Astrophotography 101


ISO-200, F/5.6, 25.4 sec exposure

Who doesn’t love star-gazing? It’s such a beautiful and humbling experience to look into the black velvet sky and feel overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the heavens, and the universe beyond our own galaxy. These shaky shots were taken on my Pentax k-x with 35mm DAL F2.4, a trusty little plastic workhorse that I have on my DSLR body¬†at most (if not all) times. I used a tripod, but not a remote shutter control (still waiting on the one I ordered off eBay). And I used my own trial-and-error system for shutter speed instead of using a fixed ‘500’ rule. All in all, given that there was a lot of light pollution from my own and neighbouring houses, the results aren’t that too bad. Next time I’ll be heading out a little further from city/suburbia to see if I can capture the Milky Way. Exciting stuff!ūüôā

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ISO-400, F/2.8 16.9 sec exposure (35mm focal length on Pentax k-x)

For those who have never tried night photography before, why not give it a hand? It’s not as intimidating as it seems. There are a lot of articles out there with tips and tutorials. The main things you need to keep in mind are that you have to have a FULL manual setting – i.e. MF (manual focused) lens, so that it won’t keep trying to focus on something. It’s good to be wide open, but not too much – F/2.5-2.8 onward seem to give the best results. My most ‘starry’ photo was in fact achieved with F/5.6. Head to a dark area – a national park, or in the mountains, etc. Use a remote shutter control to minimize shake, even if you are using a tripod! As for which lenses are best to use, check out this article. I’ve had it bookmarked for a while but haven’t actually gotten around to reading it. Seems very informative though. Watch this space for more (hopefully improved) night photography.


What not to do – ISO-400, F/2.8 10.36 sec exposure


ISO-400, F/2.4 12.28 sec exposure

Review: Superheadz UWS (harikin)

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This plastic fantastic clone of the Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim produces the same dreamy, saturated ultra-wide images of the original camera. Equipped with a ‘super fat’ 22mm lens and available in adorable colours such as gold harikin (hedgehog), white angel and sakurasan (cherry blossom pink), they’re also super cute, as Japanese products tend to be.

I actually wrote up an extensive review weighing the pros and cons of this camera for Lomography magazine, but it was rejected (silently and swiftly) on account of its main subject being a product of rival toy-camera company,¬†SuperHeadz. That’s right, Lomography will accept reviews, articles and pictures from cameras that fit within its own brand image, but not those of rival manufacturers. There’s clearly more to the ‘lomo movement’ than ‘don’t think, just shoot!’. Lomography is a mean, green marketing machine, and it’s is one of the reasons I started this blog:¬†freedom of¬†bloody¬†speech.¬†¬†Image (21)

These shots are from some test rolls that I took around my neighbourhood, Sydney Central Station and at a pretty farm in Galston that we passed on our way to pick persimmons back in 2011. I had no problems at all taking this camera with me wherever I went, and I’ve made good use of it as a travel camera in the past (I have a roll from the Great Wall of China lying around somewhere; must get that developed soon).

The SuperHeadz UWS is actually the perfect camera for documenting your travels. To start off with, it is¬†seriously¬†light. With film inside, it weighs less than a Parker fountain pen or iPod nano, just to give you a rough idea.¬†Not only is it light, and therefore easy to carry around, but it’s also has the convenience of 35mm film. There’s none of the hassle and extra processing costs of medium format film that’s involved with the Diana F+ or Holga. As it has a wide lens, the SuperHeadz is also capable of capturing more detail than a standard film point-and-shoot.

Unlike with other toy cameras, there’s no need to worry about settings or screwed-up images either. Firstly, there¬†are¬†no settings! You just need to shoot in ample lighting and your photos will turn out sharp, with lots of contrast and punchy colours.¬†So to sum up, the pros of the SuperHeadz UWS are that it is ultra light, ultra wide, takes 35mm film (convenienct), and produces good quality images. Sounds pretty good so far. What might some of the cons of this camera be?

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Its greatest drawback is probably its pumped up price. Toy cameras, given their cheap plastic surfaces and flimsy construction, are so expensive these days. I paid a total of $37 AUD including postage for my SuperHeadz harikin. Some reviewers say they found theirs for $10-20, but those days are long gone. Unless you manage to find an original Vivitar UWS, there’s a high chance you’ll have to fork out at least $30 for this baby. It might be worth tracking one of those Vivitars down, but on the other hand, the SuperHeadz models are so cute, who can resist their candy colours?

Some other minor concerns: the back is quite hard to open, but it’s just a matter of holding the camera upside down and letting the back drop open, rather than trying to break your fingers wrenching it out with the flimsy plastic knob. The front plastic surface also gets scratched very easily. I ordered my gold harikin thinking that it would be a sort of matte gold finish like in the first photo, but it’s more of a shiny candy-wrapper gold, and the scratches make it look so dull!

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Ultimately, the SuperHeadz UWS is like a reusable version of those disposable cameras you can purchase at supermarkets. If you don’t want to spend $30 on a piece of plastic, you can get similar results with the Lomo Aquapix, a $9 waterproof film camera also available on eBay. But of course, those don’t have the super fat wide lens of the UWS!

Test Roll 001


These are from my test roll on the Diana F+ Qing Hua, taken sometime in late 2011. I used a slightly expired roll of Fujifilm Colour Pro 400H 120. Though I’ve had my Holga and other toy cameras for a while, I’m new to the Diana F+ so I want this blog to be a space where I can experiment and have fun with it, but also jot things down as a sort of process diary.¬†These photos were taken around Tsinghua University campus in Beijing, where I lived for a year. Out of 12 frames, four turned out with the correct exposure and focus. I only liked these first two. They might not be the greatest photos in the world, but I find them at least a little atmospheric.


The remaining two are poor in composition, colour (they turned out too ‘cold’ – i.e. blue; I should have used a yellow mask or flash gel) and I didn’t particularly like the subject matter either. Pity the others came out blank. I remember taking some photos near the West Gate that I would’ve liked, but they were completely overexposed. It’s all part of the learning curve, right? And I suspect the girl who developed/processed these had no idea what she was doing. She just cut frames right into half, and didn’t know what to do with the panorama shots, so maybe I’ll get them redone.



I haven’t had time to shoot with the Diana F+ since this first test roll – and that’s two years ago already. Will be taking my Qing Hua with me to Japan this week, though, so hopefully I’ll get some good shots. Tip 1: try to take notes after every frame – mask or gels used? Focus settings? Flash or no flash? N or B? That way I’ll have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t. I clearly need to work on double exposures. All of mine came out blank.