Gulf Photo Plus 2008

This is the Knowledge Village in Dubai and the venue for the reason why I gave up my Thursday evening and Saturday. I attended a photography workshop and lecture – and it’s so worth it.

There was a free camera health check and cleaning service plus free equipment loan from Canon. Canon and Nikon offered free printing of photos, up to 3 photos per day. All the merchants were offering up to 25% discount on camera bodies, kits, printers, CF cards, etc. I got myself a 16GB express III CF card! Unfortunately there were no lenses or filters available anywhere.

29 Apr – Free Canon Seminar

Manus Van Dyk from South Africa gave a free seminar to those who wanted to know their Canon DSLR. You can find out more about what Manus does here. Manus showed us a 10 minute clip of what his photography class is like. It was a trip to the Sabi Sands game reserve – something that I could only wish to join someday.

Here are the highlights of Manus’s talk:

1. The “shoot without CF card” is switched to “on” by default. this should be turned off unless you want the utter disappointment of coming home from a great photography expedition only to find your images are not there because you did not have your CF card installed.

2. Never ever shoot in the green zone. This is the full auto option, the one with the green square on the dial of most brands. If you do this, you are turning your high precision DSLR into very expensive point-and-shoot camera.

3. Shoot in the Adobe RGB mode to get better results.

4. If you have a large capacity CF card, shoot in RAW+JPG mode. This means you can always edit the RAW file to what you want your finished photo will be without losing any quality and still have the more compact JPG version for web, printing and email purposes.

Manus said he wanted to do seminars and workshops at the GPP this year but he was a bit late. He said he would be back next year and I hope to sign up to one of his workshops then.

1 May – Night Shot Class with Robin Nichols

I left work early on Thursday to make it to my first ‘real’ workshop. I didn’t have time to change so I was sweating in my work jacket lugging my camera bag, tripod and handbag. There was quite a few of us including an 8-year old girl with her point-and-shoot camera.

Robin started us off with a slide presentation to show us spectacular and not-so-spectacular night shots he has taken all over the world. He also included night shot of nearby Madinat Jumeirah all taken with his Canon IXUS. He was an amazing lecturer and I wish he had more ‘beginner’ classes; he just made us all feel at ease and not at all intimidated. He shared with us the 7 secrets of getting better night shots:

1. Length of exposure – aperture is not that relevant (mostly f4 or f5) but shutter speed is the key. The longer you expose your lens, the more light it lets in resulting in great, sharp night shots.

2. Timing – you have to know your location to figure out when is the best time to take night shots. An hour before sunset is the best to get that warm orange glow.

3. Tripod and self-timer – not even a surgeon with the steadiest hands could control motion blur with a DSLR so use a tripod. Combine this with the self-timer (2 seconds is enough) to ensure the camera and the tripod do not shake.

4. Shoot at dusk – as in 2 above, an hour before sunset gives a soft glow.

5. Choose lowest ISO – ISO100 works! I almost didn’t believe it because I would normally crank up my ISO to 1600 when shooting in dark locations but all of my shots were done at iso100 and most of them turned out better than I expected. The trick: length of exposure! Instead of 2sec I expose the lens from about 4 to 6sec depending on the shot I’m composing.

6. HDR photography – HDR stands for high dynamic range. It’s when you take 3 shots of the same subject at different exposures and then using software like Photoshop to put them together creating a photograph with just the right exposure. The Canon has a similar in-camera feature like this: AEB which stands for Auto Exposure Bracketing. In Photoshop, you go to File–>Merge to HDR and select the files that you want to merge. I haven’t tried it yet though.

7. Have fun! – no matter how much classroom time you clock in, it wouldn’t matter if you don’t go out there and have fun applying the lessons learned!

3 May – Your SLR with Chris Hurtt

This was a 6-hour class which was a more in-depth version of Manus’s seminar. Most of the attendees were using Nikon so it was fun to see what the differences are between brands and models. The principles are all the same and it all comes down to what you want to do with your shot, how passionate you are with your photography and how much money you can afford for your gear!

Chris’s equipment is worth US$15000+ and the slides of his work he has shown us proves that it is all worth it.

We went through all the autofocus modes, metering modes, shooting modes, exposure modes, shutter speed, aperture and focal length. After lunch we stepped outside or a bit of hands-on experience. Manuel, Chris’s assistant during the GPP, served as our very willing model for the shoot. It was great getting good results once you figure out how each element affects everything in the shot.

Here are the highlights of Chris’s lecture:

1. Always adjust the autofocus points for each shot. Do not stick to the defaults.

2. Do not trust the LCD preview for sharpness, trust the numbers (ISO, focal length).

3. The only 100% absolute guarantee of sharp shots: use a tripod!

4. Edit, edit, edit. Translation: delete unwanted, blurry photos which you promise yourself you will edit in Photoshop later. You can never correct blurry, out-of-focus shots so throw them away now.

5. Like Manus, Chris suggests you stick to point-and-shoot if you are going to shoot in the green mode.

6. Crop in-camera – do not take shots with the intention of cropping in Photoshop. When you crop a jpeg, you are deleting data from your photo. Your 10.2megapixel DSLR camera becomes a 6megapixel point-and-shoot if you do this.

7. Composition tip – the horizon doesn’t always have to be dead centre.

8. Filters – the only two filters you must have: graduated neutral density filter and a polarizer. I don’t have these so I will go and buy them the next chance I get!

All in all, I feel that I have the basic know-how to make the most of our upcoming holidays. I need to take the camera, lenses and tripod out a few times to practice what I have learned to make sure I take great shots of the family and the places we’re going to visit soon.

Photos from the workshops coming up shortly.

This entry is cross-posted from my LiveJournal blog.

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