COBA Third Meeting

The third meeting of the Canon Owners of the Bay Area moved from the lush interior of the Mountain View City Hall to the campus of Stanford University. In the Bechtel International Center’s Assembly Room, about 30-40 people were present to listen to feature presentations by Eric Cheng and Mike Doran & Jim W.

Eric spoke to the group about underwater and marine photography. He recently returned from Kona, Hawaii, where he used an underwater housing from UK Germany with the new EOS-D60. Mark Liebman of Pictopia brought in some stunning 20×30 sample prints of Eric’s photos using his company’s LightJet. The resolution and level of detail caught by the D60 make it a stellar performer underwater. Many of Eric’s photographer colleagues on that trip were ready to throw away their film cameras in favor of the D60! Yes, it’s that good!

According to Eric, there have been housings for consumer digicams for about five years now, but the drawbacks tended to outweigh the benefits of digital — no convenient access to manual controls, shutter lag, and an unwieldy camera. With a housing like the UK Germany D30/D60 housing, however, underwater photographers no longer have to experience the joy of shooting one roll of 36-exposure film in 5 minutes only to spend the next 40 minutes of the dive waiting to surface to reload film! The learning curve when shooting underwater digitally is dramatically shorter, since one can shoot, review the photo, adjust the controls, and shoot again.

One typically shoots manual while underwater. During the day, Eric said that he exposes for a nice dark blue background by underexposing 1-2 stops. He uses flash to illuminate the subject. At night, he picks an arbitrary exposure and adjusts the flash power accordingly. Wide-angle shots are almost always illuminated on manual control as well.

Mike and Jim are the chief photographers at the Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California. Their presentation covered a number of aspects of sports photography, such as getting sharp photos when the subject is moving towards you at over one hundred miles per hour and strategies for decreasing the number of throwaway shots. One tip that Mike and Jim mentioned for aspiring motorsports photographers is to go near a highway to take “action” shots of the cars passing by. See if you can get them sharp as a tack at f/11 1/250s!

One of the things that both presenters mentioned was that digital encourages you to practice and experiment in ways that would have been prohibitively expensive with film. The beauty about digital is that you can instantly see what you just took. If you don’t like the exposure on one image, fix it the next time by adjusting the shutter speed, aperture, or flash power. There’s no cost for film or for processing, so go out there and experiment! Eventually, the act of photography becomes instinctual, not guesswork.

During the meeting, a question was raised about airline restrictions taking photographic equipment on board. Jim pulled out a laminated, double-sided card that outlined the FAA Regulations regarding hand-checking of film (and presumably other photographic gear). Perhaps Jim could post a comment below with the exact text so we can all print out copies for ourselves the next time we take to the air in the continental United States.

Mike and Jim’s method of storing photos drove home the point that good technology to catalog and archive our images still has yet to be developed. Since they take literally hundreds to thousands of shots each race, they catalog their images according to date and discipline (i.e. Motorcross, Formula One, etc.). They don’t have time to enter in IPTC fields for all of their images, since that would take forever. I’ve never bothered to enter in all those fields myself, so I’m curious to see how other photographers are dealing with the vast amounts of photos they’re taking. I think the next meeting will have a section on workflow techniques and strategies.

Speaking of which, the next COBA meeting will be held in the middle or end of May at the Bechtel International Center. I’ll be sure to post locations of alternative parking lots. The Tresidder lot was full this evening, causing many people to wander around in circles looking for an open spot! I honestly didn’t expect there to be so many cars in the parking lot after 7:00 pm! We’ll be sure to correct that at the next meeting. See y’all in May!

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