Other Side Drive: Monday

todayMarch 4, 2013 7

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Last week Alex Frank offered a DIY upgrade to your camera strap and the first part of Electric Eye’s guide to SXSW.

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    Other Side Drive: Monday

Electric Eye – EP 5

By: Alex Frank

Most, if not all cameras come with a strap, and if you’re interested keeping your camera in good working order, I’d suggest always using it. The strap that came with my Canon DSLR is basic, and durable, but suffers from a fatal flaw, it’s a complete pain to remove and reattach to your camera. This problem is solved with a quick trip to the hardware store and a few thin dimes. All you’ll need to buy are 4 key rings and 2 small carabiners, preferably stainless steel as to avoid rust. Attach one key ring to each end of your strap and clip on the caribiner. Next, take the other two keyrings and attach one to each strap mount on your camera body.  Now you can easily attach and remove your strap painlessly.

Since its inception in 1987 SXSW has grown from a small local music event, to a dynamic hotbed for music, technology, and film. Some Austinites see the influx of California carpetbaggers and Johnny Dallas’ as a burden, others an opportunity to score some free booze and see up and coming musical acts during Spring Break.

As someone that’s never been fond of large crowds, or people in general , I’ve decided to create a SXSW guide for photographers, and people with crippling social anxiety.

This first installment will cover the load-out stage, and give you the best starting position before tackling this event.

SXSW has three sections: interactive, film, and music. I’m going to be focusing more on the music portion purely because it’s going to take place in a wider array of environments. Also, that’s the portion I’m covering, and honestly Interactive will have a homogeneous lighting environment (indoors, harsh lighting), and film will be red carpet jazz and panel shoots. Not my bag.

You’re going to want to prepare for every possible lighting condition, because you will be run through the gamut, from awful club lighting to outdoor concerts at Auditorium shores, and god forbid, photo booths.

This is where you’re going to have to make some choices, and choose your character class. Are you going to be a rogue, opt for stealth and pack light, possibly utilze a fashionable fannypack? Are you going to tough it out warrior style and bring everything you have, and constantly re-buff with renal shocking energy drinks? Personally, I’m going Wizard style, with my +12 bag of holding, +6 vest of fortitude, and rely on the elements and parlor tricks for lighting. Anyways, the main goal is to find a balance between mobility and utility. You’re going to be on your feet all day so packing the right bag will be key.
My main load out will be nearly identical to the one I used when covering Fun Fun Fun Fest. I’m starting with a back pack since it will have a more even weight distribution and offer more protection against the elements. It’s too far out to get a good estimate of the weather, but it’s either going to be hot or raining, so I’ll be bringing my waterproof camera case, which also holds two lenses and fits nicely into my backpack. I’m only bringing 3 lenses to South by, my 50mm prime, 8mm fisheye, and a 70-200 IS USM 2.8L that I’m renting for the week. The 50 will have me covered for portraits, low-light situations, and venues where I can be mobile. It offers the widest depth of field and best low light performance out of the lenses i own, so itll be on my camera the most. The fisheye is perfect for crowd shots and wonky portraits if you’re into that. The 70-200 is going to be for the outdoor shows at Auditorium Shores, larger venues or times when I can’t get close enough to the subjects and need the reach. I’m also bringing my flash, because it’s the only way to make the fisheye useable indoors, and I might feel like bleaching someone’s retina if they get too close to me. Another important thing to bring is a video camera if your DSLR doesn’t have the capabilities and your phone is old and sad. Maybe the organization you’re with needs video footage for a SXSW montage, whatever the reason, you’ll probably want to be able to shoot video as well. You’re also going to want to bring a pocket voice recorder, or your phone if it’s as good as mine. There’s a good chance you’ll have to interview a band, and maybe you shouldn’t have picked Journalism as your major if you have panic attacks when you interview people. Even if that’s the case, you can edit yourself out of the interview and save yourself years of embarrassment. You’re going to be using your camera all day, bring all the batteries you have. I’m afraid you interpreted that as bring a lot of batteries, but bring all the batteries you have. You can find off brand batteries made by Opteka or whoever, online for a few sheckles, I’m bring 4 battery packs for my camera and extra AA batteries for my flash and recorder. Pack your charger, maybe you’ll get some quality time with an outlet and you can charge those bats. I can also without a doubt garauntee that your phone will die, more than 280,000 people attended SXSW last year, and subsequently flooded the phone networks. Big Blue, and Big Red will surely bring supplemental cell towers to SXSW as they’ve done for the past few years, but your phone will die faster due to how much use it’ll get, whether you’re scouting venues, keeping up with twitter to find secret shows (maybe Jack White shows up outside the Jack Rabbit and does another acoustic set, you’ll want to be there), or coordinating plans of attack with your comrades. Luckily there will more than likely be charging kiosks outside the convention center with plugs for most phones, but do yourself a favor and bring your phone charger and maybe an external battery case.  Last year at fun fun fun fest i think I took around 600 pictures the first day, shooting in camera RAW, that’s more than 12GB. You should plan on taking tons of pictures, therefore you should also bring as many memory cards as you can. I usually have about 40GB across three SD cards just to be safe, again, be they SD or CF, they can be found for relatively cheap online. I’d also recommend packing a first-aid kit, a minimal one with band-aids, sunscreen, antiseptic and asprin. You never know what’s going to happen. If you know you’re going to be shooting a lot of video you’re going to want to pack a tripod, but this also be the right time to invest in a monopod since they are more compact and will be more than capable of replacing a tripod in most situations. Since this is Texas you’re also going to be required under the social contract to bring deodorant because you will smell awful, and out of courtesy you should mask that funk. Another thing to keep in mind is that your first day load out won’t be flawless, make adjustments to what you bring,keeping in mind what you’ll be covering that day is the best way to pare down the essentials. Also, SXSW is a marathon, not a sprint, conserve energy and take breaks or you won’t last the whole week.

Now that your bag is ready, I’ll cover attire. Check the weather, and dress appropriately. I plan on wearing cutoff shorts, a t-shirt and a denim vest the entire week, weather permitting. Staying cool, and looking good are important, normally I don’t condone the wearing of shorts, but you will regret wearing skinny jeans to SXSW if you’re going to be there all day. There’s also a chance that venues will enforce a dress code, so if you’re a man, don’t wear a tank top because even though this is Austin, there’s a chance they won’t let you through the door looking like a scrub. The most important attire decision you will make is the shoes you wear. You’ll be walking from venue to venue, and be on your feet for most of the day. Good shoes will prevent back pain, blisters, and fatigue.

If you’re above the age of 21, there will be free alcohol in pretty much every direction you look, if you’re with an organization, act professionally and drink in moderation. Also stay hydrated, and eat healthy.

Two weeks ago, Electric Eye’s installment covered the basics of long-exposure photography and a review of the YongnuoYN560-II speedlite.

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    Other Side Drive: Monday

Electric Eye – EP4

By: Alex Frank

The Yongnuo yn560-II speedlite is an inexpensive alternative to pricier name-brand strobes. While it lacks advanced features like E-TTL, which uses a pre-flash that allows your camera to properly meter the lighting conditions, it makes up for in ease of use and price. Off-brand flashes like these are often capable of being used on any camera body, this one’s no exception, and I’ve used it on both a Nikon and Canon body with great results. One glaring drawback is the inability to take advantage of my camera’s rear-curtain flash feature; Canon disables this feature on third-party flashes. The design is undeniably copied from Canon’s popular 580EX speedlite, and has the ability to rotate 270 degrees, and tilt 90 degrees from its initial forward position. It’s also as hefty as the 580EX, weighing in at seven-tenths of a pound, which some may find a drawback. There’s also a built in pop-up diffuser and reflector card, but I didn’t find them all that useful, but they come in handy if you didn’t bring one. A benefit of copying the 580EX is that most of the accessories will fit the YN560-II (diffusers, light boxes, etc…). This strobe offers 4 modes: manual (basic flash function), slave (which fires the flash when another flash fires within 15 meters), and multi-mode (which will fire the flash multiple times). In all modes you’re able to adjust the flash output and zoom (which will go from 24 to 105mm), which makes it perfect as a beginner flash. Overall the YN560-II offers enough features at an affordable price to make it a passable strobe. My only problem is the lack of rear-curtain flash.
While fiddling with your camera’s shutter speed, you may have noticed light trails or blurring, when photographing moving objects. Doing this intentionally is known as long-exposure photography. This style of photography can allow you to create some insane pictures either by utilizing available light or manipulating it with fireworks, steel wool, or leds.
There are a few things to keep in mind in order to make your experiences with long exposure photography more fruitful. I recommend using a tripod, since the sensor will be open to light for longer periods of time it’ll be more susceptible to motion blur, which looks bad in most cases, unless it’s intentional. You’ll also want a remote shutter trigger (basic ones can be found for around $10), even on a tripod just pressing the shutter release button on your camera will cause a noticeable amount of blur. You’ll also want to put your camera in live mode if you have it, since it’ll give you a better idea of what the picture’s going to look like. Settings wise, keep your ISO low, usually 100 – 200, since the shutter will be open lorger than in normal situations a lower ISO can be used to reduce grain and prevent the image from becoming over exposed. Your aperture and shutter speed will be dependent on the lens you have and the time it’ll take to complete the actions you’re capturing. Personally I’d set my Aperture for a wide depth of field so more of the image is in focus, but again, this all depends on the desired effect. My go to lens for long-exposures is my 50mm with an F-stop of about 5 since it offers more clarity. The shutter speed you use will be dependent on the length of the action you wish to capture and whether or not you have someone helping you with your shot. If you’re doing this by yourself use one of the timed shutter speeds and try to work within those constraints, if you have a remote trigger or a partner, use the bulb setting. This setting will keep the shutter open for as long as you have the shutter release button pressed.
The two main uses for long-exposures are in light painting and landscape photography. Light painting is one of my favorite techniques because it can create surreal effects and finally give you an excuse to buy sparklers. On my last trip to Galveston, TX, a few friends and I went to an abandoned military fort and shot off some fireworks. Luckily my friends are as reckless as I am and were willing to spin lit fireworks attached to rope around in the air while I took pictures. The best part about using fireworks is that the light source is completely random and can create some bonkers effects. Normally complete darkness is the best lighting conditions for light painting, but the full moon in this instance helped define the details of the fort without the use of another light source. One of my favorite shots was when my friend traced a stone staircase on the side of the fort with a sparkler. (insert that picture here) The sparkler created a glowing, erratic line down the stairs but my friend didn’t show up because he wasn’t being illuminated and wasn’t standing still long enough to properly expose himself (stupid SFX). Using fireworks while light painting is extremely dangerous and can easily result in a fire, so I don’t recommend you do it, my friends happened to be sailors and have taken firefighting classes. The safe way to light paint is by using leds, which is easier since you can buy them at almost any store and you won’t get a ticket for reckless endangerment. With leds you can spin them around to create a sphere (insert picture of sphere), trace something or just draw in the air. If you’re in an area that is particularly dark you can also shine a flashlight briefly on different objects or people, which will expose the sensor with the thing you illuminated while leaving unexposed areas dark. Since we’re in Central Texas, a hotbed for hippies, there’s bound to be a person dancing with fire or using an led hula-hoop, these actions look amazing at a slow shutter speed. (insert that hula-hoop picture).
Another use for long exposure photography is for landscapes and nature shots. While freezing the motion of a river can make for a good photo, you can make a more interesting picture by slowing the shutter speed. The movement of the water will cause it to blur, while the surroundings should be relatively crisp, since trees tend to stay relatively still when there’s no wind, creating a more engaging photograph. Long exposures cause blurs and light trails, which convey motion and serves as another tool in your bag of mystical knowledge.

A written transcript and recording of this episode, including example photographs can be found online at http://www.lalexfrank.com/electriceye.html

Intro music was performed by yours truly, and the segment music was kablooey by Zane Fresh

Last week in technology news, a security firm blames the Chinese military for the recent ongoing cyber attacks, and a new Twitter app promises to keep you tweeting after you’ve passed.

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    Other Side Drive: Monday

Tech Talk – EP 5

In recent times, U.S. companies as well as the U.S. Government has been falling victim to large groups of cyber attacks. These attacks have seemed for the most part to originate from China but nothing was known as far as what group was committing the crime. A recent report done by the New York Times points to a secret Chinese Army unit as the culprit of the attacks. The report follows the hidden army unit to a single building on the outskirts of Shanghai. The group is said to target U.S. critical infrastructure (power grid, waterworks, etc.) and large U.S. businesses. A security firm known as Mandiant has been tracking the army unit for six years. Mandiant has watched the group steal technology blueprints, clinical trial results, negotiation strategies, manufacturing processes, and other proprietary information from the United States and its Businesses. Mandiant has identified attacks on 20 different industries including military contractors, chemical plants, mining companies, and satellite telecommunications corporations to name a few. Obama has publicly acknowledged these official attacks, regardless of the Chinese government denying the existence of the unit. During Obama’s State of The Union address, he said, “We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets…Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air-traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.” The U.S. Cyber Command has increased its number of cyber soldiers and is one of the only defense departments that is growing in staff and funding. The white house reported that it will be considering fines and trade penalties aimed at China in response to these ongoing attacks.

Have you ever wanted to live forever? Well now you can!…sort of…but not really. A new Twitter app promises to keep you tweeting after you have passed on. The app is known as LivesOn and creators say it will learn how you tweet and begin updating your Twitter account forever. The app is an artificial intelligence that not only learns your tweeting habits, but what you like and dislike. After you have passed the app will tweet as if it were you. Some including the creators believe it is a way to live beyond the grave. Dave Bedwood is a partner with the agency behind LivesOn and a full supporter. In an interview with the Guardian Bedwood said, “It offends some and delights others…imagine if people started to see it as a legitimate but small way to live on. Cryogenics costs a fortune; this is free and I’d bet it will work better than a frozen head.” The app is set to release in March of this year. It does beg the question as to whether an individual follower would continue to follow an A.I. posing as their recently deceased friend. Its more of something we would see in a futuristic sci-fi movie where robots begin to take over. With regard to this app, will Twitter still count the tweets in their census, or do only non A.I. tweets count? Would you download it? Or is this an app to be placed in the strange and weird file?

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    Other Side Drive: Monday

Tech Talk – EP 5

By: Colton Matocha

Exciting news two weeks ago as Colton covered new Google stores, Facebook auto-play video ads, and a new transparent phone. All on Tech Talk.

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    Other Side Drive: Monday

Tech Talk – EP 4

By: Colton Matocha

Google is reportedly entering the retail market. 9to5Google has reported that the company will be setting up its own retail stores, the first of which is scheduled to open by the end of 2013. The store would be Google run from top to bottom and would sell items like Chromebooks, the Nexus series, and even the new and unreleased Google Glass. Google is said to feel that customers are not always able to try out the products before purchasing them. In light of this Google wanted to develop a way to bring the products to customers so that they can try them out. A retail store was the best option to do that. Another likely reason for Google to make the retail store happen points to Google Glass. Google Glass is the company’s latest product. It’s a pair of glasses that contain a screen and will bring the internet ever closer and more accessible. Google Glass will not be cheap so the company believes it will need more than just the play store this time around. The announcement leaves others wondering if a Google store could have the same success as the Apple store has. For now it looks like we’ll just have to wait and see. No word yet on where the locations would be, but expect to know soon. The first one is said to open sometime in late 2013.

It may not be long before auto play video ads start appearing in your news feed. Facebook CMO David Fischer admitted auto-play video ads would be coming to Facebook soon. Auto-play videos are videos that automatically play with no input from the user. While that may sound like a futuristic way to watch videos keep in mind, the videos themselves are actually ads. This means that video ads will begin to play whether you want them to or not, when you use Facebook. Fischer admitted that auto play videos might be distracting, but said “I believe there are ways we could do it.” It’s no secret that facebook has been looking for ways to gain revenue, However, this is the first time they have taken such a direct approach. It almost feels like they have reached the end of the line and have become desperate! Either way we can expect to be annoyed by video ads that we didn’t ask for.

Has the transparent smartphone finally arrived? Yes, well, sort of. Originally excitement was brewing over Sony Ericson’s new phone but that fell flat as well as the subsequent concept designs which never came to fruition. This all left us with lost hopes and semi-transparent phones. Don’t lose all hope though. Taiwan-based Polytron Technologies is trying to resurrect the dying dream. It has brought to the table a transparent multi-touch display in prototype form. The technology that makes this possible is known as Switchable Glass Technology, Its a conductive OLED that uses liquid crystal molecules to display images. When the phone is in off mode the molecules form a white cloudy composition, however, once activated via electric current they realign to form text, icons, and images. The phone is currently not completely transparent, however, the company says it will have all the kinks worked out by the end of 2013.

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