Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick two shots from the day.

A nice little ornament hanging by the prismatic garland we purchased last year. Just a nice, pretty, festive shot.

Pear Ornament

And another shot of my son, sitting in my lap, chewing on the first present of his first Christmas. A hard shot to centre since I was holding the camera at arm's length and aiming back at myself. Still, I like it.

Presents are for Chewing

OM NOM NOM!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A little piece of summer.

Last night we had one of those lovely dense snows that coats everything with thick, clumpy crystals. It's not quite hoarfrost, but it still transforms the skeletal winter trees into dazzling white firecrackers.

Imagine my delight and surprise arriving to work today when I realized that some of the trees in my office courtyard still had deep red berries hanging from the branches. Here is a last little piece of summer hanging on in the face of inevitable winter.

Winter Berries

Sunday, December 20, 2009

First Xmas portait.

I can finally post the first portrait that I took this year. This one was sent with our gifts to family, but it's not officially a gift, they've already seen it, so there is no surprise to ruin.

I was trying to do a high-key type of picture, white background, brightly lit. However, my little dude is not capable of sitting up by himself yet, so he's lying against the white blanket we purchased as a backdrop and you get some dark shadowing from that.

Lighting here was just the 580EX II, ceiling bounced and the Stofen diffuser was used as well.

Merry Christmas from my little dude!

Merry Christmas from my little dude!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

'Tis the season to be really, really busy...

No pictures in a few weeks, well not that I can put on the blog at the moment anyhow. I've decided that a little more motivation might be in order.

Starting January 1st, I'll give a Project365 a chance, one photo a day, good or bad, posted here. It might be tricky with a baby in the house, but if I can manage 5 or 6 days a week even, I'm ahead of where I am now.

Overall I can't complain, my shutter count on the XSi is about 2,900 since I got it this summer. I'm getting my chances, and I am shooting, there is just a lull over the busy holiday season. I'll get my Xmas portraits up just after Christmas, and if I can shoot anything in the meantime, I'll be sure to post it.

Thanks for reading, I hope to make it worth your while again in the new year :D

Monday, November 30, 2009

Stocking stuffers!

Well, my wife is the good sort of wife, and she let me stuff my own stocking this year. I understand her point, photo gear is not something I would really want someone else picking out for me. I hit Don's Photo today.

So, not much of a surprise but my stocking this year will contain:

- Tamron pinch-style lens caps for both my macro and kit lens
- Two lens cap keepers
- Screen protector for my XSi
- A LensPen
- Eight Sanyo Eneloop AA batteries and a charger for my SpeedLite

Merry Xmas to me! Here's hoping that I get some gift cards as well so that I can continue to sink scads of money into this hobby!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Not much shooting again...

A busy week last week, a busy week this week, topped of with an emergency run out for a new crib last night. Thanks so much Storkcraft. Being heavily addicted to Dragon Age: Origins is not helping much either!

I do have some ideas for some more lightbox shoots, so I'm planning on setting aside at least a few nights next week. I might manage another walk around at work this week too, although the temperatures are falling rapidly around here...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A few shots of the week.

So, another week with not much shooting, but as I mentioned before, this is about learning. Here are a few more other shots I liked this week.

One more shot from my training sessions at Riverview Health Centre. This one is a tight shot of a wonderful Blue Spruce on the grounds of the hospital itself.

Blue Spruce

I was hesitant to post this shot earlier, because the composition is not particularly strong, but I think the pale foreground colours work well with the darker background. Not a great shot, but not a bad one I hope.

This morning, my wife and I took the kids to a craft show at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, and there were some limited opportunities to shoot. I didn't bring the big flash (should have) so I had to rely on the pop-up with a the puffer for diffusion. The lighting was less than optimal even with the flash though, so only one salvageable shot:

Craft Show Candy

I liked the deep colours and the repeating shapes. If you blow it up though, the focus was a bit too much on the back row, and the DOF was too narrow. Still, it kinda works.

Somedays, you just have to take the 'kinda' shots :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

A walk along the river...

Today was the first day of a new training course that I am attending at Riverview Health Centre, a building I actually worked at for short while a few years ago.

One of the nicest features at this facility is, as one would guess, the view of the Red River. Given the current season, however, the view is rather less green and lush than usual. Still, given fifteen extra minutes at lunch time, I grabbed my camera and went shooting.

There are communal vegetable gardens along the berm that separates the river from the facility, and beyond that a strip of forest filled with trails used by joggers and bikers whenever there is no snow on the ground. Although we have dodged the snow, the temperatures are still just above freezing, and the trails are lonely at the moment.

Riverwalk Path

One of the nicest features of these little trails and paths are the handmade birdhouses that are literally everywhere. I counted at least fifty in the ten or so minutes I had to actually shoot pictures. The birdhouses, like the trails, are waiting for the spring to return.

Riverwalk Birdhouse 2

Riverwalk Birdhouse

All these shots were taken with the 60mm macro. I honestly don't think it's left my camera since it arrived.

My last shot for today didn't come from the river walk, but from a quiet moment with my daughter.

Colouring

I went monochrome with this shot again. I'm not sure how you decide which shot should be converted to mono, but this one is more moving in mono. Maybe that's the only criteria?

Anyhow, I think it's important to point out that the dog's tongue is being coloured purple. I wish I had a purple tongue.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lest we forget.

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada, the analog to Veteran's Day in the US.

My Grandfather served with the Canadian forces in WW2 as an anti-aircraft gunner, and was injured by a bomb blast while listening to a baseball game on the radio with his friends. He was the only one to make it out of the truck alive, and became a Military Policeman after the injury. He served in Italy, France and the Netherlands.

He once told me that everyone must know the true scope of the horrors of the war. The Military Police, and he himself, were amongst those that helped to try and bring order and peace to the concentration camps scattered across Europe. He made sure that we knew that the deniers were wrong, that he once stood next to a pile of skulls that was taller than he was.

Thank you to my daughter for helping me to take this shot. She will be told what I was told when she is old enough. My Grandfather's words will not die with me, or with her, or with her children.

Lest we forget.

Lest we forget.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I'm down with the Geckos.

Today was a busy day, but I told myself to take some time to shoot something. As I was feeding all the animals in our zoo before settling in for some quality couch time, I decided to quickly set up my lightbox and have some one on one macro time with our smaller Crested Gecko, whom my dear Daughter has thoughtfully named 'Duck'. The big one is 'Drake' by the way. I blame my wife's genes.

I call this shot, "Gecko on the Edge!"

Gecko on the Edge

Duck is sitting on the tip of my index finger in this shot, so that should give you a sense of scale. I like the sharpness of that rented 70-200mm, but this 60m Macro is just freaking razor sharp. There is detail in this shot that is hard to make out with the naked eye.

The second shot I liked from tonight is called 'Thumbs up for Geckos!"

Thumbs up for Geckos!

Yeah, that's my thumbnail. Yeah, that's not pretty.

Anyhow, in this shot, I like to imagine he's looking back at the camera with a knowing smile for all the Gecko ladies out there. Aw yeah...

Once again, by the way, the Speedlite was invaluable. The 60mm and 580EX II are both proving to be very good purchases.

Friday, November 6, 2009

More macros!

I selected a few of my favourite shots from the rest of the night of macro shooting with my friend Paul. There were 40 keepers in total, so not a bad haul.

Once again, this is really a gallery of Paul's painting, not my photography, but it was a great learning experience!

To give you an idea of the scale of these pieces, here is a Napoleonic infantry unit in 25mm scale, with Paul's hand for reference:

Napoleonic Gunline for scale

Now here is the full unit so that you can see the detail in the modeling and painting:

Napoleonic Gunline

Check it out in full size on Flickr to get a better idea of the detail.

From the same scale, a unit of Saracen Cavalry:

Cavalry Unit

I used the blue backdrop to make more of a scene for this shot, but it really, really affects the available light. Speedlite to the rescue!

Finally, two shots of some of his western era miniatures. First, a Saloon and one of it's, um, employees:

Western Saloon And Gal

Second, a gang of western hoodlums:

Western Gang

Thanks once again to Paul from Saber's Edge for providing me a chance to play with my new toys, and thanks for reading my blog! Comments are always wanted and welcome!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Macro shots ahoy!

Last night's shooting went well. I was working with the lightbox, the 60mm Macro, my new 580EX II Speedlite and a Sto-Fen Omnibounce for diffusion. All in the all the results were good, and I had a lot of work adjusting the flash power on the fly. I really learned a lot fromt his shoot, and by the end I was snapping proper exposures on the first shot or two.

I have a lot of post processing to do on the shots still, but I have two samples to share at the moment.

These shots are of wargaming miniatures, and they were painted by my friend Paul of Saber's Edge Hobbies and Games. Really this is not a display of my photography, but of Paul's painting skill. For reference, these figures are only 28mm tall.

First up, everyone's favorite scalliwags, a band o' murderous pirates!

Band o' Pirates!

Controlling depth of field was key here, and I was shooting most shots at somewhere between f/8 and f/16 to try and get focus across all the figures. This meant using fairly high power on the flash (anywhere from 1/8th to full power), and long exposures. My tripod and cable release were critical here. This shot was at f/9, 1/8th second exposure at ISO 200.

I was playing with depth of field on some shots though, and I like the effect it gave on larger groups of models or larger individual models, like in this shot:

Space Wolves Dreadnaught

This bad boy is a Space Wolves Dreadnaught from the Warhammer 40,000 wargame. This is a larger model, probably 40mm or more in height, so there is more detail and more to get in focus. As such, I thought about some DoF effects, and came up with the shot above, focused in on the claw and let the remainder of model fall into bokeh. I think it worked, and I like the shot. For comparison, this was shot at f/2.8, 1/40th second exposure at ISO 800.

More pics will follow as soon as I have time for post processing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Another new toy...

I think I have a problem...

Speedlite 580EX II

Having taken delivery of my 60mm Macro, I sold the 50mm f/1.8 and my extension tubes. They strike me as being a bit superfluous, and the funds raised helped to buy a used flash. Now, this flash is a year old or so, but it was *spotless*. I seriously doubt anyone could tell it from new.

I apologize for a lack of content the last two weeks or so. I've been shooting a lot, the shutter count on my camera is very near to 3,000, but I haven't been overly happy with the shots, frankly. What occured to me tonight, though, is that I forgot the purpose of this blog, which is *learning to shoot*. I shouldn't be worried about posting only my better shots, I should be posting anything that taught me a lesson, good or bad. I forgot that, and I'll rectify that this week.

I'll finally be taking those website product shots on Wednesday night, so that will be a good test for the new flash and the photobox. I'll be sure to post some of them here, good or bad.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's here!

Well, the new toy has arrived!

Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM Macro

I haven't had mush time to play with it yet, but I'd like to hope that the next week will involve a kickstart of my creative juices, and that I'll get some time to shoot.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Finally!

There's a package waiting for pickup tomorrow at the post office! Macro photography, here I come!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Halloween scares!

Another quiet week, my apologies. I was in training most of the week, and we are also prepping our house for my Daughter's 4th birthday party tomorrow afternoon.

I do have a spooky Halloween story to share though! There is a 'Scary Fall Colours' contest run by one of the local photo clubs this month, and I had an idea for a shot that would involve a little bit of night-time cemetery photography. So, on Tuesday I got the kids to bed, packed up my camera bag and headed out at around 7:45pm. In Winnipeg this time of year, it's pretty much full dark at that time.

As I drove up one of the major streets not three minutes from my home, I had to jam on the brakes to avoid a deer that darted out from somewhere on the side of the road. I managed to avoid it, but it's apparently blind friend plowed into my drivers' side fender, rolled over my hood and vanished into the night.

So, I went out for a photo shoot, and ended up with no pictures and a few thousand dollars worth of body work on my less-than-six-month-old car. Scary!

Also, still waiting on the 60mm Macro to arrive. I have an alternate idea for a 'Scary Colours' shot using that lens...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Drool time...

Hey, any generous, rich people out there want to send me a new Canon EOS 1D MkIV? Please?

Monday, October 19, 2009

More shots from the weekend!

Day two of the lens rental started with a quick jaunt down to the park at the end of my street, a trip to the local conservatory, and a drive into the country for pumpkins. All the following shots were taken with the 70-200 even if it wasn't the 'best' lens for the job. Consider it my attempt to get my money's worth.

The first stop was just a half block away. We live near a man-made lake and at this time of the year that means migrating geese. Lots of migrating geese. I have been using them to practice my panning, and I got a few shots that I thought were worth keeping. I should brought my shutter speed up a bit, so there is some light motion blur at the wing tips.

Not much to say about each specific shot so here they are as a group:

Canada Goose - #1

Canada Geese - #2

Canada Goose - #3

The second stop was the local conservatory for the 'finch and canary show'. Big waste of time, unfortunately. Small birds, lots of small wires on the cages, too close to focus through... No bird shots at all, but I got a few nice shots in the conservatory itself. The flowers themselves were not labeled so I dont know the names of all of the flowers, so once again here they are as a group:

Assiniboine Park Conservatory #1

Assiniboine Park Conservatory #2

Assiniboine Park Conservatory #3

Assiniboine Park Conservatory #4

I was happy enough with the lens, but shooting flowers with a telephoto is limiting. As soon as the 60mm Macro arrives, we are going back! There is a sharpness missing from the 70-200 for this application.

There is one more shot from the conservatory, the 'Hobbit Door' which is tucked away in the heart of the conservatory. It's a charming little touch, and I tried to get some interesting framing for it. I know I can do better, I'll be sure to try and re-shoot it on our next visit.

Assiniboine Park Conservatory - Hobbit Door

Finally, our afternoon took us on a drive into the country in search of pumpkins for Halloween. We bought our gourds at a little roadside wagon, and it turns out the farmer there buys and restores antique tractors. Can you say photo op?!

Restored Tractor

I have seen a lot of 'abandoned rusty tractor in a field' shots, so this is a bit of a riff on that. My tractor is clean and shiny. Take that, all you other photo jerks!

Finally, on the way home, I saw a tree. An evil tree. The devil's own damn tree. This tree is sitting, on it's own, in a large field. There are hardly any other trees around, and none within a few hundred feet. So, of course, I pull over and walk out there.

As I get closer, I realize that there are a dozen or so crows sitting in the murder tree looking at me. Damn things wanted to eat my eyeballs. I could feel them desiring my tasty, tasty eye meats. I snapped a shot, and left before the bloodletting could begin.

The Killing Tree

I think the shot is suitable darkened and monochromed to let you know just how sinister this tree was. Damn thing is probably hiding in my back yard waiting for me to sleep.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pictures from the Soccer Game

I spent a lot of time tonight on post-processing. Never let it be said that shooting indoor sports is easy! Even with that loverly 2.8 lens, I had to lock in at ISO 800, f/2.8 and deal with a lot of noise. Most shots I managed to get at 1/125th to 1/200th shutter at least, so that action was mostly frozen.

So, after 6 hours or so of cropping, fixing white balances, brightening, noise reduction and red-eye removal, I present my best shots from the epic battle between the Maples Monarchs under-15 girls team and my office co-workers!

Maples Monarchs play defense!

The Maples Monarchs are city champions both indoor and outdoor, so you know they play tough defense. Here, one of their defenders throws out the armbar in the corner.

Office workers play defense!

Aha! Office workers can play defense too! This fellow plays in a league as well, so you know he has some chops.

The Maples Monarchs push the ball.

Conditioning played a big factor, these girls are fit and they were able to move the ball well all day, even in the face of defenders twice their size and age.

Waiting for the pass...

The office workers are no slouches though, three or four of them were ringers who play regularly, so you say a fair handful of nifty passes and dangerous rushes, like this one.

The Monarchs take a shot!

The Monarchs took some hard shots early and often, and took the early lead, going up three to nothing in the first half. The irony here is the office workers' keeper was not just an office worker, he is also the Monarchs' coach! For shame!

Deke!

Probably my favourite shot of the day, this girl deked the defender completely out of the frame of the shot!

Monarchs Advance the ball

Despite their youth and conditioning, the Monarchs fell apart a bit in the second half, and the game ended in a tie. Fun was had by all, there were no serious injuries, and I got an excuse to rent an expensive lens. Yay!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

*Crickets chirping*

Sorry for the lack of updates, I've been under the weather all week and I've had to reschedule my 'product shoot' for another time. There are two bits of good news though.

First, this Sunday there is a finch and canary show at the local conservatory. Since I have the 70-200 rented for this weekend, I think I just found a good use for the second day of shooting with the lens.

In addition, I have finally sourced a real, actual Macro lens! It's an EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM. Not quite as nice as the 100mm, but for the price it's a better option at the moment. Hopefully it will be here next week!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Quick test shot in the new lightbox.

Jut grabbed something handy to do a test shot in the Cameron Photobox, in this case a plastic treasure chest for holding game dice.

Treasure!

It does seem to diffuse the light better than the DIY one, and I was able to fire the flash without an issue so I'm happy with the result. The background 'whiteness' is a step up, and it also includes gray, blue and green backgrounds, so that's a plus.

The only issue I can see is that the 50mm was sharp enough to pick up the weave of the fabric background/floor of the box. This is untouched though, so this looks like it would be very easy to clean up in post.

Quick updates.

Not much shooting the last few days, this weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving so lots of time is being spent on family stuff. I will, however, be doing two new 'shoots' this week upcoming.

A friend is overhauling his small business site, so I'll be bringing my lightbox over to his place on Tuesday to try some product shots. I'm looking forward to working out the new lightbox and getting some time in on cleanup and post-processing work.

In addition, my office has planned a soccer game against one of the city's under-17 girls soccer champions on Saturday. It's a 6-on-6 indoor game, so I've rented the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS again (GLEE!) to shoot the game. It made sense to rent it for the full weekend so I might try one of the waterbird preserves again on the Sunday following, or perhaps I'll find a nice autumn subject to shoot. I wanted the rent the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS, but that is a $4,000 lens and it's twice as expensive to rent. 200mm should be enough reach on a crop-body I hope!

Finally, there is a 'scary fall colours' contest on one of the local photo club forums, so I'm looking to shoot an entry before the end of the month, although I could use some inspiration on shot ideas!

Friday, October 9, 2009

My willpower is lacking...

So on the way back to work after picking my Daughter up at preschool, I might have wandered into one of the local photography stores, and I might have checked out the light boxes, and one might have been on sale, and I might have bought it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More lightbox shots,

I had a brief moment to set up the lightbox again tonight after getting my daughter off to bed. I wanted to try some macro work, but I was surprised to find that I wasn't able to get much of anything working my extension tubes. Serious blurring and razor-thin depth of field even at f/9 or narrower. So, I went back to the 50mm and shot with that.

A dedicated macro would be so nice... *sigh*

Anyhow, I tried an 'art' shot. This was a great learning experience. First the shot:

Fluid Dynamics

The setup here is straight forward. Two drops of food colouring in a crystal wine glass. I learned a lot here. First, the white balance on this shot is really, really off out of the camera. I have no idea why. I was able to correct to a degree in post processing, but there is still a distinct grayness to the 'white' background. Second, one sheet of tissue paper isn't going to cut it for diffusion, there are some real hotspots on the glass. I also couldn't fire the flash because the front of the glass would blow out from the reflection.

Plans to correct these issues include purchasing some proper diffusion material for the box, and purchasing a nice, powerful gooseneck style lamp to light from the top. Something in the 100w or more range to really pick up the light levels.

Here is the second shot of the night:

Young Crested Gecko

This is a baby Crested Gecko, one of the acquisitions from the Reptile Expo last weekend. The 50mm really, really shone on this shot. I would suggest following the link to my Flickr and looking at the scale detail in the large size shot. The 50mm is insanely sharp for the price, like, crazy sharp.

This shot came out better than the water shot, crisper and better exposed. I had to add a full +1EV in the water shot to brighten the background, and I didn't have to do it on this shot. I was able to fire the flash on this shot, so no doubt that was the difference.

Screwing around with the layout...

I've been trying different layouts, and the problem seems to be one of two things.

If I use a Blogger layout, the central column is not wide enough to hold even the 400px or so wide pictures I want to use as thumbnails. If I use an off-site layout, there seems to be issues with people making comments and the like.

So bear with me if things look demented for the next little bit.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's finished!

Pardon the quality of my 'building' pictures, they were just quick snaps in the basement, but here we go...



The box is about 15" or 16" square, and it's your normal bone-standard box. The first step is to cut off the top and three sides as above.

The result looks like so:



Next, strips of white poster board are cut to size and glued to the inside of the open sides.



After all three sides are done, and the next step is to cut another piece of poster board to the interior width of the box. Leave this one long, as you want it to lie along the bottom and up the back without creasing. This is what gives you the 'seamless' background.

The two side 'windows' are then covered with white tissue paper. I've only used one piece, but I might add another or replace the tissue paper with something more robust like nylon fabric or the like.



Finally get some lights. You can light from the top, but I chose to light from the sides using these two 'accent' lights from Home Depot. They were about $18 each, and they use a 35w GU10 Halogen bulb.



Here is the setup with my good friends Calvin and Hobbes providing my light stands. I've placed another sheet of poster board over the top of the box, but I like leaving it unattached in case I need a little more space to load in a larger object.



Here is a test shot. My friend, Ninja Duck!

Ninja duck!

All in all, I call this one a success. I'm not sold on the tissue paper sides since I already have a small tear, but for the moment it works!

Dun dun!

Supplies purchased! Time alloted! Project DIY photobox is a go!

Pictures tonight?

Stay tuned faithful readers!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Manitoba Reptile Breeder Expo

Today I visited the Manitoba Reptile Breeder Expo, both for a photographic opportunity and to peruse some new additions to my collection. The expo usually has twenty or so exhibitors with a variety of snakes, amphibians, lizards, tarantulas and the like, so there are good opportunities to browse and shoot.

My wife and the kids came as well, so I didn't have much time with the camera, unfortunately. I did get two shots that were decent however.

Bearded Dragons

This is a clutch of young Bearded Dragons. I regret not noting down the name of the breeder, so I'm not sure who these cuties belong to. My daughter loves Beardies so when you get a pile of a dozen or so all clambering over each other, she thinks it's just about the coolest thing ever.

Bumblebee Morph Ball Python

This is a variety of Ball Python called a Bumblebee, owned by Geckoland Reptiles here in Winnipeg. A Bumblebee is a combination of two other morphs, the Spider Ball Python and the Pastel Ball Python. They have been bred in North America since early this decade, and their white, yellow and black colouration is striking.

Since my last posting, I've looked at the 'wife-on-maternity' financial situation and I'm no longer sure I'll be buying a flash or photobox kit. Thinking it through, those photobox kits might be convenient, but is it really worth $300+ for a couple of 75 watt lights and a box of white fabric?

I think my next plan in a DIY photobox so that I can do some more 'art' photography and take better pictures of my animals.

That's the plan at least.