Calgary to Vancouver! (episode 1–Banff and Moraine Lake)

This was a family trip, and that’s my excuse for not getting too many “serious” landscapes Smile with tongue out however as with any location, you would need to really explore it in detail, find the shots and then visit again and again at the right times of day, and year to get the best results, so even if this was a photo trip, good landscape would be a fortunate event.  This is why I take landscape workshops once in a while btw – its not that I need anyone to show me how to operate the camera, make exposure or focus – I’ve got a number of techniques down pretty well now for gathering the data.  Having someone that knows the location on the trip though – now that’s worth investing in.  Mind you, I did get lucky with the light on a couple of occasions and a few half decent landscapes did drop out..

IMG_0940So, the Griswald Lloyd family Vacation from the flatlands of Calgary through the Rocky Mountains, Scooby Doo world, some surreal Stepford-esque fake Swiss Towns to the very pleasant seaside-town-grown-big that is Vancouver.  Our land-ship for this trip, due to general ineptitude at Avis was the Dodge Grand Caravan you can see on the right.  Big, build quality and design from the 80’s and an engine that would struggle to pull the skin off a custard.  The old style hydraulic slushbox was as ancient as the styling, and would take 3 days to sort out a change of gear.  An absolute pain to drive on the open road, it would slow down on the hills until you pressed so much on the throttle pedal it eventually changed down and then gradually picked up speed.  As imagesoon as you backed off though it would change up and start slowing down again… I’m not sure the steering wheel was actually connected to anything either.  It was big though, and with the 3rd row of seats folded away into the floor, our 3 large suitcases went in the back easily.

Our first stop was Banff, a small town mainly comprised of hotels and shopping malls.  Banff is a good looking town – the buildings are all sympathetically designed and mostly, the hotel parking is underground.  We visited Sulphur Mountain via the gondola, and the Vermillion Lakes.





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Flour and the SF600 part 3: chucking it everywhere…

After throwing the flour from stage left, we then loaded Keira up with flour – starting with the hair with Keira kneeling on the floor and swing her hair around, and then we moved onto some full length shots with some full on leaping.  Here’s the second part of the video:-

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Flinging Flour

This was the second of 3 shots we did with the Lencarta SuperFast lights.  This sort of shot is something you only get so many goes at: you run out of flour, coloured powder, and of course, eventually, the model is so covered in flour it changes the look of the images.   Shooting continuously on high speed (well as fast as my D800E will go anyway – the lights will go faster) makes it all the more likely to get a usable frame from these sets.

This was the first time I’d attempted this shot, and while we got a few reasonable images – it’s not quite achieved the drama I want.  I think I know why and I’ll come back to that at the end of this blog.


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Flour Again

As I had so much flour left over, another shoot with it was, well inevitable.  However, before inevitability could strike, James Wall, marketing director of Lencarta lighting wrote to me and asked if I’d be interested in doing it again at their studio in Bradford, to promote the SuperFast lights I had been using for the last few shoots.  Well – I’d be doing this sort of thing anyway, so this was not a hard decision, and wouldn’t need to sell anything – these lights are genuinely fantastic.


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YN622N SuperSync

Ok, so if you want to freeze action outside using both sunlight and flash, you’ll need to use a high shutter speed to freeze those parts of the subject that are lit by the sun – as its a continuous source.  Sure you may be able to light the subject in such a way that they are dominated by flash, and use a regular x-sync compatible shutter speed to freeze your subject with fast flash, however to get them completely frozen, you’ll need to freeze all the light with a high speed shutter – say 1/4000th of a second.  We know we can use compatible Speedlights for this with High Speed Sync (HSS pulses the light to share it out over the entire shutter operation – to act like a bright continuous light) however this is only possible with certain Speedlights.  If you need more power, you can always tape more Speedlights together, however sometimes its more convenient to use one big light:  you can configure it quicker and use all manner of modifiers on big lights.


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Now – there’s a joke in here somewhere about the model being self-raising, but to be honest, It’s too late in the day to be crafting that, so just make up your own and insert it here…

_OHL5221-EditHow much do you need?  I had no idea.  I’d seen a few flour (or “dust”) shots around on flickr, and Pinterest and this seemed like an ideal job for my new high-speed IGBT Lencarta studio lights – movement, flour backlit, hair flying etc.  Well, I bought 4 bags of Sainsbury’s most basic plain flour.  I now have 3 and a half bags of plain flour – which, as it turns out is not much use for baking anything…..

The venue of the flour experiment would be Millwood Photography in Stalybridge.  I highly recommend Millwood studio – Paul not only agreed to let me throw flour about in his studio, helped out on the shoot.  And the brave volunteer to be covered in flour?  Lizzie Bayliss.  I’ve shot with Lizzie before and she is one of the best models around.

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Product photography can get very involved.  Managing reflections, especially on shiny surfaces means you need to be very careful about that is in “sight” of the product surface.  Glass is double trouble, as every piece of glass has 2 surfaces – inside and out.  I’ve recently started to dabble in this and looked around for some ideas.  2 great places to go:- and Karl Taylor Photography.


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Professional Imaging

Adobe put up all of the sessions from the Adobe Stage at Professional Imaging in the Netherlands – including 3 of my favourite photographers: Frank Doorhof, Joe McNally, and Glyn Dewis.  If you missed Joe at The Photography Show sat the NEC – this is pretty much the same lecture – brilliant stuff.   Frank’s sessions are in Dutch – although strangely, I could understand it anyway :P He’s demonstrating Elinchrom’s new ELC-HD heads with the delay, strobe and link functions.

Dancing Again

_OHL4260I keep coming back to this dance theme.  There are a number of reasons.  Dancers, especially classically trained dancers hold themselves with a certain grace and poise.  (well “duh” I hear the rest of the world say, but well, yes it is obvious, however it is a reason why I’m attracted to dancers as subjects).  Next is the movement element – showing movement in a still photograph, whether it be a dancer frozen in mid-leap –where it’s obvious they are moving as they had to be to get up there, to showing multiple positions or a constant motion blur in the image to show the path they have taken.  I had shot with Gabby before, to produce a multiple flash image showing her path from stage right to stage left.  This time I wanted to explore motion freezing, and getting some blur on.

Gabrielle Dams, my subject for this shoot is only 18 years of age, and yet she dances, she sings and teaches a dance class of12-13 year old girls – who all adore her.  She’s very hard-working and always turns in a great performance.

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When in Rome – er.. make like Scott and Kalebra Kelby :P

_OHL3685-EditThis is the exit from the gift shop in the Vatican Museum. Despite an abundance of staggeringly gorgeous old stuff, coming at you from every direction I really like this relatively modern stair case. I’ve been in the museum before, a few years back, however I walked right past this (I never go in the gift shop you see) and saw it on Kalebra’s Google+ post. Unlike Scott’s early morning visit, it was full of people when I shot it of course, and it took about 4 of the 20 or so shots I took to get an empty scene.  This is easy to do in Photoshop these days – do you basic exposure adjustments to one image in Lightroom.  Sync the others and then highlight them all and open as layers in Photoshop.  Choose the one with the least people and put that at the bottom of the stack.  Turn off visibility on all the others and then choose layers that have no people at the points where there *are* people on the base image.  Turn these on and put a hide-all mask on them them so you can reveal parts of the image over the people on the base image – painting them away with a white brush.

The tour guide kept asking if I wanted a headset. Nope – I’ve heard the spiel before, and I can read up on Vatican history any time. The reason I was on a tour? It takes hours to get in the museum, however if you join a tour, you bypass the queues. They do get confused though when you don’t take the headset (and it’s one more thing to get in the way).  The guide was waxing lyrical about the Sistine Chapel ceiling – so I nipped next door into the gift shop to take about 20 frames.

Taken with my new travel solution – another Scott Kelby tip: watch Scott’s travel photography video courses if you are contemplating any trips. For the first time in a long time, I carried no bag. I had my D800E, with Nikon 28-300mm super-zoom. I had my 20mm AIS and 50mm f/1.8 in my pockets. I used the 20mm twice the whole trip, and never touched the 50mm (which I took along in case I wanted a bit more light in dark places) as the low light performance on the D800 is so good, it just wasn’t worth putting the 50mm on.

I carried the camera on a Black Rapid sport strap – which worked very well – definitely recommend this strap – you shoot, you drop the camera back down – it all works very nicely.