I’m still coming to terms with my new camera, so excuse me for not discussing it in great detail just yet.
In the meantime, I spent a little time on Saturday playing with some flashes and a more conventional white background.
Earlier in the year, after another round of painful set-up with improvised boxes and pieces of card and cloth, I decided to buy a simple background stand. I choose this PhotoSel stand since it was cheap and I had the Amazon vouchers. I’m not convinced of the quality of it – a few pieces are very tight when put together and hard to disassemble, but as a little home background set it does the job.
One of the camera club members is talented at taking flora pictures.
I mean really talented.
Prize winning talented.
You get the idea.
Well, he was kind enough to demo his lighting approach and this is my take on it.
In these examples, I set a flashgun up directly over the flower, pointing up into a reflecting umbrella. The camera was set on F14 at 1/125 to make sure the only light getting used was that of the flash. A little playing with flash distance and intensity later and the results began to speak for themselves.
The black background is just an old piece of cloth I had sitting around.
My only criticism with the shot on the left is that I probably went a little overboard with the water spray!
It’s all pretty doable with minimal kit too. A flash cable will set you back about £10 on ebay and you can use tinfoil instead of an umbrella if you wish. The only advantage a stand and umbrella gives you is a flexibility in set up.
This second image has had a little more post processing on it. Nothing too major really by my standards, but I can never leave well enough alone
One thing I often forget when I proof a photograph is to double check the white balance. I tend to shoot on auto, but when you’re using flash guns that aren’t mounted on the camera (and using TTL as a result), it’s worth checking the white balance again when working on the raw image.
The shot below shows the rose with AWB on the left and “Flash” white balance on the right.
Looks like I’ll have to start buying my wife flowers…
Yeah, it’s been a quiet few weeks. Great thing about a hobby is when you get distracted it’s not quite the end of the world. My couple of weeks staring sullenly at my camera have passed and hopefully things are getting back on track.
This time last year I was tinkering with a set of cheap Ebay triggers and whilst they were fun, there was lots of issues with range, misfires and just general reliability. So much so, that they were almost a chore to use at times. Don’t get me wrong, they had their uses and I got some fun shots with them, but I hated relying on them for anything which involved people.
I was reading Paulo’s blog again recently and he mentioned picking up some Phottix Strato triggers, so I dropped him a line to see if his initial recommendation was holding up. Whilst it was, it turns out they weren’t made anymore. He recommended a look at RF-602 triggers.
Tonight I managed to get playing with a set I picked up.
First impressions are they’re fantastic. No misfires at all. Easy, clean operation with good signal lights to tell you what’s happening. And the range is to die for – they claim 100metres, but I don’t have a house that big – I was able to trigger the flash from 2 rooms away with no line of sight (OK, not sure why I’d ever need to trigger a flash I can’t see, but….)
All in all a cool set of triggers, and at £26 for a set it’s well worth a punt.
While playing with them I took a few self portraits (using Strobist for inspiration). They’re nothing special, but I couldn’t post and not post an image now could I?
(Yes, my eyes look odd. You hold a fekking flash under your chin and see how your eyes go…)
I’ll come back to the light box and other lighting tool another night….
I mentioned the pain I got through having to set up gear and then take it down every time I try to do something studio-esque. I think part of my frustration is that quite often the effort is wasted and I come away with nothing to show for it.
I spent a little time taking photos of Liquorice Allsorts on a white background this evening and it’s typical of the problems I seem to face. Either I end up over-exposing or the white background feels grey and not uniform in some way. Now occasionally, I can recover to a degree or I get a nice shot despite my best efforts, but often it’s just a wasted hour.
I’ve read lots of tutorials on how to set up this sort of shot and I’ve spent money buying gear to try and do it, but it’s just not sinking in to my thick skull. It’s always hit and miss.
Well, in an effort to get better at this style of photography, I’m going to try and do at least one session a week like this. Needless to say I’ll share my results and try to explain what I was doing with lights and such.
For this shot, I had two flash guns behind umbrellas. One strobe was on each side of the setup, the gun on the left being more powerful than the one on the right. Both strobes were shooting down onto the sweets, with the strobe on the right coming from slightly behind.
The above image is the cleaned up post processed version with sharpening and curves adjustments to help fix the white background. The original isn’t so pretty.
My current thinking is there are a couple of things I need to consider further.
1. White Balance – It’s probable that the white balance was wrong since it was on auto and the lighting was provided by flash (chained from cheap ebay wireless triggers)
2. Two flash guns does not a lot of light make. Maybe I need to add more light, or at least more defused sources. Maybe next time I’ll add some reflectors.
3. Lens choice. This was shot with a 100mm macro lens. Down side here is that I need it up around 1/125sec to get a shot without shake (damn my tremors). Maybe a 50mm lens would be a better choice?
If you’ve other thoughts, drop me a note.
I mentioned I was in Galway this week. Well, the weather was a bust from a photography perspective – and I was in a grump anyway.
Sometimes it’s better I don’t pick up the camera.
Anyway, as I was checking out of the hotel yesterday morning, they were getting ready for a wedding party later that day. The manager was putting flowers into a vase, and while she was running through payment I decided to see if I could take a shot of one of the flowers on the hop.
I think its a Chrysanthemum, but I know as much about flora as I know about fauna so…
Anyway. The lighting in the room sucked, so since flash and off camera cord were to hand, I tried a little unusual lighting by illuminating it from below and just left of the camera.
Considering I had all of two minutes to grab the shot before going to work, I quite like it.
Now that the late evenings have arrived, the camera club has organised a series of expeditions rather than locking us in a room in the heat.
It’s a good opportunity to get out and see how other people approach problems. And no matter how new you are to photography, you might just come up with a nice idea for a shot.
Tuesday night past saw a gang of us descend on Mount Stewart. Some fancy talking had arranged for us to have access to the gardens after their usual closing time so we were alone in the grounds for a few hours. Even better, we had some fantastic weather to shoot in.
During our ramble a bunch of us came across this tower like structure beside a path.
Because it was getting late, it was impossible to pick up the detail of the stained glass, but a little lateral thinking got this:
By planning ahead (or by forgetting to lift them out of my bag), I’d brought a selection of ebay triggers and light sensors for flashguns. One of the guys was able to go into the room and hold the triggers at the window, allowing us to fire them remotely from outside.
I was pretty amazed at the effect (and the dexterity of the guy holding two flash guns, an extension cord and a trigger and getting a decent even light from inside the (very dark) room).
I felt the stone work in the finished image was a little dark and since I really like stone work of this type in black and white, decided to see how the shot looked with some selective colourisation. There’ll be those that prefer the one above, but I kinda like this.
My father was showing me a flower today in his garden. He has a bunch of yellow tulips (I think) and a single red one.
Annoyingly. it was close to a fence with really bad light for taking a picture – I know, I tried. There was lots of cross light and dense shadow because of a fence right behind the flower.
I was about to give up when I remembered I had my flash gun and off camera remotes with me and, never having used them outside the house before, it seemed like an opportunity to try some form of fill in flash.
OK, my understanding of “fill in flash” is that when you have a subject that’s back-lit or has a shadow on it, you can use a little “pop” of flash to compensate. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a compact or an SLR, if you can turn on your flash you can use it to help fill in the missing light. Using this, you can expose the image, front and back equally.
I guess I took it a little further, by using the flash off camera (with my father holding it) and deliberately under exposing the background I was able to mostly isolate the flower. A little photoshop later and I ended up with this.
I mentioned a while back that I bought some “ebay triggers” to allow me to remote fire my flashgun. At the time, and since then I’ve had real issues with misfires – the flash will fire at random moments, sometimes ruining a shot or forcing me to wait until it resets. No amount of fiddling has ever cured the problem. It simply seems to be an issue with the Canon 430EX and the cheap triggers (they’re marked RF-04 and PT-04).
Fortunately I put my hands on a separate flashgun which removed the pain for a little while, but still left me in a quandary about what to do for multiple strobe shots.
Well, I think I have a solution. It’s early days yet, but it seems if I separate the PT-04 receiver from the 430EX the problem goes away. It’s simply a case of putting a hot-shoe to hot-shoe cable between the two. For my purposes, I used the “Canon Off-Camera Shoe Cord OC-E3” though others may work just as well.
Oh, and you might want to check ebay for cheaper versions…