Can you imagine if this thing was people life-sized?? 😯 It would eat you and your family. I often think that, whilst doing macro photography. Blech!
I went for a bit of a relaxing photo walk today with the dog. He’d been cooped up for days on end and needed a run and I hadn’t snapped any shots for a couple of days and I didn’t want to lose my edge. Fall colours and textures are a plenty down in the Oak tree ravines just behind our place. I went out to see if I could find a picture of two.
So at last night’s photography club, we decided to go on the fall photo walk today. Beautiful, beautiful day for a walk in Shepherd’s ravine near Oxbow. I have been in there many times for geocaching and running the dog but low and behold, when we got there today, it was barricaded with a locked gate! CURSES! 👿 We had to park at the top and then hoof it on down into the valley for the mad shots. The exercise was good for us, so I’m not complaining. 😉 It was another fun photo event to be sure. I decided that I was going to shoot macro for this photo walk so all I brought was the 105mm AF-S VR Micro. That and my trusty reflector/diffuser, it was all I needed . It’s way more fun and way less complicated when you bring only 1 camera and 1 lens. Scott Kelby also did a photo walk today, you can check out the website here.
I got the chance to take some photos at my friends riding arena on Friday night. It was awesome to see Dan and the boys wrestlin’ them steers with all their might!! I was stoked to be able to get some western/rodeo shots because the action is super cool and it makes for really dramatic photos, if you blur the action or if you freeze it. You can’t really go too far wrong. Plus, the sunset was beautiful! 8)
Photo Geek Info:
The light was just starting to fade when I started shooting which meant the whole shoot was pretty much in golden light. Which, as we know, is the ultimate time to make pictures! I was using my 105 VR Macro at f/2.8 for nice compression and cream cheesy bokeh. I found that it was almost perfect for this event as it’s fast, sharp and pretty workable for candid portraits closer in and long enough to nab full frame action further out. Probably the ultimate for this would be the 70-200 though with just a bit more reach. I was able to be in the arena for some of the shots which allowed me to get closer than I would at an actual rodeo. Very fun stuff! 😆
Studio?! We don’t need no stinkin’ studios!!!! 8) So tonight I finally had the chance to do some portraits using a 3 light configuration. I’ve been dying to try out the beauty dish in a studio setup and so I finally got to do so tonight. I even persuaded some models to work with me. 🙂
So in the first setup, we did a single speed light that had been gelled as the background light. This light is directly behind the subject and lights the back plane. Then, I put the beauty dish up on a stand and used a silver reflector for the classic “clamshell” beauty light combo. It’s used lots in fashion stuff, but does very well on wrinkly people if you want to minimize wrinkles. The beauty dish chucks light down and the reflector fills in any shadows. It’s cool light. So this was the first setup of the night. Only 2 lights.
OK, next, in setup 2, I added an additional light to the background. This helps bathe that back plane in color/light. For the colour background shots I blasted them each with a gel. For the super white blown out high-key background, the lights were fired straight up with no gels. The beauty dish and reflector fill remain unchanged.
So, finally, we switched things up again for another cool look, still using only 3 lights. This time, I lit the background with a single gelled speed light. I still used the beauty dish/silver reflector combo as the main & fill lights. But, I added a 1/8th spot gridded hair light to add more dimension to the light. It makes a sweet little highlight/rim light that adds another layer of loveliness to the light.
I also got to do a comparison shot between umbrella light and the beauty dish. This is really neat to be able to see the difference in the quality of light. The umbrella light is unquestionably softer. It wraps more and it is more fitting for these little people. The beauty dish has far more contrast and hard edges in the light. But it just depends on what you want to accomplish in your lighting. Jostens and other portrait people almost always use huge soft boxes because they are the softest light on the planet. But for brassier shots, the beauty dish has more punch. Also, the catch lights in the eyes are more pleasing from the beauty dish (they’re round…like the eye) 😉
So there you go. Three lights put to good use. We have lighting, colour, gesture, direction, depth, and mood. Just by moving a few lights, you can have a tremendous amount of versatility! Gotta love that!
Another beautiful evening in Southern Saskatchewan last night. The wind got up nice, nice enough to fly a kite. So we grabbed our trusty wind walker and away we went. I also grabbed the camera and my 105mm macro lens. Why? Usually this kind of shoot lends itself to wide angle. Well, I had an alterior motive – that being compression & bokeh. [Photo geek alert! Just look at the pictures if you don’t know what either compression 0r bokeh are. ;)] Compression is the photography effect created when you use a long telephoto lens to make a photo. The background gets smooshed together, compressed as it were, making for portraits that are pure awesomeness. Add that to f/2.8 and you’ve got sheer awesomeness, photographically speaking. And, top it all off with golden light and 100% unadulterated awesomeness. I just watched Cliff Mautner’s latest Kelby Training webinar called searching for the light and he made this comment again and again about compression. He said that if your images are lacking something, it’s compression. And he’s right. I tend to be a wide angle kind of shooter. But you just don’t get the added loveliness of compression with a wide angle that you get with long glass. So I grabbed my 105mm lens and dialled it in to f/2.8 and went to town. All the images here are shot with the 105mm at f/2.8 (except the obviously wide angle landscape shots near the end). I was super pleased with the shots, technically speaking. I’m always happy with pics of my own kids though (who isn’t, right?! ;)) Try some telephoto in your life. It makes a big, awesome difference! 8)
A while ago my dad bought some lenses off another photographer. On the lenses was a small piece of tape that had various f stop numbers written on them. I wondered about what it all meant. Dad graciously enlightened me. The f stops written on the tape were the apertures that the particular lens was sharpest at. Essentially, they were where the lens was at its best performance for sharpness and optimal image quality.
This can be referred to as “lens tuning” or “lens diagnostics” – whatever you want to call it, its the process of finding out where your lens shoots the sharpest images at. I went digging around the internet and came across some really great videos on how to sharpness test your lens. The people who provided the videos also provided a comprehensive list of Nikkor and Zeiss lens sharpness. When I tried their techniques in the video I came up with the same results they did and they were startling!
If you want to try this, watch the videos and follow them exactly.
I tried three of my lenses in these diagnostics: my “nifty-fifty” 50mm AF f1.8, my 105mm AF-S VR Macro and my 16-85mm AF-S VR zoom lens. The primes were quicker to test because you just sail through the f stops shooting at various apertures. But with the zoom lens, you have to do it at various focal lengths which took a little longer.
Anyways, we will look at the findings of my favorite lens for portraits, my trusty 50mm. In the past, I’ve almost always shot it at f1.8. Why? Because it can shoot f1.8!! It can open up super wide in junk light, making shots possible you might not have otherwise got. But, after doing this sharpness test today, I’m rethinking some things. According to the sharpness chart, the optimal apertures for this lens are:
DX: F/4.0, F/5.6, and F/8.0 (For FX & Film:F/4.0, F/5.6, F/8.0, F/11.0, & F/16.0)
When I compare my test images at f1.8 and 7.1 the difference in sharpness is truly incredible. The 7.1 image is far sharper.
Also, for the 105mm Macro at f2.8 and f8, the difference is wild. It confirms the chart which says DX (normal use/non 1:1 close up): F/4.0, F/5.6, and F/8.0 are sharpest.
And finally, for my 16-85 zoom, the chart’s findings were: DX: 24mm-50mm at F/8.0.
Which tells you that the sweet spot of this zoom is f8 in that range. I included a test shot of the 16-85 at 85mm f8 vs f32 for comparison. It’s striking!
What all this nerdy stuff tells us is two fold. 1) It can confirm for you that the lens you have is accurate and not a dud. If in your comparisons, you see soft images where they should be sharp, you may have a bum lens. 2) It confirms in your own mind where your particular lens should be shot to be at it’s very best (sharpest). Of course lighting conditions, situations and artistic intent play into this, but it’s safe to say if you know where your lens shoots sharpest, you’re more likely to get consistently sharp images if you know the sweet spots.