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The kids love this. Spaceballs quotes aside, in my quest for more and more iPhone photography app has led me to a great app by the people who bring us The Digital Photo Experience, a site everyone should visit daily. At any rate, I couldn’t turn down a free app, especially from such a trusted website I visit so regularly. What was amazing to me is how poor the ratings were for it.

One of the things that drives me nuts about the app review process is that anyone can simply rate an app upon deleting it. There is zero incentive to write anything out or give an app more than a one rating just because they want to be “that guy.” It’s so easy to to give a free app a one star rating just because you feel that your time was wasted. This is why I think that we can only take the ratings posted in the app store with a grain of salt and the best thing we can do is to download the app, especially if it’s free, or look for a review.

The DPE app is essentially an app version of their website, which is updated daily. Since there are no written reviews I can venture a guess that because the app is a condensed version of the website, that is the reason people are giving it poor reviews. I couldn’t disagree more (if that’s the case). I love the fact the app is essentially a condensed version of the DPE website because I try to avoid using safari if I don’t have to use it. In fact I find the DPE app is a more fluid version than their full site, and the full site is pretty sharp as well. The news feed posts on the app pretty close to when the full website updates, so you don’t have to worry about a lagging feed like other apps.

The app also features a section for the DPE podcasts which is  nice reference of their podcast library or sample an episode. You can stream the podcast, but for me, I already subscribe to it so the feature isn’t a deal breaker for me. Because I live in a lead box, my 3g signal isn’t the best. Thus I had a little trouble streaming through the app, but as I mentioned I already subscribe to the podcast so the ability to in-app stream is not a dealbreaker for me. DPE has a pretty extensive library of podcasts, therefore I would use the app to sample some of the ones that seem intriguing and then head over to itunes and download the full cast. I usually enjoy a good podcast and haven’t been disappointed with DPE yet.

Overall the app is not filled with gimmicks or glitz and glam, it’s simple information about photography at y our fingertips; and that’s all the app needs to be. While its a bummer that the App is only holding a 2-3 star rating right now I feel once its in the hands of people who appreciate the information legitimate reviews will be forthcoming. I think anyone whose into keeping up to date with photography trends and techniques will benefit from this app. It’s free, so you have no reason not to check it out.


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I’ve had a lot of extra time on my hands lately, with the whole ‘being laid off’ from my bread and butter job. It has given me a little additional time to go out and shoot random things.

In my spare time I’m into hiking and  luckily Western New York is loaded with small  two mile trails placed sporatically through out the metropolitan area. There are also some massive state parks in an hour distance from me; Letchworth, Alleghany, Iroquois Wildlife Refuge are a few. About a week or so ago I hopped on google and searched some trails in the area and stumbled upon Cayuga Creek in Cheektowaga (this area is loaded with Native American names).

The park/trail was pretty great, despite the rain/snow mix that was falling on me. There was quite a bit of wildlife throughout the trail even though the 90 is about 2 miles away from the north end. I’m not trying to say I can talk to the animals, but they tend to let me get close:

The birds seemed to follow me through the trail. I would photograph them, they’d fly ahead of me, I’d catch up, shoot some more and so on and so forth. The deer were interesting. I saw them staring at me and was reluctant to get close, but figured what the heck. I guess what’s important is doing something with my time and staying positive. I’ll be heading out around the suburbs this weekend since I have time and there’s fresh powder on the ground.

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Away for the weekend

The dance company I work for has their home season premiere tonight in Buffalo, thus I will be gone for the next two days working. I’ll have lots of shots and stories to share when I recover on Monday.

Until then, something to wet your pallette:


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On a whim, when I purchased my Canon 28mm-135mm lens I also ordered a Phoenix 2x Teleconverter as well. I’ve had a chance to play with it and so I thought I’d share my thoughts. However I must warn you, it’s not very pretty.

In a nutshell, if I could have my $79.99 back, I’d take it in two shakes of a lambs tail. It had a decent review after I did a bit of digging on the internet, therefore I went with it and bought it. I didn’t really need it, I bought it mainly just to see if it would be usefull. I will admit it does a decent job of extending my 70-300mm out to about 400mm, after that it’s pretty uselesss. One of the big downfalls, and this may be with all teleconverters, is that it doesnt auto-focus when racked out. It’s not a super big deal because I am able to manually focus pretty fast, but the intent of the teleconverter is to double your length, and for wildlife or sports photographers the ability to not quickly auto-focus can be a detriment.

One of the problems with teleconverters, as far as I can tell by reviews, is that many of them destroy your image quality when racked out with a higher focal length lens. I experience this problem with my 70-300mm, which the teleconverter made into a 600mm. The frame was practically un-focusable and the resulting image looks like my newborn nephew took a photo with his fisher-price digital toddler camera.

I can’t say many good things about this. But I’ll let the test photo’s speak for themselves:

As you can see, far from anything decent. These were both shot with a 70-300mm with the phoenix 2x attached. Focused out to a total of 600mm.

So on to the pro’s and cons.


• $79.99 paperweight

• $79.99 new toy for the puppy

• Decent for doubling the minimal focal length of a lens (turning a 70mm into a 140mm) withouth zooming.


• Terrible resolution when racked out

• Disables autofocus capability of lens (may be teleconverter specific)

• Practically unfocusable when racked out to full focal length (when handheld)

• $79.99 paperweight (yes its a pro, but who needs a $79.99 paperweight?

So the moral of the story, don’t buy with your gut. This is what happens when you buy things on a whim. I should know better. It’s one of the things that will drive my future wife up a wall.


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Post photowalk

Oofa, it’s been a busy week. Between rushing back from Syracuse last Saturday for the Elmwood Arts festival, to the Buffalo Photowalk Saturday night, and school starting up Monday I haven’t had any time to work on photo’s. Finally got around to it this morning when my puppy Griffin had me up at 4:00 because he insisted on having to use the bathroom; the nerve of some people right?

At any rate, the Buffalo Photowalk was a HUGE success, and I’d like to thank the 23 photographers that came out and enjoyed the beautiful weather and city atmosphere. We couldn’t have asked for a better day, a gentle 78 degrees, deep blue sky and only two near deaths. All in all not to bad.

I’m not exaggerating about the near deaths either. One of our photographers was in the middle of the street in the middle of a green light and after he got his shot he continued walking across the way and almost made out with a SUV. But to his credit as he dove out of the way he snapped a frame; only a photographer right? Our Photowalk winner, Stacey was nearly sideswiped by a train as she snapped her winning time elapsed subway shot. Luckily Stacey walked away unscathed and still got the shot. b/c that’s truely whats important right?

We had alot of good shots come out from the Buffalo Photowalk, I encourage you to visit the Buffalo Photowalk flickr page and view some of the fantastic work our locals did. I shouldn’t say locals, some of them traveled from the north or south towns, and a couple even drove two hours in from Jamestown.

As for me, I was quite preoccupied trying to make sure no one was arrested or hit by traffic to fully concentrate on my shots. But I think I snapped a few decent ones.

This gentlemans story was interesting and sad at the same time. He kindly asked us why so many people were visiting Buffalo. I explained to him what we were up to and he found it really interesting. He then went on to tell me about how he’s been on the street for 13 months because the factory he worked at near Buffalo shipped their jobs overseas and couldn’t find anything else. He lost his small single family home and was trying to eventually make it up to Toronto to hopefully find work. It’s a sad, yet not uncommon 21st century American story. After a few moments of general chit chat he asked me for a little change so he could take the train to the upper west side, I obliged and he said feel free to take a snapshot of him as long as “my ugly mug doesn’t break the lens,” as he put it.

This is somewhat inspiring to me as it has started a sideproject I’ve been wanting to do for some time since I moved to Buffalo. The homeless population here is quite astounding. Granted, I come from a smaller Upstate NY city that had about four homeless people in the town. But when I arrived in Buffalo I was quite interested in the larger number of homeless people, and their story. It’s a touchy topic because many people feel that these humans, and they are humans like you and I, deserve to be homeless as if it’s a choice.  While I find statements like that ignorant, you do wonder what their story is and if that spare change you had is going to buy them a sandwich or a 40oz. I did see him get on the train though, so at least he was honest about it.


One o the challenges, and I know I’m not the only one, is how to photograph the same photo differently.  I used the Buffalo Photowalk to try to work on this task. I have in my collection about a 100 shots of this landmark, Buffalo City hall and the McKinnely monument. The sun was hitting it just right so the buildings were naturally darker, there was some detail, not much. I’m a big fan of silouhetted images, I like the mystic and power behind them. I increased my shutter speed to 1/800sec @ f3.5 with my 18-55 lens with a wide angle adapter attached. It’s a powerful image because it’s a landmark that all Buffalo folk are familiar with, however its a different take on a familiar subject.

That’s all I’ll share here. My shots from the Buffalo Photowalk can be found at my website. The dog is barking so I need to take him out. The least he could do is just ask me to walk him, amiright?

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I’ve had a blog for awhile, however now I figured a way to make it more efficient. That being said I’m going to cut right to the cheese.

On Monday the 11th of August a local Syracuse (NY) band had me come to their first show in Rochester (NY). They brought me in because of, as they called it, “your gnarly way to shoot bands.” I’ve been shooting bands for quite some time now, mostly in the punk/hardcore scene because many of my friends are in those types of bands. One of the great things about that style music is that shows are usually held in small clubs and very intimate. Granted this show was held at the Penny Arcade which is sizable, the majority of shows I shoot are rooms the size of a studio apartment.

Ok, down to business. The only way to get good live band shots is to get right up in the thick of things. Generally you can get away with this at small club shows but kissing up to a promoter or being pals with a band, it shouldn’t be hard, they’re people too. Generally a decent venue has some sort of stage lighting (example right) so you will be able to lower your flashes power. I shoot a Canon 430 Speedlite and picture right was @ 1/16 power. Naturally this helps with preventing over-exposure and making your job easier in post (which was limited).  I tend to keep a nice open aperture between 3.5 – 5.0 to create a nice shallow depth of field.

The key, for me at least, is to get right into the action. Noboy wants to see pictures from the crowds point of view, and the band that’s paying you to shoot them certainly doesn’t want sub-par shots to use. Thus I get right on stage (if there is one) usually next to the stacked monitors stage left or right. One trick that I try to avoid is the blindly holding the camera up and praying to god I get the shot technique made popular with inexpensive D-SLR cameras in the 21st century. If you have a photo pass, take a second to frame the shot.

If you do have to do the Aim and Pray method at least make sure you’re using a speedlite mounted on your camera; the infrared light should go off and act as some sort of framing mechinism. I have done the Aim and Pray method in shows that are in small rooms where kids are jumping each other and beating each other to oblivion. You will get some okay shots by attempting the Aim and Pray method, but if we’re trying to front

ourselves as ‘professional’ then we might as well frame the shot. It is difficult during a small club show, there’s no denying that.

One thing I immediately do upon arriving home from a show is loading the shots into Adobe Ligthroom. If you don’t use Lightroom, you need to. Adobe offers a free trial at their website, that’s how I figured it out. After tagging and bagging and keywording everything I get right into the develop module and come up with a look I want. Mind you, it’s incredibly easy to apply presets to your photo’s in Lightroom, but they are just guidlines. The photo to the left is a preset I actually made using some exposure corrections and split-toning. One of the new features in Lightroom 2 that I have fallen in love with is the post crop vignetting. It’s quite a powerful little add-on from Lightroom 1.4, it gives you tremendous flexibility to feather and shape your vignette to get the look you desire. This particular boarder effect I made reminded me of an old medium format edge, so I applied it to the (now) above photo and the rest in the set.

One of the things I strive to do when I import band photos is try to come up with a different ‘look’ to each band. This distinguishes all the bands that played the same show apart from one another. Plus it gives me a reason as a color corrector to develop new looks.

The best advice I can give to someone looking to shoot small concerts is to simply get in the thick of it, without being a nuisance to the band or he spectators; no Aim and Pray; shoot manual (absolutely positively never automatic); and watch out for stage dives.

That’s about it for now, until next time;

– Benson

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