Canon EOS 60D, Let’s Get Creative

THE “SWIRLY FLASH”

It’s no secret that I don’t like to use the built-in flash. The light is harsh and flat, and when you photograph people in a dark setting, such as indoors or at night, it’s too easy to get a background that is dark and underexposed.

So when I’m in a situation in which I have no choice but to use the flash on my camera, I like to change some of the settings to give my snapshots a different look. I drag the shutter, setting it much slower than normal, usually between 1/15 and 1/4 of a second, and spin the camera on axis with the subject while the shutter is open. This keeps the person mostly frozen and well lit while creating an interesting blur of lights in the background (Figure 10.6).

By using a slow shutter speed with the built-in flash, you can create fun and unique photos of your friends.
FIGURE 10.6 By using a slow shutter speed with the built-in flash, you can create fun and unique photos of your friends.

I like to call this technique my “party trick” because when I’m in a room full of people, I’ll use this method to take a quick portrait, and often it’s something that they haven’t seen done before. This technique is not limited to DSLR cameras, and I frequently show people how to set up their point-and-shoot cameras to do it. I find that it adds a unique look to an otherwise boring snapshot. One quick tip: This type of image usually works best when there are a lot of lights behind your subject, such as the lights from a Christmas tree.

CREATING THE “SWIRLY FLASH” EFFECT

  1. Set your camera to Tv mode and start with a shutter speed somewhere between 1/15 and 1/4 of a second.
  2. Press the built-in flash button on the front of your camera.
  3. Point the camera and center your subject in the frame. Start with the camera slightly tilted, and then press the Shutter button to take a photo and spin the camera so that the subject stays centered in the image.
  4. If your flash is too bright, press the Flash Exposure Compensation button on the top of the camera and use the Quick Control dial to move the exposure value (EV) to the left. Take another photo and preview your results.
  5. If the background is too dark or too bright, you’ll want to adjust your ISO setting. The higher the ISO number is, the more ambient light you’ll bring into the background.
  6. If you have too much or too little blur in the background, adjust the shutter speed (a slower shutter speed for more blur, and a faster shutter speed for less blur).
  7. Keep adjusting the settings until you find that “sweet spot.” It will be different for each environment, and there’s no single right way to do it. Just have fun with it!

 

LIGHT PAINTING

Another fun technique that’s worth trying is light painting (Figure 10.7). For this, you’ll need a dark environment (nighttime is best), your camera on a tripod, and some semi-powerful flashlights or another light source. Shine your flashlight on your subject to light it, and in effect you’ll “paint” the light that will show up on your image. But you don’t have to paint the light on something for it to show up—if it’s dark enough you can stand in front of the camera and move the light source to make shapes or spell something out. A fun item to use for this effect is a sparkler (a type of handheld firework that emits sparkles). Just set your camera up on a tripod outdoors at night and have someone run around the frame holding a sparkler, and you’ll create shapes and streaks that can look really cool. You could also use small flashlights or LED lights. In Figure 10.8, I used a small LED flashlight with a green gel over it to add a different color to the writing.

For this photograph, I used a long exposure while my friend scribbled the haystacks with a laser pointer and I “painted” the ground with a powerful LED flashlight. I added small blue and green gels on the flashlight to add color to the image.
FIGURE 10.7 For this photograph, I used a long exposure while my friend scribbled the haystacks with a laser pointer and I “painted” the ground with a powerful LED flashlight. I added small blue and green gels on the flashlight to add color to the image.
I photographed this image with the help of my friend dav.d. That’s me writing with a small LED flashlight. The original photo was backward, so I flipped the image horizontally using editing software.
FIGURE 10.8 I photographed this image with the help of my friend dav.d. That’s me writing with a small LED flashlight. The original photo was backward, so I flipped the image horizontally using editing software.

SETTING UP YOUR CAMERA FOR LIGHT PAINTING

  1. Place your camera on a tripod in a dark environment, preferably nighttime or a darkened room.
  2. If your environment is extremely dark, set your camera to the Bulb shooting mode with a large aperture. If you have some ambient light in your scene, set your camera to Av mode and use an aperture that is large enough to capture the light from your light painting but small enough to give you a fairly slow shutter speed—several seconds is usually a good place to start.
  3. Using a cable release or one of the self-timer drive modes, press the Shutter button. If you are using Bulb mode, you’ll need a cable release in order to hold the shutter open for the duration of your light painting.
  4. With the shutter open, use a flashlight, a sparkler, or any other type of powerful light source to create your image. The creative possibilities are endless!

 

Canon 7D, Let’s Get Creative

To fi nish off this chapter, I’m going to give you a few more shooting tips, mostly fun ways you can play around with light to get some really neat results. Photography wouldn’t have as much appeal to me if it weren’t for all the exciting ways to use light, along with the different settings on my camera. These are just a few of the hundreds of ways you can experiment with your camera.

THE “SWIRLY FLASH”

It’s no secret that I don’t like to use the built-in fl ash. The light is harsh and fl at, and when you photograph people in a dark setting, such as indoors or at night, it’s too easy to get a background that is dark and underexposed.

So when I’m in a situation in which I have no choice but to use the fl ash on my camera, I like to change some of the settings to give my snapshots a different look. I drag the shutter, setting it much slower than normal, usually between 1/15 and 1/4 of a second, and spin the camera on axis with the subject while the shutter is open. This keeps the person mostly frozen and well-lit while creating an interesting blur of lights in the background (Figure 10.2).

By using a slow shutter speed with the built-in fl ash, you can create fun and unique photos of your friends.
FIGURE 10.2 By using a slow shutter speed with the built-in fl ash, you can create fun and unique photos of your friends.

I like to call this technique my “party trick” because when I’m in a room full of people, I’ll use this method to take a quick portrait, and often it’s something that they haven’t seen done before. This technique is not limited to DSLR cameras, and I frequently show people how to set up their point-and-shoot cameras to do it. I fi nd that it adds a unique look to an otherwise boring snapshot. One quick tip: This type of image usually works best when there are a lot of lights behind your subject, such as the lights from a Christmas tree.

CREATING THE “SWIRLY FLASH” EFFECT

  1. Set your camera to Tv mode and start with a shutter speed somewhere between 1/15 and 1/4 of a second.
  2. Press the built-in fl ash button on the front of your camera.
  3. Point the camera and center your subject in the frame. Start with the camera slightly tilted, and then press the Shutter button to take a photo and spin the camera so that the subject stays centered in the image.
  4. If your fl ash is too bright, press the Flash Exposure Compensation button on the top of the camera and use the Quick Control dial to move the exposure value (EV) to the left. Take another photo and preview your results.
  5. If the background is too dark or too bright, you’ll want to adjust your ISO setting. The higher the ISO number is, the more ambient light you’ll bring into the background.
  6. If you have too much or too little blur in the background, adjust the shutter speed (a slower shutter speed for more blur, and a faster shutter speed for less blur).
  7. Keep adjusting the settings until you fi nd that “sweet spot.” It will be different for each environment, and there’s no single right way to do it. Just have fun with it!

LIGHT PAINTING

Another fun technique that’s worth trying is light painting (Figure 10.3). For this, you’ll need a dark environment (nighttime is best), your camera on a tripod, and some semi-powerful fl ashlights or other light source. Shine your fl ashlight on your subject to light it, and in effect you’ll “paint” the light that will show up on your image.

But you don’t have to paint the light on something for it to show up—if it’s dark enough you can stand in front of the camera and move the light source to make shapes or spell something out. A fun item to use for this effect is a sparkler (a type of handheld fi rework that emits sparkles)—just set your camera up on a tripod outdoors at night and have someone run around the frame holding a sparkler, and you’ll create shapes and streaks that can look really cool. You could also use small fl ashlights or LED lights. In Figure 10.4 I used a small LED fl ashlight with a green gel over it to add a different color to the writing.

For this photograph, I used a long exposure while my friend scribbled the haystacks with a laser pointer and I “painted” the ground with a powerful LED fl ashlight. I added small blue and green gels on the fl ashlight to add color to the image.
FIGURE 10.3 For this photograph, I used a long exposure while my friend scribbled the haystacks with a laser pointer and I “painted” the ground with a powerful LED fl ashlight. I added small blue and green gels on the fl ashlight to add color to the image.
I photographed this image with the help of my friend dav.d. That’s me writing with a small LED fl ashlight. The original photo was backwards, so I fl ipped the image horizontally using editing software.
FIGURE 10.4 I photographed this image with the help of my friend dav.d. That’s me writing with a small LED fl ashlight. The original photo was backwards, so I fl ipped the image horizontally using editing software.

SETTING UP YOUR CAMERA FOR LIGHT PAINTING

  1. Place your camera on a tripod in a dark environment, preferably nighttime or a darkened room.
  2. If your environment is extremely dark, set your camera to the Bulb shooting mode with a large aperture. If you have some ambient light in your scene, set your camera to Av mode and use an aperture that is large enough to capture the light from your light painting but small enough to give you a fairly slow shutter speed—several seconds is usually a good place to start.
  3. Using a cable release or one of the self-timer drive modes, press the Shutter button. If you are using Bulb mode, you’ll need a cable release in order to hold the shutter open for the duration of your light painting.
  4. With the shutter open, use a fl ashlight, a sparkler, or any other type of powerful light source to create your image. The creative possibilities are endless!

HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE (HDR)

how to use HDR for landscape photography. But HDR doesn’t need to be limited to landscapes. In fact, you can photograph almost anything that is not moving and achieve some great effects. Figure 10.5 is the interior of a library photographed just before noon. The light shining through the windows added contrast to the scene, but by creating an HDR image, I was able to retain a lot of detail in both the highlight and shadow areas of the image.

This is an HDR image of the interior of a building. Notice that you can still see details in the shaded and sun-fi lled areas of the scene.
FIGURE 10.5 This is an HDR image of the interior of a building. Notice that you can still see details in the shaded and sun-fi lled areas of the scene.

 

Evaluating Device Capabilities and Handling Multiple Devices

The premise of mobile AIR is to enable you to create one concept, one code base, and a set of assets to deploy an application on multiple devices effortlessly. AIR for mobile accomplishes this for the most part, but not without challenges. There is a disparity in performance and capabilities among devices, and deploying for a range of screen resolutions requires effort and time even if your art is minimal.

In the near future, mobile devices will approach, and perhaps surpass, the performance of desktop machines. Until then, you must adapt your development style to this limited environment. Every line of code and every asset should be scrutinized for optimization. The AIR runtime has been optimized for devices with limited resources, but this is no guarantee that your code will run smoothly. This part is your responsibility.

Hardware

The multitude of Android devices available today makes it difficult to evaluate them all. The subsections that follow discuss the major factors to examine. If you want to know about a specific phone, or if you would like a complete list of Android devices, visit these websites:

http://pdadb.net/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Android_devices
http://phandroid.com/phones/

The Processor

The CPU, or central processing unit, executes software program instructions. Its speed on mobile devices varies from 500 MHz to 1 GHz. For comparison, the average speed of a desktop computer is around 2.5 GHz.

The instruction set must be ARMv7 or higher to run AIR for Android.

The GPU, or graphics processing unit, is a high-performance processor dedicated to performing geometric calculations on graphics. Its speed is evaluated in millions of triangles processed per second (mt/s), and it ranges on mobile devices from 7 mt/s to 28 mt/s. AIR uses OpenGL ES 2.0-based processors.

The graphics card, display type, and color depth affect display quality.

Memory and Storage

RAM on mobile devices varies from 128 MB to 768 MB, averaging at 512 MB. ROM is an important complementary memory type. On Android, if memory runs out, applications are terminated.

Different types of memory affect the GPU’s speed and capacity.

Storage includes the internal memory, expanded by the SD card.

The Camera

Camera quality is often evaluated by the megapixels it can store. The quality of the LED flash and the auto-focus option on the device is also a factor. Some devices include a front camera of lesser quality to use for video telephony.

Sensors

A built-in accelerometer is becoming standard on Android devices, but it is not yet universal. The GPS antenna and driver is used for satellite navigation. Touch technology is a combination of the screen touch overlay, the controller, and the software driver. The number of simultaneous touch points varies, although Android officially only supports two.

The Battery

Battery capability on an Android device is measured in milliamp hours (mAh), and is commercially evaluated by the number of hours of movie play capable on the device. Removable batteries can be replaced by stronger ones if needed.

The Display

Screen size on Android devices is measured as a diagonal, usually in inches.

Resolution is the number of pixels on the screen. The resolution varies between 800×480 and 854×480 on phones, and between 1,024×600 and 1,024×800 on tablets.

The PPI (pixels per inch) or DPI (dots per inch), also called pixel density, is the number of pixels on the screen in relation to the screen’s physical size. A device has a defined number of pixels it can display in a limited space. A higher pixel density is preferable on devices viewed at close range.

Table 5-1 lists the screen size, resolution, and PPI on some popular Android and Apple devices.

Feature comparison of popular Android devices

Software

At the time of this writing, Android’s latest operating system is 3.0 and is called Honeycomb.

The process for upgrading the Android operating system is very different from the Apple model, which requires the device to be synced with iTunes. Android uses an “over the air approach” to push upgrades. Manufacturers slowly push upgrades to phones, sometimes over several months. Not all devices receive upgrades, so developing for established versions instead of recently released versions may guarantee you a broader audience.

If you are not sure what version is installed on your device, select Settings→About phone→Android version (on some devices, this information is available under “Software information”). Your phone system must have at least Android 2.2, called Froyo, to run AIR for Android. The Adobe AIR runtime is not accessible on the Android Market for earlier versions.

Performance

The device’s performance is measured by its speed of execution and how much it can hold in memory. Methods and tools can be used to perform a benchmark. For a quick analysis, try the AIRBench application developed by Christian Cantrell, from Adobe, and read his blog at http://blogs.adobe.com/cantrell/archives/2010/10/using-airbench-to-test-air-across-android-phones.html.

AIRBench tests devices’ capabilities, but also runs performance analyses. I used it on three different devices. Table 5-2 shows the performance results I achieved in milliseconds (lowest numbers show best performance).

AIRBench performance results for the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Droid 2, and Nexus One devices

Capabilities

You can request information on the device at runtime to automate some of the presentation of your application. The Android Market, unlike the Apple Store, does not separate applications between phones and tablets. Be prepared for all devices.

Rather than trying to make your application look identical on all devices, adapt the layout for the resolution used.

The flash.system.Capabilities class provides information on the environment. To determine that your application is running on a mobile device, use cpuArchitecture:

import flash.system.Capabilities;
if (Capabilities.cpuArchitecture == “ARM”) {
trace(“this is probably a mobile phone”);
}

Alternatively, you can compare screenDPI and screenResolutionX. Here is the code to calculate the diagonal dimension of the screen:

var dpi:int = Capabilities.screenDPI;
var screenX:int = Capabilities.screenResolutionX;
var screenY:int = Capabilities.screenResolutionY;
var diagonal:Number = Math.sqrt((screenX*screenX)+(screenY*screenY))/dpi;
if (diagonal < 5) {
trace(“this must be a mobile phone”);
}

Orientation

To control the look of your application, you can define the application’s scaling and alignment. The scaleMode as set in the following code prevents automatic scaling and the align setting always keeps your application at the upper-left corner. When you choose auto-orient, it is added automatically in Flash Builder Mobile:

import flash.display.StageScaleMode;
import flash.display.StageAlign;
stage.scaleMode = StageScaleMode.NO_SCALE;
stage.align = StageAlign.TOP_LEFT;

Android devices equipped with an accelerometer can determine device orientation. As the user moves the hardware, your content rotates. Define a custom background color to prevent distracting white borders from appearing while in transition:

[SWF(backgroundColor=”#999999″)]

If you always want your application in its original aspect ratio, in Flash Professional select File→AIR Android settings, and under the General tab, deselect “Auto orientation”. In Flash Builder, under Mobile Settings, deselect “Automatically reorient”.

To get the initial orientation, use the following:

var isPortrait:Boolean = getOrientation();
function getOrientation():Boolean {
return stage.stageHeight > stage.stageWidth;
}

To listen for a device’s orientation and set a stage resize on the desktop, set autoOr ients to true:

<initialWindow>

<autoOrients>true</autoOrients>
</initialWindow>

and register for the Event.RESIZE event:

import flash.events.Event;
stage.addEventListener(Event.RESIZE, onResize);
stage.dispatchEvent(new Event(Event.RESIZE);
function onResize(event:Event):void {
trace(stage.stageWidth, stage.stageHeight);
}

The event is fired when your application first initializes, and then again when the device changes orientation. If you create an application to be deployed on the desktop, the event fires when the browser window is resized.

Another API is available for orientation changes. It uses StageOrientationEvent and detects changes in many directions. It is not as universal as RESIZE, but it does provide information on the orientation before and after the event.

The default orientation is up and right:

import flash.events.StageOrientationEvent;
if (stage.supportsOrientationChange) {
stage.addEventListener(StageOrientationEvent.ORIENTATION_CHANGE,
onChange);
}
function onChange(event:StageOrientationEvent):void {
trace(event.beforeOrientation);
trace(event.afterOrientation);
// default
// rotatedLeft
// rotatedRight
}

The goal is to use this information to position and perhaps resize your assets as needed. We will discuss this next.