Andrew Macpherson


GPX Master+ GEO Tagging made easier

by on Feb.04, 2012, under Equipment, Tags and Copyright, Travel, Workflow

I very much like to GeoTag my photos, particularly Landscape and Street photography.  I’ve been a great fan of both GeoTagger and GPS Photolinker on the Mac.  The first links to a Google Earth plugin to find where you have placed location crosshairs, the second works with GPX track logs to work out where you were when you took a photo.  In both cases one has to get Lightroom to re-read the metadata for it to notice the location.

Lightroom 4 Beta has all this functionality built in to the Maps module, which is a big win, but ideally one should still carry a GPS device, such as a Garmin eTrex and download the tracks to synchronise with the photo timestamps.  Of course there is also the track data held inside one’s iPhone, but Apple have gone out of their way to make that difficult to access.

Enter GPX Master+ which uses your Dropbox account to synchronise track files to your computer from your iOS device, ready for import into Lightroom 4 (or GPSPhotoLinker) and just makes life that little bit easier.  Usual caveats about Battery drain apply — you have about 1 hour, but if like me you have a car charger this is unlikely to be an issue.  For all-day use the Garmin E-Trex is still the way to go.

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Pixel Wired Off-Camera Extender

by on Jan.23, 2012, under Equipment, On Site

Pixel VM-801 and 3 x VS-801

Rear switch on the VM-801

I’m becoming quite a fan of Pixel’s after-market accessories. Today I’ld like to tell you about the PF-801 hotshoe extender (1xVM-801 and 1xVS-801). The VM-801 camera end sits in the hotshoe, and has 3 RJ-45 ports. RJ-45 is the standard cable for connecting up computer networks, available in many pre-formed lengths, or those with the tools can make up whatever length they need. For this application one wants “straight” network cables as opposed to cross-overs.

Continuity test

Checking the extender

The 3 ports are labeled A, B & C— these labels have nothing to do with the Canon Wireless Flash groups, but simply give you a reference as to which port is which, and relates to the rear switch.

On my unit the first thing I did was get out a continuity tester to check what was going on. The central spot on all the remotes is connected through to the hotshoe, via a switch for each port, which acts to enable or isolate the corresponding flash. The rear switch directs the other 4 hotshoe contacts through either the A or C ports, thus allowing the flash on that port to be controlled by the camera, when set to B I get a screen saying the flash is incompatible with the Camera.

Effectively we have 3 ports that we can trigger simultaneously. Port A can be used to provide full featured extension of the Hot shoe, including driving a Flash in “Master” mode to control wireless remotes over Infra Red and use full E-TTL functionality, you can also use it in High-Speed Sync mode. Port B is simply a trigger, such as you might use an optical slave for. Port C has the same functionality as port A, but one can only use one of the 2 at a time in full camera controlled mode, and the other port will just act as a trigger.

Full control of EX-II capable flash

An alternative way of working is to switch between the A&C ports to adjust the power setting of the flashes in manual mode without needing to leave the camera position and have a very short cable and Skyport radio transmitter letting one mix Speedlights and Studio Strobes attached through port B.

This kit came in under £40, to which one has to add a few RJ-45 cables, which I had to hand anyway.

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YN565 E-TTL Flash Speedlite fails with Canon ST-E2

by on Oct.04, 2011, under Equipment, Off the wall, On Site

At £102, tax paid,this looks like a real bargain, and for some people it may be.

The Speedlite works in hotshoe mode perfectly, has no flash master mode, but makes up for that with 3 Slave modes. ETTL (Canon and Nikon), plus S1 and S2 (S2 is supposed to ignore pre-flash).

It’s billed as working with the ST-E2 which is what Canon call their Speedlite trigger.  It turns out that Yongnuo make their own ST-E2, and any attempt to use it with my Canon transmitter results in a premature flash (it does recognise which channel is in use though) It also ignores the test firing signal from the ST-E2, but does operate with DoF preview (button to the left below the lens on Canon).

My Speedlite 580 is out of commission (with Canon for £104 fixed price repair) so I did not test it using that as Master, but as the whole point was to have 2 powerful speedlites for off camera use, it would be unsatisfactory even if that worked.

The EBay trader who sold it to me  accepted the return, but was unable to furnish me with a unit that would work with the Canon transmitter, so refunded my payment.  I’m left £3.50 lighter (return postage), so I hope this will help anyone else looking to use this unit who might also be misled by the description.

Anyone got any other suggestions for a lower cost unit? (Already got EX430)

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Miss Manners, may I retweet?

by on Sep.17, 2011, under Off the wall, Presentation, Tags and Copyright

Retweeting is of course a great compliment to those whose messages you forward, as it shows you have read their contribution, and think it worth sharing with your friends.

So yes Emily, you may retweet if you think your friends would be interested in what you have just read or seen, but there are things to remember:

If you simply retweet the message unchanged it will go to those of your friends who have not already seen it directly.  These friends will be able to see that they have received it because you forwarded it, yet the original attribution will remain unchanged.  This is a very good way to pass on the original snippet.

Should you wish to comment to your friends and there is enough space in the combined message, then you can prefix the original Tweet with your comment, the abbreviation ‘RT,’ and the original poster’s @tag.  Do remember that the originator will also see your comment so be nice.

It would be really bad form to simply prefix the tweet with RT and the original @tag, as this means that all of your friends will receive the tweet again, even if they have already seen it, and you will be associated intrusively with it, but without having added any value. This would reflect a lack of understanding and consideration on your part, and should therefore be avoided.

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Seminar vs Workshop

by on Aug.23, 2011, under Camera Club, Learning, Off the wall, Retouching, Travel, Workflow

Don’t get me wrong, the guys who do seminars are almost without exception extremely dedicated, skilful instructors who make the most of the teaching oportunity the format affords their students.  Such was the case with Scott Kelby’s “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it” tour to Amsterdam.  I really enjoyed it and it also gave me a great chance to revisit a wonderful city.

iPad view from the 7th row

I did enjoy and learn, it was good value for money, but from the 7th row the screens were fairly poor contrast and one wonders what one missed.  I’m delighted for Scott that there were around 250 attendees paying rapt attention to his training, but I don’t think one gets as much  out of a class as one might from a workshop where one follows along, and emphasises the learning experience by doing. (continue reading…)

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@Strobist Boot Camp so far.

by on Jul.31, 2011, under Competitions, Equipment, Off the wall, Workflow

David Hobby (Strobist) is running a “Boot Camp” to take people out of their comfort zone in using small flashes to make photos of local significance.  The exercise is as much about interacting with your community as the technicalities of the photographs produced, though to win the associated round prizes, the technicalities have to be good too.

Locally prominent person, Jonathan Forgham

The first exercise was to pick a locally prominent person and take their portrait.  Fortunately Jono Forgham had just been elected chair of the Little Hadham Parish Council, and was in need of one…  2 off camera strobes — one in a softbox to camera right, and a warming low power fill from the left.  The hat needed photoshopped to trim the broken straws round the edge :-), and a little attention was needed for reflections in his spectacles obscuring his right eye.  Of course the exercise is really about getting things right in camera, but this is balanced by the sitter’s available time…  You can see the Round 1 results HERE some pretty impressive s / dramatic shots.

Round 2 has been a bit more challenging:

 For this assignment, you will be required to photograph a local object — something of significance to your community. As with the first, the most difficult part of the job will be deciding exactly what to shoot — and why

The problem is the plethora of things in the area, going right back yo Roman Empire times:

  • Hadhamware Roman Pottery
  • The sculptor Henry Moore lived and worked here, and the Henry Moor foundation is a major attraction.
  • The local shared Roman/Anglican Church with it’s Henry Moore Stained Glass window
  • The Forge Museum with Elizabethan Wall Paintings
  • William Morris’ Cottage (Arts and Crafts Movement)
  • Nettswell House birthplace of Cecil Rhodes and now the Cecil Rhodes Arts Centre
  • United Distillers in Harlow, birthplace of “Bailey’s Irish Creme”
  • Local Tomato producers, pioneers in the use of Bio-gas
  • Smit-Klein-Beecham pharmaceuticals
  • Standard Telephone Laboratories — birthplace of Optical Fibre Communications

(continue reading…)

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