Tuesday, November 13, 2012


All the commissioned shoots from Dragon*Con 2012 are done, and photos delivered.

Next up is to start working through the pro-bono group shoots, such as the Wonder Woman Universe shoot I did Dragon*Con Sunday morning.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Damn Canon and Nikon (less) Both

Yeah, I'm grumpy. I've been considering moving up to a full frame camera body. I keep shooting shows and performances in places with spectacularly crappy lighting, and my studio shoots could be improved the slightly wider field of view provided by a full frame camera (it's a tight studio).

So, I was extremely excited about the new "entry-level" full-frame DSLRs Canon (6D) and Nikon  (D600) were rumored to be announcing at Photokina this month. Outside of the rumor mill price on the D600 seeming to be way too low (it was off by $600), these cameras seemed like they might be the way forward for me. The 6D because I shoot Canon and I thought they might be ready to seriously compete again, and the D600, because it appeared to be enough camera to make a platform switch feasible.

And then the cameras were announced.

The Canon 6D? A huge miss. The announced AF system appears to be a joke - 11 points, but only one worth a damn. That's right - 1 cross-type sensor (sensitive to both horizontal and vertical lines). My 7D has 19 cross type sensors, my 60D has 11. The current Digital Rebel, the lowest end DSLR in the line up has 11 cross type sensors.  So what if the lone good  6D AF sensor goes down to -3 EV - I don't shoot many portraits by candlelight. And I doubt it will help when the performer on that dimly lit stage is wearing a dark outfit - that's when it really helps to have good outer AF points, so you can put an AF point on the face, which will be reflecting enough light to focus with.

The D600 is frustrating because it's almost enough camera to get me to switch. Almost. Apparently, Nikon decided that a dedicated rear AF button is a pro feature, so it got dropped from the D600 (the D800 has it). $2,100 camera, not pro enough for the one button I use all the time, according to Nikon marketing. It's a small thing...except for the fact that I use that functionality on every photo. Yes, I could reprogram the AF-L button, but it's not the same.

And there's sort of an issue with the D600 AF. It's the same AF module as the D7000 - which means it doesn't cover as much of the bigger D600 sensor as I would like. This makes off-center compositions harder than they should be, but hey, according to Nikon marketing, I need $3,000 "pro" camera to get a proper artistic tool .

Where both the D600 and 6D fall down is in a place I didn't expect: flash sync.

The D600 syncs at 1/200th, and the 6D at an execrable 1/180th. Considering that Nikon solved the full frame sync at 1/250th of a second problem in 1983, and Canon shipped cameras syncing at that speed in 1989, there's just no technological excuse for the backsliding.

Those sync speeds limit what I can do in mixing ambient light and flash. It limits the action-stopping ability of the shutter when I'm using flash to fill in the ambient light, rather than override it. It even affects the shutter's ability to control user lens shake. The portrait below was shot with a 200 f/2.8 at 1/250th. Dropping down to 1/180th would have put me below the 1/focal length rule for shake free exposures, and screwed up up the already dicey flash to ambient ratio.

And, yes, that's an outdoor portrait - the background was terrible, so I worked hard to choose a place where I could override the ambient with flash enough to kill the background, and I almost didn't make it (reminder to self, get high output reflect for Alien Bees).

Nick Fury

So, what's a boy to do? If I want to go full frame, on paper the D600 is the better camera: faster frame rate, better sync speed, twin card slots, a stunningly good 24 MP sensor, and you can buy it now (at the time of writing, it's estimated to be another two months before a single 6D will ship to a consumer).

If the D600 had come with a dedicated rear focus button and a 1/250th flash sync, I'd probably be selling my Canon gear right now. But those omissions make me hesitate. Hesitate enough to where the pain of doing an entire system swap comes to front of mind.

The 6D is not an option, not unless that AF system turns out to be a miracle. And I'm not dropping $3,500 for a 5D MK III, because it's just not worth it.

The option that makes the most sense is to wait, I guess. Canon's rumored to have a new APS-C sensor coming soon (the size in my 60D and 7D), and if it catches up to Nikon's APS-C sensors in image quality, that might be the ticket.

It used to be simpler - camera capabilities increased as you moved up the line. Now, Canon and Nikon do price-point marketing, as opposed to functionality marketing, or even market segment marketing. And they make strange decisions about what to leave out to distinguish between camera models. And both seem to think that photographers have never-empty wallets, at time when it's harder to make a buck at photography than ever before.

Maybe it's time to consider Pentax.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On the Geek Forge

I did two commissioned shoots at Dragon*Con with the couple behind The Geek Forge: one with them as heroes, one with them as villains.

They've posted the both sets on their site. Go check them out, and then look for the behind scenes stuff they have posted on the making of some of the costumes.

Heroes: Question and Huntress

Villains: Two-Face and  Rule 63 Deathstroke

Robin Defeated

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dragon*Con 2012 Photos

Some are going up on the Paul Cory Photography Facebook page.

A more complete Dragon*Con 2012 set is going up on Flickr.

If you commissioned a photoshoot, you will see some previews on Facebook. When all the photos are done, I will send you an email with a link to where you can download the full resolution, unwatermarked finals.

If you were in one of the Superhero Costuming shoots I photographed (Pin Up, Birds of Prey/Secret Six, Wonder Woman Universe), previews will appear on Facebook, and all the pics will show up on Flickr and in the appropriate shoot thread on the SCF forum.

If you were somebody I shot during the con as a pick up shot somewhere, watch Facebook and Flickr.

At the moment, my time for post processing photos has been greatly curtailed by a big project at the $dayjob. As a result, I will be prioritizing getting the paid commissions done first, for obvious reasons. Once I am finished with them, I will move on to the SCF group shoots, and then the pick ups.

Gotham Guardian - Huntress

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Artists Vault Photo of the Day

This photo of mine was selected as The Artists Vault photo of the day.

Brady Alton, Fire Spinner

If you're in Raleigh the first Friday of a month, any month, you should come on down and see the gallery and visit with the artists.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Canon Didn't Want Me to Take This Photo

The talented Tona "Moonkitty" Willet  (http://www.modelmayhem.com/2130529)

One of the joys of learning the technical capabilities of your equipment is running up against manufacturer-imposed restrictions that make no sense.

In the case of Canon, it's the ridiculous inability to use rear-curtain (2nd curtain) sync and their wireless E-TTL system together. Nikon can do this, so there's no technical reason why Canon can't do it as well.

Quick technical note: most digital SLRs still use mechanical shutters, with two curtains. The first one opens at the start of the exposure, revealing the sensor, and the second one moves later to end the exposure. Rear curtain sync is when the flash starts firing as the second shutter curtain begins to move, and is almost always preferable to front-curtain sync.

This matters because the photos in this post simply don't work without being able to rear-curtain sync multiple off-camera strobes. The light patterns and movement trails just don't come out quite right if the flash comes and freeze the motion at the beginning of the exposure. For starters, the LED light trails from the hoop won't superimpose over the dancer's body so cleanly. Second, her motion trail, if she leaves one, will look all wrong.

So, working within Canon's E-TTL Wireless system, you can't shoot these photos right. And, Canon won't rear-curtain sync with just any old standard radio trigger. So, how did I make it work, despite Canon's best efforts, and without expensive, Pocket Wizard-class, radio triggers?

Optical slaves.

 I have a pair of LumoPro LP 160s, that feature built-in optical slaves (another Canon omission that has no technical justification). I used a Canon 430EX II on my Canon 60D, set to minimum power and rear-curtain sync, to trigger the LP 160s via their optical slaves. The LP 160s were set to the left and right of the stage to cross light the performer, zoomed to the 105mm setting, but bare of any modifiers.

This, plus a tripod and a 2-2.5 second exposure, gave me lovely light trails from the hoop, and a solid, sharp dancer in the center.

There is, of course a downside to using dumb optical slaves in any situation where there are other folks with cameras around, as there were here. To wit: every time their flashes go off, so do yours. This can be a great way to completely burn out a flash, or have your flashes go off at the wrong time, or have your flash be in recharge mode when they should be going off, causing you to miss a shot. Keep that in mind if your decide to try this for yourself.