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Finally, Properly Fast Shutter Sync Speed is a Thing Again

With today’s announcement of the Sony Alpha 1, we saw an important camera capability moved to the forefront of the announcement: shutter sync speed.

While it is often a detail that some photographers have to dive into press releases and spec sheets for – and ultimately be disappointed by – it is an absolutely crucial spec for an advertising photographer. With clients that expect nothing less than a completely sharp frame without any degradation from “fake” high-speed sync, this is also a camera spec that can’t be cheated.

Sony has done the right thing in giving the Alpha 1 a 1/400 second shutter sync speed.

However, as with all marketing, there are some things that must be put into context. The first of which is to ask us what our industry’s history on this detail has been. For those that have been shooting digital since the big two (Nikon and Canon) had entered the game, you will remember that both the Nikon D1 and Canon 1D had shutter sync speeds of 1/500 second.

No, there is definitely a caveat that Sony has used to qualify the new Alpha 1 as the “fastest in 40 years” as the company said in its live stream video announcement. The 1D and D1 (yes, it is hard to type these model names back to back) both were cropped sensors, as both predated real full-frame 35mm digital cameras.

So yes, it is the fastest in some time because it matches the 1D and D1 once the playing field is leveled (in APS-C crop the Alpha 1 shutter sync speed increases to 1/500 second). Still, marketing aside, I hope its inclusion in the Alpha 1 is an indication of us returning to a place that actually started strong and was left to languish unattended for far too long.

The camera that some advertising shooters turned to in recent years for this area was actually the Panasonic S1R, which brought the flash sync speed up to 1/320 second (less than half a stop from the Alpha 1). I actually bought one for a shoot (ironically a Tokyo Olympics ad campaign) specifically for this reason. While it served its purpose, I found that the approach towards creating stills with the system a bit disruptive and let go of the camera after using it for only a day. While its speed was a subtle improvement from the 1/250th that was pretty much the industry standard then and now, it was too marginal in increased capabilities to warrant the other downsides I found with the platform.

This brings us to where the paths of advertising photographers fork: medium format.

While super high megapixel cameras are an aspect of high-end advertising productions, the sync speeds of Hasselblad and Phase One cameras are often equal in importance to resolution – or even more important – for photographers shooting moving subjects. Hasselblad’s H6D and X series cameras have a 1/2000 second flash sync speed, and the Phase One XF has a 1/1600 second flash sync speed (the reason I have left out the Fujifilm medium format cameras from this is because they actually have a very low 1/125 second shutter sync speed). Such speeds freeze the most minute actions when paired with the right lights. However, the cost of the systems can be a bit intimidating, so seeing higher flash sync speeds in cameras not equipped with a leaf shutter should always be praised. The Alpha 1 is not cheap, but it’s not reaching nearly the upper echelon of medium format either.

This all brings us to the question of how fast of flash sync speed do you need?

The answer is complex, but in short: as fast as feasibly possible if you are shooting outdoor action advertising campaigns. Right now, there is a strong argument for shooting what you currently have, as the high-end advertising industry is currently on hold due to the pandemic. In time things will return, and when it does the question becomes “is the jump from 1/250 second to 1/400 second worth a system change?”

On its own, probably not. But for many professional photographers, the choice to increase shutter sync speeds back to their former glory is absolutely a move in the right direction and one that has been requested for years.

About the author: Blair Bunting is an advertising photographer based in Phoenix, Arizona. You can see more of his work on his website, blog, Facebook, and Instagram.

All photos by Blair Bunting and were specifically chosen for their reliance on fast shutter sync speeds.

The Sony Alpha 1 is the Most ‘Pro’ Camera of the Mirrorless Age

The Sony Alpha 1 is undoubtedly impressive. It’s the culmination of years of technology advancements across multiple camera lines that have converged into a single, outrageously powerful capture device. It also is a return to the idea that the best camera a company can make is not for the masses.

Time was, the most advanced camera that a company could develop was not one that would be for everyone. Back in the DSLR age, the Canon 1D and Nikon D1 (and other single-digit D series cameras) lines were cameras that showed the most of what could be done in technology to support the most high-end, discerning, working pros. And for the most part, that meant sports, wildlife photographers, journalists, and some studio photographers who preferred the larger, boxier form factor. That also meant at the same time that they were not the cameras for many professional photographers.

In the case of Canon, that’s what the 5D series was for. It filled that gap.

You probably didn’t need these cameras either: They weren’t made for you.

These top tier devices were so capable that their prices would be well beyond the average person and even many professional shooters. It wasn’t unheard of to expect to pay between $6,000 and $10,000 for one of these cameras. That was the norm. And that was ok because what those cameras excelled at were not made for nearly anyone. The average photographer did not need 10+ frames per second and robust weather sealing of those DSLRs, for example (and arguably most still do not).

However, as the market has gotten more compressed and the only camera segment that has remained somewhat constant is that of the higher-end, interchangeable lens body, manufacturers making mirrorless bodies have generally shied away from blowing the doors off the high-price cameras in lieu of trying to maintain or even increase sales volume.

While most standalone camera sales have collapsed, the interchangeable lens market, driven by pro-level bodies, has steadied. via Statista.com

Mirrorless cameras are the only cameras that can achieve decently high volume and also a higher average price. Naturally, this is what a company looking out for its bottom line is going to want to target.

While the Sony a9 and a9 II both touch on the idea of a pro-level mirrorless, the Alpha 1 is the first mirrorless camera to truly stand apart: this is a professional’s camera and not even a camera for most professionals. It is as niche as niche can be, and most who watched the live stream today won’t purchase it because they have absolutely no need for what it can do.

Two years ago, advertising photographer Blair Bunting wrote a contentious article asking why cameras weren’t more expensive. It ended with this paragraph:

What wonders could be bestowed upon us if we were willing to pay for the technological creativity that would improve our creativity as we know it? We who call ourselves true professionals should demand true professional cameras with all the bells and whistles. Using prosumer equipment may work for vloggers and Instagram “influencers,” where less resolution is needed (and may actually be beneficial). However, isn’t it time we saw a flagship platform that elevated the art, inspired us, and opened our eyes the way that the legends of the past once did?

Many in the comments understandably took offense to what he says here. However, Sony has done just what Bunting asked for. The company has made that truly professional camera with all the bells and whistles that would actually hurt the productivity of many vloggers and influencers and even many working professionals because it’s just too much camera. It might hurt to hear it, but this isn’t a camera for the majority of us.

The Sony Alpha 1 is a return to a true “pyramid” structure of devices. At the very top is the premium, most expensive, most powerful device a company can make that really only a few thousand people around the world have any need for. Below that is the a7R IV and the a9 II: cameras that are incredible in what they can achieve and still outperform much of what many successful photographers will need. Below that, the a7 III and the a7c, and so on down the pyramid.

The Alpha 1 is designed to show us the absolute best so that consumers have faith in a brand, and who will seek the product further down the pyramid that is best suited to them. It really makes no sense to sell the top of the line camera to the masses like Canon and Nikon currently do, so I fully expect both of them to come out with mirrorless cameras that exceed what the EOS R5 and the Z7 II both do. If we don’t have a camera like the Alpha 1, we don’t get to see what else is possible. The next great innovation from Canon or Nikon only comes because each of these companies keep pushing each other. We got the Sony Alpha 1 because the EOS R5 exists, and so on, and so forth.

So for those who are complaining that the Sony Alpha 1 is too expensive, I’m sorry: it’s not. It’s priced exactly where it has to be, and if you think that’s too much to ask, then it isn’t for you.

And that’s ok.

Why We Shouldn’t View Our Hobby of Photography as a Competition

It’s undeniable that life is often seen as a kind of race or competition, but I absolutely despise this idea.

For kids, it’s about academic grading (which school they go to), athletic ability (who plays sports better), their looks (who is more popular among girls/boys), etc.

As we grow older, we face the harsher realities of life, as the difference of being one or the other for things like salary and socioeconomic status matters significantly more. As an Average Joe myself, I’ve always tried to keep myself from viewing life as a race, but those who are “successful” might be thinking that I’m just deceiving myself.

Hobbies Let You Live a Different Life

That’s where hobbies come to the rescue. Hobbies are supposed to be an escape from the reality of everyday life. No matter how hard or even miserable your real life is, hobbies let you live a different life. A hobby is supposed to be a sacred pastime with no winners or losers. It should be just you and a hobby for the sheer joy of it.

For instance, I love listening to jazz music, cycling, and feeding cats. Those are my small hobbies (me time!) that can never be turned into competitions. Nobody competes on the number of stray cats they feed. That said, photography is a little different. Let me unpack.

A cat at Ainoshima, a.k.a. cat heaven island in Fukuoka, Japan. I’m hoping to go and meet the cats again once COVID is over.

Social Media Has Drastically Changed the Way We Share Our Photos

Before the Internet and social media came along, photography was more of a private hobby than it is today. I saw my father taking photos with a Pentax film camera, getting the film developed and printed, putting photos in a photo album, showing it to family and close friends, and it didn’t go anywhere beyond that.

Today, photos can easily go beyond our close circle thanks to the power of social media. In fact, social media has drastically changed the way we share our photos and also connected people that would have never met or even known about each other.

“Likes” Creating an Unnecessary Hierarchy

All these sound good, but on the flip side, the gamification element of social media (e.g. who gets more “Likes”) has inevitably created an unnecessary hierarchy among participants. Some of them become very popular, Insta-famous, influencers, etc. while others are left unnoticed, just like in real life.

Looking back at history, it’s said that “Likes” were first introduced in 2005 by Vimeo, but Facebook’s adoption of it in 2009 made the feature become one of the most powerful online tools. Since then, it’s been implemented seemingly everywhere on the Web.

Whether like it or not, “Like” button is one of the most powerful online tools ever created.

Gamification Element of Social Media Can Be Negative or Even Toxic

Nowadays, this gamification element of social media seems to be accepted without much questioning, but it can be potentially negative or even toxic. Let me cite an interesting article here:

There’s plenty of evidence that likes, or the drive to attain them, can be incredibly damaging for some individuals’ mental health. Likes are a basic, yet powerful, form of validation. I suspect most of us have been a little disappointed when a post we’ve made gains very few likes, even though we thought it would get more. For most of us, this is probably a minor disappointment, but for some it can cause a great deal of anxiety. –“The power of likes on social media: Friend or foe?

Apart from my own website, I’ve been posting photos on Tumblr and Flickr, but I do feel a little discouraged by the fact that my pages have never “taken off” after all these years.

Hobby of Photography Isn’t a Competition

That said, I won’t let the disappointment get to me, because I know my hobby of photography isn’t a competition. Photography is all about what makes me happy.

To me, one of the most blissful things in life is shooting waterfront cityscapes in solitude at blue hour on a clear day. I love nothing more than seeing the warm sunset sky turning into beautiful blue hour and capturing cityscapes with a few minutes of long exposure.

Marina Bay (Singapore) at dusk with 194 seconds exposure. Whenever I slow down and take waterfront cityscapes with long exposure, I’m really happy and “in the moment”.

At the end of the day, if there is any element of competition in photography, it’s the one against ourselves. We should be competing with the yesteryear version of ourselves to improve and take better photos. And we will know when we have improved. We don’t need to count the number of “likes” in order to validate our own growth as photographers.

About the author: Joey J. is a photography enthusiast, avid traveler, and casual web designer/developer based in Singapore. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Joey’s work on his website and Tumblr. This article was also published here.

In Praise of Inexpensive Lenses

When I was a semi-professional 4×5 landscape photographer I often spent a half-hour shooting a single sheet of film and several hours enlarging it to the best of my ability. I sought the sharpest possible result. And now in the digital age, I still pursue sharp images.

Phillip Reeve writes on his website that he has two hobbies, photography and photographic equipment and they rarely intersect. I too enjoy both creating photos and testing lenses. The two hobbies are different.

My second hobby has led me to discover that lightweight inexpensive lenses perform well at the smaller apertures that I usually choose for depth of field.

I enjoy taking my Sony a6400 along on daily walks and often take the smallest zoom lens available, the 16-50mm. It weighs only 117 grams and is very flat. Photo writers often recommend that you ditch this cheap “kit lens” and replace it with a “real lens”. But in my tests, it matched my best 35mm Zeiss prime at f/5.6 and smaller apertures.

Sony a6400 with 16-50 kit zoom extended.

Zooms and Primes

When zoom lenses first became common, I thought they weren’t good enough and only used primes. But with time zooms improved and I learned that they often match or even exceed the sharpness of primes, especially at small apertures and with a bit of sharpening in edit.

At large apertures, cheap lenses are reasonably sharp on center. It’s off-center where they may be soft. But when I do use large apertures, I want blur off-center to highlight the central “star” of the shot. Of course, composition goals might dictate placing the “star” off-center, but I shoot it on center, where lenses are best, and crop for composition.

Isolated “star” subject
Another isolated subject

Quantitative Testing

I love imatest test results. When first investigating a lens, I Google “lens-name, imatest”. I find that a good starting point. But if lens “A” has imatest result of 2,000 lines and lens “B” tested at 3,000 lines, how do I relate that to my photos? To answer that I seek test pics. Cameralabs and Phillip Reeve offer test pics on and off-center at all apertures. Also, I often shoot my own tests.

Shot with the Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS at f/11.

My favorite test subject is a sloped shingled roof. As Lensrentals founder Roger Cicala teaches, an oblique shot shows sharpness and field curvature. He also teaches that field curvature is rarely a problem. More about that later. Roger likes to shoot grass and that works, I’ve come to like shingled roofs.

All roof shots except “composition shingles” were made with Sony a6400 and 16-50mm kit zoom.

The test roof
Composition shingles

Sharp lenses capture the grainy quality of the crushed rock on composition shingles. Wood shingles are good too. Another advantage of an oblique subject is that if you miss perfect focus, it’s probably there, a bit higher or lower in your frame.

Recently I shot this roof with several 35mm primes and zooms at all their apertures. I examined the sides of the image to determine at what apertures the sides reach their best sharpness. This was f/5.6 to f/8 for most good lenses and every lens I tested had sharp sides at f/11. My cheap 16-50 “kit lens” surprised me by achieving sharp sides at f/5.6 and smaller when slightly sharpened. That’s excellent.

Crops of test roof. Color shift is present in the entire roof image above

Center crop (left), right side (center), and right side sharpened (right).

My Zeiss ZA 35mm f/2.8 had sharp sides wide open. When I saw this, I was amazed and delighted. But then I realized that even though this lens has sharp sides wide open, I would usually stop down to f/11 or f/16 for depth of field. And on the occasions when I did use large apertures, I would want soft sides. So the outstanding performance of this lens was of little advantage over lesser lenses.

Shot with the Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS at f/11.
Shot with the Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS at f/11.
Shot with the Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS at f/11.

Why I Don’t Fret About Field Curvature

I usually want depth of focus and use small apertures where field curvature disappears. And if I’m using larger apertures, that is to isolate the central “star” of the shot and I want blur off-center.

Shot with the Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS at f/11.
Shot with the Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS at f/11.
Shot with the Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS at f/11.

A “Good Lens”

The widely accepted definition of a good lens is one that’s sharp over the entire frame at a wide aperture. The ZA 35 mentioned above would be considered “very good” because it achieves that wide open. But I’m happy as long as my lens is sharp over the entire frame at least by f/11. To date, every lens I’ve tested meets that. And because I like light weight, I often walk around with my cheap lenses, which are my lightest.

About the author: Alan Adler lives in Los Altos, California. He has been an avid photographer for 60 years. He is also a well-known inventor with about 40 patents. His best-known inventions are the Aerobie flying ring and the AeroPress coffee maker.

Red Bull Showcases Women Photographers Capturing Hawaii’s Big Wave Season

In an effort to expand the opportunities for women, Red Bull has hired a group of women photographers to document three key Hawaiian big-wave breaks (Jaws, Waimea, Outer Reefs) for the entire winter season.

The Hawaiian big wave season has been in full swing since November and normally continues through February. After soliciting women for the opportunity, Red Bull is now starting to show what the photographers were able to create. Both the surfing and photography industries are male-dominated, and Red Bull hopes that this gallery will provide a new lens with which to view the sport and capture a more intimate angle of the competitors.

Red Bull tells PetaPixel that the goal of the photography project is to highlight women photographers – with a spotlight on existing professionals on the island as well as those that are just starting their careers.

The organization says that it has made a commitment to hiring a different woman to shoot each day and every swell in the hopes that, once finished, there will be a collection of the single largest gallery of surf photography from women photographers ever assembled.

Red Bull has provided an extraordinary series of photo from five photographers that have already taken advantage of the opportunity. Below is a small sample of those provided to PetaPixel which illustrate how each photographer’s style translates to beautiful differences in finished images.

Ha’a Keaulana

Daughter of Hawaiian surf and water safety legend Brian Keaulana and granddaughter of the equally legendary Buffalo Keaulana, Ha’a Keaulana grew up immersed in big-wave culture and has made Makaha Beach, one of the iconic big-wave breaks, her home. She has combined an artistic spirit with a life steeped in saltwater to bring a more intimate look to surf photography.

Christa Funk

Christa Funk is a former competitive swimmer and Coast Guard Academy member who moved to Hawaii and fell in love with water photography. Drawing from her strong swimming background, Funk quickly flocked to one of the most difficult surf photography assignments in the world: swimming the big-wave Hawaiian breaks, namely Pipeline.

As one of the only women shooting breaks like Pipe and Waimea from the water, she’s successfully captured some of the most beautiful surf shots of the last few years.

Roxy Facer

Roxy Facer travels the world for commercial swimwear shoots, but her favorite place to shoot is the sandbar at home on the North Shore. “When conditions are sunny, with waist-to-shoulder waves, it becomes a playground for everyond here,” says Facer. “Getting to shoot all your friends on every board imaginable, in turquoise water, without worrying about reef, is top of the list for me.”

Jackie Fiero

Growing up the daughter of a photographer in Hawaii, Jackie Fiero’s water photography career blossomed at a young age. She learned to shoot at Sandy Beach on Oahu’s East Side for years before graduating to swimming the big wave breaks on the North Shore. Today, she combines a bright, glamorous aesthetic with the technically and physically imposing task of in-water surf photography.

Alana Spencer

Alana Spencer is a photographer and model from the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. Her focus is sharing an intimate, profile-style perspective of her subjects, in and around the water whenever possible. She is the owner of Coconut Comradery, which is her collection of photographs & stories, gathered from places familiar and far and are visually rooted in the tropics and inspired by the immediate connection with others who mutually adore an islander’s way of life.

You can learn more about many of the female surfers captured by these photographers at Red Bull Magnitude.

Image Credits: Photos are categorized by photographer and are copyright and courtesy of Red Bull Media.

Photographing Rainbow Eyes By Using Birefringence

One of the many fascinating effects of cross-polarization is called “birefringence”, which is responsible for the psychedelic gradients in the seen here.

This article is part two of a two-part series explaining cross-polarization and birefringence. The first part can be read here.

What does “Cross Polarization” mean?

While we delve deeper into this issue here, let’s recap: Cross polarization is a technique that allows us to virtually eliminate specular highlights from images by using polarized light, but it also holds a lot of creative potential as it can be used to bring out eye-catching rainbow gradients in subjects such as plastics, ice, and certain crystals.

In some industries, this technique is used to locate areas of stress in plastic, but it also holds a lot of potential for interesting macro images:

The image illustrates the molecular structure of some thin ice. Which colors these structures take on depends on the orientation of the polarizer in front of your lens. The photo was created by freezing water on a polarizing filter, which I then placed on a flat and even light source (in this case a repurposed notebook).

The two polarizing filters in the set-up above are oriented in opposing directions. This would cancel out all light as the CPL filter under the ice polarizes the entering light.

As the light enters the ice it gets doubly refracted which causes the original light ray to split into two rays that travel in different directions according to the refractive index. Both rays are still polarized. As one wave gets retarded with respect to the other, interference occurs between the waves as they pass through the second polarizer.

This phenomenon is called birefringence and it is responsible for the gradients of color in the images above.

Which colors these gradients take on depends on the orientation of the polarizers in relation to each other:

Also noteworthy: the best results will be achieved with linear polarizers.

Using only one Polarizer

To experiment with this without having to purchase an additional polarizer you can simply use your computer screen instead. Due to the way that LCD displays work, they emit polarized light so all you need to do is to load an empty word document or a white wallpaper and you can start exploring the effects of birefringence at home.

Just try to hold a CPL filter in front of your computer screen and you will see how it’s blocking out varying amounts of light, depending on the angle of the filter:

You can start exploring the effects of birefringence by using a computer screen for your light source and just a single CPL on your camera lens.

Experiment with different sets and subjects

But not only translucent subjects such as plastics, ice, or crystals are capable of producing fascinating colors under cross-polarization: even the human iris will create interesting gradients of color when illuminated with polarized light and viewed with a second polarizer.

To have a look at my set-up that I used to capture the iris image above, please have a look here:

I had previously noticed some rainbow-colored highlights in my own (brown) eyes, but not really quite enough to leave me just as stumped or fascinated as I was upon discovering such colorful gradients on my camera screen:

When I saw some rainbow coloured highlights in my own eye I didn’t really think too much of it at first.

A bit more research and some further testing with two sets of brown and two sets of blue eyes revealed that this effect related to the color of blue eyes. Brown eyes have an additional layer of melanin which sits on top of the iris. The darker the color of the iris, the more of the pigment is present. This additional layer is the reason why such gradients won’t show up in brown eyes.

Even though I have a basic idea as to the reason for this phenomenon, I am admittedly not quite certain of the physical process that causes these colors to show, so if you can explain the science please share your knowledge!

About the author: Maximilian Simson is a photographer and artist based in London, Ontario. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Simson’s work on his website and Facebook. This article is a combination of two stories also published here and here.

Cross Polarization: What It Is and Why It Matters

Cross polarization is a technique that uses two polarizing filters – one on the light source and on e on the camera lens – to get rid of unwanted specular reflections.

This article is part one of a two-part series explaining cross-polarization and birefringence.

Understanding Polarized Light

So let’s have quick look at the science of it: light is a form of electromagnetic radiation, meaning that it consists of waves, oscillating perpendicular to its direction. But those waves are not aligned; some of them oscillate up and down, some move left and right, and still others all directions in between.

That is, of course, unless we are looking at polarized light.

Polarized light waves are all oscillating parallel to each other, meaning they all share one plane. To polarize unpolarized light, we can use a circular or linear polarizer, which only lets the light of one certain plane pass while light waves that are oscillating in a different direction we’ll be reflected.

Two polarizers that are aligned perpendicular to each other don’t let any light pass.

This is the same principle that variable ND (neutral density) filters use to block out varying amounts of light. Such filters consist of polarizing filters, one of which is stationary, while the other one can be rotated against it, which gradually blocks out more and more light until the two filters are aligned perpendicular to each other and effectively block out all light.

This gets really interesting when we are directing our polarized light source onto our subject. As the polarized light hits the surface of that subject it becomes reflected and most of it turns into diffused, unpolarized light again except for the specular component of the reflection, which is still polarized and can therefore be canceled out by employing a second polarizer (CPL) filter in front of our lens.

The result leaves us with a very clean looking image.

You can try this out at home, even if you only have one CPL filter in your camera bag; due to the way that LCD displays work, they emit polarized light by their very nature, so all you need to do is to load an empty word document or a white wallpaper and you’ll be able to see the effect of cross-polarization right away.

Even though this is a very useful technique to have in your toolbox, it isn’t the only interesting application of cross-polarization.

It can also be employed to create images like this:

In part two, we’ll discuss more about birefringence and how to create colorful images utilizing it.

About the author: Maximilian Simson is a photographer and artist based in London, Ontario. The opinoins expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Simson’s work on his website and Facebook. This article was also published here.

10 Tips and Tricks to Achieve Excellent Winter Photos

Winter photography can be difficult and even dangerous if you don’t take the proper precautions to protect yourself and your gear. In this post I’ll show you how to take better snow photos and have a more enjoyable time in the cold while doing it.

1. Extra Batteries

As many of you probably already know, the cold will have a negative impact on the life and performance of your batteries. Always carry extra batteries (I recommend this on every shoot) and keep them in a warm place if possible, like a jacket pocket.

2. Keep Your Gear Dry

Nothing will ruin a day of shooting like getting your gear wet, and potentially doing permanent damage to your cameras or lenses. Check to make sure your equipment is weather-sealed (usually in your camera manual) and take extra precautions when changing lenses.

3. Stay Warm, Use Layers

The best way to stay warm is to dress in breathable layers! Remember to protect your extremities like your hands, feet, and head — a lot of your body heat is lost through your head. Be sure to wear waterproof and water-resistant outerwear in the snow and rain. Being wet AND cold is not only uncomfortable but can be dangerous and cause hypothermia.

4. Hand Warmers

Hand warmers are one of my favorite inventions of all time. Not only will they keep your hands warm, but you can also utilize hand warms to keep your gear warm! Toss one on your lens to keep your internal mechanics and electronics functioning in extreme temperatures. Strategically placed hand warmers could extend your winter photo trips for hours — which means more awesome snowy photos!

5. Expose to the Right (ETTR)

Over Expose! Yes, you heard me right. This is a useful hack for shooting in super bright locations, like a sunny, snowy day.

Your camera’s light meter has one goal: make your image the equivalent of 50% grey. So in a bright scene such as snow, your meter will always tell you that your snow is over-exposed, even when it isn’t. This will turn your snow a dark, 50% grey. To “trick” your camera, you can over-expose by a stop or two manually or by using exposure compensation. This will give you accurate looking white snow, without actually overexposing your photo.

6. UV Filter, Lens Hood

Protect your glass! Rain and snow, especially in cities will contain varying levels of acidic pollution. A UV filter will protect the front element of your lens from precipitation — you can replace a damaged UV filter easily. Having a lens hood, (yes, that round ring thing you took out of the box and never actually used) will help keep rain, snow, and sleet off your lens.

7. Camera Bag

This may sound obvious, but you’re going to need a good camera bag or backpack before you go shooting in the snow and cold. If you already have a bag, check to see if it’s all-weather, water-resistant or water-proof. You wouldn’t want to be shooting for hours, thinking your equipment is dry, only to find out it’s been sitting in a bag of water while you’ve been shooting.

A simple, inexpensive Camera Bag Cover could save your gear, and save you thousands of dollars.

8. The Buddy System

Bring a buddy! I recommend this for safety and to have someone to talk to. If something should happen in the cold, such as an injury, it’s a good idea to have a wingman to help you out. It’s also helpful to have someone to talk to, bounce ideas off of, and even distract you when it’s a little chilly and you feel like quitting.

9. Bad Weather = Good Photos

Terrible weather can make for great photographs because of dramatic clouds or atmospheric conditions that give depth. Additionally, no one wants to be out in bad weather, so you’re already one step ahead of other photographers.

10. Tripod Caution

Chances are, your tripod has some metal components, whether that aluminum legs, clamps, or base plates. Use gloves when handling your tripod to avoid your skin freezing to the metal. You can also pick up some Tripod Leg Sleeves to protect your hands and your equipment.

Before we wrap up this post, here’s what’s in my camera bag during winter shoots:

Those are my top 10 Tips & Tricks to getting better Winter photographs. Stay safe if you plan on venturing out into the cold, and until next time, get out and go shoot!

About the Author: JT Armstrong is an award-winning military photographer and is currently the video director for the U.S. Space Force. He runs the Youtube channel RunNGun Photo that focuses on sharing photography tips, tricks, and hacks. This article was also published here.

This Company is Making Wholly Original, Affordable, Customizable Medium Format Film Cameras

In 2016 and again in 2018, PetaPixel featured the work of Dora Goodman, a woman who was adding hand-crafted elements to analog cameras. Fast forward to 2021, and Goodman has gone steps further and finally created cameras of her own design.

When Goodman started her project almost five years ago the business was built around reskinning cameras with wood, leather, or any special material. Though a handcrafted process, the cameras were still Nikon, Pentacon, Hasselblad, or whichever brand but were just redesigned aesthetically.

Goodman and her team always dreamt of being more than a reskin service.

“We always had the dream to leave a mark in the analog photo industry and we really wanted to create actually our own cameras,” she tells PetaPixel. “Our first trials were the wooden cameras (I mean totally made out of wood), which we still love, but then we realized that is a huge amount of work and very slow, so we could not build a business only on this, even if our community loved it.”

In recent years, 3D printing has become more accessible at a low cost, and Goodman decided to look into that as a possible way to expand her business.

“We started to experiment and it turned out that this technology is working great for us! It resulted for us in cameras that function perfectly and also look great,” she says, smiling. “It is a continuously developing technology and we love that it is so flexible, it almost has no boundaries – people are printing everything from organs to houses.”

Using 3D printing has allowed Goodman and her team additional advantages over building everything from wood by hand.

“Thanks to this method, we can continuously upgrade our cameras, anytime we have a new idea we make a design, print it and in a few hours we see if it is working or if it looks good,” she explains. “It’s easy to tweak and fine-tune our products.”

No longer is it a challenge to find specific parts.

“We love that when we have an idea that we need something special accessory for a camera, we do not need to hunt for that, but we can design and print it. It is so cool! The process is fast, effective, and cost-efficient, which can result in the affordable cameras we sell.”

Goodman is focusing her business on 3D printed cameras now, and has released two custom, unique Goodman originals that she hopes will let them leave their mark on the analog photography world.

The Goodman Zone Medium Format Camera

Launched in October of 2019, the Goodman Zone Camera is available open-source but also it is possible to order from Goodman’s online store. Goodman says that she and her team understand that it is not always easy to find new or used medium format film cameras in good condition and also at a good price, so when they designed this camera the goal was to provide a professional and affordable medium format camera an entry-level price to give everyone the opportunity to try out medium format photography.

Processed with VSCO with c8 preset
Processed with VSCO with c8 preset

“Originally, we designed it to work with the Mamiya RB67 back and Mamiya Press Lenses. In the first year it was available only in a DIY kit, meaning that all the parts are pre-printed and all the necessary hardware, tools, etc are included in the package, and you just need to sit down, take some time for yourself and assemble your own camera,” she explains.

“Building your own camera is such a special process, we definitely recommend to every photographer to experience this joy it gives, and that special bond you will have with this camera.”

As Goodman alluded to, thanks to the process of how they make their cameras, building out a design never has to be a “finished” process.

“Since then we are always developing the Zone, we launched a lot of small accessories, and in the last few months, the biggest development was a helical lens adapter with ground glass (also 3d printed) that makes it possible to attach a wider variety of lenses now to the Zone. Also now in January we are launching the Goodman 6×6 Magazine, a 3D printed back that fits our Zone, so from now it will have an alternative to the Mamiya rb67 back.”

Just in the last month, Goodman launched the ability for customers to order pre-assembled cameras, as they realized not everyone has the time and patience to build their own.

The Scura 3D Printed Pinhole Camera

Goodman’s second camera offering is available in 35mm or 6×6 formats and was launched in March of 2020. Just like with the Zone, the Scura is available as open-source so you can build it yourself, a DIY kit or, now, as a fully assembled camera and is recommended for both beginners and advanced photographers who are looking to experience the unique world of pinhole photography.

The tiny camera obscura was designed with a special curved back, so the light can reach the film evenly, which results in distortion-free images. Furthermore, it has a laser-drilled pinhole plate with a microscopic accuracy that is a perfectly even and smooth cut,” Goodman says. “It is a fun yet powerful pocket camera for capturing moments. A camera with a simple, easily manageable mechanism and minimalist design. The Scura pocket camera is tiny and super lightweight (only 0.2 kg) so it easily fits into your pocket in any condition.”

Custom Cameras

For 2021, Goodman says their goal is to create custom cameras based on the Goodman Zone body.

“We get a lot of requests from our community to build them a whole setup so they do not need to hunt lenses and backs. We want to make each of these requests special with our ideas like a special accessory, color, wooden inlay, etc, so all will be different and there will be only one from these custom editions.

Below are a few examples of custom cameras Goodman and her team have already completed.

“We love combining different materials and also we love to experience with the endless possibility of 3D printing,” she says.

In addition to the cameras, Goodman says they enjoy tinkering with other interesting gadget ideas.

“On the side, we always experiment with 3D printing and we love to create any kind of gadget that actually comes into our mind. For example, we developed a 3D printed gimbal that you can use with your smartphone and with a plastic bottle, or our recent innovation is a cold brew coffee maker (that is not launched yet but will be in a month), that is such a cool thing, and does actually make really great coffee!”

Goodman’s choice to not only offer cameras as a DIY or fully-assembled but also as open-source for anyone to build shows a dedication to making photography available to anyone, anywhere, simply for the love of the craft.

Below, Goodman provided a set of images taken with the Goodman Zone camera:

To look at the full Goodman camera offerings, check out their online store here. You can also follow Dora and her work on Instagram.

Image credits: All photos courtesy Dora Goodman and used with permission.