I pulled out an image from two years ago, in one of my backup external hard drives, and was surprised I overlooked it. I did post a version of this image but not the slow motion one. This illustrates how a neutral density filter can add to your photography. If you slow the motion, you get great results with water. I could have framed this better, but what you don't see are the hundreds of people with me, viewing the same sunset and photographing same. The crop is tight so you don't see the heads, bodies, and other assorted things in the image. Summer is definitely not the right time to be Yellowstone, but summer is better than no time. Yellowstone is a wonderful place full of wildlife, open range, beautiful mountains and you are only a stones throw away from the Grand Tetons. My favorite thing about Yellostone are the wolves, eleven packs as I last checked roaming around in territories. They stay clear of people but they are visible in early morning and late evening at the right locations.
If you have an IPAD, check out the Good Reader APP. It's an easy way to download in PDF format, camera manuals, flash manuals or any other reference you need while in the field. It's easy, allows you to organize your downloads in folders, access and read. I have downloaded my camera manuals for the D3, D90, D200, D3X, all the flash manuals in two folders one entitled camera manuals and the other flash units. I downloaded the manual for Photo Mechanic, CS5 help, and assorted other reference documents. I plan on adding a Keynote Slide show, on the ready for whatever location I'm going to as well as first aid guides, location explanations etc. Good Reader makes sense for those who carry reference manuals with them. Take a peak.
OH, BUT BEAUTIFUL AND DANGERSOUS1
The adjustments to these images involved CS5 and a bit of cropping. Many single images contain multiple opportunities to create a different feel. Also, Monique is a good example of how facial expression controls beauty. People often say, "I don't take good pictures", but they are attractive? The reason is facial expression, our faces constantly move and a camera stops that movement so the trick is to find that facial expression that defines your individual beauty. The more expressive you are, the more "looks" you have with your facial movements. Great portrait photographers train themselves to be able to "see" that special look. The rest of us have to take a lot of pictures, pray, and hope. Sounds like a good title for a book, and maybe a movie. You want to figure out your look? Maybe another blog or I will put in the book.
To view the image when in video, you need to convert your LCD screen to live view and have an eyepiece that allows continuous view. To do this, you need to have an eyepiece over the LCD, and one that is attached to the camera so that you can view as you shoot. Two popular types are Hoodman that attaches to the hot shoe and Zacu Pro 3X that fits to a unit that attaches to the bottom of your camera. Google either one and you will see how they work. The big difference right off is price. The Hoodman all in, goes for around $200+ and the Zacu for $400. They both fit well to the camera within the attachment constraints, i.e Hoodman takes the hot shoe, Zacu does not. This could be an issue if you want to add LED lighting to your hot shoe. In terms of quality build, no doubt the Zacu is better, but I don't think twice as good. I have used Hoodman products for a long time and they perform and last. But plastic can break and the attachment to the hot shoe may be a weakness, but mine has held up fine. The Zacu Finder is much larder than the Hoodman so less compact. Both view the subject extremely well, the Zacu redefines the look of the camera with its size. The specifics of how they fit, the Hoodman has a arm that fits into the hot shoe, and swings the 3" viewer down over the screen. The swing arm feels a bit fragile, but as I said nothing has happened to mine so it's holding. The Zacu appears rock solid. A mounting platform is attached to the bottom of your camera by a screw just like a tripod. A "holder" for the Finder is then attached to this base with two screws. The Finder then snaps on to the holder, very sturdy and you are ready to go. To me the optics are similar.
If you are going to be doing serious video, the Zacu is the way to go. Otherwise, I think you will get along fine with a Hoodman, doing the occasional video, playing/learning the process. The difference being durability. A final note, you need one of these type adapters for the DSLR. You can not effectively shoot video without an eyepiece(on a quality level). The next issue is how to steady the camera. I'm currently using two devices from Manfrotto, a fluid head and a 595B RIG DV Camera Support. More on these two in a later blog.
Video has a steep learning curve even though as photographers we understand f stops, aperture, etc. This is a new ball game from capture to post processing. With DSLR video, the tools are amazing, all the lenses, and endless possibilities, but the video learning curve is steep.............and I'm at the bottom of the climb. I'll keep posting progress.
I'll post some more of the images describing the setup. As you can see, I asked Monique to swing creating the hair movement, to her left at 45 degrees is an Octabank and on the right is a soft box and the lighting is very even.
In this image, I reduced the lighting on her left, which was an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra and the light on the right side of her face was an Elinchrom Octabank with a Profoto Head. She jumped in the air and landed in the position of the image, which caused the hair effect. In post processing, I softened the image a bit for a different less aggressive feel.
Creating the extreme, I posed Monique in a fighter stance, very aggressive, muscular and post processed to exaggerate the pose. The skin/muscle was created by high tonal contrast. She will likely not be posting this image for her clients. They may run and hide. This image does reveal the stage I used for all poses, so you can see the exercise stand and wall that was used for the backdrop in all images except the floor images(which have not been posted). Where the stand is not visible, I darkened in Adobe Camera Raw to eliminate the distraction of a bench. I did the same thing with the wall to isolate the eye on Monique.
The final image of today's blog is a posed position, not created by action. You can see the difference in this type of image and one that results from action/movement. I just asked Monique to hold her glove up, positioned her hair so we could see the eyes, and fired as she flexed "in place". All of the lighting is the same set up with different EV(power) settings to shadow or light even. I had an Elinchrom Octabank on the left and a soft box on the right.
This is just a sample of the "looks" you can get. The first step is to get in your head what you want the image to look like. Try some things, talk to the model, get feedback, and keep going until you achieve what you want. Sometimes, it simply will not work. I had in mind a shot from the floor looking up with a wide angle of Monique punching a mitt, sweat running down her face, water in the air..... you get the idea, but could not get it to work.
I have lots more images, may post a few more but have to move on to other topics soon. Have a nice weekend, I have been out of town all week and it is nice to be home. Podcast likely on Monday.
Without the images ( I'm still in DC) I will describe the lighting that I used for the recent gym shoot with Monique. First I used two different lighting systems-Elinchrom Ranger Quadra and Profoto Monolights. Elinchrom uses its own proprietary wireless system that's not compatible with the Profoto heads. So I used Pocket Wizards, atttaching one to the Elinchrom battery so that the firing of lights was coordinated. I have both systems for flexibility. The Elinchrom Ranger Quadra are very portable, fitting in a case about the size of of a large briefcase and this includes two batteries. You could put one head in your pocket they are so small, yet they produce great light. Google for all the details. The heads are undersized, you need an adapter to use full size light modifiers with an Elinchrom speedring. So, I put the Quadra head on an adapter and it will fit any regular Elinchrom light modifier, i.e. softbox, octabank, strip light, etc. I used a small soft box and a strip light. Both of these are from Creative Lighting, a company that produces very high quality modifiers at a very reasonable cost. You can check them out at Amazon. The octabank I used is Elinchrom, with its inward facing light. This simply means the flash is facing the back of the octabank and reflects the light. The octabank is big, a beautiful softlight, with multiple applications. Strip lights with grids create dramatic light, and add serious mood to situations. A softbox is just a smaller version of an octabank with soft pleasing light. The Profoto lights are monoheads so they are big, but cycle time is a breeze and no battery to watch. When I go outside, I can use the Quadra with a battery or the Profoto heads with my Honda Generator (gotta be careful when choosing a generator). So that's the type of lights used, now to the gym set-up.
I liked the idea of shooting with the gym equipment visible until I thought about the reflections from the shiny machines. So I looked around, found a wall with a brown cloth cover that had no real pattern and that's my back drop. The carpet was mosaic and while you could fix in photoshop, I chose to shoot right, fix only what you are forced to. So, a sturdy gym table commonly used for jumping exercises was used to raise the shoot (model stands on). It also enabled me to shoot up, giving Monique more of a power position which helped create the image. So we have Monique on a raised platform, to her left a softbox, strip light or no light option and to her right at 45 degrees, the octabank. On either side, a single light creates the most drama, using both lights eliminates shadows. We moved the lights to different angles based on the shadow effect we wanted to create, to highlight the muscle structure. When using lights, I start off with a light meter reading from a hand held, preferably one with a built in pocket wizard. Some folks just take a few shots to nail it down, but I like the meter especially with multiple lights at different angles.
Now to the actual lighting for the shoot. I set up the lights with the modeling lights on to get an idea of how the light would fall, but the real test is looking at the digital image. So, I set it up judging as best I could from the modeling lights, fired a few shots made adjustments by moving the lights and adjusting the individual power until the image looked as I wanted. Then you are ready....so the next part is directing the model. You can't just say "go" and expect someone to pose. You need to have an idea of what you want her/him to do. In other words, you need to have thought through the movements you want them to make, talking it over, soliciting input, shooting, adjusting, until you have what you want. In the case of the image I posted, Monique turned her head backwards and came around swinging as though she were throwing a punch. We did this time and again until we caught her in the just the right position, tummy muscles tightened, shoulders rotated, glove dropped a bit so the shoulder was exposed, hair slung for motion, lips pursed for drama and eyes wide open. Sounds great but we did not start off with these points, we discovered them by shooting and looking at what was wrong with the image. For example, we saw the glove blocked the shoulder, the tummy tucked looked much better, the eyes could be shut, the hair could sling to far forward blocking the face. So we practiced for each of these until we got it all right. Looks easy, sounds sexy, but in fact its a lot of work and attention to detail. And all of this is for a single pose. This isn't grin and shoot, but hard work at figuring out what works, how to express it, and then making it all work. And to me, that's what makes it fun, the challenge, the outcome can be so cool, and best of all, every time I do this I learn something new. The technical side to the gear has a short learning curve, the fun part is creating the vision, figuring out how to execute it, and making an image that's worth everyone's time and energy. If you don't have a vision, the best gear in the world will not save you from mediocrity, if you can't talk through your vision with a plan and get inside the model's head with your ideas, the outcome will disappoint. If you can do these last two things, you can capture your image with a flashlight. The hard part is hard, so it helps to talk about it with everyone who is with you, listen to the ideas, think about alternatives...and go forth. The hard part is fun, exciting, creative, and if handled properly everyone gets infected, and becomes proud of the image. And in the end, you get the credit as the photographer but everyone knows they all were responsible, and you need to reinforce that notion. And that's why I like to shoot these settings, hard work, creative fun, and if it works, wonderful results. Tell me what could be better.
When I'm in a gym, I work out, but tonight I spent several hours shooting Monique who is competing in a couple of weeks in a professional figure contest. This is not body building but figure and that doesn't mean glamor, it means fitness. This required lighting and I use Profoto and Elinchrom Ranger Quadra lights. Both are outstanding, the Elinchrom which performed wonderfully are also more portable. I used an Elinchrom Octabank, two 1X4 strip lights, and a softbox, but not all at the same time. Most of the shoot involved the Octabank and another softbox. I used the strip light down low when she was in a push-up position, with a grid(photo's to come but not today).
Enough technical stuff, I will write about the lighting in another blog, giving all the details, it's late but I did want to post one of the images. To say she is buffed, is an understatement. She is a professional trainer, and spokesperson for weekly videos promoting fitness. This contest requires a super human regiment of training- two and one half hours a day, plus a strict diet. It pays off as you will see in this image. More to come on the shoot, technical stuff, and fun stuff that it is very interesting. I'm writing this in hopes she will love her images; otherwise, as this image shows, she will kick my butt! AND, I barely escaped this punch, my cat like reflexes are failing me.
Unified Color's new software was made available today as a free upgrade to your existing PhotoStudio product or as a stand alone at the special introductory price of $99 through the end of July. This new version is called Expose and offers some exciting new features. Top of the heap, is the histogram that is tied to a tool set for making adjustments to your merged image. Keep in mind this image is 32 bit so small adjustments and refinements can be made with these tools. Using the cursor on the image, you can see the data in the histogram, and/or make overall adjustments with the eyedropper. Plug-ins for Lightroom and Aperture, are now included and the list goes on. This may sound a little confusing so I'm including a Podcast to assist. The conversation is with John Omvik Director of Marketing for Unified Color(and a heck of a good photographer) and was recorded today in Los Gatos California. Further, you can get tutorials at : https://www.unifiedcolor.com/tutorials.