general photography

your best & worst photography purchases of 2014

Looking back every year, I’m sure you too are happy with some of your purchases you made in photography, whether gear or software or website related. Purchases that you love and made a difference to you as a photographer. But similarly there are also those purchases you regret. What was I thinking? I should’ve done my homework?

In the past I’ve bought some spur-of-the-moment bad decisions. It is especially easy to get swept away at photography trade shows. But I’ve gotten better at it, especially unnecessary software purchases. So I am actually happy with most of my purchases this year. Here’s my list of best & worst purchases, with even a few “meh” purchases listed.

Better yet, add yours to the list of Best / Worst Photo related purchases, by posting in the comments section. To make it interesting, there will be this book to be won as a prize. I will randomly pick one entry via a random number generator to win this book. Entries close Sunday 21st Dec.

How to Photograph Weddings

Behind the scenes with 25 leading pros to learn lighting posing and more. Names such as Jerry Ghionis, Jim Garner, Dave & Quin Cheung, Brett Florens, Huy Nguyen, Ken Sklute, and myself included.

Inspired by Fashion. Stories, not Pictures. Connection is the Key. Two grooms. Big Groups. A Sense of Humor.

These are some of the themes which are explored in the 58 chapter entries, covering a diverse range of topics which go beyond the technical, to also cover style and approach.

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on-location headshots and promotional portraits – Jonathan Arons

One of the things I like the most about photography, aside from the cool toys, is that you get to meet interesting people. Characters. People with spark. The challenge is then to capture that and show it in the photographs. A headshots photo session needs to be more than just a mere glimpse of your subject’s personality.

Jonathan Arons, also known as “the trombone dancer”, is a multi-talented actor, singer, dancer and musician, based in New York. Jonathan needed some professonial headshots and some portraits for promotional use. We shot these on location in New York. As you can see, there is a dynamic persona here with a lot of energy! With portraits, the intent is always to show the personality and charm. Even some of the playful spiritedness. All of this added up to make the photo session real fun. That glitter suit though!

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non-photography goodies in my camera bag / roller case

Work as a wedding photographer isn’t just about taking photographs of key moments, or about the photo gear. Often enough it is up to you as the wedding photographer to help guide the day’s time-line and flow, and also just to help.  For me, wedding photography isn’t just a passively observed event where I take photographs. And if you shoot with a photo-journalistic style in mind, it doesn’t mean you have to remain uninvolved.  I’m there to record the day’s events, but also to help, if necessary, making it a spectacular day.

In the photo above, I took over from the maid of honor when her fingers weren’t strong enough for that final button and clasp at the back of the bride’s dress. My fingers were stronger, so I finished the last button. So as a photographer I’m often called on to do more than just take photographs.

With that in mind, here’s a look into my camera bag, and the non-photography related goodies I keep handy:

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hot-air balloon ride

August 26, 2014

hot-air balloon ride

During my visit to South Africa, two of my friends, Jerry & Linde, arranged a surprise for me – an early-morning ride in a hot-air balloon in the Magaliesberg area. This was a first time for me – and I have to wonder now why I had never done this before – it is exhilarating! (This must be old news for those who have done this before.)

With this entire 2-week visit to South Africa, I decided to forego all the heavier, bulkier camera gear, and only take my Fuji X100s (vendor). It’s a specific decision where I forego the versatility of getting every angle from super-wide to tele, and just accept the single 35mm-equivalent lens.

So that’s all I had with me – just this one small camera. Within the limits of that single lens, it became a fun challenge to still get meaningful and interesting images.

Here is the slideshow with 24 images, from the start to a few seconds before touch-down. I hope it shows some of the beauty of this winter-time landscape in the Magaliesberg area. There was a certain 3-D look to the scenery, with the sun coming on low over the horizon. You can see various antelope dot the grassland by the shadows they cast.

The one thing missing from these images is the sheer stillness of gliding over the landscape, with just the dogs barking way below, and some cars driving by. Oh, and then the rushing sound of the burner filling the balloon again to remain buoyant.

This experience was a high in every sense.

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what are your personal photography projects for 2013 ?

This photo shows me setting up to shoot a time-lapse clip of the New York skyline from Brooklyn. The bride is a model being photographed by someone else. She just looked good as part of the composition of this shot. (photo by Peter Salo) The motive behind shooting time-lapse is no more than it’s just to do something creative. You know? Something for the soul. Something to keep the interest in photography alive, and to remain motivated to create something new and interesting.

For those very reasons, I think it is essential for any photographer – in fact, any artist – to keep exploring ideas and avenues.

As this year winds down, and my workload eases up a bit, I’ve decided that 2013 is the year where I want to devote more time to personal projects of various kinds. I do want to explore HD video further and shoot some short clips. In fact, I’ve been talking to Anelisa (my favorite model), about doing a video clip centered around her, in a music video / Fashion style. I’ve also discussed with a friend who does boudoir photography, to do a promotional / instructional clip with her.

I have this intention that during December, I’ll figure out a plan – a schedule for 2013 to be posted in my calendar – where I work on several projects during the course of the year. That’s the grand scheme. To do more stuff!

let’s make it interesting … 

With that, I’d like to hear from others what they have been contemplating or are planning to do as personal photography projects for 2013? What has caught your interest and what has intrigued you enough that you’d like to get into? What themes or ideas or techniques do you want to explore?

So let’s make it fun, and inspire each other.

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photography: how good / sharp do your lenses need to be?

Olena, who I photographed during a recent individual workshop in New York.

camera settings:  1/320 @ f/3.5 @ 800 ISO  (available light)

I was trying out the new Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 VC (B&H) for the images I shot during this workshop. (It comes in a Canon version too.)  It appears to be a fantastic lens. Build quality is good. The feel of it is good. The zoom ring has a nice throw. And it features stabilization! Nice touch.

However, shooting other images at wide open aperture, I wasn’t sure I was happy with the edge performance. Zooming in on the image on the back of the Nikon D4, I felt my Nikon was sharper.

So I decided to do a few comparison test shots between the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 (B&H) and the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 VC (B&H) that I had for review purposes, as well as my trusted Nikon 24-70mm f2.8G (B&H)

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what piece of photo gear had a fundamental impact on your photography?

In tracing my progress as a photographer, I can see how the things I learned from other photographers really helped me – whether through magazines, books, workshops and presentations. Sometimes it’s a dramatic impact;  sometimes it’s just an incremental change; but it is there. And all this has a ripple effect on how I approach photography. Accumulated knowledge, coupled with experience.

In the same way, some photography equipment also had a huge influence on how my style and technique developed.

For example, getting the Canon 580EX speedlite that allowed a full 180 degree swivel movement to either side, had a fundamental impact on how I approached bounce flash photography. Suddenly I was able to get directional  bounce flash. This changed everything for me in terms of my understanding of lighting, and what bouncing on-camera flash, was capable of achieving.

At the time, when I upgraded my camera to the Canon 1D Mark III body, its high-ISO performance allowed me to change my style, and change how I blend flash with available light. The same thing with the progression from the Nikon D3 to D3s – I could shoot successfully in very low light levels. I talked about this in the article on wedding photography – when style, technique & choice of gear converge.

I would say though, that the photography equipment that possibly had the most impact on my style, was the use of large-aperture telephoto zoom lenses. My first such lens was the amazing Pentax 85-210 f/3.5 zoom. A massively large lens, but a beautifully sharp optic. Sadly, it was stolen. That was upgraded then to the Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 ED zoom. Wow. A big wow. Life at f/2.8 instead of f/5.6 or f/4.5

Shooting with wide apertures and long focal lengths, allowed me to be more selective about my backgrounds, and melt them into pleasant colors and shapes. Your subject just pops in the final photograph. A simple technique that gives images a quality that you can’t achieve with smaller aperture lenses.

The model in the photograph is Molly K, who I photographed in the late afternoon in Times Square, using only the available light. My settings: 1/200 @ f3.2 @ 800 ISO
Nikon D4;  Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S VR II (vendor)

 

tell us your story

Tell us what piece of photo gear had the most impact on your photography, or helped change your photography the most?  Tell us why it had the most impact.

A previous contest here on the Tangents blog – best photography tips – had an overwhelming response. So with the kind sponsorship of our good friends at B&H, we had another contest.

The contest has now closed, and a winner has been announced.
See my comment #190

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best photography tips

April 24, 2012

best photography tips

There are numerous tips and ideas in photography that helped me improve as a photographer over the years. This came via magazines and books and other photographers. Many sources.

One of the best tips that helped me develop a style over time – when using a zoom lens, zoom to the longest focal length, and then frame your shot by walking forward or back, to where you have the composition that you want.

Doing so will result in the most compression in the image, helping to isolate my subject against an out-of-focus background. (Of course, using a long lens with a wide aperture makes the difference here.) I touched on this topic with a recent article: composition for full-length portraits – step back!

I would like to hear from other readers of the Tangents blog, what their best or favorite photography tips are.

And we’ll make it a contest for the best entry.
The contest has now closed, and a winner has been announced – check my comment #190

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Vivian Maier exhibition in New York

One of the most interesting stories unfolding in photography in recent years, was the accidental discovery of an incredible body of work by an unknown photographer, Vivian Maier. Incredible in terms of quality and the sheer volume of photographs. If you’re not familiar with the backstory  –  in 2007, John Maloof, a real estate agent in Chicago, who was working on a project documenting the one neighborhood in Chicago, discovered and bought a vast collection of negatives and prints of a completely unknown photographer, Vivian Maier.

What makes this story so interesting, is that Vivian Maier had an eye for street photography on par with the great names in photography. Then there is the fortunate twist to the story, in that the images and negatives landed up in the hands of someone like John Maloof who realized what a treasure he had stumbled upon and took care of this legacy with the attention it needed.

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photo session with the Fuji X100 – camera review

First of all, for those who haven’t heard of the Fuji X100 (vendor) yet, it is a beautiful retro-looking rangefinder-mimicking 12 megapixel digital point & shoot camera (with a fixed 35mm equivalent f2.0 lens), that gives remarkable image quality. That about sums it up.

For all those reasons, quite a buzz developed around this camera. Quite unlike anything since … oh, the Leica X1. Or the Olympus Pen EP-2. Or the Sony NEX-5. There was greater excitement building up around the Fuji X100 though than other cameras, specifically for its looks initially. And then when news hit about the incredible image quality, the excitement and interest became more substantial. It’s a hot item right now, and for good reason.

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