Boko Not Haram

The Nigerian terrorists known as “Boko Haram” are well known. Loosely translated, this means “Books are bad”.

I would say “Boko Halal”. Books are good. And not just for Muslims.  Books are good for everyone. You all know about my e-books I hope: head on over to http://www.michaelwillems.ca/e-Books.html to read all about them and to order them. They are not DRM-addled (i.e. you can put them on all your iPads, tablets, phones, computers, anything that can read PDFs) and there is a README that gives you permission to print a copy for personal use—this README is not a formality, because without it, you cannot have Staples or any other office supply store make a printout for you.

So, books are good I am very proud of my books; they reflect years of teaching experience, combined with my photographic skills.

But while books are good, I think you need more than just books. Books are invaluable combined with practice and interaction. Practice: we learn by doing. The books are useful because they tell you what to do (“before the practice”) and they explain the background (“after the practice”). They thus put it all into context and shorten your learning time. Third advantage of books is that they are your permanent memory.

To give you a taste, let me share a couple of images from my books: here’s how a flash exposure works:

In other words, a flash exposure has ambient light as well as flash light. And these are affected differently by the camera settings. Which is a good thing, because it enables you to balance the two.

Here’s a clearer look at how:

…and this is what I teach you in my books, my courses, and my various forms of online training. That is why books are good: when you do one of my courses, you do not need to spend the bulk of the time making notes.

 

Tip: Stitch.

When you travel, so some panorama shots.

You can do them in your iPhone or similar. But you can also do them—and probably at higher quality—with your DSLR. Like this:

  1. Camera on tripod. Manual mode. On a day with consistent light.
  2. Take a photo on the left of your scene.
  3. Rotate the camera around its axis (hence the tripod, too). Overlap 20-30% with previous shot. Click.
  4. Repeat step 3 until you reach the right.
  5. Take all these shots an put them together in Canon Photostitch, or Photoshop, or whatever other software you have (you can download lots of apps).

Now you get this: click the image repeatedly to see it at  full size:

That’s the Las Vegas strip. In all its glory.

 

Myth-busters!

(To the tune of “Ghostbusters”).

Often, my posts point out common myths and misconceptions. Of which there are many… many. On the Internet, no-one knows that you’re a dog, and no-one knows that you are wrong.

So, two oft-heard “truths”:

  1. You cannot shoot with TTL if you are a pro.
  2. You cannot use just one light for a serious portrait.

So. TTL was used in this portrait of students and friend Diana; remote TTL in fact (light flashes from on camera flash drives off camera flash); and the light was one flash through an umbrella. The on camera flash was disabled, except for those light flashes.

1/125 sec, f/8, ISO100.

The curtain was chosen as a classy background, but the umbrella was close to the subject so the curtain would get little light. TTL handles this fine; if the subject had been too light or too dark, a touch of flash compensation would have sorted that out.

The one light-with-umbrella gives us enough light for a portrait with Rembrandt lighting. Fairly dramatic chiaroscuro-type lighting, but not so dramatic that it becomes unflattering. On the contrary, this is nice light.

The blonde hair stands out nicely against the dark background; dark hair would have needed more light.

So there, a real portrait with “studio settings”, i.e. just one light, and using TTL. I could do that all night.

 

Turn turn turn

Another reminder to those of you who do outside portraits: turn your subjects away from the sun. Like this, I photo I made yesterday of Oakville’ mayor Rob Burton and friends:

The advantages:

  1. The nice shadows coming towards you.
  2. The sun becomes the hair/edge light.
  3. The subjects do not squint.
  4. The light on my subjects’ faces is not harsh like sunlight.

Of course this needs a… flash. To light up their faces. I used a Bowens 400 Ws studio flash, powered by a Bowens “Travel Kit” battery.

Camera settings: 100 ISO, 1/250th, f/7.1. Flash set to 4 (out of 5), bounced into an umbrella.

And that is that. Simple.