Sunday, January 31, 2010
I figured that I started the month with Ava, so it might be fun to finish the month with her. She took her first steps last night (and did some more this morning), so by this afternoon, she was ready to relax. She is sitting in a small rocking chair that my wife's grandfather gave her when she was little. Ava loves it.
Wanting to catch the moment, this is just a simple shot. I held the SB-600 flash in my left hand, arm outstretched, to get the light away from the camera a little bit and fired it in i-TTL mode, which adjusts the power automatically.
This is a "Flame Thrower" Orchid (Epicattleya Rene Marques) that my mother-in-law brought in from her greenhouse for me to photograph (she braved the 25 degree cold, wind and rain in South Carolina to go out and get it). It is an amazing plant...very unique. We went to her house for the weekend, so I brought my camera and one of my flashes along to see if I could get some cool shots of her orchids. This shot is from the top down on the flower (it seemed more dramatic from this angle). My father in law was a great help as he held both the flower and the flash as I tweaked out the picture.
I used one bare SB-600 fired remotely via Nikon's CLS system from my D90's pop up flash, which was set to off. I used a quick shutter speed and low ISO in order to black out the background (we were in a lit room, but you can turn it to black by using a close flash on your subject).
This is a really stunning flower to see in person, I'm hoping that I captured it's vibrant colors here.
[Edit: Here's a little more info on how I got the background black. First, you probably won't be able to do this in the bright sun or a sunny room. You can do it at a normally lit room though. What you need to do is have your flash fairly close to the subject and have the background a ways off behind it. That way, you're flash has room to fall off after it hits the subject. Next, I set my ISO down as low as it would go (100 here). This gets you the best clarity and the least sensitivity to light. Then, I set my aperture relatively high (f/6.3 here). This gives better focus through the depth of field and it allows in less light. At this point in time, I took a test shot with my flash on a relatively low level and then adjusted the flash output until I had a good exposure on the flower. I forget what I ended up at. Once the flower is properly exposed with the flash, you can bump up the shutter speed until the shutter is fast enough that it won't allow in any ambient light (which isn't too hard given that we've already adjusted the ISO and the Aperture to "resist" light). The shutter speed won't effect the flower because the flash that lights the flower occurs more quickly than the shutter, so, even if you set your shutter ultra-fast, the flash is still faster. ].
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
After a long week (doing this 365 project tends to wear me out because I don't get free time until everyone else goes to bed), I went a little boring on tonight's shot. After reading about lighting and trying my hand at this and that, I realized that I haven't really tried to light a glass bottle. Glass can be tricky because you get reflections of your lights and, if you're not careful, you'll have a self portrait in the reflection too. I saw this bottle sitting in my wine rack and I thought it would be fun to experiment on because, in addition the the reflections, I could play with lighting up the blue glass a little. Pretty boring, but good for me to learn a little bit more about lighting.
Tonight I tested out some new, cheap flashes and flash triggers that I bought. The triggers are RF-602's (you can find them on ebay) and the flashes are made by a company called Quantaray (be careful buying these, they're cheap, but many of them don't work when you get them -- they're fine if they work). I used two flashes, both bare, but reflected against white walls to light the bottle. One against the back wall to light the wall and to light the blue bottle and one against the side wall to give the nice, long reflection up the side of the bottle. That's it. I'll challenge myself more next time I try a wine bottle by incorporating more into the shot so I have to juggle a few things.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Last night delicate reindeer, tonight a sturdy horse. This is a picture of a horse sculpture that we have in our living room. A few years ago, my wife saw this cast sculpture at the Home Depot Expo (I miss that store) and she just had to have it. I'm someone who can't stand nick-nacks around the house, so I'm concerned that I may run out of things to take pictures of eventually. But, for tonight, we have the horse from my mantle.
I was in a much better mood tonight, so, instead of just taking a picture of the horse with a plain background, I decided to try something that I had been considering trying for a while now -- using my LCD TV/Monitor as a background. I have my computer hooked up to the TV, so, for the background, I found a nice picture of a sunset here on flickr (I had to search for one than had a creative commons license so I could use it). I settled on this wonderful picture of a Bedruthan sunset by Ennor, that is located: HERE
To get the shot, I set the horse on a box a few feet in front of the TV and I used my 50mm 1.4d lens in order to capture the horse clearly, while blurring out the background (I really just wanted the sunset for the colors). I lit the horse with a Nikon SB-600 that was set up about 2 feet above and camera left of the horse's head. In order to avoid over exposing the horse with the lens open wide enough to blur the background, I had to turn the flash to it's minimum setting. Once I got the horse exposed how I wanted it, I played with the camera's shutter speed until I liked the brightness of the background (the longer the shutter is open, the brighter the background).
I increased the the contrast a bit and upped the saturation once I got to the picture to the computer. The contrast made the horse look a little more interesting and the saturation made the colors pop even more (it didn't take much, the original photo is stunning).
Overall, I had fun taking the shot, but I think it came out a little fake looking. Maybe I'll have to try this TV technique out in the future to see if I can get it better.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I wasn't in a great mood tonight, so I was fairly uninspired. This is a picture of a wine rack and a lamp that sit in the corner of my living room. The reindeer sitting on the top of the wine rack were meant to be Christmas decorations, but they're pretty cool so we decided that it would be a shame to confine them to a box in the basement for 11 months out of the year. I decided to take the picture of this because I liked the way that the light hit the wall and the mix of the silhouetted reindeer and the wine glasses on the rack.
The lamp is the only light source in the picture. I set the camera on it's "cloudy" white balance setting so the light would come out warm. Other than cropping, there was no post processing.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
So, I've been avoiding doing portraits so far for my Project 365 adventure. I figure that I've photographed guitars, flowers, monkeys, cows, crayons, water, and my clothes, but I haven't tried my hand at doing a portrait. Everyone was already asleep tonight by the time that I set up my lights, so portrait night all of a sudden turned into self-portrait night. So, here I am. I have no idea how people do the Portrait Project 365 because I had a really hard time even posting one portrait of myself. It felt kind of cheesy (hence the title). I was trying for "well lit" rather than anything too creative here. Once I figure out how to take a good portrait, I'm going to try to get my wife and daughter to volunteer to be my subjects.
I used two SB-600 flashes, one to camera left (if you want to see the placement, you can zoom in and see the reflection in my eyes). BTW, if you ever want to figure out the lights in a portrait, start by zooming in and checking out the reflection in the person's eyes. The second flash was high and camera left -- almost directly to my side (if not a bit behind). Both flashes were shot through white umbrellas. I also held a silver reflector around chest level because both flashes were aimed from above, this gave some extra fill to the bottom of my face. For the silver reflector, I used a $8 car windshield reflector (used for keeping the sun out) from Walmart.
To get the black background, I just left about 15 feet behind me for the light to fall off. I shot this at f 5 with a 50mm lens. I went for f5 to keep everything in focus (which may be a mistake given my flaws). I was actually kind of stuck doing it this way because it's tough to do a self portrait using a shallow depth of field because the auto focus almost never finds your eyes when you're using the remote.
Monday, January 25, 2010
I was leafing through my copy of "Light: Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting" tonight and I re-read the section about photographing white on white, so I figured that I would try my hand at it. I didn't have a white bust of Mozart (it was Mozart, right?), but I did have a nice white porcelain cow creamer, so I figured that I would go for it. I always loved these cow creamers when I was a kid. I threw in the crayons to add a bit of color to the picture (it was kind of boring with just white on white).
I stayed pretty true to the setup in the book for white on white. I used two pieces of white copy paper to make a white seamless background/floor. I just taped the paper to the wall and let it ramp up from the floor. Then, I lit it from above with my Nikon SB-600 flash with an umbrella diffuser. I used a reflector in front of the cow (between the camera and the cow) for a little extra fill on the bottom half. Then, I held a book between the umbrella and the cow to keep the top of the cow from getting over exposed. That's it. Do all that and you too can make a picture of a cow creamer with a side of crayons. :.)
In the end, I would have liked it a little bit better if I lit the bottom of the cow a little more (probably with better reflector placement). That being said, I'm happy with how it came out. The fact that the cow was shiny (unlike the Mozart bust) made this a bit more of a challenge than the example in the book.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
I kind of "geeked" out on tonight's shot. This is a toy house that my one year old daughter, Ava, plays with. I saw it sitting there today and got the idea to selectively light it to set up my version of the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene.
I used Christmas lights for the stars in the background. I used a Nikon SB-600 with an orange gel for the inside of Juliet's room and a gridded SB-600 to light up Romeo. The flashes were fired via the D90's CLS remote. I used the on-camera pop-up flash on a very low setting to light up the house a tiny bit and a desk lamp to put a tiny bit of light on Romeo's head (otherwise the back of the head disappeared into the black sky). I wished that I had more flashes to work with because I had intended to light the ground under Romeo a bit to light the green felt that I had there and to prevent him from looking like he was floating. Oh well.
Definitely not a work of art, but it was fun to play with light on this one.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
I knew that I was going to be pretty busy today, so I took some random pictures this morning in case I wouldn't have time to sit down and spend more time coming up with something later on. I was exhausted by the time that the evening came around, so I decided to go with this shot of Ava playing with an envelope as my shot for the day. She absolutely loves cards and envelopes for some reasons.
This was shot with my D90 with an SB-600 flash in my hand pointing at the ceiling.
First it was guitars, now it's flowers. I promise that I'll move on from flowers to something else tomorrow. I picked up this Daffodil at the grocery store on my way home tonight as I was picking up some beer and a salad to go with our pizza. I originally wanted to shoot this with a colored background (I tried a few), but when I downloaded everything to my big screen, I noticed that I preferred the shot where my gel flash didn't fire. Originally, the background was grayish, but I decided to "burn" it out to black to maximize the contrast of the shot and to let the yellow pop. I used my handy mister (from day 20) to put some water drops on the flower, but the didn't show up that great.
For the lighting, this one had an SB-600 fired via CLS and shot against a white wall to camera right and a Quantaray DSZ PZ-1 (a cheap $28 flash that I just got; set on optical flash mode) shot against the white ceiling. I used a Sigma 70-300mm zoom lens tonight to get in close. Like the Quantaray, this is a budget item that seems to do a decent job.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Tonight I tried out a few different things, but by the time I was through, I liked this shot the best. As I mentioned before, I'm trying to figure out how to take nice orchid pictures so I can shoot some for my mother-in-law, who has grown some amazing orchids. This is just a run-of-the-mill grocery store orchid, but it is still pretty cool to look at. Truth be told, this was shot in my basement again tonight. The blue background is actually just a white wall shot with a flash with a blue gel over it (actually, I used a clear blue plastic folder that I cut up for the gel). I used another flash (gridded to keep it off the background), close in and to the right, to light the flowers. I'm not 100% thrilled with the clarity of this photo, but it is the best of today's shots, so I went with it.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Has it been 20 days already? I have to tell you, I was totally out of ideas tonight. I walked around the house for more than an hour taking pictures of things that all came out looking so dull. After I sat down and took my mind off it for a while, I decided to photograph this flower mister because I thought it was a cool looking gizmo. Then, I decided that it would be more interesting to capture the mist along with the bottle. So here it is. I used gradient post processing to give the mist the rainbow effect. I debated whether to do that or not because the bottle had such a cool blue color to it straight out of the camera that it would have been fine with just the blue from the bottle and the white water.
To get the shot, I jacked the shutter speed up to 1/2500 of a second. The D90 has a special mode that allows you to sync its CLS flashes that fast (auto FP high speed sync). I had one umbrellaed SB-600 to the right of camera and a second bare SB-600 that I held in my other hand above the water mist (I also held the camera remote in this hand). It took a little bit of trial and error, but I got my day 20 shot before the clock struck midnight. [edit 1/21 - A viewer on Flickr, John Groseclose, correctly pointed out that I could have "frozen" the water droplets more easily by using a lower power flash in a dark room because, in such a situation, the flash essentially works as a very, very high speed shutter (because it is the only light and it is much faster than the camera's shutter). To see his comment, you can go here: link and scroll down through the comments under the photo].
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
I bought an orchid at the supermarket on my way home from work tonight to try to figure out how to take a nice picture of an orchid. I wanted to do this because my mother-in-law grows beautiful orchids and, one of these days, I would like to bring my camera to her place and photograph a few of them for her. So, here was my first night's attempt at orchids.
I was getting a bit bored of pure black backgrounds, so I went for a little bit of bokeh in the background courtesy of some Christmas lights that I unboxed for the occasion. Having white lights out of focus in the background always reminds me of sidewalk cafes in the city for some reason. Oh well, this was done in my basement, but I was going for a little bit of character.
I shot them with my D90 with the 50mm 1.4f lens. I didn't have it all the way open b/c I wasn't going for anything too extreme as far as a shallow depth of field goes. I had one umbrella'ed sb-600 above and one below the flowers - both fired with the D90's popup CLS trigger, which was set to "--". If anyone has advice as to lighting flowers, I would love to hear it. The background lights were a few feel back hanging off of a ladder.
Monday, January 18, 2010
I wasn't feeling well today. I took this this morning before I had to go back to bed. Ava was nice enough to be cute for the picture. [edit 1/19 - Now that I'm feeling better, I wanted to write a little bit more about this shot. I shot it with the sun coming in through the windows, which provided some nice highlights and showed off Ava's cute hair. But, I also used the on-camera flash on a low power setting so the shadows would lighten up and have detail in them instead of just being black. Without the flash, Ava's face, the crayons and the shadows on the paper would have been much too dark. I used a low power on the flash to keep it from "over powering" the shot -- so the personality from the sun and the shadows would remain. It took me a long time to figure out that a flash is often more important in sunny shots than dark ones.]
Sunday, January 17, 2010
This is Douglas the Monkey, one of my daughter's favorite stuffed animals, sitting on a tree. This is the same stuffed monkey as the one from the AT&T commercial where the little girl puts the monkey in the Dad's suitcase. I decided that I wanted to capture a little more color today, so I picked up a few of the toys sitting on the living room floor and decided to make a picture.
I used a black gym mat (used under treadmills) as the black backdrop and I shot one flash from up and camera left. This one had a snoot on it that I made from the flap of a cardboard box (same one that I used in pic. 16). Then, I put another flash behind the monkey looking to get some separation between the monkey and the background. When I tried that, I really liked the fact that the tree lit up, so I moved things around a bit to focus more on that (rather than going for a hair light effect). Both flashes are Nikon SB-600's fired via CLS from the D90 popup.
Ok, I must really be running out of things to take pictures of if I'm taking another guitar picture. Truth is, the weather is terrible in Atlanta so I can't get outside. I tried some other shots and I hated them, so I came back to the guitars. I promise that tomorrow won't be another guitar picture.
To get this, I used a SB-600 with a snoot on it from high camera right. The snoot gave the flash sort of a spotlight effect. Then I used another SB-600 on the ground at camera left on 1/100 just to light the left side of the amp a little more and to mellow out the guitar shadow. Both fired from the D90's popup flash CLS system.
Friday, January 15, 2010
This is a picture of a sonic blue stratocaster that I made a few years ago. You probably guessed it if you're following my 365 Project, I dig guitars.
This was a pretty basic two SB-600s against white walls setup. I've got a room with all white walls and a white ceiling that I use for my high key shots. I shot this with my Nikon D90 with the 18-55mm lens that came with the D60 that I used to own. Flashes both fired via CLS.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
I thought of this one when I was putting in my contacts this morning. As I was setting my glasses down, I started looking through them and wondering if I could simulate my poor vision by focusing on an in-focus image in my glasses lenses. It worked out ok -- not as nice as I had hoped, but ok. I was bummed that an in-focus image in the glasses lenses left the glasses out of focus, but it made sense once I thought about it. I considered taking a picture of the frames in focus and a picture like this and photoshoping them together so the frames and the subject through the glasses lenses were both in focus, but, in the end, I decided to just go with an authentic picture.
For lighting, I shot a Nikon SB-600 against the back white wall and another against a side white wall.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Just a quick note regarding the pictures. You can click on any of the pictures on this blog to see a bigger version of the picture. To see (or download) an even larger version, once you have clicked on the picture on the blog, on the next page, click on the "All Sizes" button.
Me with the guitar. Tonight was another one of those "hard to think of a picture to take" nights, so I just decided to take a picture of me doing something that is me. I called it quiet time because I usually sneak off to the basement to play guitar at night after everyone has gone to bed. It is my quiet time. Once I decided what to take a picture of, I decided to go with the back lit black and white look to make it feel like a late night shot.
I shot this with my Nikon D90 with an SB-600 flash fired (bare) behind me. Nothing too fancy.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
This is a picture of everything that I wore (or had in my pockets) today. It is kind of a self-portrait without the self. I took it with my D90 with the 50mm f1.4 lens, trying to focus on the shoe and let it go out of focus a little bit as things got further from the camera (this lens can do crazy small depth of field -- a little was enough here). I fired two SB-600s at the white walls in the room. Looking at the picture now, I wish I had done a black background behind the picture for some contrast. I considered calling this picture "Portrait of a Naked Photographer?", but I thought that it might attract the wrong kind of attention. Don't worry, I had my PJ's on when I shot this. :.).
Monday, January 11, 2010
Sunday, January 10, 2010
This is a beautiful 1935 National Guitar (Style O). It was once owned by a country musician by the name of Smilin' Max Henderson, who is a member of the Michigan Music Hall of Fame. I've played several of these old 1930's Style O's and, while they aren't my favorite National to play -- they have brass bodies, I prefer steel or german silver -- they are really nice to look at with the palm tree scene in the chrome plating. You can see the brass starting to show through on the underside of the strings from it's 75 years of playing. I really love these old Nationals.
I've been trying to get a good picture of the guitar since I got access to it last week, but the chrome plated brass body has a mirror-like finish and it is nearly impossible to photograph well. I'm not entirely happy with this shot, but it is close to what I'm looking for. To get this, I put the guitar on a stand in a white room and shot my SB-600 flash at a wall in front of the guitar so the wall would act as one big light source (so you don't see the reflection of the light source in the guitar). I shot a second SB-600 at the wall behind the guitar to make the background appear white as well. The flashes were fired remotely with the Nikon D90's CLS system. Next time I try to do one of these, I'm going to hang it from the ceiling so I don't have the stand showing. With a mirror finish, you can't photoshop out the stand because you will still have it in the reflections on the body of the guitar.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
I'm pretty sure that I've seen a shot like this before, but I was messing around with the camera this morning and I decided to see if I could pull off the old light bulb in the hand trick.
To do this, I took a shot of my hand holding the light bulb (unlit) with my Nikon SB-600 flash shining down like the light bulb would do if it was lit (I used cardboard to narrow the beam of light). I fired the flash via CLS with the D90's popup flash (popup to off). Then, I took another shot with the light bulb in the same position, but lit with a portable socket. Then, I photoshop'ed the two together and worked on matching the intensity and color of the light from both shots. It's not perfect, but I didn't think it was too bad for a first try. BTW, I cleaned the lit light bulb after the first shot because I noticed that it was so dirty. In the end, the dirty lit bulb turned out to have a lot more character, so I went with it.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Everyone was feeling kind of blah today (stomach bug), so I figured that I would turn to my old standard, Ava. It is hard to take a bad picture of her. I took this with my D90 with the 50mm lens with the SB-600 flash in my hand and aimed at the ceiling (for a large, even light source). In order to get the shot, I was basically chasing her around the house -- she's fast. I am amazed at how attached Ava is to her binky. I dread the day that we will have to take it away from her -- she won't be a happy camper.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
I took this with my iPhone as I was driving home from work tonight. It is at the Southern edge of the Historic Roswell Downtown in Roswell, Ga. I knew that I had to get to bed early tonight because I have an early breakfast at work tomorrow, so I figured that I would try to find my picture before I got home so I wouldn't stay up late trying to figure out what to do for the day.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
So I was sitting around tonight trying to figure out something to take a picture of. Now that I’m back at work from the holidays, this is getting more difficult because, by the time I get home from work, there is no sun out, we’re in a rush to eat and get Ava to bed, and everyone’s tired. The past couple of days, I’ve been scrambling at 11:00pm to figure out what I can take a picture of at night and inside the house (it’s in the 20’s outside). I got a new guitar today, so I tried taking some pictures of it. It didn’t have the energy to do a proper lighting setup for it, though, so I decided to save it for another day. After fiddling around and scratching my head a bit, I saw this childproof plug on the counter and thought that it would make as good of a picture as anything. Actually, the granite countertop itself is as much of this picture as the plug itself. I figure that these plugs, and other child items that were foreign to me just a little more than a year ago, have become a big part of my life not – these things are all over the house now and probably will be for years to come.
To get this shot, I shined up the counter with my shirt sleeve and then I set up my D90 on a tripod with the 50mm lens. While looking through the viewfinder, I moved the plug around until I liked the angle and the reflection that was seeing. I didn’t use a flash, just a long exposure that I triggered with the Nikon wireless remote that goes with my camera everywhere. With the remote, you don’t have to worry about shaking the camera while the shutter is open. Well, here’s how it turned out. Not too bad, in my opinion, for a childproof plug sitting on the counter. :.)
Monday, January 4, 2010
Here is a picture of my 1937 National Duolian guitar. I was having trouble thinking of things to take a picture of today, so I decided that this guitar would be interesting. This is my personal National guitar and it is probably the only guitar that I have that I won’t ever sell. I recorded a couple of CD’s with this a few years back and published them on mp3.com, which was profitable when the internet was booming in the early 2000’s. When everything went bust, mp3.com stopped paying for page views and then, eventually, went out of business altogether. Oh well, it was fun for a while.
I took the picture with a single off-camera flash shooting at the side of the guitar. The white carpet under the guitar reflected a tiny bit of light on the front so you can barely see it.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
This picture isn’t beautiful or technically sophisticated. I took it on my iPhone when I was on my way home from checking in on our old house, which is for sale. It was very, very cold in Atlanta this morning and I think the cold froze the brains of this traffic light so green AND yellow were stuck on. I turned the car around and took the shot from a parking lot next to the light. I guess that green and yellow is better than green and red at the same time.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
This is a picture of a Les Paul style guitar. I haven’t played electric guitar in a while, but I saw the guitar sitting around today and appreciated its lines, so I decided to take a picture of it. I used an off-camera flash (Nikon SB-600) to light the front of the guitar while I took the picture from the edge of it. My Nikon D90 camera has the ability to fire a flash wirelessly via an infrared signal. This comes in handy when I don’t want the flash to come from the direction of the camera. Using a fast shutter speed, I was able to capture just the light hitting the camera while not allowing enough time for the ambient room light to hit the camera’s sensor. This way, it looks like the guitar is “floating” in the dark.
Friday, January 1, 2010
I decided that my daughter Ava, who always makes a good subject to photograph, should be featured in my first day’s picture. I also wanted to capture the Christmas tree in the background because I have been having fun taking pictures around it. The lights on the tree create nice bokeh (blurred points of light in the background) when I use my 50mm f1.4 lens with a shallow depth of field with the tree behind the primary subject. We didn’t end up taking the tree down today (it came down on the 3rd), but I wanted to get it while I could.