Light is Everything!

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Crocuses

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The kids wanted to go looking for crocuses yesterday. So did I. :) So we went out back and found a few little bunches. I’m not sure if they are just starting to come up or are nearly done. Normally they’ve come up even through a light snow. But this year the weather has been wonky so say the least. I feel a special attachment to crocuses as they are “Saskatchewan’s Flower” at least anecdotally. ;) I’ve seen more crocuses than tiger-lilies, I’ll put it to you that way. heehehe…..

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About the technique for nabbing these photos. I went out with a collapsible reflector/diffuser to block the harsh sunlight that was pouring in. I had my D800 & 105mm macro for this detail-rich gig. I was shooting at apertures of f/16 or f/32 so I needed more light reach this at ISO 100 and 1/250. I used my Orbis ring flash and SB-900 synced with an SC-29 cord. I basically was able to set the Orbis on edge on the ground, which doubled as a rest, and shoot right through it.  It worked great. :cool: The macro detail that the D800 can capture is really tremendous!  Here’s a 100% crop and the full shot beneath.

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The Looks of Lent

Every year I give up shaving for Lent as a joke. And on every Holy Saturday, I shave off my beard trying to do as many different looks as a I can from the master beard of 45 days. Since 2009, I have been able to grow 18 unique looks.  In the first years I was doing this, I could get loads of different looks, but as time goes on you don’t get as many from each beard. So, I present to you the Looks of Lent 2014. :cool:

"Duck Dynasty" Try out photo (Full Beard).

“Duck Dynasty” Try out photo (Full Beard).

Super Cue (Shaved head).

Super Cue (Shaved head).

"The Balbo".

“The Balbo”.

"Tony Stark" or Iron Man Goatee.

“Tony Stark” or Iron Man Goatee.

"Soul Patch".

“Soul Patch”.

"Clean Cut White Boy". #Respect

“Clean Cut White Boy” #Respect.

 

#LentBeard2014

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Every year, as a joke, I give up shaving for Lent. I follow the ancient fasting rules for real. But for years, much to the chagrin of my wife, family and friends, I grow a Lenten beard. Then I take a bunch of goofy photos in stages as shave it off. My life is small. :cool:  But anyways, this is said beard for 2014.

I thought I would do a little BTS explaining of how I made this image. Here is the studio setup:

20140413-LentBeard2014-002First of all I’m in my garage. I’ve got a grey back drop permanently mounted to the ceiling. I got the idea for that setup from Jay P. Morgan’s vid. Check it out, it’s awesome! I received an old backdrop from a photographer friend who passed away. I painted it “Photo Grey,” a colour you can get at Home Hardware in Canada. But the colour didn’t matter for this shoot as a I changed it for the shot.

It’s helpful to think about lighting and photography in “zones.” They are like layers in photoshop. First of all, we’ll start with the subject. I had the idea for the shoot already conceived. Myself and my glorious Lenten beard right side in the frame, looking camera left. So for the key light, I’ve got a speed light gelled CTO with a Honl grid. Very narrow shaft of hard light. Oppositely, Ive got another SB with a snoot (a flash bender) with cold daylight hard light. This is a classic cross lighting setup adding 3 dimensionality and separation from the background. For the next layer,  for fill and to bring some detail into the beard, I setup my DIY Light Scrim and shot a 1/4 CTO gelled SB through that. It’s acting as a huge reflector and light source at the same time, filling the shadow zone. Once I was happy with that, I went to work on the background. I gelled a LumoPro 180 with a theatrical red gel. The red looked cool but it needed more. Being that this is a Lenten/Good Friday type photo, I decided a cross would be a nice addition. I didn’t really have a big random cross lying around so I quickly made one out of a paint stir stick (from the photo grey background project previously mentioned) and couple pieces of Gaffer tape. Looks legit to me! :) I muddled with the light placement to get the right size and perspective of the cross “shadow” on the background. It’s essentially a spiritual gobo!

So there you have the BTS breakdown. A hard-light portrait, 4 light setup, 2 different zones of light, layered together for key, fill, kicker and background.  I edited the photo in Lightroom 5 and Nik software for the final grading and grunge look. Have a very blessed Holy Week & Easter season!

But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His wounds we are healed. ~ Isaiah 53:5

 

DIY Light Scrim Upgrade

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I thought long and hard about getting a bigger lighting scrim. They are a super versatile tool from the strobist to the natural light shooter. They can block light, diffuse light, reflect light. In short, they rock the set. They are also ridiculously expensive to purchase commercially. I was searching for a DIY version and found Kevin Kubota’s to be about the best one out there. You can watch the informative YouTube vid here.

 

But I made some upgrades in the design. First of all, I found it was a lot cheaper to purchase the grey conduit rather than PVC for the main frame parts. They are the exact same size so you can still use all the same PVC fittings but the conduit is less money. Wee! :cool: Plus, it looks less distracting than white. And secondly, I found that the design for attaching the ripstop nylon to the frame was a bit lacking. If you only used it inside, it would be fine. But I do loads of outdoor work. So I needed a solution that would hold up to a Saskatchewan wind gust. I thought about it and concluded that the best way was to make basically a “fitted sheet.” I got some of the super awesome seamstress church ladies to sew me a 1 inch seam all the way around the outside edge of the material. Then I simply cut the corners off and fished the nylon elastic cord through it, tying it off to make it fit snuggly on the frame. It works like a charm! It goes together super quick and stays there, even in the wind.

You still have to be careful with it because it is basically a giant kite. But it works flawlessly and only costs a fraction of what the commercially available ones do. This is probably the only DIY thing I’ve ever made that I will continue to use on a long term basis because it’s a super slick design and it works fantastic! :D

Check out these vids of Joe McNally using the same kind of product. The results are truly awesome!

 

Palm Sunday 2014

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I’ve been off the hook busy the last couple of weeks! Mainly getting ready for Easter. I haven’t had time to fire a shot! Boo. Hiss. But today, as we celebrated Palm Sunday in Church I decided to throw in my X100s (which has been taking a break since I got the Df) and bring it along. I nabbed the following shot of the Palm Sunday Procession as the kids walked in front of me.

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For the silhouette above, I used a simple 2 speed light setup and cranked all the levels in Lightroom. I love how the image captures the distinctive Palm branch shape. :cool:

And for good measure, because we all love being green, a close up of the palms. I should have taken the photos as soon as we got the branches on Thursday. They withered substantially in a very short period of time! hehheheh. Oh well, there’s always next year.20140413-PalmSunday2014-001

 

So that’s it. Quick blog post. But exciting news will follow in the next little while. Until then, we get ready for Easter! :D

The Triumphal Entry

“The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:12-13 ESV)

FreyBurn Angus Bull Sale

20140324-FreyBurnSale-015Today was the annual Family Tradition Black Angus Bull Sale! I look forward to it every year, mainly because I really know next to nothing about the cattle industry. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about cattle production as well as how the purebred game works. I love the descriptors that the auctioneers use to sell them. “This bull has a lot of red meat on him.” “He’s got 40cm testicles.” “He’s as square and stout as any bull you’ll see.” It’s great! And everyone does  a fantastic job. It’s really almost more of a family get together than a sale in that everyone socializes after the sale around pie and refreshments. The Frey’s really do know what Saskatchewan hospitality is all about. And, it’s REALLY nice that they have an indoor facility. That wind still is so consarned hornswogglin’ cold!!! :shock: I did nab the shot above of the bulls outside in the viewing pen. It was worth the cold! :D

But I had fun at the sale with my Nikon Df in tow. I used my f/4 zooms which worked very well. I could shoot the ISO up really high and I didn’t even really notice the f/4 aperture limitation. I could still nab good exposure. I used my trusty expo disc to nab the correct white balance too which is helpful. If anything it dials in a bit too much magenta, but it’s an easy fix. Here’s some highlights from the day.

Light Painting out back

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Our weather has finally, FINALLY stopped being nasty/scary/oppressive/cold/miserable. And, we had a clear night! I’ve been dying to try out the Nikon Df’s lowlight awesomeness with the 24mm AF-S 1.4G lens. They work really nice together. I was actually able to shoot at very low ISO (kind of defeating the purpose of the experiment. LOL) :D But I decided to throw a little light painting in for good luck. Just a wee smidgeon of light from my iPod. Cool little accent. The final EXIF stats were: ISO 800 24mm f2.8 20sec. The only reason for this shutter speed was to give me time to get out into the frame.

I give you the “StarScape Selfie” :cool:

German Wirehaired Puppies for Sale

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Truly great hunting dogs are an amazing thing. Ask any gun dog hunter if he had to pick taking his gun or his dog on a hunting trip and he will answer dog every time. Watching dogs course a field looking of game holds some of the fondest memories for me. From my childhood I’ve always been surrounded by gun dogs. But none as good as my brother Ryan’s dog Jade. She’s a pure bread unregistered German Wirehaired pointer. Affectionately known as the “ugly dog” due to their distinctive looks. Everyone knows that the Germans always make good stuff. And this breed has been “assembled” for field performance. Both for birds and tracking of game, these dogs truly define what it is to be a “versatile” dog.  I’ve hunted with Jade several times over the years and she’s absolutely fantastic. Nothing escapes her nose. She locks on point and holds it. Even when she was a pup and we were training her with pigeons, she was a true feather fiend. She retrieves like a dream, is very obedient and loves to work for her handler. :D

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Last year, Ryan got a phone call about another GWP. “Duke” had become the homeless victim of a divorce. My brother took him in and he quickly became a part of the family. Where Jade is full of tenacity, Duke is more laid back. He’s got the affection of a Labrador, always wanting to sit in your lap! That’s why I was really excited when I heard the news that puppies were on there way and are here now. I think the mix of these two dogs is really tremendous and the pups are gorgeous! The litter had 6 puppies all healthy and very uniform. One female is spoken (the dark liver spotted one) for so there are 4 males and 1 female still available at the time of this publication. The pups will be ready to go on March 20th.  If you are interested, you can contact my brother Ryan via his Kijiji Ad. The pups are located in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. You can contact my brother at 1-306-631-6125 or via email for availability and pricing. :cool:  Hunters only please.

Take a look at this short video I took of all the pups playing in their whelping pen, as well as the pics. They are wonderful pups who I know without a doubt have metric tonnes of promise, and will be fantastic gun dogs and members of the family.

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The Fretless: In Concert

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We took advantage of another AWESOME local concert at the Stewart’s tonight. The band was “The Fretless“. They rocked the set! They’ve got a sweet celtic influenced stringed folk amazingness, with a little step dance thrown in for good measure. I was dying to try out the Df as a stealthy event camera. It did awesome as I knew it would. The quiet shutter was really nice and not very invasive or distracting to others around. All I brought was a 50mm 1.4 and it proved to be a good fit for the homey event. Zooms will always get you more photos when you’re at a venue as a seated guest, but I wasn’t at the event to be a photographer. So I didn’t care. :cool: I wanted to try out the high ISO madness in the crap difficult lighting situation. It’s actually an insanely difficult situation. There are 4 little halogen spot lights above the fire place that super bright. Then 2 other red floor lamps. That’s it. So you’ve got an overexposed background and a super dim foreground (where the faces are). Very tuff. RAW helps reign the wild pony highlights back in though. I shot from 3200-12,800. Files look great. :D

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The Stewarts have been blessed with more musical talent in one finger than I’ll ever have in my whole body. All of them. They’re all outstanding! We were treated with an impromptu blues performance (hence the cyanotype). Unreal! :)

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Then, as we left to head home, it was snowing like crazy. I snapped a silhouette of my lovely wife who is happy that it’s not -50C anymore and, who was stoked to take advantage of another awesome live band! :D

Nikon Df review video

I finally got my Nikon Df review video online. It sums up those 5 paradoxical things about the camera and offers my thoughts about buying it. I really do love the Df. :D It’s a fantastic all-rounder camera despite it’s flaws. I got to try out my dads old school film lenses on it as well this past weekend. They work great! I was blown away by the old 35mm f/2.8 lens. It’s sharp with no chromatic aberration wide open. Not even one of my modern AF-S Nikon primes can boast that!

This video was my first kick at the cat trying “cinematic filming techniques.” I’m no videographer, that’s for sure, but I had fun putting the montage together. Although, I recorded the outdoor scenes at temperatures between -25 and -50C (no, that’s not a typo) which made it very tricky and somewhat miserable! And I didn’t even freeze to death. Yay! :cool:

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