Sunday, December 27, 2009

Spies like us

In spite of the cold weather, we had a great session a few days ago with the Etheringtons.  They dress up in their Halloween costumes for family portraits every year.  One of the most enjoyable shoots for sure!

Monday, December 21, 2009


Set up the lights to do a few portraits.  Closest model was myself, so that's what you get. 

Watching the sunset in the rain.

Boiling clouds

One right outside the store.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Star Trails

Kevin and I drove to the back side of Badger Mountain last night in search of some meteors.  We ended up shooting some star trails.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Boat parade

The annual lighted boat parade was last night and we went down to the park to check it out.

I also wanted to test out my new light wheel and mini light stencil box.

We were at the fingernail in Howard Amon Park working out the kinks.

After jumping around a bit, we called it a night.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Favorite Photography Sites

My father in law got me into photography in 2001. My first camera was a 2.1mp Fuji with a 6x zoom! Loved that little camera and the colors it put out. Sold that one and got the Fuji s602 which I used for a couple years and learned a lot. Next up was the Olympus E-10 (first semi SLR type...fixed lens but it had a pentaprism) Then it was off to Nikon with the D70 and D300.

From tutorials, to inspiration, information and they are.


On portraiture

On lighting many many hours spent reading here

On equipment and reviews these guys have extensive camera/lens specific forums.

Video tutorials

Camera model specific/forums

Local sites

On post processing techniques/photoshop actions etc



I'll update this as I scour though my old bookmarks.

Making great photos

What does it take for you to make a good photo?  We can all take pictures at any time and almost anywhere.  But what separates the good photos from the great ones?  For me, some of my best photos have come when

I was freezing cold
I got up too early
I stayed up way too late
I was sweating like mad
I waited around for hours
I waited a split second
I was by myself
I was completely uncomfortable
I was far from home
I was in my home
I tried something new
I had no expectations
The light was terrible
The light was amazing
Nothing went as planned
Everything went according to plan
I had no plan

More and more I feel like equipment has less and less to do with making memorable photos these days.  (Just google "pin hole camera photos" to see what I mean) And not just memorable, but outstanding, fantastic, emotive, abstract, and on and on. The marketing giants at the camera companies want us to think if we just get that new body/lens/(insert favorite equipment here) with its whiz bangery and do hickeys, that all of our photographic limitations will be magically lifted away in a cloud of mega pixels and ccd's!  When in reality, the only thing holding us back, is our self.

When it comes to making great images, whether we think we can, or think we cant...we're right either way.  The first step is pulling out the camera.

Did I get out of the house and make an image?  Or was it too cold and so I called it a night.  Did I get up early and capture those few fleeting moments, or did I sleep in?  Did I take my camera with me in the first place?  Have I tried capturing something new, tried a new technique or am I stuck in a creative rut?  Am I exercising my artistic eye and sharpening my mind?   Do I immerse myself in the work of others?  Am I in the habit of self critique?  Have I studied enough to know the rules, when to abide by and when to break them?

But most of all, did I make any photos today?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday Portraits

We pulled out the lights and umbrellas tonight and tried to get some family portraits done.  Its tough to get some good expressions with a timer, but Ivy was a trooper.  Heres a few from tonight.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cable Bridge Night Shoot

Kevin and I went out tonight to catch some of the fog rolling around.  We shot a few of the cable bridge and then called it a night.  Brrr!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How to - Water Drops

Some things you will need:

-Tripod or two
-Remote trigger system of some sort for your flash
-Small clamp
-Cake pan, bowl or anything that will hold water
-Small plastic sandwich bag
-Pin and a Pen
-Towel (for spills)
-Remote shutter release (useful, but not necessary)

If you are scared away already by anything on the list, ie remote triggers, dont be. Especially if you own a Nikon camera. Chances are, you can fire a flash off camera with the equipment you currently own. I cant really speak for any other systems, but you can pick up a set of inexpensive radio jobs for $18 on ebay that will do the trick.

-Set up

In order to take advantage of Nikon's CLS (creative lighting system) you will need either an SB600 or SB800 (flash) and the pop up flash on your camera. You will set your on board flash to commander and your speedlight to remote, thats it! Confused? Heres how to do it with a D300 and SB800. Menus should be really close with other D bodies but you can check your manual for specifics.

On the camera, go to your custom setting menu

Select Bracketing/flash

Flash control for built-in flash

Select Commander Mode and set your group A to M or manual and dial in about 1/64th power to start with. You wont need a lot of juice with these as you will be working in close proximity.

On the flash, hold the round sel button until you see this menu

Select remote from the menu, then hit the on off button and you will get this screen

Make sure your on board flash is set to same channel as your speedlight. Mine were both set on channel 3 as you can see in the pics.

If you are using radio triggers, put your flash in manual mode at about 1/64th power and make sure your channels are correct. With the ebay ones, they only have 2, so its pretty easy to get it right.

Still with me? Good. Grab a cake pan or bowl and fill it with water. I filled mine almost to the top. Now we need to set up our super expensive automatic water drip system.

I grabbed a zip lock bag from the drawer and filled it about half way full of water. I then clamped it to a tri pod over my pan and poked a hole in it with a pin. Drip, drip, drip. This gave me a drop about every 2 seconds or so. Perfect.

I used a 16-85mm lens set to 85mm. It let me focus at about 9 inches if I remember right. A macro lens in the 100mm range would make these even better, but we did some with a 50mm as well as an 80-200. Any lens will work really, don't let lens selection stop you from trying these.

The background was a large white envelope propped against a glass. A white 3 ring binder works wonders too.

Set up your flash so that it is pointing at your background/reflector. You want to bounce the light across the surface of the water, not down into it. Set your camera to manual with a shutter speed of 250 and an aperture of around f8.

With the bag dripping in the same spot every time, and your camera on a tripod, take the pen and place the tip in the cake pan where the drips are landing. Now autofocus on the the pen tip and then switch to manual focus. Dont forget to refocus if you recompose, or zoom or move the pan etc.

This entire set up took me about 10 minutes to rig. And that counts 5 minutes of looking for a clamp in the garage.

It takes some practice, but if you follow the steps above, it will eliminate most of the guess work and let you focus on trying to time your shutter clicks. I took around 25-30 shots each time I set this up (3) and always came away with something.

Try out different bowls and pans for effect. You can also set your white balance to tungsten to get a really cool blue color.

-The Results

White tuppoware bowl with 3 ring binder BG. I moved the binder and flash until I got the split dark/light effect.

Black cake pan

Glass cake pan auto WB. The flash was shooting down into the pan instead of across. You can see the effect.

Glass cake pan Tungsten WB, same flash set up.

White bowl

Red Bowl

How to - Extreme Macro

etting into the world of macro photography may be easier than you think.  You can use the kit lens that came with your camera and a 50mm lens.  Both Canon and Nikon have a 1.8 version for right around $100 and most people have one of these in their bags anyway.

The best way is to get a reversing ring that has male threads on both sides to "marry" your lenses together.  You can also hand hold the fronts together.  Put your camera/lens in manual focus mode and set the aperture of your 50mm to 1.8.  The depth of field will be very shallow as you move in and out and a speedlight or flash will help with the keeper ratio.

If you have further questions, this video tutorial my help.

How to- Smoke Art

So this one is really easy and can be done with things you have around the house.

Supplies needed:

-Speedlight or Flash
-Triggering system (pocket wizards, CLS, ETTL, radio triggers)
-Cereal Box
-Rubber Band
-Incense Stick
-Drinking glass
-Black Tshirt
-Cardboard Box
-Small Table Lamp (which I did not use, but it makes it easier to autofocus)

First, a pic of the set up. A box behind the smoke with a tshirt draped over for a BG. A Cup to hold the incense and a flash to light things up!

The idea is to light the smoke from the side. You want to keep your flash from spilling on to the back ground, and into your lens, creating flare. A cereal box and some scissors will make some nifty little flags that you can rubber band to your flash to do the trick. You also want to watch the power output, too much and you loose detail in your highlights, too little and nothing shows up.

These are high tech and fully adjustable. I'm thinking of mass producing them, but done know if I can eat that much cereal....ok, maybe if it was alphabits, wait, thats Ivy's!

Sync up your camera and flash (see water drop tutorial for a quickie on how to set up a nikon system)

Once you have your camera and flashing talking, light the incense and fire away!

The one thing that will up your keeper ratio is a small table lamp placed to the left of the smoke. Turn it on and light up the smoke to aid in autofocus. Or you can focus on the tip of the stick, and then recompose and shoot.

When all else fails, or if this babble is useless, go here for a great video tutorial on how to do it!

Enjoy and feel free to post up your results!