July 3, 2015

Hands On with the Sony a7rII, Metabones III adapter and Canon zoom lenses!

Yesterday I rushed over to Image One Camera and Video in Riverside for the store’s one year anniversary and that included Sony (among other vendors).

At this event Sony was making their first public debut in California of the new and highly anticipated Sony a7rii!

I was anxious to try this camera with a Metabones Adapter and Canon zoom lenses because I know that there are a huge number of
working pros already invested in Canon glass. I wanted to see if the new sensor with it’s 399 PDAF on the sensor would indeed be all that I had hoped for.

It was. And more.

With this camera and a Metabones, I was able to use the Canon zooms — the 24-105 F4L IS and the 70-200 f2.8L IS II lenses virtually seamlessly. It was as if I was using the cameras on a native Canon camera.

Fast, quiet and responsive — the AF worked very well (and I only expect it to work better with the final firmware installed in the camera (this was not the final version) and with the most current firmware on the Metabones (that is on me).

Sorry about the audio quality of the video, which I made for Periscope yesterday but I think you’ll be able to see that the responsiveness is amazing when you consider that
Canon shooters can now put their glass onto the amazing new Sony a7rII body.

Quick initial observations of the camera:

• Solid feel, 4 oz heavier than the a7ii and in the exact same case
• Crisper, brighter EVF — the best I have ever seen on any mirrorless camera
• Comfortable feel — not too big, not too small — maintains same updated ergonomics of the Sony a7ii

If you get to Riverside today before 5 pm PST, you will be able to see the Sony a7rii.

July 2, 2015

TTL Flash vs. Manual Flash — Two Choices for Sony Mirrorless Photographers

TTL Flash vs. Manual Flash — Two Choices for Sony Mirrorless Photographers

FlashTTLvManual_blog

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The world of on-camera and off-camera flash has exploded over the past several years.

Never before have there been so many choices for manual and TTL flashes that work with such a variety of cameras. Third party companies such as Yongnuo, Neewer, Cheetah, Phottix and more have dotted the photo marketplace and are giving the name brand manufacturers a veritable run for their money when it comes to available flash units.

In the past you virtually had a couple of choices — your Nikon, Canon, etc. branded flash or perhaps something like a Vivitar 283 or 285.

Not only are there a myriad of choices there are also a load of accessories that make using small portable flashes almost as useful as using bigger, more powerful studio flash units.

In this blog post I will cover two brands of flash units for Sony mirrorless camera users.

TTL Flash – The Phottix Mitros +

In the TTL realm, Phottix has introduced the Mitros+ flash. It is the first flash for Sony (name brand or otherwise) that offers full wireless radio transceiver capabilities. This is big for users that prefer TTL as I do for events.

The Phottix is relatively large and powerful — about the same power as the Canon 580 EXII — it has a guide number of 58 with 100 ISO. Slightly smaller and slightly less powerful than Canon’s new flagship (and probably the standard bearer in the TTL flash space — the 600 EX-RT). It is just a little bit top heavy on the smaller form factor of the Sony a7 line of cameras, yet still workable.

It has a conventional swivel and bounce head, much like a Canon or Nikon branded flash.

The key thing though is the radio control from the flash. If you simply must have full radio control from your on camera flash, currently this is the only option available for Sony mirrorless users. It also has High Speed Synch in TTL and Manual modes.

(I plan on a longer review of this particular unit in the near future). Sony makes a very good line of TTL flashes though they do not feature radio control (a more detailed review on the Sony top two coming up soon as well).

The only downside that I have found is that the price is a bit high — $399, though not as high as the cost of the Canon 600 EX-RT which is selling for $499 at the time of this writing.

The Phottix Mitros + I have for the Sony is the one with the Minolta foot and thus requires a special add-on adaptor (ADPMAA) to work on the current Sony a7 hotshoe (called the ISO foot). Phottix is manufacturing a model with that ISO foot but I have not used it. (As I write this article I’m finding a lot of backorders on the Sony strobes by Phottix. Amazon, normally a great resource has no new, just used, and B & H and Adorama are showing that the Sony Mitros + is on backorder. I have contacted Phottix re: the issue and will report my findings).

How I Configure my Sony camera when using the Phottix Mitros + flash

Working with this flash with mirrorless is slightly different than I used to work with flash in the hotshoe with my previous Canon cameras. It took me a bit of time to come up with an effective way to work. Now that I have, I have to say that I enjoy working with these cameras with flash more than I did with DSLRs!

Here is the way I currently configure my camera when using flash in the hotshoe:

1. Use Manual Exposure settings control
2. Auto ISO (my range is 100-6400 ISO) (yes, this is a new one for me — I always used to use one ISO that I selected–indoors that would typically be 800-1600 ISO).
3. Set focus to DMF (Dynamic Manual Focus)
4. Set focus start to back button or AE_L button on Sony a6000 or the AF/MF button on the a7 (With DMF this allows me to control the AF with the thumb and then the exposure lock is handled by depressing the shutter halfway.
5. Set focus peaking to color Red and High
6. Optional: Turn focus magnifier on if you would like the camera to “zoom in” when you tweak manual focus by turning the focus barrel ring). This is really handy for those group photographs where you can make sure that the focus is exactly as you like it. It does take a bit of getting used to the rhythm of the switch between wider and tighter views but it is one of the killer reasons for using an EVF.
(ETA: Someone asked what the magnification factor is when zooming the lens. I am not certain but will check and add it).

Optional: Setting effects OFF — In a dark room such as a wedding reception, this will help keep the EVF at a consistent level, much like you might find from an optical viewfinder on a DSLR. In low light this often helps to brighten the scene.
7. Focus set to Flexible Spot Large — I have been using this lately with much success and while it takes a bit of practice to move the focus point, you pick it up quickly. This is such an improvement from my old center single focus only spot on the DSLR. I prefer this new method over the center only focus point because focus can change if you recompose and you’re working at a large aperture. I find that my sharpness % of images has improved by virtue of the ability to move the focus point over a large area of the scene.
8. Set flash exposure compensation to -1.0 to start if bouncing off a white ceiling. Use that as a starting guide for your own shooting. You’re personal taste in the density of your file might dictate a change in exposure compensation. I shoot RAW + jpeg so I have some flexibility in bringing back any slight exposure imperfections, but have found this to be a consistent and useful starting guide for using flash with the Sonys.
Please note that the infrared focus assist comes from the body and not on the flash. It is a bit brighter than I am used to but it makes the camera and flash combo work well.

Manual Flash — The Yongnuo YN560-III and YN 560-TX radio transmitter

There are are huge selections of third party manual flash units out on the market mostly on Amazon and Ebay.

Brands like Yongnuo, Neewer, Cheetah are very popular.

When I purchased my last manual flash, a little over a year ago, I opted for the Yongnuo YN-560III. This flash is currently selling for the insanely low price of $66 on Amazon!!!!

It was a tough choice because I almost went with the Neewer TT850 which is a similar strobe to the Yongnuo with the exception that it has a proprietary lithium ion battery and an add-on external receiver to enable wireless shooting.

Initially I was attracted to the idea of that battery because it was fast recycle time and didn’t require an external battery pack. BUT since it is proprietary it thus requires a separate charger (another battery). The Yongnuo uses common AA batteries which you can find in any corner gas station AND it has a built in receiver on the flash — nothing external required.

The new Yongnuo YN-560IV is a further refinement of this flash and might very well be the best choice because it is a transceiver — so that means with a flash in your hot shoe you can control the flash on board AND any external YN-560IV flashes. That is a very cool feature.

With the YN-560-III I use the YN-560-TX transmitter which allows me to use a radio frequency to fire the flash. If you own the YN-560IV flash units the transmitter would not be necessary


My Essential Tool for Manual flash

Something that I find essential when using manual flash units is something that might seem a bit “old school”. Now you don’t NEED it but I do find that it helps me make much more effective use of limited time and I’m able to dial in precise exposures because of it.

What is it?

It’s a flash meter. I happen to use the Sekonic L-758DR which is probably overkill for most folks–even me. But it does include a spot meter feature as well as measuring the light falling on the dome for flash exposure (or ambient light exposure, too!).

If you want a smaller one, or a basic flash meter, then check out the Sekonic L308s flash meter that costs around $200.

A slightly larger and with a few more features meter is the Sekonic L-358 flash meter. You can find those used on Amazon at this time.

A newer, and digital flash meter that Sekonic has is the L-478DR meter. I have not used this meter but it looks superb, as are all the Sekonic meters that I have used over the decades (dating back to the late 80s!).

You can always use the view screen on your camera to tweak manual flash exposures on the fly. After a time you will get good at gauging the exposure.

Still for fast moving events like weddings, I prefer TTL and for more quiet portrait situations I like using manual flash. Each has strengths, each has weaknesses. Your style, your experience and your comfort level will dictate which works best for you!

I hope you find this post useful. Please share it on your social sites and with your photographer friends that you think might be helped by it.

June 29, 2015

The bittersweet journey of photographing your family

GoodbyetoPrincesschair

Saying good bye to the Princess Chair.  After about 7 years it just doesn’t fit her anymore.  And I feel a bit like I’m living the movie Toy Story.

This past weekend our little girl Kate turned 9 1/2.  

She’s halfway to two digits and more than halfway to graduating from high school.

I don’t know about you, but I continue to shake my head at how quickly our lives move forward.  By seeing your kids grow up you
really have a constant marker of that quick passage of time.

So as Kate turned 9 1/2, Nicki was also on a bit of a cleaning tear, adding some new chairs to the living room and clearing out the old.

That meant that Kate’s pink princess chair, something she has had since she was about 3, is now heading off to the scrap heap.

Nicki put the chair on the garbage can for pick up and I have to say I got sad seeing it there.

It means that our little girl is growing up and this was a sure sign of the next chapter.

I will continue to photograph the family though, in good times and sad ones because it’s an important part of telling the complete story of our family’s life. 

And continues to remind me that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

Katebirthday

At a dinner with friends, they decided to throw an impromptu “1/2 Birthday Party” for Kate with mini cupcakes.  

Images made with Sony a7 and a6000 cameras and Zeiss Loxia 35mm f2 and 50mm f2 lenses

#sonyalpha

June 23, 2015

Sony Camera Gear used on E3 Expo Coverage

E3 Expo_#sonyalpha_07

Last week I was in Los Angeles to document The Oculus booth that was participating in the E3 Expo at the Convention Center.

This is the world’s largest gaming expo and their booth stood out at this big event.

The modern and stylish booth had two stories and complete with several viewing rooms, Oculus was going to be showcasing their newly launched Virtual Reality Rift to the world (above).

And it was a non-stop pace of gamers and press coming and going to view the wares with people literally running to the booth the second the doors opened in the convention center.

This was the perfect environment to utilize the Sony mirror less cameras and their wi-fi technology.

And while it certainly would have been possible to share photographs (primarily on social media) “old school” — that is by downloading cards and editing on a laptop, in this case it would’ve been downright impractical.

There was simply no room for us to set up a station in the booth and time was of  the essence.

The tools that we have now are made for making deadlines.  And, with the internet and the 365/24/7 cycle there is a deadline all the time.

Being able to send photographs via the camera to the Sony Play Memories App and then process using Pic-Tap-Go was my go to process.

Just to give you an idea of the volume we were able to move:  On the second day we sent over 150 images.  One the third day, we moved just about as many —
I moved 85 photographs from my camera to my phone to the PR team (via email).  Our first day we moved fewer and realized we needed to move more and faster on day two.

The cameras performed amazingly and were perfect for the job.  Because they were smaller and lighter, it made it easier on the body when carrying for the day.

The main camera/lens combination was:

Sony a7ii
24-70 f4 FE Zeiss
Sony HVL-43M Flash
Rogue Flash Bender (large) with diffusion panel in the front.
Think Tank Urban Approach 10 camera bag

Here’s the rest of the gear that we brought:

Sony a7ii camera gear for E3 expo

2-a7ii cameras, 1-a7 camera, 1-a6000 camera, 2- 24-70 f4 FE Zeiss, 2- Sony HVL-43M flash, 35 f2.8 FE Zeiss, 55 1.8 FE Zeiss, 85mm f1.8 EF with Metabones III adapter, Phottix Mitros+ Flash, Yongnuo 560 EXIII with transmitter, Sekonic meter, Neewer Flash adaptor with Bowens mount, Speedring with Bowens mount.

Between me and my colleague Dan we captured well over 14,000 images and also some video too!
Here are some of my favorite photographs from the event:

E3 Expo_#sonyalpha_01

E3 Expo_#sonyalpha_02

E3 Expo_#sonyalpha_03

Actor Elijah Wood demonstrates the Touch version of the Oculus and was in awe of it’s capabilities.

E3 Expo_#sonyalpha_05

E3 Expo_#sonyalpha_04

E3 Expo_#sonyalpha_06I couldn’t pass up this great light and the silhouette of gamers from the Xbox booth made while on a break.

June 15, 2015

A Few Favorite Portraits from this Weekend’s Summer Kick-Off Block Party in Ladera Ranch

Gero_OrangeCountyPortraitPhotographer_LaderaRanchSummerThis past Saturday, our neighborhood realtor through a Summer Kick Off Block Party and it was a wonderful way to start the summer, hang out with our neighbors and simply have a great time.

Since it’s a very small and tight little community within Ladera Ranch (100 homes), it’s a little like a small town.

So I set up in the center of the neighborhood this little portrait studio, and had a great time.

Gero_OCPortraitPhotographer_locationstudio

I shared the Kids of OC books that I have done and it may lead to future bookings — which would be great.  But it’s ALWAYS good to get out and photograph because I’ve always found that when you step out you end up being rewarded and these four photographs were some of my favorites:  Gavin, Audra, Grace and little “PeeWee”.

For lighting, it was simple:  One Dynalite Baja B4 set on a grip arm for a mini boom over the camera.  Even though it’s battery powered I ran power to it just in case I needed it for my backup flash (a non battery powered Elinchrom Style 600). I used some Reflectors to help contain some of the overhead light — since it was an overcast (“June Gloom”) kind of morning, it worked well and I didn’t have to block out hard sun.

Using a 40″ Phottix Luma Octabox, I was able get 1/125th at f6.3 at 100 ISO from the light source.  Very simple and yet I love how they turned out!

Camera:  Sony a7ii

Lens:  Sony 70-200 f4G OSS lens

 

 

June 4, 2015

How I Use Canva.com in my business — and how you can too!

Thanks to my internet business mentors Shane and Jocelyn Sams who originally shared with me their discovery of a simply astounding (and yet free!) design tool online called Canva.com.

This is a site that costs nothing to join (though you do pay a small fee if you use some of their premium photographs and design elements) and can help business owners (and it works great for photographers!) create amazingly gorgeous designed pieces that can be used for mailings, brochures, and social media.

The designs offer a starting point for inspiration and for me, that is a wonderful thing.

I know a bit about design but I’m not a professional designer and so it helps to have ideas to start from — a jumping off point — that gives you a start on the process of creating beautiful pieces.  Staring at that “blank canvas” in Pages or InDesign or Photoshop can be very daunting.

And being a visual professional, creating a promotion piece that is nicely designed to go along with beautiful photography only makes the experience better for your clients.  In this highly competitive field, I think it’s a MUST in order to create work that gets noticed and so you can stand out.

And canva.com is a tool that has really given me new found inspiration and helped me immensely to create new marketing pieces quickly and easily.

Here’s the design I recently created for a postcard mailing (7 x 5):

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Here’s a design for a You Tube header:

YouTube Channel Header(1)

Here’s a design for A 6 x 4 Gift Certificate Card:

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Here’s a recent design for a Kids of OC Marketing poster (11 x 17 size):

KidsWantedforKidsofOCProject_Gero
And finally here’s one of my favorite pieces that I have recently created, a 12 page marketing brochure for my portrait business.  (I used Canva to design the basic large pages of type and then blended those with the final design in InDesign.    Creating grids is still a bit easier in InDesign, but I suspect Canva.com will only get better with this in time.  Also, they are planning on launching a more robust Canva.com pro site.  It’s still being created (as far as I know) but I will be one of the first to give it a spin when it comes out.

GeroPortraitsBrochure_2015_web2 GeroPortraitsBrochure_2015_web3 GeroPortraitsBrochure_2015_web4 GeroPortraitsBrochure_2015_web5

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do and please post your comments below if you get a chance to try Canva.com and tell us how it goes for you.

 

May 20, 2015

Mother’s Day Portraits at Salon Plum Benefit for Forever Footprints

Mother'sDay_SalonPlum_2015_email

Thank you to these gorgeous OC Moms and their kids who I photographed at Salon Plum in Ladera Ranch for our Mother’s Day promotion!

This event raised over $400 for Forever Footprints, a wonderful OC Charity that benefits Moms.

It was a wonderful reason to create portraits that these families will treasure forever.

 

May 3, 2015

Mother’s Day Portraits Charity Fundraiser at Salon Plum in Ladera Ranch

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I’m pleased to announce that next Saturday, May 9th, 2015, I’ll be doing mini-session studio portraits on location at Salon Plum in Ladera Ranch!

The 15 minute sessions will be from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Salon which is located in Bridgepark Plaza in Ladera.

The $50 session fee/family will be donated to Forever Footprints (http://foreverfootprints.org) an OC-based charity that does wonderful things for OC Moms.

If you would like to book a session, call Nicki at the studio at 949.388.5588 and she’ll be able to schedule your time and take your donation to Forever Footprints at that time.

Thank you, in advance, for your support of this great charity!

 

April 29, 2015

Family Photographs from our Wisconsin Trip in February 2015

Ironically as it’s nearly 90º here in Southern California and my Mom, who has been visiting us for the past two weeks, prepares to head back to Wisconsin, I am catching up on some family portraits and moment photographs from our visit to Wisconsin in Feburary.

Our kids have been pestering us to go back and visit the family during the winter (obviously the were born IN California where winter is rather…quaint (at least to Southern Californians)).

Winter cooperated and gave us a small blanket of snow and very chilly weather during our trip to Wisconsin.

The main reason we went though was to meet our new niece and cousin Ayla, who was born in December.  Her entire family and extended family members are extra special to us.  My sister Mary’s daughter Stef was our flower girl when Nicki and I got married.  In 2011, Kate was one of Stef’s flower girls at her wedding.  To see Kate then holding Ayla made the circle particularly poignant and made me realize, as well, how quickly time flies.

In this series of photographs, I wanted to show some portraits I made of Stef and Jeremy at their home, as well as moment photographs from the trip (including Ayla’s Baptism affirmation ceremony at the family’s church).

It was a wonderful trip even with the cold, and reminded me that making great photographs of family is one of the best things I can do with my talents and creates some of the most treasured gifts (especially as time goes on.  Photographs only grown in value as time goes by).

All photographs made with Sony mirrorless cameras :  a7II and a variety of lenses including a 35mm f2.8 FE Zeiss, 24-70 f4 FE Zeiss, 55 f1.8 FE Zeiss, and the 85mm f1.8 EF on a Metabones adaptor for Sony. #sonyalpha #a7ii #zeiss55 #ocphotographer #familyphotographs

 

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