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High-speed sync allows the photographer to use flash at shutter speeds faster than the native sync speed of the camera. For example, if the normal sync speed of your camera is 1/250th, but conditions dictate a shutter speed of 1/1000th, if you use normal sync with the flash, the image will be overexposed by 2 stops. This is the difference between a 250th of a second and a 1000th of a second. However, if you set your camera to high-speed sync, the flash will sync with the faster shutter, and the resulting image will be properly exposed. There are limitations based on the power of your flash and how high the shutter speed needs to be. Two situations where high-speed sync comes into play are when you want to utilize a wide-open aperture to throw a background out of focus or if the natural light is very bright and you need the flash to fill in shadows. There are many more, but these two are the most common to nature photography. In either case, normal sync speed will result in overexposed images.
When normal sync is utilized, the shutter curtain opens and the flash emits a burst in conjunction with the open shutter. With shutter speeds higher than normal sync, the shutter can’t move fast enough relative to the fast burst emitted from the flash. Depending on how old your camera is, the result is either a black band across part of the photo or the image is overexposed. The faster the shutter speed, the larger the black band or the more the exposure won’t be accurate.
With the camera set to high-speed sync, the flash fires in conjunction with shutter speeds faster than normal sync. If the ambient light calls for a shutter speed of 1/1000th, the flash fires a series of pulses as the curtain passes over the sensor. The pulses fire harmoniously with the movement of the curtain so the light emitted by the flash is concurrent with the open shutter. All this happens in microseconds and is invisible to the eye. Utilizing the technology will bring your flash photography to the next level.
Let’s look at a scenario where high-speed sync is needed. You need to make a portrait in the bright sun, which dictates it will be contrasty. You know that fill flash will help tame the contrast by adding light to the shadows, which helps tone down the highlights. You take a meter reading and it’s 1/250th at ƒ/11. The problem is ƒ/11 brings the background into focus and the look you want is an out-of-focus background. You have an ƒ/4 lens and that’s the aperture you want to use to throw the background out of focus. The difference between ƒ/4 and ƒ/11 is 3 stops. Based on the exposure of 1/250th at ƒ/11, if you want to use ƒ/4, you need a shutter speed of 1/2000th of a second to provide an identical exposure. If you set the camera to high-speed sync, the pulses from the flash will sync with the higher shutter speed and provide the look you desire. You need to be aware that the higher the shutter speed, the closer the flash needs to be to the subject, as high-speed sync really taxes flash output. Another key piece to the puzzle is to lower your ISO so the slowest possible shutter speed can be attained without taxing the flash unnecessarily. Additionally, a neutral-density filter can be added, but be aware that the flash needs to emit a bright burst to compensate for the ND.
In the included image examples, the first is a straight shot made at 1/2000th of a second at ƒ/2.8. As with most portraits, the goal is to have the background out of focus, but the light is very contrasty. Using ƒ/2.8 threw the background out of focus, but you can’t see into the eyes and the light is terrible. To soften the contrast, flash is needed to fill in the shadows. In image number two a flash was added, but the camera cut off the exposure at the normal sync speed of 1/250th, which resulted in a 3-stop overexposure. The flash was cut off in that the camera was set to normal sync, which is the default flash sync speed on the camera I used. In image number three, I used the normal sync of 1/250th, so I was forced to raise the aperture to ƒ/19 to prevent overexposure. The light is improved, but because I had to raise the aperture to ƒ/19, the background is distracting as it comes into focus. In image four, I set the camera to high-speed sync so I could maintain my original aperture of ƒ/2.8 to throw the background out of focus. The resulting shutter speed was 1/3000 at ƒ/2.8. The flash fired in conjunction with the higher-than-normal sync speed, and I produced the look I desired. I encourage you to give high-speed sync a try, as it will certainly provide superior images when it’s used strategically.
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The past year has been great for the smart speaker industry. Smart speakers, the voice-activated, home-based devices that allow you to make searches, play music, and even purchase items, skyrocketed in popularity in 2017, with sales more than tripling. Brands like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Sonos One have become household names, and consumers have already gotten used to having a voice-activated assistant on standby. But in the realm of technology, it’s hard to spend much time contemplating the present without looking to the future. Smart speakers have the potential to grow and develop even further in the future, especially…
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At GeekWire, we don’t mind being held accountable for our predictions. But if we can hold others accountable — well, that’s something special.
In this case, the someone is Ramez Naam, the futurist, science-fiction author, computer scientist and current energy and environment co-chair at Singularity University. Naam, who gamely joined us for a recent episode of our special podcast series on science fiction, the arts, and popular culture, agreed to re-live and re-visit his 2015 GeekWire Summit take on the near future.
Spoiler alert: Naam’s observations then turned out to be mostly consistent today. But there was at least one unexpected outcome.
In October 2015, Naam appeared in a GeekWire Summit session with former astronaut Ed Lu and science-fiction writer Nancy Kress. I moderated the wide-ranging discussion, including a lightning round, in which I presented seven short possible future scenarios, and asked them to give their takes. They could give only one of three responses to each of the seven situations: “utopia,” “dystopia,” or “it’s complicated,” with a few words of explanation.
Fast forward to February 2018, a blink in geologic time but an epoch in the advance of technology. Naam’s first subject up for reconsideration: Uber as a viable alternative to mass transit.
Then, Naam said, “Utopia mostly. We can cut the emissions of those vehicles tremendously and the cost of transport should drop another fifth.” Today, Naam remains optimistic. “Utopia, mostly, and it’s coming,” he said. “Certainly autonomous electric shared ride services will get down to about 25 cents a mile and they’ll be cheaper than buses.”
Naam also consistently dubbed a utopia the related transportation prediction that self-driving cars reach 50 percent market penetration. In 2015, he said, “Utopia, a half-a-million lives a year saved.” In 2018? “If we’re talking globally, that would probably save half-a-million lives and 25 billion hours in the U.S. alone of driving time,” he said.
Number three: The internet of things. “Mostly a utopia, but the security implications are still terrifying,” he said as he reconsidered the topic on the recent podcast. This, it turned out, is an uptick from two-plus years ago, when Naam’s response was a non-committal, “It’s complicated.” Yet even back then he warned, “It’s nothing like secure at all.”
Next up: Robots overcoming the “uncanny valley” and becoming indistinguishable from us. In 2015, Naam saw this as a utopia, and he still feels this way. His original take: “I think there’s a huge range of situations where people need more care, where empathy is an important thing.” Naam said now it wouldn’t be without “some risks,” but “in Japan for instance: aging population, very few young people. What if you have something that can provide emotional labor and help keep those old people company? I think huge upsides.”
It was at this speculative spot that the utopian responses, even qualified, ended much as they did in 2015.
A postulated iPhone 17S? (Then: “Who cares?” Today: “Irrelevant. It no longer matters what Apple does … Android will eat their lunch globally.”)
All new knowledge existing only in digital form? (Then: “Dystopia … dangerous.” Today: “That would bum me out … It’s harder to falsify data that exists in paper and lots of places.”)
And finally — keeping in mind this was October 2015, more than a year before the national election — President Donald Trump?
Naam doesn’t recant the visceral response he gave at that time: “Oh my god, dystopia.” But today, he does expand upon it. “At the time it seemed completely implausible, no way it could happen,” he said. “And now here we are living it.”
Many of these what-ifs recall a frequent theme of Naam’s writing and speaking: building resilience, both organizationally and individually, to technological change. “Technology moves faster than society, and society even has multiple strata,” he explained. Each is subsequently more sluggish, starting with how fast the next generation learns, to how fast we learn, to how fast organizations learn, and finally to how fast government learns.
So to deal with rapid change, Naam said, “We have to be more experimental as a society.” Governments may have to try different policies just to see which ones work. “That would be anathema to the way that politicians voice certainty of, ‘X will do Y.’ But that’s how science works. It’s how innovation in business works,” he said.
Finally, in light of Naam’s self-described optimism, we re-asked one final question from the 2015 GeekWire Summit — what keeps him up at night?
This time, it’s the current Administration (though he also pointed out the U.S. governmental system, too, has proven remarkably resilient over time). Back then, he said, it was most likely checking Twitter.
Listen to the entire interview — including discussions on the importance of technological scale, and why the state of the world may not be as bad as people think it is — in the GeekWire podcast above. Download the MP3 here.
Adam Brotman, who led Starbucks digital business, including its Mobile Order and Pay initiative and in-store Wi-Fi efforts, is leaving the coffee retailer to try his hand in the apparel business.
The Seattle native, who prior to joining Starbucks in 2009 worked at Corbis and PlayNetwork, recently joined J. Crew to help lead the struggling company’s business as president and chief experience officer. J. Crew’s same store sales declined nine percent during the third quarter of 2017, and its net loss ballooned to $17.6 million for that period. The retailer, which is owned by private equity firm TPG, also approached Amazon about buying J. Crew.
“Adam’s experience with global field operations and cutting edge consumer-facing digital platforms makes him an invaluable partner in shaping and driving J.Crew Group’s strategic initiatives to the next level,” said J. Crew CEO Jim Brett in a statement. “Adam will help us establish customer relationships that leverage all our channels, helping us to serve them in ways that are more meaningful and relevant to how they shop and live.”
Brotman said in a statement, “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work with Jim and the team on taking what is already an iconic brand and helping to build world-class customer experiences across every touch point, whether technology or digital platforms, in-store, or at the intersection of both.”
He will relocate from Seattle to New York to take the new job.
Brotman served as chief digital officer at Starbucks for a number of years, and more recently took on the role of vice president of global retail operation and partner digital engagement. Starbucks is perceived as one of the most forward-looking companies when it comes to the use of technology in its operations.
At the GeekWire Summit last year, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson — a former Microsoft executive — explained how the company fuses technology and retail.
“One, you must be focused on experiential retail that creates an experience in your store that becomes a destination for the customer,” Johnson explained. “And number two, you have to extend that experience from brick-and-mortar to a digital-mobile relationship. So our approach to this is investing in elevating the experience we create in our stores, and investing in the digital-mobile connection we have with our customers.”