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.)

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