Light is Everything!

Strobist

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! 😎 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.


Canadian Gothic

 

What can I say? Opportunity knocked somethin’ fierce on this shoot! 😎 We were doing some pleasant family portraits up in an incredible old barn loft that didn’t really have much in it except some loose straw and . . . this pitch fork. We finished the family photos and it caught my eye. I instantly knew we needed to try an “American Gothic” style re-make photo. It’s such a familiar painting that it is readily recognized by nearly everyone! So we did it as a last minute thing and I am so happy we did. It’s just so crazy and off the wall. Jen & Lee did perfectly well in keeping the straight stonewall faces. It was priceless, even as I was cracking up behind the camera barely keeping it together. The rest of the shots we did outside of the barn were also fun, promising the kids we’d do some fun and crazy stuff on the fence. All in all it was another really fun photo shoot!


Eve of Destruction 2!

Eve of Destruction 2! This time, it’s not Eve of Destruction 1! 😎 The event is pure awesome! Last year it was a combine smash up derby, this year, a truck and trailer figure 8 crash up! hehhhehe… But not only is there the main event, there is also lots of other amazing performances from exploding cars to MX stunt dudes to car flips to truck pulls. But I wasn’t there for any of it. My job was to take some pictures of the Lord of the Speedway, Byron Fichter. He’s an Estevan area photographer who specializes in landscapes and motor sports. His work at the Estevan Motor Speedway is exceedingly well known and he knows his craft. Be sure to check out his images at his website ByronFichter.com. I had fun following Byron around and taking some shots of him in action.For a guy who is known for his work at the track, it’s nice to actually get some shots of himΒ at the track. 😎 People were saying to him “Are you the guy from the track?” Now they will see the photos and know. It was lots of fun shooting Byron and being able to nab a few shots of the event. The MX bikes were 80 feet in the air when doing their stunts! Unreal! I’m glad I was on the ground with a camera. πŸ™‚


Laney

Laney has a heart of gold! And that sweetness of her personality flows out of her and looks tremendous on camera. 😎 This shoot was really enhanced because of that. I really liked being able to do some fiddle shots of Laney too. The location was really fitting for a western theme and added a lot to how the images worked over all. We setup in a big shed and the floor was perfectly full of fine dust that I knew would give some sweet texture to the shot – especially when you have people runΒ through it and really stir it up! πŸ˜€ Light and dust/dirt/smoke/fog go together like peanut butter & chocolate!

And, last but not least was the barn. Again, some amazing textures in there. When you mix the sweetness of Laney and the roughness of the location, some cool lighting, it makes for some really dramatic portraits. πŸ™‚

 


Pepe Le Kunk

For the record, children should be dressed up as fuzzy animals always, all the time! 😎 We were camping at Adam Lake, Manitoba last week and we decided to do a little photo shoot of Ethan dressed up as a Kunk. He’s a kunk because he can’t say “sk”unk yet. Well, that’s not true. He can make the compound sounds, he still just doesn’t do it on principle. hehheehhe… So anyways, he’s our little fuzzy Kunk.

I wanted to get these photos in a forest setting and it was loads of fun. Normally he can be a bit of a punk for taking photos but he was super into it with the costume on. +1 for photo madness. πŸ™‚

A little BTS of the shoot, I brought a light stand and a shoot thru umbrella, but I left half the cover on, essentially making a quick strip box. It was cool because it let the light fall off quick.

We also had the rest of the non-kunk based family there too and I was able to nab a few more shots of the kids.

Here’s the whole set from the camping trip. Take a peek see at the rest of the kunk photos. πŸ˜€

 


Evening Shoot

Went out last night for an evening shoot with the Sawatsky family. We had perfect weather with glorious warm golden light – until the last 2 minutes of the shoot when the wind came up out of nowhere, blew over my c-stand (sandbagged!) and carried my light setup a quarter mile! bwahahahah.. I wish I would have taken pictures of my shoot-thru umbrella carrying my flash bracket across the beach. Β It was hilarious. Fortunately, nothing was damaged and, we got the shot after all! πŸ˜€

Not enough can be said about golden light, that mystical time of the day right before sunrise and right before sunset. The light is super soft and warm. It’s pure awesome. Plus, scheduling the shoot at that time allows for the sunset to get richer and richer as time goes on. Most of the photos from this shoot were shot using ambient light as the key, supplemented with a CTO flash to help add warmth and a kicker. It’s really soft subtle light which works nice for the kids. They did an AWESOME job as photo candidates. We worked quickly and nabbed a nice mix of shots.


1 Year Old!

After having my own kids, I know how fast a year can come and go. We did Leighton’s 1 year photos this past weekend and it was a riot! When you are 1, the whole world is an adventure. And if Grandpa keeps you awake before your photo shoot, so what?! It’s still cute no matter what! πŸ˜‰ Leighton did fantastic and she was sporting all the late summer fashions, especially the Rider Pride! 😎


Gettin’ Hitched!

July 28th 2012. It’s the day two wonderful people made their vows and promised each other forever. It was also the day I became a wedding photographerΒ photographer who took wedding photos. 😎 Although, with a twist. I also officiated the wedding in my Pastoral capacity. Now, if I only did the catering and the DJ stuff, I’d truly be a jack of all trades. But as it was, the service and the photos were enough. Where to begin?! I thought I would elaborate on the experiences from the day a little bit in this blog post. First of all, as I mentioned it was my first wedding for photos. I did research, as I always do. I went to Manor to scope it out prior to the big day. I’d never been there before and I needed to know some locations. Also, because the wedding was in the evening, the photos needed to be taken care of first. That meant starting at 1PM when the sun was high. And, we had to capture the critical moment of the Bride & Groom seeing each other for the first time. Normally this happens at the ceremony, but with an evening wedding, the need to still capture those moments is key. We setup a little surprise for Kayla and it worked! Lucas caught her unaware and photos captured it all.

Seeing each other for the first time!

From there, I took several more photos of the couple together in the moment. It made for some really great candids. After a few minutes or so, my awesome assistant Michelle helped do some run and gun lighting setups. Nothing fancy, just 1 light in a medium softbox. It gave us a fantastic result and allowed us to keep moving quickly getting a wide variety of shots in the short time we had.

One technique I was dying to try out was Cliff Mautner’s signature lighting setup. No flash was used in this photo. And it was taken at 1:35PM. By turning your subject so that the sun is directly behind her, it gives you an evenly lit face and front. Juxtaposed against the dark backdrop, this technique works awesome. You have to shoot in Manual Mode to get it though as your camera’s meter is next to useless for getting this photo. The camera sees all the white and all the dark and goes “AAAAAHHHHHH!” Β You have to override the meter and chimp it to make sure your exposure is bang on. You could use spot metering for the face, but that’s too easy. πŸ˜‰ I love the result of this technique. Long lenses, wide apertures and awesome lighting. It’s the recipe for pure awesomeness. Thanks Cliff!

Cliff Mautner’s Style

Speaking of Cliff Mautner, another shot he’s famous for I also wanted to try. It’s the “elevated perspective, shallow depth of field, mad-lens compression, way cool beauty shot.” Putting the focus cursor right on Kayla’s eyelash gave me this photo. I love it! It’s nearly angelic and royal, which is exactly what bride portraits should be.

“elevated perspective, shallow depth of field, mad-lens compression, way cool beauty shot.”

After the bride and groom photos were wrapped up, we had the group shots to contend with. Fortunately for us, we lucked out with the beautiful location and the 3PM time slot. I knew that the sun would be lower by then so some nice north facing shade was perfect for getting everyone uniformly lit. Then, we used my typical group lighting setup with two speed lights & umbrellas to brighten the scene and add some much needed catchlights. I had Kayla make up a list of family shots she wanted in advance so we burned through the group shots in no time in an orderly fashion. I shot all the group stuff with my 50mm prime which ultimately looks better than a wide angle for groups.

A split second after we finished the family group shots, it started raining. Boo! Hiss! 😦 But, it didn’t stop us. We ducked for cover and made the most of it. Having Michelle with me was vital for getting these photos because she held the light and we burned around quickly and got all the bridal party shots we needed. I really like this technique of framing the bridal party members around each other for a portrait.

Then we finished up the bridal group photos and everyone was wiped, including me. That took us to 5PM which is what we budgeted for, allowing us a nice break to get prepared for the ceremony.

I got my thoughts together for the ceremony and gave my camera to Michelle. She nabbed some ceremony shots for me as it would have been a wee bit awkward to stop the ceremony to do photography… heheheheh…. 😎 But before we did the ceremony I also wanted a shot of the wedding bands. We framed up a macro shot, making use of what was on sight and in theme with the wedding.

After the ceremony there was the party! The rest of the night was candids of the moments that unfolded before us – which in many ways is easier. The shooting gallery is before you and the moments just happen! It’s awesome.

The couple’s first dance

Like any hall, we always are faced with the problem of poor lighting. So to combat that, I put a flash on a stick and had Michelle keep her eyes on where I was going. It worked like a charm and made for some really cool, dramatic lighting as well as just some nice, evenly lit photos too. It was great to have that control and versatility at our finger tips.

Way cool rim light!

So, all in all, it was an awesome day, albeit exhausting. I don’t think I will sign up for the “whole meal deal” again anytime soon, although not many other photographers can do your photos and your service! hehehhehe… πŸ˜‰ It was a really fun day and the couple was a dream to work with. I was thankful for the opportunity to try something I’ve never done before and I am very happy with the results. Thanks again to Michelle Needham for being an awesome assistant! And, all the best and God’s blessings to Lucas & Kayla! You guys are amazing! πŸ˜€


Souris Valley MX

So I had this idea for a photo shoot. Call me crazy, but it just happens. I get an idea and it plagues me until it comes to fruition. I wanted to do a dramatic portrait at the Souris Valley Motocross. I had the whole thing sketched out in my mind, pre visualized down to the last detail. I wanted a sunset. I wanted cool lighting. I wanted a cool subject. Jen willingly agreed to be my cool subject and she rocked the set! 😎 I got my cool dramatic lighting but I didn’t get my sunset. Instead, we got some wicked pre-storm clouds! And, I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out! I’m so glad that hitches come in the photo plans because often they turn out better than if things had simply gone according to my preconceived ideas. I’m super thankful that this shoot came together the way it did. The colours of the incredible sky and Jen’s gear all worked together beautifully. I love these personal photo projects and I hope to do many more! πŸ˜€

 

 


Grad!

What is a mix of sadness, change, excitement and happiness? If you said high school grad, you’d be right. I had the privilege of taking some grad photos for our family’s favourite grad today. Our long time babysitter is going to be spreading her wings into a brave new world in no time. It’s sad!!! We will miss our beloved Erin soooo much! But at the same time, it’s happy and exciting! This chapter of life is complete. The next one is just beginning. It’s life is it not? We are always growing and changing. I guess that makes it fun! 😎

I’m shooting a series of environmental portraits from rural Saskatchewan and I’m including this photo we made today. It’s a really meaningful shot. The Lion’s Park in Oxbow was where Erin and the gang hung out – forever. I knew we had to make an image there. The park is being updated and the old equipment replaced with new stuff. The old-timey spring ponies are still there though and Erin played on them as a little girl. There were two other little kids playing in the park. They ran through the frame and symbolize the fleeting blink that childhood is. We ought to never underestimate how fast time flies. Savour every moment of every day! Cherish the memories πŸ™‚


The Fair!

The Estevan fair was really quite sensational. And I’m really not kidding! It was a boat load of fun!! It was doubly so for me because I got to take some family photos of the Mercers in a really incredible backdrop of colour and lights. 😎 After we had completed our photo shoot I wandered around a bit longer and waited for the light to fall a bit darker for some fun “lights at night” shots. Thankfully the thundershower held off and we were able to get our shots and not have to worry about the rain. All we had to worry about was the carnie’s grip on our wallets! hehehehheh….. (I have it on the highest authority that the fair is a bigger rip off than even the circus!) πŸ˜‰


This one’s for the Geeks…

Prepare to get your photo-geek on and see if you can keep up to this post. 😎 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!!! 😎 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. πŸ™‚


Bow Hunting (at Night)

Just Kidding! My brother Ryan got a new bow and wanted a coolish looking photo so we went out and nabbed this one tonight in the holy city of Moose Jaw! 😎


Pre-K

When I was a kid, I loved Pre-Kindergarten!! It was the best 4 years of my life! πŸ˜‰ Actually, I was too much of a wimp to go to pre-school. I was afraid of all the kids and the brightly coloured crayons. But I was certainly happy to stop by Β and check out the new Pre-K class in Oxbow. What a fun class! All the good times of Kindergarten without all the Algebra homework. 😎 I was asked to stop by and do some class photos for Tony as he unfortunately has to return to Germany. All of his classmates are going to miss him for sure! We hope he will be back in school in no time. As always, it’s tons of fun helping out the school making images for them. We broke the mould of the traditional “line em up move em out, rawhide!” photos and got them jumping and spread out. Little kids are designed for moving around, might as well take advantage of it!


Xmas FAIL

Kid photography is tough. They’re uncooperative. Combative. Scary! Now you know why kid photographers charge the mad scratch. πŸ˜‰ hehheheehe…… I was trying to get some Christmas pictures of our kids the other day, which is always a gong show. It’s all my fault for breeding in the hatred of the camera to my kids. I’ve taken waaaay too many photos of them and now they won’t smile nice and look at the camera. Doh! But every once in a while, they will cooperate. This little shoot was an example of not! It was one ensuing comedy of errors after another. The other complicated thing was using a lighting setup. The kids have to be in a certain place for it to work, which simply doesn’t work super great with wiggly worm toddlers. Now you know why kid photographers use fast primes and shoot in natural light! hehheheeh……. 8)


Quick! Cuz it’s Cold!

It’s human nature to think we always have loads of time left before winter. Delay putting up the Christmas lights well into fall, procrastinating the yard clean up, forget the winter tires for another weekend, etc. ad nauseum. Then, BAM! Winter hits and it’s a mess. We’re scrambling to get everything done! Boo hiss! πŸ‘Ώ But we live in Saskatchewan, we shouldn’t be too shocked when Ol’ Man Winter rears his ugly head. Unless of course we’re trying to nab one last outdoor family photo before the mercury drops too low! πŸ˜‰ Β We were able to sneak one in on the weekend and it turned out really nice, even captured some snowflakes in mid flight too. Proudest accomplishment yet in my photographic career: the family AND three pugs all looking up at the same time! πŸ˜€ Gotta love that!

πŸ™‚ Stop Reading Here unless you’re a Photo Geek πŸ™‚

Photo Geek info:Β 

Outdoors is special when it comes to lighting, especially in the windy province. Normally I do umbrellas as my goto light modifier, but it was way too windy for that on this shoot. I’ve been trying to find a good use for the Gary Fong Lightsphere and it worked swimmingly well for this setup. One flash high up on a stand with the lightsphere on gave the light enough spread and softness to mimic an umbrella, but without the tip over tendencies. It’s quick and fast which is perfect for cold nasty days. I also used a second flash to help light up the dark pugs who where blending into the shadows of the junipers behind the boulder. All in all it worked! And not a moment too soon as Jack Frost was nippin’ at our noses! πŸ˜‰


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.Β  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! πŸ˜€ 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)

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Glam Girlz

The other night we did a super fun shoot on Moir in the glamour garage. It was a spur of the moment kind of thing after they found these way cool wigs. The girls grabbed their head bands from the Relay for Life too which drove home the point of the shoot: Cancer Sucks. Like anything in life, if you let stuff drag you down, it will. But, on the other hand, if you boldly face the trials with faith, hope and love in the big guy upstairs, you will conquer! Especially if you can laugh and have a good time! 8) So that’s what we did. The name of the game was fun, glamour-ish shots. Lots of lights, lots of attitude. However, the girls need to work on “sassy.” Bubbly & fun loving is down pat, but sassy? I need blue steel. I need magnum! I need le tigrΓ©! Β Where’s that at?! πŸ˜‰

 


Touchdown for Dreams

If you haven’t heard yet, my good neighbour Megan was selected as the inaugural recipient of a wish with the Saskatchewan Roughriders Touchdown for Dreams. πŸ˜€ Totally awesome stuff!! She gets to go to Las Vegas and see a Garth Brooks concert, which is super exiting. There was also a really slick press conference which you can check out here on YouTube. They got super fly pink jerseys and rider shirts for cancer awareness as well. πŸ™‚ I asked Jimmy if I could nab a photo of him today dressed in the mad pinkness and he agreed. I didn’t want a simple snapshot. I wanted an epic photo with freaky awesome details. Here’s what I did to build the photo from the ground up.

Step 1: compose the shot. I really wanted the menacing clouds in the background to set the mood of the photo (hope in the midst of troubled times). So I crouched down and framed the shot to make Jimmy look larger than life. This first shot is pure ambient light. Waaay under exposed which is what I wanted. 1/250 at f/14

Step 2: Add some light. In this case a warmed up flash to throw some hard rim light on his right side. When layering your lighting it helps to follow this guideline: Ambient Fill Key Accent (AFKA). In this case the rim light was also acting somewhat like a fill light too. 1/250 f/14 SB-600 on 1/8 power gelled warm with 1/2 CTO.

Step 3: Add the Key light. I used an umbrella as the key light. It’s a sweet sassy wrapping light. It’ works good most times. It was warmed with 1/4 CTO gel. I needed to adjust my aperture a bit and I opened it to f/10.

Step 4: Crank the Freaky Awesome Details. I wanted an almost HDR appearance as the final image. I like the edgy light and the cranked up definition of the finished image. I used Aperture 3 to crank the definition, then brushed some away from Jimmy’s face so he didn’t look to crazy. Then I used Viveza 2 to crank the cloud detail and contrast way up. 8)

So there you go! Lighting in layers. It’s not all that difficult and this is a really simple 2 light setup. We went from start to finish in 15 minutes. Big thanks to Jimmy & Livy my extra light stand holder girl. πŸ˜‰


Vanity

Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. ~ Ecclesiastes 2:11

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D.I.Y. Beauty Dish

A while back I stumbled across a really cool D.I.Y. lighting project. Enter, the Beauty Dish. It’s a light modifier (you fire a flash into) to get a different quality of light. Like a soft box, there is some diffusion that goes on with the light, giving it a softer quality. But the Beauty Dish still has flash punch. Edgier shadows. Not really matched light for babies or soft portraits, but for glamour or just overall coolness, it’s the bomb. They also cost around $350+Β bones to buy one! So it’s out of the question for me. So when I stumbled across David Tejada’s blog with the do it yourself tip, I had to try it. 8 bucks for the plastic planter, another 12 bones for plastic spray paint, a DVD spindle I already had, a convex mirror from Wal-Mart for a whopping $1.49 and a few nuts and bolts and you’ve got it made. So for a quick $25 bucks, you’re up $325.00 in the photo world!!

I made the beauty dish to fit my brand spankin’ new SB-900 speed light. It’s Nikon’s flagship flash and it rocks the set. Now, I’ve got a 3 light setup for pure sweetness in off camera flash. But more on that for another post.Β So I finished the project this morning and put together some test shots with the help of my loving family (who are also patient and giving when it comes to me taking photos of them). These shots are not edited in any way, they are straight out of camera to show the different quality of light the beauty dish . . . dishes out. 8)

 

ISO 400 f/9 1/250 105mm

ISO 400 f/9 1/60 105mm

ISO 400 f/6.3 1/50 105mm

A) Beauty Dish

B) Straight Flash

C) No Flash

The coolest thing about the beauty dish is that it gives you a nice round catch light, much like an octa-box. It makes more sense to have a round catch light than a square one from a regular soft box because the eye is round. πŸ˜‰ Β You can also see how the light quality is still punchy yet diffused a bit too. In A & B above, if you watch the face shadow around the chin, in the beauty dish shot (A) there is still a shadow, but it’s softer. In B, the straight flash (off camera, camera left position) you can see a really firm shadow. In C, well you have a naturally lit shot at high noon in full sun. Gotta have flash. 8) Obviously, you can make the beauty dish more punchy, as in the first photo above where there is a sharper quality of light coming from it. It’s pretty versatile though and I look forward to putting it to good use somewhere down the photo line. PS: If any one wants some complimentary glamour shots, let me know. I’m looking for a model to try this out! πŸ˜†


Oh Oh! It’s Elder Ethan!

So for church today, Regan dressed Ethan in a green tie on a while polo shirt. Classic! But it made him look, well, Mormon. It’s like the angel Moroni came down and slapped him with some reformed-Egyptian style! I couldn’t resist. I got the most holy and venerable New King James Version Bible and I had him come to the door. ThrowΒ some flash on there and he looks sweet and dandy like sour Mormon candy! πŸ˜‰

But of course, big-sis couldn’t resist the Latter Day fun and needed to join in. Here comes sister Phoebe all up in your grill! 8)

 

 

 

Heheeheheheh…….. will the madness never end?! πŸ˜‰


Lighting Session

The topic at last nights Souris Valley Photography Club meeting was lighting. We did a sweet progression of flash exposures going from the pop-up flash on the camera all the way up to off camera lighting setups and professional softbox lighting. It was really cool to watch the light completely transform the image from something that looked like it came from a cop shop mug shot to something truly beautiful and amazing! Thanks again to Michaela for being our super model and letting us blast her poor retinas into oblivion! πŸ˜‰