>School time: Megapixels

>Following Photofocus‘ great article/rant about the megapixel madness that camera manufacturers have fallen to, I thought it would be useful to make an article explaining exactly how a GREATER mpx count is BAD for your pictures.

(ALERT: GEEK TALK COMING!)
Continue, after the jump.
So, right off the bat, it’s important to understand how a photo-sensor works.
The biggest part of any sensor is the photodiode array. Photodiodes are, obviously, diodes that are sensitive to light. When light hits them, they output an electric signal. 
Both CCD and CMOS diodes work in similar way; and overpacking affects both in the same way.
The basis of every electronic device is binary-code. (Don’t run away yet, I’ll keep it simple!)
There are only two signals: no current (0), and current (1). The speed and errorless processing is obtained because of the big amplitude between the two signals, resulting in a very clean output, as the “noise” (signals in-between) is not recorded.
When sensors are working, they produce heat. (Duh!)
In overpacked sensors, this will result in a whole area becoming overheated, instead of just a couple of rogue diodes. As this overheating occurs, given the laws of physics, electric noise is amplified and it starts showing on photographs. More, electronic components are not REALLY fond of overheat, so you can expect related damage happening more frequently.
Besides that, you know when you go batshit get really annoyed by missing a photo because the camera was lagging/processing/starting for too long? More mpx mean more bulk data to be processed, and gradually slower cameras.
Real-life numbers:
HDTV standart: 1920X1080 pix. Translation: roughly 2Mpx.
That awesome footage you see in NatGeo-Channel HD? ‘Bout 2 megapixels. Ten years ago, outdoor-posters were being shot with 3~4mpx cameras. Think about that.
Real-life images:
Nikon D80 on S-JPEG (~2,5mpx, APS-C sensor)

100% crop

LG phone-camera (2mpx, 1/6″sensor)

100% crop

There you have it. Similar pixel count, unequal pixel densities.

Completely different results.
So, long story short: Don’t be fooled into buying cameras by looking to the megapixel sticker.
Ask for a pixel density value (px/area). The lowest the value, the better. If a store can’t help with that, head to DPreview and start there.

>Far away, but close to mind

>Boston.com, a REALLY cool place to find some of the best photojournalism being made today, just published pictures of a toxic flood in Hungary.

So, thanks to the news sharig power of twitter, I found out today of the aforementioned spill, in the village of Kolontar.

Usually, people tend not to be too worried about  stuff going on on countries far, far away. But I’ve met friends for Hungary. And suddently I realized that every overseas disaster means that someone I know may be greatly affected.

And that, boys and girls, is how you become aware of world’s problems!

>Neither Sh*tting, nor getting off the Pot! (slightly NSFW)

>Or: “How I got screwed thanks to YouTube!”

Arraial do Caloiro 2010 XIBeing a freelancer is a hard-time job.
Brian Ach’s featured article on JPG Magazine offers a good, down-to-earth view on what it takes to be one, and you should read it.

It can be rewarding, but sometimes you kinda get screwed.

More, inside.


So, here’s my most recent disappointment in being a freelancer:

Last weekend, there was a two day venue at my college -Arraial do Caloiro do IST- one of the biggest college music festivals of Lisbon.

Arraial do Caloiro 2010 XVIII

On the last concert, by the PT band Diabo na Cruz, I witnessed (and shot, obviously!) some rock history in the making, as they smashed a couple of mic-stands and “mooned” everyone as a way of protesting against being cut off on the last seconds of the concert.

Since this was not something you see everyday around these parts, I rushed to the laptop for some quick editing on the scene, and mailed proofs to a bunch of printed publications.

A music magazine, Blitz, became interested and asked for my personal contact. Waited in vain for the call that never came.
Next day, they published a video made with a cell phone, grabbed from YouTube. Evidently, this was made without compensation to the guy who “filmed” it.

So here’s the lesson about the printing press: They’ll screw you if they can.  Having staff photogs means they will not want to pay any extras, unless they really have to. (Nowadays, at least)
This holds true everywhere. The TIME’s philosophies are long dead, and we’re now in a dog-eat-dog world, getting screwed by microstocks and the like.

So, keep it in mind when considering the career choice of freelance/wire/assignment photographer. Unless you’re ready to be beaten senseless to the ground, go for another niche. If you ARE ready, welcome to the party! (And see you on the next big one ;)

For every ounce of reward, there’s a metric ton of stress.

And now, since there’s no one interested in publishing’em, here they are. Enjoy!

Arraial do Caloiro 2010 I Arraial do Caloiro 2010 II Arraial do Caloiro 2010 III Arraial do Caloiro 2010 IV Arraial do Caloiro 2010 V Arraial do Caloiro 2010 VI Arraial do Caloiro 2010 VII Arraial do Caloiro 2010 VIII Arraial do Caloiro 2010 IX Arraial do Caloiro 2010 X Arraial do Caloiro 2010 XII Arraial do Caloiro 2010 XIII Arraial do Caloiro 2010 XIV Arraial do Caloiro 2010 XV Arraial do Caloiro 2010 XVI Arraial do Caloiro 2010 XVII Arraial do Caloiro 2010 XIX Arraial do Caloiro 2010 XX

>Expanding Business

>Economy is progressively rising again, and new business opportunities are surfacing.

Henceforth, and if you haven’t noticed yet, the frequent contact I have with Erasmus students in my city have led to the broadening of what JFM Photo has to offer.
Namely, novelty souvenirs!

Expanding Business

These license plates are the first step.

If you care about the strobist info, peer in…

 So, first things first.
Since I’m advertising a product, I need a product photo.

Easiest way to do it: seamless background. In my case, overblown white paper.

Now something is playing in my favor.
The license plates are, by definition, highly contrasty. This allows to overblow the overall background and the plate background, keeping the essential details.
So, it’s all about angles of light, to prevent the specular reflections that would kill all the detail. However, to keep it interesting, and having two equal plates, the bottom one does catch those speculars, adding a bit of reflection without becoming distracting.
Also, eliminating all the shadows felt unnecessary. They give a sense of deepness that I enjoyed.

Long story short, SB-24 on a shoot-thru ‘brolly, silver reflector to even-out light distribution a bit, spare battery keeping “main” plate vertical, and we’re done.
All prepped in about 5mins.

Expanding Business (setup)

See you next time, and sorry for the lack of updates.

JF

>One-thousand!

>Wow.
1k “friends”in FB means only one thing: people are adding me because of my pics. Which leads me to believe *you* like’em, and it makes me feel good.

But, alas, this means that in some time, I’ll have my personal account filled with people I don’t know.
As such, I’m moving to something new: a dedicated FB page just for pics. You can find it here.
(It’s still in the making, forgive the spartan-look)

Also, from now on, I won’t be accepting any new friends I don’t know in person, sorry.

See you later…

>Returning Home

>20-04-2010: The day when families reunited, after the ashes of Eyjafjallajokull started to settle down.
Returning home I
On this tuesday, hundreds of airplanes were back up in the skies of central Europe and Scandinavia, after the ashes from the recent Icelandic volcanic eruption cleared the Troposphere, were commercial airspace is located.

This meant that stranded air-travelers finally got a chance to return home without resorting to common land transports.

More, after the jump.


Returning home II

Here in Portugal, we were lucky enough to avoid the volcanic ash clouds, hazardous to aircraft engines, so flights to Africa and America had no restriction, as well as in Madrid, Spain.

However, hundreds of tourists and businessmen went through a lighter version of “The Terminal” this last week, having no way to return fly back to their families and jobs.
Some of the more wealthy and better connected ones managed to secure a seat in the trains and buses, and a few more resilient even came by taxi.
Returning home VIII

Finally some flights were cleared to take off, bringing these people back home, where commotion and relief from their loved ones awaited them.
Returning home III Returning home IV Returning home V

Regular flights were only resumed today, thursday, still leaving lots of people grounded in the meantime.
Returning home VI Returning home VII

It’s amazing to realize how a victimless disaster can have such an impact.

>Weekend DIY project: Softbox

>So, long time-no see, eh?
Sorry for the updates delay, but I’ve been (kinda) busy all this time, and will soon post the goodies.

But first things first!

DIY softbox XI

As you realized by the title, I’ve been playing with tools in the weekend, to build myself a new light modifier.

More, after the jump…

Da Premise
So, softboxes are cool. No way around it. Great to soften the light and, more importantly, to feather it. Umbrellas are cool too (especially shoot-throughs), and I’ve used them a lot combined with dome-diffusers to get that extra softness. The thing is, you have an half-sphere blowing light into everything, which is bad for shooting in cramped interiors.

So I want need a softbox!

There are lots of cheap(ish) lightboxes on the market. But they have a drawback: they’re thought-out to work with monoblocs and not with strobes, which is not great for us starving young-ones.
Long story short, the strobes are a VERY directional light, and part of the softness is lost.

BUT!…
…Some guys noticed that, and came-up with a pair of softboxes (and also striplights) that go around this issue by having the strobe inside the box, firing into the back of it, and the results are brilliant.

(If only they were cheaper…)

Da Plan
So, those aforementioned boxes don’t look so complicated! They’re built from an umbrella frame.

That can’t be so hard to build in your basement/garage/living room…

Time to build you own Greek/Roman-Sun-God-Light-Modifying-Box*!
(*Sorry, but if I used it’s original name, I’d probably be sued)

So, the first thing we need, is an umbrella.
Got mine from a bazaar-store, for about 2eur.
DIY softbox I DIY softbox II
Notice it has 8 ribs. THIS IS IMPORTANT! Since we’re going to build a box, might as well make it square. Having 8 ribs, means we can choose one of the two rib crosses that are perfectly perpendicular.

So, we take our cutting pliers, and get rid of the excess ribs.
DIY softbox III
Looking square, which is great.
Time to get rid of the handle, so we can fit it into an umbrella stand.

DIY softbox IV DIY softbox VI
So, now I made a paper stripe to hold the frame bent into a softbox, and tested it. It works! Now if only we could make it a more proper colour… Bring the plotter paper!

DIY softbox VII DIY softbox IX DIY softbox X
OK.
If I could just fill those side holes…

DIY softbox XI DIY softbox XIII
NOW WE’RE IN BUSINESS!
Shot it at 1/4 or 1/8, not sure anymore. Notice how the orange bowl is nicely soft lit, while the background is totally underexposed. It’s a success!
Wait, something’s not right here…

DIY softbox XII
Ah, bawls! That shaft is too long. Have to figure out how to make it shorter, or detachable, or something…

Disaster Strikes

DIY softbox VIII
Damn! The ribs got bent when I tried to close it.

Catastrophe! (Or “Wait, what’s that noise?”)

DIY softbox XIV
#$&%@!
After trying to straight it out, the worse bent rib gave in, and broke.

So, WWW? (What Went Wrong?)

Note to Self: don’t use a spring umbrella. The spring coil is not properly stuck, so it caused too much torque for the ribs to hold, and they bent hopelessly.
Also, that damn shaft is too long, I’ll have to work that out. (I’m inclined to make it detachable)

Anyway, for the time being, it works as expected from a softbox.
It’s still not foldable, but for a semi-static box, it’s working good. Each side is 45cm (about 18in), but it could be made bigger, with a bigger umbrella. (I started with a kids’ one, so it was already small.)

So, I have to run to the store to get another one (NO SPRING!), and try it again. After it works with the paper prototype, I’ll make the black fabric cover with silver inning for maximum reflective power, and call it a day! (I’m thinking emergency camping blanket…)

In any case, you are now heading in the right direction, and if you have any suggestion to solve these three problems, hit the comments!

“Igor, to the store!”

>Thanks, Karma-2009!

>So, 2009 is bye-bye…

X-mas gifts!

Great year, I must say!

Go on in, you won’t regret it.

So, why the presents pics again? It pretty much sums up all of the great stuff that happened this year: Got my baby, and whole lot of gear to have fun with it.

Yes, for me this was, in fact, the Year of The Shooter! (the first, I hope)

I learned a lot this year, light-wise. The merit goes to David at Strobist, the best strobe-master alive!
Also, a million thanks to Udi and the community of DIY Photography, for teaching how to subdue light when on a buck.

Other great stuff online:
DPS
Squeeze The Lime
Scott Kelby’s blog
Joe McNally’s blog (light me, Numnuts!)

Ok, enough of this! Thanks to Nikon, for having the best photo system money can buy!

And now, some of my favourite pics: (The ones already on Flickr. Too lazy to look for the rest right now!)

Get me there, please! So, what about this pic? Not a very fancy pic, but one of the first ones to really be properly lit. A page turner in my shooting style!
Also, mixed techniques to get it done…

DSC_8322 [1280x768 FFM] What’s about this pic: It shows two important things that happened this year. I joined my college’s student’s association (AEIST) and ESN Lisboa. This allowed me to get a lot more opportunities to shoot, many great people to be my photo guinea pigs subjects, and great places to go with them.

 DSC_8620 [1280x768 FFM] DSC_9184

So, again, Thanks for everything, 2009! You’ve been a great year, and 2010 will have a tough time keeping up!

Also, thanks to Cracked for bringing a smile to my face everyday!

>Merry Christmas, folks!

>Christas postcard 2009 One more x-mas, with a VERY cool set of gifts!

More, inside.

So, I kicked off the x-mas picks with the above “postcard” for everyone, and then a quick self-portrait with the same background.

Christmas portrait

Yeah, blatant copy of Chase Jarvis, but it works.

But anyway, what made this x-mas special? What I got under my tree…

X-mas gifts!Yep, that’s a McNally collection, plus “Light:  Science and Magic”.

So, no sleeping until New Year…