Sunday, July 28, 2013

Portrait shot

Here is a simple portrait shot I did last Saturday.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mottled backdrop for studio portrait shots

The hardest thing about buying a mottled backdrop is deciding which colour you need. It is difficult to tell just by looking at it. Actual shooting is different. After tossing back and forth between a selection of colours, I decided to go for the one as shown here.

I tried out this backdrop last Sunday. I must say I am pretty pleased with the result, much to my relief!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Yongnuo YN560-II Flash Speedlite

This might be the best flash gun for those new to flash photography. A friend of mine loaned me this flash gun for a couple of days. This is a China-made product, costing under AUD$70 in eBay (new). Being a manual flash, it can be used with any camera as long as there is a way to trigger the flash.

Used off-camera, the flash is triggered by using a PC cable (in M or manual mode) or via the built-in optical sensor (S1 or S2; slave modes). Used on-camera, simply mount it onto the hot shoe of a camera and use the M mode.

Why I love this flash:
Very inexpensive.
Very simple to use.
Settings in 8 levels of flash intensity
Zoom setting of 24mm to 105mm
Guide number of 58 , as strong as the top end Canon or Nikon speedlites.

What this flash does not do:
There is no TTL mode
There is no built-in remote trigger
There is no high speed sync

I found that the optical sensor is not very consistent. If I use my D700 to trigger it, I have to set it to S2. While S1 also triggers the flash, only S2 will sync properly to light up the subject. On my LX7, it will trigger the flash only in S1 mode; however the flash is not in sync and the subject does not get lighted. Hence, try out before buying if you are counting on using the optical trigger.

What this flash is great for:
For beginners, this flash is very user-friendly. The interface is very basic. One can learn to control it almost rightaway. Great for anyone who is intimidated by the highly sophisticated and highly expensive proprietary top end speedlites, which can cost ten times more.

For advanced users, this flash is excellent as a second flash. For example, as a secondary light in a multi-light source setup. It is also great for use in a home studio, due to the ease of making manual adjustments.

Note: The 560-II has been superceded by the 560-III. The latter comes with built-in remote control. However, the user interface has also grown significantly more complicated. Personally, I would prefer the 560-II over the 560-III. For more sophisticated applications, I would go for top end proprietary speedlites.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Notes to myself: Focus stacking

Learning about photography techniques is not as good as actually doing it. Therefore I was glad I did not miss last night's educational night at the camera club. I learned to use the adjustment rails I bought quite a while back, but never put to use. The following image shows how the rails are put together to provide x-y movement. This inexpensive contraption can be used for focus stacking in macro shots. With an L-bracket added, it can also be used for panorama shots.

After shooting a set of images with varying focal points, the images have to be processed in Photoshop to combine into one image. Here are the steps to do focus stacking in PS:
1) Files>Scripts>Load files into stack (to load multiple images into layers in PS)
2) Edit>Auto-Align Layers (to align the layers in a focus stack)
3) Edit>Auto-Blend Layers (to blend the layers)

As an added bonus, I saw someone using an interesting camera app that night. This app is called DslrDashboard. This app allows me to use an Android phone to control my DSLR camera via a USB cable. It looks very interesting. I have installed the app but am waiting for my USB OTG cable to arrive before I can try out the app. I am hoping to be able to use the larger screen of an Android device as the LCD display for my shootings. Image viewing is but only one of a myriad of features this app is capable of. But don't hold your breath if you are not a Nikon user... DslrDashboard is primarily for Nikon, plus some Canon cameras. Even then, it is not for all models.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Renewing the Malaysian passport in Melbourne

Recently I took my wife to the new Malaysian consulate on St.Kilda Road to renew her passport. Here is what you need to know.

The address is: Level 1, 432 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne.
Tel: (613) 9573 5400

Map link:
Roadside ticketed parking is quite ample when we were there at 9am on a Monday.

What you need to bring:
(a) Your old passport and your Malaysian identity card.

(b) 2 photos. See requirements:

(c) Photocopies. Make 2 photocopies of the passport (just the photo page), 2 copies of the Australian visa page, and 2 copies of the front and 2 copies of the back of the Malaysian i/c.

If you don't have your photos, you can take the photo there for AUD$10 at the vending machine. If you forgot to bring photocopies of your documents, you can do the photocopying there for AUD$1 per page.

How long it takes:
We obtained and filled out the form at the consulate itself. Including wait time, we spent a total of 1 hour there. We were told to go back in 3 weeks' time to pick up the new passport.