Category Archives: Photography

Remote Wireless Photoflash Switches

A Reader Asks

“I own a Nikon strobe. Can I use the same radio trigger I use on the Nikon to power my Canon strobe?”

Firstly to clarify: Radio Triggers really do not “power” anything. One cannot easily transmit power wirelessly (although Nikola Tesla would argue that fact). They are basically relays or switches that are controlled by a radio signal.

Radio controlled flash triggers are “device agnostic.” It is just an extension of your camera’s synch switch and circuitry. They have worked with most any photoflash device I have teamed them with — Canon, Nikon, Norman, Photogenic, Lumedyne, Broncolor and more. 

One thing to consider, some wireless flash triggers will serially transmit your camera’s exposure data along the  data stream in multi-lighting setups using the same flash and camera system (i.e. Nikon to Nikon, Canon to Canon) If you cross systems you will likely still be able to trigger the remote flash but it may not or will not be able to transmit the exposure data. -33-

Lithium Ion Battery Air Travel Restrictions

If you are one of the many air travelers who carry spare lithium laptop, cell phone, camera and other electronic equipment batteries with you when traveling by air, take note: The government has some new rules which go into effect on New Year’s Day, 2008.

 

There are new regulations going into effect on January 1, 2008 if you travel by air with lithium batteries. Everyone would be well served by checking with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website BEFORE they travel. 

 

The SafeTravel.Dot.Gov website has additional information that may be helpful.

 

This information is subject to changes by the Federal Government. Check back with the above links often for the most up to date information. -33-

 

EDITOR’S NOTE – 12-30-07 at 2100H – Minor revisions to clarify article.

 

Another Digital Casuality

Kodak Discontinues B&W Photographic Papers

 

Eastman Kodak Company (Rochester, NY) recently announced it would stop manufacturing black-and-white photographic papers. The decision was made to discontinue silver halide-based papers because of a growing decline in demand for the media. Kodak will continue to manufacture black-and-white films and the chemistry needed to develop them. Most industry observers attribute the decline in silver halide-based paper products to the growing use of digital imaging technology, which is rapidly talking over many areas of photography.-33-

The File Frenzy

A READER ASKS

I create television graphics for broadcast. I typically save my files for use in the JPEG format (.JPG). My question is how stable are digital formats like .JPG. Can we ever expect obsolescence of these seemingly ubiquitous files?

It is always suggested that one maintain a cautious posture when it comes to formats. There are really no guarantees. You can print a photograph from a negative that is over 100 years old but some computer files created a few short years ago cannot be processed on today’s computer systems.

BLASTS FROM THE PAST

Consider what happened to the Sony BetaMax® video format. The general thought was that there would always be a machine on which to playback the tapes produced in this format. How many home movies were made by early video users only to have them sit on a shelf with nothing available to play them? Conversions are possible but the companies that do them are few and far between and the cost is high. VHS® could be destined for the same end now that DVDs are all the rage. There is a possibility that DVDs will be replaced in the next 10 years. HD DVD® and Blu-Ray® are already beginning to edge them out.

Considering software applications: If you had Native files created in an early version of a illustration application that let’s say ran on DOS or the Windows® 3.1 operating system, the Native files from that version may not open in today’s operating systems. Some early JPEG files might be incompatible too.

Many applications and operating systems have become obsolete over the years. Unless you have the original software, opening files created in these obsolete packages today might be a challenge or even impossible. How about 8” and 5” floppy discs? If you have files on those formats you are out of luck also. Time marches on, formats and applications change.

ANTICIPATE

 The best rule of thumb to follow is to watch the formats, anticipate obsolescence and do conversions as required to keep your files up to date. Do not fall victim to changes. To ignore this simple fact one puts their files at risk. -33-

10 Simple Suggestions For Handling CDs and DVDs

There are countless bytes of precious memories and critical data stored on optical discs every day but the average user has no idea just how sensitive the media can be. The following is an extract from the NIST’s Quick Reference Guide to optical media care. A good starting place to learn how to care for your optical media:

  1. Handle discs by the outer edge or the center hole. Do not bend the disc.
  2. Use a non-solvent-based felt-tip permanent marker to mark the label side of the disc.
  3. Keep dirt or other foreign matter from the disc.
  4. Store discs upright (book style) in plastic cases specified for CDs and DVDs.
  5. Return discs to storage cases immediately after use.
  6. Leave discs in their packaging (or cases) to minimize the effects of environmental changes.
  7. Open a recordable disc package only when you are ready to record data on that disc.
  8. Do not touch the surface of the disc or use adhesive labels.
  9. Store discs in a cool, dry, dark environment in which the air is clean. Do not expose the disks to bright sunlight for extended periods of time.
  10. Remove dirt, foreign material, fingerprints, smudges, and liquids by wiping with a clean cotton fabric in a straight line from the center of the disc toward the outer edge. Do not wipe in a direction going around the disc.

THE NIST LIST

The National Institute of Standards and Technology or NIST has researched the matter and publishes several excellent references on the subject of proper care and handling of CDs and DVDs.  Following the link will direct you to the NIST Website where you will find Special Publication 500-252, October 2003, Final. This publication carries a wealth of information for use, storage and care of optical media.

There are no absolute assurances that information will always be readable on any media but much can be done to minimize data loss and the expense of recreating material lost to issues as controllable as improper storage or writing a title on the face of the disc just to name two. -33-

Prestadigitography

Photography is magic. It has been since it’s beginnings and remains magic right up to today. There is a certain mystery to the way light sensitive particles in film or pixels on a silicone chip gather light and shadow to document a split second in eternity. Film based photography has its mysteries but those are mostly unlocked by chemists, scientists and photo lab technicians. Digital photography has its unknowns too. Some are left up to the engineers to solve but some are left to us, the everyday users. Most of us just want to shoot good pictures but are intimidated by things like megapixels, memory, white balance and other strange things we never heard of let alone had to worry about before.

There is so much to know about digital still camera technology that one can write volumes and still not offer a complete answer. Let us take a quick look at some of the basics and try to separate the hype from the facts.

Look for digital cameras that will perform well and not produce a ton of “noise” (grain) in the image. You should also consider a camera that will give you a good range of detail from deep shadows to the brightest areas in an image (This is known as Dynamic Range). Digital is great, but as of this writing it still cannot compete with film in its dynamic range. Once most digital camera users see what they have to go through to print a good picture after they click the shutter they suddenly realize how much their photo processor did with the negatives to make those good looking prints.

Megapixel Wars

Some camera ads will play on how many Mega Pixels (MP) a camera has. This may not be the best way to judge quality. For example a 6 MP point and shoot camera with a 4mm sensor is not the same as a 6 MP DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) with a 14mm sensor. When it comes to sensors bigger is better. The larger sensor gives you better resolution and a much better signal to noise ratio with the same amount of advertised pixels. (Signal-To-Noise Ratio is the amount of noise you observe in an image versus the amount of clarity).

Color Balance

Another issue is white balance. White balance is the camera’s ability to see the color white, as our eye perceives white. This can be equated to using daylight or tungsten film, but with a much wider gamut. You want a camera with which you can adjust the white balance manually to fix those out of the norm indoor and outdoor shots.

Speed

Consider cameras that have a wide, and manually adjustable ISO range and shutter speed.
There is a speed of another sort and that is lens speed or the somewhat ambiguous “f.” Ideally you want a lens that will give you an f 2.0 or lower.

Speed again when it comes to write speed to the storage medium. You ideally want a fast write speed or you will be waiting for a long time for your camera to clear itself for the next picture.

Latency is another issue related to speed. Latency is how long it takes your camera to see the picture, focus, set the f-stop, capture and store the image once you push the shutter release. You want something that is near instantaneous. There may be some point and shoot cameras that might take upwards of 5 seconds to process a single image and store it in memory after you push the shutter button.

Modern cameras are designed to take most, if not all the burden of thinking about camera settings away from the user. This can be a wonderful feature, especially for neophytes or those of us who want to take a quick shot in ideal conditions. Sometimes you might want to “think” about your shot and customize your exposure and focus so you can get the best possible results. Auto settings are great when there is plenty of light and things don’t move or they don’t move very quickly.

Cam Bots

Some digital cameras can produce grainy images. Grain increase may be a factor of a camera’s “brain” automatically changing the ISO setting. When there is enough light it might be at ISO 200 when the light becomes low it might up the setting to ISO 1000 or greater. To see if this is what happens in your camera check the user manual and look for settings for Auto or Manual ISO, if there are you will want to set to Manual. You will then have to change the settings yourself for the amount of available light you have, but that might do great things to get rid of any grain issues. (Grain is actually a film term related to the size of the silver halide particles used in manufacturing film. Larger particles yield better low light performance but are grainy – Noise is a better term to use with digital cameras. Noise is the electro-optical manifestation of camera circuits making the pixels “work harder” to see in low light.)

Rule of thumb here for both film and digital is the lower the ISO number the clearer the image. Consider this too, the lower the number the longer your exposure time and/or the larger your aperture needs to be. You cannot expect to capture fast movement in low light conditions without sacrificing image quality. This is pretty much consistent with Film and Digital photography. Some digital cameras have a long exposure feature where it will actually squelch noise. See if your camera has this option and experiment with it.

Bad color can also be related to the above or it might be related to another automatic feature called “Auto White Balance.” Again, check your manual and see if you can change this feature to Manual and adjust the white balance yourself. Here is a rule of thumb to use when doing this:

3200 Degrees K = Tungsten stage lights & incandescent lighting in your home
5400 Degrees K = Daylight with blue sky at high noon
6000 Degrees K = Cloudy day, snow or light colored sandy beach
7000 Degrees K = Daylight in the shade – Photo Flash
9300 Degrees K = White on some high end computer monitors

Technology changes rapidly. Yesterday’s issues are solved in today’s cameras. Tomorrow it might be better than anyone imagined. One thing to remember when creating pictures. All this hardware is great but the camera itself is only a tool. It will not make you a good (or better) photographer. That bit of magic still remains in the very heart and imagination of the one who pushes the shutter button. -33-