Friday, September 11, 2009

Pimp your Monopod

When I purchased my 40D back in June of 2008. Newegg was running some thing where it came free with a tripod and monopod. From some off-brand crap, called "Dolicia." The problem with this is that from day 1, the damn monopod (or the tripod really) wouldn't support the cameras weight.

This is supposed to be a big year for my Schools (American) Football team. I have been asked to cover some of the bigger games. The first one was Saturday, and Friday night I decided I would want to rig my monopod up, so it could help in some way. I've never shot sports before, and I was under the impression it was an absolutely essential skill. So my first step was to break off that little tab that keeps the ball head from getting unscrewed thinking that I would be able to tighten it more. Well over tightening didn't do it. So I unscrewed it and the ballhead came into 4 parts. There's a ball with the tripod screw; 2 halves of the container, and the screw. So the first thing that came to mind was increasing the friction and how tight the ball was. This was achieved by taking a roughly 2 inch strip of 1 inch wide gaffers tape, and wrapping it around the ball. Then I took little tiny squares and put one in each half of the ballhead. Re-assembled and voila problems solved! After I re-assembled I couldn't get the head to slip with a lot of force. Held the camera great too. The tiny problem is you really need to loosen it now for it to be loose and it's not as fluid as it was before.

5 hours of shooting the game (probably only use the monopod for 1/5 of that) and it worked well. The strap I Velcroed and clipped on was also a huge help. I'll say that the monopod is awesome for carrying the camera over the shoulder. It was very comfortable when just standing around. It got it from around the neck or in the hand to resting off the ground, very comfy.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Vivitar DF 383 Review

The Old:
The Vivitar 285HV flash was (and is) truly the cockroach of flashes. It was pretty tough. So back when it was re-launched back in 2007 everyone was very excited. Sadly, the 285 eventually started suffering quality control issues. Most of them work fine, a few people have complaints. I've had mine for a year or so, and I love it. But there were a few issues (lack of 1/8th power, 70's appearance, lack of TTL.)

The New:
Enter the Vivitar DF 383. Released very recently by vivitar, it's like the younger, and better looking, but less healthy version of the 285. What makes this flash so great, is it features ETTL (which any die-hard strobist will say is ew but some people like having a flash on camera in a pinch)it's also got 1/1-1/16 (including 1/8th power.) The features don't end there though. Sadly, the got rid of a sync port, so if you were to want to use a cactus trigger you'd actually have to mount your flash on it. It's not quite compensation for this but the 383 does feature a slave sensor. For some one who's already got a flash or 2, and uses them off camera, this could be handy, no need to buy another receiver.
Also a nice feature is the automatic (power zoom.) Theres 2 zoom modes. A (auto for use in TTL if you want) and M. In A if you're using Ettl on camera, if you zoom in nothing happens until you half press/press the shutter button. In order to enter Manual zoom you press the zoom button once, it goes into M and zooms out to 24mm. Press it once more for 28mm (then again for 35, 50, 70, and 85mm) one more press and back to auto. The zoom is a bit noisy, and slow, but it's power zoom!

Exposure Calculator:
Anyone who's ever used a 285HV knows about that really neat calculator on the side. Put in your ISO, f-stop, and power and it gives you distance at which you can shoot. Well, the DF 383 offers this too! on the LCD on the back (you'll see it in the video.) The LCD is also lit up when you press the light button, Although as I mention in the video, it's not lit very well.

Build Quality:
The DF383 isn't quite a cockroach like it's older brother. It's built fairly well, and looks a bit more modern but vivitar is still roughly a decade behind on style(doesn't look like a 580exII or sb-900--but hey thats not important.) My biggest built issue is with the on/off and s(slave)/off switches on the back, they just feel a little cheap. The foot is made of plastic, so I'm curios as to how that'll hold up. (I'll tweet/post if&or when it fails.)

The Verdict:
The Vivitar DF 383 is a great flash for someone looking for a first time flash who wants Ettl and to try some off camera stuff. It could also be a good compliment to any one's flash set (especially if you're using say, 285HV's {which have gone up in price, so this is only $29.00 more at the moment.}) The color temp is right about where flash would be, in fact, in shooting with this and the 285 the 285 had a much warmer tone.

Build: 17/20
Handling: 18/20
Specifications: 18/20
Value: 20/20
Overall: 91% I highly recommend this product!
Pick it up@ B&H

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lightroom Galleries

Lightroom is a photographers best friend. It's perfect for cataloging images, and your color/sharpness adjustments, and converting RAW images all without photoshop. Lightroom, also has the ability to create some awesome web galleries.

Now a lot of us have Flickr's so why do we need this? Well when I go on a trip, or do a shoot, or what ever I often have lots of keepers. Rather than flood my flickr with a bunch of mediocre photos (like I did with the Moose River Plains Trip) why not put them in a lightroom gallery? Galleries are also good, for presenting images that are similar.

I like to keep mine to a low(er) number of photos. No more than 50 for sure, that's way to many! I've made 2 so far that I've uploaded and they've been 20 and 10 images. They've all been related, and I hope they've sort of told mini-stories. (my "Gone Fishin' gallery didn't as much as the other)

Here are my 2 sample galleries:
20 Photographs from Washington, DC
and 10 Photographs from an early morning fishing trip

As you can see, I prefer the flash galleries, and I've been uploading them to my server, and giving them subdomains (e.g.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Induro ABO tripod Review

Alright so a few days ago, I purchased the Indruo ABO Adventure Series tripod, and I guess looking back now I didn't put a video up (check back tomorrow.)But this is going to be my short little review of the tripod.

The first thing I'm going to say is if you're like 6ft+ tall, this might not be the tripod for you. It's got a maximum height of 56.9" (144.5cm) and I'm not that short, so it's a bit short for me, but with the battery grip, it's no biggie. It's got a load capacity of 10.3 lbs (4.7kg) now to put that in perspective: the 40D with 28-135mm weights in at 1.6lbs (740g) if I'm not mistaken, and the grip is just under a pound at 10.2 ounces(290g) so we're talking a mere 2.2lbs(1.03kg) with grip and lens so that leaves us with around 8lbs(3.67kg) to play with and to give more perspective the 70-200 f/2.8 IS weighs in at 3.5lbs, So you can do a bit.

Now that's a lot of quantitative stuff, but we can all look that up so I'll tell you about the qualities. Again it's short, folded and extended, folded it's great. It's so tiny you could (and I did for my 2 day trip in the wild) leave it under the seat in your car. As short as it is it's also super light weight, at just 2.7 lbs (1.2kg)you could carry it all day and not notice anything. Again just to prove it I did, up 2 mountains. The Case it comes with is quality, I haven't had any problems so far with the case it self, very comfy very padded. So basically, I'll say the tripod and case are great for someone who's a bit short on cash (Only $135--which sounds like a lot but keep reading) but wants a quality tripod (aren't you sick of that crappy 'Dynex' from best buy-yeah I figured) or for someone who already has a $400 Manfrotto but doesn't want to carry around that beast.

So there's gotta be a downside right?
Yeah, there is sorta. I'm not going to lie, I love it, but the levers aren't the strongest I've ever used. I think if you're not super super abusive it'll last a while, but it's been less than a month for me. Another problem lies with the ballhead. Now frankly, I'd been skeptical, been using 3-way pan heads since 2004, and until I got my DSLR they were fine, then they weren't strong enough. I was worried the ballhead would slip a lot--it didn't. I infact like it a lot. My problem lies with the lever to adjust tension. it's a little hard to tighten on the tight end, that's expected I guess. So to loosen it you have to yank kinda hard and in doing this I snapped off a little bit--the piece that stops you from going over loosening. At first I was very very upset, it'd been literally less than 12 hours. Then I realized it was sort of a pain anyway and that got it outta the way. Now the thing to be cautious of is completely unscrewing the ballhead, but that takes a lotta turns. Now I wouldn't recommend breaking it off if you buy one, but if it happens, you can live without that bit, you might like it better. If not--theres a 5 year warranty.

To sum it up:

It's very portable, it's very stable. The leg levers aren't, well lets just say, titanium but, they're not "dyenx" either. The head is strong and there isn't slipping at all (but see above) The quick release plate is a bit small, but at the same time it's kinda nice. it's a great tripod, probably more so for someone who's on the go, walking a lot, I wouldn't suggest it for like shooting 3/4 portraits in a studio.

Got Questions?

Leave'em in the comments! Or how about tweeting me on Twitter? I'll get back to 'ya.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Quick Video #4 - Simple Strobing

Few months ago, there was a guy who made a lot of guest posts on the blog DIY Photography. Nick Wheeler is an amazing photographer with some amazing amazing stuff. And his creations with light were when I was just discovering lighting with clamp lights and CFL's. I tried to re-create one of his photos with my CFLs and at the time I was mildly happy with it.
So Recently, I had a friend ask about purchasing that picture, which I wasn't happy with. Fuji Finepix s6000FD's photos weren't great and lots of sharpening was evident. So today I re-shot it and took some I liked.
The one above is by far, my favorite. I've made a video with a tour of the set here, and a time lapse break down.

Want to see the rest of the photos? They're here: Jake's Flickr Tag: Homage to Nick Wheeler.
and want to see Nick's Flickr? Check'er out!.

Wanna know when something gets posted? Follow Jake on Twitter!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Scott Kelby's Second Annual Photowalk! Syracuse, NY USA

On Saturday(July 18) I participated in The World Wide Photowalk! and it was a great time. We met up outside the Starbucks in Armory Square, and there was 18 of us. Some really nice people. It was a good time. We just sorta walked around downtown hit up the major squares. If you wanna see some of the awesome shots -- check out the Syracuse Photowalk Page. I was chillin' with @bk_math.

New Videos!

Hey everyone! so anyone that follows me on twitter will have seen that lately I've uploaded several new videos to my Youtube. Over the next few months I'll be making a lot of "Quick photo Tips" videos. Go check it out so far I've released QPT#1 - Quick, Cheap, and Seamless photo backdrops and just today I released QPT#2 - Extreme Macro (CLOSE UP) photography without a macro lens. So go Check them out!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

New Content Soon!

I didn't think back in January when I said I wouldn't be posting as much, I wouldn't make a new post until July (not counting the AceCad Review)

I have some stuff lined up to edit video wise, and some ideas brewing, I PROMISE you, I will post a few times this month, I apologize greatly for my inactivity.

if there's anything you'd like to see comment, or better yet email me: jake ({at}) jacoboconnell ({dot}) com.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Review of the AceCad Flair II

Two or so years ago I purchased a AceCad Flair II graphics tablet. By the looks of, they don't sell it anymore, but here's my review anyway.

The tablet is very sturdy, and incredibly sensitive for what at the time was a $60 tablet. I do have a few minor complaints, for one, the cable is a little short. I have a USB-USB extension cable so that's not a big deal. Another downside is that the pen uses one quadruple-a (AAAA) battery. AAAA's are a bit expensive, this video by KipKay shows how you can extract 6 quadruple-a batteries from a Energizer 9volt.

The tablet had 1024 layers of sensitivy, which means in an editing program like photoshop the harder you press the thicker the line is. The Stylus features 3 buttons--the tip, and a 2 buttons on the shaft. I have the tip set as a single click, and double click when you tap twice. I've got 1 button set as 'CTRL' and one as right click. You can set it so that right click is also as simple as pressing and holding.

The tablet is fairly simple, and doesn't have many features so with most modern operating systems it's as simple as plug and play.

Final Verdict: It's small, light, cheap, and easy. The minor flaws can be overlooked by almost anyone. If you casualy use photoshop, and want a tablet that wont set you back a kidney or liver, try the Acecad Flair II (or another cheap one, don't spent a lot on a wacom--unless you want it.)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Quick update

Sorry it wasn't a very active month. I had planned on doing a tutorial on Eos Utility remote shooting and auto-importing into lightroom, but unfortunately my EOS utility isn't working (sometimes you can't remote shoot, comment if you have a solution.) Once I get that working, I'll be sure to write that up.

I also plan to build a new Ringflash (similar to the one David Tejada, and Ron over at Motley Pixel made)

Recently over at DIYP guest poster Martin Kimeldorf posted about his new flash diffuser, which he called the Kimel Bouncer.(pictured left on the vivitar 285) I'll get to reviewing that soon. It's essentially a foamie with a few cuts and some velcro.

I also recently purchased a EOS 650 film camera. Bought it on ebay for $27.00 + S&H. I have yet to shoot a full 24-exposures, so I don't have any idea on image quality yet. It's pretty neat though, c. 1987. (camera is pictured to the right)

And Lastly, I have been working on a PVC Cali. Sunbounce Micro-Mini. Hasn't been going great, I need to sew up a reflector side, and a diffuser side. I am currently using Mylar and a white table cloth for those two respectively, and they're both fragile. Hopefully I can have a tutorial of that up soon. And Tuesday i've got a photoshoot at school, so they're be some good images coming out of that for sure.