Friday, December 6, 2013

Ultra-Fast SLR Magic 25mm F0.95 Lens

I recently purchased an SLR Magic 25mm F0.95 lens, one of the fastest lenses ever made. This specialty lens only allows for manual focus. One thing having this lens means is that with the lens wide open, you can take pictures, or shoot video, in very, very dark situations, without supplemental lighting. Even at night, using only the light of the moon!

Another thing you can do with a lens like this is shoot pictures or video with very shallow depth of field, isolating your subject with a very blurred background. Again, this is with the lens wide open. This can be a very nice effect.

These shots are some examples of my first attempts to shoot with the lens wide open, either to capture photos in dark places, or to get that shallow depth of field effect. As you can see, you have to be very, very careful with your focusing. With some of these shots either the subject is a bit out of focus, such as the shot of my daughter on her bike, or, such as with the shot of the hibiscus flower, only a tiny sliver is in focus.
If you are mostly going for the shallow depth of field effect and have enough light, I would recommend using F 1.4 in most situations, because with F0.95 the range of focus is usually TOO narrow. The hibiscus shot for example would have been better at F1.4. Also, the lens is considerably less sharp in general when opened up all the way.

In those super dark situations where you really need that very widest lens opening, take as much care as you can with your focusing. I love my mirrorless cameras as opposed to DSLRs for taking video, but I must admit that some of the DSLRs, especially the full-frame ones such as the Canon Mark III, have a considerably larger and clearer viewfinder which makes for easier focusing with manual focus lenses. On the other hand, they don't make lenses as fast as the SLR Magic for that type of camera! My mirrorless cameras feature a focusing aid which magnifies a portion of the screen and I would recommend using that whenever possible, but that slows things down quite a bit, it's not practical for action shots, and you can't use the focusing aid when shooting video. It also features focus peaking, but that doesn't work well at the widest lens opening. Like I said, it's a specialty lens. I will be on the lookout for a magnifying eyepiece to make this lens more useful in fast-moving situations and when shooting video.

Still, even though the SLR Magic makes shooting more challenging, this is a great lens! I'm looking forward to getting a lot more practice with it. Look for another set of SLR magic pictures later.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Do Your Own HDR

One feature many of today's cameras have is HDR, which involves the camera taking multiple exposures and then blending them together to get maximum dynamic range. In other words, the bright areas like the sky are not washed out, but the shadows are not too dark either. But there are two problems with this automatic HDR: if the subject is moving the pictures don't blend together well, and you don't have any control over how the pictures are blended.

But if you shoot pictures in the RAW format as most pro photographers do, you can do your own HDR after the fact. First, in Photoshop you make three versions of the original photo. The top photo is about right for the water, but the sky is washed out and the girl is too dark. The next one has the girl properly exposed, but the sky is very washed out, while in the next one the sky is good but everything else is too dark. Then you blend the three versions together, which gives you the result like the big version at the bottom. You can do the blending in multiple ways, and since they are all the exact same photo they blend together perfectly no matter how much your subject was moving. This blending takes some time and expertise of course, but that's why you want to hire a pro to take your pictures!

When choosing a photographer, ask if he or she shoots in RAW, and is willing to do this kind of HDR correction at no extra charge. I do this correction routinely when faced with difficult lighting situations like this, rather than relying entirely on fill-in flash as many photographers do. Using a lot of flash makes for an artificial-looking image, in my view. With the extreme backlighting that is typical in a sunset shot like this one, using this HDR technique is not enough to lighten the shadows, so for this I did use some fill-in flash. But there are many situations where you can do without flash altogether, and the lighting looks so nice and natural.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Waimanalo Beach Can Be So Beautiful in the Morning!





The time of day makes a huge difference at beach weddings. When this couple had their formals taken the light was beautiful and the ocean was very calm. Just look at that water! It's like a mirror! It was also nice and cool. In the afternoon the light is harsher, it's almost always more windy, it's much hotter, and you have to deal with hordes of people on the beach. If at all possible try to schedule your beach ceremony early in the morning, especially if your chosen beach is on the windward side of Oahu, as this one is.

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Wedding at "Secret Island"

One reason to choose the unique Captain Howie to do your wedding is because he offers the option to take you in his catamaran to "Secret Island," which isn't really an island but feels like one. These are stills from the video I shot.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Civil Union Ceremony at Paradise Cove

Yes, I support gay marriage. We don't have that yet in Hawaii so this was a civil union ceremony. Paradise Cove has a nice lawn setting for ceremonies, and couples can watch the Polynesian show afterwards. The cove is a beautiful natural one.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Surprise 80th Birthday Celebration

This Hawaiian lady, a professor of Hawaiian Studies, is very much beloved, and her surprise birthday party featured a lot of wonderful Hawaiian music, chanting, and dancing. It was very moving when the man to her right in the pic above sang a Hawaiian song for her that he had composed just for this occasion. These are stills from the two hour video I shot.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wedding and Reception. August 20, 2013

Here is an example of what you get when you purchase an all-day video package for a wedding and reception. I have cut out some long chunks of ceremony and reception talking because of a size limit for uploads, but all of the short shots are intact.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Secret Waterfalls

Everyone thinks of beaches when they think of Hawaiian scenic locales for photography, but what about waterfalls? You have to be willing to do some hiking, but the photo opportunities can be amazing. Both of these waterfalls are just a 10-minute drive and 45-minute hike away from Waikiki. And you'll probably have them all to yourself. The one to the right has another nice waterfall right above it, and the one pictured below has multiple cascades. Let's go hiking!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

An Internet Romance Leads to Marriage

The bride is from Mauritius, a small island in the Indian ocean. For years she and the groom had communicated only online. How romantic! I was hired to shoot video of their ceremony and reception at the Hale Koa Hotel. The video quality of the camera I use is so good that you can get quite good small photos, up to 5 by 7, taken straight from the video as these images were.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Vow Renewal at Waialae Beach Park


I did both photography and video for the vow renewal of this charming elderly couple. Nice having one camera that can do both! It's often a challenge to keep people out of the background in this location.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Waimanalo Beach Vow Renewal, July 7, 2013

Frame grabs from the video. If you want a beach wedding, try to schedule it early in the morning or late in the afternoon when it's not so hot and the light looks better for photography and video. People got a little warm at this ceremony in the late morning!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Family Portraits at Kailua Beach

Kailua Beach has some nice spots for taking family pictures, but you need to know how to deal with the crowds of people that are almost always there. I took these at the east end where you can get up above the beach to keep other people out of the pictures. For the shot walking on the beach there were actually a lot more people in the water but I Photoshopped them out!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Top Ten Secluded Oahu Beaches

Secluded beaches do exist on Oahu, and most of them are not hard to get to. Here is my subjective list of the top ten secluded beaches for weddings. Call or email to find out exactly where they are.
10. Papailoa Beach. This one's near some very crowded beaches of the north shore, but since it's hidden from the main road it can often be almost completely deserted, especially on weekends. It is not very wide and can be more windy than I like, but it has nice views of the north shore.
9. Makua Beach. The only reason this gorgeous, wide beach is not higher on my list is because the main reason it's secluded is that it's almost at the end of the road in Waianae.
8. Papaoneone Beach. This is another beautiful, wide beach in Waianae, not quite so far out, but hidden from the road. The main drawback are the apartment buildings that are the reason it's hidden.
7. Malaekahana Beach. This is another lovely beach that is secluded mainly because it's way up by the northern tip of the island.
6. Loulu Palm beach. This is a beautiful beach on the north shore that is almost always completely deserted because it is fronted by the private Loulu Palm estate. Unfortunately about the only easy way to get to this beach is by getting married at the estate, which is a popular but pricey venue for weddings.
5. West end of Sandy Beach. Sandy Beach is a well-known, crowded beach on Oahu's eastern tip, but few people use the west end because of the rocks along the shore. But those rocks make it more picturesque, and a great setting for photos.
Near Secret Island Beach
4. Secret Island Beach. This great beach by Kualoa Ranch is fairly easy to get to, yet very secluded because few people know it's there! It's not really an island and most of the people there are brought there by Kualoa Ranch. If you go all the way to the end of it it's always empty and there is a stunning backdrop of mountains and a fish pond.
3. Real Cove at the Ihilani Hotel. This one is so secret I can't find a name for it. Next to the artificial coves created when the Ko' Olina resort area near Waianae was developed. Even though it's next to the hotel, it's deserted because hotel guests always use the nearest artificial cove, which is bigger and more suitable for swimming. The real cove is much more picturesque, though.
2. Portlock Beach. I rank this one near Hawaii Kai high because it is very easy to get to and closer to Honolulu than the others, yet deserted most of the time.
1. Keiki Beach. I rank this north shore beach number one because although it is farther from town than some, it is one of Oahu's very best beaches. It's an awesome place to get sunset pictures.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Lively Hale Koa Wedding, April 22, 2013

This couple had a very lively reception at the Hale Koa hotel. I shot video only; these are frame grabs from the video. They really danced the night away! My small camera with no light needed allowed me to be right there with the dancers without intruding.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

New Technology Ushering in a Golden Age for Affordable High Quality Photography and Video!

I've been Tweeting about some of the exciting new products that are making these days a great time for getting super high quality video and photography of your wedding or other event, without breaking the bank. That is, if your photographer or videographer is keeping up with the latest technology! Here I will discuss the top three, which have all arrived on the market within the past few months.

One amazing product is the Metabones Speed Booster, which makes lenses wider and faster without losing sharpness. Oh, and you get shallower depth of field too. If you're not a photographer or videographer you may not know know what shallow depth of field is or why it matters, but trust me, it's a big deal! I can't wait to get this adapter!


Another amazing product is the new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema camera. It costs only a thousand dollars and is the size of a small point and shoot camera, but it can give a videographer 13 stops of dynamic range. Again, this may not mean much to you if you aren't a videographer, but this is an even bigger deal than shallow depth of field. I hope to add this camera to my equipment collection very soon. The above video compares its big brother the Cinema camera, released last year, with a popular Canon DSLR, and the difference is remarkable. The new Pocket camera has only very slightly less dynamic range than the older camera but is far more affordable and easier to use.


The third product is not as revolutionary as the first two, but still exciting. It is the SLR Magic 25mm F 0.95 lens. What is special about this lens is that F 0.95 aperture, which means that you can shoot in very dark situations with no extra lighting. I mean extremely dark, like moonlight or candlelight. There are other lenses that have an aperture this large, but they are considerably more expensive, and, not as sharp. The video above was shot with it. Not by me, but I want to get this lens as soon as humanly possible!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Highlights of a Wedding at Turtle Bay

Highlights from a wedding at the Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu's northern tip. If you want all the amenities of a Waikiki hotel but in a place far from the noise and crowds of Honolulu, Turtle Bay is a great choice.

Monday, March 4, 2013

New Website Launch


Check out the new website, where you will find more information on my rates and equipment, along with some new pictures. Some pages are stil under construction, so check back again later.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Complete Captain Howie Wedding Ceremony, 1/25/13

This video shows one of Captain Howie's offbeat, philosophical wedding ceremonies from beginning to end, after the highlights section is over.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Captain Howie Wedding Highlights 1/18/2013

Captain Howie is a local institution. As he says, his unique wedding ceremonies are "not for everyone," but they are very popular. Some of the formals are shot in his house, which is also unique. He performs some of his ceremonies in his beautiful back yard complete with artificial waterfall, but most are done on the beach. I am one of the videographers he uses to capture his ceremonies. If you want two-camera high-def coverage like this of your wedding ceremony at a surprising price, give me, Chris Walker a call at 721-0149.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Wedding at the Hale Koa


The Hale Koa hotel, with its many garden settings and ballrooms of all sizes, is a very popular venue for weddings and receptions both big and small. Aileen and Jody chose to have a small, intimate ceremony but a relatively big reception, and a great time was had by all! I tried to use as little flash as possible for the indoor shots, and bounce it off walls or the ceiling whenever possible. I'm a big fan of all-natural lighting, even more so than most professional photographers.