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Talking About The Sony a9 in the Field with Melbourne Travel Photographer Stef Ferro

June 08, 2017

Stef Ferro from MEL365.COM dropped by michaels cameras for a friendly talk with John Warkentin about the new Sony a9, his travel photography website and a wide range photographic topics.

This interview was originally broadcast live on Facebook.

In this wide ranging 50 minute interview Stef covers the following topics:

- What's in his camera bag today
- The Sony a9 Launch Event in Sydney
- His user experience with the new Sony a9
- Sony Full Frame Mirrorless vs DSLR's
- His first digital and film cameras
- Thoughts on the marketing of photography with his IT background
- His MEL365.COM website
- Instagram and working with its unique characteristics
- Photos and discussion from his recent trip to Indonesia
- Stef's "The Shot that Got Away"

Introduction

(John Warkentin)

Stef’s a very interesting case for us to have for an interview.

We haven’t done too many interviews here in the lecture theatre at Michael’s, but it’s an area that we want to expand upon.

So we’re hoping that if you’re joining us live and you’ve got any questions for Stef - as we put our telephone away –

[Telephone begins ringing]

(Stef Ferro)

Sorry, yeah.

[Turns off telephone]

 

(John)

It’s not a television studio, there are no fines for phone ringing or anything like that, it’s not Parliament.

But Stef entered a competition that we ran, to go to the Sony a9 launch event in Sydney last week, and the second part of the competition was, he won the use of the Sony a9 and I guess a lens. Which lens was it?

 (Stef)

It was 24-70.

 (John)

So the 24-70 G Master lens, I assume.

 (Stef)

That’s correct, yes.

 (John)

So he took out our brand new hire a9, with the 24-70 for the weekend and had a little bit of a hands-on play with it.

Now I haven’t even talked to him yet about what he did with it, but we’re going to get to that in the interview.

And I’ve barely had a chance to play with it.

I went out on the street with the Sony a9 and with the crew here at Michael’s, we just took some panning shots of cars.

And there’s no doubt about it, people are interested in the Sony a9.

So that’s one of the main things I want to talk to Stef about, is just his user experience with the Sony a9.

About Stef Ferro

The other thing, of course, I want to talk to him about is his website Mel365.com.

So Stef is an avid cyclist.

(Stef)

Yeah.

(John)

An I.T. professional.

(Stef)

Yeah. Was.

(John)

Yeah, was. Originally from Italy as I understand.

(Stef)

Correct, yeah.

(John)

And you’ve recently moved to Melbourne in say, what, the last 10 years or so?

(Stef)

Eleven years ago.

(John)

Ah, 11 years okay.

So Stef is kind of similar to me, in that he’s a recent you know, person who’s come to Melbourne.

I’ve been here for now 18 years from Canada.

(Stef)

Oh, wow.

(John)

Yeah so, Melbourne is a city full of a lot of foreigners. I know that most of our YouTube viewers are from overseas.

The majority of them are from the United States.

So it’s fun to share a little bit about what Melbourne is all about to our overseas viewers; and of course Stef’s main interest here with his MEL365 website, is obviously, 365 days a year and Melbourne; and of course, travel photography.

So you’re a keen travel photographer, adventurer, and from what I can understand on reading your website, you’ll pretty much tackle anything.

(Stef)

Ah, yeah, well, I started about six years ago as I guess general interest in photography, and you know, a couple of years in, I understood it was my passion - my new passion - so I decided to leave my job I was doing in telecommunication, after 20 years; and progressed in that direction.

And because I like cycling, it was just I guess, the normal direction to go and try cycling photography, and it went well for one year; and after that my wife called me and said, why not (bar) fostering? And we started fostering, having kids and travelling for such a long time; because for cycling you have to travel a very long time and was not possible anymore.

So I decided to take back my website and refurbish it a little bit, no more focus on Melbourne, more on travelling, but you know, with travelling you can travel one week, two weeks it’s fine; then you are back in the city.

So that’s how we start with MEL365, with more of a Melbourne experience, and then (___) more of travel; and now camera reviews and all about travel photography, I guess.

Stef's Equipment Includes a D600 & D610

(John)

Well, I’ve prepared a few questions; and I did cheat, I sent them to Stef in advance.

So let’s say, I’m not out here to surprise him or anything; but in my newfound job as interviewer here at Michael’s, you know, I like to talk a little bit about you know, my subject’s history, and how things are all happening; and so I thought I’d just start out with you know, what’s in your camera bag today?

(Stef)

Oh! I got my camera actually.

(John)

Oh, you’ve brought it with you, excellent. Sometimes that a little bit off-putting when somebody comes for an interview and they might not have brought their camera!

(Stef)

I got my workhorse, which is the Nikon, D600, with a (sensor) of a D610. Unfortunately, the original sensor was not very good; and the lens is 24-120, which is the lens for travel photography, that I use the most really. And after that, the second lens, and probably the one I love the most from Nikon, which is a very cheap $200 50 mm, f/1.8.

(John)

Ah, a nifty-fifty.

(Stef)

Yeah, it’s a beautiful lens and you are going to markets, when you go in low-light environments, is really what you want.

(John)

So, that’s basically your go-to kit. You’re running a full-frame digital SLR, a fairly large camera, with a relatively large lens, and the nifty-50 for your low-light options.

(Stef)

It’s not my favorite for traveling, obviously, but because it’s all hardware and gear in that comes from cycling, and so it’s either move straight to another brand, another other MFT camera or any mirrorless, or stay with this - I think because I have so much gear with Nikon, then I decide to stay but I really have to move on, and change it.

(John)

Well, I mean, and this is the thing that you know, so many photographers that come to visit us at Michael’s you know, this issue comes up.

You know, they’ve been involved with digital SLRs for 10 or 15 years, maybe even back to the film days, and they are large cameras, and you see everybody else traveling with much smaller cameras these days, you feel like geez, I’d really love to have that, but it’s this compromise - we love the quality of our full-frame digital SLRs; we love those lenses; we love the light gathering capability, but gee, do we hate the weight!

(Stef)

Absolutely! Absolutely! When you put it in the backpack…

(John)

Yeah, exactly! I know! And unfortunately, most of us don’t have the luxury of Sherpas; you know, we’ve got no one to carry our stuff for us, we’ve got to carry it.

And I’ve certainly you know, gone around with a backpack with three bodies, and you know, half a dozen lenses and it kills you as you get older!

So I’m in the exact same boat as you - always looking at these lighter weight cameras and of course, that’s where Sony really has come to the party. They’ve managed to, well they’re the only company that makes a full-frame 35 mm format, mirrorless camera system; and the bodies are much, much, smaller than conventional digital SLRs.

And of course, if you check out Stef’s website - and we’ll have a link here in the video for you - Stef recently did a review I guess, you had an A7R2 for about a month?

(Stef)

Yeah!

(John)

So, you did a very detailed review and of course, you talked about the size, and you know, it had a lot of appeal for you.

(Stef)

Yeah, that’s correct.

(John)

And yeah, it has a lot of appeal for everybody.

Stef's A9 Experience

And of course, which brings up now, Sony’s sports camera, which is the a9.

So, what did you think of the a9 when you had it? Oh, and did you have a good time at the party in Sydney?

(Stef)

[Laughs]

The party was just amazing!

(John)

Wow, I wish I could have gone but you took my ticket!

(Stef)

Oh, really did I?

(John)

[Laughs]

No.

(Stef)

No, I really had good fun; besides you know, the party was good for drinks and everything, but also there was the good vibe into the party, a photography vibe. The way everybody was talking about photography; and I guess when you have a passion you know, this is the place you want to be.

And when you see all of these photos, people competing, but it’s not really a competition you know, it’s more of a working together towards a better photography; it’s not really being first. I think.

And it was really good.

So, I did enjoy that.

And, what about the a9?

(John)

Yeah.

(Stef)

Ah, the a9 is just an amazing camera to me!

If you’re after some sports and action photography, it’s really what you want to have a nowadays.

I guess the only drawback is if you have a different camera, like Nikon or Canon, and you have to change completely.

But besides that, I was really impressed; especially by autofocus continuous, how it works, and you know, how it can track actually your subject in a very easy way, you don’t really have to stress that much; through the viewfinder you see your focus points, actually following the person, following the subject.

So, this is something you don’t really have with other cameras you know.

It’s easier let’s put it this way!

(John)

I must admit you’ve had probably 10 if not 20 times the amount of you know, hands-on time with the a9 than I have.

We had a pre-release camera in here at Michael’s; we did a quick little show-and-tell video with it, and then we went out on the street.

We mounted a bunch of oddball lenses to it and of course, we struggled with some incompatibility issues, but with the G-Master lenses, of course, it worked superbly.

And the viewfinder was very impressive, and to have a mirrorless camera that you could just pull off a burst and the way this thing was tracking - I am really looking forward to getting out and shooting some sports.

Now, you actually, in your contest entry, I think you said you wanted to shoot some ice hockey with it? Did you get a chance to?

(Stef)

No, I didn’t, unfortunately.

(John)

Okay, well you’ve got to pay back for the trip now.

[Laughter]

Well, hopefully, you’ll get a chance to - I’ve never seen anybody play ice hockey in Australia. I’m Canadian, I mean we grew up with skates on our feet. Where do they play ice hockey here?

(Stef)

There was an all-star game down at the (Docklands)

(John)

Oh, okay. Oh, that at O’Brien arena down there.

 

(Stef)

Yes, because I come from the north of Italy, the Alps, you know the mountain area, so we have ice hockey there.

 

(John)

Oh, okay.

 

(Stef)

So I miss it probably as much as you do you know, it’s a winter sport.

 

(John)

I never really liked it, just to be honest, I was terrible at it and didn’t like to play.

 

(Stef)

Oh, I never played myself, but it was good to watch.

 

(John)

It is a very exciting game to watch! I would love to photograph it.

So maybe when it happens, we’ll be able to get out and give that a go!

Because we want to find some subjects and make some more videos, and hey, ice hockey in Australia could be quite interesting to our overseas viewers who you know, probably see it done better.

 

[Laughter]

I’ve never even seen ice in this country. I didn’t even know, I mean I knew there was a skating rink, but I’ve not been to it.

 

(Stef)

Yeah, it’s something different you know, probably unexpected in Australia. But yeah, we do have it.

 

(John)

Yeah oh well that’s good.

 

Review and Discussion Of Stef's Sony A9 Photos/Images

Well, you’ve brought along 29 photos. I assume some are shot with the a9?

So let’s dive right in.

Give me a little rundown of what you shot with it and bring up a photo.

 

(Stef)

So, I got to the camera on a Saturday afternoon. I woke up on a Sunday morning and I went straight away with the most unpredictable subject which is;  if I see the photo here – there it is.

My little kid!

 

[Image of young child cycling away from the camera]

(John)

So, here we go. So, that’s your son?

 

(Stef)

Yes, well, it’s my foster son.

 

(John)

And, so how old is he?

 

(Stef)

He is three years old.

 

(John)

So he’s moving quickly, that’s a classic thing. I mean, most mirrorless cameras, from say, just a year ago, that was a topic that was really hard to shoot - children in action!

 

(Stef)

That’s right yeah!

And I wanted to do these should with 10th of a second, so having all of his, you know the path, I guess path, cycling path coming into me, so this nice action.

 

(John)

So now are you moving at the same time?

 

(Stef)

I’m moving the same time.

 

(John)

Oh, okay.

 

(Stef)

So, I’m on a skateboard.  That’s a very low-budget, I guess, photo.

So I’m on the skateboard tries to match exactly the same speed of the boy, in order to have the boy completely sharp, and everything else moving.

 

(John)

Yeah, the poor man’s dolly; the skateboard.

 

(Stef)

[Laughter]

So that’s a three axis, I guess, movement.

 

(John)

So yeah, the stabiliser should be helping out for this.

 

About the Sony A9 In The Field

(Stef)

The stabiliser is one, and also the, you know, 20 frames per second helps a lot. Because, especially with cycling, because with cycling you want the legs as well; so you need to get one good shot, but to get one you need a lot.

So, out of probably 200 I made, probably I have about four which are very good.

This is the second.

Probably the one I prefer the most.

But another one which is much better, although I can’t show it, is with him and you can see his face, which is absolutely sharp. I can’t show it here; but yes, so I’m very proud of this photo.

 

(John)

So now, compared to your digital SLR kit that you would have used when you were shooting you know cycling as an active profession, what do you think?

I mean I know it’s really, really, hard - it’s your child, and you’re on a skateboard - but what do you think your hit ratio is with this new a9 versus the existing gear out there? Do you think you’re going to get more shots in focus; more keepers?

 

(Stef)

Absolutely, yeah.

 

(John)

Ok. Well, that’s important. That’s what people want to know.

 

(Stef)

Absolutely yeah, because with 20 frames per second, you are very likely to have a good photo. I know it can sound like a spray and pray, you know, but it that’s a matter of fact – photography when you go into action and sport, you have to just spray and pray.

So it may be a little bit, it may take a little bit longer in post-production, but at the end of the day, this is what you get.

 

(John)

Well, this is where I am you know, I’ve been making some predictions about what Sony’s going to do with the a9; and my gut tells me that this is a technology platform camera; they’re not about to just nail the sports market instantaneously, because that’s going to take a while for them to make a rock-solid cameras you can hammer nails with; but what it is, is a chassis very similar to the a7 series, with a few more buttons.

There’s been some restructuring for usability, but it’s a technology showcase platform for a focus engine, and a new type of sensor; this is stacked sensor.

So that they can get the high-speed readout from it, so get no blackout in the viewfinder; low rolling shutter artefacts; and all these things.

So I expect again, and I’ve got no crystal ball here I’m only making my own predictions, that if Sony’s been able to make seven units in the a7 line in three years, and it’s three years now to the Tokyo Olympic Games, I think we’re going to see an awful lot of new cameras out before the Olympics show up; and I think Sony’s going to want to really impress the world with a killer sports camera for the Tokyo Games.

 

(Stef)

Absolutely.

 

(John)

And if it’s a combination of high frame rate and accurate focus, now your success to miss ratio should be higher and in three years’ time, I again, no crystal ball here, they might be able to throw some artificial intelligence at the game to help us choose the selects.

So if you’re going to spray and pray, well, maybe they can have some artificial intelligence to help you on the pray side.

Obviously, a select is not a picture where someone blinked; I’m sure they can have software that can determine that; they can certainly determine the ones that are out of focus with software, from the ones that are in focus. Obviously, the focus engines not always going to succeed, so imagine if you do a hundred shot burst and an artificial intelligent agent on the camera can at least nail that down, cull it down to say ten frames, and then you can choose from there - not deleting anything, but that’s what I feel we’re going to need, because of course when I played with the camera I was out on the street for literally 15 minutes, and I came back with 1,600 frames!

 

It’s a lot of data!

 

So who knows what’s going to happen. That’s you know, what I’m kind of, dreaming of that will happen.

 

And obviously, as we know, that Sony they’re going to have to get some more lenses out before they can really say, we’re ready to be king of the hill in the sports market; because we need those big prime lenses.

 

And maybe somebody will be able to do something amazing with lens development as well, who knows, you know.

 

They certainly have the resources and they had the drive; I mean they didn’t release this camera for no reason; they want a slice of that pie!

And they’ve got a lot of converts, and with their a7 series, I know that at Michael’s here, we rent a lot of a7 series cameras out, and a lot of them are for video shooters; they just love the look of Sony’s full-frame video and the fact that they can mate almost any lens to these cameras.

 

So you know, and that’s one reason why you know, a photographer such as yourself and I, we could possibly migrate over to Sony because there are these lens mounts; however, for the 20 frames per second shooting, we’re not going to get that unless we’re running native Sony E-mount class.

 

The Sony 100-400 G Master

Now I had the chance test of the new 100-400 G Master; beautiful lens, not that heavy, quite easy to use handheld.

So we’re looking forward to getting our hands on those.

They’re supposed to be arriving towards the end of July.

So we might be able to get another one in, to have a little bit of a test at a pre-release; so I would like to try that out with some ice hockey.

 

(Stef)

Yeah!

 

(John)

So that is quite interesting!

 

Now here let’s take a look at some of the other shots. I’m sort of dominating conversation, I apologise.



(Stef)

That’s okay!

[Image of cyclist in the air above a ramp at a skate park]

This was another shot I got of a local skate park. And you know, this is clearly, when you shoot with the AFC – with continuous autofocus - I felt like there was also sort of a predictability in what the camera does; because when the skateboard or the cyclist was going into the skate park and you couldn’t see him anymore, then he was coming up, but still the autofocus continues; was following actually the subject.

So I had only one day to play with, so it’s hard to say if it was like that, but I felt like you know, I could do much more than I could with, or I can with my Nikon stuff.

 

(John)

I noticed, when I was using it, I was shooting cars and I was kind of focusing on the front of the car, like license plate or the grille, and then when something came in front of it and then the car then emerged from behind what was obscuring it for a second, it was right on; it wasn’t, it was, I found it predicting what it should be predicting.

It was very impressive. So I’m really looking forward to you know, shooting some people kicking balls, and you know soccer, AFL football, or something like that; because I’m so used to the cameras always you know defaulting to whatever is in the front and then they just lose it!

I also want to shoot birds! I saw some samples online of some birds, I thought that’s amazing!

I have always had a hard time keeping birds in focus with my DSLRs.

 

(Stef)

Yeah, yeah. So you see, on this photo, for example, you get the face of a skateboarder, of a cyclist, you know, straight into the frame of the arms. That’s perfect. You can have only that when you shoot that very high rate, you know, as a frame per second.

So, that’s where you use actually a nice 20 frame per second.

 

[Image of silhouetted skateboarder on cement ramp]

Another photo I took, for example, was - let me see if I can find it.

 

Raw or JPEG

(John)

Just out of curiosity, were you shooting RAWS or JPEGs?

 

(Stef)

So, the first day I was shooting both RAW and JPEG, just because I wasn’t sure I the (converter) for it all, then I found it, on the second day. So, this day I shoot only RAW.

So, it’s all RAW basically.

And you see I wanted to get the skateboarder here, but with the sun that comes on the back, just to have a nice silhouette of a skateboarder.

And this is another case where you get all of the continuous autofocus, that follows the skateboarder, and when it’s 20 frames per second, you’re going to have one probably that is good, probably.

 

(John)

How did you find the exposure metering?

 

(Stef)

I find it good.

 

(John)

Yeah, I was impressed as well. I wasn’t using any exposure compensation when I used it. I thought I found it metered really accurately.

 

(Stef)

Yeah absolutely, and if you think about this case, where it is a skate park which is completely into the shadow, and then there is the sky - of course, I play a little bit with the shadows and the highlights into post-reduction, and the (___) highlighted once again how the dynamic range is actually quite wide.

I’m not sure I was reading, I’m not shooting it is the same as the a7R2, but it’s very wide anyway.

I mean, more than most of the people need, honestly.

 

(John)

Yeah, I didn’t have a chance to really push it very hard in post-production. I did have a quick play with my RAW files, and I didn’t see anything that stood out, and I’m trying to think what I saw I was at; I might have gone up to, see something like ISO400 or something; I didn’t really push it you know, I had a fair bit of light out on the street.

But that’s definitely something I want to look at.

I mean there’s certainly been a lot of chatter online saying that dynamic range maybe is not as good as some of the other cameras; but I mean the proof will be in the pudding when we finally get a chance to you know, push these files.

 

(Stef)

I agree.

 

(John)

I think Sony knows how to make a good sensor; they control the sensor market, I think they know what they’re doing.

 

(Stef)

Indeed. And I finish out the day with a couple of shots in St. Kilda, so this is more like simple landscape, 10 seconds.

You know something, relatively simple.

 

Low ISO

(John)

Oh, you took it down to ISO50 as well!

 

(Stef)

Yeah, yeah, I was in ISO50 just because I wanted to have it the longest possible.

Just to have a little bit of silky water.

So otherwise, I couldn’t have gone more than 60, for that photo.

And another one I did - yeah this one here - 30 seconds. This is the city of Melbourne from St. Kilda up here.

Of course, you don’t need a camera like this to do this, to do these landscapes, but just to show.

I’m going to review that on my website, just to show that you can actually do everything, plus something else.

There’s a little bit of price to pay, it’s more expensive than the a7R2 obviously.

 

(John)

Yes, yes.

 

The Sony A9 Compared To Alternatives

(Stef)

But you get so much more. Especially if you’re into action and sports photography.

 

(John)

Well, and we should point out that, while it is an expensive body, it’s less than the competition is at the top end of the market; so you know D5 and 1DX Mark II, those cameras are $2000 to $3000 more expensive.

So you know, people are used to spending that kind of money for quality gear, and you know, there’s a price to be paid.

So if you want to get that high frame rate, and you’ve got an application for it, it’s you know, certainly an available option.

The other thing which of course, is really interesting about a7, it has the ability to do these 20 frames per second with this electronic shutter completely silent.

We used it in the silent mode - I’m not sure if you did as well – it’s bizarre!

Like you don’t, it, you kind of have to turn the noise on because you’re not sure if you’re doing something!

But I could certainly see an awful lot of applications there; shooting on a movie set, or shooting at the Opera or Ballet, or just straight news interviews.

Everybody’s used to that machine guns sound in the background, and it’s annoying.

I think it would be very nice to have a quiet camera.

 

(Stef)

Absolutely, yeah; and especially when you go travelling and you take photos in the streets of people, you don’t want to be invasive, you know, you don’t want to show up like professional with big cameras.

 

(John)

It can be very off-putting.

 

(Stef)

That’s right yeah.

So in some countries, it can be even dangerous, you know because it would show you with a big camera, and they think it is actually more expensive than the small camera, which is not anymore the case.

But, you know, so, the silent mode is amazing; and when you go to places, like I was in the skate park, where there is no professional skater there, and if you shoot like a professional way, but you can feel like the click – the continuous click - then people look at you, who are you? You know, otherwise, and you just look like another one.

This is what you want to do when you’re, I think, when you make photography, you don’t want to step up like a professional, you want, you know, almost be there almost hidden.

 

(John)

Yeah, yeah. Well, this is why, of course, some of the most famous street photographers shot with these rangefinders that were very quiet, and of course, some of the older style cameras you know, you could shoot from the waist; which you can with the Sony a7 and a9, because you’ve got that fold-out screen.

So and of course, the big sports cameras, they don’t have that option.

So there’s certainly you know, some great benefits to be had with these new Sony cameras.

They’ve really produced an amazing set of tools in a very short period of time, and they’re only going to get better.

 

So I think we kind of nailed our Sony talk, so that’s good.

 

So you’re going to do a review on your website, for the a9? Excellent, well we will probably maybe get a chance to shoot together with it as well; because we want to do some more stuff.

And once Stef’s got that review online, we can put that into the comments link on this video, so you’ll be able to find that as well.

You do have to find the comments on the video, so yeah, you know, whatever, or the description!

I know a lot of people, that’s all they do is, they just see the video, and we’ve listed the mistakes that we’ve made the correction in comments, and everybody then writes another comment telling us what we’ve done.

Well, did you read?

Well, who knows?

 

So let me get back to my, um, we’ve got a question came in here too, so I’ll get to that in a second.

I want to just get back to my general questions for Stef here; because we got distracted.

 

Stef's First Camera

I wanted to ask Stef, what was your first camera?

 

(Stef)

My first camera! Actually, I found it!

 

(John)

You brought it? Well, that’s fantastic!

 

(Stef)

Yeah my first digital camera, of course.

Here it is - a Power Shot with the sliding thing.

I never had this one, but I remember the model; it’s like a big, like a chunky brick.

 

(Stef)

Yeah!

 

(John)

That’s in good shape; how old is it now?

That’s got to be at least 2000…

 

(Stef)

Ah, 2000, no ’99! Yes, ‘99.

 

(John)

Wow, ’99! Okay, yeah!

 

(Stef)

And it cost me and arm and a leg! I think over 1000 pounds! I bought in the UK.

 

(John)

Yeah! That is an arm and a leg.

 

(Stef)

So it’s about 2000 Australian dollars, more or less.

 

(John)

Wow!

 

(Stef)

Yeah, but it’s good. I mean, because I needed a photo from (Angkor Wat.)

I’m planning a trip - cycling and photography trip - in August; and I needed some photos from (Angkor Wat), which I was there in 2000. Here we are! [Holds up camera]

 

(John)

Oh, wow, so they’re still on the card?

 

(Stef)

No, no, but I saw them now on my computer, and I said, I should look for the camera.

They are quite good, I mean.

 

(John)

I can’t believe how good your camera is.  My digital camera from 1999 is held together with duct tape.

 

(Stef)

Oh, really?

[Laughter]

 

(John)

It really got beat up.

 

(Stef)

Oh, this doesn’t work properly, but still, it’s not too bad, I could use it actually. The LCD is probably not the best.

 

(John)

Oh, that’s good.

So, now, what was your first film camera?

 

(Stef)

I think it was a Canon, I can’t remember the name, the number, yeah.

 

(John)

So was there some photography in your family, or were you the first, or how did photography come into your game?

 

(Stef)

Oh, I guess, yeah my family is more, my father is more into art, is more into music, if you can call it art; I think so.

And I like art as such; I like painting, I like going to galleries, I quite, it’s a very good time for me.

So I guess the difference between photography and painting, for example, is not that much.

So painting is more of a, you have a white canvas where you add the subject and the object, vice versa with photography, it’s more of a - you have a subject and you use the objects to take the attention to the subjects, and you try actually to take away everything else; so it’s very similar, but of course, I can’t paint.

So, photography was the next one.

 

(John)

Well of course, as a photographer we paint with light.

 

(Stef)

Yeah, that’s right.

You’re right.

 

(John)

And sometimes we actually paint with light, we light paint!

So that’s a very interesting!

Um okay, what else did I have on my question list?

So we talked about the a9.

 

Stef's IT Background

Oh, I want to talk a little bit about your IT background, because that’s interesting, because of course, photography is a very technical profession these days; you have to be pretty well a computer expert to be a digital photographer, because you know, when the computer fails your hobby kind of just disappears - you can lose all your photos!

 

So, how do you find that? Is your background, you said you were in IT in the telecommunications industry?

 

(Stef)

Yes, yes, oh absolutely.

I mean, it’s a big help.

I think you can be a great photographer, and I’m sure a lot of great photography out there, but one of the major problems I found, is marketing, yeah – how do you actually show your product, your photos to the people?

And then comes a website, and then comes SEO, and then comes how to take actual people, and traffic into your website.

So if you have an IT background this helps a lot; and when it comes to Lightroom, comes to (Hadoop), it comes to the internet; so you have so many things that having an IT background helps. No question about it.

 

Stef's Website

(John)

And the obvious leads into that, as I reach over so rudely here, let’s pull up your website.

[MEL365.com is shown]

 

So, there we go.

Tell us a little bit about your website and what it all means. So you’ve made this change about how many years is it since you gave up the IT, about 11 years ago, you said?

 

(Stef)

So I finished with IT about four years ago.

 

(John)

Oh, four years, ok, sorry, sorry.

 

(Stef)

Not too long.

 

(John)

So it was eleven that you moved here.

 

(Stef)

Yeah, when I moved here.

 

(John)

Sorry, I stand corrected.

 

(Stef)

So, but, I’ll say this website as such, as you see now, it’s about two years old; so it’s not that much, but what I do is about posting about reviews, and travel photography stories, with trips that I do; and I sometimes work with 2D sports to go there, and shoot for them, and stay there for two weeks.

I use a lot of Instagram, and that’s how I do things really.

 

(John)

And now, your Instagram is linked to the site I believe, and you can just tell people what your Instagram name is here then.

 

(Stef)

That’s good question.

[Laughs]

 

(John)

I don’t mean to put you on the spot.

We will link it in later. I found it, so it’s obviously there.

 

(Stef)

It’s here, yeah.

It’s coming.

 

(John)

Slowly but surely.

 

(Stef)

Yeah, we are in Australia.

 

[Laughs]

(John)

Yeah, well the Wi-Fi is a little bit problematic, plus we’re streaming at the same time, so we’re probably saturating the internet.

Oh, here we go.

 

(Stef)

Yeah

 

(John)

[Instagram page is loaded]

“Stef_travelphotography”

There you go, you read it on the screen. Hopefully, it’s on the screen.

 

(Stef)

This was the last trip, I got, for example, in Queensland, I went from (___) up to, yeah, a few islands up in the North.

 

Use Of Instagram And Page Orientation

(John)

Well, this brings up an interesting question; I usually, when Instagram comes up and I’ve got a photographer - square aspect ratio! Has the Instagram forced you to think in squares, or do you take a picture that you’ve already got that’s at a wider aspect ratio, you know, a ¾ or 2/3 or whatever camera that you’re working with, and you make it square for Instagram.

 

(Stef)

That’s a good question!

I mean, the Instagram world is a bit different from the photography world, really.

It’s about popularity, a bit more than anything else; if you are into that, of course, yeah.

So yeah, definitely, you know square is probably one of the things I look, and when I do the composition, or when I do the cropping, I cropping in order to have it more square that I usually do; I like more landscaping photos actually.

 

(John)

So I guess, we get back to that question? So are you composing for an Instagram audience, or are you composing for your own vision, and then repurposing for Instagram in square?

 

(Stef)

It depends on what I do; if it’s something that I know is going to go on Instagram, I do a photo for what I like to do; and I do another photo more for Instagram.

 

(John)

Oh, okay.

 

(Stef)

If I do, when I was doing cycling, for example, I was working for websites and I was working for magazines, and back in Italy, it was good; and for magazines you have to shoot in portrait mode, and for a website in landscape mode, so you have always to you know think I guess, where your photo’s going.

 

(John)

Exactly.

Well, that’s good that you’ve got that experience, so that you can understand it; because a lot of people you know, sort of guess, you know, when do you do you know, the other aspect ratio, or the other orientation?

 

(Stef)

Yeah.

 

(John)

There are a lot of cases where you know, a client wants a picture, but it wasn’t shot in the orientation they need and you’ve got to come up with a way to creatively do it, and if the picture isn’t in high enough detail, maybe you lose the contract, because you just don’t have what the client needs.

I certainly know what mean, about magazines needing portrait.

 

(Stef)

Yeah, yeah, I lost the first page on a magazine, and after that I understood.

[Laughter]

 

(John)

Yes, we all learn from our mistakes; we’ll get to that later.

 

Okay, now, let me just refresh my mind here.

 

The Future

Okay, well, what we look forward to? What are your plans in the coming years with your MEL365 site; and you know, what does the future hold for you?

 

(Stef)

Um, my life has been unpredictable really, in the last 10 years, or 15 years, so, I left in my hometown about 25 years ago, and I travel and travel, and travel.

I changed probably 25 to 30 places.

So, it’s hard to say, honestly, what I’m going to do in the next two years; only three years ago, I thought I was doing cycling photography; then the kid arrived, and I had to restructure my life.

Now, my life looks like it is fun.

Probably, I keep doing travel photography; because I love; I love to do travelling, and I love to do photography; so that’s the best you can have, really!

[Laughs]

 

(John)

Certainly is!

 

(Stef)

And, I love to have a website also, because allows me to see different gear, you know. Especially in the last year, I tested and reviewed so much so much gear, that I really gain a lot you know.

I can feel the difference between cameras; I can understand what I want, which camera works better, so it’s a nice feeling to have.

And, where you have a passion, doesn’t matter what, then you know it’s perfect.

 

(John)

Now, as I understand it, you also do some training; you take people out on photo walks around Melbourne.

So obviously, with this background of all these cameras you’ve been able to test and learn about, you’re able to help a lot of people.

So I’m sure you find some immense satisfaction in sharing your knowledge.

 

(Stef)

Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely, and the fact that I used so many cameras as well, I’ve been able to, you know, change the setting and help with the camera people; because sometimes, like last Saturday I got only three people, but three cameras, of which almost two points and shoot. So, using them, unless you know the cameras, how they work – Panasonic, how it works; Olympus, how it works; Canon – they’re all different. How works Sony; you know that’s the other one.

So yeah, it helps a lot.

 

(John)

That’s really interesting.

Is there anything that you look forward to, you know, as photography advances, or any types of camera systems, or any styles of photography that you’d like to explore; that you haven’t had a chance to explore yet?

 

Drone Photography

(Stef)

Probably drone photography.

 

(John)

Yeah?

 

(Stef)

Yeah, drone photography is my next thing. I just have got a drone about two weeks ago; so I still have to unpack it, but…

 

(John)

Oh, you haven’t even flown it yet? Which drone did you get?

 

(Stef)

Well, the last from the DJT it is called.

 

(John)

The DJI?

 

(Stef)

The DJI yeah, so I don’t even know the name!

So I got it.

 

(John)

Is it the one with the arms that fold up, or is it the white one?

 

(Stef)

The white one, yeah.

 

(John)

Ok, so it’s a Phantom.

 

(Stef)

The Phantom, yeah.

 

(John)

That’s what I have.

 

(Stef)

Oh, okay?

So, I still have to use it.

Two weeks ago, so with the Sony last week, and the kid, and things changing, and plans; so but, definitely this week I want to fly it!

 

(John)

Well, I think you’ll enjoy that.

For me, that’s been one of the most exciting things, has been getting into drone photography; and I think a lot of customers are finding that you know, they’ve hit the sweet spot - they’re reliable enough, they’re reasonably affordable, they take pretty bloody good pictures these days, and they’re easy to fly.

So definitely, we want to do more videos about drone photography.

 

I’ve done a couple little test case videos here on some of my other channels; but eventually, we’re going to do a full-on drone training course through Michael’s; so that’s something.

 

It’s not going to happen this week, but something you can look forward to; and once we get all this video broadcasting gear “portabilised” in our, what are we calling it? It’s the MPU – the mobile production unit - that’s our long-range plan.

So, all this gear that’s sitting in front of us, that you can’t see right now - our viewers - we have three cameras in front of us here; we’re going to try to get all this stuff, and the streaming equipment all in a big battery powered case on wheels, so that we can get out in the field and do some field testing of cameras; all live on Facebook.

So that’s quite exciting!

And that brings us to another point: I wonder whether we hit record on this or not; I’m not too sure!

 

Ah, we did! Woohoo!

That’s great!

Well, we’re going to have a high-res version of this that we’ll be able to distribute on YouTube.

[Laughter]

I can’t tell you the number of times I forgot to hit record while I’m doing these things; because of course, I’m sort of over here, it’s hard!

Now, what else do we have in our little questions for you?

 

So yeah, ok, well teacher or photographer; where do you see yourself right now? Are you like a teacher, because I know that you’re taking people out for photo walks or whatever; or do you consider yourself a photographer?

 

(Stef)

Oh well, my first work actually was as a teacher in high school!

 

(John)

Oh, wow!

 

(Stef)

For two years, so interesting.

I like teaching, but I’m more, I like more learning.

So when you go out with people, they want to learn, you learn yourself.

At least I feel like that, you know.

So after, probably two years now I’m doing that, I’ll learn a hell of a lot.

 

(John)

Yeah.

 

(Stef)

And I’ve learned, and it helped me also a lot into my website, you know, to understand the web people are, what those people are looking for; what people want to solve, and what is a common issue that a new photographer has; why people choose one camera instead of another one; to me makes sense that you know, let’s buy an interchangeable lens and with a nice lens, even if you spend $2,000 (___).

But, of course, there is a budget, you know; there are people, they don’t want to have multiple lenses you know.

There are people they want to have a 60 (___) zoom, other people they don’t want to zoom at all.

So, it’s a lot of understanding, a lot of learning for me and was good. I really like it.

So I’m more of a learner, to answer your question, probably.



(John)

Well, that’s great. I certainly, I find every time I take people out for a photo walk, I learn a lot, and I’m always impressed with what they’re able to achieve with the exact same things that I’m looking at, and they just come up with such different photographs; and it quite often, really impresses me that at one minute maybe the student’s asking about what I think is a very simple question for the camera, but you know obviously, we know these cameras are really complex and they’re not designed for the average user; and so they ask something that I certainly know the technical answer to it, and then turn around and make a picture that is 100 times better than anything I’m shooting!

 

So, that’s quite interesting.

So, let’s just slip back and you give us a little bit more of a rundown with some of the other photos you brought from your archives here. So, if there are any little stories to tell, things that we can, you know, just, yeah. Go ahead.

 

[Image of peninsula with sunrise or sunset]

(Stef)

Oh yeah, I can show you a little bit of an example, the last trip, how I got in Indonesia. Last trip I got in Indonesia (Bisi Apata) island – it’s a beautiful place.

I think Indonesia is one of the most underrated countries to visit, and we went to different islands, and this was an amazing landscape.

The good thing about this photo is that, usually when I arrive on site, I take my mobile; I just check with my mobile you know, what I can frame better; and I did this photo with a mobile, believe it or not.

And after probably I did, after this, I did another 60, 70 photos, but still, my best photo was with a mobile.

 

(John)

Okay!

 

(Stef)

So, just to say that doesn’t matter the camera at the end of the day.

 

(John)

Yeah when you’re presented with beautiful light, and you know how to use the tool; it’s the tool at hand.

 

(Stef)

That’s right, yeah.

[Image of close-up of a woman’s hands holding on to a rail]

Another good photo I love is one of my favourites: it’s this photo of this lady in a fishing village, and what I wanted to show here was more about the hard life of this person that she’s got.

So, it was about the hands, it was not really about the face; about how much she has done in her life.

 

[Image of a Komodo dragon walking under some beach tree debris]

This one somebody may recognise one of these dragons.

 

(John)

Yeah!

 

(Stef)

From Komodo, Komodo dragon in Indonesia; where was a funny story: we look for a nice dragon close to the sea, just to have a little bit of a contrast; because most of the dragons were inland, so we look, and we look for one, and finally we found one close to the beach; so we could have a little bit of blue in the background.

I was there with a couple of friends, just to say that sometimes photos look like they are spontaneous, but just to make one photo it may take three hours, even in travel photography.

 

(John)

Well, you did well, he had his tongue out!

 

(Stef)

Yeah, I did a few!

 

(john)

Well, that’s a case where the Sony camera might have been just the perfect tool for the job!

 

(Stef)

Absolutely!

 

(John)

Because they, those reptile tongues, well his, he’s got a big tongue, it’s probably not as fast as a little snake; but still you know, you want that forked tongue in a picture of a reptile; that’s what makes the shot!

 

(Stef)

Yeah, yeah!

[Image of person sitting, back to camera, looking out over a thick jungle/forest, with a small lake or river in the far background, and a pink, delicate light]

And another one: this was um; I was in the Queensland again.

I love this photo! It’s, it just shows almost, you know, dinosaur land, sort of; and we have tea, I mean it’s only three hours flight from here, from Melbourne.

So it’s an amazing place to go.

I like to add people. The reason, couple of reasons: Instagram is more about people into the photo, that’s a matter of fact; but besides that, is also, you know, if you see a person, you want to be there; because this person is there, so you identify yourself with being there, and having the same kind of view.

So that’s another reason why I like to put people.

 

Cycling.

 

(John)

I’m just going to take a look and see if we’ve had any questions here, while you tell us about your next picture.

 

(Stef)

[Image of race cyclists passing an oncoming road train]

This photo was another amazing photo; I took her with a point and shoot.

When I did, the trip was a one of a trip we did from Sydney to Lulu, 4000 kilometers; about 200 kilometers a day; I decided to ride, and I had my camera on the back of my bicycle, this camera here, but I had also another camera which was a point and shot, just in case of some interesting subjects.

And here in Australia we have these road trains, which are quite amazing, because when you ride and they come, you are like in a washing machine, just because of the air they move; and yeah, it doesn’t look like, but I was a big, big, action star.

 

(John)

Oh, I can certainly imagine; just when one of those road trains passes you in a small car, you feel it, I can imagine on a bicycle!

 

(Stef)

Absolutely, yeah!

 

(John)

Okay so I’ve got a question here from one of our viewers on the live stream here, Thomas Ryan Photography asks: I’m interested to know what your opinion is on the weight of lens to mirrorless camera bodies.

So basically what’s the fact that bodies are so much lighter, but now the lenses you know, are still fitting full-frame.

He says: Sure they are smaller and compact, but what about the long-term use which larger lenses?

 

(Stef)

Yeah, well, if you see the Sony, for example, they tend to have lenses which a little bit longer, and bigger, than the full-frame Nikon and Canon.

 

(John)

Oh, that’s true, I notice that as well, that you know, their 70-200 is a little larger.

 

(Stef)

Yeah, so and yeah, the weight goes more on the front, he is right, and what you do is, you tend to take more; I tend to take personally more the camera on the lens, than on the body, so my weight goes on both hands; instead, with like a Nikon here, tends to go more on this, on the right hand.

Is it good? I think it’s something like, we get used to; one or the other. So I’ve got the a7R2 for the month, and I shoot only with that; when I came back to this, I say, oh my gosh, how heavy it is!

But the weight is exactly the same; we balance; doesn’t really change that much.

So you get used to it, I think.

[Horn blasting in the background]

And is it better, or is it worse? I think it’s the same, just different.

 

(John)

Ok, well that’s very interesting.

 

Now, the last question, I don’t even need to check it out here, because I remember what it was:

Tell me about the shot that got away! Like every photographer, I’m sure there was something you put a lot of effort into and it didn’t happen. Do you have an interesting story about a shot that got away?

 

(Stef)

Ah, I wanted to take a shot of a dear friend, adventure, and she’s called (___).

She’s probably famous here in Australia.

And she’s a multi-marathon, so very long marathon, so like 100 kilometres marathon?

 

(John)

Oh, an ultramarathon runner?

 

(Stef)

Ultramarathon, yeah; and she was unfortunately unlucky that she got burned; most of the body, on a competition.

And when we did (___) we had it for 20 days, and she was with us riding.

 

(John)

Oh wow.

 

(Stef)

Yeah, she was just outstanding; I learned so much from her, just never give up you know.

Doesn’t matter what’s happening to you in life, never give up; and so lots of motivation there.

I wanted to take a photo of her, and I took many, but couldn’t take one that could say that you know.

There is something, I think in photography you want to take a photo to say what’s behind; when you take a photo of a person, and I was not happy with that.

So hope to be happy soon.

 

(John)

Well, I can understand it; sometimes when you’re presented with an opportunity, where a shot that could you know, potentially make your career, and it didn’t it didn’t work out; because she’s well known, and you know if you can get a beautiful photo of her, that can convey emotion, you know, it’s great to do it.

But, I feel it’s very important for photographers to attempt things that are out of their comfort zone, to try, because we learn from our mistakes, and just keep going at it; and so in my interview that I did with Quinn Rooney last week, I asked him the same question about the shot that got away; and he talked about a shot that he tried to put together with Usain Bolt, and it didn’t come together.

 

(Stef)

Okay.

 

(John)

So, that race, he didn’t produce anything, because it’s all about the finish line; but some other photographers in the Getty pool did manage to get the bread-and-butter shots.

 

But I’m very excited about this concept of the shot that got away, and so I’m planning on using this with all my  interviews going forward, and I look forward to telling a little story – well I shouldn’t say a little story – it’s going to be a long drawn-out story about my personal shot that got away.

So I haven’t put it all together yet, and I don’t know exactly what day I’m going to do it, but I want to tell my personal story, so that I can have a lot of the other staff members at Michael’s you know, take it upon themselves to tell their story as well; because one of the things that we want to do with YouTube, is we want to humanise our business here.

Because, we are people; we love photography’ we love imaging; many of us are into videography as well, and we’re a real bricks and mortar store, and we’re here to help.

 

I mean our tagline is, “We can help!”

 

You know, an online store, when Amazon comes to the party, that’s just a shopping cart; you press a button. There’s no one there, that’s going to tell you a story, and relate to you; your personal experiences about using tools, because we sell very complex tools; they’re used to create art; they’re used to convey stories; they’re used to convey emotion, and we want to be part of your storytelling experience here at Michael’s, and so we want to tell you a little bit about our personal stories, and we’re going to tell stories of our customers as well.

 

That’s why I wanted to have Stef in today, and I think he shared some amazing photos, and some very interesting insights into how he thinks, and how he works, and how he’s applied his information technology background to, you know, know about the website, how to market; because you know, photography is more than just pressing a shutter.

 

We, sometimes a lot of people think it’s very, very, simple but there’s a lot more to it.

Possibly, you know 99%, is beyond pressing the shutter.

 

[Laughter]

There are a lot of little pieces of the puzzle, but that 1% that involves pressing the shutter, that’s pretty hard as well sometimes, you know.

There are a lot of things that go before you press the button.

 

(Stef)

Absolutely.

 

(John)

So, I really want to thank you for coming in and sharing with us a little bit of your story, and we look forward to seeing your full a9 report, and maybe when the hockey comes to town we’ll have a chance to work together, and bring some of the big guns from our Hire Department, and hook them up to some things; and go shoot some hockey pictures, and try this amazing Sony a9 sports camera out on some people in action!

 

But I did like the picture of your son, that was quite fun, with the skateboard.

I’m glad you had a chance to get the camera, and it was great that we were able to send you up to Sydney for the launch of it!

 

Now, I should mention that we’re going to be having an a9 launch event here at Michael’s coming up.

 

We haven’t quite announced the date yet, so, but stay tuned for us; it will be very soon.

 

And we’ll possibly be streaming the speakers live!

So we’ve to put the pieces of the puzzle together here, but we’re very excited about the Sony a9 at Michael’s.

We’ve got it in the Hire Department; we’re getting a lot of interest, and we’re going to make some more videos; we want to get some hands-on time with it, and I just want to play with it, so, you know!

That’s what we’ve got coming up in “Sony Land”

I’m also going to be doing another video this afternoon. I’ve got a brand new fisheye lens I want to show you.

So in an hour so, I’m going to do another video, so if you’re keen to see that one; stay tuned.

 

Well, I guess I’ll schedule it on Facebook, and all these things will show up on our YouTube feed later anyway.

 

Trying to think what else we’ve got to cover.

So this is Facebook, so you can hit like; you can follow, and you can head on over the Michael’s YouTube channel, and you can find some additional content, and if your stream broke while you were watching this, you can watch the (well it won’t be the repaired, it will be the high-definition version of this) the hi-def version of this.

 

We’ll get this uploaded in probably, I might be able to get it done today, it’s hard to say; I’ve got to make another video, so I might not have time to do the post-production on this one.

 

That’s sort of what’s happening in “Video land” here at Michael’s camera, and we thank you very much for joining us on another one of our Facebook live interviews, and we’re looking forward to doing more.

And, hey, if you’ve got a story to share with us and you think you’d like to be interviewed, get in touch with me; I’m easy to find.

And we’re always looking for new and interesting people to tell their stories.

 

Anyway, thanks so much for joining us, Stef.

We look forward to keeping up with your website.

We’ll put the links to Stef’s Instagram, and his website in the description for the video.

It’s already in the Facebook feed for this, and we hope you enjoy Stef’s work and follow him!

And if you want to do a photo walk with him, I’m sure he’d be happy to have you join in the fun.

 

(Stef)

Okay!

 

(John)

Take care, and we’ll see everybody next time!

Thank you so much!

 

(Stef)

Thank you!