An old light trick

This came up in class tonight, so, a repeat:

Okay, here’s a simple trick shot for you.

How did I get the bulb to light up without it being connected?

Simple. Like this:

I used an LED flashlight behind the (frosted) bulb. That makes it look like the bulb itself is lit. 6 second exposure, 200 ISO, f/5.6.

Sometimes “simple” is all it takes.


Abstract, or meaning extracted?

This tree, from yesterday’s walk with students:

I made that by zooming my 16-35 lens while shooting at about 1/15 second. That gives you either something that is still recognizable as a tree, or something that is less so:

Which one is better? They are both good. The first one says something about the tree, I feel. The second one is more about the line, motion, shapness.

And the point? The point is that you can do with your photography what you want, from literalism t abstract art. And that there are many tricks. And that you should use those tricks!




SLR TIP from four years ago

Exactly four years ago, 15 July 2011, I wrote this – and it is still relevant. Plus ça change…

When you are using an SLR to look at images you have taken on the back of your camera, set your camera to not autorotate the images. That way you can see the image fill the entire LCD instead of part of the LCD with big black bars on both sides. And that looks so much better!

On some cameras (all Canon SLR cameras, for instance) you even have two options: “turn or not turn” on the camera display, and “turn or not turn” in the image itself.

In this case I set autorotate ON in the file, but OFF when reviewing on camera (i.e. I use the middle option: the file is unchanged, just the displaying on the camera changes).

You will find thise fuction either in the playback menu of your camera, or in the settings menu.


Story, story, story.

When shooting an event, always tell a story. People do not want to just see random images; since Gilgamesh and Homer, people like to hear stories.

In practical terms, for you as a photographer that means:

  1. Start with an Establishing Shot or two, to establish where the event is taking place
  2. Make sure that before you present the work to your friends, your relatives, or your client, you arrange (not: shoot) the event in (chrono-) logical sequence. In Lightroom, use a collection, and sort it manually. When exporting, use the sequence number in the export filename, so your sort order is honoured.
  3. Shoot a “B–roll”, including decorations and food. B-roll pictures are the background. The decorations. The food. The small details. You can shoot those before, during, and sometyimes even after the event.
  4. Include signs that have names and details of the event.

Let’s look at some examples from the event I co-shot Saturday night. So these are not the event pictures (those feature people); these are the “B-roll shots” that act as glue to keep the people shots together.

These are examples of the kind of shots that make random people pictures into a story your friends or customers want to see. It’s easy, it’s fun.

(All images except the first one: camera on manual; flash on TTL; flash bounced behind me at a dark ceiling, so 1600 ISO was needed to get enough bounce.)


Improvise? Yes, improvise.

You can improvise in so many ways.

Take this image:

Just now. It’s 30C (86F). And sunny. So I need a flash, otherwise that sky would not look blue; it would look white instead. because exposing highly enough to see the inside of the car would make the sky way too bright.

Instead, I expose for the sky (the usual outdoors flash recipe: 1/200s, 100 ISO, then f/4–f/22, start at f/8). Then I add flash. Three flashes in one umbrella, fired by one Pocketwizard:

Without flash, that would look like this:

A portrait would be nice, with this light. 100 ISO, 1/200 sec, f/16.

Anyway, I said “improvise”. How so?

The sandbag, that’s how so. That umbrella would be all over the place, breaking my equipment on its way down. You need a sandbag to stabilize it and to hold it down.

And what I often use, when I don’t happen to have a sandbag available, is a 15kg bag of kitty litter. Which is what I am using here, if you look carefully. That light stand isn’t going anywhere!


Come meet me tomorrow at CJ’s Café in Bronte, Oakville, for the official opening of my month long exhibit of wall art. And perhaps buy a piece: tomorrow only, I have lots of extra works (over 150), at once-only prices.

Tell me you are coming: