Thursday, 28 May 2009

What shall I review next?

I'd like to thank everyone who has bought items on referal through the amazon links on this blog. In the space of a year, I am about to earn my first £25 gift voucher through referal fees from Amazon which means that I should be able to afford a new book or two to review. So whether you are planning on buying that new Nikon D90, a New Umbrella or just a set of Ball Bungees buying through this website means I can buy more books to review.

So seeing as I should be getting a voucher in the near future, I'm open to suggestions on what to review next. Drop me a comment with your suggestions and I'll consider getting a copy.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Hot Shoe Diaries

I read this book cover to cover the day that it arrived. I was fortunate to have a business trip which gave me a good 6 hours to plough through it, but I didn't write a review straight away, I wanted to digest it and I'm now on my second reading of it. What make this book so great? It has to be the writing style, if anything Joe is even more crazy than when he wrote The Moment It Clicks. The sheer entertainment value of this book makes it valuable because you'll read it over and over again, and I'll bet you'll get something new out of it every time.

Joe is constantly drawing parallels with cookery in this book, but this is no recipe book, you won't see a list of ingredients anywhere. Joe is the Jamie Oliver of small flash lighting, its all motor mouth wisecracking and fluid instruction, a little dash of this a little dash of that. Its all about adapting to the situation you're in and mixing your lighting to taste.

The book starts with a comprehensive yet compact section on gear. Joe shoots with the Nikon creative flash system and the book has Nikon CLS running through it like a stick of rock, but that doesn't diminish the book's usefulness to anyone who doesn't shoot with Nikon flash or even TTL in general.

The hot shoe diaries is full of solid case studies with a variety of different shots and techniques, lots of good information on shooting with hard light and with the flash on and off the camera or even outside the building and all discussed in Joe's quirky style.

At the end of the book a guy in a gorilla suit gives you a quick run down of how to program your Nikon flash guns to do wireless using the SB800,SB900 and on camera flash as examples.

You may find that you recognise a few of the case studies from Joe's blog, but that's no bad thing, because your not going to read the blog in the bath, and with it in book form you'll read it over again.

This is definitely up there with my favourite books and excellent value for money. Buy it, you won't regret it.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Phottix Triggers and Hasselblad

Poverty BladOne of the disadvantages of the Phottix triggers that I recently purchased is that they don't have a socket for sync cable so if you have a camera without a hot shoe your going to have a spot of trouble jamming the hot foot of the trigger into the sync port of the camera. Fortunately I had a kaiser hot shoe with a PC cord knocking about so I was able to plug that into the PC port on the lens of my Hasselblad.

So far so good you might think. I wind up the Hasselblad, trip the shutter and FLA-DAP! no flash. It turns out that the foot on the trigger doesn't play nicely with the Kaiser. The trigger foot has the centre pin off centre, so you have to put it into the foot wide end first. Your probably going to want to tape that connection because there is no locking pin.

With the trigger hanging off the camera its not going to be a terribly reliable connection, so you will need to get some sort of bracket to attach it to the camera. You can get an accessory shoe that will fit on a Hasselblad but I used a flash bracket off a Metz potato masher. It attaches to the tripod socket on the bottom of the camera and a tripod post can be mounted into one of the holes on the bracket. There you have it, its not pretty, but its functional.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Lighting By David Prakel.

Part of the Basics Photography series of books, Lighting is much more and at the same time much less than I was expecting. This book really attempts to cover absolutely everything to do with lighting, starting with a very comprehensive section on colour theory which really does cover pretty much everything to do with colour, even using colour filters for black and white photography. The book then goes on to discuss exposure.

The section on exposure skimps on the relationship between shutter and aperture, which is presented as a table with exposure values. Later on the book talks about reducing exposure by a stop or increasing by a stop but doesn't explicitly say that doubling the shutter speed will increase by a stop. The information is there in tabular form, but it isn't very friendly for someone unfamiliar with the mechanics of shutter and aperture. For my money it wasn't a great explanation of exposure.

There is a very good section on metering which covers all kinds of metering including using your hand as a meter and adjusting for skin tone. There is also a section on contrast and subject brightness range which is very useful. Including a diagram on how to control subject contrast with lighting ratios.

There lots of great information on controlling light with filters, graduates and polarisers and also on IR and UV light. The book goes on to discuss natural light lots of information about time of day, and seasonal light, but doesn't really touch on direction much.

The section on photographic lighting, covers continuous and flash lighting and describes different types of lights even including chemical flashbulbs. There are some good lighting recipes in there and a some good instruction on direction of lighting, but it low on the theory that enables problem solving.

The final chapter is on techniques like painting with light, using a flatbed scanner as a capture device and even shadowgrams and photograms.

Its an ambitious book, which contains a lot more than I would have expected from it, but the enormous breadth is at the expense of the depth that would have made this a great resource. Sure there is a lot of information to be gained from this book especially if you are a beginner. Learning the vocabulary and having a full picture of what is possible might enable you to target your education or send you off in directions that you hadn't imagined before.