Monarto Zoo trip

On Tuesday the 11th of November I went on a trip with approximately 280 other photographers to the Monarto Zoo. The zoo, isn’t a normal Zoo, it’s a 1000 hectare open-range sanctuary that undertakes breeding programs for rare and endangered species.


The event was organised by the Photographic Wholesalers, and Diamonds Cameras, and was certainly very fun, and enlightening.

Lion Fight
Lion Fight

There was 6 buses, and 6 different locations at the Zoo. Each location had a number of animals and all but one had a model from the Tanya Powell modelling agency (3 girls, and 1 guy). I tell you what, most of the time the girls were more interesting than the animals.

Lara Croft Model
Lara Croft Model

We were lent two memory cards, a 4Gb compact flash, and 2Gb SD card. I also had my own 2Gb and 4Gb CF cards… thank goodness.

It turns out that some cameras really don’t like to be shared with others. As an example, I used both of the 4Gb CF cards in the Canon cameras, however when we went to put them in the Pentax, Olympus, or Sony cameras there was all sorts of issues. Although Canon and Nikon cameras had no issues with the cards.

Photographers in a Line
Photographers in a Line

Some of the camera’s would only work with my CF card that I had formatted on my own Canon 400D, but not with the event supplied card. Others would detect there was only a couple of photos on there (even though there was many more) and when trying to take a photo the camera would show errors like the card was full (even though it still had over 2Gb free), or a numbering error.

It wasn’t just myself that was affected by this, all the other photogs had the same issues. I remember being able to use my CF card in one Sony camera, but not in a later model one, which was annoying as it also had a better lens, and I missed some good shots of the Rhinos.

Two Rhinos playing
Two Rhinos playing

As for the different cameras. I’ll admit from the start that I’m biased to Canon, I have a Canon XL1 video camera, Canon 400D DSLR, and Powershot Pro1 prosumer camera.

I found that the Sony cameras, whilst producing great shots, and having 1 or 2 good lenses, the bodies were very plastic and light. They would be great if every bit of weight counts (say hiking), but when it comes to actually using them there wasn’t enough weight to keep it easily steady, and you felt like you were going to break it.

I wouldn’t recommend the Pentax or Olympus cameras to anyone. Their picture quality was bad, they didn’t want to play well with the CF cards from other cameras, and I found them cumbersome, and not really that easy to use. I particularly hate changing the exposure compensation, which required you to press an awkwardly placed button on top of the camera with your index finger, and then try and scroll with your middle finger.
For comparison, when changing the same thing on my Canon 400D I use my thumb to press the button on the back of the camera near the screen, and use my index finger to scroll. It just feels more intuitive, and it is much faster to transition back to taking photos.
If your going to be spending over $1,000 on a camera that is going to last you a number of years, and will record some of the most amazing times in your life, then you might as well spend the little bit extra to get a Canon or Nikon.

Model with Giraffe
Model with Giraffe

The Hasselblad was an interesting camera. YES! I actually got to play with a >$30,000 39megapixel medium format camera. They had it by the studio setup (which is something I particularly like). Unfortunately this camera would not work with any other CF card at all and required me to completely reformat my 2Gb CF card that I’d been using on my Powershot Pro1 to take photos while on the bus. Given the chance to use such a high end camera I reformatted the card without hesitation. Unfortunately I only took about 10 photos, as I was only using a slow San Disk Extreme II card, not my Extreme IV card (which already had a number of photos on it), and so it took over 30s to save each of the 50Mb compressed Raw .3fr files.

Giraffe eating out of peoples hands
Giraffe eating out of peoples hands

I’ve still not managed to convert the raw Hasselblad files to something usable like DNG, or .tiff. I’ve found out that I either need a copy of Phocus, which seems to require you to activate a product key (having not spent >$20K on a hasselblad product I don’t have one), or you can use Mac OSX with Apeture, which apparently will open it. So I will have to try getting a friend who has a Mac to help, or even worse I might have to install it on a Virtual Machine on my computer *shudders*. I don’t really like Macs.

Update :
It turns out that dcraw, can convert the Hasselblad raw files in both Linux and Windows. It’s a command line tool, so doesn’t have quite the range of options as say the Adobe Camera Raw converter, but worked well, and gave me .ppm files (100Mb each), which I batch converted in IrFan viewer to ~5Mb jpegs.
Actually, it was interesting. There was a couple of images where the flash didn’t go off, and due to the lack of light had a lot of noise. Those images, as jpegs were between 18 and 22Mb, while the normal photos (where the flash went off, and there wasn’t nearly as much camera noise) were only 3.8 to 5Mb in size, almost 1/4 the size. The images had been batch converted at about 90% quality in IrFan Viewer. It just goes to show that camera noise increases the size of the compressed photo.

Also, there was barely any difference in file size for the Raw and .ppm versions of the images, which is expected I guess as they are unprocessed/raw.


Anyway, if you want to be a professional photographer, it’s really a 2 horse race for cameras. Canon or Nikon.
Admittedly the Nikon cameras were good, and did seem to have slightly (barely perceptively) less noise than an equivalent Canon camera, however I found their user interface a bit more cumbersome. Also Nikon don’t have the full range of other equipment, like the high end video camera I have, which allows me to use my Canon DSLR lenses on it, plus I can print on my Canon ip9000 A3+ printer.

Shooting with a Canon EOS1 camera
Shooting with a Canon EOS1 camera

In general, most wedding photographers shoot and print with Canon, and most photojournalists shoot Nikon and print on Epson, with only the very VERY high end Fashion and Advertising photographers being able to afford a Hasselblad or Phase-One Medium Format camera.

Ohh, and the models. Wow, it’s amazing what having properly trained, amazing looking models can do for being a photographer. They would just naturally pose, and switch between poses without needing to be prompted. I’m so used to having to force kids, and random people to smile, which barely lasts a moment, that this was like being in heaven.

Smiling model
Smiling model

Here they would smile on queue, and although there was a fair number of other photographers around all competing for the models attention, and eyes, they coped with it so well, and were all such nice people to talk to. I can see why they were getting paid nearly $500 a day. Although I’m guessing they’d only get $300 of that in the end, with agency fees, GST, etc…
If I ever get a chance, I will definitely be using a model for a shoot. I can also understand why it’s such a big thing trying to find the next super-model. Just trying to find good models must be so difficult, let alone super stars. They have to have a certain look, and confidence about them, have to be sexy, elegant, memorable, or all of the above at once. It also helps if they are nice people, although have to be crazy enough to endure the pressures of fame. Sure some things can be taught over time, but when I mentally go through all my friends, only two people I know could really be models if they tried. Tiffany Hughes, one of my first girlfriends, who did actually enter into a modelling competition, although was quite young and didn’t quite have enough confidence at the time, and Anya, my ex-girlfriend, who has the height, and is very photogenic, but doesn’t quite have the looks nor training these girls had.

Model Bride
Model Bride

Overall the trip was a great experience. I met a great bunch of people, from various walks of life that all had a common interest. Photography.

Studio Shot : Looking over her shoulder
Studio Shot : Looking over her shoulder

There was some people who’s company I really enjoyed more than others. There was one photographer/sales person from Canon who was very much into the whole Safari thing. He actually organises tours to Africa, and has some AMAZING photos, I just wish I could remember his name.

Another person was Sarah, a Uni student on the same bus. She is studying to become a physician, and whilst not having much camera experience, she loved to take Macro shots, and we got along well together. She’s the sort of person I’d love to spend time with to get to know.

Me and Sarah
Me and Sarah

For only $20 we got to do more in one day than I could have done in a week. Hell it’d have cost me more than that just in petrol to go to Monarto.
If I was to go again I would take a Laptop with me so I can download and review my photos on the bus travelling between stops, and would then be able to re-format the memory cards in each camera. I would also do a better job of applying sunscreen, I ended up getting slightly burnt in some patches, considering the vast heat of the Australian Sun.

Surveying the countryside
Surveying the countryside

If you are interested in seeing some more photos, check out my gallery.

By popular demand, I have uploaded a couple of full sized Hasselblad images, click the thumbnails below.


Full sized 4.5Mb JPEG (39Mpixel)
Full sized 3.9Mb JPEG (39Mpixel)
Full sized 4.5Mb JPEG (39Mpixel)
Full sized 4.5Mb JPEG (39Mpixel)
53MB Uncompressed raw
53Mb compressed Raw .3fr *B I G *

Post of the week – 004 : IPTC info in photos.

This  was an old post I forgot to upload a while ago and is an excerpt from a conversation on the DLF (Digital Laborers Federation) email list regarding IPTC information in JPEG photos, which is useful for Photographers, and especially those uploading images to Flickr.


Peter Moran wrote:
> Hey
> I’ve finally got myself a flickr PRO account and wondering the best way to manage things.
> I manage my photos with folders, and occasionally open Picassa (WIN XP) – but if Im going to go to effort and
> tag everything for flickr, I would like for Picassa to be able to read all that and so I can search all my photos
> local also, not just on flickr.
> Unfortunately Irfanview doesnt batch edit EXIF data – my camera seems to just put “EXIF Image Data” in
> the image description field, which then loads into flickr. Manually deleting/replacing this is boring.
> Id like to keep the filename somewhere on flickr also..
> SO maybe a way to batch edit the Image Description field in EXIF? Adding the filename, and whatever else I want?
> I read somewhere you can add tags to it also which flickr can read?
> If I can do all this, can Picasa then search using the EXIF info? No point to tag everything in Picasa if on new computer
> I lose all the tags cause its not within the file itself.
> Cheers
> pete

My Reply :

Hi Pete.
Firstly, EXIF information is the extra metadata information that the CAMERA saves. Things like shutter speed, ISO, aperture, flash settings, etc..
IPTC information is what you are interested in, which is custom meta-data, like the photographer, copyright information, the location the photos were taken, and other various information.

You can use Irfan viewer to VIEW the IPTC info, but it’s not good at adding it.
You are better off using something like Photo Mechanic, which is especially used by a lot of photojournalists.
I use Photo Mechanic regularly to save IPTC/XMP information to my images before I upload them to the internet. It also has very good image selection and batch editing options.

After a large photoshoot I will quite often have a quick view through the photos in Irfan viewer at full screen, to see which ones I like the most. I will then review the photos again in Photo Mechanic, tag the good ones, setup the cropping information, etc, and can then batch save all the tagged photos, or all of a certain colour class to a resized for web JPEG, all watermarked and with the extra IPTC info I defined.

It’s like Lightroom, but it was around way before that and unfortunately doesn’t have all the image manipulation options that Lightroom or Apple Aperture have, although from what I’ve seen, the different programs will all pick up on the tagging, although as far as I’m aware, only Photo Mechanic will actually write IPTC info to Camera Raw files (although I haven’t tried).

Getting back to the topic, Photo Mechanic uses what it calls an ‘IPTC Stationery Pad’, in which you write the basic keywords, copyright, and photographer details, etc.. You can then batch apply the IPTC info to all the selected photos, and and if you so feel, can manually add captions to individual photos.

Most of this information is then picked up by Flickr, so that you don’t have to manually add it.
Also, I’ve read the IPTC information for Pulitzer winning photos, and they are amazingly detailed, although mostly you just want who you are, what your website is and what your photos are about.

Sorry if I’m sounding like a prophet, that is preaching, but the other good thing about Photo Mechanic is that there are multiple ways you can save the IPTC pad information. You can save it to a file, as either a IPT or XMP file, which you can then import on another computer, or you can add it to a quick link (lightning icon), for frequently used presets.

Michael Kubler
Grey Phoenix Productions

His Reply

Hi Michael
Great info! I was a bit confused at the two.
Seems that programs will then be able to search using info within both EXIF and IPTC.
It seems as Flickr picks up the Image Description from the EXIF info, not in IPTC. I will have to do some tests and see what it picks up where, so it can auto name and describe and add tags for me when I load to flickr.

Photo Mechanic looks nice, but $150 for full version…
Im just testing ExifToolGUI, a GUI for the command based ExifTool.

Its free and it will edit Exif Iptc and XMP, copy etc.
Not sure about batch changes though yet

Seems Flickr picks up from IPTC

Caption Abstract – goes to the image description
object Name – goes to Title
keywords – goes to the tags
Country – goes to tags

Byline, Byline Title, Headline, Object Title – All appear in the more details page

From EXIF info

Image description is stored, shown in the More Details
User Comment stored in User Comment

So – that all seems to work!
now if I can get the batch naming from file sorted..

I could use IPTC for caption abstract, object name, keyword, author
And maybe store the original filename in the EXIF image description or user comment.

If only id done all this BEFORE adding like 300 new photos to flickr :( !!

Sandisk Extreme Firewire Compact Flash Card Reader – Faulty

Well, being a wedding, and studio portrait photographer, I wanted to upgrade my crappy CF card reader for a riced, uber one.
The faster I could find, the Sandisk Extreme Firewire Compact Flash Card Reader. Product specs indicate it’s meant to copy at 40MB/s, run via Firewire, and requires an Extreme IV card to make the most if it.

Having a 2Gb Extreme IV CF card, I thought I might as well. I was hoping to be able to use it on my Laptop while out and about, or at the photography stall I have at the Fishermans Warf Markets in Port Adelaide.

So I hunted. While the Sandisk website indicated a few suppliers in Australia, I wanted to try before buying, especially as I was toying with the idea of the extreme USB card reader instead. Unfortunately none of the photographic stores in Adelaide seemed to have it. I couldn’t find any at Diamonds, Ted’s, or the Twin City Camera House.
Eventually I gave up and purchased the unit online from a store in Melbourne.

Finally, I received the unit, only for disappointment. It wouldn’t fit into my Laptop. It wouldn’t accept the 4 pin firewire interface. After doing some searching online I found that on most other online stores that was actually explained. Unfortunately it wasn’t shown on the Sandisk website, nor Camera Action’s :(
I then plugged it into my desktop. “Unknown device detected, please install the drivers“. WHAT THE??? Plugging the device in and inserting a CF card caused the LED to light up on the reader, but windows XP wouldn’t detect it. I tried on another computer, this one with a PCI firewire card, instead of built in… Nothing, Zilch, zip, nada, null.
This computer wouldn’t even detect the card reader, even though the light would come on. A check of windows XP’s device manager showed it had detected an unknown device, but unlike my other computer it didn’t even want me to trying installing some non-existent drivers. The device is meant to just plug in and work.

I then emailed the store, and sent the faulty card reader back. Unfortunately there are no stock of the Extreme USB card readers in Australia that I could swap it for, however the store did contact Sandisk who advised there is was a faulty batch of card readers. Arggh.

Anyway, hopefully some time this week I’ll receive a replacement Sandisk Extreme Firewire CF Card Reader, and not a faulty one.

-Crappy Product Shots-

Photo of the Sandisk Extreme Firewire Compact Flash Card Reader

Photo of the back of the Sandisk Extreme Firewire CF card reader

Note the weird plug on the back. This isn’t any standard firewire port I’ve come across before, however they come with an 8pin -> weird plug converter.

Welcome to 2008

Hello everyone! WELCOME TO 2008!

I hope everyone wonderful New Year.

Hopefully a year in which School Yard Justice is finally completed and I’ve actually finished the website (a working gallery page is almost finished, which is hopefully the hardest of the programming I can envision). Once School Yard Justice is release we can look at showing it at some film festivals, then

I also hope that my girlfriend Anna will get her visa and move from Russia to here, long distance long term relationships are very hard, but I hope rewarding.
Another thing I would like to be rewarding is my photography stall at the Fisherman’s Wharf Markets. Every Sunday I go down to the markets at Port Adelaide and I am planning to have general themes. Starting next weekend I will start a Valentines themed stall, aiming to take photos of couples, singles, or anyone who wants their photo done with a rose and a big love heart shaped Potatoshopped© frame and some phrases.

I also need to move out of home. While I have a lot of freedom at the moment I lack independence. I need somewhere that Anna and I can stay, and also somewhere I can be without being disturbed every time someone decides to get home, go to the toilet, slam a door, talk on the phone, turn the TV on loud, or yell at each other *glares at my Russian step mum and sister*