Saturday, November 13, 2010

One Day With Joe

Today was day one of a two day weekend seminar style workshop with Joe McNally. The even was sponsored by CAPIC and The Camera Store. This was my second time with Joe. Back in July of this year I spent a day with Joe at his workshop in Dobbs Ferry, NY. I gotta say each day I spent in the company of Joe, I learned a bunch and I came away with tons of energy and inspiration.


The highlight of day one of this weekend workshop happened after we came back from a fifteen minute break. Joe had an idea. We had two female models, both pretty done up but one was in character as Marilyn Monroe. So Joe's idea was to create a paparazzi type scenario. He had the two girls in front of the stage facing away from the audience. Way at the back of the theatre he had one light stand with flash on either side of the room pointing towards the stage. Each of those flashes was gelled yellow. They were to be the "Hollywood search lights". In front of the models he had two strobes in Lumiquest Mini Soft Boxes. The killer addition was he pulled a half dozen Nikon shooters out of the audience and set each of them up with a hot shoe strobe. The fake "paparazzi" were told not to turn on the cameras as Joe was working his TTL magic from his camera. It took him about two or three tries to get the lighting right and then he ended up with this amazing shot!


Wow! I think I got goosebumps on that one. OK, now my picture of his creation projected on to a big screen does not do the image justice but you get the idea. It was truly incredible to see Joe create that one out of thin air and end up with such an awesome shot. That was definitely a show stopping moment for me. And, I would be very surprised if a shot from that scenario does not show up in a blog post. It was so good.

I honestly can't say enough about Joe. It is twice now that I have had the privilege to see him work his magic and I am never disappointed. He is gracious, he is willing to share all what he knows and he does it without any ego and with so much humour and humanity. This guy is the real deal.

The best part about today is I get to do it all over again tomorrow. So good.

Keep shooting.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Football Fun!

This past weekend was a busy one. Shooting family portraits on Saturday and an Atom football game on Sunday. The coolest part about Sunday's football shoot was I was able to rent Canon's 300mm f/2.8L IS lens. That thing is a beast! It's about ten inches long and it weighs in at almost six pounds but let me tell you, this is ten inches and six pounds of pure awesome! Super sharp and super quick to focus it captures beautiful images, well, as long as I'm doing my part. Check out the lens shot below.


I don't shoot a lot of sports on a regular basis but I can share a few of the basic tips I use. First off, I start by taking a few shots of a grey card. This allows me to find proper exposure and the grey card image can be used to set (with software) correct white balance during post-processing. Once I have my exposure I just lock in the settings by switching the camera to manual. That way I never have to worry about the camera making incorrect exposure choices due an abundance of dark coloured jerseys or other scenarios that fool the camera's light meter.

With the help of the grey card I was able to establish a baseline exposure of f/4, 1/1000th of a second at ISO 400. I want to keep my ISO as low as possible while still maintaining a 1/1000th of a second shutter speed. Shooting outdoors on a fairly sunny day affords me that luxury. Indoors or at night under artificial lights I would have had to crank my ISO up to 1600 or beyond and shoot wide open at f/2.8.

Having my exposure locked in leaves me one less thing to think about however if you have a partially cloudy day like I did, you need to be cognizant of changing light conditions and adjust accordingly. I just check the LCD from time to time if I sensed that the light was changing. On this particular day it took no more than a 1/3 to 1/2 stop adjustment to get back to a proper exposure.


Another essential tool for handling a lens as big and heavy as the one I was using is a monopod. With image stabilization you could probably hand hold a big lens and get decent results but after a while arms will get fatigued and likely the quality of the pictures will suffer. Monopods are cheap and they work great. Just get one that can easily and quickly adjust to various heights so you can get shots from a variety of angles.

Lastly but quite likely the most important detail is focusing. Anytime there is movement you need the camera to track focus and this means switching to a continuous focus mode. For Canon shooters that mode is AI Servo. I was shooting with a Canon 40D, which is a pretty old camera but it is still a very reliable workhorse. The 40D does not have a lot of the fancy focus zones and tracking that more modern DSLRs do but it still does a very good job. What I do is light up just a single focus point, typically one that's off centre, and then make sure my subject is hit by this point. After that it is up to the camera to do the rest. I just have to line it up and press the shutter.

Hope some of those tips helped.


Keep shooting.