Allen's Blog

7 results found for ‘Martha’s Vineyard’:

President Obama Returns to Martha’s Vineyard, and I Check My ‘Priorities’

Two days ago, the President returned to a Martha’s Vineyard golf course very near our home, so I had the chance (away from the rest of the press) to make a new image of Mr. Obama at play. After the expected full inspection by the Secret Service ahead of the President’s arrival, there was  a wait of about 15 minutes while he played the previous hole.

There are things you can control, and particularly with the President of the U.S., even more things you can’t. Instead of playing to the 8th green where I was, the President and his foursome skipped the hole and went straight to the adjacent 9th tee, after driving his cart over to say hello. He was friendly enough in his greeting,  but said he was running late (if you’re the President, I guess you can play the just holes you want).

President Obama driving a golf cart

I had already mounted the latest version of Nikon’s tack-sharp and very fine 70-200mm f/2.8ED on my D300, figuring that would cover his short game and putting. And here comes today’s photo lesson —

What shooting mode to use? First of all, there was plenty of light, even though the subject matter was largely back-lit. I wanted a bit of depth-of-field, but since the picture was all about Mr. Obama, what’s far more important was a fast shutter speed. That dictated going to Aperture-Priority set at f/4. With the VR turned on, I ended up with a shutter speed of 1/640, which guaranteed  a sharp image.

Martha's Vineyard Gazette front page Obama in golf cart

It always makes me crazy that there are so many people who buy a fine camera and great optics, whether an SLR or a point-and-shoot, and then just leave it in AUTO mode. And yet, it’s what I see all the time, even with friends and family — they eagerly seek my advice on what to buy, and then leave in AUTO until they’re ready to buy a new camera. Here’s my point: you definitely will never learn all the options and gimmicks your new camera offers, but please, at least learn how, when, and why to use the various shooting modes.

It was all over in just a few seconds and eight frames (I’m not a fan of high-speed motor drive shooting.) Then, on the 9th tee, he was a good bit farther away, but I took a couple of more shots and caught the President in the midst of the classic Obama fist-bump with one of  his partners. That picture, appearing inside the paper and cropped a bit, was just a bit of pure lucky timing.

Obama fist bumping one of his golf partners

The President leaves the Island this evening, a day early. Now I and the rest of the Gazette staff are turning our full attention to something just as unpredictable as covering Mr. Obama: tracking Hurricane Irene.

A Minor Rant on Camera Straps

The weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal is always full of great articles in the Off Duty and Review sections, but a recent small feature on camera straps got me really riled up.

Last week I offered to photograph an extended family visiting one of the beaches on Martha’s Vineyard. When I was handed their Canon EOS 5D, my willingness to take what became a very nice photo was accompanied by my insistence that they replace the strap as soon as possible. (“It came with the camera,” is—invariably—the response I receive for my earnest pleas.)

I’ve noted before the unfortunate (and dangerous) practice of wearing a ‘steal me’ advertisement around your neck, where the strap included with your camera lets the whole world know exactly which high-dollar camera you’re carrying. All manufacturers seem to be guilty of this; from their perspective, it’s simply Branding 101. For the customer, though, it begs an extra measure of vigilance while out and about.

WSJ camera strap feature So back to the WSJ: the photo shows a roundup of so-called “dapper” straps—none of which looks particularly comfortable—priced from 29 to 140 dollars. You’d be far better off with a strap from OP/TECH, superbly designed and made in the USA. I have found their Envy Strap to be perfect for both my mirrorless Fuji X-series bodies and my full-frame Nikon SLRs with long lenses. And the price can’t be beat: under 20 dollars. They’re comfortable, reliable, and they don’t attract the wrong kind of attention.

OP/TECH camera strap on Fuji X-E2

Raj, our technology director and blog contributor in his own right, goes one further and uses our microGAFFER tape to obscure the logos on his Fuji X-E2. Not only does it make the camera look more generic to thieves (perhaps even a touch dilapidated); since it leaves no residue, there’s no need to worry about ruining the camera’s finish when time comes to peel and resell.

Raj's Fuji with microGAFFER

Back in the days when I carried as many as three cameras around my neck and two more on my shoulders (zoom lenses didn’t exist), the strap of choice was known as the “Schwalberg Strap”, likely purchased from Marty Forscher’s Professional Camera Repair in New York. Now, it’s two cameras at most, with zoom lenses that can cover just about any optical range.

The bottom line is to spend your money on the things that really help you make better images, rather than just looking the part. More about that shortly, when I address the remarkable supplemental iPhone optics from ExoLens, which feature Zeiss glass.

Allen shooting Nikon tele lens

Lordy… What a Light!

Thanks to James Comey for legitimizing my use of ‘Lordy,’ but a product I’ve been using recently has been just astonishing in what it can do in a package so small it belongs in every shooter’s gear bag.

Aladdin Eye-Light BiIt’s called the Aladdin Eye-Lite Bi. Distributed in the U.S. by Zylight, it’s a bicolor LED light that fits in your hand and is rated to run continuously for two hours (or far longer, if you don’t mind plugging in via micro USB). Color temperature is adjustable from 2900–6400K; a second dial controls dimming from 5–100%. Unlike many of the cheap “me too” LEDs we’ve complained about over the years, the Eye-Lite Bi’s color rendering is excellent – 95 CRI/TLCI.

Its 3.5” x 1.5”aluminum housing is sturdy and weighs a mere 2 ounces. The micro USB port is along the top side, and the ¼-20 tripod thread along the bottom can certainly come in handy when shoe-mounting to your camera or a mini tripod. There’s even a small loop built into one corner, about zip-tie size, if that’s how you like to keep things organized. It’s not cheap—it’ll run you about $160 at your local camera store—but it is worth it! (If you can get by on a non-bicolor version, you may still be able to find Aladdin’s previous models for a few bucks less; I first saw them at NAB a few years ago, and was impressed, but I feel that the bicolor version is a truly outstanding product.)

Aladdin Eye-Lite used as fill light

For its size, it puts out a lot of light, and you can easily tape any diffusion or color gels over the LED array. It is a terrific tool for close-up work, and I can see wide use in forensics. Anyone shooting with a macro lens, whether nature close-ups, food, jewelry, or scientific imaging, will see its usefulness. When you have a light source this small (and therefore this maneuverable), adjustments are incredibly easy.

I used it recently while photographing a necklace made by Martha’s Vineyard artist Kate Taylor. The materials are wampum, sea glass, and gold beads. While the image with no supplemental lighting is fine (if a bit flat), adding the Eye-Lite made a real difference in depth and dimensionality.

Product shot - before and after

As many of you know, I’m always looking for new products that extend our creativity, and this is one of several that I’ll be writing about in the next few weeks.