Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Big lenses and small flashes

This post is inspired by my good friend Simon. Simon's not a photographer - he's a real estate agent. And he has to take his own photos. Anyway the company gave him this little point and shoot camera and to take wide-angle photos of the rooms it has this massive great fish-eye lens kind of attachment that you stick on the front.

I mean this thing is gigantic! And it works like a charm until you want to use the flash and then you get photos like this one here.

You see that dark spot in the middle of the man's apron. This is what happens when you forget to bring along your external flash and try using your little pop-up flash with a lens with a big front element - and possibly a lens hood on it as well if I remember rightly! Ok so we all do stupid things.

Anyway I was playing around with Simon's camera yesterday giving him a few little pointers when he asked me about the flash fall-off problem. Pretty sure that the company wasn't going to spring for an external flash to stick on top I grabbed a piece of white paper off his kitchen bench. About half the size of an A4.

And I stuck that piece of paper in front of the flash and lo and behold the fall-off shadow disappeared - and the light also got a lot nicer. Why? Well the paper took the light from the little flash and diffused it in all different directions making it instantly soft. And by sticking it between the flash and that big hunk of glass attached to the front of the camera it also softened the effect of the light fall-off. A simple solution for an annoying problem that is available anywhere you've got a bit of paper (or tissue maybe) lying around.

Pity I didn't think of that when I was at the Sapporo fish markets. :)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Land of the Rising Sun

Well it's that time of year again. Heading off to Japan for a month or so. It's a nice time of year with the cherry blossoms out around Tokyo and it still snowing up in Sapporo.

The kids have already put in their order for 4 days at Disneyland and we've organised to spend a few days at an 'onsen' hot springs resort outside of Sapporo with the in-laws.

Going back to Japan regularly as I do it reminds me of one of the beauties of regularly visiting and getting to know one specific area. The knowledge you gain over a long period of time enables you to search out images that won't be available to the average tourist or short-term visitor. As you get more of an understanding of the culture and the geography you increase the depth of your photographic coverage, instead of just shooting a wide variety of what I would call surface shots.

By digging below what the average visitor would see you come away with more intimate images. In a world saturated with photographs from every single corner of the globe the next frontier for the travel photographer either wanting to make a living, or hoping to get images out of the ordinary could come from this knowledge.

Travel photography has always been about showing the world to people who can't visit these places themselves, or inspiring those who can to choose that destination for their next holiday. But with microstock images available for a couple of cents and lots of people prepared to give their stuff away for free it's going to be pretty hard going forward to license 'shallow' images of destinations unless the light or conditions are really special.

So have a think about what you can bring to the travel photography party that others don't. Do you speak a foreign language? Live in a part of the world that is a popular tourist destination? Can get access to unusual views of popular landmarks? Have a cousin who has a friend who knows a brother? You get the idea. The ability to stand out in the saturated world of travel photography going forward is probably going to be reliant not on what you know about photography, but who you know and what you know about the places you visit. The specialist rather than the generalist. Time to put your thinking caps on, get out your little black book and start calling in those contacts.