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Flash Composite

October 6, 2011

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I had been meaning to try out a flash composite portrait shot ever since I attended a workshop by Ryan Brenizer and he demonstrated the technique. It’s a neat way to create a unique looking portrait using only one light source. This shot is really just my first attempt at this and was only meant as a test. My family was just hanging out in the living room and became somewhat willing subjects of this experiment ūüôā

The first requirement for creating a photo like this is to use a tripod. I suppose one could handhold the camera, but it would be difficult to keep the camera position identical for each shot. The tripod will allow you to take multiple shots that will line up correctly when layered together in Photoshop.

Obviously, a flash is also a requirement. In my case, I used a Canon 580EX II flash and I attached a Lumiquest Softbox III to it to diffuse the light. The flash was in “slave” mode and was triggered using another 580EX II on the camera, which was configured to be the “master” and not actually fire itself. I had to make a couple of test shots to get the exposure correct. Once that was dialed in, I had my daughter go to each person and hold the flash a few feet away while I took the shot. I had to hold the flash myself for the shot of my daughter and set the timer on the camera.
Here are the six shots I used to make the composite. The first image is a base shot with no flash so I could have a photo without anyone standing in the frame with a flash.

Once I had the base shot and images of each subject lit by the flash, I selected all of the photos in Lightroom, right clicked and chose Edit as Layers in Photoshop. This function opens Photoshop and adds each image as a layer in the same file. I then added a layer mask to each layer. The black layer mask hides whatever is in that layer and by painting on it with white, it reveals whatever is under that particular area. Below is a screenshot of the final image in Photoshop and you can see the layers panel on the lower right. Notice the black layer masks and the area of white on each of them. The white area corresponds to the area of that image where the subject was lit by the flash. I also did a little burning and then sharpened the image a bit.

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I think the resulting shot is pretty cool.  Not the greatest, but I could definitely see using this technique now and then to create some unique looks in my photography.

Foto Friday #9

September 23, 2011

I’m not sure if the anxiety involved in shooting a wedding will go away as I shoot more of them and maybe that’s a good thing. I think that it’s what keeps me on my toes, thinking about where I need to be and what shots I need to be getting. There is certainly pressure to perform and not miss the moments, but that is also where the excitement comes from.
I have learned a lot after shooting a couple of weddings. Something I realized right away was that I needed to just do it. By that I mean you have to put aside the nervousness and anxiety and just step into the photographer role and focus. You need to have confidence in your ability to get the shots. Even if you are struggling a bit, you need to maintain your confidence so the client isn’t wondering if something is up. Keep smiling and push through.
One of the main things that will help your confidence is knowing your gear inside and out and how to get good exposures. This is really photography at it’s core. If operating the camera is second nature, you can concentrate on capturing the moments, not what shutter speed you are using. I practice all the time with the camera even if I’m just shooting random photos of nothing in particular. So, keep shooting.
Having an assistant and/or second shooter is also a great help. I’m sure I could shoot a wedding by myself, but having someone on your team really does make a difference. They can keep your confidence up, help you see things you missed and be in two places at the same time. My wife was the second shooter on this past wedding and it was a huge advantage. She was able to get some shots that I couldn’t have gotten myself because of the timing.
Today’s image is by my wife. She made this shot of me walking down the aisle just before the ceremony. For some reason I just liked how this shot seems to tell the story of the wedding shoot, like I’m on my way to do the job.

Happy Friday!

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Canon 40D EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS @ 55mm f2.8 1/320 ISO 800

Paul and Lori’s Wedding

September 21, 2011

I was honored to photograph the wedding of my good friend Paul and his wonderful new wife, Lori. I have been friends with Paul since fifth grade and I have never seen him as happy as he was on his wedding day. He’s an easy going guy and Lori complements him very well. I truly wish them the best in their marriage.

The wedding was held at the Kirkbrae Country Club in Lincoln, Rhode Island. Here is a selection of photos from the day.

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. ¬†ūüôā ¬†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!

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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!

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

Power!

September 1, 2011
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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.

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

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