Store, School, Gallery, Shop!

Big news — in a few weeks, I am opening my new mall studio/school/store/gallery on Orléans, Ottawa, Ontario. Based in Place d’Orléans mall, this shop will have me in it much of the time and will do the things outlined in its web site, www.michaelwillemsphoto.com.

The opening is August 15, but as you can see, it’s almost ready for business. If you are in or near Ottawa, give me a call!

Why I am not switching yet.

“Mirrorless” is all the talk. Everyone, it seems, “is going mirrorless”.

But not me, and not many other photographers either: not quite yet.

Canon 1D Mark IV camera

Canon 1D Mark IV camera

Why not switch to the latest technology?

Well, while mirrorless offers advantages, like

  • Preview information (eg histogram) through viewfinder.
  • Post-shot view.
  • Smaller, lighter! Especially if you get the new lenses.

…there are also good reasons for pros to hesitate and hold off. Here’s a few:

  • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.Why mess with something that is proven to work?
  • Mirrorless is unproven. Looks good, but it’s new. Why risk it?
  • Battery life. Not as good, not nearly as good as the pro DSLRs
  • Dust. The sensor is exposed and every lens change introduces dust.
  • New lenses needed—and that’s a major investment. Or you use adapters and invest in those, and forego the “smaller” advantage. Adapters are always iffy anyway: another point of failure.

As you see, there are good reasons to not mess with something that ain’t broken.

 

 

Tips for landscapes.

Valley of fire, NV

I’ll give you a few landscape tips for beginners, today.

    1. Use the right lens. I recommend either the ultra wide lens (10-20 on a crop camera, 16-35 on a full frame camera), to show perspective and depth; or a telephoto lens, to bring backgrounds closer.
    2. Use a low ISO, like 100 or 200.
    3. Use a high f-number, like 11 or 16. Especially important if you use the telephoto lens above.
    4. If you can, use a tripod. The two settings above may well require it.
    5. Focus one third into your scene. That gives you the best sharp focus range.
    6. Just in case, carry a polarizer and an ND filter. The polarizer for removing reflections or to emphasize some blue skies, and the ND filter for slow shots of waterfalls or water surfaces.
    7. Consider shooting some panoramas. For those, use manual setting, so that all pictures are exposed equally. Avoid foreground objects. Turn the camera while on the tripod, overlapping successive images by, say, 30%.
    8. Don’t pack too much. Weight doubles hourly when carried!
    9. shoot at the best time of day. Often, that means 5pm or 5am, the “golden hour”.
    10. Consider bringing a flash. More than you’d expect, you’ll want to light up your foreground.
    11. Keep the image simple. Pay attention to detail.
    12. Look for attention points in the foreground, middle ground, or background. Like frames, reflections, s-curves, juxtapositions, etc.
    13. Prepare. Enter location coordinates, found on google, into your gps.
    14. take one iPhone picture so that you have the coordinates, and then copy them in Lightroom from that iPhone picture to your other photos. Unless, of course, your camera already has a gps built in.

These fifteen rules should get you going! For a little more detail, see my Landscape Photography book on http://Learning.photography .


Come to my April 27 workshop in Toronto, if you want flash techniques that work. See the previous post.

One flash

Today, I taught a Hamilton workshop. From that workshop, one photo that illustrates how you can take a photo with just one flash. Here’s student Paul.

This kind of chiaroscuro lighting is simple and very effective. And you don’t need much. One off camera flash.

Many more workshops coming up, starting with one in Toronto in under a month, where I’ll be teaching exactly that.

See here for details. Early bird pricing only until April 1!

"Flash Techniques for Quick Creative Success" – Toronto, April 27 2019

 

Back in Ontario…

…from the Caribbean.

And the first thing I did is set all my cameras to the correct time. Which was easy, because they were already set to the correct time, since I came from the Caribbean. But for those of you who did not:  set all your cameras to the correct time now!

And here’s a few pics from last week. More, and some advice, to follow in the next days. Stay tuned!

 

Sunny? Sixteen!

You have heard me talk about the “Sunny Sixteen” rule before. This is a very useful rule of thumb that allows you to shoot without using your camera’s light meter. The rule is:

If your shutter speed is set to 1/ISO (e.g. 125 ISO at 1/125th sec, 200 ISO at 1/200 sec, or 400 ISO at 1/400 sec, etc), then on a fully sunny day at noon, f/16 will give you the right exposure.

Like this, at f/16:

And if it is not sunny?

f/16 Sunny Distinct
f/11 Slight Overcast Soft around edges
f/8 Overcast Barely visible
f/5.6 Heavy Overcast No shadows
f/4 Open Shade/Sunset No shadows

(Source: Wikipedia)

This rule is a rule of thumb, so feel free to vary – I often expose two thirds of a stop higher – but since the sun is always the same brightness, it holds well. And it is nice to be able to expose without light meters, if only in order to be able to check your camera.

Bonus question: how do you expose the moon?

Answer: f/16. The moon at noon (there, so any time here, including night) is as bright as the earth at noon- they are the same distance from the sun!

 

 

Who says?

…that you can’t get blurry backgrounds with an iPhone? And I don’t mean fake backgrounds, like with a newer iphone with two lenses, either. Here:

Just…

  • Get close!
  • Have plenty of light
  • Get close!

That’s all. Simple, really. Get close and your background is comparatively far, so it gets blurred.

 

Portraits… plus ça change.

A repeat post from 2015, showing that things do not change much…


I very often hear people who are a little ahead of themselves. They do paid portrait shoots before learning how to focus, that sort of thing. They do not want to learn formally, for instance from a course, or books, or seminars; and yet they expect the knowledge to come to them for free, somehow.

Wishful thinking, and you know it. So let me grab a few of these things by the horns. Starting with portraits. You are doing a studio portrait; you have a backdrop; but the rest is mystery. So your images end up:

  • Badly lit.
  • Under- or overexposed.
  • With a background that is sharp instead of blurred.
  • With the subject not separated from that background.
  • Out of focus.
  • With the background white, not coloured even though you use gels.

That is because you never learned the basics. But there is good news: studio portraits are simple. All you need to learn is:

  • Lighting. A main light, 45 degrees away from subject. A fill light, same on other side. Hair light, opposite main light. See diagram, from my new book:

  • Exposure. Set your camera to manual mode, 1/125 sec, f/8, 100 ISO.
  • Turn the flashes to half way (obviously  the flashes are on MANUAL too).
  • Now meter the main flash. Adjust main light until it reads f/8.
  • Same for hair light.
  • Fill light: meter this to f/4 (i.e. adjust this light until meter reads f/4 when it flashes).
  • Background light: same as main light, again.
  • White balance to “Flash”.
  • Focus using one focus spot. Focus on the eye using that one spot.
  • Use a lens longer than 50mm. I prefer my 70-200 or my 85mm prime.
  • Move subject from background as much as you can. Then you can gel the background light. If, whoever, much of the normal light falls on the background, you cannot gel. Test this by turning OFF the background light: the background should be dark.
  • Turn subject toward main light, then head slightly to you.

Like this:

That really is all. Click., You have a competent portrait.

What you must not do is pretend that no learning is necessary. Go find a course, go buy my e-books; read this free resource www.speedlighter.ca; take private training; sign up at Sheridan College; : whatever you can do, do it now.

It really is simple. But not as simple as “I just bought a camera and next week I am shooting a wedding”—and believe me, I have heard that very statement more than once.

 

Subscriptions are not the way

Apple, Adobe, but also makers of smaller apps like 1Password and many others are trying to go to a model where you pay monthly instead of a “buy a license once” model. Well, this “Software as a Service” (SaaS) model is not the way to go, and I’ll give you seven reasons why not.

First, and foremost: it is financially disadvantageous to the user. Under the SaaS model, you will pay much more than if you bought individual licenses, even if you pay for updates when needed. That $10-$20 a month for the rest of your natural life really adds up when you do the math.

Second: under the SaaS model you become a hostage to the software company. You basically have no choice but to keep paying or else. You pay even for months where you are not using the app at all (yes, that happens!)

Third: the companies no longer need to innovate. When you have captive users (see above point) who pay you on an ongoing basis anyway, why bother to write great software updates?

Fourth: licensing becomes complicated. See the article I wrote two days ago about Adobe Lightroom: with SaaS for all your apps, it becomes even more ominous. Shudder the thought.

Fifth: the software company thinks they are the app. In reality, they are one of maybe 25 apps you will have on your laptop or tablet. So now we’re talking about 25 times $20 per month – that’s enough to lease another car. Which you’ll need to do anyway, in order to get to your second job so you can pay said licensing fees.

Sixth: many people want to simply “own” what they buy, instead of “rent”. This is true in apps just like it is in music. It’s an emotional things and I completely understand.

Seventh: the licensing assumes a good Internet connection, and a stable location. That’s not always given. Travel can stop Internet connectivity cold. And recently, Netflix refused to reconnect me because, they said, “you live in Jamaica”. Huh? And when they make a mistake like that, you, the client, end up clenching your fists while listening to voice response systems that tell you to “listen closely as our options have changed”, and waiting forever due to “unusually high call volumes”.

Seeing trends can be disheartening. I see the societal trend to populism, antisemitism, xenophobia, and fascism. I see the trend to less autonomous car travel. And I see the trend to more SaaS. But like the others, this latter trend can be stopped too, if we all just say “no”.

 


Reminder: I teach privately or in small groups. And for all my students, there’s now a 30% discount for any orders (for training or anything else) paid by Dec 31, 2018. To benefit from this, all you need to do is to use discount code Student2018 on http://learning.photography. Happy festive season!