Archive for the ‘General photography’ Category

Seeing the light…

Posted: April 14, 2013 in General photography

Watch out for crazy photographers with remote flashes

Watch out for crazy photographers with remote flashes

Full Disclosure: This was actually a little off-the-wall post I wrote up on Facebook a few years ago before this blog was active. I just came across it again and had to share. Enjoy!!

Well, I’ve spent a long day editing photos for the April edition of Fashion Wrap Up…It was certainly crunch time!!! The studio shots took a little more time than I was anticipating to get them all cleaned up, but I think everything turned out pretty darn fabulous after all. Anyway, this little post really came about because I was asked to dig back into my archives of images for one of the featured designers – the fabulous R. Lynda from the December issue. While sorting through the images I came across this pic. It’s really one of my favorites just because of the fact that it is totally NOT a fashion shot. One of our favorite male models, Casey, was helping me out as a photo assistant for the day (he also helped us scout out the location for this shoot). In between sets, I caught him goofing around with my flash and umbrella…and me being the jerk that I am…I took the shot. Obviously, this lit up the inside of poor Casey’s skull for an instant…the evil imp in me laughs. Believe me, I’ve fired these things into my own face more times than I care to admit…so I do know what it’s like.

So what’s my point? I dunno really. I just really enjoy seeing this picture because it reminds me of one very fun (and for Casey…painful) moment during one of the many fashion shoots I’ve done in the past year. I thought everyone might enjoy sharing a little.

And for those of you considering assisting a photographer with a shoot – just be sure to know where that photographer is before you go playing with any remotely-triggered flashes 😉

Hey everyone!

I’ve been asked a lot about cheap lighting for practicing off camera lighting set-ups (studio strobes, speedlights, etc..). Well this is a little trick I learned back in college, when uber-cheapness was the only concern. $125 for a flash??? No. Way. Ever. 

If you’re just starting out trying to understand the effects and positioning of off-camera lighting it really is helpful to be able to see what you’re doing to the light as you move things around. A constant light source is actually a much more effective training tool than a flash just because of the fact that you can actually see the results you’re getting before you even take the picture. Now – I must insert a disclaimer here – if you ever actually use this kind of set for a paid photo shoot be prepared to be fired, or at the least seriously laughed at. This does not portray confidence or professionalism in any way. But it does get you comfortable setting up lights without a huge investment.

You might wonder, if you’ve never used a softbox, what the point of this funky contraption really is? Simply put, its primary purpose is to “soften the light”, hence the name. It also provides some directional control of the light as well, but in order to make lighting softer, with smooth blended shadows, you need a large light source in close proximity to your subject. This is why the sun, even though it is enormous, creates harsh sharp-edged shadows – it’s so far away that it acts relatively like a small point light source. When it goes behind a cloud, the cloud is diffusing the light, scattering it and softening out those shadows. A softbox does the same thing to a flash. So if you’ve been thinking about trying out setting up a light but don’t want to spend the money on commercial gear just yet, this will get you going.

Here’s what you will need:

1. Get an old cheap styrofoam cooler – the plain white kind that always seems to break and spill all your drinks at your feet while you’re walking to the car. I’ve found these for less than a buck at garage sales.

2. Most home centers or big-box stores carry simple clamp-on light fixtures that have a 7 or 10-inch reflector and usually are around $7-12. Pick up at least one, or more if you want to play with multiple light sets.

3. Get a few of the highest wattage flourescent lights you can find. Stick with the spiral fluorescents to avoid the heat generated by standard incandescent. Take note – most come in a wide array of white balance hues (Usually called soft white, cool white, daylight, etc.) Just be aware of this and know that you will have to adjust your white balance accordingly. I’ll tell you a simple trick for that later…

4. Finally you will need a funky old white t-shirt or other piece of cloth to use as a diffuser. Make sure you can see light through it fairly well if you hold it up to a light. You’ll also need some duct tape or gaffer’s tape.

Ok, now to build a light! It’s really pretty simple. Just take the reflector off the lighting fixture (they usually unscrew) and cut a hole in the center of the back-side of the cooler that is a snug fit for the base of the light fixture. Then all you do is put the fixture into the cooler, screw in a lightbulb and tape your funky t-shirt over the open face of the cooler. Presto – instant cheap softbox light!!

Light fixture mounted into the cooler base    

Light arrangement is a subject that you can spend your whole life time developing and understanding but there are a few basic things that will get you great results. Since you’re reading this you probably already know that on-camera flash washes people out and just looks like every point-and-shoot facebook photo out there. Getting a nice dimensional look to the lighting means you have to get the light coming in from one side or the other from the camera. Here’s one really basic 2-light set-up that produces some pretty decent results.

 Key light is angled 45-60 degrees to left of the camera. Back light is out of the frame above and behind the subject.

The image of my cat below used that exact set up – the key light had the cooler box softbox and the other back light just kept the as-purchased reflector dish. Notice the wash of light on his back that separates him out from the black backdrop.

I mentioned a trick for setting your white balance – simply point the camera at the light (you’ve got a white shirt on there, right?) take a frame and use that to set the camera’s custom white balance and you’re all set.

You may be surprised just how good the lighting quality out of something this simple can be. I will be putting together more examples of lighting set-ups using more advanced beauty dishes and comparing them to this cheap-o light in the near future. In the meantime, coerce a family member into posing for you, get creative and have fun!

Downtown Indy from White River Park Walkway

Saturday was a bit cold and blustery in Indy…so I figured I might as well go shoot a little. The nice big puffy clouds were just too tempting for me to resist doing a little HDR (High Dynamic Range) image work, and besides…I’m in the middle of trying to wrap up some nifty photo compositing projects that I figure will make some good material for Indyshooter. If you aren’t familiar with HDR, just do a quick search for the term and you’ll come up with all kinds of sites. Trey Ratcliff is one of the more well-know HDR gurus….check him out at Stuck in Customs.

So, for the background (in more ways than one…) I’m working on team photos for the Indianapolis Junior Roller Girls. In mid-January I scheduled a team photo session where I took a number of individual and team photos. I’ve been working my way through making fun Indianapolis-themed backgrounds for the team shots. Once this is complete I’ll be posting a fun little tutorial describing the whole process, but for now this is a little sneak peek at one of the background shots and how I set up the camera to take the images used to create the final HDR image.

One of the challenges in shooting HDR is setting up to take multiple exposures of the same scene. You really need to use a tripod and make sure that nothing moves…you can notice the flags on top of the distant building to the left have some ghosting – this is one effect of the HDR process. anything that moves from one frame to the next shows up like a ghost image. For my purposes I wasn’t terribly concerned with the movement of these flags – it really isn’t going to be a big factor. I set my Camera to manual and took seven frames each a full stop apart…so if you consider the normal exposure as “0”, this gave me the following exposure sequence (in stops away from 0):  -3, -2, -1, 0, +1, +2, +3. The other main consideration here is to make sure the exposure changes are made by adjusting shutter speed and not the aperture.  Changing the aperture will create inconsistent depth-of-field between the different exposures which then leads to a strange fuzzy-focus issue in the final HDR image. Not cool. So when shooting for HDR I always either set my camera on manual and take multiple frames by adjusting the shutter speed, or set the camera to auto-bracket in aperture priority mode. The difference here is that I prefer to get at least seven bracketed frames for each image. It creates a smoother effect after processing. The auto-bracket function on my Canon 7D only takes three frames: the baseline exposure and then one over and one under-exposed frame. I tend to only use that option if I’m stuck shooting hand-held for some reason. I’ll switch into burst-mode and just hold as still as possible while letting the camera make the adjustments in exposure.

Photomatix by HDRsoft does a splendid job of combining your series of photos into a HDR image. You can load the images directly into the program or run them through a plug-in from Adobe Lightroom. This is how I tend to work because I like to catalogue everything in Lightroom. You select the photos you want to use and export them into Photomatix for processing and then the final image is pulled right back into Lightroom for a little final tweaking. I’ll be posting a more in-depth tutorial on that whole process in a few days.

Happy Shooting!

-David

View from the White River Park walkway

View from the White River Park walkway

Indianapolis.

This city has been my home for all but a few years of my life. It is a fantastic city – peaceful yet bustling with activity. We have a world ranked women’s roller derby team – the Naptown Roller Girls. There is Massachusetts Avenue (Mass Ave.) – a delightfully intriguing mixture of arts and entertainment with such places as the Rathskeller and the Theater on the Square.

And then…there is the Super Bowl.

This year is really starting off with a bang. I’m not generally a huge football fan but I do enjoy watching the games. Ask me who won last year’s big game and you’ll just get a shrug of the shoulders and impish smile. I dunno…It’s just not something I follow that closely. Last night’s trivia night halftime question was to name the four NFL coaches who have had four Suber Bowl losses. Well, I can name a total of two coaches and they both no longer work for the Colts!

Anyway, with all the hoopla over the Big Game it’s brought me to the understanding that this is something I should experience – just to say that I did. I mean…there’s a zip-line strung up between buildings in the middle of the city! That just doesn’t happen every day around here. My friends and I are going to be wading into the crowds this afternoon, so I decided to do a brief drive-through just to get my bearings…and of course take a couple photos to share. I decided to get a view that most likely isn’t going to be played on all the network stations – they are all focused on the crowds and the stadium and the big trophy slapped on the side of the JW Marriott building. Well, I’ve included some of that…but from a distance, with a more serene and reflective view of the city…a view that even some locals aren’t familiar with.

This is an HDR exposure of the downtown skyline taken from the West side of the city along the White River Park walkway. The big square building in the center is the JW Marriott – the side opposite from the Super Bowl Village and the Vince Lombardi Trophy mural. The Lucas Oil Stadium is to the far right. This is one of my favorite views of Indianapolis. It’s close enough to feel like you are in the city, yet removed enough to still feel like you have your own space. You can sit quietly and contemplate while joggers huff by and gasp out a friendly hello. There is a little bit of traffic, but not so much that it becomes obnoxious.

So if you come to visit this crossroad city…by all means indulge in the hustle of the downtown activities. But if you want to get away for a breather…and some good photo ops…be assured that there are opportunities to do so readily available

~DVD