636 Photos

The Pole Gym City Battle - Review

written by William Brown on 2018-09-05

Once again, I was working with another great photographer for the Pole Gym's Battle - A competition between the multiple Pole Gym studios' students. It was a fantastic event, and the students put on an amazing show.

After any event like this it's valuable to review what went well and what needs improvement. Photography is like any creative work, a process of continual refinement and improvement.

The good

Autofocus

After last event's "bad" autofocus issues, this time I worked out the combination to nail focus on almost every single photo. This time, I had few out of focus shots, generally because I was surprised by movement.

I have used the X-H1's custom focus settings to track subjects in front, with certain locking behaviours. I also used boost and back-focus to trigger continual focus tracking ahead of time to taking a shot. It's a bit easier than holding the shutter half way all the time, and means focus is already acquiring the moment the shutter re-opens.

The result: I found 85% of my images were in focus, as I wanted. This let me take lots of "good" photos.

Faster settings

By setting the shutter a bit faster, I lost a bit of light, but the sharper movement was worth it. I think I would step faster again (1/320 or more), but really it's so venue dependent.

Pre-empting movement

I have found I'm getting better at pre-empting movement of dancers, which is helping me to react and get better photos. It's let me capture some stunning moments this event, but I think this can always still be improved (as everything can).

To improve

Go to practice runs

I really need to be at practice events with lighting to get everything set properly. There are just too many changes occuring that are hard to fix in post. I'm especially finding it hard to detect light levels in the EVF during the event, or on my screen, so perhaps a fixed screen brightness or something else to assist here.

I should go to the practices and start taking notes on run sheets, and talking to the dancers to find out what they want photographed or highlighted.

Location and Angles

I have told myself to shoot low, and wide at pole - last event I forgot to shoot wide. This time I didn't shoot low. This mean that last time, at least I could get good photos still, even if trimming some appendanges. This time, I had plenty of full body, sharp photos that were boring as hell.

A reminder that often a great photo is one that highlights an unnatural viewpoint, something people aren't used to seeing. This is why photographers ofter get low or high relative to a subject.

Dynamic light

I need to work on a way to make dynamic light, to darken and lighten as needed during the show to create more dramatic effects. Likely I'll try to use the aperture ring to achieve this (Thank you Fuji for the excellent aperture rings on your lenses!).

The book

I have a book of notes before events to make sure I have checked everything that needs checking. It's already getting a bit hard to manage everything and update effectively, so I may write a "pre-flight" checklist app or website that is easier to update and check off. If I'm still forgetting simple things, what I'm doing isn't working. So it's time to learn from the professionals in aviation.

Conclusion

This was another fantasic event, and because of the lessons of last time I took many "good" photos, but I lacked the "stunning" photos that I took last time. With more review, I hope to be able to take both consistently.

The Pole Gym City Battle Heats - Review

written by William Brown on 2018-08-20

I had the exciting job of being one of the two photographers for the Brisbane City Pole Gym's Battle Heats - a friendly competition for the Pole Gym students to qualify for the Inter-Studio Battle competition.

After any event like this it's valuable to review what went well and what needs improvement. Photography is like any creative work, a process of continual refinement and improvement.

What do I look for in a photo?

It's important to note that picking up the camera is probably the easiest part of an event like this. When taking photos there are many factors. At any time while taking photos at an event like this, there is a lot going through the mind of the photographers.

By applying so much thought, we hope to capture images like this when the moment presents:

wow

The good

Shooting JPG

This was my first major event shooting only JPG - not RAW. I'm really happy with how the colours came out in most of the photos, especially given the lighting in studio. I think that this was the right decision, and I'll stick by it for now.

Location

Where I sat (well off centre to stage) ended up creating some amazing chances for close ups on the pole, and for using the stage cross lights to create beautiful effects and shapes for the dancers. Saying this, I want to be in the center next event, so that I get more even distances for the static vs spin pole.

using the cross lights - notice the veins in the wings?

Don't use continuous shoot

In the past I've use continuous shoot to "lazily" make sure I get the photo that I wanted of a move. However it can bog down the camera and cause you to miss the next move while it buffers. True I have a better camera now, but rather than hold rapid fire button, I have been trying to time and preempt movements. It worked really well again, allowing me to get a lot of good shots with clean lines of the performers. The new camera has a faster screen refresh rate too, which helps if sudden changes occur on stage that I want to capture.

Close up and framing

I used angles in photos, both by turning the camera, height of the camera, or even the performer, to help create different effects. Lowering the camera can make a person seem powerful or grand for example. I tried to use closer, more intimate portrait framings for capturing faces or certain poses. I think that (mostly) these worked really well, adding extra dimensions to the photos of the performers.

can you feel the calm?

Shoot once - Edit never

For every photo that I get right at the event, is a photo I don't need to edit and "save" later. By putting in so much time into what I wanted to take, planning, practice and researching, I had a breeze editing the photos. Many of them came out the camera, and became what you see today. Some needed minor cropping (say 5% on the border?). But there was no need to heavily edit or manage the photos, only a need to review. By shooting without continous also meant less photos to review, and higher quality.

To improve

Autofocus location and mode

Initially I missed a few shots while in portrait mode. The autofocus speed was really dropping on the camera, and I didn't know why. It turns out that on my camera to the "edges" of the frame, it does not use phase-based AF, falling back on a slower system. When I rotated the camera to portrait mode, the focus points on the edge were activated, causing phase-based AF to be disabled!

So now that I know this, I'll be sure to watch out for the edges.

phase autodetect areas

Amputations

In the past I learned to "shoot wider" at pole dance because no one likes to lose a hand or a foot. It seems to be a lesson I forgot, because of my proximity to the pole. In the past I've used my telephoto lens at a distance, but being so close to the dancers meant that my mind decided to drop a few lessons of the past. So next time, I'll be shooting wider to keep everyone's appendages intact.

Flash

I experimented with using my flash for post-event group photos. It was worth while as I had it set wrong for the whitebalance (green skin anyone?) and in the wrong orientation. As a result all the group photos missed the people in the back!

Next time I will create a seperate WB profile for flash, and I'll be sure to check the angle of the flash better to make sure I keep everyone well lit.

our other glorious photographer

Conclusion

This was a great experience, and I great event. I hope that next time I can do even better from these lessons, and that I will continue to improve my photography.

Photography - Why You Should Use JPG (not RAW)

written by William Brown on 2018-08-06

When I started my modern journey into photography, I simply shot in JPG. I was happy with the results, and the images I was able to produce. It was only later that I was introduced to a now good friend and he said: "You should always shoot RAW! You can edit so much more if you do.". It's not hard to find many 'beginner' videos all touting the value of RAW for post editing, and how it's the step from beginner to serious photographer (and editor).

Today, I would like to explore why I have turned off RAW on my camera bodies for good. This is a deeply personal decision, and I hope that my experience helps you to think about your own creative choices. If you want to stay shooting RAW and editing - good on you. If this encourages you to try turning back to JPG - good on you too.

There are two primary reasons for why I turned off RAW:

Colour is about experts (and detail)

I have always been unhappy with the colour output of my editing software when processing RAW images. As someone who is colour blind I did not know if it was just my perception, or if real issues existed. No one else complained so it must just be me right!

Eventually I stumbled on an article about how to develop real colour and extract camera film simulations for my editor. I was interested in both the ability to get true reflections of colour in my images, but also to use the film simulations in post (the black and white of my camera body is beautiful and soft, but my editor is harsh).

I spent a solid week testing and profiling both of my cameras. I quickly realised a great deal about what was occuring in my editor, but also my camera body.

The editor I have, is attempting to generalise over the entire set of sensors that a manufacturer has created. They are also attempting to create a true colour output profile, that is as reflective of reality as possible. So when I was exporting RAWs to JPG, I was seeing the differences between what my camera hardware is, vs the editors profiles. (This was particularly bad on my older body, so I suspect the RAW profiles are designed for the newer sensor).

I then created film simulations and quickly noticed the subtle changes. Blacks were blacker, but retained more fine detail with the simulation. Skin tone was softer. Exposure was more even across a variety of image types. How? RAW and my editor is meant to create the best image possible? Why is a film-simulation I have "extracted" creating better images?

As any good engineer would do I created sample images. A/B testing. I would provide the RAW processed by my editor, and a RAW processed with my film simulation. I would vary the left/right of the image, exposure, subject, and more. After about 10 tests across 5 people, only on one occasion did someone prefer the RAW from my editor.

At this point I realised that my camera manufacturer is hiring experts who build, live and breath colour technology. They have tested and examined everything about the body I have, and likely calibrated it individually in the process to make produce exact reproductions as they see in a lab. They are developing colour profiles that are not just broadly applicable, but also pleasing to look at (even if not accurate reproductions).

So how can my film simulations I extracted and built in a week, measure up to the experts? I decided to find out. I shot test images in JPG and RAW and began to provide A/B/C tests to people.

If the editor RAW was washed out compared to the RAW with my film simulation, the JPG from the body made them pale in comparison. Every detail was better, across a range of conditions. The features in my camera body are better than my editor. Noise reduction, dynamic range, sharpening, softening, colour saturation. I was holding in my hands a device that has thousands of hours of expert design, that could eclipse anything I built on a weekend for fun to achieve the same.

It was then I came to think about and realise ...

Composition (and effects) is about you

Photography is a complex skill. It's not having a fancy camera and just clicking the shutter, or zooming in. Photography is about taking that camera and putting it in a position to take a well composed image based on many rules (and exceptions) that I am still continually learning.

When you stop to look at an image you should always think "how can I compose the best image possible?".

So why shoot in RAW? RAW is all about enabling editing in post. After you have already composed and taken the image. There are valid times and useful functions of editing. For example whitebalance correction and minor cropping in some cases. Both of these are easily conducted with JPG with no loss in quality compared to the RAW. I still commonly do both of these.

However RAW allows you to recover mistakes during composition (to a point). For example, the powerful base-curve fusion module allows dynamic range "after the fact". You may even add high or low pass filters, or mask areas to filter and affect the colour to make things pop, or want that RAW data to make your vibrance control as perfect as possible. You may change the perspective, or even add filters and more. Maybe you want to optimise de-noise to make smooth high ISO images. There are so many options!

But all these things are you composing after. Today, many of these functions are in your camera - and better performing. So while I'm composing I can enable dynamic range for the darker elements of the frame. I can compose and add my colour saturation (or remove it). I can sharpen, soften. I can move my own body to change perspective. All at the time I am building the image in my mind, as I compose, I am able to decide on the creative effects I want to place in that image. I'm not longer just composing within a frame, but a canvas of potential effects.

To me this was an important distinction. I always found I was editing poorly-composed images in an attempt to "fix" them to something acceptable. Instead I should have been looking at how to compose them from the start to be great, using the tool in my hand - my camera.

Really, this is a decision that is yours. Do you spend more time now to make the image you want? Or do you spend it later editing to achieve what you want?

Conclusion

Photography is a creative process. You will have your own ideas of how that process should look, and how you want to work with it. Great! This was my experience and how I have arrived at a creative process that I am satisfied with. I hope that it provides you an alternate perspective to the generally accepted "RAW is imperative" line that many people advertise.