Oct 20, 2012

Always Learning

Man, I love learning stuff. I spent most of yesterday and all this morning learning from some really terrific photographers. And it was great. These other photographers showed us how they read scenes and setup lighting and set their cameras and just kinda spilled their guts about everything. It was so good of them to come and share with us, and I really appreciate them sharing their experience. 

Below are some of the images I made with their help and mooching off their setups.

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens, f/5.6, 1/200s, ISO 640.
Nikon D800, 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro lens, f/4, 1/250s, ISO 320.
Nikon D800, 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro lens, f/3, 1/500s, ISO 1600.

Oct 17, 2012

Been A While

Gosh, how time flies. Seems like just last Spring L. and I were making her Senior Portraits. You can view those here. But, alas, she just turned 21. I guess I've been doing this longer than I thought! Well, she stopped by for a birthday portrait the other day, and I'm sure glad she did.

Nikon D800, 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro lens, f/16, 1/200s, ISO 100.

Nikon D800, 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro lens, f/14, 1/200s, ISO 100.

World Wide Photo Walk

The Cache Valley Photographers were happy to participate in Scott Kelby's World Wide Photo Walk again last Saturday. This was the third time we've hosted a branch of the walk here, and it was really a good one. Here's one of my images from the day.

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens at 135mm, f/5.6, 1/200s, ISO 400.

Oct 16, 2012


It's time! This is the last week for Fall pictures. It's been really wonderful, though, hasn't it? It started high and hot red with the mountain maples firing up the canyons on the Wellsvilles, and now the valley here is heating up with hot oranges, yellows, reds, and maroons. I'm loving it.

And I know you'd love some pictures with your family in it, too. It's not every year we get this kind of wonderful color set, so please give me a call and together we can create some really terrific images.


Nikon D800, 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro lens, f/8, 1/125s, ISO 100, Nik Color Efex Pro  4.

Oct 14, 2012


There's not much to say, really. She's cute. Adorable, even.

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 62mm, f/8, 1/250s, ISO 160.
This one is made with an SB-800 and an SB-900 fired through a five-in-one reflector with the cover removed, revealing the diffusion panel. The diffusion fabric enlarges the tiny speedlights and makes a very soft light. The fabric is just out of the frame on the right, and the two flashes are shining through on both ends. Also, this is black and white made in the camera using the red filter in the monochrome settings. Try it on your camera--I think you'll like it.

Oct 9, 2012

Uncle John's Bridge

Actually, it's St. John's Bridge. In Portland. But there's no song in mind for "St. John's Bridge." Walking the lengths of the cables and stanchions a couple of weeks ago, though, I kept singing "Come walk Uncle John's Bridge, by the riverside. Come on along or come alone, he's come to take his children home." See, now you're singing it, too. And if you're not, you will be now (mind the language).

Nikon D800, 14-24mm f/2.8 lens @ 14mm, f/8, 5s, ISO 1000, Nik Color Efex 4.
There are a couple things about the making of an image like this I think you should know. Firstly, everyone always asks, "How do you get the rays on the lights?" I think you can do it in Photoshop, but I don't know how, and I don't know why you would when it's so easy to do. All you have to do is use a small aperture (opening in the lens), something like f/11 or f/16. In this image I used f/8, but in my experiences most lenses won't do it this well at such a wide aperture. This lens is pretty unique when it comes to these rays. For instance, the number of rays is usually the same as or exactly double the number of blades in the iris of the aperture (this is my personal observation, and I could be mistaken about the causal relationship). So, the kit lens you may have bought with your camera probably has five blades (every 18-55mm I've seen does) and they usually give off five rays on the lights. This 14-24mm lens I'm using here has nine rounded blades and there are a ton of rays! I think it looks cool. Also, you'll get more defined rays the longer the shutter is open. Which leads to the second part.

Five seconds was the shutter speed and that requires a tripod. The two of us (me and my tripod, that is; I'd love suggestions on a name for her/him...) are standing on the sidewalk making adjustments and triggering the shutter as the traffic drives by. Normally, I love to have traffic in this sort of image because it gives the streaking lines of the car lights as they drive by. But not on a bridge. Every time a car goes by the whole thing shakes and vibrates, pretty much negating the tripod (oh, for a name!). That's why this exposure is so short. I usually do these as 30 seconds with a smaller aperture and a way lower ISO. However, five seconds was the longest I could get between vehicles.

And 'C', always have a light pair of gloves in your bag; you never know how cold it will be 100 feet over the water on a long straight river in the Pacific Northwest.

Next time you're in Portland I hope you'll come down to Saaaaaaint John's Bridge, by the riverside...

Oct 6, 2012

Calculated Magic

The talented M. came for my class the other day to be our model so my students could practice their skills. Well, after class we retired to the studio for our weekly Open Lab (when club members can come and use the studio or make prints or get tips on anything photography) and at the studio M. unleashed her skills. She's a dancer and a teacher and we really enjoyed working together to make some pictures in motion. I always love working with dancers, and I hope we'll have M. back soon.
Nikon D800, 105mm f/2.8 VR lens, f/4, 1/250s, ISO 640, Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.
Setup for this image is very simple, but required some math. In the studio I usually strobes--flashes--that give a very bright, very short burst of light. Working with more than one photographer doesn't work with strobes, though, because the flash is synchronized with the camera that triggers it and the others can't capture it at the same time. So this is captured using fluorescent lights that are very bright and stay on all the time. There are eight bulbs shining into two big white styrofoam reflectors. The light then reflects back onto M. very evenly. Still, those bulbs are nothing compared to the strobes, so in order to fairly freeze the action I turned up my ISO, brightening the picture and yielding a faster shutter speed--fast enough to freeze M.'s body, but still let her hair blur a little. If I wanted to freeze the motion more I might use 1/500 of a second for a shutter speed; twice as fast. But in order to keep the same brightness in the picture I would need to either open the aperture twice as large (one stop to f/2.8) or increase the ISO one stop, doubling it to 1250. In camera speak, 'one stop' is simply a doubling or halving of the light.

There's always an element of Mathematics in every picture, and when the moment and the equation meet...magic happens.

Oct 3, 2012

Red, Gold, and Green

You know that song, right? It's a bit kookie, but it really sticks in your mind...and if you haven't seen the video--well, it's an early 80's British band, so be warned, but here you go.

What has it got to do with these colorless images I'm sharing with you here? You see, T.'s hair is hot red, and K.'s hair is blonde (gold?) and we were shooting on a beach in Oregon surrounded by the greenest greens on planet earth. "Karma Karma Karma Karma, Karma Chameleon..." See what I mean?

It was really a pleasure and an honor making pictures for these newlyweds. My wife and I were guests and photographers, so we were busy. We started by arriving early and scouting the beach to find the best place to have the ceremony; someplace with beautiful scenes and not too much noise from the surf. We built a walkway from heaps of drift wood for the bride to walk down on the way to the beach. This first image is shot on the same spot where the ceremony was performed.

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 98mm, f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 800, Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.
 A serene vista for the ceremony wasn't our only goal. We also need to find the perfect places to make portraits of the bride and groom. It's true that we're on the beach, and it's early September, but this is Oregon, not Florida: it was about 60 degrees in the sun...but there was no sun. So we needed to be ready to quickly make portraits of the bride and groom before she turned into a popsicle. Plus, there was the seafood dinner awaiting us, so we needed to shoot, you know, pronto.

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 135mm, f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 800, Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.
The bride loved this location for the lighthouse on the cliff (I think she's a Pete's Dragon fan), but she didn't know the lighthouse was closed for restoration. And in Oregon that means that it's covered top to bottom in a black tarp. Not exactly the picturesque backdrop we had imagined. Fortunately, the caretaker's house was in perfect shape and gave balance and interest to the background.

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 180mm, f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 800, Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.

Still, it's just a background, and I'm always telling my students that backgrounds don't make good pictures: good light makes good pictures. And the thing about that house back there is that it's white, and surrounded by dark green, which really makes it pop. Add to that the sun setting behind dense diffusing fog, and it was pretty dark on that beach, and the light was totally flat. Looking at people there were no harsh shadows, but there was also no direction to the light on their faces and little light in the eyes--especially K.'s eyes which are rather deeply set. Without intervention we were doomed to pose people facing the beach to try and get a little light in their eyes, which left the highway dissecting the images in the back. 

This is where off camera flash saved my bacon. For all of these images I used a Nikon SB-900 in a 24" softbox to bring definition and contrast. It was controlled using the popup flash on the D800. The great thing about the Nikon CLS is that the brightness of that SB-900 can be controlled wirelessly from a long distance (Joe McNally recently tested it to 85 ft. is full sunlight). That means my wife can be anywhere on that beach and I can make the light brighter or darker by simply pushing some buttons on the camera. It's really a powerful tool and makes the images I have in my mind's eye possible. That first image above is totally lifeless without that flash, and the one below lacks definition without the light from behind separating K. from the trees.

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 90mm, f/5.6, 1/100s, ISO 1600, Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.
This image was the one I was most excited about making. While we were scouting I saw the road coming out of the trees and the tunnel like nature of the branches overhead. I knew that right at the edge of that tunnel there would be great light, like a porch that shields the light from overhead leaving a directional brightness. I balanced the flash to add a little kick from behind and positioned the couple with cheesy thoughts about roads to the future running through my mind. Anyway, it's the picture I envisioned while scouting and it's a real pleasure to be able to make something in your mind into something shareable.

The dinner was wonderful, and we had a lovely evening--even the cop who pulled me over was kind enough to let me go with a warning. I do love Oregon, and being there with loved ones, doing some picture making for loved ones, makes it more memorable even than those Culture Club lyrics.

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 180mm, 1/110s, ISO 1600.