I just recently sat down and viewed the entire download which you can find here. I didn't get it for free nor do I get anything if you purchase a copy. For many photographers, flash is either a mystery or even if you understand the concepts of light the little tricks of the trade, gadgets, grips, etc. leave you a bit lost. I'm not speaking about TTL camera sytem controlled flash but off camera flash set to manual or studio flash. I rarely use TTL flash, and I will say learning this from scratch was a bit difficult. Shooting back in the film days was a difficult world without a light meter, using guide numbers, not knowing the outcomes until film was returned. One of the reason medium format cameras were so popular, polaroid backs gave you feedback for camera settings, i.e. exposure. In today's world, it is easier but exposure with flash still stumps lots of photogs especially when you take the flash off the camera, set to manual and start adding modifiers.
David Hobby was the first photographer that I found who made sense of flash in the digital age. I probably have read every blog he has ever written, bought his DVD's and learned tons from his experience. So now along comes Zack Arias, a very creative and edgy photographer out of Atlanta. You can check him out with Google, but he does some very interesting work. He recently released a set of videos which I highlighted in the opening sentence of this blog. It's the best set of "how to" videos I have seen on shooting manual flash, off camera or studio. He takes you through the camera, grips, lighting principles, and lots of examples. At $75 it's a bargain if you want to learn how to use flash. The principles is this video apply to studio flash, off camera flash, or any light you want to use in properly exposing your image. After you watch these videos, the next step is practice.
That's right the second card failed and the only cards that I have ever had corrupt on a shoot. Yesterday, the card quit loading images after shooting a bit. I noticed the images were not showing, then my camera a Nikon D4 starting giving me card failure warnings. When I brought the card back to the studio, it simply would not load or read. No matter what card reader I used, it simply was not recognized by my computer, a Mac Pro. I downloaded recovery software but without "seeing" the card, software is useless.
Next I went to support. They didn't have a number to call or I couldn't find one. They had a series of questions to respond to before you could contact support. I filled out most but couldn't remember when I bought the card, and the ID number wasn't on the card so I could not request help. I wasn't trying to claim warranty issues, I just wanted the images and would gladly pay if necessary.
All which leads me to the point, if your images matter, don't buy Transcend!
So my new personal project is documenting the recordings in a studio called Greaseland. Greaseland is the product of a prodigy musician Chris Andersen from Norway. Chris is a member of a touring bluesband called Rick Estrin and the Nightcats. Chris aka Kid Andersen has turned his house into a recording studio with every room except the bedrooms having a musical purpose. Here are a couple snaps of the kitchen for example.
Here is the hallway filled with amps.
And here is one of the archive shots showing Wee Willie Walker of Muscle Shoals fame who's being recorded this week, having a bit of fun with musicians in the living room.
So you can see this house is really turned into a music studio. Just a few shorts years ago this was not possible, you had to go to one of the "established" locations to record. With digital technology, you can replicate studio sound with some modifications almost anywhere. Now, what makes this so special besides the technology, is the guy mixing, controlling the sound and that's where Kid Andersen comes in. I'm no music expert, but folks who are think Kid is really gifted in mixing and putting together music. So much so that many of the long time musicians call him "genius" at this. Personally, I have now way of knowing if this is true or not, but many folks who I know think he is. Add this up, you have a house filled with technology and DIY sound arrangements(on one session, the guitar amp was in the bathroom, which I discovered when using it and someone started playing the guitar), you have a guy at the helm whose gifted, and you have some really great musicians coming by to record their CD's. To add a bit of credentials to Kid, one of his productions was nominated for a Grammy this past year, but didn't win. Here's a look at the heart of the studio the "control room" aka the storage closet. Kid is on guitar playing on Willie Walker's CD while the band is in the other room playing, Willie is in the laundry room with the mike singing. Rick Estrin of blues fame is reading the words as Willie sings helping coach Willie on the voice part.
Here's Willie singing.
No I'm not crazy, I think this is something special on many levels. Photographically it really pushes me to capture intimate moments. For example Willie recording doesn't look like the picture above but the one below. Musicially I believe this represents the future, and Kid's skill and talent may well propel him to the forefront.
And the living room looks different when everybody is playing like this image.
Their are special still images all around with this gear like the painting of Lisa, Kid's wife who is also a great musician of American Idol fame.
So that's where my special project lies at this point. I have documented two recordings so far, will do the first Podcast this Friday interviewing Wee Willie Walker along with Kid as the cohost. This may turn into a regular thing with these interviews, we will see. The photography is challenging but great, the story is terrific, and the podcasting may be just as interesting and challenging. So do you have a personal project? Better find one! More later.
In the next 3 podcasts, Brian and I will be talking about fantasy gear, that's gear without regard for cost. We will cover 3 types of photography. This podcast leads off with landscape, followed by street, and finally wildlife, sports and action photography. Here is the first installment "Landscape Fantasy Gear".
At the limits of what a camera can handle at high ISO, the images seem to become a bit soft, colors can get funky, and light meters can play tricks on you. At least that's been my experience with the Nikon D800E and Nikon D4. The following images were shot with a Leica M at ISO3200, 35mm Summicron lens(2.0) under pretty extreme conditions. Normally I would "add" light in these situations but did not on this particular night.
The first image is on the outside of a strip mall; a music venue where the lighting is OK. No big lights but some street lights and mall lights work pretty good. You can see from the shadow the lighting from the mall.
Next is inside the venue, the colored lighting can play tricks that can be somewhat but not always corrected in Lightroom.
Now I'm sitting in the front row of the audience, shooting up at the performers. Looks pretty good for no flash. The most difficult part is focus. The Leica M is manual focus and the subjects continually move around, and I'm shooting for the most part wide open(2.0) so depth of field matters in the image. In this case, you can see the focus on the hands is soft while the face is much sharper.
Next I'll shot from about 3 rows back in the middle of the audience. I cropped to just get the stage.
Next I went behind the bar, didn't sneak any drinks, to shoot across the bar in the direction of the music. Again you can see the impact of the depth of field.
Overall, the Leica M shoots reasonably well in these low light conditions, as I said earlier, the difficulty is focusing in the low light with moving subjects. I would give the camea high marks compared to anything else I have shot under these conditions, noise is manageable, and the colors are OK but have to be tweaked a bit in Lightroom or Camea Raw because of all the colors.
Yep, there are things I love, and things well let's say I don't love about photography today. Brian and I did a podcast on the changing landscape of photography, those things we love and hate. Check it out here or in iTunes.
A lot of photographers think you need to use TTL all the time when photographing with camera flash. That's just not accurate, in fact I rarely use TTL for several reasons. First and formost, it burns up a lot of battery juice. Secondly, I don't have control over over the image, the camera does all the thinking for me. I use manual flash 95% of the time even when my subject to flash distance varies. Let's take a situation where the subject to flash distance is fixed or moves around in a limited area. As a concrete example, let's take the stage below. I have 3 camera flash units hanging from the ceiling, no power packs, just batteries. I have attached pocket wizards to each. I'm shooting at 1/8th power and the flash is set to manual. The shutter speed is not relevant, simply dial in what your camera manual tells you for flash. You now control the light with your f/stop and ISO.. If I need more/less light, I either adjust my f/stop or my ISO or both. I set the camera at f5.6, ISO 200 to start and do some test shots, adjusting to get light I want. After that, I just shoot from any angle, opening up the f/stop if I want better crowd definition. The flash on the back of the stage serves two purposes, it is a back light to highlight the performers and it adds stage drama with the starlight burst.
I can come from any angle, the flash works fine.
I can capture clsoeups with no problems.
Or, as you can see here, putting both lights in the frame adds drama.
At 1/8 power the batteries hold up for shooting all evening within reason, you don't have to hang battery packs, and you get plenty of light with todays digital cameras. Another big factor, you don't pop a big camera flash on camera so you can be more stealth in positiong yourself for shooting. My lenses vary; for dancing/groups I like the 24/1.4, closeups 70-200mm/2.8, both with a Nikon D800E. I sometimes use the same lighting setup with a 50mm Summicron on a Leica body. As a note, you can slave the flash units with the commander on the camera but other folks using flash will trigger your lights and that's an issue.