October 25th, 2016
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.
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.
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.
October 11th, 2016
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.
October 3rd, 2016
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 octal. 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.
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.
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.
September 29th, 2016
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.
September 20th, 2016
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.
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.
September 13th, 2016
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
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!
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.
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.
Now choose PHOTO SHOOTING MENU.
Now scroll down to FLASH CONTROL and select this (hit OK button).
Next, select GROUP FLASH OPTIONS and hit okay. You have now put this at the top of your MY MENU.
Now go into the CUSTOM SETTING MENU and choose CONTROLS>Custom Control Assignment.
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.
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!
September 6th, 2016
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.
September 2nd, 2016
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.
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.
August 29th, 2016
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!