Light is Everything!

Photography Gear

Here comes the Fuji!

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The Fuji in Action! f/2.8

Finally got a chance to use the X100s in a real world scenario. My good friend Susan from Susan Hill Photography had a wedding gig lined up and I asked if I could tag along as second shooter to really try out the Fuji. She graciously obliged. Not only was I using the X100s, I also got to try it out with my new pocket wizard plus x triggers. I’m happy to report that everything worked amazingly well. :D I confess though, that I’m naturally a telephoto-eyed shooter. So, I couldn’t leave my D800 at home. I had it with my 85mm f/1.8 on a black rapid strap as well as the Fuji. It truly was a dynamic duo as you get a pretty nice 35mm equivalent FOV from the Fuji and decent telephoto from the 85mm. And, the Fuji is so nice as a second camera because it is super lightweight. You can carry it around all day and not get played out. So all in all, it was a sweet mix. I just swapped the pocket wizard trigger back and forth from camera to camera as I needed to. I was using a simple one speedlight rig in a Photoflex octodome NXT XS on an ultralight LumoPro stand. It was a perfect on the move, versatile lighting setup. :cool:

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X100s at f 2.8

I really wanted to push the Fuji on this gig. So I tried to use it as much as possible and it didn’t disappoint. Despite being a wide-ish angle lens, you can really get some nice subject isolation with it. The colour and skin tones are amazing. I shot everything in RAW and JPEG but the images on this blog entry are all JPEG – they are simply that good. And, they tweak very nicely in post.

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D800 f/2.8

Some stuff though is just made for telephoto and I did find myself swapping in the D800. I still believe that people look best shot with telephoto focal lengths. But the variety of having both cameras and not having to change lenses (hence lugging around WAY less kit) is pure awesome.

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X100s f/2.8 1/500, 3 stop ND filter on, full Pocket Wizard Sync. Boo ya!

This wedding session was all formals with some candids with the big family at the end. We setup in the Carnduff golf course because after all, it’s May and there is still snow lying around… shudder. :roll: But, we did our best. So we found this little tranquil spot and knew we could do something with it. When I got home and looked at the file, it struck me. This image looks fake! It looks like my 1985 kindergarten portrait studio backdrop! I think it’s attributed to the being able to nuke the sun with the deadly combo of the Fuji’s built in 3 stop ND filter and higher sync speed. This one was f/2.8 at 1/500 via Pocket Wizards. Sweet sassy! I’m gonna like that capability more and more me thinks. :mrgreen:

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X100s f/11 1/30

The other killer thing with a small, lightweight camera is that you can hand hold slow shutter speed shots no problem. There were a metric tonne of kidlets around for the big family photo and I thought, lets get them buzzing around the bride. With the ND filter still on, I cranked the aperture up to f/11 and dialled the shutter down to 1/30s. The bride is sharp handheld, the kids are pleasantly blurred. My only regret is not popping a wee bit o’ flash on the bride. It would have made for a stellar image. But one gets caught up in the moment. :oops:

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All in all, it was a super fun 2 hours on duty with the Fuji. I love that it’s small, lightweight and ready for anything – like when all the kids in the family decide to start rolling down a goose crap encrusted golf course hill. :lol: It’s just there and ready to rock!


New Stuff!

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I got some new stuff that I’m stoked about! I’ll begin first with my new website (again). I’ve gone through a couple of different portfolio websites over the past couple years. I first had a Flash site which was great, but in our mobile device world, it sucked. It couldn’t be viewed on iPods/iPads etc. Seeing how most people consume the digital world via smart phones, compatibility was a must. So, I got an HTML5 site and it worked OK but was tedious for adding images as you had to do your own coding and generating of images and thumbnails, blah blah blah. It was cumbersome. So I bought another HTML5 theme which was far worse than the one I was using. Not being a coder in the least, I decided to give up on that theme that looked great but was a total pain the u know. So, after many gong show days of searching, I decided to go with WordPress. I’ve been using it since the beginning for this blog and I’ve loved it. But it lacked simplicity for galleries. Photocrati to the rescue! Now, I’ve got the ease of use I’ve been looking for in a very clean, minimalist style that also displays perfectly no matter which device is used to view the site. Boo ya! :cool: Check it out: http://schultzphotographic.ca

eBobTripod 2

And, I got some new gear. I’ve been struggling for a long time with my old tripod that has been a real trooper. I had an old aluminum Manfrotto cheapy and it worked good but wasn’t hearty enough for my last camera, let alone the D800. Especially for macro, it really sucked. The ball head wasn’t strong enough to support the hefty 105mm macro and would slip. A real pain. So, I splurged and got a new carbon fibre 055CXPRO3 tripod and an MH055M0-RC4 head. It’s quite nice. :D The ball head weighs more than the tripod! At first, the carbon fibre seems like it’s cheap and flimsy, but I know from shooting carbon arrows, they are super strong and light – perfect for hauling around on landscapes. One other gimmick feature of the tripod is that it has the Q90 quick column thing that allows the tripod to go flat to the ground by moving the centre column parallel to the ground. It’s slick, but I can also see this being used for overhead macro work too, like flowers and such. The tripod has a built in hook so you can add weight and sturdy it up too.

eBobTripod 3

And I also got a Manfrotto monopod. Just a cheapo mainly to be used as a light weight, compact, go anywhere light stick for flash stuff. Slap a flash directly on it and have your assistant pretend she is Gandolf. What could be better!? “You shall not pass!”

eBobTripod 1

And, I finally joined the cool kids club and bought a black rapid camera strap (RS-7). After struggling through life using Nikon’s straps, I decided enough was enough. I always have the camera strung over one shoulder, never in the around the neck tourist mode, so it was always slipping. I always have to mess with lights on a shoot and was forever putting the camera on the ground to do so. Now, I just drop it to the side. It’s great! And it came with a sticker. Bonus! Who doesn’t like stickers?! :D

Plus, you get to feel like Doc Holiday when you draw the camera up. “I’m your huckleberry.”Screen Shot 2013-01-13 at 7.40.00 AM


Introducing JoJo

I was recently spoiled this Black Friday! :) I had been needing a new laptop for a LOOOONG time as my little old white Macbook was likened to an old flee bitten dog with 3 broken legs trying to limp itself back home so it could be shot out of compassion. The battery died and ceased to work at all, the screen was wrecked, I’d gone through 3 hard drives, but it’s still kick’n, even if it is only with one leg. ;) Long story short was, this past Black Friday I took advantage of Apple’s “generous” $101.00 off deal. I’d been eying up a new Macbook Pro, but didn’t want to spend the long dollar for the Retina display. I need a laptop primarily for work – running presentations and bible studies, movies for the confirmation kids, etc. Nothing really over the top powerful. But I also thought it would be cool to have a mobile computer for photography needs as well. But the more I priced things out the more I concluded that if I’m gonna be slugging through D800 RAW files (price drop coming this December!), I’d need massive grunt power. Like I mentioned, I didn’t want to spend oodles of cash. So, I decided to dump the photography needs from the equation and focus on a simple, light and portable solution for work. And, I made up my mind on a Macbook Air.

I had looked at them awhile ago and concluded they were for trendy vegan hipsters whose  limp wrists couldn’t hoist the heft of a Macbook Pro at Starbucks whilst sipping a mocha frappa latte chino. :cool: I had concluded that the MBP was the only way to go. I liked the idea of the SSD over the traditional hdd and if I had got the MBP, the first thing I was going to order was a SSD to use in it. But it was an extra expense. Plus, the 13″ version that I was interested in maxed the RAM at 8GB. If I couldn’t have 16, I wasn’t interested. So, I decided to give the Air another look.

I chose the 11″ model because of the footprint. It’s barely bigger than an iPad!!! (The original one, not that new miniature freak show). And it is thin. Like razor thin!

But what absolutely blew me away was how fast it is. My main computer is a 21.5 iMac with the Core Duo 2 chip and 16GB of Ram, not a slouch but not  the latest kid to the party either. I wanted to test this little Air’s performance and I know of no better way than to try to choke it to death on D800 RAW files. I had an 18GB library of some files I shot with my friends camera. So after I got Aperture 3 installed on the Air, I attached my USB 3.0 Seagate drive and got ready to give the digital Heimlich  maneuver. But I never got the chance. I watched as the RAW files loaded up in the library and snapped into focus. There was hardly any long delay waiting for the files to render. I slid the mouse around the file look at 1:1 view and the little computer kept up with no issues. In short, it’s FREAKIN’ AWESOME!!!! :D With the 1.7 i5 chip and 8GB of RAM, this sweet little computer cooks RAW for breakfast. I was astounded at the performance. But the achilles heel of the 128GB SSD drive is the rather conservative size. Not a whole metric tonne of room for storage. However, with the sweetness of USB 3 and Thunderbolt, you’ve got awesome high speed mass storage solutions. I plugged in my USB 3 Seagate 1TB drive and it ran the Aperture library without a hitch. And, the drives are only $100 buckeroos. Cheap.

So to recap, I’m really happy with the Macbook Air! It was rather serendipitous that it turned out to be an exceedingly capable photography computer as well as basic “light-duty” portable laptop. Ideally, a larger 15″ retina screen would be nice for doing tethered shooting, but the 11″ is just that much more portable. Easily fits in a camera bag with no issues. It’s incredible value for the money I’d say. It was basically $1100 in the configuration I bought. We know that these little computers aren’t going to be upgraded ever, so I bought the max RAM I could. I’m confident that it will serve me for many years to come, just like my old palliative Macbook did. :)

Oh and as for “JoJo”? I asked Phoebe what I should name the new computer. “JoJo” was the answer. ;)


Gear For Sale!

Hi Everbody! I’ve got a sweet gem of a lens for sale for you right here. It’s Nikon’s  AF-S 16-85mm DX Zoom Nikkor f/3.5-5.6G ED VR. I’ve had the lens for two years and it’s been tremendous! It’s very sharp and contrasty. It’s very versatile, definitely a “do it all lens.” It’s excellent for an every day walk around lens or for vacation. I’ve taken some really fantastic shots with it but now it needs to find a new home. The reason I’m selling it is I bought another lens for an FX camera body and no longer need this one. This lens is ideal for any of Nikon’s DX cameras. It retails for $729.99 new at Don’s Photo. I’m asking $650.00. It’s still in perfect working condition & I have the original box! :cool: Take a look at these product shots of it and the three sample images I took using this awesome lens.


Email me
if you’re interested or PM me on Facebook. Thanks!


Piper & Ruby

Ruby & Piper!

My two favourite nieces came by for a visit and we did a quick little photo shoot. Ruby is just about the same age as Pria is and both are just starting to be propped up. We grabbed the Bumbo chair, or the “wimbo” as Phoebe called it, and propped her up and had Piper sneak in beside. This photo was my fav from the set because Ruby has that “you lookin’ at me kid?” expression! ;) heheheeh….. “I’m gonna buss a cap you keep lookin’ at me!” :cool:

From there we went to just Ruby and locked this one in. I threw it into Black and White which always looks timeless and cool. Her eyes were very sparkly in this and her expression is, though less Goodfellas than above, super adorable.

A quick note about the lighting setup for these photos. Kids rarely if ever sit still and cooperate so I wanted to try a different lighting technique that would accommodate their squirmy nature but still give a nice result. I setup a reflector camera right on a stand and a flash camera left and bounced the light over the kids and off the flash on very low power, like 1/128 or 1/64. It has the awesome effect of feathering past the kids and also lighting up the reflector for a sweet little catch light in the eyes. I really like the technique and I will certainly try it again. The ambient light cooperated too with an overcast sky which helped for even fill light. I came across this setup in Kevin Kubota’s Lighting Notebook, which is a resource I recommend you check out if you’re interested in learning more about light. He has some great setups to share in there. You can checkout a preview vid for it here:


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!


D.I.Y. TriFlash

OK, this one is for the photo geeks out there who are 1) cheap and 2) handy. Like everything in Photography, gear is expensive. Even things that shouldn’t be all too often break the bank. You should spend money on lenses and cameras and save cash on other stuff. Case in point: a triflash bracket. To buy one retail will set you back between $73 to $169. That’s crazy!! You could do that. OR you could spend less than $30 and make one yourself that is on par with the $119 dollar Joe McNally version. It’s a no brainer to me. :D Check out the vid.

 

Here are some sample shots I took using the bracket. They’re in the YouTube vid but I provide them here also to check out the awesome power and options available to you when you gang up your hotshoe flashes. You can overpower the sun or do a nice ambient/flash mix all without taxing the living heck out of one flash unit. Sweet! :cool:


Merry Christmas to me!

I was spoiled rotten for Christmas this year – and I love it! :cool: I got an MB-D10 battery grip for my D300s. I’m totally stoked! First of all, it lets you bring an extra battery with you as part of the camera, meaning you’ll never run out of power ever. Not in a zillion years. Second, it gives the camera a beefier grip, making it look like a full frame camera. Making me look . . . professional even! ;) People will look at my suped up D300s and think, “Wow! He’s a professional! Just look at that big beefy camera!” Even pros will see it and think, “Oooh! He’s got a D4!”  Can’t beat that. Ergonomically, it makes the camera way more fun to use. It allows me to take portrait orientated photos without having to contort my upper body like Harry Houdini clambering out of a 2×2 box. And in landscape mode, it’s far easier to handle and makes it easier to execute Joe McNally’s “da grip” technique. Pure awesome for low light, slow shutter speeds!

 

da grip

Portrait Orientation

The other way cool thing is that it comes with an additional carriage for 8 AA batteries. Pumping them in gives you slightly more frames per second, and versatility. Like, if you’re in pheasant rump Saskatchewan and you realized you forgot to charge your camera batteries, you can run your camera off the double AAs you keep in your glove box! Sweet sassy. Make sure you keep Ni-Mh batteries on hand vs. normal alkalines though. They might get hot & nasty.

It’s a tremendous little device, but it’s also a colossal ripoff. Cheap plastic and it doesn’t even come with a spare battery! It’ll run around $350 Canadian bones. Hundred bucks cheaper in the US . . . but you can’t get them. Massive shortages in Japan and they are back ordered. Turns out there was some kind of electrical device law changes in Japan and these don’t fit the bill. They’ll make a 2cent change and up the price another $45 I’m sure. But what you gonna do? I asked Santa for one and that fat bastard jolly old elf came through! :cool: All in all, it’s amazing and makes me 17% happier as a photographer!

Separation Anxiety


How to Buy Lenses

So you’re into photography. So is everyone else and their dog now that digital SLR cameras have dropped in price so much. You get sick of your point and shoot camera, you go out and a buy a Canon Rebel or Nikon D3100 starter camera and it comes with a kit lens, something typically from 18-55mm. For the most part, that lens is not too shabby. It’s inexpensive, but sharp. It does pretty much everything you want it to do for that first year or so. But, when the photo bugs start biting you and you want to learn more about photography and taking pictures, you often want to start buying more lenses to do different stuff. But what do you buy and why? If you show up at a camera store without a plan, you’re like sheep to the slaughter. You best have some idea of what you want prior to going in there or else the sweet talker salesman is gonna get your VISA card loaded up before you know it! :shock:

Winning Lens Characteristics 

What makes a lens good or bad? Well, there are some generalities. We need to be clear that not every lens that Nikon or Canon or whoever makes is a “good lens” some of them are pretty darn crappy. So here’s a few things to look for:

Good lenses produce sharp and contrasty images. Out of focus parts of the picture should look like cream cheese, not chunks of cheddar. When the sun hits the lens it shouldn’t flare with drops of color. Straight lines, like in a brick wall, should stay straight. Good lenses also are designed well mechanically. The focus & zoom rings should be smooth, not clunky. Big zooms shouldn’t zoom and creep by themselves, they should stay where you leave them. It should be sealed from the weather/dust. Autofocus should be fast like a cheetah not slow like a turtle. It should have image stabilization (VR or IS). And finally, good lenses open up wide with big f/stops like 1.4 or 2.8 and are constant (if in a zoom lens). Lenses that go from f/3.5-5.6 generally aren’t that great. They should be able to focus close and focus internally, meaning the front of the lens doesn’t turn while focusing (which is a real pain when using filters).

Size Matters

One more consideration to be aware of before you go any further is to note the difference between Crop Sensor Cameras and Full Frame Cameras. Without going into a whole bunch of detail, some lenses are designed to work specifically with crop sensor camera bodies. In Canon this is called EF-S lenses and in Nikon this is called DX lenses. There will be badges on the lenses to tell you which is which. It’s good to consider this because when buying lenses, it’s good to be forward thinking – as in it’s good to buy full frame (Canon EF, Nikon FX) lenses even for use on crop sensor camera bodies in case one day you want to shoot a full frame camera. In my mind, it makes more sense to invest in good lenses once, rather than to buy cheaper lenses first, then have to sell them all and upgrade them later. However, if you intend to stay in the beginner/enthusiast realm, buying EF-S/DX lenses is just fine. It just pays to be aware of the future possibilities.


Picking Your Lenses

OK, with those considerations in mind you can start assembling your lens arsenal. Most pros in any field of photography have 2-4 lenses that they use for just about everything. You don’t want a metric tonne of lenses, because you have to carry them around. But you also want to be ready for as much as possible. There are 2 groups of lenses: Zooms and Primes. Zooms are more flexible and give more options, but Primes are sharper and often have super big apertures for low light photography and awesome portraits. The three lens categories for both zooms and primes are: Wide Angle (14-24mm) Mid-Range (24-70mm) and Telephoto (70-600mm). And there is also a fourth category of “special” lenses that have unique purposes such as fish-eye lenses, macro lenses, perspective control, etc. Here are some suggested setups:

Kicked up Beginner 

If you want something more than the 18-55 kit lens your camera came with, I’d suggest a big zoom that goes from wide to telephoto. 18-200mm or 28-300mm are very popular, so are the 24-105 and 16-85. All of your bases are covered in one lens. The downside is, these are usually variable aperture lenses that aren’t very fast and don’t give any possibilities for shallow depth of field shots (for those cool “lots of stuff in the photo is out of focus” shots). So I would pair the big zoom with a 50mm f/1.8 lens. They are always sharp, allow for low light shooting and they are inexpensive. Additionally, this kit is a perfect vacation or travel setup as it’s light weight and packs into a small convenient bag.

Photo Spectrum

What follows next here is what I call a photo-spectrum. One (or more) of these general categories will be where your interests fall. Recommendations are listed appropriate to each area along the spectrum.

Landscape: Big wide angles to take in the scenery reign supreme on the landscape. 16-35mm zoom is the land lover’s first choice, but also possibly some fast wide angles like the 20mm f/2.8 or 24 f/1.4. Keep in mind the need to use filters (neutral density and polarizers). Landscapers will also want a longer telephoto zoom for extracting mini landscapes from the larger scene. 70-300 or 70-200mm are good options.

Nature: Long reaching zooms get you closer to the critters 100-400, 200-400 or the 300, 400, 500, 600mm primes. And, add some wide angels for landscapes, particularly the 16-35 over the 14-24 because you will want to use filters.

Action: Sports! You want to be near the action, but you can’t be. So the name of the game is long zooms like the 70-200, 200-400 and long f/2.8 or f/4 primes from 200 to 300 t0 400 to 500mm!

Photojournalism: You’re in zoom country. 14-24mm/16-35mm, 24-70mm and the 70-200 will have all your bases covered and at all at f/2.8.

Weddings: You’re the hybrid of portraits & photojournalism. You need the versatility of wide angle zooms 14-24/16-35 & the 70-200 and a bunch of f/1.4 primes for killer portraits.

Portraits: The portrait junkie loves primes. 35 f/1.4, 50 f/1.4, 85 f/1.4 usually become the workhorse lenses. But also the cadillac 70-200 f/2.8 zoom for amazing subject isolation, bokeh and compression.

Macro: This is the domain of bugs and creepy crawlies, but also products and still life. Sharp macro lenses in the neighbourhood of 105, 150 or even 200 are the ticket for getting close and making images that are larger than life!

So there you go!

That basically covers it all. I’m not giving exact individual lens recommendations because lenses change. New stuff comes out and new advances are made in technology and performance. However, these general categories will remain forever. Before you buy anything, read lots of product reviews by professionals who have actually used the products (see the list below for some of the internet’s best). Also, watch YouTube for videos that enthusiasts may have put up regarding your lens of interest. Finally, goto the camera store with your lens plan known in advance so you can check out the products before you buy them. Take your camera body and do some sample shots to see how you like it. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be far better prepared to make good long-lasting lens choices that will follow you throughout your entire photography interest.

Cheers! :D

Awesome Links of Lens Reviews:

Mansurov’s Lens Reviews

Photozone

The Digital-Picture

SLRGear

LensTip


Gear Review: Pocket Rocket

I got a new toy! Get organized with Think Tank’s Pixel Pocket Rocket!!


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