Friday, February 26, 2010

Flagging your light - all bounce

First let me preface this by saying I'm not certainly not the first to come up with this technique. Most of this is application of things I've learned from Neil van Niekerk's site, specifically here. He's got some of the best resources for on-camera flash.

When photographing events, I commonly run into the same problem, a group of people are talking and I'm stuck behind them. Taking a photo with a typically white card give me problems; there is still direct flash or high intensity bounce (off of the white card) going straight forward. Because light follows the inverse square law the light hitting the closest person back of the head is that much more powerful than my subject's face. Here take a look at this example.

For this photo I have my flash pointing straight up with a white card between me and the flash head. If I would have tilted the flash forward, the effect would have been more pronounced as there would have been even more direct path from the flash tube to the back of the head. there is still bounce getting to my subject, but it's lost with the direct light.

The trick is to flag off the direct light, so only bounce is available.

Here's another look at the result:

Other photographers may laugh at you because everything they've learned says "white card on the back, 45 degree bounce" but the light quality speaks for itself. Thanks Niel for all the pointers!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Baseball is in the Air!

It seems that even during the Winter Olympics people are already buzzing of Baseball. Maybe it's hoping for a warm summer. Here's a shot from last season from my favorite stadium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Taken at f/10 @ 16 mm, 1/400 sec, ISO 320,

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

White Balance and Gelled Flashes - Technique

This post is all about white balance and gelling. We gel (plastic color sheets) our flashes to make the color of the light match that of the background light. Otherwise if we balance for the flash, the background will either look yellow, green, or even worse.

When I first get to a room (at least 5 minutes early) I set my WB to daylight and I take a test shot with flash just outside the room. The door frame acts as divider preventing my flash from spilling into the room I'll be shooting (the back room). As you can see, my flash is much less orange-er than the back room.

I thought adding 1/2 cut of CTS (been using more than CTO lately) would be enough.....I was wrong. It's close, but still not orange enough.

So, I remove the 1/2 CTS and add a Full Cut of CTS (the only difference is the full cut is darker than the 1/2 cut - technically I could add two 1/2 cuts...but who wants to do math while taking pictures!). I take another picture and this looks much better and balanced. Now the flash looks like it's creating the same color as the room.

I also carry around a 14" foldable calibration target. Does a grey card work? yes, but I've had good experience with this, it was a gift, and has a built in reflector on the back that comes in handy. I take a picture filling the circle in a Canon viewfinder with the grey center and take an image.

Then I go into the camera menu, assign that image to the custom white balance, and then change my white balance setting to custom (check your manual)....voila! Here's the outcome:

It's always a good idea to go around getting your custom white balance images for the various locations in a shoot before hand and leaving the images on the front of the card. That way if you jump locations mid shoot, you can scroll immediately to the front by going past your last image taken, re-set the custom balance to your location and continue shooting.

Keep in mind, when there are different colored lights it won't be perfect. The room I shot in after this had Tungsten wall sconces, green overhead fluorescents, and daylight puring through windows all around.....just do the best you can!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

(follow-up) Sharin' the Upsherin

Last fall, I showed you some photos from an upsherin invitation. We thought it would also be nice to get an immediate before and after photo of the guest of honor, so I set up a make shift studio in the back corner of the rec room.

I had about 5 feet of depth to work with and a beam of direct sunlight pouring across my frame, but all of that pales in comparison to getting a 3 year old to sit still in a room full of other 3 year olds and a table full of sugar designed especially for you.

Well, we couldn't get him to face the opposite direction for the second shot, but we could get him looking the same way, so I flipped one of the images.....unless you can read hebrew, you can't notice. Not ideal, but when a 3 year old is your do what you're told!

Simple studio was a roll of black seamless paper. A Nikon SB-28 in an umbrella high center as key. Another SB-28 in an umbrella low (as in on the ground) center, and an electrically modded Vivitar 285HV back right as a small rim. All controlled remotely with my radiopopper JRx's and fired from a Canon! (I love technology)

Shot at ISO 50, F/5, 1/200 sec, @70mm

But what really takes the cake is the cake his mom made from scratch. And yes, those are cake cars racing around an icing track with a giant cake Yarmulke in the middle (amazing)! And in case you're wondering, she also hand paints Yarmulkes and Tzitzit, that you can find on her Etsy site.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Anticipation of Snow - the one that's with you

In anticipation of DC's second major snow storm of the season, I thought I'd give a little warm up from a relatively light snow from earlier this week. Although it was only a couple inches, it was absolutely one of the prettiest snowfalls in history because it was so light that it stuck to every single branch on every tree.

I went out in the morning and walked outside and naturally saw a beautiful scene. It is frequently said (and the title of Chase Jarvis' Book) that the best camera is the one that's with you. I of course didn't have any of my good camera equipment with me that morning, nor do I have an iphone with fancy buttons on it, so I dusted off my 4 year old 6 MP Olympus Stylus 600 that was reviewed on CNET in 2005 and grabbed a few pictures. As you can tell I pushed a little bit of the contrast and colors in a few of these.

Stay safe and bundled up out there!

The snow on the tree looks like cherry blossoms! Almost reminds me of spring.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Ray from the Skylight - opposite directions

Two photos in the same spot shooting in two different directions down the hallway. The first using the skylight as a main light and the second using it as a back/hair-light. Not only is the light and direction opposite but my model, Ashley Jaranko, is giving us active motion using her dance training in one, and still calmness in the other.

Both shots are natural light.
48mm, 1/1250 @ f/2.8, ISO 400

35mm, 1/640 @ f/2.8, ISO 400, the floor and walls are acting as fill.