Saturday, January 22, 2011

Shooting food

See it, like it, shoot it, eat it!
I have it from a respected source that at one time photographers specializing in food photography were paid thousands of dollars for an image destined for a national magazine. When I went to art school in the '60s shooting great food pictures was an accepted art and craft.

When shooting soup, drop clear marbles into the broth we were told. These would settle to the bottom and force the vegetables, or whatever, to the surface. We were instructed to use shaving cream for whipped cream as it would hold together longer under the lights. Spraying food with glycerin to give it a "wet look" was an accepted practice. Bluntly, we were taught to cheat. But those days are gone.

Today it is very important to shoot honest food pictures. If the picture needs trickery, you may need a lawyer. This is especially true when shooting product shots for ads and the like.

So, if you like to shoot food, go for it. Take your time, pick your subjects, and you can produce pictures as good as the big shots. Today's picture shows a blueberry and cauliflower salad served on a bed a baby spinach with a fig and lemon balsamic vinegar dressing. It tasted as good as it looked.

Like so many of my food shots, this was shot in our kitchen in the seconds before sitting down to eat. It is illuminated by soft light pouring in through a large window. I admit that I chose the blue placemat for the picture but other than that this salad is just as it appeared.

My wife's the food artist. I'm the photographer. (This image could be even better if it was taken into a photo enhancement program to have the shadow at the bottom of the image lightened.)

Shooting food:
1. Use food that inspires you.
2. When starting out, keep it simple. One slice of back-lit lemon can be enough of challenge for a first picture. My favourite subjects are fresh plates of well-prepared food immediately after they have been brought to the family table.
3. Soft but directional light is often best. This light minimizes deep, dark, harsh shadows. Large windows work well but the glass cannot be tinted, as does bouncing one's flash against a white ceiling. This is where a TTL flash shows it strengths.
4. Try different lens. In tight with a wide angle gives a dramatic perspective to your image. Shooting from farther back with a long lens can make some parts of the subject 'pop' on account of the decreased depth of field. Speaking of depth of field, play with shutting down your lens and teaming this with a slow shutter speed; Often a bit of depth of field looks good with food pictures.
5. Keep the light clean to keep your colours faithful.
6. Be creative and gives this all the attention that you would give any picture.
7. With some subjects you must learn to work fast as bubbles break, froth falls and steam vapourizes and all disappear in seconds.

So work fast, shoot lots, try some different approaches and above all, "Have fun!"

Good luck!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

There's a little reason posts are sporatic: Fiona

Both images taken with Canon S90.
For more than a year this collection of blogs enjoyed regular, almost daily, posts. This activitiy has come to a grinding halt and for that I apologize. With both of us in our early 60s, my wife and I have taken on the quite enjoyable task of babysitting a beautiful little girl, Fiona, our granddaughter.

The kid's awake!
The little tyke can be quite demanding --- in a sweet sorta way. I can't move without having Fiona following along. Working at the computer is completely out, unless I want to visit YouTube and share some videos with the kid. She loves movie trailers like the ones for Tangled or Despicable Me and music videos are always worth a look.

As you can see from today's picture, Fiona arrived asleep. I have just a few moments for an explanatory post; Judy tells me the little girl is starting to stir. I best get ready to share a banana and maybe a crushed and chopped pear with the kid.

Have a great day,

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Amazing. The best got better!

Fuji FinePix HS20

Fuji has announced a successor to the FinePix HS10 bridge camera: The FinePix HS20.

I loved the HS10. It wasn't perfect but then it wasn't a lot of money either. The HS10 looked like a DSLR but it was really a glorified point-and-shoot. When it came to its weaknesses, and it did have them, one had to cut this camera a bit of slack. It delivered well on its promises and to expect more would have been unfair.

Come March it is a new game and a new standard. The soon to be in stores HS20 has raised the bar on what to expect from a DSLR wannabe. It promises more, lots more, and my guess is that it delivers.

The bar is now so high that there will be times when owners of bigger, bulkier DSLRs, complete with a bag of lenses, will wish they had the new Fuji.

Shot with the HS10. The new HS20 promises to be even better.
The following is from the Fuji press release and will be updated later. Or just click over to Digital Photography Review for their excellent look at the upgrade to my much loved HS10.

High Speed and Sensitivity
The newly developed EXR Processor and EXR-CMOS sensor in the HS20EXR allow for pristine images to be taken in fast-shooting situations or in low-light environments. The combination of the two technologies creates a fast transfer circuit for quick process and reading of files for high speed shooting and Full HD movies, and the EXR-CMOS sensor itself, where the wiring layer and photo diodes are reversed, creates higher sensitivity for taking impressive images in low light conditions.

Intelligent Processor
With the improved intelligent processor, taking photos can’t get much easier. The GUI, with its new rich user interface that dramatically improves the appearance and searching functions of menus, might be one of the first things you notice, but the most notable benefits are speed and image quality. Additionally, the FinePix HS20EXR can now recognize an impressive 27 scenes. While shooting, the camera configures each scene and recognizes the perfect setting and automatically takes the best quality picture, with a single touch of a button.

Click on photo to view HS10 image quality.
EXR Technology
The EXR technology adds further versatility by modifying its behavior according to the lighting condition. Users can either let the EXR Auto mode choose the correct setting itself, or pick from three manually selected options:
High Resolution Priority – can be used when you’re after exceptional image quality.
High ISO & Low Noise Priority – can be used in low light conditions where the combination with the BSI sensor makes for superb results.
Dynamic Range Priority – takes two pictures and combines them to provide a range of up to 1600%.
With these unique sensor combinations, capturing great pictures has never been easier.

Capture Moving Subjects
The FinePix HS20EXR’s strong mix of sensor and processing technologies allows breathless action shots to be captured, and the continuous full resolution shooting at 3fps, 5fps, 8fps or 11. fps at an eight MegaPixel resolution, will make sure the action is stopped in its tracks. The FinePix HS20EXR also eliminates the need to worry about slow auto focusing or shutter lag. The new solution’s contrast Auto Focus system takes approximately 0.16 seconds (minimum) to focus.

A long lens can make the impossible shot possible.
A 30x Zoom Lens
With a 30x zoom range covering focal lengths from a super-wide 24-720mm (35mm equivalent), the FinePix HS20EXR is ready for anything. Boasting high quality FUJINON optics, the manual zoom lens is now even easier to operate thanks to a reduction in the size of the flashgun. Zooming through the range can be done quickly and precisely to ensure perfect framing for every shot.

The FinePix HS20EXR also is equipped to fight blurring, a common problem when using longer focal lengths. Dual Image Stabilization combines a mechanically stabilized CMOS sensor with high ISO sensitivities for total anti-blur protection. Together these technologies reduce the blurring effect of both handshake and subject movement to provide sharp, clean and clear results even at the longest zoom settings or in challenging lighting conditions.

HD Movie Capture
The FinePix HS20EXR offers an impressive level of video functionality. With the ability to capture movies in true, full 1080p HD quality, the FinePix HS20EXR delivers high sensitivity with low noise for movies captured in low lighting. In addition, movie files (.MOV) are captured with H.264 high profile compression for smaller file sizes without sacrificing quality. With a mini-HDMI output connector, it is easy to connect and view images on your HDTV (HDMI cable not included).

High Speed Movies
Versatility is further increased thanks to the High Speed Movie options, which include capture at an incredible 320 fps. With features like this, even the fastest moving subjects can be captured and watched in slow motion.

One Touch Controls
The FinePix HS20EXR sports a full complement of sophisticated manual and semi-automatic shooting modes and photographic controls. The extensive external controls give the more advanced photographer direct access to virtually every control they will need for uninterrupted shooting, and the specially designed chassis includes dedicated command buttons for quick and easy key functions such as ISO, white balance, focus and metering. The large command dial, manual focus ring, twist and zoom lens barrel, bright, clear electronic viewfinder, high quality tilting LCD screen and deep hand grip ensures the camera handles well. AA batteries (ships with alkaline) provide excellent performance (up to 300 shots with Alkaline batteries) combined with the convenience of a universally available format when shooting for extended periods away from main power.

The FinePix HS20EXR also offers these additional features:

RAW / RAW+JPEG Shooting: The FinePix HS20 has the ability to shoot both a RAW and JPEG shot simultaneously. RAW is for ultimate quality shots via post processing, JPEG is for great quality with no need for further post-production work.

Motion Panorama 360°: The sensor extends the sweep range to 360˚ (shots can also be taken vertically). Combined with high quality Fujifilm printing, sweeping and impressive scenes can be taken, showing fine detail, low noise and high resolution at 180°, 240˚ or full 360˚ panoramic ranges.

Purple Fringing Reducer/Corner Resolution Enhancer: The EXR processor has the capability to spot and reduce purple color fringing, most common on dark subjects against light backgrounds. In addition, the EXR processor improves the resolution at the corners of an image for more uniform image sharpness.

Super Intelligent Flash: The FinePix HS20EXR offers a flash control system which efficiently controls the level of flash for a given exposure to produce beautifully balanced flash illumination across the foreground and background. Super Intelligent Flash is most useful in macro photography where the contrast between subject and background can be especially challenging, but is also effective for night and backlit photography.

Multi-Bracketing: The FinePix HS20EXR has 3 bracketing functions useful for high level photography: Film Simulation Bracketing (which automatically sets Film Simulation to PROVIA, Velvia and ASTIA for simultaneous capture of 3 frames), Dynamic Range Bracketing (which automatically sets dynamic range to 100%, 200% and 400% for simultaneous capture of 3 frames) and AE Bracketing (which automatically sets exposure range to even, under and over for simultaneous capture of 3 frames).

Face Recognition: Users can register up to eight (8) faces, along with names, birthdays and categories, and the HS20EXR will prioritize focus and exposure right on the faces of those special people. Users can also use Image Search to view images of a registered person.

Face Detection and Automatic Red-eye Removal: To provide perfectly exposed and focused portrait shots, the FinePix HS20EXR is fitted with Fujifilm’s latest Face Detection technology which is able to track up to 10 faces simultaneously, at almost any angle to the camera. The system instantly corrects red-eye and then saves both the original and the corrected image file automatically.

PhotoBook Assist: PhotoBook Assist lets you select and organize images in your camera to create a digital photo book. You can download the photo books to your computer using MyFinePix Studio software that is included.

Pricing and Availability
The FinePix HS20EXR will all be available in late March 2011 and will be priced at $499.95.

NOTE: For complete camera specifications, please go to:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Rescue deleted pictures

A rescued Boxing Day photo
Before I downloaded my pictures from Boxing Day, I committed an oops; I erased my SD card. "Oops!"

If this happens to you, there is a solution: Image Rescue from Lexar, the card manufacturer. This program is available for both PCs and Macs and costs but $33.99 U.S., a bargain.

I first learned of Image Rescue while working at The London Free Press. I returned from shooting some aerials and the images wouldn't download. There had been a card error. The camera had had an oops.

Image Rescue found all the images, downloaded them and placed them in a folder on my computer.

Two warnings: First, sometimes damaged images are not complete. There may be only a partial image on the card. In cases like this, complete retrieval may be impossible.

And the other caveat is that Image Rescue 4, the version that I used, does not work when a camera is used to download the images from the card in question. A USB card reader/writer is necessary. I had to buy a USB 2.0 card reader/writer as my card is designated SDHC. My older reader/writer did not work with my SDHC card. Image Rescue could not find the device until I used the USB 2.0 reader.

I picked up a USB 2.0 card reader/writer at Tiger Direct for $6.99. Another store, right across the street, was asking almost $30 for a similar reader. Don't overpay for a simple card reader.

That said, if the problem is human error, all the images should be salvageable. Just do not take any more pictures using the card in question. You do not want to overwrite any of the "erased" images.

A few years ago I took pictures in Antelope Canyon in Arizona and Walgreen's lost the images when cutting a CD. If I had stopped using the card containing the lost images, I could have salvaged the shoot. I should have bought a new card and retired the other until I got home and retrieved the lost images using Image Rescue.

Continuing to use the card was the biggest oops of all.

I should contact someone like Grey Boyer, of One Horse Studio, and buy a picture of the famous canyon. With all my own images destroyed, this is my last remaining option.

Unfortunately, with something like lost Boxing Day pictures you don't have someone with the talent of Boyer backing you up.