Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lovely Backlighting

Last Friday I had the privilege of shooting Amy Thiessen, a friend and an amazingly talented, hard working singer. You can check Amy out here.

We had a pretty ambitious night of shooting planned with a couple of locations on the agenda. We arrived at the first location at about 7PM. I was guessing on how the dimming sunlight would hit that spot and I guessed wrong. So, after a very quick evaluation, we jumped back in the car and looked for a new spot while we waited for the light to drop a bit. We found our spot amongst the thickly canopied residential streets in the community of Bridgeland in north west Calgary. About ten minutes later I was taking the first test shots.

The great thing about the spontaneous location was that I knew right away what I wanted to do. I wanted to light my subject with flash, I wanted to add a nice backlight too and to make my subject pop I wanted to dim the ambient light by about a stop. I suppose the other ingredient for the shot was to shoot with a telephoto lens fairly wide open to minimize the clutter of the street. The set up was pretty straight forward. Two Canon 580EX II speedlites shooting through a 60" umbrella to light my subject and a bare, 580EX II on a stand behind my subject to get some great backlighting.

It took only a few test shots to dial in the look for the shot.


Keep shooting.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

One Location, Two Looks...

On Wednesday of this week I had the privilege of shooting my friend and amazing yogi Jeff Mah. Jeff is working on a new web site and needed a variety of shots. I had a location in mind and the day before our shoot I went to the site to make sure it would match the vision I had in mind. If you're curious, you can read about my pre-shoot location check.

Anyhow, I wanted to get a couple of different looks out of the same location so Jeff would have a good variety of shots from which to choose. My first idea was to mirror the idea I tested the day before, which was basically underexposing ambient by a stop to get a more dramatic look and use flash to light my subject. The added pop on this first idea was to shoot the scene with a tungsten white balance setting so daylight becomes a potent blue and gel the flash tungsten so my subject is the proper colour balance. Using the faster shutter speed I could, which is my max sync speed of 1/200th and a small aperture I was able to pull off the look. It wasn't quite as dramatic as the day before because there was a thin veil of cloud and that really soften the light and took the hard edge off the shadows. Nonetheless we were able to get a really cool looking shot.


The second look I wanted to shoot was more straight up, so proper white balance and proper exposure or perhaps slightly overexposed. My first few test shots with this second look were OK but they weren't great. Typically, overexposing a shot is going to flatten the image as you lose both contrast and colour saturation. Underexposing it would have the opposite effect. I decided the image needed a little pop so I exposed the scene correctly and added a bare flash to put a pop of light on my subject. Instead of using a grid or any other flash modifiers I just oriented the long edge of the flash vertically, zoomed it all the way out to 105mm and fired it pretty much straight at my subject at about head height. Instantly I started seeing something I liked. I dialled the flash in a bit to be slightly brighter than my ambient exposure. This gave me a "halo" of light around my subject but also produced a great shadow, which to me, added some much needed depth. Here is what I got for the second look.


One location, two looks. Awesome.

Keep shooting.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Yesterday I was out on location testing for a shoot. You can read all about that on my previous post, here. The things I discovered on the pre-shoot prepared me for today's action, which, uh, is the reason I do the location test in the first place. :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pre-Shoot Location Check

I have been planning a client shoot for about a week and finalizing the location a day or go, today's task was to scope out the site to make sure it would suit our needs. I had shot on this particular site once before but that was in the dull, dark days of winter so I needed to be sure about the light.

I packed a basic kit of gear, hopped on my bike and pedalled to the location. After snapping a few general pics I decided that I may as well get a bit more serious and try some of the actual shots I am planning to make. I was shooting at just past midday so the sun was full on and the shadows were thick. The shadows I love but the overpowering light I could do without, especially for the kind of shots I wanted to make. I cranked up the shutter speed to my max sync (1/200th) to kill as much ambient as I could it was not quite enough so I had to close down my aperture too. I wanted to shoot more wide open but gear has limits so I had to make concessions. I ended up with an exposure of 1/200th, f/11 at ISO 100. I only had one flash so f/11 was about all I could push. I would have liked to cut ambient by another stop but again, I was at the limits of my gear. Oh well, I was getting some good shots so I kept going.

After a while a father and his young son arrived in the same space where I was shooting. As it turns out he was in a wedding on the weekend, which took shots in the same location and he thought it would be a great place to get some shots of his young son. He was an amateur shooter, so he asked me for a couple of tips along the way. I was happy to oblige. As I was getting ready to wrap up he asked me if I wouldn't mind taking a shot of him and his son. I tried to but I'm a Canon guy and he had an older Nikon and to me the Nikon menus, button placement, etc are really foreign so I deferred and ask him if he wanted to jump in on my set up instead. He was for it and I snapped a bunch of pictures for them. As it turns out I managed to grab some great shots, which was fantastic because it gave me even more of a chance to play a bit more. It is always so hard being a photographer and the subject.


With the location check done, I packed up my gear and headed for home. Pulling the images on the computer I was really pleased with the shots and especially the ones of the father and his son. I sent him a few shots and he was happy too. Win win.

Keep shooting.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit

I picked up the Apple iPad camera connection kit for my iPad 2 a few months ago and I thought it would be worthwhile to share my experiences. Before purchasing the item myself, I read quite a few reviews on Apple's site as well as other reviews across the web. For the most part, the kit is well regarded with a few minor quibbles. My personal experience has been great and although I have only had it a short amount of time it has already saved the day on one occasion.