All posts by jaimedormer

Drone Crash, Chapter 1

CHAPTER ONE

Well I started my trip south later than I had planned, I was still organising things at work, getting the final printer & paper profiles setup in my new Print Lab before I left, then I had to print out a number of prints that I was hand delivering to clients on the way, as well as printing out a 40” print that needed to be framed, as well as meeting up with a mate to finish organising the flights & visas etc for two weeks in Vietnam as soon as I was back from this trip.

I eventually got away about 3:00pm in the afternoon, just in time to catch the school traffic, but battled through it and kept driving to get some miles under the hood.  Arrived at Coffs Harbour where I stayed that night, left early the following morning and drove further south, made arrangements to catch up with a mate at the Central Coast, Jim Picot,

Jim is a fellow photographer and is also a keen drone man, so after having an early lunch, we decided to go and do a bit of droning together, what better place than the local lighthouse at Norah Heads. well we took no time in getting them in the air, launched from the lookout and off over the ocean, round the lighthouse, great stuff, plenty of onlookers, all interested in seeing the point of view from the telecasted onboard camera , transmitted back to the iPad via WiFi.  after a period we had got the video we wanted, so time to call them back in and move on.

I thought before I pack up, I would just get some last minute video of the beach before finishing, as I was on an elevated platform the beach was well below me about @50meters, so I guided the drone to a safe area over some flat rocks with the intention to lower the drone to almost ground level to get a reading where ground level actually was, the sun was behind me and as I slowly lowered the drone I lost site of it on the screen, unbeknown to me I was not directly over the rocks but several meters short of them, so instead of having some safe flat rocks below me, I had the sea, and underwater I went, as that time Jim was yelling “Go Up… Up… !!!!” at which point I pushed the stick full forward and the drone responded, flying directly straight up to about 70m above me, I am pressing the “Auto Home” button, and trying to fly the drone back to me, but it would not have any part of it, like a spoilt child, it just hovered in the air, started shaking & wobbling severely, then all of a sudden it chucked a wobbly and literally fell out of the air, cartwheeling all the way down, probably about 100meters in all, and just disappeared into the bushes on the cliff below!!!

Well, unsure as to what the status of the craft was, and how the hell I was even going to be able to recover it, a young fella that had been watching all of this unfold yells out, I surf here all the time, I know these cliffs like the back of my hand, I will go and get it, well like a bloodhound he disappears down the cliff in a dash, ten minutes later he turns up with the drone in his hand, I could smell that burnt out electrical fried smell and true to the smell the drone was dead, $3k down the tubes, not happy as this was only the second day, and it was my intention to get drone footage of the areas that I have been photographing for years, I had it all planned out, and now no drone !!!!

So very disappointed, actually disgusted with myself, what was I going to do, as the new DJI Phantom 4 had only just been released and was very hard to get, but when I called in to L & P Digital Photographic’s, they made a few calls and was able to locate one for me, brand new of the boat from Sphere, in Alexander, thanks guys, now back in the air.

Drone Crash, Chapter 2

CHAPTER TWO

Now back in command of my new drone, got it fully charged up, I headed further south, down the Hume Highway, I got to Gundagai, a small town on the Hume made famous as the town where the “Dog sat on the Tucker Box” an old ballad & song by Gundagai journalist and poet Jack Moses, but what I was more interested in was the other thing that the town is famous for, the historic twin bridges, there are two bridges that cross the Murrumbidgee river & flats, it is about one kilometre wide, and both bridges are no longer in use, but I can still remember driving across it as a kid, a very rickety old wooden treble car bridge, and the railway bridge alongside of it, neither are in use, and in quite diss-repair, it is only a matter of time before they either fall down or are burnt.

So, as I had shot these before I wanted to get some aerial of the two bridge, set-up the drone and away I went, along, beside under & over, got video from every angle, was great and will be historic video if nothing else, the aerial shows just how badly the deck is on the car bridge, holes big enough that a car would fall through them, it is only a matter of time.

So time to leave Gundagai and head further south, I had planned to catch up with a mate at Yarrawonga, but he went fishing, so turned left and went to Beechworth, to catchup with my sister and of course some free accomodation, stayed a couple of days, great base to access the high country, at this time of the year the autumn colours are starting to really paint the landscape.

Beechworth is an old historic town and has some amazing colour at this time of the year, so I spent the early part of the morning photographing the local rail trail, this is where the government and respective councils have converted old unused railway lines to a scenic walkway & bike trail which is frequented by hundreds if not thousands of locals and tourists wanting to get their piece of country air.

Pre-Shoot Checks

Checking & Preparing your gear before every shoot is a very important part of photography, there is nothing worse than arriving at the location and finding you have problems with your gear, so I have compiled a list of things that I do every time before I go out again to shoot another location,;

Time & Date;

  • I use an iPhone app to provide a time mark to set / synchronise several cameras.

Batteries (Camera & Flash)

  • Ensure they are charged.
  • Carry extras,
  • Tip:  I only put the battery caps on the charged batteries, flat ones don’t have on.

Memory Cards;

  • Freshly format all cards;
  • Ensure that you have sufficient cards for the days shoot;

Prime Settings;

  • ISO – set to 200
  • ISO Auto Control – set to Off
  • Picture Control – set to Vivid
  • Color Space – set to Adobe RGB
  • File Type – set to RAW
  • Exposure Priority – set to Aperture
  • Metering – set to Average
  • Focus – set to Continuous
  • Focus Point – set to Single Point
  • EV Comp. – set to 0
  • White Balance – set to Auto
  • Shooting Mode – set to Single Shot
  • Lenses – set to Check Settings

Clean;

  • Give your camera a clean with a dry clean cloth;
  • Remove the front UV filter and clean the lens glass, and both sides of the UV filter;

Bag Check & Safety Stuff;

  • Torch, make sure it works & is charged;
  • Spare charged batteries for Camera, Flash & Cable Release;
  • Tripod Plates, Flashgun, Harness
  • Garbage Bags, ensure that you have a number of them;
  • Spare Memory cards, Cable Release;
  • Full set of Filters, ie CPL, ND’s
  • Several dry clean cleaning cloths, Rubber bands, Black Marker & Pens;
  • Sunscreen, Insect repellent, Raincoat, Hi-Vis, Hat, Lanyard ID, Sunglasses, Spare reading glasses & suitable footwear;

I hope that the above information is of value to you, feel free to send me an email at admin@jdponline.com.au or simply give me a call if you would like to get more clarity on any of the above, I am always happy to help, cheers and good luck.

This website and its content is copyright of JDP Online Pty Ltd – © 2011.  All rights reserved.

 

Post-PROCESSING PROTOCOL

It is always a good idea to have a tried & proven and established system in place to perform any repetitive task, this includes lots & lots of different things and more importantly the issue of post processing your images.

The first thing that I do once I have uploaded my original files to the computer and renamed them per my “File Naming Protocol” I will do a backup of the same files to second external hard disc drive, now that they are safely backed up, I can start to process these files at my leisure, which I will explain later on.

I currently use Adobe Lightroom for my image cataloguing, I find it easy to use and just as importantly it is also very quick, I have over a third of a million images in my library and it works fine, currently no real complaints, it is easy to import new images by simply synchronising the folders and it does the rest by itself, can’t get easier than that, by the way you can continue working while it does this too.

Anyway, once the images have been imported into the Lightroom library, I am able to bring up that folder and start viewing the images, either individually or as a screen full of small thumbnails.

I will browse these images and when I see something that I like, a simple click on it to select and press the spacebar to see a full screen version of it, if I like it, I then will give a score by pressing one of the numeric keys, I use the following numbers for my selection;

  • Press #1:    means that this image should be deleted, as it is an absolute failure, usually a shot of my foot or something simular, these will be deleted straight away or at the end of a session.
  • Press #2:     sometimes you will see an image that has something but you don’t have the time to look into it or start processing it at all, but it has something that you feel will make it a good image later once processed, these I call my seconds to comeback and view later shots.
  • Press #3:     These are the shots that I know there is something there, I usually will commence doing some post processing on them so by rating them as a three, I can come back at anytime and continue working on those files and hopefully take them forward to become a commercial image.
  • Press #4:     Once an image has been worked on and is looking really good, I will promote it to a “4”, this moves it up the chain towards an eventual release.  It still needs to be finished but is getting close.
  • Press #5:     When an image has reached this rating it is ready for release, everything has been done on it, it is now a special image that will be displayed on a wall somewhere in the world.
  • Press #9:     As I often shoot panoramas, I will mark a set of images with the rating of nine, this will mark them with a colour instead of a star rating, which can be searched later as required.

The great thing about this type of image rating system is that I can depending on my mood and the amount of time that I have to browse my image library is that it is not dependant on having to complete an entire folder, you just continue where you finished last time, or you can browse through any other folder in your library and apply the same ratings methods on the images.

Then when you are feeling creative and want to do some post processing, you simply go to your folder and filter the images with a rating of three, and you will have a grid of thumbnails to choose from to process, simple.  There is also a simpler way of doing this by creating a smart collection.

Now it is time to get to the real processing, firstly I will bring the image up in Lightroom developer module, by simply selecting the image and pressing the “D” key, I will then do some very basic editing like straightening the image, and adjusting shadows, highlights etc to see what the image is going to look like, If I think that I like what I see I will “right-click” on the image and select from the side menu to edit it in one of the optional software packages installed, currently I use Photoshop & Capture One.

If I have opened the file in Photoshop, I will follow these steps shown below, there is as it happens a method in this madness.

I use a five step process, the first step is to simply clean-up the image, by this I mean clean up the dust spots, level the horizon if it needs it, do all of the basic things that will apply to this image, I do not process this image with any  of changes at all at this stage, once done I will save this image as the first level of the image into a working folder on it’s own on my computer, this first image will be saved as the existing filename plus a letter/number combination added to the end, for example “1205010011A”.

Now that the “A” version has been saved, I can then start processing further, at each point once I have done some work on the image, I will again save it to the working folder using the same protocol I used previously but I will index the letter “1205010011B”, what this means is that this file is now a direct descendant of the “A” version of the file, I will continue to use this protocol until I reach the letter “E”, this gives me five versions of the file saved at various stages of processing.

Now here is the important bit, you may process your file and find that you have gone in the wrong direction since the “B” version of the file, so all you do is load up the B version of the file do some work on it and then save it as a “B2” version of the file (just added a number after it so as to keep it separate from the original set), followed by C2, D2 & E2, thus creating a processing path that is easy to follow.

By using this method, you can change direction at any stage and save it as a continuing set or path to the end final image, I have added a chart below to assist in the understanding of this process.  Please note that I normally do not add the number to the end of the first set, i.e. A1,A2, A3… just the letters only for the first set)

I hope that the above information is of value to you, feel free to send me an email at admin@jdponline.com.au or simply give me a call if you would like to get more clarity on any of the above, I am always happy to help, cheers and good luck.

This website and its content is copyright of JDP Online Pty Ltd – © 2011.  All rights reserved.

File Naming Protocol

It is important to acknowledged the post work required to maintain, edit, keyword, catalogue & archive a library of images that is taken from a short or long field trip, so I thought I might share my thoughts with others.

It use to frustrated the hell out of me, and I was surprised at the amount of time that it would take to manage a library of files post doing what you thought was the hard bit, taking them, I normally take between 200-500 photos a day when on a trip, and if at an event this could be up to 2,000 a day, so at a two day event I might take as many as 5,000 images with several cameras, and thus I needed a method to be able to manage them well and efficiently.

I have been asked this question many many times in the past and I thought that I might share this method with other photographers, so how I do it is detailed below;

The equipment I currently use in this procedure is as follows; Hardware: iMac 27″ & a Mac Mini Server, An External NAS Synology Drive with eight bays each with a 3Tb HDD, 2 x 4Tb Caldigit Backup Systems & a 10Tb Drobo, plus many Portable 1Tb Toshiba & Acer Ext HDD 750Gb drives, Software: Adobe Lightroom.

I save all of my photos directly onto an external hard drive into a folder specifically named after the event, the naming convention that I use is reasonably simple and allows for me to locate the original photo in the future very easily just by looking at the filename, so if I were to do a shoot of Surfing at Narrowneck, on the 15th of January, 2011 the name of my folder would be “20110115-SurfingNarrowneck” and it would be located on the external Hard Drive under “PHOTOS/2011”, I always separate the date and the details with a hyphen & I never use spaces in filenames, new words always start with a capital.

Once I have uploaded all of the files to my first Ext Hard Drive, I will import that folder of images into Lightroom, then go through them quickly and delete any photo that has any major defect (ie out of focus, shot of my foot, etc), once this process is done I will then rename them using Lightroom, the convention I use is as follows, Using Lightroom, I will select all of the images in the folder, click on <Libraury><Rename Photos>, a dialogue screen will appear, select from the dropdown menu, “Edit”, then I type in the date YYMMDD and add a 4 digit sequence number from the dropdowns below, then click on “Done”, this will return you back to the first dialogue screen, now just make sure that the “Start Number” is “1” then click on the “OK” button to rename the files.   The files will now be renamed as “1101150001”, “1101150002”, “1101150003”, “1101150004”, and so on.

By using this convention I can always find the original photo very simply and very quickly, because the photo filenames are always proceeded with the date, I know to look in the 2011 folder, January the 15th, simple, so therefore I already know where to find this file before I even get to my computer.

Believe me, I have dreamt-up & tried numerous versions of doing this job without success, this method has served me well since I implemented it 5-6 years ago, I now have no difficulty in locating files, it is simple to do and very time efficient.

I hope that the above information is of value to you, feel free to send me an email at admin@jdponline.com.au or simply give me a call if you would like to get more clarity on any of the above, I am always happy to help, cheers and good luck.

This website and its content is copyright of JDP Online Pty Ltd – © 2011.  All rights reserved.

 

Turning Professional …

Keep Records …

I am not talking about your tax records, I am talking about your photography triumphs, awards, where you were published etc, for it is this information that will help you build your resume and make great reading later on.

Camera Metadata …

Most of the DSLR cameras these days have the ability to add your personal & copyright information directly into the camera; these details will be added to every photo’s metadata automatically when you take them.

Get Experience …

Getting experience is hard work, how do you do it?, well it does not come to you, you have to go and get it, don’t be lazy, get out of bed, shoot that sunrise, early morning street scene, and just keep doing it over and over again.

I often shoot sports & events, and I am sure that you have often looked around at some of these events and said to yourself I wish that I could be that close to the action, well you can, you simply have to ask and then deliver.  The big advantage of shooting different sports & events is that it makes you learn your equipment backwards, you do not have time to muck around looking at manuals etc, you need to know your gear, and you will, doing this type of shooting.

It does not matter if you are interested in the sport although it does help, it is about the photographic environment that you are placed in, bright sunny day at the football or rowing, cloudy day at the archery, rainy day at the show, wrestling or ice hockey inside a stadium, dusty rodeo, superfast air shows & car races each sport/event has it’s own unique set of camera requirements that you have to get right, this will teach you about the available light and how to handle it as well as being able to set your camera up correctly and quickly.

Often some great shots are missed because you weren’t ready, didn’t have the camera set-up right, spent too much time menu surfing looking for that option to change the camera back to suit the shot, I am sure that this has happened to most, so if this is you then doing the above will certainly help you be ready next time.

Establish your Direction …

You need to establish your photographic direction as early as you can, so as not to waste time & money, by this I mean you need to decide what area of photography you wish to specialise in, be it wildlife, landscapes, architectural, portraiture, travel, documentary, sports, etc, just remember that different types of photography require different types of equipment, training etc, and it is one of the most important decisions that you will make, it could take you months or even years to decide, it is not something you should rush, as you could easily make the wrong choice, but it is something that only you can choose, just remember “that you cannot be everything to everyone”.

This was a very hard choice for me, so I thought that the best way to tackle it was to work out what I didn’t want to be, so in effect I worked backwards, erasing one form of photography out at a time, I found it much easier to do this way, then when I got to the last choice, I spent time with some well known famous photographers to obtain their thoughts on my work and to seek their opinion as to what suited me best.

Create an Image Library …

If you are going to be selling images, framed or unframed, limited or open editions, then you need to build yourself a substantial image library, this of course takes a lot of time and effort, but get use to it, as this is the path you have chosen.  I set myself goal to generate a library of around one thousand commercial images by the time I am ready to go fully professional.  To do this you need to take a lot of photos, and I mean a lot, you will end up with several hundred thousand images to achieve this goal, this takes a lot of work, dedication and I might add storage.

Shoot RAW …

Early in your photography career you probably have or are shooting in whatever format the camera defaulted too, normally “jpeg”, and this is fine, the advantage of this file format is that the files aren’t too big, they are immediately viewable by almost everything and can be sent directly to a printer, the image data is processed by the camera based on the cameras internal settings, like white balance, saturation, contrast, sharpness etc and is then compressed into a   jpeg file and saved to your memory card, the rest of the data is discarded.

A RAW File on the other hand is exactly that, it is the raw unprocessed data received by your cameras sensor and saved directly onto the memory card, it is substantially larger than a jpeg, simply because it holds all of the data for later processing.

  • 8 bit JPEG file can record 256 intensity levels per pixel;
  • 12 bit RAW file can record 4,096 intensity levels per pixel;
  • 14bit RAW file can record 16,384 intensity levels per pixel;

Whilst there are a number of different opinions on which format to use, however it does go without saying that they are all based on what current technology can do with the file today and not in 1,5, 10, or 20 years from now, look at the progress that technology has made in the last ten years, so for my money I continue to save in RAW format, it is simple mathematics.

Backup your Work …

DLSR camera image size is getting bigger and bigger, 12, 16, 24 megapixels are common place, all this data needs to be stored, and you will need a lot of storage, gigabytes & terabytes of it, because the word back-up means that this is not your working file, it is a back-up copy of the original.

It is always advisable to also have an off-site backup of the same files, thus a third copy, so the storage requirements are enormous for large libraries, however on a brighter note the cost of the storage has come down considerably, allowing you to purchase a one terabyte drive for around one hundred dollar mark.  The big tip here is ensure that you have them, as you cannot re-create those valuable images, once gone there gone.

Do Workshops …

Workshops are great, you will learn heaps of additional skills for yourself, so do as many workshops as you can, learn from other photographers, look at what they are doing, take notice of what other people are asking questions about, take an interest in how they do it, write down your experiences, think about how it could have been improved if it could, what was missing if anything, what were the good & bad things, did everyone enjoy it, if so why, you can then use all of this valuable information to assist yourself in designing your own workshops, remember to always create a connection with the tutor, as it is these relationships that will open doors later on down the track.

Create a Website …

Build a professional website that will showcase your work, ensure that it is the best that it can be, for this is your shop front that people you don’t know will judge you by, remember that you will not get a second chance to create a first impression, test every page and every link, put the effort in and you will get the rewards. Put information on it that others can use for free, be it something like you are reading now, or just your own reviews on things or equipment etc, give people a reason to stay a while on your sight.

Start Teaching Others …

Part of being a successful professional is to have confidence in yourself, by teaching others your skills generates self-confidence, and the designs for future workshops from which you will generate income.

Start with taking one or two friends out on a shoot, you know your local area, so design a simple workshop in your head with some objectives, get them to come along and start tutoring them, help them understand what it is they are doing right & wrong, help in the post processing, take an interest in their work.

Do it again and again, until you yourself get good at doing these “workshops”, then all you have to do is document it and you are ready to generate income from them.

Product Quality …

You might be able to sell a sub-quality product or service once, however you are unlikely to sell it again, bad news travels fast, whilst good news takes the slow lane, in today’s market place with the internet and social networking channels a bad experiences will travel literally at the speed of light.

So, learn from others in the industry, what are doing and why, where are they getting their work produced, is it top quality, do not settle for less, make sure that the entire sales, production & delivery process is going to add to your product and not detract from it, this should include things like the sale experience, processing, image production, framing, freight, delivery & refund processes.

Establish Costs …

There are many guides available to work out how you should costs things out, just remember that you won’t go broke making a profit, simple as that.

You should work out the cost of each component of your business, like labour, equipment & overheads, these should be costed out into saleable units, examples would be labour costs per hour, studio day hire rate, rent cost per month & insurance costs per year to name a few, once this is done, all you have to do is work out how much of each item you need for each of your products, don’t forget to add on applicable taxes and profit margins.

I know from my own experience that if you do not set up a price list for your products & services, you will never know what to charge, it will change all of the time, and it will just get worse, to a point where you start price cutting to get work, and this will only have one outcome.

Set Some Rules …

Establish the rules of engagement early and everyone will be happy.

Know what is included and what’s not when doing a job, and make sure that your client knows this up front when quoting, provide them with a list of additional options available to them as well as the associated costs, deliver on time, do not deviate from this or you will end up doing it for free.

Key-wording Images …

Key wording is important for people to find your images amongst the billions of images out there, when someone gets to your site and they enter some key words into your site search engine, they want result, if they don’t get it they will get frustrated or even worse they will move on to someone else’s site.

The big trouble with key wording is thinking up the appropriate keywords to enter against an image, to help simplify this develop a list of keywords that will suit all of the image that you take, by this I mean create groups of keywords, some example groups may be Colours, Water, Country, and so on, using these groups, I simply add all of the variables that would occur in them to create a reference sheet.

So for example in the colour group, I would add all of the basic common colours that I am likely to have in my images, red, green, black, orange, yellow, blue, white etc, then if at sometime I need to add another one to the list you can, it then becomes part of the reference list for future use, under the group Water, I would add all of the different types of water bodies there are, like lake, sea, ocean, channel, river, creek, pond etc, once you have created your basic list, you can then refer to it as you keyword your images, if the keyword that you want is not on the list, again add it to one of your groups, or even start a new group, this way your keywords will be useful & always the same when use, the list will also make it easier to select keywords rather than thinking them up every time you want to keyword an image.

Join Professional Organisations …

Join some industry organisations that represent your photography interests, become involved and meet other photographers, learn as much as you can from them, no one knows everything, so the more people you talk too the more informed you will become.

Additional advantages of some of these organisations is that they provide Photo ID lanyards & badges, this helps to show the general public that you are a bona-fide photographer.

Strive to be Better …

It is hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys, associate & surround yourself with people that you hold in high regard, the ones you want to be as good as, this will make you do better simply by association, if you are the best photographer in your group then start associating with better skilled photographers, by this I do not mean that you need to dump all of your current peers, far from it, simply add more.

Now, Go Pro

I hope that the above information is of value to you, feel free to send me an email at admin@jdponline.com.au or simply give me a call if you would like to get more clarity on any of the above points, I am always happy to help, cheers and good luck.

This website and its content is copyright of JDP Online Pty Ltd – © 2011.  All rights reserved.

Insurance

This is a must, there are plenty of companies that will insure your gear, but only a few that specialise in it, I have had the sad experience of dropping a camera, landed face down in the mud & sea, total write-off, major problem let me tell you, the camera was about a week old and cost as much as a luxury car, however I did have all of my equipment insured, so I was fortunate that I had that in place!.

An important note however, make sure that you have insured your gear for the right value, I insured this particular camera for what was written on the invoice, as I had received a discount from the full retail price the invoice total did not reflect the true replacement cost which was several thousand of dollars more, which I had to pay for.

Check your house contents policy as it could already have some form of basic camera insurance in it, however if you become fully professional, then you will need proper speciality photography cover, public liability to start with, this is when you need to talk to a company that specialises in photographers insurance, I use & recommend Professional Photographers Insurance Brokers, I have had the unfortunate experience of destroying some equipment and PPIB were great, no fuss, seamless claim, end result happy.