Sirui mini tripod – my thoughts + a color image from Scotland, and a black and white from Corsica.

landscapes, photo gear

Hi there, for a change a gear review post.

For landscape work I have been a pleased owner of a Berlebach report tripod for many years now. I have had a little issue with it last year, which has been solved amazingly well by the Berlebach company, see my post about it here: http://www.ludwigdesmet.com/2016/09/19/thumbs-up-for-excellent-customer-service-berlebach/

I have taken this tripod with me on my motorbike on many occasions, mostly when giving classes to adults, but it is not very practical because the tripod is big. When mounted it extends beyond the two big panniers I have on my large bike! (BMW R1200GS).

So I have been looking for a smaller tripod for last summer’s trip to Scotland, and for lighter travelling to Corsica weeks after that. I bought the Sirui T-005X with C-10S ballhead, from the T05X Series Traveler Ultralight

It is a lightweight, very compact package, weighs 0.8 kgs and has a maximum height of 137cm and a packing size of 33 cm. This makes it ideal for my motorcycle travels or when you are traveling light in any other way.

How did it fare?

I found it very well performing in quiet weather conditions. The image below is a behind the scene’s shot on a trip out, rain pouring down all day, overcast and not much light, so a tripod was mandatory for I had pretty long shutter times. 0,6s at f11 and ISO100 for the below image.

Image taken in Strontian, Ariundle, Scotland.

as you can see the tripod legs have several spread angle’s, which comes in handy on uneven terrain. The feet are very tiny at approximately 18mm diameter, so some care on where to put them is to be taken. Otherwise, the tripod gave me a perfectly sharp image.

When walking with the camera, the ball head clearly is too weak for a big DSLR (Canon 5Ds) even with a moderately light lens on it. (Canons 17-40 mm f4L, with a weight of 475g) The camera will start heading down soon, no matter how tight you fasten the head knob.

Otherwise, no complaints here.

In Corsica I stumbled upon a deserted hotel, that inspired me to do some long exposure shots. The weather was sunny with clouds, and a rather strong wind, with gusts up to 80km/h (45-50 miles), the building was partly surrounded by green area, with scattered trees. Still I chose to remove the center column of the tripod, for increased stability. (the center column only supported in a single point is the least stable element in all tripods) The removal of the center column is really easy, and the ballhead then screws directly on the tripod base, resulting a much stabler unit. I have no behind the scenes image of this setup so I’ll grap a marketing image from Siriu:

I still had the tripod set up with the legs fully extended in most images, and made perfectly sharp images with shutter speeds over 2 minutes: 121s f13 ISO125 and detail below. I have no images that show camera movements, so I think this is very good proof of the stability of this setup.

 

The downsides:

I find the leg opening/closing grips rather soft, and some seem to show some wear already, curious to know how long they will last. Also the camera plate is very small, this is clearly not aimed at DSLR users, but more towards the high end compact, light system camera’s. Fortunately the system is Arca Swiss compatible, so I can use my Berlebach dovetail type plates in stead. The ball head, although said to hold 4kgs, will certainly not hold its position when on the move. 4 leg segments are a bit long to extend, especially compared to my Berlebach, that has only two segments.

The pro’s:

Very light, very compact, budget friendly, stable within limits, easy to convert to ‘without center column’, then it is even more stable. Not expensive, comes with a carrying bag.

Verdict.

I am very pleased with this little tripod, it fits my motorcycle panniers, it is very light, it extends high enough for my landscape needs and it is stable in light windy weather. I’m a bit afraid that heavy conditions will not be good friends with this tripod, but If you are looking for an easy to carry companion for night shots or occasional landscape work, I can recommend! And at a very fair price of € 109, it won’t break the bank!

 

Ludwig

 

 

New Publication – Goodlightmagazine

Nude, personal tips & tricks, Tips and Tricks

Goodlightmagazine, an online magazine specialised in photography lighting techniques has published an article by me about photographing nudes with available light. It contains a lot of examples, what to look for in a location, some basic rule explanations and very well crafted light diagrams.

make sure to check it out here:  http://www.goodlightmag.com/gift

just fill in your email address and you’ll be granted a free download of the current issue.

Personally I’m not very fond of the magazine layout, but the content is very good 😉

a sample of the first two pages of this 9 page editorial below:

best,

Ludwig

Thumbs up for excellent customer service – Berlebach

photo gear, Uncategorized

I do not often speak about material I use, or my brand of camera’s being better than the other one, … you know what I mean, mainly because I don’t think gear matters all that much.

It is a pleasant thing to know  your gear will be working whenever you need it, so I do appreciate reliability and so, but I don’t think that you’ll absolutely need the latest gear to make good images.

This said, I would like to write this little post about the makers of the tripod I have been using for about 6 years now. It has been facing salty sea water, clamping down on my motorbike, rain and ice, mud and dirt, and all nice things in between. The brand is Berlebach. They are nice ash-wood tripods, comparable to the type of tripods land surveyors use for their theodolites. Not excessively expensive, very sturdy, very stable (wood has the natural ability to absorb vibrations), very well finished and beautiful to look at. They don’t get your fingers freezing in cold temperatures, all good things. The downsides: they are heavy, mine does have long leg segments, which makes them(it) a bit cumbersome on long hikes. Mine is from the Report series, and it features a very handy ball-joint built into the tripod itself. This makes levelling the tripod a piece of cake, no matter what surface you are working on. The head is a three way head, all metal, beautifully finished and with a very tight grip.

Now, after six years of good service, one of the handles broke. It happened on the way back from the institute where I teach photography classes. My tripod was tightly secured on my motor when suddenly I took a road bump (they happen to be quite present here in Belgium) and I heard some clattering under the bike. Stopped, saw the handle in the middle of the street. It just broke off of the tripod head. No idea why or if it had been damaged before or …

So I sent an email to customer service to ask if they still could provide a replacement for this handle. The answer was short and very clear “Dear Ludwig, we will send you a new handle”. I thanked them and asked if this would be a payable replacement, that I would understand that since my tripod was at least 5 years old (didn’t bother looking how old it was exactly) …

Again a quick reply: “No, it will be sent free of charge, we only need your post address.”

😀 😀 😀

It dropped into my mailbox a couple of days later, not the same design, but even more handy, since a little smaller. Now here is my thought about this all: Where do you find companies these days that, after 6 years of buying their goods, will replace a part for free, send it for free, all with a smile? Thank you Berlebach!! www.berlebach.de

 

berlebach-tripod

ludwig

ANGRY – Natural light portrait – setup

beauty, people, personal tips & tricks, portrait

luckily this was only roleplay, she was not really angry with me, I would have feared for my life, if not certainly my camera gear. 😉

Ludwig Desmet EC-5

1/20s f2.8 ISO 400 – Canon EF 100mm f2.8 Macro L

setup:

long hallway with big windows on the left side, first part of the hallway, no windows to the right.

Model just behind the last window.

Big styrofoam board to the right side of the model, filling in shadow parts. (120x240cm – about 50×100″)

That’s it, simple as anything, and a styrofoam board costs a couple of euro’s.

I had to darken the background a little at the right side, there was some light spill at the end wall of the hallway.

pinehouse gang 1

after the angry part, we did some more friendly images too.

here I’m off to the left, so the right wall becomes visible and I don’t get completely black in the background.

Ludwig Desmet EC-2

below: 1/50 f1.6 ISO400 – Sigma 50 mm f1.4 DG Art

Frontal again, showing very dimly lit ceiling windows, not giving any effect on the subject.

Ludwig Desmet EC-3

Ludwig Desmet EC-4

thank you for watching.

Ludwig

Pauline on film – NSFW

beauty, Nude, Personal Pictures, photo gear

Ludwig Desmet-KISP_materie-3345

I told you before I would talk a bit more about the Rolleiflex I use for shooting on film.

The camera is a Twin Lens Reflex, built in the late 50’s, so the camera is about 60 years old.

The construction with the two lenses, of which the upper lens is for viewing only (viewing lens) and the lower lens is for taking the image (taking lens) has advantages and disadvantages. In comparison to the older camera’s that used flat film sheets, where one had to remove the matte focusing screen before putting in the film holder for taking the image, this camera allows to shoot multiple images without moving anything. There is a 45° tilted mirror behind the viewing lens, projecting a mirrored image on the horizontal focusing screen.

Of course viewfinder camera’s existed as well, but they had no visual reference of the focusing plane, or the sharpness of the subject when changing focus. A photographer using a viewfinder camera had to use the distance scale on the lens, and the not so trusty guesswork for camera to subject distance.

Both lenses of the this TLR move forward and backward while focussing, and so provide an identical image on the ground glass as the image to be expected on the film. Still, the smallest amount of inaccuracy of the lens focusing mechanism leads to bad focusing, and I believe this camera suffers at least some looseness in the forward-backward movement.

Dealing with this complex mechanism of focusing, meant also that these camera’s are mostly fixed focal length. Some camera’s came in different focal length versions, but camera’s with interchangeable lenses where very rare. (Except for the Mamiya C)

This camera comes with a 75 mm f3.5 lens, it also existed in a f2.8 version, usually much more expensive on the secondhand market. 75 mm on 6×6 film format has an equal viewing angle to a 38 mm lens on Full frame DSLR, or a 24 mm lens on a 1.6 crop camera, so a rather ‘wide-standard’ viewing angle.

The lens is certainly not paramount, and suffers heavily from flare, as can be seen in the images below (does somebody have a lens hood for this camera for me?). An aperture of 3.5 gives a good amount of image unsharpness on medium format. 2.8 would be nicer of course. The images lack a bit of contrast and sharpness.

Composing with the mirrored image on the focusing plane is a bit of a habit.

Shutter speed range is limited, from 2 seconds to 1/500th of a second, thus mostly limiting the wide open apertures in bright light. The mirror does not move, since it is not obstructing the film plane, so there are not vibrations from this side. Activating the shutter however demands some finger movement (unlike today’s DSLR’s where pushing the shutter entirely only takes some tenth of a millimeter) causing some hand stress and maybe movement unsharpness. Shutter speeds as long as 1/15th. of a second seem not possible to me without image shake. Maybe with some more experience.

The camera has a built in exposure meter, but it no longer works, so exposer should be metered with another camera, or with a hand held meter, I use the latter.

Film for this camera is widely available here in Belgium, both black and white and color film. Not sure about slides. Development is still available too, although it can take a while (1-2 weeks) before getting the negatives back. Scanning the negatives, as well as retouching them (from dust) is a tedious process.

The biggest advantages for me is that I spend more time composing, and checking out if everything is well in place before taking the image. It learns me to concentrate more on details, on exposure, on posing etc. … One roll of film equals 12 exposures, after that the fun is over. 😀 The fact that you see the image mirrored gives you a fresh view on your scene, revealing flaws in your image/composing remaining unnoticed as you set it up. (But I still have a lot to learn)

A second big advantage is that the images are square format. This gives me a more relaxed feeling when composing, and I believe that the images are more harmonious too. I kind of like this square format more and more. (This made me thinking about modifying a matte screen for my 5D mark II to indicate ‘square’ cropping).

changes I have had:

I had the original focusing screen replaced with a focusing screen with split prism and microprism focusing aids, and that adds to the accuracy of focussing with the camera.  I also had the shutter speeds checked out by the same specialist repair shop that also changed the focusing screen.

To be continued. Enjoy this small portrait series I made with Pauline lately – Rolleiflex 3.5E – Tmax 400 film.

Ludwig Desmet-PaulineM-007

Ludwig Desmet-PaulineM-010

Ludwig Desmet-PaulineM-006

Ludwig Desmet-PaulineM-005

Ludwig Desmet-PaulineM-004

Ludwig Desmet-PaulineM-002

thank you for reading, see you soon,

Ludwig

Presentation

beauty, exhibition, photo gear, Uncategorized

very short notice, but not too late. Tomorrow evening I will be giving a live presentation about my beauty shoots.
How do I do things, which gear do I use, preparations, locations, models, the shoot, development etc.
Tomorrow night, in Ronse, Belgium. Just be there, or you’ll have missed it. 😉

Presentatie Ronse uitnodiging

The best possible add-on for your dslr.

beauty, Personal Pictures, photo gear

I give evening classes for adults, teaching them the very basics of photography. They learn about aperture, shutter speed and iso settings, the basics of composition, light metering, Depth of Field, how to handle their camera etc. …

In about 5 months, they become a bit more aware of the ins and outs of digital photography.

Soon, after a couple of months, the same question comes up in every group: ‘I’m willing to invest in some more equipment, what should I buy?’.

You should see this question in the understanding that most people bought a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) without any technical knowledge about photography, and mostly they have followed the sellers advice of buying a body and a kit-lens (or two kit-lenses).

These zoom kit-lenses generally have a maximum aperture of about f 1:4.0 closing further down to f1:5.6 on zooming.

Especially when we talk about DOF (depth of field) and the relation between the aperture setting and the span of depth of field, my students quickly realize that with their zoom lenses with relatively small maximum apertures, they will never get the result they want.

A bigger aperture setting gives a more shallow depth of field, this means that the bigger your aperture is, the blurrier the background will be. An effect often sought after, to make the subject ‘pop up’ from the background.

So my advice mostly is: ‘buy yourself a good portrait lens, that is a fixed focal length lens, 50 mm for a camera with crop sensor, 85 mm for a full frame camera. It’s cheap, it’s lightweight and small, you can shoot in low light conditions, because the big maximum aperture lets in a maximum amount of light, and it will allow you to work creatively with the shallow depth of field it can give you.’

The best value for money you get with a 50mm f1:1.8 lens, which will cost about 120 € in Canon and Nikon.

Some examples with my Canon 50 mm f1:1.4

charlemagne-art_50mm-1794

charlemagne-art_50mm-1826

charlemagne-art_50mm-6546

charlemagne-art_50mm-6976

charlemagne-art_50mm-7821

charlemagne-art_50mm-8226

see you soon for more pictures!

Take care and happy shooting!

Ludwig