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Interview with an astronaut: What it’s like shooting photos from space

28 Dec

Jared Polin (aka. Fro Knows Photo) recently scored an interview that has us all extremely jealous here at DPReview. A phone call to NASA to find out if astronauts shoot Raw in space led to an interview with Marine fighter pilot and NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik, who had arrived back to Earth from the International Space Station just three days before Jared spoke with him!

The entire interview is fascinating from first question to last, but first things first: yes, astronauts do shoot Raw in space. Bresnik himself says he shot RAW+JPEG so he could download the JPEGs onto his laptop and see the shots ASAP, but the Raw files are beamed down to Earth where the folks at NASA process them to their full potential.

This is far from the only only topic Polin and Bresnik cover, though. They hit everything from radiation damage, to stabilizing your shots in space, to the glass available, to what it was like switching from Nikon D4 cameras to the brand new D5s that arrived on the ISS in mid-November, and much more.

And all the while, gorgeous photos Bresnik captured while up there scroll across your screen. Photos like the ones below—some of our favorites from Bresnik’s last 2 months on the ISS:

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Editor’s Note: Bresnik also contributed the #oneworldmanyviews hashtag, which paired shots of beautiful locations captured in space with photos of the same spot taken from Earth.

For Polin, the conversation seemed surreal. He tells DPReview that:

For me I was in awe for a lot of the interview. It’s not easy to wrap your head around SPACE and the sheer fact you can transfer the data back to earth. Sure that’s been going on for decades but think about it. 250 miles up in space there’s a station with six astronauts on it, with an entire Nikon setup of D5’s and glass up to an 800 5.6 for god sake. The direct downlinks to NASA transfer data all night long.

Check out the full interview up top, scroll through the gallery above for a bit of awe, and if you want even more, head over to Bresnik’s Twitter account where you can find enough photos, videos, and timelapses to keep you busy until New Years and beyond.

And, since Polin says he may actually get to interview an astronaut who is on the space station when he talks to them, we’re curious: what would you ask an astronaut about photography in space? Drop your suggestions in the comments.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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What it’s like to photograph a sandstorm

06 Dec

This article was originally published on Photography Life, and is being republished in full on DPReview with express permission from Spencer Cox.


One of the windiest nights I’ve ever taken pictures turned into perhaps the single most rewarding—and frightening—landscape photography experience of my life. I was on the Mesquite Sand Dunes in Death Valley, a place I had visited twice in the past, though under much tamer conditions. This night, the gusts of wind were far greater than I had seen before, and they kicked up a layer of sand that made for amazing sunset photos. But as the day came to a close, it was clear I had entered uncharted waters.

Even before sunset, the wind was fairly heavy. Sand stung at my feet, but it wasn’t any worse than a breezy day at the beach. I had a scarf over my nose and mouth to avoid inhaling too much dust, and I wore sunglasses to protect my eyes.

It was a beautiful sunset. The clouds were something special—patchy, orange, blue, and dark. The atmosphere was perfect for photography. Over the course of an hour, I made a series of mad dashes from dune to dune in search of the best composition, and I captured a handful of shots I liked along the way. The whole time, in the distance, one dark cloud was lower than the rest. Although it stood out somewhat, I filed it away in the back of my mind as I focused on capturing other parts of the landscape.

Soon, the day had ended. The sun dipped out of view, and the light began to fade even further. I saw, then, how far I had traveled. I was already at the tallest dune, which rose next to me in a gentle slope. The best colors in the sky had ended, but I decided to climb this last peak to see the view before turning back for the night.

That was when the air began to change. The low, dark cloud I noticed earlier had grown much closer, and the reality of my situation became obvious: this was not a typical low-hanging cloud, but, instead, a sandstorm. The wind picked up in powerful gusts, and I took a photo.

NIKON D800E + 35mm f/1.8 @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1.3 seconds, f/16.0
On the lefthand side of the image, you can see the front edge of the sandstorm approaching.

For half a second, everything was completely still. The sky dimmed and turned dirty. I started to hear sifting noises, and a thin layer of dust fell on my shoulders and backpack.

When the wind picked up again, much faster than before, it was a completely different world. I stood looking ahead, unable to see the next dune in any direction. As the atmosphere thickened, darkness fell rapidly. I pulled out my flashlight, which illuminated swirls of sand racing through the air.

When the wind picked up again, much faster than before, it was a completely different world.

After bracing myself into the ground, I went through the inevitable safety checks. Was my GPS still working? Check. Did I have enough water to last the night, in case of a true emergency? Check. But even then, it’s hard to feel completely safe at a time like this.

The storm didn’t seem natural. Or, instead, it seemed too natural. The power of the wind and sand was overwhelming. If you want to feel completely helpless in the face of the world’s chaos, get lost in a sandstorm.

Of course, I wasn’t truly lost. The GPS had found a path back, pointing to where my car sat in the distance (though I no longer saw it, or the road). I started moving in that direction.

It soon became apparent that my progress was slow. Indeed, I thought I was walking in circles, despite following the GPS’s recommended route. To be clear, it didn’t just seem like I might be walking in circles. I truly believed I was going around the same sand dune over and over, retracing my own footprints as the wind blew them away.

Especially in a situation like this, I am inclined to trust technology. I know that a GPS is far more likely than a clueless photographer to pinpoint its location in a sandstorm. But I was thankful to have packed along a backup GPS, which I pulled out now to calculate the same route—sending another signal to perfectly-placed satellites flying thousands of kilometers overhead. When that, too, confirmed the same path, I knew to stifle my intuition and follow the light back home.

To describe the rest of the hike, the best comparison I can make is to say that it felt like walking on an ocean. I would climb up a dune, shine my flashlight ahead, and then step down into darkness. And this repeated itself for an hour—up, down, up—on waves of sand.

To describe the rest of the hike, the best comparison I can make is to say that it felt like walking on an ocean.

Then, suddenly, I was at the car. I threw my backpack on the back seat, climbed in, and closed the door. That moment was absolutely eerie.

The constant push of wind and sand suddenly stopped; even as the car shook in the breeze, it felt like everything was absolute silence. The dim glow of the reading light overhead seemed like the only island in the entire world. I was back—back to a refuge from the relentless wind and sand. I was also back to civilization, where, surreally, the nearest town was a five minute drive away.

The fact that I could order a burger moments after I had been inside of new sand dunes forming was amazing, and deeply unsettling.

Writing this, I’m on the third floor of a huge building with glowing lights, and, a few hundred feet away, tall waves are crashing ashore. It’s nighttime, and there is a light drizzle. Heavy winds are whipping around. A car just drove past.

We’re living in shelters that we created at the doorstep of a storm, and it’s so incredibly difficult to remember that. It shouldn’t take an otherworldly night of photography to put things like this into perspective; it should be at the core of who we are.

Landscape photography is a strange art. I’ve realized that my true motivation for taking pictures is not to create beautiful images. Instead, it’s to be out there — walking into a sandstorm, surrounding by waves of dunes — to watch the planet change so spectacularly.


Spencer Cox is a landscape photographer and writer who spends his free time… taking landscape photos and writing. It works out well. His photos have gained international recognition and awards, and his work has been displayed worldwide, including at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

To contact Spencer directly or view more of his work, visit his website at Spencer Cox Photography. Or, follow him on Facebook and 500px.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Demo: Adobe’s experimental ‘Cloak’ tech is like Content Aware Fill for video

21 Oct

Yesterday at Adobe MAX, the lucky attendees got to see a few of Adobe’s signature “Sneaks”: sneak peeks at crazy features that are in development. And chief among them this year was something code-named Adobe Cloak.

In essence, Adobe Cloak is the video-editing counterpart to Photoshop’s Content Aware Fill. Simply outline the portion of your video that you would like removed—be it a stationary object or a couple walking through your scene—and Adobe Cloak will intelligently erase them from the shot. This is, of course, something VFX artists have been doing for ages, but automating the process to this degree is impressive to say the least.

Adobe sent us a few demo videos of the feature in action, which you can check out above. And if you want more details about how Adobe Cloak works/was developed, Engadget got to sit down with Adobe research engineer Geoffrey Oxholm and VFX product manager Victoria Nece to talk about the technology, which is still “in the experimental stages.”

The bad news is, there’s no current plans to implement it. The good news? They wouldn’t be working on it if they didn’t plan to implement it some time, right!?

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Art of Deception: Pencil Drawings Look Like Colorful 3D Splashes of Paint

01 Oct

[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

Seeming to rise up off the canvass, a viewer would be impressed to discover these swaths of paint to be two-dimensional in nature, but then further shocked to realize the material isn’t paint at all but pencil.

Australian artist Cj Hendry has an eye for hyper-realism, but in this series: instead of using it to draft convincing landscapes or portraits has turned to emulating oil paint.

Layers of carefully applied pencil slowly add depth and dimension to the flat surface, capturing the lush appearance of semi-liquid paints. The effect is so convincing the artist often includes a hand and pencil in photographs of the work to highlight the fact that what is being seen is both two-dimensional and drawn with pencils.

It is a dramatic shift from previous work by Hendry done in black and white. And going to color didn’t mean just picking one per piece, either — each of these colorful works employs a number of different colors, which is not at all obvious at a glance.

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[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

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Spiky Shipping Container Home Blooms Like a Flower in the Joshua Tree Desert

30 Sep

[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

Since shipping containers are made to be stacked, that’s how they’re usually arranged when reclaimed for architectural projects. It just makes sense, right? They fit together in a certain way. But architecture firm Whitaker Studio just smashed that convention in spectacular fashion with one of the most bonkers shipping container projects we’ve ever seen, and the results are as beautiful as they are unusual.

Rising from the rocky Joshua Tree desert in California like a rare flower, this all-white residence is laid out in a starburst shape with several shipping containers pivoted up toward the sky. Each container is capped with glass and oriented to take advantage of a certain view, whether of the sky, the distant mountains, or the adjacent boulders.

Each individual container either serves as a small room for the interior, or as a giant skylight bringing natural light into the core. Dining tables and beds can be spotted through the glass from outside, wedged into the narrow spaces. In some areas, several containers are combined with their walls removed to create larger rooms. The layout is hard to determine from the exterior, but once you see images of the 2,150-square-foot interior, it makes more sense.

Though these renderings are pretty convincing, construction on the Joshua Tree residence is not set to start until 2018 on a 90-acre plot owned by a film producer. Architect and studio founder James Whitaker told ArchDaily that the client and his friends were visiting the plot of land, imagining what should be placed there, when someone pulled out their laptop and showed the group an image of a structure he’d designed several years prior, but that had never been built.

The containers are arranged to fit within the topography of the site, angled wider in some areas to accommodate the hills and rocks, creating sheltered outdoor areas for decks and hot tubs. The site is set on a natural gully created by stormwater, so the containers are raised off the ground, allowing water to pass underneath.

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[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

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Concrete Like You’ve Never Seen It: 15 Unexpected Furniture & Object Designs

21 Sep

[ By SA Rogers in Design & Furniture & Decor. ]

Concrete might typically be cold, hard, impersonal and impermeable, but treat it right and it’ll soften right up into surprisingly comfortable, accessible and usable everyday items, from pens and iPhone skins to rocking chairs and squishy-looking seating. Cast it from pillowy molds, 3D-print it in squiggles, brush it onto highly detailed objects, impregnate it into textiles or imprint it with delicate textures and you’ll have objects full of intriguing contradictions.

Concrete 3D Printer Enables Innovation

This 3D printer by Dutch company ROHACO spits out concrete in all manner of shapes, even squiggly lines, through a swivel head attached to a hose from a concrete mixer. Not only does this enable concrete to take unprecedented forms, it makes it possible to 3D print entire homes unsupervised, with the kinds of curves and details that would normally take an extraordinary amount of work.

3D-Printed Concrete Canoe

3D printing with concrete makes it possible to produce things like the skelETHon 3D printed concrete canoe, which won first place at the 16th Concrete Canoe Regatta competition in Germany. That’s right, it’s not even the first canoe to be made from concrete! The inner frame of this one is made of concrete reinforced with stiff steel fibers, while the shell is a two- to three-millimeter-thick waterproof concrete skin.

Concrete & Canvas Seating

These objects are a bit of a contradiction: simultaneously appearing soft and hard. That’s because they’re both, technically. ‘Fabric’ is an outdoor seating collection by Miriam Estévez, wherein soft fabric poufs are soaked in a liquid concrete and allowed to dry in order to create a surprisingly strong, durable, waterproof result.

Traditional Chair Covered in Concrete

You might imagine that someone took a mold of a traditional chair and then cast it with solid concrete, producing the detailed form you see before you. The truth is actually much simpler. Bentu Design teamed up with Guangzhou fine arts students to carefully cover an existing chair with concrete mixture, making sure to preserve every detail, from the scallops along the wooden frame at the top to each individual upholstery nail.

Delicate Persian & Islamic Patterned Tables

Concrete doesn’t take on the adjective ‘delicate’ easily, but every now and then, something qualifies. This disc-shaped tabletop, just a few millimeters thick, balances on the neck of a water-filled jug to form a beautiful recycled coffee table. Milan-based design studio Daevas printed the top with a traditional Persian pattern.

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Concrete Like Youve Never Seen It 15 Unexpected Furniture Object Designs

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Like a Music Festival, Minus the Dirt: Social Hostel Offers Indoor Camping

19 Sep

[ By SA Rogers in Boutique & Art Hotels & Travel. ]

If you love the sense of community at multi-day outdoor music festivals like Glastonbury, Coachella and Bonnaroo but hate the mud, dust, noise and filthy porta-potties, this hostel was designed just for you. Cao Pu Studio designed ‘Together Hostel’ as an indoor camping experience, with guests staying in translucent individual ‘tents’ under a common roof. The experience emphasizes socializing, with lots of shared interactive spaces, but provides a tad more privacy than the average hostel bunk room.

The tents are organized in groups of four or five, making the hostel ideal for small groups traveling together, or for travelers prioritizing making new connections with strangers. Each tent is equipped with power sockets, extension cords and reading lights. Each of the timber-framed structures is finished in frosted polycarbonate, which doesn’t offer total privacy, but at least gives occupants a sense of their own personal space within the larger hostel without shutting them off altogether. If you’re backpacking, you can even roll out your sleeping pad in the theater area at night instead of sleeping in a ‘tent’ for a lower rate.

There’s a food court with lots of seating, a shop, a bar, a small theater space, a kitchen, offices and plenty of private showers and restrooms in addition to the tents, which come in single or double sizes. Modular tables in the central hall fit together like puzzle pieces, creating larger or smaller surfaces depending on whether you want to sit with a big group or dine alone.

The concept capitalizes on growing trends (voluntary or not) toward living in smaller spaces and in closer quarters with others rather than spreading out in suburban-style homes. People who travel on the cheap are accustomed to giving up space and privacy in exchange for a good deal, and this design makes the experience feel cleaner and more intentional. Would you stay at the ‘Together Hostel?’

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[ By SA Rogers in Boutique & Art Hotels & Travel. ]

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This simple web tool helps you find the lenses you like best

10 Sep
Photo by Brandi Redd

If you’re having trouble deciding what lens to buy next, and diving into the technical details isn’t helping (we have no idea what that’s like… but we hear it happens), a simple web tool called What the Lens might be able to help. Created by photographer Willie Chik, the tool reveals your lens preference by having you pick your favorite photos from a gallery.

The site pulls images from 500px, automatically sorting them by brand—so you can use What the Lens to find your favorite Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Sony FE, Sony A, Olympus, or Panasonic lens. Then, once you’ve selected your brand, you can further break down the gallery by category—selecting either Landscapes, Macro, Animals, Travel, People, and City.

Finally, once you’ve done all that, it’s time to pick your favorite 20 photos. You can scroll down as far as you’d like, loading more shots until you find 20 you really like, and once you’re done the site will reveal what lens suits you best. In my case, after selecting 20 canon portraits, it came up with this:

Of course, we prefer a more technical approach here at DPReview… one that’s not liable to be skewed by your post-processing preference, what kind of landscapes you like best, or the variety of other issues that come up when you really start to think about this tool as a buying guide.

But if you’re looking for a simple and possibly even fun way to determine what lens deserves to go next on your to-buy list, What the Lens might be worth a go. Just be careful with the “People” category… that one can get a bit not safe for work (NSFW).

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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These drink coasters look like a camera lens when stacked

02 Sep

Looking for a stylish way to keep condensation from forming unsightly rings on your desk? Are you a huge photography nerd? Fotodiox has a solution that will keep both parts of your psyche nice and happy: cup coasters that, when you stack them together, appear to form a single camera lens.

Fotodiox calls the quirky product the CraftMaster LenzCoaster, and offers them in three different varieties.

A careful look at each LenzCoaster ‘lens’ reveals that it is split into five sections, each section a different drink coaster with silicone padding. Magnets embedded in each coaster keep the pieces together when stacked.

The lens coasters are offered in white and black, the latter of which comes in a variety with black and red ‘caps.’ Fotodiox is offering all three versions now for $ 25.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Tips for Doing Concert Photography like a Pro

21 Aug

Imagine being a concert photographer and getting the chance to cover loads of concerts. Imagine standing just feet away from your favourite artists as you capture so many shots of them. Doesn’t that just sound like the best thing? As opposed to other genres of photography like portraiture, fashion, etc., we have little to no control over lighting, the artists, and tons of other factors in concert photography.

So what are some of the best settings and tricks to capture those perfect shots at concerts? Images which will make you proud, make the artists and the viewers sat “Wow that is indeed one brilliant capture.”?

Tips to capture concert photos 7

Use a fast lens and shoot wide open

Using a fast lens is highly important and is a basic requirement for concert photography. Almost all concerts happen during evenings or night, or indoors under low lighting, which is why your camera sensor requires more light to enter through the lens opening. Moreover, the performers keep moving around the stage so you need to use faster shutter speeds to freeze their motion.

A fast lens is one which allows shooting at wider apertures such as f/2.8, f/1.8, etc. By using lenses like the 50mm f/1.8 or 135mm f/1.8 at the smallest aperture value, you can capture a well exposed shot by keeping the shutter speed fast enough. Another reason for using a fast lens is because usually the distance between the backdrop and the subject is minimal, so to create a shallow depth of field with a bokeh effect, a smaller aperture value would have to be used.

Tips to capture concert photography 5

Shoot in Aperture Priority Mode

Using Aperture Priority Mode to shoot concerts allows for more stress-free shooting. You simply tell your camera the aperture you want to use and it automatically sets the corresponding shutter speed. For many newbies shooting their first few concerts and even for many pros, using aperture priority allows for hassle free shooting.

Also, since the your mind is not all occupied by technical settings, you have freedom to look around at the artists, the crowd, etc., and end up shooting something really creative.

Shoot in aperture priority, with your f-number set to the smallest available on your lens, usually f/1.8 or f/2.8.

Crank up the ISO

Tips to capture concert photos 1

Concerts usually take place in low light settings and for many reasons, using a tripod is not possible. So you can resort to the one setting which you have control over and can easily use, the ISO.

Before the concert really gets going, fire off a series of test shots at different ISO values to judge after what point the noise becomes unacceptable. (Usually ISO 3200 or 6400). Some noise is actually okay and is far better than having a totally underexposed or blurry shot simply because you didn’t increase your ISO value.

The noise generated by the high ISO values can be used creatively to capture something unique. A monochrome shot with some noise would lend a really cool film grain effect to your shot. High noise can be fixed later on in post-processing too. So don’t think twice before cranking up that ISO, it’s far better than having no photo to show.

Avoid using your flash

Tips to capture concert photography 2

MOST important- Avoid using your flash at concerts. It is looked down on and frowned upon a lot. Imagine that you are firing your flash towards the performer(s), and there are 10 others doing the very same. That is surely going to annoy the artists, not to mention almost blind them.

Another important aspect of concert photography is photographing the audience, and no photographer would like to distract the audience from the artist who is performing for them. Repeatedly firing the flash at their faces while capturing their photos can easily annoy audience members.

Also, if we are aiming to capture candid photos of either the artists or the crowd, then firing a flash at them surely is not the right way to do that. And yes, a majority of photos using the built-in pop-up flash simply aren’t worth it. They look flat and uninspiring.

Move around

Tips to capture concert photography 4

You are not there to stand at one place and shoot the same picture 10 times. As a concert photographer it goes without saying that you will have to move around. Move with the artists, move as the lighting changes, etc., to capture those standout moments. (Note: unless, of course, the venue or artist has put restrictions on photographers moving around.)

If you find people blocking your view, you have to move. After all, they have paid to watch their favourite artists perform. If the lead singer moves to one side of the stage, then you have to follow him over there.

The lights too will change from time to time, and it is important to know when which area of the stage will be illuminated to capture the performers properly with adequate lighting.

Tips to capture concert photos 6

Moving around will always get you some really creative shots. You could capture a shot of the lead guitarist under the spotlight, a shot of the lead singer standing isolated from everyone else, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Wait and anticipate

Waiting for that perfect moment is as important as learning to anticipate it. This is a habit which can be developed easily, and is only fine tuned over time. Observe the artists and you will notice certain habits of theirs.

Moments such as a guitarist bending backwards during a particularly intense moment, a DJ waving his arms in the air, a singer grabbing the mic in a particular manner, etc., are all moments which would make for a perfect shot. It is important to know when these moments are around the corner so that you are ready to fire your camera when they come.

Tips to capture concert photography 3

Conclusion

These are just a few tips to help you do better concert photography. Please share any others you’ve learned as well as your concert photos, in the comments below.

The post Tips for Doing Concert Photography like a Pro by Kunal Malhotra appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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