Saturday, April 30, 2011

Macro faux

Macro faux sounds like some sort of 70's craft project.  But it is actually a fake ladybug in a fake green lawn. Macro shooting with a VERY slow, cheapo lens is a bit insane.  The miniscule depth of field combined with the impossibly slow autofocus means I am doing more moving of myself than I am the lens.  I basically set up the subject, and leaned forward and backward until it was in focus, which I wouldn't advise doing with a killer ear infection.

TTL again, straight bounce off the ceiling.  The darkening around the edges of the photo are due to the effects of the macro lens, not any of my efforts, but I like it.

Canon 5D Mark II
Promaster 70-300mm f4-5.6
228mm - ISO 400
1/60s- f/5

Canon 580EXII
TTL - not sure what the settings were
Flash on camera, bounced straight up

Friday, April 29, 2011

Dear Teddy

I recently invested in some lighting modifiers, including the a 8x12 flash-mounted softbox used here, and wanted to give them a try.  Being stuck at home sick definitely limited my choices of subject, so an old friend was tapped for picture duty.  I set my ISO and aperture to block out most of the ambient light and held the softbox above and pointed down towards the bear. 

So why a softbox?  A bare flash pointed directly at the bear from the same distance would have blown it completely out.  I would have had to move it much further away to work.

Another option would have been to bounce the flash off the ceiling or a wall, but that wouldn't have given me the nice catch lights in the eye and would have required more power from the flash. 

The softbox allowed me to keep the flash close and on lower power, allowing for fast recycling (the time it takes for the flash to be ready to fire again).  While this subject wasn't going to get impatient, others have been known to.  Look for more fun with light mods in the posts to come.

Nikon D90
50mm - ISO 200
1/160s- f/4

Nikon SB900
1/128 power @ f4
17mm zoom
Approximately 3' away from subject 
Pointed down @ 45-degree angle

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A light at the end of the tunnel?

I'm feeling a little better tonight - hopefully I'm getting over the worst of this flu thing.  For tonight's picture, I just set up a flashlight, cranked my ISO way down and shutter speed way up, thus blocking out most of the light from the flashlight and the room around it.

Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 50mm 1.4
50mm - ISO 100
1/400s- f/1.4

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Five tenths

Today was the first day so far that I seriously thought about not posting a picture.  I'm home sick, and feeling pretty awful.  The thermometer only reads 99.1, but it is pretty amazing how bad you can feel with just five tenths of a fever.

All settings on auto, even the flash is TTL (bounced off of a white fill card to camera left.

Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 24-105 f4 
90mm - ISO 400
1/60s- f/4

Canon 580EXII
TTL - not sure what the settings were
 Flash on camera, bounced straight out off of fill card

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Road Warrior Princesses

I was in a small town today taking pictures of some local real estate, and a gym class happened by on their bikes (a VERY small town).  One of them said "Are you going to take our picture!?" and they all posed, so I said "Sure!" and a picture of the day was born.  I love smiley people who like getting their picture taken!

Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 24-105 f4
96mm - ISO 100
1/125s- f/5

Monday, April 25, 2011


Today's picture is of a beautiful antique cash register.  I love the color and the keys.  Please see the special extra bonus shot at the bottom - my first intentional macro shot.  I have had this cheap 70-300 lens for years now, and just figured out how to use the macro function this weekend courtesy of my friend Wyatt Johnston.

Canon 5D Mark II
Promaster 70-300 1:4-5.6
70mm - ISO 320
1/60s- f/4

Canon 580EXII
14mm zoom @ 1/16 power
Flash on camera, bounced straight up to ceiling


 Canon 5D Mark II
Promaster 70-300 1:4-5.6
180mm - ISO 320
1/200s- f/6.3

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter style (?)

My husband has started (I fear) a new tradition of wearing an Easter "bonnet" on Easter Sunday.  This year's creation was a cheap black fedora with yellow Peeps glued to it.  It caused quite a stir at church this morning, I can assure you.

I had to take a picture of him wearing it, of course.  I am working on my portraiture lighting, so I lit him with two flashes.  The afternoon was actually totally overcast and cloudy, and a bit gloomy.  White balance set to Shade helped correct for that, warming up the scene.

I set one flash on the ground to his left and slightly behind him to get some separation between him and the tree.  It created something of a sun-lit look on the tree, which I hadn't planned on, but really liked.

I held the second flash in my left hand, as far away from the camera as I could reach, and had him rotate his head until the flash wasn't reflected in the sunglasses.

The dark shadow on his arm is caused by my fingers blocking the diffuser on the flash head.  That sucks, but it also shows you how dark he would be if that flash weren't there at all.

I wish I was good enough to create some separation between the black sunglasses and the black hat - but I'm not.

I could also wish for no shadow on the Peeps, but I didn't notice that until it was too late.

Canon 5D Mark II
Promaster 70-300 1:4-5.6
70mm - ISO 320
1/250s- f/7.1

Nikon SB900
14mm zoom @ 1/16 power
Fired at same height as subject approximately 6' away

 Canon 580EXII
14mm zoom @ 1/16 power
Fired approximately 6; below subject from 4' away

Flashes triggered with Pocket Wizard II's

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The darkness before the dawn

Today is the day before Easter, and it found me thinking about the Saturday of that week all those years ago - the day between Good Friday, when Christ was crucified, and Resurrection Sunday, when He arose.  It had to have been a pretty dark day, when all hope seemed to be lost.

Canon 5D Mark II
70mm - ISO 6400
1/6400s- f/4

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sugar safari

Here we have the elusive Yellow Peep in its natural habitat.  This is truly a rare sighting, as they are shy creatures who only come out of hiding for a few weeks in early spring to spread their glittery, sugary influence upon the world.

Canon 5D Mark II
105mm - ISO 400
1/80s- f/4

Canon 580EX II
1/4 power
Zoomed to 24mm
Bounced up and angled back ~30 degrees

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The red is melting

Today I visited Ravenwood Lodge, which has a shooting range, hunting grounds, meeting rooms and lodging.  I didn't get to look around too much, but plan to be back some night for Date Night at the shooting range.  The owner, Ken Corbet, told me a great story about how this old caboose served as his business office when he first opened the lodge.  I love the rustic and rust-ed look of the exterior. 

Canon 5D Mark II
47mm - ISO 1250
1/50s- f/9

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The sun will (hopefully) come out tomorrow

Cold spring weather doesn't sell a lot of plants.  There are racks and racks all set out at the local grocery store for eager gardeners, but I don't think there have been many takers this week.  This perky Gerbera daisy was practically begging me to take it home when I ran past it into the store before it closed for the night. 

People were looking at me strangely as I went back with my camera to take a picture of it, but then I saw that I had parked in a handicapped spot by mistake. 

The strange looks were apparently indignant "the handicap must be mental" glares.  Oops. 

Canon 5D Mark II
47mm - ISO 1250
1/50s- f/4

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Steamy greens

Spring is a great time to get beautiful, fresh asparagus.  A lot of people try to make their kids eat it by smothering it with cheese, but it is lovely just steamed and tossed with butter, minced garlic, chopped pistachios and lemon zest like I enjoyed tonight.

In this picture I wanted to play up the bright color of the asparagus, and show the detail of the well-used steamer.  A bit of bounce flash off the ceiling helped play both of them up.

Canon 5D Mark II
105mm - ISO 800
1/50s- f/4

Canon 580EXII
14mm zoom @ 1/8 power
Fired on camera, bounced up and back ~30 degrees

Monday, April 18, 2011

A night under the flowers

The day was almost over before I got to take my picture, so I took a quick shot underneath a flowering tree that was lit from above by some streetlights.  The whole scene was very yellow from the streetlights, but the flowers are actually white.  So, with a tungsten white balance, the day was saved and the white was restored.

Canon 5D Mark II
73mm - ISO 3200
1/8s- f/4

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Nightime portrait fail

One of my goals for this blog for the rest of the year is to start using people as my subjects more often.  Portraiture is where I'm weakest, because I never do it, and because I'm pretty shy.  So, I thought I would start with someone easy - namely, my husband.  I know the concepts of an outdoor, nighttime portrait - set your camera settings to catch the desired amount of environment and ambient light, then add flashes to light your subject.  Sounds easy, and the first part is, but the second is a whole different ballgame. 

I had a couple of things working against me:  1) no tripod and 2) no light stands.  So, I had to put one flash down low on a bench, and hold the other one above my head and as far to the left of the camera as possible.  Given my stature (5'4"), that really didn't get the light up too far.

The main light, or key, was fired through a plastic diffuser about 5' in front of the subject and slightly overhead.  The fill light was fired from about 8' away but unfortunately down on a park bench.  It didn't contribute a whole lot. 

In retrospect, I should have moved the fill light behind him somehow (again, no light stand) to create separation from the background.  Because he insists on wearing all black all the time, it is especially important.  But, these things didn't cross my mind in the limited amount of time that we had.

This picture isn't even in focus, but it was the best-lit one of the bunch.  Sigh.  I also don't like that he is looking down into the camera.  Basically I hate everything about it, but you have to start somewhere, right?

Lots of lessons learned tonight. I'm thinking about getting this softbox that attaches to the flash head, to increase the effective light size of my flash, while diffusing the light.  And possibly a light stand or two.  But most of all, practice, practice, practice!

By the way, he really is a good sport about posing for pictures, but it was taking me too long to get everything set up, and it had been a long weekend.  I'll try to get a happier portrait of him some other time.

Canon 5D Mark II
93mm - ISO 800
1/50s- f/4

Nikon SB900
14mm zoom @ 1/16 power
Fired approximately 1' above subject from 5' away

 Canon 580EXII
14mm zoom @ 1/16 power
Fired approximately 5' below subject from 8' away

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A glass of limes and cherries

Today's picture comes courtesy of a good friend who let me borrow his Nikon D7000 when I forgot my camera at home.  Boy, that was a treat!  If the mythical D800 that I keep waiting for is ever released, I can only imagine how awesome it is going to be, considering the great strides made with the 7000.  The focusing really was ridiculous.

Said friend also provided the lighting in the picture with a penlight diffused through many layers of a paper Chili's napkin.  It was pointed straight down from about 4" above the glass.  The napkin acted as a large softbox to diffuse the light over the whole area.

And thanks to my husband, who patiently let me shoot it before he even got a sip!

Nikon D7000
28mm - ISO 1000
1/15s- f/4.5

Friday, April 15, 2011

A little relief

We have a couple of sore backs around our house, so the back rubbing thing is getting some use.  I thought it would be fun to see what the camera would see if I turned it on high.  It turned out kind of cool.

Canon 5D Mark II
105mm - ISO 800
1/50s- f/7.1

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What does purple smell like?

Just a pretty picture of my lilac bush today.  I have struggled for 6 years to keep this it alive because there is a hackberry tree growing up the middle of it, which would take over if I let it.  Every two months or so in the growing season I have to hack away at the nasty thing, trying to kill it, and I never win.  The lilac bush only blooms for about 6 days each year, so it is a lot of work for comparably little return.  But, the smell is heavenly, and most of the time, it is worth it.

Canon 5D Mark II
105mm - ISO 125
1/100s- f/4

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Would you like (shaving) cream on that?

It was Shaving Cream Makeover Night at youth group tonight.The kids had fun, the sponsors got messy, and I got my picture of the day.  There were some TALL middle-schoolers there tonight, so I couldn't get a great view, but I think the mayhem is pretty obvious.

Canon 5D Mark II
82mm - ISO 2500
1/50s- f/4

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Monet at the end of the day

Received a beautiful surprise at work today - flowers from my husband.  Some days I get lucky and my picture of the day comes to me!  I have always loved the way that the huge aperture on my 50mm lens makes everything outside its narrow zone of focus look soft and beautiful like a Monet painting, and so I thought that would be the perfect way to shoot this lovely bouquet.  The tulips are only a few inches closer to the camera than the rest of the flowers, but that is all that it takes with the 50.  They are really cheap (about $150) for both Nikon and Canon, so I highly recommend one.

I sat the flowers in front of the blinds in my office, and moved them around to create zones of light and shadow across the flowers, further enhancing the otherworldly effect.

Canon 5D Mark II
50mm - ISO 500
1/6400s- f/1.4

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blue steel

Super late night at work tonight, so my planned outdoor shot didn't take place.  I saw this car lit up with some neon on my way home and had to stop.  Highlights reveal shape and contour, and that is exactly what the blue neon is doing in this picture. 

Nikon D90
105mm - ISO 800
1/15s- f/5

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Just a ride in the park

Spring is finally here, even though today actually felt like summer.  I was trying to shoot the spring bulbs and flowering trees in the blazing sun at Gage Park, when the little kid's train came around the corner.  I haven't shot with my Nikon for several weeks, and after fumbling around with my settings I gave up and shot this way too hot.  So, I had to bring down the exposure a bit in my trusty RAW software.  You can tell because the whole feel of the picture is a bit blown out, but the colors are saturated - these are the kinds of things that happen with less-than-perfect camera settings.  Some things you can save and still look natural, and others you can't.

But, it was really sweet of the conductor to wave at me, so I decided to go with this shot, despite its imperfections.

Thanks to everyone for hanging with me for the past 100 days.  It has been a blast, and I hope the next 100 are even better.

Nikon D90
50mm - ISO 400
1/2000s- f/5.6

Camera versus the volcano

A volcano is a chocolate cake with a melted chocolate center that oozes out when you cut into it.  Luckily for me, Chili's sells them to go, which I was able to experience tonight.  The molten chocolate center necessitates a short photo shoot because it can become a huge mess pretty quickly.  Clearly there is a learning curve on artfully drizzling the chocolate sauce so it doesn't clump strangely like mine did.

I bounced a 1/4 CTO-gelled flash off a wall about 2' to the left of the volcano.

Nikon D90
50mm - ISO 400
1/200s- f/1.8

Nikon SB900
1/64 power
Zoomed to 17mm

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday goodbye

Last day in New York, on the cab ride out of town.  I liked the verticality of all of these elements, and the pops of color from the girl's coat and the evergreen.

Canon 5D Mark II
105mm - ISO 500
1/40s- f/9

Thursday, April 7, 2011

To Market we shall go

Chelsea Market - wow, what a fun place! - has some truly unique architecture and decor. According to the CM website, "To walk through the Chelsea Market is to stroll through a sort of postindustrial theme park, carefully festooned with the detritus of a lost industrial culture, interspersed with food stores and restaurants." Reclaimed safety deposit boxes run up the wall by a set of elevator doors in the picture below.

Canon 5D Mark II
24mm - ISO 5000
1/30s- f/10

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wet Radio City

It was a wet night tonight, but I took advantage of a break in the rain to take some pictures of Radio City Music Hall.

Canon 5D Mark II
32mm - ISO 4000
1/40s- f/6.3

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A blur in Times Square

This is going to be a scary week.  Not because I am in NYC for a conference, but because I only have a netbook with me that can't handle Canon's software.  So all photos posted this week are going to be straight from the camera, not even cropped.

This was a fun shot of a little pedicab zipping through Times Square.  I used this technique a lot in taking soccer pictures for a project a few years ago, and it is now just second nature, even though I haven't used it in several years.  Basically, you follow a moving object with the camera, which creates motion blur on the surrounding area, but your subject is perfectly crisp.

Canon 5D Mark II
65mm - ISO 2500
1/30s- f/7.1

Monday, April 4, 2011

A lion abduction

My mom took my sisters and I to Gage Park all the time when we were kids.  I don't actually remember playing on this particular toy, but from the looks of it, it might be old enough.  I wanted to take the flash off-camera and do some freehand lighting, for the whole bright white overhead spotlight alien-abduction shot.  So, I needed a shutter speed long enough to allow me to hit the shutter button and then get in position directly above the creature to fire the flash using the manual fire button before the shutter closed. 

But, I didn't want the shutter open so long that the ambient light from the streetlights and building lights would interfere.  The 1 sec. exposure allowed me to get into position, but didn't do enough to solve the second problem of ambient interference.  In retrospect, I should have decreased my ISO so I could keep the same long shutter but decrease the ambient light in the background to nearly nothing.  But, I was getting chilly and decided to call it good.  

There are times when you don't want to gel the flash (see yesterday's post), to get a certain effect.  That is what I was going for this time - I just didn't take it far enough. 

Canon 5D Mark II
75mm - ISO 800
1s- f/7.1

Canon 580EXII
14mm zoom @ 1/164 power
Fired approximately 3' above subject at a slight angle down towards the lion

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A nice light rain

The picture below is a great illustration of why you should gel your flash.  Do you see the white beam cutting across the middle of the picture?  It is pretty obvious that it was made by a different light source than the gold light hitting the rest of the raindrops.  The same thing happens when you pop a pure white flash in a room which is lit by normal light bulbs.  It really stands out.  Adding a simple color-balancing gel (good source here) will help your light play nicely with the light in the rest of the room.

Canon 5D Mark II
102mm - ISO 2500
1/50s- f/4

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lay it down

Spent some time at Rundown Studios today listening to local metal band Invictus working on their first album.  Here is lead guitarist RJ Soldani laying down some rhythm parts. 

I was chagrined to realize that I had forgotten my wide angle lens, which would have come in handy.  You have to be careful when using a wide angle that you don't introduce too much distortion to your pictures, but in the right circumstances, the distortion can be controlled and you can get some really cool shots.

Canon 5D Mark II
85mm - ISO 3200
1/50s- f/4

Friday, April 1, 2011

Pickle car!

The Shawnee County Public Library held it's fifth annual Edible Book Report night.  Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things that Go is a cute book which was well represented by a young reader.

Canon 5D Mark II
105mm - ISO 400
1/100s- f/4