Budget Cameras for Aerial Photography

Smallest Cameras for Aerial Photography

I’m always on the lookout for simple and inexpensive ways of taking pictures.  The term ‘inexpensive’ usually doesn’t go with aerial photography.  However, I recently came across two new products that are moving in the right direction. They are the HD Hero Camera from GoPro, and the FlyCamOne 3 from the Acme game company.  This is neither a preview nor a review of these two new products.  Rather, this post is a quick announcement with some notes about their capabilities.  I will write full reviews after I’ve had a chance to try them out.

Small, Light Weight and Good Image Quality Continue reading

Aerial Photography: The Essential How-To Guide

Aerial Photography: The Essential How-To Guide by Greg McNair

Aerial Photography: The Essential How-To Guide by Greg McNair

The Bird’s Eye View

Have you ever wondered what the world looks like from a bird’s perspective?  Have you wondered how you might get a small, or maybe not so small, camera airborn to find out?     The book Aerial Photography: The Essential How-To Guide by Greg McNair shows you how to get started with remote controlled (unmanned) aircraft capable of carrying cameras.    I recently bought a copy, which I ordered from his website www.aerialphotobook.com for $49.95.  This post is a brief review of McNair’s book.

The Dreaded AP Mosquito Continue reading

How to Master Nikon D3, D300 Autofocus

Rude Awakening

When my D3 first arrived, I had been using a D2x for 2 years.  I never noticed the D2x’s autofocus because it worked so well.  It faded into the background of my attention.   Expecting to have the same experience with the D3, I took it out of the box and brought it with me to a friend’s wedding.   I was seated among the guests right on the aisle.  It was still daylight, so the chapel had adequate lighting.  When the bridal procession began, I expected to get some great shots for my friend, the groom.   As the procession was moving straight toward me, I had only a few seconds to get a shot.  I confidently picked up the camera, framed and pressed the shutter.  Nothing happened.  I noticed that it was in single shot mode (S on the front switch) and realized that the shutter wouldn’t trip unless the focus was spot on.  I immediately switched it to C.  My last chance.  I reeled off a few frames, but all of them were out of focus.  What had gone wrong?   Of course, I switched to manual focus, but that moment was lost.  Fortunately, I wasn’t the hired photographer that day. Continue reading

Aerial Photography on a Budget

Lower Cost Aerial Photography

My previous post contained information about an electric helicopter and camera harness for remote controlled aerial photography, the AeriCam. Since the cost of the AeriCam helicopter and camera harness starts around $9k (in kit form), I wondered whether there was a significantly less expensive way to get professional quality aerial photographs and video. Since I was an avid radio-controlled (RC) airplane builder as an adolescent, I thought I’d do a little research to see what could be constructed with current technology.  Here’s what I discovered.

How to Pick a Helicopter for Photography

After some research, I discovered that there are radio controlled helicopter kits that are capable of carrying professional still and video cameras.   Continue reading

PhotoPlus Expo 2009 Review

About Photo Plus Expo

photoplus2009PhotoPlus Expo is an international photography conference and tradeshow sponsored by PDN. It is held each fall at the Jacob Javits Center in New York city. The show usually has hundreds of exhibitors and over 100 seminars on every aspect of photography. What was most surprising this year about PhotoPlus was the absence of many major and minor exhibitors, whom we’ve come to expect from years past.  The weakened world economy had its effect.  Among the absentees were Fuji, Pentax, Panasonic, Mamiya, Broncolor, Sinar, Adobe, and Apple.  On the other hand, several manufacturers, who most recently introduced particularly innovative products, had a substantial presence. In particular, Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Sony, Epson, HP and Leica were there in force.  I’m not going to review the new camera and printer models here, since all were announced before the show, and all have been covered extensively on the web (e.g. see www.dpreview.com, www.imaging-resource.com or www.luminous-landscape.com). Instead, I’m going to focus on those products and services that get less attention, but nevertheless offer considerable value to photographers. I’m only covering items that caught my attention. I apologize in advance for those items I’ve missed that equally deserve attention.

The Unexpected: AeriCam

Radio-Controlled Helicopter with Camera or Video

Radio-Controlled Helicopter with Camera or Video

Certainly the most surprising product at the show was the AeriCam (see www.skyshutter.com). The AeriCam is a battery operated, radio-controlled helicopter capable of carrying 7 pounds of camera or video equipment on board.  What’s most amazing is that the still or video camera is mounted in a harness that allows the camera to be controlled separately from the helicopter (10 channel R/C).  Full remote control of the camera’s functions is provided. The camera harness has 360 degree pan, tilt and roll capability.   In other words, the camera can pan 360 degrees or tilt or roll relative to the helicopter which is controlled independently.  The harness can be positioned under the helicopter, so you the helicopter itself won’t be in a 360 degree pan. A live view from the helicopter is sent to the operator by radio, so you can see the world from the camera’s perspective as you are flying.  The helicopter and the camera harness have separate multi-channel radios.  Flying and photographing requires two people: one person operates the camera controls and harness, and a second person is needed to fly the helicopter.  It is recommended that you hire someone who is an experienced RC helicopter flyer.  The AeriCam helicopter, camera harness and radio gear (everything you need for basic use) costs approximately $9,000 as a kit.  Assembled units are in the neighborhood of $12k depending on options.  Fully charged batteries give you a flight time of around 6 minutes under maximum load.  SkyShutter also offers Aerial Photography services.  Check out their website for some amazing videos.

Simply Canvas

Gallery Wrap with Black Edge

Gallery Wrap with Black Edge

For several years, we have been printing on canvas, using an Epson 7600 printer.  After printing, each canvas needs to be stretched tightly on a wooden frame composed of 4 “stretcher bars.”   The stretched print is flat without wrinkles and can be hung as-is, or mounted in a picture frame.  The stretching process is the same as used by oil painters to prepare a canvas for painting.  However, a printed canvas is far more delicate than a painted canvas.  The reason is that a printed canvas is stretched after the pigment is applied, while a painted canvas is stretched before the paint is applied.  If you stretch the print too tightly, the pigment separates (flakes) from the canvas.  If you don’t stretch it tightly enough, the canvas will sag.  We usually have our canvases stretched on one inch deep bars and stapled on the back.  This gives a nice solid, clean look to the piece even if it’s hung as-is.  Usually, we print a thick black border around the image so we end up with black edges when the canvas is stretched on it’s frame.  You can also wrap the image around the bars so that it continues on the sides of the stretched piece.

The cost of hiring a framer to stretch the canvas with high quality stretcher bars can be quite high.  We usually pay around $130 or more for a 20 x 30 inch canvas print.  This cost is in addition to our printing costs (ink, canvas, and the amortized cost of the printer).  This also involves coating the canvas with a protective finish, which we have been doing ourselves.

At their booth, we discovered that Simply Canvas will take your image file and color correct it, retouch it, print it on canvas, spray the canvas, stretch it onto custom cut bars,  and ship it to you.  You can imagine my surprise when I learned that Simply Canvas can do all this for about what we’ve been paying for the stretching alone!  In addition, they’ll color correct the image if they see that it needs it.  All we have to do is send them the file.  They have a profile for their printer that you install on your computer so the colors you see on your screen will be the colors that come out on their printer. This assumes that you have a calibrated monitor. Since they are using an Epson 11880 printer, we know that getting the same look that we get with our Epson printers should be relatively easy.  Simply Canvas can handle image sizes from 6 x 6 inches to 60 x 100 inches with frame depths up to 2 1/2 inches.  They also have a variety of edge treatments, for the “gallery wrap.”  You can have your image wrap around the edges of the stretcher frame, or you can have a solid color on the edge (as in the picture), or several other creative options.  As you can imagine, I inspected their sample wraps (there were many) very carefully.   Having done this for several years, I’ve seen every possible mistake, subtle or otherwise.  For example, it is particularly hard to keep the ink from flaking off the corners.  The reason is that the corner is folded which makes the ink separate thus showing the white canvas at the crease.  Even experienced framers don’t always get the corners perfect.   All of the Simply Canvas samples I inspected were perfect at the corners and along the edges.  I was very impressed and a little stunned.  Clearly, they’re doing a very meticulous job.  Needless to say, I’m going to try them out.  I’ll let you know how it goes in another post.  Simply Canvas is a service for professional photographers only.

More to Come

We will review more products and a seminars in subsequent posts this week.  Please stay tuned.

How to get that “Film Look” in your videos

I’ve never liked the look I get from consumer video cameras. The combination of narrow aperture and small sensor means that your subject and the background are both going to be in focus (to some extent). This can make a shot look too busy and distracting. Part of the “film” or “cinema” look is due to very selective focus, with the background receding into a blur.

With the recent introduction of DSLR’s with video, such as the Canon 5dmarkII, the Nikon D90, the Panasonic GH1 and others, it is now possible to shoot with wide aperture lenses yielding very selective focus. While this is one contributor to the “film look” there are many others.

In a recent free audio class entitled “Discover the Secrets as used by top DOP’s to create the ‘Film Look’ using your HD video camera,” Philip Bloom and Dennis Lennie discuss a number of factors that contribute to the film look. In addition, they address several related topics, especially interesting to those of us who are still photographers and eager to explore video.

These topics include,

  • What defines the ‘film look’,
  • How you overcome the limitations of small sensor cameras,
  • How important shallow Depth of Field is,
  • The 5 Fundamental factors Phil uses when creating the ‘film look’,
  • What is absolutely essential kit,
  • How significant grading (post production) is in the overall process.

As a still photographer with a small amount of video experience, I found the discussion engaging and highly informative.

You can access the audio from their new educational site www.fstopacademy.com. This class was so good, I can’t wait for more.

Smibs TV Interviews Photographer Philip Bloom

I came across this brief interview with Philip Bloom on Luminous Landscape.

Smibs TV Interview with Philip Bloom

It should be interesting to both still and video photographers. He discusses how he started his own business, and about how he got such high visibility after over a year in business for himself. What caught my attention was a comment he made about giving first. He put videos, tutorials and a blog on his website, free. The videos received a lot of attention and gave his business quite a boost.

Bloom used a Nikon D90 for some of the work presented on his website, which is how I first discovered his work. He has some of the best examples of D90 video on the web. We’ll be talking more about the D90 and using it for video in future blogs. Even if you’re a still photographer, a video presentation of your work is a great way to market yourself.

You can see more of Philip Bloom’s work on his website www.philipbloom.co.uk.


Welcome to ‘thePhotographySite!’ This is an educational and inspirational site devoted to the art and craft of photography. There are many good sites devoted to camera and equipment reviews. There will be very little of that here. Instead, we will focus on topics more directly related to finding and manifesting your vision as a photographer. In these pages you’ll find a diverse range of articles. We will explore the psychological and spiritual levels, as they relate to photography, as well as the practical level. For example, you can expect to find how-to articles on the many ways to use photoshop and related software to improve your images. However, you can also expect to find articles that help you to get started in photography; or to pick a new direction for your existing photography business; or to explore ways to attract more clients, if your business is mature. We also plan to publish articles, often in the form of inspirational stories, that are intended to help you overcome any blocks that may be momentarily slowing you down from reaching your potential as an artist.

This site is for you, if you love photography and want to develop your vision, your skills, or your presence in the photographic community. We hope that you will find something of interest here, whether you are a beginner, an amateur, or an experienced professional.