Some Photo News – Sony and Amazon

I don’t do photography news type items here very often. While doing so would give me a higher ranking in search engines and bring more people to the site. but I found that when I was doing it, people would come and look at that one particular item and then leave without looking at anything else. I’m not criticizing them for this – I do the same thing. But the primary purpose of the site is to display my own photos so I’m not going to spend a lot of time and effort on posts that don’t serve that purpose.

That being said, now I’ll contradict myself and post two bits of photography news that I think are worth sharing.

The first bit is Sony’s upcoming RX100 III.

I’m a fan of what Sony is doing with cameras these days. They are one of the few companies that seems to be attempting some degree of innovation in the field. When I bought the Sony RX10, primarily to use as a travel camera, I thought I’d sell off my Sony RX100 (Mark 1, I guess). But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. The camera, for its size, is just so good and so I kept it.  I mean, full manual controls when I wanted them, shoots RAW and fits in my jeans pockets? Just too useful to part with.

The Sony RX100 II came out and I didn’t see enough there to warrant an “upgrade.” A newer sensor, a tilt screen LCD and a hot shoe just didn’t seal the deal for me.

rx100 1

 

Now Sony has announced the “mark 3″ for the RX100 and I’m pretty definitely planning on buying it. While it features the same 20.1 megapixel 1 inch sensor as the “mark 2″ (which is the same sensor that’s in the RX10), there are a number of other notable changes that I think will make it worth spending the money.

The original RX100 has a Zeiss lens that is a 28-100mm equivalent zoom, with maximum aperture starting at F1.8 at the wide end but rapidly shrinking to F4.9 at the tele end.

The new RX100 III has a zoom lens that is only equivalent to 24-70mm. But, and here’s the big thing, it now starts out at F1.8 but at the tele end it’s now F2.8. That’s a huge positive difference for me right there. I can live with less on the tele end if it means I’m getting F2.8 instead of F4.9.

rx100 2

Also notable for me is the addition of a pop-up electronic viewfinder. That will be a big help for me.

The Mark III keeps the tilt screen that was added to the Mark II but loses the Mark II’s hot shoe, not a biggie for me.

This comes out in June at a list price of US$800 (same as the Mark II but $150 more than the Mark I) and I’ll start eating cheaper lunches now.

The second item concerns Amazon. Last week they somehow managed to game the U.S. Patent Office. They patented the idea of placing an object on a table in front of a white cyclorama, placing a light in front of it, and taking a photo of that object. Unless I’ve seriously misunderstood this, what they’ve basically done is to take something every commercial photographer has done for the past 100 years and said, “No one else has patented it, so why don’t we?”

Anyway, Stephen Colbert does a great job of ripping them a new one over this. Click this link and enjoy!

 

 

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This Is Also Hong Kong

When I posted this photo to my timeline on Facebook, one of the comments I got was from someone who said, “What a shame, it’s probably been re-developed by now.” And that means this photo was successful, in my opinion, because it was shot just two weeks ago but I was hoping it would appear timeless. (By the way, this is just a 5 minute walk from my home.)

 

DSC01753-Edit

 

And here’s another shot, I zoomed in a bit when the farmer turned around and saw me.

DSC01755-Edit

Another thing about these pictures is that they were shot with my Sony RX100 (Mark 1). Back when I bought the Sony RX10 I was tempted to sell this camera off and I’m so glad I didn’t.  I don’t think there are many cameras out there that can fit into my jeans pockets that have full manual controls, RAW and can take such nicely detailed shots.  These photos were shot RAW and processed in both Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro.

I love the wide range of adjustments for monochrome that you can do so easily in SEP, both through the various presets/filters and the sliders. Ansel Adams was once quoted saying, roughly, that when someone looks at one of his photos, he wants them to feel what he felt at the moment he took it. That’s a very inspirational thought to me, and when I do go down to monochrome for an image, Silver Efex Pro helps me to easily get the image to match the one I have in my head.

I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the photographic possibilities in my neighborhood because I’ve mostly been concentrating on studio shoots and band shoots, but I’m going to mix things up a bit more as time goes by.

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Robben Ford Photo Gallery Is Up

Legendary guitarist Robben Ford appeared live in concert in Hong Kong at the Sha Tin Town Hall on April 29, 2014.  My photos from the concert can be found here. Here’s one to hopefully whet your appetite to see more.

Robben Ford

 

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Robben Ford, Jeff Beck, Hong Kong

Here’s another of my shots of Robben Ford live in Hong Kong, April 29 2014.

Robben Ford

Robben Ford

 

And just for the hell of it, here’s a couple of never-before posted shots of Jeff Beck live in Hong Kong in 2010.

 

Jeff Beck live in Hong Kong

Jeff Beck live in Hong Kong

Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck

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Robben Ford in Hong Kong // Learning Photoshop

Guitarist Robben Ford appeared at the Sha Tin Town Hall in Hong Kong on April 29th.  Ford is a “guitarist’s guitarist,” a true master of his instrument. He first came to fame as a member of Tom Scott’s L.A. Express in the 1970s, backing up Joni Mitchell and others. I saw him live and became a fan when he was a member of Miles Davis’s band in the 80′s.  It’s kind of indicative of the Hong Kong music scene that Ford just sold out several nights at the Blue Note in Tokyo and then followed that with just a single night in Hong Kong – in an out-of-the-way-for-most venue, no sponsors, and probably only 50% sold out.

To be honest, as much of a fan as I am of Ford’s playing, his music leaves me kind of cold. He had a great band – Ricky Peterson on the Hammond B3, Brian Allen on acoustic and electric bass, Wes Little on drums, fantastic musicians all, and all given plenty of space during the course of the show to stretch out.  But I find Ford to be an average singer and his material rather bland. The solos were great and he talked enough with the audience but I didn’t get any feeling of emotional involvement with what the musicians were playing, nor did I find the show to have any sort of pacing that might lead to a rousing climax. Given the reviews I read of his shows in Tokyo, it could well be that they were feeling dispirited by the meager turn-out in Hong Kong; it’s difficult for me to say.

Anyway, here’s one shot from the show (more to follow):

Robben Ford in Hong Kong

Robben Ford in Hong Kong

Let me veer off from a concert review into a somewhat related topic – learning Photoshop.

I’ve had Photoshop sitting on my computer for a long time. Mostly I load the program and look at all of the tools and palettes and windows and think to myself, “Where do I even start?” It’s daunting to the novice. And there’s so much educational material out there that I couldn’t figure out how to even start learning this program.

And then I came across this video by photographer/instruction Terry White on YouTube. It’s called How to Get Started With Adobe Photoshop CC – 10 Things Beginners Want to Know How To Do.  Catchy title, eh? But this 46 minute video really does show you how to do the ten things photographers might most often want to do, and while the lessons are obviously going to be brief, they are good enough to get you started.

The point being, once I stopped crying “Photoshop is hard, I can never learn it” and actually sat down and started using it, I found that I could pick up the basic stuff easily. Becoming a master at Photoshop – that’s something else, that will take weeks and months of actual usage. But for the first time, I actually feel as if it is something I can – and will – accomplish.

So I started off with something a bit simpler – this photo in which I liked keeping his vintage-looking Fender amp in the photo.

SHS_1974-2

But that bit of the mike stand in the upper right is annoying, right? Of course, taking out a small thing like that, against a black background, is super easy to do.

SHS_1974

I wanted to challenge myself a bit more.

So, back to the first photo in this blog poast.  Here’s a tiny bit of my workflow on that photo, starting with the original photo.

 

SHS_2071-2

This was shot with my Nikon D800 and my Nikon 70-200mm F2.8 lens at 130mm, 6400 ISO, 1/200th of a second, F2.8.  Of course I’m shooting RAW, and here’s the original photo, unretouched except for exporting out of Lightroom as a jpeg.

I was shooting with white balance set to auto, as I almost always do, but that’s pretty easy to correct in Lightroom when you’re shooting RAW. And then I crop pretty ruthlessly, as I tend to do. A few more adjustments here and there left me with this:

SHS_2071

Now the “old me” would consider that photo as finished.  But I looked at it and found the blue band on the right hand side distracting.  With my newly acquired Photoshop skills, it was a simple matter to get rid of that. Simple, except that there are about 20 different ways to do each common task in Photoshop and different people have different paths to similar results. So in my case I tried 2 or 3 different things – finally settling on something that would also allow me to get rid of those distracting green water bottles in the bottom left of the photo.

The key was in figuring out how to properly use the Quick Selection Tool.  But what I didn’t know about until this week was that after one has gotten the selection one wants, there’s that little button up top labelled “Refine Edge” – and that’s where the magic comes in.

Oh, by the way, a lot of stuff in Photoshop gets easier when you are doing things with a tablet and pen rather that with a mouse. The medium size Wacom Intuos tablet costs around US$200, is incredibly quick and easy to set up and just gives you so much better control when you’re doing things. I highly recommend it.

I’m not convinced this was my best shot of the night, but it was definitely one that gave me room to stretch and improve my post-processing skills. I’ll be going through the rest of the shots in the next few days and will add a gallery page soon.

 

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