David Hobby and Joe McNally on the Flash Bus

I was pretty excited to find out that David Hobby and Joe McNally were coming to Minneapolis. These two photographers have been a good source of inspiration for me. They both have a ton of knowledge and give it away at the drop of a hat. David’s web site, the strobist, was one of the first places that I saw and dove into on using flash. But manual mode on the flashes still scared me, and I was excited as all get out to come across Joe McNally. I found his material in his books, a DVD with Bob Krist, and got to first meet him at a DLWS landscape workshop in Michigan. I became a TTL fiend, and wouldn’t leave that realm until recently.

Anyway, fast forward to Saturday, and they both rumble into town on the same bus. David with a slide projector, and Joe with an additional 18 wheeler full of gear. Well, maybe not that quite that much, but he sure pulled a lot of stuff out on stage. It was a great smackdown between manual and TT with David taking the morning and Joe the afternoon. Ok, there wasn’t much of a rumble, as both of them are way past arguing whether manual or TTL is better, but it made for some fun jokes.

There was a lot of great information presented. I feel like my understanding of using manual mode flashes jumped considerably. I am sure to use accent flashes more in my shots now. They make a huge difference. I may need another flash though. I am no where near David’s 12, or Joe’s 144. (I made up Joe’s number).

I came to this photography thing, or really any art/creativity thing fairly late in the game. I didn’t study or learn about hardly any painters or photographers that came before me. I started by learning about a handful of photographers in my generation. So I don’t have any real heros per say, but I definitely look up to these guys, so I took the opportunity to get the worst ever pictures taken with them. Taken with an iPhone is very low light by someone with obviously some kind of shaky hand disease. And these are after I ran them through some noise reduction. Quite possibly the worst pictures they have ever had taken of themselves. Hey, at least I didn’t take em!

Totally Revamped Family Photo Gallery

My family photo gallery has been sorely neglected for quite some time. I have been at a loss of what to do. I was using zenphoto, and I do like it, but was in dire need of a new theme. Well, today I went looking to see if there were any new themes, and low and behold, I found one, zpGalleriffic. The one thing I don’t like is that it appears that there is no room for comments, and they have been turned off. I might need to figure a way to enable them. I also found out that zenphoto has a content management piece built in now. By turning that on I can have little news snippets and additional pages at the top. So far I added an about page, and some links back to Christopher Ward Photography for posts that I used my kids or family as models.

I managed to upload some new photos too. I still have a backlog of family photos to go through, but it’s a good start.

Anyway, if anyone wants to check it out, you can find it at Annie and Chris.net.

Light it Shoot it Retouch it Live Minneapolis

First of all, you will have to excuse the grainy pictures. I was shooting at f2./8 with the camera above my head praying that I got something in focus. I was shooting at 1600 ISO under the “romantic lighting” as Scott Kelby called it. PS. what’s the deal with both of the subjects putting their right hands up? That’s weird timing. Anyway, you can get an idea for the room, the stage, and the screens showing Lightroom or Photoshop.

Ok, let me back up. Yesterday I was at the Light it. Shoot it. Retouch it. seminar put on by NAPP, and instructed by Scott Kelby. I’ll let the cat out of the bag right up front and tell you it was well worth the day and the $99 (I paid $79 as a NAPP member) cost. The event was held at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Despite it being a huge room with a ton of people, I think the setup worked really well. I got there early enough that I got to pick a seat fairly close, but I think even the folks toward the back wouldn’t complain too much. There was a thrust stage that the NAPP folks were concerned that Scott would fall off of. He would shoot from the end of this back toward the end of the room with a large backdrop setup. He was shooting tethered into his computer, and the images he took would display in a couple of seconds up on two huge projector screens on either side of the stage.

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Head Shot Shoot Behind the Scenes

I got an email the other day asking if I did corporate head shots with lights and backgrounds and stuff. I figured that I had lights and stuff, so I bought the backgrounds and did the shoot.

When I first got the email, I was a little apprehensive. I have done studio and some on location shoots before, but not exactly of this type. I do the lighting thing with wedding, high school seniors, family, and even infants, but still, my first inclination was to stay no. Which is why I said yes. I don’t know where I heard it before. I think I have heard it from Chase and Zack Arais, and there are lots of others that have said it too. (I just googled “if it scares it do it” and there was a lot of hits.) I think we have a tendency to hide from something a little out of our comfort zone, but doing so will stretch us in ways we don’t always know, but will usually be beneficial.

So, after checking my email (at a computer client) and seeing this email request, I tried not to think about it too much, and just responded immediately. I don’t know what google magic led a company in San Francisco coming to Minneapolis to find my web site www.christopherwardphotography.com, but they did. They emailed several photographers. I was the first to respond. Not a big ego boost to find out that you just got fast twitch typing fingers, and not great photographs. But what counts is that I got work, the client is happy, and I stepped out of my comfort zone, learned a lot, and was successful.

So, this is what I went with. I have 3 Nikon Speedlights. I have one SB900 to camera left in a 24″ softbox as my main light. I have another SB900 to camera right shooting through an umbrella as fill. I shot these TTL, with the umbrella about -1.7 down in a second group.

The third light was going to be deployed as a hair light, but then I decided that the background could use the light instead. Problem was, the SB800 couldn’t be on a 3rd group. My D90 and it’s pop up flash can only control 2 separate groups. So I figured that if I was going to see TTL Joe and David The Strobist at the flash bus tour, I would combine the two. I put the SB800 on SU-4 mode so that it would be triggered just from the other flashes. Problem solved. Sort of. You can see the picture at the top on the left had the light on, and the look I wanted with a little bit of vignette added in post. The pic top right is missing the light. Oops. Somewhere between the setup and the first image and the other shots it didn’t fire. I don’t have quite the separation I would like, but the client still likes the pictures, and that’s what counts.

The background is a new one that I just got from Adorama – a Savage Infinity Light Blue. It looks better on the computer screen that it does hanging. Thankfully, with a little separation of the subject from that background it looks pretty good. This was the second time I used it. The first was in my living room. Yup. I usually use black, or blow out a white background. I pushed all the furniture out of the way, and set up in and around the stuff to try everything out. One thing about doing this is that I knew I could pull this off with minimal room. In the end I had lots of room after pushing away some tables. Felt just like home.

The last piece to this puzzle was shooting tethered into Lightroom. After I had taken a few shots of each of them, I invited them back to the computer. We stepped through the images in full screen and helped them pick the best two. With the initial edit done, back home, all that was left was to put some finishing and portrait retouching on the images. I don’t go overboard with that, so it didn’t take too long.

Well, there you have it. I took a chance, it didn’t go perfectly (lost a light), and yet it still came out well. Bring it on, it was fun.

Best Camera Contest

I entered the Best Camera contest today. This is a contest of pictures all taken on a mobile phone. For me, these were all taken on an iPhone.

I have really like having a camera with me all the time. Sometimes I use it more than other days. Occasionally I forget that I have a camera with me. I find myself saying, “If only I had a camera…” But then, there are other times I remember that I have one, and take a picture I am glad to have.

You can vote on my images if you  would like. Just keep in mind that you can only vote for one image per email address. Here the rest of the images that I submitted.

Some of these images are not as sharp as I would usually like, but holding a phone out away from your face so you can see the back while shooting in low light is not the best way to get images. But, the idea is to at least get the image.

Update of some Wedding Videos

I updated some wedding videos and uploaded them to youtube. These are images from 2009. Here they are. The second video uses the same pictures, but with a different song. The first is a more upbeat song.

I was informed that many people might not like a song this upbeat for wedding images, so I remade the video again with a different song. They are both hosted on my youtube channel.

10×20 Prints of Eli

I wanted to show a client a 3 image print in a 10×20 size
frame. I have been really liking this size. I have been creating
quite a few of these. I especially like a black background with a
black and white photo. It looks even better in a white frame.

I put the image above on my iPad to show the image, but how to show a
frame. I decided to take a picture of a frame I have hanging in my
house, and then insert the image into it digitally. The result is
below. I think it is a good way to show what the print would
look like.

I am now offering a nicer version of the frame above as an option to clients. It is a solid wood frame lacquered white (black and other wood types available).

Christmas Portraits in a Living Room

I took some Christmas portraits of our girls this weekend. These were not done in a studio, just our living room. I put up a background stand and a black material at one end of the room. Then the kids were placed forward of the background 6 to 8 feet. This was done to keep the spill from the lights off the background.

The lights were one or two shoot through umbrellas. The main light was on the left and closer. The fill was on the right, a little farther away, and two stops lower. These were SB900’s as remotes. They were triggered by the on camera flash that contributed nothing to the exposure.

The trick here is getting the kids away from the background, and feathering the light to that most of the light goes across the girls creating interesting shadow, and keeping the light off the kids.

This can be pulled off in any home with enough space to get the kids off the background. With less space you will see the pattern or wrinkles in the background. If you would like pictures like these of your kids, please contact me.

Thanksgiving Portraits

I took my lighting gear to Thanksgiving Dinner this year to take some family photos, but in the end, the images that I liked the best were when the kids sat in a window seat and I used natural light. I had an assistant hold a reflector to direct some of the window light back towards the kids, and I could close the curtains a bit so that I had a bit of a backdrop instead of a blown out window.

I am starting to try out black and white more and more. I don’t always “see” in B/W yet, but I am getting a better feel for the shots that would look good processed in B/W once I look at them in post.

I do have some in color that I liked as well. I couldn’t get all the kids to pose for me. Too much turkey, and too much going on.

Nepal Star Trails

I took this picture only a couple of hours before I was sick for two weeks. Yup, I was up on a roof in a t-shirt freezing by the end of the shot. When I came down from the roof I was shivering uncontrollably, and shortly after that I was spending way too much time in the bathroom.

No, I don’t really think that this got me so sick. Probably the flu, or some food, or something, but I was quite sick for a few days, and didn’t really feel “fine” for about two weeks. Anyway, more on the shot:

It was taken in Nepal, in a little town called Bandipur, down a very windy road west of Kathmandu. I was on the roof of the guest house we were staying in.

This is a multiple exposure image. I was shooting at f/4.5, ISO 200, for 5 min per exposure. I took seven pictures of star trails from the same roof that a couple of hours earlier I had taken the sun setting in the mountains picture. I used a simple cable release, and a timer. I then put them together in Photoshop.

They went together quite easily. I just stacked the layers and set the blend mode of each layer to screen. That worked well for the star trails, as only the stars show through, the black sky doesn’t, and you have the trails.

I then added more canvas room to the image, put the stars at the top, the mountains at the bottom. When I had them lined up how I liked them, I had a few stars in the mountains. I then created a mask, and applied a gradient to the mask, white at the bottom , black at the top so the stars didn’t show up on the bottom. I played with that a bit until I got it looking the way I wanted.

Thats it. I have wanted to play with star trails before, but it is amazing how little light pollution it takes to ruin the image. Anyway, it was fun.