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Remote Photography Made Easy

 
At this year’s Wedding & Portrait Photography International (WPPI) trade show I made it a point to watch several live demos of drones. Why, you may ask, are there drones on exhibit at a conference dealing with photography? Well, judging from their impressive video capabilities, drones are frequently used to record weddings. Although it’s been a while since I ended my stint as a wedding photographer, I’m still quite taken by the possibilities and usefulness of drone photography.

After talking to a few of the drone sales representatives at WPPI, I purchased the Mavic Pro. This compact unit has many impressive features – foldable rotors, interchangeable battery, gimbal mounted 4K video camera, micro SD card to record images, remote controller with multiple flight modes, live streaming to your smart phone.

Following, I’ll give you a quick look at some of the above-mentioned features that I make this a worthwhile investment for my flying pleasure – and the pleasure of a few of my grandkids.


When not in use, you can fold the rotor arms. This makes it very easy to carry the Mavic from place to place. On board sensors guide its flight path away from obstacles such as trees or buildings. The Mavic’s battery is rechargeable. Each charge provides about 25 minutes of flight time. Since the battery is also interchangeable, you can carry a spare to extended your flight outings.

The built-in video camera provides very good quality images owing to the 3-axis gimbal that steadies the movies. Video images are stored on an interchangeable micro-SD card. You can also stream live video to an attached smart-phone.

You can connect your smart-phone to the remote controller. Use the controller to start and stop video recording, point the camera in a different direction or take still photos. The smart-phone screen displays the live camera imagery. Additionally, the DJI app lets you change drone settings and view vital information and statistics. Users can command the drone to follow and record a specific person or object from up to 4 miles away. Wave at the Mavic to snap a still photo of you on the ground. Or plot a course for the Mavic to fly using multiple waypoints. The controller is very capable.

Newbies can fly the Mavic using several foolproof ways to avoid crashing. Here’s my grandson taking his first flying lesson using Beginner Mode. You can see that this still photo taken remotely by my grandson demonstrates the high quality of the Mavic’s on-board camera.



Below is a series of Mavic clips that I’ve combined into a short movie. Note how smooth the video plays due to the steadying effect of the gimbal mounted camera.


 

 



 

 
The Mavic Pro sells for about $1000. For more information about the Mavic Pro please visit DJI.

 

 



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“Wet” shots

25th July 2016

A “must-have” for the pool owner

For nearly thirty years my wife has been after me to build a swimming pool in our yard. Finally, I sort of succumbed to her pressure two years ago. But instead of building one, we found another home that already had a built-in pool.

I have to admit that the swimming pool has been a great addition for the family, especially for the grandkids who drop in regularly to cool off. This being our second summer as pool owners, we’ve hosted many ad hoc combination swim/BBQ dinners. This in turn has given me lots of opportunities to photograph the kids in action.

Late in 2013 I added a neat camera to my growing collection of equipment. The Nikon 1 AW1 had just been introduced as the first rugged mirrorless, interchangeable lens camera. The feature that won me over was the AW1’s underwater capability. Without having to use a bulky and expensive housing this compact unit is usable down to 49 feet. Additionally, it is shockproof from falls up to 6 feet and can operate in temperatures as low as 15 degrees F. Along with the camera, I opted for two lenses: a zoom 11-27.5mm (30-74mm equivalent) and a fixed 10mm (27mm equivalent).

For extra protection, I ordered two accessories: the orange silicone protective jacket and the convenient hand strap.

 

Here’s a sampling of how I use the AW1:

 


teaching one of the young ones to swim

a very cold and wet whitewater trip

 


underwater action

a pair of grandkids

 


lounging on top

half submerged, half above water

 

 

As an old school shooter, I’m both comfortable and used to messing around with the camera settings. However with the AW1, I’ve come to use it almost as a point-and-shoot camera. Of course the overwhelming number of images that I’ve shot have been in and around the pool, usually with lots of sun. Although I’ve haven’t changed the ISO, white balance, aperture nor shutter speed on the AW1, the photos have turned out well.

For those occasions when the natural light is low, pop up the built-in flash which works underwater too. Press the red-dotted button and you’re shooting movies – either above water or below water. And of course I can change lenses from the zoom to the fixed wide-angle.

 

All in all, I have found the AW1 great not only in and around the water, but it performs well on dry land too.

 

 
Written by: Arnie Lee

 

 


Summer Faces

31st May 2016

 


 

Just Faces

Here’s a small album of pictures that show you that Summer is here.

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 



 

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Taking Flight

08th February 2015

Things With Wings

 

Like many others, I’ve been fascinated with flight and things that fly.

On a recent trip to the parts of the USA where the sun is bright and warm, I had another chance to look skyward.

Here’s a short gallery of some of the sitings that caught my eye.










 
 

For those who are interested these photos are from Death Valley National Park, Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, McCarran International Airport, Creech AFB, Nellis AFB and Everglades National Park.
 
 
Written by: Arnie Lee
 
 


 
 

Flying Museums

11th December 2014

Warbirds up Close

For more than a 15 years in one of my previous careers, our company was immersed in the world of flight simulation.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the job was attend the many aviation air shows and events. Yearly we would trek to Florida, California, New York and Wisconsin to name a few places where we could see and touch a multitude of flying machines. My favorite time was strolling along side the many historic aircraft from World War II.

Here’s an up close look at of some of the warbird aircraft that we eagerly visited but from a slightly different viewpoint than you would ordinarily see.


Dakota Kid – North American P-51D Mustang

Marine’s Dream – Vought F4U Corsair

Hot Stuff – Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon

Miss Magic – North American T28B Trojan

Annie Mo – Vought F4U Corsair

VMF – unknown Marine Fighter Squadron aircraft

Panchito – North American B-25J Mitchell

Martha Jean – North American B-25J Mitchell

 
I think you’ll agree that there is certainly a lot of artistic pride and patriotic flavor to these fine examples of nose art.
 
 
Written by: Arnie Lee
 
 

For Movies on the Move

For several years now, GoPro has demonstrated the overwhelming popularity of action videos. They have built an empire of a business around its brand.

Sony’s HDR-AS100V and newer, yet slightly smaller HDR-AZ1 cameras are the center of their video system for recording action in the field. Both units pack lots of features into a very compact space: 1080p with image stabilization, stereo sound, high speed recording, 170-degree view, interval recoding, and WiFi and NFC equipped and GPS (AS100V only).

They are ruggedized and are waterproof, shockproof, dustproof and freezeproof without having to purchase additional accessories.

This AZ1 which is 2/3 the size of the AS100V, is mounted on a drone. Using an optional Live-View Remote (RM-LVR2V) which straps to your wrist you can control the AZ1, change settings and view the playback from afar.

The included Action Cam Movie Creator software lets edit your footage into complete, quality movies using the special recording features e.g. high speed recording, merging multiple clips into a single clip, etc.

 
 
There are a whole host of accessories for the Action Cam system including various camera mounts and straps for bicycling, surfing, boating, diving, snow sports and skateboarding.

List price for AS100V is $279 and for the AZ1 is $249. For more information, see the Sony ActionCam webpage.
 
 
Written by: Arnie Lee
 
 


 
 

The Sony A6000 Mirrorless

14th August 2014

My 6300-Mile Field Test

On our recent vacation, my camera of choice was Sony’s newest mirrorless camera. While I also brought a much larger Nikon D700 conventional DSLR, I relied mostly on the the Sony A6000. As a comparison, I captured about 150 images with the Nikon D700 and more than a thousand images with the Sony A6000.

My setup was the A6000 coupled with Sony’s 18-200mm lens. This combination is lightweight and compact, produces quality images and just happens to fit beneath the driver’s seat for fast, convenient access.

Hopefully, the following photographic sampler illustrates the A6000’s versatility. I’ll add a few techie details afterwards.



The A6000 is smaller than a conventional DSLR so it’s both lighter and more compact.

You can compare the sizes of the A6000 next to the conventional Nikon D700 DSLR.


The A6000’s high resolution 24MP sensor renders scenics with very high detail.

Additionally, the camera can capture subjects that have a wide range of exposure levels.


The A6000’s articulated LCD makes it easy to capture stills and closeups.

The much improved focusing system works well for wildlife shots.


With the 18-200mm lens, I can keep dry while still in on the action.

Here’s some quick, responsive focusing


The A6000’s bright viewfinder makes it easy to compose and frame in bright sunlight.

The electronic viewfinder previews the scene with the camera adjustments applied.


It handles action shots well and can capture up to 11 frames per second.

The exposure system works quite well with a wide variety of subjects.


I used the camera’s sweep panorama feature often to automatically produce some very pleasing large images.

I suppose it doesn’t matter than I traveled 6300 miles with the camera other than I used it under a variety of conditions.

My “film” was a 32GB SD card, but I never filled it with the 200 pictures a day (the camera was set to record simultaneous RAW and JPG images). All in all, I’m very happy with the images that the camera produced. The one small gotcha is that the A6000 has a short battery life – probably due to the electronic viewfinder. Thankfully, I had an extra battery that I carried along.

Since this is my third Sony mirrorless camera, you can safely assume that I’d recommend this camera to others. In fact my daughter must have agreed with my assessment and purchased one.


For those interested, here’s a few of the technical specs for the A6000:

Sony A6000 os a mirrorless with a 24MP sensor. One of the reasons for choosing this camera is its fast and accurate hybrid focusing system that allows up to 11 frames per second capture. Other proven features are its “sweep panorama”, automated HDR capture, easy exposure bracketing, and Sony’s proven video recording.

List price for the A6000 body without lens is $650. The 18-200mm lens cost $850, more than the body but this single lens allowed me to enjoy the scenery without clutter of additional lenses.


 

 
Written by: Arnie Lee


Rapid Fire Nikon D4s

17th April 2014

How does 11 frames per second sound?

At the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International Expo last month in Las Vegas, I got a chance to handle Nikon’s newly announced D4s camera.

Although it’s lighter than the D4, it has a remarkable 16MP sensor that’s superb at high ISO settings. In fact we saw a demonstration of the camera at an ISO setting of 25600 and there was virtually no noise. With many other DLSRs sporting higher pixel counts, the D4s sacrifices more pixels in exchange for very superior noise reduction.

But the feature that caught my eye (actually my ear) is its high speed, rapid fire capability. Rated at 11 frames per second with continuous autofocus and autoexposure, this camera is will garner the attention of sports and action photographers.

I made a short recording at Nikon’s booth. The shutter sounds like a miniature machine gun. To hear it, please press the play button below:
 
 
      
 
 
Pretty impressive, if you ask me.
 
 

Although it’s a better performer in several respects, the new D4s is lighter weight than the predecessors D4 and D3s.

Nikon’s rep Paul Van Allen told me that the the D4s is already available. Price for the D4s body is steep $6,500.
 
 
Written by: Arnie Lee
 
 
 


 
 
 

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Removing the Shakes

30th March 2014

Stabilizers for Shooting Video

As I was making my way through the 300+ exhibitor booths at this month’s Wedding & Portrait Photographers International Expo I was reminded how important video has become to this part of the photo industry.

For quality smooth videos, photographers rely on stabilizers to remove the shakes. At the lower end of the spectrum is the iPhone and GoPro. With proper stabilization, these cameras are capable of shooting very decent videos.

Tiffen has two accessories: one for iPhone and another for the GoPro Hero: the Curve and the Smoothee.


Tiffen Smoothee
Tiffen Curve

The “Smoothee” is for an iPhone

The “Curve” is a lightweight stabilizer for the GoPro Hero

The Steadicam Smoothee is a small single handle device with a quick-release mount for the iPhone. It sells for $150. For more information, please visit Steadicam Smoothee

The Steadicam Curve is specifically designed and balanced for the various models of the GoPro Hero. The price is $100 and is available in four colors. For more information, please visit Steadicam Curve

Both the Smoothee and the Curve are lightweight and allow the photographer to easily move alongside the subject while recording smooth videos.


For larger cameras, a solid tripod with a robust fluid head is most often used. But for hand-held applications, photographers will want to turn to a portable video rig.

One such rig is the Comodo Orbit.


The “Orbit” stabilizer from Comodo is designed for much larger cameras.

This is a lightweight, hand-held gimbal rig built for DLSRs

The twin grips make the rig easier to handle especially when shooting for extended periods of time. The grips also double as a floor stand. With its gimbal mount, the camera is free to pivot to its stabilized position. The Orbit sells for $1500. For more information please visit Comodo.

 
 
 
Written by Arnie Lee
 
 


A Single Photo is Just a Split Second in Time

A few weeks ago I traveled to Yellowstone to view the wildlife and scenery before the cold and snow arrived. Unfortunately, I chose to visit at the same time that our government decided to shutdown the National Parks.

The scene went something like this: As I passed through the north gate at Gardiner, MT at 7:30am on October 1st, the park ranger informed me that Yellowstone would be closing at 8:00am, just about 30 minutes from now. Having just entered the park, I was temporarily elated to think I’d have the entire place to myself.

 

My plan was to drive southward to Norris for some hiking in this amazing geyser basin.

As I approached Nymph Lake, I was awed by a lone bison foraging near a mountainside of steaming fumaroles.

I immediately pulled off the road onto the shoulder and grabbed my camera. Here’s the shot.

But my stop off here didn’t quite end after taking this photo as you’ll soon see.

Bison at the Fumaroles

 


In the above photo, the bison was standing about 150 yards away across the main highway.

As I stood next to my car, the bison slowly troded towards the area in which I was standing. You can see the asphalt in the foreground.

The bison didn’t stop there, he kept coming towards me. I always adhere to the “wildlife ethic” of not approaching animals, but this was the reverse situation.


From the above photograph you can’t tell that there were already six or seven other autos parked on the shoulder.

These visitors had already spotted the bison and were admiring the dramatic view.

Little did we all know that the bison wanted to admire our autos. She strode right over while all of us wisely gave her plenty of room to wander.


She remained just feet from me for several minutes.

So as not to disturb her, I stood very still and captured her portrait. I shot over the hood of my auto to keep some distance between the two of us.


As it turns out, this bison was the mother waiting for her calf. The calf was also across the road, but out of sight. He came hobbling over to mom a few minutes later.

When they were reunited, they walked off along the tree lined path. The calf had a very visible injury to its rear leg.

Here’s hoping that he’ll make it through the winter.


 
After I lost sight of the pair of bisons, I hopped back in the car and continued driving southward. Little did I know that most of the viewing areas and parking in Yellowstone would be barricaded with orange cones including the Norris Geyser Basin due to the government shutdown. There went my hiking plans.

Was I disappointed? Yes, but not depressed. Having stopped at this and several other roadside areas in the park was still exciting and exhilarating both emotionally and visually.

The single photograph “Bison at the Fumaroles” is but a split second during my visit to Yellowstone. Along with the other photos, these five split seconds actually add up to much more than the fifteen actual minutes that I spent near Nymph Lake.

I don’t think I can put a number on the amount of enjoyment this stop off brought me during this visit to one of my favorite places.

 

 
Written by: Arnie Lee

 

 


 

 

 

 

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