Friday, November 12, 2010

Giving Myself a Face Lift :: Claresholm Alberta Photographer

I finally had some time to sit down recently and give my web-presence a face lift. I tweaked my blogs and redesigned my main web page. The new homepage has a slide show of a few of my images from the past few years and more user friendly feel. I have to say, if you are contemplating creating a website then I highly recommend Smugmug and Blogger. They make it so easy to design and customize your site. Along with the new look comes a new name. You can now find me at: . So come on over and take a look around.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gear Gear and More Gear :: Claresholm Alberta Photographer

I have said before that it doesn't matter as much what Camera you use but how you use it. Having said that I need to say that I have a strong opinion about a few must haves in most camera bags.

The first one being a fast 50mm lens. You can pick a 50mm f/1.8 up at most camera stores for around $100. The 50 is a "prime" lens meaning it is a fixed focal length and does not zoom. Canon has three different 50mm lenses, the f/1.8, f/1.4 and the f/1.2. The range in price from around $100 for the 1.8 to about $1,200 for the 1.2. the difference between the three lenses boils down to build quality, depth of field/aperture size and sharpness.

The next two must haves are fixed aperture zooms. I have the 24-70mm f/2.8 and the 70-200 f/2.8. With a fixed aperture lens I am able to shoot at f/2.8 from 24mm to 200mm. With kit lenses or other cheaper lenses when you zoom from 24 to 200mm your aperture will automatically change. you might start off at f/3.5 at 24mm but when you zoom all the way out to 200mm your largest aperture will only be around f/5.6. The difference between me shooting at f2.8 zoomed out to 200mm and you shooting at 5.6 at the same focal length is huge. My background for a portrait will be way more out of focus and I will be able to shoot at a faster shutter speed at a lower ISO. Another aspect of the fixed aperture zooms is that they generally have a better build quality and are sharper.

Whenever I purchase a new camera I always make sure I also have a way to trigger it remotely. The camera I am using now can be triggered with a cable release or a wireless remote. You might be asking why this is on my list. I have it on here because if you don't have a way to keep your camera's shutter open for longer then 30 seconds you are missing out on a whole feature that SLR cameras have, the Bulb setting. with your camera in bulb mode as long as the shutter button is held down your shutter will stay open. Doing this at night can result in some very interesting images. Another advantage of the remotes are that when you are shooting at slower shutter speeds you don't need to touch the camera and possibly shake it resulting in a blurry image.

I can't stress this enough. Lens cloths, have several good quality lens cloths. A clean camera or lens is a happy camera or lens.

last of all, get yourself a good quality sturdy tripod. If you hike a lot get a light one but make sure it is stable and can support your camera's weight. I just bought new head for my tripod because the old one kept slipping and was causing some of my long exposure night shots to come out blurred because the camera was gradually moving during the exposure.

If you have any further questions regarding gear leave a comment below. This list of items is not exhaustive and there are more things I would put on here but I will save them for another time.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The making of Day 47

I have been asked by a few people how I did my Day 47 photo so I thought I'd do a very quick post on how it was done

I first started off by taking a series of images of me in various poses. I set up a black backdrop behind me and set up two of my lights (one on either side of me and a little behind). I did this to give me a nice clean backdrop to make it easier to cut myself out of the image.

Next I did an image of the jar on the bookshelf with one of my son's action figures inside to cast a shadow on the back wall. As you can see the light is coming from camera right. This was hand held and produced by one of my flashes.

The last image was the same set up but minus the action figure

Once I had all the images I brought them into Photoshop and layered them. I used the shadow from the one jar image and made two copies of the non action figure image to sandwich the cutout of me between. Using a layer mask I reveled the cut out of myself leaving some of the glare on the glass to make it look more realistic.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Making of Day 18

I have been asked a few times to explain how I have done a few of my photos for my 365 project. I thought I'd take the time to dissect today's image for all of you.

I used the following things to create this image:

  • SLR camera

  • Tripod

  • 1 flash

  • pocket wizards to set off the flash

  • a DIY beauty dish (helps to direct and enlarge the light source)

  • White plastic lid to bounce the light back towards the subject

  • a black polar fleece fabric

  • 2 chairs

  • 2 brooms

  • 1 bag of water

  • 2 clamps to hold the tomato and bag of water

  • 1 cookie sheet to catch the water

  • 1 straight pin to poke a hole on the bag of water

I did this in my kitchen at home. I put the two chairs on the table and hung the brooms across them at different levels. I then attached the tomato and bag of water on the brooms with the bag on the top broom. I set up the light to the right and leaned the plastic lid against the leg of the chair on the left. lastly I draped the black fabric over the chairs to create the backdrop. take a look at the image below to get a better idea of what it all looked like

I then set up my tripod and camera with the camera slightly higher then the tomato. Once my camera was set up and locked down tight I turned my attention to focus and camera settings. After the proper focus was set I turned off the auto focus so it would not change when it pressed the shutter button.
hear are the settings for my camera:
ISO 200, f/11 @ 1/200 of a second

Now that I had everything in place I poked a hole in the bag of water and started shooting. I later repositioned the bag a little to ensure the water dropped evenly over the tomato.
I did make the background a bit darker and added a thin stroke (boarder) around the image in Photoshop but that's about it for post processing.
If you have any question leave me a comment below and I will do my best to answer it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Road to the Sun :: Claresholm Alberta Photographer

We just returned from a trip to Glacier National Park in Montana. This was my first time to the park and I have to say it was amazing. The scenic views and natural beauty made me want to return again when we had more time to do more hikes. These two photos were taken about 100 feet apart from each other. These were the views from opposite sides of the road. simply amazing!

Each of these photos is made up of 6 to 8 separate images that were later stitched together in Photoshop. When you do panoramas like these you have to remember to over lap each image by 1/3 so they will have enough shared information to make a smoother end product. I have made a panoramic head for my tripod but didn't use it for these images (because I didn't bring it with me). With the newer versions of panoramic stitching software you can produce some very nice wide shots with just a steady hand and proper rotation of the camera. The key is to turn the camera (like there is a pole going straight through the lens) not your whole body from the waist up.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

365 Days of Photos :: Claresholm Alberta Photographer

The idea of doing a 365 project has been around for a long time and I thought I'd give it a try. My goal for this project is to challenge my self and my ability to find and create new photos every day for the next year. At the end of the year I will have the blog published and will have a visual representation of what the following year has in store for me.

follow the link below and join me over the next 365 days. I'm interested to see where this takes me.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Choosing A Camera :: Claresholm Alberta Photographer

When you are looking for a new camera there are tons of them out there to choose from and making the choice can be a daunting task. Many people get caught up in the name game. Canon versus Nikon/Pentax/Sony blah blah blah. Others situate themselves on opposing sides regarding whether it is better to shoot Film or Digital. and then there is the decision between Compact point and shoots and SLRs.

When I talk to people about photography they frequently ask me what camera I use and which one they should buy for themselves. My most common answer is that depends on what you want to do with it. If their answer is "I don't know" then any camera out there will do the job.

To be short and sweet I thought I'd share some tips on how to look for a good camera.

  1. Figure out what you will be using the camera for. Will you be taking snapshots of the kids, shooting weddings or making huge prints to hang on the wall (if you think you'll be doing the last 2 then you will need an SLR, preferably one with a "full frame sensor")? will you want to be able to shoot video too (some SLRs and pretty much all of the Compact cameras can shoot video now)?

  2. Come to terms with how much gear you're willing to lug around with you. If you choose an SLR be prepared to have to carry a lot more gear then you would if you buy a compact point and shoot

  3. Decide on what format you want to shoot in ( for the sake of simplicity choose between an SLR or Compact camera)

  4. Figure out what you are willing to pay and stick with that amount give or take a few dollars. Don't let the sales clerk try to up sell you on the latest button that you will never use on the newer model.

  5. Go to a reputable store (I like The Camera Store in Calgary due to their great staff)

  6. Test all the cameras in your price range by doing the following:

- hold them in your hand and feel the ergonomics of the design. Does it feel too big/small? Can you easily reach the buttons with your thumbs while holding it? Does the layout of the buttons make sense to you?
- Press the menu button. Go through the menu items and see how easily it is to navigate through them.
- Take some photos of things you would normally shoot (i.e. people, the flowers out front of the store, the landscape of the city etc...) Take the sale clerk with you.
- look at the photos and zoom in on them to see which camera has the better detail and less grain in the image
- don't buy anything the first trip to the store. Go home/out to the car and think about what you saw. I you have the chance look up the camera on this website and see what they have to say (they know what they are talking about).
- See if any other stores are offering the camera you want for cheaper. You can go back to the store and ask for a price match ( I have combined a few store's lower prices into one purchase at a single store several times).

Regardless of what camera company you choose to go with (Pentax, Canon, Sony, Nikon etc...), all of them make some really good cameras. The bottom line is how well the camera fits into your way of shooting and personal tastes and how comfortable you are holding/using it.

I hope this helps you in your future camera purchase. If you have questions leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Macro an a budget :: Claresholm Alberta Photographer

Some times it's nice to just stop and photograph the roses... or in my case, these beautiful yellow flowers my wife has grown outside our home. The issue is that they are very small.

When it come to photographing small objects you a few choices. you can buy a Macro lens or you can pick up some extension tubes. The macro lens route will give you a better image quality in the end but will also take a bigger chunk out of your bank account. If you're like me and you don't do a lot of Macro work then a good option might be the tubes.

What the tubes do is decrease the minimum focusing distance of your lens. Each lens has a limit to how close it can be to a subject before it can't focus on it any more. the For the images above I used my 50mm f/1.8 and all three extension tubes. The closest I could get without the tubes was about 14 inches away. With the tubes the flowers were almost touching the front of the lens (1 or 2 inches away). You don't have to use a 50mm like mine. A lot of people use a longer lens so they can be a little farther away so their lens/camera will not cast a shadow on their subject. I tried it with my 70-200mm f/2.8 but liked the look I got from my 50mm.

A few things you have to know before you start using extension tubes are as follows:

  1. Use a tripod! When you're really close the slightest movement is magnified just as much as your subject is
  2. Your depth of field is a lot shallower then normal so close down you aperture more to get more depth of "focus" in your image.
It is a amazing what you will see when you start shoot the world around you from this perspective.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Yellowstone :: Claresholm Alberta Photographer

My family and I just just returned from a trip down to the States where we attended a family reunion in Southern Idaho. On the way back to Brooks we took the opportunity to go through Yellowstone National Park. We went through the park about 4 or 5 years ago and saw a lot at that time but there were a few things we missed. I have been thinking of these three locations for years and I had another chance to make some photos of them.

info: Canon 5D mrk II, Graduated filter, f/29 @ 15 seconds minus 1/3 stop

This first image was actually the last one I made just before we left the North entrance of the park. I saw this stretch of the river on the way in the last time but didn't have the chance to stop. I made sure we did this time around. It was overcast and later in the day so it was a perfect time to get the shot I had intended. I used a graduated neutral density filter to bring the exposure of the sky down a bit and add some detail to it and dragged the shutter to blur the river. It's nice when you are able to visualize an image and then go out and create it just the way you envisioned it.

info: Canon 5D mrk II, f/22 @ 1/25 sec plus 1/3 stop (14 images stitched together in Photoshop)
This second image is of the Grand Prismatic Springs. We actually saw this sight before but I was not able to get the shot I wanted at that time. When I made this image I actually took 14 separate images and stitched them together in post later. When we go back in future years I will see if we are allowed to hike to the top of the hill in the background in order to get an over head view of the area and to be better able to capture the various colours it has to offer.

info: Canon 5D mrk II, f/ 32 @ 1/2 sec minus 1/3 stop

When we arrived at Tower Falls we were informed that the trail to the bottom of the falls was washed out so we would not be getting the image I really wanted. However, we were still able to enjoy the view from above.

Monday, May 31, 2010

In Preparation :: Claresholm Alberta Photographer

I am currently preparing for a photo shoot that is going to happen this Saturday. it has been a while in the making and I am really looking forward to it. I can't say too much about it but I can say that it will be one of the larger under takings I have faced. That being said, I love an opportunity to wow my customers and I know it's going to be a Big Wow for all involved.

I thought I'd share the process I go through when I'm planning a shoot.

First off I meet with the individual(s) that hired me and we sit down and see what the end goal is (family outside in a special spot, full day wedding coverage, commercial images for particular media, etc...) and what their "must haves" are. During this meeting I'm gauging their needs, tastes, personality and trying to get to know them so on the day of the shoot things will go more smoothly. If I was to arrive on the day of the event with out getting to know either the people involved or the expected goals of the shoot then I will waste a lot of time trying to shoot what I want rather then what the people involved need.

Once I have established what the general idea for the shoot is I can begin to plan how I am going to exceed my client's expectations (the wow factor). this takes the shape of contemplating locations, lighting or special post production to name a few. In the case of my upcoming project, one of the wow factors is the end product will be in the form of large prints... very large prints!

Some of the things we all need to consider when making photographs are who, what when, where, why and how. I say "making photographs" because I prefer to build or construct an image rather than just pointing my shinny black camera at a scene hope I get something good.

Who: who do I ask when I need answers? For example, Who at the wedding who do I talk to when I have questions (I really try not to bother the bride/groom so they can enjoy themselves).

What: What am I shooting? Sports, a family portrait, a really large wedding party, fine art etc...? Each of these demand different gear. Do I need to bring more lights or an extra wide angle or telephoto lens? Am I going to be shooting in a dark church or in the middle of a meadow at high noon.

When: I am never late (and if I am it wasn't my fault). another thing to consider about "when" is if I'm shooting in the meadow at high noon I will need to address the blaring sun beating down on my subjects and causing harsh shadows under their eyes.

Where: Location, Location, Location. Where are the photos going to be made? Am I establishing the location? Does the family have a special place they have in mind?

Why: Why are we making the photo(s)? Are these images going to be used for advertisement purposes or for personal viewing?

How: How am I going to get the shot and are there things that I need to bring, make or buy to ensure I get the shot? Do I have the ability to over power the ambient light if needed?

Something to remember

99% of the cameras that the major manufacturers are putting out now are better then the individuals that use them. People can take one of these marvels of technology and take some really bad photos with them (I know because I've done it countless times). It's not the camera that makes an image it's the person operating it. Just like it wasn't the pen that wrote the classic novels we read to day. Planning is the key to having less problems in the day of any shoot.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sweet 16 :: Claresholm Alberta Photographer

This past weekend I had the great opportunity to spend a few hours with a beautiful young girl and her mother. I really enjoy doing these types of shoots because it gives the young girls an opportunity to be a model for part of a day. During our two hours together we had enough time for several wardrobe and location changes.

In this situation, the family has a beautiful property that they have spent a lot of time on, so we began our session there.

I have to say, it was fun working with this family and I look forward to our next session together.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The wedding season is fast approaching :: Claresholm Alberta Wedding Photographer

I love weddings and the joy they bring to a couple and their families. There is something about being in trusted with capturing that special day that gets me reved up. I think it's the challenge and seeing the bride and groom's faces light up when they see the images.
starting this year I am going to be providing something new to my couples. I will be including an 8GB ipod touch* with all the images from their special day. That way they can take them with them where ever they go and be able to share them with family, friends... heck... everyone!

I have a touch, and I love it. The screen is just the right size (pocket/wallet size).

I am still booking weddings for 2010 and look forward to hearing from all of you.

* while quantities last