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Other Side Drive: Monday

todayMarch 25, 2013 2

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osd_monday

Electric Eye

By: Alex Frank

Episode 1

This week’s installment will cover the basics of image exposure and canon’s latest affordable full-frame camera, the canon 6D

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    Other Side Drive: Monday

Electric Eye-EP1

Canon released an update to it’s pro-grade line of EOS digital cameras in December, the Canon 6D is the latest entry into their line of affordable full-frame DSLRs. While not as fully featured as the current choice of professional photographers, the 5D mark III, the 6D combines the sought after video processing of the mark III while retaining the image sensor of the 5D mark II. It packs a 20.2 mp full-frame CMOS sensor into a relatively small camera, and also has an 11-point af with a 63-zone dual-level metering sensor as well as a built in GPS receiver and wi-fi  transmitter

 For my first installment of beginner photography tips I thought I’d start with the basics of shooting in manual mode. While your camera’s automatic setting can do all the work in order to properly expose the sensor, it can’t predict how you want your image to look. On most cameras manual mode is designated by the letter ‘M’ on your mode selection wheel. The three factors in taking a properly exposed image are your shutter speed, ISO, and aperture; all of which you will have control of in manual mode. Shutter speed is notated in seconds and is a measure of the time the shutter will stay open to expose light to the sensor. The faster the shutter speed, the less time light has to expose the sensor. So, in low-light situations the shutter speed should be decreased, but outside during the day fast shutter speeds are preferred, especially when photographing moving objects. ISO is the camera’s sensitivity to light; the higher the ISO, the more sensitive the sensor is to light. While most DSLRs have ISO ranges in upwards of 25600, for my camera, it’s not recommended to go above 800 in low-light situations, as it will introduce color noise to the image and degrade it’s clarity, but this can be fixed in post at the cost of image sharpness. The third component to manual mode is aperture size. Apertures are divided into F/stops and the lower the stop the larger the opening of the aperture. The widest aperture is dependent on the type of lens you have; for instance the lowest f-stop on my canon 50mm is 1.8, which is a wide aperture and will give you a shallow depth of field while a narrow aperture will give you a broader depth of field.While aperture has an effect on focus, it also has an effect on the amount of light that’s let into the sensor. Lower f-stops (wide aperture) will allow more light into the sensor while a higher f-stop will allow less light in. So in low light situations I would want to set my aperture as wide as I can to let the most light in, but this narrows the field of focus and will soften the edges of the image, which can be a desired effect. A wider aperture can also create a blurred background also known as “bokeh” which draws focus to the subject and separates it from the background. This is especially useful in instances where the background is too busy and needs to be softened to keep focus on the subject.

Finding the right balance between these three settings is the first obstacle to overcome while improving as a photographer.

Next week I’ll be covering the topic of low-light concert photography and offer a DIY solution for photographers who forgot to bring a flash diffuser to an event.

Episode 2

This week’s installment will cover the basics of low-light concert photography and a DIY flash diffuser.

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    Other Side Drive: Monday

Electric Eye-EP2

Now that you’ve learned the basics of manual mode, you’ll probably want to apply them to real world situations. One of the more initially daunting and vastly popular fields of photography is concert photography. There are some ground rules to adhere by when shooting at live music venues, especially large ones. Small venues around San Marcos like Triple Crown or Taxi’s don’t have many rules for photographers; like needing a press badge, limited shooting periods or not allowing the use of flashes. Larger venues have more strict guidelines and will often require press credentials if you want to bring a pro-grade camera, which you should because nobody cares about your poorly exposed, noise-covered photos from your phone. Venues that require press credentials also tend to have shooting slots, which are usually the first three songs of the set and they won’t let you use a flash. Here’s the thing though, you don’t need to use your flash, in fact I’d even go as far as telling you to never use your built in flash ever again. Keep an eye on the lighting. Patterns often repeat and ifyou can time your shutter with a flash of light you’re in business, and there’s a chance that the stage lighting froze the action. Another important thing to remember is to be courteous to your fellow photographers, you’ll more than likely see them again at other concerts.

Before you leave for your event, make sure you’ve formatted your cards, charged your batteries and checked your lenses and sensors for dust. I always bring extra batteries (you can buy knockoffs online at a steep discount) and memory cards. Lens-wise I like to pack light so I stick to my 50mm and my 8mm fisheye. Clubs generally offer the freedom to move so use your legs as the zoom, you’ll need the wider aperture that prime lenses offer. I also always bring a small pocket knife; you never know when you need to fashion something out of bar scraps and I’ll get to that later on.

The first thing you need to do when you get to a venue is get a feel for the lighting. I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be awful and will change throughout the event. Arriving early and getting an idea of your base settings will be key to getting successful shots, you don’t want to be fumbling with settings instead of focusing on your subject. Since it’s dark, I’ll set my ISO to 800 and my aperture to it’s lowest setting and go from there, you will need to increase your f-stop if you’re taking group shots, but for medium and close-ups, low is your friend. You’ll want to get base settings for the stage, crowd, and any other shots you’ll be getting, like photo ops or what have you. In addition, you’ll also want to set your camera to shoot in RAW if you have photo editing software, so you can correct the white balance and tweak your photos with more control. If you’re name is Sweet Brown and you don’t have time for that, shoot in jpeg.

The main obstacle in concert photography is the low-lighting, because when you open your aperture and slow the shutter speed you’ll properly expose the photograph but you’ll also lose image clarity because your subject decided to move while performing, their malfeasance aside, you should have expected that. Put your camera in multi-shot mode so you can fire away and hopefully hit your target. Adjust your shutter speed to capture the motion but keep an eye on your light metering system in your viewfinder. The main thing is to take more pictures than you think you need, I may get 30-40 good shots at an event but they came out of 300 or more terrible pictures.

Keep in mind the kind of shots you need to get: full band, individual members (don’t forget the drummer), crowd, close-ups of that dude that just got punched in the face, be creative.

Back to why you should always bring a knife. Say you packed your new external flash but left your diffuser at home. You’re not just going to use that harsh flash and blow people’s faces out unless you’re on 6th Street in Austin shooting crowd shots on Thirsty Thursdays at a bar named after a famous play write. Most bars will have a water cooler with cups, which will probably be those slightly opaque plastic cups and in that case you’re set. If you’re using your pop-up flash, which I told you not to, just put the cup over your flash (and if you smell burning stop this immediately) and if you want to get fancy you can use that knife you brought and the can from that beer you just finished to cut a reflector out that the cup will fit inside. If you’re using a proper flash, youl can cut a rectangle roughly the size of your flash and tape it on, or hold it if you’re tape-less. Use these DIY tips at your own risk, and use your common sense, your camera isn’t supposed to smell like burnt plastic.

Next week I’ll cover proper flash technique and give a review of Rokinon’s 8mm cinema fisheye.

Episode 3

This Week’s installment covers the basics of flash photography and a review of Rokinon’s 8mm cinema fisheye lens.

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    Other Side Drive: Monday

Electric Eye-EP3

The Rokinon 8mm T3.8 ultra wide fisheye lens is an affordable alternative to Canon and Nikon’s offerings. Higher-end fisheye lenses tend to have a focusing chip that will communicate with the camera body; the Rokinon lacks that and requires full manual operation. However, this is not a problem as you can put your camera in live view and use the focus scaling ring to get everything in focus, which pretty much everything will be. I got the best results while setting the T-stop to between 8 and 11; though this does reduce the amount of light hitting the sensor,it’s not an issue outdoors. You’ll also be likely to get some J.J. Abrams style lens flares on your images due to the shape and protuberance of the lens.

When using this lens indoors I recommend using a flash for best results but since most flashes don’t zoom wider than 24mm you’ll have a vignette around where the flash hit.

The main thing I had to keep in mind while using this lens was that you need to get much closer to subjects than you’re probably used to, and keep in mind that low angles are your friend. Overall this lens offers excellent image quality, especially for the price, and can add surrealistic variety to your shots.

I’m sure you’ve come across someone’s profile picture that looks ungodly, sterile and blown out. This is the result of improper flash technique or in about 90% of the cases the direct result of using a cellphone with an unflattering built in flash located millimeters from the lens. I have a few tips that can prevent you from looking like a jabroni and your subjects from looking sterile and featureless.

First, you’re going to want to get an external flash, yes they are expensive, especially the Canon and Nikon ones. Top tier flashes are in the $500 range and offer more features than you’re probably going to need in the beginning. You can either purchase a lower end name-brand flash or buy a third-party scrimshaw flash that looks like it’s better than it is. The main thing to consider is if you want the ability to use a 2nd curtain flash, Canon disables this feature if you don’t have one of their flashes. Second or rear-curtain refers to the timing of when the flash fires, which is right before the shutter closes. This function is used heavily in concert photography and will add ghosting or light trails to your shot, while also freezing the motion. Even the lowest tier Canon flashes have this ability. If you’re not terribly interested in rear-curtain sync you can buy a significantly cheaper third-party flash like a Yongnuo or sunpak. I also recommend purchasing a remote trigger, and if you’re feeling indulgent, a stand and umbrella for you flash, as it will open up more interesting lighting options. When using your strobe on your camera’s hot shoe mount there are two easy methods for achieving a flattering exposure. The first one is bouncing the light from your flash off the ceiling, which will act as a fill light and prevent unsightly shadows being cast behind the subject. This technique is highly environmentally dependent; it works best on light colored (black paint will absorb the light) low ceilings (if it’s too high the light won’t bounce back). The easier of the two methods is to buy a diffuser; they’re dirt-cheap and make a world of difference. Diffusers cut down on the harshness of the flash and distribute the light particles more evenly.

If you’re shooting sports, especially skateboarding, you’re going to need a remote trigger and a flash stand or else you’re not going to have a good time. Your strobe can only emit light so far before it dissipates too much to effectively illuminate your subject. While shooting with my friend at a skatepark in Pflugerville I set the strobe on top of the ramp, slightly out of frame and aimed it at about where I thought he was going to be. This resulted in an image with the subject fully illuminated against a relatively dark background and adds some zazz to his trick.

(The picture below is Thrasher worthy Alex!)

Properly illuminating moving subjects with an off camera flash can be challenging and hopefully you’ll get proper lighting during the first few failed attempts at the trick.

Another excellent use for your external flash is portrait photography. I’m not a fan of this type of photography since I used to work at a mall photo studio, but maybe you’ll like it. Changing the position of the flash with relation to your subject can add a variety of dramatic effects to your image. My favorite use of an external strobe is for hatchet lighting, where one side of your subjects face is illuminated while the other is engulfed in shadow. This effect is achieved by pointing the strobe at your subject from the side (90 degrees from your focal plane).

You can move the flash above, below, or even at a 45 degree angle from your focal place which creates the “Rembrandt effect” if you’re feeling coquettish. You can even buy more than one strobe as most transceivers can handle multiple units and higher end flashes can trigger other flashes when they’re within line of sight.

Personally, I try to minimize my use reliance on strobes and only use them when I absolutely have to, mainly for portraits and skateboarding. It’s good practice to carry one with you to events, you never know when you’re going to need one.

Next weeks episode will cover the basics of long exposure photography and a review of the yongnuo speed lite yn560-II.

Episode 4

This Week’s installment covers the basics of long-exposure photography and a review of the Yongnuo YN560-II speedlite.

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Electric Eye-EP4

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.

Next week ill begin my first segment in my SXSW Trilogy, SXSW: a photographers guide, or how not to die.

Episode 5

This Week’s installment offers a DIY upgrade to your camera strap and the first part of Electric Eye’s guide to SXSW.

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Electric Eye-EP5

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.

Episode 6

This is the second installment of the SXSW Photography trilogy; in it I’ll discuss what to do when you’re at SXSW and how to get the shots/footage that you want.

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Electric Eye-EP6

This is the second installment of my neurotic photographer’s guide to SXSW.

Now that you’ve figured out what to pack beforehand, I’m going to explain the lay of the land, and how to get the shots and footage needed to be successful at SXSW.

To be honest, I’m getting a headache just thinking about SXSW. There’s going to be thousands of people coursing through the city, and music bleeding onto the streets. It’s going to be a Californian zerg rush.

Before I get into the pith of this segment, I recently came across a website, sx.willcall.com. This website harvests your personal information from Facebook and automatically RSVPs you to just about every event at SXSW. If you don’t have credentials, you can still have a great time if you’re willing to stand in line for eons and RSVP till your fingers bleed.

First and foremost, you should make a schedule of the events you’re going to cover. Having a smartphone makes this infinitely easier, since SXSW releases a pretty substantial app every year that allows you to create a custom schedule and set alarms for events. Knowing when and where you need to be during South-By is important if you want to stay sane.

Once you figure out where you’re going to shoot, there are some important rules that SXSW requires you to follow, depending on the type of event you’re at. Put simply, there are two types of events at SXSW, Official and Unofficial; after all, industry events. Official SXSW events have a standard set of rules put in place. First, they require that you have press credentials if you want to bring in any professional camera equipment. Professional camera equipment usually means cameras with removable lenses, even if it’s a micro 4/3s or Rebel series camera. If you don’t have credentials, I’m not suggesting that you wear a hoodie and sneak a camera in anyway. Official events also have the standard shooting guidelines like;  you can only shoot during the first 3 songs of an artists’ set, and you can’t broadcast more than 45 seconds of it (you also need to get consent from the artists to shoot video). These are pretty much universal guidelines for any event that requires press credentials. I do have some bad news for y’all; Official SXSW events are much harder to get into than Unofficial ones. There will be 3 lines at each event you attend: badges, wristbands, and public. Badges get preferential admission followed by wristbands, and space permitting they’ll start letting in the general admission line and charge you a nominal cover fee. You probably won’t get into the headlining events if you don’t have a badge or a wristband; even having a wristband doesn’t guarantee entry. If you’ve lost faith, I’ll bring you right back around because Unofficial SXSW events and day parties provide excellent photo opportunities at no cost. Many bands play Official and Unofficial events in order to reach a broader audience. Check the schedule, I know for a fact that bigger artists, like the guy who sings the thrift shop song, play multiple showcases. The key to romping on some Unofficial SXSW events are your smartphone and social networks, free shows pop up unannounced and if you have your ear to the ground you can get there and see some awesome performances. The thing about Unofficial events is that their guidelines for shooting are going to vary from venue to venue. But they’ll probably be a more relaxed version of the Official SXSW guidelines. If you want to be safe, e-mail the venues you want to check out and inquire about their camera policies, or just show up and hope for the best. You can run the risk of being turned away at an event and it filling up by the time you get back from your car after putting your camera away. Personally, if my main reason for being at SXSW is for pictures, I’d risk it since I don’t have a point n’ shoot camera that I trust (and I’m not about to put my name on some pictures I took with my phone). Good photojournalists get the shot, and sometimes it means breaking a few rules, but you shouldn’t listen to me and my flagrant disregard for authority. But for real though,  don’t do anything too serious, you don’t want your organization to get a bad rap because you’re a rule-breaker.

Once you get through all the SXSW rigmarole, it becomes your basic festival or concert photo shoot, except it lasts for a whole week (and way too many L.A. guys).

Whether you’re at Auditorium Shores, or outside Red 7, the principles are the same. If it’s daytime, keep your ISO low, and your shutter speed high, and do whatever you want artistically with the aperture. You’ll probably only need a long lens if you’re shooting at Auditorium Shores, since you’ll probably be far from the stage.

The indoor shoots will be more difficult; especially the larger venues like ACL Live. Shoot in RAW so you can tweak the WB later and get rid of all that obtrusive noise from shooting at higher ISOs. For smaller venues I’m going to keep my 50mm lens on for the majority of the set since I’ll be able to get enough shots by moving around, and the low aperture setting will allow better low light shots sans flash. If it’s a larger venue I’ll use the 70-200mm lens for the reach. For crowd shots and video I’ll use a combination of the 50mm and fisheye (which will require an additional light source). Video exposure utilizes the same principles as still photography, but since video is a continuous stream of still images you’ll need a continuously illuminated light source. You can spend a lot of money on a professional light or you can find a cheap LED array panel light that attaches to your camera’s hot shoe. Make sure your light source has a dimmer switch so you can adapt to different lighting situations. Any indoor video with my fisheye will require an external light.

Whether you’re shooting Official or Unofficial events, show up early. During the day it’s not as big of a deal to show up right at the start of the event as it is during the night. More popular shows will have longer lines (do you really need to see Paramore if it means you’ll miss three sets because you had to stand in line for an hour?).Prioritize and commoditize your shooting schedule.

Another thing you should keep in mind is that you’re not at SXSW just to take pictures of the artists; you’re also there to catalogue the cultural phenomenon of SXSW. This is the biggest photo opportunity you’ll get if you live in Austin. It’s a weird festival in a city that likes to keep it weird, so keep your eyes open for weird stuff happening in the streets. With the amount of free drinks that flows during SXSW, you’re bound to see something interesting.

Teck Talk

By: Colton Matocha

Episode 1

This week Tech Talk covers Fashwash, a way to cleanse your Facebook page, And how one student goes from campus hero, to expelled zero.

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Tech Talk-EP1

Many of us have, from time to time, posted something to Facebook that we maybe later regretted. Maybe it was an angry rant, or a moment of slight immaturity. Perhaps it was even an alcohol induced stroke of genius…or not. Whatever the case we’ve almost all had our not so shiny moments; which would be fine, a natural reaction to the world. Unfortunately, the post was in text with our name all over it. The problem with negative or crude posts to Facebook, or any other website for that matter, is that they tend to stick around forever. This is bad news when applying for a job, promotion, admittance to school, or even a loan. Keep in mind, professionals want to know who they are hiring, admitting, or giving a loan to; which means they will exhaust most efforts to figure you out. This will undoubtedly lead them to your Facebook  page. Fortunately, this doesn’t always mean you’re out right away…there is still hope! Cnet recently reported on a new app called Facewash. The app allows users to search for questionable material either by a predefined list or custom phrases and then present you with the results. The statuses you don’t like can then be deleted. Don’t count on the software being foolproof, but know it gives you a major advantage against the internet spies i.e: your future boss!

A bizarre turn of events in a Canadian college has sent one student from a hero to zero. Last November at Dawson College in Montreal a computer science student was expelled after he exposed a weakness in Omnivox, a system for the management of student data. Hamed Al-Khabaz was working with another student on a mobile application that would allow students to access their college accounts via their phones according to the National Post when he discovered a vulnerability that would allow anyone to obtain the social insurance number, home address, phone number, and class schedule of any student in the database. Al-Khabaz told the National Post that “[he] felt [he] had a moral duty to bring it to the attention of the college and help to fix it, which [he] did.” Al-Khabaz and his colleague were initially praised for the findings and were told that the school and the company which manages the system Skytech would work on fixing the problem immediately.  Then days later Al-Khabaz went from hero to being expelled. Still concerned that his personal information could be at risk he used a web-scanning tool to see if the flaw had been fixed. Moments later he received a call at his home from the Skytech president,[FIRST NAME?] Taza, telling him to cease and desist. He was later told that his scan was the equivalent of a cyberattack and that he could go to jail for 6 to 12 months. He was then pressured to sign a nondisclosure agreement which he did. The following Monday Al-Khabaz took the story to the National Post. Taza, told the National Post that he was happy with the work Al-Khabaz had performed in order to uncover the flaw, but that the scan he used to verify if it was fixed had crossed a line, and that he should have gained permission prior to using it. He went on to say that “…It is very clear to me that there was no malicious intent. He simply made a mistake.” The college however decided to expel him from the computer science program for “serious professional conduct”. The school had put it to a vote from computer science professors who voted 14 to 1 in favor of the punishment. Al-Khabaz was also ordered to repay the grants he received for his studies. The school later said in a statement that he had already been warned not to use the code in question and that the second use of it was in direct disobedience of school policy. Don’t worry for Al-khabaz too much though, he says following the media coverage he has received half a dozen job offers. Skytech has also offered Al-khabaz a part time job with a full scholarship to a private college if he wants it.

Episode 2

This week on Tech Talk Colton discusses the new Facebook gift card, and Microsoft’s attempt at competing with Google Drive!

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Teck Talk-EP2

Your favorite social networking site just launched its own gift card! Facebook has just rolled out The Facebook Card. If you’re confused, baffled and lost…welcome to the club. The Facebook Card is a complicated gift card which you can send to your friends over Facebook’s new online store. Clearly it’s obvious that facebook is looking for ways to raise revenue, However from a consumer standpoint it’s just plain confusing. First off, you can buy the card from the Facebook online store, but you can’t spend it on anything in that store…so you get a card stamped Facebook that can’t actually be used on Facebook. The card works like a visa prepaid card, and allows you to make purchases from authorized retailers. This is also frustrating and confusing because unlike a visa card you have a limited choice in retailers, and you must pre-determine the amount of money to be used per retailer. Which means you can’t just load the card and go, you must choose how much money is to be spent where, before you even know what you want to buy. You also have to manage the card with a facebook app, but you can’t use the app as a payment system. As if all of these things weren’t enough to turn us off “The Facebook Card” you can only use it at four retailers. Yes I said four retailers which are Target, Olive Garden, Sephora, and Jamba Juice. Can you say random?! These retailers have nothing in common! With such limitations it begs the question why even bother buying the card when you can just use cash or your debit card which can be used anywhere? But is the Facebook card even that strange in a world where Samsung is ruled by monarchy, the USA hires cyber soldiers, and google makes driverless cars? What’s next for facebook?A car you can only drive on roads beginning with F? Clothes that sport the Facebook logo? Or maybe a Facebook gift card that can’t actually be used on Facebook …oh, wait.

Microsoft has launched Office 365, as a way to compete with Google Drive, what’s the catch? you have to pay. Google Drive has been a large success due to its near universal availability, reliability, and convenience, not to mention being free to all users. Google drive is also available on most devices. It seems for some people to have become a major office and home tool. Apparently Microsoft has finally jumped on the bus. It has made its famous Microsoft Office available in online form with Office 365. The software is very similar to how Google Drive works except it contains all the features that Microsoft Office has, and can be used in Offline mode like regular Office. This means that it is a powerhouse of office technology. Infact where Google Drive is simplistic, Microsoft is packed which means you can do more. Microsoft is clearly trying to compete with Google. We’ve seen the release of Bing search engine, the Surface tablet, and now Office 365. Microsoft may be playing catch up but they also get points for insuring that their products work well. This isn’t a quick release and fix later type of company. The question we are left with is will the extra power of Microsoft Office be enough to beat out the status of free that most Google customers enjoy?

Episode 3

This week in Tech Talk, Colton talks about Dell computers going private, and a father pays his daughter to quit Facebook.

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Teck Talk-EP3

The Dell buyout is complete and the company has gone private. Swarming the tech world is the recent announcement from Dell owner Michael Dell, concerning his plans to take the company from public to private with the help of Microsoft. In the time following there has been much interest on the subject and whether Microsoft, maker of Windows, would indeed assist Dell. The rumors can now subside though because Dell has indeed become a private company with the help of Microsoft, Silver Lake, and Michael Dell. This is beneficial to Dell because they have come to rely heavily on services they provide to companies for profit. By going private they will no longer have to answer to shareholders and can gain more freedom. The company’s stocks have also not traded well in recent years due to the decline of traditional PCs which have been their flagship product. By going private they can free themselves of the needs of public investors and the scrutiny of Wall Street. This will also buy them some time, because essentially they will be working from behind a curtain. It is Dell’s hope that they will be able to create a new lineup of products which will likely have emphasis on mobile, and organize their IT services currently being provided to companies. They will also benefit from a closer relationship with Windows which could lead to better products on both ends. Not everyone is excited though, HP a long time competitor and rival of Dell released a statement bordering on fighting words. HP stated that “Dell has a very tough road ahead. The company faces an extended period of uncertainty and transition that will not be good for its customers.” HP went on to note Dells debt load. Its not a surprise that HP would react negatively. The company would not be happy to see Window’s and Dell’s partnership grow. In any case this is essentially Dell’s last chance to turn things around after ten years of failed products including, music players, tablets, phones, and more.

How much would it cost to get you to deactivate your facebook account? Fifty dollars? One hundred dollars? A million dollars? How about two hundred dollars? That’s exactly what a father in boston has done. Paul Baier and his fourteen year old daughter have reached an agreement in which his daughter will deactivate her facebook page from February 4th to June 26th of this year. In return she will receive two hundred dollars in two payments. Fifty dollars in April and the remaining one hundred and fifty to her on June twenty sixth. As part of the contract they made she will turn over her login and password information. Her father will then deactivate the account after changing the password so that she can not reactivate it in the future. The online community is split on whether this is a good parenting move or just parental bribery. Is it right to pay your daughter to quit Facebook? Does this even accomplish what is is presumed to do? Or will she simply use other sites like twitter and defeat the purpose? Regardless she’s not alone, research shows sixty one percent of Facebook users take a break from the networking site from time to time.

Episode 4

Exciting news this week as Colton covers new Google stores, Facebook auto-play video ads, and a new transparent phone. All on Tech Talk.

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Tech Talk-EP4

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.

Episode 5

This 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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Tech Talk-EP5

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?

Episode 6

This week in technology, North Korea loosens restrictions on cell phones to visitors, Apple settles a lawsuit, and one student catches a thief using a cell phone.

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Tech Talk-EP6

North Korea is now allowing visitors to receive uncensored 3G data as of March 1st. The service is not available to locals and is not free to visitors. Those who wish to have the service will have to purchase a wifi hotspot, SIM card and a certain amount of data. All in all, acquiring the 3G service will cost visitors anywhere from several hundred dollars to in the thousands. Additionally calls to Europe will cost fifty cents and calls to the U.S. an astounding seven dollars a minute. All calls to South Korea would remain blocked. This is likely being seen as North Korea’s attempt to promote itself, and gain a better foothold in the way of technology. What is amazing about this development is that North Korea won’t even offer the service to its citizens. Thus it will likely remain the country with the largest information void. It is only recently that citizens have even been allowed to own a cell phone. Even still this is only a small percent of the even smaller wealthy class. North Korea is a complete dictatorship, having been run by the same family for generations. North Korea is also known for its extreme disregard for human rights, and cruel treatment of its people. The question that remains now, is whether North Korea is attempting to change its ways or gain further control of a new frontier.

What happens when you hand a child your phone to play a game and find out later that he or she has made large amounts of in-app purchases? That is just what many people have had to deal with. Many games in the Apple store are free to download because they offer in-app purchases. In-app purchases are purchases that can be made within a game to receive bonuses quicker. Unfortunately, these purchases do not always need a password thus allowing children to make the purchase without understanding the consequences. Because of this, many people have started a long lawsuit to get their money back. Today Apple has finally agreed to settle the suit and offer customers a five dollar iTunes credit, or cash if the purchases amounted to thirty dollars or more. The settlement must be approved by the court but would end a lawsuit that began in 2011.

How far would you go to catch a backpack thief? Would you hide in a locker twice? In California a student sought out to catch a backpack thief, what she found shocked her. Money and other valuables had been disappearing during PE class when the students were not in the locker room. Student, Justine Betti, decided the best way to catch the criminal was to hide in a locker and wait. Sure enough the thief struck, only it wasn’t a student, it was everyones favorite gym teacher! Betti said she was shocked but went on to inform the school and other students of her findings. The school administrators did not believe her so she again hid in the locker, this time she utilized technology by placing cameras in several locations so as to have adequate proof. Once again the teacher struck, taking cash out of students backpacks. With evidence in hand she went to the principal who told her there would be an investigation, but strangely that she needed to delete the videos. Betti felt that that would be wrong and would constitute destroying the evidence, luckily she had already sent the video to her father and several other people. An investigation is now under way at the school and media outlets, all over town, are running the story. Was Betti right for saving the video? Should the Principle have even asked her to delete the video at all? Betti said she was a bit sad because the teacher was pretty popular around campus. “We feel like we did the right thing but it’s still,…kinda hard,” Betti said. Thanks to the rise of technology, Betti was able to catch a criminal!

 

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SXSW Film Festival 2013: “Broadway Idiot”

Despite Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day frontman) being a no-show on the world premiere red carpet of "Broadway Idiot," which follows him during the making of his musical "American Idiot" on Broadway, Monica and I got to speak with director Doug Hamilton and "Cuatro" director Tim Wheeler. Monica stayed to catch the double feature, which also included the documentary "Cuatro," a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Green Day's album trilogy ("Uno," "Dos," and "Tre"). "Broadway Idiot" Trailer (Photos and […]

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