I took this shot in the Summer of 2009 during the Kitchener Blues Festival. The reflecting pond water feature outside of city hall had been drained and a beer tent set up. Unfortunately there had just been a torrential downpour, flooding the pond. The surface is very flat and level (since it is also used as an outdoor rink in the winter) giving the water not much place to go. A group of people armed with squeegees started pushing the water away from the beer tent. I caught these two taking a break, where the smooth still water was incredibly reflective.
Here’s a bit of nostalgia for those who were as lucky as me to have been part of the Trepid House in Waterloo.
For those who don’t know, the Trepid House was both a record label headquarters, music venue for house shows, art gallery and a great place to live. The house, mostly under the guidance of Jeff Woods, hosted in the range of 100 shows over its five years and served as a launching point for many local artists. I lived there from spring of 2007 until the winter of 2009, a time I will cherish forever. I do intend to write a much more expansive post about the house (and how my experiences there shaped me into the photographer I am now) but for now I’d like to show the images from an art installation I put up in the attic art gallery.
Called “Scream”, these images all have a common theme that should be quite obvious. They were taken mostly through 2008 using a lighting system that Jeff and I worked out with some trial and error. We worked with three lights, Vivitar 285HV, triggered with cheapo ebay triggers and then later on with Paul C. Buff Cybersyncs. A light was clamped to the door frame at the left and another on a window frame at the right. The third light sat in the back left corner of the room, pointed at the camera to provide rim lighting. Occasionally we would add a fourth light on the right side of the room, pointed at the drummer.
I’ve decided to start a weekly post called Oldie-but-Goodie (ObG) Thursdays where I’ll revisit an old photo of mine and explain a bit about how/why it was taken. Last week’s post was technically the first installment, so here’s the second!
I call it The Wrestler and it was taken when a friend, Colin Hunter, asked me to cover a wrestling match for a book he was writing on the world of amateur/semi-pro wrestling. He got me full ring-side access at Club Element, in Kitchener, and free reign to set up lights (incidentally, Element is kind of sketchy, as I found out when entering the washroom with my camera around my neck and getting harassed extensively by the manager. I think he was worried I was going to document the washroom!).
I set up three lights around the ring, each pointing into one side of the ring. This gave me the opportunity to have rim light at nearly every angle and still have fill in front. I triggered the flashes (2 Vivitar 285HVs and a Pentax AF-500FTZ, all at 1/2 power) with cheapo ebay triggers that were about 80% reliable. As It turns out, it is quite difficult to juggle fast moving action, slow Pentax autofocus, flash refresh times and unreliable flash triggers… but I’m happy with the results that I got! There are a lot more from the day here.
Yes folks, I’ve taken the plunge and registered this blog as owencherry.com ! As far as I know, owencherry.wordpress.com will continue to direct you to the blog as well. I’m committed to posting every few days and hopefully people will continue to visit.
Thanks for all the visits so far,
This past October I had the privilege of taking engagement photos for my friends Nik and Erin. Both Nik and Erin are wonderfully fun people who smiled and laughed their way through the entire shoot. Their good chemistry was instantly obvious… and infectious. This was probably the first time I’ve ever had to direct people to take a break from smiling and flirting once in a while for a few more serious shots.
We started the day off at the University of Guelph Arboretum, where the trees were just hanging on to the last of their fall colours.
The first image here is a bokeh panorama combining 30+ shots from the D7000 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 at f/1.4. THe next three are from the D300s + AF-S 17-55 f/2.8.And finally with the D300s + Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8After the arboretum we headed down Gordon St. to the river and Guelph’s beautiful covered pedestrian bridge. First, with the D300s + AF-S 17-55mm f/2.8: And finally another bokeh panorama with the D7000 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4.
This Saturday, Mitzy and I took a trip to Toronto and visited the Distillery District. Here are a couple of shots. The first is a panorama taken with the AF-S 85mm f/1.8 G at f/1.8 following the Brenizer method.
Here is a photo that I took a few years ago (June, 2008, to be specific) of my friend Elsa as part of a series of art for her upcoming album. Elsa wanted an “ethereal” feel and dressed accordingly. After taking a few in the garden and another few under a tree (with a lamb!) we saw that the sky was rapidly darkening. As the clouds rolled in and claps of thunder were heard in the distance I made the snap decision for us to hop over the fence an up into the field.We had two lights with us, Vivitar 285HV, and cheapo ebay triggers for firing them. I set them up in a simple arrangement with the main light at camera right and the other at camera left to act as a rim. This second light can be seen at the left of the frame. I set the camera (K10D) to manual, 1/80s, f/6.3, ISO 160 to get the ambient exposure how I wanted it (1/2-1 stops underexposed) and adjusted the flashes to either 1/2 or full power. The lens, a Pentax DA 16-45/4 was zoomed out to 16mm.
A few quick snaps later and we were happy… and just in time, because as soon as we packed up the skies opened up and it rained like you wouldn’t believe!
When photographing candids in a dark environment, there are many options for lighting. One could choose to use the camera’s built-in flash, but that gives harsh shadows and terrible red eye. Adding a speedlight (flash) to the hotshoe and firing it directly moves the light source a bit off axis, but shadows are still harsh and red eye is still a risk. Diffusing the light, say with a Gary Fong Lightsphere or a Lumiquest Softbox (both of which mount directly to the head of the shoe-mounted flash), helps too. However, the light is still on axis.
A very common solution, and one which I often use, is to tilt the strobe head up and bounce it from a ceiling or wall. This effectively provides a large off-axis light source, giving a very soft fill. However, if the ceiling is quite high, non-white, or not there at all bouncing just won’t work. Even if bouncing does work, the fill is still quite soft and undramatic.
A lighting solution that I’ve been working with for the past while is to hold the flash in one hand while shooting with the other. I put a diffusion on the flash, usually a Lumiquest Softbox LTz and hold it with my left arm outstretched at about 30 degrees from horizontal. This method gives soft (but not too soft) off-axis light that is easily under my control.I trigger the flash (Nikon SB-900 or SB-700) using Nikon’s CLS (Creative Lighting System). I set the camera’s built-in flash as a “controller” so that it will control remote flashes but not add to the exposure. If I had set it to be a “master” it would fire as part of the exposure. I then set the handheld flash to be a remote, making sure that both it and the built-in flash are set to the same channel and group. (Note: Nikon CLS isn’t actually that complicated once you figure out all of the terminology. I found this site to be extremely useful.)
Of course, having more than one light source usually improves a photo even more. In the case of a wedding I did this fall in a barn, the light shining through the windows and poking through cracks in the wall provided an excellent backlight to complement the light from my flash. Thanks for reading!
I’d like to follow up my previous post with a more detailed explanation of how I pieced the composite image together and achieved the final look. Certain aspects of Photoshop, or photo editing in general, may seem like black art but in this case the process is fairly straightforward. I use two common image editing programs:
- Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 (currently at v4.3)
- Adobe Photoshop CS5
As I mentioned in the last post I started the process of taking this image with the final product in mind, simplifying the editing process considerably.
The first step, as in all my post-production, was to import the images into Lightroom. For those who don’t know, Lightroom is an extremely versatile program that provides a near-complete workflow from import, sort, edit, print, upload plus simple tools for generating slide shows, webpages and books. I do 95% of my editing in Lightroom and usually only go to Photoshop for complicated edits like cloning and healing or anything where layers are required.
With the image of the blue room I adjusted the levels to get the brightness/contrast I wanted. I tuned the blue colour of the room with a white balance adjustment and the hue/saturation/luminance controls. I also used this control to reduce the red and orange saturation on my face.If you recall from the previous post I took a second image of the blue room with the snooted flash removed. I copied all of the adjustments from above over to this image. With the red room, I made minimal adjustments. I tweaked the white balance and increased saturation. I added some blacks to increase contrast.When finished in Lightroom I opened the three images as layers in a single Photoshop file in the following order: empty blue room > blue room with me > red room. I selected the three layers and used the Auto-Align Layers tool (in Automatic mode) to remove any misalignment from slight camera movements between shots. I masked off the right side of the “blue me” layer (to allow the underlying empty room to come through). The first image below is the resulting layer and the second image is the mask used to create it.The red room required a more complex mask to keep the red on the door and floor but not spill onto the door frame on the right side. The three layers, when all visible, appear like this:My next step was to remove blemishes such as the smoke alarm in the blue room and some messy cables. For this I created a new layer above the three image layers. I set the healing brush and clone stamp tools to sample from all layers below. The edits appeared in the new layer, leaving the underlying layers untouched. This method makes the removal of healing/cloning edits much simpler because they can be deleted from the self-contained layer. Here is the layer containing the edits.As a final adjustment I added a curves adjustment, again as a new layer but masked off the red room.Here is the final image in Photoshop:Finally, I opened the image up in Lightroom and cropped on a slight angle to add a bit of drama.Thanks for reading!
Here is my attempt at a “scary” basement photo… and double self portrait. In this post I’ll explain how I put it all together.
I’d been wanting to take a photo in my apartment’s basement for a while and was finally awarded some spare time this past week. I decided to do make the image over two nights, the first for setting up the lighting and the second for the final shots. This method gave me the time I needed to work out the lighting logistics without the stress of having to produce a result immediately. Another aspect to this image, one that is rare for me, is that I had the overall scene worked out in my head days before I actually went about doing it. I knew in advance that this would have to be a composite to include two versions of myself.
Not being someone who takes many photos with complicated lighting setups, I am limited in the equipment I have and this presented a few hurdles to overcome. Most importantly, while I own enough flashes (shoe mount and studio), I don’t have sufficient means to trigger them. I’ll get into this later.
To start, I put the D300s on a tripod with the AF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 set to f/8, 1/160s, ISO 400. I marked the leg locations on the floor with tape because I knew I’d have to move the tripod away from the doorway overnight.
I lit the back room in red first using a Nikon SB-700 with a red gel. I added a diffuser cap, zoomed the flash out to 14mm and set it to 1/2 power to fill the room with red. I positioned the flash behind my right shoulder to give some rim light and as a fortunate consequence it projected a nice red spill onto the floor of the main room.
To make ‘evil me’ stand out I added a Nikon SB-900 with a light purple gel. I used a grid spot to keep the light on my face and not spill onto the ceiling or door frame. I kept the power at a low level of 1/16. I positioned the head of the rake within the spill of the gridded light to separate it from the red wash.I took the red room image with white balance set to Flash. For the main room, I wanted to have an overall blue feel to the fill. I pointed an Alien Bees B800 studio strobe into the inside corner of the room and set the camera’s white balance to Tungsten to turn the flash’s white output blue (an alternate approach would have been adding a blue gel to the flash and since making this photo I’ve picked up some gels to fit the Alien Bees’ 7′ reflectors, including a 1/2 CT blue).
I lit ‘scared me’ with a snooted Metz 48 AF-1 at 1/8 power. I added a full CTO (orange) gel that, when combined with the Tungsten white balance on the camera, gave white light. The snoot was aimed to light just my upper body and the brick.In order to get the right coverage from the snooted flash I had to place it right in the middle of the frame. Another image, this time with the snooted flash removed, gave me the a clear view of that area.Here is the lighting diagram of the three images:
For triggering the flashes, I had to think carefully. Three of these four flashes have optical slaves. Only two of them have connectors for wireless triggers. The Metz 48 AF-1 has neither (although since this shoot I updated the firmware to include optical slave). In the end put a wireless trigger (Cybersync) on a flash in each room and triggered the other two with their optical slaves. This made optical line of sight easy, as the two slaved flashes only had to see their nearby wirelessly triggered flashes.
I brought the three images into photoshop and masked out the unwanted areas. With some heal/clone work to remove unwanted wires and highlights and a final curves adjustment, the image was done!