Friday, April 29, 2011

Fuji FinePix HS20: good for newspaper reporters

The HS10 captured both the speaker and the screen image.
For more than three decades I was a staff photographer for a daily newspaper. First, I worked in Sault Ste. Marie and then, after earning my BAA in filmmaking from Ryserson, I went to work for the Blackburn Group in London, Ontario, owner of The London Free Press.

During my time at the papers, reporters rarely took pictures. Double-threat folk were rare. Today all that has changed. Reporters shoot both still pictures and video and photographers carry video cameras, do online reports and write the occasional story.

I humbly suggest that the new Fuji HS20 may be the camera that today's reporters should be carrying. It is an even better camera than its predecessor, the HS10, and I use the HS10 for shooting news and posting to the web.

Colour excellent but Photoshop needed for sharpness.
The other night I covered an indoor event at the Covent Garden Market downtown. I set the camera to capture indoor scenes, triggered the Best Frame Capture (BFC) and easily grabbed some shots to illustrate my story. Using BFC is important as it is hard to time picture-taking perfectly with a point-and-shoot. There is less shutter lag with the new camera.

I was very happy with the exposures, although the images did benefit from a brief visit to Photoshop. This was mostly to sharpen the shots before posting to the web. Using the lens zoomed to telephoto indoors meant that I was shooting at a wide-open aperture setting with a very long lens. Absolute sharpness was, I hate to admit, poor. Thanks to  Photoshop the images were fine for the web and would be equally good for publication in a newspaper.

I would not like to make a huge enlargement from the two images shot with at telephoto.

Newspaper reporters cannot devote a lot of time to their pictures. Remember, they are covering a news story. They need to follow what's happening and grab some good quotes as well. This means they must learn to think pictures. They must know what they want and then get it and be done with it. Reporters can't waste time taking too many pictures.

I staked out a position where I hoped I would be able to line up a monitor in the background with a speaker in the foreground. When a slide appeared on screen announcing the name of the event behind councillor Judy Bryant, I wasn't lucky, I was ready. Likewise with the mayor, Joe Fontana. With publishable pictures of both Fontana and Bryant captured, I grabbed one last shot showing the density of the audience and showing some of the well-known Londoners in attendance.

(Below) The fellow in the lower right is sketching out his vision for downtown London. This is perfect. This image captures both the reason for the event while, at the same time, illustrating its success.

At wide angle the images were sharp as expected.
My story, complete with art, ran here and here. I'm still not a great reporter but I am proving that both jobs can be done successfully by one double-threat reporter/photographer.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pixels and quality

Shot with a Canon SD10 set to macro photography. Camera was hand held.
There is a belief when it comes to pixels, the little light gathering units making up the film-replacing chip in your digital camera, that more is better. As many are now learning, this is not  necessarily so.

I noticed this when I moved up from my little Canon SD10. The images I captured with that simple, little camera with its 4MB sensor were quite phenomenal.

I went to the library to research this topic but I have been slowed by some health issues. Please, come back in a week and maybe I'll have a post and some answers.

This was also shot with my Canon SD10. This time a tripod was used.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Shooting a simple portrait

Shot with a Fuji FinePix HS10.
 The definition of portrait photography has broadened quite a bit over the past decades but staying tight on the subject's face is always a winning approach. Capturing good catch-lights in the eyes is usually a plus, especially if the picture is a positive treatment of the subject. If the subject is brooding, all bets on the value of catch-lights are off.

Recently, I entered a portrait competition and submitted a loosely cropped picture of Fiona asleep. It was cute but was it a portrait, even an environmental portrait? When I saw some of the other entries I decided I had interpreted the contest assignment far too broadly.

The winning photo was a beautifully lit cat. The image was sharp, it was full of detail and it was cropped nice and tight. There were catch-lights in the eyes. It shouted portrait about as loudly as it shouted cat. It deserved to win.

The shot today of Fiona is better. It's tight but there is a little bit of camera movement. This image isn't sharp enough to be a winner. And, if you look at Fiona's chin and upper lip on the right, there is a gray shadow that should have been removed in a photo enhancement program like Photoshop. The gray tint would be much better rendered in warm, pink flesh tones.

Getting this image presented some hurdles. One, it had to be shot with the lens zoomed in a little to a mild telephoto setting. Wide angles are poor for shooting portraits, especially if you are in close. This made handholding the camera a bit harder. In situations like this it's best to brace the camera if possible, although the stabilizers in today's cameras help a lot.

You must also watch the focus. In a small room, it is easy too be too close to the subject for the lens to focus accurately. You must be careful; The small image on the back of the camera may look sharp at a fast glance. It can fool you. When you download the image, you will find the image is only acceptable when viewed very, very small.

One answer to the focus problem is to shoot just a little looser than you'd like and crop the resulting image to the portrait you were aiming to shoot right from the beginning.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Think: subject, environment, composition

I shoot so many pix of Fiona, she brought me my Fuji.
When shooting pictures don't just think subject; Although, a fine subject can often carry a weak picture. Try to think subject, pictorial environment (background/foreground) and composition.

The subject should be almost stand-alone good. Fiona is back-lit and captured in the middle of an action. She's not looking at the camera. All in all, there is nice feel to this image of a small child.

Adding, or maybe I should say not taking away, from the importance of my subject is the great expanse of gray pavement. There is little in either the foreground or the background to distract us from Fiona. The only colour in the picture is the little girl; This is a bonus.

The composition helps to strengthen Fiona's importance in the picture. She is dramatically placed high in the top right corner with a strong, dramatic diagonal shadow guaranteeing our eyes go straight to the her.

With today's digital cameras there is no excuse not to experiment. Shoot lots and stay alert. This isn't the only good photo from this shoot but it was my favourite.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Art, craft , repetition and visual delight

Repetition of visual elements is commonly found in both works of art and works of craft.

This fence, sighted in Mount Brydges, Ontario, is a beautiful example of a style of fencing that was very common in the Canadian province a century ago. Sadly many of those fences are now long gone. This fence is in such good condition that it is possible that it is a reproduction but if it is, it is a good one.

The repetition found in a fence is so obvious, so clear, that one may enjoy it without thinking much about it. In fact, we may focus more on the craftsmanship, on the skill that it took to create such a beautiful addition to this home's appearance. In works of craft, the repetition is perfect.

In art works, the repetition may not be perfect but the essence of repetition will still be found. What makes the following picture work, for me, is the contrast between the gentle repetition of the piles of railway ties and the craftsman-perfect repetition found in the railway tracks.

The fog is a bonus, adding atmosphere, and an extra visual delight to the image.
Both images were shot using my Fuji FinePix HS10. The fence shot took advantage of the wide angle coverage offered by the HS10's zoom, while the shot of the railway ties was taken using the telephoto end of the range.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why I like my Fuji HS10

This image has been reduced in size and saved as a jpg for faster page loading.
There are naysayers about bridge cameras like the Fuji HS10. These critics sing the praises of DSLRs and high quality long lenses. These critics are right, except that a camera in the hand is worth any number of cameras elsewhere. And that is why I like my little Fuji; It is always with me.

Also, the Fuji is very affordable and that has got to count for something. When I retired, the money I was paid for just one used pro lens, my much loved Canon f/1.8 200mm telephoto, paid for my Fuji bridge camera, for my little point-and-shoot, for two sets of batteries for both cameras, the SD cards and more.

And the Fuji gets the job done.

On the way home from a dinner downtown, I sighted some deer in Woodland Cemetery. It was dusk and getting dark. The cemetery gates were locked. As I walked to the iron fence, I turned on the camera, zoomed out the lens to 720mm and checked that the auto was on scenic. I braced the small camera against the fence, framed and shot.

I'm happy with my HS10. But if I wasn't retired and a little short of money, I'd sell my little friend and move up to the soon-to-be-in-stores HS20. It sounds like another little gem.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Work with your tools, not against them.

Check the quality of these images. Only a couple have obvious issues.
Cruising the Net, I came across this page of pictures posted to Picasa. I thought, "Those look familiar." And they were, because they were mine. I shot all the pictures of the Morgans Over America tour in 2005 using a simple Canon SD10. This miniature camera, now almost tens old, has a fixed wide angle lens similar to a 28mm on a 35mm SLR.

It is a nice lens, if limited. The camera doesn't appear to use any destructive noise eliminating software on the pictures. The images are amazing: great colour, superb sharpness and a very smooth gradation of tones. It's too bad the file size is only 4MB but I have squeaked 14X20 enlargements out of the files by carefully cropping the images in the camera as I was taking the pictures.

When constrained by a lens, go with the flow, yield to reality, and frame your images to take advantage of the lens you have. Don't frame for the lens you wish you had. Nothing will teach you how to perfect your eye for wide angle photography like being forced to see the whole world through a wide angle lens. Try and accent the foreground, think composition using the complete scene, shoot images that gain from displaying a deep depth of field.

I have retired that little gem and replaced it with a Canon S90 and a Fuji HS10. I love the S90 for shooting available light. For shots demanding a wider lens or a really long ones, I love my Fuji. Yes, I know that both cameras have their weaknesses but for me their strengths rule.

 Please check out the images from MOA2005; Click on them to enlarge. Just think: If this fine selection of images is possible using just a Canon SD10, what is possible with a camera like the Fuji HS10?

The replacement HS20 is big improvement over the original camera. I highly recommend the HS20 to anyone who wants to have serious fun with a camera but doesn't have the spare change for a true digital SLR. The HS20 bridge camera is a bridge to fun.

Wide angles are perfect for accenting the foreground.
Grab whole scenes, taking advantage of the great depth of field.
Think about your pictures; Don't waste time damning your puny camera.