Monthly Archives: February 2011
I was beginning to think that the ice images were done for the year. Things have been warming up here in Philadelphia, and there is less and less of the stuff around. After today’s weather, the type that tends to grant amnesty for seasonal affective disorder and make one love life, I’m not sure there’s any of it around at all.
But I did get to spend the weekend up in Connecticut, where winter is still exerting itself…some would say to excess, I would say to wonderful aesthetic success. My parents have a brook that runs behind their house, and it plays host to a family of beavers whose dam floods sizable area of the property. Of course, that freezes, and does so in a a variety of intriguing ways. Ample opportunities to walk around staring at the ground through glass, and getting my socks wet.
Boppin’ around in the snow.
Some of you might not care about the day-today trials I face, but I’m going to unburden myself right here and now. All winter–and it’s been a fairly snowy one, here in Philadelphia–I have been trying to get a pair of boots onto my daughter. Big, big parenting fail. Her feet just wouldn’t go into the gorram boots. Thus, no frolicking in the snow with my kid.
Mother-in-law to the rescue! She came up this past weekend and had a ginormous pair of boots (really, rainboots, and for a child either a year older, or with serious scuba-flipper feet) in tow. They slid right on (and, it turned out, when I picked her up from the snow, they can slide right off, too…), so out into the fresh snow we went.
I took her down to Valley Green last week to feed the ducks for the first time. I set her down on a rocky spot by the banks of the creek, and she stood there, stock-still, not moving her feet even once, for about twenty minutes. Geese and ducks approached, got disconcertingly close, were distracted as I threw bread at them. No movement whatsoever from The Bean. And that’s how it was today. She’s been pointing out the window at the snow all winter, and I finally get her out there to play in it, and…she stands there. Nothing else.
So we stood in the backyard for a good eight minutes, then started to head in, then retrieved the loose boot, then finished heading in.
When you’re shooting someplace like a snowy field, don’t forget to ramp up your exposure compensation; I went with +2.0EV, and shot 1/160 sec at F5.0, on ISO 200. 24mm. Probably could have closed that f-stop down a bit, as it was a bit on the “generously exposed” side. Lightroom with the save!
Since I’ve been playing with my lights so much, I decided to eschew my natural-light tendencies in doing kids’ portraits, and instead set up a light and a backdrop of sorts and actually do this under semi-studio conditions. Of course the hazards of non-stationary children are more prevalent when the light is in one specific spot, but Big Sister was willing to play along, and Little Brother pretty much has no choice but to be where you put him.
Another challenge here is shooting rate. With natural light, I can just fire away…eight frames per second means I’d better be able to catch a moment or two during a shoot. But when you have to wait for lights to recycle, well…I spend more time waiting for those moments to opo up, and hoping that an expression will stick around for more than a second or two. Luckily, Big Sis got a kick out of having her picture taken.
Allow me to explain. When things get a bit slow around here, I like to ease the boredom by playing a beguilingly fun game called “Not Golf.” The idea behind the game is to identify things that are not golf. For example, the U.S. Senate is not golf. A soft pretzel is not golf. Olives are not golf.
My wife especially finds this game, or more exactly my skill at it, to be the height of amusement. You don’t even need to ask her; just take my word for it.
So just in case you thought I was kidding, let me repeat: the subject of this picture is not golf.
Nikon D300s w/Sigma 24-70 f2.8; 1/250 @f16, ISO 200; SB600 at full power w/ mini softbox through an umbrella
I try to get by the best I can with the equipment I have. In terms of lighting, this means an SB600 speedlight and an umbrella that can be used as either a shoot-through or reflector. One of these I’ll get into the studio strobe and softbox market, but for now, I’m playing around with my basic toys trying to get better results.
Although I like using the shoot-through, one of the problems it has is that it spills an awful lot of light around the room in a way that a softbox, with its black sides, wouldn’t. So I came up with this solution:
Set up the umbrella and speedlight normally for a shoot-through scenario. Then, add to the speedlight one of those mini-softboxes that can be used when the speedlight is on the hot shoe; I have one made by Opteka that cost about $10. This helps a bit with the spill issue, plus it adds another layer of diffusion to the light modifier, as some larger softboxes do.
The above shot was taken with this set-up. Nikon D300S, 55-200mm kit lens @200mm, 1/250 @ f16, ISO 200; one SB600 w/ Opteka mini softbox and shoot-through umbrella, high camera right, manual mode at full power.
I should also add that this shot was taken during lunch. Photoshop was used to remove a certain amount of lasagna from the subject’s face.
City of Brotherly love, love, love using bounced flash for fill. I know there are several available techniques for doing this, but the one I’ve settled on is putting my camera on Manual and pointing by bare SB600, set to TTL, straight up. Depending on what I want exposed, I adjust the shutter speed, and if necessary, the aperture. So here, wanting the scene outside the window properly exposed, I metered off of that, and the TTL flash setting took care of the scene inside. I benefited from a pretty warm room, which helps the light. I love the way the light is even and soft.
Chilly weather aside, this past Saturday gave me some great conditions to shoot in, because, in general, overcast is not a bad thing for us photographers. In addition to the overcast, I had the luxury of shooting near some really fantastic windows, courtesy of the Courtyard Marriot in Center City. So I had plenty of opportunity to work with natural light, backlight, and fill; I think that mixing it up throughout the day helps add a good amount of variety to the look of the images.
This image, for example, uses only natural light, and the bride is sort of diagonally backlit. I was going for a shot where the folds and texture of the veil really pop, so I didn’t want to use a light source that would flood the frame with even light; I was looking for a bit of imbalance. I was also shooting for a certain phases-of-the-moon kind of lighting (oh yeah…”rim lighting”. Boring name.) glancing off her face while leaving the back of her head dark, with a fairly sharp contrast line.
Of course, in order to expose her correctly, the window was plenty overexposed, so in Lightroom I used a graduated filter on the left of the frame to tone down the scene outside the window (that’s the Masonic Temple, by the way). Bumping the clarity up some help with the texture of the taffeta, which is I think what veils are usually made of.
Nikon D300s; Sigma 24-70mm @ 24mm, f2.8; ISO 400; natural light.
Congratulations to Fely and Jordan, married on Saturday in Center City. The day featured a beautiful bride, a fun groom who showed some promising signs of occasional goofiness, multi-continental family, as strolling violinist, a pleasant laid-back atmosphere. Plus the pervasive dampness of a chilly, early February all-day drizzle. If it is true that rain on your wedding is good luck, then Fely and Jordan should be all set, and I hope they get some extra good karma for the whole temperature thing, too.
Snow would have been nice. It was a beautiful day inside; ceremony, reception and all. All the best to the newlyweds!