Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ivy - The Tattooed Girl

Recently, most of the models I shot with have tattoos.  This was not a coincident as I was actively seeking models with tattoos to shoot with.  When I saw Ivy (PS 217836) on Purestorm, I asked to shoot with her.  The style I wanted to shoot was a cross between glamour and Bizarre Magazine.  It was shot in a very small apartment studio in Dulwich.  Within the small space, I was able to shoot a number of sets.

I thoroughly enjoyed working with Ivy and recommend her to any photographer.  Communication was good before the shoot.  It was a cold day in London.  With little clothes on it must be cold, but she did not complaint at all.  We had a good chat through out the shoot.  It was very educational.  I got some really good images from the shoot.  I must say, they have more of a glamour look than Bizarre Magazine style.  Perhaps shooting against a plain background would help as most Bizarre images than to have a plain background.  Also, the expression of the model should have more attitude.  Not Ivy's fault at all, as I was telling her what to do.  Next time, it will be different.  That would be something to try another time.  Here are a few photos from this shoot.  The first two photos are my favorites from the shoot.









Thursday, December 8, 2011

Light & Shoot 50 Fashion Photos - A Book Review






Publisher: ILEX
Author: Christ Gatcum

As the title of the book say, there are 50 fashion photos featured in this book. The photographer featured ranged from world famous professionals (Rankin, Perou) to unknown amateurs.

At the beginning of the book, there is an introduction of studio equipment from off camera flash to professional studio lights. Then the type of modifiers and their uses are given. After reading this chapter, you should have a reasonable understanding of studio lighting. The diagrams will be use with each image featured to indicate the lighting used.

With each image, there is a short biography of the photographer. Then the photographer of each image write a short piece of text giving the thought process and use of light to achieve it. The camera, lens and camera settings are listed. The diagram showing the lighting and modifiers used is very useful. Most photos were taken with digital cameras, only a few shot on film.


It is interesting to see many images did not use any lighting or modifier at all. In fact, there are images relied on post processing in Photoshop. Some of the images are stunning. The photographer must have started with a concept and had a team of make up artist, model, costume designer and set designer to bring the vision into a photograph. While other images looks very ordinary to me. With many things fashion, there is no right or wrong, it comes down to if you like it or not.

For me, the good images makes up for the ordinary. It is a good reference book you go back to every now and then. It is not bogged down to equipment, in fact very little is mentioned regarding type of camera or lens. This book is recommended if you are getting into fashion photography and looking for inspiration.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

List of Flakes

I think I will start a list of models that have let me down badly.  I am fed up with models letting me down.  Its not much, but its my way of listing them.

Rayy Alexander,  Model Mayhem #2668791.  Made no attempt to tell me she was not coming.  Decided it was better to turn off her phone and not answer my text or phone call.  Wasted my time, MUA's time and studio time.

Miss Souki, Model Mayhem #2402096.  Was texting me to confirm the shoot was still on the night before.  Decided not to answer my phone call the next day.

Biancia triganza, again on Model Mayhem #1425385.  She said she was still coming while on the train home.  Made me wait for 2 hours at the studio and my studio fee down the drain.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Using Olympus EP-L1 for Studio Shoot


Something happen on a shoot recently I had to share my experience.  I organised a photo shoot with a model at a studio.  Everything came together as planned.  Only 10 minutes into the shoot, the battery indicator started to show it was running at 50% power.  I thought no problem as I packed a spare battery with me.  So I got the battery and tried to put in into the camera.  Shock horror, it does not fit!  The battery I picked up is for a different camera!  They are both Canon batteries and look remarkable the same.

I am going to have a rant about camera companies and batteries here.  Why do they feel the need to change the battery every time you release a new camera?  It just annoys the hell out of me.  My house is full of batteries and chargers.

Don't even talk about some companies that have "safety feature" which prevent third party battery working in their cameras.  Panasonic did this with a couple of micro 4/3 cameras.  That is the reason I do not even consider buying any Panasonic cameras at the moment.

I have both a Canon 500D and 550D which uses different batteries, but they look almost the same.  Now I've learnt my lesson and will be clearly marking the batteries to indicate which camera they are for.  I am not going to make the same mistake.

Now, back to the studio shoot.  I carried on using the camera for a few minutes until the battery ran completely flat.  Then I remember I had packed my Olympus E-PL1 as a back up.  I took it out of the bag and set up everything as it was on my Canon 550D and started shooting.  I was very happy with the results of this camera in a studio environment.  The only downside to using the E-PL1 as a studio camera is my arms got very tired quickly and started to shake.  I had an flash trigger on the hot shoe anyway, so even if I had the optional viewfinder, I could not use it at the same time.  I had to put the camera on a tripod after 5 minutes.  There was no way I could hand hold the camera arms out for an entire shoot.  In an studio environment, focus speed was good.  I have set up the custom button for manual focus.  So, after I achieved focus, I switch to manual focus so there is no delay when I take photos.  Since the model does not move much during the shoot, this works well.  I just had had to refocus every time the model changed poses.

Lessons learned:
  1. Always charge your batteries before a shoot.
  2. Always check the batteries are for the correct camera.
  3. Always have a back up camera with you that has fully charged batteries.
  4. Pack everything the night before the shoot.
Here are a few shots of images taken during the shoot.  I shot in RAW format, processed them using Capture One 6.2  The cameras I used was an Olympus E-PL1 with the 12-42mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens.  The model was the lovely Sherry Platts (Model Mayhem # 2306417).  She did her own make up.




Two grided strip box behind model and a large grided softbox on boom arm just over head. 


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Light Painting for Cars

I did a light painting with a few cars last week and I want to share the technique I used.  Things you will need are a tripod, remote shutter release, a flash gun and gels.  You may ask why you need gels?  This comes from experience.  The first time I did light painting with car was my Ford Puma.  The photos came out great, but there was a strong orange colour cast on the image.  Here is what I mean.  The white balance was set to flash, but the background was lit by street light casing colour cast.

Strong orange colour cast around the car.
This time round, I was prepared and took CTO (colour temperature orange) gel with me.  I set the white balance to tungsten and then fitted a CTO gel to my flash gun.  This way the white balance between the flash gun and street light should be a similar.

The technique I used was to focus on the car with camera on tripod.  I was using F8 and exposure was around 2 minutes on bulb mode.  I opened the shutter, ran behind the car with LED light or sparkler, waving them around to create a pattern.  Then I used my flash gun and fire it at the car from various places.  A tip is not to point the flash towards the camera and don't stand between the camera and the car.  There will be an element of trial and error, but you will get there in the end.  Here are the best images I got from this shoot.
TVR Tamora
Honda S2000
Mini Clubman Cooper D
I did have to use my RAW processor to fine tune the exposure, highlight and shadow.  Then in Photoshop, I did a bit of healing to rid any hot spots.  That was about it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Strobeam DL4 - Summary

Over the last few weeks, I posted my experience of using the Strobeam DL4.  I have combined three posts on this blog into one.  This make it easier for anyone reading this see my obsevations.

1st Post


I've been a Strobist for quite a few years. It is one of the best thing I have done in Photography. In conjunction with joining The London Strobist Meetup group on Flickr in 2009, my portrait photography has come a long way since those early days.


In the early days before discovering off camera flash with Strobist I had a Portaflash kit from Jessops. It was a good kit to get started and I learned the lighting basic with it. The only thing is, it is not much more powerful than portable flash guns and require mains power, so not suitable for location shooting without power. For the last few years, I have been using a combination of Nikon SB26, SB28, Canon 540EZ, 550EX and 430EX as my off camera kit. Used with various light modifiers, I am very happy with the results I get within their limitations. The biggest issue with these portable flash guns is the lack of power. This shows up in bright ambient condition, when you are restricted to 1/250s X-Sync shutter speed and has to stop down to small aperture like F11. I had to set the power of these portable flashes at full power without modifier. This cause problem with heat build up in the flash and long recycle time.


I've been toying with the idea of buying portable flash for a while but never happy to pay the cost. I am aware of Strobeam DL4 for over a year, but it still cost £670. I have seen it been used by other togs and they were easily overcoming bright sunlight with a large softbox. Last week, I saw it on eBay for £455 + £10 shipping. I thought about it for a few days and after asking some questions I ordered it and received it within a day. I unpacked it and charged the battery and did a few test fire.  Here is what you get from the package. It comes with a carry case which is handy.  The battery charger is not shown here.





It comes with an adaptor so I can use my Bowens softbox with it. The head feel quite well made, but I have not used it in a real photo shoot yet.  The battery took 4 hours to charge and is very small.  I will add report on its performance once I have done a couple of photo shoots. Here are a couple of photos of it mounted on my boom arm.




The connection to the side is the power lead from battery and the cable at the back is the sync cable.  It can be triggered optically with the little white switch to the right.


2nd Post

Yesterday I had a photo shoot using the Strobeam DL4.  It went very smoothly.  Here are a couple of observations.  The recycling time was good with a maximum of 2s at full power.  I was using 1/4 power most of the time and recycle time was less than 0.5s.  Very consistent exposure shot to shot.  My experience of portable flashes is that they are not very consistent.  Exposure can vary by over a stop sometimes.

I did notice one bad thing, the supplied bracket is not very strong.  I tried to fit a very larger beauty dish on the head that must weigh 1kg.  It was too heavy, the head just pivoted over no matter how hard I tighten the screw.  I gave up in the end and used a much smaller one.  Most of the time, I was using a 60x90cm softbox.  I was very happy with my purchase and would recommend others do the same.  I will report back when I have done a out door day light shoot.


Here is an image of the flash head in action.





3rd Post

You may remember I used my Strobeam DL4 battery powered mono light for a shoot a couple of weeks ago. I mentioned the supplied umbrella bracket was not strong enough.  To rectify this issue, I purchased a Calumet 026 umbrella bracket.  As far as I can see, its a copy of the Manfrotto 026 bracket.  It is an all metal contraction and is much stronger than the plastic bracket that came with the light.  You can see a comparison of the  difference with the photo below.  The supplied bracket is made of plastic (on the left).  It was not great for mounting on a light stand.  Also not strong enough for heavy modifier.  The Calumet bracket is all metal and is much stronger.  I will trust the mono light will not fall over.


Here are a couple of photos of the mono light mounted on a boom arm with this bracket.



One more observation.  The head has a buzzer which sounds when it is ready to fire.  I have discovered, it only buzz if the power is set to 1/4 power or above.  It may be below 1/4 power, the flash head is always ready.  I guess the buzzer works by detecting a discharge and charge cycle.


I also purchased a 7dayshop 43" umbrella softbox.  It was only £13 including delivery.  It is small when folded and ready to be used in seconds.  Here is a test shot of the umbrella mounted to the Calumet bracket.  The light was quite even without the spill kill reflector.


I tested it with the reflector and the light was  much more concentrated in the centre of the softbox.  I think it is a great investment for very little money.  I think it will struggle if used with portable flash.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

First Shoot Using Strobeam DL4

Yesterday I had a photo shoot using the Strobeam DL4.  It went very smoothly.  Here are a couple of observations.  The recycling time was good with a maximum of 2s at full power.  I was using 1/4 power most of the time and recycle time was less than 0.5s.  Very consistent exposure shot to shot.  My experience of portable flashes is that they are not very consistent.  Exposure can vary by over a stop sometimes.

I did notice one bad thing, the supplied bracket is not very strong.  I tried to fit a very larger beauty dish on the head that must weigh 1kg.  It was too heavy, the head just pivoted over no matter how hard I tighten the screw.  I gave up in the end and used a much smaller one.  Most of the time, I was using a 60x90cm softbox.  I was very happy with my purchase and would recommend others do the same.  I will report back when I have done a out door day light shoot.


Here is an image of the flash head in action.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Toy - Strobeam DL4 Portable Flash


I've been a Strobist for quite a few years. It is one of the best thing I have done in Photography. In conjunction with joining The London Strobist Meetup group on Flickr in 2009, my portrait photography has come a long way since those early days.


In the early days before discovering off camera flash with Strobist I had a Portaflash kit from Jessops. It was a good kit to get started and I learned the lighting basic with it. The only thing is, it is not much more powerful than portable flash guns and require mains power, so not suitable for location shooting without power. For the last few years, I have been using a combination of Nikon SB26, SB28, Canon 540EZ, 550EX and 430EX as my off camera kit. Used with various light modifiers, I am very happy with the results I get within their limitations. The biggest issue with these portable flash guns is the lack of power. This shows up in bright ambient condition, when you are restricted to 1/250s X-Sync shutter speed and has to stop down to small aperture like F11. I had to set the power of these portable flashes at full power without modifier. This cause problem with heat build up in the flash and long recycle time.


I've been toying with the idea of buying portable flash for a while but never happy to pay the cost. I am aware of Strobeam DL4 for over a year, but it still cost £670. I have seen it been used by other togs and they were easily overcoming bright sunlight with a large softbox. Last week, I saw it on eBay for £455 + £10 shipping. I thought about it for a few days and after asking some questions I ordered it and received it within a day. I unpacked it and charged the battery and did a few test fire.  Here is what you get from the package. It comes with a carry case which is handy.  The battery charger is not shown here.





It comes with an adaptor so I can use my Bowens softbox with it. The head feel quite well made, but I have not used it in a real photo shoot yet.  The battery took 4 hours to charge and is very small.  I will add report on its performance once I have done a couple of photo shoots. Here are a couple of photos of it mounted on my boom arm.




The connection to the side is the power lead from battery and the cable at the back is the sync cable.  It can be triggered optically with the little white switch to the right.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Boom Arm

I have toyed with the ideal with buying a boom arm for a while.  Light stands are fine for holding your lighting equipment, but they seems to get in the way quite a lot.  Trying to place your softbox as close to your subject invariably mean the light stand get in the frame.  Quite often, I had to photo shop them out from the final image.  Well, I bought a boom arm about a month ago and have used it for two shoots already.  I got mine from eBay and it is quite steady and comes with a 5kg counter weight.  You do need it though when you fully extend the arm.  With the boom arm, I am able to get the softbox very close to the model without the stand showing in the image.  Here is a photo of the arm in action.


As you can see, with the boom arm with its counter weight, I am able to get close without it getting in the way.  Here a photo taken with this set up.


The only disadvantage is that the boom arm is quite a bit larger and heavier to cart around.  I would not want to carry it around with a car.  For some shoots, where portability is important, I will not bring the boom arm with me.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

London Strobist Exhibition

A long while ago a photo I submitted was selected for the London Strobist Exhibition.  Due to delays I did not hear anything about it until a month ago.  It was a pleasant surprise to hear it is going to be at the Harrow Arts Centre in London.   You can see the photos selected : http://www.flickr.com/photos/46375154@N04/galleries/

I know its a little late, but the exhibition runs to 7th October.  Go and see it if you have time.  Anyway, I went to see it for myself and here is my photo hanging on the wall.


Its not Tate Gallery, but one has to start somewhere.  I left feeling quite please with myself.  There is another exhibition in the planning stage with The Essex Strobist I am involved with.  It will be in Chelmsford Library in Essex in June 2012.
 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Olympus E-PL1 Off Camera Set Up

Since getting my Olympus E-PL1, I've used it far more than my DSLR cameras.   It is so much smaller and I can carry it everywhere in a back pack or a shoulder bag.  Even when it is teamed up with my Nikon SB28 and radio trigger, it is still very portable.

Recently I went on a business trip to Southern Italy.  I took the E-PL1, Nikon SB28 and radio trigger with me.   While I was in Italy, I did a very quick photo shoot with a work colleague and his girlfriend on a beach at dusk.  I used the SB28 without modifier with another person holding the flash gun.  As it was a business trip, I did not take a tripod or light stand with me.  I am very happy with the quality of images I got.  The quality of jpeg straight out of camera are very good.


This photo shows the complete set up and a couple of photos from the beach shoot at dusk.  The photos are straight out of camera without any editing.  I set the white balance to cloudy as I prefer the slightly warmer colours.

Although there are now newer M4/3 cameras from Olympus and Panasonic, I can't see me upgrading for a long time.  I am not into equipment and gadgets  While the focus speed is annoying, I can live with it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Use of Gel with Flash Photography

I've been a "Strobist" for a while now, but never got into using gels until earlier this year.  Recently, I did a shoot with Georgie Akali and I played with gels for a set of images.  The location has these lovely arches, but I wanted to try to change the mood with gels.  The white balance of the first shot was set to cloudy and lit with a single flash in a 60cm softbox.

Then I added another flash behind Georgie behind a pillar just out of sight and fitted it with red gel.  The flash was set to full power.  In the dark arches it showed up quite well.  In my experience, if the ambient light level is high it will not be as effective.

Finally, I set the camera white balance to tungsten, removed the flash behind the pillar and fitted  CTO gel to the flash in the softbox.  Setting WB to tungsten in day light will turn everything blue normally.  In this case I used the CTO gel to correct the white balance on Georgi.  Any object not lit by the flash will come out blue.

It needs to be used selectively.  I would not want to shoot a whole set of photos this way as it will become overpowering.  As shown here, using gels can change the moods of photo very easily.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Olympus E-PL1 Experience

I bought an Olympus Pen E-PL1 about a month ago because I wanted something small to travel with.  My normal camera is a Canon EOS 550D which is small by SLR standard, but its still too large.  I do have an Panasonic Lumix TZ4, but I was never happy quality totally.  The Oly E-PL1 is ideal size for me, but the initial RRP of over £500 more than I wanted to pay.  Recently the cost is reduced to £280 and I ordered one in white from Amazon.  Overall I am very happy with the camera.  I am not going to post a review here but here is what I like and don't like about it.  I was also lucky enough to be given two Pentax PK mount lenses which I have used with an adapter.

Likes
Small.
Good quality.
The SOOC jpeg files are very good.
Has a hot shoe and my off camera trigger works well.
I am able to sync with flash up to 1/320s.
Works with my Nikon SB26 & SB28 flash in auto mode (need to shoot camera in manual mode).
Able to use manual focus lenses with adapter.
I quite like the art filters.
Build in wireless flash controller with compatible flashguns (up to 3 groups).

Don't Likes
Focus speed is a little slow, don't even think of shooting children running around.
The camera menu system is all over the place and hard to get to grip with even after a month.
The use of art filters make the camera very slow to operate.
The rear LCD resolution is low for a modern camera which can make manual focusing difficult.
The LCD is not bright enough for use bright sunny condition.

Here is a photo of the camera fitted with Pentax SMC-M 50mm f2 lens and lens.  Also shown is an Itorex 28mm f2.8 lens and the kit lens.

You may have noticed the bounce card which I made myself with a piece of white plastic card and tin foil glued on.  This allows me to bounce the build in flash.  All you need to do is to pop the flash up and then with a finger, move the flash to point up and you now can bounce the build in flash.  See photo below.

I also took it to Tenerife as the only camera while on vacation also with the manual focus lenses with the Nikon SB28.  I had great success with the Nikon flash gun even in day light as fill light.  Here is a photo taken at sunset using Nikon SB28.  The Nikon was set in auto mode and it performed really well.
I've also used the camera as a video camera at my children's school plays which I can not share here.  As long as you are happy to manual focus, it works well.  Overall, I am very happy with the camera.  I can see myself sticking the M4/3 cameras.  Olympus have released new cameras and lenses with much faster focusing. I can see myself upgrading in future, but not for a while.

Below are a photo I took using the E-PL1 during the shoot with Ania.  Its SOOC without any adjustment.

Here is a 100% crop of the eye from the same photo.



Saturday, August 6, 2011

FHM Style Shoot

After a number of years shooting portrait and fashion style photos, I wanted to do something different.  As I reader of FHM on and off for a few years now, I decided to shoot some photos in that style.  Location and model choices are vital to any shoot.  After a bit of research, I settled on The Factory near Limehouse.  This is a well know place and booked the lovely Ania Ludwiczak for this shoot.  She is a professional model and one of the best model I have worked with.

As a first attempt, I am very pleased with the results.  I wanted images to be glamour but tasteful.  I think it has gone a little further than what FHM would publish though.