Ronin S (A good gimbal from a “Half-Baked” company, the new world order.)

DJI Focus Motor

Like many people who purchased the DJI Ronin S Gimbal aka camera stabilizer “when it was first released” I was really disappointed that DJI miss lead us Canon EOS 6D owners into thinking our cameras would be able to interact with the Ronin S. Not long after the release of the gimbal DJI kind of said “we’re not going to include the 6D on the list of compatible cameras.” I partially understand how this happened, but not really why it happened.

In order for any product to interact with another (especially in the electronic world) there is usually a little or sometimes a lot of sharing of technology and getting permissions to use another company’s technology. This can many times be a big hurdle in development of a new products and again I state “especially in the electronic marketplace.” Camera gimbals are a relatively new piece of technology and so they are still in the up and coming stages.

Now with all that said; DJI is increasingly (in my opinion) becoming well-known for their “half-baked” product releases. At some point I think they’ll step in a pile of shit that they can’t scrape off their shoe and get hammered by the FTC for some sort of fraudulent advertising or something along those lines. When this happens, they’ll most likely take a few high-profile YouTube vloggers/influencers down as collateral damage. Kind of like a NASCAR crash when an innocent driver gets collected into a wreck “just for being there.”

So, yeah, the Ronin S camera stabilizer was one of their “half-baked” schemes and a lot of people got duped. I will say that DJI did hold true to their promise that there would be improvements via firmware updates and they did make the gimbal compatible with many cameras on the so-called “list.” The “list” being the PDF that was released giving a list of compatible or soon to be compatible cameras.

For me: I am a Canon EOS 6D owner although the camera is old at this point (3/6/19) and I was already planning to move on to another camera to use exclusively for the Ronin S. However, I thought it was great that the 6D was on the initial list of compatible cameras because this would allow me to make an early purchase of the Ronin S and start working with it ASAP. I (like most) am new to gimbals because gimbals are new to us. I knew beforehand that it would take practice to get good with handling of the gimbal if I wanted to incorporate it into the workflow of my photography business. After all I am not going to go out using a product/tool for my business and be “half-baked” with it. Half-baked anything will eventually lead to trouble.

Any new piece of gear I have ever purchased is always run through the paces before it gets used on a paid job. Every photographer has had to work through problems that arise unexpectedly when using gear, we are already familiar with. In fact, it is a given that things will go wrong on any given day and part of what make a good photographer, cinematographer, director, 1st AC, 2nd AC ect… is being able to work through problems with gear. But what sane person wants to compound those problems by taking a piece of gear into the field without know how to use it. You cannot possibly expect to problem solve a piece of gear if you first don’t know how to use it “inside & out.”

So, that was my expectation when I would first receive the Ronin S, I would throw the old 6D on there and spend hours honing a skill… And well, that did quite happen as planned. However, I did put the 6D on the Ronin S and get to work practicing and trying to learn the ins & outs of the gimbal. But DJI’s “half-baked” hair brain bullshit keeps cropping up. Things like the app changes. I use the app to make changes to the gimbal setting and one day I wake up and the app changes and then the app changes again, and so on. Of course, anyone who owns a DJI drone like the Mavic Pro or now the Mavic Pro 2 knows full well what I’m talking about when it comes to app changes. Something that was there yesterday is not there today. Of course, it is not all a bad thing, some changes are for the better, but how is a person supposed to incorporate a piece of gear into workflow when it is constantly changing and you never really know when the changes will happen. I have cameras that I have owned for 10 years, I know them inside and out. I know the settings like I know the back of my hand. I can pick up a camera body I haven’t touched in three years and it works just as I left it three years earlier. Sadly, DJI and other companies don’t understand this concept.

My prediction is in the not to distant future a company will emerge as a true front-runner in “camera-gimbal” technology and understand exactly what I am talking about. Simply put they will move away from the “half-baked” mentality that plagues the marketplace today. What would be nice is to see one of the big camera manufactures get into the ring with camera and gimbals that are designed as one unit and can then be separated. Sort of a modular design, although I hate to use the word “modular” because it sounds dated or old. Let’s call it a camera and gimbal system. If I wanted to, we could start talking about how AI will totally revolutionize the camera industry in the near future. But that would best be left for another longer post.

To remedy the problem of focusing my 6D while mounted on the Ronin S I purchased the “Focus Motor” and I have to say it works pretty good, so far. My unit did arrive with a loose screw that let the gear wheel on the focus motor waver and wobble a little. I tightened the screw with w T-7 Torx driver and it resolved the problem. Only drawback to the focus motor is the fact it adds weight to an already heavy gimbal. It also adds another thing to go wrong when out in the field working. Engineering 101… the more moving parts to a design the more problematic the design, end of story. For users who have a camera that is compatible with the Ronin S they have less weight and less moving parts to break. Less setup time, less breakdown time.

But for now, having the focus motor allows me to use the Ronin S in a practice capacity until I decide what camera I want to purchase.

Hey thanks for stopping by and have a great day.


							

Creative Fun (Cameras are designed and engineered by geeks, nerds and trolls.)

1/200 sec at f/11 ISO 11 18mm

1/200 sec at f/11 ISO 11 18mm

I guess I’m kind of forced to talk about this image due to the amount of feedback I received from it soon after it hit Instagram. I do not have a massive amount of followers but I do have some really cool and interesting followers. I have several professional photographers from various parts of the world who hail from different genres and styles, from fashion to fine art to commercial print. Then I have followers who are in the entertainment industry in Hollywood & NYC. With that said… I also have a lot of cool everyday people from all walks of life who see my images and I see theirs too.

For this image I received four direct (private) messages asking how did you take the image and what filter did you use? One question was from a young lady who is a singer, song writer in Hollywood and the others were from photographers in the UK and Russia.

First I want to say this is just a fun image and is not mean to be a portfolio quality photo. However what comes into play here that makes the image stand out are a few different, but really not so different things. So let’s look a little deeper and I’ll talk about what was going on and how the image came to be.

First and foremost is the subject, my beautiful niece Alyssa and I were walking the dogs at the lake up the street from my house and I had the camera… I always have the camera.

Second and I think most important element here is the camera… no not a $20,000 Hasselblad, not even a flagship Nikon or Canon. The camera I used is my (new to me) Canon EOS-M3. What made this image achievable is the fact that I was able to capture the photo from an angle and perspective that would not be possible looking through a viewfinder. Unless of course I was to kneel down next to or in front of the subject and ask her to stop and pose. In this image I had been walking next to her as I captured video and when I had the clip I wanted I quickly switched to Av (aperture priority) and had previously set the camera to ISO 100 and f/11. So given the extreme back lighting from the sun over her shoulder I instantly flicked the “flash release” to allow the tiny on camera flash to give some much-needed “fill flash.” Without the fill flash Alyssa would be nothing more than a dark shadow. Also know the f/11 setting helped create the “star” effect coming from the sun. And of course the sun flare is because the camera is looking into the sun. Then there is the “wide angle” factor; shooting close to the subject at 18mm (wide zoom) makes things look a little “off.” Her extended arm and distortion on her lower torso is not very noticeable, but enough to give a creative effect.

So the big thing here is that I composed the image from the screen on the back of the camera and not a viewfinder (the M3 does not come with a view finder). The screen articulates and I was able to hold the camera low, but still angle the screen up toward me. I am actually very familiar with this technique because my old 2005-06 Canon A640 point & shoot had an articulating screen and I loved, loved, loved that camera for just that reason. And I must note that this is one of the three main reasons I purchased the M3. The articulating screen screams creativity… so why doesn’t an EOS-5D Mark IV or the EOS-1D X Mark II have articulating screens? Here is the secret… ready for it… Cameras are designed and engineered by geeks, nerds and trolls. These are people or beings that have not a creative molecule in their being. While they can make something that can auto focus and face detect and face track within milliseconds they could never understand creativity. So they rely on the outside world to tell them what creativity is and how to incorporate it into a product. The have stopped putting articulating screens in cheaper cameras because they want you to but the more expensive camera and I get that part of the equation… it’s about $$$. Even the geekiest of geeks wants to make money. “But let’s not make our $4000+ plus cameras with creative features like articulating screens because that would make us look like we have common sense.” And everybody knows geeks, nerds and troll have no common sense. Right!

Ok so after that rant we come to;

The third thing and that is the edit. So it is a little tweaking in Lightroom, about all of 30 seconds and then it’s off to Photoshop for about 2 minutes and I use a Nik Color Efex Pro 3 filter recipe that was created by me (yay me, I’m not a geek I can create). Also there is the use of Photoshop blending modes; in this case “multiply” was used. Then back to Lightroom and whala… done.

So in conclusion the real game changer is the camera with the articulating screen. It did not have to be the Canon M3, it could be any camera with a pop out screen. It allowed me to capture the “up angle” perspective and the candid expression all at the same time without stopping to pose the subject. And last, but not least… No you’re not gonna get this image with your iPhone. Sure you could capture the image with a phone camera, but it would be the same as using any other camera with a view finder. So put your iPhone away you little Apple worm and go get a real camera.

Thanks so much for reading and have a great day.

 

Romancing With Film (…I never intended to put film in the cameras.) Film fun part 1

Kendall shot with a Canon 650D film body and a EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM IS II lens. Fuji ISO 200 color film. Cropped and minor color edit in Lightroom.

Kendall shot with a Canon 650D film body and a EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM IS II lens. Fuji ISO 200 color film. Cropped and minor color edit in Lightroom.

Remember the film days? We have been digital for many years now. I stopped shooting film back in 1999, hard to believe it has been that long. So August I had purchased a few old Pentax cameras off eBay to be used as props in a photo shoot and I never intended to put film in the cameras. However when the second camera arrived it had a roll of unused film inside and that got me wondering. I started to think about the film days and how much of a struggle it was for me. Of course as time passed I was leaning more and more about all aspects of photography and then along came digital. So things became a little easier and a lot more creative. Because as time passed I found Photoshop and I found a creative medium that was for me.

So I though “hey it will be fun to run a few rolls through these old cameras.” I picked up some black and white film and went out and enjoyed me little romance with a Pentax Spotmatic and an ME. Then it bit me a little and for $26 I bought a Canon 650D film camera. Nothing special about the 650D other than the nostalgia that they (whoever they are) claim the very first photo uploaded to the internet was shot with a Canon 650D. Best part about the 650D is all my current Canon EF lenses fit and focus on this body.

So back last September while shooting with the amazing Kendall Strampel we had a little fun and in the middle of a planned shoot we took a little side trip and played for a few minutes with the film cameras. I handed a Pentax to Kendall to use as a prop and I put my awesome 70-200mm f/2.8L on the 650D and fired off a few frames of Fuji ISO 200 color film. I later finished the roll while shooting Melina Martin in the studio back in March.

Now today we do have the option to scan the negatives into out computer and then edit in Photoshop or Lightroom.

Ok so I thought it would end there, but it didn’t. (To be continued)

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Split tone edit in Lightroom.

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Split tone edit in Lightroom.

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Canon 650D, Fuji film no editing.

000021970011-Edit

A lite cross process edit using Photoshop.

Canon 650D, Fuji film with basic color edit in Photoshop.

 

Graveyard Photoshoot. (The Bethlehem Church was a perfect choice… )

1/160 sec at f/10 ISO 50 70mm

1/160 sec at f/10 ISO 50 70mm Model Kendall Strampel

It is not often I shoot with the same model two weeks in a row, but that is what happened this weekend. Last week’s shoot was very nice and the images of Kendall in a field on a mountain gave me a light beauty feel so the edits were exactly that; bright & light with lots of back lit sunlight.

So for this week’s shoot it was just the opposite. We were shooting in a church graveyard, ironically located just 1/2 mile from the field we shot in last week. So the concept for this shoot was Kendall’s idea and she presented it to me and when I heard it I knew the exact location. The Bethlehem Church was a perfect choice because the actual church building is burned out from a lightning strike that occurred many years ago, leaving an abandoned stone shell. Now the building is off limits but their is a graveyard with a wrought iron fence and all the graves date back to the early 1800s. Because it is abandoned there are no people, well other than the occasional passer-by and we had a just a two people walk through the background of the shoot.

I shot both natural light and studio flash. Natural light is a true love of mine, but having the Paul C Buff Einsteins on location really does open up the ability to be more creative and give different feeling to a shoot.  Before the photoshoot started I already knew I would go for higher contrast images, I knew I would be shooting around f/8 to f/16 and I also knew I would be “shooting for Photoshop.” While my Photoshop skills are very good I, like most people do not want to spend a lot of time in Photoshop fixing things, but I love to use Photoshop to create images. Difference is fixings an image in PS is something that is done to save an image or help it out a little… or sometimes a lot. However when I open PS to create something that is a different story because I am doing something that most times could never be replicated in camera. So when I “shoot for Photoshop” I am actually creating a RAW image with a camera and using it as an ingredient or a seed that will be grow something from PS. With all that said I still want to create my image and be done, so I have many actions recorded in PS that move the process along a little quicker. Two things I recommend to anyone working with Adobe Photoshop and they are “learn keyboard shortcuts and learn how to create actions and use them.” Same goes for Adobe Lightroom “learn the keyboard shortcuts” they really do make life a lot easier.

I’m not a big fan of light meters however they do make life very easy when working with studio strobes. For today’s shoot I used only one light and that was a PCB Einstein 640 with either a beauty dish or a 8 inch reflector and a 30 degree grid. In the end I can say we came away with some nice images, both natural light and studio light.

Photo of The Day (Autumn Sun)

1/200 sec at f/6.3 ISO 100 168mm Model Kendall Strampel

1/200 sec at f/6.3 ISO 100 168mm Model Kendall Strampel

Last Sunday we took the recently acquired posing chair to a wonderful location high atop a mountain and placed it in a field of wild grasses in the midday autumn sun. As for the technical difficulty in capturing an image like this… It really is not all that hard. As you can see the model’s back is to the bright sunlight. I am using a 22 inch white beauty dish for flash to light the model’s face. The camera is in “Manual” mode. The settings are 1/200 sec at f/6.3 ISO 100 168mm. 1/200 is the limit for my sync speed with the flash, I wanted to go as fast as possible with shutter speed to slow down the hair blowing in the wind. The lens was the ever so awesome EF70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM and the flash was a Paul C Buff (rest his soul) Einstein 640 powered by the PCB Vagabond Lithium Extreme.

So in the end it was… get to the location, set the chair in the field, set the model in the chair, take a few test shots and then fire away.

Editing started with  Lightroom CC and moved to Photoshop CC using my own methods with some Emily Soto magic added at the end, then back to Lightroom CC for cropping and watermarking.

Studio Lighting Outdoors ( I fired 174 shots and it worked flawlessly. )

1/100 sec at f/7.1 ISO 160 70mm with flash from PCB Einstein.

1/100 sec at f/7.1 ISO 160 70mm with flash from PCB Einstein.

I just wrapped up an outdoor shoot with male model and motocross racer Greg Sampson. I really had a chance to put the Paul C Buff Einstein strobes and the Vagabond Lithium Extreme battery pack through some testing. Although I used one of the PCB’s yesterday for an outdoor shoot, it was very minimal. But today I fired 174 shots and it worked flawlessly. I didn’t even once think about recharge time. I am not a fast shooter any way so it was not a problem at all. I used one Einstein strobe in a 7 foot Westcott umbrella with no diffusion. The shoot started very late in the day and light was fading as cloud cover came in. I started with some available light shots and they looked good, but I wanted to stay “clean” with the ISO so I brought out the newly acquired PCB system. Because it was late in the day there was no wind at all, zero. So I was able to use a 7 foot umbrella and that too was amazing. Most times it would be virtually impossible to use a large umbrella outside. In fact, I don’t think I have ever used a large umbrella anywhere but in the studio.

I really can’t say enough at this point about the PCB system. I really need to use the lights more before I could give a full review. However I can tell you the one thing I have noticed is that I had no white balance issues. I use an X-Rite Passport color checker for all my shoots, because I make a camera profile/s for each location and I use the X-Rite for setting white balance. Moving up & down through the power range of the PCB I still had very close white balance readings.

The Vagabond Lithium Extreme battery is amazingly light in weight and so easy to work with. Just clamp to a light stand, plug in and turn it on, that’s it.

Mostly I have used Speedlites when shooting on location and I loved my Speedlites, but to be able to take studio lighting on location… It was incredible!

Greg was amazing; he is a great model and so easy to work with. He takes direction so well. Today was a relaxed shoot and we were going for a rather natural look. I wanted to capture Greg in normal clothing as if he were just hanging out with friends. In fact to make the shoot very relaxed Greg chose a location that was very peaceful and it is a place he is very comfortable with. It was the location where he very first learned to ride a dirt bike as a young boy, so not only was it peaceful the location had meaning and a sense of value. In the past I have found that when capturing a person as they truly are, doing it in a place they love really makes it easier.

Motocross is just one side of Greg’s life so we have a shoot planned that will expose another side of Greg. You’ll have to wait and see.