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Archive for December, 2006

Supposed to be shooting!

Posted in misc on December 29th, 2006 by gregr

That’s right, I’m supposed to be shooting right now.  I had an fashion editorial shoot planned, to be shot in the studio.  If you haven’t been involved in many photo shoots, lemme tell you, there’s a lot involved…but everything was ready.

  • Model – check
  • Makeup – check
  • Hair – check
  • Wardrobe – check
  • Assistant – check
  • Studio/set – check
  • Another blizzard in Denver – check

Yep, had to cancel the shoot because of weather. So instead of doing a fun shoot right now, I’m sitting at home, just came in from shoveling snow, and looking at a picture of a snow-covered branch that a friend sent me.  Ahh, you gotta love Denver’s weather!

So to remind me of warmer days, the picture on this post is the fantastic model Amy, shot on an island in the Caribbean earlier this year.

2006 Year in Pictures

Posted in misc on December 28th, 2006 by gregr

From MSNBC, their annual Year in Pictures.

Some excellent and thought-provoking images.

[via Thoughts from a Bohemian]

Simulated candlelight

Posted in lighting, strobe on December 21st, 2006 by gregr

On one of the forums I hang out on, there was a post asking for advice about how to take a candle-lit portrait of several children all at once. One of the responses linked to this site, which says:

If you mix outside light sources, be they tungsten bulbs or strobes with amber gels, you will lose the legitimacy of the scene. An image like this tends to look more set up and fake when you deviate from your original idea.

The problem was, though, that there are three children – and they’re just not going to stay still long enough to get a really long exposure. So I got to thinking, I bet you could do this with strobes…and the fact that the other site said that’ll never work appealed to my sense of adventure. :-)

As you may know, Denver is pretty much shut down, and we’re all snowed in…so I had limited resources for this. No one else is here, nor could they get here, so my mannequin head (which I call “Angelina” :-) was going to have to suffice. And I could only find one place in my house I could get things completely dark during the day today, and that was a bathroom. So forgive the primitive arrangements!

I first photographed the scene using candlelight only – this is what I got:

Nice and moody, pretty much what I was going for. This was shot at ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/4 sec, from a tripod. Any movement (subject or camera) whatsoever would blur the entire image.

Next it was time to try to simulate this with a strobe. I measured the candlelight to be somewhere around 2100K; a strobe with a full CTO gel is the closest I could get to that, in the neighborhood of 2800K, so that’s what I used.

I used a single strobe, using a 10 degree grid and the CTO gel, and positioned it so it would hit the face at roughly the same angle as the candlelight. Here’s a shot of the setup (like I said, primitive I know!):

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the strobe further away from the subject, and I was on minimum power…so I was shooting at f/22. This required a 1/4 sec exposure to bring in the flame sufficiently; the difference, though, is that only the flame is being exposed for that 1/4 second. The subject is only illuminated with the strobe, for a very short duration – which means that if the subject is moving around, like those kids are inevitably going to, you’re still going to be fine.

In the end, this was the final result:

It’s close, in mood, to the candle-lit shot, although not perfect. Getting the strobe a little further away, or dialing down the power, would allow a faster shutter speed and/or showing more ambient light at the top of the candle from the flame. Generally, though, this is close – the light is falling off in generally the same pattern, color temperature looks roughly the same.

So don’t get me wrong…ambient light is great, and strobes aren’t for every shot. But in this case, where difficult subjects might be involved, using strobe could make the difference between taking home a good shot, and sifting through lots of “ok” shots looking for one that’s acceptable.

White Lightning X1600 mini-review

Posted in lighting, products, review, strobe on December 19th, 2006 by gregr

Ah, my first studio strobes – the White Lightning X1600’s. I remember them fondly…unpacking them, the first test firings, and the first actual shoot I did with them. And I also remember selling them. So before I forget what I liked and disliked, let me write it down here, in the hopes it helps someone.

First, what I liked. The build quality was excellent – they feel like you could drop them and they’d probably still work. I also liked the 1/4 power mode – effectively giving you a 660 ws strobe with a 7-stop range; very nice.

Other plusses are the 250W modeling lamps (nice – only a few manufacturers ship more powerful ones), and the relatively quick (for the price) flash durations.

Here’s a list of what I didn’t like about them, though:

  • The little fingers that hold accessories on the end (such as speedrings) aren’t confidence-inspiring. If I was hanging a 7-foot octadome on the end of one of these strobes, especially on the end of a boom where I’m adjusting angles on the fly and such, I’d be pretty nervous that the whole thing might come crashing down. Now, I get that there are other ways to mount heavy accessories without having them hanging off the mount on the strobe, but I’d rather not have to worry about it.
  • There’s no ready-beep. This sounds stupid, but it was a deal-killer. When the strobes are fully recycled and ready to fire again, there is a little light on the back panel that goes on…but unless you’re looking at the light, that doesn’t do any good. Just a little beep is all I ask! This is especially important if your style of shooting is pretty quick – for me, this comes up in fashion shoots.
  • They will fire when partially charged. This compounds the ready-beep problem. Since there is no audible ready indicator, you have to just wait until you think the strobe is probably recycled (a second or two maybe), and then shoot again. But if you fire too soon, the strobe will still flash – just not at full power. So you get a random amount of power – not a good situation if you’re shooting where every shot counts. I’d rather they not fire at all until they are charged and ready.
  • I don’t like the slider power controls. Say you’re using several strobes, and you want to take one of them down 0.5 stops. You slide the slider thing a bit, so it looks like 0.5 stops…but you’re never sure. If you have two strobes, and you want them both down 0.5 stops, and you and your assistant each adjust one of them, it’s almost certain you’re not going to move them the same amount…so out comes the meter. IMHO, digital controls are much easier to manage.
  • Power consistency on the lower end was iffy. On several occasions, I noticed that when shooting at low power settings, the shot-to-shot power difference would vary by perhaps 0.3 to 0.4 stops. I hesitate to mention this, because this was anecdotal, and I wanted to do a bit more analysis, but I never did do that…so I mention it here in case someone else has run into this.

All in all, the WL1600’s were bulletproof and completely reliable, and I still recommend them to some folks…but the negatives I listed above eventually became show-stoppers for me and the way I shoot, and I ended up selling them and buying different lights of another brand. More on that here.


Posted in misc on December 18th, 2006 by gregr

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