Monthly Archives: September 2009

Do As I Say….

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Photo © Bob Krist

You know how I’m always advising you to try to get local help whenever possible…because it saves you shoe leather and helps you get great pictures? Well, sometimes, I don’t listen to myself, and that’s when I get into trouble.

Well you can’t really call it trouble if you’re getting snaps like that of the Church of the Assumption on Bled Island in Lake Bled, Slovenia above. No, I have to admit, it’s pretty hard to miss in this incredibly beautiful lake in the Julian Alps. I got this one with a D300s, 16-85mm VR lens and a Singh Ray LB Color Combo Polarizer.

Check out a few other views of this lake after the jump, and a description of the shot that got away…. Continue reading »

Friar Photos in a Flash

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Photo © Bob Krist

You’ve heard me whine talk about it before; how travel photographers, unlike the portrait artists, often have to photograph people on the run with little or no control over subject, placement, or even posing. It’s a chronic situation, and it requires you to think on your feet.

This happened to be several times on my latest trip, a fantastic assignment in Slovenia.  This little country is full of great photo ops, and they’re all packed into a place a little bigger than New Jersey.  You want authentic old Europe, great scenery, and interesting people, you come here.

Among the better stops was the old Olimje Monastery in the northeast part of the country. Friar Ernest Benko was giving a tour of the facility, including the monastery’s old pharmacy, built in 1663. It’s said to be the third oldest pharmacy in all of Europe, and a good shot of the Friar here would be the “money” shot for this stop.

But while the Friar would agree to be photographed, he wouldn’t pose and he wouldn’t stop the tour. To see how I worked around those restrictions to get the above shot, plus some other tries, hit the jump. Continue reading »

Meet Mr. Wizard

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Don Herbert, Mr. Wizard, in action

When I was a kid, there was a great show called “Watch Mr. Wizard” that was designed to get all us baby boomers interested in science. Don Herbert, the genial host, would explain all the mysteries of science is such a friendly, avuncular way that for most of my childhood, I actually thought I wanted to be a scientist.

That was before I discovered the liberal arts, of course; where all you needed was the courage of your convictions and a good line of patter, and you really didn’t have to know a thing! You mean, I can get by with a good line of bulls__t  and nothing substantive behind it?  Where do I sign up?

Fortunately, though, there were some kids who really got the message, and  Michael Bass was probably one of them. He spent his salad years as a dentist, but as his son got into sports photography, Michael let his inner tinkerer out–to the benefit of photographers everywhere.

Michael modifies complicated gear and solves problems for any shooter using remote cameras and cords, strobes, Pocket Wizards, you name it. You need a custom modification to solve a special problem? He’s probably already done it well, and reasonably priced, for a dozen guys before you. Just check out his site for the staggering array of custom mods that are “business as usual” for him. He adds stuff by the minute, it seems, so if you don’t hit the site every week, you’ll be overwhelmed by what he’s got on the docket.

One of the great mods he did for me was putting an extra hotshoe on a Nikon SC17 cord. This allowed me to put AC manual Dynalites in the corners of a big ballroom where I was shooting a dance for a story about a military academy, and trip them with Pocket Wizards, while at the same time, I had an SB 800 on the end of the cord, that gave me TTL for my on camera flash. Nikon_OCC_20

I was able to waltz around the ballroom and shoot the dancers with TTL, and have the big units providing background light and controlled from the Pocket Wizard so they wouldn’t go off everytime someone took an iPhone or point and shoot picture.

He’s also made pre-trigger cords for remote firing my D90s and D300s with the Pocket Wizard, replaced broken feet on speedlights, and stuff like that. While it seems that sport shooters are his main customer base, he’s open to any and all requests….if you dream it, he will make it.

Yes, Dorothy, there is a wizard out there, but he ain’t in Oz or in Kansas either ! He’s in Connecticut…..

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www.whattheduck.net

A Real Square Deal

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Almost every week, some new lighting gizmo is announced to slake the thirst and open the wallets of Strobists everywhere, who are ever on the lookout for smaller gear to do bigger jobs. A lot of those gizmos are, quite frankly, only minor improvements over bare flash. Try as you may, you can’t overcome the laws of  physics.

And physics tells us that the larger the light source is in relation to the size of the subject, the softer the light. So really, none of of those compact diffusing dome thingies you fit over your hotshoe-mounted speedlight are going to create really soft windowlight on a human portrait subject (well, maybe the “Tuba-Diffusa”–no, Mr. Fong, you can’t trademark that name, it’s mine!—seen in the above installment of the wonderful What the Duck strip, might do it).

But here’s an easier way. It’s a piece of cool gear I’ve played with lately that lives up to the twin-billing of creating “softlight” and being “compact.”

Picture 1From Paul Peregrine, of Lightware fame, comes the Foursquare, an ingenious 30″ square softbox with a speed ring that facilitates the use of up to 4 speedlights (or two umbrellas in the double bounce clamshell configuration if you’d rather do that than use the softbox).

What makes this a great piece for travel photographers is the fact that the whole kit breaks down to an 18″package, which is camera bag size, and more accessories are on the way.

The most important accessory that a Nikon  or Canon speedlight user will need is the swivel hot shoes that allow the flashes’ sensors to all be pointed back and out for wireless control (yes, that back panel comes off and there’s a translucent front panel too…it’s all modular).

Tales of Customer Service

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With a nod to the wonderful Harry Shearer, whose weekly radio program, Le Show, includes a “copyrighted feature” called “Tales of Airport Security,” I’m weighing with my own irregular and non-copyrighted feature called “Tales of Customer Service.”

This is where I’ll describe the good, the bad, and the ugly in my enounters with customer service in the photo/audio field, (and maybe beyond)! If you’ve got some of your own experiences you’d like to share (both good and bad), write them up, succinctly and with a minimum of profanity, and email them to me.

I can’t promise that they’ll ever see the light of day, but you’ll feel better just getting them off your chest!

The little things mean a lot. Recently, in the rush of packing up in the dark after a twilight beach portrait for Nikon gig, when the mosquitoes were in a feeding frenzy all over me, I ran off without the case for my Photoflex 42″ MultiDisc. The multidisc is my favorite reflector, and I’ve got them in several sizes, but without a case, they’re difficult to pack and carry.

Of course, you can’t order just the case alone from B&H or other retailers, so I contacted the company with an inquiry about a replacement case. Within hours I got a response, with a part number, and instructions to contact them to order. It was frightfully polite, efficient, and downright pleasant, considering it’s a $6.95 part. Good on ya Photoflex. Proves it can be done. But, not by some companies….

Who’s Zoomin’ who? Two months ago, I packed up my Zoom H2 recorder, my first ever audio recorder, because the whole LCD went blank. It’s not a big deal, because I’ve since upgraded to the far superior Olympus LS-10, but still, having the H2 as a working backup isn’t a bad idea. I got an RMA number and did everything by the book and waited, and waited, and waited.

I finally called about the repair status at the 63-day mark, only to be told that it wasn’t even in the system yet, and (wait for it), this was okay since it was “normal” for this to happen.

Now with all due respect, the rep on the phone was polite, but in what universe is a two-month-plus wait for something just to get into the repair queue “normal?” I’ll keep you posted and let you know when it makes it back, but please, don’t hold your breath!

UPDATE: I received the H2 August 10th, going on 90 days after its reception. The LCD screen was replaced, and the repair came to (wait for it) $3 less than the $100 credit card authorization they require.

When you consider that a new H2 is $200 or less, three months and $100 to replace the little LCD screen seems a little, um, cranked up.

Let’s just say that I’ve bought (and repaired) my last Zoom device!