I really haven’t photographed food before–not in any serious fashion–so when I found myself confronted with a silver platter of chocolate-covered potato chips yesterday at the Candy Factory in Columbia, Mo., I was thrown for a loop.
There was no chance I would use existing light: it was a mix of daylight and tungsten, and exposing for the chips coated in which chocolate would have meant underexposing the others significantly. So I set up two lights bouncing into umbrellas at either end of the silver tray. It took me a while for all that I learned about photographing metal–and look how little of it wound up in the final frame!–and its family of angles to come back to me (about 50 chimped frames) but once the reflections were under control, it just became a matter of the ratio between the key and the fill lights.
Ultimately, the SB-80-DX, on camera left, was fired at a third stop under 1/2 power, and the 550EX on camera right was fired at 1/16 power. Could I have balanced those a bit? Probably. The shadows cast by the milk chocolate potato chips bother me a bit. I’ll file that in the “next time” category.
I’ve been battling a cold ever since grad school got out for summer–a great way to celebrate the end of the year, but at least it didn’t strike during the week before when projects were due!–but yesterday, for the first time since getting home, I felt like making some images. The bird activity at home has been really great, although I picked a slow day to photograph (less likely to disturb the migrating species, though!). The suet feeder has been getting a lot of activity from our resident, nesting pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers and our Downy Woodpecker, but it was really the nuthatch that let me get a good look at him.
Three flash units were set up on stands, combined with the late-afternoon sun, made for a four-light setup, albeit back-lit. I was trying to get some rim-lighting, and between the sun and another strobe back and to the right, I figured I would get quite a bit. I certainly got some, but not quite what I wanted. My key light was backed up quite a bit, and I had a fill on the left, which is casting the nuthatch’s shadow that you can see on the suet feeder.
For a group project for Advanced Techniques, Vivian Esparza, Charles Ludeke, Lesley Freeman, and I met up at the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial along the MKT Trail in Columbia, Mo. to make a long time exposure with added light–also called “painting with light” for its surreal effect.
Charles friend, Michelle, agreed to be a model for us on the bridge. After thinking on it for a bit, we decided that we should include a male figure in the photo, and Charles volunteered that he had a yellow tux (rental) in his car from a social gathering a on Friday night.
The background trees were lit with a Nikon SB-900 gelled green. I fired it off at 1/4 power for the nearer trees, and worked my way up to 1:1 for the background trees (knowing that they would be far too dark otherwise). Vivian did a great job of painting the bridge blue (an SB-900 with a blue gel), and Lesley walked along the bridge once with a flashlight aimed downward (on the ground, along the railing). Lesley then used a different flashlight, gelled red, to paint the post and upper railing of the bridge.
Finally, Charles and Michelle would pose on the bridge, and I used my Canon 550EX with the Panera straw-grid, dialed at 1/2 power, to “freeze” our ghosts in the frame.
All told, the exposure came to 5.7 minutes @ f/8, ISO 200 using a Canon 5D Mark II and 70-200mm f/4 IS lens @ 81mm…and a couple hours of experimentation. It was a great collaboration….and I think we might go back in a week to do something a little bit different ( but not in time for class).
Everyone in Advanced Techniques was asked to create a photojournalistic image using second curtain (or “rear curtain”) snyc with their strobes. I actually haven’t used the technique much in the past, largely because it’s inordinately difficult to do so with the Canon flash system. Comparatively, the Nikon system of switching the flash mode from “normal,” skipping over “red eye reduction,” and landing on “rear” is all that has to be done. It’s stupid simple. More stupid for Canon…..c’est la vie. (But cameras that start with the letter “N” do seem to have strange white balance………)
For the simple reason that second curtain sync is easy to achieve with Nikon, I borrowed a D700 and an SB-900 from the photo department. I only took out the 24-70mm, knowing that 90% of what I had planned could be done with that one lens. First, I went to the Hulett House mixed martial-arts gym, the subject of a longer-term group project, to practice with the technique. I set up one light on a stand, gelled CTO, and bounced if off of the ceiling.
After only a few frames, I captured this image, which is one of my favorites from the evening:
Just an outtake from a class experiment with light painting at Rock Bridge State Park in Columbia, Mo. This was likely the most successful image of the evening. There’s also an assignment to pursue this line of work in smaller groups, so look for something different in the coming days.
Recently I’ve been trying to make photographs of the fighters at the Hulett House, a mixed martial arts training gym run by Rob Hulett and part of the Midwest Fight League, while sparring with each other using at least two flash heads for cross lighting. One of the greatest challenges is to ensure that the light stand (I’m triggering wirelessly either with Canon ST-E2 transmitters of with eBay “poverty wizards”).
In this case, I’ve lit the scene with two 550EX Speedlites aimed right at one another. I was using daylight white balance because I was letting the flash heads overpower the ambient light, but now I regret that decision and wish I had gone with a CTO gel and tungsten white balance to make the overhead lights appear white. C’est la vie.
Also, the shadow cast by the strobe on the right is a bit distracting. But what made this, to my mind, the strongest of the images was Croom’s expression paired with the position of the bright red boxing glove in the lower right-hand corner.
Without that glove as an anchor for the composition, this wouldn’t be a successful image at all.
“Fill flash.” It’s a term familiar to pretty much everyone. The only thing that makes it more interesting is when you decide to take the flash off of the camera and place it on a stand. This frees up the photographer to place the light where it should be, not where the camera is positioned. For wildlife photographed with a 500mm lens, placing the flash on axis makes a lot of sense–on a cloudy day just dial down the flash to -2 or -3 EV (via ETTL), put a Better Beamer on there, and call it a day.
For this assignment I was working with less space than I would have liked, and what began as a completely open storefront was actually being boarded up by the construction worker, Ryan McCullen. I really wanted a second light: one inside (behind him) to work in tandem with the flash that I had with me. Of course, before he boarded up the windows, I had two lights (the sun, hopefully operating at full power…).
I triggered the flash on the light stand with some “Poverty Wizards”–the cheap radio remotes from Hong Kong that are all over eBay. I do own a Canon remote trigger, but it is based on infrared line-of-sight, and in bright sun it simply doesn’t work. If I could afford Pocket Wizards…some day. Until then, the cheap eBay remotes seem to be working!
With a little help from the fill light slider in Lightroom, the image opens up pretty nicely, and the juxtaposition between McCullen working away and the motley crew of people hanging out on the street–“We’re All Vampires” does amuse me.
For the past few days I’ve been peering over at the other side of the fence to see what Nikon has to offer with regard to off-camera lighting. I had heard about CLS–the Creative Lighting System–for some time, but few here at Mizzou seem to be using it. Finally, I just decided to check it out for myself, so I borrowed a D300 and an SB900 Speedlight and discovered how ridiculously easy it is to control the flash unit from the camera in either fully-manual or ETTL modes. From the perspective of a Canon user, it’s just sick.
While in Saint Louis last weekend, I dropped in on the site of my final project from Fundamentals of Photojournalism (from last semester), Wild Bird Rehabilitation. Unlike most of the (few) bird rehabilitation centers in Missouri, WBR focuses on songbirds. The birds that they work with are brought to WBR by concerned citizens, often people who have birds crash into the windows of their houses, or mauled by their pets in their yard, who want to do all that they can for our avian friends. This time of year, March through June, lots of migratory birds come through the area along the Mississippi Flyway.
When I came in last week, Diane Dorter, one of three paid staff at WBR, was teaching volunteer Lizzie Vreeland how to care for birds at WBR’s “emergency room.” Vreeland has been a volunteer at WBR for close to one year, but recently became interested in working with the most critical avian patients at the facility.
I brought along my small light stand and wireless trigger to set up the flash in the corner of the room to bounce off of the ceiling for some fill. The florescents in the room have a color temperature between tungsten and florescent. To try to match my flash to the light in the room, I attached window green theatrical gel over the flash head. However, I was not happy with the results, so I replaced the green for the color temperature orange (CTO) gel. This was better–much better–but still not perfect. I realized later that stacking the gels would have been the solution to my problems. Next time! More after the jump… Continue reading “Are you gellin’?”→