Nope.

You know, I though I’d found a good photo sharing site in YouPic. Not American, not Puritan, a good way to share some of my work. Even the work that American platforms do not allow: violence is ok, but the human body is not. Yes, the American excuse for morality is skewed, and wrong.

But at least they’re honest.


As for YouPic: Puritans they may not be, but tacky East Europeans, they are. My advice: stay away from these people. They send messages from aliases, people without surnames – God knows if they actually exist. If you send emails to the addresses they send email from, these emails immediately bounce. A sure sign of a scam. Even on their web site you can’t send them a message without allowing all sorts of “compulsory” nonsense. And no phone numbers you can call, obviously. All giant warning signs.

And if you ever sign up for a paid account, then without warning, they charge you double the next year, without warning – and refuse to refund if you ask, quoting agreements, rules, and policy. Apple may be dictatorial, but they’re hones5 and would refund. As would I: it is inconceivable to me that I would have an unhappy customer and I would force them to pay against their will. I guess the ex Soviet nature of whatever Baltic state these people are from shows its history.

Do I sound pissed? Yes. And that is because I am. Because these cheap kind of scams annoy me. This is 2021. You don’t tell customers that this is allowed, that is compulsory, or such-and-such is “forbidden”.

These people seem to think that they are doing me a favour by publishing my work. It is the reverse. I’m doing them a favour by being on their platform, obviously.

All right, so the search is on for the next platform. No Puritans, but also no scammers. Any ideas welcome. As long as they’re not YouPic.

And otherwise we’ll set up our own!

Opening Again Soon!

While I have been working non-stop, the mall has been closed since Christmas, so the only business my store has been able to do is curb-side, and emergency passport/ID photos.

But on Tuesday Feb 16, the mall is re-opening, and we’ll be fully open to the public again. In this quiet period we have been doing much to further improve our efficiency and workflow, to serve you even better at Michael Willems Photo.

At the same time, I see how COVID-19 is hurting everything. Not just in the obvious way of disease and death, but also the business environment, especially in logistics. Items that would arrive in days from China now arrive in weeks or even longer. Even in Canada – essential supplies that I had sent “expedited delivery” via Canada Post ten days ago from Toronto have not yet arrived in Ottawa – a four hour drive.

Prices, too – photo frames that we buy for resale, for example, as well as paper and pigments: everything is going way up. Some $20 frames now go for $85 – seriously.

But as much as possible, we have tried not to have things affect our customers: in most cases we have been able to keep prices the same. We even have new initiatives for students and members of the military: see here.

So while the supply-issues may mean I may not be able to do all of the prints you want the same day, they will be done with the usual care and attention. See you in the store Tuesday and beyond!

Buy a used lens, or not?

Jim asks:

Hi Michael just wondering about your advice on a used camera lense….. I am looking at on Facebook market place …. it’s a canon wide angle zoom 10-22 for my canon 70D …. I am a little leery about buying a used lense and also buying and having it shipped sight unseen …

I understand the hesitation. The world is full of cheats and thieves.

But there are also at least as many honest people. Here’s my thoughts on buying a used lens.

  • Lenses tend to work practically forever, so I am generally in favour. You get a great lens for less than the new cost: why not? DO not expect a really really big discount though: lenses keep their value for decades.
  • Always ask the seller to promise that the lens is undamaged and in fully working order. Communicate via email or some other way that keeps a record.
  • Make sure you agree some course of action if that should not be the case.I am not talking about a full warranty, but what if after three hours the lens dies?
  • Ask for history: why are you selling, what did you use it for, do you have the box, etc. A good reason to sell would be “I am upgrading to full frame and this is a crop sensor lens”, for example.
  • Always ask for full contact details. I check them, and if it’s an expensive lens I have been known to take a copy of the seller’s driver’s license. After all, the lens could be stolen: it’s no more than a sensible precaution.
  • I am weary of Kijiji, so this caution doubly applies there.
  • As does this caution: “meet in a public place”.
  • eBay has warranties, so that is a little safer.
  • I like Facebook marketplace too: much fewer ‘flakes’ than on Kijiji. Check how long the Facebook user has had an account. If that’s “one week”, then you know there are alarm bells ringing.
  • When looking at a lens, take some photos at the extremes: fully zoomed in and out; lowest and highest f-number.
  • Check the prices on eBay – only look for “sold listings”!

Of course always keep in mind the old adage that “if it seems to be too good to be true then it probably is too good to be true”. But there are many good lenses to be had. So if the above all checks out, you should be fine. And there’s nothing like a new lens – fun!

For a flow, go slow.

I have a useful mnemonic for you: “For a flow, go slow”.

Meaning if you are picturing something that happens as a continuous flow, you should use a slow shutter speed, to capture it as that flow.  Like this, a few years ago:

To do this I did the following:

  1. Defy death by climbing down an unofficial trail.
  2. Use a tripod.
  3. Use a wide angle zoom lens (16-35mm, on a full frame camera).
  4. Put a variable neutral density (ND) filter on the lens, set to its maximum darkness.
  5. Camera on manual. Use 100 ISO and a high f/number; in this case, f/20
  6. Now see what shutter speed I need (20 seconds).

And that’s it!

Notes:

  • You do not always need a slow shutter. For the waterfall, 1 second would have been fine too. But the river looks better at that slow speed.
  • At small apertures you will see sensor dust if there is a blank surface, like a sky, in the shot.
  • Use the 2s self timer, or you will shake the camera by pressing the shutter button.
  • Do not damage your equipment; it’s easy enough!

And you will get great pictures.

___

This is a repeat post – because it’s still true.

Creative flash

I am teaching a six evening “Creative Flash 301” course, using Zoom, to the Ajax Camera Club. Fun, and finally an excuse to get a little creative again.

For example. One flash above subject, with small softbox; plus a little fill from front right:

Next: One flash. How is it done, can you work it out?

And another one, showing that one or two off camera flashes is enough to create some cool shots. In this case, just one, again:

Only your creativity is the limit, really. So if you don’t yet know how to get creative with flash, learn (I can help), and have some fun.

Gels for correction (Repeat from 2015)

You can use some gels (colour filters) for correction, Here, from 2015, is a post with an example.

Take this: I am lit pretty much OK by my flash, and with the camera set to FLASH white balance,, but the background is a tungsten light, so it looks red. I happen to like that, but what if I want that background to look normal, white, the way it looks to me?

Well…  can I not just set the white balance to Tungsten?

No, because then, while the background would look good, the parts lit by the flash would look all blue, like this:

Part 1 of the solution: make the light on me come from a tungsten light source too, so we both look red. We do this by adding a CTO (colour Temperature Orange) to the flash.

Part 2 of the solution: Now you can set the white balance on your camera to “Tungsten”, and both I and the background will look neutral:

Done. Now we both look normal.

So, in summary:  when you are dealing with a colour-cast ambient light, gel your flash to that same colour cast, and then adjust your white balance setting to that colour cast.

Apollo 13

Sometimes I feel like an Apollo 13 engineer. Everything is going wrong – but you use ingenuity (and duct tape) to make it work again.

Yesterday afternoon, suddenly:

  • My Mac has unrecoverable disk errors
  • My external drive, where my photos live, spontaneously lost all of 2020!

Fortunately:

I make backups.

…and as it happens I had made a backup that very morning. So after a quick restore, all is well again.

And now I need to find a day where I do not need the Mac, so that I can reformat the drive and start over…