Strobist shoot of Eddie and a 75 Nova

My friend Eddie and I headed up to Mounds View Park in St. Paul for a little evening photo shoot. I wanted to let you know how I took this shot.

First, we are in the twilight hour, just before the sun goes down. I decided not to meter this manually. I set the camera on aperture priority, with -1 2/3 exposure compensation. This is what is controlling the background exposure. For the lights, I used manual. I usually shoot in TTL, but I both wanted to experiment, and I knew that for the light on Eddie it was going to need pretty much full power.

I started with a SB800 speed light toward the front of the car, that is skipping across the side. I had one SB900 mounted on a stand to the left of the car in a 24″ lastolight softbox. This was pointed at Eddie. My 3rd light was on the camera, a SB900 acting as a commander. But, the back of the car was too dark, and as the light went down, I was able to switch to just the popup flash on my D7000. I was surprised, but happy that I had another light. I was out of stands, (only 2) so with only the foot, and pointed up at 45deg at the car, I lit up the back end of the car.

So, if you caught that, I am using the pop up flash on my camera to trigger the flashes in manual mode. The cool thing about this, is that I could change the power of the lights without going over to the units themselves. I would have had to do this in SU-4 mode. Instead I was able to adjust the power and settle on 1/4 power while staying at the camera.

The next issue was that I didn’t get enough power out of the flash on Eddie. I had it zoomed to 200mm, but it was fairly far back to stay out of the frame. (Shooting at 55mm if you were wondering). So, to fix it, I upped the ISO from 200 to 400. This gave me the power I was looking for from the flash, and we were good to go.

The rest was all composition. I think some of the best shots came from the low position when I was kneeling on the ground. The only issue is that you can’t really see the city in the background this way. Anyway, there are some other pictures on my portrait site.

D7000 at 3200 ISO

I went to Wood Lake Park in Richfield on the Weekend. I got up at 5:00, and just got there in time to get a little bit of color. The sun is getting up earlier and earlier. It get’s harder and harder to beat the sun.

Anyway, it has been a while since I went to Wood Lake, so I decided to take the opportunity to get there this past Sunday morning. I was pretty happy with several of my shots. I got a few good ones of a muskrat, an egret, and some red wing black birds. It wasn’t until I got to my computer that I realized that I had taken all the shots at 3200 ISO. On the back of the camera the shots looked sharp, but back at the computer, not so much. Very disappointed.

I am actually fairly impressed with the combination of the D7000 and Lightroom 3’s ability to control noise. The images are fairly usable, but not as sharp as I want for a wildlife picture. This is not really the best way to judge the picture quality for how I intend to use 3200 ISO. I still need to take my own shots with a f/2.8 lens, 3200 ISO and a dim room.

So lesson learned? We will see. I need to double check settings before EVERY shoot.


Pedernales Falls Panorama

You have to click on this image to see it bigger. If you have the monitor space, I posted it up to 1400 wide.

This was taken not to long after we got to the Pedernales Falls state park area in Texas. Pretty place. This year however, there was not a lot of water. In fact, you could step over or wade through the narrow areas to get around. Other years there is a torrent of water here. There is a sign at the parking lot that shows the water going from not much more than this to completely covering the rock area you see in 5 minutes in a flash flood. You need to be alert. Well, usually. They haven’t had any rain in this area since December. No flash floods this day.

This was an 8 image panorama with the camera turned to portrait mode. Shot in manual at ISO 200, 24mm, f/16 for 1/30th of a second per image.

Gorman Falls

We got to Bend State Park just as the sun was coming up. We waited a bit for enough light to be able to walk the trail to Gorman Falls. It is a pretty rocky trail, but probably still doable in less light. But it didn’t matter, as the light came around and onto the falls as we were there. This is just one of a bunch of images I have of the falls. I just wanted to get one up.

We are just heading out for the evening. We are going to be out late. I love shooting when it seems like the light is gone.

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, 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.

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.

Pictures of a Yoga Instructor

Deb is actually much more than a yoga instructor. She teaches pilates, yoga, and alignment. She owns a couple of studios, such as Pilates Integration, and Pain Free Posture. Here are some images of her in various poses.

It was a lot of fun to photograph Deb. I know a little bit about yoga, having tried it a few times, which is enough to know that some of these positions are really hard to get into.

Anyway, these are just a few of the amazing images I got during our shoot. Deb is quite knowledgeable about what she does. If you are in need of some instruction, you should definitely check out how Deb can help you.