Category Archives: How Its made

Light Patterns

_DSC0060-Edit-Edit-WebsiteIf you’ve been making shots in a studio for a while, you’ve probably collected a number of light “modifiers” – that is, reflectors, softboxes, umberellas and other bits of metal, plastic, foil and fabric to control, block, reflect and otherwise guide the light to where you want it.  But do you know what they actually do?    Neil Van Niekerk tested some of his light modifiers and you can the results of Neil’s tests on his excellent blog Tangents  <<- click.     I thought I had better test mine.  I found some interesting and one or two unexpected results.

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Also posted in Equipment, Lighting

Safari II Tail sync–real world tests

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(no this is not a tailsync shot – but it is pretty cool 🙂   1/160th f/22 ISO 32 – Brian Sanger.     Read on for wide apertures, high shutter speeds and blurry clouds 🙂

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Also posted in Equipment, Lighting

Disney On Acid

Intentional Camera Movement

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Well, on coffee and a lack of sleep anyway.  We boarded Tinkerbelle (one of the many things to like about Virgin Atlantic – they name their ‘planes like WWII bombers and this 747-400 was named after a fairy) for the 8 hour flight to Orlando.  After much immigration, luggage, car pickup, instructions to retrieve key for house pickup, calls to rental company for 40 minutes after they gave us the wrong codes for the key safe.. we rolled into the Magic Kingdom at 2am UK time after dropping the luggage at the house.   I was pretty punch drunk by then and the whole place took on the aspect of some bizarre dream…. I decided to try and make some alternative views of Disney by night, using long exposures….

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Also posted in Travel

One Light

You can do so much with just one light.  One £30 YN460-II for example.  There really is no excuse for not having at least one flash 🙂

Robert Harrington gave a great presentation at the B&H theatre on getting many looks out of one light – and you can watch it here.  I thought this would make a great live demo for the camera club I belong to and worked out 10 or so looks to present within a 2 hour slot.   I ran through them in a practice session with some fellow photographers and we got it done in 1:45.  It was going to take longer on the night as I’d be waffling on about the light as we went – and hopefully, there would be questions!

Here’s my pick of the looks we did on the night with model Paris Spencer, who always does a great job on these shoots.  For all of these shots, the camera is in manual exposure at 1/160th at F/8 and ISO 64 to 640.  The flash is in manual, and when off the camera, is triggered by using the pop-up in commander mode.   The popup does not fire during the exposure, it’s just used to send data and commands to the remote SB900.

We started with the flash on the camera – left, and the first shot is direct flash.  When should you use this?  Well, probably never unless it’s a bit of fill but as a main light, it sucks.  I wanted to show just how bad flash lighting could be, so we took the mugshot, on the left.  Paris looks like she just got arrested…

 

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Also posted in Equipment, Lighting, Model Shoots, Workshops

Low Lying Fog

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I love fog.  Use it all the time.  Sometimes though, I just want it on the floor.   Theatres and movie sets have used liquid nitrogen (“dry ice”) for this for a long time.  You can also make regular fog lie on the floor by cooling it down so it becomes denser than the surrounding air.  There are a number of commercial options for doing this ranging from the £90 American DJ “Mr Kool” all the way up to liquid nitrogen foggers.   There are even more DIY solutions involving lots of plumbing, and plastic bins – all of which are huge 🙂

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Also posted in Equipment

Smoke part 2: smoking bulbs

_OHL3876-Edit-WebsiteHaving sorted the general lighting and approach to shooting some smoke, here’s the next phase in my smoke project – tungsten bulbs.   The tungsten filaments in these bulbs can glow white hot and not just burn up because the bulb is filled with an inert gas, such as Argon, Krypton or Xenon.  The so-called “noble gases”do not interact with incandescent material, and so the filament can carry on glowing at near melting point for thousands of hours.  If you turn it on in regular air however….

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Also posted in Equipment, Lighting

Smoke

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There are some photo ideas that have been done so much that I will probably never do them, unless I think I can build on them to produce something a little bit different.   This one has been on my photographic to-do list for some time, and I’m not done with it just yet, however I thought I’d share the journey so far.

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LIGHTS, CAMERA, ER.. FOG! ACTION!

_DSC2534-Edit-Purple-PortEmilia Gaza contacted me recently to ask if I’d be interested in shooting some dance/burlesque with her.  Her portfolio notes over on PurplePort are filled with such enthusiasm and passion for dance and to create images of it I immediately said yes! Continue reading »

Also posted in Equipment, Lighting, Model Shoots

Aperture Controls Flash

I started to write this one up as the next “photography myths” post and had planned some demo shots, however Neil Van Niekerk explained it all brilliantly on his blog here: Tangents back in 2009.   Go there now and read it!  Neil’s blog is full of great articles on using flash, and a whole boatload of other photographic technique.   Here’s the summary I wrote to introduce my post:-

 

The next “myth and misdirection” you will come across as a photographer learning how to use flash, especially with natural/ambient light is this phrase:-

“Shutter speed controls ambient, aperture controls flash”

Whilst you can’t deny that both of those statements are true, since when did ambient/natural light become immune to the effects of your aperture size just because you start using flash?

For manual controlled flash power within normal x-sync range of shutter speeds:-

  • Shutter speed controls ambient light
  • Aperture controls flash and ambient light
  • ISO controls flash and ambient light
  • The flash power adjustment buttons on your light, control…. flash!

For TTL automatic flash exposure systems (camera on manual, flash on TTL ) the flash exposure is constant, as long as it is within the bounds of the flash gun to supply enough light, and the camera and subject remain reasonably still in relation to each other.  Close down the aperture?  The flash puts out more light so the flash exposure is the same.  Raise the ISO?  The flashgun reduces the power so the flash exposure remains the same.  Move the light?  The flashgun adjusts and the flash exposure remains constant.  The ambient light doesn’t react to these changes in shutter speed and aperture though, so ambient light exposure continues to change as before.  Stop down the aperture?  The ambient light exposure reduces – flash exposure stays the same.

 

 

Also posted in Lighting, Photography Myths

“Longer lenses compress the scene”

Seriously.  Stop saying this.   It’s no wonder newcomers to photography get confused when so much of the “received wisdom” they hear is just not true.  Alongside “aperture controls flash, shutter speed controls ambient” this is one of the most ubiquitous fallacies still being trotted out from a variety of sources.  The converse is also untrue:  wide angle lenses do not distort (at least not because of the focal length, they may of course have defects in their design and manufacture).

“But” I hear you say “if I take a picture of someone with a wide angle, their features look all distorted, they have a big nose and their entire head looks like a football!  If I use a telephoto lens, they look much more natural.”

Well, before I tell you what’s really going on, here’s two images of my friend Gary, who bravely volunteered to have his ruggedly handsome features pulled around for the sake of science:-
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