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 Sunday, December 10, 2017
Many of you know that I usually consider the ideal wildlife light to be from behind me, directing my shadow toward the animal (though keeping it outside of the frame of course), but that is just another of the many photography rules looking for an opportunity to be broken.
 
It was a great start to the day. I had found this beautiful large-bodied 10-pt buck right away in the morning while there was barely light enough to see it. The buck was staying close to a calmly-feeding doe and defending against the occasional intruder. I was ready to photograph as soon as there was enough light to make it worth attempting.
 
When the buck moved, I would also change position to what I felt would be photographically optimal (often moving farther away as it approached) and was able to stay with the buck until the sun rose high enough to directly light it. It was at that point when the buck made a short charge to contain the doe, deterring it from going toward a distant intruder. The buck ideally stopped on the crest of a hill. The sunlight was hitting the deer nearly horizontally and I was up-light in position, but ... I saw the background that I had been looking for and that became the higher priority for me.
 
Shenandoah National Park is known for its many mountain ridges and incorporating them into a white-tailed deer image background is a great goal, but one that is not so easy to achieve, especially with the narrow field of view that a 600mm focal length presents. The lighting was making hard shadows, but the intruding buck was positioned toward the sun and that meant this buck was watching toward the sun, easing the shadow issue.
 
Selecting the to-share image from the couple-of-minutes take was challenging and I eventually narrowed the choice down to two. In the other example, the buck had its head turned even farther to the right with its left ear angled back, resulting in no shadows on the head. While that pose made the deer appear larger, I opted for the wider rack perspective shown by the more-toward-the-camera head angle.
 
Especially cool is that, with the Canon EOS 5Ds R's extreme resolution, I can crop this image down to a tight full-body portrait and still have about 24 mp of very sharp resolution remaining.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 12/10/2017 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, December 8, 2017

 
by Sean Setters
 
One of the greatest features found in current Canon DSLRs is a Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus (DPAF) sensor which allows for easy and smooth autofocus tracking in video mode. This capability alone is a compelling reason to upgrade cameras if your current camera lacks the DPAF feature.
 
On that note, I was recently asked to film a high school basketball game and create a highlight reel of the team. I had never filmed or produced a sports highlight reel before, but here are a few things I learned during the process.
 
1) Small, inexpensive (even variable aperture) Canon STM lenses work great in moderately well lit gymnasiums.
 
When photographing indoors sports, I typically rely on very wide aperture prime lenses in order to achieve the fastest shutter speeds (to free action) while keeping my ISO as low as possible (for the cleanest possible images). However, an action-stopping shutter speed isn't a requirement when shooting video. Optimally, your shutter speed should be double the reciprocal of your video frame rate. That means that when capturing, for instance, 1080p video at 29.97 fps, your shutter speed should be 1/60 second.
 
At 1/60 second, even lenses with a max aperture of f/5.6 can be used in reasonably well lit gymnasiums without requiring the use of your camera's highest ISO settings to achieve a proper exposure. For the game above, I used a Canon EOS 7D Mark II combined with the EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM, EF 40mm f/2.8 STM, EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM lenses, with the same manual exposure settings of f/5.6, 1/60 sec., ISO 2000 employed for all of them.
 
And with STM lenses in-use, AF transitions are smooth and AF sounds are [typically] minimized (though the ambient sound level in a gym with cheering/jeering fans can drown out a substantial amount of AF noise).
 
2) A monopod is really helpful to have for stabilizing video and reducing fatigue.
 
Lenses with built-in image stabilization are certainly handy, but a monopod with a tilt head is a relatively inexpensive universal stailization solution that is especially handy when using prime, non-stabilized lenses (like the EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM and EF 40mm f/2.8 STM). You can easily pivot a monopod for horizontal panning while using the tilt head to track subjects vertically (be sure your monopod features a rubber foot that will not damage the gym floor).
 
3) Where you can position yourself on the floor will depend on the most conservative referee's consideration of safety.
 
For the game shown above, two referees were perfectly fine with me being anywhere along the baseline or sides of the floor. However, one particular referee requested that I go no further than about 5 feet in on both ends of the floor. Gyms offer differently sized areas designated as "safe zones" around the playing floor, and those zones are often up for interpretation. Respect the referees and the venue by following all rules, regulations and requests to ensure you can film in the same venue (or in another venue with the same referee crew) in the future.
 
4) Record everything that could result in a great play and use your camera's Rating feature to mark the best videos recorded.
 
After I got home from the basketball game, I had recorded over 100 individual videos. Unfortunately, I had to preview each one to determine whether or not it was worth including in the highlight reel. While previewing, I marked videos that I would definitely include with a special character (I added an underscore) and videos that could possibly be used with another special character and moved uninteresting videos to the trash. This left me with only the videos I needed for the highlight reel.
 
After going through my organization process, I realized that I could have simply rated the videos right after they occurred, opened up my memory card in Digital Photo Professional 4, filtered by the star rating and then only copied the relevant videos to my hard drive to begin with, quickly culling the videos that weren't interesting enough to use. You can even distinguish between "will use" clips and "possible filler clips" with a two star and one star rating, respectively, to further expedite the organization process.
 
5. In post processing, separate the video and audio tracks and extend/blend the after-play audio with the next play's audio.
 
When an exciting play happens, the crowd usually cheers afterwards. To best capture the drama, preserve some of the audio captured just after an exciting play and blend it into the following clip. Even if the clip doesn't feature a cheer-worthy play, blending a clips audio with the adjacent clip(s) will ensure the audio of the crowd sounds natural.
 
Summary
 
Offering to shoot highlight reels is a good way to earn a little extra income and gain exposure (especially if wearing a t-shirt displaying your photography/videography services brand) while getting to enjoy a sporting event up close. And, not only does the team get something awesome to show for their efforts, your highlight reel could possibly help a student get noticed by college scouts resulting in a scholarship offer.
 
That sounds like a good deal for everyone involved.
Post Date: 12/8/2017 9:18:32 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Thursday, December 7, 2017
The addition of a new lens can add life to a kit, sparking creativity and inspiring a new look on old subjects. One such lens example is the Irix 11mm f/4 Firefly and for most photographers using full frame gear, the extreme wide angle focal length is the big appeal for this lens.
 
Shared here is the Irix 11 view of the Pennsylvania Capitol Rotunda ceiling. While this appears to be a simple image to capture, establishing the perfect camera alignment is very challenging. Any decentering within the space causes opposing side detail alignment mismatch and forces slight camera tilt to establish balanced framing with the latter quickly being made apparent by converging lines.
 
While software can be used to correct some issues such as perspective, it cannot easily move the relationship of near and far details. Getting it right in the camera is a much better option.
 
With those bright lights in the frame, an HDR strategy was needed for this picture.
 
Consider getting the Irix 11 or another lens that would be useful to you and provide a creative spark. The holidays are great time to use such a lens and your Christmas tree makes a great 11mm subject.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 12/7/2017 8:41:38 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice is rapidly approaching and the days are already short. That means nights are long and, while plenty of indoor photography avails itself at any time of the year, late fall and winter is a great time to photograph the night sky for a few reasons.
 
First, there is more dark time of the day and that means more hours of star visibility. You can spend hours photographing the night sky and still get to bed in time to be well-rested in the AM. When the nights are long, the biting bugs are gone (depending on where you live, the potentially-biting bears may also be gone). One more reason is that, because cold air is not able to hold as much moisture as warm air, winter tends to have clearer skies, and clear skies are of course a prerequisite for star photography.
 
Winter astrophotography is not without downsides and these include less-comfortable temperatures along with a Milky Way alignment that may or may not work well for you. Of course, a bright moon can preclude dark skies at any time of the year.
 
The Milky Way (or any photo of the stars) can make a nice image, but a meteorite is a huge bonus. How do you increase the odds of getting the perfectly-positioned meteorite in the frame? Photographing during a meteor shower is ideal. However, meteorites can happen at any time and a formally-designated "shower" is not a requirement. A big key is to take a lot of photos, significantly increasing the odds of a well-placed shooting star streak.
 
Night sky exposures are long, especially with long exposure noise reduction enabled, and that means taking many photos takes a lot of time. Time-consuming tasks that can be left unattended beg for multitasking. Set up the camera (on a tripod of course) with the desired manual exposure settings dialed in and set the drive mode to high speed burst. Then, using a remote release featuring a shutter release lock, lock the release down and go do something else.
 
If you are fortunate enough to have great stars in your backyard (and you are not concerned about the camera being stolen), that something else could be anything indoors including eating dinner. Or, set up a second camera to photograph the night sky with, perhaps using a different foreground and/or focal length. Read a book, call your mom, sleep, etc. You get the point – and you get the pictures.
 
If long exposure noise reduction is turned off, the set of images captured can later be combined to create a star trails photo (these are especially great if including the North star). Also optional with the same set of images is creating a time-lapse sequence with the stars moving across the sky.
 
For this image, I used the suggested strategy and spent my time working with another camera I had also set up. Every 5 minutes or so, I came back to adjust the composition (keeping the bottom of the Milky Way aligned with the break in the trees). Upon reviewing the images later, I found one with the ideal meteorite streak position (along with four smaller meteorite streaks visible in the full-resolution image).
 
I should mention here that even with a 14mm lens, cameras with imaging sensors having pixel densities as high as the Canon EOS 5Ds R (and all 20+ MP APS-C models) begin to show small star motion-blur streaks at the 25 second exposure used here (except those stars closer to the North Star and the southern equivalent). One option to extend exposure times while avoiding star streaks is to use an equatorial tracking mount. However, a tracking mount will just cause the foreground to be blurred (if a foreground is included in the frame). A great feature of the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer tracking mount is the 1/2-speed rotation setting option, permitting the motion blur to be balanced between the earth-bound subject and the celestial ones. This setting effectively doubles the exposure times that can be used or, alternatively, it facilitates a 1-stop lower ISO setting. The Star Adventurer likely costs less than you think. Start with the "Astro Package" and consider adding the EQ base and counterweight.
 
Multiple times I've started to assemble a list of the best star photography lenses, but ... that project remains unfinished. That is a really hard list to assemble and there are no perfect astrophotography lenses. However, there are several really good choices and I currently consider the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens to be the best astrophotography lens available today. I have a dark sky photo trip planned for next summer and the Sigma 14 Art is the primary Lens I plan to take for that purpose.
 
What is your favorite astrophotography lens?
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 12/5/2017 8:17:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, December 3, 2017
I shared this white-tailed buck image in the LensCoat RainCoat Review and decided I would share it individually as well. This deer encounter was mid-afternoon on a mid-fall day in Shenandoah National Park. The time of the day combined with the time of the year meant a relatively low sun angle and the time of the year also meant that the buck was in rut. This nice-sized buck was with a doe and he was making sure that rivals did not intrude and was constantly watching for such.
 
The constantly watching aspect is a key point. During non-rut times, it can be hard to get a buck to lift its head in this national park, but during rut, that problem vanishes. The buck are constantly giving their best alert poses. And, when a challenger shows up, the action gets especially entertaining.
 
Many basic image composition strategies involve establishing balance in the frame. When an included subject has eyes, the direction they are looking adds weight to the side of the frame being peered toward. This means the subject, adding weight itself, should be moved toward the opposite side of the frame for equalization. There is some flexibility as to how far to move the subject and the rule of thirds often has value in this situation.
 
Had this buck simply turned his head the other direction, I would have had to rapidly change AF points to the other side of the frame and recompose to move the majority of empty space to the right side of the animal to again achieve the desired balance. As an aside, if that head turn happens, quickly grab a photo placing the already-selected AF point on the closest eye. Then switch AF points as desired prior to continuing to photograph. I often do this because moments with wildlife can be fleeting and as long as you have the entire animal/bird in the frame and in focus, you still have the option to photograph additional empty space after the animal is vanishes. The photo of empty space probably will not be very special (don't accidentally delete it later), but it can be perfect for stitching into the fast-captured wildlife image.
 
In this case, the buck was motionless for a long enough period of time for me to capture a dozen or so images. All seemed ideally-composed in the viewfinder, most were composed slightly differently and many variants still looked potentially the best during review on the computer. That of course meant that picking only one of them to share was a challenge.
 
Some of you remember that I often use the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens at SNP. The zoom is ideal for working around obstructions, but this time I opted to use the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens. I made this choice primarily to get the stronger background blur (and foreground blur in this case). I know, you are thinking that this is a big and expensive lens. But, it is among my most-frequently-used and a large percentage of my favorite images were captured with it.
 
One editing question regarding this image remains in my mind: should I remove the small branch over the deer's head? Or does that detail add to the image, emphasizing of the thickness of the brush he is in?
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 12/3/2017 6:45:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, December 1, 2017
by Sean Setters
 
I was in the middle of a head shot session with a local Savannah model when I thought to myself, "Just how many flashes do you need in a studio setting?" After the session was over, I thought a little bit more about that question.
 
Before going any further, let me be clear – a flash is not absolutely necessary to create a compelling studio portrait (but the use of flash can make capturing compelling portraits easier). Many beautiful, classic portraits have been created using window light alone, or possibly combined with an inexpensive reflector or two. Other constant, man-made light sources (either inexpensive or high-end LED panels) can be used for compelling portraiture, and can even be combined with flashes for interesting effects. But when I think of a versatile lighting tool for the studio, my mind immediately goes to "flash."
 
With that said, flashes have a few inherent benefits over constant lighting:
 
  • Wide range of light output variability (and easily controllable)
  • Action freezing potential regardless of ambient light level
  • Full-spectrum light, ideal for color rendering
  • Huge range of light modifiers available
Right now, I have (5) shoe-mount flashes and (6) studio monolights. I use the shoe-mount flashes and monolights interchangeably in the studio, often in the same setup.
 
So let's walk through a few of the images from my most recent studio session to see how many flashes were used and why.
 
Portrait with Front Bokeh Battery Powered LED Lights Nov 2017

In the shot above, I only used two flashes, but a total of three light sources were employed. The main light was provided by a shoe-mount flash which was boomed above the subject and diffused by a 24" gridded softbox. Another shoe-mount flash was fired through a 43" collapsible umbrella positioned below the boomed softbox and provided fill light (the two flashes producing a traditional clamshell lighting setup). With the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lens mounted to a tripod, I used my free hand to dangle a string of battery powered LED lights in front of the lens to create the bokeh effect.
 
Brittney Headshot 5 (with Lightblaster)

In this shot, I used two studio strobes slightly behind the subject, both diffused by gridded strip boxes to accentuate the subject's hair and provide separation from the black background. For the main light, I used a shoe-mount flash firing through a Light Blaster (with 35mm transparent slide installed) to create the pattern on her face. So for this particular setup, that's two rim/hair/separation/kicker lights (take your pick on the terminology, but for the rest of this post, I'll use the term "rim") and one main light for a total of three lights. In post-processing, I used Topaz Impression to make the photo look like a painting.
 
Now let's take a look at a more traditional headshot.
 
Brittney Headshot 1

This shot required the most lights of the setups we tried. Like the first image, I used a clamshell lighting setup with two flashes located above and below the subject (the same modifiers were used). But as in the preceding shot, I used the two monolights, diffused by strip boxes, to provide rim lighting on both sides of the subject. All told, that's four flashes used. Aside from lighting, I used a fan camera right to create movement in the subject's hair.
 
So is four the magic number? I don't think so, because I can think of a couple of situations where you I may want one or two more flashes based on the last setup.
 
For instance, if I had wanted to create a similar headshot to the one directly above but on a darker background (possibly black or gray) I could have used another flash to create a color gradient spotlight behind the subject (using a colored gel and grid modifier). Otherwise, if I had wanted the background to be completely white, with a nice, even coverage, at least two flashes would likely be required to achieve a clean white background.
 
So, with that in mind, I think a studio lighting kit with at least six flashes would be ideal, allowing for a very wide range of portrait styles to be captured. With six flashes, you'd have:
 
(1) main light
(1) fill light
(2) rim lights
(2) special use/background lights
 
If you have a reflector or two handy, then you could likely get by slightly fewer flashes, with the compromise being that reflectors are not nearly as versatile as flashes. But keep in mind, the actual flashes are only one part of a lighting kit. As you add additional flashes, you'll also likely need to add more light stands, umbrella swivels, light modifiers, radio receivers (if not a built-in feature of the flashes), etc. to support use of any flashes added to your kit.
 
Are there any circumstances that would warrant more than six flashes? Absolutely. But with six flashes (and the corresponding gear) in your kit, accomplishing your creative portraiture goals will rarely be inhibited.
Post Date: 12/1/2017 9:30:02 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Sunday, November 26, 2017
A baby animal photo elicits an "Awwwww" response more frequently than perhaps any other subject. And for a good reason of course – baby animals are just sooooo cute.
 
I find whitetailed deer fawns to be among the cutest baby animals and when a tame fawn became a photo opportunity, I of course made full use of it. While tame is extremely helpful for photographing a wildlife subject, tame does not mean that subject is easy to photograph.
 
Unless feeding, fawns are mostly in constant motion. That is, until they lay down. Newborn fawns spend a significant amount of time lying down, but finding them doing so can be very challenging as they usually pick a hidden location. That means getting a clear photograph of them in this position remains challenging.
 
Fortunately, this particular location choice gave me a window of opportunity.
 
My lens choice was the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens. The reason I chose this lens, aside from its excellent overall performance, was for the focal length range combined with the wide aperture. The fawn was in dark woods (heavy tree canopy) and there were plenty of obstructions that I needed to be in front of. Having the focal length range gave me the ability to adjust framing as desired, allowing me to fit the entire fawn in the frame, while keeping the obscuring brush behind me.
 
The f/4 aperture is the widest available in a zoom lens of this range and I made full use of that feature on this day. The fawn was still moving its head enough to warrant the 1/400 sec. shutter speed and a proper exposure at f/4 needed ISO 5000.
 
When the right opportunity occurs, it only takes a short period of time with the right subject to get a card full of great images. When that happens, I become challenged to select one or a few favorites to share. And, that was the case with this fawn. I finally decided to share this one because I liked the overall body position and because the eye is so prominent. Hopefully, the adorable little fawn invoked an "Awwww" from you.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 11/26/2017 6:45:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, November 16, 2017
by Sean Setters
 
While washing dishes a few days ago, I noticed that the camellia bush just outside the window was blooming. Having never photographed camellia blooms, and with several freely available, I clipped my favorite from the bush, placed it in a small cup of water and brought it into the studio.
 
As luck would have it, I already had a couple of monolights with gridded strip boxes set up from a previous flower shot (a tulip), so I simply placed the camellia cutting on a posing stool between them. I grabbed my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens, affixed it to my tripod-mounted 5D Mark III and framed the scene to include the entire stamen group set against the petals.
 
As with many of my flower shots, I opted for a focus stacking technique which would allow me to capture a precise DOF (depth-of-field) which included the entire group of stamens. The focus stacking technique works especially well in situations such as these because the closer you get to an object (to increase magnification), the shallower the DOF at a given aperture. By shooting many incrementally focused images, you can later choose exactly which images to include in your focus stack, thereby selecting the precise DOF you want after the fact. When capturing images for a focus stack, the aperture you choose doesn't necessarily increase (or decrease) the DOF in your final image (the number of shots used for the focus stack ); however, the aperture you choose will affect your margin for error when incrementing focus (with wider apertures allowing for less room for error) and will affect the transition to out-of-focus elements (blur) at the beginning and end of your focus stack.
 
Camera settings for the individual shots were f/8, 1/160 sec and ISO 100, and I manually rotated the focus ring (very slightly) for each exposure. The image you see above was compiled from 22 individual images using Helicon Focus with final edits made in Adobe Photoshop CC.
 
A larger version of the image can be seen on Flickr.
Post Date: 11/16/2017 10:20:35 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, November 15, 2017
A site visitor recently reached out to us with concerns regarding a few B+W filters he purchased on Amazon (via third-party). While shooting test images with the filters, he noticed a significant drop in image quality and suspected they may have been counterfeit.
 
B+W filters are a favorite of ours here at The-Digital-Picture.com, and we're especially fond of their XS-Pro line. When people write into the site asking for advice on filters, B+W is the brand we most often recommend. As such, the image quality degradation the site visitor experienced using the "B+W" filters led us to believe that the filters were indeed fake.
 
Before the site visitor returned the filters, he noticed a trend in the reviews left on the Amazon product listing:
"... a bunch of people are saying they think they got counterfeits - some appear uncoated, some have different fonts on the filter ring, and others are missing the B+W seal on the box."
Instead of sending the filters back ASAP, he purchased a replacement set of filters (from a different Amazon vendor) and compared the second set to the first set he received.
"In comparing the filters from the first order with the second, it is clear the first order's filters are counterfeit. The counterfeits have aluminum filter rings, and the box has a shiny little green sticker that says, "Genuine Product" on it. The genuine filters (2nd order) have heavier brass rings and a larger, silver Schneider hologram sticker on them."
Not long after receiving confirmation that the site visitor's first set of filters were counterfeit, I reached out to Schneider Optics to inquire how consumers can distinguish genuine products from counterfeit ones. This was their reply:
I hope the following is of benefit to you and your readers:
 
  • Genuine F-Pro and XS-Pro mounts have the filter type and size on the front, not the side.
  • Boxes and holograms have been updated. NOTE: the latest packaging has a new QR Code that allows you to confirm authenticity with Schneider Germany.
  • In general, photographs of boxes and the text on the filter will not confirm a legitimate B+W product.
  • Alloy rings are not authorized, with two exceptions: Slim circular polarizers (discontinued) and Vario ND's, which are made of aluminum for manufacturing reasons.
  • Brass vs Alloy: if the dealer does not confirm it, ask. Once you hold it, the brass version is obviously heavier.
Note: Amazon co-mingles our [Schneider Optics, Inc., Hauppauge, NY] inventory with all of the third party resellers, so there is no way to know where the filter came from, or if it is even genuine. We have no control over product sold in Europe and Asia, as we are the authorized U.S. distributor for B+W.
 
If you are not sure whether a filter is genuine or fake, you have the choice to decide where you are going to buy it. We recommend you purchase it from an authorized B+W dealer to ensure [a genuine] product and warranty.
The best advice for avoiding counterfeit filters (B+W or otherwise) appears in the final sentence above. To ensure you get a genuine product, purchase your filters from an authorized retailer such as B&H and Adorama.
 
Note: The headline photo shows a genuine B+W XS-Pro filter. The original Amazon product listing for the counterfeit B+W filters referenced in this article shows a status of "No Longer Available," but there are likely more counterfeit filters being sold via other third-party listings.
Post Date: 11/15/2017 8:34:21 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Sunday, November 12, 2017
Give me a Canon EOS 5Ds R, a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens and great clouds on a calm fall morning along the Snake River at Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park and I can be content for ... a very long time. Well, I was probably photographing too furiously to capture all that beauty to be considered "content", but the feeling that, with each click of the shutter, something great may be written to the memory card is very satisfying.
 
The composition shown here is a rather simple one, but one that frequently works well. Frame half of the scene in the upper half of the viewfinder and let the reflection take care of the bottom half, doubling what is already nice. Because the subjects in the scene are far away and water is preventing getting closer from happening, perspective is determined primarily by walking the shoreline. Focal length selection is based on what looks good being included in the image, keeping in mind that distant subjects (including mountains) appear smaller at wider angles. In this case, I liked how the dark clouds and their reflection framed the top and bottom of the image.
 
This image is practically right out of the camera. I added saturation to give the image a bit more life, dropped the highlight brightness slightly and used the healing brush to remove some floaters in the water.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 11/12/2017 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, November 7, 2017
by Sean Setters
 
If you have a dedicated studio space, keeping your subjects comfortable and happy is important for getting the best images from your studio session. Below are a few items you should consider adding to your studio to maximize your subjects' comfort.
 
Haier HC17SF15RB 1.7 Cubic Feet Refrigerator Freezer

1. Refreshments
 
Whether from warm tea or coffee in the winter or a cold bottle of water in the summer, a hydrated subject tends to be happier than a parched one. As such, items like a coffee pot, electric kettle and/or mini fridge can make worthwhile additions to your studio space. I've had a mini fridge in my studio for several years now, and subjects always appreciate cold water and/or soda in between sets. And when shooting on location, I usually grab a few water bottles and bring them with me so that my subjects stay hydrated (especially important if shooting outdoors in the heat and/or sun).
 
You might also consider keeping a few granola bars or various snacks on hand in case your subject suffers from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or simply gets hungry while you're rearranging your lighting setup.
 
Espresso Finish Wooden Cheval Bedroom Floor Mirror

2. Full-Length Mirror
 
Many people tend to be self-conscious when a camera is pointed at them. And even if they aren't, they usually to want to verify they are presenting themselves at their best before the photo session starts. A full length mirror goes a long way in reassuring your subject that they have everything (especially hair) in order before stepping in front of the camera.
 
Barbicide Jar

3. Grooming Supplies
 
Speaking of hair, I've lost count of the number of subjects that have shown up to a shoot without a brush or a comb. Having these items on-hand can make a subject feel taken care of when they forget to bring their own personal grooming items. And, not only that, but a properly brushed/combed head of hair can save you hours of editing time removing flyaway stands if a clean/groomed look is what you or your subject is/are after.
 
Therefore, a jar with Barbicide disinfectant, an inexpensive hair brush and a comb can be worth their weight in gold considering the potential time saved in post-processing. Keep in mind, though, that shared grooming tools will need to be properly maintained in between uses. To avoid maintenance, you can choose to simply buy several inexpensive brushes/combs and give them to your subjects after use.
 
Coaster Home Furnishings Oriental Shoji 4 Panel Folding Privacy Screen Room Divider

4. Dedicated Changing Area
 
Of course, an accessible restroom is a requirement for just about any commercial space and can be used for changing outfits. However, most clothing changes in a studio setting tend to be minimal (changing a shirt, sweater, etc.). To provide some privacy for your subject, why not put up a panel room divider in an unused corner of the studio? The divider provides a convenient place for your subject to change and may even prove useful as a backdrop for various types of studio portraiture.
 
Classic Scroll Arm Chesterfield Sofa Bonded Leather White

5. Comfortable Seating
 
Either for your subject or for your subjects' family and/or friends who attend the studio session, comfortable seating will ensure everyone stays fresh and relaxed while not actively participating in the image making process. And just like the panel divider, an interesting chair can also be used as a prop, making it a no-brainer for addition to your studio. Interesting/comfortable seating may include papasan chairs, armchairs, love seats and/or couches.
 
Summary
 
As I mentioned in the introduction, a comfortable, happy subject is key to getting the most out of your studio sessions, making them all worthwhile additions for your studio space.
 
Do you have any suggestions for maximizing your subjects' comfort in a studio environment? Leave them in the comments section.
Post Date: 11/7/2017 9:44:02 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Sunday, November 5, 2017
The World Trade Center Transportation Hub, or "Oculus", is a relatively new addition to New York City and, immediately upon seeing the unique architecture of this structure, looking something like a monster coming out of the streets of the city, my to-do list grew one line longer.
 
I was in the city for the PhotoPlus Expo and with the expo closing at 5:00 PM on weekdays, I always have time to go to a location not too far away, do some quick scouting and set up for a blue hour photo shoot (especially if I cut out of the show a little early). This year, I made that location the WTC Transportation Hub.
 
Upon arrival, I walked around the hub, looking for the best photographic angles with blue hour imagery being my primary objective. You are now looking at one of my favorite images coming out of that effort.
 
The first concept to share here is that the ultra-wide 16mm full frame focal length allowed me to get close enough to frame the entire structure without obstructions and because I was close and the hub was the closest building, perspective made it appear large relative to the other buildings. I included the crosswalks in the foreground because I liked how they balanced with the fins of the hub. Along with the crosswalks come a pair of streets that nicely frame the hub.
 
Another key to lack of obstructions in the frame came from the multiple-frame 8-second exposure composite. Moving people were blurred out of view during the exposure and those not moving were often in a different location in another frame captured just before or just after the primary one. The longer exposures come naturally when the sky starts getting darker and balancing with the lights (though a neutral density filter can also be used). The narrow f/16 aperture also helps extend the exposure time. I didn't need f/16 for the deep depth of field it provides, but in addition to extending the exposure duration, I like the starburst effect f/16 creates from bright lights, such as those on the police car on the left side of the frame.
 
And that brings me to another point. Before you attempt to recreate this image, check on the tripod rules for this location. As I was capturing the last frame included in this composite, with the tripod legs set narrow, between my feet (for both safety and courtesy reasons), the police officer drove over and stated "This is New York City. Tripods are not allowed on public property." Well, I have read (and experienced) otherwise, but ... some jurisdictions have their own rules (I'll have to research this one). I was tired, not interested in creating an issue and ... I already had the image I wanted. So, I moved on, though wishing that I had brought my Feisol TT-15 Mini Tripod along to make subsequent images significantly easier to capture.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 11/5/2017 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, October 30, 2017
by Sean Setters
 
I always enjoyed playing sports while growing up, and these days I thoroughly enjoy watching live sports action with a camera in-hand, a situation that perfectly combines my greatest interests.
 
This weekend I decided to take my EOS 7D Mark II (with battery grip), EF 300mm f/4L USM lens and a few business cards to a local park here in Savannah where youth football games are played. While walking around, I tried to photographed pivotal and/or exciting plays to see what I could get. Inevitably, many parents would ask me, "Did you get that last play? If so, where will the images be published and how can I get one?"
 
Getting noticed by players' parents was precisely my goal when setting out, and it started with my choice of gear.
 
Go to any sporting event and you'll likely see a parent (or several parents) taking photos using their mobile phones or otherwise sporting consumer-grade cameras and 18-55mm lenses. As such, simply using a DSLR isn't enough to get noticed by potential clients (and an 18-55mm lens won't likely allow for capturing impressive imagery at such long-field events). However, a gripped DSLR with a big white telephoto lens attached reminds people of the type of gear they see being used along the sidelines of every major pro sports event. Without having shown anyone a picture you've taken, you've already got street cred.
 
And for youth sports events which are often played at public venues (like parks), even a 70-200mm lens can work well in capturing the action (though I find a 300mm lens to be ideal). Of course, you'll have to make good use of your gear to bolster your credibility (practice, practice, practice!).
 
And when a parent asks about where they can find your images, you have a few options. You can either point them to a website gallery tagged with the date/time/team names (for individual sale through services like SmugMug) or you can simply hand them a card and say, "I'm a freelance photographer. If you'd like me to take photos of your child while he plays, my rate is $ ___.00/(hour or game) for a disc of all the images featuring him/her." Otherwise, you could work out a deal for a specific image they previewed on the back of your LCD using PayPal to settle the transaction fee. And speaking of previewing images on the LCD, you may want to carry a hood loupe around your neck so that parents can see glare-free images on your LCD.
 
Want to really grab potential clients' eyes at such events? Here's an idea I've been kicking around for quite some time. Get a custom designed T-shirt that says, "Want action photos of YOUR athlete? Call 555-555-5555!" This type of advertising will be easier than handing out a bunch of business cards and will likely lead to even more sales.
 
Keep in mind, I'm talking about photographing youth sports that have been organized under a public league program and are not tied to a specific school or academic conference. Note that some schools and organizations may have an exclusive contract with an official photographer or may otherwise prohibit freelance sales at such events. A quick check with the event’s organizer can quickly discern this matter.
 
If you love sports and already have a big white telephoto lens in your kit, then shooting youth sports events is a fun way to make extra income on the weekends while doing what you love.
Post Date: 10/30/2017 10:14:56 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Sunday, October 22, 2017
Revisiting a classic: I shared an image similar to this one some time ago, but a publication needed this scene in a 16:9 aspect ratio, meaning that a wider-angle capture was required. Since I was making the effort to process another image from that trip (and it is fall), I thought I'd share here as well. I'm also sharing this image because the Maroon Bells Scenic Area is one of the most beautiful locations I've seen.
 
Maroon Bells has many great landscape image components. Start out with a pair of tightly-positioned fourteener mountain peaks (Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak) with great character. Mix in some of the most-brilliantly-colored trees on the planet along with beautifully color-contrasting and photogenically-shaped spruce trees. Add light from a clear-sky sunrise just reaching the mountain peaks while the namesake maroon rocks remain in the shade with the cooler lighting emphasizing their color. Take all of that and double it with a reflection in the clear, often-still Maroon Lake that also happens to have some bright green algae growing in it.
 
Capturing the image was easy. The lake is only a short trek from the parking lot. Setup the tripod, focus and switch to manual focus mode, establish final scene framing, lock down the ball head and capture a burst of exposure bracketed images (the burst strategy is helpful because that sun line is moving down the mountain faster than it may seem). That sounds easy (and it was), but capturing the exposure stack was just the final bit of effort required to capture this image.
 
Getting a position for one's tripod at the side of Maroon Lake during peak leaf color at sunrise is far more challenging. This particular location gets one of the largest crowds of photographers I've seen outside outdoors. An extremely early alarm is required after, for most of us, a long trip to get to the Aspen, Colorado area in the first place. While photographing alone in the wilderness may seem more appealing to you, the folks on the lake shore (most of them at least) are very friendly and fun to hang out with as daybreak unfolds.
 
Another challenge awaits your arrival home. Manually processing the HDR stack of a scene with brightness ranging from direct sunlight transitioning immediately to shade on into deep shade (such as within the spruce trees) is a remaining challenge required for this image.
 
As so often is the case with photography, all of the challenges were worth conquering to get the image, many of them in this case.
 
A reflection can double the beauty of a scene and a second camera setup can often double (or at least significantly increase) the number and variety of images captured at the optimal time of day. When photographing a scene such as this, one that requires significant effort and has a high reward potential, I generally have two cameras on tripods simultaneously capturing the moments. In this case, the lenses mounted were two of my favorites, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens and the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens. While the choice of a "wider-angle" image may lead your guess to the model used here, both had the 24mm focal length used here available to them and I didn't have much reason to choose one over the other for this specific image.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 10/22/2017 8:10:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, October 20, 2017
OK, perhaps calling it a composite would be more accurate, but "Hyper-HDR" makes a more-dramatic title, right?
 
During a solar eclipse, the moon moves between the sun and our viewing location, taking, minimally, a bite out of the solar disk. While it is possible to use an exposure that captures a small amount of detail in the moon during totality, I am not aware of anyone able to do so during the partial phases and, even during totality, the moon is poorly lit with the perimeter of the moon quickly becoming too bright. So, to get a perfect moon exposure, a composite is needed.
 
Remember us suggesting that you capture an image of the full moon just-prior to the August 2017 solar eclipse? Well, this post is about what you can do with that image.
 
Start by selecting one of your partial solar eclipse photos to use as the base image. The moon is going to show full regardless of the sun image selected and that means the balance between the amount of sun and moon showing is going to be determined by the sun image. I opted to show a significant portion of the sun in this composite. Hint: error on the side of showing too much sun because the moon can be positioned over more than just the missing portion of the sun.
 
Because my moon image showed a very slight amount of shadowing on the top right (clouds prevented me from getting an image on the night of the fullest moon), the bottom-left side of the moon blended better with the sun, driving my option to select a sun image with the top-right being eclipsed.
 
Process both of the images (if captured in RAW format) and open them as layers in an image editing program (Photoshop is perfect). Position the moon image on the top layer and use a layer mask to allow only the moon itself to remain visible (masking out all of the black). Reposition the moon layer so that it aligns properly over the sun and make any layer mask edits necessary for ideal blending.
 
That's it. The perimeter of the image will be pure black, so feel free to adjust the framing or cropping or even increase the canvas size to create the final image desired.
 
OK, so you missed one or both of these events? No problem. Get your solar filter and take a picture of the sun on the next clear day. Then, on a clear night during the next full moon, capture the moon image with the same lens (sans solar filter of course). Process both images and position your cut-out moon partially over the sun, creating a fake solar eclipse. Very few will spot the difference.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 10/20/2017 9:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
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