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Lastolite EzyBox Softbox

September 19, 2011

For the longest time, I wanted to get a Lastolite EzyBox softbox.  The EzyBox is a portable softbox that is designed to work with a hotshoe flash.  It folds down very quickly into a compact size that is easy to take with you.  I finally decided to get one and I am glad I waited until now.  Recently, Joe McNally, one of my favorite photographers, teamed up with Lastolite to produce a signature line of their products.  His version of the EzyBox uses a white interior, rather than the standard silver.  The white produces a “creamier” look to the diffusion, which is what I was looking for.

In case you don’t know, a softbox is a light modifier that is often used in photography for portraits.  The box itself is typically constructed of lightweight black fabric with a silver reflective or white interior.  White translucent fabric panels are used to diffuse the light as it passes through to soften the light before reaching the subject.  Softboxes come in many different sizes and shapes, providing many options for photographers to create different looks with lighting.

The EzyBox I bought is the medium-sized model which is 24″ X 24″.  To me this is a great size for a typical waist up portrait or head shot.  If one were trying to shoot full body shots, a large softbox would probably be preferable.  Here are a few shots of the EzyBox shown with a hotshoe flash attached to the included bracket:

Side view of the EzyBox with a Canon 580 EXII flash and Radio Popper JrX wireless receiver

Front view of the EzyBox showing the white outer diffusion panel

Rear view of the EzyBox showing the flash bracket and speed ring

I finally got a chance to use the EzyBox this past Saturday.  Laggie wanted a new portrait that she could use for Facebook since the one she had showed her with the baby belly.   Thomas is about three months old at this point, so it was time to change out that photo.  🙂  She went to Joann Fabrics during the week and found a cool piece of fabric that we could use as a backdrop and sewed up one end so we could hang it from the background support rod.  I got everything setup on Saturday afternoon and used the kids as stand-in models to test the lighting setup.  In addition to using the Canon 580 EX II flash in the EzyBox, I used my LumoPro LP120 with a 1/4″ Honl Speed Grid to light the backdrop.

Here is a behind the scenes setup shot for the lighting.  Notice how my studio looks a lot like a living room and dining room?

Canon 580 EXII in EzyBox high and a little to the right, LP120 to the left and aimed at background

Here are a couple of test shots I made while getting the lighting dialed in:

Carla posing for a quick test portrait. Canon 40D EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS @ 50mm f5.0 1/160 ISO 100

Kyra being silly while wearing my glasses. Canon 40D EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS @ 50mm f5.0 1/160 ISO 100

After taking these test shots, Laggie was ready to get into the frame.  Here is one of my favorites from the shoot:

Canon 40D EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS @ 55mm f4.5 1/160 ISO 100 - Lighting info: Canon 580 EX II @ 1/4 power in Lastolite EzyBox, high and just to camera right, LumoPro LP120 @ 1/32 power with 1/4" Honl Speed Grid aimed at the background, Lastolite Tri-grip Sunfire reflector below.

As you can see, the quality of light from the EzyBox is quite nice.  It has a nice soft look while still creating nice shadows to give it a more dramatic look.  I’m really looking forward to using this light modifier more in the future.  I definitely want to use it on a location photoshoot soon to create some really cool lighting.

Foto Friday #8

September 16, 2011

Well, it’s been a while since I blogged anything. I’ve definitely been busy. I’m currently in the process of editing wedding photos from the last wedding I shot. It’s certainly tough to get time when you are trying to balance working full time, taking care of young children and attempting to build a photography business on the side. Anyway, doing the best I can to keep up here.

The photo for today is one I shot at my church this past Sunday. I happened to have a camera with me because we had several special guests coming to speak and I wanted to grab a few shots of them during the service that day. I was up on the stage with the praise band in the morning getting ready for our sound check when I snapped this shot of Eduardo, our guitarist. (I play bass in the band.) He’s playing his Paul Reed Smith Custom guitar here. I ended up converting the image to black and white using Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2. I like this one a lot because of the candid nature of it.

Eduardo is leaving the band in the next few weeks to pursue his passion for music. He’s heading down to Full Sail University in Florida to study sound engineering. We will definitely miss his presence in the band while he is away. As for me, I am stepping up to play electric guitar in the band, so there will be a bit more pressure on me to learn the leads for the songs we play.

Happy Friday!


Canon 5D EF 24-70mm f2.8L @ 43mm f2.8 1/60 ISO 1/1250

Foto Friday #7

September 2, 2011

Last Saturday as Hurricane Irene was inching it’s way toward Connecticut, we went to my friend Garry’s wedding. Garry married the beautiful Lindsay, his long time love. It was held at The Barns at Wesleyan Hills in Middletown, CT. Due to the rain, the wedding ceremony was held inside. I didn’t want to bother bringing my large camera, so I just brought the Nikon D60. Let me just say that I hate using the pop up flash because I can’t stand how photos look when using it. I don’t have a hotshoe flash for this camera, so I did my best to just use a high ISO and hold the camera steady with the slow shutter speeds I was getting. I was only able to get a few decent shots throughout the event, but I wasn’t there to shoot the wedding anyway so it wasn’t a big deal. I was really trying to enjoy the time with my wife and celebrate my friend’s marriage. The lighting in the barn was very nice and set a great mood for the event. I wanted to capture some of that mood, so I took a moment and went up on the balcony overlooking the hall and made this shot. I am sure that Garry and Lindsay are enjoying their honeymoon in Aruba right now and that they aren’t missing any of this hurricane stuff.

Happy Friday!


Nikon D60 AF-S 18-55mm @ 18mm f3.5 1/30 ISO 1600


September 1, 2011

Carla looks out the window as Hurricane Irene blasts our neighborhood with wind and rain.

The rain started Saturday, causing my friend’s wedding ceremony to be moved inside. It was very humid, but not windy at all, and the rain came and went through the day. We had a great time at the wedding and then picked up the kids from my mother in law’s house on the way home because we heard that Hurricane Irene was going to hit Connecticut early Sunday morning. It rained a lot during the night and winds began to pick up during the early morning hours. I got up early with Carla while Laggie slept late. Carla and I watched TV and I occasionally looked out the windows to see what was going on with the storm. It really wasn’t as windy as I expected and at times, the wind died down to almost nothing. In fact, I’m pretty sure that there have been stronger winds during some of the thunderstorms in recent years. I enjoyed watching TV for a while, knowing that pretty soon the power would go out. Sure enough at about 11:30am it did.

I have lived in Connecticut all of my life and I am used to the occasional power outage due to thunderstorms and snowstorms. I figured we would be without power for maybe the rest of the day until the storm moved away from the area. By 2 or 3pm, things has pretty much slowed down outside and there were lots of leaves all over the place. No real damage from what I could see out the window. Around 5pm, I couldn’t take sitting around the house anymore and went to go out to the gas station to fill up my car so I would have gas to drive to work for the week. I also bought some ice to keep our milk cold in a cooler. The main road had power and most of the businesses were open. I figured that was a good sign. After getting gas, I drove around the area for a bit looking to see if there were any trees down. I didn’t see any major damage to power lines. As I drove around, I also looked for signs of electricity in use in people’s houses. Some people had TVs and lights on. The street leading from the main road to my neighborhood had power, but not us.

We kept waiting for the power to come back on that night and it eventually got dark. Still no power. Not a big deal because I figured we could just go to bed and hopefully have power by the next morning. Luckily, we have the town water supply, a gas water heater and a gas stove, so we were still able to flush toilets, take hot showers and cook on the stove. Of course, the refrigerator was off, so we were sure to open and close it quickly if we needed something in it to preserve the cold air inside as much as possible.

Monday came and went with no power and we started to get concerned about the food in the fridge. We couldn’t find ice anywhere. Everyone was out of it. Things were starting to warm up too much in the freezer and we brought some of the stuff that was still pretty frozen to my mother in law’s because she had power. We also hung out there for a while and charged up the iPad and cellphones. By this time, I was constantly checking the outage map and statistics on CL&P’s website. Vernon had about 25% of customers without power at that time.

Tuesday came and went and about 15% of Vernon still had no power, including us. By Wednesday evening, it was down to about 7%, but we were still in that 7%. At this point, we were really starting to get sick of not having power.

At 5am this morning, after having trouble sleeping because it was hot an humid in the house, we heard the power click on and the light in the hallway went on. Finally! It was so nice to be back in business. Of course, one of the first things I did was go down to my office and turn the AT&T U-Verse box back on so we could have TV and wireless internet.

This has to be the longest period in my life that I have ever had to live without power. We normally take it for granted that the power is always on. It’s a bit alarming though that this somewhat weak hurricane was able to cripple the power grid so easily. As I write this, there are still just over 260,000 customers in CT with no power. In some towns, the majority of the town is still without power. I hope that everyone’s power is restored soon so we can all get back to our daily routines. I am definitely looking into options for generators at this point. I can’t imagine if we had a more catastrophic storm and lost power for several weeks or more.


Carla and Laggie make the best of the situation by doing some coloring by lantern light.

Foto Friday #6

August 26, 2011

I’ve been a bit busy lately, so I haven’t had much time for blog posts.  As it is, I’m scrambling to get this done before I head off to work.  I’m also a little short of ideas at the moment.  🙂 I’m hoping to come up with some interesting topics in the next few weeks.  I do have a wedding coming up next weekend, so be on the look out for some wedding photos!

I made these images a while back when I first got my Alien Bees B800 studio strobe and a beauty dish light modifier.  I was just testing the lighting out and had my kids stand in as models.  Of course, they get bored very quickly standing there for me, because they really want to be hanging out watching TV instead.  Anyway, in order to have it be a bit more fun for them, I told them to pose in different ways and they ran with it.  I didn’t set out to make these composite shots, it just worked out that I had enough different poses to do one for each of them.  Strobist details:  The beauty dish was directly overhead with a sock diffuser and the light was about 1/8 power.

Happy Friday!

Canon 40D, EF-S 17-55mm @ 55mm f7.1 1/125 ISO 200

Canon 40D, EF-S 17-55mm @ 55mm f7.1 1/125 ISO 200

Foto Friday #5

August 19, 2011

Let me just preface this Foto Friday by saying, “Don’t try this in your car”. I always keep my camera with me in my car in case I come across something that I want to photograph, but with the idea that I would not be driving the car at the same time. In the case of this photo, I actually had to grab the shot while driving. Probably not the safest thing to do in the world, but I couldn’t resist when I saw this heap driving down the road the other day. I might have given the driver the benefit of the doubt had he been on a side road and appeared to be on his way to an auto repair place, but this guy was hauling down the HOV lane on the highway with a couple other guys in the car. I’m not even sure how the front wheel was still on the car at this point. This is just an accident waiting to happen. Hopefully, the dummy driver got it fixed soon after this.

Happy Friday!

Nikon D60, AF-S 55-200mm @ 55mm f4 1/160 ISO 800


August 13, 2011

Nikon D60 18-55mm VR @ 22mm f4 1/5 ISO 1600

Quite simply, ISO, when used in reference to digital photography, represents the light sensitivity of the image sensor. A lower value equals lower sensitivity, while a higher value equals greater sensitivity. The typical range of ISO values on a camera can vary, however just about all Digital SLR cameras have a range of about 100-1600. As newer cameras have been introduced in the past year or so, the upper end has expanded to 3200, 6400, and even 12800 in some higher end camera bodies. As the ISO value is turned up, the potential for noise in the photos also increases. Digital noise appears as grain and specs of color throughout darker areas of an image. Choosing the proper ISO is often a compromise because of the potential for noise.  (See my post about reducing noise using Lightroom 3)

Along with the aperture and shutter speed, ISO is the third factor in the “exposure triangle”. These three settings work together to produce the exposure in an image. By exposure, I’m referring to the proper level of lighting in an image. Of course, exposure can be somewhat subjective based on the photographer and the scene in the photo itself. That being said, underexposed photos would typically appear too dark to the average person. An overexposed photo would appear too bright in most areas of the image and most likely have areas that were completely blown out to pure white.

Since the ISO value represents how sensitive the camera sensor is to light, it makes sense to use different ISO values based on the lighting situation you are in. I say this with the assumption that a flash is not being used and that you are holding the camera in your hands rather than using a tripod. A good flash can help to overcome challenging lighting situations and a tripod can be used to steady the camera and allow you to use a slow shutter speed. I’m sure I will eventually discuss using flash in a future post. 🙂  A good rule of thumb is to start at ISO 400 in normal daylight. If it’s a very bright day, you can change to ISO 100 or 200 and reduce the potential for noise to almost nothing. On the other hand, as lighting drops off, you will want to start increasing the ISO to a higher value. Indoor settings typically have lower lighting, so it’s not a bad idea to move up to ISO 800 or more.

Assuming you are using a fairly constant aperture setting, the main reason for changing the ISO setting is to allow for a decent shutter speed that will help to prevent blurry pictures due to camera shake. Let’s say for example that you are shooting indoors with no flash and your aperture is set to f3.5 with the ISO at 400. In order to make a proper exposure, according to the meter in the camera, you need to use a shutter speed of say, 1/15 of a second. Well, that’s a pretty slow shutter speed. There is a pretty decent chance that even if the lens has image stabilization built-in, you will end up with a blurry photo due to hand holding the camera. In order to get a faster shutter speed, you will need to crank up the ISO. By increasing the ISO to 800, you can get the shutter speed to 1/30 of a second. Better, but still kind of slow. Increasing ISO further to 1600 will get you 1/60 of a second. This is definitely a more useable shutter speed than 1/15. The trade-off, of course, is more noise. 

I think that the easiest thing to do is to start at ISO 400, like I mentioned, and then experiment with your aperture and shutter speed. If you find that your shutter speeds are slowing down, i.e. slower than 1/60 of a second, try turning up the ISO. Go from 400 to 500 and see what that does for the shutter speed. Continue to increase to 640 and then 800. (note: some lower end cameras may not have the middle values so they may jump right from 400 to 800).

The more you experiment and learn how to use the settings, the more you will be able produce properly exposed photos in different lighting situations. When it comes to photography this is really the core of it; learning to get the right amount of light into the camera.


By the way, the photo above was taken at Plan B Restaurant in Glastonbury, CT, which has pretty low lighting.  You’ll notice that I cranked up the ISO to 1600, which is the highest normal ISO setting that the Nikon D60 can do.  Even at an aperture of f4 and ISO of 1600, I could only get a shutter speed of 1/5 of a second.  The trick here was to rest the camera on the table so that I wouldn’t get any camera shake from hand holding it.   I was also careful to press the shutter button firmly and not let it go until after the shutter had opened and closed.  This also helps to reduce camera shake resulting from pressing the button and just letting go of it immediately.  I liked how the lower angle, natural lighting and somewhat shallow depth of field produced a more interesting look rather than a straight on shot with flash. 

Foto Friday #4

August 12, 2011

I was browsing through my photo libraries looking for something to post for today and I came across this shot.  This was from a Memorial Day picnic at Wickham Park in Manchester, CT.  My daughter Kyra is on the left, along with some other girls from the church youth group.  They were having a great time playing volleyball in the sand volleyball court. I was shooting photos of them playing and then asked them to do a fun shot.  I would say that it took about 15-20 tries to get this shot because they would all jump up at a slightly different time.  They were laughing and having a great time trying to all get in sync so they would be in the air at the same time.  They finally got it and I grabbed this shot.  I love it because it’s just a fun image.  Happy Foto Friday!

Canon 5D - EF 24-70 f2.8L @ 38mm f2.8 1/1600 ISO 400

New Parents

August 10, 2011

I want to congratulate my friend Steve and his wife, Ketsana, on the birth of their baby boy, Nicholas Lee Walker! Nick was born on Monday night (8/8/11) at 11:15pm. He was 7Lbs 10oz and 20.5 inches. This is their first child, so I know they are in for quite a few changes in their life now as they adjust to taking care of this little one.
My wife and I stopped by last night to visit and meet Nick. We brought a few gifts and hung out for a little while. Of course, I brought my camera and snapped a quick portrait of the happy parents and their new bundle of joy.


Downtown Hartford Skyline

August 6, 2011

From the garage where I work, there is a pretty cool view of downtown Hartford, Connecticut.  I’ve been meaning to get a shot of it and finally got around to it yesterday.  I drove to the top of the garage so I could get a higher viewpoint.  Here are a few of the shots I took:

Downtown Hartford, CT

Nikon D60, 18-55mm VR @ 18mm - f9 1/1000 ISO 400

Hartford State Capitol Building

Nikon D60, 18-55mm VR @ 55mm - f5.6 1/1600 ISO 400

Another view of downtown.

Nikon D60, 18-55mm VR @ 18mm - f9 1/1000 ISO 400

Another shot of the Capitol.

Nikon D60, 18-55mm VR @ 55mm - f5.6 1/2000 ISO 400

This is a shot of downtown from the other morning.  I liked how the sun was shining through the clouds.

Nikon D60, 18-55mm VR @ 29mm - f4.8 1/4000 ISO 400

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