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Photo walking is great but…

I am a proud Joburg Photowalker nearly since inception just over 2 years ago. The guys and gals are great and a special mention goes to Mark Straw for organizing some amazing locations and so much more. In the old group many have helped out and helped to organise something some point in times. It’s been a group effort.

Unfortunately, success comes at a price and that price is as we have more walks we have greater numbers and greater numbers mean requires greater care.

Etiquette on street photography and photo walks as I see it is paramount, I find that it makes for better photos. I thought I’d share what I consider proper and please note this is not researched by far this is my thoughts.

  1. Be mindful of your surroundings and fellow photographers, do not put yourself in front of another’s lens.
  2. Be courteous, it cost nothing and brings out the best in people.
  3. Before you even pickup your camera to shot someone, ask, you will rarely be told no, I never have.
  4. Children are fascinating but this in my opinion is a sensitive subject, more so every day. Ask the parents for permission first, if you can.
  5. Do not invade private space, this only creates an uneasiness that will be felt in your photos and gives a bad reputation to all photographers.
  6. You can take anything and anyone in public space, it does not mean you should, think and look before you pull the trigger, you may just be embarrassing someone or invading their privacy.
  7. Do not hog a space, you are not the only photographer there.

Though I intend to expand on the subject in the future, those are my 7 rules, what are yours?

  1. By anonymous:  “10 000 images does not make for a good photo walk – think before you press the button- it’s a question of quality not quantity.”

A word on High Dynamic Range

High Dynamic Range or HDR is an abused process that bad photographers use to hide the fact that they can’t shoot. I am paraphrasing here but I heard it, I read it and I disagree and here is why!

A good, not an over the top, over done HDR, a good HDR requires planning and thought. The framing has to be right, the light has to be right and the contrast has to exist and textures helps a lot. You mess one of these up and that is it, the HDR is no good. Much like traditional photography, it’s in the eye and experience, the more you do HDRs the more you pickup what will and will not work before you shoot it.

I have, in the past months, created many HDR and even often tackled Panoramic HDRs, not the easiest of feats. Most of which was handheld because most have been done during photo walks and to be honest I hate carrying around a tripod for 3 hours to use it a couple of times, a monopod does little to help in the HDR world, so I don’t carry either. Instead I learned to use my body as a tripod and sweep panoramic like a robot.

The equipment helps, obviously, in fact I would probably not be able to do what I do without a tripod if it was not for my ever faithful Canon EOS 7D. It’s shooting speed and bracketing, even though it can only do 3 (this is where I am jealous of the NIKON owners, whom in some cases can go up to 7) and presets make my life easier. When I see an HDR opportunity, I switch to preset 3 and voila I am in HDR mode.

What is my HDR mode? Well f/8, bracket 0 , –2, +2 stop at – 0.5 of a stop, ISO 100, RAW. The only things I will change is the ISO and rarely the aperture, I found f/8 to be a sweet spot for HDRs and the lens I use, the 16-35mm f/2.8 L from Canon.

What is the aim of an HDR? Triple the colour, triple highlight and triple  shadow information allows for triple the details. Triple the details allows for a better visual experience, closer to what the eye sees. In my case, I bring back colour and details, I try not to over do it and from the reactions to my HDRs, it seems I go a good recipe.

The bottom line, try it, I have a short primer here and there are wonderful books by the like of Trey Ratcliff of www.stuckincustoms.com and many others.

I will post about the issues I encountered with HDRs in a latter post, it’s not all fun but the results are what they are stunning images.

 

Alexandra heritage photowalk

As you all know I take part in photo walks, particularly with the Joburg photowalkers.

I get a lot of question about Joburg photowalkers, here are a few typical ones and answers:

  • How do you join?
    Like “Joburg photowalkers” on Facebook, the Flickr group at http://www.flickr.com/groups/1210029@N21 or  go to http://www.meetup.com/joburg-photowalkers/.
  • How much does it cost?
    Nothing and nada, though you may have to pay for access, tour guides or transport for time to time.
  • What do I need?
    You need a good pair of walking shoes, I advice a backpack or bag with something to drink, take a lot of patience with you too and be open minded and inspired. Oh, you mean to ask what camera and lenses? Sorry. All you need is a device digital or analogue that can take a photograph, from your mobile phone to the mighty DSLRs no one will care, anything is good enough.
  • Is that it?
    No there is another important element, enjoy yourself, your photos will show it.

On last Saturday, the 16 of January 2012, we took a 3 hour walk in Alexandra, a 100 year old township, which was cut short by bad weather. here is the route we took.

 


View Alexandra Heritage Photowalk – January 2012 in a larger map

As usual, the result of a photo walk is photographs and here they are:

I would like to thank Mark Straw and the tour guides for making this possible.

Caska Car Multimedia System

image

You can find the specifications and more information of the system at http://www.caska.co.za.

I recently bought a new car, after some tribulations and great service from VW Alberton and Malcolm, my radio was exchanged and a Caska Multimedia System was fitted with a rear camera. I thought I would share my experiences. Firstly, I must say that the service levels from Planet Electronics was exceptional.

Much as expected from the documentation and advertising the unit looks like it was factory fitted. It looks the part. Before I carry on, let me be clear I would get this unit again on a car that has no multimedia system fitted.

It works as advertised and and it does most of it’s individual functions well enough but it is not without failures. A simple example is when I engage the reverse gear and the rear view camera switches on the sound is cut off or muted on most my speakers. Another scenario is even more baffling, music streaming via the Bluetooth, a call comes through, no problem, then the call ends and for some unknown reason the device switches itself to the radio, not back to streaming.

Another irritating fact is the SD card slots, they are upside-down. And the last of the lot, most probably the worst, the user interface, it’s all over the show and inconsistent. For example, the SD interface is totally different to the iPod interface and so it goes on.

The Bluetooth, radio and iPod sections of the system work very well are are a joy to use. The GPS works as expected though the interface and configuration are nothing to rave about, the maps are accurate. I just wish that it used the Garmin or Tomtom software both of which are available on the Windows CE/Mobile platform as I understand it.

I tried to use the DVD and it worked as expected, it’s a shame about the interface, which is shared with the SD card reader interface as a matter or interest. i have not attempted to use the the built in music drive as yet but I expect that it will work just as well as the rest.

To summarise, I think with a little tweaking on the switching of purposes and a new user interface this could be a great multimedia system. I think it needs a little work. For now it remains a good unit but not a great one. It is a petty because it has everything to be more than it is. Currently, it appears as disjointed software on a Windows CE shell.

Maurice van Heerden, Director of Planet Electronics replies:

Hi Pascal,

Thanks for your valuable feedback!

A product of this nature, is highly feature loaded and complex to design, both physically and in terms of software. Although Caska makes every effort to streamline software design as much as possible, they are limited by the code used across the range of vehicle specific models which they manufacture. Different code for different units is not done in order to keep costs down and manufacturing numbers up. We have made various changes and improvements for the South African consumer  however, SA is a minuscule part of CASKA’s business (they manufacture and sell around 200k units p/month globally) and therefore our requests are a fairly low priority to them.

No piece of software is perfect, my phone sometimes freezes, I often have to re-set my computer and I find some of the software design for online applications frustrating however, the products which sometimes irritate me also make my life much easier and afford me far more joy than frustration. I feel our Caska range of products, although not always perfect, add a huge amount to the driving experience. It make my driving experience a better, easier and more enjoyable one which is at the end of the day, the goal.

That said, we continue to strive for the perfect product and hope to one day achieve this.

I trust that you will enjoy your system in its current format.

Added: 2012/01/11 Maurice van Heerden’s reply

Review: JBL OnBeat Xtreme

OnBeatXtrm_iPad_001

I experienced what I like to call “compact hi-fi audio” a few years ago with a BOSE Radio, the sound was amazing. Since then I have dreamed about owning one of these, until 2 years ago that is.

2 years ago I make the move to the iPhone and a year ago I got myself an iPad, both these devices are capable of acting the media player role, in fact they both are built for it. in the case of the iPad, you either need to have earphones or jerry rig a speaker system to use the 3.5 inch audio jack, unlike the iPhone, the iPad did not have speaker docking stations. This has changed recently, there are a few available on the market now, BOSE still does not manufacture one though. My dream crushed, I turned to another “compact hi-fi audio” specialist JBL.

The JBL OnBeat Xtreme is just what I was looking for, an iPhone/iPad portrait or landscape sound docking station that “sounds” the part. I like good sound and I recently have taken to listening to radio and music on the iPad. The station will also recharge the iPad/iPhone/iPod whilst docked but this is only the beginning. It sounds amazing, generally these devices, and JBL suffers from this too with the JBL Onbeat (the little brother to the Xtreme), lack full bodied sound, particularly the lower frequencies. The JBL OnBeat Xtreme does not suffer that fate, in fact I have to be careful on how loud I have it. One could easily through a party at home with it and not worry about having big sound, that is how good it is.

As a sound docking station it has another few surprises up it sleeves, it will also accept a Bluetooth audio (A2DP) connection from any Bluetooth audio (A2DP) capable devices. In fact, if you pair your iPhone/iPad/iPod touch and remove it from the dock when it is playing, it will automatically switch it to Bluetooth.

Additionally, it has a video out as well as an (auxiliary) mini stereo jack in. You can also plug in a USB to sync your iPad/iPhone/iPod wilts using it’s multimedia functions. A nice touch is the built in microphone so you can answer you iPhone or make Skype or other video/audio calls with your device docked. It also comes with a remote and an App to play music and control, albeit in a limited way, the station.

As for the design, it would fit about anywhere in any situations. As for the sturdiness of the dock, it holds my iPad firmly in place. Even if I find it difficult to dock my iPad 2 at times, the iPad 1 literally easily slides into place in comparison, I think the iPad 2’s curved design is partly at fault.

There are a couple of drawbacks to JBL OnBeat Xtreme, it needs power, it is bulky and not very portable,also for some reason my iPad cannot control the volume. The last drawback and this maybe the biggest is it’s price, it comes at a premium.

So what do I use the JBL OnBeat Xtreme for?

  • Listening to overseas radio stations with Tunein radio (free and paid $0.99)
  • Listening to music with the iPod app
  • Use it as an alarm clock with Alarm Clock ($0.99)
  • Use it with Skype
  • Watch videos with PlayerX (free) and YouTube