Blog Week Day 5 – Farewell to Waterloo Bowling Lanes

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

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ObG Thursdays – Old Post Office Light Painting Composite

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.

DSC_9339 DSC_9340 DSC_9341 DSC_9342 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.

DSC_9345 DSC_9346At 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.

ScreenHunter_16 Apr. 11 07.19In 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!

DSC_9339-EditAs 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!

Two Takes on a Flooded Road

During the work week I like to take my camera and lunch into the country. Of course I don’t usually get the chance in the wintery months. But last week, when the temperature went up into the double digits, I jumped into the car and headed out to my favourite spot on Three Bridges Road, just north of Waterloo. I had a feeling that the water would be high due to all the melting, but I didn’t expect the bridge to be totally covered. Here are two takes of the same scene. The first is a straightforward panorama with the D7000 and 35mm f/1.8 G.DSC_9532-EditIn this second image I went a little more artistic with a shallow depth of field Brenizer Method panorama. To really get the best bokeh in this image I should have been a little closer to the warning post that’s in sharp focus… but it was kind of mucky. Enjoy!DSC_9509_stitch

The Making of a Scary Basement Photos – Part 2 (Editing)

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.

DSC_9718-Edit-5The 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.

ScreenHunter_02 Jan. 11 16.42With 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.ScreenHunter_03 Jan. 11 16.44If 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.ScreenHunter_04 Jan. 11 16.46When 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. ScreenHunter_06 Jan. 11 16.52I 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.ScreenHunter_05 Jan. 11 16.51ScreenHunter_08 Jan. 11 16.52The 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.ScreenHunter_09 Jan. 11 16.53 ScreenHunter_10 Jan. 11 16.53The three layers, when all visible, appear like this:ScreenHunter_10 Jan. 11 16.54My 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.ScreenHunter_11 Jan. 11 16.54As a final adjustment I added a curves adjustment, again as a new layer but masked off the red room.ScreenHunter_11 Jan. 11 16.55Here is the final image in Photoshop:ScreenHunter_12 Jan. 11 16.56Finally, I opened the image up in Lightroom and cropped on a slight angle to add a bit of drama.DSC_9718-Edit-5Thanks for reading!

The Making of a Scary Basement Photo

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.

DSC_9718-Edit-5I’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.

Let’s start with the scene without any lighting. The basement is divided into three rooms and is creepy on its own.DSC_9668

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.DSC_9724I 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.DSC_9718In 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.DSC_9719Here is the lighting diagram of the three images:

lighting-diagram-scary-basement 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!

Creating a Wedding Party Composite with Flash

I’ve had a request to explain in more detail how I achieved the wedding party composite from yesterday’s post. I borrowed the idea from Ryan Brenizer, who uses this technique very effectively to achieve dramatic (but even) lighting over a group of people. This would be extremely difficult with a single or pair of flashes in a single image, especially on the fly and in the wild.

Here’s how it’s done.

First I set the camera (D300s with AF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 @ 17mm) on a tripod to keep the framing the same between each shot. I used manual mode to ensure consistent exposure. Settings of ISO 200, f/8, 1/250s gave this look:

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The ambient light is at least a stop underexposed, which is right where I wanted it. The next step was to set up the flash. I used a Nikon SB-900 set to wireless TTL control (the Nikon CLS system is powerful and complicated… something I’m sure I’ll delve into explaining in another post) and triggered with the on-board flash. To diffuse and soften the light, I added my favourite light mod, the Lumiquest Softbox LTz. This softbox mounts to the flash with velcro and folds up to the size of a 17″ laptop, which most camera bags nowadays have a slot for. Portt, who was assisting me that day, held the flash up close to each pair of people and I took a shot for each position.

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In Lightroom, I batch processed the five images for exposure, lens correction, sharpening and then opened them in Photoshop as layers in a single file. Using the first image as a base layer, I painted in the relevant bits from the successive layers and finished things off with some global and local curves and dodging/burning. Here’s the final image:

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To get this look in a single image would have required some pretty tricky lighting, both to light each person evenly and to control the spill on the background. In all, the composite took just a few minutes to shoot and less than half an hour in Photoshop. An added bonus to shooting each pair separately is that I can focus on just two faces at a time (i.e. no blinkers).