Light is Everything!

Light

Sweaters for Syria

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Canadian Lutheran World Relief is running a campaign to collect sweaters for Syrian refugees. With winter quickly approaching, they will certainly be needed. Our church in Oxbow and the community at large participated and we gathered over 550 sweaters in 33 boxes for the cause. :D Some volunteers from St. Peter Lutheran in Oxbow worked together to box them all up and get them ready to make their voyage east. It is our heartfelt prayer that these sweaters do get to Syria and that they can be of some comfort to these people caught in the civil war. Lord have mercy!

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New Toys – Orbis Ring Flash

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One of my latest acquisitions is the Orbis Ring Flash.  LOVE IT!!!! I’ve only used it for 10 minutes and it rocks the set. I love the quality of light! It’s unlike any other mod I’ve ever used and the catch lights are super cool. I can’t wait to try this out on some glam/wedding stuff.  But I also wanna do the David Hobby signature look with an umbrella over head and ring light as fill. It’s gonna be awesome! :cool: My local, on site guinea pigs were handy to try out the new mod. Hanky and Ethan couldn’t wait to be my subjects. Ethan just finished a cup of hot chocolate, hence the gribbly jib. ;) No time to edit!

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LumoPro LP180

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Well shut my mouth! My new dynamic duo of LP180 flashes by LumoPro just arrived today. Shazam!! These flashes ROCK THE SET. This blog post will not be a lengthy review as the gurus and the wannabes have already put them up on YouTube. Here’s a cool vid from LumoPro!

I shoot Nikon CLS because it is convenient to us my SU-800 commander to control flash output from camera, and I won’t be leaving that system anytime soon. However, I wanted a couple more flashes. The problem is, Nikon CLS is an expensive premium to pay on every flash you buy. I thought about getting another SB-900 or 910, but they’re over $500 bones. The SB-700 is a good flash but still pricey at $350. And at most, I’d want the flashes to be accent lights or background lights or some such thing. But then LumoPro makes the best flash in the history of the world that you can quad sync (4 different ways), that comes with 2 sets of rocsco gels, that offers perfect, simple manual control, and I was totally sold . . . for $199 each! EACH! That’s awesome! It means that I bought 2 of these amazing flashes for less than one SB-910. Pure awesome! :cool:

Here’s the best thing in the world about these flashes besides all the above mentioned awesomeness:

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LumoPro LP180 flash mounted directly to stand on axis through the mod, triggered by a Nikon SC-29 cable shot on a Fuji X100s. How’s that for multi-camera-cultural?

Uh huh. That’s right sports fans! That LP180 flash comes with a built in 1/4 x 20 mount on the side so you can just attach the flash directly to a stand and blast light right down the axis of the umbrella/light mod. THAT’S AWESOME!!!!! :D The light comes directly to the center of the mod instead of upright on a hot shoe, which is always precarious at best anyways. This system makes SO MUCH sense. I wish Nikon would add it to all their flashes.

The optical slaves work awesome, I tried triggering them with my D800 and SU-800 and they work perfectly. Which means they can be triggered by the infrared commander I use for my normal lighting setups. Which means they will seamlessly integrate into my workflow, other than having to be adjusted manually for power output. Big whoop! I’ll walk the extra 5 feet for what I saved in not buying Nikon CLS speedlights.

And lastly, the awesome attention to detail in the packaging. Pure awesome! LumoPro, you’ve made a dandy product! :cool:20130720-LP180-003

 


The Small Space Studio

 

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Can you turn this into a studio?! Yep.

Most of the time we tend to think of photography studios as huge places of sprawling, ginormous, north facing window light. It’s luxurious and lovely. For full time working pros, it might even be a necessity. But for enthusiast types like me, I can’t justify the expense. I wanted to try and see if I could achieve studio results in a really, really small space. These photos were taken in my 9×10 office. A cheap black sheet for background, some inexpensive lighting setups and you’re good to go. The best thing is that this small little studio space is portable. I can take it with me so there’s literally no place I can’t achieve similar results. Here’s a location setup of the small studio. Move some furniture and you’re golden! :cool:

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Playing with Light

It’s been a busy little while these past days, mainly spent shovelling snow and fighting off depression from this never ending winter. It’s truly like in the Chronicles of Narnia where it’s always winter and never Christmas. Except that we know Christmas has already passed. MONTHS ago. And we are still stuck in the mad grips of winter. Oodles of snow, cold temperatures. I’m on the edge! ;) But I will prevail. Lots of fruit and green veggies. Lots of photos…

Speaking of which, I’ve got a combo blog post here from a couple of recent shoots. I’ve really struggled lately with just posting clients’ photos for the sake of posting. I’ll leave that up to them to decide how much they want to share with family and friends. I’m going to concentrate more on the techniques used for the shots and a bit about why these images have been made the way they are (click on the images below for the info). I find that aspect lacking in many blog posts from famous photogs. There is an amazing one by the legendary Greg Heisler where he photographed Yasser Arafat for Time. He lit it all with a simple soft box and black velvet  background. But why? I watched the video wondering why he chose to light the image that way. [Speculation about being shot??? Gotta be fast! ;)]


Lighting Workshop

I’m very excited to make available an Off Camera Flash Lighting Workshop I’m doing in South East Saskatchewan on October 13th, 2012 in Roche Percee. It will cover the basics: fundamentals of lighting, getting started with Off Camera Flash techniques and knowledge, familiarization with gear and hands on opportunities to shoot a model on location. It’s going to be a lot of fun! :cool: There are a couple of spots still available so if you are interested, contact me. The cost is $100.00 each and the workshop will start at 1PM.


This one’s for the Geeks…

Prepare to get your photo-geek on and see if you can keep up to this post. :cool: I just got some new toys that I’m stoked about. For the longest time I’ve wanted a variable ND filter. Neutral Density is pretty much sunglasses for your lenses and especially useful for landscape photography, especially water shots where you want a long/slow shutter speed to get those cool blurred water effects. But additionally, you can use them for flash photography and strobist work. ND filters help you kill ambient light, like in the full bright sunshine (it can bring a shutter speed down from 1/8000s to 1/250 to get full power flash sync speeds!) Or, you can use it in available light too. Here’s the scenario. The kids are ripping around the back yard being cute as usual. It’s super bright out – the old “Sunny 16″ rule. With loads of sunlight everywhere, your camera lens has to stop-down to f/8, 11 or 16 to control how much light is getting into the camera as to no blow out an exposure. However, taking portraits/candids at such a small f/stop sucks. Everything is in focus and it’s not bokelicious or appealing. Say I want to get crazy and shoot at f/1.4 in full sunlight. How can I do it? It’s impossible without an ND filter. So I slapped on the Genus 2-8 Stop Variable ND and away we go! Check it out – these next 4 shots are all shot with my 50mm f/1.4 lens at 1.4 1/250 in full sun!!! :cool: It’s pure awesome and totally impossible without an ND filter.

As if that wasn’t enough, I also finally broke down and bought a C-Stand. I wish I would have bought it when I first started getting interested in flash photography. It’s basically a big-bad-heavy light stand with an extendable arm which allows you to hang a light up over someone. It’s the bomb! Plus, I got some sand bags for it and filled them with pea gravel and now, it’s super strong enough to stand up in the fiercest of Saskatchewan wind. I used it the other day to nab one of the shots of FlowerPot. It’s super secure and with all that weight in the bags, it ain’t goin’ nowheres.

Just as one last aside, take a look at the difference flash makes, especially off-camera flash. Here’s two shots of Phoebe taken right after each other. The first is natural open shade light, the second is with flash from the C-Stand setup above. It’s such a better result to me. There’s pop and contrast and great light! This is why I keep sinking money into lighting gear. If your light is right, your photos will be awesome 9 times out of 10. :)


Gear Review: Photoflex Octodome NXT XS

Ok Photo Geeks, here’s one for ya!  My long overdue video review of the Photoflex Octodome NXT XS soft box. This thing is the bomb! It’s a really well made, super sweet portrait soft box that gives awesome octagon/round catchlights in the eyes. Gotta love that! Check out the vid and the samples below where it was used on photo shoots.

PS: I also added a new page at the top of the blog for gear reviews. The page has links to all the gear reviews and recommendations I’ve done on the blog, including books, lenses, lighting gear, organizing gear and D.I.Y. gear projects. :cool:

Samples of the Octodome in action!


A Tale of 2 Dishes

Happy New Year! Another year of photos is ahead of us and that is an exciting prospect. I can’t wait to see what lies through the lens in 2012. Christmas was good for us and we had great visits with family who loved us much and spoiled us more. When Ma & Pa came down for a visit we of course got to talking about photos. Dad, being an avid nature & wildlife photographer, was showing me what he and his photo pals had been up to lately. Winter wildlife can be some of the most interesting stuff! While most guys are sitting around watching sports, these guys are outside watching the epic battle of survival unfold! Check out these amazing snowy owl photos! These aren’t photoshopped! :cool: Just chuck a mouse out onto the snow and watch as white winged warriors wrathfully wreak havoc on unsuspecting rodentia! The main course is served! Hence, dish one.

Photo Credit: Jim Kroshus

(Jealous that dad missed out on snows, we went out and nabbed this short eared owl. Still a magnificent specimen!)

Photo Credit: Bob Schultz

Now for those who can’t handle this much excitement, there’s beauty dishes. (Hence, dish 2). :lol: For Christmas dad got a wee beauty dish. It’s actually an Opus mini reflector. It’s basically a miniaturized beauty dish that gives you a punchy, light that is one notch off of bare flash. It’s a really cool light for, yes, you guessed it, beauty and glam shots as it gives the light a very contrasty feel. I wanted to see how this little guy compared to my DIY beauty dish that I made. It’s basically the same design idea. Light comes from the flash and bounces into a surface in front of the light, then into a reflector dish and then out onto the subject. A little bit of ping pong action is involved and it makes the light slightly more diffused but still has loads of punch.

Automatically you notice the size difference. And with lighting, unlike other areas of life, size matters. ;) The bigger the better. The small guy produces a much sharper/contrasty light while the bigger the light, the softer the light. It’s the same reason why natural light photographers want huge windows. Loads of big light nice and close to the subject = soft and glorious! Here’s an example of what each light produced on our subject Sven (he’s from IKEA). :D

Opus Mini Reflector Light Mod

Contrasty Light & Harsh Shadows

DIY Beauty Dish

Still got shadows but much softer and more wrapping

So, after a quick peak, you notice the difference. The little Opus dish is much smaller and makes a more focused, contrasty light. It also fits into a gear bag much more conveniently. The bigger DIY dish gives similar contrast and punch, but is more wrapping because it is much bigger. Could you replace the big one with the Opus? Perhaps, depending on the look you wanted. It sure would make hauling it around easier!

But then again, if beauty light isn’t your thing and you don’t care about f-stops & shutter speeds, you can always try Coyote hunting. It’s hours of fun and only about 1/3 the cost of photography! ;)

Photo Credit: Bob Schultz


New Toy

Yipee! I got a new light mod! I’ve wanted a soft box for a long time now and I finally pulled the trigger and got the Photoflex Octodome NXT XS.  I got it as a kit from B&H that came with the soft box, speed ring, light stand and umbrella swivel head & all the coldshoe hardware for flashes. It’s the bomb! Plus, if I ever get/use studio lights, the speed ring is full-size to accommodate those lights too. It works just spiffy with speed lights though and it gives a super nice quality of light. I put it together when I first got it and did some quick test shots with the kids. It’s amazing light, soft wrapping and because it’s an octa, you get a round catchlight similar to a beauty dish. 8) Love it! I also used it on a recent family session shoot for a 3 month old baby and it worked wonderfully. I even used it for a small group shot and it was nice light, considering it’s only 15 inches or so in diameter! :D I’ll do a full review of the product soon.

 


Gary Fong is Wrong

8) *This is a photo geek post.* Proceed with Caution 8)

(more…)


Gary Fong Dong

I’m now officially addicted to light modifiers. I can’t stand bare flash and I want to control and shape the light. Make it work for me. I’m open to just about any kind of solution and option available too. I don’t discriminate that much. ;) Enter, the Gary Fong Lightsphere. It’s been around for a number of years now and had several updates and redesigns. The latest is the collapsible version. Before, you had to carry around an awkwardly sized tupperware bowl with you. They don’t fit well in your camera bag. They don’t fit well anywhere. So, the newest version remedied that problem. It collapses down to only an inch and a half in size. Pretty slick. That fits in the gear bag easily.

The general concept with the Lightsphere is to take the light from an external flash and make it bigger. Bigger light is softer light. More diffused light. More even light. Think of clouds in front of the sun. Light is softer and more diffused because the light source got bigger – instead of the 93,000,000 mile away sun (a huge light source, but so far away it’s small — like the light from a flash) – you have clouds becoming a giant soft box. The Lightsphere takes the small light and makes it bigger and spreads it out. That’s basically all it does, no magic. But it’s handy in SOME circumstances.

Hardcore strobists and professionals may poo poo the Lightsphere, calling it the “Fong-Dong” (due to its, *ahem*, Phallic  design). And as a directional light shaping tool, it’s not that great. In fact, it’s downright poor. But, as a solution for on the move, candid “I need some soft diffused light and don’t have no time for off camera flash solutions” it rocks the set giving you really soft, flat, even, boring, light. Plus the new version collapses down flat-ish so it fits in your bag nicer. Did I already mention that?! ;)

Don’s Photo sells this thing for $90 Canadian Bones. That’s a bloody ripoff for this thing. You can seriously get similar results by plopping a $3.00 tupperware bowl over your flash head. It’s not worth $90 bucks. B&H Photo sells it for $56.00. Any of my border folk friends reading this, have it shipped to Donna’s and save the mad cheddar on this. Even at $56 US bones, it’s still pricey. But then again, everything in photography is an overpriced ripoff.

Final Verdict:

Buy the Gary Fong Dong Lightsphere Collapsible if you: a) need a quick on-camera light solution b) don’t have time to do a much nicer off camera lighting setup c) have an extra $90 bones you don’t mind parting with.

Don’t buy the Gary Fong Dong Lightsphere Collapsible if you a) want/expect cool & nicer directional off camera lighting b) will lose sleep over losing $90 bucks.

In the gallery below are pictures of the Lightsphere Collapsible product itself, as well as sample shots from it being used in a real life lighting situation – candid shots from Ethan’s Birthday party. All those B-Day party shots are on camera in TTL mode. Finally there is a comparison shot of off-camera light modifiers using a bounce umbrella, shoot through umbrella, Lightsphere and a Soft Box, so you can take a look and see for yourself the quality of light that is produced.

Go Go Gadget Fong!


Phos + Graphe

For your Greek Etymology lesson today, we look at “Photography.” It’s a combination of Phos (light) and Graphe (write). Literally “light-writing.” I have always found that part very interesting because the term itself suggests that the person doing the light writing is actively making the image verses simply “taking” the image. It’s a subtle nuance, but it is a telling one. Why? Because with photography you are using light to tell the story of the image. When you are first starting out, you are simply taking pictures. Then, you get a bit more experience and you start muddling around with Shutter Speeds and f/stops and you find out that you have a lot more say in the story telling than you did before. But you’re still in the realm of taking pictures vs. making them. When you start wielding light, bending it and shaping it, you really start telling the story. You start exercising the control and creative license that has always been there, but now it’s on a more kicked up level than it ever was before.

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You start paying attention to the direction of the light. Where is it coming from?  What mood does it create? How does the light flavour the image? What part of the story is being told by how the light bends around objects? How harsh are the shadows? How bright or dark is the background? Does it look like a kid with a polaroid blasted the living crap out of it or does it look like a master of the universe creatively made the image with beautiful soft diffused light? It’s all pretty cool stuff. Light is everything. We should learn all we can about it and when we do, we start to unlock it’s power.


Small Flash Diffusion Part 2

My generous friend Kevin lent me yet another light diffusing toy today, an Ezybox from Lastolite. I’ve had my eye on these products for quite a while and I was tickled plum to death to get the chance to play with it today. I made another quick YouTube vid comparing the light quality from one SB-600 speedlight but modified through the Ezybox Softbox, bounced off of a white reflector, shot through a diffuser, shot with a Gary Fong lightsphere, bounce flash off the ceiling and finally for kicks, natural light. It’s 5 different modifications from one flash, with 5 different outcomes when it comes to light quality. Pick which one you like the best!  I think if I had to pick, I’d go with the softbox followed by the bounce flash from the white reflector. :)


Light Quality

The biggest problem a photographer has (besides budget) is quality of light. I describe the quality of light as an essential aspect of how your image will turn out. Joe McNally has a bunch of adjectives to describe light quality from muddy to harsh, etc. And it’s all true, the mood of your photo is created by the quality of light illuminating your subject. No problem if you are doing flash photography/studio lit shots where you have complete control of your ambient light settings. But, what if you’re outside on a clear blue sky day with direct lighting coming down at noon?! Well, you get something like this:

Harsh Light

You get really harsh, sharp shadows and highlights. The lighting is not flattering. It’s not soft. It’s mean light. Now say, you’re a wedding photographer and you have to make pictures at 12PM. What are you going to do? You can’t make nice images in this quality of light. You have to diffuse it. Shade is usually the most sought after option. But in this shot, there is no shade. There are no leaves on the  trees yet. So what can you do? (Besides move to a nicer climate). ;)

Diffused Light

You diffuse it! I took a giant diffuser and put it on a stand directly over Regan’s head. This makes for a much softer and over all better quality of light. The hard shadows are gone. The mean highlights have disappeared into beautiful softness. But, the image still is kind of flat and even looking, like when you take a picture on a cloudy day. It needs some extra pop.

Diffused & Reflected Light

This is starting to look good! A little bit of reflected light from below acts as a fill light and adds dimension and tonality back into the image. The light has been tamed, now it’s redirected! You begin to make the light work for you.

And here’s the end result: Glamour Shots by J at high noon with available light that is under my control! bwahahhahahaha!! ;) 


Shooting in Harsh Light

The idea that “You can’t take pictures now! The light is way too harsh!” is a bunch of crap. You can take pictures any time of the day in any lighting conditions. You have to use the light in many ways and  some are far more pleasing than others! :)

The 5:16PM sun was streaming through our gigantic south-west facing window yesterday evening. It was nearly golden light as it was so rich and warm. BUT, the sun was also low on the horizon as it approached its setting – giving wicked shadows and brutal contrast. The ticket to making pictures happen (and I am NOT saying it makes for optimal pictures) is to break the rules. Put the subject between you and the sun. Shoot right into the light and see what happens! It’s crazy mayhem to say the least! I was fortunate that the bright light was also bouncing off the north-east wall in our house providing this really warm fill light to help illuminate my beautiful subjects. ;) Are you going to get blow outs? Yep. It makes for some wild & ugly histograms! For pixel peepers, these shots are garbage. But you can still make pictures happen, regardless of the light and the time of day you have to make them.

Ugly-Assed Histogram

These shots are inside my living room, all handheld with my 50mm f/1.8 lens. Are they optimal? No, not really. But they do give some really cool highlights/backlights that challenge the photographer to nail the exposure in less than optimal natural lighting conditions.

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Embrace Light

“Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.”

~ George Eastman

Don’t you just love those sage proverbs from the giants? I stumbled across this quote in a Kelby Training video. It is absolutely true and backs up my theme of ‘Light is Everything.’ Watching how other photographers use light is really amazing too. In Cliff Mautner’s Essentials of Creativity class he talks about how he uses light in extreme ways. Histograms?! “We don’t need no stinkin’ histograms!” he says. Hehhehehhehe… :)

Ugly-Assed Histogram!

When you know all the rules, you can break them – and it looks like you are breaking them on purpose vs. you look like a moron who doesn’t know what he is doing. The moron and the pro might do the exact same thing, but somehow, it is different when the person knows the light.

As an aside, George Eastman founded the Eastman Kodak Company and invented roll film, bringing photography to the masses. He was like digital v.0.01! ;) He was also an incredible philanthropist donating millions of dollars to various causes and schools.

 


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