexpected images.

The control aspect of the Canon G7 is top notch. Full manual control with aperture & shutter speed adjustments. You can also push the ISO right up to 1600 in normal programmable modes, and to 3200 in a special low light 'scene' mode (not necessarily recommended as the noise is quite intense and the picture size is reduced). The scene modes themselves are extremely powerful and easily accessed by the control dial on the back of the camera. There are many low light settings, as well as the now commmon snow & underwater modes. Another great feature is that the ISO selection is given it's own dial on top of the camera for quick changes. One key feature kept from the earlier G range is a flash hot-shoe on top of the camera, so most of Canon's flashes work with this camera.

The image display on the back of the camera is large. To my mind a bit too large! I think this is just my prejudice, but it seems to be so crammed in there that for some reason the extra size seems a disadvantage. Also the colour of the screen display seemed a bit off, but it's hard to tell how much of that was the auto white balance kicking in. The viewfinder is even more cramped than usual, which in low light will be a bit of a pain, although that's only a small part of the usage.

Some final observations: The lens only goes to 35mm, I tend to prefer a 28mm wide angle so everything seemed a bit off to me. You can attach telephoto extenders to the lens mount which is interesting if a bit gimicky. One important note: this camera does not support RAW images! - Canon are definately pushing you towards the SLRs if you want the ability to fully post process your images, but in most situations this won't matter.

Overall the camera is very interesting, and also reasonably priced (available for under $500 at present). Do I think it should replace my Canon S70? That I'm not so sure of. The extra low light flexibility is very compelling, as the S70 has really not been up to par in this area. The scene modes allow you to rapidly set the camera to meet your needs with a user interface that is intuitive and powerful. Things that put me off right now; it is still a bit large, it would require me to transition to SD cards from CF and I worry that without a proper case the lens cover would bend & break. The lack of RAW is annoying, but not a show stopper, and being able to attach your own flash opens a world of opportunities. For now, I'm not going to change, but I'll be interested to see how Canon evolves their other camera lines Canon given their changes here.

Labels: ,