September 1, 2009 03:03 by Adrian

Hey guys and gals!

        I've been wanting to write this article for quite a while but never actually found the time to do so, anyway 2 close friends of Ardents recently purchased a dSLR thus prompting me to write this article in the benefit of those who are taking those itsy bitsy baby steps towards the realm of photography.  

        There are actually 3 basic steps that everyone takes towards photography enlightenment..

Technical Knowledge

    The first step for any aspiring photographer is the need to know two things, their equipment in terms of settings and behavior and the other is the basics of photography such as what is shutter speed, apperture and ISO.

      Below are the quick run through on the things to learn up for : -

      Photography Basics 
  • What is a 'stop' - Well everything in photography is about light and how its controlled. This light is measured in stops i.e. 1 stop over or under.
  • How do you control light?
           Shutter Speed - Measured in seconds or miliseconds.  Doubling each speed is equilavent to 1 stop 
                                  e.g. 1/20s to 1/40s is minus 1 stop.     
           Aperture - The diameter of the lens opening, measured in F stops. F/2.8 to F/4 is equilavent to minus 1 stop of light.
           ISO - The sensitivity of the camera towards light, measured in ISO. ISO 200 to ISO 400 is equilavent to plus 1 stop of light.  
  • Types of light - Know the different white balance settings and what's the difference between incandesant light vs fluorescent light. 

       

      Camera 
  • Settings - where all the buttons, functions and how to access them
  • The difference between Auto Focus (AF) and Metering modes. (Auto focus is how the camera focuses on a subject and metering is how much light is needed for to properly expose the image)
  • Quirky things - as God made all of us different, so do different camera models and brands, each has their own different quirkiness. Like the metering is always -1 stop lower than what the camera indicate and so on.

       

You'll graduate from this when you can be confident in taking pictures with their correct exposures, consistently of course and with sharp images and not blurred by shake or incorrect focus. 

Composition

     Once you get have the basics and are consistent in getting images sharp and properly exposed, we move on to the 2nd stage. Only now we talk about what goes into the image. No point in trying to look at angles and composition when you can't even be confident in exposing the image correctly. The last thing you want is to take a once in a life time image, only to realize it was set too dark or too bright or worse yet, isn't sharp.

      Below are the quick run through on things to learn in this area: -

      Composition Basics 
  • 2/3 rule - Rule of 2 thirds. Try not composing the shot at dead centre but try placing it in other areas. Read up the 2/3 rule for photography composition.
  • Strong subject - Whether the subject is clearly defined, is the image too cluttered? This can be either by shape or by color.
  • Timing - Getting the shot at the right time rather than machine gunning the camera. You might think why not? well simple, you can't machine gun all the time especially when you are using a flash. So why not train up? will save you plenty of time from looking through tons of pictures of the same thing. 
       Of course there are more in this subject area, will talk more when the time comes. 
 
      
You'll graduate from this when you are able to look at a scene and determine how best to take the shot, with what type of setting and at which angle (yep all in your head). Up to the point that you are able to manipulate the scene to perfect the composition.  
 

Art Direction

      This is the final level of your photography journey and this is where you let your creativity guide you in taking the shot. At this level, you'll be able to envision what type of picture you want to take and with the skills gained from the 2 previous categories above, you can and will be able to get it. Art direction is quite simple actually, its basically what do you want your picture to portray.. the message.. do you want to take a picture of a lady that shows her character? or a picture that shows emotion? or something to look grand and classy? 
 
      
       So there you have it.. the 3 stages of your transformation to a true photographer.  Many out there just go straight into composition without the necessary skills or knowledge on what it takes. Most end up with photos that are under exposed and just poor composition. Don't be one of them. If you are new with your new love.. just keep on taking photos and get the confidence in the basics, trust me you'll need it later on when it matters most.
 
      I also hear a lot of people saying, ooh I don't have anything to photograph.. well you are just learning the basics so why not just photograph things around the house or area where you live? Try shooting indoors, outdoors and different lighting conditions. Play with different settings and see which works best on when. Trust me, its not as easy as it seems and the experience will help you. Lest not get into a situation where you need to take a photo but didn't know how to. Ouch!
 
      Anyway, that's the 3 basic stages in learning up Photography, I'll try to find time to go deeper on each area and explain more, so stay tuned ya! Till then, keep on shooting! Cool
 
Cheers,
Adrian Y. 

July 1, 2009 11:56 by Adrian

Hey everyone!

          Hope everyone's all well and good..  this entry will be a collection of shots taken at Patong beach.. below is a dreamy picture of a really long row of beach chairs stretching to quite a distance towards the other end of the beach..  the dreamy effect isn't created by photoshop but rather something more natural.. 

The early morning view of the beach.. the image is aimed to show distance and depth flowing towards the mountain.. a sand trail would be perfect leading towards the mountain but since this is a holiday shot, and to the other fact that we didn't have the beach to ourselves to 'set up' the perfect shot, this is as close as we could get.. 

The water is just so great, it doesn't smell like what we get in Port Dickson and its just clean.. the waves rushing water over our feet in nature's own rythm along with the spectacular skyline, I decided to take a shot of just that.. 

The below shot was taken with a slow shutter speed at 1/13 sec to give the impression of water flowing.. the upper corner was purposely left blank or in this case the view of the sand as this will create the feel of water rushing upwards towards the beach..

Sometimes as a photographer, I wonder when will I start being just a tourist and just take shots as it is rather than worry about all these tiny details like what goes into every other of Ardent's images..  

These few shots below are during sunset at Patong beach.. the sky was less than ideal as most of the sunlight are obsecured by clouds.. normally what I look for is for that golden 5 minutes but even at that 5 minutes, the shape of the sunset isn't perfect.. far from it.. but what to do? as photographers we are also bound by nature.. and also bounded by $ (can't spend like a month every day taking sunsets until getting the perfect one, tho would sound fun) 

So the above two shots are typical tourist type shot.. but what I wanted was to show the power of the sea amid the backdrop of a beautiful sunset.. kinda like how nature can be so beautiful and destructive as proven in the 2004 tsunami..  

The below shot was taken with the waves going towards the beach.. what I wanted is to show the tranquility of the empty beach against the moving flow of the waves.. to achieve the desired shot, the below shot was taken with 1/3sec at 14mm exposure hand held.. as a trained photographer, 1/3sec even at 200mm zoom is possible but standing on the unstable sand and just coming off the boat trip from Phi Phi island which made me continuously sway even on solid ground made things very tricky indeed..

But again its all about timing and knowing how to get control of your body.. wasn't easy but there it is..  an image of a moving wave crashing towards the tranquil beach.. 

Now coming back to that initial imagery of a wave rushing to shore against the beauty of the sunset sky..  with again 1/3 sec exposure, and timed to perfection, the below shot is created...  this in within the 5 golden minutes just before sunset.. the serenity of the skyline is offset by the rushing power of the incoming wave...

Now with that above shot safely tucked in, some creativity is added in to further add depth and enhance the wave motion further. 

And the final shot, which is meant to capture the final landscape sunset before the final golden minutes are up..  

To conclude, the images are meant to create depth and mixing power of movement against the calm serene and beautiful skyline.. the above pictures aren't blured with photoshop just some minor enhancements in contrasts as my camera is set to 'Standard' and not 'Vivid' so as to allow me to control the contrast later.

I hope that you all enjoy the above pictures and understood the creativity and art direction that I was aiming to create... 

Cheers,

Adrian Y. 


June 5, 2009 11:04 by Adrian

Hey everyone!

       Its already in mid June..  and in conjunction to giving the best to our clients.. Ardent just invested on a new baby.. the Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8 ED N .. the best ultrawide lens from Nikon, launched along with the D3.. both was awarded the EISA 2008-2009 Best Camera and Lens for its superior image quality.. 

    

 

Hopefully in the next few weeks I can find some time to do some photo comparison tests..  To be really honest, this lens is HUGE! there is no filter but rather a dedicated lens hood to protect that buldging front element..  so far the pictures are simply awesome..  anyway below is just a test shot of what it can do.. will post more pictures later ya.. Cool

 
Original full sized file.. DSC_6624 2a.jpg (3.09 mb)
 
Anyway.. the above picture is taken 1/10s and f/8 at 14mm..  blurred the people in the photo and added a nifty red colored box which I've cropped out without any change in image size.. below..  
 
 
This is seriously crazy sharp.. everything on the picture especially the edges are all sharp and not soft.. you can zoom as much as you like and all you'll find are edges and lines ala krispy! yum.. more updates soon!
 
Cheers,
Adrian Y. 

January 30, 2009 10:43 by Adrian

Hey everyone!

        Whao, Chinese New Year this time around is no different from any other.. streets are quieter, skies are clearer and business slows down.. Hopefully by Monday things will crank back up to speed.. the usual forecast of jams with everyone returning back from their hometowns this coming weekend..

        We @ Ardent are also taking a break from the crazy workload a week before..  with all this free time, I guess its only right for me to write a bit on our experiences in this photography line..

And today we'll focus on memory storage SD and CF cards from a Photographer's point of view..

What I want from my memory card is quite essentially three things.. 

 
Data Integrity.. Meaning that the data doesn't get easily corrupted or lost.. now that's easy enough.. just don't get those immitation memory cards which is slower and more unstable than the original.. sure you save a few bucks but the increased risk of losing any pictures is like a death kneel to your photography career..  
 
Oops, sorry boss.. could you re-do your marriage ceremony? kinda lost all the pictures.Yell 
 
Even if you aren't doing a photography job, pictures that you took are slices of time and nothing will ever wind it back for you to take another shot at it.. (Even machine gunning the camera won't help you as the gazilion pictures of the same thing is still stored on the same card..)
 
Size .. This of course is dependant on the picture quality, picture type (jpeg/raw/nef) and type of camera (Megapixel dependant).. anything that allows me to shoot one complete event without worrying about running out of space..  but not big to the point that I've start using it to store movies and mp3s as well Tongue out
 
Want to know whether that photographer shoots Jpeg or RAW/NEF? easy! just look at their memory card size..  I think the largest SD card size at time of writing is at 32GB.. just barely sufficient for 250 RAW/NEF pictures of 12MB each to fit.. My memory card is only 4GB, sufficient to hold easily 600 JPEG Fine pictures.. The debate to shoot RAW/NEF vs JPEG won't be addressed in this entry.. later!
 
Speed ..  Transfer speed may not look like much but imagine transferring 4GB worth of pictures or if you are that super RAW/NEF shooter, 32GB (worse case scenario) the waiting time is enough to drive you up a wall.. a tree.. or whatever high that's worth driving up to.. 
 
I'll recommend those higher speed memory cards such as from SanDisk.. 

 

 
@ Ardent, we are currently using for SD cards, this lovely morsel.. the Ducati SD Plus and the Ultra 2 SD Plus.. I fell in love with this simply because I can literally walk around with my camera and just plug out the SD card and into any USB.. seriously, would you expect me to carry my card reader everywhere I go? 
 
The other good thing is that in USB mode, the transfer rates are up to USB 2.0 where as even with the high speed SD cards, it is ultimately Card Reader dependant..
 
A tip for CF card users
 
For those who's thinking of buying the Extreme IV 45mb/sec CF cards, in order to reach that speed (the main reason why you bought such a card in the first place) you'll need: -
 
  • A specialized Card Reader
  • That uses the large FireWire cable.. 

In saying so, laptops are OUT since all laptops uses those tiny firewire cables.. and how many desktops have those large firewire slots anyway? So forget about taking this damn expensive card reader to a cyber cafe and expect it to plug and play..
 
The best is to get the Extreme III 30Mb/sec (get the newer version which is 30Mb/sec where as the older one is at 20Mb/sec) along with the Extreme III USB reader.. which works with any USB 2.0 port.. 
 
End of CF Tip 
 
So there you have it.. the things to consider when purchasing memory cards for your photography career.. we @ Ardent are currently using all SanDisk memory card related products.. haven't actually seen those SD Plus on other brands tho I may be wrong.. 
 
That's the end of this entry.. catch all of you later..
 
Cheers,
Adrian Y. 
 

November 26, 2008 11:33 by Adrian

Hey!

December is soon approaching.. so far there are a few events and photoshoots to be completed which will keep us sufficiently busy during the holiday season.. Speaking of holiday seasons, I've been getting a lot of questions about this year's gift list.. As you see, the Malaysian currency has dropped from a peak around RM3.2 per USD1 to RM3.6 per USD1.. not much but sufficient to have an influx of grey / AP sets into Malaysia..

As a rough guide, the AP/Grey units are usually about 10-15% cheaper than the original Nikon units.. doesn't sound like much but when its 10% of 3k comes to RM300..  sufficient enough to have me write this article in the first place..

Let me start from the top for some of you new to the term Grey / AP units..

So what is Grey / AP units?

Basically any units that aren't imported by Nikon Malaysia (or the Nikon authorized importer of your country) .. by not going through Nikon Malaysia, some of these units could have bypassed taxes / import duties.. so if you bought it in a country in which the currency is stronger than Malaysia and brought it here.. you'll stand to gain quite a bit..  hence its lucrative for people to smuggle in units for sale.. 

So how do you know if its an Original Nikon from Nikon Malaysia?

Well, I can save you the trouble of emailing Nikon Malaysia directly and hassle that wonderful lady called Emily who has to entertain gazillion of similar emails of such nature. First of all, the Nikon Warranty will be of yellow in color with the words Nikon Malaysia Sdn Bhd clearly stamped..

Frankly, if there are people out there who can hack Microsoft Vista, I'm sure they can clone that warranty card.. simply because it doesn't have any hologram or any other easily identifiable security markings to prove to the average joe if its original or not.. Just take a look at a Microsoft Office box and you'll understand of such security markings..   

So what's a better indicator of an original Nikon product?

Its quite simple.. Firstly, buy it from one of the authorized distributor as listed on their website here. Secondly, the sale value. If Nikon Malaysia sells to the dealers RM X, other than they are trying to do a firesale (to clean up old stock) would you think they'll sell those units at a loss? especially when there are still market demand? There's a reason why these are called business and not called charity. 

Of course there should also have Grey / AP going for the original prices but that's slim since its in their intention to sell it immediately at low prices.. 

Is the Original Nikon worth the 10-15% extra that you pay for? 

Of course silly! firstly, Nikon Malaysia won't fix your unit at all even if you want to pay for it.. and they can easily check the SN of the camera with their database..  and I'm pretty sure that the shop you bought it from doesn't have even the slightest clue how to fix a camera.. let alone a dSLR. 

So if you save RM 300 or so, you'll risk throwing the entire camera away (100% loss) in an event of a failure as nobody will want to help you repair it.. I can't imagine a 3rd party repair job would be like..  So I'm sure saving RM 300 makes more sense.. 

And by the way, Nikon Malaysia provides free sensor cleaning tho they hinted they'll discontinue such services soon.. they do jot down the serial number of each unit sent in..  

Conclusion

Well read this article by Thom Hogan here. Judge for yourself if its worth saving RM 300 and risk the entire camera in the years that you'll be using it. This isn't like AP handphones, this is real serious cutting edge technology.. and besides, where would they get specialized parts from? such as mechanical or even the PLCs which are specialized units?

I hope that this helps clarify issues.

Cheers,

Adrian Y. 


November 5, 2008 10:05 by Adrian

Update 6th Nov 2008 : Added the rest of the pictures under the Work section Events II.  

Hey guys and gals!  

Was at Ember last Sat (1st Nov) to welcome Mr Alfredo Andrés Pino the master cigar roller from Havana, Cuba as well as to witness a cigar ash competition.. the person with the longest arsh wins! kekeke.. i mean ass.. i mean.. cigar ash..  yeah that's what I meant..

Anyways here's the picures of it... 

Yum.. yummy strawberries awaiting their turn to dip into the hot chocolate ala fondue style! yum..

And wouldn't be complete without a picture of the gals right?

 
Here's Vincent, showing off his asssh.. Cool
 
Seriously, the 2nd hand smoke from every participant in a small room at a time when The Curve air conditioning is on the fritz, really gave me a dizzing headache... and have yet to recover completely.. potent stuff..
 
Catch ya guys and gals later!
 
Cheers,
Adrian Y. 

September 9, 2008 07:16 by Adrian

Maybe its a coincidence that Canon's slogan 'Delighting you always' the word D-Lighting or Dynamic Lighting is used by Nikon. Canon's version of D-Lighting is called.. Highlight Tone Priority.. which only has one setting 'Enable' unlike Nikon which has 3 different modes of different strength to cater for everyone's fancy. 

Anyway this post isn't about Nikon vs Canon but rather the usefulness of such technology. Cameras such as D80 which DLighting first made its appearance even if its in a passive way as compared to the Active DLighting with the D3,D300,D700 and the newly announced D90.

What does DLighting do? 

DLighting is best seen in high contrast scenes, meaning you have really bright areas and not so bright areas. Like the picture shown below. The sky is bright and the trees in the foreground isn't as bright hence it looks like a silhouette. But wait a minute, that's not what my naked eye see is it?

 

Well those brains at Nikon knew that there are limitations in going digital as compared to those good and expensive film days hence they came out with DLighting. DLighting brings out those dark areas and tone down any of those bright areas (highlights). What you get is more what the eye see which is shown below. The picture is applied using DLighting mode Normal.

 Now doesn't that look way better? At least its an accurate representation of what the scene actually looks like.

Its extremely useful when you have to take the sky such as sunsets and landscapes. That's the power of DLighting right there.


September 8, 2008 07:09 by Adrian

The newer generation cameras all come with x number of AF points, and Y number of these points are cross type sensors. hhhmm..Cross type? Remenicent of the Counter Strike era.. yeah just walk in front of my cross type and I'll ... ok fine.. not relevant.. good old days.. 

Anyway I found an article that discusses about this here.  

Basically in a nutshell, AF sensors work by detecting the contrast of a scene (Passive AF). The usual single type sensors are all verticle sensors which allow the camera to determine along that verticle line, which part is in focus. Everything is all well and great when you have contrasty subjects that has a certain height. But for subjects that are moving from side to side? not so good.. this is where the cross-type sensor comes in.

This type of sensor checks for both horizontal and vertical contrast, allowing the photographer to obtain lock on difficult (fast or dimly lit) subjects more frequent. If not you'll get those AF hunts that isn't as fun as it sounds.

The faster the lens aka bigger the aperture, allows the camera to use all of its focusing points. So a lens with a f/2.8 will focus better when compared to a f/3.5 - 5.6 lens. Using this lens, at the zoomed end, the max aperture is only f/5.6 which will greatly reduce the number of focusing sensors, some cameras drop the total sensor count to just the one in the middle. 

So not only a f/2.8 lens is bigger, brighter, faster but also gives the camera better AF capabilities hence the word 'fast' being associated with lenses with a lower f-stop.