Monday, 27 January 2014

Giving Video Clips a Pro Look

Adobe Premiere Pro CS 5.5 and CS 6.0 has a neat feature called Warp Stabilization - this can be used on any clip that suffers from jitteriness. It works if you have a fluid head that sticks, if you shoot hand-held, out of a car window - almost on anything with, in some cases, a spectacular result.  As you can see from the extreme examples in this video, even a bonnet-mounted GoPro producing shots that appear unusable are rendered quite smooth. I was blown away with this addition to the Pr stable. Previously you'd have to buy a very expensive plug-in for Premiere to get the same effect. Now it is included in the app.   If you shoot a lot of video, you'd buy this program just  for the stabilization app alone...

Using Warp Stabilizer in Pr CS6 from Robin Nichols on Vimeo.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Bad Wigs, Rock and Roll, and Everything Elvis

It's that time of the year again when synthetic wigs are dusted off, waistlines are reassessed, rhinestones polished and a legend is, once again, resurrected.

Hallejulah!, Elvis had arrived in Parkes once again

Young Elvises
en masse at the Parkes street parade
We spent two days in Parkes, NSW, at the recent Elvis festival, held annually on Elvis's birthday. It was great fun for two days - but we were glad we hadn't booked for the full four days. Watching and photographing in 35+ degree heat, with little or no shade is quite exhausting!
Even though I'm not a diehard Elvis fan (there were plenty of those hanging about Parkes) I still had a good time - the 50s cars were immaculate, the various Elvis incarnations were often very funny, quirky, eccentric, mad - and some were just outright bonkers.  Everything from the street parade to the tribute concert was done with an appreciation and an honesty that was refreshing. Not a lot of flash technology, just good music and plenty of synthetic hair dos. What more could you want? 
On top of all the Elvis memoriabilia (even the Chinese takeaway had an Elvis poster in its window), Parkes is a charming country town, the countryside, all the way up from Orange is beautiful, even the staff manning the cafe at the famous Satellite Dish were dressed to kill as extras to this year's Elvis theme, Kissin Cousins.

For the street portraits I used an EF85mm portrait lens (at f2.8) and fill flash to try to isolate subject from the background and lessen the contrast. The parade shots were mostly shot with an EF70-200mm lens with an EF1.4X Extender, again to try and blur out the busy background.

Large Elvis (with extra beads)
Stars and Stripes Elvis
(at the Parkes street parade)
Awesomely cool suit Elvis
(but not a lot to do with real Elvis as far as I could recall
GI Blues fan (I think) takes the salute
at the Parkes parade
Las Vegas Elvis (the 'Official' Elvis salute)
Junior Elvis rides again 
 in a 50s Caddilac...
Surely these are the Elvis Twins?

Triple Elvis,
(with extra rhinestones)
Vegas style baby....
Local Liberace lookalike,
dressed as Elvis
Boy from Bankstown with rubber Elvis headpiece
Thirsty Elvis
seen at the Pluto Pup van
Elvis tribute performer, Peter Andrew,
in full Vegas rig belting out Guitar Man,
Parkes Leagues Club
Single Mom Elvis fan?
Complete with DIY pink, papier mache Chevvy
Besides the impersonators, most of the fifties cars on show were also part of the Elvis tribute
Yet another Elvis?
Nope, this is Shelvis, a female Elvis impersonator
Two Parkes visitors who were just going along with the Elvis vibe...
Front seat of a 50s Bel Air
50s gas guzzler on show at the Parkes Elvis event
More 50s Elvis-era vehicle details
Pic by Natalie

Another 50s Elvis-era vehicle close up detail.
(Pic by Natalie)
Detroit steel at its best
Pic by Natalie

Another 50s Elvis-era vehicle detail...
Pic by Natalie

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Classic Japan Photo Tour - November, 2014

“... Unlike any other country, Japan is old and new, high technology and ancient ritual, perfect manners and flawless service. For a photographer the country is packed with fascinating visual challenges, breathtaking scenery and unforgettable memories. Combining the best visual experience Japan has to offer, with great food, ancient culture, terrific shopping, good value and a truly memorable experience...”

Here's a brief itinerary to give you an idea of the places we visit:

Travel Day: Arrive Tokyo, overnight Ueno area
Day 01:  Local subway to Harajuku.

Photograph the curious dress-up (cos play) kids, lunch, then  visit Meiji Shrine.  Dinner locally near the hotel.
Overnight Tokyo.
Day 02:  Early start to get to Tsukiji fish markets.  After lunch, catch the local train again and head to Akihabara, the electronics retail centre of Tokyo.

Overnight Tokyo.
Day 03:  Shinkansen to Nagoya, then local train to Takayama.  Leisurely afternoon wandering through the older parts of Takayama.

Overnight Takayama.
Day 04:  Local bus to World Heritage listed Shirakawa-go.  Visit the excellent open air folk museum.  Stay in a traditional ghasso-zakuri style thatched farmhouse (ryokan).

Overnight Shirakawa-go.
Day 05:  Bus to Kanazawa

Luxury bus to the city of Kanazawa to visit Kenrokuen gardens and bustling city markets.  Optional night shooting session in the station precincts.
Overnight Kanazawa.
Day 06:  We catch the Thunderbird Express (train) to Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan.  Check into hotel.  Afternoon free.
Day 07:  City bus to Shisen-Do shrine and garden. Then to Kinkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion. After a lunch amble along the Philosopher’s Walk. 

Overnight Kyoto.
Day 08:  Local train to Kameoka for rafting trip downstream to Areshiyama.  Here we wander through a maze of laneways to the exquisite World Heritage Sagano bamboo forest. Overnight Kyoto.
Day 09:  Short train ride to Nara, the ancient capital of Japan.  Return to Kyoto, lunch, then walk to Tofuku-ji temple complex.  Then a local train to Fushimi Inari shrine with its 14 kilometres of torii gates (no need to walk all the paths!).

Overnight Kyoto.
Day 10:  Express to Okayama, then a local train to Kurashiki. This pretty town has an amazing art gallery featuring works from Europe by El Greco, Renoir and Degas, among others.  Overnight Kurashiki.
Day 11: Shinkansen from Okayama to Hiroshima.  Morning at Peace Museum then on to Miyajima island.  We spend the night in a modern ryokan with an afternoon visit to Itsukushima Shrine.

Overnight on island.
Day 12:  Shinkansen south to Fukuoka/Hakata.  Check into the hotel then it’s off to catch some action at the national sumo tournament.

Overnight Hakata.

Day 13:   Today we head back to Osaka. Our hotel is located in Dotonbori district, a colourful area, especially at night. great for iconic images.
Hotel accommodation in bustling Dotonbori.
Day 14:   Free day in Osaka.

Depart Osaka Kansai airport evening...

Classic Japan Tour: how it works
To keep costs down, I have structured this tour on the basis we stay in two to three star business class hotels (i.e. small rooms, but clean and well appointed), travel mostly using trains, subway and local buses.  For a couple of the locations, I have extended the budget to stay in one or two of Japan’s fabulous ryokans (traditional inns) where you experience the best in Japanese hospitality.  I’ve visited Japan several times before so, though still struggling with the language, I’m familiar with the way things work in-country. And it’s because Japan is such an efficient place that a photo tour like ours can function so well. 
As the emphasis is on photography, we can afford to spend more time looking for the best light, angles and elevations wherever we visit and never feel pushed to follow an itinerary religiously.  Also while travelling I take the time to critique your work on an ongoing basis and give talks on various photographic and post-processing topics.  This usually helps significantly in both broadening your knowledge but it also gives you the opportunity to develop your photographic styles and come home with some fabulous images.

Interested? Email me at

Friday, 3 January 2014

Re-purposing a Damaged Digital Photo Book

Occasionally I have received a new photo book that's damaged. In one instance it was damaged in the post - clearly dropped from a great height onto a corner. With one of my Cuba books, it was the adhesive used in the binding - after a few days it tore away from the covers. The company (in this example, Blurb) is usually good enough to replace the defective product, but what then do you do with the damaged book?

I briefly thought of off-loading it at Christmas on one of my unsuspecting relatives but thought better of it. They are not that dumb!

But then I thought, why not re-purpose the perfectly printed pages by framing some of the more interesting images out of the book? After all there were 112 pages in the book and if it was never going to adorn my coffee table, it's be going to waste. 

Blurb, and other book printing companies, use lithographic presses for their print requirements - which means good paper quality and fade-proof inks, as perfect combination.

CCE Speedlight Class

I have just finished and critiqued my last Mastering Your Speedlight class for 2013 at the Centre for Continuing Education (CCE).  It was a great two days with 7 students flashing away relentlessly around the halls of Sancta Sophia College in Newtown. Here are some of the best from my November class.
If you are interested in doing this class in 2014, here's a link.

Stunning portrait of class student Marcelo by Katrina Partridge.
Her direct approach and tight framing make for a powerful, dynamic image. 
An excellent example of how "simple" is usually the most effective approach.
Great lighting, great composition, great job!

Home studio flash work by Malcolm Trees.
Good, punchy lighting gives strong contrast in this cute portrait session
Group shot, painted with light (speedlights) by Deidre Farrell
A very cool light-painted band shot from Victor Muruet
Classic multi-flash shot from Malcolm Trees
Although we all know speedlights have this functionality (to shoot multiple flashes in one exposure) you rarely ever get to use it - or see good examples of it in action.
Malcolm has nailed it with this tricky golf swing shot. Well done!
Ring flash (Orbis) in action.
This portrait by Kate Buchanan perfectly highlights the characteristics of ring flash: extremely soft, all round shadow. One big downside to using the Orbis is that it is bulky to operate.
Simple but highly effective wireless flash effect on this portrait from Vicki Johnston.
Great WOW! factor!
Impressive portrait of fellow student Kate by Deidre Farrell.
Off-camera flash gives you so many more creative options
Another sublimely simple, but very strong portrait from Katrina Partridge
As often as not, converting an image to black-and-white can add tremendously
to the creative 'look' created in post-production.
Beautiful post-production values.