It was fun working with Chiaki last night down town

It was fun working with Chiaki last night down town. It’s been a long time since I’ve done night shooting. I had hoped for either a spot of rain on clear / see-through umbrellas, or late afternoon sunset light. However, I got neither, but instead, we used the atmospheric light. Update to the JapanesePhotos Instagram at: http://bit.ly/2uHmspI. For more, see Chiaki’s gallery here.

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Lifestyle shoot: Summer at home


Daydreams. This is one of the wonderful photos with Eri from the shoot this week. Special thanks to the wonderful, cheery, and very talented Eri; it is always great working with you. Also, a big thanks to Akiko, our most-helpful and wonderful makeup artist for the day. Also, a special thanks to the owners of the house for letting us shoot there. どうもありがとうございました。


We shot a variety of situations through the day. The theme was a lifestyle shoot of “Summer at Home”. We couldn’t get through the complete wish list, but did the best we could. The typhoon the day before disrupted our start times, especially as we weren’t sure if we could start on time as planned, start later, if at all. In the end, we started later in the morning than we hoped.

The highlights: Eri can make paper cranes, Akiko was a brilliant assistant, the mandarin flavoured ice block was apparently really nice, so too the pizza, and I didn’t bump my head too many times on the low door frames.

 


Update to the JapanesePhotos Instagram at: http://bit.ly/2vo6ZrL. More photos of this shoot are in the Eri Gallery of the PhotoShelter Portfolio.

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Caught up with a buddy, and craftbeer in Akihabara

Caught up with a buddy over the weekend in Akihabara and discovered this wonderful craft beer place. My beer was slightly herbaceous and slightly hoppy, his was apparently herbaceous and fruity. I usually prefer darker beers, but it was hot, I mean, muggy, humid, dank, energy-sapping kind of hot. So, I had to get something light and spritzy. It was wonderful; the perfect way to end a hard-yakka day.
Update to the JapanesePhotos Instagram at: http://bit.ly/2vk6OOs.

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Still trying to use the Gnarbox as a professional tool

In short: no. But here’s the long story.

I’ve written about the Gnarbox Kickstarter campaign as a backer. It was the first time for me to support such a campaign. I don’t want to delve into all the drama (really the word “drama” is the appropriate noun to use), but after continual delays, broken promises, and constantly updated delivery schedules, it was delivered 14 months late, and instead of 4Gb RAM, we got 2Gb. I got it as a travel back up storage device. The chief problem I have with it is that there is no security installed other than your wifi access password. I don’t even know if the connection is encrypted. However, most people won’t need that review, but what they will need is this review.

Using the Gnarbox for the first time in a cafe in Nagoya Japan.

The main selling point of the Gnarbox is the in-field back, editing, and preparation for immediate posting to social networks. There have been some big name vloggers like Peter Mckinnon and Lok Cheung who have “reviewed” the Gnarbox, and have said wonderful things about it. They are vloggers, they make a portion of their income from YouTube videos, so they have their vested interests. I’ve now seen them in a whole other light, and now I do not trust these promoted “reviews”, and probably will always be skeptical and untrusting of such “reviewers”. Their reviews say essentially the same thing, but both are from the video maker’s point of view.

Both McKinnon and Lok tout the Gnarbox for all the key sales points the Gnarbox company have carefully crafted. However, some serious short comings slip through. The Gnarbox was tested mostly in the winter in the snow resorts in California. Which means, serious issues like the super hot top surface is missed in the field trials, and perhaps the significance is overlooked in the design studio. How hot does it get? Literally: untouchable.

Battery life is also an issue. The Gnarbox tauts a 4-6 hour battery, but it seems mine will struggle to make it to 3 hours. The image below shows both my iPad Mini and Gnarbox battery levels, but both started equally at 100% (though my iPad was taken off charge 8 hours earlier, but not used until this test). As you can see, the iPad used not only wifi, but also had to power the large, energy hungry, touch screen, and be monitoring updates for messages, Twitter, Instagram, and other apps. At the same time, the Gnarbox only had to power the processor and wifi. The iPad used only 6% of it’s total battery capacity, whilst the Gnarbox chewed through 31%. I’ll let you judge the in-field practicality of this.

 

Both my iPad and Gnarbox started with 100% battery, and in the same period of time the battery remaining are quite different.

Both my iPad and Gnarbox started with 100% battery, and in the same period of time the battery remaining are quite different.

 

The other key point is the ability to edit raw files in the field without a laptop, just use your smartphone instead. I’ll admit that I use my iPad Mini instead, as I’d rather see the details, or rather, as much as I can. I’m editing full sized 24mb Sony Alpha files from a Sony a99, which are billboard sized images if printed fully. However, there’s no way to zoom in to see the details. Secondly, if it’s for posting to social media, then why is there no means to save smaler low-resolution versions of the images. There’s no means to add meta data like captions, titles, keywords, copyright info, etc. In fact, against EU laws, the metadata created in camera, is stripped from the exported image. Yes, it is illegal in the EU to strip metadata from digital files.

Comparing preview and editing views of the Gnarbox app. The lower images are unedited previews, whilst the upper images are also unedited, but moved to the editing module of the Gnarbox app. As you a red tint / hue is added to the image prior to editing.

 

However, here is the biggest concern and worry. Here is what makes the Gnarbox useless for the job the makers intended. It cannot successfully edit files; it especially cannot be used for portraits even if they’re intended for social media publishing. The raw file looks nice out of the camera in the preview module. However, the astute photographer knows that a photo always needs some tweaks. Typically I add a little contrast, vibrance, a touch of saturation, and some nudges on the tone curve. Also, I do colour calibration where possible with a Spyder Colour Checker 24. Enter the Edit module and immediately the image goes from nice to a weird red tint or hue. The skin colour changes badly, and something terrible happens to the gamma channels. I never needed to do anything about gamma, and so I know very little about it. However, as you can see, the transition from the skin tones to highlights is simply appalling. Consequently, photos require work on especially the colour temperature first, then tint, then whites, midpoint, and then blacks. However, it seems no amount of work can ever rescue the poor transition from the poor skin colourisation to highlights. Additionally, I don’t know of any means to perform colour calibration with the Gnarbox app. It seems the Gnarbox app cannot handle these key points at all.

Below are different images processed differently. As you can see, the best thing is to import the image direct from the Gnarbox onto your device, and then edit with the Adobe PhotoShop Express app.

Image copied off Gnarbox onto iPad Mini.

Image copied off Gnarbox onto iPad Mini.

Image edited on the Gnarbox app. Note the problems with the transitions from skin tones to highlights.

Image edited on the Gnarbox app. Note the problems with the transitions from skin tones to highlights.

It is possible to just copy images direct from the Gnarbox onto your device, via "Share".

It is possible to just copy images direct from the Gnarbox onto your device, via “Share”.

Image processed with Adobe PhotoShop Express on iPad Mini.

Image processed with Adobe PhotoShop Express on iPad Mini.

 

This is the final selected image processed through Adobe LightRoom on a real computer. The colours below are actually truer to real life.


I tried to share the images with the model via Gnarbox. As we were walking back to the train station, she downloaded the Gnarbox app on to her Android phone, I gave her the password to access my Gnarbox, and she did so successfully. However, the connection kept dropping. She gave up and I shared a handful of images by another means.

 

The Toshiba Wifi SD Card is a good subsitute for in the field work; however, there would be no backup options.

Which should you get? Toshiba offers a wifi capable SD card. The wifi SD card works when you leave the camera on (to supply electricity), connect your smartphone to it (via wifi), then download the photos you want onto your device. After that, edit with a purpose made app like Adobe PhotoShop Express. Of course, this only works with jpegs, but you will get better results. Consequently, I strongly recommend that you download images direct onto your device (from either your wifi SD card, or Gnarbox) and edit outside of the Gnarbox app.

Some people will want to know about video editing with the device. I’ll admit this skill is something I’m weak on. I’ve tried it, but I couldn’t do it. Perhaps I need better training, or the app is problematic; I don’t know. I’ll stick to VSDC on my laptop for now. However, TJ Davidson, a famous vlogger, has done his review of the Gnarbox from a vloggers perspective. His conclusion is about the same as mine: negative and saying the Gnarbox is problematic. I really appreciate his skepticism and honesty; however, I can’t help but feel that he didn’t learn more of how to use the Gnarbox first.

The Gnarbox is meant to be an in-field device that lets you do things without a laptop. It costs about USD$300. However, there’s the $100 Raspberry Pi, and now this tiny Ockel computer too, for USD$200. If I had to choose again, I’d look at how I could have a small touch screen on the Ockel.

Should you invest in the Gnarbox? I don’t know. What do you need it for? Will I use mine again in the future? I’ve already invested in it, so… some times. It probably will never be a part of my workflow: either full file or for social media. I think it will always be as I intended it be, as an in-field backup device.

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Just finished a photo shoot with Eri, and a funny story

Just finished a photo shoot with a wonderful model, Eri, and a new makeup artist Akiko. Thanks so much for your hard work; it was a fun day. Time to eat! Yes, I’m having Chinese spicy chicken with peanuts, and gyouza.
Funny story, I was sitting there and a group of English men were trying to order. They were obviously tourists, as they didn’t have a lick of Japanese among them, and so they struggled to order things. One guy wanted stir fried rice, but without the shrimp. The order arrived, and immediately he went into a five minute to and fro with the waiter about no shrimp, no meat, no chicken, no bacon, no meat. Anyway, the restaurant kindly re-made the order and he was satisfied. I had to lean over and say, “Erm… excuse me, if you’re a vegetarian, I can help you. I can teach you some basic phrases to help you. This is a Chinese restaurant, and so they put meat in almost everything”. He said he wasn’t a vegetarian, and they didn’t know it was a Chinese restaurant. Then ten minutes later I overheard one of them English gentlemen say, “So, we come to Japan every year to eat Chinese food”. I barely contained my snicker.
Update to the JapanesePhotos Instagram at: http://bit.ly/2wDxHME.

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All set up, but delayed because of yesterday’s typhoon

All set up, but delayed our start time because of yesterday’s typhoon. I thought the first thing I would do on arriving last night was to dump my bags at the front door, get my camera out and photograph everything. However, dragging my gear up the hill for about 20 minutes in the dank heat and humidity. Phew… I was spent! I have fairly strong legs and leg muscles, but I could barely walk back down to the station to find food. Anyway, the first time I got my gear out was this morning to check all the equipment, and do some light tests. Now, just waiting for everyone to come.
Update to the JapanesePhotos Instagram at: http://bit.ly/2vy6P3I.

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Guiding lines and repetition are the stuff of street photography

Guiding lines and repetition are the stuff of street photography. I’m fascinated by all the little differences between the Nagoya trains and those of Tokyo. Tokyo’s system is older, and some times struggles to cope with having sufficient capacity, which leads to some stations being very large and visually fascinating.
Update to the JapanesePhotos Instagram at: http://bit.ly/2hBaJTO.

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My first time in a Michelin restaurant!

I caught up with a friend in Akihabara, Tokyo. It was my first time to that part of Tokyo (actually, my 4th time to Tokyo). We were both tired and needed to sit down and eat. It was nearing 6pm, which means that restaurants were quickly filling up, and queues typically form moments after 6pm. So, we said, “Ok, let’s just go into this pork-cutlet place”. It was a little expensive for such a restaurant, but Japanese food is much, much, much cheaper than my English and Australian dining experiences. We placed our orders for not the best, but a good crumbed pork-cutlet. While waiting I spotted a sign by the cash register that said that this is a Michelin rated restaurant. Jaw-dropped I stammer the news to my friend. The food… the food… was amazing. It was the juiciest, softest, and most succulent pork-cutlet I’ve ever devoured. The staff were not young, cute, pretty, handsome people many Nagoya restaurants prefer. Instead, they were older, meticulous, methodical, and clockwork synchonicity as they silently worked around. The restaurant itself was tiny, but nobody bumped into each other, such is their expert character.
My first time in a Michelin restaurant! Update to the JapanesePhotos Instagram at: http://bit.ly/2ua0eN6.

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A model does 19 poses in 30secs

Here is a model who does 19 poses in 30 seconds. I bet she has a repoirtoire of only 19 poses that she’s learnt, and she does them in the exact same order every time. Hmm… thinking about it now. I bet the MUA has a handful of styles, and they choose one for the day, and from each clothing shoot, they choose three photos, splice them together, and so from start to finish, it may be possible to have a product prepared, shot, processed, and delivered in under 30 minutes… maybe?

For this to work, you need a team where each person has a routine that they strictly follow, and no variation (no creativity) is allowed. The camera needs to be set on a tripod on manual focus, and a fast charge flash(es) on low power is needed.

Could I do this? I don’t have such a team, and my main flash could do it, but with may be an extra second between shots.

What do I do? I don’t want carbon-copies or cookie-cutter photos, but something different each time. I want variety and a little of something different. This looks fun. Here Coco Rocha does her own 19 poses. I bet she’s taken the time to develop them, try them, rehearse them, and then perform them. And over time, she’s got some better, dropped some, and picked up new ones.

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