Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Ballerina Project

Spanning the Bridge

Doing personal projects as a photographer has many benefits.  One, it keeps you interested in shooting when some of the other jobs you do, might not be exactly, your own cup of tea.  Sure its better to be photographing almost anything if that's your passion but you don't always get to shoot the things you really want to be shooting, so personal projects can alleviate that and keep the passion flowing.

Another reason is, to get your work out to a different audience than you might otherwise do with commissioned work.  A few of my personal projects have led to some good exposure that opened up other opportunities for me.

Perhaps the best reason is... its fun!!!  Which brings me to round number two of a personal project I've been working on with the incredibly talented Amelia Gandara.  Amelia is a professionally trained ballet dancer and was also Miss University of Louisville 2013, in addition to being an incredibly intelligent woman too!  I've long had a fascination with ballet dancers and after seeing a few photos of Amelia years ago, I had the idea to photograph her doing classic ballet moves, but in an urban environment.  Since she was Miss UofL I thought what might be a great idea was to photograph her in front of iconic locations in Louisville, Kentucky.

This is the second round of this project, which is an ongoing effort to chronicle her skills and abilities throughout the great city of Louisville until we've knocked out every significant location we can think of... or get access to!

Choosing locations in Louisville is no easy task, simply because there are so many great venues to choose from.  The first location we shot at, was across the street from the 21C Hotel and Museum.  Not only is this one of the top ranked hotels in Louisville, but it also has an amazing art gallery of contemporary works and an award winning restaurant.  Driving by this location some time ago, you might not have noticed it, but with the addition of this gold statue of David out front, its pretty hard to miss and has become a pretty noticeable location in downtown...


Dancing with the Gilded Man

This photo was simply lit with an off camera flash to camera left in a shoot through, white umbrella.  The hard part to this shot was timing the traffic flowing down Main Street, and catching Amelia in the right part of the frame to make the shot work.  I couldn't have gotten this shot so easily (or any of the other photos in this project) without the assistance of fellow photographer, Don Lehman.

ReflectorOur next spot was the Kentucky Science Center.  Right out front of the entrance, they have this gigantic parabolic reflector and I knew I had to do something cool with this.  I quickly set up an off camera flash to camera left with no modifiers to test the light and shot a few frames.  The shots were ok, however not being one to give in easy on any location I thought it could use something else.  So I placed another off camera flash with a blue gel directly behind Amelia and just let it cascade blue light throughout the reflector.  The only hard part to this shot was hiding the light behind her and not having it flare the camera.  Of course when I say the 'the only hard part', I'm referring to what is hard for me.  If you think its easy to stand on your toes and strike such a beautiful pose as Amelia is, you obviously haven't tried it.  I did have to remove the feet of the light stand behind her in Photoshop.

With any of these photos, you can simply click on them for a larger view.

Louisville SluggerMoving on down the street we came to probably one of the most notable places in Louisville, the Louisville Slugger Museum.  This is where the world famous Louisville Slugger baseball bats are made and they have a museum full of baseball history and memorabilia that any fan is sure to love.  What is so noticeable about this location is the gigantic bat outside.  It is the world's largest bat at 120 feet tall and weighing in at 68,000 pounds!!

For this shot, the sun was coming down hard from camera right so I knew I would need some significant light to not let Amelia fall in to shaded darkness.  So, I placed a bare flash camera left at full power to just fill the shadow side of her.  Had I used a softbox or umbrella, I wouldn't have enough power to light her sufficiently.  In this case it worked.

Another thing to note is, that with every single location we worked in, Amelia and I were able to work with the environment to create a pose or move that accentuated or at the very least worked with the composition.  Each location had its own subtle differences so one pose that worked well in one location, might not do the same in another.  Those little differences can make or break an image.

In our efforts to find cool locations, we decided to look for higher ground.  I was wanting to do a shot of Amelia with skyline behind her (or at least part of it), so I knew we either had to get out of the city, which I was not willing to do at this point, or find a location with a wider field of view.  Cue a parking garage.  In any city, sometimes getting off the street can lead to more interesting pictures so a parking garage is always a good place to check out, just be cautious because not all parking garages will allow you take photos in them.  I *think* this was a public parking garage so we didn't have any issues... or possibly because we were there on the weekend, no one of particular authority noticed our presence. ;)

On the way up to the roof top of the garage, we noticed these cool arches above the walls and Amelia and I both thought this might be a cool background.  We parked the car, hopped out and without me even mentioning an idea, Amelia proceeded to climb up on the ledge and struck a pose.  This is highly worth mentioning, not only because its a testament to Amelia's desire to create some really cool shots, it also says something about her incredibly huge balls sense of bravery.  We were about 7 stories up in the air and that ledge was about two feet wide!!!  How's that for taking one for the cause?


I'm normally a "lighting guy" when it comes to photography but after seeing Amelia up there on that ledge and noticing her amazing form silhouetted by the sun light, I decided to not ruin what I was seeing by lighting her and instead, just shot what I saw with my eyes.  This shot was actually one of my favorites.  I wish the buildings would have worked better with this composition, but we had to work with what we had.  I don't think my assistant would have liked the idea of me asking him to move a few buildings so that we could get a better shot.

After we made it to the top of the garage, not knowing when to leave well enough alone, I had to get my trusty speedlights out for another lit portrait.  The light in this portrait was again, simply a bare speedlight to camera right and the only reasons I used it were to help freeze her motion and to simply fill in some shadows due to the ambient exposure I chose to use in camera.  Had I not used the flash, her body would have been in shadow like the area where her right foot is.

Amelia No. 14

This was essentially the shot I was after, as it showed some of the more notable buildings in downtown and also illustrated once again, Amelia's amazing athletic abilities.  To make this shot a little more awesome than it was, I simply got down on the ground to create more of an "illusion" that Amelia was soaring over the buildings.

This was an incredibly fun, second session of this project and I'm very excited our next shoot!

If you'd like to see more photos from this ongoing work, check out this album on my Flickr page!

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Friday, February 14, 2014

What Makes a Photo Great?


How do you know if the photo you made is great, the one, a work of art, the magnum opus?  Well, often times that's the hard part.  We all make good photos from time to time (or at least I like to think so), but what really is the difference between a good photo and a great photo?

Personally, for me, a great photo is one that will mean something to someone, and stand the test of time.  Its a photo that someone will cherish not only now, but 5, 10 and 50 years from now.  Those are the hard ones to make.  Obviously, there is all different kinds of photography with different purposes, but the ones that really wow most folks, are those that hold up over time and stick in folks' minds for many years to come.  I know there are many photos in my mind, that others have taken, that still inspire and awe me.  My personal opinion is that anyone can learn how to use a camera, and anyone can learn how to be a master at lighting or composing, these are all things that with a little effort, can be learned in a short amount of time, but finding your voice and creating an image with impact is infinitely harder.

If this is something you struggle with or would like to think about more, then you must watch the video above.  Its kinda long, but in a nutshell, Scott Kelby and Joe McNally discuss what makes a photo great.  Its hard not to walk away with useful information when listening to either of these two, but this video really resonated with me and Joe brings up several points that I think are often over looked when photographers are out snapping pics (myself very much included).

Seriously, get a good cup of coffee and sneak away from all the hustle and bustle and watch this.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Got Gloves?

Its the time of year (for those of us in the Northern hemisphere) for shoveling driveways and sidewalks, scraping ice off of car windows and generally freezing our butts off.  The older I get, the more Florida sounds like an awesome place to live. :)  That being said, we have to deal with the cold and for most of us, that means bundling up with multiple layers, wearing heavy coats and hats, and donning the ever fashionable snow boots, but what about those hands?

I for one, absolutely hate wearing gloves.  You can't do anything that requires delicate touch with gloves on, nor can you really feel anything.  But this year, due to the extreme cold we've experienced (some days the highs were below freezing), I've had to re-think my opinion of gloves.  My long, skinny fingers and hands have froze to beyond numbness on more than one occasion so I broke down and bought yet another pair of winter gloves... where do they all go?  I know I've had several pairs over the years, the glove fairy must be swiping them!  This time however, thanks to my friend Chris at Outdoor Photo Gear, I got an awesome pair of gloves that solve a lot of problems for me.

These gloves are the AquaTech Sensory Gloves, and they are called that because on the index finger and thumb of each glove, there is a hole that you can slide the tips of your fingers and thumbs through, giving you the ability to have touch and feel again with your finger tips!  When you're not using the holes, there is a sleeve inside that you put your finger and thumb in to keep them warm.  You can see how this works in the photo below.  As always, you can click on any pic for a larger view...


Not only do these gloves have holes for your fingers and thumbs, they also have a really good grip thanks to all those little nubs on the palm sides.  They're also light weight, bend easily and are incredibly warm!  Another cool little bit is that they're water proof as well.  They have velcro straps on the wrists to give them a secure fit and lanyards so that you can attach them to a coat and to each other.  (Honestly though, the lanyards get in my way so I think I will be cutting them off.)

I have to say, for photographers, these are an absolute blessing!  I don't shoot in the frigid cold often, but when I do, my hands immediately go numb and I have a hard time fiddling with the shutter button and dials, but not anymore!  These are perfect for photographers because you can actually feel the shutter button and your dials with ease, all while keeping your hands toasty warm.  You can see in the shot to the right how these really help.  They also help you to maintain a better grip for zooming and focusing with your lenses.

So maybe you're not a photographer, or at least one who shoots in the cold, but there is probably something else that these gloves can help you with.  Have you ever tried to use a smart phone with a pair of gloves on?  Its maddening to nearly impossible!  Its like trying to play a piano with mittens on.  Well, with these gloves you can easily operate a touch screen smart phone (or any other phone for that matter) by having your index finger exposed.  I was even able to play a little Angry Birds with these things on... not that I'm very good anyways, but you get the point!


Again, I just wanted to say that I absolutely hate wearing gloves, but I'm wearing these now every time it gets cold out and I'm in love with them.  Also, just for the record, nobody asked me to review these and I'm not getting paid to review them.  I simply needed a pair of gloves and on my friend's suggestion, these are what I bought.  I've had them for two weeks (which is why they don't look brand new) and they are without a doubt the best pair of winter gloves I have ever owned.  Hopefully, the glove fairy won't carry these off too. ;)

Oh, they're also very affordable for the quality of the product, and you can get these online (or in the store) at Outdoor Photo Gear!  If you're a photographer, you'll love them!  If you need to use your phone in the cold, you'll appreciate how easy it is to do with these.  I wish I had a pair of these years ago.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!


Today in the U.S. we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday which basically means spending time with family, eating copious amounts of food, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and football, with the intermediate nap in between.  Hopefully, all of us are able to find things that we are thankful for in this menagerie of turkey induced comas, family.. uh, discussions, and frequent bathroom visits.  However, if you're like me (who btw is up bright and early cooking a mess of food) then at some point you get restless and need a little break from all of it.  If that's the case, then here are some really cool links, some photography related and some not, to give you something to do in the down time.

At the top of the post is one of my all-time favorite Thanksgiving-y things, a video clip from the old sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati.

If you want to be inspired by some amazing photography, check out this link on Twisted Sifter of their picks for the 75 best photos of 2013.

Perhaps you know a photographer that would like a good book for Christmas?  If so, one of the best I have read... ever, is the latest book by Gregory Heisler called "Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer's Photographer".  David Hobby of the Strobist blog did a pretty cool review of this book if you'd like to find out more about it.

If you're looking to start your holiday shopping early, and you need to get something cool for that photographer in your life, hop on over to Outdoor Photo Gear!  They are offering all kinds of great discounts for the weekend.  Enjoy another fantastic performance by Troy the Turkey below!



Another cool thing to check out for the early, photography holiday shoppers is Scott Kelby's Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide!  He posts links to items he would recommend to photography buddies and the prices range from pretty cheap to umm.. pretty not-so cheap, but a lot of cool stuff on there!

Need to know how long to cook your turkey this year without relying on a timer?  Check out this cool post Netflix came up with over on Gizmodo's website!

Don't have any flashes or strobes?  No problem, here's a cool article on the Profoto blog about how to use just a reflector to get the most out of your portrait photography!

If you're in to time-lapse photography then you have to check out this video that photographer Eric Stemen made of Louisville, Kentucky.  I posted this on Facebook some time ago and all locals loved it, but even if you're not local, this is still a really inspiring piece of work!

One more awesome video... this was put together by photographers Chris McLennan & Ollie Dale.  They rigged a Nikon D800 on a remote control car chassis and ran it in to a pride of lions.  Needless to say, they walked away with some absolutely awesome photos!



Well, hopefully this will give you plenty of stuff to enjoy while sneaking away from the family today.

Hope everyone has a very Happy Thanksgiving and also, happy first day of Hanukkah to those whose celebrate!

See you next time!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Don't Miss Opportunities!



Whew!  Man it has been quite some time since I've had time to sit down and write a blog post.  Family matters, a full time job and shooting on the side certainly takes up a lot of our lives, but I don't think I'd have it any other way.  Also, any day I have a camera in my hands is a good day for me, regardless if its a paying job or just documenting my family and friends.


Recently we found out that our oldest daughter is going to be blessing us with another grandchild!  I know what you're thinking, I'm much too young and good looking to be a grandfather ...of two, but strange miracles happen every day. :)  We try to get all the kids together at least once a week for dinner just to hang out and talk about what all is going on in our lives, so this weekend I thought it would be a good opportunity to get a photograph of all the kids together since they were here.  Actually, I should point out that this was our granddaughter's idea, not mine

This was quite the informal process as no one was clothing coordinated, or even looking their best, but one thing I have figured out is, don't miss out on these opportunities because some day, they might not be there.  Plus, its not exactly easy to talk everyone in to getting their portrait taken individually, let alone in a group photo.  I also have to admit, that this in no way represents my best work, but it most definitely represents some of my most important work to me.

So, even though I wanted this post to be more about not missing opportunities, I couldn't help but include a few technical details as well.  This was actually a pretty easy portrait to put together quickly.  The portrait above was shot on a 4 foot wide white seamless.  If someone had asked me if I could take a family portrait for them on a white seamless, I would never have attempted that on this background because it is just not wide enough to accommodate shots like this, but you can in fact make it work.  I do have the ability to do family shots on white, but just not in my home studio.  I keep the 4 foot set up at home just do single portraits, small commercial projects and headshots; for that it works quite well.

To get a group of 5 on a 4 foot background, you really have to compact the group and think about positioning to make it work.  Also, it doesn't hurt that some of the participants in this shot were "smaller than average".  Again, its not a shot that I would suggest to potential clients, but for my purposes it worked out quite nicely.  Since our oldest daughter is pregnant, we put her in the chair and set her daughter on her lap.  Our youngest daughter is the next smallest so it made sense to just slide her next to them.  Then, since both of our boys are quite tall (and thankfully slim) I just positioned them in the back... man, they grow up so darn fast!  I was only able to get two shots before the group lost interest and this was the better of the two.

To light these guys, I simply used two Nikon SB-800s camera left and camera right in Westcott shoot thru umbrellas at the same power setting.  This created a nice, simply broad light that illuminated everyone evenly and added a little light to the background as well, since I had my models positioned so closely to it.  Both flashes were triggered with my pop-up flash using Nikon's built in CLS system.  To test my lights before my subjects stepped in, I relied on my old tried and true light metering method... my hand and the LCD on the back of my camera.  It took two exposures to get my lights set where I needed them, see the high tech method below. :)  Both images are straight out of camera other than putting them together in post.


For what its worth, I have the LCD on my camera set to match the same output that shows up on my calibrated monitor, that way I can be certain of the image on the LCD.  Also, I use the highlight indicators (the blinkies) on the LCD to help me see any blown out areas.

Also, so you can see the very limited space I have to work in and the light set up, check out the iPhone pic below.  You can tell right off that the background is pretty darn narrow.  Also, what is hard to tell in this pic is the direction those umbrellas are pointing.  I have each one moved slightly past center so that the light will feather a little, providing a broader sweep of light.  However, since I was using those shoot thru umbrellas, which throw light everywhere, the actual positioning could have been different, but whenever you are lighting anything, inches really matter, so I always try to get my lights set in the best position possible to eliminate any tedious post work later.


I should also note that the ceiling in this room is white, and less than 8 feet tall, so its going to throw back a little fill light on my subjects when using umbrellas.  If I didn't want that fill, I would have chosen to use softboxes or something that has an edge to it, or a grid on it, to keep that light from flying all over the place.

As far as power settings go, I believe I was using slightly more than 1/4 power on each flash.  Generally, with single portraits I can get away with 1/4 power and a larger aperture, but since I was shooting a group of 5, I chose to stop my aperture down f/7.1 to make sure I kept everyone in focus, then just increased the power a little.  At a power setting of 1/3.2 I was still getting good recycle times so I was able to bang off a few shots quickly before my subjects lost interest.

My only real critique of the portrait at the top of this post is, had I had a little more time to play with the lighting, I probably would have added one more, very slight fill light to the center, to eliminate that shadow on the background between the two boys' heads.  Its not a big thing, but still annoying to me... every photographer should be their own worst critic.

One other quick lighting set up shot I wanted to share... sometimes you have to take whatever models you have available to check your lighting setups. :)  
I hope this post reminds everyone of the importance to never overlook opportunities to create memories for yourself and your family.  The portrait I took won't win any Pulitzer prizes, but it brought a lot of smiles to my family and will most likely be around for many years to come.  In my mind, there's really no more important quality to a photograph than that.

 






Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bright Field Lighting

H2O

Last week I did a blog post on how easy it is to light glass using the dark field technique with one flash, so this week I thought I would write a post on how to shoot the same subject matter using the bright field lighting technique.

This technique is essentially the same type of lighting set up except that instead of having a black background and white edge lighting on the subject, we have a bright background with dark edge lighting on the subject.  When lighting glass, its almost always important to have the edge defined in some way or another.  While you can light glass from the front to show its true texture, defining the edge is what really defines the shape of the glass itself.

When doing this technique, there are a few important things to consider.  Obviously, a white (or light colored) background is needed but also, you need some black panels for the dark lines on the edge of the glass.  There are several ways to do this but my solution for this was to tack up a piece of black background paper to the wall, then tack a piece of white paper in the center of the black for the background.  Also, the white background needs to be large enough to completely fill the frame of the composition but not be too big.  If its too big, the black edges won't be defined well enough and if its too small, the black paper will show in the frame.  So you want to make your white background at least a few inches bigger in all directions than the subject you are shooting.  Its really just a matter of trial and error, but you can see in the set up photo taken with my phone how this basically looks.

As far as light placement goes, I always place the light underneath the subject and point it back towards the background.  You could easily boom the light above as well, but this always takes up more room.  The set up I used takes up as minimal space as necessary to get the shot, which if you're like me and work in limited studio space, learning to condense your set ups can be quite handy.

For the images in this blog post, I used a pane of glass to rest the water glass on so that I would get that dark edge on the bottom of the glass as well, but I ended up shooting tighter crops.

For the camera settings, I shot this similar to the dark field lighting image I did in the previous blog post.  I find that using a smaller aperture gives better detail in the glass, especially if you're trying to include a little action in the shot, such as pouring water in the image at the top of the post.  With that in mind, I used an aperture of f/16 at 1/250 sec, ISO 200.  I believe my flash power was set around 1/4 or 1/8.  Surprisingly, it doesn't take as much power as you would think for these type images.  The flash I used was the Nikon SB-910 speedlight.

In the previous post I used radio triggers to trigger the off camera flash, but in this post, I used Nikon's CLS system to trigger the flash.  To avoid seeing the pre-flashes reflected in the glass I simply just held my hand in front of the pop-up flash.

You may notice that I used a tripod in these shots and also in the previous post.  While I have self-professed to not be a tripod user, in shooting things like this, I find that tripods are an essential tool.  Sometimes you have to make very slight adjustments to the placement of your subject, the background or a light so having your camera on a tripod really helps because its one more variable that you won't have to keep adjusting.

Once you get this shot down, experiment with different angles, gelled flashes and different types of glass or action.  When using bright field lighting, you don't have to have a solid white background.  In fact, sometimes it makes a cooler looking image to have less light on the background.  Also, by lowering the power on your flash, it helps you to really freeze action in an image such as the water splashing in this shot.  The lower your flash power, the faster the flash duration which is what essentially helps you to freeze things that are in motion.

The really hard part of an image like this is capturing the right moment of action.  I had to shoot several of these before I got an image where my timing was on.  I simply had my daughter hold the cubes of ice above the glass and drop them on the count of three.  You would think this would be fairly easy, but its much tougher than you think... but not impossible at all!  They actually make devices to help you capture action shots like this such as sound and light triggers, but I find that with just a little patience (and cleaning up between shots) that you can do this with minimal gear.

Also, in this shot, notice that the black edges are thicker than the ones in the shot at the top of the post.  I didn't move the glass, my camera or the distance between the glass to the background but what I did change was the flash power.  By lowering the flash power (and I zoomed the head a little) the spread of light on the wall decreased and allowed more black to show through.  If you didn't want this look, all you would have to do is move the glass closer to the wall, but I actually like the thicker, dark edges for this shot, I just think it works better with the composition, but that's one of the great things about these techniques, you can move things slightly and get completely different looks.

These are really fun techniques to do if you're in to lighting glass or other shiny, reflective or translucent objects and can be done simply with one flash and a few pieces of cardboard or paper.  If anyone has any questions about this technique, please sound off in the comments below!

Now, what type of lighting technique to do for the next blog post...





Sunday, August 4, 2013

Dark Field Lighting

Martini

A friend of mine recently asked me about dark field / light field lighting and at the moment I didn't have enough time to give what I thought would be a thorough explanation.  So after thinking about it (when I did have some spare time) I thought I would just set up something quickly and post how I did it.  Sometimes pictures can say a lot more than words.

Dark field / bright field lighting is simply about creating good edge light or shadow on your subject and is often seen in photographs depicting glassware such as wine glasses, bottles etc.  This technique works really well for glassware because since glass is so reflective it will literally mirror anything in front of it, including you, your camera and your light source.  So in order to light something that reflective, sometimes its better to not actually light that subject, but rather to rim light it to show its shape and physical characteristics.

First off there are two important things to consider when lighting any piece of glass.  First off, make sure its CLEAN... and I mean as spotless as you can get it.  Any little spot or imperfection will show up like a lighthouse through fog.  You can easily take this out in post, but you could spend a lot of time "fixing" things when if you just take a little time before hand, it could save you a lot of effort after the fact.  With stemware, I usually hand wash it, dry it slightly with a towel then polish it with a paper towel.  You don't want any lint left over from cloth towels so that's why I finish with paper towels.  Also, watch those paper towels because cheap ones can wear out quickly and leave little bits of paper on your glass.  After you clean it, inspect it thoroughly for any blemishes and if you find one, simply hit it again.  Like I said, you can also take care of this in post, but one advantage to cleaning your subject is that it makes it very shiny which will also add to the final effect of the image.

The next thing to consider is, since glass is convex and has a mirror like surface, it will literally reflect everything in front of it.  So if you want to do this from a perfectionist stand point, the best way to get good results is to hang up a large black sheet between your camera and your subject then cut a slit in the sheet and point your lens through that.  That way, the only thing the glass will see is black, which in dark field lighting is what you usually want.  I set my shot up quickly and didn't bother to do this step though, I simply cleaned the final image up in post which was basically a curves adjustment layer and a little clone stamping... 5 minutes top. 

Another thing to consider is that when you are aiming a light source back toward your camera, you are going to get some flaring or areas that are washed out with light (usually on the edges of your image).  To prevent this, the black sheet will help immensely, or you can position more black cards on either side of the glass hanging parallel to the softbox.  This cuts down the flares almost completely.  I just chose to clean up the image in post as the flaring was minimal.  Both ways work, it just depends on how much time you have.  Normally, I use the black cards to do this.

Also, because of the glass's reflectiveness, make sure no windows or overhead lights are on as, believe it or not, even with fast shutter speeds these can still show up in the glass.  For these types of shots I also use radio triggers because as much as I love Nikon's CLS system, the preflash will show up in the glass even if you have the output set to "--" or zero.  Again, glass is very, very reflective so considering this upfront will save you time in post.  My AF assist light even showed up in a shot or two so eventually I started holding my hand in front of it for the final image.

With these two considerations out of the way, lets take a look at how this was lit.  There are several ways to do this, but after shooting these for years I've found two different ways I like to do this depending on how big the subject is.  For the shot above, I simply put a 24" softbox with a single speedlight (flash) behind the glass pointed back towards the camera.  Then, in between the softbox and the glass I placed an opaque black card, this is the background for the glass and also prevents the softbox from shooting right through the glass.  The black card behind the glass only needs to be big enough to fill the frame of your camera and to just be slightly bigger than the glass itself.  That way, the light from the softbox can literally wrap around the black card and rim light your glass.  You can experiment with different distances of the glass to the softbox but in this situation I find that having the glass as close as possible to the black card usually gives the best result.  If you move the glass further from the black card the rim lights on your glass will become thicker, but light will also start to spill in through the glass leaving sort of a "foggy" look.  You can experiment though for what gives you the look you want.  In this first setup shot (taken with my iPhone) you can see what it looks like from the perspective of the camera.  You can click on any image for a larger view!

For this shot again, I simply had the black card that was the background resting against the softbox and had another black card underneath the glass for a base.  You can see that in this next setup image.  Also note that I have the glass setting on a stool instead of a table.  You can use a table but it seems I get better edge definition when I use a stool, or even better, using a piece of glass as the base resting on two sawhorses (or stacks of books or whatever else you can find).  I simply didn't want to take the time to get out the sheet of glass and set it up.  However, it does create a different look and gives a reflection of the wine glass (or in this case a martini glass) in the base.  If you have a pane of glass, you should experiment with that as well, it does create a nice effect.

Keep in mind this was done with one off camera flash and not even anywhere close to maximum power.  Another way to do this (and the method I prefer for larger items) is to hang up a piece of white paper, and instead of using a softbox, simply fire your flash in to the white paper and use that as your softbox.  The white paper can be as large or as small as you wish and is a cheap and easy way to create a large light source.  I keep a piece of white seamless stapled to the wall in my studio simply because I use it so often.  By having it literally on the wall also keeps me from having to use stands for support which in turn, frees up floor space in my studio.  It also comes in handy for head shots and myriad of other projects.  You can see how this "thrifty" set up looks in this other iPhone pic.  This method does require a little more power from your flash though, but still not enough to stress it to the point of overheating, and wine glasses don't move that fast so you don't have to worry about those quick recycle times. ;)

As far as camera settings go, unless I'm going for a more creative look (like using limited depth of field) I tend to stop my aperture down quite a bit as it seems to give more detail in the final image.  I think for the shot at the top of the post, I used f/18 at 1/250 sec ISO 800.  If I had paid attention more to my camera settings, I would have dropped the ISO to 200 and used an aperture of around f/16 or f/11.  That's what I get for being in a rush.  The flash power in the softbox was set to 1/4 power.

Once you have this set up and after you get the initial shot you were looking for, play around with it a bit, shoot odd angles, add some liquid to the glass, shoot horizontal and vertical just to see what you come up with.  Just because you have a good thing, don't give up on it.  You might find that you will get an even better image that you weren't expecting and also, you may learn a couple of new tricks in the process.  You can mix up your aperture and flash settings for different looks.  You can flag off one side of the subject with another black card so that you're only lighting one side of the image.  You can use gels for a different color effect, the possibilities are endless.  Once you learn this technique, it really yields a lot of other cool effects and ideas.

Next time on the blog, I'll do a bright field lighting.

Hope this helps a few folks and inspires you try this out for yourself.  If anyone has any questions about this technique, just sound off in the comments!