Saturday, September 25, 2010

Week 10 - Two Year Old Beauty

0I have been in to photography for a while now and I would have to say that my favorite subject to photography are people -babies/toddlers to be specific. One of the biggest reasons was that they grow up so quickly. They rarely look the same from one photo opportunity to the next.

This week, I've invited my next door neighbor's little princess to take a shoot. I asked her mom if I could get some practice shoot and let her be my model. She gladly approved and to my excitement I immediately prepared my gadgets, set my improvised "home studio" then all the fun happened.

This little beauty loved playing and in fact she would come up to me to show all the toys. She was a challenge to photograph but I just loved that high energy. She was such a super model.

There were so many I wanted to share, but as for my two-picture blog rule.... these two were my favorites.

Gear: Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S VR DX Nikkor Zoom Lens, Nikon SB-25 Speedlight, Manfrotto Light Stand, White umbrella as improvise diffuser and black cloth as backdrop
Settings: f13, 1/200sec., ISO 200, flash power 1/8
Post process: Increased the blacks with Lightroom 2 and watermarked with Picmarkr

Gear: Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S VR DX Nikkor Zoom Lens, Nikon SB-25 Speedlight, Manfrotto Light Stand, White umbrella as improvise diffuser and black cloth as backdrop
Settings: f13, 1/200sec., ISO 200, flash power 1/8
Post process: Increased the blacks with Lightroom 2 and watermarked with Picmarkr 

Photographing children is great fun, rewarding, sometimes frustrating and makes for a good aerobic workout, all at once.  For more of her, visit this link PEOPLE

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Week 9 - My Low-budget "Home Studio"

For this week's photo project, Raynan and I arranged a low-budget "home studio" for portraits. And since we both are interested with utilizing just one light source for photography, the following comes out with a budget.

1. One light source (speedlight) - We bought used Nikon SB-25 in EBay. The model mainly serves high-end old school SLR however works perfectly with the modern DSLR. Only difference is the no stroboscopic function (I think??) and could not be used as a commander flash. Price - $135 including shipping costs (AED496).

2. Flash Trigger - We bought in EBay a new wireless radio remote flash trigger compatible with Nikon D40, D90, D5000 etc. models. This includes 1 trigger, 2 receivers. Price - $49.99 free shipping (AED183).

3. Diffuser - This is another great improvise we did. Raynan bought a 33" White Umbrella (from DAISO @ Madinat Zayed Shopping Center).  This is used as a studio light soft diffuser. Price - AED6.

4. Light Stand - for now, I borrowed from an officemate. Kuya June was kind enough to let us use his stand for quite sometime. Price - AED0.

5. Backdrop - I bought an ordinary black cloth that would work as a backdrop.  Place where to get these is within area of Cloth Souq in Hamdan Street, just within the alley near the Al Mariah Cinema. Price AED5/yard. Bought 4 yards a total of AED20.

To sum up the costs of my low-budget "home studio" = AED705

Just in case you wonder where we post the backdrop...... bedpost is the answer. And here are the results of our improvise gadgets:

Settings: Nikon D40, Nikon AF-S Nikkor 35mm 1:1.8G DX , f9, 1/200sec., ISO 200
Post process: convert RAW to JPEG file & watermarked with Picmarkr
Settings: Nikon D40,  Nikon AF-S Nikkor 35mm 1:1.8G DX, f8, 1/200sec., ISO 200
Post process: convert RAW to JPEG file & watermarked with Picmarkr

Every dirham well spent.... =)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Week 8 - Not a Bird of Prey

Birds of prey are birds that hunt for food primarily on the wing, using their keen senses, especially vision. They are known as birds that primarily hunt vertebrates, including other birds. Such birds are almost impossible to sight in the city. However, pigeons are not. I've decided to have a it as my Week 8.

I'm always fascinated of the beauty of birds specially at flight. I was also challenged to photograph birds at rest. I've had attempts before photographing birds as close as possible but always end up scaring them away.

Not the professional way of photographing birds where it uses "bazooka-like" lenses, I used my 35mm fixed lens so no zoom was available. I needed to get close as possible to my object. This pigeon was different and it looks like it was posing. It was not a scared bird at all.

Here goes the result.
Settings: Nikon D40, f5.6, 1/200sec., ISO 200
Post process: convert RAW to JPEG file and cropped with LR2, watermarked with Picmarkr

Settings: Nikon D40, f5.6, 1/200sec., ISO 200
Post process: convert RAW to JPEG file and cropped with LR2, watermarked with Picmarkr

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Week 7 - Holy SMOKE!!! | SMOKE Photography

I recently became fascinated with one light and an off-camera flash set up. The one light set up is a simple set up but could result in various images. On the other hand, the off-camera flash had a different effect comparing to the regular built-in flash from our DSLR. I’ve tried attempting for a smoke photography months ago when I’m still in my basic class (Lightform Filipino Photographer, Abu Dhabi – Batch 2). The images that result from that was totally rubbish since I use a wrong set up. I didn’t even get a good look of any smoke. It was totally black. However, finishing that class has somehow added my interests in photography. As months go, I thought of going back to re-do the smoke photography. Now with one light source and an off-camera flash set up, the random patterns of smoke are quite amazing and mesmerizing (at least in my eyes).

The images look difficult to create. Those multiple colors and patterns are actually quite simple. In this week’s photo project, I’m going to show you exactly how I did it, from start to finish.

First, gather all the equipment I need in order to take smoke photos.

  1. SMOKE – Since I don’t use cigar and would need a lasting smoke, I used incense sticks. I also used a holder so that I could get a steady stream. And of corz, a lighter!
  2. BACKDROP – Anything black is best when taking this shot. You can use black poster board or a black sheet. I used what’s available in the closet, a black shirt.
  3. LIGHT – Although I’ve tried a couple of different setups, with a flashlight on hand and a speedlight, I find the speedlight off to the side worked for me. Since I shut off all main lighting, I find the flashlight useful moving around the dark space.
  4. TRIPOD – I use this to put my camera for a steady support. I used my old point & shoot tripod however does not recommend it since it’s not stable enough to carry on a heavy DSLR. I’m just lucky enough I didn’t have accidents on a poorly lighted room.
  5. LIGHT STAND – This is to hold my speedlight.
  6. CAMERA W/ LENS – Self-explanatory. I used a Nikon D90 where I have full manual control. I used no special lens, just the kit lens.
  7. SPEEDLIGHT – I used this Nikon SB-25, set in manual mode.
  8. SNOOT – I don’t have this but I had to be creative. Luckily, I have a calendar board – black colored. I just wrapped it in my SPEEDLIGHT. A DIY snoot comes in handy.
  9. FLASH TRIGGER WITH RECEIVER – Since I’m using an old school SLR speedlight where its TTL mode isn’t compatible with those new DSLRs. This becomes a necessary gadget on hand. Otherwise, if you have the latest high-end speedlight (say NIKON SB-600 up to SB-900 models), I guess this won’t be necessary.
  10. REMOTE SHUTTER RELEASE – I didn’t have this on hand. This will help but isn’t necessary.

Now that I have my equipment, I have to look for a good location for this. I chose our toilet room. Since I deal with smoke, I prefer it as it is a well-ventilated and with a good access of water just in case accidents could occur. It’s not bad to be prepared for such mishaps. I have a good control of the light, an exhaust fan where there’s air circulation and an easy access to water. The only thing difficult with it is to move around. I was careful not to bump on the light stand or the tripod. I don’t want anything falling on the floor. And ooops, I assure that the tiles are dry. I don’t want anything slippery.

You may have noticed that I never said that I shot in total darkness. Some people might say this is important, to be able to concentrate the light on the smoke. However, I did found it difficult to move in total darkness. Since the speedlight can be powerful at my choice, I found no problem having a handy flashlight. It actually helped me be able to see the smoke.

A pretty simple setup. I have a black shirt as the backdrop that’s hanged to the wall and draped over the lavatory. The smoke source approximately 1 – 2 feet away from the backdrop. The speedlight attached with a snoot are set to the left fairly close and focusing on the smoke. The camera setup and tripod are directly in front of the smoke. Here is a diagram how. Sorry for such an ugly sketch.

Now that I have equipments set, settings is next. This is what I used:
  • ISO – 100
  • Shutter Speed – 1/200
  • Aperture – f/11 (to get a good depth of field focus)
  • Lens Focus –I have my camera setup on the tripod, so neither the camera nor the burning incense ever changes position, this allows me to preset the focus of my camera to the approximate area, where the smoke column would rise. You can do this by using the AF lock of your camera; however I personally find the manual focus option to be more accurate.
  • Flash Power – I used 1/4.  
I gave it a go on playing around with the settings to get the effect that I look for. I started with f/5.6 up to f/22. I settled in f/11. I used the snoot to give me enough light focusing on the smoke. I assure no light was aiming to my backdrop. Although this could be post processed, I kept it as dark as possible.

I have said how to set up the lighting, collected all the things necessary, my incense burning, and smoke manipulation device is now ready.

For quite sometime, I was just standing and watching the smoke. I wait to capture the cool patterns rising up from the incense stick. Sometimes I missed, sometimes I got it. What I did notice, however, was that the speedlight was actually disturbing the some smoke. Since it was so close to the smoke, every time it fired I could see the smoke move. This was never really a problem but probably gave me more varieties to shoot at. And what’s even more interesting is when I put something solid that would disrupt the smoke.

To give everyone an idea of how the hit and miss shots I did, it took me more than 50 shots and kept only 10 of it. So you know the percentage that was usable. Anyway, I only chose 2 of those to post for this project and delete the “uninteresting” ones.

After taking the shot, it’s a good thing to have it post processed. And honestly, I have zero experience with photoshop (but would love to learn it). I only did the basic non-destructive retouching with LR2. Did it with color command on ADJUSTMENT BRUSH, deleted some imperfect strand of smoke with the SPOT REMOVER and clone/heal for the dark spots.


Thanks for reading. I hope you like what you see and if you don’t mind writing on some comments or any criticism in my project, that would be most love.