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Cord World

Simple, yet fun and effective – polarizing your rectangular panoramic in Adobe Photoshop to create your own “World”. In this case, it’s a promo for our day jobs at “Cord World”! Do drop in and see us sometime or call 513-232-7383 to reach us at the store. Okay, so I want to touch up the sky, clean up the sign and I also have some haze where I’m posing as a customer (during my off day of course) on the right side. I’ll post it when it’s done.


 This was popular around 4 years ago and I’m happy to do crazy little things like this every now and then: it’s kind of like pulling a rabbit out of your hat; a bit of “pixel magic”… also included below, drum roll please, the animated .gif (gasp) only modernized by the amount of pixels along with a smooth background I took at the Newport Aquarium. Rather fitting since Russ Romme, the owner of Buckeye Field Supply, used to dive for them to check the chemistry and whatnot.

 Hint——Click the Image to see the action!

Pentax-Ricoh GR Digital IV Samples & Review

The Ricoh GR Digital IV “Professional Compact Digital Street” camera is phenomenal in the amount of control it gives you in a compact size with superb macro abilities and sharpness that will blow your mind! Compact cameras like these are on the rise and are needed on the market. Why? Quality in low level light that even an i-phone can’t give you; I know, I own one! Special thanks to Cord Camera, Tim Hughes – Merchandising Manager, Bill Schwinn – Vice President, Stephanie Cordle, Pentax, Ricoh, and Mark Sherengo – Director of Sales – PENTAX for the opportunity to share the images of this camera with you and for allowing us to add it to our digital imaging arsenal for years to come.

Click for Full Image Gallery

When I first saw the Pentax-Ricoh GR Digital IV camera, I didn’t know how it would fit into our arsenal of image capture devices. We have seen and used hundreds of compact digital cameras from nearly every manufacturer and we’ve had our share of Androids, I-phones (I-pad included here) so let’s be clear on the first separation – the phrase “Made by photographers… for photographers” is a highlight on the Pentaximaging website. It takes direct aim at the serious and professional photographer, so at once I knew we had to put this to the test. For those wondering who “we” are in this article, my wife and I have been in digital imaging for 18 years: together we work for an Ohio-Indiana regional camera company, Cord Camera. Currently, Melissa is in her 6th year as store manager at the Anderson location in Cincinnati. This is my 9th year as a professional photographer, 5 and-a-half years of which I worked as an Ohio certified adult teacher (digital photography). We have shot and continue to shoot nearly every opportunity that comes our way. We love imaging and enjoy working with people!

We found the Pentax-Ricoh GR Digital IV is a brilliant mix of quality, creativity, artistry, discretion (perfect for the photojournalist) and flexibility through customizable settings. It’s near perfect. The 28mm lens provides a great field of view with low distortion. (The workhorse lens on my D-SLR was a 28-75mm f/2.8) The f/1.9 aperture achieves success in low level lighting situations. The CCD sensor keeps the image crisp and sharp; an advantage over most CMOS sensors. The 10 Megapixel resolution makes for great large format reproductions with medium sized files that aren’t so big they inundate your hard drive; again, great for photojournalists working via laptop. Then there’s the 3” screen: brilliant, stunning, incredibly detailed, rich in color, very real due to Sony’s White Magic technology. It’s as simple as this; most LCD screens have red, green and blue cells that vary intensities to make up the other colors. Sony’s White Magic adds a white cell for added intensity to overcome bright sunlight, better power consumption, vivid colors and better color control in general. The Pentax-Ricoh GR Digital IV LCD screen features 1.23 Million dots for a resolution that is clearly above all others.

The fact the camera has a hot-shoe for a larger flash is a huge plus. The fact you can compensate the onboard flash is impressive. You can adjust a lot within this camera; from sharpness to hue, saturation, brightness and contrast. In some artistic modes you even have control over certain things such as vignette and depth of process.

The Pentax-Ricoh GR Digital IV is a beautiful camera that continues to amaze everyone we show. I ran a test print at 20×30 to which Dick Swaim, a former Cincinnati Enquirer Photographer, said, “If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it! That camera is amazing, this is an incredible shot!”

One outstanding feature of this camera is the interval shooting and its ability to use that mode for star trails. It’s absolutely mind-numbing how clean the night images are! A little advice here: do read the manual on how to set this properly and do the firmware upgrade, otherwise you’ll have wasted some time thinking you’ve captured something when indeed you may or may not have. There are some particulars to end the process correctly. The results are well worth it!

There are also some subtle, often overlooked conveniences this camera includes such as the ability to review the images without having the lens extend; just press the playback button and viola! I find this feature lacking in most cameras. The other convenience, maybe esoteric, is it can effectively trigger an external flash that uses an optical slave. Durability is a must for a camera on the go: this camera has a magnesium alloy shell – very unexpected and greatly appreciated. Last and certainly not least, it can shoot in a .DNG raw file format for greater flexibility and control in the development process.

In summary, the Pentax-Ricoh GR Digital IV is a professional photographer’s dream. I find myself using it more than my D-SLR when out and about. What we enjoyed most was the Bleach Bypass and High Contrast Black & White artistic modes. I also personally enjoyed the Cross Process and Star Trail mode. So is there room for this camera to grow? Better frame rate, higher quality video, and a slightly higher ISO range. For a camera that is near-perfect that would be even more icing on an already terrific cake!

I will take this time to let you know we are proud to be at Cord
Camera in an industry which is becoming increasingly specialized as we watch other camera stores close their doors and fold due to the advent of phonography and internet purchasing. This includes larger national based chains. So what keeps us in business? You – and your thirst for real answers from real people with professional experience; that’s the separation we have from larger retail-box stores and from the internet. It’s the personal experience in working with non-automated services and replies. In short, “Thank you” for taking time to read this article and for those stopping in to purchase your camera and allowing us to process your images thereafter.

What are camera manufacturers doing to overcome the obstacles? They are building cameras capable of capturing higher quality images and they are doing it in lower level light. Phones can be great for the mobility and for spontaneous activities in bright daylight. They can even capture them with stunning results, but bring them indoors and they suffer. Try to record sports action shots and you get blur. Print them out as an 8×10 and they fall apart with pixelization. For most people, just transferring them to computer can be an issue – at Cord Camera we have an app for that! Camera manufacturers are also getting test cameras into the hands of professionals who share their findings and we greatly appreciate that because ultimately it gets back to you, the Smart Consumer!

Zivan Mendez - Pro Camera Sales, Cord University One-on-One Class Instructor, Cord Camera, 7731 Beechmont Avenue, Cincinnati,OH45255

Owner/Director, Vortex InterActive, 821 York Street, Newport, KY 41071

 Melissa Mendez - Store Manager, Cord Camera, Creative Director, Vortex InterActive

FREE Open Studio Workshop Dec 1st, 2012

On Dec 1st, Cord Camera will hold a FREE Open Studio Workshop at Vortex InterActive Studios, 821 York Street in Covington, KY. Bring your camera and receive helpful shooting tips with real answers provided by Cord Camera Associates, or come…as you are to see how a studio setup can work for you. Get to see Cord Camera products used to create the imagery. Get to work with live models, hair and makeup by Kathleen Garmany, and gain an understanding of light modification. Additional insight to shooting with natural light provided by Deb Knoske and insight to shooting with studio light provided by Zivan Mendez. Attendees receive a 10% coupon off Lighting and ProMaster Items and 50% off PhotoClub Membership – See a Cord Associate for details. It’s a great way to grab some savings for the upcoming Holidays while learning through this unique experience!

Vortex InterActive in 20/20 Magazine

As the world’s leading optical publication, 20/20 inspires eyecare professionals, advertising clients and eyewear consumers to successfully brave the exciting and ever-changing scenario of eyewear and sunwear. Number one in readership, 20/20 reaches a circulation of over 49,500 subscribers and now countless consumer followers via Facebook, Twitter and 2020mag mobile apps. With over 35 years of optical expertise, 20/20 continues to establish itself as an invaluable source in delivering the best in fashion trending, branding, style, technology and product news with a unique and personalized delivery. In a powerful blend of print, Web and social media 20/20 energizes the optical arena with bold images, striking eyewear and an up-to-the minute editorial point of view.

20/20 Article by Dr. Palmer Cook with Vortex InterActive Credit

Focusing on Shutterbugs Article

Painting with Light

When we found out The Great Oaks Career Campuses wanted us to shoot a student project car to promote their Auto Collision Class, we thought it was great until we realized it would require a lot of light to do it right – (4) 800 watt-second studio flash heads to be exact – flash heads that we didn’t have at the time. Coming up with extra cash to buy a $400.00 studio flash head, or yet alone even rent one in Cincinnati, wasn’t an option. Sifting through the internet, we ran across a photographer who was using an arcane technique of long exposures to paint his subjects with light for better illumination, versus what a single light source can do, with an added touch of drama. So we decided to utilize the same technique on our car. Having a long exposure allowed us to spread the light in time, so-to-speak, using multiple flashes from a single head unit to effectively create a virtual bank of lights while providing a unique, defined look that hadn’t been achieved in any of Great Oaks’ previous images. 

What is it?
In our image of the car, we shot the light facing away from the camera. If you were to shoot the light facing the camera, the image would result in 1.)multiple rather brilliant light sources or 2.)streaks of light similar to the way a paintbrush streaks a canvas with paint. The type of result you get depends on the light source used. Speedlight flashes and studio strobes yield multiple light sources while fire and ordinary handheld flashlights (the kind you use on a campout) gives you the paintbrush effect.

Final Shot for Great Oaks Auto Collision

The Process
Using a Neutral Density Filter, we stopped the light down by 4 f-stops (designated as ND4), then we set the camera’s f-stop to 10 which allowed for a 15 second exposure on the shutter. Using such a high f-stop value achieved several things: it allowed for a longer exposure, which would have been around 7 or 8 seconds otherwise, it provided a larger depth-of-field (DOF) – ultimately this means the image is sharper throughout – and it allowed us to perform our biggest trick yet – Melissa was able to walk in front of the camera with the studio flash head unit without showing up in our photo!

On a sharper note (pun intended), one would think the higher the f-stop used, the sharper the image will be throughout; however, this is not the case. As a rule of thumb, one should never go above f/16. Above this number, the image you are trying to take gets soft again due to light being scattered internally by the lens: a prism affect that results in Chromatic Aberration or CA for short. Also, knowing the sweet spot for most lenses occurs between f/8 and f/11 helps.

Another secret to such a quality shot is the lens itself; we were using a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8, which happens to be among Tamron’s sharpest of zoom lenses. It was a workhorse lens when shooting with the Canon 40D at that time.

On to Painting with Light…with fifteen seconds on the clock, Melissa was able to walk one 800 watt-second studio flash head around the car, setting off the flash at prescribed intervals. Looking closely near the driver’s side turn lamp, one can see the multiple umbrellas indicating the number of times the flash was actually triggered. We also used a large Super White 107” wide paper background roll off the right hand side of the car, held up by a Promaster Background Kit, as a giant reflector. Both of these items are readily available at Cord Camera.

Highlighted Umbrellas Indicating Individual Flash Triggers

The image was shot in .RAW, a whole other topic, to give us further control over the final look – custom white balance, saturated colors, image lightening to specific areas – and in this untouched version one can see the minimal ghosting by Melissa that was cloned and blurred out using Adobe Photoshop.

Minimal Ghosting May Occur

Fire Me - Self Portrait - 4 Second Exposure

Using the same technique; an ND4, a higher f-stop value and a long shutter exposure, we have painted several subjects and created various painted images using studio flash heads, off camera speed lights, flashlights, fire…almost anything bright. And sometimes, we just capture ourselves in front of the camera for the duration doing fun and goofy stuff like painting smiley faces, lighting sparklers and spinning fire poi  – just a few ideas.

A painted street lamp - I was standing in this photograph using multiple speedlight flashes on the column, the long exposure allowed me to enter and exit the scene without being captured:

Street Lamp Column Painted with a Speedlight


Existing street lighting combined with painted flash via long exposure: Photo 1.) Existing Light, Photo 2.) Painted tree with a bus passing by as indicated by the high light traces, Photo 3.) Painted tree with car traffic going by.

Two Various Looks with Speedlight Painting

Sparkler with Long Exposure




Practical Tips & Tricks
Can you capture a night time shot of the city this way? Sure, but be aware, the longer the exposure, the more individual street lights will flare out into star patterns. You may like the creative look, but then again, maybe you need a cleaner image in which case, a longer exposure such as 10 or 15 seconds wouldn’t do.

20 Second Exposure - Doug Bowman - Vortex InterActive Student

If you don’t have a flash to paint with light, look for street lamps illuminating things such as this tree in a downtown parking lot. Against the darker sunset, it really stands out. In such a case, you don’t need a long exposure either. Just a tripod and a low ISO if you want to capture it in the best way possible.

Tree Illuminated by a Street Lamp

Another Tree…

Ethereal, Surreal, Fantastic Lighting

Here are three various looks we achieved when painting with an off camera speedlight aka flash; Photo 1. is simply the shot with existing light (without any flash). Need more flashes in your shot? Increase the exposure time!

Various looks achieved depending on the speedlight's position when fired.

Photo 2. was painted with the speedlight turned away from the camera. Photo 3. was painted with the speedlight facing the camera. Photo 4. A painted photo with a very still Melissa…

This brings us to the last tip: this technique is excellent for still subjects, but for people it poses a challenge. Have fun with it though; take your time as people can be photographed when painted with light – they have to be extremely still. More than likely, you will have to shoot them multiple times unless you are fortunate and get lucky at the start. Enjoy!

Zivan Mendez - Thanks for Reading!

Vortex InterActive 2014