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!

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 10.25.04 AM

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

DSC_4567

Using the cameras built in light meter – Nikon V1

DSC_4571

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 :-) 

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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!

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Dec 242009
 

Impact Digital Lighthouse Kit Review: Hey guys! It’s Christmas Eve and here I am typing away with pouring rain pounding on my roof like mad. No snow this year, just a flood :) Being indoors has given me a chance to play with a new toy I bought last week and write this mini review of it as well! Not only is it affordable, it will help out my product shots for the reviews on this website! So instead of seeing my hand holding a camera or lens in my hand and being all generic you will see it presented in a much nicer, brighter ,and more detailed way. I bought an “Impact Digital Lighthouse” kit from B&H Photo and have been thrilled with the results. The whole kit with floodlights, light stands, bulbs, lighthouse, and black and white backdrops comes in at only $135. If you want to shoot images for your e-bay items, or all of those cameras and lenses you buy and sell, then this kit is easily recommended! I am not sure what took me so long to buy one of these as I could have been using it all along for not only this site, but for items I have sold in the past!!!

Here are some photos of the setup in my spare room (ignore the nasty 1980′s wallpaper and red carpet, this is why we do not use the room, ha ha)

P1010437

P1010440

P1010442

So for under $135 you get everything you need. I thought this was a great price for the stands, the lights, the bulbs, the backgrounds, the box, etc. It even comes with a carrying case for the lighthouse itself.

Here is what the listing at B&H says about this kit:

This is a B&H Exclusive Kit, built around the Impact 500 watt floodlights and the Photek digital Lighthouse small 15 x 15 x 23″ shooting tent. It is a 2 light, 500 watt total kit.

The Digital Lighthouse can be lit from the sides, top, back, front or can be placed on a shooting table for bottom illumination. It also includes a removable black sweep that aids in preventing shadows on the background and provides complete separation from the item being photographed. It contains a removable plastic base, forming a rigid base for ease of product placement.

Although this kit is supplied for use with 120 AC voltage, it can function with 220-240 voltage, with the appropriate optional bulb, and adapter plug, available separately.

• Quick and easy set up.

• Position the lights where they are needed around the Lighthouse, for soft, even, or intense lighting.

• Full zipper front and zipper on top panel for digital camera lens positioning.

• For web advertising photos, small product photography, copying art work and recording sculptures for future reference.

• This kit includes 4800° “daylight” balanced bulbs. Other bulbs are available.

• Use the included light stands to support the light heads as you adjust their position and height.

Basically you just set up your lights on the side or top of the box, place the item you want to shoot inside and have at it! Below is a Leica Noctilux lens I shot inside of the box:

noct

noct2

This was really my first attempt with this kit, and the pictures of the lens looks so much better than if I just held them up with my hand like I used to do. I know many of you probably have a kit like this already, but if not it is something that is very easy to set up and use. I was up within 10 minutes of opening the boxes. Basically you just remove the light stands and extend them. You then attach the domes and light bulbs. Then just unfold and set up your light box on a table, or something that will elevate it up off of the ground. Then just attach your background and set down the plastic piece as this will give off that shiny reflection like you see in the image of the lens above. Very pro results in minutes! I now have mine  setup in a spare bedroom we never use. When I need an image of a product I can snap one off within a minute!

So for all of you who have been looking for an inexpensive way to get a light box kit with lights, this set is highly recommended! BUT, if you want to shoot large items you would have to buy a larger kit. This small set works OK for cameras and lenses but if I wanted to shoot something larger, like a laptop computer for example, then I would need a bigger box. I may buy a larger light box because I have found that when trying to shoot two cameras side by side, this box is a little small. The cool thing is that I can just buy a new box as I already have the lights. I saw one kit that was large enough for a person to fit in! Check this one out! There are some pretty cool kits out there but this basic small setup is perfect for what I do.

Also, if you have lighting already you could also make your own light box (I did this a few years ago) but I have found you do not get the same nice results as the light is usually reflected instead of filtered and softened. This makes the items look a bit less natural and “hard”. To check out the exact kit I am using you can click here to check it out at B&H, which is where I bought mine. It really is a pretty cool setup for not much money!

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If you enjoyed this review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or facebook! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at the upper right of any page and be notified of when new reviews are posted! You can also subscribe via E-mail (also to the right). Thanks so much for reading!

Here are a few more shots I took while testing out this lightbox kit (images shot with an Olympus E-P2 and kit zoom lens):

P1010450

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