History

Here’s my mom, who is 85, at the Lek river, a part of the Rhine that flows in Holland from Germany to the estuary in Rotterdam.

(f/4.5, 1/250 sec, ISO 400)

The history part: the small town of Schoonhoven, miles from the nearest highway, is still, in my mind, completely a “Golden Age” 17th century town. Drenched in the history of The Netherlands.

As for mom, I lit her with a bounced flash: you can see the flash light on the wall reflecting in the window. So I started with te background; set it to –2 stops, and then added flash. That’s how flash works: you start with the background.

And the shutter is at 1/250 to get the most flash in (I.e I do not want to reduce aperture or ISO to get the background darker, because that makes the flash have to work harder too).

Are you in Holland? Wednesday I teach all three courses Flash 1, Flash 2, and Video/DSLR in one day, 9am-6pm, in Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht near Rotterdam. There are spots, so benefit now.  No longer three evenings, now it is one day. Sign up!

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Tip for flash users.

When you use a flash off camera, like here, you often use Pocketwizards. Which means the flashes are on MANUAL mode. Like here, wedding organizer Jane Dayus-Hinch, whom I photographed at the Wedding Show today:

Off Camera Flash 1/8 power. Canon 1Dx, 1/80 sec at f/4.5, 1000 ISO

Those camera settings let in enough ambient to act as fill light.

So anyway… if you use an off camera flash, there is one problem. Every 60 seconds or so, the flash goes to sleep and turns off. Meaning you get a shot like this… fill light only:

The solution: You have to set a custom function on the flash to disable the timeout. C.Fn 01 on Canon (set to “1″); menu driven on the Nikon flashes.

Done!

 

 

 

 

 

High Noon

Just let me dispel that persistent myth that you cannot shoot at high noon. In bright sunlight. Well, you can shoot, but you will get awful pictures.

Nonsense.

Here. Look at this. Talented photographer Tanya Cimera Brown, yesterday, at noon, on what must be the brightest day this year so far. So this is in bright, harsh, horrible, colour-saturation-destroying, full-on sunshine. Straight out of the camera:

The sky is nice, the red-blue-green theme woks, the model is great, the sun provides a nice “shampooey goodness” hair light: what more can we ask for? And that is with a camera that can only sync at 1/160 second. With my 1/250 sec 1Dx I could do even better. With the old 1D I used to have, even better, at 1/300 second.

OK. That’s using a strobe. Can you do it with speedlights? Sure. You may need to go unmodified, to have enough light; and that means off camera. Here: two speedlights, aimed direct at the subject from off camera positions, do this:

And this: two of me, by Tanya, using the same techniques:

All those were also SOOC (Straight out of Camera).

So learn flash already!

For best results, do my Flash in the Plan program: take my course and get the book (for both, go to http://learning.photography); then follow with a hands-on session, and you will know how to do this. It’s not rocket science, but you need to learn the background, understand the constraints, and learn the artistic tips. Then, you can do this too (provided you have a model as beautiful as Tanya, of course):

Because yes, you CAN do great work at high noon. All you need is flashes and skills. And a camera, of course. Show the world what you can do!

 

Develop yourself

Today’s post is about style in photography.

There are many, many styles. And they are all very different.

For example, photojournalism (as I plan to be doing in Israel, see here) is very simple: no edits. Colour or, often. black and white. Flash is allowed, but other than that, it should look as it looked to the eye.

IV - Intravenous, by Michael Willems

Photojournalism: from "IV - Intravenous", by Michael Willems, on 180mag.ca

Or there’s this; I would call this “Annie Leibowitz’s style”:

Then there’s the “amateur aesthetic”, made popular by Terry Richardson. Harsh light with a direct flash, overexposed a little:

Or business “annual report style”:

Reflection, photo by Michael Willems

Reflection

Or the natural soft light style we use with babies:

Or “desat”, very popular today:

Or my own “dramatic portrait lighting” style, which is an adaptation of earlier Dramatic Portrait techniques:

I could go on. There are almost as many techniques as there are photographers. Almost, not quite. And as a photographer you should be able to master any and all of them. “It’s just technique”, as a friend once said to me.

But it’s when we get beyond that that some of us are lucky enough to develop our own styles. My style is unique to me. And the last picture is a little more my style than the others are.

So the photographer who recently told me that my work was “wrong” and “it looks like your models are photoshopped in:” and “you must open the shutter for longer” is just plan incorrect. It’s my style, and it’s recognizable as my style, and you don’t need to like it. But if you do, great. Your style is yours. If others like it, good for you. If not, it can still be just fine, as long as you like it.

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Need Help: Scroll to yesterday to see my Israel project proposal and go here to support it.. every bit helps.