Monday, April 28, 2008

1/8000th of a Second!

There's a lot of talk these days about the Canon 1D-Mark III (and the 1Ds-Mark III) and the Nikon D3 and D300. And, yes, I'm jealous and I'd love to have any one of them (well, really mostly the 1Ds-Mark III). But.....

Can I tell you how happy I am with my Canon 40D? Can I, can I? Well, a rousing chorus of "Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy" is in order. I got my 40D last September right about the time they became available and I couldn't be happier.

It's got a lot of very nice features, none the least of which is a max shutter speed of 1/8000! Not bad. And (via a menu) you can max the ISO out at 3200. I'd still prefer to keep things under 800, but in certain circumstances, that 3200 is a lifesaver.

Anyway, you don't need me spouting specs, but I'm very happy with it. And so far, the battery really holds out, too. Eight hours at a wedding and it still had juice.

So, this past weekend I did some shooting at Sylvan Glen Park in Troy, MI. Got this speedin', flappin' goose in the bag. 1/8000, f5.6, ISO 3200.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pocket Wizard, RadioPopper, Microsync, Etc.

Hello fellow photography gadget enthusiasts!

Today, I'd like to dip a toe in the muddy waters of slave flash triggers. And I'm looking for some feedback. Basically, what gadget do you like best? And what are their inherit benefits? Pocket Wizard seems to be the default, but there is RadioPopper, Microsync, Skyport, and brand specifics like the Canon ST-E2.....

What do you like? Why do you like it? Works with strobes, speedlites, both?

And some related links:


Pocket Wizard




Other (???)

Can you tell I read the Strobist? OK, get crackin' and let me know what you think about these and other products! Also, check out this cool lighting dealy-bobber:

Monday, April 21, 2008

Moments, Angles, Lenses, & Laughs

As a photographer, I have to be ready for the picturesque moment, but it's often not good enough to simply be alert with my shutter finger at the ready. Sometimes, in order to get the most artistic value or interest from a scene, I have to anticipate the action to come to be able to make the best choice of lens, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

This shot is a good example. A magician performing at a family reunion. My standard telephoto lens would have captured the scene. However, my choice of a wide-angle lens shooting from a low, close position with the camera set to a highly saturating landscape picture style gives the resulting picture much more drama.

So, give some thought to what might happen and try some new settings on the ol' camera. Or, better yet, do like me and hang three cameras around your neck, eack with different settings and lenses in order to quickly change-up the situation.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Eye On The Prize

Nice moment. Nice moment that speaks to the photographer staying alert, especially during key events. This couple had a very nice dance and several good shots were already in the bag, but then, the big dip! I can't afford to miss a moment like this.

There are times during the sometimes long day that you know you can let your guard down a bit (with just one eye on the bride) but there are a dozen special events that behoove the photographer to be extra attentive. Every moment counts during the first dances. Each second during the cake cutting, the toasts, the prayer requires the photographer's ability to leap to action (well, press the shutter button, anyway).

Choose a photographer that can show some special moments or crazy events that could never have been anticipated. Then you'll know you're photographer is concerned with the little moments as well as the big ones.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Spring Has Sprung

It was a long, snowy winter, wasn't it? They say in the springtime a young man's thoughts turn to love. True, true.... although a young man's thoughts are pretty much always turned to love. And sandwiches. But I digress. In the spring a young lady's thoughts turn to her wedding plans. Or, perhaps, gardening, if she is already married! Watch out for the bees!

The big push is on to finalize all those plans for the big wedding. You've got the venue, caterer, officiant, clothes, etc. Still looking for a baker, florist, or DJ? Or photographer, videographer, etc. etc.???

Of course, I hope you'll consider me for your photography, but for other services, check out the links at my website . All great service/product providers that you can count on. I'm not getting any consideration to plug them (although I hope they are doing the same for me). So give 'em a look-see!

While I'm clacking away at the keyboard, I'll offer some tips for garden/flower photography.

  • Use a tripod and zoom in close with a longish lens. If you get too close you risk casting shadows on your subject. Also the telephoto lens will give you good background bokeh (blur).
  • You may want to use some sort of clamp to steady the flower stem. Even small breezes can wreak havoc on those closeups.
  • Try a wide aperture like f2.8 or wider to isolate flower detail.
  • If your camera has a style mode, try "landscape" for nicely saturated colors.
  • If your background is too busy, try a colorful sheet of posterboard but keep it far enough back so that you can blur it somewhat with the above tips.
  • Bring an atomizer of water, or a water bottle that can be tuned to mist. This is the way to get some beautiful dew on your petals regardless of the time of day.
  • Try side lighting from a window or off-camera flash.
  • Also, a polarizing filter will take the edge off of hard light and reflections.
  • For entire garden scenes, try to look for patterns in the foliage.
  • Also, utilize your rule of thirds and, when possible, framing devices like tree branches.

Good luck and good shooting!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Love Equals Strength and Courage

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, While loving someone
deeply gives you courage."

Lao Tzu

The first dance at the Roostertail. Detroit, Fall of 2007.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Legacy of the Hat

This groom posed with a hat that had belonged to his Grandfather. It was very important to the family to get some shots with the hat. The Grandfather must have been a heck of a guy for them to think to include his memory this way. Hats off to Grandpa!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Never a Dull Moment

The bride shares a dance and a laugh with her brother. Dawn caught this terrific moment. She really has a great eye and intuition about this whole crazy photography thing!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Romantic Images

Photographers are an opinionated people (but that's just my opinion!). Some are purists and only want to see an image the way it entered the camera, presumably in a way that is as close to how a human eye would have seen it as possible.

Others like to affect the manner in which all the light particles enter the camera in the first place. They use lights, screens, diffusers, reflectors, gels, filters, etc. They muscle around the aperture and shutter speed, ISO settings, and fiddle with all manner of lenses.

Still others do all their tweaking in Photoshop, sometimes simulating traditional filter effects, other times diving headfirst into lands of pure science fiction.

And let us not forget those of us that mix and match techniques and tools to take the best photographs we have and hopefully make them just a little bit better. A little bit more evocative of the emotion we witnessed or felt at the time of the snap of the shutter. Is this photograph a factual representation of exactly what was visible at the moment? No more and no less? No. It wouldn't pass scrutiny in a court of law. But is it true, nonetheless? Does it express more of the full experience on that dancefloor last Fall than might a more "accurate" recording from a reporter or a crime scene photographer?

Yes, I think this reflects the truth quite nicely, thank you very much...

Telling Tales Out of School (Part 2)

Yes, it's true. I have more pictures from favorite weddings! It's always such a pleasure to meet people at weddings. There is a built-in joy to the day that manifests itself in laughter, general good cheer, and quite often a bit of silliness.

One of the guests at a '07 wedding was a very accommodating Marine. One of the ladies wanted to pose with his cap (and later his jacket!) resulting in this terrific, almost pin-up image.

On a different occasion, we shot a fun Polish wedding in Hamtramck, MI. At the bride's family home, where she was getting ready for the nearby ceremony, a band played traditional music on the porch to send her off in style! I believe the same band, or portions thereof, played the reception, too. What a wonderful way for the happy family to share the joy with their friends in the neighborhood. (Monika ~ drop me a line with the band's name... I'll give them a plug here!).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Telling Tales Out of School (Part 1)

Weddings, even the simple ones, can be just wacky enough to create some choice storytelling moments. Here are a few of my favorite details from weddings.

The couple decided (correctly) that it would be fun to have a photobooth at the reception so the guests could get silly and they (the couple) would end up with some great extra memories. So they researched rentals. The prices were just far too much for their budget. So the groom made his own! He built a booth, worked in a digital camera and printer and some other clever hardware and voila! Photobooth pictures for all! It was a terrific, fun touch to a beautiful celebration.

An outdoor wedding in a county park went off without a hitch. At least as far as the bride and groom knew! At the end of the day, the guests formed two lines and, in essence, a lane for the groom to carry the bride to their waiting classic Volkswagon Bug. The guests were all waving lit sparklers for a great, festive effect. The bride and groom drove away to much hootin' and a hollerin'. At which point some of the guests were at a loss as to how to dispose of the sparklers. In the trash they went. Moments later, the trashcan was engulfed in flames! Luckily, a moment after that, a park employee came by and extinguished the flames.

I've now shot no fewer than three weddings where it was a family wedding tradition to literally put a ball-and-chain around the groom's ankle. What a bunch of cut-ups!

Exotic Animals in Focus

Just for fun some exotic animal shots. Maybe a tip or two.

Some of it will be more obvious than others. For instance... you'll probably want a long telephoto lens. Some of them are fairly inexpensive, but, of course there are sacrifices to be made. Cheap glass might not be all that bad, but your aperture will be limited and you probably won't be getting any image stabilization. The longer the lens, the more it amplifies even the smallest movement on your part. So, use a tripod. Tripods are all a give-and-take. They are either lightweight and flimsy (easy to carry but not as stable as you want) or stable and a pain to haul. Still, with the long lens, any tripod is better than none.

Shooting through glass? Find (or create) a clean spot. CAREFULLY put your lens right up against it and shoot. No glare or reflections.

Shooting through bars or chain-link fencing? Go to Aperture Priority mode and open up your aperture as far as it will go. Then, get as close to the fence as possible before you shoot (you might have to manually focus to avoid focusing on the fence) and shoot away. You'll find that the fence blurs away into nearly non-existence.

Want your zoo shots to look like they were taken in the wild? Pay special attention to the background. Zoom in tight on your animal. Look for unique angles that avoid obviously man-made items. Crank open that aperture to push the background into blur. Get down low so the background is sky.

Shooting at the zoo requires one thing above all else to achieve success -- patience! Patience while waiting for the animal to do something interesting or at least look in your general direction, patience for the crowd of kindergarteners to get out of the way, and sometimes patience with the weather, your thirst, or even your fellow shooter. Pack lots of patience and lots of memory cards and you shall prevail!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Portraits for Business

Did you know that your face is your brand? Anything you do that can derive a boost from the attention of others involves marketing. Promoting your own business, promoting yourself as an employee, working for a cause, or spreading the word about a favorite hobby can all benefit from putting a face to the name.

People are psychologically hardwired to seek out faces. And if that face gives signals of warmth, friendliness, strength, trustworthiness or any attribute that is appropriate to your marketing purpose, everybody wins.

"Executive" portraits aren't just for bankers and CEOs, anymore. Far from it.

The portrait setting is very open and flexible, too. A simple canvas backdrop works well for some serious-minded individuals (like the important gentleman in this picture). Some people may enjoy a more environmental background. Say you're shooting a marketing portrait for someone who owns a knitting supply store. Wouldn't that subject pop! off a background of a wall of colorful yarns? Especially set at a bit of an angle so the yarns shrink away into the distance? You start to see the creative possibilities.

If you do anything worth telling others about, you can benefit from a good, professional portrait.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Remember the Black and White

Color is swell. I'm a big fan of color. We see in color, everyday. Which is one of the primary reasons that black and white photographs often pack so much visual and emotional punch. It's different and it reduces your subject matter to its essence. Just shapes and tones without the sometimes distracting elements of color.

But black and white is not simply the removal of color. Black and white isn't even completely accurate in most applications. Photoshop would call it grayscale. Black and white and every shade of gray in between.

For maximum versatility, most digital photographers shoot in color. We know we can convert to b/w later. But there are so many different ways. Of course, there is desaturate. But keep in mind some other techniques such as channel mixer, CS3's Black and white tool, the similar function in Camera Raw, or third party favorites like nik's Color Efex. Many of these tools allow great leeway in the tonal quality and range as well as important contrast issues.

And to round things out, I'll mention one of my favorite techniques, using an infrared filter. In this example shot, the image was cropped, filtered with nik Color Efex 2's infrared black and white, and filtered again with Photoshop's diffuse glow.

Not every image is well-suited to a b/w treatment. But you may be pleasantly surprised by which ones are. Experiment. Play. Black and white is old-school, but getting it right is both a challenge and a joy.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Top Ten Wedding Day Tips for Brides

1. Before your final consultation with your photographer, make a general schedule of expected photo-worthy events from “getting ready” to saying “sayonara”. Give a copy to your photographer. A documentary shooter will catch just about everything anyway, but a heads-up is always helpful. Especially if you are planning non-traditional events or a non-traditional order of events. What do I mean by events? Things like cake-cutting, various dances, toasts, bouquet toss, etc. etc.

2. Eat something! You don’t want to be woozy (except with giddiness) on your wedding day.

3. And get a bathroom break. Once you are in that gown you don’t want to be answering the call of nature for awhile.

4. Assign someone to help with the formal shots. Probably the maid of honor, a close friend, or a close relative. Someone who knows everybody. Your photographer should have a list of the formal groupings you want, but make a copy for this helper, too. The photographer doesn’t know Aunt Millie from Uncle Rupert. Give the photographer a helper bee with the gathering of each grouping as well as some idea to relationships and we’ll get them posed. Arrange for the helper – traditionally the maid of honor and best man are supposed to have responsibilities on the big day. Don’t put it on yourself, you’ll only get stressed out and regret it later.

5. Allow enough time for formals between the ceremony and reception. Each group takes time to assemble (not much if you heed tip #4!), then pose. The actual picture taking only takes 1/60th of a second! But… the more groupings you want, the more time you are away from your party. Sometimes circumstances allow us to get certain formals before the ceremony (groom and his guys, bride and bridesmaids) without bride and groom seeing each other. If you don’t mind seeing each other before the wedding, all the better. We can do a bunch of formals early.

6. Practice bustling the dress with whoever will be helping you on the big day. I’ve been to a number of weddings where a LOT of time was spent trying to get that darned train tucked away. Trust me, practice the bustle.

7. Try to enjoy yourself. Flirt with your new hubby. Get a little cheeky with your bridesmaids. The day can be stressful but if you let it get you too anxious you’re not going to like your pictures. Photoshop is pretty tricky, but it can’t change your mood. Ok, maybe it can, but it’s just better if your joy is not artificially manipulated at a pixel level.

8. Keep in mind the logistics of your surroundings as they relate to the actual wedding day. What do I mean by that? Well, for instance, say you’re having an outdoor wedding. A lovely cobblestone path leads to a beautiful garden with an arched trellis. When you toured the place originally you were probably wearing flats. Now you’ve got to navigate cobblestone in heels. It might as well be a minefield. If you have an idea what to expect throughout the day as it relates to your outfit, the guests, tables full of desserts, etc. you’ll be much happier.

9. Ceremony somewhere other than a church? Try to avoid holding the ceremony up against windows or mirrors. The bright light and reflections create a challenge for the photographer. A good photographer (like me!) can work around the problem, but you’ll get a greater variety of photo angles if you just avoid it altogether.

10. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. From a glass of water to a special shot of you and your best friend from college. Speak up and you will be catered to. After all, you are the bride!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Holy Rusted Metal, Batman

The obvious. The obvious angle, the obvious point of view. The obvious height, the obvious level of zoom. As human beings of general standard sizes with a generally standard placement of eyes (both forward, about five or six feet up) we tend to want to shoot our subjects from a standing point of view. We tend to like to be about six feet from an individual, maybe ten or fifteen from a couple or small group.

We like to include the scenery or take in a whole car or boat. We have a great affinity for street signs. Oddly, we seem to hate shoes, or maybe it's feet. We certainly cut enough of them off in our snapshots.

If you want your photographs to be interesting, resist your human nature. Shoot from atop a stepladder. Shoot with your belly on the ground. Shoot just the grill of a classic car or zoom in close on those crazy hammer toes of yours. Find a different angle and a different proximity. And you will find your muse.

Or at least the upside-down boilerplate of a rusty piece of antique farm equipment.

Brand Spankin' New Photography Blog!

The title pretty much says it all. The world of blogging comes to Ron Warren Photography. Or vice versa. I'm hoping that this will put a face and personality to the art and business of my photographic endeavors. So often my potential clients (mostly eager brides-to-be) are overwhelmed by sample images, prices, packages, etc. All necessary evils. But once I get to talk to them face to face, something else happens. The likability factor.

As with any sizable purchase, especially of services, you really want to like and trust the person with whom you are dealing, all other things being equal. Sure, my photos are swell and my price is right. But when I get hired to photograph a wedding, more than any of that, I think it is usually because the bride likes me (or even more often, likes Dawn) and understands that we truly care about getting your pictures right without getting underfoot all day.

As I've been known to say, "It's better to be likable than to be like a bull."

In the days to come I expect to wax on about all manner of subjects photography related. I hope you enjoy! Oh, and here is a photograph I took in Sedona, AZ last month.