Gear Happy?

So… did your favourite holiday icon deliver any photographic gifts to you this last week?

For your sake, I hope he/she/it did. And if so, my advice is: learn how to use it properly. From a new camera to a new flash to modifiers to accessories, they are all much more effective if you learn how to use them properly. And the good news: it is easier than you think. Often much easier. And more often than not, adding additional extras will extend your creative options.

So is photography about the equipment? No, it is not. But without that equipment, there is no photography. So let me take you through some of the main equipment I use, to give you an idea of what you might like to look at if you wanted a full “pro” kit. Of course you do not need all this, but it is worth knowing what the full range would be. And this is pretty much a full range. Click on the links I provided for your convenience to read details (and to order: Amazon has amazing deals – especially on the perfectly good older models, i.e. the Mk1 instead of Mk2 lenses).

Cameras:

Why one crop body? To make my longer lens (200mm) appear even longer (320mm) when I need it!

Prime (fixed) Lenses:

Why so many fixed lenses? Well—their quality is great, they are typically smaller, and they provide wonderful consistency in your work. And.. they are usually faster (lower minimum “f-numbers”). Finally, some lenses (macro, tilt-shift) are only available as primes.

Zoom lenses:

Flashes:

Flash modifiers:

  • Honl Photo range of flash modifiers (highly recommended). Like the softbox, the invaluable grid, the gels, and the speed snoot. I could not live without these.

A few of my add-ons, etc:

There’s a lot more, but these are the main items. In future posts I’ll mention some more for you. Have fun—and remember, always carry your camera.

 

 

Coins and Uncle Bob

Photographing coins is notoriously tough. They are shiny and matte; the shiny bits can be dark or light depending on how you shoot them; they need to show coin detail without showing dust detail; and above all they are three-dimensional, not flat: to do it properly takes a lot of equipment and skill.

But you can do a lot with a little: an 80-20 rule says you can get 80% of perfect with 20% of the effort.

Let’s take a look. A macro lens and a ring flash gives me the following, for a 2015 proof quality coin.

First, the ring flash is held not quite right:

A better positioning gives me consistent results like this, for the obverse (front) side:

And here’s the reverse (“back”) side:

Not bad for five minutes work, no?

Remember that 80-20 rule. Often, you can do with “good enough”. Like when selling on eBay: perfection makes people suspect that you have simply copied a commercial picture, and hence the item pictured is not your item. So this is a good compromise: pretty good, little effort.

I used:

  1. Macro lens
  2. Ring flash (or in this case, Orbis ring flash adapter)
  3. Flash set to manual, 1/4 power
  4. White balance set to flash
  5. Camera set to 200 ISO, 1/125 sec, f/11

And Bob’s your uncle!

 

Booth

I spent Sunday night shooting pictures at a wedding—photo booth pictures, to be precise. And while some photographers think of this as a low-end endeavour, I love it, and I recommend it to all.

“Photo booth” means photos of people using props and funny poser, and printing images on site.

This needs a computer and special software:

IMG_7717

And a tethered camera with a studio-type lighting setup:

IMG_7716

And, ofcorse, props…:

IMG_7720

And finally, technical knowledge as well as people skills.

IMG_7719

The printouts people are handed look like this:

2017-06-04_222331

Look, by the way, at that last picture. How do you fit around 15 people in front of a backdrop meant for two? Here’s how!

20170604_222321_174_1DX_5398

And that’s why I love booths: all my varied photography knowledge comes together for this single purpose.

The result: as the bride told me: “They will remember this wedding because of the booth photos”. If that isn’t the best compliment ever, I don’t know what is.

 

 

 

 

Warm day

It was a warm-ish day today, so I went and took some car photos.

Since the sun was out, it is no surprise that I found available light a little boring:

20170408-1DX_3949-1024

So.. I added a flash, on a light stand. But as you will have guessed one flash was, of course, not enough to light a big subject like a car…:

20170408-1DX_3951-1024

…so I added two flashes. Left flash: half power manual 600EX, aimed direct at the car starboard side (zoom=50mm). Right flash: half power manual 430EX, aimed direct at the car front (zoom=50mm).

And that gave me this photo:

20170408-1DX_3965-1024

Desaturated slightly; otherwise this is the way I shot it.

But… say what—Two light stands? Fired by pocketwizards? Isn’t that complicated?

Yes, yes, and no, respectively. It is not complicated. And the results, as you see, get you immediately beyond the “snapshot”. And that is satisfying.

Michael teaches flash and other photography subjects; at Sheridan College and privately; and at his own school. If you want to know more, come to one of my regular courses (see www.cameraworkshops.ca).

El Carro

Car pictures. Always fun. Including snaps:

20170328-MW5D3454-1200

That’s my Camaro ZL1, at 400 ISO, 1/400 sec, f/16.

Does anything occur to you when you see those numbers?

Yes, it’s the Sunny Sixteen rule.

Anyway, the car has a lot of detail, like the badges:

20170328-MW5D3456-900 20170328-MW5D3455-900

So here is my all-new Camaro. Flash TTL, flash bounced behind me,

20170331-MW5D3475-1200

That is right, a little toy. And it’s my car’s exact colours, too. And that toy has surprising detail. The same badges, for a start.

20170331-MW5D3475-900-4

Note: Over the next while, long term that is, I plan to use this toy as a prop in pictures all over the place, so stand by!

Always carry a camera dept: drinks in the above restaurant, and they looked pretty enough to take a snap:

20170328-MW5D3464-1200

(35mm lens, manual mode, 1/320 sec, 1000 ISO, f/2.2.)