Clicking with Cyrielle- The Importance of Perseverance

Hi gang,

Had a lovely shoot with the amazing Cyrielle a while ago. We had a shoot a little less than a year ago and the resulting images where great, so Cyrielle contacted me again and we started exchanging some ideas, mood boards and such as to what we wanted to obtain.

Cyrielle is a stylist and a model, and as the concept of the shoot was fairly basic there was no need for an external stylist. The concept of the shoot was a very cute, sexy, lingerie-ish shoot. As I said, we already had worked together so we both knew each others style, tempo and abilities. We tried working around our schedules, which wasn’t easy and due to a couple of reschedulings we found ourselves the day before without a make up artist. I usually work with the usual make up artists but none of them were available at that moment. When the time came to do it or cancel the shoot, we decided to just go ahead with it and gun it.

Great images can result from a shoot where it’s only you and the model. It doesn’t always have to be a big team with a lot of pressure. Most of this shoot was spent talking and devising poses, outfits, image styles and what not. The great thing about having no expectations is that you can’t be dissapointed right?

So we gunned it, she did her own basic make up. We wanted to keep it light, since that was the theme of the shoot so the make up wasn’t that extensive. Some foundation, basic concealer and a little bit of mascara.

We started shooting and quickly realized that this would be turning out great. A good team of make up artists, stylists, assistants is a big plus to your shoot, but that doesn’t mean you can only do these shoots if you’ve got everyone on board. Sometimes you can just go with the flow, and it can result in great pictures.

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This one was shot with a single trusty beautydish overhead to the left.

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Here we combined day and artificial light. Cyrielle was standing in front of a huge window with a white curtain. Spot measuring allowed to flood her with soft midday light, as a beautydish in front provided the fill.

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Here, the only lightsource was an octabank low to the left.

Most of the images where shot on either the Nikon 85mm or the Nikon 80-200 f/2.8. I shot this shoot the day I got the Fuji X100 on which I just did a blogpost. Absolutely wanted to try it out and here’s what I found. Unsurprisingly, it’s not a studio portrait camera. The X100 has a fixed focal length of 35mm which is too wide for portraits. If you are too close to your subject, the face will be all distorted. However, Fuji’s color rendition of skin and colors is legend. So is the rendition of those things on the X100 so the images are of great quality. It does have a future for environmental portraiture, where you need to take some distance from your subject to incorporate the scenery or the environment. The 35mm allows you to do just that, and the image quality of X100 is perfect for that.

All in all, when in doubt, always shoot. Doesn’t matter if one of team didn’t show up. Sure it can be a pain in the ass, but work around it. If you’re a pro, it’ll happen more than once and you can’t just drop everything and tell everyone to go home. You persevere. You push on. And if you’re lucky, something good will come out.

More to come,

Cheers,

MM

Fuji changes the game : The X100, X-Pro 1 & X100S

24? 35? 50? 18-200? 55-200? 105? 70-200? 180? X – Infinity? No more of that. For the last 10 years, ever since the dawn of (digital) photography, manufacturers and consumers have strived to sell/buy more gear, sometimes almost identical except for a couple of minor improvements.
“Hmm, I have a 55-200 but they just came out with the 55-200 VR and for a mere 250$ I can have that! My pictures are BOUND to be astronomically better right? Right? It’s newer so it MUST be better right? I don’t really need it but that’s OK, because my pictures will be better right?”

The X100 captures colors and details perfectly, even in challenging light situations

It all got a little too hectic. You know it all gets a little bit too hectic when specific diseases are being invented for photography-related symptoms : GAS. Gear Acquisition Syndrome. The pathology was that irreversible, endless need to buy new gear in the vain hope that it would dramatically improve your photography. That monkey in your brain telling you ‘buy this, buy that’ Who cares you don’t need it. It’s better, better I tell ya!” The cure? Simplification. The pharmaceutical company? Fuji.

Then Fuji came along. Before that there were the micro 4/3rd cameras. The idea was good, the execution not so much. Picture quality or image quality is decided by a number of factors, but one of the biggest factors is the sensor size. The idea of a mirrorless, interchangeable lens system in a small body was good, but the fact that they still used those tiny sensors really ruined the image quality.

Fuji noticed this, and intelligently avoided this trap when they were designing the X100, X-Pro 1 and X100S. The X100 features a APS-C sized sensor (that’s right, the same sensor size as in the professional Nikon D300S and such) and the X-Pro1 and X100S also have an APS-C sized sensor, though another one than the X100. That’s right, you read that right. You have (potential) DSLR quality in a tiny body. Why is this important? For street photography it is crucial, but not only that.

The sensor has no problems with straight and intersecting lines

The sensor has no problems with straight and intersecting lines

For decades Leica had been the unquestioned champion of photojournalism and street photography. Their classic, timeless designs and image quality were legend. Every self-respecting photographer had a Leica M-body and a 35mm f/2 lens. It allowed you to capture life without intruding.

Then the (d)Slr made it appearance. Through-The-Lens viewing was interesting, as it avoided the problems created by parallax, and it was literally ‘what you see is what you get’, which made photography easier. Lenses and accessories started sprouting like mushrooms. Minds became clouded. Which lens to take? Ah, the 35mm f/2 is sharp as a tack, but what if my subject is too far?  I don’t want to walk all that way! Are ya crazy? I’ll take the 55-200. Or no, wait, the 50mm. that’s also sharp. Hmm same conundrum.

Details are crisp across the image, even at f/4

Details are crisp across the image, even at f/4

And so people often went out shooting with 3 lenses, a battery grip, a huge bag, without ever being sure of getting a single decent shot.

Cartier-Bresson said it best :

Il faut etre receptif. Quand on veut, on n’obtient rien, il ne faut pas vouloir

You must be receptive.  When you want, you’ll obtain nothing. You just have to record life as it unfolds before you. And that’s something you can’t do when your mind is filled with noise. Which lens to use? Which aperture? Flash or not? Djeez this bag is getting heavy, maybe i should go home, i’ll try tomorrow.

Your mind is cluttered with noise, and as Zack Arias tells it, it should be filled with signal. Back to basics. Back to essentials. You, your eyes & mind and a device to record what you see. Doesn’t matter which device, as long as it serves its purpose. A camera with 3 lenses in a bag but none on the body won’t record it as well as one camera with a fixed lens. All the great photographers knew and know this. Ernst Haas famously said this. He once had two ladies in one of his workshops. Both ladies were arguing over which of their Leica was the better one. Haas, a longtime user of Leica, burst out saying these famous words : “Leica, schmeica. The camera doesn’t make a bit of difference. All of them can record what you are seeing. But you have to see” 

And that’s what signal is all about. Seeing.

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A large sensor means good ISO performance. The X100 performs amazingly.

Fuji got this. So they introduced the X100 & X100S. Tiny, beautiful body, fixed 35mm f/2 lens. It was made to be shot on the streets. It’s tiny, discreet and silent. You can’t fumble around and you aren’t distracted by different lenses, and whatnot. You focus on shooting. This thing is deadly silent. I’ve stood a meter away from people and shot them without them even noticing. And even if they notice, they mostly don’t care. Why? Because it’s not as menacing as a dSlr. You don’t have a big camera and lens staring down your face as a subject. That intimidates people, it does. I’ve noticed it during my street shooting. You literally see them thinking “What the hell is that guy doing? Why does he need my picture? He’s got professional equipment, he must work for some P.I company, or worse – the government.” It puts up a barrier between you and your subjects. Subjects are always best for photographs when they are at ease. Same thing for street photography. It really does make a difference.

First, the basics and the looks : It looks incredible. Fuji definitely borrowed a page from Leica’s M-cameras for the design, but who cares. Every dslr looks alike due to design requirements. Glad to finally see a more affordable camera with a nice design. It’s retro, it’s all metal/aluminum so you know it’s solid. The optional leather housing for the camera (LX-100 I believe) is gorgeous and really complements the camera. That brown leather just increases the camera’s beauty. It’s outrageously priced (150€ I believe) but you’ll find lower quality knockoffs on the internet if you’re into that. The stitching, material and overall quality of the Fuji case is pristine however. If you can spare the bucks, buy it. The top buttons, knobs and aperture ring are also made of this same metal. The clicks occur smoothly when you switch them, it’s a delight. The back however, isn’t as great. The buttons are relatively small. I have narrow fingers so it’s not really a problem for me, but I can easily imagine someone with fatter fingers having problems pressing the OK button.

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No mirror means no vibration. This was handheld at 1/17th of a second and it’s tack sharp. 1/17th!

This also leads us to one of the major drawbacks of this camera (because like every other camera in the world, it’s not a perfect camera. That doesn’t exist) : the menu is not well engineered. It’s illogical, you’ve only got 2 tabs and 4-6 pages of menu in each tab so changing a setting is highly frustrating. They partially fixed that with the X100S that has the convenient ‘Q’ button where the X100 has a ‘RAW’ button. This allows quick access to all major menu functions in the X100S. We can only hope that Fuji will put that function on the RAW button with a next firmware update (update : they did).

Next: autofocus. The first firmware that shipped with the X100 was a disaster. Autofocus was the most frustrating thing in the world. Today we’re at Firmware 1.30 and things have greatly improved (update : FW 2.0 and it’s amazing). Unlike other brands, Fuji keeps updating this thing, which is amazing. They don’t sell you something and then never improve it. Now, this is a rangefinder-like camera, so you’ve got multiple options for autofocus.
You’ve got the amazing Hybrid Optical Viewfinder. This thing is the bomb. When I look through the viewfinder of my dslr I can’t help but cringe. So basic. So old. The hybrid viewfinder is amazing. It combines an optical viewfinder with real-time superimposed information like an electronic level. After you snap a pic, you immediately get a preview in the viewfinder. No more looking back and forth with your back LCD. I swear, this is the feature that has made me hate my dslr most. They improved the screen of the viewfinder in de X100S I’ve heard. Some still say it’s slow, I haven’t seen this as a problem. Evidently it’s not as fast as a dslr, but that’s normal. For the street shooting I do, it’s fast enough. Who knows, Fuji will improve it even further in firmware 1.40. Time will tell.

Image Quality : This is where the X100 really shines. The image quality is superb. The colors are rendered beautifully and accurately. Fuji used to make film, so they know what they’re doing. It just works. That translates into gorgeous in-camera JPEG’s. I still shoot RAW because in the end I want maximum control over my image, but I was blown away by the JPEG’s this camera produces. They are by far the best I’ve seen lately coming out of any camera. Even the D800.

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Noise-wise the X100 and X100S are no slouches. I usually set it to auto-ISO with a max of 800/1600 and minimum shutter speed of 1/60th. The fact that this is a mirrorless camera means I can get super sharp snaps at 1/60th. At 800 ISO the noise is irrelevant. at 1600 you’ll see it, and at 3200 it’ll be annoying but usuable. I’d rather have a grainy picture than a blurry one. As living legend Jay Maisel says on using low ISO’s : Your pixels will be fine, but your picture won’t! Make your choices, place your bets.

The only thing that annoys me profoundly and that hasn’t gotten better with the firmware updates is the battery life. It is horrible. You’ll get 300 shots tops out of the camera. The battery meter is equally horrible. A battery icon with 3 little stripes. When the 3 are lit, battery is anywhere between 100% and 50% of battery power. That is a HUGE difference. 2 bars lit, and you’re below 50%, 1 bar lit and you’re f$cked. Come on, don’t tell me you can’t make it any more accurate. Maybe not to the 1% accurate like Nikon, but at least put 5 bars or something. In any way, don’t use 1 bar to represent 50%, that’s just bonkers.
The upside to this is that Fuji uses the NP-95 battery that is NOT exclusive to this camera. It’s been out there for quite a while, so substitutes are cheap and plenty. For a day’s shooting (leaving the camera on) I recommend packing 2-3 batteries. They’re tiny, so no biggy.

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Geometry is everything

All in all this is a fan-tastic camera.
Is it perfect? No. Neither is the Nikon D3, D800, D4, Dwhatever. The perfect camera is a myth, like the coveted life-elixir. It can’t be built. Not now, not never because in the end it’s subjective to every shooter’s wishes and demands.
Is it for everybody? No, this camera takes getting used to. The viewfinders are quite different from what everyone’s accustomed to. Parallax will be new to a lot of users, and you have to learn how to ‘see’ the way the camera does. Once you learn how to see like the camera however, the images you’ll get will blow you away. This tiny package really, really delivers.

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Is it the perfect camera for street photography? Given the current state of things and available cameras I’d say it’s the closest camera to get there. It does away with the noise, and gives you signal. It’s tiny so you can take it anywhere. The best camera is the one that’s with you. It’s the one that enables you to record life as it unfolds before you. It enables you  to be discreet, to not intimidate people. It doesn’t set you back 10,000$ like a Leica.

Happy shooting

The Power of Profoto

Hi gang,

Here I am with a quick tip, not all of you might know about. There is an incredible wealth of knowledge to be learnt from
promotional videos. It might seem stupid, but it’s quite true.

Modern day companies that produce equipment for people who are very tech-savy know they have to jump on the social media/online video bandwagon. In our category of photographeres there are a lot of companies that have made that jump, and some even in a brilliant fashion.

I’m quite the YouTube addict, and I’m subscribed to at least 30 channels. The vast majority of those channels are channels created by aforementioned companies. They upload behind-the-scenes of shoots done using their equipment, hints and tips, complete user manuals for new software (ahum, PhaseOne!) and so on.

Dissecting those videos can be hugely informative. I’ll giva an example.

Profoto’s latest commercial for their new line of Rfi softboxes contains 3 frames that illustrate perfectly the effect of putting 3 softboxes very close to the model’s face in order to create a wrap-around effect. It’s only a second in the commercial, but there is a huge wealth of knowledge and data to be gained after analyzing said second.

These are all screenshots from the 1080p video. (Yes, they even upload it in HD)

One softbox, left eye

One softbox, left eye

With this frame, ProFoto illustrates the effect of a single softbox on the left side of the model. Look for the catchlights in the eyes, they’ll (usually) tell you 95% of what you need to know lighting-wise.

Second softbox added to the right

Second softbox added to the right

Here’s how it looks when you add a second softbox to the right at the same power output.

profoto3And finally, here’s what happens when you add a third softbox down and below the model.

I don’t know how you guys feel about this, but this is incredible informative to me. You get to see the direct results of adding a modifier, and remember all of this is free information. You can immediately see the huge difference the use of modifiers does.

The Profoto RFI commercial contains a few other light setups and is definitely worth checking out.

My hat goes off for the fine folks at Profoto and the other companies who spend money and time making these instructional videos.

Another champion of the social media/YouTube scene is PhaseOne. They have continued their effort to provide free, instructional videos about their products. These video’s, and there are really a ton of them go far beyond the simple sales pitch. I mean, If you’re looking at a 10 minute video on how to adjust your panel alignment, you’ve already bought their product. Most companies would stop caring about you as a consumer right at that moment. Not PhaseOne. They regularly upload new videos showcasing new features their updated software provides.

To me, a company who provides that amount of ‘after-purchase’ support is a company dedicated to it’s purpose. They are a passionate team, and they are worth my money. I much prefer investing in a product that has a strong user base behind it, and a strong team of professionals who make the software but is a little bit more expensive, than to go for the software that’s a little bit cheaper, but hasn’t any type of support.

Adobe falls in the same category as PhaseOne regarding this, Julieanne Kost and her team upload videos on a regular basis filled with instructional goodness. The times we live in are truely amazing. It might sound cheesy, especially coming from someone my age, but it’s quite true. You would’ve needed to go to a couple of classes to learn all this stuff about e.g. CaptureOne Pro 7 or Lightroom. Now, you can learn all of this, in the comfort of your own home, and at your own pace. Amazing times indeed.

Below is a list of YouTube channels I highly recommend. They’re a mixture of behind-the-scenes videos, instructional videos and all kinds of other stuff as well. I’m also going to start a new rubrique on the blog where i occassionally disect a whole BTS video and point out the stuff you can learn from it!

http://www.youtube.com/user/AdobeLightroom

http://www.youtube.com/user/PhaseOneDK

http://www.youtube.com/user/broncolorworld

http://www.youtube.com/user/HasselbladAS

http://www.youtube.com/user/ProfotoGlobal

http://www.youtube.com/user/sekonicvids

http://www.youtube.com/user/profotovids

To me, personally, PhaseOne, Adobe and Profoto’s channels take the cake. They are definitely worth checking out.

Another channel I’m religiously subscribed to is DigitalRev. If you haven’t heard of them, or Kai Wong, you’ve been living under a photographic rock. This quirkly team uploads almost every other day a review of some kind of gear. Do note, I take the word ‘review’ in a very liberal sense. It’s not really an in-depth review, it’s more of a ‘other side’ review. Absurd comparisons, long and endless words are often used to describe an object in a sarcastic manner. It’s hilarious. These guys are being called the TopGear (British TG evidently, American TG is just shameful) of Photography.

And of course, don’t forget to follow my YouTube channel. We’re going to start uploading some serious BTS content after the holiday season.

http://www.youtube.com/user/morganmoller

Cheers!

M

The Portrait Sessions : Marques Toliver

Hi gang,

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Had a lot of shoots, some portraiture, some modelling, some uncategorized!

First of all, finally had a chance to shoot Marques Toliver. If you haven’t heard of him, you’re a fool. Look him up on Spotify or something.

Marques' Ghost

He’s a ridiculously talented singer, musician and performer. Originally from New York where he spent a lot of time busking in the streets, he quickly made it to London and the rest of the world. He often performs with Lianne La Havas, another really talented singer you might have just heard of.

We got in touch through a mutual friend, Youri Luyten who is a design intern at Love is the Law Magazine. A new magazine, by the hand of Tom Minor that celebrates the sensuous in art, literature and life. Marques needed some promotional images, press kit stuff. A great portrait session in other words.

We quickly established what was needed during a pre-production meeting and set a date.

Marques is an incredibly kind person, that knows what he wants.

We started of with some basic portraits, perfect for warming up. No matter how skilled either party is, there is always a warming up period. You could be Annie Leibovitz and George Clooney (how many times have they teamed up for portraits? A hundred times perhaps?) there will always be that ice to break. Seeing what you get.

First portait is lit with 2 lights. Rented the Profoto 7b for this here in Antwerp at Calumet. 2 1200W/s heads. One Beauty dish and one Softbox. White background. Lights blasting at low level of power, no light on Marques. This creates this awesome silhouette that you see. Image was captured on a Nikon D3X. Amazing camera, incredible files. It’s not as good as the D3S in terms of noise performance at high ISO’s but it delivers 24MP RAW’s, which is double the size of the D3S’. Perfect for promotional material, you never know in which format those things are going to be used (albums, posters, …). I’m curious to see how the D3X holds up to the D800. DxO Mark sets the D800E as the best camera available in terms of dynamic range, EV, etc… Even higher than the highly-coveted PhaseOne IQ180. Crazy right? I’ve got a shoot coming up where I’ll be shooting the D800E and i’ll post the results after on this blog.

A Violinist's Soul

Next we decided to switch it up a bit. Lit with a the Profoto beautydish (or as they call it the Softlight Reflector Silver) We used the Silver one, because it creates a more dramatic skin texture, which is great for men. If you’re shooting women or beauty images, go with the white one. It’ll give you a very smooth light. It was positioned on the high left of Marques. No diffusion cloth on, and no grid. You can clearly see the highlight on his head. Usually this is to be avoided, but we decided that the complexion of his skin allowed for such a ‘blown out’ effect, and loved the results so we kept rocking this set up for a while. There is also a softbox at his right providing the fill. Used the standard 4×6. It’s perfect for adding a simple fill to someone, you can easily light a whole person with it. It’s just a standard softbox, but still.

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Same setup, only now I gridded the beautydish for a much more focused, thight beam of light. You can see there’s less much spill on the sides, and the face is much more defined by the constrained light. The fill-light softbox was scaled down to it’s lowest output setting.

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Once again, the same beautydish setup. I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s the shadows and harshness a BD provides but it is by far my favorite lighting instrument. Also placed a light behind Marques on the floor, to light the background evenly. You can clearly see the effect of the beautydish on his face now, the lights falls off so quickly!

Marques' Complexion

Marques-089

Marques-086

These are perhaps my favourite ones. Once again, the gridded beautydish. Friggin’ LOVE that light diffuser. On the first one, it was the only lightsource. We killed all the other lights (We had some Nikon Speedlights provide a tiny bit of light here and there, nothing major) and the effect it gave was just amazing. His facial expressions in these 3 shots are just amazing as well, very powerful yet understated. This is portraiture at his best in my opinion. When you’re able to convey so many emotions into one still frame, you’ve succeeded on both ends. This is why photography is such a powerful medium. It’s unparalleled for this kind of sessions.

Here’s a lighting scheme for the basic setup.

Light Scheme

I also shot with a Mamiya 645 Pro TL. Shot rolls of Kodak Tri-X 400 & Kodak T-Max 100 . Lovely stuff, really digging the imperfections of film. Ordered a case of Tri-X & Tmax. Really believe it’s going to be revived big time. Digital has become kind of boring to me, it’s too perfect. It’s flawless if you know how to work your equipment and lights. That’s also why here we decided to go for harsh, blown out looks that normally would not be ‘acceptable’. Follow your vision, it’s endlessly more important than gear! Some of my favorite shots were shot on & 15-year old Mamiya!

The 7b-1200 performed wonderfully well. It was the first time using Profoto gear, but I know now why I’ll rent them in the future. Incredibly fast recycle time, reliable color stability, great light and durability. It’s not their latest pack (Their flagship pack is the 8a I think) but it was still quite an amazing step up from any other brand. Didn’t get a chance to play with the Air Remote as this was shot using a sync cable, but I hear amazing things of it. Maybe in the future. Just glad I finally got to work on such important portraits using them!

If you want to check out Marques Toliver on Spotify, just follow this link!

Marques Toliver – Magic Look

He also did an awesome song with producer/DJ Compufonic that you can check out here!

Anyway, now it’s family time. Time to look back, enjoy and stare at a spider-infested fire hazard filled with lights 🙂

I wish every single one of my readers a fantastic newyear, and merry christmas!

Cheers!,

MM

MM

M

Back from the Cape!

Hi gang,
Writing this from the lobby of the airport here in Cape Town, South Africa. Spent an amazing 2 weeks here with family and friends at the Cape. About to board a 12-hour flight back home. Flew trusty British Airways. Always wondered what the pilots do during 12-hour flights during which you have 4-hour straight ahead lines. One of my best friends is a pilot, he keeps claiming to always be busy during those hours. We agree to disagree 🙂
Travelled light for this trip. 1 body , 3 lenses, lot’s of memory cards, batteries and a tripod. Shot the D300s for the video capabilities & highly-coveted DX-reach during travel photography.

Table mountain, as seen from Signal Hill. Nikon d300s, Sandisk Digital Film, Sigma 10-20mm @ f/8.0

Shot a lot of street photography here. Streets are filled with amazing, interesting people. I keep finding people a bit boring in Antwerp lately. They’re al such comformists. They (almost) all dress alike, in the same style. People in Africa are way more extravagant. Exhuberant. They all dress in colour. It’s like moving through a lifelike painting. The canvas is surreal. That’s why I love heading out to Paris for a few days a couple of times per trimester.
Brought 3 lenses with me : the Nikon AF-S 18-105 VR f/3.5-5.6 for street photography. It’s not a very fast lens, but it’s sharp and since I’m in auto-ISO when doing street photography, doesn’t really matter. Like the 18-105 more than the 18-70 for the reach and sharpness. Opinions differ, but that’s my POV. Also brought the Sigma 10-20mm with me. This badboy is THE go-to lens when you’re going to step in building and such. Churches look surreal with this baby. The colors are amazing, and it’s sharp. After 7 years of lugging it all over the world, including the sandy beaches of Thailand, the wet lagoons of Vietnam, the moisty fields of Cambodia and such, it’s starting to show it, but I consider it like a soldier’s rifle. You want it to be dented and scratched. The markings of war.
Last, but not least : the Nikon 80-200 AF-D f/2.8. Wonderful lens. Don’t own the 70-200, but used it and optically they’re almost alike. This is not the lightest of lenses to carry around, but I didn’t mind. In my Lowepro backpack it didn’t bother, and shooting wildlife at f/2.8 gives that wonderfully, creamy bokeh that makes all the effort worthwhile.
Shot some timelapses as well during my stay at Knysna. Slept in beautiful lodges owned by Made, a person really trying to make a difference here in South Africa. She gets her water from her own borehole and purifies it ecologically. The lodges have this amazing view over the lagoon at Knysna.
Tripod is indispensable here. It’s a no-go territory if you haven’t brought one. Get a carbon tripod, they’re ultralight. Shot in Aperture priority mode, f/8 for sharpness and using the amazing intervalometer built-in the D300s and other higher end Nikon models.
A 12-hour long flight gives you time to get stuff done. Watched 2 docu’s about Cartier-Bresson, one of the masters of (35mm) street photography. Amazing that all these masters (HCB, Ernst Haas, Jay Maisel,…) share the same point of view concerning gear. They don’t give a crap about what gear they’re shooting. It’s all about vision. I’m preaching this as well. The sooner you detach yourself from the illusion that better gear will give you better images, your photography will improve.
Love Haas’ quote about Leica’s.
Leica schmeica. Any camera could’ve captured that image. What counts is to learn how to see
He said that to two women that attended his workshop and couldn’t stop preaching about the qualities of their respective cameras. Eventually Haas (who knew Leica very well) burst out whilst looking over their portfolios.
Gear is good. Vision is better. Repeat 100x times, then restart.
Passed through the ‘Seweweeksepoort’ in the main land. Translated that’s ‘7-week pass’. A route that carves through the deep mountains of the mainland. It’s called like that because it used to take up to 7 weeks to cross that patch. It’s hellish. There is a saying here that you can’t pass through it without having at least one flat tire due to the sharpness of the rocks that are the untarred road. We didn’t have one thankfully. The ‘Seweweeksepoort’ is a dead zone. The whole route feels like that disaster movie when the annoying character (who is about to die a horrible death) checks his cell and the cell reads ‘No Service’.
Beautiful landscapes though. Amazing rocks.
Also visited some wineries. South Africa has a huge cultural wine-heritage. Dutch settlers came here with French vines in the 1600’s and the fruit of their labor is delicious. Amazing estates, beyond belief. I’ve visited some wineries in my life, but the geographical extend of the South African estates is unbelievable. Huge would be understating it.
Also ran into some traffic jams whilst being down here. Although not the same you’d encounter anywhere else in the world…
All in all, Amazing place, amazing trip. Really recommended!
More soon!
Cheers,
MM

The most important 50$ you’ll spend as a photographer.

Hi gang,

This a post inspired by real life events. I’m amazed as to how this is still happening regularly in 2012. It’s the friggin’ cloud storage age for chrissake!

Yesterday a post popped up in my facebook news feed about a friend of mine whose drives failed due to an electrical peak. His whole workstation was fried within seconds.  His photographic career of the last 2 years vanished, within seconds.

The digital age brought us a lot of good stuff. High ISO, The ability to take 1000 pictures with 1 memory card instead of  a mountain of filmrolls, but it also brought a vulnerability in the game. As digital tog’s your whole body of work is stored on these little flimsy drives. Things that are known to fail. They do. It’s not a matter of ‘if’, it’s a matter of when.

Backup is crucial. Before you go spend another dime on a kick-ass lens, or flash, think about the most important piece of kit in your world. Your drives. Redundancy is key. There are a shitload of different backup software suites available out there. It can be quite overwhelming, it really can. I took quite some time analyzing every software, compare it with my needs, and see what stuck to the wall.

Finally came out at Genie9 Timeline Pro 2012. These guys know what they’re doing. If the like of Columbia University, Philips and Old Mutual rely on you for the whole of their international backup solutions, you know you’re doing something right.

Again, this might not be THE best software solution in the world, but it certainly works for me. It’s brilliant because it doesn’t require me to do anything. I’m human, I sometimes forget if I backup up this and that file, and when the shit hits the fan, I want no doubt possible.

Genie Timeline Pro 2012 is a piece of cake to set up. You can choose between two ways of operating. You can either let Genie backup your files by ‘category’ which means you can let it backup all audio, video, flash, whatever files. It’ll scan your computer, and every file that responds to the call will be backed up.

You can tell Genie to backup all audio, video or whatever files by category

You can also specify certain directories to monitor, and backup. This is where I live. The file structure on my workstation is so that There are 3 main folders (Photo, Video & Software). Each file folder contains all the jobs I did in substructure directories. Genie will then backup all those files for the first time. This will take a while at first, but all backups do.

But here the brilliance comes in for photographers. The main problem I was facing was that if I worked on a job afterwards again, the .xmp’s would’ve changed, I had to go and select the files I worked on, back up those .xmp’s and so on. It’s endless, and it leaves a great margin for error.

Once the inital backup is done, EVERY time a single file (as in e.g. an .xmp) is changed even slightly, Genie records that is has been changed, and once that filed is saved (after you are done working on it) Genie will automatically back it up. It monitors the folders you’ve chosed constantly to see if anything changed.

If disaster strikes, and a drive crashes, you just ‘restore’ it from timeline. Now, even though it’s a fantastic piece of software, it’s not capable of magic. Here is where redundancy comes in. If you have 1 backup drive and that drive fails, Genie is not going to be able to restore the files out of thin air. For the sake of example, I’ll give my backup strategy.

My workstation has 5 drives in it. I’ve got 1 boot drive SSD that only stores my operating system. Then I’ve got one 1TB drive that contains my working files, this is everything unrelated to photography, spotify cache etc… Nothing important. Then I’ve got one 3TB drive that contains all my photos. I Have two 3 TB drives that serve as a RAID 1 backup of the main drive containing the photos. Externally, there  is a LaCie 3x2TB Quadra NAS that has mirrors of the 2 backup drives in the workstation. This is unplugged each night (to avoid having an electrical surge blowing the whole thing up). Genie mirrors the content of the first 3TB HD onto the 2 internal backup drives, and onto the Lacie external drive.

This means that at any given time I’ve got 4 copies of a file. The chance of 1 drive failing is high. The chance of all drives failing at once is next to nihil,so I can sleep on both my ears.

What’s even cooler is that Genie9 have developped an iOs app that lets you monitor your backup situation from a distance, from you iPhone or iPad. Again, they didn’t NEED to do this, but they went the extra mile and it sure feels better.

The iPad app let’s you see how you are backed up

The final thing I’d like to touch on is price. Photography is expensive. Lenses can cost up to 1000’s of dollars, so we don’t wanna splurge on backup software. Well the good news is that this isn’t expensive. The Pro version will set you back a whopping 50$. Seriously, it must be one of the cheapest software suites capable of doing what it does for that price.

Note : I am in no way sponsored by Genie9. I just think it’s a fantastic piece of software, and it should be known!

EDIT : At the request of a couple of tweets, here’s an update to this post. I got a few questions on what my folder structure was like with my whole body of work. I’ve included a screenshot that should help :

As you can see my main folder with my body of work is called ‘MORGAN’. Here’s where I keep everything pro in. The main folder is subdivided into 3 project categories : Photography, Videography & Retouching. In the photography folder everything is classified by GENRE e.g. portraiture, fashion, … Then the GENRE – folder is subdivided in categories according to project name/publication. That folder is subdivided into a temporal folder e.g. November 2012. After that there’s the final subdivision with the name of the specific project.

Each project folder also contains a number of subfolders. In each folder you’ll always find 3 folders : RAW+XML, PSD, JPG. These are pretty self-explanatory. The RAW’s contain the raw footage, that has not been altered (all my RAW alterations are stored in separate XML files that are kept alongside the RAW. That way my negatives are always clean.) There’s a folder with PSD’s. That’s a folder containing all the PSD from retouching photos that needed Photoshop. These are usually large files (500mb – 2gb) that are best kept separately. The JPG folder is the folder where the exported files are kept.

According to the job, I might shoot some video files and / or film. By film I mean analog film. If I’m shooting multiple types of film I’ll keep them grouped in folders by film type. e.g. Kodak Tri-X 400, Kodak Portra 800, and so on.

This is basically my organisational method. Some might find it overkill, but it works for me.

Genie TimeLine Pro will duplicate my main storage folder WITH this structure onto at least 3 drives at all times so I’m always safe from harm!

Cheers,

(don’t be the dumbass caught with his pants down his ankles and has no backup)

Will someone stop this Gear Acquisition Syndrome-madness?

 

I’m warning all of you : this post is going to be a rant on the current climate in the gear-industry

So if you’re still reading, I hope you’ll enjoy this. This whole post came about because of the fact I talked a friend of mine not long ago out of buying a newer camera. This friend was shooting a Nikon D40x. A nice a simple 10 Megapixel camera. Basically everything you could need if all you shoot are occasional stuff at home, a birthday party, you know everyday stuff like a lot of people.

She wrote me an email asking my advice on her upgrade possibility. She wanted to upgrade to the recently released Nikon D3200. The D3200 to me, embodies everything that’s currently going wrong with the photo-gear industry but more on that later.
So my friend asked me what I thought of it. First of all, I replied by asking her what camera she was currently using (I didn’t know at the time she was shooting a D40X) , what she shot 90% of the time and what she wanted to upgrade to.

She replied that she shot what most people shoot most of the time : the occasional party, her dog when it was acting funny, the occasional landscape, and general pictures while on holiday. Nothing professionally, special, just everyday stuff. She also told me she had set her eye on the D3200.

I replied by asking her ‘Well, why do you feel the need to upgrade? Are you unsatisfied with the camera now? What’s so good about the D3200 that makes you want to switch?”

More after the jump

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Stepping Outside the Comfort Zone // Breathe The Sound

Sometimes you just gotta step outside of your comfort zone!

Last week, I was approached by a friend of mine who started her own radio station. I think it’s an amazing thing to pull of and she puts so much effort in it that it needs to be supported.

She asked me if I could fill in to shoot their monthly concerts since their usual photographer couldn’t make it. I was happy to be able to help her!

Now, I’ve only shot one other band, Leningrad and if I’m perfectly honest, this isn’t my favorite type of photography. It just isn’t, I think it’s the lack of control you have as a photographer that troubles me. I don’t know. I am however completely into indie-music, and when she told me Breathe The Sound came I was game!

Breathe The Sound is a relatively new group, and very fresh. They have an amazing sound, check ’em out on Spotify!

Most of the times, when you’re shooting bands you’re going to have light problems. These types of venues are often badly lit in terms of light output power.

I shot the whole gig with my 85 f/1.8 & 24 f/2.8.

Cheers!

Black & White

I love black & white. It might sound like a stupid thing to say, but it’s very true. I’d probably shoot everything in B&W if I could. It’s timeless. It’s sensual. It’s captivating. It’s forgiving. It’s classy & classic.

I’ve recently started to collaborate with talented stylist Coralie. She models as well and she’s a real crack at it. I moved into my studio a few weeks back and had the first shoots there about a weer or so ago. Loving it. Having a space for yourself where you can be creative, leave your gear, drop in at any time is amazing.

For the first shoot we wanted to do something indian-themed. Having all that detail in feathers and accessories is amazing and we figured it would make for something nice. We weren’t dissapointed. The main light on the shot above is a gridded beautydish (gotta love the contrast it creates) and a softbox for fill light.

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So I switched to BlackBerry…

Hi guys,
Here comes a totally unrelated post, but had to get it of my chest.

I’ve always secretely been drawn towards BlackBerry. I don’t know what it is, maybe the keyboard, maybe the overall looks, it’s just been there. However, for the last couple of years, I was an iPhone-hipster. Until recently.

On New Year’s Eve, my iPhone was stolen from my jacket. Nothing too bad, did a remote wipe and that was that. However I needed a new phone. I like gadgets, so I browsed a bit around, see what was on the market. Obviously there was the iPhone. Then there was Android. I looked at a couple of models, but I decided not to go that path. The way I see it, Google’s got enough on me. (I know, totally senseless) but I don’t like the fact that there are 1000 devices with it and that every operator installs his modification of the OS on it. That’s a strongsuit for Apple.

So the obvious third choice was BlackBerry. I bought a Torch II because I couldn’t deal with the small, horizontal screens of all the other models after coming from an iPhone and I was desperate for a keyboard. The Storm never was in the race, because really, if you want to get a touch-phone, get an iPhone.

What are my impressions now? They’re fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t the best phone I’ve had, but it’s certainly not the worse.

What are the things I like :
-The keyboard. Somewhere deep down, I always hated the fact my iphone had that virtual keyboard. I like buttons, sue me. Now that I have, I think that if I ever switch back to Apple, that’ll be the most-missed feature.

-Battery life. We’re in 2012, and we sent people to the moon, yet Apple can’t grip the fact that a phone needs to have longer battery life then 2 days. That was the most I got from my iPhone, and a lot of people aswel, after using it ‘intensively’. I think the word ‘intensive use’ is bullshit. If you’re gonna make a phone that integrates twitter, facebook, checks you email every hour and so on, then it’s not extensive use anymore, it’s just use, so STOP hiding behind the fact that you’re overusing it. My BlackBerry now holds up for at least 4 days, sometimes even more. That’s FAN-TASTIC.

-Integrated Apps. The integrated apps, like calendar are far superior to Apple’s. One of the things I hate most on smartphone is the need to install apps, for apps you allready have. Like Apple’s Calendar. That app is a piece of crap, it’s too basic, non-adjustable. Bah. The PIM-apps on BlackBerry are very superior to this. This might come from their business-background. I don’t know, I’m just happy with it.

What I miss about my iPhone :
-Applications : The App World is nothing like the App Store. I miss a lot of apps that are iPhone exclusive. Things are getting better, but we’re far from home.

-Chargeability. I could charge my iPhone EVERYWHERE (partly, because it was needed). Everyone I know had some form of apple-charger somewhere at home. You could charge your iPhone wherever you are. This introduces the third most missed feature

-iPod : I have an iPod 160 Classic. I love the form, the device and I need the space. However I do miss the ability to play my music (on the iPhone) again, almost everywhere. iPhone docks started to appear almost everywhere, which meant you could play your music everywhere. I miss that.

All in all, the BlackBerry is great. It’s not better than the iPhone, but that never was it’s point. I think that in the end, Apple & BlackBerry will be the only 2 remaining players left because they target two completely different markets. As long as they keep doing their thing, they’ll be allright.

Uhum, didn’t you forget Android?

I don’t see a great future for Android. The fact they have an open-source platform, and that every operator has the right to modify that platform (mostly to add country-specific gadgets that slow down and bloat your device that nobody uses) and the fact they’ve got dozens of devices with specifically different technical specifications will consume itself. I have to deal with drivers, devices, incompabilities and such on my desktop, I don’t want them on my smartphone. Nor do I want an antivirus and what not. Unless Google is going to get a grip on their product, and restrict modifications or transform it to a closed-source platform (which also had it’s disadvantages) they’re going to go deeper and deeper down the rabbithole. It’s going to become the Linux of smartphones, and the only reason it’ll sell is because it’s cheap and customizeable. They have to put user-experience first (like Apple & Bb) even if that diminishes their popularity (you’ll always have haters, and my younger sister didn’t buy one because it was customizable…)

Anyway, this is just a small breakdown on the two devices, a small comparison. In no way is this comprehensive or anything, it’s just a personal thought about it.

Cheers!

PS : Some exciting shoots coming up second half of this year, and there’ll be a lot more BTS-video!
PS2 : My sister now has a BlackBerry. Enough said.