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:-  photigy.com 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.

Oh yes :) – and they work too.


IMG_0764The Nikon CLS/AWS  (Creative Lighting System/Advanced Wireless System) flash system does many amazing things, with off-camera flash from strobing, full TTL metering with up to 3 groups of flash at independent power settings to just simple manual control of power output from camera.  However, it has one big weakness:  it send the data from the camera to the flashes with light pulses from either the on-board pop-up flash, or a Speedlight/SU800 infrared trigger attached to the camera hotshoe.  This means there must be a way for the light to get from the camera flash to the little sensor on the side of the Speedlight.  Some people call this “line of sight”.  It’s not quite that bad – you can bounce it off walls and ceilings etc as long as it reaches the sensor it will work.

But what if I put the flashes in a softbox?  Or outside/in another room?  If you’ve read Joe McNally’s “The Hot Shoe Diaries” you’ll know just how much of the setup on his shoots is spent getting the lights to trigger, with daisy-chained SC29 cords from the hotshoe to the master flash pointing out of a window and bouncing off a satellite…Well anyway, you get the idea – it’s frigging unreliable outside, and unworkable if the light is out of sight.

So, what if we could do the same over radio?  Pocket Wizard came up with the FlexTT5 and MiniTT1 system that does just that, however many reported it to be unreliable and there was no display on the trigger – the closest you could get was to buy a 3rd thing – the “AC3 Zone controller” that supplied the missing controls on the FlexTT5 to adjust up to 3 groups of flashes with thumbwheels.  Still no display mind you, and the whole thing cost a Gazillion pounds.  Radio poppers captured the light data and re-transmitted over the wire to a device that than re-emitted the light signals into the flash sensor.  Again, very expensive, but they did work perfectly.  Dave Black has used these to excellent effect over the years.  In later months Phottix launched the Odins which seemed to work well, but again, very very expensive at £150 per receiver.  Pixel had the Kings and again no display…

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Grey is the new Green

_OHL0128-Edit-NCFXLight grey specifically.   People used to shoot on a Chroma key green or blue background to make cutting out easier (by selecting everything that is *that* green is was easy to cut out the model for pasting onto something else).  It is still popular in video work.  For stills though, you don’t need to bother with that, as the selection and matting tools in Photoshop these days are very good.  Using these green or blue background also reflects blue and green light onto your subject.  You do still need to blend in your model and create shadows, and match the lights and so on.

However!  Forget all that because if you shoot on a grey background you can just throw backgrounds on top and blend with overlay.  Mask off the model and you’re done. 

(Well ok there a few more steps but it’s certainly less tedious than the usual perfection-selection technique)

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