Friday, March 27, 2009

Hotshoe Diaries

For anyone really into the whole Strobist thing, then you have been really looking forward to Joe McNally's new book, the Hotshoe Diaries

I just picked mine up today, after a lengthy Pre-Order, production got pushed back a couple times, but it is out in stores now, and available online

When I left Chapters today, they had 2 left on the shelf, but I do not suspect that will last long. 

Oh, and if you are really into your books, then you might want to 'Pimp your McNally' like this guy did with the last joe McNally book "the Moment it Clicks", which was already a great look into his mind, but H.S.D.'s is even more so, with complete full descriptions and drawings of lighting set ups. 

I'm going to read now... 


Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Shooting Modes
So, while Bob was talking the other night he mentioned that he shoots in full Manual mode for the majority of the time. And, I know that Ron Long has talked to us about it, and he recommends shooting in Shutter Priority most of the time. It is important to make sure the image is sharp, as he pointed out; and I agree that at times that is an important thing to keep in mind.

This has got me thinking about the mode I shoot in the most, and why; and not to contradict Ron in his thoughts…but…

I tend to shoot in Manual mode for about 85% of the time, and that time is mostly either at a Wedding, or during Portrait work. Some of my personal shooting is done on Manual, when I want fine control. When I am shooting a Wedding or a Portrait, I dial in my exposure using the Color Balance Coach & judge the exposure via my Histogram. Each time I change rooms or lighting situations, I dial it in again. There are many times that lighting doesn’t change very much, and I can just keep it as it is preset. Even when shooting in full Manual, I tend to worry about how much is in focus, and therefore tend to set my Aperture, and the Shutter speed just follows on a secondary level.

But, the time I am doing some personal work, like street photography, or some macro work, I will have it on Aperture Priority; this is for that 13% of the time category. Most of the time I am doing this personal work, I am on a tripod; I am concerned about my Depth of Field (DoF), and I could care less what my shutter speed is at. These are times that I am fairly confidant that the camera is stable, and my subject isn’t going to move that much… or my flashes will freeze the subject.

But, there is that 1.5% of the time that I do worry about what Shutter Speed I am at, and then I will shoot in Shutter Priority…there are very few times that I am so worried about my shutter speed, that I shoot in this mode.

Just like that 0.5% of the time that I could care less about where I am set on for Shutter or Aperture, and I shoot in Program. But to be very honest, this is the time I am at the pub or drinking with my friends, and I just want some record photos of us…so this mode is used so little on my daily life.

So, while no method is right, and no method is wrong; in my opinion, and I can appreciate Ron and his idea of where camera settings should be set, I just have my own thoughts. Shoot what works for you, that’s what I do.
John R.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

the Wedding Guy

I would like to thank Bob Moore, and Pat Kirkwood of the Wedding Guy who came out and showed us some basics of off camera flash photography last night (Monday March 23, 2009). We had a great turn out, and we had a great presentation, and I think in all everyone learned a few things.
I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation; and thought it was a great starting point as a lead in for our next meeting, which is a week early, just to remind everyone, it is to be held on April 6th, as the 13th lands on a long weekend, and the room will not be available to us.
So the next meeting on April 6th, is a hands on flash photography meeting; bring your cameras, flashes, lightstands and lighting modifiers if you have any.
I will first run through a couple of my favorite lighting set ups when I am on the job, (Yes that is right, I am going to be showing you my actual work flow techniques when I am shooting a wedding or portrait) that are super easy to set up and to use; after that short intro we will then break up into some smaller groups, and practice our Flash Photography, ala: Strobist style.
If you are not sure what Strobist style is, and would like to learn more before the next meeting, then check out the Strobist website. The Lighting 101 & 102 is good to run through any time, but it does take time and practice.
I look forward to this meeting, and hope I am able to teach you as much as Bob & Pat were able to teach you all.
Also Harry... I'll need your help on this one buddy. ;-)
John R.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Colour Balance & Exposure

Today I am going to ask how you get a correct white balance, and proper exposure. Yes, I know we can all correct the white balance (WB) if we shoot in RAW and select the WB that suits the image.

But what if you need/desire 100% colour accuracy? What if you get a client that is wanting their logo, or a product where colour is key? Or maybe you're just anal like me, and just want the colour to be as spot on as possible. Or what if you only shoot in JPEG, then getting the right White Balance from the start is even more important.
And even in some extreme cases, in an Auto mode, when I was not shooting in full manual, I have noticed a slight shift in the exposure if I had not preset the White Balance before; so while theoretically it should not do that, it has happened. Another reason why I shoot in full manual and preset my White Balance, even when shooting in RAW.

Now there are many tools out there, to help you with needs; all vary in price and size, and that all depends on what your needs are. Lets go over a few of your options:

#1) You may have seen me use my favorite, the ColorBalanceCoach which I have been using for about the last year. The ColorBalanceCoach (C.B.C.) is collapsable disk, much like a average reflector that some of us already own and use, the bottom half is grey, then a black band, and 2 types of white, a solid white and a translucent white. The translucent white is to replicate the average Caucasian skin tone on the histogram.

I use the C.B.C. at the beginning of each sequence of photos that are all in the same lighting scenario, I use the grey section, to set my custom white balance, then I use the section where the solid white, black and grey meet, I photograph that small section and dial in my exposure, the grey should have a peak right in dead centre of the histogram, the white should be the centre of the right section, and the black should be the centre of the left section. If you have one of the peaks to the sides touching the end, you are either over exposed, or under exposed. I then go back to where I will be photographing from, and take one more photo with my subject holding the disk for me, or the disk laying next to the subject. I take the disk out and carry on my shoot.

Anytime I change my lighting, I repeat.

I find this to be a very useful tool, and use mine all the time, but it is not an inexpensive option, at about $110 for the smallest version... but it packs away very small and is in my bag where-ever I go.

#2) The Digital Target, is much the same as I have just described above, but just a different manufacture.

#3) The QPCard, is again much the same idea, but they have some nice pocketable sizes for storing in your camera bag, or jacket/vest; and they have some larger ones that also have known colour swatches for reference (ie: red, blue, green and 24 other colours).

#4) For simple white balance setting, there are products like the ExpoDisc by ExpoImaging, which is available in 2 versions, a neutral, and a portrait. The portrait offers a simple warmer tone to the final image, the neutral is self explanatory. Both are a cap that you pop on the end of your lens, and set your white balance to your lighting by pointing the camera at your light source.

This tool is only good for setting your white balance, and not assisting in the exposure like the ones above. I have used this one before, and I like it, but it is not a cheap option.

#5) The ColorRight is much like the ExpoDisc, and operates the same way.

#6) The Digital Pocket Pack, is something I found on eBay. Much like a smaller version of the Color Balance Coach (C.B.C.), in a 4x6 format and laminated for protection. It looks much like the one at the top of this post, I created that one in PhotoShop.

I will print up and be testing out 2 versions of this card, one where the image is printed on glossy photo paper, and one printed on matte photo paper, then laminated.

I am not 100% sure about the lamination part of this, I would think that the gloss from the lamination will not give it accurate results, but I will test this compared to my C.B.C.; and in the mean time, if anyone wants a copy of the large file of my PhotoShop creation pictured at the top of this post, just ask me and I will email you the full resolution image.

#7) Remember way back when we use to use Grey Cards, well... they still can be used just for this purpose of setting your White Balance, either as a preset (refer to your cameras user manual to find out how to preset on your camera) like I have descibed above, or in post if you have been shooting in RAW.

The Grey Card comes in a 2 pack for about $18 for the pair of them at Kerrisdale Cameras; I would stick one on the bottom of your sock drawer, and one with your gear if this is your method, then every few months, pull the one out of the sock drawer, and compare it with the one in your bag, once it shows signs of obvious fading, toss out the one from your bag, and use the one you had squirled away, go buy a new pack.

If you need assistance in understanding how to read your histogram for any of the techniques I have described above, I suggest that you go here for that, or here.

I hope this helps in some manner for you all.

John R.

PS: Just to remind everyone that the next meeting on, March 23rd, 2009, we will be visited by a guest presenter, the Wedding Guy.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Podcasts and Magazines

Ok, so I have been a little negligent in my posts as of late, and I am going to make up for it this afternoon. 

And right now, I am wanting to talk about where I get to learn more about Photography, and I am sure many of us do; but for a few that don't, this might be something good to look into. 

First off, Magazines, who here doesn't spend a lot of time flipping through a magazine, looking at the photos, no matter what the magazine is about, we all do it. I spend a small fortune on magazines each month... I should really stop spending so much, but I keep doing it. 

There are a couple good North American photo based magazines, but I find the vast majority to be too full of ads in the back, and useless tripe for me; I spend a few $'s more on the UK photo magazines, and get a lot more out of them, but I'll get to them in a moment. 

I have always been a fan of the Canadian mag Photo Life, as I think it very important to support the few Canadian magazines we have, the Outdoor Photography Canada is also a decent magazine, and while I am not a huge landscape photographer, I still like the pretty pictures

I know everyone loves American Photo and Popular Photography, which are both owned by the same production company, and to be very honest... I can't stand them. Too full of the big retailers ad's in the back half of the magazine, and I do mean HALF! Sometimes more...

BUT... every now and then, they do come up with a great article, and American Photo does a great job on heavily image ladened issue on their Amateur  special. 

For those of you that are a bit more advanced, and would like to know some Professional tips, Digital Photo Pro from North America or the UK Based Photo Pro are two of my favorites to read. 

UK based Digital Camera World & Digital SLR Photography are both wonderful magazines, but neither are cheap, both around the $13 each mark, but both have some great tutorials and tips. I personally think they are worth every penny that Chapters charges for them. 

For the B&W Fine art Collector and Enthusiast, this is the ONLY magazine to check out in my opinion. I have spent many an hour going through this magazine page by page, just taking in the stunning B&W images. I still have a soft spot in my heart for the B&W image, as I spent many hours in the darkroom in years past. 

For the Portrait and Wedding photographers, I highly recommend checking out any Fashion magazine such as Zink, GQ or even Maxim... For the Wedding Market, most of them are filled with just photos of dresses or other items that the couple need to think about for the day, with not many actual Wedding Photos... 

that being said, Real Weddings Vancouver is a great magazine for just real Wedding Photos... in-fact, I have a stack of them next to my computer where I am currently sitting. I have also started to pick up the Pacific Wedding magazine, it too has a lot of images that one can see how the pros see their Weddings. 


I am not sure who here all listens to Podcasts, I listen to lots of them, but a Podcast is a free download from Apple's iTunes, which you can download for free from the Apple Website, even for a Windows based computer. My top two favorites, are Shutters Inc, by Audio2U from Australia, and TWiP (This Week in Photography). 

Shutters Inc: while I love their jocularity, not everyone will; but what I love most about these two guys, is that they both are everyday real photographers. Meaning that they do not always shoot top of the line gear, and they are big into the DIY techniques. Shelton being the professional of the show, a big Wedding Photographer to Australia often refers to his live-in-lens, being the Nikon 85mm F1.8, which is far from top of the line glass. Bruce being a bit more novice, and often is the one asking the questions that many of us are asking. It is a great listen, and I find myself laughing a lot at this pair. I really have to thank Harry at this time for steering me in their direction, it truly is a great podcast. 

TWiP: is a bit more of a serious listen, although the two main hosts have backed out a bit, and have let others co-hosts take the front seat, and a little more jocularity has crept its way in. Local Vancouverite Lisa Bentney (aka: Mostly Lisa) is a frequent guest host there lately. And aside from Lisa... most of these guys have been doing the photography thing for a long time, most of them are at the top of their game, and only use the top of the line gear. Many questions that they answer, they usually offer the most expensive way of going about it as their first answer. But that doesn't stop me from listening to them every week... They still bring up great subjects and often have a great guest on for an interview, such as Joe McNally, Aaron Johnson creator of whattheduck, and more recently Rebekka Flickr Self Portrait extrodinaire. I am not even going to attempt to say or type her last name, she lives in Iceland, and is a great inspiration to all that view her photos. 

Another podcast I listen to, is LightSource, which is kinda dry, but a great listen to if you are into studio lighting at all, they have had some great guests as well, including David Hobby the Strobist himself. 

I hope this helps everyone, and I wish you all a great weekend. 


Photographic Marketing Association 2009

If any of you have been following the Pre-PMA announcements like I have, you have seen the cool new things out, you have seen the mass of boring as well. If not, then follow the link I have provided above, to go to DP Reviews full PMA 2009 page. 

Between Canon & Panasonic, I think 1,218 new point and shoots came out, ok... maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but it feels that way sometimes... what I am getting at, is that every one and their dog brought out a gaggle of P&S's; and I am going cross-eyed from reading them all. 

This was the most non-exciting year for me in the last 8 years of PMA, with the exception of Olympus's new E-620, Canon's new wide angle Tilt Shift lenses (a 17mm & a 24mm), Nikon's 35mm AF-S DX F1.8 (to allow it to work on  the D40 & D60 series), Pentax's new super wide Limited lens a 15mm, and last but not least Leica announced that they will be ceasing production of their R-Series

The two things that did catch my attention, was not from PMA, but from WPPI (the Wedding & Portrait Photographers International) instead; and for me, this is the show were all the cool things came from this year. 

Lastolite introduced the TriFlash umbrella mount, this allows the user to put 3 hotshoe flashes into a single umbrella. With 3 flashes on the one stand allows the user to do one of two things, it either will give the user more light, allowing the user to get a greater depth of field by stopping down more; OR... and this is how I think most are going to use it, it allows one to dial back the flash output, and get faster recycling speeds out of the flashes. Faster recycle times means you can shoot more rapidly, without the sacrifice of the power now. 

This really was one of the biggest V8 moments I have ever had *WACKS FOREHEAD* "Why didn't I think of that!?!"

I am going to be buying myself that adaptor from Lastolite as soon as it is available, but in the mean time, I am also going to build something like it on my own... I'll post photos and how much it cost as soon as I am done. 

And the last really cool thing to be announced, was from PocketWizard, as they introduce the Mini TT1 & the Flex TT5's, thus by giving Canon and Nikon users full wireless TTL over a wireless system, without having to be in line-of-sight like both their current systems use. The Mini TT1 being a tiny transmitter to sit on the camera, and the Flex TT5 being the Transeceiver (PW's own designation for being both a Transmitter and a Receiver all in one). 

Full E-TTL II comes first for the Canon users, available this week, and the Nikon iTTL to be available in April.... I think of it as how PocketWizard is beta-testing with the Canon first, before they make it available for Nikon users ;-) 

The range of the TTL Wireless is 800 feet, and full manual control up to 1200 feet. 

PocketWizard also added something called HyperSync'ing, which allows a user to plug their new Mini TT1 or Flex TT5 into their computer via mini USB port, and dial in their triggers, to give a camera a higher flash sync speed than it might normally. 

My Fuji for instance, has a top sync speed of 1/180th of a second, with some testing and the use of the new radio triggers with the HyperSync ability, I theoretically can bring that up to a max of 1/500th of a second. It all depends on the camera, Rob Galbraith described it best in his full review of the PocketWizard's, so please visit his site here is you want to know more about it all. 

I hope to finish my own TriFlash Umbrella Mount this weekend, and will likely have a post about it by our next meeting. 

John R.