Photography On Location

Alien Skin Exposure X2

September 20th, 2016

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There is some terrific software being introduced that will give photographers some new editing options, including non-destructive editing similar to Lightroom. I’ve long been a user of Exposure, and they have really added some great new features in recent updates including Exposure X2. Exposure is best known for its brilliant analog film action presets. If you want to duplicate a film style, just choose the preset for the effect. I still use these presets on many of my portraits. Presets are only the beginning with Exposure 2. The program has a very robust editor, and anyone who uses the Develop module in Lightroom will feel right at home using similar tools in Exposure 2. The right side has a variety of panels with familiar tools including the histogram, basic editing tools, detail (sharpening), color, bokeh and tone curve. Exposure X2 offers some other tools including one of my favorite, overlays. You can add flare effects with the click of a button, or choose to add textures and grain using overlays.

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What is really exciting about the new version of Exposure is the addition of browsing capabilities. What this means is if you have a folder of images and want to quickly browse the shots, as well as edit them, you can do all this from the same window (no module changing). If you organize your images using a folder structure, then you will really benefit from the browsing/organizing features of Exposure. I can easily see myself using this program on a shoot to browse images from the day, do some quick editing and adjustments, and be able to present to images to clients the night. The program is can now be used as a standalone (or as a plugin to LR or PS). Cost is $149.

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EL Wire light painting

September 13th, 2016

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After being inspired helping Dave Black teach a light painting class, one thing I knew I wanted to try out was light painting with an EL Wire. The wire looks like a fiber optic cable that is glowing red, green, purple…you have lots of color choices. How does this work? As with a lot of light painting, you just experiment until you get an image that seems to work.

Fort Collins, CO. portraits

Fort Collins, CO. portraits


Here was my technique. Starting in a totally dark room, I had my model sit or stand in front of a black seamless background. Using a 30 second exposure, my wife first started by twirling the EL Wire behind and sometimes below the model for about 10 seconds. Next I illuminated the model using Streamlight Stylus small colored flashlights for the rest of the exposure. And the results were amazing! Definitely excited to try this outside during a star shot!

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D500 quick selection of flash control screen

September 8th, 2016

Last spring I wrote on this blog about how to set a control button on your D810 to bring up the flash control window with one click. If you were using the popup flash as a commander, this gave you one click access to the flash control window to adjust your flash setting. Recently I was having breakfast with Dave Black, a wizard of flash photography (check out his work and classes here), and he mentioned you could do the same thing with the D5 and D500. He showed me a diagram of how to do it, and I want to pass this along. Since D500 and D5 owners can use radio control of the SB5000, this is controlled via a flash control window on the LCD on the back of the camera. Knowing how to get to this window quickly is especially important.

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First step…attach your WR-R10 to your camera. I found I couldn’t access some windows without the transmitter attached. Next, go to MY MENU and and choose add items.

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Now choose PHOTO SHOOTING MENU.

Now scroll down to FLASH CONTROL and select this (hit OK button).

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Next, select GROUP FLASH OPTIONS and hit okay. You have now put this at the top of your MY MENU.

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Now go into the CUSTOM SETTING MENU and choose CONTROLS>Custom Control Assignment.

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At this point you need to choose what button you want to assign this control. I chose my Fn2 button since I don’t use it for anything else. Hit OK.

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That’s it. If you hit the Fn2 button your flash control screen pops right up, giving you instant control of your flashes.

Thanks again to Dave Black for sharing this information. Check out his Workshop at the Ranch blog for loads of instruction flash technique and many other topics as well. Happy shooting those new SB5000s!

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SnapBridge available for iPhone

September 6th, 2016

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If you own a D5 or D500, and use an iPhone, you have been anxiously waiting for SnapBridge to work with your phone. SnapBridge connects your phone and camera via bluetooth to allow direct transfer of your images to your phone. In other words, you can post quicker onto all those social media outlets. I linked my D500 with my iPhone 5 this morning, and here are few things you might have to do.

1. Update your camera firmware. I bought my D500 when they first came out, so I need to update to firmware version 1.10. Here is the update. Just follow the instructions, it is easy to update camera firmware.

2. If you are worried about those massive 20mp files filling up your phone, the app allows you to size your images to 2MP so you don’t fill up all your drive space with photos.

3. You can also set SnapBridge to use the location and time settings from your phone and embed this into your images. Very handy.

If you are wondering why your bluetooth option is grayed out in the camera menu (meaning you can’t select it), SnapBridge will turn it on as you go through the pairing process. Also, once the camera is paired with your phone you won’t have to do it again. It will automatically pair the next time you shoot.

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Rogue grids and softboxes

September 2nd, 2016

Fort Collins, CO. portraits

Fort Collins, CO. portraits


Rogue has been putting out some great speedlight accessories recently, updating and adding to their extensive line of products. I have been using their XL Pro Reflector, grids and their large flashbender (as a snoot) with great results. They recently added a soft diffusion screen to put over their XL Pro, creating nice soft light.

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They also offer a grid to fit over the XL reflector. This narrows the spread of light, and is very helpful for portraits. In the image at top I used a Rogue 25 degree grid to light the model’s face, and the XL reflector with grid to as an accent light for her hair and shoulders. Many speed lights today zoom to 200mm for a nice concentrated light, but this is not as narrow as you can produce using grids with your speedlight. Rogue also offers colored gel inserts to the grid system, as well as gels to attach directly to your speedlight. They have a new tightening strap that is a part of the grid and reflectors, no need to search for that velcro strap in your case. Check out their products and some great instructional video at Rogue.

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Figuring out the best light on your trip

August 29th, 2016

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Most photographers travel to get their images, sometimes to a nearby town, other times to the other side of the globe. But how do you know when that Barvarian castle is going to be in the best light? I use an app called Light Trac. Basically you punch in the name or address, the date, and it will show you exactly which direction the sun will rise and set using colored lines on a google map. I love the slider at the bottom. You just push this left or right to scroll through the times of the day, and the app will move the sun angle line to show you exactly where the sun is at that time of day. Here is my workflow to determine the exact time and side of the castle to be on months from now!

1. Using google type in the location you are photographing. Google will show you the address, as well as photos and a map of the spot.
2. Type in the exact address into Light Trac and hit search to find the location. Now you have a google map the app uses, similar to the one you are using on your computer.
3. If I can’t tell enough detail from the google street map, I hit the link to see the location on google earth. Then I zoom in to see the exact orientation of the castle.
4. Using this detailed map and the nearby roads for orientation, I can now match perfectly a certain part of the castle to what the Light Trac app is showing as the sun angle.

That is all there is to it. If I am going to a new European city or national park with a iconic feature, I’ll check the light angles and best times using the method above. Getting the ‘lucky’ shot always favors the prepared!

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Speedlight modeling light

August 26th, 2016

Loveland, CO. light painting

Loveland, CO. light painting


I was recently on a portrait shoot and was talking with my assistant about how convenient a modeling light is for portraits and landscape flash. If I want to make sure my flash is aimed perfectly at my model’s face, using a modeling light will show me where my flash will hit. The same can be said for using flash in landscape photography. If I add a snoot to my flash to narrow the beam to illuminate the one orange aspen leaf in a sea of yellow aspen leaves, a modeling light will give me a preview of where my flash will illuminate the scene. But here is the problem. To trigger the flash test button (or modeling light) on a speedlight, you need to hit the button on the flash. Not convenient when you are looking through your camera ten feet away and don’t have an assistant with you. But you can trigger the speedlight modeling light right at the camera.

Try this with pop-up flashes in commander mode or using a hotshot mounted wireless transmitter. Simply hit the depth of field preview button and presto! Your flash will fire the modeling flash for a few seconds, and you can preview where your flash is aimed. As simple as that….

The image above was shot a few days ago on a Dave Black light painting workshop. Dave is the master of light painting, and has taken this craft way beyond illuminating a building with a flashlight. Check out his images and workshop schedule here.

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D500 impressions

August 12th, 2016

Fairbanks, Alaska.

Fairbanks, Alaska.


I’ve been shooting the D500 all summer, and I thought I would share some impressions on this ‘mighty little camera’ from Nikon. I’ve shot thousands of images with this camera from Indonesia to Alaska. On one assignment in Alaska I shot over 4000 images using the D500 for variety of subjects from portraits to wildlife. What’s the verdict? Wow!
Palmer, Alaska.

Palmer, Alaska.


First off, let’s talk about autofocus performance. The D500 steals the same autofocus system as the flagship D5, but puts all those sensor points in a smaller frame to match the 1.5x sensor. What that means is you have more focus points, literally one side to the other side, in the D500. Better coverage than even the D5. If you want to track eagles in flight, you’ll love the D500. And at 10FPS and a buffer that never seems to fill up using fast SD cards, you will have more frames than you need.

Wasilla Alaska.

Wasilla Alaska.


Next, how about weight? This camera is small and lightweight, coming in at 1.14oz. Add the new 16-80mm (24-120 full frame equivalent), and the total package weighs 2.9 pounds. By comparison, the Fuji XT1 with 18-55mm (27-84mm full frame equivalent) weighs about 1.7 pounds, so the difference is around a pound, but the Fuji lens doesn’t have as much zoom as the 16-80mm. The Sony A7 with a comparable lens is about the same weight as the D500 with the 16-80mm. So with comparable lenses you have less than a pound difference between many mirrorless equivalent systems.

Talkeetna, Alaska.

Talkeetna, Alaska.


How many times do you thumb through your phone pictures or screens during the day? Just use your finger the same way on the touch LCD screen on the D500. At first I couldn’t stop using the thumb dial, but now all I do is rapidly scroll through my images using the touch screen. And I even found myself using the articulating screen to get a better look at my macro flower shots.

Probably the biggest concern I had was moving to a 1.5x sensor camera since I use D810s for all my shooting. There were a few times I wanted a wider angle than I could get using my standard 24-120mm F4 full frame lens. But on the flip side, I photographed Alaskan wildlife using the 300mm PF F4, which gave me an angle of view of 450mm. I’m seriously considering buying the DX format 16-80mm to use for travel and portrait photography.

The downsides? I am super excited to use Snapbridge to wirelessly transfer images from my D500 to my iPhone, but currently the IOS version isn’t available. Nikon says it should come out this month. With that released, the D500 is going to add another feature that makes this one powerful camera.

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SB5000 wireless compatibility

July 25th, 2016

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I really enjoy getting questions from readers of my blog about topics I post. A photographer friend just sent me an email asking if it is possible to trigger an earlier speedlight such as the SB900/910 using the SB5000. The short answer is yes. Take a look at the photo above. The SB5000 is in commander mode in OPTICAL WIRELESS mode. You can tell the flash is in optical mode by the zigzag icon in the upper left next to the ‘S’ with an arrow on it. I have triggered my SB900s (in standard Remote mode) using my SB5000 in this mode (flashes set to TTL mode) and gotten great flash exposures with no compensation.

The beauty of the SB5000 is its ability to work seamlessly with earlier speed lights and cameras that can’t utilize the new radio wireless function. Another interesting question I received is can you trigger the SB5000 in radio wireless mode while at the same time triggering earlier speed lights in optical wireless mode. I don’t think this is possible. If you are using the new wireless transmitter (WR-R10) to trigger the SB5000, then the earlier speed lights won’t get this signal. However, you could put your earlier speed lights in SU-4 mode and they will fire every time the sensor sees a flash burst. The flashes work in manual using SU4 so you won’t have dedicated TTL.

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Two minute portrait

July 11th, 2016
Palmer, Alaska.

Palmer, Alaska.

I just returned from weeks shooting assignments in Alaska; over 13,000 images. One of my assignments was for a tourism bureau photographing a variety of activities, places and people. A typical day might start out at sunrise (4am in Alaska, ouch!) photographing moose, then onto some nice scenic mountain vistas. Next up is photographing a musk ox farm, and then onto a golf course shoot. And after shooting the fairways and putting greens, it’s off to a brew pub to photograph beer. Now I must admit it is hard to photograph a beer pub since I would rather be sampling the beers! But the real challenge on a shoot like this is working fast. Really fast, as in you might have 30 minutes to shoot the entire facility, interior, exterior, sampling room and create some nice portraits. The portrait above was shot in the brew pub in two minutes from start to finish. Here’s my technique to get a nice portrait on location when you only have a few minutes.

First up, the tools you need. For this shot I used my Nikon D810, a SB5000 and a SU800 to trigger the flash wirelessly. Next, to get that beautiful soft quality of light, I use a Lastolite 30″x30″ square Ezybox. This softbox pops open like a collapsible reflector, and can be set up in 30 seconds…I don’t know of another softbox that sets up faster. The box (retails for $156) has an interior and exterior baffle to create soft light. You can either mount the soft box on a stand, or in this case I had my assistant hold the box.

Here is my workflow. First, set up the soft box; 30 seconds. Next, I set my exposure using manual mode in my camera. I normally under expose my background by about 1/2 stop when shooting inside. This takes me about 30 seconds. That leaves 1 minute to take the shot. I use TTL mode for my flash exposure, which normally is just about right. Knowing where you want your subject to stand and what position for the light ahead of time will eliminate extra time you could use shooting the portrait. One big light shot wirelessly using TTL produces great results fast.

Practice at home or with friends. The faster you master the ‘two minute portrait’, the more images you can create. I often use this exact technique on travel photography trips. Gauchos in Patagonia or Balinese dancers may only have a few minutes to give you for their portrait. Make that time count!

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