Light is Everything!

Flash Photography

Adaptation

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I’ve always wanted a long telephoto lens for the Fuji X system because I love love love the skin tones & nuanced colour that Fuji produces. I saw the K&F Concept lens adapter for Nikon G/AI lenses to the X mount for a mind blowing $30 bones on Amazon. I didn’t have any high hopes at all about the quality or usability of the adaptor but for the cheap price, how wrong could a guy go? So I got one shipped out.

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Nikon 85mm f/1.8G lens on the XE2 Astia film sim.

I opened the box and was blown away. The whole thing is metal. It has a built in aperture control for Nikon’s new G lenses that don’t have an aperture ring. And it works to keep the lens wide open, stopped all the way down and a couple of in between settings that are largely guesses. None of the settings register with the camera because there is no communication between camera and lens. It’s just a simple adaptor. So it’s manual everything. But Fuji’s focus peaking even at 1.8 is a snap. Works great!

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I slapped on the 70-200 f/4 which balances decently with the small camera body. You could shoot wildlife with it gaining the extra reach of the crop sensor but manual focus on fast moving subjects requires ninja like reflexes that I no longer possess.

But for portrait stuff………

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Nikon 70-200 f/4G on the XE2 Pro Neg. Standard film sim

I’d say it works just fine. These two sample images are straight out of camera other than my resize for web lightroom setting. Here’s a 100% crop of Phoebe’s eye:

 

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It is tack sharp! This is wide open too. You’ll see from the included info that the camera only records the shutter speed & ISO settings. Aperture is not and for some reason it defaults to a 50mm lens. But the results are awesome. The skin tones are so, so great. And it’s sharp! Did I say that already? So this image is 200mm 1/180 ISO 200 handheld JPEG shot with a Nikon SB-900 through a Lumiquest Softbox III triggered with Phottix Ares triggers! How’s that a for a FrankenSetup!? lol

I love Fuji lenses and they rock the set. But for 30 bucks, you can’t go wrong with the K&F Concept adaptor. Highly recommend picking one up!

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Phottix Ares Review

 

20161106-phottix-001So I got some new flash triggers to try out. The Phottix Ares triggers are excellent! They are a simple, no frills, no TTL, no HSS “dumb” trigger that is perfect for manually controlled off camera flash.  They are simple, reliable and best thing is: no sync cords! They are shoe mounted so no more flopping around. I made a YouTube video to review them:

They’re been great performers for me and they are highly recommended, especially for people just getting started with Off Camera Flash work. But even for seasoned flash veterans, they are a welcome addition to the bag to replace those flopping Pocket Wizard Plus X sync-cable-ridden triggers.

 

They are a great price in the US. In Canada not so much. I had mine shipped from Amazon.com and saved a bundle.

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Here’s a couple of test shots with the Phottix Ares triggers.


#Lent2016

 

Lent Beard

Once again, Lent has come to a close. As is my tradition, I give up shaving for Lent. It’s been more of a long standing joke than anything, much to the chagrin of pretty much everyone. But since 2009 I have been growing a beard, then taking it off in stages on Holy Saturday. I try to get as many different beard looks as a I can from the one beard. I’m following this awesome beard quest project that I found ages ago. It’s so great. I’ve pretty much got them all now–at least the ones you can do in a month and a half of bearding.

Lent 2016 hath brought forth the following beards:

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2016 Lent Beard in all its glory

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The Hollywoodian

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The Anchor

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The Goatee

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The Grass Skirt Rastafarian Hipster Goatee

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The Chinpuff Acoustic Rocker

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Clean Cut White Boy Status: Confirmed!

It is also important to note that Phoebe was the photographer and art director on the set today. We decided to go for an open, airy, lifestyle type look with one flash to augment the natural light. She coordinated wardrobe to match the beard looks. She framed all the shots and did a great job. Thanks also to the Nikon Df and the 85mm 1.8G.

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So, in conclusion to the bearded Lenten Journey, surely Christ the Lord has borne our griefs. We esteem Him stricken, smitten and afflicted.

He died for me, I’ll beard for Him!

 


Pro Neg Std.

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Another one of Fuji’s film simulations is the Pro Neg Std. This setting is described as being for portraits with soft gradations and skin tones. The Hi version of my last blog post has a bit more of a contrasty look. This article on Fuji vs. Fuji does a great job of comparing all the simulation modes. But suffice it to say, the skin tone rendering is really, really pleasing in both the Hi and Std. modes. Just look at these kids. They look at least 17% better shot with Fuji. LOL. I do want to do a side by side comparison to my Nikons and see how the JPEGs compare. I never shoot Nikon JPEGs so I really don’t know if there is much difference. I’ll check it out in a future blog post.

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I shot these Black & White images in the Monochrome setting with a yellow filter. It gives little extra to the skin tonality I think.


Pro Neg H

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The kids got haircuts the other day. There always cutest fresh from the salon so I grabbed once again the X100s and wanted to try the Pro Neg H simulation. Fuji has the best skin tones in the business (in my opinion) and this simulation does a really great job of bringing them out. The H vs. S rendition has a bit more punch and contrast. But the skin tones are really great. I did the one black and white conversion in Lightroom afterwards for more of a high key look. Still looks nice.

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But the colours are so great. Fuji really makes your photos pop!

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8

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Mine baby is 8 years old today! That’s insane & unbelievable. It seems like just yesterday we were going to the hospital to have her. She’s the sweetest, most caring and compassionate person I have ever met. And she’s ridiculously cute!

I busted out the ol’ photo mill (Nikon Df, 50mm & 85mm 1.8G) for some birthday pics. We used 1 light (Nikon SB-900 flash triggered by a SU-800 commander) with 3 different modifiers used in 4 different ways.

The first setup was the good old shoot through umbrella. It produces winning light all the time. It’s soft. It’s directional. It’s fool proof, quick goto lighting. It’s also pretty boring. Good thing Phoebe is cute. I said that already though. 😎

Next, was a small soft box. The LumiQuest Softbox III to be specific. It introduces more shadow tonality. A bit more depth and interest to the shots. It’s pretty cool light, especially when used in close to the subject.

Then it was a Honl grid. Deep shadows. Much more intrigue and edginess, almost teenaged light. But she’s only 8 so we had to back it off and bring the shadows up a notch.

So viola! We went back to the umbrella but this time I bounced the light off the white ceiling and back down through the umbrella that she was holding as a prop. It gives a double defused ultra soft giant look to the light. Shadows are very, very soft and silky smooth.

 


Fun with Grids

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I had to order something from B&H a while ago and to get free shipping to Canada, I needed to bump up my order. So I ordered a grid for my Photoflex Medium Litedom soft box. Grids are ridiculously expensive for softboxes, leading one to believe they are made of Unicorn Tears and Saskatchewan seal skin bindings. Or some such other mystical material. So I ordered the Impact brand 24×32 grid. It works and fits like a charm for the Photoflex box. I should have had a grid on that soft box from forever ago. They are so perfect for controlling light spill and adding amazing direction to the light. I hadn’t had a chance to even try it out much so I grabbed Ethan and some gear and we went outside to cash in on the amazing hoarfrost that stuck around all day.

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In the really blue shots, I was playing with color temperature and gels. I went with a tungsten balance to shift the image to blue, then double CTO gelled my flash to bring the light back to a really nice warm temp. It’s a very interesting contrast in the light colours. For the other shots I used a simple overcast warmer temperature of around 6300K with a 1/4 CTO gel to give a bit warmer skin tone. The control that the grid gives is superb. There is no spill around the subject to illuminate everything. If you want to keep an image interesting, then pay close attention to what isn’t lit.

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Our neighbour came home and I made her step into the set for a shot or two. It worked out well! I was using the FujiFilm X100s for these shots with the 3 stop ND filter engaged. This helped knock down the ambient light which would have been too much for a single LumoPro LP180 flash that I was using blasting through two gels, two layers of diffusion and the grid. These exposures were in the neighbourhood of f/2 1/250 ISO 200 plus or minus. And they are all JPEG images too. I seldom ever shoot my Fuji in RAW because the JPEGs are soooooooo great. Not so my Nikons. They live in RAW all the time. But Fuji has such incredible and captivating colour and skin tones. So, it’s JPEG for this Fuji slinging flashgun cowboy. So if you have a light, slap a grid on there and leave it there. You’ll be glad you did! 😎


Crooked Bush

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What a whirlwind tour this last little bit of time has been for us. We were up to Edmonton for a friend’s wedding that I also ended up doing some pictures for. Then on the way back we had to stop at one of Saskatchewan’s craziest spots: The Crooked Bush.  We had heard about it in a tourism book and we decided that it was worth the stop. So we detoured at North Battleford on our return journey and navigated to this crazy little plot of trees. It’s literally just that. A strange little aspen wood plot in the middle of nowhere. The bluff of trees right beside it are straight and normal. But these trees are totally gnarly and wild looking! Such a cool place to stop and check out.  Nobody knows for sure why this little grove of trees are so crooked. Some have speculated a genetic defect in the trees, other say a UFO crashed there. Others still say that a lawyer is buried there. Ha! 😀

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Mount Olive Lutheran Church

 

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Being that I am a Pastor by day, Photographer by day off, I have a few connections with other Pastors and Churches. When the two worlds collide it’s a cool experience. I was up in Regina, Saskatchewan doing some photography for Mount Olive Lutheran Church. Such projects include building/grounds photos, portraits of staff & workers as well as a library of stock images that can be used on websites, e-publications, etc. It’s a lot of fun with lots of opportunities to be creative.

One of the other cool extras of this assignment was that Rev. Ted Giese, one of the pastors at Mount Olive along with Rev. Terry Defoe, is that Rev. Giese does movie reviews from a Christian perspective. He is regularly featured on an American Lutheran Radio program called Issues, etc. As such, I knew I wanted to do a movie-poster-inspired portrait of Ted that was a bit more edgy than the regular “nice light” I typically do for such a project.

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So for this portrait I shifted the color spectrum into tungsten to give the photo a very cool and shadowy feel. The BTS photo below shows the location of this two light setup. By using an empty corner for the shot you get a free, nifty background location with varying degrees of light fall off shadows and gradients. I used a soft lighter on the floor with my Alien Bee 1600 for the fill light. It was just left in daylight white balance which was shifted blue by the tungsten control in camera. The key light was an SB-900 in a Lumiquest Softbox III that was gelled CTO taking it back to a daylight color. Had I done this shot over again, I would have thrown on an extra 1/2 cut of CTO to warm that key light up more and give it an extra color contrast. But the end result is a really cool feeling movie-reviewing-Reverend type look. 😀

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Miss Maria & Her Sunset Horse

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Barrel racing is one of those things that runs in the blood, like farming or hunting or so many other things that exist in a symbiotic relationship with people and animals. My friend Maria wanted some photos of her and her horse Honey. So we picked one of the coldest days of the year when the light was falling fast! LOL 😎  The cloud cover was thick and it was quite dark. We were able to do a bunch of natural light stuff rather quickly but then the sky burst forth a wee silver of gold for us. We had a good 5-7 minutes to work the light before it completely faded into blue. We had to work quickly but we managed to hammer out a bunch of different looks using flash and ambient. The EXIF of the top image was 1/8 of a second at f/7.1. I was trying to drag the shutter as much as possible to get adequate ambient exposure and then use flash for the subject exposure. This relatively longer shutter speed allowed both Maria hair and Honey’s mane to motion blur in the wind but the flash exposure keeps them sharp. Handheld at 1/8 is no sweat with my 16-35mm f/4 Nikkor with VR.

I quickly moved from ambient to flash and back to ambient again to nab the amazing sky for silhouettes. The color was so juicy and rich that it made for the perfect background! You can’t sunset shots. They are like peanut butter and chocolate! The veritable Reese’s Pieces of the photographic world. They make for great photos & happy clients . . . and happy Photographers! 😎