Last weekend I tried using my new background kit (stands + white seamless) to shoot some portraits of our cats, Gracie and Professor Noam Chomsky. For the key light I used an Alien Bee B800 with gridded beauty dish from camera right, somewhat close to the posing stool. A Paul C Buff Brollie Box on a 2nd B800 was the fill light, set back from camera left. Both lights were set to equal output power, so distance controlled the intensity on the cats. The background light was a 3rd B800 with barn doors to control the spill.
“Posing” the cats was an exercise in patience. While Gracie eventually chilled out on the stool and let me get a long series of shots, Chomsky had no interest. The lamb skin helped but I still only had 10 seconds after setting him down before he’d run away to the bedroom.
I shot withe the D700 + AF-S 85mm f/1.8 G on a tripod and cable release, allowing me to shoot from the floor between the camera and cats.
Elisabeth and Behzad got married in style at the Steam Whistle Brewery in Toronto this past July. My afternoon started at their fantastic apartment where I got to see the beautiful dress (that Elisabeth made herself!) and meet the super-fun bridesmaids. The makeup was exceptional, thanks to the talented Misty Fox, which made my work in post a breeze (where skin was concerned). Once I arrived at the Steam Whistle (after an unfortunate delay from the thousands of Blue Jays fans pouring into the streets after the game) I met the guys and set about photographing the wedding party. The weather was HOT and BRIGHT so I quickly whisked everybody to a shaded area. If you look closely at these photos you might spot the Leon’s store through the windows. The ceremony had many Persian elements, as Behzad and family are Iranian, and was quite beautiful. Thankfully the sun dipped had below the SkyDome just in time to not cook the guests.
This was my first time working with the assistance (and 2nd shooter skills) of Sylvia Pond and hopefully not the last! She did a better job than I could have ever hoped and I’ve included a few of her pictures here.
The cocktail-style ceremony provided all the candid photo opportunities that I could hope for and this is where the D700 and fast primes really shone. When things got darker I broke out the strobes. I placed the SB-700 on a stand against a pillar and either pointed it at the stage for speeches or into the crowd for dancing/party shots. I held the SB-900 in my left hand with Lumiquest Softbox LTz to work in tandem with the stand-mounted strobe. For the photo booth I set up the Alien Bee B800s with umbrellas outside against one of the large doors.
Last Saturday, Mitzy, Ian and I had one last bowl at the Waterloo Bowling Lanes before they closed for good. Naturally, I brought the camera along. These shots were with the D300s and AF-S 17-55mm f/2.8. I used the SB-900 with Lumiquest Softbox LTz for the shots with flash (with this method).
Very sad to see the place go but at least we got to say goodbye properly.
Tomorrow night Waterloo’s last bowling alley, Waterloo Bowling Lanes, will close its doors. Soon it will be demolished with a 7 story condo taking its place. I, along with many other Waterloons, are saddened by this. The lanes have been open since 1949 and will be sorely, sorely missed. There’s something special about a run down 5-pin bowling alley. Nostalgic Canadiana, maybe.
Last night, Mitzy and I made light painted composite images of the building to honour its closing. The technique is the same as the one shown here, with 5-10 shots making up each composite.
D300s with Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 PRO DX at 11mm f/11 4s ISO 200
For the second post of my blog-a-day week I’ll share what I consider one of the loveliest spots near Waterloo, the crossing of the Conestogo River on Three Bridges Road. Located just west of St. Jacobs and a short drive from where I work, it’s a great spot to go during lunch or at the end of the day to grab a few shots.
In the summer, the river is shallow and slow-moving. In the late winter and early spring with a heavy melt, it’s a torrent and the low bridge is lost completely beneath the water. Regardless of the seasonal changes, I’m still amazed at how many different types of photos I can get at the same place. It just goes to show that you don’t have to travel far to get great shots (or pretty good shots, at least).
I used a wide range of equipment for these photos. The bodies (Nikon D300s, D7000 and N80, Bronica ETRS) were paired with lenses (Nikon 17-55 f/2.8, Nikon 35 f/1.8, Nikon 60 f/2.8G Micro, Nikon 85 f/1.8G, Tokina 11-16 f/2.8, Tokina 50-135 f/2.8, Sigma 50 f/1.4, Bronica MC 40 f/4, Bronica EII 75/2.8). On the self portraits I used Nikon SB-700 and SB-900 strobes with CLS control.
I’ll give a prize to the person who gets the most correct gear-to-photo matches!
This week’s oldie-but-goodie comes from the front porch where last summer a spider took residence. I got creative with the lighting here, using a full three strobes. I controlled the strobes with Nikon’s CLS (Creative Lighting System) using the built-in flash as the controller.
The main light was a Nikon SB-900 with 1/4 CTO gel (the one that is supplied with the flash) and a Nikon SB-700 and Metz 48 AF-1 were both used as rim lights, un-gelled. I programmed the CLS settings in the camera as follows:
Overall exposure compensation was 0 EV
Main light was dialed down to -0.7 EV (on Group A) and had a 1/4 CTO gel
Rim lighting was increased to +0.7 EV (both on Group B)
Happily I also had a Mitzy to stand behind the web!
The photo was taken with the D300s with AF-S 60mm f/2.8 G Micro at f/8 1/100s ISO 400.
This week’s oldie-but-goodie comes from August 2007, back when I was first learning to light with external flashes. Jeff and I were on a photo walk and came across this piece of public art outside of the Waterloo Library.
Being a bit foggy out I thought that backlighting the art would give a cool effect, with the metal plate becoming a dark aperture and the figure inside being lit from behind. I set a Vivitar 285HV behind the piece and triggered it with a cheapo Ebay trigger. The moisture in the air caught some of the light and gave a cool starry look.
Final settings were Pentax *ist DS (my first digital camera) with DA 16-45mm f/4 at 31mm f/5 1/50s ISO 1600 + lots of tweaking in Photoshop CS3.
Lighting a large scene with just one flash is something I’d wanted to try for a while and finally got around to it with this shot in today’s Oldie-but-Goodie.
This photo is a composite of six shots, stitched together in Photoshop CS5. In each, I lit a different part of the building using a single SB-900 flash with the standard diffuser cap. I fired the flash using the test button and in most of the shots I fired it multiple times. The camera (Nikon D300s wtih Tokina 11-16mm) was set to manual exposure (f/8 8s ISO 100) and manual focus and set on a tripod in the parking lot. The long exposure allowed the camera to capture the ambient light but also gave me the time for the flash fires.
Here are the shots that went into the composite. In the first four I lit both the concrete and brick walls.
In the next two I tried to light the smoke stack by zooming the flash in to 200mm. The flash lost a lot of power at that distance and even with multiple fires it was difficult to light the stack.
At this point the images look like a mess with many points of light and many Owens. However, by choosing which part of each image I wanted to come through using layer masks I could clean this up considerably. Below I show a capture from Photoshop with each of the images and their corresponding layer mask. Notice that for the most part only a small area (the white region of the layer mask) is used in the composite.
In the end I did have to remove a few stray flash bursts and Owen limbs here and there using the healing brush and clone tools. Finally, with a curves adjustment to brighten the lower mid-tones, I ended up with this!
As this was my first ‘light painted’ composite, I did learn a few lessons. Most importantly, it was difficult in a few instances to remove my ghost from the image. Next time around I would use brighter flashes and stand further away from the subject to not catch as much of the reflection. Distance would also help broaden the spot as it falls on the surface. Overall though, I was happy with this first attempt!
On a few occasions I’ve had the opportunity to shoot the fake prom event at the Starlight in Waterloo… essentially a big night club party where everybody dresses up. My part has most often been by setting up a ‘photo booth’ where individuals, couple or groups can pose together and be as goofy or sexy as they like. Today’s oldie-but-goodie comes from my favourite of these proms, back in 2010. The theme was Horror, if I remember correctly. I’m a big fan of this photo of Celeigh, both for the lighting and for the pose.
For the photo booth I set up three lights. For the main light I used an Alien Bee B800 with brolly box (an octagonal softbox that opens and mounts like a shoot-through umbrella). The light was on a stand, cinched tightly to a post. For rim lights I clamped a Vivitar 285HV about 15′ away on each side, as close to the back wall as possible. The 285HV on the left was gelled with blue and the one on the right was gelled deep red. I triggered the three lights with Cybersyncs.
The settings were Pentax K20D with FA 35mm f/1.8 LTD (the lens I miss more than any other that I’ve sold) at f/2.8 1/80s ISO200.
Today’s Oldie-but-Goodie is a fun little ‘portrait’ of an action figure. After reading about some cool lighting setups for defining muscle I wanted to try it out on a real live muscular person. Unfortunately, I am not this person…
The Flash (fittingly) would have to stand in for me. This shot is actually one of the more complicated lighting setups that I’ve done. It uses four flashes in total and each of them is modified. The principle of the lighting is to use a softbox in a ‘tabletop’ position, meaning that it sits directly above the subject pointing straight down. The direction of light causes the muscles to cast strong shadows, adding definition. With just this one light, the shadows are quite strong. Rim lighting or fill lighting can lift the shadows.
For this shot I used the lighting diagram below:
A Lumiquest Softbox LTZ on SB-900 sits directly above the subject (even though in the diagram it’s placed slightly in front) and points down. For rim lighting I use two more strobes. On the right is a SB-700 with a grid spot. On the left is a Metz 48 AF-1 with a grid spot.
For the backround I used a fourth light, an Alienbees B800 with 22″ beauty dish with a diffuser sock placed over it. I’ve had a lot of fun placing this light modifier directly into photos as a creative element in the past.
The SB-900 used for tabletop lighting has a Full CTO gel on it. The Metz 48 AF-1 on the left is gelled with a light blue. In hindsight, the blue was probably unnecessary as it doesn’t look much different from the non-gelled flash (see the highlights on his waist at left and right).
The final shot was with the D300s and AF-S 60mm f/2.8 G Micro at f/13 1/125s ISO 100. The B800 with beauty dish was set to minimum power and is still quite bright at f/13 ISO 100. The tabletop light is at 1/2 power and the two rims are 1/16 power.