Photography

How to photograph the Aurora Borealis

This year (2013-2014) is a good time for seeing the Aurora Borealis (and its lesser-known Southern twin, the Aurora Australis) – commonly known as the Northern- and Southern Lights. I have my heart set on seeing the Lights with my own eyes in the coming year, so in this post I’d like to talk about how one can best prepare for capturing this natural wonder.

A friend, Bart Vastenhouw, travelled to the region of Varanger in Norway to see and photograph the lights. Here is one of the photographs he came back with:Aurora at Varanger

Bart captured this beautiful scene using a Canon 40D and Canon 10-22mm F3.5-4.5 wide-angle lens. The 40D was a good camera, but these days there are better ones to choose from. The lens is decent too, but for best results you’d want a wide angle with larger aperture (F2.8 or faster).

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(c) Usain Bolt

Not only is Usain Bolt the fastest man alive, but he is also a budding photographer! :)

Usain Bolt shooting some after-action snapshots with Swedish photographer Jimmy Wixtröm's camera. Image (c) Reuters

Usain Bolt shooting some after-action snapshots with Swedish photographer Jimmy Wixtröm’s camera. Image (c) Reuters

Immediately after making history by defending his 200m Olympic crown, Usain walked over to the photographer booth and took Swedish photographer Jimmy Wixtröm’s camera.
Bolt then proceeded to take several photos from his unique point of view. Pretty good photos, too! Now the question may be asked who has copyright of these photos.

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The (D)SLR camera simulator

A good friend of mine showed me the cute webpage of the “SLR Camera Simulator”. This simulator gives you the chance to interactively play around with a virtual camera that features the major controls any serious photographer should master: focal length, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity.

If you are new to photography, this is a great way to get a feel for how a camera responds to your input. Of course you could (and should) also use a real camera to play around, but at least this little girl is more patient than any real-life human child. And the site gives handy feedback, too.

Click image (below) to redirect to The SLR Camera Simulator:

Joshua Sundquist: Real or Photoshopped?

Do you think this photo comparison currently doing the rounds on twitter is fake? Well so did I when I first saw it. Looks a little “fake”, right? In fact, someone in a forum calling herself “a professional expert in Photoshop” vouched for this photo’s fake-ness.

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Freeky Roger Ballen inspires “Die Antwoord”

Being a South African myself, I am proud of the waves Die Antwoord is making – there are few (if any) other South African bands that are on the bleeding edge like this duo is.

In the video “I Fink U Freeky” for their new album Ten$ion, Die Antwoord worked together with famed US / South African  photographer Roger Ballen to create something exotic. Love it or or hate it, you just have to admire the way the result captures Ballen’s photographic style and transforms it into a powerful audiovisual tour de force. (warning: NSFW / video contains mature content)

Examples of Roger Ballen's iconic work

Music videos inspired by photographs and paintings are of course no new thing. Examples include Live – Turn My Head (inspired by John Register paintings) and more infamously, Rihanna’s S&M video that effectively plagiarized the work by photographer David LaChapelle.

In this case it is great to see an established pro photographer (a veteran with 50 years’ experience) collaboratively creating something beautifully Freeky on youtube.

The 64 Megapixel Blue Marble

NASA released this incredible new high-res image of the Earth, taken by the recently launched Earth-observing satellite, Suomi NPP.

The image, which centers on North and Central America, has been nicknamed “Blue Marble 2012″ after the famous “Blue Marble” image taken during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. The original Blue Marble, featuring the Arabian Peninsula and Africa, is one of the most well recognized photographs of all time.

You can download the full image in fantastic 64 megapixel resolution (8,000 x 8,000)!

Nikon Speedlight SB-910 vs SB-900

Today Nikon announced the SB-910, a new top-of the range flash unit to replace the SB-900.

The SB-910 (left) vs the SB-900 (right)

This is a rather quick replacement – only 2 years and 5 months after the SB-900 appeared on the market. Compare this to the previous update cycle: It took Nikon 5 years to replace the SB-800 (announced 22 July 2003).

This update most probably has something to do with a gripe some professional users had with the SB-900: if you worked it too hard the thermal protection circuitry will kick in, rendering it unusable until it cooled.
While this is good for the unit’s self-preservation, it is terrible news to a photographer shooting a critical scene (imagine the bride walking down the aisle). Of course, working pros should be aware of this (it is explained in the manual), and it’s simple to switch this feature off if you don’t like it.

Non the less it comes as no surprise: The SB-910’s new thermal protection system slows the flash recycle frequency rather than it simply shutting down.

More visible changes on the back: the SB-910 (left) vs the SB-900 (right)

The full list of changes compared to the SB-900, just like in its model number, are marginal:

  • New overheating control (slowed recycle time instead of shutdown)
  • Improved battery management
  • Slightly simplified user interface (more like the SB-700)
  • Illuminated buttons
  • New “hard” colour filters (like on the SB-700)
  • Slightly tweaked exterior that is ever-so-slightly heavier (about 1%)

The SB-910 is already available for pre-order at around $550. If you’re clever and don’t need the tweaked features of the SB-910 you can save yourself $100 (20%) and instead order the SB-900 for $449 (B&H), while stock lasts.

Moby gets (partially) electrocuted

Seems like Moby’s electric problems go the other way too. In 2008 I blogged about how his laser show fried my camera’s sensor (video), and now the tables turned when he was partially electrocuted at a performance in Amsterdam!

However I’m baffled by how (what looks like) a 12V DC light fixture could have caused him any harm. Methinks this a publicity stunt. But maybe Moby is a robot after all…

Youch… What would Eminem say about this?

Auto ISO and flash on the Nikon D7000, D5100, D3100 etc.

Summary: Newer Nikon DSLR cameras seem to choose unnecessarily high ISO values when using a flash in combination with auto-ISO – specifically in “P”, “A” and “S” mode. I have verified this issue for the Nikon D7000 and the D3100, and from forums I deduce that it also goes for the D5000, D3000, D5100 and D300s.

Auto ISO on Nikon’s DSLRs has gotten confusing

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Lighting up those surfing shots

It pains me to only repost other people’s blogs, but due to a host of factors I find myself with too little time to write my own full entries. I might add that a recent addition to my camera family, a Nikon D7000, also skews my priorities – I think I’d like to spend more time making photographs, and not only talk about them. :P

But, without further ado – here is an interesting video showcasing how Dave Black uses a monstrously concocted photography nerd’s wet dream to make amazing surf photographs. Thanks to Scott Bryant for blogging about it (click on the picture to reach the full article):

 

How the pros do it: Way rad surfing shots (Click on image!)

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