Light is Everything!

Archive for May, 2011

30 Days

After buying wood tick medicine for my dog today in the illustrious community of Carnduff, a fellow photo pal of mine invited me to do the 30 Days of Photo fun challenge. It’s a photo assignment for everyday of the month of June. Very cool. As I looked at the topics I thought it looked pretty slick. And to make things even more fun, other people are also doing the challenge. Then, after the 30 days, all the various images taken by the different photographers will come together as a comparison experience. Should be pretty darn nifty. Why not give it a shot for yourself? Here’s the daily topics:


Macro Studio

I put together a macro studio light box tonight in about 3.9 seconds. It’s totally a synch. And, best of all, it’s cheap! Cardboard box, parchment paper, background and away we go! Check out how to make your own DIY Macro studio in this youtube vid.

The results rock the set. I was blown away at how nice the light comes through. And, using my SB-600’s made it super easy to control the ratios and placement of the lights. You could light this with ikea desk lamps too and control the falloff by simply moving the lamps closer and farther away. But strobe is cooler. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It see endless possibilities for still life in this easy lightbox. Or, product photography if you do any selling of goods on eBay. Very cool stuff!


Photo Walk!

Well, yesterday we had our first ever Photo Walk as a super fun activity in our Souris Valley Photography Club. 5 of us went out to pound the pavement on the mean streets of Oxbow and show off our mad Jay Maisel street photography skills! hehehehhe….. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It was a lot of fun, other than getting rained on half way through. I brought along the trusty Flip Cam and took a little video of the event. Nothing too fancy. The video ends with a slideshow of some of my images from the photo walk. Our plan as a group is to donate all of our images to the town office as stock photos they can use for website/media publications. It’s another way that the photo club can give back to the community and have fun in the mean time. ๐Ÿ™‚

 


Raindrops Keep Fallin’

For the record and the journal, I’m sick of rain. Thoroughly sick of it. As I’m sure all the farmers are too. But, it does provide some way cool macro opportunities. I grabbed my 105mm Macro and an SB-600 flash and went out in the rain, hunting drops and whatever I could find. The trickiest thing ever was the near hurricane force winds that were blowing everything around and drying up the raindrops at a rapid rate. I had to move quickly. As I was also using flash, I ย wanted to try some edgier light stuff. I dialled in Manual exposure of 250th at f/11-18 and then simply flicked the strobe at 64th power. A wee flick of light is all it took. I tried zooming the flash head too from 24mm to 85. I found that the wider swath created a nicer look. It would be sweet to have Nikon’s ring flash setup but it’s way too much cash. I think I will develop some ghetto form of a 2 flash setup for on the go macro stuff. I’ll put the order into the R&D department of Schultz Photographic… ๐Ÿ˜‰


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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 ย 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?! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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!


Utensils!

I saw a really rad photo on the strobist site and wanted to see if I could recreate it. Whilst down at Menards, I bought myself a sweet piece of acrylic that was on sale for 20% off. What a deal! For like 6 US bones you have instant way cool reflections for still life and macro shots. How can you go wrong?! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I also dug out my D80 and took a shot of the setup so you can see the magic in the making. Two strobes being fired wirelessly from the commander flash blasting all kinds of white light everywhere. I also used some foam sheet craft stuff to pickup some black color for depth and contrast. I think it worked out OK. I might use it as one of my Black & White photo entries for this weeks photo club night on Friday. ๐Ÿ™‚


Bzzz

I went out on a bumble bee hunt with my macro lens the other morning before I borrowed it to a friend. Had to get my macro fix. Fortunately the weather has been ridiculously cold and I haven’t missed much macro action. I’ve been waiting for a whole year for my nan king cherry trees to blossom and attract the big buzzers. One of them showed up so I gave chase and nabbed a couple quick shots before he buzzed off for good. Our tulips in the front yard were also in full bloom, backlit wonderfully by early morning sunlight. And, this years crop of bush bunnies were also munching away. So I nabbed a couple shots of them too. All in all, not a bad little walk!

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2 Light Madness

I got a second flash from my folks for an early birthday present! (LOVE YOU!!!) ๐Ÿ˜‰ And I’ve been putting it to good use. With just two lights you can create some pretty fun portraits. Throw in a set of Honl Gels and you’ve got a portable studio with you no matter where you go. And that’s what I like, having very simple and effective setups that can go anywhere and pretty much do anything. Versatile? You betcha! Person wants a shot, is wearing red and you only have a pink backdrop? Hmm. Unless you are going to a candy striping convention, it might be nicer to have something different back there. Now you can! A gelled second flash and a wall and away you go!

How can does this all work? Well it has to do with principle from physics called the inverse square law – which I’m not getting into here. Be it enough to say that light has depth of field and you can control it and use it to your advantage.. You can essentially light 2 different planes – one for the subject and one for the background. You’ve experienced this before. If you take a flash photo of someone close to your light, they’re super bright while the background is totally dark right? That’s why everyone hates “flash” photography. It looks crappy. BUT, you can use this law of light to your advantage. You can light subject and background independently of each other.

In all the portraits in this post, the subject is about 6 feet or so from a white wall. We put one gelled flash back near the wall and lit it up. We also made the flash shoot through objects to put the pattern up there. So you get color and pattern for the price of one. What a deal! Then, we used a shoot through umbrella with another flash to light the subject. It makes for a really cool, simple and effective portrait. You’re only limited to your imagination! Be sure to read more about this on the strobist blog, David Hobby rocks the set!

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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? ย 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.


Rainy Day = Productivity(?)

Well, today we got some more rain. What else is new? But, if you can’t go out and have fun, you can get stuff done. I went to work putting together the Fight for Fonstad CDs, which are now encased and ready to go. It’s nice to have that project completed and everyone will have their photos this week. ๐Ÿ™‚

I also spent the morning watching a new DVD I got from the Nikon School on the Creative Lighting System. The first half of the video is Bob Krist in the studio, doing portraits with speedlights as well as showing off some macro lighting techniques and the ins and outs of the Nikon flash system. The second part is cool stuff with Joe McNally in live lighting situations. The DVD rocks the set and for $30.00 it’s worth it. I was familiar with most of the content already via Joe McNally’s sessions on Kelby Training and also from reading the Strobist Blog. But it was still an excellent learning tool and resource that we might be able to put to good use in the photography club.

As for now, back to watching it downpour. ๐Ÿ˜


Home Made Justin Clamps!

I made a quick video on how you can make your own DIY Justin Clamps. As I have mentioned, Photography is a ripoff. Everything with a photography brand costs 17% more than it’s worth. So, anytime you can cheat and save a few bucks, why not do it? I got the idea for making the clamps from the strobist, and for only $5.00, you can make these things. (To get legit ones, they cost upwards of $50.00 US bones!) ๐Ÿ™‚ There’s nothing to it! And, they are exceedingly useful and convenient. Now, you can put a flash almost anywhere. I’m thinking of real estate lighting or lighting up a rink/gym or wherever. ย These things are sweet! Check out the vid:


Cute Stuff

Kids are always doing cute stuff. Granted, they also do loads of stuff that drive you crazy too. But every once in a while, it’s cute. Yesterday after lunch, Phoebe couldn’t take the strain of life anymore and needed to grab a nap . . . right at the kitchen table. A good dad would have gently scooped her up and taken her up to her bed to slumber in peace. A great dad goes and gets the camera first so the memory lasts for eternity! ๐Ÿ˜‰


Fight For Fonstad Foto Shoot x 5

Well, I was finally able to finish the edits from the Fight for Fonstad Foto Shoots. We promised the families who signed up a disc of 5 images. I’ve got a few more than 5 for everyone, but I didn’t want to post them all on my blog. That would be like ruining Christmas. ๐Ÿ˜‰ So, I paired the collection down to 5 images to display here on the blog as a teaser preview (different from the ones I posted in the last entry). We had such a great time putting this event together and even more fun taking the pictures. All the families I was blessed to snap photos for were amazing and the kids were awesome little troopers. The wind was COLD despite the sunshine! So hats off to you all. ๐Ÿ™‚

I am really happy with how the images turned out, especially because these were my very first official photo shoots ever. It was a great learning experience for me and working within a 20 minute window makes you appreciate the luxury of time you usually have to finesse the images. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And again, I’m very thankful to my papa for coming down from Moose Jaw and helping me out, even if he would have rather taken pictures himself than hold the diffuser . . . heheheehhe… ย I threw in 5 shots that he took of yours truly in action just to inflate my ego for kicks. ๐Ÿ™‚


Fight For Fonstad! ~ Sneak Preview

ย WOW! We had an incredible time today at the Fight For Fonstad Foto Shoots. We had 20 minutes to make as many images as we could for the people who donated to the cause. It was fast and furious photography to say the least. But what a whole lot of fun! We did have a sunny day, but it was horrendously windy. So I salute all of our little troopers who took of their coats for photos in the cold wind. Everyone did great and we absolutely had a making pictures. As I mentioned before, I had my dad assisting me, running the soft box, ย the diffuser and the reflector, and even taking some occasional photos of me taking photos! heheeheh… ๐Ÿ˜‰ It was a tremendous, tremendous day and I want to thank everyone who made this event a success and the other photographers making images at the same time as I was in Carnduff & Oxbow. Hats off to you ladies! Can’t wait to see the pics.

This a sneak peak of the images of the day. I haven’t had time to go through them all yet, but I grabbed a few bright and shiny ones from the pile. ๐Ÿ˜‰


Fight for Fonstad!

Well, the eve of the big event has finally arrived! I’m getting stoked for the Fight for Fonstad Foto Shoots that are taking place simultaneously in Carnduff, Oxbow and Alameda. We are all honored to come together ย as a big community and help support our friends as they endure a very difficult trial. I absolutely love the way that the small towns band together and help each other when calamity strikes. It makes one feel tremendously blessed and privileged to live in such a wonderful place.

Alameda’s locations have been locked in. The plan is to meet up at the Alameda Picnic Park for outdoor shots.ย It provides a great array of different natural backdrops. We also have the Alameda United Church locked in for an indoor location if things turn sour for us in the weather. It’s always good to have a plan B! ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’m also pleased to have my dad, Bob Schultz from Sunwood Photography, as my photo assistant. The photo shoots will go by very fast and we will need to work very quickly to stay on schedule. Having a great assistant will make all the difference.

I’m excited to be part of such a great event and I hope that we have great weather and an even better time taking photos!


Souris Valley Flood

Got up to go check the devastation early this morning. Major Wa-Wa in the Souris. Wow! Sandbags ahoy. Hopefully the water doesn’t get up any higher into the homes. I nabbed a few HDR shots too, see if you can spot them. ๐Ÿ˜‰


Woody

What do wood ticks and Osama bin Laden have in common? Everyone hates them and rejoices when they’re dead! (howz that for politically correct?) ๐Ÿ˜‰ ย I had this sucker crawling on me tonight and decided I would try to take pictures of him before I buried it at sea squashed it. Ugly little vampires!!!! Yuck!


Turf Warz

The tree swallows are back again this year and have been fighting like crazy over who gets to live on Moir Dr. ย We had baby birds in this house last year and they want to do the same thing again. But it’s wild because all the birds want to live in there and several pairs fly in to try to steal it away from the dominant couple. They attack each other and high flying hi jinx results! It’s one wild acrobatic show! ย I shot these suckers at ISO 1000 and shutter speeds of 1/800 and it still wasn’t enough to stop them. It’s crazy how fast these little guys are. Jet fighter pilots could learn from them! ๐Ÿ˜‰


Ich bin ein Strobist

I have been reading the Strobist blog non stop for the past few days. It’s the absolute best place to go on the net for learning how lighting works. So good, I made it a permanent banner link on the right side of my blog page. The information is incredibly useful, accurate and real life. I can’t recommend it enough! Bookmark it and visit often. It rocks the set.

I’ve been playing with strobe for the last couple of days and day dreaming of light ratios. I’ve still got the Lastolite Ezybox and so I started playing with it today to try to get pictures of Ethan’s new haircut. He’s so cute. But it’s tough because kids don’t sit still and they don’t want to stand in one place for you. So here I am, walking around the house with the Ezybox on a stick, trying to do flash photos of the wriggliest little worms on the planet. heheheheheh… it was nothing shy of a gong-show. But it was fun and I did manage to nab a couple of keepers.

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I think that turns people off about flash photography – at first – is the terrible results that come from on camera/pop up flash. People see the harshness and think “Yuck! Turn that crap off! It’s terrible!” And it is. But off camera flash can produce some very cool results. It can go from edgy to soft and airy to a nice balance with just a flick of your exposure dial. Conceptualizing flash photography isn’t really all that hard. We worry about exposure, but it’s a simple matter of asking yourself, what do I want from this photo? Do I want a dark and edgy, noir look? Then you crank your shutter speed to 250 or more and dial your aperture down to f/11 or smaller. Do you want to balance the flash and make it not look like it was strobed much at all? Dial your shutter speed down to let in loads of ambient light. Want it airy fairy? Dial it way down and open your aperture really wide. It’s not all that hard really. It’s more of deciding what you want and then making the technology work for you. When you become a strobist, you become master of the universe! Why? Because you control light and make it rather than observing it and working around it. ๐Ÿ™‚


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! ย I think if I had to pick, I’d go with the softbox followed by the bounce flash from the white reflector. ๐Ÿ™‚


Small Flash Diffusion

A quick video on the quality of light created by using small flash diffusers. I compare the Gary Fong lightsphere to a miniature soft box by Aurora. I think that the lightsphere wins in this competition. It definitely produces a soft, flat shadowless light, but only ย because I was in a low ceiling area, which creates a nice spread of bounce flash. Outside when I tried it, it didn’t have as nice of an effect as most of light is lost upwards. But inside, it creates a nice quality of light.


Recycling! Yay!

Today, I finally got my new recycling bins! Literally after mentioning on facebook that they hadn’t arrived, boom! There they were! Now, we have curb side recycling for the low low cost of like $7 bones a month. Basically, one dollar cheaper than my netflix subscription! ๐Ÿ˜‰ This means I no longer have to spend an hour sorting my recycling because my wife refuses to put stuff in the right bins (we’re in couples therapy about that), load it all up into my truck, drive all the way around the tracks, drive all the way to the giant bins, fight to cram stuff into the bins because nobody flattens there cardboard before jamming it in, then, drive all the way home again. Phew! This is a steal of a deal if your time and mental health means anything. Plus, you get to save a tree. How green is that!? ๐Ÿ˜‰ ย I’m stoked to have curb side recycling and you should be too. Because Recycling is cool like that. ๐Ÿ™‚


Red Tailed Hawk: Photo Essay

For the last week or so, there’s been a Red Tailed Hawk screeching at me in the back pasture. He’s been hanging out in the ravine and cruising on the air currents and thermals that rise up out of the valley. It’s been a nice addition to have some extra wildlife actually hanging around. I have noticed at times two of them, so I thought they might be nesting. Tonight, well after golden light had settled in, I grabbed my camera and my trusty 70-300, the dog and we hit the trail running. I wanted to nab shots of this hawk while the golden light was low on the horizon and would illuminate him while he surfed the currents. It worked out! He got lit up like a Dutch brothel!ย non-ethnically specified house of ill repute! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Just kiddin’! It was just lots of glorious evening light that highlighted him perfectly and was still high enough to creep into the east side of the ravine.

As I sprinted across the pasture, I was pleased to see he was still hanging around. He even let me get close. And as I crested the top of the hill, I found out why he’d been there: dead deer carcass. It was just ribs and spine, presumably a coyote kill, hopefully not a cougar (but possible). I’m fairly certain this hawk had been hanging around to take part in the bonanza. Soon though, the clouds bunched up and stole my light away. No more hawk pics. But, my attention turned from raptors to landscapes – well, cloudscapes. I ran down the big ravine to get back up the other side, stopping only to take the oak leaf shot at the bottom of coulee. It was raining far off and the light was coming in very rich and warm. It was burning through the clouds so brightly I could barely believe it! Shapes and even faces emerged in the clouds, even a wee rainbow if you look close. It was all very cool! As I stopped to snap the cloud shots, I barely even noticed the horde of wood ticks that had since covered my pants and started crawling up under my shirt. Anything for a picture right? ย  ๐Ÿ˜‰ Finally, I watched as the sun sunk into the horizon and burned the sky before saying nighty night!


Ethan’s 1st Birthday!

I can’t believe our little dude turned 1 yesterday! Crazy stuff! He really enjoyed gobbling down 8 thousand cupcakes! Here’s the carnage first hand:

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