Photo of the day. Painting with light.

Today I wanted to light a simple set up with a very simple light source… an LED flash light. The basic idea is that the LED will be the only source of light, therefore a tripod is a must (unless you can hold the camera for 30″ with one hand and use the flash light with the other)

One of the many benefits of lighting something in this manner is that the light can be place exactly where you want it, allowing for great freedom and creativity, also there is no expenses to do this kind of photography aside from the tripod and LED flashlight. The one drawback and quite frankly not a big deal, is that each picture is unique and there is no way to recreate it.

The camera was a Canon 7D and the lens a Canon EF 27-70 f2.8L. I set the camera to manual everything (including focus) ISO 100, F10, 30″ exposure manual,  color temp to 10000K . Focus on your subject while you have light and then turn off the autofocus, that way the camera will not go crazy trying to focus in the dark. Make sure that whatever available light you might have on the room does not record on the sensor (do a test shot and make sure the image must be black) after that, get ready to shoot a lot of frames and make the necessary changes as you go.

Here is one picture I just did. If you like to know more details about the LED and how to use it so it does not appear in the frame while lighting, let me know and I’ll make another post with different images and a few more details on how to light the scene.

Thanks for looking.

Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Alex Elias

Click on image to see full size.

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Photo of the day. Carved pumpkin picture.

Tonight when I walked into the house I noticed the carved pumpkin glowing on the table. I like the low light mood and decided to grave the camera and try to capture the scene the way I was looking at it. After trying a few different approaches, this is how I ended up doing it.

Canon 7D and Canon Ef 24-70 F2.8L on tripod. ISO 100 F5.6 and 1 second of exposure, and the color balance was set to tungsten.  To camera left I used a Canon 580EX with a full cut of CTO with a Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 on a 2’x2′ Lastolite Ezy box, that was triggered with a Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 and a an AC3 Pocket wizard module in manual mode dialed down to minus 3. The idea was to capture the overall scene with the ambient light and use the flash to show a bit around it.

Thanks for stopping by.

Alex Elias.

Photo of the day. Pumpkin patch family pictures.

We just went to a fantastic pumpkin patch. Lombardi ranch, located in the Santa Clarita CA area. The place is huge and full of activities for the kids and parents with cameras like me.

My only problem was getting there late by about one hour. As I was parking the car I was seeing the beautiful sun rays hiding behind the hills, my golden hour was disappearing right before my eyes before I was ready. I did carry a few lights and a stand, although not remotely close to the real deal I put 1/2 cut CTO on the flash  (orange color gel) plus set my withe balance to cloudy to help warm up the ambient a bit.

The equipment I took with me was a Canon 7D  with a Canon EF-S 10-22 and Canon EF 24-70 f2.8L 2 Canon 580EX flashes with Pocket wizards Flex TT5 and Mini TT1 with the AC3 zone controller, one stand, my tripod for the family portrait (don’t trust people any more not crop my head or feet any more) and a remote shutter release.

Thanks for stopping by.

Regards

Alex Elias

Newborn. Baby girl Pictures.

I just finished doing a shoot for a newborn baby girl. The session went great since the little one literately slept like a baby.

The set up was quite simple, I used a photography posing table to set the basket with the baby, that made it easy for moving and positioning. The lighting was done with 2 Travelites 750 one with a 11″ reflector set with a 30Deg grid  for the background and the other one with a larger Photoflex softbox that was placed very close to the baby on camera’s right. On the left side of the camera as a fill light I used a Canon 580EXII with a 2×2 Lastolite softbox . All lights were triggered with Pocket Wizards Flex TT5 and a Pocket Wizard mini TT1 with the AC3 controller on the camera as the master. The camera was a Canon 7D and the two lenses for this shoot were a Canon Ef 100 macro F2.8 and as Canon Ef 24-70 f2.8L. I used the 100 macro 90% of the time for the session. I set it at  f5.6 since I was looking for a rather shallower DOP.

For the post work I used Adobe Bridge to organize and tag the files with colors and stars. From there I migrated the raw files to ACR to do some  adjustments and then open in Photoshop CS5 to do the last part. Here I did a few different styles in terms of post work from color, to black and white, duo tones and playing with vibrance  and saturation tools.

Thanks for looking.

I welcome questions and suggestions.

Alex Elias

Las Vegas Trip. Photo tips. Part two

On the first post I mainly talked about the equipment that I took with me and a little bit about exposure compensation. Here I will go over a bit more about some of the setting I normally use.

As I mentioned on the first part, in my opinion the only three settings worthwhile using are the ones that gives me full or most control over the creative process and those are.

Aperture priority. AV for Canon and A for Nikon shutters. When shooting in this mode one can choose the f stop and the camera will select the correct speed for the aperture you selected. This setting will let the shooter decide how much from foreground to background is sharp. The higher the number, the greater the portion that will be within acceptable focus. Having a large area in focus might be what you are after if you are shooting landscapes, on the other hand, shooting outdoors portraits normally benefits from a shallower focus (narrow depth of field) therefore selecting a lower number and blurring the background might be the way to go.

Speed priority. TV for Canon and S for Nikon shutters.This setting does the exact opposite. It let you choose the speed needed while the camera choose the correct aperture for selected speed. When taking pictures of kids playing in the park, sports etc, one wants to set the camera to a speed that can stop the action. If you are shooting landscapes and there is a river with a beautiful waterfall for example, then you might prefer to have a low speed to capture the movement on the water.

Manual. M for Canon and Nikon shooters (one of the few things they agree on) This is the one setting most people fear to even touch and is the one that let’s do take full control over your camera. Here you select the right combination of both speed and depth of field.

With that in mind, depending on what I’m photographing is which of the three settings I will use. If I’m dealing with architectural things like city buildings and other stationary things, most likely I’ll be shooting in manual mode, if I’m just walking around waiting for something to happen or just jutting away to nothing in particular chances are the camera is set to AV.

White balance. Cameras now days have quite a few predetermined setting for different  kinds of lightning. Automatic white balance is the most common if one is going to be walking around. Unless you are in a place where the color temperature is constant Auto is the way to go.  The cloudy setting is pretty useful also when shooting portraits outdoors, even if it isn’t cloudy since it will warm up the scene a bit but the skin tones on people will look a bit better as well.

Focusing points. Majority of modern cameras will come with a cluster of focusing points on the screen. Many people select all an let the camera set focus on either one of them (big mistake) many times the camera will choose to focus on the part of the frame that wasn’t what you wanted. At the end of the day you’ll be asking yourself why so many pictures are out of focus. If you can select a specific one do yourself a favor and select just a single one, every time you aim at your subject with that point you know that that the camera will lock the focus right on that spot.

Raw or J peg. Why not both? If you already spends hundreds on equipment, spend a few more dollars and  get more memory cards if space is your concern. I always set the camera to shoot the largest RAW and small J peg’s. I rarely use the J peg files  but if I want to share the pictures quickly with someone I can download those pretty fast.

Hands down the RAW files will beat J pegs every time when it comes to amount of info, plus the camera presets such as sharpening, contrast, saturation ETC are no embedded on the file. You will be surprised the amount of data contained in the RAW files, also iIf you have over/underexposed files, wrong color balance and some other errors RAW is the best way to recover.

Here are some more images from Vegas.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and I welcome comments, questions or ideas.

Alex Elias

Las Vegas trip. Photo tips and equipment selection. Part one.

I recently went to las Vegas with the family. We spent most of the Saturday walking around the strip and visiting some casinos. For that Saturday I loaded a Lowepro slingshot 300AW with a Canon 7D, Canon BG-E7 battery grip and 3 lenses. Canon Ef-s 10-22  Canon Ef 24-70 f 2.8 L and Canon 70-200 f 2.8 is L I also took a Canon 580 EXII for fill light, a Manfrotto 2021 tripod with a Manfrotto 498RC4 ball head. Last but not least a circular polarizer, spare batteries and memory cards.

Lens selection

There is always two sides of a story. If you are looking for the best image quality you will take primes with you. If you don’t want to be changing lenses too often or don’t like zooming in and out via your legs then a zoom will be the ticket. I had coverage from 10 to 200mm between the three lenses I took. If you wonder what one or two lenses are most suitable/ useful for a day like this the answer of course will be;  it depends on your style. The Canon ef-s 10-22mm is a very good and fun lens to have but too short to be the primary lens. The Canon ef 70-200 f 2.8 is L is a fantastic lens, the one thing though, is that after hours of holding that rig around it becomes pretty heavy. The image quality is fantastic, it gives nice images from the distance and some great close ups and tight portraits. The Canon ef 24-70 f2.8 L  had the most useful range for a walk around lens.

From that day kept 370 pictures and here is some data I pulled from those images.

Out of the 370 pictures 324 were taken with the Canon ef 24-70 f2.8 L 26 pictures with the Canon Ef-s 10-22  and 20 pictures with the Canon ef 70-200 f2.8 is L. The one thing to note is that some times I get lazy and I don’t swap lenses when I think I should. To help prove my point here is a bit more data. From the 324 images I got from the Canon ef 24-70 f2.8 L 89 of them were at 24mm and 57 at 70mm, nearly half the pictures taken with that lens were taken at either end. Based on my experience, if I can only carry one lens (from what I own), the Canon ef 24-70 f 2.8L would be the one. One other lens to consider, is the Canon ef 24-105 f4 is L but it seems like that would be a fantastic lens to own for something like this. Now If you are going to shoot prime lenses only, my first choice would be a 24mm second choice a 35mm and third choice a 50mm.

Shooting Mode

Shooting in manual mode always gives you the most control and creativity, at the expense of loosing great pictures along the way while playing with the settings. I enjoy shooting in manual mode as much as possible, but when walking around  in a place that exposures changes every step of the way I rather switch to a mode like AV, or TV and let the camera do the heavy lifting for me. In this case AV was my choice for 80% of the day; whenever it made sense to choose manual I did.

Exposure compensation

This is a feature of the camera a lot of people either don’t know what it is, or do know why they should use it to begin with. To me, this is the one function of the camera that let the user set an automatic mode such AV or TV and still be creative and have control over what the camera is doing.

The main reason reason why this should be use more often, is due to how the camera’s meter is design to work. Without getting into lengthy explanations of a meter system, cameras are set to see the world as neutral grey, AKA 18% gray. Therefore if you take a picture of a white wall, the camera will assume that the wall is meant to be gray and will shorten the exposure “underexpose” to make the wall grey. The exact opposite will occur if you take a picture of a black wall. The camera will give you a longer than needed exposure (overexpose) to make the black wall gray.

Once this concept is grasp, that is when one begins to use exposure compensation all the time, to complete the creative process. Go out there and set the camera to AV , choose an f stop that suits your subject; Do you want a nice portrait with a blurry background? Open up the lens all the way. Is it the place a bit dark because your subject is on the shade? Use a higher ISO. Once the camera have 2 of the 3 variables “in this case an f stop and ISO” the third value is chosen by the camera, in this case the shutter speed.But… What would happen to your portrait if a good portion of the frame is going to be a bright blue sky? Well, chances are the camera will expose that sky properly leaving you with the portrait of a lovely black silhouette. If that is what one was looking for, then great, but if you were not going for the silhouette effect that was when you needed to overexpose via exposure compensation to have a proper reading of your main subject. In a nutshell this is how you can use some semiautomatic setting but still have control over what is going on as supposed of the camera doing all the thinking for you.

Thanks for stopping by.

I welcome, questions, comment and critiques.

Here are some random images I got from that day.

Picture of the day. Close up and still Photography.

My dear friend Jeff got my this fabulous flower arrangement. When I first saw it I got amazed by the looks and attention to details not to mention the fragrance was just incredible as well. Since flower look great for so long I decided I wanted to make them the subject of a photo shoot. My first thought was to take a few pictures of it but the few pictures turn out to be over 100 pictures and a bit over 3 hours. I started shooting the base only and then I got inspired and started to shoot individual flowers, different lenses angles and lighting scenarios.

Equipment used

The pictures were taken with a Canon 7D set at ISO  160 speed at 250 F8 and white balance fixed at 5800K for most images. Later during the shot I started using F16 for the close ups so I switched to ISO 200 and 250. I mostly used a Canon EF 24-70 2.8L and Canon EF 100Macro 2.8 also some pictures were done using a Canon EF-S 10-22 to get some different perspectives. As far as lighting this time I did not use strobes. I took all the pictures with a Canon 580EXII and a Lastolite easy box 2×2 and a white reflector to bounce some fill light on the opposite side. Later during the shoot I added a Canon 430EXII with an umbrella. I controlled the lights with a Pocket wizard mini TT1 and the AC3 controller (both lights were in manual mode on independent groups)

Thanks for looking and don’t hesitate to ask should you have any questions.

Regards,

Alex Elias