Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Five Best Portrait Lenses

Tara in Greece on Nikkor 50mm f1.4 lens
My heart misses a beat when I hear photographers say
'I just take the pic and blur the background in Photoshop'
Do they want to be photographers or graphic designers?
Besides, they waste countless hours sitting on their bot-bots in front of their screens.
But if you choose the right lens the results are superior and far quicker.

So what makes a really great portrait lens for a DSLR or mirrorless cameras?
There are probably three key elements for a great portrait lens:

  1. A very large aperture (f1.2, f1.4, f1,8)
  2. A focal length between 50mm and 135mm
  3. Quality glass producing irresistible bokeh
So here are my five top portrait lenses:
Nikkor 85mm f1.4

Tony Dunkley - Zimmers Apprentices on Nikkor 85mm f1.4
1. Nikon 85mm f/1.4
Superior portrait lens. High professional build. Solid feel and movement. The f1.4 lens effectively separates the subject from the background with absolute clarity. Fast focusing and magnificent bokeh. My favourite portrait lens!

2. Nikon 50mm f/1.4
The Nikon 50mm was my standard portrait lens for almost 20 years before I moved to the 85mm lens. Not as effective as the 85mm in separating subject from the background. But the 50mm lens is more versatile and can also be used for travel, group shots and landscapes. 

3. Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM
A remarkable lens from 'left field'. The Sigma 85mm is a member of the 'Art Series' lenses. Sigma lenses are heavier than Nikon, Canon, Tamron etc but have a quality build with superior optical performance.  The Sigma 85mm lens uses adapters to fit Nikon, Canon, Sony and Pentax DSLRs, and gives the equivalent of 127mm on APS-C 1.5X crop cameras.  

4. Nikon 135mm f/2
For many years the 135mm focal length was considered the 'perfect' focal length for portraiture. This focal length maintains the most distortion-free representation of facial perspective. It keeps the face the right shape. It also enables the photographer to work at a greater distance; could also double up as a short telephoto sports lens.

Jane on Nikkor 50mm f1.4 lens
5. Fujifilm 56mm f1.2
Fuji (Fujifilm) can justly claim to be leaders in the mirrorless camera brigade. Fujifilm cameras are more robust and have superior intuitive design logic than either Sony or Olympus.
And they produce one simply brilliant portrait lens in the 56mm f1.2. The Phoblographer claims "Fujifilm's 56mm f1.2 is the sharpest mirror less camera lens that we've tested. Not only that but it exhibits beautiful bokeh, pretty good colour rendition, almost no distortion, focuses quickly and is built well".


Win AU$5000 with your best portrait in the Fremantle International Portrait Prize/
AU$13500 prize pool.

E N T R I E S   C L O S E    F R I D A Y  1 1  A U G U S T   2017

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Just One Lens

What do novelist Bryce Coutenay and photographer Brett Canet-Gibson have in common?

They both believe in The Power of One.

Trevor Jamieson © Brett Canet-Gibson
Brett has established himself as an outstanding portrait photographer on the international stage. His stunning images and unique approach are surprising many diehard photographers. Bryce Courtenay was author of world famous novel, The Power of One.

What makes Brett Canet-Gibson so different - he just uses ONE lens. That's right. Just ONE lens. A Nikon 50mm prime lens on his Nikon camera.

Brett, from Perth, Western Australia shoots a portrait most days, setting up a simple black backdrop in an urban setting. He approaches interesting people, chats with them. shows them his folio of work and invites them to pose for 10 to 15 minutes. Brett is an honest, believable photographer with a personable approach.
'Stay with me' he says softly as he fixes the eye-meet and captures another powerful image.

To see more of Brett's images click HERE.

Entries are now open for the 2017 Fremantle International Portrait Prize. $12000 in cash and prizes. Proceeds to the Arthritis Foundation of Western Australia. The photographic competition the world is coming to love.
For details click  HERE.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Seventeen Ways of Looking at a Photograph

If you only ever drink the one brand of tea or kiss the same frog then this is for you.

I meet the 'old boys' in photography who only ever see a photo through the same blinkers:
'….. it doesn't really follow the rule of thirds'
Here's a bunch of seventeen blooms to let you look at a photograph differently.

  1. Does it move you? Do you get a pain like you're sick or lovesick?
  2. Are there elements that tell a story - the environmental portrait?
  3. Is this one small photograph to remember someone?
  4. Has the image been subjected to a 'Mac Attack'? Heaven forbid!
  5. Does the hero stand out clearly?
  6. Does the colour convey the message? Full, suppressed, BW, sepia.
  7. Does the photo look better up close or from a distance? (a long distance)
  8. Is it sharp? More importantly is the important bit sharp?
  9. How many rules does the photo break? More the better!
  10. View through a cheese grater. So you squirm culturally, morally?
  11. Is the hero separated from the rest of the image - focus, colour or tone.
  12. Look at the shape. Square, panorama, 4:3, 3:2, circular.
  13. How about the frame or matt - adding or subtracting from the image?
  14. Is there a title - does it add or subtract?
  15. Is the photograph unbearably light? Or does it lean heavily?
  16. Is the image fake and  plastic or does it breathe emotion.
  17. Did the photograph do good for the subject?

Entries for the 2017 Fremantle International Portrait Prize opens on 10 June 2017.
AU$12000 in cash and prizes. 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Ten Worst Sins of a Photographer

You may be a gun photographer but can you outdraw Wyatt Earp?
More importantly do you have photographic 'street cred'?

 How does your reputation stack up? Will you still be around in 10, 20 or 30 years. Here are TEN things you should NEVER ever do as a photographer. It matters not if you are pro or amateur.

1. Never steal another photographer's images (its ok to pinch his car, dog or blue suede shoes but don't ever touch his pics!)

2. If you do use another photographer's work, seek permission and give credit. If the photographer died some years before, don't bother writing them, they probably won't answer. (If they do write back you have a best seller on your hands). But at least give attribution e.g. photo by Bill Bloggs
'Not a Tripodectomy' - cartoon by Mark Allmark
after my bicycle prang

3. If a group is lined up shooting a subject NEVER walk in front of the group or plant your tripod. Tripodectomy is a painful and expensive procedure.

4. Avoid 'bagging' other photographers personally, (even if they deserve it).

5. Avoid bagging other photographers' images - there are special places and times for that!

6. Critical analysis of photographs in exhibitions or competitions is legitimate and encouraged. (However throwing sticky substances at images is discouraged)

7. Never, ever, ever cheat in Photographic competitions. If you get caught your name will be mud forever. Its worse if you don't get caught - karma will get you instead!

On the roof of a caravanserai in Iran - April 2017
8. Avoid technical one-upmanship. So what if you have the latest, biggest, longest double elliptical self-adjusting lens made personally by Donald Trump. Does that make you a better photographer? Well no. It means simply you own the latest, biggest, longest lens.

9. If a friend asks you to comment on their photograph avoid the word 'nice'. The word nice is literally the 'kiss of death'.

10. When you take a portrait shot, NEVER turn your back on your subject without thanking them first.

Know the Basics? - good! Join Dale Neill for his Advanced Photography Workshop at the University Club, UWA Extension, Crawley, Western Australia.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

World's Best Travel Camera

One of Australia's most iconic pubs - the Ettamogah
Pretty much tried them all:


(I even tried Olympus and Sony and am still in therapy over those two).

Guess what! I like them all. They all have their pluses and minuses.
X100 - the Kylie Minogue of travel cameras
But the camera with the most pluses and least minuses for travel is the Fujifilm X100. Now superseded by the X100S, X100T and X100F.

Have I treated my little X100 with TLC. No way Jose!
Its been around the world 8 times, been banged, knocked, stuffed in horse bags and shot in a blizzard in Antarctica. Never complained once. Never stopped performing at the highest level.
And it still pulls out my favourite travel pics, a few of which have stood up for gongs, outpointing all the full frame DSLRs.

Its as sharp as a surgeon's scalpel, works brilliantly in low light and is the best conversation starter you can carry other than an effigy of Vladimir Putin in ballet tights. The Fujifilm X100 is the Kylie Minogue of cameras. Always punches above her weight.
Had a cold beer at the Ettamogah - with barmaid Bec!

And the shutter!
Oh the shutter! Quieter, softer and slicker than a stolen kiss at your cousin's wedding.

Runner Up: The Yashica Mat 124G - big old reliable brute. Film camera at its best.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Tunnel Vision Photographers

Tunnel Vision is  a disease where the photographer can only see in one direction. They think there is only one way of doing something. There's just one way to operate their camera.
Miss Wanda +/- = -2

In photography, if you follow these practices, you might have developed Tunnel Vision.
If so you can apply for a Level 4 Boring Photographer Certificate of Competency.

Tunnel Vision Photographers - what they do ….
  1. They shoot every photograph from eye level. (For me that's 5'3")
  2. They shoot every shot in Manual (M) because a 'guru' told them that's for pro's.
  3. Their portrait subjects are posed, passive, and lacking all signs of emotion.
  4. They're too scared to use 6400 ISO because you might get noise (or herpes!)
  5. Most importantly, they haven't studied how light works.
Alex +/- -2.7
So here's what I did. 
First, I found a tunnel.
I checked the next train wasn't due for 12 minutes.Tunnels are great to experiment with your camera.

The reasons tunnels are so good is the subject is lit by sidelight not front light so modelling and 3D take place. At the opening of the tunnel the contract is greatest.
Towards the middle of the tunnel the lighting is even. If you get lucky you may even get a bit of wrap-around lighting.

I sat on the ground for some shots. I got my subjects to sit on the ground for others to change the camera angle. I bumped the ISO up to 1000 and I modified exposure by -2 stops to compensate for light subject/dark background.
Whoops, taking a few risks here. Yep!
Suzi +/- 0
Made a few mistakes as well. Guess what, the sky never fell in (and I didn't contact herpes).

Quiz: One of these portraits was not shot in a tunnel. It was shot in a lane. Which one?

Discover how to see the light, take risks and become  amore adventurous photographer.
Your camera will love you for it! Here's your chance to experiment with the Tunnel of Love rather than Tunnel Vision. 

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Night Games, Night Moves - and a pièce de résistance!

High on a hotel rooftop in downtown Buenos Aires. Just back from a night of Tango and a couple of glasses of Santa Julia Malbec. With my group of intrepid photographers.

Its really dark, sun's gone to bed, dew descending, I can't see my feet.
Good conditions for nighttime.

Night Moves - Buenos Aires
Its dark so I choose a high ISO.   WRONG.
Not much light so choose a big aperture.   WRONG AGAIN
We need to freeze action. A short shutter speed.   WRONG YET AGAIN.

Low ISO - just a measly 100ISO
Tiny aperture, stop right down to f32
Sloooooooooow that shutter speed right down ….. your speed should be the same as a fly crawling through a barrel of treacle …….. zzzz … yep 5 while seconds!

Metadata for Night Moves

And now add the cream on your cake, the 6 steak knives - the pièce de résistance!

Zoom your lens during the exposure to produce the tingly leading lines, the lines of convergence and create an image that is almost as seductive as Cindy Picket's moves in Night Games.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Bootcamp for Boring Travel Photographers

Five Real Photo Travel Tips (from Left Field)

So …..
you don't want to return from your next overseas trip with the world's most boring travel shots!!
You don't even want ordinary pics. If you're like me you want extraordinary!!

You could check out all those predictable magazine articles or camera club ordinaries. They will tell you all about cameras, lenses, landscapes and portraits. But they will not tell you this:

Here are five tips from left field:

Charge Your Batteries!
I'm not talking about camera or flash or iPad batteries.
I'm talking about YOUR body batteries!!
Get your body fit and relaxed. Change gears in your brain!
Get yourself fit, get your travel shots from TVMC or your GP doctor.
Jettison family and work stress before departure.
Fly like a bird!


I'm talking about YOUR focus. (forget cameras!)
Guess what? You can't photograph everything. You need to select.
In your camera you'd employ selective focus - you know - a whopping big aperture, a focal length of 400mm and you'd get in close and cozy.

French Motocross Riders - The Rabbit Proof Fence 
Now do the same with your THINKING. Start eliminating stuff - especially the stuff that every other boring photographer and his dog take and get a crystal clear image of the subject(s) you're going to capture.
example: Hands, hats, fish, kisses, things that hang down, numbers … get the idea?

Become a Jack Russel (Dog)

A Jack Russel's personality is tenacious, outrageously tenacious.
They never let go.
Become a photographer who never ever lets go!
If you're after a particular shot, go after it and never give up.
Do whatever it takes.

Fill in the Missing Spaces

Berlin on the Fujifilm X100
Your camera captures VISUALS.
You the photographer records the sounds, smells, tastes and touches.
Make notes about all the stuff your camera can't capture.
Now you've got a story.
So you've photographed an ice cold beer.
Now tell me what it tastes like.
(You'd better pack a pencil and paper)

Leave your Wife or Husband at Home

Most of the time spouses are distractions for serious photographers.
When you want to take photographs they want to shop.
When you want to get up pre-dawn for that sunrise shot over the sea they want to snore in bed and have coffee at ten.

She wasn't kissing him; she was merely whispering in his mouth.

If you must take someone with you take a companion who is as mad and brave as you.
Take someone who won't complain about the leeches on their legs or the fact you've just spent eight hours photographing a yellow-eyed, green-eyed tropic frog.

“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” – Henry David Thoreau