Friday, September 30, 2011

yellow pages

Seems the yellow pages sign will soon be as much of a dinosaur as the yellow pages themselves are.

This icon of Detroit, a 32 by 48 foot yellow pages sign that has been visible from the Lodge Freeway for over 50 years will be coming down within a week. The building is being converted into apartments for the homeless. Great idea, but too bad nobody seems to have room for this thing. It is a beast, but a very cool old beast...

Monday, September 26, 2011

shutter speed

Nearly Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Shutter speed

Shutter speed seems pretty straight-forward, right?  It's how long your shutter is open for, from 1/8000 of a second to minutes, hours, or even days (months in some cases!).  Some specialty cameras even have wider ranges.

Shutter speed, in and of itself, is that simple, however, in a larger sense, to speak to the complete exposure process, there is a bit more to know.

Shutter speed and the motions of your subject matter

Are you shooting inanimate objects?  If so, are you shooting COMPLETELY inanimate objects?  For instance, a flower is basically an inanimate object, right?  Well, not really if it is moving around in the breeze.  So, let's start with truly inanimate objects.  Maybe a bowl of fruit in the kitchen window.  Are you using a tripod?  If so, shooting an inanimate object couldn't be easier.

Set your aperture based on the depth-of-field you desire (we address this in a future post) and then select absolutely any shutter speed that will give you the right (or desired) exposure according to your in-camera or in-eyeball meter.  Easy peesy!

What if you don't have a tripod?  This changes things.  Now you are introducing your own motion to the camera (we'll talk more about this and in-camera or in-lens stabilization in a minute). I personally know that I cannot handhold a camera without stabilization any slower than about 1/40 of a second.  So this limitation would affect my available shutter speeds (which in turn affect my choice of aperture and ISO).

What if you are shooting moving objects?  For people, you will probably want at least 1/100 of a second (keep in mind that we are not talking about every situation -- for instance, in a vrey dark banquet hall where you are using flash, you may want a shutter speed as slow as 1/15 of second to capture some ambient light and the flash will freeze your subjects).  For sports, somewhere between 1/500 and 1/1000 of a second.  For airshow jets zooming by, more light 1/2000 to 1/3200.  All depends on the speed of your subject and whether or not you want to completely freeze their motion, or introduce some motion blur to give the photograph a sense of the motion that was happening.  This can be important for images of people dancing.  Dancing people frozen in time without a visual sense of the motion often look static, flat, and lacking in visual appeal.

With some moving objects, you can utilize a somewhat slower shutter speed than normal, if you pan with your subject.  A classic example is shooting a racing bicyclist.  If you smoothly pan your camera with the bicyclist at exactly the same rate, you can capture the biker reasonably crisply while leaving the background in speedy streaks of colorful blur.  This requires some practice but can be well worth the effect.

Shutter speed and light

Every time you adjust your shutter speed, you change the amount of light hitting the sensor.  A faster shutter speed allows in less light (so you'll adjust aperture accordingly, but now you are changing depth of field -- also, you might change ISO, but you will be affecting digital noise -- thirdly, if working with flash, you can add or subtract light).  A slower shutter speed allows in more light, but can introduce digital noise and may not work with many moving subject matters.

Shutter speed and image stabilization

Many lenses and some cameras have image stabilization features (depending on brand it can be called optical stabilization, image stabilization, vibration compensation, etc.).  This moves elements in your camera or lens in an opposite direction from those small moves, jerks, spasms, and heartbeats in you that get transmitted through the camera.  Stabilization only compensates for small motions and has no bearing whatsoever on the motions of your subjects.  It will allow you to handhold up to two or three stops slower, and that can be a godsend, but it is not a miracle worker.  You still need to practice stable handholding techniques.

There are also times when you should shut off stabilization.  Working on a tripod?  Turn it off.  It can actually add vibration in that scenario, because it really doesn't understand "no movement".  Also, if you are working at shutter speeds of 1/1000 or faster, turn it off.  It's not helping you any.

Shutter speed and flash

In some situations when using flash, shutter speeds becomes less intuitive.  Want to freeze the action of a bursting balloon?  The obvious choice is to use a fast shutter speed.  But most cameras, while allowing for fast shutter speeds (often 1/8000 or better) cannot compete with the speed and action-freezing power of the flash gun.  For the balloon situation, you will be better served by shooting in a dark room, a slower shutter speed, but having your flash set at a low power.  This can yield an action-freezing pop of light with a duration of as little as 1/50,000 of a second!  There is a bit more to this situation as you will need a special sound or laser trigger, but you get the idea.  As fast as your shutter can be, the flash can be much, much faster.

Shutter speed and post processing

If you shoot in RAW you may find that the margins you are allowed in post-processing can affect your shutter speed.  Say your ISO is maxed out (or as maxed out as you are comfortable with due to noise issues) and your aperture is wide open.  Furthermore, you are hand-holding and your meter wants you to shoot at slower than 1/40 and you just know you can't be stable at that speed.  If you are a RAW shooter, you can bump your speed by as much as two full stops and recoup the light in your RAW processor!

Shutter speed is one-third of the classic exposure triangle (with aperture and ISO) and can be though of as one-fifth of the modern exposure triangle (with aperture, ISO, flash power, and flash to subject distance).  It is all a balancing act, but if you consider the nuances of your subject and the ambient light, you can begin to build the perfect exposure. With practice it begins to get intuitive and you'll be adjusting all your settings appropriately faster and faster.  Good luck and good shooting.

Astronaut’s Photography Manual

Astronaut’s Photography Manual:

'via Blog this'

Saturday, September 24, 2011

and just a little bit of steam.....

The steam engine Edison at Greenfield Village, Dearborn, MI.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Strobist: Michael Kelley: Two-Speedlight Architectural Photography

Strobist: Michael Kelley: Two-Speedlight Architectural Photography:

Some clever layered lighting techniques combined with skillful Photoshop layering and masking. Very nice work. I will definitely be keeping this in mind the next time I have a real estate gig.

Smarter Content Aware Fill in Photoshop

Smarter Content Aware Fill in Photoshop:

Useful tip for using Content Aware Fill in CS5.


Photographytalk has this terrific article about color correcting gels.  I just ordered the Roscolux Swatch Book, myself.  It has more colors even than the Strobist set, and although intended as a sampler, can, of course be used to color correct and it's only $4.00!

Now, though I will use these for color correcting the standard way, I also have two other purposes for these little buggers.

The first is to transform my white backdrop into a myriad of different colors.  I may even overlay patterns or pictures on gel colors that I know I won't need for any other purpose.  Just be sure to project the color or pattern on the backdrop behind the subject unless you actually want it on them, too.

The second is a cloudy day cheat.  If you are shooting people outdoors on an overcast day but would like some blue or other moody sky effects, do this:  Set your camera white balance to tungsten (this will blue-up everything).  Then put a piece of CTO (color temperature orange) or two on the flash to warm your subjects back up.  Instant awesome look.

Good luck and good shooting!  ~RW

What’s new in Lightroom 3.5 RC? | The Lightroom Queen

What’s new in Lightroom 3.5 RC? | The Lightroom Queen:

Release Candidate Lightroom update. Lately I've been waiting for the official releases, but it's out there if you want it. Know that part of purpose of release candidates is to hunt down bugs.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

pipe dream gear vs. obtainable gear

Check out my dream world shopping spree:  a couple of Canon 5d M2's , probably a 1D M4, 70-200mm f2.8 L IS, 50mm f1.2, 85mm L, a tilt-shift or two, maybe that Sigma 500mm from a previous post (it's a dream, why not?), Profoto lights, heavy-duty lightstands, powerpacks, giant octobox, etc. etc. etc.

I know you're probably having similar dreams.  But, slap!, snap out of it!  It's not gonna happen anytime soon (if Donald Trump just took up photography, feel free to not snap out of it and may I visit the warehouse sized studio you are probably putting together??  Also, I propose a new show, The Photography Apprentice).

So, how can you and I pimp our photography on a budget?  There are many inexpensive items that can dramatically improve your photography.  Of course you will want to invest in a good DSLR, but if you're not being snobby you will quickly come to realize that many cameras on the consumer or prosumer end of the scale are really amazing and can do the job.  This is true of many cheaper lenses, too, if you take into consideration the limitations.  Just as an example, for shots from recent posts of models and airshows, most of those images were shot with a $210 Sigma 70-300mm lens.  This lens, while having a nice macro feature, is terrible in low light and really only shines when using the sweet spot around f11 or f13.  Still, if you know that and are in reasonable well lit situations, this can be terrific.

OK, so you've got your camera and lens.  Now what?  Well, speedlites, lightstands, brackets, triggers, slaves, backdrops, diffusers, teleconverters, gels, etc. etc. etc.

While it would be nice to get the best of everything, there are some terrific alternatives.  I'm going to list a few of the types of items that can be obtained in the under $100 dollar category.

  • Speedlite diffusers from Stofen to Gary Fong
  • Gels (I just order a sample pack for $4 plus shipping -- all appropriately sized for speedlites)
  • umbrella brackets
  • umbrellas
  • lightstands (Cowboy Studio, even some of the self-opening ones from Cheetahstands)
  • backdrop fabric from a fabric store (or sheets, curtains, etc. from garage sales)
  • backdrop support systems
  • memory cards
  • batteries
  • filters
  • teleconverters
  • macro filters
  • cheapo triggers and receivers from cowboy studio or cheaplights
  • cheapo flashes like the YN-560 speedlight flashes or oldies but goodies from Ebay
  • tripod or gorillapod
  • tripod head
  • camera bag
  • eyecup
  • loupe for lcd screen
  • 18% grey card or other white balance tools
  • image editing software (some, it's true)

Anyway, you get the idea.  There are alternatives to going broke getting gear.  It may require some creativity and it will certainly mean some upping of your game to work around the limitations of the cheaper gear, but I think you will be happy with the kit you can create without breaking the bank.  BTW, many of the third-party vendors that make gear can be found through Amazon.   Check the comments for each item though.  Sometimes it is better to buy the good stuff once, rather than the cheap stuff repeatedly.  That being said, I've had good luck with several cheapo items, namely the Cowboy Studio triggers and receivers, the Impact umbrella brackets, el cheapo lightstands and umbrellas, and even really old strobeheads (see a recent post below).

Good luck, good shopping, and good shooting!  ~RW

Top 10 Sigma 200-500mm f/2.8 Lens Reviews on Amazon

Top 10 Sigma 200-500mm f/2.8 Lens Reviews on Amazon:

These reviews are pretty hilarious. Especially since none of these people own this crazy $26,000 lens.

Put your photos in front of 12M people | Pixiq

Put your photos in front of 12M people | Pixiq:

This looks like an interesting opportunity... A photo contest with a tie in to Justin Timberlake and his new movie...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

cheap triggers and cheap light

My kit sports a 580EX flash as well as two 430 EX's.  They are terrific and do the job quite nicely, however I sometimes find the required line-of-sight for infrared communication to be a bit frustrating (during wedding formals when a guest, thinking that they are well out of the way, steps between me and the OCF, at receptions when the video guy invariably gets in the way, or for a hundred other situations).

Well, you say, get yourself some darned PocketWizards or RadioPoppers.  Or the soon to be available Phottix Odin system (that sounds like it will be awesome!).  Yes, that would solve the problem, but the costs of those systems is a bit much.  So I went a different way and I'm pretty happy with things.

I bought a Cowboy Studio trigger set (and two more receivers) for $54.93 plus shipping. And they work quite well.

First the cons:

  • No ETTL communication
  • No high speed synch (have to keep it under 1/250)
  • Hit or miss over 50 feet distance

Now the pros:

  • Making me learn and be comfortable with manual flash
  • Crazy cheap
  • Compatible with a LOT of flash units
  • transmitter works in hotshoe or, with sync cable, screwed into tripod stand (with no-head screw from hardware store)
So there's your cheap trigger and here's the cheap light.  My mother-in-law likes to hit garage sales.  She found a camera kit for $1 that consisted of an old no-brand 35mm film camera, two lenses, a cool old bracket, some filters, and the two flashes seen here.

The camera is now a lovely decoration as I have no intention of finding out if it works (I'm all digital all of the time) but I bet it does.  The lenses might just be used one day if I hunt down some adapters.  The bracket might get used, too.  But then there are these flashes.  First off, batteries and hit the ol' test button.  They work!  But what good are they?  Not Canon and not compatible with my system.... or are they?  If I trip them with my new triggers, it turns out that they are swell as hair or rim lights!  I can even envision a five light situation that is now possible with my 3 Canon lights, these two, and three Cowboy Studio receivers (580EX in camera hotshoe, probably set to TTL with line of sight to one of the 430's on TTL, transmitter attached to bottom of camera and communicating via sych, triggering these these two little stinkers and the other 430).   Now I'm swimming in light from every direction for about $65 bucks over my Canon speedlites. 

You might not stumble upon these little strobes at a garage sale but Ebay is awash with Focals, Starblitz's, Thyristors, Metz's, etc. etc. etc.  Now many of these don't have any power control so you're going to have to experiment with light modifiers and/or light-to-subject distances.  Still, if the budget is tight, if's well worth it to get some advanced results with off camera flash.  It's one way to differentiate yourself from the wannabes.

Good luck and good shooting!  RW

Friday, September 16, 2011

New edit of Mikeala

New edit of a pic of Mikeala from the Labor Day shoot at Lesa Photography studio.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A sad tale of hard drive disasters and Lightroom backups | The Lightroom Queen

A sad tale of hard drive disasters and Lightroom backups | The Lightroom Queen:

'via Blog this'

It's not good enough to to backup, you have to backup the right way. I, myself, need to have better backup practices. A lesson for us all.

From Click to Quiet: Silence Your Shutter with AquaTech Sound Blimp (Professional Photographer Magazine Web Exclusives)

From Click to Quiet: Silence Your Shutter with AquaTech Sound Blimp (Professional Photographer Magazine Web Exclusives):

'via Blog this'

Ooooh, this is something new to me. A soundproof case for your camera. Designed for still photography on film sets where they are recording sound, but how amazing would it be to have one of these when shooting a church with too many rules (like I did on Saturday) or for anxious wildlife or a dozen other tricky situations. Hmmmm... to things that make you go hmmmm!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

further edits

A few more of Madison as the evolving edit process is going quite well, I think.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Mikeala's model shoot

Some more shots from yesterday.  This time, the lovely Mikeala!  Enjoy.

Monday, September 05, 2011


Had an opportunity to photograph the lovely Madison, today.  Here are a few...

Sunday, September 04, 2011

evil court jester spider

or maybe an evil pope spider....

Thursday, September 01, 2011

what I learned about photographing airshows

In a previous post, I linked to some webpages that gave advice about photographing at airshows.  I read them and was happy to get the information before I went to the big show at Selfridge ANG in Harrison Township almost two weeks ago.

I went, I heeded the advice, and I took hundreds of pix.  But when I got home and saw them on the big screen I was disappointed as to how many of them weren't sharp.  So I went back into research mode and came up with some more information (especially when I heard that there was going to be another airshow only a week away!).

So here's what I would suggest when it comes to shooting those speedy beasts at the airshow.

  • Find the sweet spot on the lenses you plan to use.  I planned to use my longest lens, a fairly cheap Sigma 70-300mm without OS.  Turns out it is sharpest around f11 and f13.  Roger that!
  • Rather than the 1/1000 shutter speed suggested in my reading, 1/2000 or even 1/3200 is better (you will, unfortunately, be nearly freezing propellers, but everything else is better -- and it won't matter on jets)
  • With those settings, you're not getting a whole lot of light, so crank up the ol'. ISO.  Probably beyond what you are comfortable with.  On my Canon 40D I usually don't like to go higher that 400, maybe 640.  But I went to 800 often at the second airshow and all is well.  Higher ISO contributes to more noise, but more light lessens the effect and I was able to fix the rest with the noise reduction features in Lightroom 3.
  • If you have problems panning with the aircraft, I suggest looking for the slower parts of the performance such as when the plane hits the top of a loop-de-loop or intentionally stalls.
  • Leave the filters off your lens.  The first show I used a polarizer and I think that it very subtly affected my autofocus accuracy (anybody ever have a similar experience?).
  • Other than that, get as close as you safely can, use your lens hood, shoot in manual and RAW, try your hand at manual focusing if your lenses hunts too much for that small object in the very big sky, and practice panning smoothly.
Please comment or e-mail me ( ) if you have other tips that you'd like to share.  Thanks, R

“What The Jiminy Christmas Are You Taking a Photo Of?!?!?!” || Small Aperture

“What The Jiminy Christmas Are You Taking a Photo Of?!?!?!” || Small Aperture:

This is funny, but so much of it is so true. Definitely the part about shooting in public and people getting unusually suspicious about it -- even if you are photographing a wall or something equally innocuous.

Fujifilm Release X10 Premium Compact Camera

Fujifilm Release X10 Premium Compact Camera:

Interesting little machine. Smaller sensor, but zoom lens f2.8. I'll be interested to hear first reviews (unless Fuji sends me one to test, then I'll be interested to do the reviewing! -- hint, hint!).

Oh, and an X100 for comparison purposes, of course.