Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Macphun Becomes Skylum in Bid to Challenge Adobe’s Dominance

10:17:00 PM

Popular Apple Macintosh-based software Macphun has announced a name change to Skylum to coincide with the software’s transition to multiplatform status in an announcement from CEO Alex Tsepko posted to the company's website.

The expansion to the Windows platform follows Macphun’s success on Apple’s Mac, where the software has a dedicated following.

Sony Alpha Rumors speculates that Skylum could launch an official challenge to Adobe’s Lightroom software in 2018.

Adobe recently announced that it would end support for Lightroom as a standalone product, with a final update for the software coming in December 2017. Users the remain will likely transition at some point in the future to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, the cloud-based service that functions as the hub for all of Adobe’s former licensed software applications.

Macphun was founded “roughly seven years ago” and “released close to 60 different applications,” most of which had nothing at all to do with photography, CEO Tsepko writes.

Image via RawPixels.com from Pexels.com.

“But the biggest successes came from our photography applications. We topped more than 20,000,000 downloads with our most popular applications: FX Photo Studio, Silent Film Director, and Perfect photo. Early in 2011, we launched our first photo software on the Mac App Store – FX Photo Studio Pro. A year later, we received our first recognition from Apple – Snapheal was named among the Best Apps on the App Store.”

Macphun’s lauded stable of products has given the company confidence that it can grow its base of users to include Windows, citing their consistently awarded software credentials as ample proof they know what they are doing. Macphun users will tend to agree.

Macphun’s two premier products, Aurora HDR (HDR creation app) and Luminar (photo editing), rival the best from Adobe and are among the products promised for the new Windows effort.

“We now have a vision of bringing photographers a truly worthy Adobe alternative,” Tsepko says. “We feel we are among the few companies who can achieve this goal.

“Adobe is a fantastic company and a well-deserved industry leader. We admire them and our products work within their architecture as plug-ins. But we also have a great team, our own proprietary technology, and the community support to make a dent in that Universe,” Tsepko said of his competitor.

The switch to the Skylum name will be gradual with the company continuing to use Macphun until the end of 2017 with the Skylum brand rolling out in 2018.

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Bite Size Tips: How to Stabilise Your Camera for Crisper Shots

7:04:00 AM

If there is one thing that can really ruin an otherwise decent photograph, it's motion blur and while intentional motion blur has its place as a composition technique, getting by mistake is a real downer. Now, there are a lot of ways you can ensure you get crisp shots and avoid unintended motion blur, some of which you can read about here, but today we wanted to concentrate on the ways to keep your camera as still as possible (which is one of the ways).

Sagui Andrea

Hold Your Camera Properly – Basically, you will usually want to hold your camera in a way that maximises your strength from beneath. For most people that means holding the weight of the camera with the left hand underneath it and controlling it with your right hand.

Brace Yourself Against an Object – The next step if you cannot quite get as stable as you want free holding your camera is to brace yourself against something. A wall, a telephone pole, a doorway – anywhere that won't move. This will give you even more stability.

Get a Good Tripod – The first step that most people take into the world of stabilizing a camera is to get a tripod. One thing here is not to skimp. A good tripod will last you a lifetime and you want one that suits your style of shooting. If you're planning on shooting rugged landscapes, you will want as heavy as possible for stability, but as light as possible for carrying it – so you have some thinking to do. Take a look at our guide here.

Get a Good Monopod – A halfway option, and something that is a lot more versatile than a tripod is a monopod. If you have a reasonably steady hand a monopod isn't a bad option.

Weigh Down Your Tripod – Sometimes your tripod can get knocked around a bit – usually by a strong wind. Most good tripods have a little hook somewhere near the head which is designed to hang things off to weigh it down and hopefully stablise it. Some people hand their camera bag off it, but that has always seemed a bit awkward to me. I prefer to hang a bag of rocks off it (just carry a plastic bag that you can fill.

Minimise Exposure to the Wind – While it's obviously not always possible to get out of the wind, sometimes you can sneak behind an object, rock or hill. Other times you can simply stand in position as a windbreak to your tripod. Do whatever it takes.

Use a Sand Bag – A lot of photographers who don't want to carry around a heavy tripod and head simply take a purpose-built sandbag with them. Some people even just fill them up with sand or dirt on site when they're shooting and then lay their camera on them to shoot (using the timer). Not a bad idea if you particularly weight conscious.

Now a lot of these tips require a bit of planning, but sometimes you show up and stuff happens. The trick is to know there are no particular rules – do whatever works to stabilize your camera. The sharper shots make it very much worth thinking both inside and outside the box.

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Avoid These Top 9 Photography Mistakes Made by Beginners

5:08:00 AM

Ok, we all make mistakes and that is how you learn in photography, but there are a few recurring ones that, if you stick with photography, will almost certainly make you cringe in a few years time. This is a rant… about those mistakes.

We’ve all made them – either from aesthetic ignorance or simply by a desire to simulate an effect that arouses our interest. Fortunately, when some of us mess up, generous peers help us notice those mistakes. The great difference between photographers who overcome errors and those who don't lies simply in learning to listen to this advice.

Some mistakes happen directly in the camera, others at the post-production stage. But if we consider the final photograph as a result, it matters little when they happen. We assume in the following list that all these mistakes are committed after the photographer has learned to expose correctly and basically knows how to use a camera.

Excessive use of HDR

Photo by George Coletrain on Unsplash

Some years ago, the HDR technique became quite popular, and honestly, a good HDR shot can produce pleasing results. The important thing is to understand HDR as a way to level out the exposure of the entire scene to get the highest dynamic range of tones throughout the scene. This includes shadows and highlights.

If we look at the work of Ansel Adams, we can appreciate the result of his meticulous zone system, which is the beginning of the quest to achieve a high dynamic range in a photograph. The problem with the excessive use of HDR is that it generates a strange image that ends up looking like a digital painting.

Selective Color

I'm not exactly sure when selective colour was born, but the technique doesn't add anything to the meaning of the image, and its use is pretty tacky. Avoid it, no matter whether it’s done in the camera (since some cameras allow it) or during post-production.

Cutting off limbs in odd places

This is a recurring theme in photography, especially in street photography. When you’re doing things quickly, the door is wide open to mistakes. This was perhaps one of the most important observations a friend/photographer made about my work. I wasn't aware of this flaw, especially regarding people's feet. There are many types of framing, but when you crop a portion of the human body in a strange and even uncomfortable way, you make this mistake.

Image by Federico Alegría

There has been much talk around this, and even some images by Henri Cartier-Bresson exemplify this mistake. Personally, I think it’s a mistake you should avoid.

Excessive blurring

This is one of those mistakes that happen during post-production. People tend to see blurring (any type of blurring) as way to fix skin imperfections. This may be true, but when it’s overused, it becomes so obvious that the result is very unappealing. The important thing here is to learn how to use postproduction tools properly to achieve a specific result, especially if you’re working in commercial photography.

Improper focal length for portraits

Image by Paul Stevenson

It’s well known that the lens focal lengths that present natural results with a minimal distortion of reality are those longer than 50mm, especially between 50mm and 85mm. If we use wide-angle glass such as 16mm to take close-up portraits of a person, we get extremely strange results that affect the appearance of the subject's anatomy in a way that can seem satirical or mocking. Extreme care must be taken when choosing a lens for a portrait.

Crazy Finger

Technology has allowed cameras to shoot a large number of frames per second, and this sometimes results in photographic disaster. This is commonly known in the photography world as “Spray and Pray”. By reducing the rate at which we shoot, we become better photographers. We also reduce the time it takes to choose and edit the images we wish to present to the world.

Bokeh craziness

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Bokeh is a peculiarity generated by a lens' aperture. We must learn when it’s necessary to use – but remember that not all images need an extremely creamy bokeh (as some new photographers seem to think).

Watermarks

Invasive watermarks can reduce an image's personality and aesthetics. And a watermark on an image doesn't automatically make us a professional photographer. Over the years, I have reduced the mark I use on my work in my Bēhance profile and on other networks. And I have eliminated the signature in the images on my website. I invite you to think about whether watermarks are necessary for your own photographs. If you don’t want anyone to steal your work, then show it offline only.

Rule of Thirds = Composition

Image By Alchemist-hp (talk) (http://ift.tt/1bcWzg0) – Own work, FAL, http://ift.tt/2z2YZOP

We have previously discussed the importance of composition in photography. And many elements beyond the rule of thirds can add to an image’s aesthetics. That’s why it’s a mistake to believe that the rule of thirds is a compositional absolute. If you learn to make images with alternative compositions that add to its aesthetics, you’ve gained a lot.

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31. Oktober 2017

5:04:00 AM

Das Bild des Tages von: David Schermann


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Amazon Wants to Use a Webcam to Let People Inside Your Home – to Deliver Your Stuff Of Course!

3:03:00 AM

Amazon, the do-it-all Acme service of the 2010’s, has introduced a radical new home-delivery concept they are calling Amazon Key.

Amazon Key is part of Amazon’s VIP customer program, Amazon Prime, and will let Prime subscribers get their goods delivered directly inside of their home, along with a host of other functions such as granting access to a range of other people “like your family, friends, dog walker, or house cleaner.”

For photography afficionados, the risks of having expensive equipment delivered directly to your home address make life difficult, especially if you live in an area where delivery services are limited to begin.

Amazon touts Amazon Key as a way to remove the security problems associated with leaving keys “under the mat” or through some other easily defeatable analog means.

Amazon Key image via Amazon.com

The starter kit is $249.99 and is only going to be available in select delivery areas to start.

How do this futuristic padlock work? Every Amazon Key product kit comes with an Amazon Cloud Cam, Amazon’s indoor security camera, and a compatible smart lock for your front door that is connected to your account.

Amazon even offers free installation of this crazy vid-lock system if you choose purchase it. Customers can also elect to install the system themselves.

Using the service after installation involves selecting the “Free In-Home Delivery” option at checkout. A delivery driver with your item will be sent and will knock on your door prior to using the Amazon Key system.

Once used, the camera activates and the door unlocks. The Amazon Prime customer is then notified their package has arrived.

Customers can watch the delivery in progress or choose to watch a recording of the delivery later.

Users can also block access at any time up until the delivery at which point the package will be delivered through standard means.

Amazon Key launches in 38 cities in the United States on November 8, 2017.

Amazon Key image via Amazon.com.

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Monday, October 30, 2017

7:18:00 PM

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First Look: Phottix Juno

4:33:00 PM

A value-priced, all-manual flash with a built-in radio and a real warranty? Yeah, I'm interested.

Today, a first look at the new Phottix Juno.
__________

An All-Manual Flash

At $139.95, the Juno's price, warranty and built-in remote puts it right in the wheel house of many Strobist shooters. Whether it is right for you will probably depend on how you prioritize features and controls.

In short, the Juno is a well-built, reasonably-priced manual flash with a quality built-in remote. Significantly, it is backed by an outsized warranty. Phottix offers a 2-year warranty on the Juno, which is twice as long as even the top-tier OEM flashes. So if there is a quality problem with the flash, it is on them rather than you.

To be sure, the Juno includes some nice touches. The front fresnel lens gives zoom coverage from 20mm-200mm, which is very thoughtful. There is a flipover auxiliary panel that will get you out to 14mm if you need it.

There are also the expected features, including a head that swivels 180 degrees in each direction, built-in slave (never buy a flash without this feature) and lever-locking hot shoe, etc.

Tested recycle time for full-power settings was ~4 seconds for NiMH rechargeable batteries. A little slow for AA's, but there is a (Canon-flavored) high voltage port should you need more speed.

Integrated Remote

The built-in remote transceiver is of course the standout feature for the Juno. The included remote is both transmitter or reciever, and operates on both the Ares II and Stratos II frequencies. This means a Juno can be used to trigger another Phottix Juno, a Mitros+ or even their bigger Indra model location/studio flashes.

This is very useful if you are committed to the integrated Phottix lineup; less so if you are using one brand of flashes for speedlights and another for big strobes.

I don't personally use integrated radio remotes, as I own and use a variety of brands of flashes. But if you are going down the integrated route, Phottix's platform is probably the most flexible. You can always add an external Phottix receiver to other models of speedlights or big flashes—or simply use a slave on non-Phottix lights.

The integrated remote within the Juno is solid, both in terms of range and speed. They advertise 200M range, and I was easily getting that during testing in my neighborhood.

But even better was the sync speed ceiling. In normal, manual pops (as opposed to gimmicky, power-robbing HSS) I was able to sync up to 1/800 of a second on a leaf-shuttered Fuji X100F. Note that this was at 1/4 power, and higher power settings would be limited by the t.1 (flash puse duration) times of the flash itself.

The fact that the Juno's embedded remote is a transceiver (both transmit and receive) opens up good possibilities for on-axis fill. For instance, you can fill with an on-camera Juno that will also radio-trigger a bigger Phottix Indra as your off-camera main light. You could use this combo with any brand of big light by adding in an external Ares II or Stratos II receiver as well.

Quickie Lighting Tip:

Using an on-camera speedlight as fill can take away a lot of the harshness of a necessarily hard off-camera key light if you are trying to stretch the capabilities of your key. For instance, when shooting into the sun, a bare speedlight can serve as a pretty effective key light in terms of power. But even positioned correctly, it will still look harsh because of the depth of the hard shadows.

An on-camera flash, dialed down maybe two stops, will raise the shadows and remove a lot of the harshness. You can see an example of a full daylight, two-speedlight, 19-person group shot using this method here (scroll down).


Yes, you could also trigger your key with a slave as we did in the linked example above. But that requires line of sight between your on-camera fill and off-camera key. This can be a problem outdoors, in terms of key light positioning or opaque modifiers such as beauty dishes or soft boxes.

If you are prepared to marry into a Phottix Ares II or Stratos II platform, the Juno's on-camera-flash-as-transmitter can be a good solution. Your on-camera fill doubles as your radio transmitter.

User Interface

One area where you do pay for an integrated radio transceiver is user interface. Ideally, a well-designed UI on a (radio-less) manual flash is so intuitive that you don't even have to look at it to adust it.

If I am shooting you with an LP180 flash, for instance, I can reach up and add or subtract power from my flash without breaking rhythm, or even eye contact. My thumb just finds the D-pad and presses the up or down buttons as needed. Ditto the flash beam width, by hitting the left and right pads.

It's harder to design this kind of UI simplicity into a radio-embedded flash. You have too many things to controls and too little real estate. So you solve this with a multi-button sequence approach.

I think the Juno solves this as well as can be expected. To raise or lower power you need to hit the button in the center of the dial, and then move the dial up or down as needed. To zoom you need to hit the zoom button (on right) and then move the dial. It's best case for a radio-embedded flash, but not as fluid as a traditional manual flash.

One thing I do like about the Juno's control wheel is that it does not flip over at end of range. For example, say you are trying to dial a lot of power out of your flash. If the wheel flips over, with one click beyond 1/128 power you are back to 1/1 power. Probably not what you want. If you dial past 1/128 (or 1/1) the Juno just stays at those limits.

One more control of note is the power switch. (Seriously? Yes, seriously.) It's a real switch and not a push-and-hold button. Again, this goes to operating speed/fluidity. You turn it on, and it's immediately on.

A word of warning: After overnight testing, the hard switch does not appear to facilitate an auto shut-off feature. If you leave your Juno on after you are done, it's gonna drain your batteries.

Quibbles

First, the Juno does not have a 1/8" sync jack, which in 2017, feels like a step backwards. Yes, a radio is built-in. But they still included a PC jack while omitting the 1/8" jack. Given the choice, I would have loved to have seen the reverse.

Second, and perhaps more odd, is the placement of a 1/4" x 20 mounting jack. As seen above, it is at the bottom of the flash. I don't understand this choice. It would have been better to put it in the central hinge of the flash.

It's not that I worry about the added stress on the mount because of its location. I assume that Phottix has compensated for this in the structural design of the flash. It's more that the 1/4"x20 mount is about better positioning your flash into an umbrella—very near to the axis of the shaft.

You can do that with a Juno. But as a result of the location of the mount, the flash head is pushed awkwardly into the umbrella—not ideal. It's as if the socket location was chosen by an engineer rather than a photographer.

Takeaways

The Juno is a solid, value-priced gateway into the Phottix system. The embedded radio is reliable and has great range and speed. If you see yourself expanding into, say, an Indra-based big light setup, this is a good entry point to consider.

For those who already have a radio system (that is not Ares II- or Stratos II-based) you should realize that radio-embedded speedlights are necessarily not as intuitive in their controls. So that is a consideration.

Finally, Phottix's warranty protection (and, by extension, presumed quality control) set the Juno apart from a sea of inexpensive Chinese competition.

More info: Phottix US Juno Page

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Rich Kids of Instagram? Now You Too Can Take Selfies on a Private Jet

4:28:00 PM

Living a jet set lifestyle on a budget?

Welcome to the world of social media giant Instagram, where everyone is famous and in pictures, or so it may seem.

Now you too can join that crowd, if you have enough money and happen to be in Russia’s capital city, Moscow.

In a bit of market savvy that is almost too obvious to be real, a company in Russia is offering would-be members of the Rich Kids of Instagram set the chance to take selfies in their very own private jet…for a fee, of course.

While you may have heard of the concept of renting a private jet to fly somewhere, have you ever considered just renting a jet to take pictures inside of it?

Image via Pixabay.com from Pexels.com.

If this all sounds like madness that is because it is, and delightfully so.

Moscow-based Private Jet Studio lets its customers fake the rich lifestyle of the jetset in the company’s well-appointed Gulfstream G650 Jet.

To own a Gulfstream G650 Jet you need to starts at around $USD 65,000,000 in case you’re wondering – no small change for even the most well heeled people.

Private Jet Studio advertises on its website: “This is the biggest, fastest and most expensive business aviation aircraft. The luxurious interior of the aircraft is made of high-quality and natural materials. You can organize an unusual and unforgettable photo shoot for yourself and your customers, which they will never forget.”

So if you want to give your Instagram account that extra touch of…something…you should consider this (or maybe even inquiring about franchise options if you’re business savvy and can afford to let a private jet sit around).

Taking pictures in the jet starts at 14,000 roubles (or roughly $USD 240) and includes a private photographer ($USD 189 without) for a two-hour-long photo shoot.

You can check out the company’s Instagram page here: http://ift.tt/2yDfyCV

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Are Your iPhone Apps Using Your Camera to Spy on You?

11:03:00 AM

Granting app permissions is something most of us do without a second thought. But, when you really think about it, should you be blithe in allowing such access?

This isn't even considering the kinds of things we all keep on our phones and I don't know about you but I don't want the world seeing my overwhelming collection of cute cats (among other things).

Software engineer Felix Krause is here to destroy our technological reverie (again) with his demonstration app that he recently published on GitHub (an Internet-based Git or version control repository and Internet hosting service used mainly for code).

Krause is the founder of developer tools repository FastLane. The company was purchased by Google early in 2017 according to AdWeek.

Krause had also previously identified an iPhone password prompt phishing loophole. He warned users about entering their password into the prompt without consideration because the prompt could be easily spoofed by malicious apps attempting to steal user information.

Image via Kaique Rocha from Pexels.com.

In his demonstration app published on GitHub, Felix endeavored to show the various things an app can use your smartphone’s cameras to do once given your permission to use them.

The app had the ability to use the front and the back camera on the device, record while the app is in the foreground, capture photos and video without alerting the user, then upload the pictures and video takes to a location of the app’s choice.

Lastly the app could execute real-time face recognition to map facial features.

Krause has even created a video that he uploaded to video platform YouTube demonstrating the above.

Video of Felix Krause's demonstration app on GitHub.

That sounds like a load of fun, but how worried should you be as a smartphone user?

Krause goes at length in his blog post that this should not be used in production – the Git instead is intended as a working demonstration of potential loopholes in the iOS app’s ability to utilize the cameras.

Apple has a very strict policy regarding user security and privacy, so it is unlikely that an app that actively employs such a method in stealth was ever approved by the company.

This does not include jail-broken devices or apps downloaded from outside of the app store, which could contain potentially malicious code that could hijack a user’s iPhone.

What does the software engineer suggest in terms of preventative measures that users can take to avoid problems like this in the future?

Krause has a few useful hints and one surefire way to make sure your hacked cameras never see your face.

One, users can place a camera sticker over the front-facing and rear facing cameras. Though this might be inconvenient for taking pictures, it does insure that the hacker sees nothing at all.

You can also revoke all camera access for all apps, though this is not as secure as above.

Third, always use the app’s built-in camera functionality and photo selection – do not give it access to your camera or photo roll.

While such capabilities are not a mystery to many iPhone (or smartphone) users in general, allowing apps like Stealth Cam and Easy Calc-Cam according to Motherboard, the main point of Krause’s demonstration is that any app that is granted permission to use the phone’s cameras can act in this way. If you didn't know what an app like Stealth Cam could do then perhaps the problem goes deeper than the iPhone. This isn't about apps that advertise this as a core functionality – it's about random apps with a built-in camera.

Some have suggested a device modification that would be simple to implement: The inclusion of a small LED light on the front and the back of the smartphone that lets the user know the camera is in use. This feature is present on Apple’s line of iMac computers, for example.

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Britain’s Royal Mail Mangles Photographer’s Lens, Refuses Him Compensation

9:09:00 AM

Sending things through the post can always be a risky proposition if the items are valuable, like a roughly $USD 400 Tamron lens that you just sold on Ebay. But if something happens, and you get insurance, you expect everything to be handled properly. But what if that expectation is more of a vain hope?

Twenty-four-old UK-based photographer and mechanical design engineer Jacob Hawkins sold his Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 VC lens on Ebay in August 2017. He shipped the lens from his home in Sheffield, Yorkshire, to the Ebay buyer in London to whom he had sold the lens for a little under $USD 300.

Upon receipt, the buyer informed Jacob that the Royal Mail had not just damaged the lens in transit, but had obliterated it by means that still defy even the most vivid of imaginations.

Hawkins told the Daily Mail the damage was so extensive that the object “rattled in the box” according to the buyer in London, a sign that Hawkins thinks should have alerted the Royal Mail delivery driver that the fragile cargo inside could be potentially damaged.

“They must have already known that it was smashed when they handed it over to the buyer because it was bagged up and you would have been able to hear things moving around in there,” he told the Daily Mail.

Image via Pixabay.com from Pexels.com.

The photographer described the condition of the lens as “smashed to smithereens, looking like an elephant had trodden on it,” in an interview with the paper.

“My best guess is that one of their cars ran it over because if you look at the package you can see the rock indentations down one side where it’s been on the floor. It must have been a vehicle that drove over it or something.”

As any honest seller would do, Hawkins refunded the purchaser his money and filed a complaint with the Royal Mail, a complaint that went unacknowledged for one month, after which they asked him for evidence.

The response from the Royal Mail was equally as disappointing as their quality of service – initially the Royal Mail refused to refund Jacob Hawkins his money.

Hawkins felt comfortable that his claim would be acknowledged but was disappointed the Royal Mail denied him after evaluating the lens handed over to them by the London buyer.

The photographer told Petapixel: “The buyer sent the lens off to the Royal Mail to be evaluated and then they sent it back to me with a letter stating they won’t be paying anything…They said it wasn’t protected well enough. The lens was shipped ‘Special Delivery Next Day Guaranteed (before 1 pm),’ which is advertised as ‘the’ service for valuables and insures products up to a value of £500. They state on any adverts that if any product shipped with this service lost or damaged with be refunded in full. It doesn’t state anywhere about how thick packaging should be or even provide links to their terms and conditions. It was protected well enough for knocks and bumps’ as it states on the terms and conditions, but they said it wasn’t sufficient enough and denied all liability of driving over it.”

In a note of the obvious, Hawkins added that it is pointless to package an item in such a way that it would not require insurance, raising the question of why someone would purchase the insurance in the first place if the requirements to be reimbursed require that hapless soul to meet regulations that would negate the need for insurance in the first place?

Like any savvy person in 2017, Hawkins turned to the media after two petitions with the Royal Mail failed to make headway.

After making an impact with a media story, the photographer from Sheffield received a reimbursement check from the postal service.

Royal Mail spokesperson Sally Hopkins told the media: “We apologise to Mr Hawkins that he has not received the high quality service from Royal Mail on this occasion. We are speaking to Mr Hawkins to offer to reimburse him for the cost of the item and the postage as a gesture of goodwill.”

Hawkins told PetaPixel: “Once the press got involved and contacted them, I was contacted by one of the CEO of the company who offered a ‘goodwill’ payment equating to the value of the lens and the service provided…But they denied any liability and insisted all practices were followed correctly.”

You can view some of Jacob Hawkins photography here on his Instagram page: http://ift.tt/2ySKz65

Or on his Facebook page here: http://ift.tt/2gSFSCD

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Bite Size Tips: 3 Free Ebooks That Will Bring Your Portraiture Up To Scratch

7:03:00 AM

Portraiture can be a very rewarding skill if you get the lighting, perspective and technical details correct. But creating compelling portraits is not an easy task, but comes with practice and experimenting with different styles and techniques.

Image by Nissor

Here are three ebooks that will bring your portraiture up to scratch.

8 Steps To Better Outdoor Portraits by David Veldman: In order to get good outdoor portraits one needs to understand the type of light, the direction of light and all-round best lighting conditions in order to get started. Added to this, you will also need to know when and how to make use of reflectors or any artificial light to avoid unwanted shadows or harsh light. Besides this, you should learn to take advantage of the seasonal conditions and make use of relevant props to get those creative results. All these are covered in this ebook for you to benefit from.

10 Tips For Exciting Portraits by Kent DuFault: Portrait photography requires skills that include handling the equipment, lighting the subject, choosing a pose, choosing the right lens, composition, wardrobe, props and interaction with the model. Once you have got all that right, you do not even need expensive gear – a standard camera and lens can help you get some stunning portraits even without an extra lighting. This ebook covers 10 tips that can help you make some exciting portraits.

Headshots 101 by Kent DuFault: When you are a portrait photographer, often there are times when you are requested to do headshots – this could be for a portfolio or a business card or a newsletter article or author bio etc. Making headshots is not as simple as you think and you need to have good knowledge of setting up the scene, lighting, formats, correct skin tones/textures, perspectives and client expectations. Thisguide here is packed with information on all these areas along with examples and illustrations.

Now those free ebooks will give you a very good start, but if you want to get in-depth into portrait photography, develop your skills and get professional level shots yourself, be sure to check out The Art of Portrait Photography by Photzy.

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A Guide to Cleaning Your Tripod

6:38:00 AM
Jay Shooting with Induro Tripod, Banff National Park, Canada

Jay Shooting with Induro Tripod, Banff National Park, Canada

It’s important to clean your tripod now and then. We try to clean ours about twice a year – more often if we’ve been shooting in sand, salt water, or swamps. Grains of sand can work their way into the grooves and threads of your tripod. You’ll know it’s time to start scrubbing if you hear a grinding or grating sound as you turn the knobs or make adjustments to the tripod. Salt water can corrode some metals – so you should rinse your tripod after shooting at the beach. And swamp water – well, the bacteria that grows in swamps can climb right into your tripod legs and just hang out there… multiplying happily until you open your tripod and discover that it really stinks! Cleaning the tripod isn’t particularly difficult… though it can take some time. Jay and I usually clean both tripods at once, so we set aside an hour or so to get the job done.

Varina with Induro Tripod

Varina with Induro Tripod

The first step is to take the tripod apart. Each tripod will be different. Jay and I both have Induro Carbon Fiber Tripods, but they are different models, and the parts are slightly different. However, since they both have twist lock leg mechanisms, they come apart in the same way. We loosen them the same way we would if we wanted to extend the leg segment, and then we keep on twisting in the same direction until the leg detaches. Locking clips will require a different set of steps – some have removable screws, and some are held in place by pins that are not removable. If your tripod doesn’t come apart, don’t sweat it. You can still clean your tripod. We’ll get to that in a minute.

The important thing is to keep track of where all those little pieces go, so that you can put it all back together when you are done. If you are worried about putting it all back together, take some photos for reference as you work. You may find that there are more pieces than you expected. This photo shows Varina’s Induro tripod, all taken apart. Notice that we didn’t remove the screws that hold the top of the legs to the center piece. We find that they don’t usually need to be removed for cleaning.

Once the tripod is in pieces, we fill up the sink with hot, soapy water and get down to business. We use dish soap to clean each piece by hand. There’s no particular brand that we recommend – but do use dish soap, since it cuts through grease and won’t leave a residue. I use a soft scrubbing pad to clean each part, and an old toothbrush to get the threads clean. I generally keep a small bowl of dish soap handy. I dip my toothbrush into it now and then so that I can get through the grease. You’ll need to scrub the threads carefully to remove any grease that is stuck in there… along with sand, silt, and slime. 🙂 Then a quick rinse, and we lay it all out on a cloth to dry.

Keep in mind that rough-cut edges of metal or carbon fiber can give you splinters! Our carbon fiber tripods tend to lose tiny, sharp shards from the ends of the leg segments. I pulled two out of my fingers the last time I cleaned my tripod. Ouch! You can wear rubber gloves to protect your skin. They’ll keep the grease off your hands and keep your fingers from getting all wrinkly, too. 🙂

If your tripod doesn’t come apart, just flush out each joint with hot, soapy water. You can use a small brush to get into the little grooves and openings to clean them out as well. Adjust your locking clips and slide the legs in and out under sudsy water if you can. That will help to loosen any grit that is trapped in tight places. You should be able to get the tripod pretty clean that way. Extend all the legs and allow it to dry thoroughly before putting it away.

Once the pieces are clean and dry, it’s time to put the tripod back together. You need to use a small amount of lithium grease to keep everything working smoothly. This photo shows how much we use.

A little goes a long way – and if you put too much, you’ll just end up having to wipe it off later. We put a little bit of grease on the threads and then screw the leg segments into place slowly – screwing them in and out a bit as we go to help spread the grease around. The pieces should turn smoothly… if you hear a gritty grating sound as you put the pieces back together, check for debris in the threads. You may need to do a better job cleaning. You’ll need grease in all the moving parts – there’s no need to grease screws that should remain tight.

Wipe off any excess grease with a paper towel, and you’re done! Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it!? 🙂 Here’s a quick video that shows the whole process:

The frequency with which you’ll need to clean your tripod depends upon how you use it. If it never leaves the house, you probably don’t need to clean it at all. If you are shooting on the grass or a muddy path – just rinse the feet when necessary and you’re good to go. Rain won’t hurt your tripod – though prolonged exposure to moisture will corrode some metals… so take the time to dry it off when you come in and leave it open until it’s thoroughly dry. Always rinse your tripod if you use it in salt water – salt can cause corrosion as well.

Take simple precautions to help keep your tripod clean a little longer. When we are shooting in sand, mud, or water, we always extend the lowest leg of the tripod at least a few inches beyond the mess. That simple action keeps the joint up out of the muck. If you can avoid it, don’t immerse the joint in sand or salt water. But don’t worry too much if it does get into the joints. Just take some time to clean it up and it’ll be good as new!

About Author Varina Patel

There is nothing more remarkable to me than the power of nature. It is both cataclysmic and subtle. Slow and continuous erosion by water and wind can create landscapes every bit as astonishing as those shaped by catastrophic events – and minuscule details can be as breathtaking as grand vistas that stretch from one horizon to the other. Nature is incredibly diverse. Burning desert sands and mossy riverbanks… Brilliant sunbeams and fading alpenglow… Silent snowfall and raging summer storms… Each offers a unique opportunity. I am irresistibly drawn to the challenge of finding my next photograph, and mastering the skills required to capture it effectively.

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About Us

Time Trap Photography is dedicated to freezing those special moments in life that can be revisited and admired for generations to come. - Shannon Bourque

The lens in focus

“Life is like a camera. Just focus on what’s important and capture the good times, develop from the negatives and if things don’t work out, just take another shot.” — Unknown

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