Jul 212015
 

UPDATED: Light Painting ONE DAY Workshop in AZ Ghost Town, HALF SOLD OUT!

Sign UP HERE!!

Hey guys!

Just wanted to update you on what will be a hell of a night out in the Arizona desert as we shoot an old abandoned ghost town while learning all about light painting!

Join me and my good friend Alex McClure (who is an Olympus Trailblazer) as well as others as we head out an hour or so from Phoenix to a location Alex scouted out and found. Old buildings, ruins, and more await us and we will set up our gear, tripods and have sandwiches and soft drinks on hand as we experiment with steel wool spinning, all kinds of light effects and yes, traditional light painting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is a one night only workshop, as in, a few hours starting at 5PM on September 19th 2015. We will shoot in to the night and darkness and will come away with some new knowledge of light painting and fantastic photos. I have shot with Alex a few times and he knows his stuff when it comes to this, so will be a blast to get out with a group and shoot. I will have my Olympus and Sony cameras, Alex will have his Olympus gear and even new Olympus goodies to show. You can bring any DSLR or Mirrorless camera as all can be used for light painting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you are interested the cost is only $100 for this awesome night of shooting the night. We will include sandwiches and drinks and we will carpool to the location with Alex bringing a few and myself bringing a few and maybe 1-2 others driving behind us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you are local or near to Phoenix AZ, then you will NOT want to miss this! Will be a blast.

To sign up or read more, click on over to the official meetup page for it where you can learn more or sign up and pay to lock in your spot. Only 6 of the 12 seats remain! The 1st six sold in a few days, so I expect this to sell out soon.

SEE MORE OR SIGN UP HERE!!

 

Jul 172015
 
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Light Painting Workshop, 1 night only! Join me and Alex McClure!

September 19th 2015

See details HERE! Or keep reading for full details…

Living in Phoenix AZ gives me plenty of opportunities to get out into the desert and explore terrain, towns and even at times visit places that are rarely visited by people. Real true to life ghost towns and beautiful scenic views, always amazing stuff. Just so happens I live not too far from good friend and Olympus trailblazer, Alex McClure and he enjoys exploring the desert even more than I do. I have went out a couple of times now with Alex to shoot and we came away with some very cool stuff on each occasion.

Alex McClure

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I am happy to announce that for one night only we will be offering up a light painting workshop together. Now, Alex is a FANTASTIC light painter. He has all the tools we would need to create beautiful works, and he may even have the latest and greatest Olympus goodies to try out.

One from my last outing with Alex McClure in the desert.

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What we are offering is one night, in the desert, at an undisclosed ghost town location (you will learn where it is after signing up) with loads of scenic beauty and opportunities to paint it all up with light. We will use various tools, lighting effects and will go over just how to get these effects.

We will spin steel wool, shoot the stars with long exposures and also use lighting techniques you may not even be aware of.

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This workshop is of course best for local Phoenix Residents as it is one evening only, not an overnighter so no hotels, bus travel, or any of that. We will be carpooling to the location. Alex can fit 5-7 and I can fit three plus me. We are opening this up to 10 people only and will provide sandwiches and soft drinks for all.

Total cost for the evening? $100 per person. This gets you the workshop, food and drink. Bringing a friend? That will be $100 as well. 

A steal IMO, and will be a great fun night as well. The date for this is the evening and night of September 19th 2015 and if you have any interest in this kind of shooting, and are close to the Phx AZ area, then be sure to give it some consideration. Will be fantastic.

You can sign up or check out the sign up page HERE.  

Only $100 gets you the workshop, food and drink, AND some amazing photos to take back home with you! Will be a great time for all.

Here is a video showcasing Alex and what he does..

Jul 152015
 

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sunning it up with the Sony A7s and A7II

by Craig Litten

Hey Steve & Brandon,

And hello to all of the followers of Steve Huff Photo! I’ve totally switched over to the Sony system late last year, and have been loving the system since then. I have your review of the A7s to thank for getting me really interested. I have now shot about four big jobs with the Sony’s, and they have performed nearly flawlessly so far. I own the A7s and the a6000, but have rented the A7II and the A7r trying to decide which body if a good fit, and I may just go with the newly announced a7rII. Attached are a few shots from my latest shoot with my Sony a7s and a rented Sony a7r along with the Sony/Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 and Sony/Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8. lenses. I really love the size and rendering of the FE 35mm f/2.8!

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

I also like to keep it simple: two bodies, two lenses, a bunch of batteries and memory cards and normally zero lighting. But this shoot was different. It was a catalog shoot for Sun Bum (www.trustthebum.com); makers of sun products and a hot new company who is sweeping the industry. The company started in surf shops, but are now nationwide in Target as well as other stores. I shot their last catalog two years ago…

… and the photos from that shoot can be seen here on my website: www.craiglitten.com/galleries/#sun-bum

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Since Sun Bum is a sun-based company, the plan was to shoot all day in the bright sunlight, but the weather wasn’t cooperating and we had two days of rainy weather as a big storm passed by in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida. We had models coming in from everywhere, and Sun Bum staff members coming from California (the company is located in Cocoa Beach where we did the shoot), so scratching the entire shoot would have been very expensive. Besides, we also rented a house on the beach, so we had to improvise. My background is as a newspaper photojournalist (since 1991), so part of that job description was to make something out of nothing daily.

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

I also hate using strobes, and no longer own any lighting gear, but prefer to shoot in natural light. So one of the assistants went to Home Depot to purchase a couple sets of 500 watt halogen lights costing $35 each. These are the kind of lights that you utilize while working on a car in your garage or use at a construction site, but they were a perfect solution and created what I call “liquid sunshine” giving the gloomy day the warmth it needed. We still have to reshoot to supplement these photos with “fun in the sun” photos, but they were pretty happy with the results.

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

May 072015
 

Project Compact Photography

By Roy Teo

Hi Steve and Brandon,I have been following your site for years but back then you were mostly reviewing Leicas which at that time was out of my reach. I’m not a professional photographer but just someone who loves taking photos as a hobby. I was a DSLR user for many years and most recently with the Canon 5Dmk3. It was when you started to review more mirrorless cameras that I got interested to explore that avenue and i got myself a used Nex6 to try it out. I was soon hooked on the small size and not long after, i made a complete switch and sold off all my Canon gear and got the Sony A7r and the A6000 about 2 years ago and have never looked back since.

Going mirrorless, I enjoyed the small size and light weight and was amazed at the technological advancement on these mirrorless cameras. There are plenty of amazing examples of the images these new generation of cameras and what they can achieve and I wanted to challenge myself to do something different. I wanted to see how far i can push the files from a mirrorless camera but not just any mirrorless camera like the A7r or any A7 series. I wanted to go even smaller, to push my own limits on how much I can edit the files in post production. Because all my photos go through some kind of post production, having a good enough RAW file capability is essential having used the A7r.

I gave myself 2 criteria, one was to go even smaller than the A7r and the other was the ability to use off camera lights. After researching, I decided on the Sony RX100mk2. there was the cheaper mk1 that you highly recommended and the newer mk3. However, neither had the hotshoe where I could use triggers and flashes on, so I had only the mk2 to go for.

I started this little ongoing project for a few months now. To do shoots only with this camera, leaving my A7r at home. Everything i shot, i had to do with this camera only.  To my surprise, although it only had a 1inch sensor, the files were incredibly easy to edit and the dynamic range from this camera was decent enough to push. An added bonus which i only found out after using it was that it uses a leaf shutter which means, i could gp up to its max 1/2000 shutter speed for flash photography. The A7r was limited to 1/160 and this was a bonus for me.

Here are some examples of the images from this camera and a simple one light setup using the Godox AD360 light.  And because of its small size, there wasn’t any filter adapter I could use but being small and light, i could easily hand hold any filter i wanted in front of it and shoot with one hand.  All these photos were taken with fast shutter speeds in daylight to darken the background.

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My ongoing album dedicated to this project can be found here:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.723826737734682.1073741889.266838383433522&type=1

And my other works can be found here:
www.royteophotography.com

Thanks
Roy Teo

Dec 222014
 

wedm

Sixty Weddings with a Leica M 240

by Joeri van der Kloet

Hello to all of you! Thanks Steve for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with your readers again. I’ve posted a couple of times on shooting weddings with a rangefinder, but I thought it would be nice to give you an update.

I’m quite sure I’m a lucky person. 2014 was a crazy year and it’s not over yet. I just kept getting emails from people who were getting married and asking about availability. It was a very busy, yet immensely rewarding year. With an ever-increasing competition among (wedding) photographers this is something I don’t take for granted. I have found that staying true to the way I work does pay off. I don’t stage anything besides the group portraits and I shoot real moments only. Just snapshots of beautiful moments. Nothing more, nothing less. Sometimes my clients tell me it felt like I was just one of the guests, who happened to be there with a funny little camera. The M helps in this approach with its modest proportions, but behavior is just as important. I wear a suit if that’s the dress code, I mingle with the other guests and even my camera bag fits in. It may seem like just common sense, but you’ll be surprised how often this is forgotten.
Besides my documentary wedding work, the number of customers for my workshops are growing. Lots of rangefinder users are interested in the way I use my camera and they’re especially interested in my focussing training techniques. I really love this work, because I can help people to get more fun with their cameras.

In the last two years I’ve shot 60 weddings with my Leica M240 and although I already reviewed this camera here before, let me give you an update after many hours of shooting.
After having shot around seventy weddings with my M9s, a few years ago, I had gotten used to this camera. While I was on a four months journey around the world, I heard about the new M and I was quite excited, but also in doubt. A CMOS sensor? Liveview? Video? Seriously? Like most of you, the first pictures we saw that were taken with the new flagship were somewhat disappointing. Soon after that, the CCD vs CMOS discussion took off. And we’re still having this discussion today. Of course I also read about red skin tones, the lack of ‘crisp’, ‘pop’ and ‘3D’. However I also read that the M240 featured 2 extra stops in ISO sensitivity, a more silent shutter and a better responsiveness in general. For me, the increase in ISO sensitivity was enough to spend the 6300 Euros and start working with it.

The number one reason for me to work with the M240 instead of the M9 is ISO. I’ve really needed those two extra stops for low light circumstances. Even with a fast 35/1.2 I have used the highest ISO setting quite a few times. Of course the wedding receptions are the hardest moments to capture. As a rule of thumb I can freeze people who are dancing at 1/90th and at 1/60th, even though it will start to get slightly fuzzy, the look is very moody. People that are dancing slowly can be shot at 1/15th and still be sharp enough. By the way, sharpness is never my main concern. Emotion has top priority, then composition and only then sharpness. Flash is no option as far as I’m concerned, since I try to be as unobtrusive as possible. So for ISO only, I’d choose the M240.
Next is overall responsiveness. The M9 has a somewhat gritty shutter button, while the M240 has a clear two-step shutter button. The shutter itself is more silent and lacks the whining noise of the M9. Button wise, the M240 is more responsive, although I have heard people complaining about the start-up time. With my M, I have no problems with that and whenever I use my M9, it feels slower to respond on the buttons. Handling wise, I prefer the M9, simply because it significantly lighter. Don’t underestimate these 100 grams. You will notice the difference.

Much has been said about the M9 screen. Yes, it’s a joke, but it never troubled me. It was good enough to browse through the menu, check my histogram and check composition. If you’d want to check for sharpness, forget it. Though the M240 is not very good for checking for sharpness either (just compare it to the 5D3: now that works!) it’s a lot better than the M9.
But then the menus: I prefer the M9, simply because it’s more intuitive and easier to work with than the M240. Also, setting the ISO on the M9 triggers a clever menu: by clicking down you’ll increase one stop and by clicking to the right you increase your ISO with ⅓ of a stop.

Then there is the live view. First I thought I’d never use it on the M240. When I started using it, I discovered some benefits of this system. It always works, no matter how dark it is, whereas the EVF might get so dark that it’s almost too hard to focus. Live view also provides a way for very precise focussing. The drawback is that live view is very laggy. For me, during action it’s unusable, but for more static subjects it’s great. It’s also great for checking if your rangefinder is still calibrated properly. I do not use it a lot, but I wouldn’t want to miss it in a next M.

Battery life of the M240 is very good. With my two M9s I used to carry six batteries to a wedding. Now two is enough. So that compensates for the increase in weight of the camera itself. Sort of.

Issues then. The M9 has had quite a few and one more recent issue can be added to the camera: corrosion of the sensor. While the M240 has had its share of bad luck, it seems to be problem free at this moment.

The most important feature of a camera however, is its output and that’s what most people are talking about. It’s the CCD versus the CMOS. Yes, the files are different and everyone had to get used to these new files, myself included. Technically, the M240 files are superior: they have more dynamic range, less noise and they’re just more flexible. The issue with the skin tones has been fixed, though it never bothered me much. The M240 needs a little more punch than the M9 files: increasing the contrast a little is usually a good thing. For me, I’m really happy with the output the M240 delivers. Of course, you’ll have to shoot in raw, just like with the M9. Where the M9 really shines is base ISO. Those images, where light is good and focus is spot on are almost unbeatable. But as a pro I don’t shoot on base ISO that much. I don’t get to choose the light on a wedding and often it is dim, or very contrasty. So what do I want? Low noise high ISO and flexible files with a good dynamic range. And that’s what the M240 delivers. If you’re shooting in other circumstances and you don’t need to make any money with your camera, I can perfectly understand why you’d prefer the M9 over the M240. In fact, I still have my M9-P which I will keep as long as possible.

Maybe you don’t even need to make a choice between the M9 and M240. When I switched to the M-system, the M9 was the only full frame compact camera body in the world. Lots has changed. Sony has made the full frame compact system camera accessible for a much bigger group of people with the A7 series. I have seen many great reports about the A7 and A7s. Steve here rated his A7s as his number one camera! On the other hand: DSLRs have acquired features that make them more interesting for the documentary approach as well. The Canon 5D3 for instance, is just as silent as the M240 in its silent mode. Also, its AF-system is a lot better than the 5D2, which makes the 5D3 a pretty good smallish, silent camera for the documentary wedding pro. For me, I just like the way the M-system works with its simple lay out and its intuitive controls. I wouldn’t want to change that. Also, my M is my best marketing tool ever. Whether I like it or not, it sells.

So, in conclusion, can we finally say which camera is better? No, we can’t, because image quality should be one of the most important factors in deciding which camera to buy and this image quality can’t be described in numbers and sometimes not even in words. I just wanted to explain why I still prefer the M240 over the M9 after having read the renewed CCD vs CMOS discussion. Whatever camera you buy, get the one you can afford and just shoot with it. That’s what they’re meant for.

My wedding website: www.luta.nl
My workshop website: www.joerivanderkloet.com

and now, the photos!

1 Magical moment. The couple started dancing on our tiny boat on the Amsterdam canals. The sun came through and I just knew I had the best job in the world. With 28 Elmarit.

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2 The dance. They just kept dancing on this wedding and everybody had such a good time. Very low light, but I think I nailed it on 3200 ISO on 1.2 at 1/125th with the terrific CV35/1.2.

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3 Bride getting ready. I love to use whatever there is available for natural framing. With the small but very good 35 cron.

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4 The car. This bride just loved the classic Porsche 911 the groom arranged for their wedding. And it even worked with the dress. Shot with the CV35/1.2.

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5 Intimate moment during one of the speeches. I’m constantly looking for these moments. With the 50 cron, my workhorse.

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6 Waiting for the groom. While the bride was peeking through the window, this dog jumped on a chair and started peeking as well. I couldn’t have been happier of course. CV35/1.2.

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7 The vows. This was an intimate outdoor wedding and the couple had ordered birds made out of paper from Japan as a styling detail. I decided to shoot the vows through this curtain of birds. With the tiny 28 Elmarit.

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8 Father and child having fun. Shot at 6400 ISO at 1.2 at 1/60th. Is it sharp? No, but it conveys the message. CV 35/1.2.

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9 Bride and groom and umbrellas. It was a rainy day and the couple moved from the wedding venue to the next venue. I liked this scene and shot it quickly. With the 35 cron.

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10 I noticed this little moment just after the ceremony between the bride and her daughter. Shot with the 50 cron.

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11 The moment after the kiss. Couples relax after all the offical things are done and you can tell by just looking at their faces. WIth the 28 Elmarit.

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12 Soap and sunshine. During the ceremony it was dark and rainy, but when the couple got out the weather had changed completely. They were hugging each other and I liked this scene with its warm colours and all the reflections on the bubbles. With the 28 Elmarit.

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13 The laugh. While returning from a group shot, the groom (probably) told a joke and the bride laughed out loud. I like the flare and the soft light as well. With the 50 cron.

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14 The cake. This lovely couple just had a terrific day and I love the little moment with this interaction between the newly weds. With the 50 cron.

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15 The look. The groom was listening very carefully while the bride was secretly looking at her husband-to-be. I love, love this light and the way the 50 cron renders the scene.

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16 Magic light. When the couple walked towards their car after the ceremony they literally stepped into a ray of light. Smooth, warm, just beautiful. And the 50 cron has no trouble in rendering this scene.

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17 Boy and car. When the groom went for a cup of coffee, the kid sneeked in the car, an Audi R8, and pretended to drive the car. I could hear him imitating engine sounds. With the 35 cron.

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18 Smooth. The CV 35/1.2 is not just a low light lens. It’s also suitable for getting this smooth look. I’m not sure who the bride was looking at, but I just like this shot.

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19 Friends. Well, this one doesn’t need any explanation. Best friends captured with the 50 cron.

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20 Getting ready. I like the expression of the bride and the soft light from the window. Shot with the 35 cron.

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21 The kiss. An intimate wedding with only twenty guests. Being able to mingle with guests is even more important than at big weddings. With the 35 cron.

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22 Almost ready. After many years of shooting I’m still surprised that my clients give me the opportunity to capture all these delicate moments. Here the bride, probably quite nervous and so beautiful in the last moments before she’ll meet her groom. With the CV 35/1.2

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23 Light from above. This couple lived on a boat with windows in the ceiling. When the groom stepped on board, the bride heard him and looked up, trying to get a glimpse of him through the window. Shot with the 35 cron.

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24 The quote. While we were heading out for a boat trip we came across this quote and I quickly focussed on it. The groom turned his head to read it and I took the shot. CV 35/1.2.

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25 Kiss me honey. The bride reaching for a kiss in a train somewhere in Rotterdam. With 28 Elmarit.

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26 The first look. It was very narrow and I didn’t have much space to shoot the couple during the first look. Luckily, there was a mirror. CV 35/1.2.

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27 Father and bride. Long after the wedding, this bride told me that this picture made her father cry. I’m still honoured she took the effort to tell me that. Shot with 50 cron.

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28 Kiss and dance. Working with a rangefinder in low light conditions can be hard, but also very rewarding. The couple loved this shot and so do I. CV 35/1.2.

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Jul 292014
 

A look at the Lumu iPhone Light Meter

By Brandon Huff

Lumu

Ahhh now here we have it! The Lumu, which is an external iPhone light meter! This little device plugs right into the headphone jack of an iPhone. Once you do this, all you have to do is download the Lumu app which then shows Aperture, Shutter speed then ISO you simply use it like a normal light meter, putting it next to your subject or pointing it in the direction of which you are shooting press measure then it shows all the information needed. Take this information and set your camera using it and you should have a perfect exposure!

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The light meter and app itself are very snappy. Let’s say you want to shoot at ISO 800 and need the shutter speed info for your lighting situation…you simply set the meter app to ISO 800 and then press the”measure” button and it will give you the shutter speed and aperture needed for that scenario. Same goes for if you want to shoot at f/2  – set the app to f/2 and it will tell you what ISO and exposure to use. Simple.

BUT! In use I have encountered one little issue. After you get used to the app and actually take a photo I noticed it was slightly underexposing when using my Nikon V1 to  test it with.  You can calibrate it inside the app although it does not really explain how to do it perfectly, but I was finding my shots slightly underexposed. This is great for preserving highlights but it is not a 100% correct exposure. See the samples below…

Using the Lumu  – Nikon V1

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Using the cameras built in light meter – Nikon V1

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These photos are straight from camera JPGS and there has been no editing of any kind. Yes, the difference is not huge and its nothing too crazy that a little Photoshop can’t fix but it is not perfect.

The price of this Device is $150 US Dollars and you can buy it direct HERE. In my opinion it is worth it if you wish to have a small yet useful light meter. Problem is when your phone dies you have no light meter, other light meters batteries last way longer than an iPhone battery will which makes them more reliable.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 10.26.42 AM

So I decided to try the meter in direct sunlight, F4 with the Nikon 30-110 lens I must say it really underexposed on this one,  now could this be user error? Sure, it could be! I have only used this tiny guy a little bit, but imagine if I was shooting out of an old TLR and I thought all my images were coming out correctly, when all I’m actually doing is wasting film and money for images that may be unusable. I verified I was using the meter correctly and following the directions supplied with the device. It says to bring the phone by your subject and aim the meter towards the camera. This is what I did and you can see the results below:

Direct sun Lumu Metering

Lumu scott

Direct sun aperture priority mode – Nikon V1 meter (overexposed)

Camera Lumu

The Lumu always seems to underexpose it and the in camera meters have slightly over exposed this photo, it seems you just have to mess with it a little bit, figure out what you are looking for. In the above situation the Lumu gave me the preferred exposure as I can always lighten that image up but can not really fix the blown highlights in the V1 exposed image.

If you are using strictly analog I recommend getting a proprietary light meter, however if you shoot mostly digital but film sometimes I strongly recommend this Lumu.  Another good feature of this little gizmo is that you can measure light intensity in the room at a constant scan rate. For the price though this product isn’t too bad. IMO it is better than spending $400+  on a light meter if you don’t need or rely on one all the time. It is pocketable and you can even wear it around your neck with the included necklace or carrying case (that will connect to your strap).

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 10.26.49 AM

Necklace

Necklace

If you are thinking about purchasing one of these Id look to see if it will work with your device if using Amdroid, I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 and it won’t register even though I have the app. Its made for iPhones more than android devices and it works great on my iPhone.

Brandon

Jul 092014
 

An Introduction to Light Painting

by Olympus Trailblazer Jamie MacDonald

As photographers, we know that our craft is all about light. We chase the golden hours of morning and evening, and the blue hour of twilight, and we spend hours in the studio with strobes and Speedlights. But there is another genre of photography you can explore where light isn’t used only to enhance the scene; rather, it BECOMES the scene.

This is what happens when light becomes the scene:

©2013 Jamie A. MacDonald

What does it take to start light painting? Nothing more than your camera, a source of light and your imagination. Here is a basic list of tools to get you started in light painting:

• A camera capable of shooting in manual mode. If you’re an extreme beginner, don’t worry – shooting in manual is easy for this!
• A tripod or some other way to stabilize your camera during the exposure.
• A cable release or remote for your camera. If you do NOT have one, don’t worry! I explain a technique below for shooting without one!
• A light source. What kind? Pretty much anything that produces light can be used! Some examples of things I’ve used are LED flashlights, an iPhone, sparklers, glow sticks and bracelets, and one of my favorites is a set of battery-powered holiday lights!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now that we have the gear ready, let’s go shoot!

Step 1: The first thing we need to do is find a good location, preferably away from any other light sources. The reason we prefer a location without too much ambient light is that, during our long exposure, this ambient light may overexpose our scene. If possible, I also suggest using a location that will add interest to your image.

Step 2: Let’s start by putting our camera on the tripod and setting the camera to manual mode. I will give you some settings to start with and offer some suggestions on adjustments you can make if need be. You will also need to set your camera to manual focus. This is important because autofocus in the dark just isn’t going to cut it.

Step 3: With the camera in manual mode, we can set the ISO to 100–200, aperture to f/8, and you can control your exposure time by using your camera’s bulb mode. If your camera doesn’t have a bulb mode, I suggest setting the exposure to 30 or 60 seconds and using the camera’s timer function to trigger the shutter. The length of the exposure will depend on how much time is needed to perform the painting. Some images I’ve created took 15 minutes, others only 30 seconds or so.

Step 4: Another thing we need to do is make sure we turn off any type of anti-vibration system your camera or lens may have. If left on when mounted to a tripod, it can produce some not-so-sharp results.

Step 5: Finally, the last thing we have to do is focus our camera on the location where the light painting will take place. The easiest way to do this is to have a friend stand in the location you’ll be photographing and have them shine a flashlight on themselves. When they are illuminated, you can then easily fine-tune your focus on them.

Step 6: Get the person who is going to be doing the light painting out in position with their tools and tell them to start moving on a count of three, waving around their flashlight, LED light or whatever you are using. One…Two…THREE! Now trigger your shutter and let the long exposure begin.

Step 7: When the shutter closes, the light painter can stop dancing around and come see what was created. If you are using a cable release or remote, you can end the exposure at any time. But what if you’re alone? Or what if you don’t have a remote or cable release? No problem! Trigger the shutter and run out into position to paint. I have used this technique many times myself with great, if not tiring, results.

©2013 Jamie A. MacDonald

Now if all that waving the lights around seems a little random and abstract, it is. But when you see the results of the random movements, you may find that they are exactly what you wanted. If random isn’t what you’re after and you’d prefer a more controlled use of light painting, an easy way to start is by using a flashlight to “paint” an object during your long exposure.

The best advice I can give you is to pass on that given to me by the gentleman who got me started in light painting. He told me the best thing I could do once I had the basic settings figured out was to ask myself, “What if?” Almost all of my light-painting images started out with me asking myself those very words.

So go out into the night, have fun, and, most importantly, ask yourself, “What if?”

Jamie MacDonald

Mar 212014
 

A study in harsh light and tones

By Ibraar Hussain

Dear Steve, would just like to share some Pictures (a small selection) of shots I took last summer when I was bored one day.

The sun was hot and the noon light was very harsh.

I thought it’d be interesting to get some nice tones using my nephews and niece as props to try to get some reflection of the heat of the light onto the celluloid. I wanted some very nice tones, and contrast with some feel of the shadow made by the harsh light. I used the white wall to reflect this. it was Tone which I was concentrating on, I wanted a nice balance between Zones 0 and X with the right levels and contrast where it mattered. I chose Rollei Retro 80s as it tends to lean towards the Red giving lovely contrast and that almost IR effect. I decided to use my Yashica 230 AF SLR with the 60mm f2.8 Makro lens – which i suspect is a rebadged Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar, and this 60mm focal length os very interesting for people – it’s an ‘almost’ focal length, too long to be a standard lens, and too short to be a portrait lens, but it’s very nice.

The Yashica 230 AF is a primitive AF SLR so the focus hunts and can miss – but it has a great Viewfinder and some lovely lenses and it’s dirt cheap! Anyway, I’m certainly no expert and I tend to photograph trees and static objects or people while travelling and have absolutely no experience in making people pose, so I focussed on the light and nothing more. I was relatively pleased with the results (by my own standards) – many of which were similar to the ones I am sending you, hence only a small selection of these snaps are included. It was all great fun, and part of my personal goal to try different stuff and to enjoy the experience and to try to play with Tone and attempt to improve on it.

All photo’s, Yashica 230 AF,Yashica AF 60mm Makro f2.8, B+W Yellow Filter, Rollei retro 80s, Rodinal and finished in Photoshop CS4.

daanish yashica230afrolleiretro8081 yashica230afrolleiretro8085 yashica230afrolleiretro8109 yashica230afrolleiretro8115

 

Mar 062014
 

Judo Shooting..with Strobes and a Leica

by Jochen Kohl

The shooting took place at a Judo Dojo and the main participant was local Ving Tsun Master and a former national league Judoka. The picture showing the kick was done with the Leica Vario.

VingTsun

Lightning setup was a Multiblitz X10 with a 5 ft. Superbrolly Silver Umbrella and a Profilux Plus 400 with a standard reflector, both powered by a Propac on location and triggered via radio trigger on the MM’s hot shoe.

Setup

For the Judo pictures I used the Leica Monochrom with the 35mm Summarit placed on a tripod.

Because for this kind you don’t need an autofocus or a high frame rate and the final pictures should be black ‚n white using the MM was a simple move.

It was a small location with white walls reflecting the flashes badly. Simple closes the aperture and used flags to set the light.

Judo_MM

Judo_MM1

Judo_MM2

Judo_MM3

Judo_MM4

Dojo

So easy it can be.

Regards

Jochen Kohl

May 252013
 

lucasfilmportraitsmain

Lucasfilm Portraits by Joel Aron

It started on Tuesday, when we had all at Lucasfilm Animation had just been informed that the two tv shows that we were working on, would no longer be in production and a majority of the crew would have their last day on Friday. Some would be staying on, but most would be unemployed. We were the first wave of layoffs in the company, with more that came in the following weeks.

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On that Wednesday, I pulled my friend Andy in to my office so that I could take his portrait. I usually have my Elinchrom 100cm Rotalux light bank setup in my office, and mostly shoot with my 5Dmk3, firing the strobe for random portraits when there is free time. I didn’t have my 5D w/ that day, only my Leica M9-P and the 50 Summicron , that I sling with me nearly 99% of the day. For nearly the last 8 years, there has always been my Leica with me. I had to go with what I had. I quickly grabbed all I could in my office as a backdrop that would work with using my light with its modeling lamp only.. two 9 foot tall matte black design boards. I stood Andy under the light, and shot 4 images. After he left, I started going around grabbing people to come in for portraits. I shot only a dozen people that day. The next day, I did the same sporadic shooting for another dozen people, since most people were understandably not into having their portrait taken. That night, I work on the processing, and posted all of the portraits that I had done so far. Friday morning, I had not even gotten to the door of the parking garage, when I was swarmed by some friends in the design group on our show.. they saw the images I posted, and now wanted portraits.

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When I got to my office, a line was starting to form of well-groomed friends and co-workers that wanted to part of this collection. It was that day that I made the decision to approach this as a project. I cleared my calendar, and spent the entire day shooting portraits in my very small office, 3 minutes at a time, getting to know people who I had only seen in passing, and hugging and crying with old friends who at 3pm would be turning in their work badge for good.

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The end of that Friday is something I will never forget. Nearly 90% of our facility had been to my office for their portrait. I decided to shoot not only the unfortunate that were leaving, but the people who were staying on..as we were all effected too. I was gutted. I held in all emotion until I got home that night and leaned against the kitchen counter with a beer. My wife asked me how the day went, before I could even answer, I melted into a mess of tears.

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A few weeks later, the layoffs hit the games division, LucasArts was closing down, and a large portion of our ILM R&D department were going to let go. I had not thought about portrait sessions, but a call came on the day they found out. I was asked to come for two days, and shoot. For two solid days, non-stop from 9am to 6pm, I was shooting. I had constructed a replica of my office setup in the LucasArts sound stage. Drinks were flowing for both days, and rightfully so. Over 200 portraits.

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A few weeks after that, the final wave of layoffs had hit the core group of Lucasfilm. People that I have known for 23 years. It was a smaller group this time, and I absolutely agreed to once again shoot.

For everyone that is and once were part of the company, these are not yearbook photos, they were portraits that captured a moment in the history of a great company, and the challenging turning point in each individuals life. It was an honor to be a part of this moment in their lives. To be a part of Lucasfilm is life long dream for all of us, and to either continue on with the company, or depart, the Force will be with us, always.

A large portion of the series is available on my site: www.joelaron.com with the entire collection available as a book later this summer.

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Nov 072012
 

Big Light with Small Gear by Anders Hansén

Hey Steve,

I was thrilled to see Per Nicolaisen’s post on using strobes, since I’d been thinking about sending you a piece about using speedlights in conjunction with small cameras to get big light, but couldn’t really decide on how to include the basic knowledge needed. No need now!

If you are new to strobe lightning, Per did a wonderful job in summarizing the things you need to account for when setting your own light. I suggest you read it if you haven’t already.

For those of you that got inspired by Per’s post on using big a$$ expensive Profoto strobes, I’d like to show you that you really don’t need to sell your precious Noctilux (nor use a car to haul the gear on location) to make a first venture into that photographic style.

(Now to get that specific look, you know Profoto quality light and gorgeous sunstars from a Canon 16-35 stopped down to ƒ/16 with minimal diffraction – sadly, you probably will… but let’s stay happy here).

I enjoy shooting in full sun more than anything else. I love the look of a rich blue sky with white clouds, and the feeling it injects into my pictures. I love to be able to include as much sky in the picture as possible instead of cropping it out because it’s washed out and overexposed. And I absolutely adore the ‘pop’ in color, contrast and rendering I get with hard crosslight between the sun and a flash.

Good news is, this can be done both cheap and lightweight – and the results will still pack a serious punch when you get it right.

Eyes in the sky, Panasonic LX3, 24mm equivalent, handheld Nikon SB-900 and a Lumiquest Softbox III camera left, ambient underexposed by at least two steps, ƒ/3.5, 1/1000s, pull-ISO 80

I’m a long time Nikon SLR user. I started out in the 90’s using a Nikon FA, a Nikon SB-24 and a Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-s prime (whose characteristic swirly out-of-focus rendering I still miss to this day, oh well…). For practical reasons I have since moved on to digital and mostly shoot with a D7000 today.

However, outdoors in harsh Sunny 16-conditions, I primarily shoot something completely different: an old beat-up Panasonic LX3 compact camera. Not because its smaller – but because it does one thing much better than the D7000. It syncs with flashes up to a 1/2000th of a second.

What does that mean? Well, it means that with a typical Sunny 16 exposure (1/100s, ƒ/16, ISO100) you will easily be able to shoot with battery-powered flashes at ƒ/5,6 and 1/800s with more than a full stop of shutter speed left to underexpose ambient.

You may or may not be familiar with power ratios of small flashes. For this piece I’ll keep it really simple: at ƒ/5,6 and close quarters – battery-powered speedlights pretty much are portable nukes. You can easily use modifiers like umbrellas or softboxes and will be able to shoot the flash at quarter power for speedy recycle times.

Run and gun, LX3, 24mm, handheld bare SB-600 camera left, roughly 2/3 stops underexposed ambient, ƒ/4, 1/500s

I mentioned this wouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg. In fact, you might already own the most expensive parts of the gear: the camera and speedlight.

If not, a speedlight with manual controls and an optical slave can be picked up for next to nothing compared to other photographic gear (like, say a major brand 24-70 ƒ/2.8 zoom). I recommend you find a flash that will do TTL with your camera. It’s always nice to have that option. Many off brand flashes do. With that said, I tend to stick to Nikon speedlights for my uses, since I know their color temperature and behavior well.

As for flash triggers – I strongly suggest getting a TTL cord. I’ve done a lot of optical slave syncing, and it’s simply not reliable enough outdoors in full sun. If you’re lusting for radio triggers, don’t cheap out. I did, and I’m not going to do it again. Lesson learned: if you don’t want to spend big money on Pocket Wizards – use a cheap, reliable TTL cable instead!

Baywatch Kid, LX3, hard crosslight using a small SB-600 at camera left, ƒ/7.1, 1/1000s

How do you get this look? Easy: set your camera to manual, underexpose for a rich blue sky, and then bring your main subject up to the correct exposure by dialing in the flash. That’s it.

I don’t use flash meters. The LCD and histogram are my real world flash meters, that also shows white balance, contrast and rendering with the current light. Just pop a test shot. Then adjust. Simple when you get the hang of it. You can even start out in full TTL using exposure compensation and flash value compensation to achieve this.

So, what cameras can actually do this? First off, pretty much any camera can – but with typical mirrorless sync speeds in the 1/180s region you would need to work with a ND-filter on camera and bare flashes at full power. Use of umbrellas and soft boxes in full sun is more or less out of the question. Unless working really close and/or with double speedlight brackets.

The best affordable camera in the market for quality high-speed sync shots right now would be a Fujifilm X100. APS-C size chip combined with fast sync speed in a package that can easily be found used at a decent price. After all it’s a camera many bought because of the hype, but found cumbersome to use and ditched it since it required you to think like a photographer instead of a machine gun shooter.

There are other cameras that will do this as well – and luckily, most of them can be found dirt cheap used.

When it comes to ‘larger’ chips, Nikon D40 (not D40x), D50, D70 and D70s are the most current DSLR:s using electronic shutters that will sync at any shutter speed (though they will artificially limit you to 1/500 when using TTL). The quality of light will largely compensate for the age of the chips. I’m predicting they will easily smoke my LX3 due to the larger chip size (I haven’t gone this direction since I don’t want to carry two DSLR’s, one is more than enough, thank you…).

But the most common high speed-culprits are actually compact cameras. Sadly, most of them miss that vital hot shoe (you can still slave an external flash optically, if you really try), but as you know by now the Panasonic LX3 and LX5 will do it. I still haven’t found out about the LX7 (since Panasonic decided to switched to a MOS type sensor, and the x-sync spec is missing everywhere, I don’t have any high hopes). Many Canon G cameras, like the G9 will do it as well.

Now, I know there are plenty more dark horses to be found, but these are the ones I have solid first hand information about. Do you own a fast sync camera? Let others know in the comments below!

(Oh yeah – there’s the major league as well: medium format beasts paired with leaf shutter lenses. Like Leica S, and Phase One 645 format if you’re using the right backs. But then the noct will have to go. And probably a kidney as well. Oh, and you never cared to much for your grandmother anyway, now did you?)

Sadly, for almost every new camera announced nowadays – especially mirrorless – I’m usually put down by its sync speed.

The one exemption is the Sony RX1, that will fry every other 35mm sensor camera in this regard, but since Sony knows this as well – it’s priced accordingly. I consider it out of my league. I’ll pick it up used in a couple of years if nothing else has happened by then.

For the future, I can’t help but put some faith in Fuji.

This is mainly because the X-mount lenses and cameras tick every box for me, except sync speed. And Fuji is an ambitious contender very much in control of their chips, and despite a great photographic tradition and legendary color – Fuji don’t have a current pro segment to protect (I believe many portrait pros would happily consider ditching their single digit D’s if the Canon 6D or Nikon D600 had at least 1/250s sync – and it’s pretty evident Canon and Nikon thinks that too, hampering them to slower speeds).

One day, maybe Fuji or some other company will heed my call for a fast syncing mirrorless with interchangeable lenses. Until then, we’ll have to make do with what we’ve got. Which – as I’ve hopefully shown you – isn’t that bad, really.

(So… anyone fancy a kidney?)

Anders Hansén works full-time for Swedish national broadcaster SVT Sport as technical coordinator, director, craft video editor and, occasionally, photographer. If you can read Scandinavian, you’ll find his (occasionally updated ;-) photography blog here.

Best regards, Steve, and my congrats on creating a killer photography site and community!

Anders Hansén

Oct 262012
 

Hello from Greenland! I want to give a little introduction to strobe photography using battery power pack strobes. I made this article in a brand specific example using the Profoto 7B 1200w power pack because I find it to be the easiest way to introduce strobe photography. Battery power packs of other brands are very similar in usage.

I am not an expert or even experienced strobe photographer but I want to give my contribution this wonderful website that have given me so many great articles ever since I started to follow Steve Huff right after the M9 was announced. I always want photography to be challenging and strobe photography seemed like the next exciting photographic venture into the unknown.

I’ve never previously been interested in strobe photography or portraiture for that matter. I’ve always done everything I could to avoid top mounted camera flashes, I hate the look, and to some extent I still do. I have always chosen depth of field with fast lenses to make the images “pop” or in other words using fast lenses to make the images appear 3D in a 2D medium. The same effect can be achieved using light instead of depth of field. I eventually became more interested in strobe photography after seeing a lot of great professional photographers work and I also enjoyed a lot of the images posted in flicker group “strobist”.

I found it quite difficult to find a starting point, all I knew was I wanted something powerful and battery powered strobe to take outdoors. I quickly came down to two battery power packs brands that I found interesting(out of a lot of great brands). Poul C. Buff “Zeus” series a great value for the money or the expensive and renowned brand Profoto and their “7B 1200w” battery power pack. I called my danish dealer that had the profoto 7B on sale and decided to jump at the offer, sell my beloved Leica Noctilux 0.95, and lay down a total of 9.000 USD for a hole package to get started in strobe photograph which included:

Profoto 7B 1200w battery power pack

By the master control knob (14) you control the total power/level of light out of the two lamp sockets(12,13). This power pack allows asymmetrical and symmetrical power distribution out of the two flash head (12). This basically means there is a button to either halving the power of the second lamp (asymmetrical) or identical power(symmetrical). This can come in handy if you have your main light on your subject and use the second lamp to creatively enhance the subject, for example from the back or above the subject. I done most of my portraits with a single light and use the sun as my “second light”. To give you an idea of power of this battery pack, a top mounted camera flash with AA batteries output about 60-90w (anybody correct me if Im wrong) compared to this battery pack that outputs 1200w which means it out powers the sun for a tiny brief moment. I would love to read peoples opinion and remarks about other brands in the comments field below.

– Two pro B flash heads (includes 4 meter cable each to connect to the powerpack)

– Two stands, Manfrotto flash head stand model 1004BAC

– One additional 5m flash head cable

– Pocket wizard

Receiver and transceiver for wirelessly triggering the power pack from the camera (connects to 7 on the power pack)

– A Light meter

The light meter is where all the key information is. I use my light meter connected to the power pack with a cable to trigger the flash and adjust the power to my ideal setting. You can buy light meters with build in wireless triggering that is compatible with pocket wizard and get rid of the cable.

– Light modifier

Now I needed a light modifier to soften the harsh light from the bare bulbs. I choose one 2×3(60x90cm) softbox that mounts on the flash head to start off with. All Profoto’s light modifiers claps easily directly on the flash head.

Keeping things simple

Its easy to overcomplicate things and make a advanced setup. You can indeed make a spectacular looking portraits using multiple lights sources but I prefer to use one light and the sun. For me that is complicated enough. Using strobes in the outdoors two factors needs to be acceptable: low wind and no rain.

Setting up

The Camera

Even though I love Leica M I find a DSLR with a zoom lens to fit my needs best for strobe photography. An important aspect of shooting in sun with strobes is “x sync” which is a given cameras ability to synchronize with a strobe. The faster the shutter speed a camera can synchronize the better. I use Canon 5D mark III that has a highest synchronization of 1/200th of a second. If I use a higher shutter speed with a strobe, a big black ugly line starts to appear on the button of the image and heres why. A strobe fires at around 1/3000th of a second and in that super short moment the WHOLE censor in the camera needs to be totally open. The shutter mechanism of the Canon 5D mark III stops to expose the whole censor beyond 1/200th of a second hence the black line visible in image.

I do most of my strobe photography in midday bright sunny conditions. I know It doesn’t seem necessary with strobes but I enjoy the look. After I have found a person willing to be photographed and a location, I set up the gear. I then meter the sun. A sunny bright summer midday in Greenland I often measure to ISO 100, 1/200th, F/11. I want my strobe light to offer one F stop faster light:

Typical Day light ISO 100, Shutter 1/200th of a second and F/11

Strobe Light I dial in to ISO 100, shutter 1/200th of a second and F/16. One stop faster. This darkens everything accept the subject and gives a dramatic image and deep blue sky. I don’t always choose this approach as it depends on the location, weather and the subject I photograph. I like to set up the softbox close to the subject, preferable within 1 meter when I do head shots. I don´t like to put up “rules” about how the light should be but many put out up the main light in a 20 degree angle and 1-2 feet higher than the subjects head. This way I like how the light “travels” across the face when I put up the light in a angled position, highlighting one side of the face and shadowing the other side. That way you get a sense of depth and “see” the subjects unique conjures instead of a “mug shot” kind of portrait where the main light points directly at the face. You can control the light fall off with F stops. The higher the F stop, the higher the light fall off and that way you control how dramatic you want the difference between light and shadow but keep defraction in mind when using small apertures. Remember to keep metering the strobe light. When I measure I put the light meter directly under the chin. If the person moves a little make sure your exposure is correct by remeasuring and adjust your light accordingly.

So what is challenging about strobe photography?

I see strobe photography as one part technical, one part creative and one part coincidental. When I set up the light I always have a vision about the image and how the subject is lit. After I have taken the images I had preplanned I try unexpected/unusual angles to shot or sometimes the subject somehow seems better lit another way than I had planned. The point is I always keep a open mind to creative impulse as I shoot. Sometime it leads to mistakes which is also welcome because I learn from mistakes. Even though I have limited experience I hope I have given the reader some sort of insight and I hope more experienced strobe shooters can ad or correct some of the info I have given in the comment field below. I also welcome other online resources about strobe photography in the comment field.

Regards

Per Nicolaisen

Husky. Canon 5D Mark II. canon 16-35mm II. 
One softbox on the right. Strobe 1,5 stops faster than sun light(if I remember correctly). It was a little difficult to measure the light “under the chin” as it wanted to bite my hand but I managed :-) 

My dad. Canon 5D Mark II. canon 16-35mm II
Softbox on the upper left, very near the face. Strobe light one stop faster than sun light.

Soccer kids. Canon 5D mark III. Canon 16-35mm II
I loaded my SUV with strobe and photo gear and decided to drive around my home town, Tasiiaq, to see if I could find any people willing to be photographed with strobes, when I saw these youngsters playing soccer. Two lights with standard zooms on the upper right.

Mr. Karl Pivat. Canon 5D mark III. Canon 16-35mm II
Softbox to the upper left, quite close to Mr. Pivat.

Susanne & Hendriks wedding day. Canon 5D mark III. Canon 16-35mm II
Softbox to the upper right. 

My Son and daughter. Malik & Niviaq among “river beauty” flowers <3
Canon 5D mark III. Canon 24-105MM
Softbox to the upper right.

Paakkannaq. 
Canon 5D mark III. Canon 24-105MM
softbox to the upper right and one light with standard zoom behind the ship to the right pointing towards the hull of the ship to the left… Light one stop faster than sun light. 

Feb 292012
 

Lighting on the Cheap! Great light AND stool for under $150

I have not had a lighting setup in my house for years. I used to have the whole kit and caboodle though…lights, strobes, reflectors, seamless backgrounds, hair lights, shoots, filters and gels. Then I sold it all off in 2005 because I realized I did not want to be a portrait photographer even though I shot some great portraits back then with that kit and my then oh so lovely and dependable Olympus E-1. (who remembers the E-1)? I kept that setup in my garage and would torture my then 9-year-old son when testing it out (see above image using strobes in 2005) :)

Turned out I ended up doing quite a few portraits with those strobes but even so, decided to sell it off. After I sold the big setup I remember I went to a simple lighting setup, a one light/umbrella kit much like the one you see below. That and a posing stool was all that was needed if I wanted a nice simple portrait at home. Of course, adding TWO of these lights will improve things but you can get some cool stuff using one light. I kept the one light setup around the house for years and then decided to sell it (yet again) before a big move as I never really used it since I am a big “available light” kind of guy.

Well here I am again years later, wanting a simple light setup for my house/office, and look what I found. It’s cheap, it’s complete, and it works great. It is the IMPACT One Floodlight Umbrella Kit, and it is $75!

 

Yes, the complete light you see above is only $75. For that $75 you get the light stand, the 500 watt light bulb, the reflector and the umbrella! It is a GREAT setup on the cheap. If you are looking for a fill light, or something simple then this is a great solution. I have this sitting in my office and when I want to test a lens I will have someone sit on my stool while I use this light to get a shot. It’s better than using a flash on your camera because you can aim it, filter it, reflect it or whatever you need to do.

Just a quick grab with a Nikon J1 and using the Impact lighting set. Notice the shadow on his left side? If I had another light it could have filled that in, and for two of them it would be $150. Still a deal. 

Of course there are better lighting solutions out there but I’ve been using this one and find it to be a great super bang for your buck product. I got mine from B&H Photo HERE. You can also add a posing stool to the set and you would shave a complete setup. I went with THIS ONE and it is under $60.

These portraits were also shot using just one single light…

Just wanted to give a shout out on this one in case anyone out there has been considering something simple and fun to mess with. I’ll admit, I have not used mine too much but I will be keeping around for when I want to experiment with light a bit.

Jan 252011
 

Fusing Henna and the Nude

By Tapas Maiti

(What is Henna? Click HERE.)

I am a wedding photographer by trade but photography is also my passion and the off season is a great chance to do personal work.

I have always enjoyed shooting fine art nudes because in the same way as most artists do live drawing it really develops your eye and is a beautiful art form in its own right.

I have had two concepts brewing in my head for a while, I love Indian Henna work but find very few examples that move beyond the basic feet and hands to develop the art form. I was determined to use Henna as part of a fine art nude shoot for a while now but use the henna in an edgy more striking way rather than as demurre bridal accessory.

You can’t use real henna for a shoot because the stain lasts for weeks and most professional models can’t have that imposition. I tried an initial shoot using glitter paint and whilst the results were good, the whole feel was different to what I was after.

I worked through the concepts with a friend of mine Preeti (mendhibypreeti) a Cambridge based mendhi and make up artist and she came up with a formula to create the black , silver and purple patterns I was after using non-staining materials. Having worked with Preeti on several shoots, I knew she could deliver the body art and was tuned into the same vision.

The next step was easy, finding a model. I had seen Iveta Niklova’s portfolio several months ago and her striking looks and figure were perfect for this concept.

We shot at a local studio and I went for two lighting styles, a dramatic cross lighting approach to bring out shadows and drama and and almost surreal soft low light.

The more dramatic styling has taken me a while to get right, when I shot with black and white film on a hasselblad, the toe and shoulder curve combined with staining developers made it easy to get the effects I was after. With digital, I have had to adjust my technique to deal with the contrast range. This lighting was created using a Profoto Beauty Dish (with grid) as the key and huge octabox at right angles to create just the right fill, the Octabox effectively provides the “shoulder and toe” its easier to add contrast. The lighting, I think, needs a strong striking model who knows how to work it and Iveta was just perfect.

The softer light photos were simplicity itself just a large Octa and sometimes a bit of fill.

We had some serious time constraints on the shoot due to the wonders of the UK train system and so I had to ditch the Hasselblad and shoot mainly on my M9 and few shots on my Nikon D700.

The Leica M9 is quite good in the studio , especially with a 50mm, a bit harder with the 90mm and the quality is there to see. What I find now is that with reflex cameras, autofocus is a real boon but rangefinders are better for manual focus. Maybe my eyes are not up to focusing a Blad anymore.

It was a really fun day and I love the pictures but there is something so great about being able to take a vision and work with other creative people to bring it to life, it just makes being a photographer so rewarding. You can see more of my work at my website here.

From Steve: Thanks Tapas, beautiful photos and text. If anyone else would like to submit a guest article just contact me here!

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Jul 202010
 

I’m back from Europe, jet lag and all!

I’m back home after a week on tour with Seal and after what seemed like a solid 20 hours of travel time to get back home, I arrived and crashed for 10 hours. Today I felt great and am now fully rested so figured it was time to get back to work as I need  this site more than ever.

I had a great time with Seal on the tour and wanted to share some new photos here as well as a few of the favorites that I was able to get from the past few days. Shooting concerts is loads of fun, but also tiring when doing two hours each show in sweltering heat. I have no idea how Seal and his band does it as they have what appears to be unlimited energy through the entire night. Add to that the little sleep one gets on the road and it makes me have even greater respect for what they do on a daily basis.

The shows were awesome, the music was awesome, and the locations were gorgeous (even though I did not get to see too much of them). His new album comes out in September and the songs I heard were mind blowing good. His best work ever, and as he says, the Quintessential SEAL Album.

What I want to talk about today though is my experiences taking all of these concert photos and the gear I used to  take them with. What worked, what didn’t, and what I feel is the best concert camera/lens combo on the planet.  When I left to meet up with the tour I only brought along a Leica X1, Olympus E-P2, Sony NEX-5 and a Pentax K7. I did not bring my Leica M9 as I had to sell it just a couple of days before due to financial issues beyond my control. Many of you know the situation I was recently put in, and financially, it killed me. So the big toys had to go. So that hurt and killed me but no choice.

The cool thing is that when I got there Seal had many cameras with him and he allowed me to shoot with whatever I wanted. He let me borrow his M9/Noct combo, his Canon 1dMKIV, etc. That is one of the cool things, I was able to shoot with so many cameras and find out what worked well. I always dreamed that one day I would get to shoot concerts as I am a huge fame of Jim Marshall who used a Leica to shoot some of the most historic concert photos of our time. While many say a concert should only be shot with a DSLR, I feel a Leica M is the best tool for the job in most cases, with the right lens.

The Dream Combo – The Leica M9 and Noctilux 0.95

The LEICA M9 and Noctilux is a combo that comes in at over $17,000. INSANE amounts of money but it’s a beautiful setup that will give you results like no other camera and lens combo on the market. I shot this setup at 0.95 for three nights and it never let me down. The first two night I shot in A mode, but by night 3 I was all manual. Focusing was very easy for me and capturing Seal as he moved around the stage was a challenge but doable. Due to the M9’s bright viewfinder, and focus patch I came away with some beautiful images. If you have $17,000 to spare, hey, why not? For concerts? This is my dream setup. If I were a hotshot pro concert photographer I would own TWO M9’s, the Noctilux and a 90. No question. The images from this combo are in a class of their own and do not look like standard pro concert shots.

The Canon 1dMKIV with 100 Macro lens

THE CANON 1D MKIV – Shooting this massive DSLR was sort of a revelation. I have not shot with a DSLR in a while and once  held this camera I knew it meant serious business. The focus was lightning quick, the response was simply jaw dropping and the images that came out of it were beautiful. This combo comes in at MUCH less than the M9/Nocti and in many ways will give you more reliable and consistent results. The color is much nicer and the camera is so chock full of features it numbed my brain a bit. I am so used to simplicity with the M9, I forgot how high tech DSLR’s have become these days! I shot it with the Canon 100 Macro and it never did let me down BUT most of the shots I took with it looked like many other pro concert shooters images. Is that a bad thing? No, but I feel the M9/Nocti combo gives a unique edge with the “look” one can achieve. Still, this is probably the best Canon DSLR I have EVER shot with. Gorgeous.

THE SONY NEX-5

This new Sony NEX-5 camera is A unique little bugger. One one hand, we have a small, cute, nicely designed camera that has a large APS-C sensor in it which should mean GREAT quality in a compact size. WRONG! The lens this camera comes with is very very soft and after shooting it all week I found it to be TOO soft for my tastes. At web resolution the images are fine but at closer look they are soft.  I did shoot one of the shows with it but had to crank ISO to 6400 and shoot in B&W as the color shots were awful at that ISO. BUT, for $700 it is a decent camera as it packs in a great 108oi movie mode, and its LCD is very nice with its swivel feature. This camera needs a better user interface AND better lenses. Then it may be more worthy of consideration over other small cameras. As it stands, I prefer the Olympus E-P2 over the NEX and even from what I have seen of the Samsung NX10, I prefer it over the Sony. But, the Sony is TINY, I will give it that! Also, I found this camera excels when shot in B&W!

For concerts, it would not be my #1 choice, or #2, or #3, or #4…but it can provide some great shots regardless…

The Leica X1

Ahhhh, my Leica X1, now my only Leica :( This is a fantastic camera but it has its quirks of course. It’s small and light but looks and feels like a Leica. The Image Quality from this little jewel is astounding and the lens is also special. High ISO is better than the Leica M8 and I have no worries shooting it at ISO 3200. For concerts, its not the most responsive solution, and you have to  get in really close so no, it’s not a traditional concert camera but like the Sony, it can pull it off if you work at it. I take the X1 with me everywhere these days. Love it.

The flight out to meet with the tour was WONDERFUL. Even home made ice cream sundaes were offered up, all free of course!

The horn section warming up before the show.

after the show mostly everyone hooks up with their loved one via Ichat on their macbooks. So cool :)

The bus rides were always interesting but always the same. On the bus, edit photos, drive for a few hours, off of the bus, eat, shoot the show, back to the bus, drive and maybe get some sleep. It was so cool to experience this first hand and now I can say I accomplished something I always wanted to do, and that is tour with a band and shoot their shows.

Florence Italy from my hotel window…

Seal portrait in his Hotel

The Olympus E-P2

The little Oly that could, THE LOVELY E-P2. This camera has been a fave of mine for a while. I like its build, its feel, its look and its EVF even if it does stick out like an alien life form. For a concert situation I did not have too much luck with it but when I slapped it in grainy B&W mode it did add a unique twist on traditional convert photography.

I did not shoot with the Oly too much but I did enjoy it more than the Sony NEX-5 and that is most likely only due to the lens quality being better on the Oly. The only lens that I shot with on the Olympus was the 14-150, and its a great, but slow lens.

I also shot some stuff with the Pentax Kx and 200 f/2.8. Great camera kit and lens but I did not get the best results with this setup so I ended up leaving it on the bus for most of the trip. It seemed when the lights went down, even with the f/2.8 lens, it could not keep up IQ wise. Nice setup with good light but it lacked that “something” that cameras like the X1, M9 and 1dMKIV had.

With that said, I hope you have enjoyed this little article on my experiences with these cameras while shooting them in a concert setting. So thank you for reading it, and thanks once again to Seal for allowing me to tag along for a week. It was a great experience that helped me in a time when I needed it most. Thanks buddy!! I know you are reading this :)

Also, I have to put a shameless plug in here as right now I need all the help I can get. I have been dealt some rough blows lately in my personal life and I can use all the help I can get. I never ask for donations, and am not doing so now but if any of you reading this need to buy any gear it would REALLY help me if you used my links to B&H Photo or Amazon to do so. Just clicking those links will give me credit for ANYTHING you buy there, so I thank you!

PS – Due  to many requests I added a paypal donate button on the right, and can also do donations via google checkout but would have to email an invoice. Also, I have been toying with the idea of a get together soon, spending a day in a great location shooting, learning and processing. More to come on that. Also, all of the emails – will get back to you ALL tomorrow! THANK YOU TO ALL for the support, it really helps to boost my spirits!

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