Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fotga Dp500 II Follow Focus

Recently I have gone to a new hobby in addition to my photography. Although it uses almost the same similar equipment, some new equipment still need to be bought for this new hobby of mine. I've gone to dslr video. I have done videos before, when I was in college. I used a minidv camcorder and edited videos on my pentium 4 single processor laptop. Now that dslrs have the ability to do video, I have decided to give it a try and resurrect my long lost hobby. Editing nowadays have become easier, thanks to multi core processors and faster software and plugins, the look of video has become more defined as ever.

I have recently acquired new equipment. From lights to rigs to heavier duty fluid heads.  I have assembled a rig and recently got a follow focus system for it. Follow focus systems attach to your existing video rig to allow you to focus into your subjects faster, more accurate and makes it twice easier than focusing in using the focus ring of your lens.

The Fotga Dp500 II follow focus system

Follow focus systems run from around $99 and could go up to around $2000...motorized ones even go up to around $13000. Sometimes I don't really understand why they can charge around $1500 for something simple that attaches to your rig, that's like the price of my dslr right there. So I searched the web for the best deal around for the best quality follow focus systems there is.

I ended up getting a Fotga Dp500 II  Follow Focus system. From the reviews I've seen it seems like the best bang for my buck. From what I've read that it's mostly made out of aluminum...better than the plastic ones that cost the same. That was the thing that made me get it. For something that will attach to my aluminum rig, I'd rather have something made out of a tougher material than plastic.

It's a very good substitute to more expensive follow focus systems

Fotga Dp500 II Follow Focus is an improvement from the recently released Fotga Dp500 which from the reviews I've seen all said that the mechanism isn't as durable as the newer version. I've seen owners of the first version complain about the internal gears being stripped which basically makes the follow focus unusable. The Fotga Dp500 II Follow Focus' improved design was to make it more durable.

The Fotga Dp500 II Follow Focus features a detachable gear that you can attach to either the front or the back of the follow focus to make it suitable for either left handed or right handed operation, that's a plus for me because I am left handed and the first time I tried on a right handed follow focus, I had difficulty using it.

Very nicely constructed. Almost all metal.

It also features focus stops that serve as markers that you can use for focusing at a certain distance. You can also use it to limit the movement when the focus on your lens has reached infinity or the end. The previous version of the follow focus from Fotga didn't have that.

It attaches to 15mm rods which makes it more of a universal follow focus system, with professional looking twist locks that make it look like a more expensive follow focus system. And what the reviews were saying is true...it is indeed mostly made out of aluminum.

The feel of the wheel is really nicely dampened. Not too tight but not too loose either. The follow focus system comes neatly packaged in a box with the follow focus and a lens gear belt that fits most lenses.

For around $150 you simply cannot go wrong with this item. With almost an all metal construction and a professional feel to it, I highly recommend the Fotga Dp500 II Follow Focus.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My winner at the 2013 Chicago Flower and Garden show

This years Chicago flower and garden show had another photo contest. I decided to enter all categories. The categories they had were people and plants, landscapes, macro, abstract, and still life. The photos displayed in the show all deserved to be winners. The photos included flowers, tress, people, vegetables and other subjects related to plant life.

For my best entry this year I decided to go with very dramatic lighting. One way to achieve that is using minimal lighting to produce shadows everywhere. Spot lighting is a very common way of producing really dramatic shots.

I used one Mettle strobe light attached to a boom pole positioned it around 45 degrees from the front of the subject. To concentrate the light, I attached a snoot to the strobe. I then triggered the strobe with a wireless trigger connected to my Canon 6D. I then used my Canon 50mm 1.4 lens as it is excellent for doing portraits. Also the 50mm gives you the look of an actual scene you'd see with a human eye, which means the perspective is as normal as you'd see it in real life. A very important thing to consider to make the viewer the the portrait as life like. 

I then triggered the camera using my iphone...which is one of the 6d's awesome features. The smartphone triggering is especially useful when doing self portraits as it gives you real time previews of the shots, so you can adjust your position accordingly.

My winner this year.

The photo turned out great. I processed it using Lightroom. My photo ended up snagging the best photo for people and plants category.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The 2013 Chicago Flower and Garden Show

The Chicago Flower and Garden show logo by the entrance.
Spring is in the air and there's no better indication of that other than being in the Chicago Flower and Garden show. This years theme is called "The Art of Gardening". We always go at the first day of the show. This year they have a lot of stuff going on. Here are my favorite areas of the show this year:

Footwear: Women's Stories - This area displays footwear created by members of Women's Journeys in Fiber. The footwear displayed are crafted with different materials...from leather to buns and hotdogs...yes you read that right....BUNS AND HOTDOGS. you have to go see it to believe it. I had a very enjoyable time just walking through the displays and taking photos of them.

One of the cakes on display in the show.

Another cake on display.
The Water Sonata - This area displays a garden full of water...from fountains to mini ponds.  Complete with Koi fishes and a turtle! The scenery was very calming. A very nice place to grab an idea if you own a home with a big garden.

A very cool metal sculpture of frogs. 

The Tulip display.
Think inside the box - This area has displays of plant life and art put together in a box. The displays range from vegetables and plant life made out of sheet metal to animals meticulously sculpted from a metallic material. Pretty neat stuff.

The Art on the Farm display.

Tablescapes: An Art-Full Table - Every year they have an area where the display some table arrangements with a theme. From weddings to a specific culture themed tables, this years display was I think one of the best compared to previous years. One of my favorite one was an asian inspired table arrangement.

One of the Tablescapes display. 

A piano and trumpets converted to be water fountains.
Art on the Farm - This area displays edible plant life that can also be used to create a very artsy garden. The plethora of colors, textures, and shapes contribute to making the garden pleasing to eye. I've never seen vegetables arranged in such a big area that it becomes a functional garden and at the same time attractive.

One of the Tablescapes display.
Canvas of Tulips - Now here is where the photographers congregate. I made sure I brought my Canon 17-40mm f/4L and my 100mm macro to enjoy this area. The tulips were so nicely arranged that you'd spend hours photographing them.

An asian themed Tablescapes display.

The Artist palette tulip display.

Took this from the tulip area.

Another one of my tulip shots

Of course...the Marketplace!
The Marketplace - This is usually the last stop for us every year before we leave the show. Tons of merchants introducing new products and crafts...from hoses to portable speakers. They even have a wine area where you can sample wines or just sit down and enjoy the show.

This beautiful display is in the Veris display.

One of the most awesome cakes in the show.
The Photo contest - This area had a lot more photo entries compared to previous years. The walls were decorated with graffiti that has a Chicago theme in it. I managed to snatch a best in class photo ribbon. Next year I'm going for the best in show.

A display from Footwear: women's stories.

A depiction of Hiking Shoes.
They also have display cakes from different bakeshops specializing in made to order cakes. From Tomato boxes to artist themed cakes, you'd actually feel bad cutting them in pieces if you ordered one for yourself.

One of my favorite designs in the shoe display.

This one was very artsy.
There are other stuff in the show that I forgot to mention that we went to but I don't really have the time to write about them here. All I can say is that we enjoyed the event and I always recommend to my friends to go and visit.

Another cool shoe display

This is a closeup of the piano fountain in the show. 

The show runs from March 9-17 at the Chicago Navy Pier. If you decide to go, don't forget to bring your camera. Details on the show can be found at the show website at:


The photo contest area.

This is painted on the walls surrounding the photo area.
One of the best displays at the Think Inside the Box area. 

This display is of a giraffe made out of metal.