Archive For June 24, 2013
One light Portrait
Some of my wife’s family was passing through from Florida on their way up to Syracuse, New York. You may remember me mentioning my house is a modest 1,200sq ft, leaving me little room if I wanted to use any space at all as a make-shift “studio”.
Now imagine fitting 7 extra people in that house….needless to say, our house started to look like an amusement park with all of the inflatable mattresses :-).
My wife’s uncle wanted a family portrait he could get printed on a canvas. Luckily Groupon still had a Canvas on Demand special going on (I love that company, and it shows…..I have 6 canvases hanging in my house, with many other canvases I purchased that have been given away as gifts).
Anyway….back to the group portrait. They wanted to take a picture outside because it was nice and sunny. Harsh sunlight sucks…. It brings out harsh, dark shadows, makes people squint, and then everyone looks asian (no offense to anyone…I’m half asian myself :-)).
We found a somewhat shaded area under a tree. Looking at the photo, you can tell that I need to fire my landscaper (me). The photo was taken at 1PM, so the sun was in full force. I couldn’t take it later in the evening because they needed to pack up and leave for the remainder of their trip up to New York.
I knew I would need some power. Unfortunately, all I use are small speedlites. Competing against the sun with AA battery powered speedlites is like trying to race a Maserati with a Pinto…with a flat tire…
Instead of relying solely on my single 580 EX II, I opted for two of my Yongnuo YN-560s.
(If you haven’t tried these Yongnuo flashes yet, give them a chance. they are excellent for the price…considering 1 580 EX II will set you back $400, and with that same amount of cash, you could buy 6 Yongnuo flashes). I used two since competing with an already bright sun, and in addition using a 60″ shoot-through umbrella, I knew I was going to be eating up much needed light.
I set both speedlites to 1/2 power (basically getting the power of 1 flash on full power, but getting a faster recycle time, and saving my flashes from overheating).
I mounted my two flashes with my Phottix Multi-boom, and then mounted the umbrella. The light stand was about 7-7.5 feet high, with the umbrella pointed down at about a 45 degree angle.
Without using a lightmeter, I can typically get to the exposure I want after a few test shots.
I ended up shooting at f/7.1 as I wanted a wider depth of field so everyone was in focus.
1/160s shutter speed
A little bit of sharpening, and a little tweaking on color temperature, (I also enhanced the greens to make the vegetation look alive and healthy because….let’s face it….I suck at keeping my yard healthy. My yard looks like Luke Skywalker’s home planet….only more lifeless).
In the end, we have one happy family portrait.
no highlights were blown (or harmed) in the making of this photograph.
My wife and I talk all the time ( wow right? what kind of married couple are we?!?). As I mentioned in my first post, I’m not a big fan of snapshots, otherwise I would have stuck with a point and shoot camera. I like being able to come up with an idea, and try to visualize it for a shoot. Sometimes….I get “writer’s block”.
It just so happens during our talk, we were discussing ideas for our son’s next set of pictures. We got side-tracked and started talking about movies. My wife mentioned Risky Business, and the scene with Tom Cruise dancing around in a white dress shirt, underwear, and socks. She thought it would be cute if our son re-enacted that scene (at least as much as a rambunctious 23 month old can anyway).
So while my wife searched for suitable attire, I went to work to quickly try and setup my gear. I ended up using 3 speedlites (2 bare, 1 in a softbox). I probably could have gotten away with just the one main speedlite. Anyway, I took a few test shots to get my exposure right, and settled on f/8, 1/160s, ISO 100.
My setup was like so:
The 580 EX II was in a 28″ softbox overhead, at about a 45 degree angle pointing down. This was possible thanks to the Phottix Multi-boom Flash Bracket.
Power was set to 1/2.
The two side lights were set to 1/128th power with the built-in wide angle diffuser, so they were barely producing any light at all (hence why I said I might have been able to get away with just the one light, but I didn’t test that theory, so oh well).
All 3 flashes were controlled through my Phottix Odins.
My “studio” for this particular session was our hallway.
Now…I don’t know how people get these young actors and actresses to understand, comprehend, and then act how they are told or scripted. My son seems to just “wing” it. In other words….he does what he wants to do. I tried taking some shots of him standing up, dancing around in his outfit, but he didn’t want anything to do with it….
My wife and I are not above bribing our son to get him to do what we want 🙂 Our weapon of choice for that particular “battle”……gummi snacks!
You can see bribing evidence if you look closely at his right hand in this first shot.
We were finally able to get him to settle down and sit in his chair (the same chair I took his “Sweet Dreams” picture with). So technically it’s not re-enacting a Risky Business scene….I guess it’s Risky Business “inspired”.
Post-processing involved a bit of sharpening, vignette, and a little white balance tweaking. I do (or try to do) all of my post-processing in Lightroom. I find the flow a lot easier than trying to work in Photoshop…..I don’t know what the hell half the stuff does in Photoshop. It’s like owning a Ferrari and never going above second gear…
Hall of Fame
I don’t see how event photographers do it… I guess I’m just wired in the way that I want to be able to control all aspects of a shot I’m doing…without interruption….and not having an ungodly amount of people and distractions in the way of my shots.
My dad, who served proudly in the United States Army for 30 years (retiring as a Colonel in 1992), was inducted into the Quartermaster Hall of Fame this month at Fort Lee, Virginia. It was an outstanding achievement, and something to be very proud of. From the Hall of Fame website:
The Quartermaster Hall of Fame Program recognizes retired military and civilians who have made lasting, significant contributions to the Quartermaster Corps. Their exceptional contributions also serve to foster Regimental esprit and to perpetuate the history of the Quartermaster Corps. The Hall of Fame program reminds all Quartermasters of their proud heritage and provides sterling examples of Quartermasters “Supporting Victory”.
As I was saying….I don’t see how event photographers do it. I’m trying to get some shots and people are everywhere….walking into the frame, cluttering the background, foreground, etc.
I did manage to snap off a few shots. This one was my favorite.
You can literally see the pride in his face as he stood posing for pictures. Of course the 30 people in the background didn’t add much to the shot….(Strike that….they added too much to the shot).
I guess maybe that’s what event photographers go for…they try to capture the essence of the event. What good would an event look if the event photographer isolated that subject away from everyone else? Would you go to an annual parade or celebration if looking at photos of the events of years past looked like it was lifeless? Probably not. You want to be able to look at those photos and see the energy and emotions. You want to look at those event photos and swear out loud saying “Damn! I’m going to that!”.
I was swearing (in my mind)…but they were more along the lines of “get the **** out of the way!”, “hey you! move your ***!”….I wonder if those are some of the same thoughts that go through the minds of event photographers. 🙂
In any case, it wasn’t practical for me to walk around with a big softbox/umbrella on a monopod or lightstand while trying to chase down my parents and get some photos. I resorted to hand holding my flash with my left hand, and snapping shots with my right. The weather was going back and forth from cloudy to sunny, so that was a bit of an annoyance. the hard and harsh shadows from a bare flash didn’t help any either.
All in all, I got a couple shots, and my parents are happy…and that’s what matters.
No Room? No Problem!
I envy those of you who have large houses and can dedicate an entire room or garage as your studio.
My house is 1,200 sq ft. with 8 ft. ceilings…..not ideal for a home studio by any means. I do not have a garage I can retreat to either…..no “Man Cave” whatsoever. I have found, in my limited experience as a “camera” owner (I don’t say photographer because everyone who owns a camera would then be a “photographer”.), I have found that I don’t really need a LOT of space. Would it be nice to have? Absolutely…. Have I been able to make due? Of course 🙂
Take a look at these photos I took of my son when he turned one. (The entire set can be found on flickr by clicking an image). I wanted him to have some “trash the cake” pictures. No…the cake in these photos was not his actual cake (I’m not that cheap!). He had a nice “Dinosaur Train” themed cake. The cake he’s smashing is a crap cake we bought at our local grocery store.
First off, I don’t own any seamless background paper. I do eventually want to get some….but I know my son will see it as an endless roll of paper he can use to draw and color and share his artwork. I also don’t own studio strobes. I have owned a couple in the past, but as I mentioned, I’m in limited space, and plus, they can tend to get bulky. I have owned strobes in the past, Einstein 640, and Mettle 600AD to name a few. I stick to speedlites now. Yes, many of you will say they are too low in power, they are expensive, etc. The only expensive speedlite I own is a single Canon 580 EX II. the remaining 3 speedlites are Yongnuo 560’s (though I hear they are affectionally referred to as “Kung Pao 560’s”). Anyway, I’m rambling on about speedlites…
Quick recap….I have a small house, no dedicated room to setup, I use “puny” speedlites, and I don’t own seamless paper… How can I get shots like the ones above?
Just because you have limited space shouldn’t be an excuse for anyone. You just need to dig into that brain of yours and get creative 🙂
Some foamcore boards from your local arts & craft store (I think I paid $5 each).
I had one flash for a background light (although looking back, I really wish I had used 2 flashes). I used a Rogue Flashbender to direct the light to the foamcore background so it wouldn’t hit my son directly. You can get away with a piece of black foamcore, or even black construction paper for the same effect.
One flash in my softbox and I was set.
Yongnuo 560 – background @ 1/4 power
580 EX II – 48″ softbox @ 1/2 power
Other specifications of the shoot:
This set was shot with my trusty 5D II. I had rented the coveted (by many) Canon 70-200 2.8 II IS lens. I could have done this shoot with similar results with my 50L, as most of my shots were within the 70-85mm range. It’s a nice lens, but heavy.
Anyway, that’s my “studio” for that particular shoot. In my previous post with my son asleep in the chair, you can see the setup shot and the limited space I had available there as well (also my living room/hallway).
I figured I would start with one of my favorite shots of my son. It was taken when he was 14 months old (23 months old now as of this post). I like artsy-fartsy photos best. The nitty-gritty black and whites, and dramatic photos that can tell a story. I’ll take the “snapshots” if that’s all I can get (or if I’m too lazy…or my subject isn’t cooperating, etc.), but if I have time to really set up a shot, I go for it.
In any case, here he is. No, he didn’t fall asleep like that…the only true thing in this image is that he IS asleep. Once he was out, my wife and I placed him in his chair, posed him, and placed a book in his lap. I took an accent lamp from an end table as it was just the right height for him. His “ottoman” is actually a flipped over canvas basket that just happened to almost match the color of his chair.
This shot was taken with my Canon 5D II in manual mode and my trusty 50mm f/1.2L lens.
1/200 shutter speed to help kill the ambient light.
white balance was set to cloudy to warm it up a bit.
gridded 22″ beauty dish above with a 580 EX II @ 1/2 power, triggered with Phottix Odins in manual mode.
At the time, I had also rented the 85L, which people swear by as being THE BEST portrait lens ever… I wasn’t all that impressed. Yes, the images it can produce can be stunning, but I was not impressed with the autofocus speed. I have no doubts of its capabilities….but is it an outstanding lens for my “mini me” that runs at full speed during his waking hours? Not a chance! My 50L did an outstanding job and focused quickly. The finished photo is from the 50L.
The finished shot was literally out of camera. The only thing I edited was applying a bit of vignette and a little sharpen.
It made my day when Phottix put it up as their photo of the week (back in October 2012 anyway).
Hatching a Blog
So I’ve been sitting on this domain account for over a year. I hadn’t gotten around to doing anything with it…. Why? you ask? I could come up with an entire list of excuses ranging from my 2 year old son dominating my evenings and weekends, late nights at my job, house projects (if I ever start any of them), or my dog (if I had one) ate my keyboard.
The truth is, I’ve been lazy…and this wasn’t exactly at the top of my to-do list. I’m a typically private person. I don’t broadcast my every move and thought on the internet. I don’t use twitter, I don’t have an active facebook account….I’m not “plugged in” as most of the world it seems…..but things can change. The world is always in constant motion.
Of course now I’ve started a blog (or at least started getting some use out of a blog I had previously purchased). There may be hope for me yet…
What’s this blog going to be about? I have no clue…
I figured I would just wing it :-). Am I a professional photographer? Heck no… I’m a hobbyist that enjoys the art of photography. Do I get a perfect shot each time? Hell no…I may take 100 images….half of them I hate, most of the others I might be willing to show to others, but only have a small handful I’m really proud of. Does that mean all of the remaining images were sh*t? Not at all (most of the time). I usually go back through my RAW files a few months later and find “hidden gems” I missed the first time around. I’m very critical of myself…as the saying goes…”you are your own worst critic.”
So what is photography to me?
It’s subjective. My opinion can change depending on my mood, my current environment where I might be shooting, or whatever. Looking at a photograph is like going back in time….Not Doc Brown and Marty McFly in a tricked out Delorean…(88mph? Pffttt…please….we can do it in 1/8000th of a second with a memory card and battery….no plutonium necessary). Photography is about giving people the ability to peer into the past at a specific instance in time. To relive a moment from the past, maybe spark a memory. In that 1/whatever of a second shutter speed, a photographer captures a moment in time….frozen for all time more or less. Each image is unique. Photography is about giving your viewers images that draw them in, tell them a story, ignite memories, emotion, imagination, inspiration, (maybe sometimes perspiration). Our images tell stories, captivating the audiences.