January 29, 2008

DPReview Launches Lens Reviews

Pre-PMA 2008: Dpreview is pleased to announce the launch of a new section dedicated to testing and reviewing digital SLR lenses. Designed to offer the same class-leading testing standards as its legendary camera reviews, dpreview’s new lens reviews are the result of months of intense research, development and testing, including the development of new test charts and proprietary analysis software designed to overcome the limitations of existing systems.
You can read more about it here.

January 27, 2008

Softlight for your Speedlight

Yesterday evening turned into arts and crafts night. I was starting to go stir crazy from being stuck at home with this cold so I had to do something. The following is the result:

I remember in college (long, long time ago) we had these great Mole-Richardson Softlights in one of the studios. And the light they produced was quite nice. So, I thought, lets see if I can make one for my 550EX.

Here are a couple images of the finished softlight.

What you need:
  • Ruler
  • White fome board
  • White bristol board
  • Aluminum tape
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • X-acto blade/knife
  • Glue stick
The first thing i did was cut out the sides from the foam board.

I measured the height of the front edge.

I then transferred that measurement to the bristol board (already cut to the width I wanted, including 1.5" extra for gluing tabs) and folded the board at that measurement.

I marked on the bristol board where the next fold would be and then folded the board.

I then marked where the 3rd fold would be and folded the board.

I marked the board 1/2" from the edge on both sides with a pencil.

I then cut out gluing tabs up to the lines I just drew at all the folds and cut smaller notches for the curved back.

I then applied aluminum tape up to the 3rd fold. Leaving the curved back white.

I applied aluminum tape to the foam board sides to the bottom portion (from where the from panel starts to where the curve begins).

I then fold up all the gluing tabs along the 1/2" pencil marks, using a ruler as a guide.

Then I mark the back where the flash will fit (between the first and second fold) and draw diagonal lines from corner to corner of the flash outline. Then cut along those diagonal lines creating an "X" where the flash fits through.

I then glued the bristol board to one of the foam board sides applying glue to the tabs with a glue stick. Then repeated the gluing process with the other side making sure the aluminum tape faces inside of the softlight.

Here is what the inside of the softlight looks like when complete.

Disclaimer: This project, the photography and the blog post were all done while running a fever and on cold medication. If there is anything that is unclear (like I was during this whole process) please ask any questions in the comments. I will be posting sample images using the softlight as soon as possible.

Back at it

It's been a busy week and on top of that I'm fighting off a nasty cold. I've either been out of the house, or sleeping. Yesterday (Saturday), I finally got to stay home and rest. I took mom's advice and drank plenty of liquids and ate lots of soup.

I'm feeling better (I can now sit in front of the computer without things getting fuzzy), but still not 100%. Hopefully, things will get back to normal soon. I'm working on a few projects and should be posting things up on the blog shortly.

January 20, 2008

Adobe Lightroom® What's next and what do we want.

If you haven't seen or tried Adobe Lightroom® you owe it to yourself to check it out. It might just change your RAW workflow forever and you might wonder how you ever lived without it. They have a free 30 day trial available so you can see if you like it (and you probably will) before you lay down you hard earned cash.

There is a great article by Stephen Shankland on what features might be added to Lightroom® in the future.

Scott Kelby at Photo Insider has put together a wish-list of feature he, and many others would like to see added to Lightroom®. If you are not familiar with Scott Kelby then check out his site, www.scottkelby.com.

January 16, 2008

Dead Batteries!?!?

  • 1 Digital SLR
  • 1 Film SLR
  • 1 Digital Point n' Shoot
  • 3 On Camera Flashes
  • 1 Light/Flash Meter
  • 1 Visible Dust Sensor Cleaner

What do all these things have in common? They all live in my camera bag and they all need batteries. That list does not include my car battery, the battery in the UPS my computer is hooked up to, a couple of laptop batteries, my cell phone battery, the battery in my watch, or the battery in my iPod. All those batteries are in the devices I use for my photography business. If you have lost track... that's 14 devices that use batteries and some of those devices use multiple batteries, and I have several sets of batteries ready as back-ups. That's a lot of batteries! And there are even more things that use batteries in my everyday life.

I now have a couple of batteries, from different devices, that have given up the ghost. Luckily, I have an easy solution for sending my dead batteries for recycling here in Whistler, BC. But not everywhere is as environmentally conscious. I don't want to sound "preachy" (if that's even a word) but batteries need to be recycled, and as photographers we need to do our part.

So after a little bit of research I found this link to where you can recycle your batteries. And while you're there check out the rest of the site www.earth911.org.

If you know of a location to recycle batteries in your area, please post the information in the comments. Thanks.

January 15, 2008

New Stuff from Apple

Today Apple® announced a few new products. Two of which might be of interest to photographers. Time Capsule a wireless router and hard drive combination, and a new light and thin notebook the MacBook Air.

January 13, 2008

Painting With Light

In the image above I have the model light herself with the flashlight

I was originally thinking of posting a how to on the basics of painting with light, but then I thought, "How boring!" I couldn't bear the thought of subjecting you to images of things being drawn in mid air, or people being outlined with flashlights. I did a model test shoot years ago in my studio in Toronto using only a small flashlight to light the model. These are some of the images form that shoot.

The setup I used was simple, a black bench, my camera on a tripod set at f16 & bulb with a cable release attached, and the model. Oh yah, and my trusty little flashlight. I tried to keep the exposure time under 30 seconds to keep sensor noise to minimum. Grab your camera, tripod, a flashlight, and a cable release and find a dark room or go outside at night and give it a try. It's not as hard as it looks. And have fun!

This image looks blurry, but look closely at the reflection of the flashlight in her eyes and eye lashes... It's tack sharp!

I intentionally asked the model to keep looking at the camera while she moved her head

I you have any questions or comments feel free to post them below. And post some links to your images too.

January 6, 2008

Make Your Own Weatherproof Flash Cover

I just posted a video showing how to make a quick weatherproof cover for your flash out of two ziplock type sandwich bags.

Here is a link directly to the video.

January 3, 2008

Using Your Gray Card

This is the follow up post to "Making Your Own Gray Card".

There are a few methods you can use to obtain your white balance using your gray card:

One method for using the gray card is to include the card in a test/reference image, shot in RAW format. You can then continue shooting under the same lighting conditions as the test/reference image. For each lighting change, a new test/reference image will need to be shot. Your camera should allow you to shoot in AWB (Auto White Balance) mode. It is important that you read your camera and software instructions to make sure this method can be used.

Transfer the images to your computer using whatever method you are familiar with. Once the transfer of images is complete you can open your RAW conversion software. Most RAW conversion software packages allow you to pick a neutral gray color point on an image to set a custom white balance. You can use the gray card as your neutral color point. You will now be able to apply that setting to all the images shot under those lighting conditions. See your camera and RAW conversion software instructions.

Use the same shooting method as if you were shooting RAW (see above) but instead set your camera's image output to JPEG. After you have transferred your images to your computer you can now color balance them in your favorite image editing software. Use the reference image with the gray card in it. Open up the levels adjustment and click on the middle eye dropper tool to set gray point. Now, just click on the gray card and your image is white balanced. Check your software for specific instructions on applying the settings of the reference image to the rest of the images shot under those lighting conditions.

The gray card can be used to obtain your white balance using your cameras internal white balance utility. Just place the gray card in front of your lens and fill the entire frame with the card and use your cameras internal utility to create a custom white balance. See your camera owner’s manual for instructions.

Make Your Own Gray Card

Quick introduction to gray cards.

White balancing your digital images without a gray card can be hit or miss. Chances are there will be something in the scene that looks gray and using the white balance eyedropper tool in what ever RAW conversion software or photo software you use to click on that gray looking area will make the image look better. But, how accurate is the white balance? Chances are its not that accurate. That gray item in your image probably has some sort of color cast. I'm not going to go into technical detail, but most items that are gray are not completely neutral (have a color cast) and also under different lighting conditions produce a different color cast (not spectrally neutral)

The solution is using any gray card, right? Not always. Some cards were originally designed before digital cameras ever existed and have a color cast. Others are not spectrally neutral. Some can not handle and abrasions, dirt or moisture. While others are just too complicated.

Making your own gray card.

I'm going to tell you how to make a gray card that has no color cast, is spectrally neutral, can be cleaned with soap and water, and the color goes all they way through the material so scratc
hes will not affect it's performance.

What is this amazing material? It's called Sintra®. It comes in 2 shades of gray, light and dark and in 2 thicknesses, 3mm (1/8") and 6mm (1/4"). Both will work for white balancing your RAW images, but the dark gray is closer to middle gray and can be used for white balancing JPEG images. See my follow up post on "Using Your Gray Card". Sintra® comes with a slight semi-gloss finish so that will have to be sanded down with a random orbital sander with 120 grit and then 220 grit sand paper so as not leave any sanding marks. All you have to do now is wash the card and apply Armor All® (optional).

So why did I tell you how to make your own gray card when I sell them on my site? The answer is simple, If you have the ability to make the card yourself...Great! If you don't have the ability to make the card then you can get someone to make it for you, like myself.

January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

I just wanted to wish everyone the best for 2008.

My new years resolution is make this blog as interesting as I can. I am already working on a couple of posts and they should be up in the next few days. In the mean time go out and photograph the people that are the closest to you - you'll never regret doing that!

Happy New Year Everyone!