Photography On Location

Everyone is a photographer with camera in hand.

December 1st, 2016

Tucson, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona


Recently Scott Kelby came to Denver to do a full day talk, “Shoot Like a Pro, Reloaded”. Naturally I decided to go visit and heckle Scott from the back row. I do training videos for KelbyOne, and have had some fun times shooting with Scott. Sitting in the audience it was a pleasure to see how polished Scott’s presentation was; he had the audience fully engaged for hours. I always love watching other educators do their presentations to see what tips I can pick up.

Scott said one thing during the presentation that really made sense to me. We all know photography has both creative and technical aspects, but it often seems today the technical might overshadow the creative. Everyone likes to talk gear, editing, histograms, apps…these are things that help us achieve our creative goals. But Scott said “when you pick up a camera, it doesn’t matter what your profession is, you are now a photographer, an artist.” Forget about that other stuff, use the LCD preview to see your PHOTOGRAPH. Don’t get caught up in all the technical. His statement reminded me of something I mention during my composition class; “Don’t let the technical inhibit the creative.” Or as Pablo Picasso said, “The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.” Go out and shoot, develop your creativity, and focus on the photograph.

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Rogue Flashbender 2

December 1st, 2016

Fort Collins, CO. mad hatter portrait.

Fort Collins, CO. mad hatter portrait.


I have been focusing on speed lights recently, especially with the release of the radio wireless SB5000 (incredible flash). I have been using a lot of Rogue flash accessories to create my images, especially the Flashbender 2 XL. This is a very versatile accessory; you can bounce flash off it, add a diffusion panel to make a soft box, roll it into a snoot, or even use it to flag unwanted light. Take a look at the their instructional videos here.

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Cyber Monday deals

November 27th, 2016

ssingh-ray

If you are looking for some good deals on photography gear and software, start shopping now. This weekend and Monday numerous companies are having great deals. One item I noticed was Singh-Ray filters. If you haven’t tried shooting with a 10 or 15 stop ND filter on your last trip, you don’t know what you are missing. Imagine fast moving clouds during the day shot at 4 minutes. This is easily accomplished using this filter, and the effects are incredible. Numerous software companies are offering their suite of applications at huge discounts. Interesting in some photography or Lightroom training. KelbyOne is offering big discounts. If you are shopping for yourself or a photographer on your list, don’t miss all the deals that are being offered right now!

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Portraits in the snow

November 18th, 2016

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The last thing most photographers want to do is go out in the snow in a howling snowstorm. Not only are you going to be frozen, but your gear is going to get wet, and if you are photographing models, they probably aren’t going to have a great time. If you are shooting adventure sports, then no problem, that is the norm for many shoots. But what about a model in a dress standing in a blizzard. That is another story.

Yesterday we had our first snowstorm of the season, and that was what motivated me to do an urban shot in downtown. I’ve found that the more reasons I come up with not to go out and shoot, chances are good the photo is going to be great. Why? Because no one else is doing it, and I probably don’t have many images similar to the one I would create. For this image I used two important items. First, my lens was the incredible 35mm f1.4. This lens is my favorite street and environmental portrait lens. And shooting at 1.4 always gives me incredible bokeh. The only trick is don’t put your subject to close to an edge where distortion at 35mm might stretch out the features of the your model. Second, since we were moving around a lot to avoid the wind and heavy snow, my lighting setup consisted of a SB5000 and 1 large (32″) umbrella. I attached my flash and umbrella to a Lastolite Triflash bracket, and used this to hold my light. I shot in TTL mode with my flash, and after dialing the flash down 2/3 stop, I got good exposures the rest of the shoot.

The snow adds a terrific atmospheric effect. The flash pops the snowflakes, making them more apparent and adding to the tension in the shot. The model, Ester, was a rock star. Despite standing in the howling snow at 25 degrees in a light dress, she acted like it was a summer day. Gotta love those tough Colorado kids.

The next time you see snow in the forecast, start planning your shoot. Whether it is landscape, adventure sports or portraits, snows adds a dynamic element to your image.

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Softboxes for Speedlights

November 5th, 2016

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I use a wide variety of lighting in my photography. The transformational quality of light brings many of my images to life, especially portraits. When I travel I often use speedlights in my work. The trick is getting beautiful, soft light from a speedlight, and having enough power for the job.

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There are three softboxes I frequently use. First, remember the softness of the light is directly proportional to the size of the light relative to the subject. Bigger sources like large softboxes produce soft light (as long as you keep the box close to your subject). My favorite softbox and the one I use the most with speedlights is the Latolite 24″ Ezybox. This box pops open, has two diffusion panels, and produces nice soft light. A single speedlight mounts in the box, and you can’t beat how fast this soft box is ready to use; literally in 15-30 seconds you are ready to shoot, great for quick travel portraits.

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A small version of the Ezybox is the Lastolite Speed-lite. This box is 8.6″ square, and attaches directly to your speedlight. The box features both interior and exterior diffusion panels similar to a large soft box. Since the box is smaller, the light is a little more edgy, but still nice light, especially coming from a small box. I like to use the box when I want edgier light.
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The last softbox I use is the 30″ Foursquare. This box is unique in that the bracket holds 4 speedlights, great when I need more power and quicker recycling. It takes a little more time to set up, but packs down nicely into a 20″ long bag that you can attach to your photo backpack. The image at top was taken with this soft box. Using SB5000s and a radio signal from the WR-R10 wireless controller, I don’t have to worry about the orientation of the lights in the box, they fire every time.

I’m heading to Cuba soon, and I will be bringing a few of these softbox options. The portraits are going to be amazing!

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Pro Media Gear Elinchrom ELB 400 cage

October 25th, 2016

standclose
If you are like me, your gear gets pretty beat up. Since I shoot on location in remote areas in harsh conditions, I am constantly testing the ‘waterproof, dirt proof, shock resistant’ aspect of all my gear. I rely on my Elinchrom ELB400s for many of my location shoots. On a recent ‘cliffside wedding’ shoot for Elinchrom, we had ELB400s sitting in the mud and dangling from carabiners 24 feet off the ground on light stands. If only I had the Pro Media Gear Cage for my ELB400 for that shoot.

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This lightweight aluminum cage is designed to firmly fit to the ELB400 and has a lot of useful features. First, the cage has handles that make it easy to carry and position. If you still want to use your shoulder strap, the cage has attachment points for the strap. A really handy feature is the cage offers multiple attachment points for other pieces of gear. For starters, you can mount a standard 5/8″ lightstand adapter onto the cage to provide a place to attach a flash head. This is the perfect solution when you want to use a low background stand and don’t have one. Just attach the flash head to the cage.

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Another really cool feature is the light stand mount. This mount screws into the cage, allowing you to attach your ELB400 on a lightstand section off the ground. No more worries about putting your pack in the snow or mud, just mount it directly to the light stand.

This cage offers a lot of useful options in a lightweight, simple design. I have been using mine on shoots and love it. Stay tuned for more behind the scenes. The cage can be purchased at Pro Media Gear for $179.95.

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speedlight diffusion dome

October 11th, 2016

dome
Most speedlights come with a diffusion dome. This small white translucent dome snaps onto your speedlight and diffuses/softens the light. Or does it? Here is a quick guide when to use the dome, and what it really does.

A fundamental lighting principle states that the soft quality light on your subject is directly related to how large the light source is, and how close the light is to the subject. If I use a three foot diameter softbox and place it right next to my subject, I will get nice soft light. Move that softbox 20 feet away and take the same shot, and the light will be less soft with stronger shadows and contrast.

The diffusion dome cap’s ability to soften the light is limited by how large it is. The cap is about the same size as the flash head, so even if I place this near my subject, the light will have strong shadows and not be nearly as soft as a softbox. But the diffusion dome does some important things.

1. fill flash; if you are walking around a market shooting portraits with fill flash, add your diffusion dome. The dome takes the hard edge of the light; not really diffusing it, but takes the directional edge off the light which ‘softens’ the flash.

2. softbox use; if I am shooting my speedlight in a softbox, I use the diffusion dome. The dome will spread the light all through the interior of the softbox. When the light leaves the softbox, it is more even…i.e. no hotspots in the middle.

3. fill the room with light. Occasionally I will need to fill a room with light for an interior shot, and the diffusion dome will help with this task. The dome spreads the light in all directions.

There you have it. The diffusion dome is an important accessory for the speedlight shooter. Just know when to use it.

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Elinchrom 190cm Indirect Litemotiv Octa

October 3rd, 2016

Fort Collins, CO. portrait in old town.

Fort Collins, CO. portrait in old town.


Elinchrom rocked the photography world when they first introduced the indirect octabank. This six foot octabank used a flash head aimed back into the light, not forward like most soft boxes. With the flash oriented indirectly (back into the octa), the light is evenly bounced and softened creating beautiful light coming out of the octa. Another benefit was the even light quality coming out of the octal, barely any difference from the edge to the center of the light. Add to that the enormous size, and you have a light that is legendary among photographers.

Fort Collins, CO. portrait in old town.

Fort Collins, CO. portrait in old town.


Not long ago Elinchrom updated the venerable indirect octabank, now officially the 190cm (75 inches) Indirect Litemotiv Octa. I recently upgraded from the original, and the new Litemotiv offers some nice upgrades. First, the inside material is more reflective giving you more light output for your flash. This is important when using such a big light. Next, they kept the brilliant design which made for fast setup and durability that lasted on countless photo shoots. The handle and strong bracket system make adjusting the light angle very easy. When you wrap your shoot, the light easily folds down into a nice carrying case.

Fort Collins, CO. portrait in old town.

Fort Collins, CO. portrait in old town.


I often get asked what is my favorite all around light on workshops. The Indirect Litemotiv Octa is hard to beat. Imagine photographing a model, or remote villager, using a beautiful six foot plus soft light. It’s like wrapping someone up in a cushy ‘light blanket’. Your images are going to be amazing! The light sells for $1420.

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Goal Zero Yeti 150; Solar power on the run

September 29th, 2016

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I’m often shooting in the backcountry away from power, or maybe in my trailer without power hookups. My solution to power on the run is Goal Zero. Goal Zero makes a variety of solar powered batteries and panels, and they work great. I’ve used the Sherpa 50 on countless backcountry trips. Combined with the small solar panel, you can backpack with this unit and have enough power to recharge camera batteries or your phone. For bigger devices like my laptop I use the Yeti 150 (pictured above). This can charge my computer twice, or my camera battery about 12 times, before I need to recharge it. You can use a Goal Zero solar panel or just plug it in at dinner when you go to town. If you need power on the run, check out Goal Zero. The Yeti 150 sells for $229.

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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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