Wednesday, March 31, 2010

That's some strong tea...

Looking for another 'trick' shot, and I mostly hit the target today with the exception of a small focus problem.

The shot for today (Day 90, whoo!) involves smoke shot with a speedlite, inverted to look like steam, colourized and composited on a second shot. Not super complicated, but a neat effect.

Here is the shot:

Green Tea

You can see the focus issue in the smoke/steam. It was shot in the dark, so manual focus was required, and since the smoke would move and spread around it was very hard to focus on. This portion of the shot was tricky, and I took seven sets of exposures and this was about the best for shape and focus.

The other hard part of this is that it's composited on a solid, pure white background, so any noise or colour variation in the composited images is obvious. A fair bit of cleanup with a feathered white brush was required, especially around the smoke, but I think the fact that it *is* smoke meant I could be a little loose with it and it wouldn't look awful.

All in all, another shot that I am pretty proud of. I really didn't think I would be pulling shots like this off after only 90 days of a-shot-a-day.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

To make an omlette...

So I'm back to shooting regularly this week since I finished off the bar gig shots, and I wanted to dive into an experiment for day 89.

I have been reading about stroboscopic flash, essentially setting your flash to fire multiple times quickly, which when used with a dark room and a moving object, gives you multiple exposures of the object in motion within one shot. Sounds neat right? I'm sure it is, if you can get it working.

My 580EX II supports stroboscopic mode, as you would expect for a higher-end flash, but for whatever reason, I was unable to trigger it with my PocketWizards (which I expcted) *or* on-camera via the hotshoe. So basically, even though my speedlite is capable of using this mode, my camera apparently can't trigger it.


So, with the help of my wife setting the object in motion, I fired the speedlite manually and opened the shutter with the cable release.

More frustrating!

To complicate matters even more, the object I wanted to get was a falling, smashing egg. A pain to clean up if you miss the shot, which I did. Several times. The tricky exposure didn't help either.

Super frustrating!

I never did get the shot after going through the last 8 eggs in the fridge, so in the long run the shot was a wash. Luckily, I did get a kind-of-neat shot of one of the eggs post-crack, and I was happy enough to keep it for my shot today:

Making an Omlette

A fun, but frustrating night. I've already decided that I'm trying this again, but maybe with brown eggs to give a little more contrast to the shot, and I'll use a darker room with a slower shutter speed and a faster pulse. I'm not giving up on this idea yet!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Walking around downtown...

I'm continuing to try and work on my urban shooting, and today was the latest chance I had to do so. The weather outside is wonderful, almost 20 Celsius today, so it's great walk around weather.

Today I wanted to shoot a bus stop, although the shot I kept was sort of on the periphery of the bus stop itself. A quick note too, I'm working on my monochrome work, and some vignetting to get the gritty look going. It's a bit strong in this shot, so I need to improve on it.

Here's the shot for today:

Downtown Bus Stop

Downtown Winnipeg is really one of those 'mixing' places. At this particular bus stop you will see professionals, drifters, families, impoverished people and hipsters at any given time. Tensions can get a bit high, and the class divisions can be pretty glaring. It's not always pretty, it's sometimes scary, but it's always interesting.

Interesting like the guy who followed about 100 feet behind me as I walked to work this morning, shouting "I'M NOT DEAD!" over and over. I didn't take his picture. Obviously.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Work, work, work...

I managed to get the family shoot set processed and sent off for printing, and I also managed to finish processing about 30 shots from the soccer game last night. It's a good start, but I have a lot more to go.

For day 87, I'm sticking with the theme, and I did a shot of something their coach dropped off for me on Friday:

Maples Monarchs Rule

A little shot taken for their website. Nothing serious, but then again, I don't have a heck of a lot of time for a shot tonight! Hope I'll finish off the soccer pics tonight, and then I can get to work on the rest of the bar gig shots.

I feel like a real photographer!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I love garlic...

This will be a short post, since I have to edit all of the shots from the soccer game and bar gig shoots this week. In addition the first family I shot portraits for ordered their prints this week, so I need to finish their post processing as well.

Today's picture came courtesy of dinner preparation. My family is entirely made up of garlic lovers, and tonight I was skinning some garlic that had just begun to sprout. I sliced off the top and bottom, and saw this:

I Love Garlic

Yeah, I love garlic :)

Friday, March 26, 2010

A sure sign of spring...

Day 85 of my Project 365, and it's springtime. How can I tell it's springtime? The Hot Dog Cart Guy is back!

A Sure Sign of Spring

All hail the most sacred and holy Hot Dog Cart Guy, keeper of cheap, delectable and sizzling hot lunches. I'm glad to see this particular cart back in front of my office because he is one of the few that carries veggie dogs, which I appreciate seeing as how I am one of those hippie vegetarian types.

The sun was very bright today, even though we are still dealing with sub-zero temps, so there is some serious overexposure in some spots on this shot. Technical and artistic issues aside, I am glad I took this picture today. I want to start doing more street photography again since the weather is improving, but I am still very nervous about pulling out my camera in public and shooting strangers. It's perfectly legal, and I would certainly delete an image if someone requested it, but it's hard to reach into my backpack and pull out the camera.

Today, I did that. It will be easier the next time I try it again. It's a step.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

An evening at a dive bar...

Day 84 of my Project 365 and I'm hanging out with musicians at a dive bar. It was a lot more fun than it sounds, and the band and crowd were all good natured as I got my shots.

The lighting in the bar was really, really awful. I expected it to be a bit tricky, but the entirety of the lighting was four gelled spot lights for a five piece band. Yikes.

I was never so happy to have a lens that could open as wide as f/1.4. The lighting made the soccer arena seem like noon at the equator. Still, this is a challenge, and I decided to play with the lighting where I could and just accept that shots from a dive bar are going to be a bit crappy. If push really came to shove, I could always monochrome them anyhow.

So, I took about 300 exposures in shutter priority at 1/40th and 1/50th hoping to keep blur down a bit, and let the aperture come in where it could. Most shots are somewhere between f/1.4 and f/2.8 at ISO 800, so depth of field was super tight, and focus issues abounded in the shots. Still, I managed a fair number of good ones, and I'll call it a success.

Here are some shots from the show:

Guitarist Curt:
Jack Grass - Kurt

Drummer Beau:
Jack Grass - Bo

Bassist Keith:
Jack Grass - Keith

Guitarist Joe:
Jack Grass - Joe

Vocals/Guitarist Jack:
Jack Grass - Jack

My favourite shot so far as I sort through the RAWs was actually taken pre-show when they were setting up and tuning. I got a few nice shots during this time, so I hope to pull quite a few keepers from them.

Jack Grass - Jack - Tuning up

As always, your comments are more than welcome!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Meet your match!

Day 83 meant a chance to get back and shoot the shot I wanted earlier in the week. Like the magic banana earlier, this one was also inspired by a project at DIY Photography, whose archives I am greedily devouring.

The shot is a match mid-ignition, which has a few tricky components to it: You want the flame to be well exposed and as crisp as possible, capture the smoke and particulate expelled from the flame, and you need to ignite it with something outside of the frame.

This is accomplished with a strobe to the side of the subject at low power so you can fire in continuous drive, and you ignite with a torch that does not need to make contact with the match heads. At DIY they used a blowtorch, I used a creme brulee torch to equal effect.

Here is the shot:

Meet Your Match

ISO 100, f/9 at 1/200th shutter, with the 580EX II at 1/16th power.

You'll notice there is more than one match here, I found that one did not give a particularly interesting or large flame, and multiple matches also extended the ignition meaning more smoke in the shot. The curls and wisps really to make the shot I find, so the three-match setup was certainly a worthwhile modification to the setup DIY Photography suggested. I tried some shots with the strobe gelled, but I think I like the natural colour better.

A sharper flame would have been nice, but you can only catch so much at 1/200th shutter. If there is one thing I would change about my DSLR (and pretty much all the other DSLRs out there) it would be a higher flash sync speed. Your strobe only flashes for 1/8000th of a second (on average), but you must have your shutter open for 1/200th in order to catch it. Imagine what this shot would look like at 1/1000th or faster! Maybe someday...

Another late night...

Another late night on Day 82, but this time I had a good excuse. I was invited by my coworker to shoot his girls' indoor soccer team again, this time at the city championship. It was a great game, but it ran quite late, so I'll just post a few of me favourite shots of the night.

All were shot with the 50mm f/1.4, mostly at f/1.8 and shutter speeds around 1/200th at ISO 800. I hate, hate, hate indoor arena lighting. Photographically it's useless, so I did a but of spray and pray, taking over 400 exposures in the course of the game. There were plenty of issues with exposure, focus, and noise since my little XSi suffers pretty badly at ISO 800. Still, they stand up pretty well when compared to my earlier soccer shoot which was done with a $2,100 L-series lens, and supplementing with flash. I can't complain.


Maples Monarchs - U15 Champs #1

Maples Monarchs - U15 Champs #2

Maples Monarchs - U15 Champs #3

Maples Monarchs - U15 Champs #4

Maples Monarchs - U15 Champs #5

p.s. I have been asked to do a shoot on Thursday night for a friend and his band at a local hotel bar. Should be loads of fun.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bubbling over...

Day 81 of my project 365 and once again I can thank my daughter for inspiration once again. Tub time rolled around, and she was all about the bubbles. This one is for her!

Bubbling Over

A glass, some bubble stuff and water in it, a straw and a little bit of blowing set up the shot. The glass is in the lightbox with the backgrounds removed so it's *mostly* black. I have my wife sewing me a background for it for black background shots like this since the black back of lightbox itself is a bit reflective and it took some working around to keep it from showing up in the shot. One strobe off to the right side did all the lighting work.

I like the shot, it's geometric, colourful and abstract without being overly weird. This isn't the shot I planned for tonight, which did not work out at *all*, so I'll file that away for another night.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In bloom...

Day 80 of my project 365, and I took the opportunity of a (relatively) quiet afternoon to get out of the house to shoot. As I mentioned, I had an idea for a shot today, but I was not going to do another shot in my house if I didn't have to. I'll save it for another day.

My wife and I packed up the kids and rove to the Assiniboine Park Conservatory so that I could fulfil a plan I had earlier and take my macro out for a flower shoot.

Interestingly enough, I didn't shoot a ton of really tight shots since lighting gets to be a problem when you are really close to the subject since you need to crank the aperture way down to get a decent amount of DOF. I knew this would be an issue, so I packed my 580EX II and Omnibounce. All of the shots below were taken with that lighting setup and the 60mm EF-S Macro.

I won't comment on each shot, but if you want details of the exposure settings of names of the flowers, just click them for the Flickr link as usual. Enjoy!

Pink Hyacinth Buds

Red and Yellow Tulips

Pale Purple Blooms

White and Red Flowers

Pale Blue Hyacinths

Pink and Orange Tulips

Yellow Tulip

These are my three favourites of the day:

Pinky Purple Blooms

White Flowers with Red Tips

Purple Hyacinths

Thanks, as always, for reading and looking!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

They see me rollin'...

You ever have a little plan that turns into a really big plan? Day 79 started with a small plan...

I have a shot in mind, ready to go, just need a half hour or so to get it set up and shot. So needless to say I decided that today was the ideal day to make Sushi at home for the first time.


I started at around 3pm, cut ingredients and prepped things until about 4:30pm. My wife and I decided to actually make and eat the sushi after the kids were in bed, so that pushed us back to about 8pm. Had my ingredients done and the rice cooked by 9pm, and we started rolling and eating then. By close to 10pm we were stuffed, and still had four or five cups of rice left over.

So we called our best friends over, cracked open the bottle of Sake they brought (reason #323342 that they are great friends) and chomped away for another hour and a half or so. It was a great night, had loads of fun, I learned a lot about sushi prep, and as usual for the last week or so I had only left myself about 15 minutes to come up with a shot.

They see me rollin'

I spent a lot of quality time with that rolling mat today. Tomorrow I'll get my proper shot done, but tonight I am going to wander off to bed to slip into sake and wasabi-fuelled dreams of the land of the rising sun.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Pinto (mato)

So here we are on day 78, it's after 10:30 and I haven't even had a chance to consider what I am going to shoot, let alone compose and shoot it. Also, I'm bone tired due to my little guy's teething.

I was home late after taking my daughter to see my best friend's teenager perform in her school's production of Seussical, which was a very well done little show, but it meant a very late night, and my model at work fell through for a shoot I wanted to do at lunchtime, so panic set in and I started throwing together all sorts of little objects and knick-knacks to see what might look interesting.

I settled on this:

Pinto (mato)

Hey, at least this one isn't taken on glass, so I consider that a small improvement over the last few days, but really I have to admit that this just looked funny to me somehow, especially the little pepper with it's antennae. Not a clue why, not sure what made me compose it like this, but I like it.

Of course, that could just be the exhaustion talking.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


It's day 77 of my Project 365, but today turned into a bunch of mediocre shots, iffy setups and general experimentation. I think only one shot really was worth posting, and it is a bit same-y as the last few. Apologies!


This was taken just out of curiosity, with the same setup as the last two days, but using a white background instead of black. I think we can all agree that the black works much, much better. I went with a reflective metal object just to see what the highlights would look like. All in all, pretty pedestrian, but it's a case of live and learn.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Day 76 and I'm playing with black backgrounds, a suspended glass sheet and my speedlites again.

Going back to the well again a bit, and I broke out my eye dropper and food colouring again. Yes, it's another liquid drop/splash shot but I thought the setup with the black background and glass reflections might give it another level of punch.


f/8, 1/200th shutter, ISO 100. Same light/box/backdrop setup as yesterday.

I'm *pleased-ish* with the shot, but I had two problems. One, I had my camera too far away (fear of a splash on the front element) so this is a smaller image than I would have liked, and two I underexposed, so this was brought up 5/6ths of a stop in post, making it a bit noisier than I would have liked. The exposure issue is just my own inexperience at work, as I am having trouble controlling the spill of light from my lightbox. I might be better shooting both flashes bare and snooted to control the spill. In fact I just thought of that now, and it's totally the right thing to do. Dammit.

I'll get it right next time.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Day 75 was one of those days where everything just comes together.

I wanted to try a blackbox/glass sheet product style shot, but I was trying to figure out what product to feature. On a quick side trip to Costco today, I realized that it was launch day for the latest God of War game...

The Ghost of Sparta

I love it when a plan comes together.

ISO 100, 1/200th shutter, f/7.1 with both speedlites firing from the sides. This is actually taken in the lightbox, but with the front and top removed, and it's sitting on a glass sheet, on a box, with a black cotton sheet running down the back and into the box. The lighting was not perfect, and I need to figure out how to black out the back better, so this needed some PP work that I was hoping to avoid, but I'm happy for a first attempt.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Magic Chef

Day 74, and I spent a portion of my lunch hour today looking at what other people are shooting. I was catching up with DIY Photography and immediately knew what I was shooting tonight...

Magic Chef

This is my attempt at their 'floating fruit slices' shot, which is essentially a shot done in a light box on a support structure of toothpicks that are carefully cloned/healed out in post processing. It's a simple technique, but you have to love the results.

The final shot was done at ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/200th shutter. Left side of the box has a speedlite shining through the wall of the box and onto the backdrop, the right side was shot through the wall of the box and up to the top, reflecting down. Colour was slightly saturated in post as well to bring up the yellow in the peel.

I really enjoyed shooting and editing this. Shots like this with a simple set-up but an effect that makes you do a double-take are rapidly becoming my favourite sort of shot, and I'd like to do more of them in the future.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Hey, remember last week when I decided to try and capture a snake strike? I apparently can't learn my lesson because I tried it again today... As the title of the post suggests, no luck. On the positive side, no bloggers were injured in the making of today's post.

So, I did have some shots of the strike, but they were bad. I did, however get some nice shots while I was setting up the lights:


All in all not a good day, and after yesterday's picture, a pretty uninspiring shot. They can't all be winners.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Somedays, it's just easy...

Day 72 was pretty easy. Why you ask? Because today was the day my daughter picked some new flowers at the grocery store, and she chose some really, really nice ones.

So, a macro flower shot. Pretty simple right? I decided to make it a bit more challenging for myself, and set a rule: Can't be removed from the vase, sunlight only, no tripod. This meant upping the ISO to get a good hand-held shot, and a lot of attention to the location, orientation and DOF of the shot. An easy subject is nice, but if the shot it shoot-and-forget what did I learn?

The final shot was about the twentieth or so, trying a variety of compositions, orientations, and settings. I settled at ISO 400, 1/60th shutter, f/16. The higher ISO was a sacrifice, but I think the subject really was worth the effort:

The Flaming (tu)Lips

I call them 'The Flaming (tu)Lips', and I love this shot. There was very limited post processing on this one, just removing a reflection in the top left corner, and cloning out some big pieces of lint and pollen around the stamen. No saturation, colour modification or curves were needed with the fantastic colour of this flower.

I'm proud of this one, and I'm glad I didn't take the easy route.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Your tax dollars at work!

Friday afternoon, Day 71. I have friends coming over tonight, so I had to shoot, edit and post a picture today during work, and that's never an easy thing. This week has been extra hectic, so it was a real challenge to slack and get away with it. Since I work in a government office, it's not exactly a light hearted environment either.

Running with that thought, I decided to embrace the slacking, and started framing a shot.

Friday Afternoon at the Office

Friday afternoon in the office, feet up on the desk, nothing on the whiteboard, and playing games on my iPhone. Does it get any better than this? Just don't tell the Prime Minister.

p.s. I need a new screen protector!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

It does a body good!

Day 70, and I was looking around on Flickr for some inspiration. The shot I decided to attempt is a pretty common one, but it looked technically challenging.

Well, it was.

Behold my attempt at the milk splash:

It Does A Body Good

The reason I chose this was a two-fold challenge: Lighting curved glass, and exposing a very white object.

I got the effect on the background I wanted with a slight ray effect on the mottled black, and I was able to time and light the shot fairly well by lighting from above with a snoot and a diffuser, but the exposure is still tricky. The milk is basically blown out, and there is not a lot of definition there.

By comparison, this was one of the shots I was looking at for inspiration. I still have a lot of learning to do!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Had a chance to sit down and plan a shot tonight, which was a welcome change of pace, so hopefully day 69's offering is better than 68's.

When I hit a creative funk, I like to let my wife suggest an object, concept, or location to shoot, and then I try and work it into a shot that I like. It makes me work for it. Tonight, she suggested a stained glass wind chime in the shape of a turtle. Here is what I came up with:


I thought about back lighting this, and playing with my coloured gels again, so the plan came together as follows: The background is a length of black fleece, very lightly rippled, a sheet of acrylic held above it by a few of my daughter's building blocks, and both strobes on opposite sides with blue gels. Place the turtle on top and shoot.

A little work was required in post, the acrylic had a few scratches that I healed out and I had to clone out the cables connected to the top and bottom of the turtle that hold the hook and chimes respectively. I left a lot of the speckling on the acrylic as it gives some depth and texture that was missing when I worked on cloning it out.

I like the shot, it's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I enjoy the challenge that things like this present.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Today was not a good day for shooting. In early, worked late, we had my daughter's kindergarten orientation/introduction day tonight, and I am working on an outage at work that runs from midnight to five AM. So, you get snake pics:

Coiled Boa

Boa Going

Sorry for the uninspired photo day, tomorrow promises to be brutal as well.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Contest

On day 67, a story.

One morning, the Kitty family decided that they would have a contest. To their surprise, little Mittens won!

The Contest

Who knew such a little kitty could produce such an enormous hairball. Shot at f/13, ISO 100, 1/200th shutter, both flashes in the lightbox. Nothing like a little fun to start off the week ;)

As for the results of the weekend's shoot, my co-worker/client ordered 37 prints of 12 different shots. I'll call that a success, and a real confidence booster. I'm just about ready to start actively promoting the business.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Swing on the Spiral

For day 66, I am still working on some post production stuff from yesterday's shoot, so this post will be a bit brief.

I've been working on my light sources lately, and I've got my lightbox stuff down pretty well, so it was time to stretch my legs a bit and play with it. I picked up a creative colour gel set a while back so I threw them on the strobes to make a pretty simple object look a bit more interesting.

Here's the result:

Swing on the Spiral

The subject is a tightly coiled roll of velcro fabric, and there is a blue gel on the left strobe and a red one on the right strobe. This was shot at f/10 (ISO 100, 1/200th) but the DOF is still super tight since this was very close to the front element of the lens. In this case, I like that the spiral fades out to blur a bit at the edges, it seems to balance out the sharp plane of focus.

A fun little shot, I think.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Family photoshoot #2

Today was a good day, did a family shoot on-site again, had a lot of fun ideas that they were happy to go along with, and I did a little more post processing work on this set. I'm happy with the results, so I'm going to say that Day 65 was a good one.

Pretty much all shots here were done with the 50mm f/1.4 USM, f/5.6, and 1/200th shutter. I screwed up and some of the shots were at ISO 400, but the noise isn't bad. I varied the lights to control exposure as we moved around.

First, meet the family:


I work with the Mom, and this is her husband, son and daughter. I blatantly stole this concept from Elizabeth Halford who is a regular contributor at DPS and a portrait photographer that I really admire. I had them jumping back and forth from surprised faces to silly faces until it broke into laughter, which is the final shot taken. It worked well, although the daughter couldn't do 'surprised' so she is just smiling in that shot. It's okay though, because she is FREAKING ADORABLE. She was also so patient and helpful, a great little subject to shoot.

Next shot:

Rachelle and her Daughter

In this shot I realized that Mom's hair was throwing a shadow over one eye. I couldn't see that on the small screen on the camera when I was shooting, so I missed it. It's not terrible, but I notice it in a few shots and I hate it.

One more shot of the daughter:

Rachelle's daughter on her bed

This is her bed, in her room. She was very happy to show it to me, and was happy to pose here. I tried to direct her arms and legs a little bit, but at five years old she's not the best at taking direction. A good shot, but the pose does seem a bit forced.

The last two shots are a single shot, and a collage of the teenage son and his guitar:

Dustin on his Fender

Guitar Collage

The single shot is in the collage, but I think it's a strong shot so I included it separately. This was the only series of shots that I used my muslins on, and the PP involved to kill the shadows and folds is *really* annoying. Whenever possible, I'm shooting walls for backgrounds from here on out. I like the collage, and the layout is fun too. I had a lot of fun putting those together.

Oh, one more note. Apparently, I have a website for the business now. WHAT HAVE I DONE?!

The galleries are not completely done, but feel free to look around and let me know what you think about the site. Thanks!

Friday, March 5, 2010


Both my wife and I have been working late, and often we are seeing each other illuminated solely by the glow of our laptops. It's not exactly candlelight, but so be it.

For day 64, I wanted to capture this.

Working Late

This was a fairly simple shot, handheld but stabilized on the back of a chair with the new 50mm at f/1.4, ISO 400. I knew it would be hyper-narrow for DOF, a bit noisy at ISO 400, and probably a bit blurry from being handheld, so I decided to embrace it and play with it in post.

This picture has been through colour correction, and I added a semi-opaque, eroded, desaturated layer over it. I used something similar with a high-pass filter on the pictures taken of the models at the lighting seminar and I like the effect. Not hyper-desaturated but with a cool, smoothing effect that doesn't lose contrast.

I've got the next family shoot tomorrow afternoon, and I'll be working on the post processing then as well. Look for some samples tomorrow night.