Irregular Injection of Opinion
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 Tuesday, 13 December 2011
Taking Nice Party Photos

So I’m a big fan of taking available light photos. This is particularly good fun at Wedding parties and Christmas parties.

I took a bunch of photos at the Intergen Office Christmas party last Friday night and I’ve had a bunch of people ask “what camera etc… were you using”. SO I thought I’d take a few minutes and write up a post with some notes on taking available light party photos.

So the trick to taking nice party photos is not using a flash. To do this you need a couple of things;

  1. A camera that has a decent High ISO noise level.
    ISO is an interesting term in that it goes back to the film days. The ISO (International Standards Organization) measure basically set a standard for the sensitivity of film to light. A high ISO film required less light to create an image, but, a high ISO film also typically produced photos with much more noticeable film grain. In the digital age we still use the term ISO but this time it’s basically referring to the amount of light required by the sensor in order to create an image; while the ISO of a roll of film was fixed we can change the camera ISO (sensitivity) at will because it’s basically just turning up the Gain (a camera sensor is effectively an analog-digital interface). If you’ve ever played with other things that have a Gain knob you’ll know if you put a small signal in and try and use the gain knob to boost it things can get a bit ugly- so it is with camera ISO if you turn the gain up too much things get noisy.
    So to get the nice party photos with available light (no flash and as such relying on not much light) you need a camera that lets you turn the gain up with out getting too noisy. The original ‘super amazing’ low light Camera was probably the Canon EOS 5D Mk II which is now about 3 years old. Indeed it is this camera that I used for most of the shots. It’s an expensive ($5k) body, but, over the past few years that super high ISO technology has filtered down such that you can get pretty decent looking shots from most $1000 bodies at ISO of 1600-6400 (to give you an idea of how revolutionary this is it would be very rare for anyone other than a professional to shoot film higher than ISO400 back in the day. Thus the modern digital cameras are several times more sensitive for the same level of noise than film was ever able to achieve)
    I’m a Canon person so that’s where my recommendations will sit and I think there’s not a lot wrong with the Canon 600D body in the $1000 price point. Take a look at these high ISO shots from DPReview. There will be similarly good options from Nikon in the price point which people can point out in the comments. The benefit of getting the $1000 body is you have more moolah to spend on lenses…
  2. The second thing you’ll need is a lens with a large maximum aperture.
    You can tell the maximum aperture of your lens by reading it off the lens. It will be expressed as a ratio on the front ring e.g. 1:1.8 but it’s typically shortened in conversation and marketing to just the denominator. For the tech boffins the F-Stop (Aperture) is basically expressed as a ratio of the focal length of the lens. The lower the F stop number the larger the aperture- a bit counter-intuitive I know.
    For a zoom lens about the largest F stop you’ll get is F2.8 and even then you’ll be paying big bikkies and they weight a ton. There are a few shots in the party photos that are taken using an 70-200mm F2.8 lens.
    What you really want is a ‘prime’ lens. This is a lens with no zoom. Most of the shots taken in the party set above were taken with a Sigma 50mm F1.4 lens (this is a mid-range prime lens in terms of cost) but, for the most part I have it ‘stopped down’ to F1.8. This is for two reasons 1) wide open a mid-range lens like this can lose a bit of sharpness particularly around the edges and 2) A side effect of a large aperture is a very shallow depth-of-field; in the case of F1.4 on a 5D MkII with the subject at 2m only 11cm of depth will be in sharp focus. You’ll see this shallow depth of field in most of the low light photos as either a nice blurry background or as an annoying fact that of two people in the photo only one is in focus.
    So. Which lens to get. This is a place where Canon has a real advantage. If you are not ken to spend much money there is a Canon lens, the 50mm F1.8 MkII (plastic fantastic) that for under $200 will let you take nice party photos too. To me this is almost as good a reason as any to prefer Canon over Nikon at the cheap pricepoint cameras.
    If you have a bit more money to spend both the Canon and Sigma 35mm/50mm/85mm primes are great for under $1000.
    And finally if you have plenty of money go buy a Canon 85m F1.2 for shots like this one I took on a borrowed lens.

So this post became a bit of a ramble. To answer the more direct question of what I used for the party photos.

Canon 7D Body (early evening) with a Canon 24-105 F4 zoom
Canon 5D (low light) with a mixture of Sigma 50mm 1.4, Carl Zeiss 85mm 1.4 and Canon 70-200mm 2.8


Intergen | Photography | Rambles|Tuesday, 13 December 2011 19:40:21 UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Saturday, 06 June 2009
My Audio Kit for working with my 5D MkII in Video mode – Zoom H4n + Rode

So I’m looking to do a bit more video work with the 5D MkII and so I’ve been putting together a decent solution around audio. I’ve just finished getting all the bits I need.

Mostly purchased in Singapore. Getting the GST back on stuff purchased in Singapore is really rather nice too. Been flying through here once a month or so recently.

I'm running
1. A  Zoom H4n Handy Portable Digital Recorder (SGD $428 from Hung Brothers in Sim Lim Square or  Amazon looks to be as cheap as anywhere in the USA USD$325 at Amazon) . To be honest I didn’t really look at any other options when it came to the recorder. This one was really well priced with features that worked.
Key drivers for me getting the H4n were;
a) It'll do Phantom power for external mics
b) It'll do balanced inputs for external mics
c) The internal mics are surprisingly good so interesting things can be achieved using both internal and external mics together in 4 track mode.
d) You can plug it into your PC and suddenly you got a pretty decent quality Foley rig including stereo Mics
e) Simple level control with a nice easily readable LCD screen showing VU meters
f) It’s easy to do simple monitoring of the recording audio through the headphone jack
g) All the audio just ends up as WAV files on an SD card. These are cheap and plentiful and easy to work with (contrast with say memory stick)
Sure it has plenty of features I’ll never use- the Multitrack with the overdubbing or any of the guitar amp simulators. People have also been mounting the H4n to the top of their cameras- see this pic from Cinema5d.

2. Red Head H4n wind jammer direct from for USD$25 inc. shipping. I know people grumble about the colour. I like the color. I wonder if @iamaKalaniPrince could make me a YellowHead :-)

I got all the below from World Wide Sound Centre in Sim Lim Square. Hung Brothers only had K-Tek boompoles and mounts and wind jammers which put the price WAY up. I paid $SGD595 inc GST (Refunded at the Airport later I hope) for the below.

3. A Rode NTG2 Condenser Shotgun Microphone . Having looked at a few Mics in this price bracket (and above) including the AudioTechnica and Sennheiser Mics I settled on the Rode as being ideal in terms of price performance. I was sorely tempted to get the NTG-3 when I was in the store today but that would have blown my whole budget on just the Mic itself. The NTG-2 will work either with phantom power P48v or will also support putting a AA battery inside. I chose to get the NTG2 because it was going to give me the added flexibility of self powering and actually also because it was quite a bit longer than the NTG-1 and therefore easier to fit a windjammer AND a shock mount on.

4. A Rode Microphones Boompole
This is a BIG pole running to about 3 meters. It’s heavier than most, but then so am I so I think I can manage holding it. It’s not a cabled boompole but you can take the end caps off and run a cable through it. Feels really well made and will last a lifetime I think.

5. A Rode Microphones SM4 Shockmount. Again this was really well priced so made sense.

6. A Rode Microphones WS7 Windscreen Cheaper and almost as good as a Rycote Softie

So for well under USD$1000 I have a full audio setup for my 5D MkII. Of course recording to a 3rd party device means having to sync audio so I’m hoping that the folks from Singular software get a Windows version of their PluralEyes product out sometime real soon.

Photography | Video and Film|Saturday, 06 June 2009 11:06:29 UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Thursday, 14 May 2009
The Making of our 48 Hour Film – All shot on the Canon 5D MkII

Roger Wong one of the people on our 48 Hour Film Comp team has posted up some behind the scenes photos. One of the things about shooting a full film with 5D MkII cameras is you inevitably end up with some great photos too.

We’re not allowed to post the video online until the finalists are announced. But I promise I’ll get it up here ASAP after that. Currently we only have a Standard Definition (stupid rules) cut but we’re hoping to remaster it in full HD too.

You might recognize ‘Dr Phil’ from 22 seconds into the new Air New Zealand Advert. What a tough job!

Horst and Carlos, our erstwhile directors.

D. McG. who composed our original score.

Collaborative editing.

Intergen | Photography | Toy Box|Thursday, 14 May 2009 00:52:04 UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Sunday, 19 April 2009
Playing with the Canon 5D MkII plus some Strobes in the Redwoods MTB Park in Rotorua


So I spent last week Mountain Biking in Rotorua and generally recovering from my 3 months of travel.

Got out with the Canon 5D MkII and some strobes for a bit of run in the Redwoods.

Photos were taken by a variety of Myself, Phil Ross, James Ogle and Sarah Bolland.

Redwoods (Experimental ) Photo Ride (1 of 13)

Phil Ross on ‘The Dipper’.
5D MkII, Sigma 14mm F2.8 EX DG + 580 EX II on ‘Ebay Triggers’

 Redwoods (Experimental ) Photo Ride (2 of 13)

Chris Auld on ‘The Dipper’
5D MkII, Sigma 14mm F2.8 EX DG + 580 EX II on ‘Ebay Triggers’

 Redwoods (Experimental ) Photo Ride (3 of 13)

Canon 20D and Canon EF 50mm F1.8 II

 Redwoods (Experimental ) Photo Ride (4 of 13)

Chris Auld on the Dipper
Canon 5D Mk II w/ 70-200 F2.8 IS L 1 x 580 EX 1 x 580 EX II fired by ST-E2

Redwoods (Experimental ) Photo Ride (5 of 13)
David Addison
Canon 20D and Canon EF 50mm F1.8 II

Redwoods (Experimental ) Photo Ride (6 of 13)

Chris Auld and David Addison on The Dipper
Canon 5D Mk II w/ 70-200 F2.8 IS L 1 x 580 EX 1 x 580 EX II fired by ST-E2


 Redwoods (Experimental ) Photo Ride (7 of 13)

Chris Auld and David Addison on The Dipper
Canon 20D and Canon EF 50mm F1.8 II


Redwoods (Experimental ) Photo Ride (8 of 13)

Getting the strobes setup
Canon 20D and Canon EF 50mm F1.8 II

 Redwoods (Experimental ) Photo Ride (9 of 13)

David Addison on The Dipper
Canon 5D Mk II w/ 24-104 F4 L IS 1 x 580 EX 1 x 580 EX II fired by ST-E2 

 Redwoods (Experimental ) Photo Ride (10 of 13)

Chris Auld on The Dipper
Canon 5D Mk II w/ 24-104 F4 L IS 1 x 580 EX 1 x 580 EX II fired by ST-E2 

 Redwoods (Experimental ) Photo Ride (11 of 13)

Canon 20D and Canon EF 50mm F1.8 II

 Redwoods (Experimental ) Photo Ride (12 of 13)

Canon 20D and Canon EF 50mm F1.8 II

 Redwoods (Experimental ) Photo Ride (13 of 13)

Chris Auld on The Dipper
Canon 5D Mk II w/ 24-104 F4 L IS 1 x 580 EX 1 x 580 EX II fired by ST-E2  Adventure Sports | Photography|Sunday, 19 April 2009 22:48:40 UTC|Comments [1]|    

 Saturday, 03 January 2009
Friends Wedding Photos – Dec 08

So I did some photos for a friends wedding in late Dec. Not processed them fully (that’s a job for one evening this week) but here are a few sneak peaks.

All shot on a Canon 5D Mk II with EF 24-105 F4 L IS, EF 70-200 F2.8 and Sigma EF 50mm F1.4

  _MG_6353 _MG_6359 _MG_6369 _MG_6373 _MG_6389 _MG_6436_MG_6402  _MG_6674_MG_6456

Photography|Saturday, 03 January 2009 02:41:46 UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Friday, 02 January 2009
I Want More 580 EX IIs…

So I’ve been updating my blog subscriptions this afternoon for the New Year. This has seen me add quite a few new photography blogs, quite a few of which focus on flash photography. Found a really cool post about high speed sync flash work and flash gun arrays.

Smashing Pumpkins With High-Speed Sync * Gang Light - Part 2

The Rail - twelve Canon 580 EX IIs triggered by RadioPopper P1s

The Gang Light Rail - 12 Canon 580 EX IIs triggered by RadioPopper P1s

The home run at 1/6400" = seeds frozen in space.

The home run at 1/6400" = seeds frozen in space.

Way cool! So I’m saving for Radio Poppers, another 580 EX II and an ST-E2 now :-) Might not get to 12 though!

Photography|Friday, 02 January 2009 04:53:54 UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Friday, 07 September 2007
A Day Out Of The Office...... Tamarack + Payette River

Went paddling and mountain biking in Idaho today.... had a blast.

Photos here:

That *should* be a public link....

Adventure Sports | Photography | Travel|Friday, 07 September 2007 03:51:54 UTC|Comments [1]|    

 Sunday, 26 August 2007
Canon 40D vs Nikon - Have Canon dropped the ball?

So I recently got myself a second hand 20D as I was sick of waiting for the 40D.

Both the 40D and D300 were announced this week and the Nikon, from my point of view, craps all over the Canon.

I'm not yet really wedded to a particular lens mount and the D300 with the option to step up later to the Full Frame high spped D3 is looking pretty bloody good. I'm going to do some playing with both bodies over the coming weeks- saving my pennies for a US or Singapore shopping spree later in the year.

Of course Canon shit all over Nikon when it comes to Lenses.....

Photography|Sunday, 26 August 2007 06:09:25 UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Thursday, 09 August 2007
New Toys for Me... EOS 20D

Got myself a sweet new (2nd hand) Digital DLR yesterday as my birthday gift for myself :-)

It's a Canon EOS 20D Bod. Barely used. I thought that there wasn't a bundle of point in buying the newer model... it really only offered a Bigger screen on the back to which I say BLAH... it's an SLR!

I'm currently using my nasty old Sigma 28-200 Superzoom and my “Every Canon Shooter Must Have One” 50mm F1.8 on it.

Now I have to decide on another Lens.

Current Candidates are:

Canon EF 24-70 F2.8 L
This is a nice fast lens. L spec is nice. Is an EF lens so if I get bitten by the bug I can carry it across to a big sensor camera like the 1D MarkIII or 3D/7D/5D (yes... you know they coming!!!!0

Canon EF 24-105 F4 L IS
Not as fast as the above. But, longer Zoom range and Image Stabilized. Currently my top choice. Is still an L spec lens and F4 is not terrible... only 1 stop above the 2.8.

Canon EF-S 18-55 F2.8 IS
So in many ways this combines the best features of the above. Fast lens WITH Image stabilization. Arguably the lower bottom end is well suited to my 1.6 crop camera. But... it's as much as the above and a non L series lens (read plastic!!!) and being EF-S I can't take it across to a bigger sensor later....

I am torn..

Share your thoughts!

Photography|Thursday, 09 August 2007 23:48:22 UTC|Comments [3]|