Monday, June 30, 2008

video tommorow

Just goes to show you - when you travel you always forget something. I am out of town to present some wedding images to a client who does not live in Louisville and I totally forgot to grab my microphone. I don't really have time to run into town and pick another one up - so I am going to push the video tutorial back to tomorrow and do what I had planned for Tuesday today.

SLR's for the mases

The price of admission has fallen. Any Joe Cool can walk into a Best Buy, Circuit City, Ritz Camera, etc and pick up a sophisticated digital single lens reflex camera capable of producing professional results previously reserved for professionals and enthusiasts with the bank to spend a few grand for tools and toys. Digital SLR's are now priced where film SLR's were priced in the late 90's - and the quality of the cameras today is incomparable to the original Rebel 2000 Canon released way back when. Individuals are purchasing there second or third digital camera and have decided opinions on what they do and don't want in a camera. In a market that is constantly squeezing more megapixel into pea sized sensors (hello image noise) the quality difference has grown quite staggering. Consumers have put up with sluggish shutter lag, ISO performance and depressing battery life for years. During the previous purchases they probably didn't even consider an SLR because of the price tag or price of admission as it were. Today, consumers have the option of spending a little more to bump from the ultra-zoom market into a basic SLR and HUGE surprise ... they are buying them! It doesn’t take a professional with a four year degree in image fidelity to recognize that SLR's produce superior results.

What does this all mean? As a lover of photography I am SO excited to see people loving their images for once. Quality is starting to re-take center stage from quantity (the current king in digital photography). Quantity will probably always remain dominant in a digital society; however, it is refreshing to see people interested in quality once again. As a professional photographer most would expect me to be resistant to more SLR's floating around. After all - that means anyone has the technology in his/her hands to produce professional results ... or do they? My father-in-law is a talented trim carpenter. I could go out and buy the same tools he uses - does that make me a trim carpenter? A lot of photographers get frustrated when they see everyone and their brother with an SLR. They feel like people are encroaching on their space. Here's the bottom line: Quality is always recognized. If you as a photographer produce professionally crafted and polished images they will ALWAYS stand out from the quantity of images the average shutterbug produces. Sure - they may get a few great photos that look professional. But remember, you produce images like that every day on a consistent basis.

More individuals using SLR's is GREAT for two reasons:
  1. People are falling in love with photography again. They are capturing memories and enjoying sharing them with friends - that gives me the warm and fuzzy
  2. The increase in quantity only heightens the quality because it makes it rarer. A tool in the hands of a master is an amazing thing to behold. As long as you produce professional results - people will continue to say "oh, so now I see why you are a professional."

Friday, June 27, 2008

arch in the grove

Camera: Nikon D50 1/800 f/8 ISO 200  Lens: 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6

I took this image three years ago while at a training event with my friend Tommy in Miami, FL.  We were staying at this hotel in Coconut Grove which had this gorgeous modern sculpture sitting in front of it.  I took it from several different angels throughout our stay; however, it was late morning on the last day of our stay when I was returning from a photo walk and I saw the building and sculpture poke through the trees. - I had my shot.  I cleaned the building up a bit - a few water stains and one or two spots with chipped paint.  The Nikon D50 I had on loan had a few pieces of dust on the sensor so I removed those in Lightroom.  The crazy thing is that the sky was really that blue.  It was a humid yet gorgeous July morning in Coconut Grove Miami.  Enjoy your weekend - see you on Monday!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

video archive

I had several readers request a central place where they could view all the video tutorials without having to search the blog.  Yesterday I went back and placed a label / keyword on the archived video posts.  I have put a button on the sidebar to the right that looks like the photo above.  Simply click on the icon and the blog will filter down to just video tutorials.  This new feature is all thanks to a reader request - thanks Skitch!  As a reader, you are the reason I blog - if there is something that you feel would make the experience better please do not hesitate to ask.  I can't promise anything - but I will try to accommodate as best I can.

i can't get no .... calibration!

image courtasy of David Ziser Master Class

I am all about calibration.  I have a calibrated monitor using the Spyder 2 Pro system and I rely on the fact that if I design / edit something on my computer and upload it online I see the same color on my prints and on my website.  Color is HUGELY important to me.  For 99.9% of all my client work I use a local lab in town who does a great job.  However, for smaller 4x6 prints and the occasional 8x10 I like to use my small Epson RX580.  It uses the Claria 6 ink system which has some amazing quality.  However, my problem is that I always seem to be hit-or-miss with image quality.  For one photo the prints come out GREAT.  On the next photo it looks dark or washed out.  Same printer, same computer, same profile.  Doesn't make sense to me.  I am very green when it comes to professional printing - an area I am wanting to brush up on.  David Ziser's solution is the print the photo above from your computer and then hold it next to the computer monitor until it matches what you see.  I know that will work.  However, since my monitor is correctly calibrated for everything else - I am reluctant to change the calibration to address one issue.  I really feel that what I need are some custom profiles for the printer.  I am sending this one out to you - the readers.  If anyone knows where I can find some custom profiles for the RX580 or has any best practices around printer calibration shoot me an email or drop something in the comments.  Thanks so much!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

the pen

The longer I photograph and more importantly edit wedding photographs the greater my appreciation and dependancy on my Wacom tablet becomes.  At first it was this annoying device I had to clumsily put up with.  As time and the clumsiness past I started to sorta enjoy using the device.  Today I don't sit down to edit photos without one.  Last week (what prompted this article) I had to do some photoshop work for our store's Viewpoint committee photos using a store laptop (no Wacom).  I found myself getting very frustrated with how archaic the mouse was as an editing device.  I sorta sat back as I realized that I'm a Wacom snob.

If you are not familiar with Wacom tablets - here is a basic rundown.  Using a pressure sensitive pen (as pictured above) on a a pad ranging in sizes from 4x6" - 20x20" allows one to replace the mouse with a much more precise instrument.  When looking at the tablet area - it represents your screen.  If I place my pen in the top left corner that is where my mouse pointer will appear.  Within programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, Corel Panter X, etc the pressure sensitivity allows the user to command thicker or thinner brushes simply by how much pressure is applied to the surface of the tablet with the pen.  The tablet is especially useful when dodging and burning, and applying delicate skin retouching.  As I covered above - the Wacom has a modest learning curve and takes a while to adjust to.  I had to force myself to use mine for about a month until it became the natural tool to use.  I loved the results - but hated that I wasn't proficient with it.

Wacom produces three series' of tablets:
image courtesy of wacom

Bamboo - the enthusiast or someone looking for a lower price of admission will appreciate Wacom's attention to quality in an entry level product like their Bamboo tablets.  They usually don't come any larger than 4x6 and limit the user to 512 points of pressure sensitivity.  Basically this means that as you press the pen it won't have as large a difference in brush size between pressing lightly and pressing with a heavy pressure.  They start around $79.00 - $89.00 in most retailers.

image courtesy of wacom

Intuos 3 -  Wacom calls this the professional photographer and graphic designer's tablet.  It doubles the points of sensitivity offered on the Bamboo level - bringing it up to 1,024 points of pressure and comes in a larger variety of sizes.  Also, the customizable quick controls are in two locations (for left handed individuals like myself).  This is the tablet I use for two reasons - the price was right and the size works for desktop application as well as traveling.  When you upgrade to the Intuos series you get more out the pen than additional sensitivity.  Wacom ads pen tilt technology.  This means that brushes size and shape can change (if you so choose) as you pivot the pen off it's center axis.  Probably not something to terribly important for photo retouching; however, if you paint, draw, or design with the tablet this is a HUGE selling point.  The 4x6 Intuos starts around $199.99 and the 12x19 unit sells for around $749.99.

image courtesy of wacom

Cintiq - The MAC DADDY of Wacom tablets.  Instead of drawing on a tablet that corresponds to a point on your screen - draw directly on the screen!  Same points of sensitivity, same pen tilt.  The screen sits on an adjustable stand that can either stand up as seen above in the picture or almost flat on the table.  This is the second generation of Wacom Cintiq tablets which means a lot of early adopter customer feedback went into its construction.  The first gen Cintiq had a thick sheet of glass above the tablet which made the pointer appear to not line up with the pen - this has been resolved in the new units.  Some individuals complain that the monitor is a little washed out with it's default configuration - nothing that a little monitor calibration won't fix.  So what's the catch?  Wouldn't everyone want the Cintiq?  I know I would love to have one.  Two pieces that make the cost of admission a bit high.
  1. Space:  The units take up a lot of room so you will need a big desk.  I am not a fan of keyboard drawers in desks - they never seem to stay put for me.  You will need a desk that has room for a keyboard to the side or a drawer under the desk.
  2. Cost:  The base 12" unit starts at $1,000.00 and the unit I have pictured is about $2,100.00.  You would need to be making some serious money on  your work or have your work drastically effected to justify this technology in my mind.
Wacom has tablets out there starting under $100.00 which makes them very affordable considering the advantages of the technology.  If you have an Apple Store in your area they generally have Wacom tablets out on display.  Best Buy sells the base Intuos and the Bamboo units - but won't have a demo for you.  I don't consider myself to be an expert on the Wacom line - just a user; but, if you have any questions please feel free to email me or drop your question in the comments.  Have a great day!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

sticky situation

images courtesy of Neal Enterprises Inc.

Gary Fong says that as wedding photographers we book weddings with a "hope album."  We shoot the wedding and hope they don't order an album.  Albums are time consuming, expensive, and quite possibly the most important thing you can give to the client.  You are basically producing a giant business card that the client will want to show EVERYONE.  Album's don't go away either - they stick around.

Do you offer albums to your clients right now?  I would hope the answer is yes.  Here is the real question - what else do you have to offer?  Just about everyone does an album.  I have a guy here in town who prints and binds mine; however, there are plenty of other places you can get books made.  What about the parents?  Are they ordering a duplicate album or perhaps a totally different one of their own?  Enter Neal Enterprises with their self-stick album.  I won a self stick album at the David Ziser Master class in a raffle and WOW.  I printed up some 4x6 images from the wedding, stuck them in the album and it looked GREAT!  The pages have a wax sheet of paper covering the adhesive.  You peel down the corner (which they have perforated), line up the photo where you want to place it and press.  Grab the rest of the wax paper and pull away.  I don't think it can get any easier than that.
images courtesy of Neal Enterprises Inc.

When you are finished - a professional looking album sits before you.  It even comes with a presentation box - how cool is that.  Present these to your clients as gift albums - christmas presents, parent albums, thank you favors, or work albums.  They cost a fraction of what a full bound album costs.  These are also great for clients who opt to not get an album.

Bottom line - will Neal Enterprises' albums replace a ZookBook, or other bound album?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  They will; however, ad a secondary product that you can offer to your client that will compliment the primary album.  People want this and by not offering it to them we are doing them a disservice.  

rewards - get yours

Just about everyone who read's this blog knows that I work for Best Buy.  I know that you appreciate me leaving the Best Buy cool-aid to a minimum; however, there are some things that just excite me so I have to share them.  Best Buy just rolled out a program called Reward Zone Silver.  It is a upper tier for their existing Reward Zone program.

Reward Zone Silver (free card - not a credit card)
  • 45 Day return policy (even on 14 day items like laptops and cameras)
  • Bank Points - as you purchase items, save up the points for one big purchase instead of having them mailed to you as you earn them.
  • 25% bonus points - you get $5.00 for every $200.00 spent at Best Buy
  • Complimentary Home Theater In Home Consultation Every Year
  • Complimentary Geek Squad Online Data Backup
  • Dedicated customer service line just for Silver Members
Reward Zone Master Card (credit card that can be used anywhere)
  • 50% bonus points - you get $5.00 for every $100.00 spent at Best Buy
  • everything else is the same from above
Reward Zone Standard
  • $5.00 for every $250 spent
  • Free Paper with the purchase of 2 inkjet cartridges or one toner cartridge
  • Invitation to exclusive VIP shopping events
You have to spend $2,500 annually with Best Buy to be upgraded to the Silver card - send one kid to college now days and you will have no problems with qualifying.  There are two things that really excite me about this program:
  1. 45 Day return policy:  that say a lot.  Best Buy is saying ... you know our Best Customers deserve a premium service - so let's take care of them.
  2. Bank Points:  I see people come in every day with expired points - you spend the money at Best Buy - you should be able to spend you points when you want!
If you are already a Reward Zone customer you will automatically be upgraded when you qualify.  In the meantime - you will have a progress indicator on the envelope that points and coupons come in telling you how close you are to Silver membership.  Ok, I think I am done ... this marks the end of the Best Buy Cool-Aid.

Monday, June 23, 2008

bright eyes

When retouching images it is easy to get lost in the details.  We focus on large problems - working from the greater issues down to the smaller ones.  Today we look at how impactfull eyes can be.  In today's video tutorial I brighten the eyes and the entire photo transforms.  We also look at what can happen when you over do an effect ... I do believe Michael Jackson is casting for a remake of Thriller.  Anyways - enjoy the video and as always post any questions / comments in the comments section and feel free to shoot me an email.

Friday, June 20, 2008

hot now

Camera: 20D 1/40 5.6 ISO 400 Lens: 14-40mm USM L  
Light: 580EXII 1/4 power camera left through a 33 inch shoot thorugh umbrella.

I was asked to photograph our store's viewpoint committee members who represent each department within the store.  They are sort of an elected body to represent the individuals within their department.  I tried to get each individual in front of his/her department in a creative way that sorta said who they were.  Christi is our store's Media supervisory and Viewpoint chairperson.  I came across the "hot this week" sign and instantly had my shot.  This was a run and gun assignment (these things have to get done but customer's come first - so the faster it is finished the better).  I'll be posting some of the other images over the next week.  My posts have been a bit late the past few days and yes - I did miss wednesday this week.  I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  In an effort to get a jump on things for next week (to prevent wednesday from happening again) I have the entire week outlined and ready to go!  I hope you all have a great weekend - enjoy FOTO Friday.  I will see you Monday for a video tutorial around replacing annoying backgrounds.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

the moment it clicks AMAZING

Two weeks ago my wife purchased Joe McNally's "The Moment it Clicks" as an anniversary gift.  So first of all ... I think that it removes all doubt that I have the absolute best wife ever!  I had picked up the book a few times at my local Barne's & Noble (flipping through it looking at the pictures - which are amazing in themselves).  I am only about 1/2 way through the book - and I am totally amazed.  You know you are in great company when the author begins stories with phrases like ... "an editor from TIME once told me..."  - you know you are in for a treat.  Joe's commitment "to try anything once" gives him the creative keeping his stock high and his images on the bleeding edge of photography.  The stories blend together with technique and imagery in a way that makes you feel like you are sitting on the floor as he shares his wisdom and technique.

I found a great video over on YouTUBE that captures Joe's personality - check it out.  I think you will like it.  Oh, and if you haven't picked up "The Moment it Clicks" - it is a must have!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

light as a feather

About 8 years ago I purchased my first SLR.  The guys at the studio cut out a picture of the camera and set it behind the counter where I could see it all the time.  I had a goal!  I slaved in that studio for about 4 months before I had saved enough for the camera.  Once I had all my money together I started bidding on eBay and after a few tries I won a camera.  A week or so later my Nikon N90s came to the doorstep!  opened the bubble wrap and there it was the best looking camera body I had ever seen!  And that was it ... just a camera body.  No lens, no manual, no strap, nothing.  When the description said body only they weren't kidding!  One of the guys in the studio loaned me a lens from an old manual Nikon FM-2 and I "borrowed" the strap from my dad's AE-1 out of the closet.  All was good.  A few weeks later I purchased a vertical grip and a lens for the camera and all was right in the world.

Fast-forward about 10 months and the family is getting out of the car in Yellowstone National Park.  The 4 day drive was finally over - we could start our adventure.  We hopped out and my dad popped open his case and went ... "so where is my camera strap?"  I sorta gave him a goofy grin and said, " it's on my camera."  My dad slowly responded with ... "so where is my camera strap?"  So, I figured I would explain why his strap was on my camera but he sorta cut me off with ... "so where is my camera strap?"  Ok ... so I may be dense but even I could see where this was going ... "um, your camera strap will be right back on your camera in a sec dad."  Now I am at the start of a brand new vacation with no camera strap.  I desperately headed for the gift shop (you know the places that used to charge like 12.00 for a roll of film to the sorry tourist who forgot to bring any along ... gotta love economics ... supply and demand baby ... supply and demand)  I was wandering around trying to find something to hook to my camera when I happened upon a gem.  They had some straps hanging in the camera section that looked promising.  I seem to remember them being like $29.00 (which considering B&H sole 'em at the time for around $14.00 I guess that is about right).  I read the packaging and decided to go for it.
At that time I had a crazy huge 28-200 mm lens that wasn't what I would describe as a light lens - compound that on the weight of the N90s and you had a tank!  My shoulder always hurt after long assignments with my dad's strap.  After the first day out in the park I knew I had made a good decision with the strap.  With the strap around my neck I didn't feel the weight of the camera at all.  My shoulders didn't hurt all week!  So here is the deal...

I used the Canon strap that came with my 20D for a few weeks and then found myself on an assignment with a 70-200 mm lens and immediately remembered why I loved the OP/TECH strap so much.  I ran down the street to a Ritz Camera (I know ... no comments needed) and picked up what I thought was going to be close to the same thing ... hope that wasn't my final answer.  Lets just say when I got home I ordered an OP/TECH immediately.  I figured all Neoprene based straps were the same ... WRONG!  Some have too little give while some (like the one from Ritz) have too much.  So here is the deal:

Ritz Neoprene Camera Strap: $10.00 (can't find the strap on their website)

My OP/TECH strap is the single most important non-electrical accessory I have purchased for my camera.  It reduces wear and tear on ME during weddings and is a pleasure to use.  I am not paid by OP/TECH - I just use the product and love it.  Check it out - I think you will like it!

Monday, June 16, 2008

spot color 101

Today we take a quick look at spot color.  The technique is everywhere from Hallmark greeting cards, to just about every bridal magazine on the face of the planet.  Being able to choose what part of your photo has color and what part does not is HUGE.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of ways to do spot color that take FOREVER!!!  You know me, I am all about speed and efficiency around edits.  I use Lightroom and Layer masking to achieve my end result - enjoy!

Friday, June 13, 2008

we the kings

Camera: Canon 5D 1/125 f/10 ISO 200  Lens: 17-40mm f/4.0 USM L

I haven't really been into the band scene since I was in college so I am a bit out of touch.  However, I had a blast photographing the band We The Kings during their acoustic concert at the Louisville Best Buy.  They were kind enough to pose for me outside the store for a few photos.  The acoustic concert was well preformed and though it isn't my personal genre of choice I could appreciate the talent.
Camera: Canon 20D 1/50 f/5.6 ISO 800  Lens: 70-300mm 3.5-5.6 IS USM  
Light: 580 EXII 1/4 power + 2/3 triggered by freeXwire system.

I totally forgot they were coming by the store today and so I had to rush home to grab my gear.  In my rush I forgot my umbrella so the light was a bit harsh ... but for a band harsh works.  I converted my monopod setup into a light stand setup using a tripod to hold the 580 EXII and freeXwire system.  The best part about photographing an event at Best Buy - LOTS OF LENSES!  I tossed a 70-300 IS lens (see photo above) and a 10-22 super wide angle (see photo below) into my camera bag to expand my normal bread and butter of the 17-40mm (still my favorite lens).
Camera: Canon 20D 1/15 f/8  ISO 800  Lens 10-22mm USM  
Light: 580 EXII 1/4 power triggered by freeXwire

The off camera flash gave me really cool lighting patterns.  In the photo above the flash is just behind the people center frame and is casting a nice shadow fwd.  The wide angle lens also allowed me to wrap the crowd around the band.  

Thursday, June 12, 2008

fire engine love

Camera: Canon 20D 1/40 f/11  ISO 200     Lens: 17-40mm f/4.0 USM L
Light: 580 EXII flash camera left 1/2 power through a 33" shoot through umbrella triggered by freeXwire system

Another example of the benefits of having the Bride & Groom see each other before the wedding.  After getting all the portraits and group photos out of the way there was about an hour before the ceremony.  The Bride & Groom had expressed an interest in going to the town square where Ryan, the groom, had proposed.  As we turned the corner to see the square there was a HUGE flea market or expo, or something on the square.  There was not a square foot of space without a tent or a corn-dog.  We sorta looked at each other and had a now what look on our faces.  Ryan is a fire fighter so he suggested swinging over to the station for a few photos on the fire engine.  We did photos in the engine, in front of it, and of course .... in the bucket!!!  It was too much fun.  The couple loved it.  It was spontaneous.  There is no way on the face of this earth that a shot like this would have happened on the day of the wedding if they did all the photos afterwards!  

Vivesa Skin

I am not usually a plug-in guy.  I like the set of tools that Adobe gives me because they work.  I first saw Vivesa about a month ago and instantly had to have it.  Three words:  SPEED, SELECTION, CONTROL.  Vivesa allows an editor to sit down and edit a photo's tonality, luminosity, saturation, contrast, hue, etc selectively using the U-Point technology made popular by Nikon's Capture NX.  I love having the ability to effect a group of similar pixels and have the surrounding different pixels remain the same - so sweet.  If you like what you see in the video take Vivesa out for a 15 Day TEST DRIVE.  If you decide Vivesa is the product for you it doesn't come cheap - but none of the good tools do.  Trust me, the $249.95 Vivesa will set you back will be nothing when you consider how much time it will save you editing on the back end.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

fake it till you make it

We all end up in the situation at one point or another (or hope we do anyway).  A client asks more of us that any client in the past.  "SURE I CAN DO THAT" we exclaim.  As the client heads out your OH CRAP meeter goes from 2 to about 2 million in approx. six seconds.  When you come to your senses you sit down and try to figure out how you are going to pull this off you really start to worry.  The largest flex I experience in equipment is glass.  I consistently need more.  I am confident in my camera, and my lighting system; however, it seems like I book a wedding or an event that will require more than resides in my camera bag.  There are two places I have used that always take care of me and make me look great.
  • - great pricing.  They are sometimes out of stock of a large chunk of their inventory so that is why you need a backup...
  • - much larger company who has never been out of stock of anything I have ever requested.  SUPER FAST turnaround.  My last lens got to me sooner than they anticipated. Lens rentals is quickly becoming my choice for renting equipment.
Both companies communicate really well.  They have cheap insurance so you don't have to freak out when you rent something should the worst happen (unless the worst is theft ... cuz they don't cover that).  If you get a gig that requires some special glass this is the ticket.  I have heard of a place out of Anderson Indiana that rents glass; however, I have never used them so I am reluctant to pass on a recommendation.

So, how cheap is cheap?  You can rent a 70-200mm f/4 USM lens for about $36.00 a week + shipping and optional insurance.  So here's the deal.  Next time you find yourself in a bind because you over promised to a client (not something that is good to get in the habit of doing).  Rent some gear that is outside your current means to own and get the job done.  Sometimes you just have to fake it 'till you make it ... or rent it 'till you get it.  Ok, On that note I am out.  See ya tomorrow.

NOTE: sorry the original version of this post had grammar issues.  I had to put it together earlier in the AM than I normally like so I wasn't fully awake.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

WWDC in 60 Seconds

I'm not a big mash-up fan ... however, I felt that this one was fun and if you don't have the time to sit down and watch Jobs' full presentation - you can pick up 90% of everything in one minute here.

two post tuesday

Since I was such a slacker yesterday and let the day get away from me - I have put together two video posts for your enjoyment.  So double you pleasure, double your fun.  It's the statement of a great min..... video tutorial.  One on File Management and one on Retouching specularity / shiny spots.  Enjoy

goodbye shine

Say goodbye to annoying shine and specularity in your photos ... well if you are using off camera flash then you have already said goodbye for the most part; however, you still run into it from time to time.  Scott Kelby did a tutorial on removing 12 o'clock shadow using the clone stamp tool.  I had a thought ... what if I reversed the technique - wouldn't it remove shine ... guess what IT DOES!!!  Check out this video tutorial - it will rock your world.

file management

Today I take a dive into file management on my computer.  This is not the definitive way of doing things - it is simply what I find works for me.  My hope is that you will watch the video and find a management system that works for you.  - Enjoy

early bird gets the worm

Hey folks - so sorry I did not get a post out today.  I meant to get it out first thing but put it off.  Then WWDC hit which totally rocked my world ... except I was prepared to buy something and I have to wait over a month ... not bitter.  After WWDC I had to run to the apple store (actually I ran during WWDC and watched updates on my phone).  After meeting with a Genius and getting my iPod replaced - major props apple - I had a list of things on my Honey Do list.  Finally, there was an emergency at work that I had to go in for and now .... it is 12:26 and no post.  I will post two entries tomorrow one video and one technique.  Have a wonderful evening and I will see you tomorrow.

Monday, June 9, 2008

WWDC 2008

Today's post will be a little late due to me watching the WWDC08 coverage - the video will be up after Steve terminates the reality distortion field.  See ya on the flip side of new apple product.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Five Years Today

Camera: Nikon F100 settings unknown  Lens: Unknown  Light: Nikon SB-28 iTTL

I normally don't post on Saturdays - Today is Ashley and my 5 year anniversary.  So I wanted to take a few minutes to share a few archive images with you from my wedding.  They are film scans because back in 2003 most still lived in the film era ... although I do believe this was one of the last weddings EVER to be shot on film ... just kidding of course.  My good friend Ralph Smith who at that time Managed the local Bryn-Alan Photography studio photographed the wedding.  I hope you all enjoy the images and your weekend - I am off to enjoy the rest of the day.  Oh, and the answer is yes ... I have lost a lot of hair in the last 5 years ;-)
Camera: Nikon F100 settings unknown  Lens: Unknown  Light: Nikon SB-28 iTTL

Friday, June 6, 2008


Camera: Canon 20D 1/50 f/5.6 ISO 800  Lens: 17-40mm USM L  
Light:  Canon 580 EXII 1/4 power through a 33" shoot through umbrella triggered by Quantum freeXwire.

It never ceases to amaze me how often you set up one photo and then take an alteration or modification of the shot and like the spur of the moment photo better.  I posed the bride in the isle, positioned the light and was ready to go - click and I had the photo.  Then while everything was still set I zoomed in for this and ... I think it has tons of impact.  I love the little detail shots.  This really showcases the dress and her flowers (the two things that often cost the most money).  I added a custom vignette in Photoshop and removed some color cast with Vivesa but other than that it is right out of the camera.  I hope you have a great weekend - I will see you guys monday morning for a video tutorial.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

freeXwire ins & outs

Per-reader request I have put together a more detailed description with up-close pictures of the freeXwire and how it connects to the flash and camera. There is almost nothing out online around setting up these units and the manual is so dense that I gave up on it and just started messing around with the device - so here is what I have found works...

There are two sets of plugs: one on the right side of the device (top photo) and one on the left (bottom photo). The plug on the right is labled sync in and is used for input into the device. The freeXwire comes with a standard mini pin to male pc connector (pictured below) to connect the transmitting freeXwire unit to your camera. This is the standard connection for both Canon and Nikon. The Left side has the sync out port which is used for sending the received signal to your device in this case the flash. They do not supply this cable because there are about 9 million kinds of flash cable and depending on your application the cable will change.

Hooking a speedlite (like in my use) to the freeXwire requires a male to male PC sync cable that is not supplied. The cable goes into the sync out port as pictured in (A) and plugs in as illustrated in (B). Insure that your flash has a PC port on it (C) - if not you will need to purchase an inexpensive adapter that snaps onto the hot shoe to give the port. The end going into the flash should look like the end that went into the freeXwire (D). Plug in the end as illustrated in (E) and the connection is complete.

When I first un-boxed my freeXwire I was confused because I figured the cable supplied should work for the flash as well. However, The jack it uses is for input into the device not output. Once I figured out that I had to use the sync out port everything was smooth sailing. You set the transmitter and the receiver to the same channel and sub-group and you are up and running.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

neglecting the groom

Camera: Canon 20D 1/50 f/5.6 ISO 800  Lens: Canon 17-40mm USM L
Light: 580 EXII 1/4 power through a shoot through umbrella triggered by FreeXwire

Guilty.  I'm the first to raise my hand and admit I am guilty.  Neglecting the groom.  It's the bride's big day.  She is radiant and wonderful.  She is the star of the day.  So where does that leave the groom?  Usually on the side lines gazing in at her.  Looking over my past few weddings I realized that I had some photos of the groom; however, his photos tend to be more canned and less thought out.  Last weekend I tried to focus a bit more on the groom.  He has parents too - and I am sure they would love some solid pictures of him.
Camera: Canon 20D 1/40 f/5.6 ISO 800  Lens: Canon 17-40mm USM L  
Light 580 EXII 1/4 power through a shoot through umbrella triggered by FreeXwire

One thing that helps equity among your photos is taking them all prior to the wedding.  First of all - you have more time.  More time translates into less rushing and less rushing translates into better photos on both sides.  Saturday morning I began by photographing the bride getting ready then moved to the sanctuary.  The bride and groom had a few moments to enjoy each other's company and then we began their photos.  We started at the top of the stage with a few poses of them together then I split them and did individual shots.  We then moved down to the piano and did individual shots then a few together.  Then we moved to the isle and so on and so on.  Having the bride and the groom photographed at the same time with no family (AKA distractions) around allowed us to fly through the photos and stay focused on what images had been taken and what ones still needed to be taken.  Taking one of the bride and then immediately one of the groom forced me to focus on his images in the same way I focused on the bride's images.  I know we spend a lot of time taking pictures of the bride - that will never change; however, let's focus on ramping up the quality we put into the photos of the groom.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

alter of light

Camera: Canon 20D 1/50 f/5.6 ISO 800  Lens: 17-40mm f/4 USM L  
Light:  Canon 580 EX II set to full power triggered by Quantum FreeXwire

This was one of the first formal images I made of the couple just after seeing each other for the first time.  We arranged a time prior to the wedding where the couple could enjoy seeing each other privately and spend some time enjoying each-other's company.  After capturing their first interaction we began with the formal photos.  This was one of the first.  My assistant is about 6 feet behind the couple crouched down out of sight with a 580 EX II flash set on manual at 1/1 (full power).  The flash is triggered by one of the FreeXwire systems I talked about last week.  I love how the light illuminates the Bride's veil and rims the Groom's face in light.  It is a very surreal photo.  I have been attempting this photo for about 6 months now; however, without the FreeXwire the line of sight limitations of the built in Canon IR system got in the way.  The FreeXwire system uses RF (radio frequency) to trigger the flash which gives me approx 500' working range.  I know lots of folks rave about the pocket wizards - and I am sure they are great, but I am in love with my Quantum FreeXwire system.

off camera flash on the CHEAP!!! (BYOF)

Ok, we have already established that photographers are cheap.  I have already resonated with this several times on the blog.  I know I have talked a bit about David Ziser's off camera flash setup and lots of people want to use that setup ... however, his Qflash and battery pack will run you a little over 1,200.00 landing your total in the $1,500 + ballpark.  I don't know about you - but that HURTS!  Most of us have a decent camera flash / speedlite.  Why not put that one to work to get the same result?

(click on image for larger version)
This is the setup I have put together using my Canon 580 EX II flash.  If you don't already own a flash this setup will be a little more expensive; however, good used flashes are easy enough to find.  I know the strobist likes Nikon's SB-24.  I used that speedlite for years on my Nikon N90s and I do believe it would work well for this setup - you can generally find them for $50-$80 on eBay.  That said - I am not including the 580 in my list of supplies - so this setup is a BYOF (bring your own flash).

  • Dynex light duty 70" monopod $29.95 - Best Buy
  • Photoflex shoemount multiclamp: $16.95 - B&H
  • IMPACT 33" translucent umbrella: $9.95 - B&H
  • Quantum FreeXwire trancievers (2 units needed): $265.00 - eBay seller imagesc
  • Nikon 15" PC Male - PC Male (I used a 15' Interfit/Patterson cable that I had laying around.  It ended up having a short in it which is why you see it taped to the light stand.  My assistant found where the short was and managed to make a temporary fix that got us through the rest of the day.  Nikon makes a cool version that has thread locks so you can't accidentally pop the cable out.  The Interfit/Patterson cables are around $9.95 for a 12" cable on B&H.  The Nikon cables are 19.95 for a 15" cable that will lock in place.  My money is going on the Nikon but ultimately you can pick what works for you):  19.95 - B&H
                                                               TOTAL: $341.80

I would recommend picking up a power-pack for the flash down the road to allow it to recharge more quickly.  Your flash will dictate which one you purchase.  Canon makes a cool pack that runs 8 NiMh rechargeable batteries that only works with the 580 line for around $150.  Quantum makes universal power packs that can be added to any flash system that has a power input.  The quantum packs start around $460 for the SC slim model + the appropriate cord to connect your flash.  The 2x2 is more powerful and thus starts in the $580 for the unit alone and 30-40 for your flash cable.  I just did a wedding using the 580EX without a power pack and the only time the flash had a hard time keeping up was when the bride came in the sanctuary and I was popping about 3 frames per second at 1/2 power.  That in mind .. I think I will be going with the Canon - especially since I have an abundance of NiMh rechargeable batteries.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Dancing In The Light

Camera: Canon 20D 1/100 f/5.0 ISO 400  Lens: 17-40mm USM L  
Light: Canon 580EX II zoomed to 105 on a monopod triggered by FreeXwire

This is one of my favorite images from this weekend for several reasons.  First and foremost, the photo is amazing.  Secondly, the technique and positioning would not have been possible without the training I received at David Ziser's Master Class.  David never showed us a photo like this or explained how to take this exact photo - instead he helped me begin thinking differently about light.  I now approach light as a tool ... something to be bent and shaped to do what I wish.  It is no longer just a "what" I light my subjects with - now it has become a "how" I light my subjects.  I was photographing the couple sharing their first dance and started to think ... you know, it is too bad there isn't a spot on them because that would be fantastic "CLICK" wait - why don't I create the spot.  I waved over to my assistant and had him remove the shoot through umbrella he was using from the 580 EX II flash.  I then zoomed the flash to 105 mm to get a small focused beam coming out of the flash which we bumped up to 1/2 power.  I had my assistant extend the flash above the couple as far up as he could get it without being in the photo and started snapping away.  BOOM this shot comes out.  I was blown away and later that evening I grabbed the bride and groom and showed it to them on the back of the camera ... they about fell over.  Here is the deal ... the room was well lit.  The left side was all windows and the 4:00 pm sun was shining in.  The 508 EX flash gave me the power and direction to cut through that like it was nothing!  

Control The Liquify Tool

Last week I talked a bit about editing a picture of Joe and mentioned using the liquify tool.  I wanted to take a few minutes and put together a video going over a fast and effective way to use the liquify filter in photoshop while preserving the integrity of the photo.