Monthly Archives: April 2007

Flash Mash

I sold out.

I got myself a Sony HVL-F56AM strobe flash for RM1180 at Boeing Camera, Sg. Wang Plaza.

On one hand, there is the proud owner of a Minolta 50mm F1.4 on a Sony A100, able to shoot in darker conditions with Super SteadyShot without flash and without having my cover blown…

And on the other hand, there is the experimenting geek who has been reading Strobist.

Don’t flash me!

Wireless flash ad. Minolta invented wireless flash, and its technologies were bought over by Sony.

I can dial in exposure compensation, and it will transmit the signal to the wireless flash. Amazing!

Strobe mode; 40mm F9 0.8 seconds ISO100. I can’t remember the Hertz and how many strobes were on the flash itself.

45mm F36 1/40s ISO100. Flash pointed at ground below the shrub. The shrub might’ve been lit by the wireless flash signal. (The camera’s flash must be up to send the signal… and the signal itself has a tiny amount of light.)

18mm F22 1/125s ISO100.

These pictures were taken to show the full power of the HVL-F56AM, which has a guide number of 56 meters at ISO100, 85mm zoom. I set it to manual mode, full 1/1 power, 85mm zoom. On the Sony A100 SuperSteadyShot was turned off so I could use 1/160s flash sync without having to rely on High Speed Synchronization (which decreases apparent flash power). All shots at 50mm F1.4 ISO1600. Left column obviously without flash, right column with.

First four pairs of shots were taken from the balcony of Burger King, Rainforest side of the new wing of 1 Utama. The smog impairs the ability to tell how far the flash really can go. In the 4th pair, you can actually discern the people smoking in the middle.

The flash should reach… the guide number (56 meters) divided by the aperture (F1.4) multiplied by the square root of ISO (ISO1600) divided by ISO10 at 85mm zoom… or 56m/1.4*40/10 = 160 meters!

Same setup, without flash…


And now, at F5.6. They must’ve thought it was lightning.

I used my Nikon SB-28 connected to my Sony A100 via the remote-shutter-release-cable/flash-trigger in conjunction with the HVL-F56AM to fire both.

Full power flash. 70mm F16 1/4s ISO100. Transformers Classics Optimus Prime.

Does a full power discharge have enough to overcome the infrared-blocking filter of the Sony A100?

Yes. 50mm F1.4 1/125s ISO100. I used crossed polarizers for this. Note that there is just enough flash power for macro infrared shots but nothing else.

Note that 1/1 power will almost always blow you away.

Optimus sees the light.

All shots except the first two were taken using smashpOp‘s HVL-F56AM flash back when I borrowed it for a test run.

My stance on (flash) photography still remains; make it look natural, or the complete opposite as a special effect. That might explain why some of my gig shots look normal, while others are madly saturated to complement the colored lighting. No point trying to hack the white balance to make a performer have normal skin tones when there are pretty red and green lights pointing on him/her, yes?

The quick-release mechanism invented by Minolta, with wireless flash, are very handy when I want to quickly switch from landscape to portrait orientation. Just press the button on the flash, slide it off, pull up the flash on the camera, and turn the camera!

No more beheaded flashes.

It also helps when the ceiling is high, so I can point the flash at a white wall instead of having to reorient the flashhead while still stuck on the camera. I am no longer limited to the angles the flashhead allows you to pivot it!

And now, for a family portrait clockwise from middle: Sony A100 with Minolta 50mm F1.4 and Sony HVL-F56AM flash, Olympus OM-2000 with Olympus 50mm F1.8 lens and Nikon SB-28 Speedlight flash, infrared-modded Fujifilm Digital Q1 with Vivitar 24mm F2.0 lens, Pentax P30t with Auto Chinon 135mm F2.8 lens, Minolta X300 with Seagull 50mm F1.8 lens and Canon 580EX Speedlite flash.

(Yes, another new member; the X300 is sadly a Minolta MD mount and can’t use my Minolta AF/Sony lenses.)

Shot On Purpose

Do your pictures have a purpose?

I’ll answer that on my behalf.

I believe mine do, to some extent. The technical stuff is to educate people on alternative ways and effects. The gig pictures are so bands can steal them for their Myspace accounts and say “Thanks Albert!” (Of course, a video would be much better but I’ll leave that to a videographer.)

So what is the point of taking a picture of a flower?

What about them clouds?

What about them insects?

Wouldn’t it be better, say, to take a picture of an elderly man sitting outside a retirement home? The purpose and message would be: Don’t leave your parents at a home!

Wouldn’t it be better to take a picture of steaming hot tomyam soup prepared by this unknown restaurant in a hidden corner somewhere?

(Okay, if your pictures seek to entertain, or evoke feelings in people, then hooray they have a purpose!)

We can all take pictures of the Eye On Malaysia. What I want to do, is take a picture from the inside, with both a wide and a tele lens. “See this is what I can see if I ride it!

I could make out with a chick up there and caption it, “See this is what I can do here!

Right now, all those shots of the Eye On Malaysia just convey one message:

Come and take a picture of the Eye On Malaysia.

Some photographers are so annoyingly cocky, I wanna whip out a condom and pull it over their heads. You can brag how a lens does not make the photo, but at the same time you stick to your brand. You can imply that some other dude does not deserve that lens, but I think he takes better pictures than you. Pictures with more soul.

I don’t claim my pictures have soul, but let’s all get over the needless negative feedback loop of being an annoying fanboy because somebody else was an annoying fanboy to you. Or making someone else your slave flasher because you were made to hold flashes.

Actually, this rant doesn’t just apply to taking pictures. What about what you do in life?

Do you have a purpose?

Do you have an impact on people in your life?

I believe I am here to help. To enlighten. The world is full of people who don’t know (calling them ignorant people is just a judgemental way of labelling them that sounds like they are beyond hope). I want to help them. I want to teach people how to fish.

…okay, not exactly, as I don’t know how to fish myself.

Raymond once asked, “Do you play videogames?

Whatever games I played, I always played their single-player missions to finish, and not so much of those practice games. I never liked wasting time on the same level.

If I want to do something, I want to progress in it.

I could be an ace at Daytona, and drag people to that particular machine where my record is #1. “See see haaa ALB! That’s ME!

Now, I feel that my time on the computer is best used to Photoshop and blog. Yes, I enjoy it muchly. There, my efforts have a bigger effect.

Pay your taxes! The deadline for employed people is on the 30th of April 2007! (Shot with my Nokia N70.)

I had to put something of purpose in this blog post. So there. Some people don’t actually know what these buildings on Jalan Duta are. This is where you pay your taxes, yo.

They’re doing overtime till 10pm till 30th April! (See how hardworking they are to get your money heh.)

Okay, maybe I could be more helpful and draw a map, and make an online tax calculator or something. Or hack into their system and generate e-Filing PIN numbers for all of you procrastinators so you don’t have to head down there.

Panku Rokku!

Auburn’s having a feature night at Jamasia!

Where: KL Jamasia, Desa Sri Hartamas
When: Sunday, 29th April 2007
How Much: RM12 (RM10 if you present the gig flyer) and you get a copy of the record, Karya
Who: Auburn, Plush, and some magic. Apparently the stage will look really cool.

And now, for some punk attitude.

The real punk rockers had their share of fun with NOFX.

The pop punk rockers everybody had their share of fun with Good Charlotte.

I was not there. Good Charlotte. I was offered a free ticket, too. It was so easy to get one!

The friend who gave you a ticket probably stepped into his/her media-industry-related-office, spotted tickets strewn all over the carpet, and decided to give you one.

It was so easy to get one, nobody wanted Joyce Wong’s extra tickets!

This is where I go all elitist and say “Hey I’ve heard of them since Festival Song and their homage to the Sex Pistols with their Nooo Futureee line! I liked that song!

Yeah, I did like that song, and Iris Chia was the only other soul who had heard of them and lent me their first CD. I didn’t like how bland they ended up sounding… until they stuck on a NIN sticker in their latest video and turned indie rock complete with keyboards and all. Then again, it’s really only that song that gets close to The Killers, in a good way.

(And yes, they did play Festival Song and I know this through a bootleg video that shows unfamiliarity through restrained singalong. Kids.)

But Albert, there were local acts! One Buck Short! Estranged! Jason Lo!

…I see Izal the One Buck Short bassist walk by my office regularly, Azwin Andy the Estranged drummer and I exchange “you again!” expressions, and Jason Lo’s always in the elevator with a smirk. I see them all because my office has glass windows and it faces the elevator.

…I’ve also seen them perform a zillion times.

I might’ve gone for Good Charlotte if I was 10 years younger, instead of going for the Drummers’ Artistic Series where 3 drumsets were on stage at KL Jamasia. Maybe.


Zubira Feature Night, KL Jamasia, 25th March 2007 was indeed classic rock heaven.

Cats In Love started the set with bouncy rock.

The very funny N. Rama Lohan of The Star’s Audiofile! (Yes, his dedicated guitar and amplifier reviews include *cough* field usage.)

The soft glow around him is spherical aberration from shooting wide open at F1.4.

I like what’s behind the bar.

Triple6Poser with Justin Guber and a very very cool T-shirt. NIIICE!

Eddy brings on the hard rocking blues.

Foot-stomping, too.

Henry shreds.

Henry slides. (This is most certainly an invitation to shout “FREEEBIRRRD!”)

Then, it was time for Zubira. A little spoiler, heh.

Shake it!

Zubira borrowed quite a few musicians from the scene.

Admittedly, them jamming every weekend wasn’t quite enough, as often, in between songs, they seemed quite lost.

Zubira had delicate phrasing and licks. He sung with his guitar.

…so did his guitarist, who had a scalloped fretboard Fender Stratocaster ala Yngwie Malmsteen.

When they did the cover of Pink Floyd – Shine On You Crazy Diamond (I-V), everybody sang along. The crowd looked like this each time we came to “Shiiine onnn you craaazy diiiamond!

They didn’t have the saxophone bits, though. Still, the band pulled this off well, with the moody synth, and Zubira’s spot on guitar phrasing. It would be sacrilegious to tweak the song with the longest G minor chord in history.

I would upload a video, but well… I sang along too, and spoiled the video. 🙁

Zubira has a raspy voice which fitted every song he covered; be it Deep Purple, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd. His voice seemed to be the averaged right-in-the-middle point of all these voices.

Encore! Wafi the soundman gets on stage…

And Justin Guber and Zubira play Led Zeppelin – Rock And Roll, complete with Eddy on vocals and blues harp, in an extended jam session.

Flash For The Win

So I went for a Sony Flash Workshop, with thanks to George of Sony, Ted Adnan, one heck of a cool photographer, the two models Joell and Joshua, and thanks to Muzium Telekomunikasi Negara. We learnt how to use the Sony HVL-F56AM strobe flashgun, with techniques to balance ambient light, bounce light, and wireless flash.

I did not have a HVL-F56AM myself, but I’ve borrowed it from smashpOp before for test runs (whose results I have yet to publish, but rest assured I like it very much) and gigs.

Anyway, one bonus was that at the end of the day, each participant would submit two of their best pictures, and the top 3 would win a prize!

They showed the pictures on screen, without identifying who did what, and gave some comments.

Their critique on pictures opened up my eyes quite a bit. Sure, I knew a lot of photographic effects. However, did I apply the effects to the subjects accordingly? I might’ve shot some nice shots, but did I understand why, so I could replicate them?

Anyway, I had a tough time picking between these four shots (only resized, nothing else done in Photoshop):

18mm F3.5 1/60 ISO400 with one HVL-F56AM held with my left hand above and slightly to my right (1 O’ clock position) at 17mm with wide diffuser, and one HVL-F56AM pointing at the wall behind, held by smashpOp. Thanks smashpOp!

18mm F14 1/60 Zone-matching Low-key ISO80 with one HVL-F56AM bounced into an umbrella. Vignetting and light falloff due to Pro Tama 0.7x wide angle converter (giving effectively 18mm without the APS-C crop factor.)

Same exposure data but at F3.5 1/40s instead. Also used the wide-angle converter and the umbrella. I was hesitant to pick this because other than her hand propping up the circle Warner Brothers style, this shot didn’t pop.

90mm F4 1/125 Zone-matching Low-key ISO80 with the umbrella. The only lens I have that does 90mm at F4 is the wonderful Minolta 70-210mm F4 beercan lens. Okay, so it was more of a bokeh appreciation shot than anything else. I was twiddling about with white balance here so it’s a sickly green; the beercan otherwise gives great color.

I used Zone-matching Low-key ISO80 because it makes the Sony A100 use ISO80 for least noise, and Low-key mode retains the shadows so I can see more shadow details on my nVidia-driver-calibrated CRT monitor.

Hi200, or Zone-matching Hi-key ISO200, does the opposite, and prevents highlights from blowing out when the camera processes the curves. Studio shots with a lot of white will benefit from this.

I picked the first and second shot.

The second shot won! Frames within frames, Ted said. If the flare was positioned anywhere else it probably wouldn’t be picked.

I almost picked the beercan ad shot over that one. There’s something off about my shot but I haven’t figured it out… maybe it’s the guy’s face being lit from underneath by a stray HVL-F56AM (we were all using the same channel and were told to turn it off so not to interfere with the umbrella-ed flash.) I’d prefer to make natural-looking flash shots anyway.

And so, I won myself a Sony HDPS-M10 HDD Photo Storage device!

It’s a 40 Gigabyte portable hard disk for photographers taking long trips or vacations, but don’t want to carry a huge laptop to transfer pictures to each time they fill up their memory cards.

What’s good about it?

  • Accepts Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo, CompactFlash Type I and II, and Microdrive media
  • A single click of a button copies images to the hard disk and archives them
  • It has 60 minutes of extended transfer times without an AC adapter. You could do 15 transfers from a 1GB card
  • Shock-proof with reinforced corners
  • Small LCD shows transfer progress
  • Comes with Photo Diary Software to organize photos in calendar format

It works with Linux, too!

Imagine being on a week-long vacation, or being a rock band roadie doing a tour. Feel no guilt shooting in RAW format!

Once home, plug it in to your USB2.0 port and transfer away!

Sadly, I realized, I don’t ever go on week-long vacations or do roadie jobs. I go home every day and transfer my pictures to the computer!

And so, I’m selling this. I need the cash to buy a Sony HVL-F56AM, heh.

The list price online is USD257, or RM900, but to be realistic in accordance to market forces, and what you can get around town nowadays, I’ll sell it for RM500.

I had to open the package to show the contents. There’s an unfilled warranty form.

The Sony HDPS-M10 in comparison to a CD. Its dimensions are 135x92x30mm, weighing 300 grams.

Note that this does not have a big color LCD screen and is not meant to be your pocket picture gallery. You’d pay a lot, lot more for something like that.

Of course, there are Taiwanese brands out there, but you have experienced a Taiwanese brand product, haven’t you? Some of them are great, but some are really wonky. Plus the manuals are in bad English and so are the programs. You’d also only get them fixed by the shop who sold it to you, instead of walking into any Sony shop.

I’ve found Sony service to be quick in turnaround compared to the rest of say, Low Yat Plaza shops. I bought a Taiwanese brand MP3 player a long time ago, and had to come back often for them to fix.

You can get any cheapo brand MP3 player, but a hard disk is something you don’t want screwing up! Especially those external hard disk enclosures that give occasional errors.

So yes, please help me with my aspiration for a Sony HVL-F56AM, and buy my Sony hard disk! (Or at least help me sell it.) While I have always championed taking pictures without flash, I have also championed alternative techniques and effects, including those with flash.

Zap me an email. a-l-b-n-o-k-at-h-o-t-m-a-i-l-dot-c-o-m. Take away them dashes!

The geek in me can’t wait.

Well We Are

Many moons ago, I shot with Fujifilm Velvia 100F on my Olympus OM-2000.

Yes, that famous positive slide film. The difference between this and a negative, is the chemical processing; slides appear just like the actual shot. Velvia is known for punchy colors and strong contrast.

I used to think that slide film needed a special camera, medium format or something, or needed to be loaded in the dark. Nope. Velvia 100F, in 135 format (35mm format) can be loaded like normal film. It looks and smells like normal film. (No, actually, it smells stronger. I like!) You only need to process it at a lab that can do the E-6 chemical process.

After that, you can also ask them to cut up the film and mount it on slides for a price.

You can also ask them to process it with the C-41 process, which gives different colors and is called cross-processing. The C-41 process is used for normal negative film can be done at any photo shop.

Thanks Yee Hou for sending the film to be developed to the lab in SS2! (There’s another in Pudu Plaza, aptly called E-Six, and Applied Imaging in Taman Tun Dr. Ismail but all are only open during office hours and take a few days to process.)

By opening the back of the OM-2000, and attaching a shutter release cable to the shutter to keep the shutter open in bulb mode, I could project a light through the back and make it project the image on screen!

(Yes, this was shamelessly ripped off Yee Wei‘s method.)

And so, a lamp shone through the slide, onto a white surface.

Turn off the lights, wrap the lamp with a black shirt to avoid light spillage (lowering contrast.)

Top-left: I wrapped a white plastic bag around a tungsten lamp. Unfortunately, it heats the air inside, creating a vacuum, sucking the plastic towards it and ultimately melting it! Top-right: A better version, with A4 paper and less texture being projected. Bottom-left: All that heat eventually melted the lamp. Bottom-right: The coolest solution; put the slide on a diffusing white object, on a plastic bag wrapped around a flourescent table lamp.

This is a sample of a low-contrast image from not completely sealing off light from escaping around the back of the camera.

Overexposure/underexposure kills the shot, on slide film which has a much lower dynamic range.

This, I swear, looks much better on slide. Regretfully some texture of the plastic bag can be seen.

From this point on, I shot the slides using the slide-on-diffuser-on-plastic-bag-on-flourescent-lamp method. I used the Sony A100 with 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 at 45mm, F11 with the Pro Tama 58mm +20 closeup filter to shoot the slides.

Digicolor, Mutiara Complex, Jalan Ipoh.

Outside Mutiara Complex, Jalan Ipoh with the Vivitar 24mm F2.0 lens and 0.7x Pro Tama wide-angle converter.

Note that the KLCC Twin Towers have vanished!

Olympus 50mm F1.8. My favorite sharp lens.

Using the Nikon SB-28 on bounce and manual calculations, results varied from blown-out faces…

…to lucky exposures.

These shots were from the Indie-licious gig.

16mm goodness at Projet Hartamas.

Again, the Olympus 50mm F1.8 does wonders.

Shine some light on us! Share your festive spirit!

High-contrast blast.


KL Jamasia‘s Anniversary, 24th March 2007.

Ask Me Again to get a new guitar strap.

Strobes and a slow shutter speed and a fair bit of panning to make the most of it.

Stonebay, grunge revival at its best.

I’ve gotta shoot more like these.


N. Rama Lohan, charismatic frontman of Crosstown Traffic.

Wong Lip Kee shreds to the band’s classic rock/heavy metal tendencies.

Teeth solo!

Again, they played Cream – White Room. Classic rock headbanging goodness!


Indka packs a ferocious punch.

Featuring Natalie who is soon on her way to become a band slut!

Beat The System, nu-metal and proud of it.

Despite that, Sam is very much old-school; he does a fantastic windmill headbang.

Hot chick photographer!

V3, a new band whose guitarist teaches Alda a solo or two.

Oh you mean like this?

Featuring Jamasia’s very own owner, Velan! Ojee on vocals does a rocking cover of The Doors – Roadhouse Blues.

…who later gets fed a birthday cake by his proud father.

International Groove Collective, funk, soul, R&B and jazz. I think.

Cuuute keyboardist!

I know I’m growing older when I have an uncle-like urge to pinch people’s cheeks.

Carbolic Smokeballs end the set with heavy metal!

Ice, Ice Baby

I was on the PUTRA LRT on evening, from Pasar Seni to KL Sentral, standing next to a glass pane. A white-haired Chinese man with glasses sat on the seat just behind the glass. From where I stood, I had a bird’s eye view of his balding head.

He coughed profusely, and I could not help but look. He was typing a message:

To: Ice wife, Mary
On the train now
going to reach
the station.

I snickered.

Maybe when I’m married and old, I’ll call my wife an Ice wife, too.

It was then that my mom messaged me, and I realized why he called her Ice wife! My mom was ICE in my phonebook.

In the UK, people save a loved one’s number as ICE, short for In Case of Emergency. This is so that if you suddenly collapse in the street, a paramedic/hospital staff can dial the number saved as ICE and ask if the person has any allergies and health complications, etc. (My dad’s not the toxicologist in the family and can’t remember what each member’s allergies are, plus he doesn’t carry his phone around, so he’s not the ICE, ICE baby.)

There’s also a hoax going around saying that if you save a number as ICE you’ll get charged premium rates. Ignore those.

And now, for a random conversation quip inspired by the very funny Just Sewjin:

Kingsley, Asyraf and I were having supper.

Albert: So, right, I was in Bentley Music back in 2004, and I was showing MW which electric guitar I wanted to buy, the lickable butterscotch Ibanez GSA 370-QM, and then I realized there and then that it had 22 frets and not 24! I was dashed!
Kingsley: Oh man!
Asyraf: Er, what’s the difference between 22 and 24 frets?
Albert: It’s like uh… the difference between a 50mm F1.8 and a 50mm F1.4 lens.
Asyraf: Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Okay, so it’s not funny. But his blog is.

Here’s a lazy pimp to something for otakus, but because Dustyhawk calls me an 455 I’ll just put one link.
C2AGE: Cosplay, Comic, Anime and Games Convention

Screwed, And More Geeking

What: Screwed
Who: The Oral Stage people
When: 8:30pm 19th-22nd April 2007, 3pm 21st-22nd April 2007
How Much: RM27 (RM17 for students, senior citizens and the disabled)
Where: Pentas 2, KL Performing Arts Centre (03-40479000 for reservations)

Also at The Actors Studio Greenhall, Penang; 8:30pm 4th-5th May 2007, 3pm 6th May 2007, RM25 (RM15 for students, senior citizens and the disabled). For reservations call 04-2635400.

I love The Oral Stage productions; they’re youth-oriented and easier to digest than other plays that insist of weaving themselves some artsy crypticness.

Previously, I’d been for The Breakfast Club, fiftynineminutes and Rojak!.

Anyway, it has been five posts since I last geeked out. Here comes technical data overload!

Flash Photography That Will Blow You Away

I’ve finally figured out how to keep the batteries in my Nikon SB-28. I soldered wires into the battery connectors (not an easy method; dripping melted solder in and poking a wire to see if it sticks). The battery pack must be tied securely, for too much tension could break the wires.

It’s the bomb, isn’t it?

Automatic Zoom SLR Lens!

I found a Minolta Alpha 7xi with 28-105mm F3.5-4.5 lens! (The lens is on the left, my Minolta 50mm F1.4 is on the camera to show how oddly shaped it is.) The xi series had motorized lenses. Rocking the rubber grip would cause the motor to zoom the lens, while pulling back and rocking it would change focus. It had variable speeds like a joystick; however, the fastest speed wasn’t fast enough for me.

Amazingly, it worked on my Sony A100 too.

The major downside? When the shutter is released the lens cannot be zoomed. So no zoom in/out slow exposures!

I did not buy this.

Screw-on 1.4x 58mm Vivitar Teleconverter

I found it in a shop on the ground floor of Ampang Park. From top, Minolta 70-210mm F4 beercan lens at 210mm F4 with 1.4x teleconverter (294mm F5.6 equivalent); 210mm F8 with 1.4x teleconverter (294mm F11 equivalent); 210mm F8 without teleconverter.

This had too much special effect for my liking, such that it managed to kill the beercan’s fantastic bokeh! The F4 image was soft, full of spherical aberration and had bright-line bokeh donuts with blue outlines; the F8 image was less soft, but the bright-line bokeh was even stronger. The plain F8 shot shows the heptagonal bokeh.

I did not buy it.

Shot In The Dark

30 second exposure at F22, with the Nikon SB-28 strobing all over.

More of that, at F8 instead.

Direct Manual Focus Rocks!

Minolta came up with a wonderful idea for their auto-focus lenses; (fake) Direct Manual Focus!

Their other options are like any other SLR; Auto-Focus Single, Auto-Focus Continuous and Auto-Focus Automatic.

Direct Manual Focus disengages the screw motor from the lens when the camera has focused. This lets you finetune the focus. Alternatively, if the camera focuses on the wrong object, you can quickly turn the focus ring.

The other wonderful thing about DMF is that when the screw motor disengages, you can hear it. It’s a different sound from the focusing whirr. It sounds kinda happy and upbeat too! (Why not? The camera is happy it focused. Hooray.)

This is very useful when camwhoring! Just listen for it… and then snap.

If your camera is on focus-priority (meaning it won’t shoot unless it’s in focus) you’ll avoid pressing the shutter all the way, thinking it’s in focus, and finding it doesn’t snap, and trying to catch your breath. If your camera is on release-priority (it will shoot even when out of focus) you’ll avoid out-of-focus shots.

This is great if you’ve disabled the focus confirmation beep like every good camera owner.

AF Assist and Eye-Start Continuous Auto-Focus on Minolta/Sony SLRs

I enable the AF Assist option on my Sony A100. Usually, when half-pressing to auto-focus, with the flash raised, it emits annoying strobes to help the camera auto-focus when it is too dark to see.

However, when I want to flash an object in the dark while avoiding the strobes, I just look through the viewfinder! The Eye-Start Continuous Auto-Focus activates, and the camera starts auto-focusing without the annoying strobes.

I don’t know how Canon dSLRs, without AF Assist lights (and must use the pop-up flash) would circumvent this.

Shutter Priority For Flash!

1/5th of a second, ISO100, F2, 50mm. The 1/5th of a second lets in enough natural light, and the flash fills in just nicely.

On the Sony A100, I usually use Aperture Priority when not using flash, usually to lock it at its brightest aperture or quickly stop down for more depth of field and sharpness, and Shutter Priority when using flash, to control the balance between flash and natural light.

When I don’t have time to switch to Shutter Priority, I just tap the AEL button to activate spot-metering (it’s an option in the menus) while pointing at the subject. This locks my shutter speed while I flash in Aperture Priority.

Manual mode is great in specific conditions, but I won’t use that exclusively because it would be too tedious to adjust when going from extremely bright to extremely dark conditions and vice versa.

Even when shooting with the Olympus OM-2000, which is practically in Manual mode all the time, I think in terms of Shutter Priority (will there be handshake?) versus Aperture Priority (when using flash, so I don’t have to change the power of the flash, just the aperture.)

Yes, ironically, on the OM-2000 I think Aperture Priority with flash, and Shutter Priority when not using flash.

Full Power Internal Flash

I discovered a quick and easy hack to use full 1/1 power of your digital SLR’s internal pop-up flash; use second curtain sync, pre-flash TTL and a slow shutter speed e.g. 1/3rd of a second. Pre-flash TTL means that the camera flashes before the shot, and checks to see if it was too bright or dark, and adjusts accordingly when firing the actual flash.

You can trick it by covering the flash with your hand during the pre-flash (making it think the flash was not bright enough), and quickly removing it before the real flash.

If you don’t, you might just find your hand smelling of fried chicken.

Left: Normal flash; right: 1/1 full power flash.

Second curtain sync is necessary, so the real flash only fires at the end of the exposure. The more skilled you get at this, the faster shutter speeds you can use!

Smoking Flash

I tried the cigarette box flash method, reversing the inner foil of a cigarette box and putting it over my internal pop-up flash to get it to bounce upwards.

Note how it became very spotlight-ish.

From left to right, top to bottom: No flash (1/10s F5.6 ISO400 50mm); 1/80s direct flash; flash with cigarette box head tilted forward; flash with cigarette box upside-down (head facing eyepiece); a Fujifilm ASA400 white canister carved to fit around the internal flash; the same canister tilted 45 degrees; the cigarette box tilted upwards; this space for rent.

Pardon the lack of pictures of the actual cigarette box on the flash, or the film canister; my sister borrowed my digicam and hasn’t returned it.

Anyway, the best results were with the cigarette box held as up straight as possible. If you release it, it will lean forwards on the internal flash (like in the bottom picture.) You can’t tell by the picture, but the internal flash should be popped up, and the cigarette box fits on it.

The film canister isn’t as effective; it does little to soften the shadows, does not change the lighting angle, but it does introduce a pleasant warming effect.

Macro Flash

Often, you may find that when shooting macro, with a SLR and internal flash, that the lens might cast a shadow on the subject, causing a black semi-circle in the lower region of the photo.

You don’t need an external flash!

Just use your outstretched hand as a reflector. It also gives a nice warm sunny tint to the flash!

The blue light was Photoshopped in; Jenifer is pictured using her Canon EOS 350D with Canon EF-S 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 lens with my Pro Tama 58mm +20 closeup filter. (Pardon the inaccurate depiction of the flash path.)

Flake Tight

17th March 2007: Take Flight, contemporary ballet production by Balletbase. Emily dragged me for this. Yes, I came to See Emily Play!

Superb choreography! Spectacular lighting! Before the show they were dancing along to a Dream Theater song. I was excited (though it didn’t play in the show.)

This effect was done with an array of lights from both left and right of the stage.

Rebirth. Drama.

The performances were notably symmetrical and patternistic, making my hits more than misses.

Seeing this I was reminded of a certain Funky Socker.

I swapped mostly between the Minolta 50mm F1.4 and Minolta 70-210mm F4 beercan lens.

…and shot mostly in Shutter Priority mode. Hooray for bright lights!

MMM hot chick smack center.

Guest performances by Tracy Vanderlinden and Heather Rodocker.

(Emily shot this.)

Bilqis Hijjas, the director, and 24 dancers.

Yay I got to go backstage!


Stand on your hands with a little help from your friends.

The stage lamps used; each stand had four; two side by side (in the picture) and one above and one below.

Peeling tape time. Like waxing.

Less than half of the dancers left.

There’s an afterparty?

Enough of that, Emily says. Let’s get out of here!

Where? The majestic photogenic KL Performing Arts Center. Whoa what’s that in the distance?

The 210mm end of the beercan lens reveals a chess game.

Emily shot this.


Beercan shooting from an apartment roof somewhere in KL.