Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

Is it just me, or did 2011 fly by like an SR-71 Blackbird?  Sheesh, it seems like it just started, now we're moving in to 2012.  I guess time flies when you're having fun ...or getting old(-ish).

This past year has been an interesting one, with many ups and downs.  I've learned a few new things, taken some pretty good pictures, taken some pretty outright hideous ones, played with various film cameras, photographed families, commercial products, pretty models, kids, my cat, cars, events, architecture, dabbled in a little street photography and taught a few folks the intricacies of off camera flash.

I also turned over the big 40th birthday this year, which pretty much means I guess I'm officially an adult now, or something like that.  Except for the new aches and pains that rear their ugly heads like prairie dogs from a hole in the ground, I don't really feel any older and Lord knows my maturity level still hasn't caught up with my gift of so many years.  Not sure it ever will really.

Its the time of year when folks start talking about resolutions and the things they plan on doing better in the upcoming year.  I guess I'm no different than those folks, with one exception.  I really don't believe so much in New Year's resolutions, partly because so many of them fall flat on their faces.  Its easy to come up with something new that you're going to accomplish under a bout of heavy drinking, twinkling lights and wondering what poor sap is going to be willing to touch their lips to yours at the strike of midnight, but how many of those plans ever come to fruition?  I hope for most that they actually do, but perhaps because of my curmudgeon like ways (or the gift of wisdom with 40 years in the can), I generally believe that most do not.

So rather than setting a few New Year's Eve resolutions that I will most likely forget on New Year's day due to a pounding headache and the cold sweats that only a frat boy can love, I usually take this time of year to simply set up a game plan for the upcoming year.  You could probably say that these are resolutions (if you want to talk semantics) but really its more of a list of small goals leading to a bigger coup de grace at the end.

As a photographer, there's always the goals of self improvement, learning new techniques and trying to stay at the forefront of all the modern technology that seems to exponentially grow with every new year.  There's also the goal of improving one's income and keeping the roof over the business.  This year for me though, my goals are to become more attuned to the business side of photography.  If it weren't for my poor (and very patient) fiance', I would have absolutely no business sense at all.  I seriously doubt that I could manage a lemonade stand and turn a profit.  I'd either be giving the lemonade away to cheaply, or simply drinking it all myself.

Don't get me wrong, I will most definitely keep trying to improve my craft.  I hope that I always have the capacity to continue to learn and envelop my hard headed noggin' around new things, but where I think I need the most work, is trying to become a businessman, in addition to being a successful photographer.

So I guess I'm wondering, how many other photographers out there feel like they're pretty confident in their abilities of pressing the shutter, but not so proficient in the acumen of business.  If I had to guess, I'd say that number is rather large, but maybe that's just my ignorance in a subject that seems to elude me.

In any case, I still believe in setting goals (small and large), regardless if its business related or just a passionate hobby, and the turning of a New Year seems the best time to do so.

I hope you have your new year laid out ahead of you and have nothing but success in the upcoming 2012!!

Oh yeah, may as well go ahead and go for broke this year, because the Mayans might be right. ;)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Shooting Tethered with Lightroom 3

Tethered Shooting

As a new user of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3, I have to say I am more than amazed at the features this program offers.  I have always been somewhat anal retentive organized and methodic in how I store and catalog photos, but Lightroom simply makes all of this even easier.  The way LR3 allows you to organize, file, add metadata to, and the fact that the editing tools are non destructive makes this program, for me at least, invaluable in those regards alone.

I'll admit I'm still a newb with this program, but am learning daily and very interested in how this program works.  What sold me at first on Lightroom 3 is the fact that because it has so many easy to use editing tools, a lot of folks seem to do the most of their post processing (if not all) in LR3 alone.  As a person who tries to do as little editing as possible, this really appealed to me.  The idea that this program could streamline my workflow and cut down on the time spent in front of the computer was just another selling point.

However, the one feature that I have absolutely fell in love with is the ability to shoot tethered straight in to Lightroom.  Basically, shooting tethered to a computer means that rather than viewing your photos on the LCD of your camera, you can now view them on a laptop, or another computer.  This makes checking how your shoot is coming along in terms of sharpness, white balance, composition and color management so much easier by being able to see such a large preview of your photo.

What's so awesome about Lightroom 3 is that now you don't need any other software (just Lightroom 3) to shoot tethered.  With previous versions of Lightroom, you still had to use another program to accomplish this.  I know Canon users can use their included software to shoot tethered, but Nikon users have to buy Nikon's Camera Control Pro (which is costly) or another third party software, and those other programs don't offer the versatility that Lightroom does.  I've used a few third party programs in the past to shoot tethered (usually in to Adobe Bridge), but the third party programs I have tried just didn't work well enough for me.  I've also used Camera Control Pro but now prefer the editing power and features of Lightroom 3.

For many folks who already have Lightroom 3, and want to shoot tethered, now you can with no other tools!

To shoot tethered in to Lightroom 3, you need to use the little cable that came with your camera.  It has a proprietary connection on one end (the end that plugs in to your camera) and a USB connector on the other.  Simply connect your camera with that cable to your computer and turn your camera on.  Then, open Lightroom and go to the File Menu and click on 'Start Tethered Capture'.  You have to specify a few settings, like where you want your photos to go, how you want to name the files and whether or not you want to add meta data on import (another handy feature).  Then click ok and you're ready to go.

By default, LR will open in the Library Module, but if you switch to the Develop Module, you can create a bigger preview of the photos as they are coming in.  Choose the Loupe View, which is one preview of the current photo, and then you can collapse the side panels which will give you a full screen preview of the photos as you take them.  Another handy benefit of tethering in to the Develop Module is that you can apply edits such as White Balance adjustments right to your photos as they come in, then set those edits to every other photo that comes in after that!  Cool.

Another quick tip, is to make sure you have 'Auto Advance' enabled so that the preview pane shows the most recent photo taken.  Also, when you're previewing your full screen photos, you will still see some of the Lightroom work area around your photo.  If you want to make that go away, simply press 'L' once and that will darken the background, press 'L' again, and it goes completely black.  Now you have a large, full screen preview of your photo with a black frame and nothing else, that is really slick!

A couple of things, you have to have Lightroom 3 or higher for this to work.  I don't believe the older versions will shoot tethered without additional software being used.  Also, if you're going to be doing this a lot, make sure that the computer you are tethering to has a calibrated display.  This is important because if you're going to be editing, you want to make sure you have the most accurate view of your photo as possible, so that when you're finished editing, your photos will look their best on any monitor.

If you want to learn more about shooting tethered with Lightroom 3, check out Scott Kelby's book on Lightroom 3, videos on Kelby Training, or Matt Kloskowski's blog Lightroom Killer Tips.

As far as my rig above goes, I based this off of Joe McNally's setup with a few changes.  First off, if you're going to use a rig like this, make sure you have a VERY sturdy, strong tripod to mount this setup.  The arm that supports my camera and laptop is the new Vanguard Multi Mount Utility bar.  Manfrotto also makes one, but its almost twice the price.  The head I have my camera mounted on is simply the head from my tripod.  I would however recommend a nice ballhead as opposed to the type I'm currently using.  It makes articulating the camera easier, and is lighter weight.  Vanguard makes a nice one that is also priced right.  The platform for my laptop is actually one I made of plate aluminum with a simple hole drilled in the center to mount it.  I use velcro to secure the laptop on the platform, but if you would prefer to buy one, Gitzo makes a nice one, and so far is the cheapest I've seen.

So that's basically it, and if you know some more cool Lightroom tips for shooting tethered, please sound off in the comments, I'm still learning myself!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide 2011!!!

Its that time of year again!  Time to battle the crowds, the slow servers, the traffic, the weather and other shoppers.  Its almost like an Indiana Jones movie, The Quest for the Holy Christmas Present!

If you have a photographer in your life that you need to buy something for, maybe this list will help.  Every year I try to compile a photographer's Christmas wish list of reasonable priced items that would appeal to most photographers, without breaking the bank!

This year's list has some "oldies but goodies" and also some new items that just came out this year.  Also, every product on this list, I currently use or would like to have.  I don't recommend items that I don't like, wouldn't want or don't have any experience with.  Hopefully though, this list will give you some good ideas!

More after the jump!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Just a Few Things I'm Thankful For...

Guinness DraughtI am actually thankful for quite a number of things, not just good beer. :)

I'm thankful to still have a camera in my hands and to be shooting on a regular basis.  While I have not yet achieved National Geographic photographer status, I still find that I have a churning passion to capture just about everything that throws itself my way, good and bad.  I'm thankful that I find myself out there still searching for my best work and trying to help a few folks along the way.

I'm thankful for Nikon.  I love my gear (albeit its starting to be a bit dated and well worn) and what it allows me to do with my photography.  I'm thankful also for all those folks over the years who have begrudgingly sat in front of my lens just to humor me or to help me improve my own craft, especially my friends and family who I have more than thoroughly documented.

Of course I'm thankful for my family and friends.  I was blessed to have a mom and dad who raised me up to not be a complete jerk, to be able to think for myself and to install an artistic desire in me that lead me to photography.  I'm thankful for my mom's old photo albums that I've enjoyed over the years.  I now have a fairly hefty collection myself and still enjoy looking back on them.

I'm thankful for every single person that has hired me for a photography job and put enough trust in me to provide them photography they needed be it commercial or personal.  I'm also thankful and humbled that many of those past clients still ask me to do more work for them and refer me to others.

I'm thankful for the many folks out there that have taught me, inspired me, and helped me to become better at something I love.  Specifically, guys like Joe McNally, David Hobby, Scott Kelby, Chase Jarvis, Zack Arias, David Ziser, Dan Winters and actually, many, many more have provided me with countless hours of motivation, education and a desire to keep pressing that shutter button.

'Back in the day' it seemed that it was pretty hard to learn from an accomplished photographer, but it seems the ethic has changed and more and more of these masters of the glass are stepping up to help others fulfill there dreams at becoming better photographers ...even better people.

I'm thankful for our cats, one of which likes me... some of the time.

I'm thankful for Chris and the guys (and gal) at Outdoor Photo Gear who constantly tolerate my spurious whims and keep me supplied in extra cool gear!

I'm thankful also for the myriad of friends I have who have supported me over the years and been like family to me.  I'd list them, but they're just too numerous to mention, suffice to say, they know who they are... and THANK YOU!

I'm thankful for my iPhone.  Years ago I would have told you that I couldn't care less about a stupid phone ...EVER.  Well, the iPhone has changed that opinion, now if I could just figure out how to use it, other than just playing Angry Birds and taking photos with Hipstamatic that  app!

I'm also thankful for the day time job I have and the family that owns it.  They have been like family to me and that is a hard thing to come by.  I've also learned a thing or two while being employed there and while its not my dream job, its definitely been a great company to work for.

I'm thankful to have a roof over my head and a wonderful family to share it with.  While I can't say I'm going to win any awards for being father of the year, I'm thankful to have the opportunity to help raise a few eager young minds.  Its been quite the learning experience for a 7 year bachelor and I still fall on my face quite often, but they tend to not notice my faults as much as I do.  Hopefully, the kids won't turn out to be jerks either. :)

I'm also eternally thankful to have a business manager / photographer editor / creative consultant / best friend  and fiance' who can tolerate all of my misgivings, short tempered-ness and follies as a new daddy.  Without her, I'd be less of a man and photographer than I am today.  I am so thankful for Jenn.

I'm also thankful for coffee.

While I may not have the ideal life, or all the money in the world, I never have a problem finding things that I'm thankful for.

...I'm thankful that somebody out there other than me is reading this!  That means I'm thankful for YOU!

Hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving and can find things in their lives to be thankful for!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Advanced Off Camera Flash Photography Workshop!

Are you interested in learning how to take your off camera flash abilities to the next level?

Not sure when to use what kind of modifier for your flash?

Want to learn how to seamlessly balance off camera flash with ambient light?

If so, then this class might be for you!

Back by popular demand AND just in time for the Christmas holidays, I will be teaching an Advanced Off Camera Flash Photography Workshop. This class will be geared towards folks who already have a general understanding of using flashes off camera but want to do more with them.

We will be covering a myriad of techniques, in a small, personal class over a 6 hour time period!

Things that will be covered:
  • 5 Classic portrait lighting positions 
  • Balancing flash with ambient 
  • Which modifiers to use and when
  • Use of gels
  • Multiple flash solutions
  • Subject driven light
  • High speed sync
….and much, much more!

The class is graciously being sponsored by Outdoor Photo Gear, who will also be providing awesome door prizes as well as the venue for the class!!

To create a better learning environment and to ensure that participants get the most from this class, attendance will be limited to only 12 persons, so if this is something you are interested in, please direct email me to reserve your seat!!! Once we reach 12 reservations, the class will be full!

BONUS!! Cost for this workshop is only $129.00 (Cash Only day of event), however, if you attended my first off camera flash workshop, you can take off an additional $30 making this class only $99.00 for a six hour workshop!!!

When: Sunday December 11th 2011

Outdoor Photo Gear
440 Commercial Drive Suite 101
Louisville, KY 40223

What time: 10am to 5pm (with a break at lunch, roughly 12pm to 1pm)
Cost: $129.00 Cash at the Door (or $99.00 if you attended my first workshop!!!)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rogue Gels Review!

ExpoImaging (the same guys that make the really cool Flash Benders) has come out with two new, very cool products for speedlight users, the Rogue Gels Universal Lighting Filter Kit, and the Rogue Gels Filter Kit for the Rogue Grid.  The Universal Gel kit is designed to work with all sized speedlights and the Rogue Grid Gel kit is designed to work with their ever popular Rogue Grid.

The Universal kit comes with 20 tabbed filters and a band to attach the gels to any sized speedlight.  The kit includes various dramatic colors for effect, and a set of color correction gels to match your light with just about any available light from tungsten to florescent.  A really cool feature of these gels is that each one comes printed with the actual color and the number of stops of light each gel uses.  This can be really handy when determining how much light to use.  These gels also attach very easily to any speedlight with the included band.

The Rogue Grid kit is designed to be used with the new Rogue Grid and these fit easily in to the Rogue Grid holder.  This kit comes with the same tabbed 20 filters as the Universal kit and each gel is also marked with the color and number of stops of light each gel uses (I love this feature).  If you already have the Rogue Grid then this is a must have addition, and if you don't have the grid, go out and pick one up, its priced right and easy to use!

Both kits come with their own carrying pouches which if you've used gels at all, you know how cumbersome it can be to keep these organized and stored for quick use.  Also, both kits have tabbed dividers inside that tell you what gels it contains and information about each gel ...again this is an awesome feature! ...did I say that already?

I use gels all the time in my photography and you can never have too many.  The new Rogue Gel Kits make it easy to have a broad selection of colored gels, organized and ready to use at a moment's notice.  I included a short video below that shows you how to attach both sets of gels to your flashes.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The History of Photography thru Cameras!

Are you interested in the the history of photography and cameras in general?  Then you will definitely want to check out this quick behind the scenes video of Todd Gustavson's book Camera: A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital.

oh, and a little FYI, this book would make a great Christmas present for the photographer in your family. :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

New Apollo Orb and Strip Light Modifiers by Westcott!

Finally!!  Someone has come out with, what looks to be, an awesome Strip Box for speedlights!  Westcott over the last few days announced two new cool additions to their highly successful Apollo line up, the Apollo Strip Light and the Apollo Orb.

I've experimented with DIY strip lights and other off brands, but none of them have been easy to use, requiring customized speed rings or grips to accommodate a speedlight or have just been down right too expensive for my tastes.

The new Apollo Strip Light and Orb seem to be priced right and just what the doctor ordered.  The Strip Light comes in a healthy 16" by 30" with a removable front diffusion panel, the ability to be mounted horizontally or vertically and a recessed front like that of the Apollo 28" softbox.  The Strip Light also collapses down on an umbrella frame just like the original Apollo which should add to its portability and ease of use.

The Apollo Orb is a 43" octabox with removable front diffusion, a recessed front and also is built on an umbrella frame so it should be just as easy to use as the Apollo 28" and the Strip Box.  As far as I know, this may be the first octabox designed for speedlights that doesn't require a speed ring or any DIY-ing to mount your speedlights.

Another cool tidbit about both of these modifiers is that they can be used with lights other than speedlights too which should make them really diverse pieces of kit to have in your arsenal.

I don't own either of these but I can assure you I will get my hands on the Strip Light as soon as I can (and the Orb soon after) because its exactly something that I've been looking for and the Westcott Apollo series has a very positive following which leads me to believe that the quality with these are just as good as existing models.

Ahem, Westcott if you're listening, I'd be glad to review either of these for you guys. ;)

Monday, October 10, 2011

5 Classic Portrait Lighting Positions

For those interested, check out this informative video by The Slanted Lens on the five classic portrait lighting positions.  He covers everything from Rembrandt lighting to butterfly lighting along with over head views to see the exact light placement.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Powerpax Battery Management System Review

Powerpax Battery ManagementChances are, if you're a photographer, you probably have dozens of AA batteries lying around.  These days it seems like everything photography related uses them (if you're lucky), from speedlights, to radio triggers, to light meters etc etc.  I know I have at least around three dozen batteries, all of which are rechargeables and it can be a chore to keep them all organized and together.

I have tried every method and product imaginable for storing and keeping my batteries organized but have now found a product I truly love!  Chris at Outdoor Photo Gear tipped me off to the Powerpax Battery Management system.  These little guys are a breeze to use, take up little to no space, and what I really love about them is that I can keep groups of four batteries together, in a small and compact, secure device.

These little guys are made of a hard, durable plastic and aren't much bigger than a set of four AA batteries in your hand.  The batteries simply pop in through the bottom of the case and snap in to place, ensuring a snug fit.  They won't fall out due to the design of the case, however you can easily pop the batteries out with one hand, which if you shoot weddings or other venues where you need to reload batteries quickly, this can save valuable time.  When on an assignment, I always carry at least two sets of AA batteries in my pockets and up until now, I felt like I had aliens growing out of my legs due to the size of the case that I stored my batteries in, but with these new cases, you don't even notice them in your pockets.

Another thing I really like about this system, is that you can get these cases that will hold various quantities.  I personally prefer the 4-packs because most of the devices I use, either hold four AA's or two such as my radio triggers.  The 4-packs are handy to me because one important thing with batteries is to not mix and match them.  In other words, when you get a quantity of rechargeable batteries, you always want to keep them in the original group, otherwise you can have problems keeping them charged.  Some chargers will not charge batteries evenly when you have batteries of various charge levels in the charger.  So, when I get a set of four batteries, I mark them with a sharpie so that I know which set goes together.  The new Powerpax cases now enable me to keep those same four batteries together in a much easier system.

A couple of other cool tidbits about the Powerpax system is that they come in multiple colors which may help you even more in organizing your batteries.  You can even get them in a glow-in-the-dark color! ...which should come in handy for all you night flashers ;)

This product has been on the market for some time and apparently, pilots, the military and other similar groups have been using these with great success.  Now I can see these really taking off in the photography world.

To show how easy these are to use, I included a short video showing how to load and unload the batteries. (please excuse my poor video skills)  Again I have to say I REALLY love this product and am planning on getting one of these for every set of batteries I have.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Product Photography: iPhones


After reading a thread in the Flickr Strobist group about a shot of two iPhones done by photographer Peter Belanger, I decided to see if I could recreate his photo, but instead of using studio equipment, I wanted to see if I could get similar results using just a single speedlight and reflectors.

I decided to light the phones from the back (as I often do with food photography) and use reflectors to the sides and to the front to throw subtle fill/highlights back on the phones.  So for my keylight, I used an SB-800 in a 24" Lastolite Ezybox almost directly behind the phones and at about a 45 degree angle.  This might seem like nowhere near the size of the light source that the photographer used in the video, but a 24" softbox used in close to the phones appears to the phones as a HUGE light source which created a nice soft light.  I triggered that flash with my D300's on camera pop-up flash.

Next I added my fill lights (or fill sources).  Since my softbox was so close to the phones and I was shooting on a piece of white foam core, which is relatively reflective, all I needed to do was add a few more pieces of white foam core around the phone which would reflect the light from the softbox back on to the phone.  I simply added these to both sides and held one in front below the camera lens.

To get the right amount of light I wanted from the reflectors, I simply took a shot, chimped a little, then moved the reflectors either closer or further away.

You can see in the setup photo (click on it for a larger view), my position of the reflectors except for the one in front.  I was holding it, so I had to put down to shoot the setup folder.  Also, I almost never shoot on a tripod but when doing product photography, I've that its really useful to use a tripod so you can keep the same framing, then adjust your subject(s) as necessary.  If you do use a tripod, be sure to turn of the VR (vibration reduction) or IS (image stabilization) on your lens, otherwise it could create a little vibration and not give you the sharpest photo.

This is the image from the camera that I used for my final image.  I knew going in, that this would be a more labor intensive photo in post production than I normally do but I still wanted the best image I could get to start my post work from.  After watching Peter's video, I decide to use the same method he did, and shoot the phones while they were off, then add the desktop views afterwards in Photoshop.  This is definitely not my strong suit, but I took a test photo with the phones on, and my key light reduced the contrast and color of the iPhones' desktop screens, so I thought adding them in post would be the best option for the best looking finished product.

If you look closely at this photo, also you will notice that we use protective screens on our iPhones which leave bubbles and scratches but actually does a pretty good job of protecting the face.  We also use Otterbox Defender cases for more protection, but I took those off to take the photo.  I also had plenty of nicks and scratches to remove in post as well.

To get the screen capture, I simply did a "screen shot" of the home page on our iPhones and texted them to my main computer to use in this composition.  This probably would not be the best way to do this for a client as the screen shot is not that good of quality, but for just posting a photo on the 'net, it worked out fine.

After adding the home pages to the phone, I boosted the overall contrast and brightness a bit with a curves adjustment layer, then added the blue, vignetted background in post.  I had a pure white version but I think the blue background just works better and adds a little color to the shot.

So as you can see, this is actually a pretty easy setup to do, but did require a little more post work than I usually prefer to do.  However the post work really made a difference with this particular image imho.  Another reason I shot this the way I did was to illustrate the fact that you can create pretty nice product photography without having a studio full of expensive lights and modifiers.

Hope this was helpful and if anyone has any questions, please sound off in the comments!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tidbits in the Photography World

Been a while since I've blogged and I've seen a lot of cool stuff out there lately that I've been storing up to share.

First on the docket is Scott Kelby's Worldwide Photowalk 2011.  If you haven't attended one of these, do yourself a favor and find the closest city near you that is sponsoring a walk.  Its a fun time to hang out with other local photographers and to just walk around and shoot stuff in your neighborhood.  Plus, you can win prizes too!  This is the 4th annual photowalk and it just seems to get bigger every year!

Another thing Scott Kelby and his posse at Kelby Training have come up with, is the new Light It Digital Magazine for iPad owners.  It has to be one of the best resources for photographic lighting yet to be developed and the first issue is FREE!  Sure you have to have an iPad to view it, but at this point, doesn't everyone already have one except me?  Actually, my fiance' has one so I was able to watch it on her's. :)

Perhaps maybe the biggest news of the year has been the release of the new, retro Fuji X100.  If you live in a cave and haven't heard about this nifty little gem, Fuji has created a new, high performance camera in a retro-styled point and shoot body.  Its a little pricey, but it looks totally sweet and has had some really good reviews (and a few negative ones too).  If a dSLR is too big of a beast for you to swing, then you might want to check it out.  If the price tag still pushes you away, then hold on to your dollars for a trimmed down version soon to be released called the X10!

If you happen to be a fan of Expo Imaging's Rogue Flash benders and their new Grid System, then you might be interested in their new gels as well.  If you're using speedlights frequently, then you can never have too many gels around.  Check these out!

Over on the Strobist blog, the latest installment of the Strobist Bootcamp is in full swing!  Right now the current project is about Thinking Big!  If you need a little practice or just want to participate in a fun lighting project, then hop over there and play along.

If you're still thinking about one of those new, shiny little mirror-less cameras and are a Nikon fanboy (ahem, guilty) then you might want to keep your eye out for Nikon's newest addition.  So far its just rumors, but with all of the excitement of Fuji's new X100, I'm sure Nikon is wanting a piece of the photo pie.  Plus, you may even be able to get it in a color of your choice!

Have you been shooting for a while and haven't been able to get published in any cool magazines?  If so you might want to check out this cool article on Digital Photography School's website.  Seems to be a lot of useful information there!

If you're looking for a little inspiration, then check out the work of Jonas Fredwall Karlsson.  He has photographed a ton of celebrities and has a great sense of style and light, especially with environmental portraiture.

And last but not least, if you're feeling a little down, then check out this video of a kitten (totally not photography related but entertaining none the less) ...oh, the actual vid doesn't start til after the crummy advertisement.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Nikon SB-600 Speedlights

Update:  SOLD!!

 Parting can sometimes be just plain sorrow, but I need to sell off some tools to buy new ones.

I have 2 Nikon SB-600 Speedlights for sale, in great shape and good working condition, with little to no cosmetic blemishes.  I have the original boxes, user manuals and Nikon plastic cold shoes.  I can also give you serial numbers if you can't see them in the photos.  They have served me well.

I'm asking $175 each or $330 for the pair!  Email me at john(at) if interested!

More pictures after the jump!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sharing and Stealing: A Photographer's Nightmare

 I'm stealing your photos!

With the advent of websites like TinEye and Google's Image Search (websites that allow you to search the internet by photo), I have to say I was really appalled at the sheer number of times I've found my own copyrighted photos used without my consent.  Literally, I found that images of mine have been used, without permission (or credit) more times than I could possibly ever track down and resolve.  If you're a photographer, illustrator, graphic artist or something similar, and post your work on the internet, then I suggest you use one of the tools above to find out exactly how much of your work might be out there without your consent as well.

More after the jump!

Friday, July 8, 2011



So I deleted an album of photos from my Google+ account because I didn't want them on that website.  They were an album of photos associated with this blog, now ALL of those photos are missing from my blog!


Can anyone please tell me how to restore these photos?  Otherwise, I have weeks worth of work to do to replace them.

I realize this was my mistake, but Google+ should have put something on their website that says deleting photos from there can also remove them from other Google associated programs.

This makes me sick.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why Photography?

John W. Adkins I  1941-2010

Photographers as a rule, seem to be a funny bunch (ranking myself high in the herd).  Its hard to say why one chooses to become a photographer and I suspect the reasons number like the stars in the sky.  Some folks may enjoy the sheer artistic merit of photography while others may just like tinkering with glass, plastic and magnesium alloy.  Its also entirely possible that the reasons people are photographers have changed over the course of their maturity in to the craft.  For example, someone may have bought a camera simply to enjoy chronicling their children's rise to adulthood, then discovered that they had a hidden talent or a simple passion for the desire to produce memorable images.  Whatever the reasons, photography can be a rewarding pursuit in either hobby or career, albeit much easier in the former. ;)  More after the jump...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Nikon Auto FP High Speed Sync!

Jenn Lee 2
f/3.8 at 1/8000 sec at ISO 100, 4:40 PM EST, SB-800 camera left, hand held in a Lumiquest SBIII, triggered with the pop-up flash, via Nikon's CLS system

Sounds like a mouth-full doesn't it?  Sound like a really technical term?  Well don't let the terminology fool you because its really a simple function to utilize.

...btw, the FP stands for "Focal Plane"

Shooting above your camera's native sync speed with off camera flash can be a really useful technique.  Mostly this technique becomes really valuable when shooting outdoors, on bright sunny days and when you want to use a shallow depth of field.

Normally, when shooting outdoors in very sunny conditions, your settings are going to be around 1/250 sec shutter speed, f/16 aperture at ISO 200 to get a "properly" exposed image - when using strobes.  Why?  Well, because when using strobes/flashes synced to your camera, your camera is controlled by its flash sync speed.  That sync speed is the fastest your shutter curtains can travel across your sensor while still picking up the burst of light from your flash.  If you go over your sync speed, the shutter curtains travel faster than the light hitting the sensor and you will see dark bands starting to appear on the photos.  That's a really simple way of stating a more technical reason, but hopefully you get the idea.

LexiThere are many other ways to "cheat the sync speed" but since I shoot Nikon, I thought I would discuss briefly, Nikon's Auto FP High Speed Sync mode.  This method is really easy to use, provided that you have two required items.  The first is obvious, you will need a camera with this feature built in.  The second thing you will need is a Nikon flash that supports this feature.  Fortunately, all of Nikon's latest flashes (SB-600, SB-700, SB-800 and SB-900) will support this.

In camera, you simply go to your "Custom Setting Menu", then down to "e Bracketing/flash", then to "e1 Flash sync speed" and choose the fastest sync speed option you have available, which on my camera is 1/320 s (Auto FP).  I use a D300 but the location and settings should be similar on most Nikon cameras that have this ability, but check your user manual if you're not certain.

Once you have this enabled in your camera, you can just leave it on all the time.  It will not effect your camera in any adverse way by leaving it set there, and what's more important, you won't get frustrated when you think you have it turned on (and its actually not), but it doesn't seem to be working, so ...just tune it in and "rip the knob off".

If you're using your pop-up flash as the triggering method for your off camera flash, then its important to make sure that you have the pop-up flash's output mode set to "--" because the pop-up flash cannot contribute any more light than is necessary to trigger the off camera flash when acting as the "commander" in this sync mode.  So if you're running in to problems with this method, that's always one of the first things to check.

Now the downside to this method is, loss of power.  In order to get your flash to fire above your normal sync speed, the flash has to pulse shots of light as opposed to one burst.  These pulses of light are more under powered than a comparative burst of power.  Also, using the Nikon CLS system, you have to make sure that the eye on the flash can see the signal from your pop-up flash, or on camera flash.  This can give you fits, but with a little planning and forethought, you can make this work.

MikeyNow back to why would you want to use Auto FP High Speed Sync.  For one (and probably most important to me) it allows you to shoot with much larger apertures giving you a very shallow depth of field which gives you that ooey-gooey out of focus background that really makes your subjects stand out.  The images of my kids show a good example of this.  Both of these images were taken at roughly 3pm EST with an off camera SB-800 in a shoot thru umbrella, triggered with another on camera SB-800 acting as the master.

Another reason to use AFPHSS may be to freeze action.  Granted that flashes and strobes can freeze some action, however its not perfect for really fast movements.  You get that "ghosting" effect where the subject in motion seems to have a trail or blur around them.  That's because the flash freezes the subject for only a very short duration, maybe around 1/10,000 of a second, so shooting at faster shutter speeds, helps to eliminate that "ghosting" effect by effectively capturing the image faster than the action is occurring.

The last reason (that I can think of) to use AFPHSS is to give the illusion that a scene is darker than it really is like in the portrait at the top of this post.  Its entirely possible to make a shot taken at noon, look like it was taken at dusk.  By stopping down your aperture to say f/11 or smaller and using a faster shutter speed, like 1/4000 sec, you can literally turn day to night, and by throwing a little flash in there, you can have a really cool, and dramatic image.  Don't believe me?  Go try it, but be warned, you WILL be addicted. :)

I've had a few folks recently ask me questions about Auto FP High Speed Sync so I thought I would do my best to sum it up in a blog post.  If I left anything out, or if anyone has any questions, please sound off in the comments and I'll do my best to field them... but most likely after I get the yard mowed. ;)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rogue Grid Review!

ExpoImaging has come out with a cool new modifier for speedlights called the Rogue 3-in-1 Grid.  These are the same guys that brought us the Rogue Flash Benders for speedlights which are essentially snoots, gobos, bounce cards and flags all rolled in to one customizable shaped modifier.  For photographers who like to pack light, you can't beat the small size and portability of this latest series of flash modifiers.

The Rogue Grid is a really nice system because it has three different grid sizes in one small package.  These grids come in 45 degrees, 25 degrees and 16 degrees spreads that have a somewhat soft-ish fall off to the edges, unlike using a snoot.  This system comes with the two grids (stacking them makes the third grid), the grid holder and a cool little bag to carry the system in.

These guys are made of a very hard composite plastic that seem very durable and can probably take a good beating ...or at least a lot wear and tear.  These grids are attached to speedlights with the included grid holder.  You simply take the grid holder and strap it around the head of your speedlight.  It has a pretty unique system in that it will stretch and can be velcroed in to place which makes a pretty secure connection.  You don't need anything like a speed strap or extra velcro to attach these to your speed lights and by design, the grid holder can be adjusted for different size speedlights.

Once you have the grid holder fastened to the flash, simply choose which degree grid you want to use, and fit it into the end of the grid holder.  This is the only part of this system that I'm not exactly wild about because the grid takes a little work to slip in to the holder and then its only held by the tension of the holder itself.  So far I haven't had any problems with this, but I do use an extra speed strap wrapped around it to make sure it stays secure.  This is really just more of an annoyance than an actual ding on the system.

The internal grid pattern is slightly hexagonal but you can see in the photo below that it produces a circular style spread of light.  Another cool feature about these grids is the really tight 16 degrees pattern you get.  As far as I know, this is the smallest light spread by a grid for speedlights that you can get.  To get the 16 degrees grid, you simply stack the 45 degrees and 25 degrees on top of each other and place in the grid holder.  These go together quite easily as well because each of the grids are notched so that there is only one way you can stack these together.  The 16 degrees grid makes a really small spread of light, especially when used in close.

The photo below shows the various light size spreads of the three different grids.  The flash head is approximately three feet away from the wall, and I have an X and Y axis graph diagram in inches taped to the wall so that you can see the approximate sizes.  Keep in mind these sizes will vary based on your flash to subject distance.

I have enjoyed using the Rogue Grids thoroughly and can without a doubt recommend them to anyone who uses speedlights.  They do the job nicely and are compact.  These are definitely worth the money in my book!  You can pick up the Rogue Grid at Outdoor Photo Gear along with all the other cool products by ExpoImaging.

A quick word to the wise... when you first buy these and take them out of the box, it would appear that there is only one grid in the box.  That is because they come stacked together. :)  I figured this out only a few minutes after a little frustration.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New Soft Boxes by Lastolite for Speedlights!

Just wanted to take a quick second to let everyone know that Lastolite has come out with some new, very cool softboxes for speedlights!

If you're unfamiliar with Lastolite, they make awesome products for speedlights (and other photography related gear too) such as the Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe and the very popular Tri-Grip Reflectors and Diffusers.  I have the Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe softbox and one of the Tri-Grips and can definitely say that they are top quality and get the job done excellently well.

Continuing on with their successful line of products for speedlight users, Lastolite has come out with two cool new products called the Hotrod Strip Softbox and the Hotrod Octa Softboxes.  I've been waiting for a while for a manufacturer to come up with a good octabox and strip box for speedlights so I will definitely be planning on purchasing one or both of these some time in the near future.

I don't own either of these so I can't honestly attest to the quality and capability, but if they're anything like the Ezybox or their Tri-Grip reflectors, I'm sure they are top notch.  I will seriously be looking forward to getting to try these out and wanted to share the info with everyone.

For a little more in depth info, check out this video on how to use and set up the Hotrod Strip Softbox.

If anybody has one, or picks up one, please leave a comment to let us know what you think!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Flash Bus Portrait

Rudy and the Flash Bus

One of the reasons I like using flash and/or strobe is because of the contrast and control it gives me.  Sometimes I will shoot using ambient light only, but most of the time I find I can make the image much more interesting by adding light and balancing with the available ambient light.

A few friends and I attended the Flash Bus Tour in Nashville back in April and a couple of us wanted our portraits taken in front of the Flash Bus.  So after we located it and tried to find the best angle to photograph from, I took a quick ambient light only shot first, thinking who knows, maybe it will turn out nice (I wasn't really thinking that).  This is the shot below...

Pretty blah and boring huh?  Well, except of course for my model with his extraordinarily good looks.  However for the overall exposure, I thought we could do better.

So I dropped the ambient exposure by a stop or two, simply by speeding up my shutter speed.  I kept the aperture and ISO the same as the previous image because I didn't want the depth of field to change or the overall quality of the image.

After dropping the ambient a stop or two, it was time to light my buddy.  I took out a trusty Nikon SB-800 and put a Lumiquest SBIII on it so that it would be a little diffused and simply left it in TTL.  I decided that since we were attending the Flash Bus Tour that I would have to use flash (actually I just didn't want McNally or Hobby jumping off the bus and attacking us) and that I would leave the flash power in TTL a-la-McNally just to see how it went.  I was hand holding this light and directing it as best I could while I tried to keep the composition where I wanted it.

You can see in the photo below, that the sky looks much better and my buddy is lit sufficiently, but now the bus is dark and you can't really make out what it says.

No worries though, as I was packing not one, but two Nikon SB-800s!  So I took the other one out of the bag, zoomed the head to around 50 mm and placed it on the ground behind my subject, pointing up at the center of the bus.  I tried to be cautious in my placement of this light because I didn't want it to show in the photo and wanted to make sure that it lit the bus well enough to see the logo and design.  I also left this flash's power in TTL but put it in a different group, just in case I needed a different power level than my key light.  Both of these strobes were triggered with the pop-up flash on my D300 using Nikon's CLS system.

As luck would have it, my Nikon's built in metering/TTL system did a nice job determining flash output and no compensation was needed on either light.  So this portrait was a straight TTL solution with my aperture, shutter speed and ISO dialed in manually...

I actually cropped in on this a little bit as I thought it made a better composition.  This portrait is the same as the one at the top of the page, I placed it down here so you wouldn't have to scroll back up for reference.

I realize that this portrait is not Pulitzer material, but for a quick setup and shoot (took about 5-10 mins total) I feel this shot turned out much better than the ambient light only version, and its definitely better than an on camera flash snapshot imo ...of course I probably should've Photoshopped out the electrical tower and power lines, but it was just a quick portrait anyways. :)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fulltone Foto

I just wanted to take a quick minute to give a shout out to Fulltone Foto.  They are a photography lab based here in Louisville, Kentucky that still does film developing HOUSE!  They also offer a wide selection of services from framing and mounting, to slide scanning, to canvas prints.

I was looking for a local provider to develop 120 film and a friend tipped me off to these guys.  I dropped off 2 rolls of 120 film (one black & white) and a roll of 35mm on  Monday and got them back on a Tuesday afternoon!!  With anyone else I have used, it seems to ususally take a week, especially with black & white.  The prints I received were top quality and they scanned them to disc for me as well at a very reasonable price.

So if you're in the Louisville, Kentucky area and are looking to get film developed, check out Fulltone Foto!  They are located in Dorsey Plaza, right off of Shelbyville Road.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Available Light!

As a photographer, I like to tell people that I photograph with available light, that is to say I will use any light that I have available to me.  Which, in most cases, this consists of a bag full of speedlights and even a monobloc or two.  I have to admit that I consider myself a lighting photographer, meaning that more times than not I am going to augment the ambient light in any given scene with artificial light.  Personally, I like having the flexibility that artificial light brings to my photography being either work for clients or for personal projects.  Sometimes, the ambient just isn't there and if you shoot enough, sooner or later you're going to run in to a situation that a little artificial light would just make the whole day easier.

That being said, I try not to limit myself to only using artificial light as light is light, regardless where it comes from.  Sometimes, nice, overcast, soft, warm light is just hard to beat with artificial light so when I do get the opportunity, I like to try to make use of it.

Recently, I did a portrait session for a friend and beautiful young woman whom I've known for some time.  I did her senior portraits years ago and she was wanting some new photos of herself to share with her friends and family.  So we went through a variety of outfits and setups, mostly with strobes, but then we found ourselves in a park with some decent soft light and shade, so I thought I would step out of my comfort zone and try some natural light portraits.  I don't normally do natural light portraiture that often, but I found this mini session to be pretty enjoyable, and much easier than my usual light-balancing, maniacal act of balancing photons and numbers.

For all of these portraits, I switched lenses from my trusty (and beloved) Nikon 18-200 VR lens, to my little, nifty 50mm 1.8 lens.  These lenses are pretty much the only two I carry with me when doing portraits because they will cover everything I want to do, but for this natural light session, I wanted to shoot fairly wide open and let the background just go wherever it wanted, as opposed to trying to balance the exposure for my model and my background.

So I set my lens to around f/2.0-2.8 because I've found out that my 50mm is actually a little sharper when its not wide open and threw my camera in Aperture Priority mode then switched my metering mode to spot metering.  This setup gave me a little more freedom in that I can just shoot without worrying about shutter speeds and I chose spot metering because I knew it would keep my subject exposed properly while letting the background blow out a little hot.  I'm normally a little too anal to let my backgrounds blow out like this, but I thought I would just throw a little caution to the wind and see how it goes.  To my surprise, I actually liked just about all of these shots, and so did my model. :)

Another setting I used was continuous shooting mode as opposed to single frame.  I felt like this would give me a good opportunity to make sure that I catch several sharp images even with shooting at such a large aperture with a moving subject.  The only drawback to this was the incredibly larger than normal number of files I ended up with on my card.  However, since most of these all turned out nicely, I ain't gonna complain. :)  I also shifted my white balance to Cloudy because I tend to prefer warm skin tones as opposed to cooler ones.

As far as editing goes with this session, I did very minimal post work except to add a little contrast here and there, rotate the images and re-size for the web.  I also converted a few of these to black and white just for something different.

I don't think this 'style' of shooting is going to change how I normally work, but it was nice to try something different for a change and to work out of my comfort zone.  It yielded some good results for me and for my friend, with much less effort than I usually go through and gave me the opportunity to try to think outside of my proverbial box.

So the next time you're out shooting with a friend and don't have to worry about editors, clients, dollars or minutes, be sure to try something different if you have the time.  If you're a natural light shooter, then whip out a strobe or speedlight and try some artificial lighting.  If you're a long lens shooter, then try going with a wide lens, or even a fisheye!  You might find a new trick to stick in your back pocket for a later date, or even a new technique that you want to improve upon.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Joe McNally photographs Phil, the Flash Bus Driver

Random shoot of the Bus Driver. Unplanned. from Jesse West on Vimeo.

Talented photographer and Flash Bus VAL Jesse West of shot this cool video of an impromptu portrait session of Joe McNally photographing the Flash Bus driver Phil.

I actually make my 'acting' debut in this video.  I'd also like to note that David Hobby swiped my speedlight. ;)

Thanks Jesse for sharing this!!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Flash Bus Tour 2011 Review!

Epic Ride ...WINNING!

Ok, first off I'd like to say this is going to be hard for me to be impartial since I pretty much idolize these guys, but I'm going to do my best. :)

...also a brief note, some of the photos in this post were taken with my iPhone so please excuse the poor quality, and as always, click on any image for a larger view.

Photographers Joe McNally and David Hobby (the Strobist) have been touring the U.S. in a high velocity, no-holds-barred tour called The Flash Bus, teaching amateur & professional photographers the intricacies of off camera flash photography.  If you're not familiar with these guys, then do yourself a favor and check out both of them.  They are pretty much masters in their fields, and they might quite possibly be the best instructors in off camera flash photography.

The tour is running from March 11th, to April the 18th, so if you want to check these guys out, you better get moving, these venues have been selling out fast!  More after the jump...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Think Tank Photo, Retrospective 30 Camera Bag Review

Think Tank Retrospective 30

Every photographer needs a good camera bag (ideally a few).  So when it came time to upgrade my trusty old LowePro shoulder bag, I decided to check out the latest bags by Think Tank Photo.  Its not that I didn't like my old LowePro, but I was wanting a bag that was slightly bigger and one that doesn't look like a camera bag.  This is where Think Tank Photo came in with their latest line of shoulder bags called Retrospective.

The Retrospective line are camera bags designed not to look like camera bags, which, if you're a photographer who has spent any time in crowds or in locations where its best to not look so conspicuous, then you can most definitely understand how valuable a bag like this can be.  Think Tank has several sizes and color styles available, but I decided to go with the largest, the Retrospective 30.  I also chose the Pinestone color as opposed to the black.  I think I like this color primarily because it looks even less like a camera bag and also has a more 'rugged' look to it (which should go well with my rugged good looks, cough ;)
Not only does this bag look great, but it has a ton of room!  This bag can easily hold 2 camera bodies, multiple lenses (even a 70-200) a flash or two and all the batteries, cables, gels and what not that you can stuff in it.  The interior is easily customizable with removable, velcro dividers and can be configured to hold any camera body with just about any lens attached.  I like the Retrospective 30 because its size allows you to place a camera with a lens attached in various positions, depending on the lens you use and still have room for various other necessities.

One of my concerns about this bag was whether or not it had enough pockets to store smaller items.  After checking out this bag, I can tell you it has more than enough!  There are neatly arranged pockets everywhere on this bag, inside and out.  The arrangement is smart and designed to hold everything from batteries to memory cards to even note pads.  There are 2 big flat pockets on the inside, front and back, a large flat pocket on the outside of the back, pockets on shorter sides, inside and out and even smaller pockets inside the larger ones.

Another awesome thing about this bag is that while it isn't water proof, it does come with an excellent rain cover that packs away neatly in one of the front pockets.  This was another concern of mine since my old bag was waterproof.  However, I've used other Think Tank products and their rain covers work perfectly.

Something else that is definitely worth mentioning, these bags are built like tanks!  The stitching and hardware that Think Tank uses reminds me of military grade products.  I think it would take years of wear and tear to damage this bag and considering Think Tank's customer support, I believe it would be no problem to get replacement parts or repairs done.  However, I don't ever anticipate this being an issue.

The last thing I really like about the Retrospective 30 bag is how comfortable it is to wear.  My old shoulder bag was a little more rigid and felt like wearing a small TV around my neck.  Since the Retrospective 30 is soft sided, it almost molds to you as you have it around your neck or shoulder and this bag has a huge, no slip shoulder pad which makes it really nice if you prefer to just carry it on your shoulder.  For a large shoulder bag, its definitely the most comfortable one I've owned.  For those interested, this highly sought after camera bag model is available at VERY affordable rates. :)

If you're interested in a new shoulder bag, then I would definitely check this one out.  I picked up my bag at Outdoor Photo Gear which carries every Think Tank product available and their customer service is second to none!  If you're local and would like to check out any of these bags first hand, give the guys at Outdoor Photo Gear a call, or just stop in to check them out.

oh, and as always, click on any pic for a larger view!